Monday, February 9, 2015

World of Warcraft: A Comprehensive List of Desired Hunter Changes

It is no secret that I like the Hunter class. Ever since I started playing World of Warcraft, I have been playing one with a fiery passion and despite giving a large amount of attention to other characters, it is unquestionable that my Hunter is my main. After Wrath of the Lich King, this passion manifested heavily after it was previous exhausted from writing numerous encounters. It was then, with the influence of a friend, that I began to heavily focus on class balance and design, particularly the state of Hunters. While Hunters have greatly improved since the early Cataclysm state when I began my deep scrutiny, Warlords of Draenor has introduced a slew of new issues and left some old issues unfixed.

I am aware Warlords of Draenor did address some issues that plagued Hunters and in some cases, multiple classes thanks to the ability prune and for that I am pretty happy especially considering I often felt Hunters (among other classes) had a lot of abilities to manage. In fact, Hunters aren't even in that bad of a spot in general at the moment (especially thanks to the hotfixes).

Despite these facts, I believe there is much that could be improved about the Hunter class mechanically. In addition, some issues that were acknowledged were not addressed, such as the differentiation between specializations. In this article, I will go over a large list of changes for Hunters that I would like to see happen in the future. These are fan-made and should not be confused for official changes announced by Blizzard.

While some changes may have a direct impact on their damage output due to mechanical suggestions and attempts to address thematic design, it is not in my intention to try to balance Hunter damage output by fiddling with damage values. This means that with a few possible exceptions (which will be explained when they come up), these changes will largely be free or attempts to buff or nerf Hunter DPS through number tweaking such as by increasing or decreases the damage of a certain skill by a certain percentage. I will also review a couple of the more recent changes to Hunters that Blizzard has made, which will be denoted by a *, which will often be convoluted for some reason or another.

With that said, let us begin. If you're interested in a particular section, click the links below:

General Changes
Talent Changes
Beast Mastery Changes
Marksmanship Changes
Survival Changes
Final Statements

You can also see the changelog below, which will likely be updated even after the article is published (in response to criticism and suggestions):

Click here to show

This section will cover the Hunter's baseline abilities. Abilities that are available for two specializations (but not three) will also be covered in this section.
  • Aspect of the Cheetah has been removed.
  • Aspect of the Pack now increases movement speed by 45% for 15 seconds, but direct damage removes this effect for 1.5 seconds. Affects allies within 40 yards (3 minute cooldown). This ability is now on the global cooldown.
These changes go pretty well together since Aspect of the Cheetah and Aspect of the Pack are similar abilities. Aspect of the Cheetah, while an excellent personal speed buff with the glyph, has been removed due to this similarity to Aspect of the Pack. It was pretty much a free movement speed buff until the Hunter inevitably took damage and while it is useful, it's essentially free power that the Hunter got when Aspect of the Hawk was removed.  However, since the bonus movement speed was of great benefit, Aspect of the Pack has been converted into a raid-wide utility effect that will still be exceptionally beneficial for the Hunter.

While a persistent movement speed buff for the entire group can be helpful in some situations, this iteration should continue to be decent in these situations due to its duration compared to Stampeding Roar. To compensate for this ability lasting for a moderate duration and to keep Hunter mobility from getting out of control, the drawback from Aspect of the Pack has been thematically retained but altered to prevent situations of griefing and anti-Huntard mentality due to the frustration of a single player causing a raid-wide dazing effect (see: pipe before Gluth or any other time the entire raid takes direct damage). Another benefit of altering the drawback is that it makes Aspect of the Pack useful in more situations.
Aspect of the Fox duration increased to 10 seconds from 6. This ability has been removed in 6.2.
At the moment Aspect of the Fox's duration is a little short, allowing for a couple mobile casts at most. For a 3 minute raid-wide cooldown, it's not that stellar, much like Amplify Magic, which should probably receive similar treatment. On a more important note, however, Aspect of the Fox lacks a major visual component that telegraphs the ability's usage to other players unlike an ability such as Stampeding Roar, which may need a visual component to better telegraph its usage and thus it received a very noticeable one. Adding such a visual to Aspect of the Fox would help to notify group members of its usage and allow them to better utilize the effects, compensating for the short duration and potentially making the above change unnecessary.

