Another year of hunting is almost at an end, and that means it's time to dig into the vast past of December 2010, when Cataclysm was fresh and shiny and new and SV hunters were dominating every DPS chart, a time before aspect dancing and when pets still had a happiness system (kind of). That's right, it's time to dust off my 2011 hunter predictions and see how I did. It's also time to make new predictions for the state of hunters going forward in 2012 and take some guesses at what's going to happen with the class in the tumultuous year ahead.
Looking back at some of the changes, it's interesting to see the patterns and similarities in the class over time. SV is again the top DPS spec as it was a year ago -- only now instead of blowing away all comers with pretty demonstrably overpowered DPS, SV is at best middle of the pack. In practice, the hunter class is one of the poorest DPSers this tier.
SV got nuked to death in patch 4.0.6, much as an overpowered BM spec got over-nerfed into oblivion in patch 3.0.8 in early Wrath, except that while overnerfed, SV got it much gentler than BM did back in the day. The nerf bat is hitting a bit softer these days. Let's hope that's a trend that continues.
2011 hunter predictions review
OK, let's take a look at my predictions for hunters in 2011, made in December of 2010. As I recall, I tried to make some pretty aggressive predictions in addition to safe ones, and I'm curious to see what they were. I haven't looked at these in a year!
SV gets nerfed. This was an easy prediction at the time. SV was topping every chart and doing so by huge margins. You want to complain about fire mages now? That's nothing to what SV hunters were doing. There were other overperforming classes, of course, and they got nerfs too.
Unfortunately, SV hunters got nerfed pretty substantially more than they really should have been, and over the course of the year, we saw the gradual retraction of some SV nerfs until only the mastery nerf (15% agility bonus down to 10%) remains.
MM and BM get buffed. This one we knew was coming at the time. I predicted that we'd see a buff to Kill Command, which would later get nerfed again. We did see the buff, but it stuck. We also saw a massive buff to Aimed Shot as well as Chimera Shot, which combined with the huge SV nerfs had every serious raider switching specs to MM for most of the year.
SV remains the top hunter DPS spec. OK, I snuck by on this one. SV is the top hunter DPS spec once again but did not stay there throughout Cataclysm. SV only reclaimed its position in patch 4.3. I think I get only partial credit for this prediction.
There will be two hunter specs very near the top DPS spec. The idea here was that instead of having one clearly dominant spec, we'd have two specs close to each other, though one would be in the lead. This I nailed, with MM and SV both close in DPS and seeing decent representation throughout Cataclysm. Of course, I also went out on a limb and predicted that the two specs would be SV and BM, because I thought BM was assured a decent spot after Wrath, but BM was definitely the third throughout Cataclysm, though not that distant. So I got the vague prediction right and the specific one half wrong.
PvP remains in a rough spot for hunters throughout the year. I predicted minor adjustments, but nothing major changed, with Camouflage remaining mostly useless. I feel like I nailed this one on the head. Happily, we did get some significant acknowledgement from Blizzard that hunter PvP is a problem that needs to be addressed -- but alas, we aren't going to see it addressed until Mists of Pandaria.
The BM bonus ability is changed away from Intimidation. Swung a little too early on that one -- a clear miss. But we did hear that it's changing to Kill Command in MoP.
Counterattack is finally removed from the SV tree. Miss again, and again will be happening in MoP.
Pet collars are introduced into the game. Wishful thinking that didn't come near happening at all. But I'm not giving up!
Predictions for 2012
Well, I did pretty OK for my 2011 predictions. Most of the ones I missed were only partial misses, and I got about as much right as I got wrong. But this year is going to be ridiculously hard, because I predict that we'll see MoP in 2012 -- and that is certain enough that it doesn't count as a prediction.
That means that to really predict the full year, I'm going to have to make some wild guesses about what might happen to hunters in Mists of Pandaria. So fair warning, those are going to look more like guesses than predictions.
- Hunters get a small PvE buff to help Dragon Soul damage. This is actually a wilder a prediction than it sounds. From the data we have right now, hunters are low on the DPS parses, but not very low. Combine that with the fact that the developers are working a lot on the next expansion, and it's easy to leave it be and say things will be better in the expansion. After all, how would you spend your development time: buff a class that's just a few percent below median, or fix the MoP bug that gives warriors three arms? But I think that hunters will make enough noise that we'll get a nice little buff for raid damage. The easiest way would be just extending the raid AP buff to hunters as well as melee, so we'll get 20% AP from the buff rather than 10%.
- Hunter PvP continues to be poor throughout Cataclysm. This is a crazy-safe prediction. Sorry, PvPers.
- Mists of Pandaria alpha and beta launch in February or March. I think we're going to see this far sooner than most people are prediction. In fact ...
- Mists of Pandara releases in the summer of 2012. I think we're going to see it that soon. If I had to really guess, I'd predict a July release.
- Hunters complain mightily about the beta changes. Wait, no, that doesn't even count as a prediction. The only thing guaranteed in any expansion beta is that tons of players will complain about everything.
- BM gets Stampede. An ability to release five (non-controllable) pets at once as a DPS burst on a long cooldown is something we just have to have. I think it will go to BM only as a spec ability.
- Hunters have three actual talent choices. Of the six talents we get to spend in MoP, I'm predicting that half of them will have a "right" answer for most raiding and heroic situations, and half of them will be legitimate anything goes choices. I really hope I'm wrong and they're all choices, but I have a hunch it won't work out.
- Pets get a talent system similar to hunters. I talked about how it could work last week, and I'm betting that Blizzard goes for the cool way of doing it, rather than just removing pet talents entirely.
- PvP gets much better for hunters. We know minimum range is going away, and I don't think that's the only PvP improvement we'll see. I also predict that SV returns as the dominant hunter PvP spec, with BM doing well too. I think MM will fall to the least popular PvP spec.
- Pet collars are introduced. These are nifty ways of customizing your pet a bit further with no graphic (you don't see them on the pet). They are not dropped as raid loot but are only crafted.
- BM is the top DPS spec. Hey, they haven't had their moment in the sun since The Burning Crusade.
- We get a hunter legendary. It's about time. I'm predicting a legendary that is for hunters only -- no other classes. And not some sissy bow, either.
- The world does not end.
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