In little more than a week, we'll know what we have to look forward to in the next expansion at BlizzCon. Whether or not we hear something about hunters specifically remains to be seen. There's no class panel scheduled and class questions won't be allowed during the Q&A panel. We have had some hints from the developers here and there, but ultimately our future is a mystery and may remain so until we see the first beta patch notes.
Arth over at the Warcraft Hunters Union has been compiling a community-generated list of hunter ideas and suggestions intended for the developers known as The Hunter Project. Overall, I'm pretty happy with the hunter class as it stands, but there are some areas where I think some changes are needed. We'll take a look at some of the suggestions put forth in The Hunter Project and I'll add my own input to the mix.
Wish #1: Alleviate button bloat
There's a reason so many hunters take Blink Strikes or Thrill of the Hunt when choosing their talents: one less button to push. I did a counting of all the hunter abilities I used (more than once) in my last Garrosh kill and came up with 20. Some of those can be chalked up to situational utility like Counter Shot or Disengage -- both examples of abilities I would never want to lose. The amount of key binds we have is not something I personally struggle with, but I have to wonder how many things could be baked into other abilities (Widow Venom) or just removed outright (Snake Trap). The last thing I want is to lose some of the cool little tricks we have, but I also recognize the problem of having too many buttons.
I'd like to see emphasis put on the perfect execution of a smaller number of active abilities. The Hunter Project mentions greater importance being put on the signature abilities, and I agree. Not having focus available for when these finish cooldown should harm your DPS a lot more than it currently does. Extra buttons you simply hit with no thought involved (Dire Beast, Focus Fire, Stampede, etc.) don't really add much to the gameplay. Stampede was something hunters requested for a long time, but it seemed to cause more problems than it solved. The danger, of course, is removing someone's favorite ability. I know a lot of hunters miss Eyes of the Beast, but if we keep adding new abilities we're going to run out of action bars.
Wish #2: Re-evaluate having both passives and actives in one talent tier
One way to tackle button bloat is to move some spells or talents into passive status. Let's look at the level 75 talent tier as an example. While the passive option (Blink Strikes) may not be better on paper, it often ends up being more effective in the real world because there's less chance for human error. In order for people to not take Blink Strikes, Blizzard would have to nerf it to the point of being useless.
When Mists first launched, Blink Strikes was not a passive ability and I felt like the tier was more of a genuine choice. Today, Blink Strikes is vital for beast mastery to put out competitive AoE damage which makes it not a choice. I can't think of a single scenario where I would take one of the other talents as beast mastery. The other option is to make the whole tier passive, which helps with the button bloat problem and puts all the talents on equal ground.
Aspects feel completely vestigial to me now. The damage from Hawk needs to be baked into our shots since it's always on during combat anyway. If aspects are to survive they need to stay as a utility-based system because if they're turned into a damage-based system, which encourages aspect dancing, it just makes the button bloat problem worse. We've been down that road already with Aspect of the Fox, and adding Aspects to shot macros wasn't exactly compelling gameplay. If they were strictly utility-based, some of the retired aspects could make their return or there could be entirely new ones. One such example from The Hunter Project being "Aspect of the Shark" for increased swim speed. It would be sad to see a staple of the hunter class go, but aspects in their current form don't really add anything of value to the class.
Wish #4: Hunter spec differentiation
The Hunter Project talks about the possibility of having clearly defined roles for each of our 3 specializations, e.g. ranged AoE, ranged single target, and a PvP spec. Right now the 3 specs are trying to be jack-of-all-trades, but I'm not sure if I'd enjoy a spec that was only suited to AoE situations. I wouldn't mind a spec that is good at everything, but great at one particular thing. I could get behind a PvP focused spec since hunter PvP balance has always been such an issue. Marksmanship already seems to be taking on that roll in patch 5.4.
My personal wish is for the specs to "feel" different rather than having a clearly defined role. Here's my own pie in the sky ideas:
- Beast Mastery should further emphasize synergy with the pet. To borrow from demonology warlocks, hunters could use Bestial Wrath in a similar fashion to Metamorphosis and Demonic Fury. Bestial Wrath could only be cast once the hunter builds up enough of a new resource (loyalty?) through normal gameplay. Once loyalty is maxed, and Bestial Wrath is activated, shots turn into higher damage pet abilities, e.g. Arcane Shot would turn into a new pet-based attack like Kill Command. This lets you "become your beast" without actually turning into a melee class.
- Survival could benefit from emphasizing multidot damage further. Explosive Shot could see a return of its old cleave ability since it is explosive after all. I'd like to see a new method of dumping focus, i.e. nixing Arcane Shot in favor of Black Arrow. It would need its cooldown removed, its duration shortened, and it would need to be stackable. The hunter could choose to multidot with it or stack it a single target. Having a DoT as a focus dump solidifies survival's identity as a multidotter.
- Marksmanship feels like it should be focused on physical damage. Instead of Serpent Sting as its DoT, I would make it a bleed ability. Chimera Shot was named as such because it used to behave differently based on what sting you had on your target. Nowadays the ability almost feels vestigial, and for that reason I think Aimed Shot (with an added cooldown) should become the signature ability with Chimera Shot getting the axe. A hardcasted signature shot would certainly make the spec feel unique, but the Glyph of Aimed Shot needs to be made baseline. If Arcane Shot was replaced with a new physical shot (Buck Shot?) then the spec could be turned into 100% physical damage.
There's not a whole lot to complain about here. Blizzard has given a great deal of attention to pets throughout Mists with increased stable slots and plenty of new skins to tame. I think having unique looking exotic pets only available to beast mastery is great, but I don't like the idea of restricting important buffs to one specialization.
Pet pathing and AI issues can be frustrating at times. My pet always manages to get stuck inside one of the boxes during the Spoils of Pandaria encounter, and he can't be freed until that box is destroyed or I exit combat. I'm sure there's a nasty technical problem behind all this, but I really wish my pet was less derpy sometimes.
Pet collars is an idea originally pitched by Frostheim, and every time time I hear about them I wish pet collars existed. How would you get one though? Item drops won't work, so my first thought was the warlock green fire quest. If hunters were ever to have such a quest, I can't think of a cooler reward than a pet collar. What does the collar do? Aside from something cosmetic, maybe the collar allows you to choose which raid buff your pet brings.
Blizzard has expressed interest in bringing the quiver graphics back (not the ammo itself). Here's hoping we see them in next expansion, along with ammo pouches.
I would rank Glaive Toss and Cobra Shot up there as cool hunter visual effects, but normally our shots are invisible amongst all the other spell effects. I'd like to see some minor glyphs to allow us to have flaming or frost arrows which leave a bright tracer streaking to the target, or anything to make it more than a invisible pixel moving across the screen.
Ideas are a dime a dozen
I fear the better ideas often get lost in the incessant "nerf this, buff that" noise. I tried to stay away from balancing issues as much as possible and focus on the gameplay. If you want your feedback to be heard by Blizzard you need to do it in a calm and constructive manner. Tweet the developers, make forum posts, but be respectful about it.
Let's hope Blizzard will gain some inspiration from all of this community feedback and make our favorite class even better.
Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. From raiding tips and taming rare pets to learning the DPS value of skill, we've got you covered. If you're stuck in one of the nine support classes, why not move up to the big league and play a hunter?