Actually, removing the spell is fine too. It doesn't exactly make a lot of sense that Hunters bring utility they don't necessarily take advantage of. It may also allow for caster mobility as a whole to return as well.
  • Aspects no longer trigger a 10 second cooldown for all aspect abilities and can be used at the same time.
  • Aspect of the Beast has no cooldown and is a toggled effect.
While it's understandable that thematically a Hunter shouldn't be able to take on the aspect of multiple beasts at the same time, Hunter aspects are becoming something of a fading theme, especially given the removal of existing aspects like Aspect of the Hawk and Aspect of the Viper. As a class, Hunters still have a good amount of flavor and theme to them without having to strictly adhere to the old and frankly archaic, aspects system (such as traps, animal pets, the exclusive ability to use certain ranged weapons, etc). Aspect of the Beast's change falls in line with the removal of aspects now being able to be used simultaneously.
Hunters can now always choose which baseline pet buff (now includes Time Warp-like effects to provide to the group instead of choosing a pet (alternatively, Trueshot Aura provides an additional static group buff on top of 10% attack power)
When Cataclysm came around, Hunters were given the ability to provide pretty much every single piece of group utility imaginable through their pet's buffs or debuffs. Mists of Pandaria further provided more pet-related group utility (such as battle resurrection). Warlords of Draenor then removed a large number of control abilities from pets and instead provided them with the ability to provide group buffs, allowing Hunters to have more freedom over the pet they are able to use when providing a buff for their group. Given these lines of changes, pets could almost be considered cosmetic in the sense that the Hunter can choose the pet that most appeals to them, hence the above change. The best part is since Lone Wolf already allows a Hunter to choose which buff they provide for their group, it would require minimal work to implement this change.
Disengage velocity has been increased.
This change is largely for quality of life considering that other abilities that move one's character, such as Roll, Charge, and Blink, happen a lot faster than Disengage does (Roll even gets a perk to make its animation faster).
Kill Shot cooldown now always resets.
This change is in response to the fact that despite Blizzard's attempts to fix a bug where Kill Shot's cooldown doesn't correctly reset in some situations (which has been around for years), it still fails to when it's supposed to. By just allowing the cooldown to always reset (on its 6 second internal cooldown), this probably is completely eliminated, though it may have some implications on Hunter power when it comes to execution damage (Kill Shot may need to be nerfed in damage to compensate).
Glyph of Focus has been added. It is a major glyph that increases the maximum Focus of the Hunter and pet by 20.
At the moment, both Beast Mastery and Marksmanship have a way to increase maximum Focus by 20. While it's understandable as to why this mechanic exists, especially with Marksmanship which as a specialization often has to stay over 50 Focus to use Aimed Shot. However, this leaves Survival without a passive effect that increases maximum Focus by 20. Assassination Rogues had an exclusive mechanic that increases maximum Energy by 20 and still do, but a glyph was added for all specializations that also increases maximum Energy by 20, so there's significant precedence in implementing this mechanic.
Scatter Shot has been removed.*
While there may be some players out there who don't approve of the removal of Scatter Shot, I am not one of those individuals. Considering that traps also received an instant arming time, and one of Scatter Shot's primary purposes was to set up Freezing Trap, there's some mechanical compensation there. Aside from that, Scatter Shot was pretty much a free interrupt and was otherwise a rather versatile control spell, which doesn't fit too well with the philosophy of how much crowd control Blizzard wants in PvP nowadays. Based on these arguments, while I'm not happy that Scatter Shot was removed, I can completely understand why it was.
Freezing Trap radius reduced to 3 yards* (A nerf of about 50 square yards, or ~63.7% trigger area)
This change, on the other hand, I do not agree with. I understand why the nerf occurred since Survival had access to a perk that made the cooldown of traps 12 seconds, giving Hunters in that specialization access to a staggering amount of almost spammable control. First of all, this change doesn't account for Ice Trap or glyphed Explosive Trap. Secondly, this change affects all three specializations and just increases accuracy required to land a Freezing Trap, leading to a far higher margin for error considering the ability already requires a pretty high amount of skill to land due to having to account for travel time and enemy movement (mostly in the case of PvP). Finally, Blizzard is increasing the cooldown of traps to 20 seconds for Survival in Patch 6.1 at the time this was published, so the overwhelming control that traps provided due to the heavily reduced cooldown is no more.

This means that the purpose of this frankly misguided change is essentially rendered obsolete unless for some reason Blizzard thinks the radius on Freezing Trap being 5 yards is too strong, to which I would have a major rebuttal. Being upset about this change aside I do not agree with this change at all for the aforementioned reasons.

This section covers Hunter talents, including ones that are exclusive to at least two specializations when applicable.
Iron Hawk now also increases the damage reduction of Deterrence by 20% (stacks with the glyph)
Iron Hawk in its current state is a rather bland damage reduction effect without any additional effect. There are, from what I can tell, no talents that match how mechanically lacking this talent is. While the talent is undeniably a solid one and at the time of this writing a staple for raiding Hunters, I chose to add additional damage reduction to Deterrence to synergize with its usage as a defensive cooldown and the fact that sometimes the deflection component fails against encounter mechanics, meaning that having more damage reduction might be helpful. This has some practical application in PvP as well and adds a partial synergy with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Chimera.
Counter Shot no longer prevents Steady Focus from activating.
This is a quality of life fix considering that Counter Shot, as an interrupt, may need to be used at any time. Making it prevent break the two shot streak required for Steady Focus's activation is illogical from a design and common sense standpoint.
A Murder of Crows now spreads to a nearby target on death for its remaining duration.
At the moment there aren't too many damage-over-time effects that spread to another target on death. A Murder of Crows, which already gets a cooldown reset if it successfully kills a target, is a possible candidate for such a mechanic. However, to prevent this mechanic from getting out of control, only the remaining duration of the existing damage-over-time effect would spread to another target, meaning that it's likely to be a few seconds, which improves the efficiency of the ability, arguably making this change a damage buff.

The addition of this mechanic allows for some additional application that makes A Murder of Crows more versatile. For instance, a Hunter could use the ability on a dying target to get a couple ticks of the debuff in, getting the remaining ticks on a nearby (healthier) target afterwards. This also makes A Murder of Crows very useful against enemies with very little health since having to recast A Murder of Crows would be costly and the overall application of the ability in such a situation impractical.
  • Empowered Shots replaces Blink Strikes:
    • Wild Shots increases pet Basic Attack damage by 25% for 12 seconds, stacking twice.
    • When Shaft Shot charges from Piercing Shot and Aimed Shot are generated, there's an additional 50% chance per charge generated to generate a bonus charge.
    • Venom Shot causes existing Serpent Sting and Black Arrow effects on the target to instantly deal damage equal to 25% of one tick.
  • Glyph of Blink Strikes (Major Glyph) added. Causes a pet's Basic Attacks to be usable up to 40 yards away and teleport them behind the target instantly.
Before going into an explanation of this change the three abilities that seem to have arbitrary names, which are Wild Shot, Piercing Shot, and Venom Shot, are all variations of Arcane Shot for each of the three specializations respectively. While this renaming of Arcane Shot is largely for thematic purposes, the Beast Mastery and Survival variants have mechanical purposes too. I have chosen to change the Blink Strikes talent dramatically because it fits a niche of dealing consistent damage over any given amount of time, making it attractive for dealing damage in small bursts without being barred by cooldowns, unlike the other two talents in the tier. The problem is Blink Strikes has a heavy bias for the Beast Mastery specialization, which heavily benefits from bonus pet Basic Attack damage. This isn't a problem in itself, but it does likely leave the passive either underwhelming for the other two specializations or overpowered for Beast Mastery.

