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Scattered Shots: Dreaming of awesome ammo

Brian Wood

Welcome to Scattered Shots, written by Frostheim of Warcraft Hunters Union and the Hunting Party Podcast. Each week Frostheim uses logic and science mixed with a few mugs of Dwarven Stout to look deep into the Hunter class.

Currently hunter ammo is nothing more than an extension of our ranged weapon DPS. Perhaps our Stakethrower does 222.7 DPS in raw damage. Well, our Shatter Rounds just boost that by 91.5 DPS. So it's as if our gun was actually doing 314.2 DPS. It's certainly easy to understand, but it's just so... boring. Really, they could just boost the DPS of our ranged weapons and it'd be the same thing.

But ever since Blizzard first told us they'd be removing consumable ammo we hunters have been dreaming of how awesome our ammo could be. It might burst into flame on impact, or cut through armor, or heal us, or heck, for all we know it would serve as a mount so we could fire gnomish rogues into the face of bosses!

Join me after the cut for a discussion of the state of hunter ammo, and some speculation on just how awesome it could become.

No More Consumable Ammo

Consumable ammo is the devil's tool of death and destruction right here on this very planet. Hunters are the only class that actually has to pay for every attack we make (in addition to our repair costs). Back in vanilla it wasn't so bad. Ammo was fairly cheap -- though it did add up -- and we could expect to Feign Death out of the majority of wipes to save on repair bills. Alas nowadays we're wiping with the rest of the raid more often than not.

So it was received with great glee when we were told consumable ammo would be removed back in Feb of '09. Originally this change was supposed to happen back in patch 3.1. But then we swiftly got the whoops, not just yet update. And every major patch since we hunters have been sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to see what our new ammo would look like, dreaming of what it would look like. Finally we gave up all hope and now don't expect to see it before patch 4.0, which should be the precursor patch a bit before Cataclysm launches.

Ghostcrawler Dampens Hope

Ghostcrawler recently piped in on the topic of how awesome hunter ammo could become, smacking rampant speculation upside the head. I can certainly see the logic in lowering expectations. Most of the crazy stuff we hunters want is probably very difficult to code and even harder to balance. Certainly what I want is that way. In his post he said:

The simplest solution is certainly that ammo goes away and guns, bows and crossbows just don't ever run out of ammo. More complicated features might be more exciting as you say, but have potential downsides too. Applying fire to your arrows sounds cool, but is ultimately any more interesting than just having a "Fire Shot" ability. Do you really conceive of a lot of situations where you'd rather do Fire damage over physical damage? Having different kinds of arrows sounds interesting until you consider the delivery mechanism of having to "catch them all" through rare drops, badge vendors or the like. As you say, hunters do have a lot of buttons and a pet to manage, so I'm not sure they really need a whole additional mechanic to worry about.

Is applying fire to my ammo more interesting than a "Fire Shot" ability? Yes! And simpler, since it's not another button.

Do I conceive of a lot of situations where I'd rather have fire damage than physical damage? Yes! By the Titans yes! Ignoring armor? Are you kidding me? I'd be /happydancing on top of the heads of rogues everywhere!

Delivery mechanism? Make most of the ammo crafted by engineers. No supply problems, and even if it's costly, you only ever have to buy it once. Then a couple specific ammo types become emblem purchases or boss drops (if you want to restrict it to raiders).

Another mechanic to worry about? Super awesomesauce ammo doesn't make any fight more complicated or difficult. It's a gear decision, not a combat mechanic. So it's a decision that we carefully think through in our downtime, on spreadsheets, when making gear lists. Once we're fighting we do our thing the way we always have. Although I do have to say it would be kinda sweet if our shot priority changed based on what kind of ammo we were choosing to use.

Frostheim Ammo Dreams

In the rich Frostheim fantasy world, ammo would be nothing short of awesomesauce. It would be something we got excited about and talked about and debated on forums and in blogs. It would be one of the defining pieces of our gearset. Heck, some ammo would even affect the look of our shots!

Right now the vast majority of our gear decision are made in the same way: comparing stat weights. Currently only tier set bonuses and trinkets are evaluated differently. I think for hunters the ammo slot should be one of those interesting and fascinating slots that we evaluate differently from just adding up the stats and multiplying by our EAP values.

