Happy New Year, Hunters! I hope you're all enjoying our late Christmas present from Blizzard. For the past three years, Frostheim (former Scattered Shots columnist) has been doing annual hunter predictions and looking back at them to see how accurate he was a year later. I'm going to continue the tradition today with 2014 hunter predictions. Trying to guess what's going to happen in an expansion year is pretty tough compared to predicting what will happen during an already-released expansion, but that just lets me get a little more crazy with the predictions. I'll try to have a decent mix of realistic and outrageous predictions, but before that we'll start with doing a quick review of Frostheim's 2013 predictions which he made a year ago. At that point, patch 5.1 was about a month old and the Throne of Thunder was still a couple months away.
2013 predictions review
- Hunters get a DPS buff. This one turned out to be slightly true. We never ended up topping the meters in Mists, but after getting some PvP-driven nerfs early in the expansion, we were finally compensated somewhat in 5.4 with signature shot buffs and having Stampede restored to full damage in PvE. There was also Aspect of the Hawk -- which started out this expansion as a 10% RAP buff -- now a whopping 35% after three mid-tier buffs.
- Sniper Training or something similar returns. This didn't happen in 2013, but one of the level 100 talents (which could and probably will change), is called Snipe and can only be used while standing still.
- We will see new spirit beasts. Correct! Patch 5.2 introduced the three spectral porcupines: Degu, Hutia, and Gumi. Mists was pretty dry for spirit beasts overall, though.
- More hunter pet storage is announced. Bang on. Patch 5.3 upped the hunter stable to 50 slots, in addition to our 5 active pets for 55 total pets.
- Powershot does not get fixed. Ye of little faith! Powershot's targeting issues eventually got fixed (along with Glaive Toss).
- Pet collars are announced. Sorry, Frostheim. Another year without pet collars. Maybe sometime in Warlords?
- BM will remain the most popular spec throughout the year. Pretty much correct, though in 5.4 PvPers have been migrating to marksmanship and many PvE players are jumping over to survival. Overall, I'd still say more people play beast mastery.
- MM gets a DPS buff. Half correct. Marksmanship received several buffs, but they were never enough to make people stray from beast mastery or survival in a PvE environment since those specs also received buffs at the same time. Marksmanship is competitive in single target, but those fights are not the norm.
I wanted to get these over with before the release of the Warlords beta because doing them after that would feel a little bit like cheating. The downside is I could end up being wrong on these in just a few short weeks, but this is just for fun, so who cares? As for the beta, I would be very surprised if that wasn't out by March.
- Changes to the pet buff system. Either we will get some way of customizing raid buffs on our pets (so we don't always have to run with a sporebat in 10-man), or they'll be removed from the pets and put on the hunter so that Lone Wolf hunters can still bring an extra buff to their group.
- Pet collars are announced. I have to keep Frostheim's tradition going because it's something I would like to see as well. Pet collars would be a way to further customize your pet, and wouldn't they be the perfect place to implement the previously-mentioned pet buff customization system?
- We get some way to show off our pets in our garrison. Apparently it is being done for battle pets, so I'd like to think the functionality could be replicated for hunter pets. What I'm talking about is being able to assign a set of pets from your stable which will wander around your garrison. Having the place feel alive and customized would go a long way to making it more than a daily mission/quest stop.
- With or Without You (level 100 talent) will be a balancing nightmare. I've spoke before about how I am not a big fan of having passive and active talents in the same tier because the passive ends up winning most of the time for various reasons. I can see the raw damage buffs from Lone Wolf (MM/SV) and Versatility (BM) becoming the default choice except for certain situations which may favor a talent such as Bola Shot. If this does happen, I don't think it will last and it will be promptly nerfed. I'm a bit pessimistic about this one, so maybe Blizzard will surprise me. Or maybe the talent has already been removed from the game and I'm going to look silly. There's a reason they never "officially" released these talents.
- Marksmanship will be strong early in the expansion. After an entire expansion of being the odd man out in PvE, I have a feeling marksmanship is going to be given a big boost. It may even be the top damage spec for a hunter who can play it properly. More specifically, it will finally have a viable AoE damage solution.
- Survival will be the least changed spec. Survival is in a pretty good spot currently. It's very versatile, and most people seem to enjoy the Lock and Load mechanic. I can see it staying pretty much the same, while beast mastery and marksmanship see the real changes.
- More of beast mastery's damage moved to the control of the hunter. While it will remain pet focused, there may be a little more responsibility put on the hunter through interactions with the pet. Less raw pet damage from white attacks and claw/bite/smack, which right now is an extremely high percentage of beast mastery damage.
- Unique focus dumps for each spec. We already know that changes are coming to better differentiate the three specs in Warlords. What better way to make each one play differently than giving each spec a unique focus dump? These abilities could have different focus costs to make each play a little differently. Aside from gameplay, making them feel different with unique visuals gives them flavor, even if they perform the exact same function as Arcane Shot.
- Tier 16 4-piece bonuses, or similar style bonuses, become permanent passive abilities at 100. It may not be exactly the same as T16, but I can see them being in the same style of bonuses which change gameplay without adding new buttons. As we level from 90 to 100, we'll be gaining several new passive bonuses that will change existing spells rather than add new abilities. Set bonuses are much more interesting than a flat +XX% damage boost to a certain spell, so why not?
- More abilities will be removed or baked into other abilities as passives. We have a lot of crowd control abilities and might be losing one or more of those. Remember that all of the new bonuses you will get while leveling from 90-100 are going to be passive. They're going to be careful not to add many more buttons.
- One or more traps will be removed or revamped. Snake Trap is a prime candidate for this.
- Aspects will be removed. If not removed, they will be completely revamped and changed into purely utility. Right now they are almost pointless. Bonus prediction: Aspect of the Pack is changed into a cooldown similar to Stampeding Roar.
- New spell effects and cosmetic glyphs. Hunters have a poor selection of cosmetic minor glyphs available, and aside from a few standouts like Barrage and Glaive Toss, our spell effects aren't very iconic either. I know that having more spell effects in a raid is a performance and visual problem, but hopefully Blizzard will improve that by further emphasizing your own attacks and reducing fellow raid member's attacks on your screen.
- Cosmetic quivers will finally return. These were teased in the Warlords announcement trailer, and by Art Director Chris Robinson. I think they're a lock. They will probably not be separate items but will be a part of existing armor, e.g. a tier set chest piece.
- Hydras become tamable, along with several new beast families. I covered this in last week's post, where Hydras already have a buff ready to go and everything. I think we'll finally be able to tame them, along with some other pets we've been wanting to tame for years (mammoths please). Perhaps some pets can just be lumped into existing families, such as adding talbuks to the goat family, to make it easier for Blizzard to add more pet looks without adding new pet families or abilities. On top of that we should see some brand new pet families, one of which may be the riverbeasts.
- Spirit beast sporebat. Enough said.
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