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Scattered Shots: Cobra Shot and Camouflage

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. Got hunter questions? Feel free to email Frostheim.

I have no doubt that, such astute and learned people as hunters tend to be, you are all well aware of the Cataclysm alpha leaks that have been piling up. If you were to follow your curiosity in hopes of getting a better mental picture of how we hunters will turn out, you would be sorely disappointed. Well, first you'd be disappointed, and then you'd probably get lost looking at pictures of new zones and old zones made new again for far, far too long ... But then some hours later, you'd remember why you went there in the first place and return to being disappointed.

Unlike some classes whose talent trees have been showered with presents in the leaks, our talent trees appear mostly unchanged at the moment -- in fact, they're still filled with our mana regen and mana reduction talents. However, there were a couple of little nibblets of hunter goodness hidden in there -- the actual tooltips for our new spells, Camouflage and Cobra Shot.

This is not official. The beta has not even started, and even if it was official it'd be subject to all kinds of change at any moment. This is stuff that, frankly, was never meant for our eyes to see. Also, these are spoilers. If you don't want to know anything about Cataclysm until it's released, don't click to read more. In fact, you really shouldn't go any further, if you're being good. If you do click to read more you will be rewarded with naughty goodies of secret hunter info. So those of you feeling just a bit naughty, join me after the cut.

Yeah, I thought you'd be here. Don't worry, you're in good company.


Camouflage is a new ability that will become available to us at the new level cap of 85. It gives us some small amount of ninja-like abilities, to sneak around and pop out big opener damage when coming out of our camo state. Here is what the official class preview had to say about this ability:

Hunter Preview
Camouflage (level 85): The hunter enters an obscured state that prevents him or her from taking ranged damage. The character would still be subject to melee or area-of-effect attacks, and dealing or taking damage will break the Camouflage effect. The hunter can move and set traps when under Camouflage, and will receive a damage bonus when attacking while under Camouflage (which will then break the effect).

Beast Mastery hunters will have a new talent called Careful Aim, which increases the damage of the next Steady Shot or Cobra Shot, but also increases the cast time of these abilities. The intention is to make the combination of spells into a decent damage opener, especially in conjunction with the new ability Camouflage.

Some follow-up discussion on the forums from blue posts suggested that the hope was to have the camo hunter have a shimmering, "Predator-like" look, which I think we can all agree is bad-ass. Now let's take a look at the tooltip as it appeared on the alpha:
45 Focus
Instant cast 1 min. cooldown

You camouflage, causing you and your Pet to blend into your surroundings. After 3 sec., you will enter a stealthed state. While stealthed, you and your pet's movement speed is reduced by 30%, but the damage done by your next attack is increased by 30%.

You can lay traps while under the effect, but any damage done by you or your pet will cancel the effect. Cannot be cast while in combat.
There are a couple very interesting things here. First of all, we actually see them use the word "stealth," which in WoW terms means a very specific thing. Stealth is different from invisibility, for example. Stealth is what rogues do, and in some of the follow-up discussion to the class preview we were lead to believe that we would not be getting Stealth -- we'd just get the cool Predator look and the ability to pop out for a bunch of damage.

Are they actually giving us Stealth? I mean, if they are, even on a 1-minute cooldown, three seconds to take effect and costing half our focus bar, holy ninja PvP goodness! I'm also very, very pleased that they included our pets in the stealthing. I'm reminded of the recent Children's Week holiday when I was doing some battlegrounds. A Horde rogue was trying to flee my unstoppable hunter might in Warsong Gulch. He vanished, but he had his orphan companion pet out, letting me see exactly where he was and where to send my flare to expose him and finish him off. So yeah, I'm glad our pets will be stealthy with us.

The tooltip stresses that we can lay traps while stealthed, but it's probably safe to assume that we can do just about anything that doesn't cause damage. In a PvE environment, I'd expect to be able to use Misdirection while stealthed to get our big opening shot, and probably Hunter's Mark as well. (I certainly hope so -- I love the mental image of marking a target on the battlefield and knowing that the opponents are thinking, "Oh crap! There's a hunter here somewhere ... Could be anywhere within 100 yards ... Oh God, I'm dead.")

Certainly Camouflage remains primarily a PvP ability, but if it really is Stealth, it will be an excellent tool for those hunters into extreme soloing. We'll finally be able to make like the rogues and just sneak past all the trash on the way to our nefarious schemes. But for PvE, this ability remains, as predicted, something that will impact our play about as much as Eagle Eye.

