PTR Hunter Preview: The Marksmanship Hunter
So after finding out BM was in a kind of a weird place, where it was decent enough to play, but not brilliant, and discovering the reason why my Arcane & Multi-Shots weren’t showing up on PTR (more on that particular disaster towards the end of this article), I’ve decided to move the MM preview up on the schedule ahead of the Survival preview.
On live at the moment my Hunter is specced into Marksmanship (MM) as her main spec.
MM on live, specifically with the T18 4p tier bonus with its instant Aimed Shot, has been a joy to play. The delicate interplay between focus spending abilities and judging focus levels against the cast time required for Steady Shot to regenerate focus. The weaving of spenders vs regen in combination with burst DPS and cooldowns really for me was the epitome of ranged DPS in World of Warcraft. It’s clean, simple, even pure in its execution. It was excellently realised and this past year in 6.2 has been the most I’ve enjoyed ever playing a DPS class in the game (and I’ve played them all to some degree in the past 10 years).
Fast forward to 7.0 however, and how does this near-flawless Hunter spec shape up given the massive Hunter overhaul in 7.0?
Rotation will vary quite a bit dependant on talents. Damage values are tool-tip values from my main hunter copied to the PTR with a iLevel of 721.
At its most basic however, it runs something like this:
Arcane Shot: Instant. Generates 5 Focus and hits 1 target for 8.6k damage per hit.
Multi-Shot: Instant. Generates 2 Focus per target hit. Hits all enemies within 8 yards for 4.5k.
Aimed Shot: 2 sec Cast time. Costs 50 focus (~50% of default focus level (105!)) and hits for 17.5k.
Bursting Shot: Instant. Costs 10 Focus. Hits all enemies in front of you, knocks back & disorients for 4 secs. Hits for 3.8k.
Marked Shot: Instant. Costs 30 Focus. Only usable when “Marked” procs a Hunter’s Mark over your target(s). Hits all targets with Hunter’s Mark applied to them for 22k.
Hunter’s Mark: Not an ability per se, but vital to note. Arcane Shot & Multi-Shot will sometimes proc this on your target(s) and uses the old Hunter’s Mark visual. Gives marked targets the “Vulnerable” debuff, meaning you can use Marked Shot on them. If you have more than 1 enemy always use Multi-Shot, as it will proc a Hunter’s Mark on all targets it hits, meaning you can hit all those targets with Marked Shot.
Basic shot priority here should be:
- Marked Shot immediately on proc.
- Arcane/Multi for Focus and to generate procs for Marked Shot use.
- Aimed Shot if you really feel the need to dump focus (we’ll see why this isn’t strictly necessary IMO later)
- Bursting Shot as & when required.
It may sound confusing at first, but essentially:
- Use Arcane Shot until it lights up*.
- Hit it again** to apply Hunter’s Mark.
- Use Marked Shot immediately.
*This means the next use of Arcane or Multi-Shot will apply Hunter’s Mark
**Or Multi-Shot if there’s more than 1 target – it’ll do more damage overall with more than 1 target. Unless you absolutely, desperately need the extra 1 focus from Arcane..?
As I said, talents can and will change this very basic rotation, as we’ll see below.
My preferred talent load-out:
Level 15 Talents
Lone Wolf: Similar to Live, except it increases all your damage by only 20% now, rather than certain abilities by 30% and again means you can’t summon a pet.
Steady Focus: Passive. Using Arcane or Multi-Shot 3 times in a row increases your focus regen by 20% for 10 seconds
Careful Aim: Passive. Similar to BM’s Big Game Hunter talent at level 15, this increases your Aimed/Arcane/Marked & Multi-Shot damage on targets above 80% health. Increases crit chance on those targets by 20% and those crits deal an additional 30% damage over 8 secs.
With Arcane & Multi-Shot being instant cast focus generators, it’s hard to recommend much here, especially as they’re all very different things. Similar caveat here for Careful Aim as I gave for Big Game Hunter within BM: Useful if it’s an add-heavy fight you can keep proccing off for the duration, otherwise go for SF if you find yourself struggling for Focus. In which case, how?
Lone Wolf is only for those that prefer a pet-free play-style. In that case? You’re a weirdo, go play a Mage.
Level 30 Talents
Lock & Load: Passive. Basically Thrill of the Hunt renamed. Ranged Auto-attacks have a 10% chance to cause your next 2 Aimed Shots to be instant, and have no focus cost.
