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Scattered Shots: BM not the premier spec for Cataclysm extreme soloing

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.

Like an elf telling you about his most favoritest butterfly, the Cataclysm beta goes on and on. But unlike elf stories, the beta feels like it's getting somewhere. We're now seeing fewer major class changes and more and more tweaking to shot damage -- something that was nearly entirely absent in the early days of beta.

While shot damage, spec DPS and stat weights may still be up in the air, we've now got pet scaling nailed down, and our talents seem mostly fixed (though surely they've got to do something about Counterattack eventually). It's time for us to turn our attention to extreme soloing in Cataclysm.

The first shocking thing that leaps out at us is the fundamental fact that it appears that BM will not be the extreme soloing spec of choice in Cataclysm. In fact, BM may well be the worst extreme soloing spec. Join me after the cut for the shocking changes to pushing your hunter to the limits and beyond.

More health is good

We know from our previous discussions on extreme soloing that the most important things are pet health, damage mitigation and healing. We don't care about DPS or threat, since we can eventually kill anything if our pet can keep tanking it, and we can drop threat or slow DPS as needed.

Cataclysm brings us a very healthy boost in stam, both to hunter and to pet. With blue-level gear, you can easily get your tenacity pet in the 70k-80k health range. This is a massive improvement to the amount of damage your pet can absorb.

More health means more healing

The new Mend Pet now heals your pet for 25 percent of its total health over 10 seconds. This means that the more health your pet has, the more Mend Pet will heal. This is also true for the Spirit Bond talent and the Silverback pet talent. All of these heals are based on a percentage of your pet's total health.

The new Glyph of Mending (now a major glyph) was nerfed to only provide a 3 percent increase to pet healing (and doesn't currently work besides), but the Blood of the Rhino pet talent is still giving us a 40 percent boost, along with the 10% from Spirit Bond. It is very easy for your Mend Pet to heal for over 5k per tick.

This, combined with more than doubling pet health, opens up a lot more content for soloing from vanilla through Wrath. Cataclysm content, unfortunately, is built with massive damage that more than equals our pet health and healing increases.

Why BM is no longer the extreme solo spec of choice

Currently on live, BM is the only spec you'd want to extreme solo with 98 percent of the time. This is because the spec offers the following advantages:

BM certainly offers some nice side bonuses of increased pet damage, but in extreme soloing, damage is secondary. Sadly, in the redesigned talent trees we no longer have Endurance Training, Thick Hide or Catlike Reflexes. Spirit Bond is still there for the bonus healing -- but the talent is now second-tier, so any spec has access to it.

Finally, the four extra talent points from Beast Mastery are no longer necessary for us to get all of the extreme soloing talents -- with the change to Wild Hunt, it's no longer a stamina boost and we don't need it for extreme soloing.

So BM no longer offers any must-have extreme solo abilities; however, it still gives us harder-hitting pets and some more pet talent points that could be of marginal use, like for Last Stand or Great Resistance.

Unfortunately, BM actually brings a disadvantage.

A big part of extreme soloing remains the tier 5 two-piece set bonus that heals our pet for 15 percent of the damage that we deal. And as we do more damage, we heal our pet for more. But -- and this is a big but -- this only heals for damage from the hunter, not damage from the pet.

Not only does BM get a much larger percent of its damage from its pet, but BM's signature shot is Kill Command, which is considered to be made by the pet. Your tier 5 will not heal your pet based on Kill Command damage. So now we have all specs able to get pets with just as much health and just as much mitigation, but MM and SV will be able to heal their pets significantly more than BM can.

I have a hunch that MM may become the extreme solo spec of choice, just because of its ability to combo up the Chimera Shot self heal with the Spirit Bond self-heal.

The crit factor

The big unknown right now for Cataclysm-level extreme soloing is your pet's chance to be crit. Our pets still have the Grace of the Mantis pet talent that reduces their chance to be crit by 4 percent. Alas, in Wrath, raid bosses have a 5.6 percent chance to crit. Previously we managed that other 1.6 percent through resilience, but in Cataclysm, resilience will no longer provide crit reduction -- or any affect at all in PvE.

I spent far too much time over the weekend measuring raid boss crit chances to see if perhaps they have a lower chance to crit in Cataclysm than they did in Wrath (or, Titans help us, a higher chance). This was time that could have been much better spent consuming frothy adult beverages that make one irresistibly charming to the opposite sex. Alas, testing vanilla through Wrath bosses demonstrated only that raid boss crit is currently bugged (or at least bugged for pets) and my charm remains resistible.

It's a pretty safe bet, however, that boss crit chance will stay at 5.6%.

What we'll be soloing

Right now, the massive damage dealt by Cataclysm mobs, combined with our likely lack of ability to make our pets crit-immune, suggests that unless something changes, we won't be soloing much in the way of significant Cataclysm content. However, a lot of previously unsoloable BC and Wrath content will open up to us. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see some Wrath raid bosses pretty easily soloable by the Cataclysm hunter and her trusty pet.

Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. Our Scattered Shots Resource Guide takes aim at everything from improving your heroic DPS, understanding the impact of skill vs. gear, and getting started with Beast Mastery 101 and Marksman 101.

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