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Scattered Shots: BlizzCon hunter info roundup

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.

BlizzCon this year was a very hunter Blizzcon indeed, filled with big announcements not just about the game in general but about the direction the hunter class is headed. The biggest news shouted around hunter circles was of course the fact that minimum range is finally being removed from the game.

This was one of the biggest points in the hunter class design feedback threads, and it's a nice indication that Blizzard is indeed paying attention to what the community has to say. (Either that, or the developers also just thought it needed to go, and it's a crazy, random happenstance that it coincides with community feedback.)

Join me after the cut as we round up all of the hunter news that came out of BlizzCon, very possibly including some news that you haven't heard from just following the BlizzCon coverage. We're going to focus just on the hunter-specific news rather than wider game-related news.

Read this disclaimer

This is the very first batch of information released about an expansion that is probably nine months away. It's not in beta yet. It's not in alpha yet. There are a lot of details to work out, numbers to balance, and everything is subject to as much change as Path of the Titans.

Minimum range is gone, along with melee weapons

As we mentioned earlier, minimum range has been removed from the game. In addition to minimum range, hunters will also be getting rid of our melee weapons. As Ghostcrawler commented, we'll be going from everything being a hunter weapon to almost nothing being a hunter weapon.

At the same time, our ranged weapons are now going to be hunter-only. None of the support classes will be using bows, crossbows, or guns. (They'll still have those silly thrown weapons things they use to try to emulate grownup hunters.) So no more will warriors have crossbows or mages have swords. Stat sticks are largely going away, and that seems like a pretty good idea to me. Let the people who actually use weapons be the only ones to equip them.

So what happens to our melee slot? It's going away entirely. The stats that we used to get from our stat sticks will now be on our ranged weapons. (The stats that used to be on our ranged weapons are going the way of minimum range.) So instead of wielding badass guns or sissy bows with token stats, we'll be wielding badass guns or sissy bows with massive amounts of agility and secondary stats on them.

Our ranged weapons are already our single most important piece of gear in terms of DPS because of the massive contribution of the ranged DPS number, but with this change, those ranged weapons are going to be even huger. Expect to see a ranged weapon upgrade be an improvement of thousands of DPS in Mists of Pandaria.

Of course there are a few hunters out there who hate this change and will miss carrying their melee weapons on their back. These guys are frankly just out of luck. Yeah, it sucks that you spent months soloing MC to get Thunderfury and now can't equip it. But console yourself with the fact that no rogue will ever again be able to get a legendary ranged instead of a hunter.

Hunter pet changes

Hunter pets are changing a bit in the expansion, as well. Ghostcrawler said that we'll be able to take any pet we want and assign it to either ferocity, cunning, or tenacity trees. Basically, we'll get to pick our pet's spec just like we pick our own. This means if you really want to bring a turtle to a raid or a cat for pet tanking, you can.

When I bumped into Ghostcrawler in the convention center, I asked if our pets would still have their talents. He said that right now Blizzard is inclined to just do away with pet talents entirely, since there aren't really any meaningful choices there. However, he did say that the devs may also change the pet talents to be similar to the new player talent system, if they can find really good decisions to be made there. Hopefully they'll go that latter route, as that level of pet customization is one of the things that sets hunters apart from the other pet classes.

Pandaren are hunters, too

It's worth taking a quick moment to note that the new Horde or Alliance race, the Pandaren, can indeed be hunters. Their starting pet is a turtle. Their racials don't compete with the current leading hunter racials (Worgen, Trolls, Orcs): they get a 3-second melee-range stun, +100% stat bonus from food, +15 cooking skill, rested XP that lasts twice as long, and half damage from falls.

Hunter PVP: So bad we're #1

When I asked him in the con halls, Ghostcrawler commented that he felt that hunter PVP was definitely bad and something Blizzard needed to work on a lot. On the other hand, this was before the final Arena matches, in which the winning team -- the actual top PvP 3v3 team in the entire world -- included a hunter. Of course, I think they were also the only top team to have a hunter at all.

