Buffs All The Way Down

Another update was made to the PTR and Hunters were given more buffs. Basically all of the shots they buffed last time were nudged up again.

  • Arcane Shot additional damage increased by 21%.
  • Lynx Rush damage and AP scaling increased by 30%.
  • Kill Command base damage increased by 33% and AP scaling increased by 16%.
  • Aimed Shot weapon damage increased by 12.5% and additional damage reduced by 2%.
  • Explosive Shot damage and RAP scaling increased by 8%.

Buffs are always a good thing, but the impact of these buffs remains unclear. Blizzard has stated that Hunters will be doing more DPS in Patch 5.4 than in Patch 5.3, which means when you hit the target dummy with your current gear you should do more dps than you did before.

Rumor has it that Mages and Warlocks received some nerfs this time around so combined with Hunter buffs everyone should be on more even footing. This makes sense in theory, but we won’t really know where things stand until raiding starts.

Keep in mind that many of the buffs were an attempt to recoup some of the damage loss from the removal of Readiness, which was not an easy thing to quantify. While there is a damage loss from not having readiness, it also simplifies some of the rotations and makes thing a little easier to manage. I know that everyone plays the class perfectly so skill shouldn’t be part of the equation, but for those that may not have executed the Readiness rotation flawlessly you might end up doing better damage because you’re playing better.

This is the final raid tier for Mists of Pandaria. It means the next expansion isn’t that far off and that’s when we can expect to find big wholesale changes to our class. For now we’ll just take our buffs and hope that combined with nerfs to other classes, raid mechanics, etc., that Hunters will be more in line with their DPS counterparts.

Hunters are a pure DPS class and they should be capable of outputting the highest DPS in the game, but big numbers are just a small part of what makes this class awesome. If all you care about is the highest possible DPS number, then you should level up one of each DPS class, gear them up and then switch to whichever one is deemed best at any given point in time.

I want to do the highest dps, but I want to do it firing a gun with stable of ferocious pets at my side. Fireballs, demons, ghouls, and totems? Do Not Want. I’ll stick with my Hunter because it’s fun, and if I’m capable of competing within a few percent of the other dps classes then I’m ok. I’m pretty sure my friends aren’t kicking me out of a raid for lack of DPS. Other things maybe, but not that.

Good Hunting!


Blue Post Q&A

A few days ago Blizzard responded to some complaints from a fellow Hunter regarding the changes they made for Patch 5.4.

1. There would be compensation for the removal of readiness; can you clarify. 
We’ve already made all of the adjustments we had planned in the wake of the Readiness nerf. Yes, this means that you’ll be less effective in certain situations (such as BM burst in Arenas). That was the point.

Readiness has been talked to death. The loss will be greater in PvP than PvE due to the fact that it carried more utility in PvP. For PvE it mostly benefited the BM opening rotation for which Blizzard has attempted to make up for the loss of that DPS by buffing Stampede and various signature shots.

2. It was acknowledged that Hunter DPS was low and that this would be specifically addressed
We’re still monitoring performance and tuning appropriately, and that will continue. It’s important to remember that changes to other classes will have an effect on where you stand in overall performance. Comparing 5.4 PTR Hunter DPS to, say, 5.3 Fire Mage DPS would be silly, as Fire has been brought down considerably.

We won’t know until 5.4 hits and raiding begins where Hunters fall on the meters. Keep in mind that were aren’t the only class to receive changes so our place on the meters won’t be dictated by Hunter changes alone.

3. It was promised that there would be work done to make significant differentiation between all three Hunter specs
Indeed, that’s something we’re planning to do; and as I mentioned when I first brought it up, that’ll happen sometime after 5.4.

I think it’s unreasonable to expect wholesale changes to our class at the end of an expansion. These types of changes tend to be pretty big and require us to relearn aspects of our class. Those changes are better reserved for the start of an expansion where there is a nice beta period to test everything.

4. MM was to be made viable again, or at least on par with the other specs
I haven’t said anything along these lines, but keeping similar specs in line with each other is always a goal of ours. That said, players will always tend to gravitate towards whatever the “best” spec happens to be in a given patch cycle, even if the differences are very minor. If Survival ends up doing even as little as 2% more damage than Marksmanship, I suspect we’ll still see many claims that Marks is “not viable.”

I tend to agree that unless the specs are doing 100% equal theoretical dps, players will gravitate towards the one that has the highest number. To me this is a mistake. If the theory has the specs within a few percent of one another you should play the one you enjoy the most and/or the one you’re most skilled at. They’re usually the same by the way.

