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Scattered Shots: New and improved abilities

Scattered Shots: New and improved abilities
David Bowers
David Bowers|July 31, 2008 9:09 PM

Scattered Shots: noun. 1. (Scatter Shot, singular) An ability used by Marksmanship hunters, especially to annoy other players in PvP. 2. (Scattered Shots, plural) A column at WoW Insider about anything even loosely related to hunters, except for high-level raiding and completely improper, sometimes libelous personal commentary.

Hunters are getting quite a few changes in Wrath of the Lich King, but so far haven't covered them all. Today I'd like to go through the newest abilities and discuss them in greater detail.

New Baseline Hunter Abilities:

Nope, no Camouflage. We talked about this before, but it looks like the devs read our article, "Do hunters need Camouflage?" and decided the answer was no. So, instead we have a couple other new abilities to look forward to:

Kill Shot:
This is the new level 80 hunter ability, and it provides us with a bit of utility that help us to stand out and perform better in various situations:

First of all, at 45 yard standard range (or 51 yards with the Hawk Eye talent), this gives us the longest-range damage ability in the game as far as I am aware, which can definitely improve our kiting abilities in PvE and PvP, and even grant us a bit of that sniping feeling we've been looking forward to, especially if we can catch a target off guard and from a higher elevation.

Secondly, the damage bonus it gives to enemies under 20% health reminds one of the Execute ability that warriors have, helping us to do that last bit of damage to finish off a dying boss, or to catch monsters or players who are trying to run away. On that last note, this may be part of a trend we're seeing in the expansion to make running away from battle more difficult, especially in PvP with abilities such as Death Grip for death knights.

Finally, some people compare Kill Shot for effectiveness against Arcane Shot: both spells have a 6 second cooldown, and both do similar amounts of damage for similar amounts of mana, depending on the situation. Likewise, one must also choose whether to cast one of these shots whenever they become available, or to just keep on casting Steady Shot instead.
  • Arcane Shot deals arcane damage, which is better against highly-armored targets.
  • Kill Shot does deals physical damage, which is better against low-armor targets.
  • Arcane Shot has the bonus of dispelling buff effects on the target.
  • Kill Shot has bonus damage for low-health enemies, as well as extra range.
  • Both can be cast on the run in situations when you can't stay still, along with stings.
  • Steady Shot looks like it still does more damage for less mana overall, assuming you can stand still and take the time to cast it.

Kill Shot looks like it'll be especially nice for Survival hunters who get the Sniper Training talent, as well as Marksmanship hunters who get Marked for Death and Improved Steady Shot. Beast Mastery talents don't seem to have anything that directly increases Kill Shot damage.

Bear Trap:
This one looks like it's especially nice for PvP, an alternative for hunters who want to trap a melee class in place while at the same time doing some bleed damage to them. Freezing Trap doesn't last any longer than Bear Trap on PvP targets, (though it lasts a good 10 seconds longer on PvE targets).

What's interesting (and kind of frustrating) is that it doesn't do anything for our larger problem with the difficulty of reliable chain-trapping. It could be that Blizzard doesn't want hunters to be able to consistently keep PvE enemies out of the battle for more than a short time -- perhaps they think that's what other classes are for.

Bear Trap is certainly not the trap to end all traps, but it's a handy extension to our trapping abilities for use in certain situations.

Steady Shot non-clipping:

As you may have heard, Steady Shot damage will be based on your ammo, and will no longer clip Auto Shot once Wrath comes around. What this will do to the very notion of shot rotations isn't entirely clear yet, but we can draw a few conclusions. First of all, you won't have to carefully limit your actions to the brief window you have between Auto Shots quite so much. Instead, you'll be able to just rotate between your shots based on the situation you're in and the priorities of the moment.

Another aspect of this change is that it will alter the sense of timing that currently goes into being a hunter. This is something I can speak about from personal experience -- I just arrived back in the US to visit family, and while here I upgraded my computer to the newest and fastest of the iMacs, which is a far superior machine compared to the Powerbook G4 I was using before. And, aside from the vast improvements to graphics and frame rates, I was pretty surprised to see my effectiveness as a hunter actually go down a bit, rather than up.

The faster connection I have here, combined with the faster computer, means that I no longer need to time my shots for a few moments before the next Auto Shot is set to go off as I used to do. Instead, I need to wait till the Auto Shot actually shoots off visibly and then go ahead and activate my next Steady Shot (or other ability). The problem is that much of the time, the old habit kicks in and I find myself accidentally casting Steady Shot too soon, clipping my Auto Shot and ruining my otherwise reliable routine. Like habits in driving, speaking, and riding a bike, habits in WoW-timing are hard to change -- but once the change to Steady Shot comes along, it won't matter nearly as much. Auto Shot will go through no matter when I cast it.

The one downside to this change is that it means that being a hunter won't require that cultivated sense of timing as much anymore, and some people will say that being a hunter will require even less skill than it does nowadays. But in fact what will probably happen is that it will help reduce the gap between "good hunters" and "huntards" by making the basic hunter damage principles more intuitive. The expert hunters may complain that they're not as challenged as they used to be, but at least the casual everyday hunters won't have to make sense of complicated shot-rotation charts and mathematics just to do their job.

There are lots more hunter changes across the board, especially about pets: new pets, exotic pets, pet talent trees, more on pet talents, family skills, and aggro issues, as well as additional stable slots for more and more pets. Stay glued to WoW Insider to keep catching them all, and check out all our posts in the "hunter" category in order to keep track of them.

Has Scattered Shots once again whet your appetite for news about hunters in Wrath of the Lich King? Don't miss Daniel's in-depth analysis of the new-and-improved Marksmanship and Beast Mastery talents, as well as his early overview of Survival talents.
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