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Scattered Shots: The patch 4.0.1 hunter -- what you should know

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.

Patch 4.0.1 is now on the PTR. This means that everyone can charge to the PTR and try the new hunter changes. You won't be able to level or see the changed Azeroth or new content, but you can try out focus, the new talent trees, pet abilities and our stat changes. I thought this would be an excellent time to recap some hunter Cataclysm info and talk a bit about what you should and should not be worrying about in the beta.

In all honesty, this is somewhat a matter of pre-emptive self-defense. Through long experience and the ancient yet time-honored art of beer foam reading, I know -- know, deep in that instinctive part of my brain that is designed to save me from fire and bears -- that I'm about to be flooded with emails about how this spec is doing more damage than that spec and "OMG X spec is OP WTF!?"

So join me after the cut for a recap of some key hunter concepts in Cataclysm, as well as a rundown of what you should not be paying any attention to at this stage of the PTR.

Ignore DPS ... seriously

Balancing of DPS has not yet been done. Do not worry about DPS.

We still have major changes happening every beta build, and we need to wait for all of those big changes before we worry about tweaking of numbers. Now maybe the fact that we're now going on the PTR means the major changes are being given their final stress test and we'll soon see the start of DPS tweaking. I hope so, but I can tell you that the DPS tweaking has not yet been done.

Just last beta build, all hunter shots were radically changed to reduce ranged weapon scaling, which screwed up the damage of most of our shots. This build, Blizzard tweaked the damage of a ton of those shots and put in major changes to other shots (like Chimera).

Right now, we want to focus on things like shot rotations. We can talk about the damage our shots do in the scope of our rotations -- like how Chimera Shot's damage is so low we may not want to use it in our rotations. That's clearly wrong and needs adjusting. But we don't want to talk about the damage of our shots in terms of overall or comparative DPS. We don't want to say, "Chimera Shot needs to do more damage because MM DPS is too low."

For reference, right now on the beta, BM is the highest DPS spec, with awesome Kill Command damage. MM is lowest, with pathetic Chimera Shot and Aimed Shot damage, as well as a weaker mastery. SV is in the middle, though possibly with more mastery, they'd be a match for BM. But none of that matters. DPS tweaking hasn't happened, and it will happen.

So please, don't worry about the DPS of each spec yet or our DPS compared to other classes. Just don't worry about DPS. Instead, go out and get used to focus and the new rotation for each spec. Play around with the new pets!

Hunter recap: Specialization and mastery

The mastery system has changed several times since it was first implemented, and our hunter bonuses have continued to change, right up to the latest beta build. Here's the current version, which is looking pretty fixed now, though Blizzard may tweak the numbers when it gets around to balancing DPS.

Before you spend your first talent point, you will have to choose the talent tree to specialize in. Thereafter, you can only spend talent points in that tree, until you've spent 31 talent points. You get a talent point at every other level above 10. When you choose your tree, you will get a bonus ability, a specialization bonus and a mastery ability. Mastery only comes into play at level 78 when you train in the mastery skill. Thereafter, you will also have access to gear with mastery as a stat that increases only the mastery bonus (not the specialization).

Beast Mastery
  • Bonus ability: Intimidation
  • Specialization: Animal Handler -- attack power increased 25%
  • Mastery: Master of Beasts -- increase the damage done by your pets by 20% plus 1.5% per point of mastrey
  • Bonus ability: Aimed Shot
  • Specialization: Artisan Quiver -- increases auto-shot damage by 15%
  • Mastery: Wild Quiver -- 16% chance for ranged attacks to fire a 50% damage auto-shot. Chance to proc increased by 2% per point of mastery
  • Bonus ability: Explosive Shot
  • Specialization: Into the Wilderness -- increases agility by 15%
  • Mastery: Essence of the Viper -- increases elemental damage by 20% plus 1.5% per point of mastery
Hunter recap: Focus

Our new resource mechanic is focus. The base focus regen rate is around 4.16 focus/second. After a lot of moving around, this number has not changed for a lot of builds now, and it seems that Blizzard is pretty happy with this rate. In addition to our base focus regen, we can increase our focus in the following ways:
  • Using the zero-cost Steady Shot or Cobra Shot in any aspect will restore 9 focus.
  • Haste will increase our base focus regen.
  • Haste also indirectly increases our focus regen by reducing the 2-second base cast time of Steady Shot and Cobra Shot (and the base cast time is 2 seconds).
  • There are some talents that increase focus regen, or give us extra focus on crits.
In the course of our standard shot rotation, we always want to have enough focus to use our spec's signature ability as soon as it's off cooldown. This is Kill Command for BM, Chimera Shot for MM and Explosive Shot for SV. Even if these shots aren't currently the best choice (hello, Chimera Shot and Explosive Shot), we can be pretty certain that Blizzard will adjust things so that they are. Therefore you want to practice the rotation as it will be when Cataclysm goes live.

Additionally, we never want to be at full focus during our standard rotation. If our focus is full, we are wasting our resource -- we keep regenning focus, but it can't go fuller than full, so we lose any new focus coming in. We could have used that focus for more damaging shots! Arcane Shot is supposed to be our focus dump, the shot that we use to bleed off excess focus because it does more damage than our Steady Shot or Cobra Shot.

Go out and play

Head over to the PTR and start checking out the new hunter changes for yourself! Experiment with Multi-Shot as our new AoE. See what it's like to have your Misdirection threat fade away into the ether after 30 seconds. Enjoy Scatter Shot as a baseline ability available to all specs.

Play with it all, learn as much as you can and point out things that seem to be bugged or poorly designed. But for the time being, just for a little while longer, completely ignore the DPS results. They are going to be changing, so just be patient.

Scattered Shots is 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, and getting started with Beast Mastery 101 and Marksman 101.

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