So Much for Tuning

I’ve been stating for a while that based on the limited number of Hunter changes in the last several builds, the big mechanical modifications are done. This was true until millions of voice suddenly cried out in terror over the state of Hunters in the beta.

Here is a sampling of what various folks have been saying about Hunters, and it has not been positive.

Celestalon took the forums this week and announced a series of upcoming changes for Hunters.

 Celestalon on WoD Hunters

Now then… Yes, the Marksmanship and Survival rotations are simpler than they were before. The goal is to have a simpler baseline rotation, and have meaningful choices that allow you to layer more depth onto that in talents, if you choose.

Hunters have a ton of talents which grant rotational or short CD abilities, to support this design. However, they were lacking in rotational depth. The gameplay of most of them boiled down to “use on cooldown”. No need to think about preparing for when you’re going to use it, or how it interacts with your rotation, etc. So, we’re going to make some tweaks to try to add some rotational depth to several of the talent choices.

Before I dive into the specific changes, let’s review where Hunters stood going into Warlords of Draenor.

On the good side all three spec were extremely balanced. Yes we treated Marksmanship like the brother we never had and the one we never wanted, but damage wise it was pretty darn close to Beast Mastery and Survival.

The downside to Marksmanship was there was no reason to play it over the other specs. It’s single target DPS was lower, and it’s AoE fell well below the other two specs.

When you combine that with one of the other big issues, which was all specs felt the same, there were very few arguments to made as to why any Hunter should play Marksmanship.

Choosing it because you like it and think it’s fun could be an argument, but this is World of Warcraft. Who plays to have fun?

The main reason that all of the specs felt the same is that there was tremendous overlap in abilities used by each one. All of these abilities were used by each spec, and were part of each spec’s core rotation.

    • Serpent Sting
    • Arcane Shot
    • Kill Shot
    • Stampede
    • Rapid Fire
    • Glaive Toss / Barrage
    • Steady/Cobra Shot

Those were the key issues going into Warlords of Draenor that needed to be addressed. What wasn’t broken were Beast Mastery and Survival’s Lock and Load.

Even Marksmanship’s core mechanics weren’t broken, per se. The big gripes were AoE and some people did not like the Steady Focus mechanic because it emphasized prioritizing a weaker shot in order to maintain the Haste buff.

So how did Blizzard go about addressing things?

Beast Mastery they got just right. They removed the right amount of clutter in Serpent Sting and Rapid Fire. It was given a great level 100 talent in Adaptation, and it was given an agonizing choice in the level 75 tier, having to choose between Blink Strikes and Stampede. From a DPS perspective it looks like Blinks Strikes is the winner, but who doesn’t like Stampede?

For Survival they took away Kill Shot, and did not give them any kind of burst ability. They also completely changed how Lock and Load worked, which I can only describe as a solution without a problem.

Now with Marksmanship I really don’t know what to say. It’s as if Blizzard accepted that it was the red-headed step child of Hunter specs, and as such they dragged into into a bathroom stall, turned it up on its head and gave it the mother of all swirlies.

Okay, okay that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it had its core mechanics stripped away. Steady Focus, Master Marksman, and Piercing Shots all gone. It’s AoE was not improved.

It was also given Sniper Training which requires the Marksman to stand still for a period of three seconds to get a damage buff. If the Hunter has to move they have a three second window to complete the journey without losing the buff.

Marksmanship did get the awesome Careful Aim and Rapid Fire combination, and Chimaera shot was made more Chimaera-ry.

Because all of this is new there’s been a lot of confusion whether Chiemaera Shot is worth using during Careful Aim. Some say yes and some say no. The intention is that Chimaera Shot should always be worth hitting on cooldown regardless of the circumstance. We’ll see if that holds true once the tuning is done.

So that’s where we are now, and people aren’t too happy about it. So what is Blizzard doing to fix it? They’re making big changes to some of the Hunter talents.

  • Barrage now has a 20sec CD (down from 30sec), costs 60 Focus (up from 30 Focus), and deals 100% additional damage.

I’ve always liked Barrage and this change should make it very competitive with Glaive toss as a main option for any rotation. Because it benefits from Rapid Fire it might work slightly better with Marksmanship over the other specs.

It seems intended to help with Marksmanship AoE, although the other specs benefit as well.

  • A Murder of Crows – Duration, cost, and cooldown have been reduced by 50%. It no longer has a shorter cooldown when used on low health targets. Instead, its cooldown is reset if the target dies.

This  change is interesting and makes the level 75 talent row the most intriguing. A Murder of Crows, Blink Strikes and Stampede all compete with one another.

Survival is missing an execute ability and this could be a partial solution, albeit an awkward one. It would also come at the expense of Stampede which Survival likely needs for burst.