5. Our mechanics (things like pet patching and glitching) would be addressed (edit: this has been pushed off)
I thought I was pretty clear when I brought this up initially: there is no blanket fix to pet pathing. The vast majority of the time, it has to do with how an encounter functions or how an environment is built, and nothing to do with the pet AI at all. The issues aren’t unfixable, but we need to know specifically when and where your pets are struggling. “Fix pet pathing” doesn’t help us (or you).

I remember pet pathing mentioned in another blue post, but it was just an acknowledgement that some issues might exist, but it wasn’t easy for them to track down and fix. I haven’t noticed any issues myself, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there.

While not all of the Hunter changes for patch 5.4 were popular, I think it’s fair to say that Blizzard accomplished what they set out to do. Our class is far from perfect, but I suspect that we’ll be in a better place than we were in patch 5.3. So what do you think, did Blizzard achieve their goals for Patch 5.4? Are Hunters in a better place or did we suffer a major setback here?


Podcast Redux: Ask Mr. Robot

This past week on the podcast we announced that  in our next episode we plan to have the folks from Ask Mr. Robot join us. As Patch 5.4 draws near we wanted to bring you the latest updates on this great community resource, and some of the changes they have planned for the Siege of Orgrimmar. Here’s a sneak peek at a few of the item.

  • Of course with the new flex raid gear, we’ll be adding that into the upgrade finder. ETA: a few days before 5.4 launches
  • New items will be added. ETA: a few days before 5.4 launches.
  • And we’ll update the stat weights for the patch, like always. We’ll have a rough set to go live the day 5.4 launches and we’ll fine tune them over the 2 weeks following 5.4.
  • Haste breakpoints, set bonuses, trinkets, etc will all be added in around 5.4.

If you have any questions you’d like us to ask them, please leave them in the comments or e-mails us huntingpartypodcast@gmail.com. We’ll be sure to ask them on the show.

Ask Mr. Robot last joined us on Episode 167. Here is the youtube version for your listening pleasure.

Episode 167: Ask Mr. Robot


Shot of the Week: Explosive Shot

shotoftheweek

Each week we’ll look at the history and utility of some of the greatest abilities in the Hunter’s arsenal

This week we take a look at every Survival Hunter’s favorite ability- Explosive Shot. Explosive Shot was added to the game in Wrath of the Lich King, and was the top talent in the Survival skill tree. It’s an instant ability that does damage on the hit and then applies a DoT to the target that does additional damage over two seconds. It has six second cooldown, costs 25 focus and has a 40 yard range, and if you’re Survival you want to fire it every time it’s off cooldown.

Explosive shot has great synergy with Black Arrow, Ice Trap and Freezing Trap. All three abilities have a chance to proc Lock and Load, which makes the next two Explosive Shots cost not focus and trigger no cooldown. Black Arrow has a 20% chance to proc Lock and Load whereas Ice Trap and Freezing Trap have a 100% chance. Fights that have adds are great opportunities to drop those traps for Lock and Load procs.

As of Mists of Pandaria Hunters can now spam Explosive Shot during Lock and Load. In the past doing that was bad as you risked clipping the dot and robbing yourself of ticks and thus DPS.

In Patch 5.4 Explosive Shot is getting buffed. Also, Explosive Trap is changing so that it no longer procs Lock and Load and no longer shares a cooldown with Black Arrow. A change that many Hunters have wanted for some time now. Additionally Explosive Shot is affected by the T16 4-piece bonus whereby Explosive Shot casts have a 40% chance to not consume a charge of Lock and Load. A very nice bonus indeed.

Explosive Shot is the signature ability for Survival Hunters. It’s a little erratic due to the random nature of Lock and Load, but its a fun ability that should be fired early and often.

Good Hunting!


DPS Tuning

Blizzard began the first pass of DPS tuning for all classes on the PTR. Given that the release date for patch 5.4 is August 27, it’s not clear if they’ll squeeze in some more changes before they go live. Hunters received a bunch of buffs and slight nerf. Here’s what they did.

  • Arcane Shot now deals 125% ranged weapon damage (up from 100%) and had its focus cost increased by 50%.
  • Beast Cleave range has been increased to 10 yards (up from 8 yards).
  • Kill Command damage has been increased by 15%.
  • Aimed Shot now deals 400% ranged weapon damage (up from 350%).
  • Explosive Shot damage has been increased by 18%.
  • T16 2-piece – Aimed shot now also reduces the cooldown of Rapid Fire by 8 seconds per cast.

