Based on the original concept of a hunter in the warcraft game and how the class has been designed and played throughout its history the current incarnation of hunters come the release of Legion look nothing like what we have come to know and love as the hunter class. No more are they the fast paced ranged physical damage dealing class with a pet in all three specs, heck, not even one spec meets that description any longer. These are most definitely not the hunters I am looking for, that is for sure. As a matter of fact, I don't even know what they are any longer but they surely not not the warcraft hunters that I originally fell in love with.
I am not throwing in the towel even if hunters are no longer the hunters we have come to know and love come the next expansion, at least from what we have seen with the early previews. Be warned however to take everything we saw and everything I say here with a very large grain of salt. As things are still subject to change and my opinions here are based on the extremely limited information we have and also based on what will most likely not be the finished products we see when the time comes.
We have been through a great many changes as a hunter. In fact more than any other class has ever had to deal with as the only class that had their main resource changed a few years back. All classes go through additions, removals, redesigns and what have you but no class has ever had it entire identity turned on its heels like hunters have had in the past and have even more so coming with legion.
Don't Wanna Be Your Beast of Burden
Beast Mastery hunters once again seem to have the fewest changes of all the hunter classes. From mists to warlords they seemed almost identical, which made a lot of people very happy with the BM class. They do not get away with such a light touch this time around but they still seem to change the least. And being they changed a lot, that means something.
Beast Mastery will be more reliant on pets, more so then ever before and it does make sense for the spec as they are the masters of beasts are they not. Blizzards idea, at least as it stands now, is for you to spend more time micromanaging your pets and less time on your hunters rotation. To help push this agenda along they removed the focus generating ability from beast mastery hunters completely. Now you just have to sit and wait there for focus to regenerate naturally, or with some talents, as I am sure will be added. Effective making beast mastery hunters ranged rogues with a pet as focus, for BM will act more like energy than like focus does without a generating ability.
While BM does seem like it will be a lot of fun and you will often be running around with multiple pets instead of just one, it does lead to make concerns. One major one being blizzards horrible track record with fights where pets will bug out and not attack at all. There are a few this expansion, one of which I even reported on beta, that have still not been fixed. This could effectively make using the spec a liability. Being nearly all your damage is pet based through multiple pets and multiple pet talents, one bugged boss means you are completely useless and all that time spent leveling that BM artifact gun will mean nothing when you could switch to MM or SV with a completely leveled weapons and do better. Lets hope, for once, blizzard has not pet unfriendly fights or BM is screwed and anyone that spent all their time working on their BM weapon is screwed.
Even with all the changes to BM, and there are a boat load of them. BM still remains the least changed spec, at least that is how it seems. More reliance on pets, more pets, more requirement to micro manage pets, and no focus generator, but at least you are still a ranged damage dealer with a pet.
Losing a Spec and Gaining a Spec
For all intents and purposes hunters become the first class to ever lose a spec since the game was originally released. The ranged spec known as survival is being removed and replaced with a melee spec of the same name. I really wish they would change the name as this is not the survival spec we have all come to know and love. They changed the rogue combat spec name to outlaw and that did not even go through a change like survival did, so why have survival keep the same name, it makes no sense to me. But do not make any mistake, hunters lost a spec.
This is different that just changing a rotation, adding or removing some abilities, or changing our resources. One spec and all identity it had is being removed from the game. No class has ever had to deal with this and I would not wish it on any of them either. It is a horrible thing to happen to someone that might happen to love their spec to see it removed from the game.
How do you think someone that has been tanking on their warrior since vanilla would feel if warriors suddenly woke up and could no longer tank, or someone that has been healing as a holy priest since they started was told nope, if you want to heal as a priest now you need to be discipline because holy is now a white magic DPS spec. I would not wish this on my worst enemy so needless to say I do not like it happening to my very own class, even if I was never a fan of survival to begin with.
I will admit from the early previews that our new spec, also named survival, does seem to have a lot going for it. It looks, at first glance, to be something that might very well be fun, even if it is melee instead of the ranged spec we were previously used to.