The mechanic favors AoE situations where there are many low health mobs for you to take advantage of the cooldown reset. It could help with Marksmanship’s AoE deficiencies.

Beast Mastery may very well be locked into Blink Strikes for that tier so taking Crows or Stampede as BM would be very situational.

  • Fervor – It’s been removed and replaced with Steady Focus.
  • Stead Focus – Using Cobra Shot or Steady Shot twice in a row, or using Focusing Shot, increases your Focus Regeneration by 50% for 10 sec.

Again this is another change targeted at Marksmanship and Survival. I like Focusing Shot, and the fact that firing it once will trigger Steady Focus is nice, and well, necessary given the amount of Focus gained from that shot alone.

The downside for Marksmanship is that it competes with Thrill of the Hunt which seems essential for that spec. We’ll have to see how the two compare.

This may end up being a better option for Survival which was having Focus issues. I say was because Lock and Load is getting reverted back to what it was earlier in the beta.

 Lock and Load Changes

It’s changing to… 20% chance on Black Arrow tick (not multistrikes, and guaranteed to get at least 1 proc per Black Arrow cast). Effect is to reset ExS’s cooldown, and cause the next two ExSs to cost no focus and trigger no cooldown.

I thought this was a nice version of Lock and Load as it combined the live mechanic with a touch of the Unblinking Vigil four piece bonus. This is a change I think many will be happy to see.

So where does that leave Hunters now? All fixed? Probably not, but certainly in a better place than before.

Beast Mastery looks to be the most solid of the three right now. It will likely continue to put out solid single target and AoE numbers. It feels locked into using Dire Beast, Blink Strikes and Adaptation as talents.

Survival has been improved by the upcoming iteration of Lock and Load. I don’t know how it will perform without a solid burst ability or execute, and I suspect Stampede will be the mandatory choice to fill the burst need. Exotic ammo looks like a good choice of talent flavor wise, but Focusing Shot should not be counted out.

Marksmanship will need more testing. These announced changes, which haven’t been implemented yet, seem very much aimed at that spec. There are options for AoE, as well as generating heaps of Focus. The spec itself is lacking in synergy and other than Rapid Fire, Careful Aim and Aimed Shot there isn’t much going on.

Chimaera Shot is a little sexier but it still remains a button you press on cooldown because it’s there.

It doesn’t look like Sniper Training will be modified, so the skill required to manage that will be quite high. A lot will depend on what percentage of up-time the spec is tuned around. Hopefully it’s not 100% as that will be impossible to maintain.

These changes don’t solve everything, but they do plug a few holes. The decision of what spec I raid with will be contingent on the theorycrafting. I suspect Beast Mastery will still be top, and that’s likely what I’ll play outside of raiding as well.

My hierarchy is shaping up to be BM > SV > MM.

No matter what results of the tuning will be, make no mistake, I will be playing my Hunter throughout Warlords of Draenor.


  1. You’d think that a company as big as Blizzard does some market analysis. 0.1% of all heroic raiding hunters played MM in MoP and less than 1% of serious PvP’ers (until Silencing Shot became MM only). It wasn’t because people didn’t like to play MM. It was because its damage sucked at the start of MoP and Blizzard didn’t want to buff MM above BM/SV so it just didn’t do enough DPS.

    If Blizzard had bothered to ask their customers what would you like to see changed in MM I doubt people would have said: slow it down and remove all procs and dynamics. I also don’t think anyone could seriously complain hunter specs rotations were too hard to understand.

    Ghostcrawler was in contact with Frostheim which I assume was partly so he could check how certain changes would be perceived by the hunter community. I have the feeling Celestalon is only in contact with his spreadsheet. Apparently no other devs either notice or care that there isn’t a single hunter happy about the changes.

    For me MM is simply to slow and boring and none of the talent changes will fix that. MM’s rotation will probably feel better if you get more haste but without reforging stat balancing is out of our control.

    I’ve been trying out other ranged classes/specs and no matter which spec I try, they all feel better and more cohesive than MM. It’s weird that I now actually prefer other classes over a spec of the class that has been my main since vanilla.

    I can’t say yet that I will play WoD, and that my hunter will be my main no matter what. I also can’t see me play WoW without my hunter being my main. For now I’ve canceled my subscription.

  2. I cheered when Blizz announced that they wanted to prioritize spec differentiation for the hunter. Why the hell do I still believe these people? Where is the spec differentiation if we have to depend on talents, which are available to every spec, for rotational depth? Not that it will work. Even the new and changed talents are not interesting enough to get the bore our of the new MM.

    Maybe MM was somewhat of a step child during MOP, but at least that step child was loads of fun in PvP. As of now it looks as if thats over.

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