With that in mind, I reworked the talent to be an attractive choice for all three specializations. While numerical values may need to tweaked for balance, the idea is that the Focus dump ability for each specialization (which is the Arcane Shot variant and for Marksmanship specifically, Aimed Shot as well) has an additional passive benefit. This should thematically fall in line with Blink Strike's design since the Hunter's Focus dump sees use in nearly every combat situation. The addition of the Blink Strikes glyph is to compensate for the removal of the teleportation effect that the talent provided, which could be useful for all three specializations. While this means that a Beast Mastery Hunter who wants the old full effect of Blink Strikes would need to use a glyph slot, the benefit is that there's now a redesigned talent taking its place that (ideally) benefits all the specializations well which is a reasonable trade-off.
When Lone Wolf is active, Intimidation becomes Shackling Shot, which stuns the target after a brief delay, Spirit Bond continues to function, and Master's Call can be used, but only affects the Hunter and cannot be used on friendly targets.
This change addresses what I consider to be an oversight with Lone Wolf. While some argue this is Blizzard's design intent, the fact that all of the pet-related talents and abilities suddenly stop working when a Hunter is forced to activate Lone Wolf seems a little too convenient of an occurrence, especially considering that Grimoire of Sacrifice, the equivalent Warlock talent, has almost no such issue and effects such as Soul Link, Sacrificial Pact, Soul Leech, and even one of the pet's existing utility abilities, remain viable to use (though Demonic Servitude's synergy with Grimoire of Sacrifice is a bit lacking, though at least functional).

To reiterate on the changes and how they compare to the existing design, Lone Wolf now converts Intimidation into a targeted stun with a brief delay, much like how Soul Link increases health when the Warlock uses Grimoire of Sacrifice. Spirit Bond continues to heal for as much as before, much like how Soul Leech works when the Warlock has no pet active. Master's Call, which can normally be used on friendly targets as well as the Hunter, is now restricted to only being usable on the Hunter to represent the utility restriction that Warlocks have to deal with by sacrificing their pets and thus losing out on some of the utility they provide. The loss of other Hunter pet-related utility, such as Roar of Sacrifice, also adds on to the utility that the Hunter must sacrifice to gain the significant damage buff that Lone Wolf provides.
Exotic Munitions now applies on single target abilities (including Kill Command) instead of Autoshots. In addition, Frost Ammo's slowing effect can only affect the same target once every 6 seconds.
In its current state, Exotic Munitions is a bit of a boring, overly passive talent. While the concept is interesting, even Rogue poisons have some interactivity in their application since they apply when the Rogue uses abilities as well. While having Exotic Munitions act exactly like Rogue poisons may be too strong since Exotic Munitions, unlike Rogue poisons, have a 100% application rate, having it apply on only single target abilities is a more reasonable approach. The damage of Exotic Munitions may need to be tuned appropriately to account for the increased and controllable application rate. The overall application rate of Exotic Munitions could be changed to something like Rogue poisons as well but the mechanics are already pretty similar as it is.

The second part of the change is to address Hunters having access to what essentially amount to an endlessly applying slow, which, when coupled with their range advantage and access to other control utilities, makes them even more overwhelming. This is especially so since with the other change Hunters have access to what amounts to an on-demand slow at nearly any given time without a cooldown, including auto shot "cooldowns". It is worth mentioning that while the slowing effect will have an internal cooldown for each target, Frost Ammo will always deal damage regardless of the internal cooldown.

