Welcome to Hunter-Love City, population, You! /cheer!
The gentle and kind hunter-developers have decided that the current pet-spell system is obsolete. Your pet trainer has had his job title changed and his responsibilities greatly decreased. Your pets are getting a wash, polish, wax, and engine and suspension upgrade, in the name of hunter-pet talent trees. Every hunter pet will have their own, individual tree, and you, Mr. Lucky, get to choose how to spend your pet's talent points.
There are three pet-talent trees: Tenacity, Ferocity, and Cunning. Every pet-class has been assigned one tree, and one tree only. A Bear will only have a Tenacity tree; you cannot decide on your own to make your Bear a Cunning pet, capice?
Tenacity pets are designed to be a much better tanks than the other two types of pets. Their talent trees have talents that greatly increase their ability to absorb and mitigate damage.
Ferocity pets and Cunning pets are much better at doing sustained and burst-damage than Tenacity pets. Ferocity and Cunning talent trees have talents that will increase a pet's damage substantially.
Please remember that Ferocity is not the "DPS pet" tree and Cunning is not the "Survivalist pet" tree. Each tree provides their pet with unique abilities that allow the pet to inflict damage, just utilizing different methods.
We prefer to make the following analogy:
Ferocity tree is to howitzer as Cunning tree is to Navy Seal demolition team. Both will destroy the target, but the former is blatantly obvious as it goes about its work, the latter is less so. Your choice of pet should depend upon your potential adversary, your teammates, and your play-style preference.
Let's pretend you're wise and benevolent, and thus have a Cat beside you.
To the right is your Cat's Ferocity tree and all the lovely new pet-talents it brings. Let's assume your hunter is level 70 and your Cat is level 70 as well.
Starting at level twenty, your pet accumulates one talent point. From then on, every four levels, your pet is given an additional talent point. Thus, your level 70 Cat has thirteen talent points to spend. In order to move down the pet-talent tree, you must spend talent points in multiples of three. This works exactly like your tradition talent trees, except those work in multiples of five. All right so far?
The pet-talent trees operate in exactly the same fashion as regular talent trees:
There are some talents that you cannot train until you complete their prerequisite talent.
You will not have enough talent points to completely fill the entire tree.
Some talents provide passive benefits, some provide new pet-spells that can auto-cast or be manually activated.
Now the fun begins.
The old-and-busted pet spells you originally learned from your pet trainer have either been incorporated into your pet talent trees, or your pet will auto-learn them as your pet levels. Let's find out where they went.
Log into the game, summon your pet, open your Spellbook, and click the Pet tab at the bottom.
Notice that Growl, Cower, the Focus-dump spells Claw, Bite, and Smack, and your pet's individual spell, in this case Sting, are all automatically learned and upgraded as your pet levels. You do not have to train these spells. You do not have to go out into the world, find a specific beast, train it, and "learn" how to train your own pets with a new spell-rank anymore.
Every time your pet reaches an appropriate level -- the level changes per spell -- it will auto-learn new ranks of its spells, and even put the new rank onto your pet's action bar. For example, your pet will auto-learn a new rank of Growl at level 10, 20, 30 ... and 80. It will auto-learn a new rank of Claw spell at 8, 16, 24 ... and 72.
What's a pet's individual spell? Every pet-class now has a unique spell, all unto its own. There are thirty-two pet classes in WotLK, so we can't list them all here, but here's a link to such a list.
Now open your Talents pane. On the upper-right of the Talents panel are two icons: one is for your hunter, one is for your pet. Click the pet icon.
Woohoo, you can haz pet-talents!
And there certainly are a slew of new pet talents from which to choose, aren't there. While a complete analysis of each new talent is beyond the scope of this column today, let's take a quick peek.
A few holdovers from our current pet-spells are: Cobra Reflexes, Dive, and Dash. Our pets' magic-resistances have been combined into Great Resistance. Our pets' Great Stamina has been morphed into a new Great Stamina, and so on.
The new spells? Way too many to list them all, but here are a few: Wolverine Bite, Roar of Recovery, Bullheaded, Last Stand, Guard Dog, Blood of the Rhino, Rabid, and the list goes on and on.