I think they should start by buffing our ranged weapon DPS. I think ammo provides a bit too much of our ranged DPS at the moment, and that gap should close a bit. Then I think we should have a choice of a bunch of different kinds of ammo, and some of the ammo should provide bonuses to others besides the hunter. Maybe even make hunters one of the "jack of all buffs" classes that can duplicate a bunch of the raid buffs via their ammo, so we can adjust to fill gaps when we don't have the appropriate classes. This would be especially awesome in 10-mans.

I'd love it if your ammo choice wasn't just based on a theoretical spreadsheet "best" gear list, but was something you wanted to synergize with other hunters. So if one hunter is using Tracer Rounds then you'll want to use your Molten Shot. I also think it would be great if you wanted to change your ammo for certain boss fights. So you're fighting Vezzax and you want to use your Molten Shot, but on Festergut you want to use something else, and on target switching fights something else.

Don't get me wrong, in my fantasy world you'd basically use one ammo type for most fights. You know what your raid comp is, you've worked out with the other hunters what kind of ammo each of you would be bringing, and most bosses that's what you use. And you'd never, ever want a situation where you want to switch ammo out in the middle of a fight.

But yeah, I want choices in my ammo. I don't want one choice to always be best. Right now our ammo slot isn't a choice. Whatever ammo has the highest DPS number is best, no questions, no thought, no decisions. I want to make a decision with my ammo, and I want that decision to be between awesome and awesome!

Some Ammo Ideas

Here are just a handful of ammo ideas that I'm talking about here. Ammo that's interesting, that you can see different uses for, and that makes this gear slot a choice rather than just a no-brainer.
  • Tracer Rounds: Increase the chance for everyone to hit the target by 1% for 10 seconds. So as long as you're shooting, your raid gets a hit buff. Possibly it doesn't stack with the racial. Could have a cool light streak look to the shot when fired too.
  • Depleted Saronite Shells: Give you x% armor penetration. We know that ArP rating on gear will be gone in Cataclysm, but ArP will still be around in talents and abilities. Perhaps make this something small that stacks with other ArP debuffs, or make it a duplicate of Sunder Armor or Faerie Fire.
  • Flight Rounds: +6 yard range.
  • Venom Rounds: Applies a poison DoT that stacks up to 5 times.
  • Splinter Shells: Small chance on hit to do double damage -- perhaps 1% chance. So here we're sacrificing the certain damage increase of other ammo for occasional big damage boost. And just imagine when it procs off your Kill Shot!
  • Mark V Combustible Shells: These shells hit for a very large amount of additional fire damage, but have a chance to misfire resulting in a +2% miss chance.
  • Concussive Shells: Chance on hit to slow (or stun) target.
  • Incendiary Rounds: Creates an area of vulnerability in the target, increasing the crit chance of all attackers by 5%. Doesn't stack with druids, obviously.
  • Buck Shot: Your physical shots deal half damage to all targets within a small range.
  • Molten Shells: Converts your auto shots to fire damage. This is a big deal with the ability to ignore armor -- but then counters some of the advantage of any ArP talents we may have.
  • Titan Shells: Increases your DPS by X but slows your rate of fire.
  • Symbiosis Ammo: Heals your focus target for 10% of the damage you deal.
I don't know about other hunters out there, but just thinking about this kind of ammo makes me excited. Sure we'd have to do some work to theorycraft it out, and certainly what's best for us solo will be different from raids, and will change based on our raid composition -- but that's what's so great about it.

I'm not saying we should have a dozen different types of ammo that we need to carry around. But certainly at least six kinds (of which you'll probably only carry around a few).

What ammo to use should be a decision. How great would it be if we could fill in all manner of buff slots based on what classes aren't in our raid? Or if the healers are struggling we could pop in our Symbiosis Ammo, or Buck Shot for AoE fights, or whatever the raid needs for that particular fight?

So what ammo do you think should be in the game? What great and crazy ammo ideas do you have that you'd like to see?

You want to be a Hunter, eh? Well then you came to the right place. You start with science, then you add some Dwarven Stout, and round it off some elf bashing. The end result is massive dps. Scattered Shots is the column dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a Hunter. Each week Scattered Shots will cover topics to help you improve your Heroic DPS, understand the impact of Skill vs. Gear, get started with Beast Mastery 101, and even solo bosses with some Extreme Soloing.

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