Black Arrow: Instant cast. Costs 40 Focus. Does 24.5k damage, and summons a random guardian beast to taunt the target. Cooldown resets when you kill something.
True Aim: Passive. Increases damage of successive Arcane & Aimed shots by 2% and stacks up to 10 times. Limited to 1 target.
For me, the real standout option here is Lock & Load. Thrill of the Hunt in all but name, makes using Aimed Shot actually worthwhile, as otherwise I get lazy and used Arcane Shot by default.
Level 45 Talents
Exactly the same as the BM talents at this level, so copy & paste to the rescue!
Posthaste: Same as live, a 60% speed boost for 8 seconds whenever you use Disengage.
Farstrider: Ability crits have a 10% chance to reset the cooldown on Disengage.
Dash: Increases the duration of Aspect of the Cheetah by 3 seconds.
I’ll be going the same route here as I currently do on live: Posthaste. The other 2 choices are very underwhelming, especially Dash. The changes to Aspect of the Cheetah are a real disappointment, and Dash does nothing to ameliorate that feeling.
Level 60 Talents
Explosive Shot: Instant. No focus cost. “Skill shot”. Click it once to send a projectile forward, click it again to make it explode. Does 60k damage to all enemies within 8yds based on proximity.
Sentinel: Instant. No focus cost. 2 Charges & 20 sec recharge per charge. Applies Hunter’s Mark to all targets near yours.
Patient Sniper: Passive. Increases your max focus by 30 (from 105 to 136. Good maths there Blizz!). Causes the Vulnerable debuff to increase Marked & Aimed Shot damage by 150%, but Vulnerable no longer stacks and instead only lasts 6 secs.
For me here Sentinel is the winner. Gives you Hunter’s Marks on demand when you have a bad luck streak, instant and costs merely a GCD.
Patient Sniper seems ok, but not taking it means Vulnerable increases the damage of Marked & Aimed by 25% each time you use Marked Shot (which is usable when you see the Hunter’s Mark). This stacks up to 3 times and lasts 30 seconds. So basically every time you use Marked Shot the damage of your Aimed & Marked shots increases by 25% to a max of 75%. This debuff lasts for 30 secs and is refreshed with each use of Marked Shot on the target. That’s a rolling, in effect constant 75% buff to Aimed & Marked Shot damage. Do note however that this is a debuff which is on the target, it’s not a buff on you.
Explosive Shot? Typo, it should’ve been named Explosive Shit, because that’s exactly what this is. It’s a terrible talent, with very niche use. Unless you’re effectively in the middle of mobs, or right up the boss’s ass and double-click it? You’re needing to actually watch where the projectile is and manually explode it when it reaches your target. Ick.
Level 75 Talents
Nearly the same as BM’s:
All these abilities are the same as they are currently on live servers.
Binding Shot: Tethers & stuns enemies within 10 yards.
Wyvern Sting: Puts the target to sleep for 30 secs.
Camouflage: Instant. No focus cost. Puts you into stealth for up to 1 min, with a 1 min CD as it is on live. Heals you for 2% of your health every second.
Camo has unfortunately become a talent rather than baseline. Grrr. Whereas BM doesn’t get to use it, MM & SV do. Stealth and a decent HoT component? Guess what I’m taking? 🙂
Level 90 Talents
Exactly the same as the BM talents at this level, so copy & paste to the rescue (again)!
A Murder of Crows: Same as live, crows attack your target doing essentially DoT damage over 15 secs. Resets if the target dies during its duration.
Barrage: Same as live, a frontal cone AoE attack that pulls everything in sight.
Volley: Changed from earlier iterations. Not now a targeted AoE, it’s a toggle similar to Trap Launcher. It now generates a volley of arrows at your target whenever you auto-attack. Costs 3 focus per auto-shot.
Really depends tbh. Single Target encounter? AMoC. AoE fight? Choose between Barrage & Volley. Volley has the advantage of being decidedly less likely to pull mobs from the next server over.
Level 100 Talents
Sidewinders: Instant. 2 charges, 12sec base recharge time. Launches Sidewinders at the target, weaving back & forth along the ground. Deals 18k damage to any enemies hit and generates 60 focus.
Piercing Shot: Instant. 30 sec cooldown. Costs between 20 & 100 focus, dealing up to 131.5k damage to primary target based on focus used, and up to 65.7k damage to all enemies in between you & the target.
