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Scattered Shots: Hunter tier 12 armor first look

Brian Wood

Every Thursday, WoW Insider brings you Scattered Shots for beast mastery, marksmanship and survival hunters. Frostheim of Warcraft Hunters Union uses logic and science (mixed with a few mugs of dwarven stout) to look deep into the hunter class. Mail your hunter questions to Frostheim.

Now that Patch 4.2 is on the PTR, the dataminers are working overtime to learn what goodies lurk within the new tier of raid content. As always, datamined content is not always 100% accurate and not entirely complete -- and this is just the PTR, anyway, and everything is subject to change.

As much as I love all the datamined goodness, I have a sneaking suspicion that the dataminers are actually responsible for the whole Deathwing event. Like the dwarves of Moria, they dug too deep and awoke a creature of fire and shadow. But hey, we all make little slips from time to time. What matters now is that they've found our first glimpse of the hunter tier 12 set bonuses, albeit with a lot of unknowns. Unfortunately, a lot of hunters are filling in the information gaps with guesswork and trying to compare the T11 set to the T12 set based on those assumptions.

I like to go out on a limb now and again with absolute statements, so here's one now: Anyone who says that the tier 12 set is worse than the tier 11 set is just plain wrong. Why? Find out after the cut.

The hunter tier 12 set bonuses
  • Hunter T12 two-piece Your Steady Shot and Cobra Shot have a 10% chance to trigger a Flaming Arrow, dealing X% instant weapon damage as fire.
  • Hunter T12 four-piece You have a 10% chance from your Auto Shots to make your next shot cost no focus.
It's cool to have some idea of what's coming up for us in the set bonuses, and there's lots of room for speculation on how these work, especially the four-piece bonus. But right now, this does not give us enough information to estimate the amount of DPS boost either set bonus will give us.

What we don't know

The problem with evaluating the tier 12 set bonuses is that there's just so much we don't know about them right now. Here's my list of the unknowns and possible permutations the set bonuses could take:
  • We do not know how much damage the two-piece set bonus does. We know it's a percentage of instant weapon damage (Auto Shot), but we don't know what percent. We don't know if that damage is normalized or partially normalized (if it's not normalized, then slower weapons will do more damage). We do know that it's fire damage, so SV should do significantly more damage when it procs. I'd guess that we'd see that percentage somewhere between 50% and 80%.
  • For the four-piece bonus, we don't know if Kill Command counts as a shot. In many mechanics, Kill Command is treated just like a hunter shot, but in other mechanics it's not and is treated as a pet attack instead. If it's not considered a shot, then that screws BM.
  • If Kill Command is treated as a shot, then that screws BM. If you can use your proc for a free Kill Command, sometimes BM will get a free KC out of it, and sometimes it'll just get a free Arcane Shot. But MM and SV will then almost always be able to use it for a free Kill Command, netting a greater DPS gain than BM can achieve.
  • Even if Kill Command is a shot, MM is very likely going to want to use its proc for a hardcast Aimed Shot, especially during that first 20% of the fight. But right now, if MM hunters know for they don't have to move, they're hardcasting Aimed Shot rather than using Arcane Shot; with increasing haste levels, that's only going to be more attractive. Of course, the more you hardcast Aimed Shot, the fewer Auto Shots you fire and the fewer procs you get from the four-piece bonus.
  • Will casting Steady Shot or Cobra Shot after the proc consume the proc? I certainly hope not, but it's possible.
  • How will the proc work with other free shot procs, such as MM's free Aimed Shot and SV's Lock & Load? Will it double dip, consuming itself and one of the Lock & Load procs?
Okay, so that's the big list of stuff that we don't know about the set bonus, and quite honestly most of it we won't be able to be figured out until we can actually get a character in the set and test it out. But with that many unknowns in the equation -- especially the Kill Command one -- any attempt to pin a number on the amount of DPS the set will gain you is pure guesswork.

The problem with comparisons

Ignoring for a moment the swath of unknown variables in the tier 12 set bonuses, there's another problem with comparing the tier 12 set to the tier 11 set: You can't.

At least, you can't make broad comparisons. You can compare the advantages for one character, kind of, mostly, but not for every hunter, not even for each spec. The problem here is the tier 11 four-piece set bonus. This is the bonus that gives us a .2-second reduction in the cast time of our Steady Shot or Cobra Shot.

The difficulty with this is that even though our cast time is reduced, we don't necessarily get to cast any more shots because of that. This is because of our haste plateaus.

Brief haste plateau review: Our shot rotations are limited by our signature shots. We can only fit a certain number of shots in between each signature shot. A hard haste plateau is when we shorten our cast times (and increase our focus regen) enough to fit an extra shot in between each signature shot. A soft haste plateau is when we can fit an extra shot in, but we have to push back our signature shot a bit -- it's still a DPS gain, but not the same as getting a whole extra shot each rotation.

The advantage of the tier 11 four-piece set bonus is dependent on bringing us to a new haste plateau. If we're at a hard plateau, and that .2-second cast speed reduction isn't enough to bring us past the next soft plateau, then the four-piece set bonus is giving us zero DPS.

Most of us, however, are getting a real DPS benefit from it. The four-piece bonus is not enough to bring us from one hard plateau to another, however. It can bring us from a hard plateau into a soft plateau or from some point within a soft to another hard.

The exact amount of gain is going to depend on our spec and gear and possibly on our reforging, depending on our hit rating requirements, and possibly on our raid buffs, glyphs, and racials. There is no flat amount or percentage of DPS that the tier 11 four-piece set bonus gives all hunters of any given spec. The number ranges from zero to quite a bit, and it's specific to each individual character.

More comparison problems

But wait, there are more complications. Even if you're netting some 500 theoretical DPS from your tier 11 four-piece bonus, you still can't compare that number to the tier 12 four-piece. Because the amount of DPS you gain depends entirely on how much haste you have, you now have to take into account the increased amount of haste that you're going to get with your new tier of gear.

Perhaps you were netting that 500 DPS in your tier 11 gear, but once you get a bunch of gear from the new raid instances and new emblem gear, suddenly you have enough haste to get to that plateau point without the set bonus, and suddenly the set bonus is worse, or even zero ... or, possibly, even better.

So is it good or is it bad?

We won't know for certain how good the new tier is until we can answer all the questions about it, and even then, we'll only be able to say how good it is for one character -- not for hunters as a whole or one spec as a whole.

However, my prediction is that yes, you will want to use the new set.

To begin with, the two-piece bonus is almost certainly going to be leaps and bounds better than the tier 11 two-piece. There's a chance it could be better than the four-piece. Then you have to keep in mind that the new set is going to have higher stats on it than the old set -- so even if the set bonus was weaker, the net DPS gain could still be higher.

Don't get me wrong, if you're one of the hunters who is seeing a large DPS gain from the tier 11 four-piece, you aren't going to want to break your four-piece for the new two-piece. But as you acquire more and more haste from new gear, that benefit from the old four-piece is likely to change.

In the end, I don't think we're going to have the issue we had in Wrath where we want to hang onto old sets just for the set bonus, despite the lower stats. Eventually, all hunters are probably going to want their full tier 12 set.

Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. From leveling your hunter through optimizing for heroics, pre-heroic loot and pre-raid loot, then on to choosing the right spec for the right job and how to "aspect dance" to maximize your DPS, we've got you covered.

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