Hunter Changes in Warlords of Draenor: Alpha Notes

by KevinV on

Class homogenization is something that has been talked about for awhile in the WoW community. In the beginning of WoW, all of the classes were quite distinct from one another, which often resulted in a very unbalanced dynamic between the classes. Rogues had ridiculous crowd control chains, and paladins liked to auto-attack for a majority of their time. Four expansions later in Mists of Pandaria, many of the classes have so many abilities and similar crowd control abilities that things feel bloated and often unnecessary.

In the case of the Hunter class, each specialization does not truly feel different. There are a few different spammable spells between each Marksmanship and Survival, while Beast Master hunters feel a tiny bit more different in that they rely on passive damage and the intricacies of exotic pet abilities.  Blizzard acknowledges this lack of distinction, but now the question is this: what is Blizzard adding at this point to spice things up for the hunter?

In the new Warlords of Draenor patch notes, Hunters have had crowd control abilities cut, and divided up among the specs. This makes sense in line with the new CC reduction plans, but sadly, a large number of cool pet abilities are being taken away.

  • Hunter pets no longer have crowd-control abilities.
    • Basilisk: Petrifying Gaze; Bat: Sonic Blast; Bird of Prey: Snatch; Crab: Pin; Crane: Lullaby; Crocolisk: Ankle Crack; Dog: Lock Jaw; Gorilla: Pummel; Monkey: Bad Manners; Moth: Serenity Dust; Nether Ray: Nether Shock; Porcupine: Paralyzing Quill; Rhino: Horn Toss; Scorpid: Clench; Shale Spider: Web Wrap; Silithid: Venom Web Spray; Spider: Web; and Wasp: Sting have been removed as pet abilities.

A lot of these pets have had strong viability for PVP and PVE situations.  Basilisk’s have been a very strong pick for PVP because of their stun ability. Crane’s sleep ability, Lullaby, has also been a stand-out option for hunters in PVP. However, the Sporebat (a popular pet for PVE raids), while being nerfed in PVP with Spore Cloud being removed, is actually getting buffed in PVE: the Sporebat’s passive haste bonus has become much more versatile.

The following abilities now provide a 5% increase to melee, ranged, and spell Haste to all Party and Raid members (previously they only increased spell Haste).

Rhinos have been a great pick for hunters in World PVP as they could knock people off of cliffs, but they will no longer have that ability. Shale spiders no longer get their web, which was a popular pick among hunters for locking down an opponent. While these changes do seem important in reducing a hunter’s crowd control in regards to making it fair for other classes, it is still a sad day for hunters who developed a bond for their pets and their fun utility abilities. However, most of these abilities seem to be necessarily cut in lieu of the CC reduction that Blizzard has in store, which will (on paper at least) offer a much better and active experience for PVP players.

Along with the pet changes, there are also other important CC abilities being removed.

  • Entrapment’s Root effect now shares Diminishing Returns with all other Root effects.
  • Scatter Shot has been removed.
  • Silencing Shot has been removed.
  • Traps and trap launchers no longer have an arming time and can instantly trigger.
  • Traps can no longer be disarmed.
  • Scare Beast now has a 6 sec duration in PvP (down from 8 sec).

Scatter Shot has been an essential tool for hunter CC trains. And Silencing Shot has been a core draw of Marksmanship for awhile. With these abilities gone, the hunter’s long standing role as a strong CC candidate is changing. In direct relation to other classes, and the removal of their abilities, it will be interesting to see if each class’ reduction of abilities balances out.

While the CC reduction will definitely have an important impact on the hunter play style, the class specializations are also getting an important rework.

This means things like Aimed Shot being the primary Focus dump for Marksmanship, instead of Arcane Shot or Serpent Sting being available only to Survival.

I like that Survival is becoming even more of a DOT class, and the feel of a nature/magic damage-dealer/trapper is more pronounced.

Arcane Shot was the primary spam spell of Marksmanship, Survival, and Beast Mastery. With these changes, each spec seems to have something different.. well, at least between Survival and Marksmenship. Beast Mastery still seems to have Arcane shot. Overall, this will create a different sense of playstyle between the specs.  In the past, Aimed Shot has really been only for focus regeneration,  it has changed with the implementation of persistent auto-attacks.

Aimed Shot now deals 20% more damage and no longer interrupts Auto Attacks.

Now Aimed Shot seems like a cool ability and one that is worthwhile. I think it’s a great idea to have auto-attacks being fired while you are holding up a longer, more powerful shot. This will help balance out the burst of Arcane Shot… although it also seems kind of ridiculous for the hunter to be both firing repeatedly and lining up a precise shot at the same time, from a feasibility perspective.

Alongside the changes to Serpent Sting becoming exclusive to Survival, the Black Arrow DOT seems to be getting a new interesting mechanic.

  • Black Arrow’s periodic effect now has a chance each time it deals damage to cause the next 2 Explosive Shots to cost no focus and not trigger a cool down. This effect is guaranteed to activate at least once.
  • Explosive Trap now places a periodic-damage effect on each target within the radius of the explosion, rather than a persistent effect on the ground.

This new proc mechanic will give even more instant-casts to survival hunters, making them feel even more bursty. The change to Explosive trap is a straight-up buff. Now the targets won’t have to be sitting around in the flames for magic to happen.

These are some exciting changes for the hunter class. A majority of the changes seem bent on distinguishing the role between Survival as a trap-setting, DOT-dealing, master of mayhem, and the Marksmanship spec as a spec more aligned with the idea of shooting things down. With the addition of the Draenor Perk system, each specialization is going to be given abilities while they level up that significantly empower the abilities of the hunter.  This perk system seems to be harking back towards the old talent system, with added abilities with each level.

Comment below if you are excited for the new hunter class changes, or if you have an idea for what you’d like to see implemented!