Beast Mastery

This section covers the Beast Mastery specialization, which will involve an enormous rework of one of their core abilities: Bestial Wrath. It will also involve an extensive rework of many existing passive to reduce randomness that's generally out of the player's control and cull the passive power that the specialization provides. At the end of this section, along with that of the other two specialization sections, there will be some concluding statements that sum up the purpose of the changes and how the redesigned specialization is supposed to play out.
The Frenzy passive is a very random, yet core, element of Beast Mastery's damage dealing repertoire. The worst part is that the Hunter has virtually no control over Frenzy's stack rate short of sending the pet in to attack because the pet's Basic Attack cooldown is fixed. Even if it was somehow modified by Haste, it doesn't change the fact that a player can run into a very bad streak of luck where they have to consume fewer than 5 stacks because they were about to expire because Frenzy didn't proc. There are better, more interactive, mechanics that will fill its place, but it's time to ax this mechanic for good. Focus Fire, as the method to consume Frenzy stacks, is removed as a result of the removal of Frenzy.
While stacking critical strike (and haste) can help generate more Focus for the Hunter's pet, it lacks any additional interactivity. The Focus generation from Pet Basic Attacks is purely random chance as well, meaning Invigoration (and by extension, Go For the Throat) has to go. The removal of Cobra Strikes is far more straightforward as it adds a random chance for Arcane Shot to empower Basic Attacks, which is once again largely (uncontrollable) RNG.
Exotic Beasts has been renamed to Exotic Training, which allows a Beast Master Hunter to choose an additional buff ability, plus a utility ability for the pet to provide, such as battle resurrection, healing, water walking, area of effect damage, slowfall, etc. All exotic pets can now be tamed by any Hunter.
This falls in line with a previous change in the General section where the Hunter is always allowed to choose the buff they can provide to their group (in addition to Trueshot Aura). This could be modified to reduce the types of additional utility a Beast Mastery Hunter can provide if needed. This change also allows for further pet-related customization by allowing any Hunter to use any pet family since Beast Mastery's perk is the bonus utility provided by this passive effect. It is also worth mentioning this eliminates the need for other implementation such as specialization-based pet setups since using Exotic pets at all restricts the pet repertoire of other specializations were they to be needed for some situation (Survival for Ko'ragh, for instance).*
  • Frenzy has been added as a resource for Beast Mastery Hunters and is available at level 40. 1 Frenzy is automatically generated each second.
  • Bestial Wrath no longer has a fixed cooldown or duration but instead requires 100 Frenzy to activate and initially consumes 6 Frenzy per second (5 Frenzy per second after accounting for automatic generation). The cost is increased by 1 Frenzy for each second that Bestial Wrath is active (if the ability has been active for 15 seconds, 20 Frenzy is consumed on the next second). When the Hunter's Frenzy reaches zero, Bestial Wrath ends.
This mechanic mixes the League of Legend champions Shyvana's and Swain's ultimate abilities together. In a way it is similar to Metamorphosis for Demonology Warlocks, though Frenzy generation will remain about the same during Bestial Wrath (or possibly increase) while Demonic Fury generation is reduced during Metamorphosis. Abilities also do not change during Bestial Wrath, though damage output is greatly increased. Many of the following changes revolve around this new mechanic since it is the major feature of the specialization. The thematic implication of this change is that the Beast Mastery specialization now heavily revolves around the Bestial Wrath mechanic since the Hunter, by using Bestial Wrath, essentially unleashes his or her inner beast.
Enhanced Basic Attacks has been replaced with Beast Mark, which causes the Hunter's Arcane Shot/Wild Shot and Kill Command to apply a Beast Mark for 30 seconds. Beast Mark causes all single-target attacks from the Hunter's pet to generate 1 bonus Frenzy and can be applied to up to two targets at a time.
This change removes another RNG-reliant mechanic and replaces it with a new perk that works with the new Frenzy mechanic. This effect not only scales with Haste, but also benefits abilities such as Kill Command.
Pet Basic Attacks now have no Focus cost, but consume up to 50 Focus to deal up to an additional 100% damage (for all specializations). At level 40 for Beast Mastery, Pet Basic Attacks will gain cooldown reduction based on Haste and generate 1 Frenzy when used.
This change further increases Haste scaling for Beast Mastery by causing it to increase the amount of Basic Attacks a pet can use over time, thus increasing Frenzy generation. By completely removing the base Focus cost of the ability, the pet will always be able to use it. The design also ideally allows the pet to dump all of its Focus to amplify the damage of the attack whenever possible, much like its previous iteration. It is worth mentioning that the Frenzy generation of this ability increases to 2 with Beast Mark active. It is also worth mentioning this change may be a slight damage buff for the other two specializations since the pet will always use Basic Attacks on cooldown.
Enhanced Bestial Wrath has been added (to replace Improved Focus Fire). Enhanced Bestial Wrath causes Bestial Wrath to last for an additional 3 seconds after all Frenzy has been depleted (after which it will automatically cancel regardless of how much Frenzy the Hunter has).
The addition of Enhanced Bestial Wrath allows the Hunter to recuperate some Frenzy while benefiting from Bestial Wrath's bonuses, reducing the downtime between Bestial Wrath usages. The duration that Bestial Wrath is allowed to persist after the Hunter runs out of Frenzy may need to be adjusted for balance purposes so a Hunter can't endlessly use Bestial Wrath (something that shouldn't happen normally since the Frenzy cost ramps up over time).
Kill Command generates 3 Frenzy when used at level 40. It will now cause the pet to attack the Hunter's target instead of the pet's target.
It wouldn't make much sense if Kill Command didn't generate Frenzy considering it is the signature move of the specialization, so it now generates 3 Frenzy. This is increased to 4 with Beast Mark. The second change is a quality of life one that should alter the functionality more in favor of what the Hunter wants without having to resort to creating a macro.
Arcane Shot is replaced by Wild Shot for Beast Mastery upon specializing, which deals an equivalent amount of Nature damage and generates 5 Focus for the pet. At level 40, Wild Shot also generates 1 Frenzy.
This replaces the Invigoration and Cobra Strikes mechanic removed above. The Nature damage is thematical, but the controlled Focus generation for the pet synergizes with Bestial Wrath since during that time Wild Shot is more likely to be spammed due to the 50% reduced Focus cost effect. The Wild Shot spam will then increase the damage of pet Basic Attacks because the pet will generally have more Focus to consume.
  • Ferine Assault replaces Cobra Shot and is learned upon specializing. Ferine Assault causes the pet to attack once every second for two seconds. Each pet attack deals 50% of the damage Cobra Shot originally dealt and generates 7 Focus. Can be used while moving.
  • Wild Carnage replaces Focusing Shot. Wild Carnage causes the pet to attack once every 1.25 seconds for 2.5 seconds, dealing damage equal to 50% of the damage Focusing Shot originally dealt and generating 10 Focus on the first strike and 40 Focus on the second. Cannot be used while moving.
These two changes alter the Focus generation for Beast Mastery to be more thematically friendly. This change not only gives it synergy with Beast Mark and Beast Cleave (see below) but may also alter the playstyle of Beast Mastery since one could channel for one second and generate some Focus and then stop the channel. This mechanic could be rather powerful for Wild Carnage in particular since its equivalent, Focusing Shot, is meant to be an immobile ability that the Hunter fully commits to using. With that design point in mind, the majority of the Focus generation from Wild Carnage is back-loaded into the completion of the ability.
  • Beast Cleave's duration has been increased to 8 seconds.
  • Improved Beast Cleave now causes Kill Command, Ferine Assault, and Wild Carnage to strike nearby targets instead of increasing the damage dealt by pets to nearby targets.
Beast Cleave at the moment lasts for 4 seconds. This duration is a little too short since it promotes having to use Multi-Shot very frequently almost to the point of spamming it. The short duration also makes it difficult for the Hunter to benefit from Beast Cleave when using Ferine Assault or Wild Carnage, both of which are channeled for as much as half or more of the duration of the current Beast Cleave.

