Welcome once again to Scattered Shots, WoW Insider's spot for all things Hunter, except for the stuff Big Red Kitty covers. Daniel Whitcomb will be your host today (a day late, for which he apologizes) as David Bowers tries to shake off some extra aggro.
The state of Hunters in PvP is perhaps one of the most debated subjects in WoW PvP. Some call Hunters overpowered for their dispelling Arcane Shot (which is going away in Wrath, to be sent to the non-damaging Tranquilizing Shot), while others point to their low Arena representation and the ease of using line of sight to negate most of their DPS and Abolish Poison to get rid of their main PvP utility as proof that they need buffs. Regardless, even the devs acknowledge that Hunters probably need some help in PvP, and class designer Koraa recently spoke on the subject on the Beta forums. In his post, he covered the problems he sees Hunters having, and how Blizzard will be helping with those moving forward into Wrath.
Unfortunately, his solutions seem confused in and of themselves. They involve giving Hunters more melee attack power (instead of more way to break from melee so they can use their ranged weapon) and a variety of talents scattered around many trees in such a way that it will be difficult for a solid PvP build to get them all. And, as I mentioned in a post yesterday, they still aren't giving pets resilience.
Other Hunters such as Megatf have done an excellent job responding to some of Koraa's points in the thread itself, but I'd like to address and respond to the post myself in this week's column, and see how they stack up to the problems Hunters face in small scale Arena PvP.
Koraa says that the changed to Surefooted and the addition of Master's Call are meant to improve Hunter mobility. Since both are more dependable (he says) ways to remove or reduce immobilizing effects, they should improve a Hunter's ability to get out of scrapes.
The first problem with this solution is that both are talents. A Hunter is supposed to be a ranged fighter. Getting to range in order to use their abilities should really be a basic cornerstone of the class. The problem is that instead, we are expected to gather talents in disparate trees and cobble together a build that will probably greatly lower our damage potential in return for a little more survivability - and survivability that is questionable at that. 2 minor snare resistance abilities, one on a cooldown and dependent on a pet who could be dead or crowd controlled, won't save us from Hamstring spam or constant Crippling Poison procs.
To make matters worse, the one reliable way we have of breaking away from melee range, The Beast Within, will probably be dispellable in Wrath, since "enrage" effects will be removable with Tranquilizing Shot.
What would simply be more preferable is some reliable way of keeping distance. Concussion Shot doesn't last long, and traps are easily resisted or dodged and have a restrictive cooldown. What would help our mobility more than anything would be a knockback shot or trainable Scatter Shot. A solid reactive way to keep people at range is what we need. That alone would help both our mobility and our suvivability by allowing us a fair chance to keep or regain our distance and do what we do best.
Deterrence, says Koraa, is the major solution for Hunter survivability. It is true that the Deterrence changes, which provide straight resistance to spell damage, should be very useful to help a Survival Hunter stand up to focus fire.
Unfortunately, this is yet another talent that should be baseline, and one that will be hard to fit into a talent build that wants to take The Beast Within and Scatter Shot for other needed PvP Utility. Much like Mages got baseline Ice Block, it really does seem like Hunters deserve a baseline damage reduction ability for when they get focus fired, and Deterrence would fit the bill. Offering us a talent that may be hard to fit into an otherwise legitimate PvP build is not going to solve any problems.
Line of Sight
The first part of Koraa's solution here is at least somewhat promising. They agree that Hunters are perhaps the class most affected by breaking line of sight, and plan to implement 2 new abilities for Wrath that should help with that. We'll have to wait and see, of course, how much the abilities actually help Hunter PvP.
If there is one thing that's a bit disconcerting about this, it's the fact that we get two new abilities. Between those 2 abilities, Tranquilizing Shot becoming needful again, plus Kill Shot and Bear Trap, I'm fast running out of macro spots and hot keys, much less space on my action bars. Have we given up the complication of Shot Rotations just in time for the complication of PvP abilities?
The second part is more than a little bit confusing and disheartening. The dev team plan to give Aspect of the Beast a 10% melee AP buff and unlink Mongoose Bite from dodge in order to give Hunters more melee damage when they are unavoidably caught in melee. It's more "buffs" that Hunters didn't ask for and won't really fix what's wrong with them in Arenas.
Melee Hunters have long been ridiculed, and for good reason. They simply don't work, and it's foolish to use melee when you can do better damage and have more utility at ranged. To think that one should simply give in and try to melee their opponent to death is, frankly, ludicrous. The global cooldown wasted by switching to Aspect of the Beast alone would be better spent on a Wing Clip, a trap drop, or a Scatter Shot in an attempt to gain range again. We need more ways to get back to range, not melee damage.
I'll be honest. This next problem is a problem that I didn't even know we had. Says Koraa: "[Hunters] do have a powerful front-load combo (Aimed -> Multi -> Arcane etc.) , but the problem they have is finishing the player off. If the player is still alive after your front load damage, you're left standing there praying for autoshot crits."
