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Scattered Shots: Aspect macros and crows endangered

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+.

We've got some more good hunter news coming in from the beta with more buffs to hunter stuff. It's very important that you keep this in mind, that there are some interesting buffs to abilities including more hunter PvP buffs. Because there's bad news as well.

We've had both news of another beta patch and a handful of posts from Ghostcrawler on the hunter thread.

Though A Murder of Crows was nerfed in the patch just a couple of weeks ago, it's been nerfed again, and fairly hard this time. Furthermore, we also got news that all this crazy combination of hunters summoning extra creatures into combat is potentially too much for lower-end machines, and Blizzard may have to scale back on some of these abilities. A Murder of Crows is a likely suspect for that.

But remember, there are buffs too. So let's dig into all the changes and news, starting with A Murder of Crows.

A Murder of Crows nerf

A couple of weeks back, the ability of A Murder of Crows's cooldown to be reset when used on targets below 20% health was limited, changed to bump the cooldown down to 15 seconds rather than resetting it entirely. This made sense, given the way we could use the ability to summon flock after flock of crows.

With the latest update, A Murder of Crows is getting substantially less useful. To begin with, the base cooldown is being doubled from 1 minute to 2 minutes. In addition, now when it's used on a target with less than 20% health remaining, the cooldown is reduced to 1 minute.

On the surface, the doubling of the cooldown effectively cuts the DPS gain in half; however, they've also changed a lot about how the damage works since I first calculated it all when the ability first came out. The number of crows is smaller, but the damage coefficient is much higher. In the end, even ignoring the reset on targets below 20% health, I think this nerf was way too much. After the buffs to Dire Beast, our other obvious talent choice for that tier, Dire Beast is currently looking like the obvious winner -- DPS plus the focus regen plus far less likelihood of the beasts dying before doing their damage.

The ability of this talent to reduce the cooldown to 1 minute when used on targets less than 20% health is one that I don't really understand the logic behind. In a classic single-target boss fight, you will get zero benefit from this -- the time with the boss below 20% isn't often longer than a minute.

In theory, this could be useful in raid fights with adds. You can save your A Murder of Crows for adds and try to activate the talent when the add health is low, and the crows might then rejoin you in attacking your next target. (They're a little random about what they do. Some of them tend to hang out around you after their target dies, while others look for new targets, but this may just be bugginess of the beta.) However, trying to manage your 2-minute cooldown ability around the sliver of time between adds getting to 20% and dying is probably not the best use of your attention amidst a raid fight.

I'm hoping that we see this changed again to something a bit more useful and competitive with Dire Beast (taking into account the greater risk of a boss AoE pulse butchering your crows) in the near future.

On a related topic, Lead Systems Designer Ghostcrawler also commented in the forums:

As an aside, we have a lot of abilities that summon extra creatures for hunters, including Stampede. This can create client performance problems on lower end machines, so we may ultimately have to redesign some of them. (We don't want to hear raid or BG leaders asking hunters not to use certain abilities.) Stampede would be the last one we touch.

First of all, this is a totally legitimate concern, and I'm glad that Blizzard is being proactive about it. I'm also glad that Stampede is last on the list of abilities that might get less visually cool. However, it seems likely that A Murder of Crows would be high on the list, since it involved spawning a lot of models that are around for a long amount of time.

As I've mentioned, we've already seen the number of crows summoned reduced, and perhaps this was part of the reason. If we're lucky, Blizzard will be able to solve this issue by things like this, by reducing the numbers and simplifying the graphics. Hopefully we won't lose one of these abilities entirely.

The buffs roll in as well

It's not all bad news, though. We also saw some buffs. The big one is Posthaste, which will now remove all movement-impairing effects when you Disengage, in addition to providing the movement speed boost. This is a big win for hunter PvP, allowing us the ability to truly escape from those melee guys who have us rooted and slowed in a bazillion ways at once.

Fervor was also buffed. Now in addition to providing 50 focus on demand with a 30-second cooldown, it will also generate an additional 50 focus over the next 10 seconds. This is huge. For MM, it can make the rotation a bit difficult to manage -- trying to keep Steady Shot pairs to maintain Steady Focus with all the extra focus coming in every 30 seconds. It also makes hunter rotations a bit more complicated to explain, since there are regular periods of massively higher focus regeneration. Definitely an interesting move to make Fervor more competitive with Readiness, though!

Finally, a delightful change is coming to the way Explosive Shot DoTs tick: they'll now be treated like Piercing Shots and other DoTs that use the multiply and divide method (with an extra tick added on the stack). The short version of this is that it will no longer be possible to clip Explosive Shot ticks -- so during Lock and Load you can just spam your Explosive Shots and not have to worry about losing any DPS. Very excellent news!

Aspect macros on the chopping block

Ghostcrawler also chimed in on the topic of Aspect dancing macros:


I'm curious about the Hunter technique of macro'ing Fox and Hawk into case time/instant shots, respectively, to maximize uptime with the Hawk AP buff while moving.

We don't consider that fun gameplay. You're basically opting out of Aspects as a mechanic and just always benefiting from the right Aspect because you're "clever" enough to know there is a macro. Usually in this situation we put the "stance" on the normal GCD or make the shared GCD longer.

For some background on this: Some hunters use a macro tied to all of their shots. When they fire Cobra Shot or Steady Shot, the macro first puts them into Aspect of the Fox so they can move while firing. When they fire any other shot the macro puts them into Aspect of the Hawk so they can benefit from the increased ranged attack power (since they can move while firing instant shots anyway).

For clarity, this is excellent gameplay for PvP; however, it is not optimal for raiding. If you use this macro in raids you end up always in Fox when casting Steady/Cobra, which lowers your DPS. (It is, however, legitimate to always use the Hawk change on the instant shots.)

Blizzard has a decent and justifiable history of doing away with something that is always made automatic via macros. Sometimes they just bake the abilities in so you don't need the macro, and other times they change the abilities so the macro doesn't work. Clearly Blizzard feels that aspect dancing is a part of hunter gameplay that they want, so it seems likely they'll break the macro. I just hope they do it by extending the internal cooldown of the aspects (currently 1 second) rather than putting them on the global cooldown -- which would mean that changing aspects would cost us DPS.

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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