The perk change adds interactive synergy that increases area of effect damage output as opposed to a rather generic 25% additional damage. It also has the additional benefit of validating points made throughout this section regarding Beast Cleave's synergy.
Mastery: Master of Beasts now also increases the damage amplification effect for the Hunter during Bestial Wrath by X + Y, where X equals the base bonus damage dealt by pets through this mastery and Y equals the bonus damage dealt by pets through this mastery from Mastery rating. The base X and Y% bonus value have been reduced to not give Beast Mastery an unwarranted damage buff.
This change makes the mastery a little more similar to the Demonology mastery in the sense that damage amplification during Bestial Wrath, which is now similar to Metamorphosis, is increased through the mastery. This may need a bit more numerical tuning to achieve balance but the change falls in line with the new thematic of Bestial Wrath.
When Kill Command, Ferine Assault, or Wild Carnage is used, targets killed exclusively by pet damage will still yield loot.
This is largely a quality of life fix to allow Beast Mastery to loot corpses killed by pets as long as they're actively using abilities since loot denial from pet damage was implemented to combat AFK farming with a pet (this is easy enough to replicate as one can sit around with a pet in Assist mode and wait until an aggressive mob comes to hit the player or the pet). This change should also be expanded to other classes if needed (such as with the Felguard's Felstorm, since that ability has no autocasting).

Overview and Purpose of Changes

As mentioned above, Beast Mastery suffers from having a lot of random elements that detract from the gameplay of the specialization. In some cases, such as with Frenzy and Focus Fire, this makes the gameplay unnecessarily simple compared to the other specialization. For instance, the generally uncontrollable Focus Fire mechanic is used about every 37.5 seconds on average if the pet uses Basic Attacks on cooldown (40% chance every 3 seconds to generate a stack means 0.4 stacks are generated every 3 seconds, or 1 stack every 7.5 seconds). While Beast Mastery does somewhat fulfill its role thematically, it does so through a single interactive ability that has been around since the Burning Crusade and a plethora of passive effects that enhance the pet's damage, thus causing the Hunter to do a lot of damage without having to press a single key. This further adds to the simplicity of the specialization. Add these elements together and Beast Mastery from a gameplay standpoint is rather boring and possibly dissatisfying. 

By reworking Bestial Wrath into the ability the Hunter uses as much as possible, the specialization has a mechanic to centralize around that not only enhances the pet's power, but provides a significant buff to the player as well. Frenzy resource management will be key in this specialization and keep the Hunter checking how much they have to ensure they enter Bestial Wrath as soon as possible and efficiently use Frenzy when under the effects of the buff. While the Hunter can play somewhat similar to before, new changes to key abilities such as Cobra Shot (now Ferine Assault) may alter ability usage. Furthermore, each base ability that the Hunter uses now always has some direct impact on what the pet does, either by directly commanding the pet to attack or constantly recharging the pet's Focus to unleash stronger Basic Attacks, enhancing the interactivity the Hunter has with their pet. These changes help to enhance the thematic of Beast Mastery Hunters being a savage breed that let loose their fury as their pet, under their command, tears apart foes. These changes also make Beast Mastery's area of effect damage output more dynamic, meaning there's less Multi-Shot spamming and more using one's pet to output area of effect damage. 

In terms of theorycrafting, these changes should make Mastery the strongest secondary stat for Beast Mastery, with Haste as a possible contender. Multistrike would also be quite beneficial since multiple pet attacks rapidly increase Frenzy generation on targets with Beast Mark.

This section will cover the Marksmanship specialization. This specialization in particular has suffered performance-wise since Cataclysm. Warlords of Draenor helped to bring up the performance of the specialization, but the gameplay suffered as a result. These changes should hopefully address that.
Arcane Shot is once again available for Marksmanship, but renamed to Piercing Shot. Piercing Shot deals an equivalent amount of damage as armor penetrating Physical damage.
The thematic altercation is not major but helps to make Arcane Shot fit into Marksmanship given that it is a specialization that largely deals physical damage. The important part is that Arcane Shot is now once again available to Marksmanship as a Focus dump, giving Marksmanship Hunters access to a reliable source of instant cast damage. I could probably end this specialization's list of changes right here but that would be rather boring, not to mention there are some other issues to address with the specialization, not to mention there's a mechanic I've been wanting to introduce for a while.
Shaft Shot is a new passive learned at level 25. Instant cast shots that cost Focus will generate one charge of Shaft Shot if it critically strikes the primary target (including for multi-target abilities). Aimed Shot and Powershot will always generate one charge of Shaft Shot, with critical strikes generating two charges. Up to five charges of Shaft Shot can be accumulated, or six if Focusing Shot is taken. Shaft Shot charges cause Steady Shot and Focusing Shot to become instant cast and deal increased damage based on Haste. Instant Steady Shots consume one charge while instant Focusing Shots consume two.
This is one of the new core mechanics for the Marksmanship specialization. It heavily benefits from critical strike chance, which is the main secondary stat to build for Marksmanship. The mechanic also thematically fits since a shaft shot is the ability to precisely land a follow-up shot so that it splits the previous arrow's shaft (according to a fantasy novel but it makes sense regardless). Truly that is a feat that only the most seasoned archers could accomplish in the Warcraft universe. This mechanic also addresses a problem with Marksmanship where the gameplay is stifled by heavy usage of cast abilities, which seems to contradict the general design of Hunters since they have access to a lot of instant damage (focus dumps) otherwise. 