But again, this is alpha, and we don't even know if they really mean Stealth when they say "enter a stealthed state." We'll have to see, but the PvP implications are delightful to ponder.

Cobra Shot

This new shot is given to all hunters at level 81. It is a shot that duplicates the Steady Shot role in Cataclysm -- a free shot that improves our focus regen. Our filler shot, in other words. It is not a flat replacement for Steady Shot. Some specs may prefer Steady Shot to Cobra Shot, some (like BM) will prefer Cobra Shot, and for others it may be situational: Steady Shot on the squishies, Cobra Shot on the plate wearers, for example. Here's what we learned about it in the class preview:

Hunter Preview
Cobra Shot (level 81): A new shot that deals Nature damage instead of Physical damage. This ability will share a cooldown with Steady Shot. This will give hunters an alternative to Steady Shot on heavily-armored targets, and we will have talent incentives in the Beast Mastery tree to make this a signature shot.

  • Beast Mastery hunters will have a new talent called Careful Aim, which increases the damage of the next Steady Shot or Cobra Shot, but also increases the cast time of these abilities. The intention is to make the combination of spells into a decent damage opener, especially in conjunction with the new ability Camouflage.
  • Beast Mastery hunters will also have talents that make Cobra Shot superior to Steady Shot, such as Longevity reducing the cast time of Cobra Shot to 1.5 seconds.

Blizzard is stating very clearly here that BM is being designed to want to use Cobra Shot rather than Steady Shot. It's not exactly a signature shot, since every spec has access to it. It's certainly no Chimera Shot or Explosive Shot, but it seems they want BM to get more benefit from it than any other spec. MM will probably continue to prefer Steady Shot since they have the armor penetration mastery bonus, but SV may prefer Cobra Shot as well, especially if their elemental mastery bonus applies to nature damage.

Here's what the alpha tooltip for Cobra Shot looks like:
Cobra Shot
5-35 yd range
1.5 sec cast
Requires Ranged Weapon

Deals unmodified weapon damage plus RAP * 0.1 + 951 in the form of Nature damage and increases the duration of your Serpent Sting on the target by 176 sec. Generates 9 Focus.
Okay, first of all, you see that part where it increases the Serpent Sting duration by 176 seconds? That is clearly a placeholder number. What's intriguing is the notion of extending the duration of Serpent Sting at all. A more realistic number there might be three seconds -- one tick -- or possibly even less. But it certainly lets you imagine situations where you want enough Cobra Shots in your rotation to prevent you from ever having to re-apply Serpent Sting.

In fact, perhaps BM will benefit so much from Cobra Shot that they'll have an excess of focus, which will then allow them to use the really expensive shots (like Aimed Shot) in their rotations much more often than other specs. It's intriguing, as all focus stuff is to me, and you can really see how it could breathe some much-needed life into the BM rotation.

For reference, here is the current formula for Steady Shot damage: weapon damage + ammo + RAP * 0.1 + 252.

Of course ammo is going away, so it'll just be weapon damage. On the surface, this makes it look like Cobra Shot will do more damage than Steady Shot and be unaffected by armor (since it's nature damage). This is not the case! This is the level 80 Steady Shot, and we have no idea whether the Cobra Shot formula we see is level 81 or level 85. Regardless, we can be confident that our new Steady Shot formula will do more damage than Cobra Shot -- it has to, since it's affected by armor, especially since Sunder Armor won't be reducing target armor by as much as it does now.

But it is interesting that the coefficient is the same for both shots and that base weapon damage is included. Honestly, I kind of expected that Cobra Shot would not use base weapon damage, as magical damage-dealing shots tend not to (Arcane Shot, Explosive Shot, etc.).

We still don't have any more notion of the really big hunter question of how our focus is going to work in Cataclysm, beyond what we learned from the class preview. As much as I delight in contemplating any kind of hunter information that's out there, what I really want to know is all about focus. How much focus will all our shots end up? Will some of our long-cooldown abilities have no focus, as Ghostcrawler implied? Will Serpent Sting or Mend Pet have a focus cost? What is the haste focus regen conversion rate? Exactly what are the new focus-related talents?

Cataclysm is still a ways off, and there's lots more news to be had!

You want to be a hunter, eh? 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. See the Scattered Shots Resource Guide for a full listing of vital and entertaining hunter guides, including how to improve your heroic DPS, understand the impact of skill vs. gear, get started with Beast Mastery 101 and Marksman 101, and even solo bosses with some extreme soloing.

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