Saturday, June 20, 2015

WoW Analysis: Aspect of the Fox Removal (and Caster Mobility)

Patch 6.2 brings forth a lot of changes. Some are well welcomed, such as the new raid tier, a new zone, and various balancing changes. Others are not so appreciated, such as the Legendary ring on-use effects having a shared cooldown and the removal of a few abilities such as Aspect of the Fox. The announcement of the latter a while ago has resulted in numerous posts such as this one against the removal. While I can understand the frustration and despite being a Hunter who's going to be a little less desirable in a raid setting due to the utility loss, I am more optimistic about this change. In this article, I will explain my stance on the Aspect of the Fox removal and go on to discuss the broader, related topic of (damage dealing) caster mobility.

The first reason I favor the removal of Aspect of the Fox is because it makes little sense for Hunters to have it out of all the classes. The name of the ability, at best, is a throwback to back when Hunters had an ability with the same name that allowed them to move and cast Steady Shot and Cobra Shot until it was made baseline due to Aspect twisting macros. Since that change, Hunters have largely been a mobile ranged class that was left untouched in Warlords of Draenor mostly as a consequence of how Focus works (more on this later).

While the addition of Focusing Shot and the fact Aspect of the Fox allows most non-combat casts (even mounts) to be usable while moving provides the Hunter with some personal benefit, the effect is otherwise redundant with their mobile Steady Shot or Cobra Shot. Were this utility given to another class, said class could receive more control over an effect that likely provides more personal benefit. I am aware that Aspect of the Fox "rotations" can (and should, regardless of the aforementioend) be coordinated in organized groups, but not all group play will have or require this coordination, making the possibility of personal benefits more relevant.

The second reason I favor the removal of Aspect of the Fox is because it strongly seems like it was added to compensate for a reduction in caster mobility, with a good number of the associated changes happening when the ability was added. For example, Elemental Shaman's mobile Lightning Bolt got removed and Warlocks had their Kil'jaeden's Cunning changed to a cooldown as opposed to passively allowing them to cast some spells while moving. This means that with the removal of Aspect of the Fox, some personal caster mobility may return in the future. While it's possible this may not happen due to caster mobility being reduced for balance reasons, I think the current state of caster mobility is worse due to the blatant disparity between effectiveness of ranged damage dealers.

As I mentioned above, a Hunter's current Focus mechanics rely on having mobile cast abilities. This is due to at least two factors: low base Focus regeneration and a cast ability being the primary source of Focus regeneration. Were Steady Shot and Cobra Shot not able to be used while moving, Hunter performance would plummet rather significantly on fights that require a lot of movement, probably even more so than caster damage dealers suffer at the moment. While Steady Shot or Cobra Shot don't deal a lot of damage themselves, most abilities that cost Focus do, meaning that delaying the Focus generation would reduce the amount of Focus-costed abilities that a Hunter can use, resulting in damage lost from using fewer Focus-costed abilities and from not casting Steady Shot or Cobra Shot.

There are a few ways to resolve this and provide a fair playing field for other ranged damage dealers. While I could suggest that Hunters could have their Focus generation reworked and re-balanced with Hunters losing their ability to deal full damage on the move, this would likely take time and be more suitable for the changes a new expansion brings. What I think might be a desirable quick fix is to return some personal caster mobility, such as the aforementioned mobile Lightning Bolt and an older iteration of Kil'jaeden's Cunning that allows Warlock filler spells to be used on the move. This would bring other ranged damage dealers more in line with Hunters in terms of mobility, meaning that all of them should theoretically do reasonably well during movement heavy fights.

On a final note, I didn't cover healers when it comes to mobility since they're a different beast entirely (i.e. there's no Holy spec for Hunters yet).

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