Considering that Hunters generate a lot of their Focus through the use of a cast ability and the previous instant Aimed Shot mechanic didn't work out so well, Shaft Shot creates an instant cast Focus generator that rewards using Aimed Shot with smooth gameplay and fantastic damage output but still gives Hunters the option to use Arcane Shot (Piercing Shot) if they so desire. It is worth mentioning that re-adding Arcane Shot partially addressed the aforementioned issue pretty well as it is, but Shaft Shot adds more gameplay choices and makes Aimed Shot usage far more rewarding as opposed to forcing Aimed Shot to be an ability that is largely used when the benefit of Careful Aim is active (at least until later on in endgame content when the Hunter has a lot of stats) in the former case. It is also worth mentioning that since Shaft Shot causes Steady Shot and Focusing Shot's damage to scale with Haste, it has huge synergy with Rapid Fire.
Auto Shots continue during Aimed Shot. The damage of Aimed Shot should be decreased by an appropriate amount to compensate.
While the cast time of Aimed Shot will generally end up being shorter than the rate at which most ranged weapons will fire Auto Shots, Aimed Shot stopping Auto Shot usage can cause a damage loss since an Auto Shot may end up being delayed by an amount of time equal to the cast time of Aimed Shot. Consider the following scenario:
  • The Aimed Shot cast time is 1.99 seconds.
  • Auto Shot speed is one shot every 3 seconds.
  • At the 6th second, an Auto Shot is about to be fired, but does not fire because an Aimed Shot cast begins right before the Auto Shot fires. For the next 1.99 seconds, the next Auto Shot will not fire, resulting in about a 66-67% damage loss from Auto Shot every time this happens in this particular scenario.
Considering Slam was changed to an instant cast ability for similar reasons (it delayed the auto attack timer at some point) and Steady Shot (and Cobra Shot) were altered to continue to fire Auto Shots during the cast of the ability, Aimed Shot should receive similar treatment. It makes Marksmanship Hunter damage easier to balance around since there at least wouldn't be standard deviation due to Auto Shots being delayed by Aimed Shot.
Mastery: Sniper Training has been changed to Mastery: Barbed Projectiles. Mastery: Barbed Projectiles increases the damage of all damaging abilities that cost Focus by X% + Y% for 4 seconds (duration may need to be changed) when a Shaft Shot charge is consumed. Consuming multiple Shaft Shot charges extends the duration of the effect.
Much like how Marksmanship Hunter's gameplay is hampered by casting abilites almost constantly to deal damage, which contradicts the general design of Hunter since their spellbook consists of many instant cast Focus dumps, the Sniper Training mastery contradicts the design of Hunters as a mobile ranged damage dealer. Considering that every offensive Hunter ability except for Focusing Shot (which is a talent choice that is intended to alter the playstyle of any of the three specializations) can be used on the move and even Auto Shots fire on the move, this is a fairly safe assumption to make. Sniper Training was also previously in the game back when Hunters were less mobile but was ultimately removed along with the older version of Aspect of the Fox along with a change that made mobile Steady (and Cobra) Shot baseline. It is also worth mentioning that critical strike damage is a potentially dangerous mechanic to add when it increases with gear as it can cause a high amount of exponential scaling. 

The addition of Shaft Shot allows for a mastery that works with it. In this case, the mechanical process is that critical strikes on Focus-costing abilities will allow for the usage of Shaft Shot, which can then be consumed to empower the Focus-costing abilities, resulting in a cycle of benefits. This mastery will also affect relevant talents much like Shaft Shot does. Using Aimed Shot will ensure this mastery effect will be active if needed at least in PvE situations, while in PvP the occasional critical strike will help keep the buff up some of the time.
Enhanced Kill Shot has been replaced with Chimaera Shot: Hydra's Ire, which causes Multi-Shots to generate a charge of Hydra's Ire, which increases the number of targets Chimaera Shot strikes by one, stacking up to three times for a maximum of five targets struck. While Hydra's Ire is active, Chimaera Shot is morphed into Hydra Shot and secondary targets struck randomly suffer Fire, Nature, or Frost damage. Critical strikes on secondary targets have a 50% chance of generating a Shaft Shot charge for both Chimaera Shot and Hydra Shot.
Enhanced Kill Shot is mechanically quite dangerous to have around as it greatly widens the margin in PvP for when a Hunter is capable of securing a kill. Kill Shot as it is already has a few good reasons for being considered an overpowered ability in PvP considering it is a resourceless execute that deals a pretty sizable amount of damage on its own but can be used twice in quick succession (assuming it doesn't bug out). This fact becomes even more apparent considering that as a Hunter, one can utilize the benefits of Careful Aim to deal a hefty amount of damage on a healthy target, then finish them off when they enter execution range due to the critical strikes landed. 

Aside from the possibility that Enhanced Kill Shot has great implications on Marksmanship Hunters in PvP, the area of effect (AoE) abilities for Marksmanship are rather lacking compared to the other two specializations, resulting in a mix of Multi-Shot and Barrage spam in an AoE situation. While there's not necessarily a problem with Marksmanship's AoE damage being weak, the gameplay could use some sprucing up, hence why Hydra's Ire was added. Chimaera Shot is a good target ability to add AoE utility to since it already hits a second target and adding the thematic of the hydra boss Megaera refers to the bestial aspects of what a Hunter is. The AoE utility is further enhanced by allowing Chimaera Shot and Hydra Shot secondary targets to potentially generate Shaft Shot charges, which also empowers the niche of Marksmanship having some effectiveness against two targets even further.
Chimaera Shot and Hydra Shot's target detection range has been increased to that of Multi-Shot (if this isn't already the case yet).
This is mostly a quality of life change since, from what I can tell, Chimaera Shot only hits a second target if they are very close to the first (the hitboxes have to be about within less than 5 yards of each other), while Multi-Shot has a slightly larger range (an 8 yard tolerance according to the tooltip). This is especially important since Hydra Shot can potentially hit as many targets as Multi-Shot is hitting.
Glyph of Chimaera Shot: Your Chimaera Shot and Hydra Shot heal 2% maximum health, plus an additional 1% health for each additional target struck.
This change will probably not have much effect in a competitive PvP situation or even most PvE situations. It does, however, reward Hunters for their awareness of enemy positioning since Chimaera Shot and Hydra Shot's multi-target striking capabilities rely on that even after accounting for the previous quality of life change.

