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Scattered Shots: Cataclysm beta hunter update

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.

The Cataclysm beta is in full swing and with hunters looking like the most changed class in Cataclysm, the new hunter info is coming fast and furious. We are continuously pelted with more and more information, not just from the beta but of what's going to be coming next and changing next but isn't yet implemented.

It's hard to keep track. Just when you think they're going to zig, they zag, and when you think they're going to zag, they do zag, just to throw you off for the next zig. And the rumor mill is going at five times the speed of the actual information, filled with the typical predictions of doom and horror and dozens of reports from people in the beta, all conflicting.

Join me as we take a look at what's currently going on for hunters in the beta. Specifically, we'll be discussing focus and focus regen, MM shot rotation with focus, venoms and the latest blue news on what the next round of updates may look like.

The current state of focus

Back when the hunter class preview came out, Blizzard was predicting that the hunter base focus regen would be 6 focus per second, and then we'd get another 9 focus every time we fired a Steady Shot or Cobra Shot. Later we learned about the awesomeness of Aspect of the Fox, which increases our rate of focus regen by 20% and lets us auto-shot while running.

Fast forward to Frostheim sitting at the target dummy for a couple hours, reporting bugs every few minutes and measuring, among other things, the rate of focus regen, both base and how it's affected by haste. I wasn't going for anything amazingly accurate, just a general sense of about where things were.

We are not generating nearly 6 focus per second base. It's closer to something like 3.125 focus per second without gear. With gear, I had about 18% haste, which was giving me a focus regen rate closer to 3.65 or so (about a 18% increase).

This is pretty low. It's not so bad on the target dummy, with the ability to just stand in place and regen focus with our Steady Shot or Cobra Shot, but on the move, that is a very low rate of regen. Sure, Aspect of the Fox will boost it by 20% ... but 20% of 3.6 isn't terribly significant.

Ghostcrawler (lead systems designer) had this to say on the subject:

Aspects – We would like Aspect of the Fox to be as good as it can be, which we feel is 30%. Any higher than that and we lose the Steady Shot focus-generating gameplay. It seems that some hunters are, not surprisingly, somewhat turned off from doing less damage while moving as they are on live, but this is intended. A ranged class that can do almost as much damage moving as it can standing still is not going to be fair, and often is what restricts us from doing cool things with the class.

I agree with Ghostcrawler here; however, I'm not convinced a fox boost to 30% base regen is sufficient. I agree that we should do less damage while on the move. We shouldn't be able to shoot constantly while running -- we can't even do that standing still, and we can't even do that right now in Wrath. But a boost of 1 focus per second for fox is pretty useless.

I think there needs to be a way to equal the Steady Shot focus regen rate while moving. Even with all your Steady Shot regen, you're still out of focus more often than not. The problem is to implement it in a way that you cannot combine it with Steady Shot to get double the benefit and end up with limitless focus. Alas, I'm still on the fence as to what I think the right way to do that would be.

Marksman rotation example

Currently in Wrath, the MM rotation is pretty much just Chimera Shot > Aimed Shot > Steady Shot x4. So you have four Steady Shots and two specials, with chimera refreshing Serpent Sting.

Currently in beta, the MM rotation is a bit squishier, but something like Chimera Shot > Steady x 2 > Arcane Shot > Steady x 2. So you have four Steady Shots and two specials, with chimera refreshing Serpent Sting -- except sometimes you need a third Steady Shot in there, and every now and then you proc an instant cast, focus-free Aimed Shot.

In my opinion, this rotation works well, and there are various other aspects that make it a lot more interesting than the current MM rotation (like the shorter duration of Serpent Sting). I like it, and you actually get to do more than you currently do in your Wrath MM rotation. So we're not in a bad place from the stand-still-and-shoot perspective, but once you're on the move ... Over eight seconds between even the cheapest shots is pretty unappealing.

I say this not to tell you that the game is broken and that Cataclysm will break hunters. This is just the way it is right now, after very little time in the actual beta. Blizzard has only begun to tweak things, and I have faith that this issue will in some way be resolved. However when everyone is complaining about focus and hunters in the beta this is what they're probably talking about.


There is currently some discussion of the new hunter venoms and complaints that they just aren't that useful in PvE. First of all, let's be clear: The new Scorpid Venom is totally awesome.

If you'll recall, Scorpid Venom is the hunter version of the major armor debuff. You fire Scorpid Venom and it reduces the target's armor by 4%. Every Steady Shot you cast after that reduces it by a further 4%, to a max of 12% (the same as the new Sunder Armor). The great thing about it is that the venoms have a 30-second duration, but every time you cast a Steady Shot, it completely refreshes the duration of Scorpid Venom, all the way back up to the full 30 seconds. So it's a very easy, low-maintenance way to keep the major armor debuff on the target. We fire the debuff once, and as long as we're mostly attacking that target thereafter, our natural rotation will keep the debuff up. Note that this only happens with Scorpid Venom, not our other venoms.

The other venoms -- Widow Venom and Viper Venom -- leave a bit more to be desired. Viper Venom increases cast time by 30%, and Widow Venom reduces healing received by the target by 25% (the new standard Mortal Strike amount). As you can see, they don't have a ton of applications in PvE. Furthermore, you only need one person applying the major armor debuff -- a warrior, for example -- in which case you won't need Scorpid Venom. It's entirely possible that in a raid environment, you'd never use any of your venoms.

Ghostcrawler addressed this issue as well:

Venoms – We hear you on some of their issues. We might try things like giving them some damage, reducing the focus cost, and / or have them last 5 minutes on PvE creatures. Again, shooting a Venom isn't really ideal on targets that you kill quickly. You shouldn't cast one on every trash mob, for example. That said, we don't want them to become too "maintenance-y" on boss fights.

Happy thoughts from our favorite hunter and his crab pet, I think. Personally, I like the idea of giving venoms some kind of damage rather than a five-minute duration. The duration doesn't really matter to us if there's no reason to use it in the first place, after all. If it's worth using, we'll pay the price to keep them up.

That's all we have today on the beta front, but stay tuned to for the latest beta news. I'm given to understand that there is often information on what's going on with the various support classes in addition to hunters. So there's news for your banker alts as well!

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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