You're familiar with the concept of re-specing your hunter's talent points, yes? Well hunter-pet talents trees can be re-spec'd in the same fashion, except this procedure is accomplished at your old Pet Trainers in the major cities in Azeroth. Go to the pet trainer, ask to reset your pet's talent points, pay a nominal fee, and all your pet's talent points are refunded.
You love Cats, you love their skins, you'll never train anything other than a Cat. What could you do with that? Well, you could tame two cats and spend their talent points differently, so they were specifically created for certain situations.
A Ferocity pet is designed to do more damage than a Tenacity pet, but what's stopping you from increasing the health, stamina, magic-resistance, and AoE-survivability of a Ferocity pet? Can you think of a practical application of such a practice?
PvP you say?
You could have one Cat named Raidmachine, and his talent points would be spent to maximize his sustained DPS, sacrificing survivability to achieve that goal.
You could have another Cat named Arenachamp, and his talent points would be spent to maximize his survivability in arenas and PvP, sacrificing some DPS to stay alive longer.
You could even have another Cat named Bplus, and his talent points would be spent to increase his DPS and his survivability. You wouldn't be trying to maximize either, but instead, you'd be getting a better-than-average Cat in both PvE and PvP.
Now then, we've got one more pet-talent point situation with which to deal, and that's Exotic pets.
The 51st talent point you can spend in the Beast Master tree is, appropriately named, Beast Mastery. It allows the hunter to tame "exotic" pets, a full list of which is here. But in addition, it gives the hunter's pet an additional four pet-talent points.
Non-51-point BM hunters who love their pets will soon start thinking, "Golly, I wish I had just two more pet-talent points. Then I could take X and Y along with U, V, and W talents."
But you, Mr. 51-point BM hunter, will have those two points, plus two more with which to be silly. A 51-point BM hunter need not tame an "exotic" pet to appreciate the value of those extra pet-talent points, as many Gorilladin and Wasp-hunters (just to name a few) are about to see for themselves.
"Holy Elune, BRK! I'm going to have a boat-load of pet spells in my pet's Spellbook, how do I use them all when I only have four spots on my pet's action bar?"
A very good question.
Some pet spells are capable of being auto-cast. That is, they will be cast without your intervention when the situation is proper -- target is in range, cooldowns are up, etc. -- and the pet has enough Focus, if Focus is a requirement. You do not need to put an auto-cast spell on your pet's action bar in order for the auto-cast feature to work.
Let's look at Growl. You almost always have Growl on auto-cast, don't you. Right. If you desired, you could forgo putting Growl on your pet's action bar, and Growl will continue to be auto-cast in the background, working as designed.
Are there times you want to turn Growl off? Of course there are. Specifically, when you don't want your pet to compete for aggro with your party's main tank. When you zone into an instance, you could remember to always open your Spellbook and turn off Growl. When you're soloing again, you could manually turn Growl on again.
Are there more efficient ways of controlling your Growl auto-cast, without resorting to putting that spell back on your pet's action bar, just so you can right-click it on and off?
Solution One: Make a matching set of auto-cast macros.
Using the standard macro window and icons, you can make a Growl-ON macro:
Put this macro somewhere on your regular action bars, and you can manually force Growl to start auto-casting.
Would you want a macro to turn Growl's auto-cast feature off as well? A Growl-OFF macro would indeed be prudent:
You can put these two macros right next to each other on your action bars for easy access.
Solution Two: Make an auto-cast toggle macro.
In addition to the auto-cast macros, or as a replacement for them, you can make a single macro that will switch the auto-cast feature of a pet spell between on and off:
This macro will turn Growl's auto-cast off if it's on, or on if it's off.
What about pet-spells that don't have an auto-cast feature? Amazingly enough, you can control them via macros too!
If you have a Tenacity pet and have trained Taunt, you can make this macro:
Yes, it's that simple. You can make many macros to manually control your pet's spells, eliminating the need to put a pet-spell on your pet's action bar. Here are four simple, single-line macros you could use:
/cast Roar of Recovery
/cast Last Stand
/cast [target=focus] Intervene
/cast [target=mouseover] Roar of Sacrifice
Using macros to move your pet's spells from the pet action bar to the hunter action bars is going to make organizing and utilizing the vast number of new pet spells we hunters are going to have to manage feel less daunting.