Adding some potential for burst by chaining mongoose bites together as each bite increases the damage of the next bite within quick succession and by adding a cooldown named snake hunter that grants us 3 stacks of mongoose bite so we can string 6 together for some serious gives survival something it has been missing all expansion, and that is burst. If you can manage to weave in other abilities, focus allowing, and proc even more bites the potential for long term burst is very attractive.
In melee with a pet will be something that will take some getting used to but from the early looks of it, it might also be fun because it is adding parts to the game that survival, the ranged, did not have all throughout warlords, such as burst. I just wonder why they could not fix survival the ranged instead of removing it and adding survival the melee.
Survival will also be the only spec that will be able to utilize traps come Legion, which is a huge loss for both beast mastery hunters and marksman hunters. Oddly, it makes less sense for the melee class to have certain traps than it does ranged. I would think the ranged classes would have a great deal more use for frost and ice trap, but traps were always intended to be more of a survival specialty and now it seems that is being made to happen, like it or not.
Even if the redesign to melee seems to at least be something that could be interesting and powerful the fact that hunters needed to lose a spec to get it will always be a hard pill to swallow for some. No other class has ever had to suffer this indignity of having a spec removed, hunters should have not had to either.
I Don't Want to Play the Waiting Game
My biggest complaint about the information that was released is that two of the specs are losing focus completely. Both beast mastery hunters and survival hunters are losing focus and getting energy instead.
No no, it is still called focus, but it now acts like energy instead of focus. The beauty of focus, at least for me, was the fact that it was a never ending resource. You spend it, you build it, you spend it, you build it. It made for a very rapid style of game play, the style of game play I love. As a matter of fact, that is one of the reasons I never switched classes to another class to DPS with. Because hunters were the only ranged class that had that rapid fire mentality that melee do, but without the need to wait on resources to do things. It made for an incredibly fun and fast paced play style which I loved. Hunters controlled how fast, or slow, they took things.
Beast mastery and survival will no longer have a focus generator, or at least that is how it seems from the early preview. So their focus will generate on its own, which effectively makes it energy.
There is a reason I do not play a feral druid or any type of rogue, and that is energy. I really do enjoy the rapid "idea" of both classes, but they have to pool their responses for a bunch of quick fire moves and then wait to go through it all again. I am not a fan of the waiting game. It is also why I routinely call myself the worlds worst rogue despite the fact that rogues have the easiest rotation in the game. It is because I am not good at waiting for resources to build. It is why I suck as a rogue, and it is why I would suck as a beast mastery hunter and a survival hunter.
I will miss the old style of being a high speed class that required people to act in a manner that was always doing something. Sure you could do fairly well as a hunter just hitting things as fast as you could but the real skill of being a hunter was hitting the right thing and never, ever, even wasting a tenth of a second. I remember some years back when I did a post where I logged target dummy damage doing quick hits and doing hits delayed by 0.1 seconds, and the DPS difference was insane over a long fight. So while everyone loves to say hunters are "easy" they never quite understood that to be a good one, you needed to be fast thinking because even a 0.1 second delay could be 10% of the damage you do over the course of a long fight.
That is my style, that is the way I like to play, that is one of the reasons I have always loved being a hunter and that is gone from two of the tree specs, as only marksman has a focus builder.
I Now Only Have One Spec, And I am Not Even Sure I Like It
I'll be the first to admit that as soon as I saw lock and load moved over to marksman as a passive and when it procs I get two instant aimed shots free of cost I smiled from ear to ear. I mean what hunter, no matter what spec you play, hell what class, no matter what class you play, wouldn't like 2 instant cast and resource free powerful abilities going off?
Then there is the fact that marksman still has a focus generator, even if it is now arcane shot instead of steady shot. It is also an instant focus generator, which is pretty sweet if you ask me. So I still have a class that works on the rapid fire, fingers moving as fast as I can move them, style of game play that I love so much. Plus one for marksman here. Which at the moment seems to be the only spec worth playing in my mind. At least as they have been presented to me.
