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Scattered Shots: Hunter pet plan in Mists of Pandaria

Brian Wood

Every Thursday, WoW Insider brings you Scattered Shots for beast mastery, marksmanship and survival hunters. Frostheim of Warcraft Hunters Union and the hunter podcast 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.or ask him on Google+.

Thus far in the Mists of Pandaria beta, we've seen and heard tons of sweet news about the hunter class, but we've had very little news about the second most important class in the game: hunter pets.

Historically, development around new and awesome hunter pets stuff tends to happen later in the beta process, but Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street has made an appearance on the forums to let us know what the plan is with our beloved companions. As he suggested at BlizzCon, we will be able to take any hunter pet we want and choose whether to make it ferocity, cunning, or tenacity. So you can have DPS turtles and tanking kitties.

But in addition to confirmation of this awesome news is a plan that many hunters are far less thrilled about: no more pet talents at all. Here's what Ghostcrawler had to say about pet talents going the way of the manhood of the elven races.

Ghostcrawler - Lead Systems Designer
Since the system is currently a little hard to ascertain in beta, I'll try and summarize the basics. Hopefully we'll have this working in a build or two.
  • Every pet has 3 specs: Ferocity, Tenacity and Cunning. These work much like class specs, with a similar UI.
  • Pets come with the spec you'd expect (Ferocity for kitties) but you can change it. If you want a tanking cat or a DPS crab, you can. If you have a favorite pet, you can just always use that one and swap the spec around.
  • I hope to see A LOT of DPS crabs.
  • Each spec comes with 2-3 active and 2-3 passive abilities. We took a careful look at what pet talents most hunters were taking and tried to take the best of those. Things like Roar of Sacrifice, Last Stand and Heart of the Phoenix made the cut.
  • We didn't think we were getting a ton of gameplay out of the pet talents on live -- players interacted with them even less than the class talents -- and we didn't think pets needed the full tiered system like the Mists talent implementation, so we decided the best way to offer pet customization is to let hunters choose their pet mostly because of how it looks (and its one special ability) and not from its role.

So this means that pets will no longer have any talents, but many of the abilities that used to be talents will be retained specific to a pet's spec. Ferocity, cunning, and tenacity pets will each have a different set of abilities, but all ferocity pets will have the same abilities.

With two to three passive and two to three active abilities per spec, our pets will still have most of the abilities that most hunters use now (and many passive damage abilities may well just be wrapped up into the pet spec balance). For hunters who do crazy stuff with their pets -- extreme soloing and pet tanking -- the loss of many of the rarely used specials may reduce the number of available targets.

Ditching the current system -- a good thing

I'm personally a bit disappointed in this move, but certainly the current pet talent system needed a radical overhaul for the all the reasons the player system needed an overhaul -- only more so.

Right now, the vast majority of hunters have only two choices to make with pet talents: do it right or do it wrong.

If you want a DPS pet, there is an optimal way to spend the pet talents to maximize the effectiveness of your pet. The rest of the talents make it appear like there's choice, but really they're just a trap to try to trick you into spending your pet talent points foolishly. (This is less true for BM hunters, who have the extra talent points that they get to make a handful of actual decisions.)

Removing this kind of poor decision trap is in keeping with the spirit of many of the changes in Mists. The idea here is that skill shouldn't be measured on your ability to look up the best spread online but should instead have to do with your ability to play well. So removing the current pet talent system is something that needed to happen.

There might have been a better way

The reason I'm disappointed about this change is that I feel the same goal -- removing bad choice traps -- could have been accomplished in a better way. It feels a bit like Blizzard identified a broken system and rather than fixing it, just threw the whole thing out.

I should stress that my concern here is entirely flavor-based and not mechanical. Having pet talents or not having them doesn't affect the balance of the class or our DPS potential. But removing them removes the principle way that we could customize our pets. And the ability to customize our pets is one of the core things that sets hunters apart from other pet classes, that makes us the premiere pet class.

Rather than removing pet talents entirely, I wish Blizzard had given us a limited number of talent decisions like it did with our class talents. Something that enabled us to make a choice that was a meaningful decision, that let us not only customize our pets but not make every ferocity pet be exactly identical to every other ferocity pet. I discussed the possibilities of a system like this in the MoP pet talent possibilities article many months back.

Don't get me wrong here: As much as I'm disappointed about the lack of customization options for our pets, I'm still very excited about hunters in Mists. We're ditching minimum range, gaining stampede and a host of other sweet abilities. Tons of problem abilities are being fixed.

On the whole, Mists is still looking like an awesome time for hunters. Just not so much for our pets.

Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. From leveling your hunter 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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