Trick Shot: Passive. Aimed Shot ricochets and hits all targets marked with Vulnerable for 30% of normal damage. If no targets are Vulnerable Aimed Shot damage is increased by 15%.
The chunky damage of Piercing Shot is my favourite here. At level 100 it can one-shot level 100 mobs on full focus with ease. I LEIK BIG NUMBERS.
Trick Shot is very meh for me in single-target, but certainly has strong merit in add heavy encounters.
Level 100 Talent Issues
Now, this is where my main issue with MM came in the other day: Sidewinders. Fucking Sidewinders.
Read this. This is Sidewinders’ default tool-tip from the action bar:
What I didn’t notice, and honestly can’t be blamed for, *ahem*, is the utter lack of information about Arcane Shot & Multi-Shot.
BOTH ARCANE SHOT & MULTI-SHOT ARE REPLACED BY SIDEWINDERS!
/facedesk * infinity
Ok, fair enough, it’s a tool-tip issue, but it’s this that had me tearing my hair out thinking the spec was broken on the PTR. So yes, taking SW will remove both Arcane AND Multi-Shot from your spellbook & action bars. But rather confusingly it still lists both abilities in the Spec choice screen, as core abilities. Dragging either one to your action bars drags Sidewinders instead, which is completely un-intuitive, and led me to think it was broken.
The other main issue for me is that if Marked procs, and you want to use Marked Shot, you have to use SW to apply the Vulnerable debuff without AS/MS.
Seeing any issues yet? Well, if you’re out of charges of SW (it has 2 charges max remember!), you can potentially see “Marking Targets” procs going to waste because you’ve maybe just used your last charge of SW. That said, SW will automatically apply Vulnerable anyway.
But for me Sidewinders makes MM feel broken and clunky, and you can be sitting on your hands waiting for SW to come off cool-down (sorry, recharge) to be able to generate any focus at all.
Final Thoughts on MM
So, with the misconception/screw up with Sidewinders & Arcane/Multi-Shot cleared up, how does MM actually feel on PTR?
Well as long as you stay away from SW (or take it with full knowledge of what it does, how it works and it’s potential pitfalls and just suck it up), it’s actually nowhere near as bad as it first felt.
In fact it feels pretty decent to be honest, which is a massive relief.
Though it’s odd having your focus generating abilities in Arcane & Multi-Shot be instant cast abilities, whilst your main focus dump, Aimed Shot, has a 2 sec cast time. That’s why I recommend you take Lock & Load at the level 30 Talent tier. It makes your Aimed Shots instant if you restrict your AiS usage purely to L&L procs.
On live you’re judging the need to generate focus with Steady Shot against potential lost DPS, the cast time of Steady vs Chimaera Shot coming off cooldown and needing the focus for it etc. You’re balancing a cast time ability against the need for the focus it generates in order to use your other abilities.
In 7.0 however this is somewhat inverted. I don’t see why anyone would spend the time to use Aimed Shot outside of a Lock & Load proc rather than just spam Arcane Shot. Honestly!
With a 1 second GCD, it’s literally just as fast to fire off a couple of Arcane Shots within the same 2 second window of cast time that Aimed Shot has, do a teensy bit less damage (a mere 150 DPS at iLevel 721 which is so negligible as to be worthless tbh), and still generate 10 focus rather than spend 50. Unless you’re Bobby Ultra-mega-try-hard Jenkins? In which case? Go play a mage.
Of course as haste levels increase across the expansion Aimed Shot’s cast time will drop to the point where it’s worthwhile casting it, but that’s still a ways off yet.
The bonus for me though in 7.0? Lone Wolf not appearing to be mandatory at the moment. I can’t tell for certain, what with Skada not working for me on the PTR, but until I see concrete proof that Lone Wolf is again miles ahead of either of the other two level 15 Talents? I’ll be keeping my pet this time around, thanks all the same.
Would I recommend it over BM?
Honestly, now that I’ve ironed out the kinks and gotten time to play it with full knowledge?
It’s at worst on a par. Not quite at T18 current live standards, but with the above talent setup it’s pretty damned good, and perhaps a bit better than 7.0 BM, dependant on your own tastes. Which is a million miles away from how I felt about it when the PTR first went up. Thankfully.
I blame Sidewinders personally.
That and shitty tool-tips.