The solution, he says, is the Kill Shot. It's strange that he mentions this as an option to the above front-loaded combo, because Kill Shot looks like it will be on the same cooldown as Arcane Shot. That means that if you used the above front-load combo, Kill Shot is on cooldown anyway, and you're left praying for Auto Shot crits anyway.
Still, I have to admit that I'm sort of excited for Kill Shot. At the least, it will allow an easier time finishing off a fleeing opponent who's trying to duck behind a pillar to heal or bandage.
Koraa says that they believe that they have made pets more durable and useful, with a wide variety of abilities to make them better at all levels of PvP, Arena, world, and battleground alike.
Unfortunately, at the same time, he's also nixed any chance of pets sharing resilience. I've covered most of my problems with that in the post I made yesterday on the issue, but as it stands, the problem is clear. All the new abilities in the world won't help if Pets have no survivability, and right now, there's no indication they do. Even new abilities like Heart of the Phoenix don't really seem to measure up -- anyone capable of killing a pet in the first place should only need one or two shots to kill them again when they pop up with 10% health.
The new family skills do offer some small promise for change. Stuns and snares could do wonders to help Hunters with mobility promises and keeping people at range, except for three small problems: First, said snares and stuns often last for a very short amount of time and have a long cooldown (see: Web), and thus are less than reliable Secondly, if the pet is dead, it can't use the skills. Thirdly, most Hunters will probably still be stuck using a scorpid for the stacking poisons, especially if they are Marksmanship Hunters who want their Chimera Shot to be of any use.
The Elephant in the Room: Viper Sting
Drain teams are perhaps the most successful niche Hunters have found in the Arena system. Unfortunately, with 3 out of 4 healing classes able to remove poisons, a Hunter needs to spec a certain way and bring a scorpid pet to properly protect his Viper Sting. If he does not, it will be removed immediately in many teams and become useless.
It seems likely that Blizzard just doesn't get this -- Koraa seemed confused as to this fact too. He genuinely wonders why a proposed change to make Chimera Shot refresh stings is bad. It seems he'd realize that Chimera Shot cannot refresh a sting that has already been cleansed away.
There's simply no reasonable way outside of a scorpid Pet to keep a Viper Sting from falling off any player who is teamed with a Druid, Shaman, or Paladin. Because of that, any extra PvP utility provided by new family skills falls by the wayside.
The one bright spot is that the scorpid is a Tenacity pet, meaning it will at least have access to a good variety of survivability skills such as Blood of the Rhino. If it's good enough to provide survivability against high DPS weapons with armor-piercing powers, however, remains to be seen.
In the end though, the biggest problem remains the fact that Viper Sting is too easy to dispel, thus leading to the use of a scorpid pet being nearly mandatory in many situations. The best way to fix this would probably be to make Chimera Shot a passive ability that added a "bloom" to sting that occurs when they end or if they are dispelled, thus making a healer have to think twice before dispelling without making stings outright impossible to dispel. You could also experiment with making Serpent Sting a 5-stack poison that stacked with other stings, but to be honest, that would probably be simultaneously useless in PvE and overpowered in PvP.
Drain teams are specialized that I feel it's justified to require a certain spec for them in this case, and I would hope that the eventual mobility, survivability, and line of sight changes we do get are enough to make us desirable in non-drain focused teams as well. But for both things to happen, we need some buffs.
There are probably a few disclaimers I should make so that my criticism of Blizzard's PvP direction with Hunters doesn't seem too harsh.
Firstly, the fact remains that as of this writing, the Beta level cap is only level 77, and no new end-game PvP content has been released for testing. It's very possible that Blizzard has been running PvP content with level 80 characters already, and once we get a chance to head into Dalaran Arena and Lake Wintergrasp at level 80, we'll find all these new Hunter tweaks really do work to fix our PvP problems. I honestly doubt it, and I still see a lot of holes to be plugged, but I'd be glad to be proven wrong.
Secondly, Hunters are shaping up nicely for PvE. Improved pet functionality and the removal of Auto Shot clipping alone are worth the price of admission.
Thirdly, this is still Beta, and a lot can change. Blizzard's proven very receptive of well written and knowledgeable feedback during the Beta, so it's very possible that they could change their views on fixing Hunter PvP before we go live. We have at least 2-3 more months before Wrath goes live, and it's likely that things will change drastically from build to build.
But regardless, what we need in PvP is clear to me. We need a solid baseline way to keep ourselves at range, we need pets that can survive a few good hits from well-equipped DPS, we need a way to overcome our LOS difficulties, and we need a way to protect our Viper Sting without being forced into one viable pet family for Arena PvP.
Blizzard has acknowledged at least some of these shortcomings, but it remains to be seen if their solutions will be enough. Hopefully, we'll have more good news to report on that front when PvP testing kicks into high gear on the Beta.