Now, for a bonus feature.
One of the most commonly asked questions emailed to the BRK Worldwide Amalgamated Email Bunker is: What happens to exotic pets when a hunter "unlearns" Beast Mastery?
This is as good a time as any to re-answer this question.
You take the Beast Mastery talent, tame a Rhino, play with him in Borean Tundra, and decide it's just not you. You take him with you back to Azeroth and visit the Hunter Trainer. You reset your pet talent points, and the Rhino disappears.
Why? Because all pets disappear when the hunter respecs, but just hold on.
You decide to respec as a Survivalist. Fine, good. Lovely. You respec and try to take your Crab out of your stable, and the game refuses to allow it.
Why? Because you've still got an pet "equipped". Yes, Mr. Rhino is still there, and you cannot "equip" two pets at the same time.
(Which is a huge, festering, sweltering, crushing, dirty shame.)
So you try to Call your Rhino so you can Abandon him, and you fail. Why? Because you don't have Beast Mastery anymore, and you cannot "equip" an exotic pet without it.
You're pet-less, you poor, stinking b@stard.
What's the solution? Go back to the Hunter Trainer, respec as a 51-point Beast Master hunter again. Call your Rhino, Abandon him, then respec back to Survivalist again.
But what if you decide that you're not entirely sure you don't want to hang on to your Rhino, even though you're respecing Survivalist? OK, we can accommodate that.
Instead of Abandoning your Rhino, you can store him in your Stable. Chuck him in there, he'll be fine. Now you can go back to the Hunter Trainer and respec as a Survivalist. Afterwords, you can get your Crab out of the Stable, but you be unable to get your Rhino. He won't go anywhere; he's Stable-locked until you become a 51-point BM hunter again.
Are you going to have room to store exotic pets in your stable? You sure are! It only took four years and a Kenworth full of Hostess cupcakes delivered to the hunter-developers, but we now have four Stable slots! For a small fee, you can unlock two addition Stable slots and fill them with your massive animal arsenal.
A final note -- again we're totally deviating from pet talent trees -- is about auto pet-leveling.
Every time you summon your pet, or your hunter levels while your pet is "equipped", WoW will check to see if your pet is within five levels of your hunter, and raise him to be five levels below your hunter, if necessary.
Example 1: You're a level 70 hunter and you tame a level 24 Cat. As soon as you tame that Cat, WoW sees the Cat is much more than five levels beneath your hunter, and auto-levels the Cat to level 65. During the auto-level, your Cat will auto-learn all the spells and attain all the stats that a level 65 Cat should. All you'll need to do is spend all those lovely pet-talent points in his pet-talent tree.
Example 2: You're a level 25 hunter and you tame a level 25 Cat. You put the Cat in your Stable, and then level your hunter to 70. If you never touch that level 25 Cat in the Stable, it will never auto-level; the game only checks the hunter-pet level differential when the pet is "equipped". But as soon as you, as a level 70 hunter, take that level 25 Cat out of the Stable, it'll auto-level to 65.
Example 3: You're a level 69 hunter and you tame a level 64 Cat. You level your hunter to 70, with your pet by your side. As soon as you hit 70, the game will auto-level your Cat to 65, nice and pretty-like.
Is that it? Is that all? Not quite, baby.
The amount of experience a pet receives from his master has gone up. In Burning Crusade, a hunter's pet received 1/16th of the experience a hunter earned. In 3.0.2, a hunter's pet receives 1/10th. Faster pet-leveling, that's Win.
And finally, the pet-loyalty system is gone. Gone! No more Rebellious or Unruly pets. When you tame a new pet, you'll get 100% of the goodness of that pet, not a watered-down version that requires constant feeding and some crazy amount of time to make it your Best Friend. Tame it and, right off the showroom floor, it's ready to rock.
Hunter-pet talent trees. Special pet spells. Thirty-two pet classes. Exotic pets. Pet classes. Beast Mastery talent. Auto pet-leveling. Bigger Stable. Increased pet-XP. No more pet-loyalty.
Did Elune just smile on our class, or what.