Personally, I think this emphasizes something that Blizzard has said before, that at high skill levels, hunters can perform very well. So while hunter representation blows and 99% of the hunter's life in PVP is just plain harder than most classes, it's very hard for Blizzard to buff them without making those super top-tier players in just the right comps overpowered.

However, it was very good to hear that Ghostcrawler shares the hunter community views that hunter PVP is a problem and is something that needs to be improved -- though certainly removing minimum range is going to help and is a great start.

BM DPS addressed

In the Q&A panel a question came up about hunter pets, and Ghostcrawler answered the question pretty broadly, going beyond just the question and taking the opportunity to address some larger BM concerns. In particular, he talked about something I've discussed before, the idea that BM does much better DPS than the parses indicate, which is supported by every mathematical model we have. Specifically, he said:

BM DPS is really pretty good, and it's a self-fulfilling prophecy because players go and look at the parses and they see a lot of low BM parses, a lot of high Marks parses because the best players out there pick Marksman and a lot of the BM parses you see are by players who are messing around or don't know any better so, just, it skews the data really badly. But when you actually sit down and try to do the highest possible dps you can do as BM it's really not that bad and for a lot of players, their individual skill will have a bigger effect on the damage they're doing than what spec or talent they choose.
It's important to note what he's not saying here. Ghostcrawler is not saying that BM is just as good as MM. He's just saying that BM DPS is pretty good and that for most of us, our skill is going to hold us back more than choosing BM will.

This meshes pretty well with what we've discussed before. BM models just about the same DPS as SV but has vastly lower representation, in theory due to the bad rep and then due to the self-fulfilling prophecy (that people don't play BM because people aren't playing BM). And BM is getting a wee buff in 4.3, along with survival. I was very happy to see Ghostcrawler go out of his way to address this.

Hunter talents are awesome

The entire talent system is being revamped for Mists of Pandaria, and I think it's being changed for the better. You can read about the details here.

Right now, we have a system where 90% of the talents are either must-have-or-you're-an-idiot or they suck. The remaining 10% is where the choices lie, and often those choices aren't terribly meaningful. The new system will take all the must-have talents and make them a part of the spec abilities, and then do away with the crummy talents entirely. This means it's going to be much, much harder to do something truly stupid and take a dumb talent that really screws your DPS potential.

I am all for this new system. I think it's fantastic.

Some people don't like the change because, as they say, they like the fact that you can make bad choices. It separates the good players from the bad by a larger margin. Personally, I don't think this point of view is very genuine. Most of the time, what it really does is separate the players who spent some time looking for class information online from those who just play the game. I think you should be able to play the game -- and play it well -- without needing to go online looking for other information.

This is kind of similar in my mind to the players who didn't want armor penetration to go away and argued that it wasn't that complicated. In fact, it was. It was so complicated that none of the theorycrafters could figure it out, and Blizzard had to step in and hand them the formulas. You couldn't expect someone to know how it worked or what the caps were without reading information online -- which I think is not great game design.

So I like the fact that people can't skip a vital talent. Good players should be defined by, well, being a good player. Skill should differentiate good from bad, not a boneheaded decision (and come on, we all make those).

I can see from the word count that I'm already over my word limit for this column. I do want to dig into the talent preview in detail, but we'll have to do it another time. For now, let me just say this: Anyone who says they already know what the new cookie-cutter talent choices are or that you have to take Readiness or any other talent in a tier does not know what they're talking about.

Remember, all the numbers and balance have yet to be worked out. Looking at the talents is cool and lets us see what kind of choices we'll have, but we can't make those choices yet because the numbers are not done. Ghostcrawler made this very clear -- that in some cases, they just carried over a current talent into the preview as is, even though the numbers (including cooldowns and durations) will be changing.

So until next week, you can hop over to the WHU to read everything I asked Ghostcrawler when I saw him in the convention hallways.
Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. From leveling your hunter and choosing the best patch 4.2 gear to learning the DPS value of skill, we've got you covered. If you're stuck in one of the nine support classes, why not move up to the big league and play a hunter?

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