Arcane Shot is still going to do more damage than  it does now on live, however, it was knocked down a peg from where it was in the previous PTR build. We talked about how good Arcane was looking even with the increased focus cost. This adjustment pretty much ensures that signature shots will always be preferred over Arcane Shot.

The signature shots all got buffed. Well everything except Chimera Shot. Blizzard opted to buff Aimed Shot for Marksman. I haven’t played MM in a long time, but I think Aimed Shot is used during Careful Aim and when Master Marksman procs. Even with the increased damage I don’t believe it’s a fire on CD sort of thing. Aimed Shot was also added to the Hunter T16 2-piece bonus.

So the big question is what does this do to each of the specs? How close are they? Is one better way better than the rest? I need to do a little more digging, but I think the hierarchy will remain unchanged. BM > SV > MM, but all somewhat close. No matter what the hierarchy Hunters will be doing more DPS in patch 5.4 than they did in 5.3.


 

Of Coffee and Hunters

hunterimgEarlier 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.

Good Hunting!


Shot of the Week: Steady/Cobra Shot

shotoftheweek

Each week we’ll look at the history and utility of some of the greatest abilities in Hunter’s arsenal

This week I’ll cover two shots that are critical to every Hunter’s rotation, and they are Steady Shot and Cobra Shot. The two abilities are not identical, although they basically share the same role and purpose which is to regenerate focus and provide some damage.

Steady Shot is granted at level three for all Hunters, so no matter what spec you choose at level 10, you will be using Steady Shot for most of your leveling. At level 81 Survival and Beast Mastery Hunters gain Cobra Shot, while Marksman stay with Steady Shot. Cobra Shot completely replaces Steady Shot for Survival and BM.

Both shots have a two second cast time that can be reduced by haste effects, and they also generate 14 focus, which is the primary benefit of these abilities. Steady Shot and Cobra Shot can also be fired while moving. This was something that was baked into each ability in patch 5.1. Prior to this Hunters had Aspect of the Fox which allowed them to fire these shots on the move, but at the expense of some DPS.

Although they are similar, there are some key differences with these abilities. Cobra Shot does nature damage which is nice because it bypasses the target’s armor. Steady Shot does physical damage, which does not ignore armor. This is why the damage of these two abilities differs, and you will sometimes see one get buffed while the other does not.

Cobra Shot refreshes Serpent Sting if it has been applied to the target. Steady Shot does not, as this is  handled by Chimera Shot. Steady Shot does impact the Marksman rotation in other ways though.

Firing two Steady Shots in a row triggers Steady Focus, which increases ranged attack speed by 15% and generates an additional three focus for 20 seconds. Careful Aim increases the critical strike chance of Steady Shot by 75% on targets who are above 80% health. Finally, Master Marksman has 50% chance grant the Master Marksman effect which lasts 30 seconds and stacks up to three times. Once it reaches three stacks your next Aimed Shot’s cast time and focus cost are reduced by 100% for 10 seconds.

As you can see Cobra and Steady Shot are an integral part of each spec’s rotation. The key is to fire these shot enough so that you properly manage your focus while not over using them at the expense of higher damaging abilities, and that my friends, really is the trick.

Good Hunting!


Spec Identity

Earlier this week, Blizzard posted their thoughts on the identity crisis Hunters are experiencing with regards to each of the specs.

Long-term (ie: not for 5.4), we will be making some bigger changes to the Hunter class. It may not be a full class revamp (like the Warlock revamp in 5.0), but we do want to give the class a full once-over and make sure that the specs feel different and unique. We are not planning any further, class-wide mechanical changes for 5.4.

We have not yet balanced DPS for Hunters (or anyone) for 5.4. When we do, we’ll make sure that as much of that balancing as possible is done via signature shots.

While Blizzard acknowledges that Hunters are do for a once-over, they’re shying away from considering a major overhaul like Warlocks got in 5.0. I’ll admit that I have no clue as to the extent of the changes that Warlocks received. My knowledge of that class can be summed up in three words, Cookies, Closets and Portals.

Even though Blizzard may not want to consider a major Hunter revamp, I say where’s the fun in that? Let’s turn these specs upside down!