Overview and Purpose of Changes

When Mists of Pandaria came to a close, I hoped that Blizzard would remove the few mechanics that held Marksmanship back, such as Master Marksman, and make it a viable, enjoyable specialization to play. While they did make a lot of changes I agreed with, such as the cleaving utility of Chimaera Shot, other changes felt like a step backwards, such as pushing Aimed Shot as the main Focus dump by removing Arcane Shot entirely. When I ultimately ended up playing the specialization to deal optimal damage, the gameplay was painfully dissatisfying and boring. Furthermore, the overall design felt like a recipe for frustration in PvP when Marksmanship previously had a lot going for it in a PvP situation prior to the changes due to their access to a high amount of instant burst damage. 

The return of Arcane Shot (as Piercing Shot) served as the first step to undo what I thought was one of Blizzard's biggest travesties for the Marksmanship specialization in Warlords, which also adds dynamic gameplay due to circumstance-based Focus dump choices. Then, to further create a niche for the specialization from a gameplay standpoint, the Shaft Shot mechanic was added, securing Marksmanship's benefit from critical strike chance, adding a semi-controllable proc that can smooth out the heavy cast time gameplay even further, and creating additional potential for theorycrafting the usage of the two Focus dumps. This then led to a rework of a mastery that activates in a manner that can be partially controlled and further rewards rotating between Focus generation and Focus consumption while removing a mastery that contradicts the general machinations of the Hunter class's mobility. Finally, Marksmanship, even more so than Beast Mastery, suffers from bland AoE gameplay through what is largely Multi-Shot spam. The addition of Chimaera Shot to the AoE rotation helps to cut down on the monotony. 

In terms of theorycrafting, these changes should make Critical Strike the strongest secondary stat due to the Shaft Shot mechanic, plus existing mechanics such as Enhanced Aimed Shot. Haste and Mastery would probably end up competing against each other since Haste increases the damage of Shaft Shot and allows the Hunter to cast Aimed Shot faster, thus generating Shaft Shot charges in a reliable manner faster. Mastery would become very strong as Shaft Shot proc frequency increases, thus resulting in more uptime on the buff.

Survival has been a very consistent specialization overall since its rework in Wrath of the Lich King and Warlords of Draenor hasn't done too much to change that. However, there are a couple small mechanical issues that need addressing, such as the randomness of Lock and Load and general lack of dynamic power through the usage of cooldowns, (non-Lock and Load) procs, and the like. Overall there shouldn't be too many changes for Survival.
  • Lock and Load has been reworked. It can accumulate up to 2 charges and has a recharge rate of 12 seconds. When Black Arrow multistrikes, the cooldown of Lock and Load is reduced by 6 seconds.
  • Black Arrow now has a 10% increased chance to multistrike.
  • Lock and Load now also increases the damage of Explosive Shot by 15%. 
While the first two changes boil down to a decreased generation of Lock and Load charges, charge generation will now scale with gear, thus causing Lock and Load to activate more frequently once the Hunter gains some multistrike rating from gear. It also smooths out how often Lock and Load procs, allowing the Hunter to utilize many single charges over time. Survival also gains access to a little bit of early burst damage since they can unload three Explosive Shots really rapidly (hopefully this isn't too unfair in PvP since it's likely to happen in situations where the enemy has full health). This is further enhanced by the damage buff that Lock and Load provides for Explosive Shot, which is intended to be compensation for Black Arrow not proccing two charges anymore as opposed to being a buff to Survival's overall DPS.
Enhanced Entrapment has been replaced with Enhanced Lock and Load. While in combat, Lock and Load continues to generate charges beyond the second, converting up to two excess Lock and Load charges into a temporary effect that lasts for 15 seconds. When Explosive Shot is used, the temporary charges are consumed first.
To be honest, Enhanced Entrapment is a bit of an underwhelming perk. The effect could probably be baseline within Entrapment itself and likely still not be too unfair. With that said, Enhanced Lock and Load makes for a suitable replacement that allows the Hunter to generate more Lock and Load charges in combat if they ever end up in a situation where they cannot consume Lock and Load charges for some reason. The in combat requirement is to ensure a Hunter cannot chain five Explosive Shots and deal ludicrous amounts of burst damage right at the beginning of a fight (especially in a PvP situation).
Mastery: Essence of the Viper has been changed to Mastery: Specialized Armaments. This new mastery increases all elemental damage by X% (a smaller amount than currently). In addition, Explosive Shot, Serpent Sting, Black Arrow damage and their multistrikes grant a Blast Charge, which lasts for 20 seconds and stacks up to 50 times. At 50 stacks, the next Explosive Trap is empowered, causing it to deal an additional Y% damage (splits bonus damage among multiple targets) that initially deals a large amount of damage and decreases over time, and triggering no cooldown. A new set of Blast Charges can accumulate while Explosive Trap is empowered. Serpent Sting can only generate up to three Blast Charges per second.
This mastery rework takes a rather bland damage increasing mastery and adds an additional effect that incorporates Explosive Trap into the Survival Hunter's damage dealing rotation. The "Y" value in the mastery should be a very high number to ensure Explosive Trap is desirable to use over all other abilities. The damage also splits among additional (similar to Dragon Roar) as this change is intended to be largely a single target damage buff as opposed to an AoE one, meaning the damage bonus wouldn't be as insane as it could be. The damage is also front-loaded to give Survival a bit of extra burst damage that may help in a few situations but not make them overpowered. It is also worth mentioning this new Mastery synergizes well with multistrike. To prevent Blast Charge generation from getting out of control, particularly in AoE situations, Serpent Sting can only generate enough charges equal to one tick plus its multistrikes.
  • Arcane Shot has been renamed to Venom Shot, which is learned upon specializing into Survival. Venom Shot applies the Serpent Sting effect by default.
  • Serpent Sting as a passive now only shows how much damage it deals, much like with Death Knight diseases in the spellbook.
  • Serpent Spread has been readded and causes Multi-Shot to apply Serpent Sting as previously.
I don't know if any other Hunters found the fact that Arcane Shot applying a Nature damage debuff as weird, but to me it made no sense mechanically or thematically. By adding in a shot that deals Nature damage that always applies the Serpent Sting effect, this thematic issue is corrected, not to mention the benefits of Serpent Sting will now be obtained much earlier to better show how Survival is a specialization that utilizes magic damage-over-time (DoT) effects.
  • Serpent Spread now also causes Serpent Sting and its multistrikes to reduce the remaining cooldown of Explosive Trap by 0.5 seconds.
  • The duration of Explosive Trap has been reduced to 6 seconds from 10. Damage has been readjusted for the new duration.
This change is made to maintain Survival's current AoE gameplay, which unlike other Hunter specializations, doesn't consist of a mix of Multi-Shot and Barrage (if the latter is taken as a talent). Explosive Trap for Survival, due to Trap Mastery, the specialization's mastery increasing its damage, and a cooldown of 12 seconds, is said to be an integral part of Survival's AoE rotation. However, since the cooldown of Explosive Trap is being increased for Survival in 6.1 (at the time this was published), which is a change I agree with since it helps reduce the overwhelming power of Survival's control at the moment, there may need to be some mechanical improvement to integrate the ability into the AoE rotation better. This is why Serpent Spread, a passive designed to improve Survival's AoE damage, now has this additional utility of cooldown reduction which should reduce the cooldown of Explosive Trap dramatically in AoE situations (and hopefully not as much in PvP thanks to a reduced number of multistrikes). 

