Scattered Shots: How do you make sense of all the beta hunter changes?

David Bowers
D. Bowers|08.21.08

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Scattered Shots: How do you make sense of all the beta hunter changes?

Is the tauren above about to cut off his own head -- or lunge forward to attack? Perhaps he's just feeling confused about upcoming changes to hunters? Would you, too, like to know just what's going to happen to your class? Well, you can rest easy now, because Scattered Shots has all the answers to your most urgent questions.

The short answer is: You don't; at the moment there is no making sense of all the Wrath hunter changes. We find ourselves at the mid-point of Blizzard's mysterious scheme for hunters, right in-between significant changes already in-progress and vague changes which they've promised or the future. We remain uncertain about which ones are going to make it live, which will be changed again, and which will be removed or added later on. Any analysis we do right now (and indeed much of the analysis we've already done) may or may not be completely out of date in a matter of days or weeks, and if your head hurts from all the ups and downs of turbulent beta-zone theorycrafting, rest assured that Scattered Shots feels your pain.

The long answer is: Even though the jigsaw puzzle isn't complete, it's still a pretty neat picture to look at. Today isn't the day for point-for-point talent analyses plus spreadsheets of sting/shot-damage coefficients -- what a headache that would be. No, today is an opportunity to stand back and look at how all this is beginning to fit together, to see how the path our class is trekking through the wilderness of beta-testing ambiguity solves some of our long-standing problems, gives us more of what makes hunters great, and leaves us with several crucial questions mysteriously unanswered.

What follows, ladies and gentauren, are the X-files of hunter beta mysteries, a fuzzy look through the crystal ball into the future of our class, the thrilling buildup to the surprising twist that comes just before the epic climax of the Hunter Saga season finale and leaves you hanging on the edge of your seat, biting on the tip of your fingernails, and gasping for air in the thrall of cliffhanger suspense.

Do hunters need Camouflage? Blizzard says, "Yes!"

Okay, the first big news in my book is that "Camouflage" is back in for hunters. Just about all we know of this ability is that it will provide "limited stealth capabilities" to level 80 hunters, with one bonus that we will be able to lay traps while camouflaged (although if our traps aren't camouflaged too, then this would tell our enemies exactly where we are...). We also know that this Camouflage will be different from the data-mined Camouflage ability we saw earlier in the alpha -- just how different is anyone's guess.

I'd like to hear your thoughts on what you think Camouflage should look like. If you ask me (or rather, if Blizzard asks me...), I would make it work something like this: You need to get some distance on your current enemy, so you dodge behind a tree or off a ledge, breaking line of sight, and then suddenly... you're gone! I imagine it working like a regular stealth ability as a prelude to big-time sniping, but also like a limited vanish in that, in addition to a cooldown and limited duration, it only works when you can hide behind something and break line of sight with any enemies currently engaged in combat with you. This could make environmental dynamics even more interesting for hunters, and give us ways to use tricky tight spaces to our advantage -- especially those cramped arenas. Hunters already have an unprecedented control over the space they occupy using traps, and this would work to heighten that strategy.

Do hunters need Bear Trap? Blizzard says, "No."

Speaking of traps, it looks like Blizzard heard the mysterious voices telling them that Bear Trap wasn't really solving our PvP trapping issues, so they decided to nix it and just improve Freezing Trap instead. True to common sense, Freezing Trap will no longer crack open on the slightest bit of damage, but will require a set amount before breaking loose enough for your enemy to escape.

This won't turn Freezing Trap into a stun-like ability where you can just freeze your enemy and then shoot all their appendages off, but it will (hopefully) give you that extra split second you need to get away from an enemy who may already happen to have a damage-over-time spell on. It may also give you a bit of buffer space if you or others are clumsy with multi-target and area-of-effect abilities.

Do hunters need a true taunting shot? Blizzard says, "Yes!"

Another nice change coming soon to a beta build near you: Distracting Shot will work more like a warrior's Mocking Blow, forcing an NPC enemy to attack you for 6 seconds. This is the answer to my prayers I've sent up while trying to trap while grouped with my paladin tanking friend. Once enemies start attacking her, it seems like there's no way to peel them off again, and this sometimes made trapping my designated target difficult to impossible.

It should also let us respond much more dynamically to situations that would otherwise be out of control. Suppose your healer draws threat (as they may be more likely to do without spell downranking) and your tank can't get there in time. You will be able to taunt that hazard over to your new-and-improved Freezing Trap just as fast as your own brain's reaction time can manage, which should give your tank enough time to see what's going on and reacquire that target's attention at his own pace.

This obviously makes our traps much more powerful, and reinforces our class' mastery of PvE threat-management. Abilities like this, along with Misdirection, and Feign Death mean that hunters are the go-to class when you want your enemy to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time, especially when someone else is having trouble and things start to go wrong.

Do hunters need straight answers? Blizzard says, "Maybe..."

Several other things are going on with hunter skillz which we've either already talked about or don't seem to merit lots of discussion at the moment:

Finally, I'll leave you with the assurance that we'll do a proper discussion about the updated hunter talents at some point in the future. They'll probably change a lot soon anyways. But before you go, take a look at this one new talent with lots of potential: Separation Anxiety in the Beast Mastery tree makes your pet do up to 10% more damage when it is far away from you, and lets you and your pet move up to 10% faster when it is nearby. This is just the sort of synergy I like to see -- a talent that alternately boosts your damage or survivability depending on the likely need of the moment. Plus, it makes space even more of a strategic element for hunters, which is super cool.

Do hunters need more super-cool stuff? Blizzard says...

(To be continued...)

Does reading Scattered Shots make your brain sparkle with questions about hunting? Do you ever wonder what all those pet talents will let you do? Do you ever wonder if Blizzard really understands our hunter PvP issues? Or have you ever gone off the deep end and wondered what hunters would be like if we didn't use mana?
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