Now my goal here is to give each spec it’s own identity. Something unique and fun that will offer a variety of play styles that appeal to multiple players. I want to point out that I’m not interested in seeing Hunters become a hybrid class. My changes revolve around Hunters continuing to deliver large quantities of sustained ranged dps. So, without further ado, let’s get into some wild speculation about Hunter Specializations.

Survival

For Survival the first change I’d make is to allow them to dual-wield. That’s right Survival Hunters will deliver dps with a pair of pew pew pistols. Since pistols are somewhat of a short range weapon, Survival would be a close combat spec. Maybe not 100% melee, but on that level.

Survival would rely more on DoTs, and make uses of traps and gadgets for DPS. It would also be strong in AoE. Pets will play a role, of course, but not as big as weapons and abilities. I like the Black Arrow/Explosive Shot/Lock and Load combination, so I would hang onto that.

Beast Mastery

If Survival is going to dual-wield weapons, the Beast Mastery is going to dual-wield pets. That’s right BM Hunters will be able to have two pets out at once. I would also put more emphasis on the pet and add more abilities like Kill Command, where the damage comes from the pet and not the Hunter. Instead of Serpent Sting, it might be an ability that causes the pet to put a bleed on the target.

To keep things simple the pets would have a shared health pool with mend pet healing both. They would both have to be on the same target as well. The Hunter would still do some damage with a gun, but the emphasis will on the Hunter commanding the pets to provide the majority of the damage.

BM Hunters would also provide the most utility bringing multiple buffs, and things like both a combat rez and heroism.

Marksman

Marksman would be the long-range and hard-hitting spec. They would have greatest range of all the specs, but would have the worst dps on the run. I envision them being somewhat of a turret dealing the most damage while standing still. Their rotation would be loaded with abilities that provide tremendous synergy with one another, but would be a little cast heavy.

Chimera shot will still be the signature shot and will refresh Serpent Sting. Firing two steady shots in a row will reset the cooldown on Chimera Shot. Likewise two Steady Shots will also reduce the cast time of Aimed Shot. Firing Aimed Shot will also reset the cooldown on Chimera Shot. I’d throw in a channeled ability like Barrage. Firing Barrage will reset the cool down on Chimera Shot. I’d also bring back Readiness, but give it a less than a minute cooldown and have it reset the cooldown on Barrage. Oh, and Kill Shot would no longer be back-to-back, but would reset the cooldown on Chimera Shot. By the way I’ve totally stolen this from another MMO, but I think it would be a lot of fun to play.

So that’s my take, how about you? What you change to make give the specs more identity?


Shot of the Week: Arcane Shot

shotoftheweek

Each week we’ll look at the history and utility of some of the greatest abilities in Hunter’s arsenal
 

This week’s shot is Arcane Shot. It’s a dps ability available to all specs, and is a part of each spec’s rotation. Hunters get this ability at level one, so it’s one of the first shots that a Hunter will learn to use. So what exactly does it do?

Arcane Shot is an instant ability with no cooldown, meaning you can fire it whenever you want. It costs 20 focus to use, although this is changing in patch 5.4, and it does Arcane damage (duh).

Arcane damage is magic damage which means it ignores the target’s armor and can be partially resisted. Despite dealing magic damage, it is not a magic spell, and thus does not benefit from Spell Power or Spell Crit. Please, please do not put any of those stats on your gear.

In PvE Arcane Shot is mainly used as a focus dump, meaning if everything else is on cooldown and you have a decent amount of focus to burn, you will want to fire this shot. It has good synergy with other abilities. It applies Hunter’s Mark to your target. It can cause Cobra Strikes to proc, and the Thrill of the Hunt talent reduces its focus cost by 20.

It has decent utility in PvP allowing Hunters to easily fire on the run, and it is useful against those silly plate wearing Paladins, Death Knights and Warriors as it will ignore all of their shiny armor.

In patch 5.4 Arcane Shot is having it’s damage buffed and it’s focus cost increased to 30. It will also interact with the T16 2-piece bonus reducing the cooldown of Rapid Fire by 12 seconds each time you use it (or so the tooltip says).

The set bonus combined with the damage increase has raised some concern that Arcane Shot will be so good that it will surpass some signature shots in priority, and make Thrill of the Hunt almost mandatory. Tuning for 5.4 is underway and it’s unlikely that Arcane Shot will push abilities like Explosive Shot out of the rotation, but it’s definitely going to hit harder and play a more prominent role in the rotations. And that in a nutshell, is Arcane Shot.

Good Hunting!