Earlier this week Blizzard released a watercooler/coffee with the devs on class changes for patch 5.4. Ghostcrawler discussed the thought process behind all the Hunter changes, and he even spared a few words for the lesser classes, but as you know, we’re only concerned with Hunters here. Unless of course the other classes got nerfed, in which case we’ll squee with delight, but still won’t discuss it much here.
So let’s take a look at what Ghostcrawler had in mind for Hunters in Patch 5.4.
We had three main issues we wanted to resolve for Hunters this patch: Silencing Shot, Readiness, and Stampede.
The problem with Silencing Shot is it’s just too powerful as a talent. No self-respecting Hunter is going to choose any talent but Silencing Shot, especially in PvP, but in PvE as well. At the same time, we think Hunters, especially Beast Mastery, have proven really powerful in PvP this expansion—and frankly the game has too many blanket silences already, so we didn’t want to just give Silencing Shot to all Hunters. Our decision was to give Silencing Shot to Marksman, who needed a PvP buff anyway. We did give all Hunters a base interrupt with the new Counter Shot, which can interrupt a spell being cast, but can’t pre-silence a caster.
When Blizzard overhauled the talent system the goal was to remove the mundane, passive no-brainer choices in favor of active abilities that would force us to second guess if we had made the right choice. They wanted the talents to be real choices. Take talent X and gain something cool, but at the expense of something else equally as cool. They succeeded in giving us lots of active abilities, but have fallen short in the hard choices department.
As Ghostcrawler stated, even in PvE Silencing Shot was the only true option. The solution was to give Hunter a baseline interrupt and Marksman a better interrupt.
As primarily a PvE player just having a regular interrupt is sufficient utility for most encounters. This is mostly a positive change, and it could make Marksman more attractive in PvP, although the jury is still out on that one.
Readiness has been another problematic ability for us to solve. It started as a talent, but was too good compared to the other choices. We ended up giving Readiness to all Hunters, but we were never happy with this implementation. For PvP, it made Hunters really difficult to balance with the ability to reset so many offensive and defensive abilities. For PvE, we felt like Readiness wasn’t doing anything interesting besides making the opening attack sequence twice as complicated as it needed to be. If Readiness was an ability that a clever Hunter would bust out at a clutch moment, then you could argue it would be an interesting ability, but of course it was never actually used that way. Given that Hunters already have a lot of cooldowns, situational abilities, and just buttons in general, we didn’t think Readiness was worth saving. We did make small buffs to Deterrence and Disengage and we will make sure DPS is where it needs to be (which, if I had to guess, will be relatively higher than it was in Patch 5.3).
A few weeks ago I wrote about the demise of Readiness. In that I post I echoed the sentiments of most Hunters stating that it was an awesome ability and that we should all be sad to see it go. The truth is, I don’t mind that it’s been removed, and I say this as someone who has been Huntering since Vanilla. I agree with Ghostcrawler when he said, “Readiness wasn’t doing anything interesting besides making the opening attack sequence twice as complicated as it needed to be.”
In terms of raiding, the main purpose of Readiness was to delivery crazy burst at the opening of a fight as a BM Hunter. I can think of one instance where I used readiness for a different purpose and that was to use Deterrence back to back, because the healers were learning the fight and couldn’t keep everyone alive.
I agree that Hunters absolutely need to be compensated for the loss of dps, but I won’t be complaining about a less complex rotation.
We felt like Stampede had been nerfed too much in PvE for PvP reasons. It’s the intent that Stampede is a potent cooldown for Hunters, so we increased its damage back to an exciting level and just had it do less damage in PvP. Finally, we made a change that some (though to be fair not all) Survival Hunters had asked for a long time, to remove Explosive Trap from Lock and Load (and therefore from the shared cooldown with Black Arrow) so that they could use Explosive Trap (typically with the knockback glyph) without interfering with Black Arrow/Lock and Load.
Hunter talents were in a pretty good spot overall after a bit of iteration throughout MoP. We did nerf Aspect of the Iron Hawk, because as with Shadow Priests and Balance Druids, we felt like the damage reduction was just too potent. We changed Narrow Escape to be dispellable as a PvP nerf. We buffed Spirit Bond, which has felt particularly weak, and we buffed A Murder of Crows.
One of the best changes in was the increased damage to Stampede in PvE. Getting this ability into the game was a big deal for Hunters and it was a shame to see our awesome stable hit like baby animals. It’s buffed to a nice level, and Hunters should once again be excited when they pop that button.
The decoupling of Black Arrow and Explosive trap is also a good change. Explosive trap was changed so it no longer procs Lock and Load, and it’s damage was nerfed so it won’t be part of the SV rotation.
Aspect of the Iron Hawk was a casualty of across the board nerfs, and we did get a buff to Spirit Bond. Iron Hawk and Spirit Bond are on the same tier. I still think Iron Hawk will be the choice, but Spirit Bond certainly remains viable (drink!).
The buff to A Murder of Crows was nice too, and it should once again be preferable to take this talent over Lynx Rush and Blink Strikes.
What wasn’t discussed in the watercooler was Hunter DPS, or the lack thereof. Since this watercooler was published the first tuning patch was released on the PTR and it contained several nice buffs. More on that tomorrow.