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Scattered Shots: Improving the hunter pet trees

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.

Several weeks back, WoW Lead Systems Designer Ghostcrawler made a passing comment about the input of the community in continuing to refine the talent trees, and since then, we've run with it. We've talked about improving the BM tree, improving the MM tree, and improving the SV tree. We've been swarmed with fantastic suggestions in the comments, including lots of things I didn't think of but made me say, "Oh, yeah -- that's exactly what the tree needs!"

Now if we were rogues, or mages, or some other support class, we'd be sitting on the porch with our lemonade patting ourselves on the back for a job well done. But as hunters, it's not enough to just examine the hunter trees -- we have our pet trees to look at, as well.

Join me after the cut as we dig into the three hunter pet talent trees and discuss how they could be refined, added to, and improved to complete the hunter experience.

What we're talking about

I just want to point out at the outset that we are not looking at DPS balance issues here, which are a separate thing. What we're interested in are the talent trees themselves, how they feel and function and how they affect the "feel" and identity of the pet trees.

BM talent points

Before we even get down to the spec-by-spec rundown of the pet talent trees, let's take a moment to ask for some love for the spec that loves their pets the most: beast mastery.

The final talent in the BM tree gives BM hunters the ability to tame exotic pets, plus an extra four pet talent points. While the exotic pets are the most loved aspect of Beast Mastery, the extra talent points are where BM has the potential to get a mechanical benefit.

Unfortunately, we now have enough pet talent points by default to take most or even all of the truly useful talents in the pet tree. If you're interested in making your tenacity pet a tank, you can get all those talents without the extra four points. If you want your pet to just DPS (which is most of the time), you can get nearly every talent you need for DPSing.

As a result, BM hunters get to spend those extra talent points on things like giving more damage to their tank pets or more damage mitigation to their DPS pets. And that's useful -- don't get me wrong, those aren't wasted talent points -- but it's not terribly exciting, either.

How about giving the pet trees another tier of talents with some nice, big whoppers that are chained in such a way that only BM can get hold of them with extra talent points? Talents like:

  • a damage reduction ability similar to block (tenacity)
  • a protection talent in which a percentage of damage done to the hunter is transferred to the pet (tenacity)
  • a talent to transform 10% of hunter damage into pet healing (I mean, we can already do this at 15% with the tier 5 two-piece set -- how about giving it to us without making us solo BC raids?) (available to all pet specs)
  • a flat increase to pet focus regen (all pet specs)
  • a crit multiplier increase (ferocity)
These are just a handful of ideas off the top of my head. I'm sure you guys can come up with dozens more in the comments (and please do -- let's get as many suggestions of awesomeness as possible).

For a tree that is defined by its pets and gets more pet talent points for the ultimate talent of the tree, it just seems a little sad that every other hunter tree can get the exact same pet talents as the BM hunters can.

Ferocity tree

For most hunters, our ferocity pets are used more often than any pet type. They are our DPS machines. Happily, I think the ferocity tree is pretty well-constructed these days (though I'd still like to see the addition of some of those talents for BM). There are a couple of fairly unattractive talents, however, many of them available to all trees and are going to get covered now under ferocity.

Improved Cower Throughout the history of pet talents, Cower & Improved Cower have been pretty underwhelming. Now that Cower is a pretty darned useful base ability, we still have a crummy talent that almost no hunters use. Frankly, Cower is awesome, and I'm really not worried about the movement reduction. I generally use it only a couple times in certain fights to tide the pet over until enough splash healing fills them up.

Frankly, I think you could just yoink this talent out of the tree entirely -- after all, it's almost like it's not there now and we have plenty of tier 1 and 2 options. But if we really want an Improved Cower, then have it increase the damage reduction component or apply a HoT when you hit it. I still probably won't take it for any ferocity pet, but at least I'll use it for my pet tanking or extreme soloing then.

Great Resistance Back in the day, before pets had talent trees, we could get fire resistance or shadow resistance or whatever kind of resistance for our pets. That sucked, but every hunter maxed out fire resistance for their pets for BWL -- but that was because those resistances were meaningful. I love that it's just a flat damage reduction now, but it really needs to be more for us to care.

The problem with Great Resistance is that our pets already take only 10% damage from AOE attacks, which is the majority of the time this matters. This talent has gone through tons of iterations, and I say it's time to do away with it entirely and replace it with something new and awesome.

Lionhearted I don't PVP in the way that actually involved optimizing for PVP. Is Lionhearted actually ever used for PVP?

Tenacity tree

Outside of a lot of those filler talents that are available for all trees, I'm pretty pleased with most of the tree-specific talents. Tenacity is filled with talents that are spot-on tanking talents that generally contribute substantially to your pet's ability to tank things.

Before Cataclysm, a substantial part of pet's ability to tank came from the hunter tree (BM). I kind of like the fact that it's now about the pet's talents and not the hunter's.

But this is not to say that I think the tree is perfect. There are, of course, those silly generic talents available to every tree, and one other issue. To address a couple talents in the tenacity tree:

Grace of the Mantis I just want to say that I love Grace of the Mantis -- and thank you, Ghostcrawler, for adjusting this after the resilience change so that we can still make our pets crit-immune!

Taunt I like the idea of Taunt in the tenacity tree, giving our tenacity pets an actual tanking talent; however, in practice, it's pretty crummy. It's not a real Taunt in the sense that it doesn't actually affect threat, and the 3-second duration is crazy-short. I'd like to see this either turned into an actual Taunt, or at the very least, have its duration bumped up to 6 seconds.

Cunning tree

Where the ferocity tree is all about the DPS and the tenacity tree is all about the tanking, the cunning tree is clearly all about healing -- no wait, that's not right. But seriously, how cool would that be?

Cunning is pretty much the PVP pet tree, which is also capable of producing nearly identical damage as ferocity. Some of the mechanics are a bit complicated to model, but the DPS is darned close -- too close, if you ask me.

But as I've said before, when it comes to the PVP talents, I'm not the right hunter to ask. I PVP like I raid, only faster and with more fun movement. I tend to hop in random BGs, and on a good run, I can usually top the damage, kills, killing blows, and deaths. From that rather amateur status, the cunning tree looks pretty good and pretty interesting to me. There's only one cunning talent that I'd really question:

Carrion Feeder I see the appeal of Carrion Feeder for wee hunters who are leveling, kind of, sort of. Okay, no I don't. This is pretty much solely a leveling talent, and a bad one. I'm dubious about putting in talents that are only good while leveling; in the long run (and with the speedy leveling available these days), that's a pretty small percentage of our game time.

How about turning Carrion Feeder into something that we can use even if we aren't leveling? Like, for example, something completely different that has nothing to do with standing around doing nothing while our pet munches on a corpse? I mean, we can just toss it a biscuit these days and get better pet healing without having to stand around. This talent is outdated and needs to go.

What do you think?

So these are my thoughts on tweaking the pet talent trees. I'd really like to see BM get some extra oomph for its 31-point talent in the form of meaningful ways to spend those four extra pet talent points. I'd also like to see a handful of those generic filler talents get revamped or changed entirely.

But how about you guys? If Ghostcrawler were reading this article, what would you want to tell him about the pet talent trees? And what should those new pet talents for BM be?

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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