To account for situations where Explosive Trap's cooldown is next to nonexistent or shorter than the rather long, 10 second duration, Explosive Trap's duration has been reduced (this is not a damage nerf), which should bump up Survival's AoE damage by a little bit and further increase Explosive Trap's usage. This will also help to reduce the cooldown of Explosive Trap a little on single target to reliably consume Blast Charges from the mastery.
Glyph of Controlled Explosion added. This glyph allows Explosive Trap to be fired at the target automatically when Trap Launcher is active, but have a cast time of 1 seconds. This cast time continues while moving. This glyph is exclusive with Glyph of Explosive Trap.
Launching traps reliably can be a frustrating affair. While some players may be fine launching a trap into the middle of a pack of enemies, this glyph allows for an option that ensures Explosive Trap will always reach its target. However, the convenience has a price since Explosive Trap's application to the targets may be more delayed. It also allows the Hunter to more reliably consume Blast Charges.
Black Arrow now refunds Focus based on its remaining duration if the effect is dispelled or the target affected dies (up to 20 Focus).
This change allows the tempo loss of Black Arrow being dispelled to not be too brutal since even though the cooldown resets, dumping 35 Focus for a DoT that possibly only lasts a few seconds can be a heavy price to pay. More importantly, however, this change gives players some return on Focus if their target dies prematurely while affected by Black Arrow.
Glyph of Leeching Arrow: Black Arrow now heals for 0.5% maximum health each time it deals damage.
The addition of this glyph provides Survival with a little bit of self healing much like Glyph of Chimaera Shot for Marksmanship and Spirit Mend for Beast Mastery, which the specialization has been lacking.

Overview and Purpose of Changes

As mentioned above, Survival doesn't need much in the way of changes. The Lock and Load proc is a very satisfying mechanic to use since one gets to use many Explosive Shots in quick succession to deal a bit of extra burst damage, which is valuable since Survival is otherwise so consistent in its damage output that it lacks specialized offensive cooldowns (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). Unfortunately, the chance to gain charges of Lock and Load is a random 20% chance every time Black Arrow deals damage, making it heavily RNG reliant much like some parts of the Beast Mastery specialization. Furthermore, while Survival benefits well from the multistrike stat it's mostly because multistrike damage is increased and the amount of rating gained is higher while there's not that much synergy to speak of otherwise. Also, beyond Lock and Load, Survival lacks any additional dynamic power (cooldowns, execute abilities, procs, etc) and can thus be a little boring to play since the gameplay can end up feeling roughly the same throughout an entire encounter. 

By making Lock and Load activate through Black Arrow multistrikes, the Hunter will be able to have some control over the random chance by building Survival's favored secondary stat. It also resolves the issue of Survival not having enough synergy with the multistrike stat. Survival's generic damage bonus mastery has also been reworked to make Explosive Trap an essential ability in the Survival DPS arsenal through Blast Charges. Survival's AoE, while strong and slightly more complex than Multi-Shot spam, was enriched with a dynamic cooldown affected by multistrike and the number of targets being fought. Beyond those changes, the others are largely in the realm of quality of life style changes that mostly consist of small bonuses for Survival Hunter through sustain, convenience, and thematic. 

In terms of theorycrafting, multistrike will be more beneficial for Survival than ever. Mastery would come after due to its synergy with multistrike, which increases the rate at which Blast Charges are generated.

While I would love to see these changes be implemented in some form, I find it doubtful that a list of suggestions made by a single fan is going to have a massive impact. This serves more as an expression of a possible direction for the Hunter class to go and a list of potential issues that may need addressing. If there's some demand to make similar suggestions for other classes, I will consider accommodating them though there's likely players more knowledgeable that could make better list of the classes they'd like to see for their class. This concludes the list of changes I would like to see for the Hunter class and I hope you enjoyed reading.

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