But not all is well and good in marksman land. Lone wolf is now baseline which sucks for solo play because I like having a pet out while questing and soloing and the such. I personally believe that marksman should have a reverse option to what lone wolf used to be. Where lone wolf gave you a bonus when you had no pet out, maybe have a version were you could have a pet out but you do less damage? Just an idea.
At the moment the fact I can not have a pet, ever, is really a huge turn off to me as a hunter. Even if I was never an avid pet collector on my main hunter I still love my pets. I level every expansion with Fang, my first ever pet. He does not see much play time, only when leveling, but he is always there for me when that time comes and he is ready to go. The fact that I would lose that if I play marksman really upsets me, maybe in a mildly unhealthy way, who knows, but I do not mind raiding without a pet, but otherwise, I want my pet by my side. It is what a hunter in warcraft is known for, in the great original cinematic, the dwarf and his bear, that is what a hunter is in the mythos of warcraft. Marksman hunters need an option to have a pet. Somehow they need to add it.
Two Fixes Could Make For a Happy Elf
Again I will state things can change and we do not even know everything they have out there yet for hunters, but there are two very simple fixes they could make to hunters that will make all the changes that much more bearable, for me at least.
One, add a focus builder back to BM and SV so they can become their rapid fire, always hitting something, selves once again and feel like real hunters once more instead of being rogues with energy. Two, add an option for marksman to have a pet.
Really, it is as simple as that, those are the things I am most hung up on with the changes we have seen mentioned. I can deal with ability changes. I have lost things I liked before like volley. So that is a roll with the punches sort of thing. But removing the focus builders from BM and SV and the pet from MM is not rolling with the punches, that is getting punched in the nuggets. And trust me, no one likes that feeling.
What's an Elf to do With no Viable Options?
Sorry if viable is a loaded word, but I could not think of another to use in my summation.
Survival is melee, which I do not enjoy, beast mastery does not have a focus generator and basically uses the slow waiting game with energy now, and marksman can't have a pet even if they were willing to sacrifice DPS to do so.
I am not sure what to make of it right now. The hunter class has three specs and none of them look anything like the mythos of what we have known being a hunter is throughout the history of the game.
Fast paced rapid fire game play with a pet from ranged. That is the warcraft hunter. We no longer have any spec that fills that. So what now?
Artifact Weapons "Could" Ruin it All For Me
Right now my intention is to raid as marksman, solo as BM and quest as survival. But being we need to level each artifact weapon as an individual that will not really be an option. Sure the tri spec and being able to switch between all three specs on the fly will be nice and all, but with the need to level all three weapons I will be forced into playing only the spec I raid with, at least until I top out my weapon for raiding.
Now all can be thrown away if BM or SV ends up being the top raiding spec, and my bet would be that SV will be the top raiding spec because they will make it over powered to try and stem the damage they did to the class by removing the ranged spec in favor of a melee one. So if they make it really strong less people will complain about it.
The bottom line is, having to level three weapons if I want to play all three specs is generally not appealing at all. Not even in the slightest. There is still time for this to change, and I hope it does, but blizzard should listen to me and make it so you level up your artifact ability levels up. Not have it so the spec you are in levels up the weapon for that spec. So, for example, if I level as survival and get my weapon to level 7 (example) then switch as soon as hit 110 to marksman, by MM weapon is also level 7. That is the appropriate way to level artifact weapons and allow people to switch specs. I just do not have faith in blizzard to do this the correct way.
If All Else Fails...
I guess I will just be a tank next expansion. I level in tank spec for all the tanks I play so no artifact weapon issues here. Or I could roll a demon hunter which you know will be insanely over powered and being a demon hunter tank will be like taking the easy route to awesome. Not to mention tanks all have those rapid fire rotations, and being that is the style of game play I like, it fits well enough.
Either way, the most appealing hunter spec to me at the moment, is being a druid tank. As a hunter, that makes me really sad. Lets hope that changes.