So the pre-patch, 7.0.3 is now live across all regions, and with it come all the changes being made in prep for Legion. So after a full day with the patch, what sort of things did it bring? What did you think about the changes?
Well, let’s break down what I thought into the stuff I loved, and the stuff I hated…
First and very much foremost. This was the one thing about Legion that I was looking forward to the most.
Without a doubt Gnome Hunters are the single race/class combo I’ve wanted in World of Warcraft more than any other over the past several expansions.
Regular readers will know well of my near-fetish levels of love for female gnomes, especially after the model updates that were brought in during Warlords. I also love the Hunter class, it being my favourite DPS class in the game, be it MM or BM. But put the two together?
I will be playing my Gnome Hunter, named Mechaspark following the race change from her previous Human incarnation Sarvival, as my main character Alliance side. And at this moment in time I fully intend to play her as Beast Master, regardless of how much of a gulf there is between BM and MM in terms of DPS. After all, I have my Orc Hunter who will remain as MM for the forseeable future.
So on Day 1 of the patch, I spent several hours getting used to the live changes: re-arranging my now decimated buttons on my action bars, testing out live versions of differing talents to see if there were any changes from PTR etc.
Once that was all done?
I set about picking up a few pets.
My favourite is definitely the last on the list there, Thok. I’ve since named him Sparky, and he’s going to be one of my most used pets throughout Legion. Certainly in Ferocity spec, with the Lowlands Mana Shell Turtle replacing Sheldon (my Terrorpene) as my default Tenacity pet.
With all raid/pet/class/spec buffs now gone in Legion, Hunters are free to bring and use whichever pet they like. Which is both a positive and a negative. Mostly a big positive for me though, as having to use a certain pet family to boost my main secondary stat felt a tad restrictive at times.
Now however, I’m free to use whichever pet I feel more of an attachment to. Spirit beasts will obviously still have more utility than most for BM Hunters with their native heal, but it’s not a deal breaker to not use one now.
Another big plus for me, transmog junkie that I am, is the Wardrobe feature.
This is something I’ve wanted in WoW for the longest time since Transmog was introduced in Cataclysm. Other games I’ve played have had similar features, primarily Wildstar. However it’s only now that WoW is catching up to a mega-popular feature that’s been in other games for over half a decade already…
You can now hide your shoulders, in addition to your helm and cloaks, which is a godsend, because sometimes an outfit just looks better without shoulders at all…
As hinted above, and for the time being, only Gnome & Goblin hunters can tame these, with a consumable being available in Legion to allow other races to also tame them.
So far, I’ve picked up two on Mecha:
Both tames are in or around Gnomeregan. The first, Friender, is a wolf inside the instance itself, and you have to solve a very easy puzzle to make him active and tamable. The 2nd, the rabbit, is for those hunters who didn’t start off levelling a gnome hunter, as the mecha-rabbit is their starter pet. It’s on a 3-6 hour respawn, situated around the broken campsite south of the large building at Crushcog’s Arsenal, so be prepared to camp…
Hunter rotations at the moment feel broken, and lacking something (which is obviously related to the lack of artifact right now).
In gameplay, BM is more often than not starved for focus, especially as there’s no direct focus generator available to the player. All your focus regen is a mixture of the entirely passive normal in-combat regen combined with the focus generated by your pets. All too often though you find yourself at the lower end of the focus scale. However it generally regens quick enough so that you rarely find yourself waiting more than a second or two for enough focus to use Kill Command. Still, the lack of direct control over your own focus levels is jarring and feels bizarre.
MM on the other hand seems ok, in terms of focus at least, as it has a couple of built-in focus generators (Arcane & Multi-shots, or Sidewinders. Eurgh). A lot of the gameplay is spent watching for procs, so you’ll need to use Tell Me When or Weak Auras if you don’t want to spend the majority of your game-play looking at your action bars.
In single target BM seems very middling, but in AoE situations it is pretty damned good. MM is also very good at AoE situations, but unlike BM is pretty decent at single target as well. This is down to the gameplay revolving around Marked Shot, and the ability to choose to mark a single target vs all targets in front of you.
Thus, at the moment, MM looks like it will be the stronger spec. But bear in mind, for the moment at least until Legion launches, BM players are being hurt by the lack of Hati, their Artifact Weapon pet, the presence of which BM is balanced around…
And yes, I’ll come back to that particular screenshot in the next article or two
A lot of utility and survivability has been taken away from Hunters in 7.0. We no longer have Spirit Bond as BM, although thankfully, despite buffs being removed from the game (from both classes and pets), Spirit Beasts retain their signature heal ability.
Pets have lost Adaptation, a WoD level 100 talent that made them take on aspects of all 3 pet trees, meaning they were finally good all-rounders and could tank and dps well, and were finally worthy companions.
Which, in an expansion where the strongest Hunter spec & build featured no pet, was kind of ironic. As a result, pets, even tanking pets like turtles, are a lot squishier even in Tenacity, the tanking spec.
Furthermore, Mend Pet, the hunter ability to heal your pet, has been placed on a 10 second CD, making spamming it during a free GCD mid-combat a lot trickier. This is because it needs to be off cooldown before you can use it again. And in some circumstances, such as soloing old raids (more of that later), if you let MP drop off even for a second, your pet will get wrecked.
In addition, permanent misdirection to your pet is no longer a thing, with the next thing on my list.
The removal of Major Glyphs has been a big blow to Hunters, and most other classes in WoW. As above, because the Glyph of Misdirect is now gone, we can only MD to our pet once every 30 seconds.
Aspect of the Cheetah, my old friend. I honestly cannot for the life of me see or understand why Blizzard nerfed this as hard as they have done. Cheetah, for those that don’t know, was a toggle ability that cost no focus, that boosted the Hunter’s movement speed by 30%. If you were hit with it on during combat you’d be dazed, although there was a glyph to merely knock the effect off if you were hit.
I loved this ability, and used it ALL THE DAMN TIME. Movement in WoW at 100% movement speed feels damn slow. Like walking in Treacle, slow. If they’d compensated by boosting the Hunter’s natural movement speed by 30% whilst out of combat even, it wouldn’t have been such a blow.
But the mockery that Cheetah has now become is even more galling. Frankly I’d have preferred them to remove it from the game entirely. It’s now a 3 second 90% speed boost, which reduces to a 30% speed boost for a further 6 seconds. 9 seconds of boosted speed, and it’s on a whopping 3 minute cooldown…
There are Artifact talents and abilities available in Legion that will reduce this cool-down to maybe a minute, but even at that, it’s still a very pathetic shadow of what it once was.
The lack of camouflage for BM hunters? /sigh
Finally, overall DPS levels have generally tanked. Fights that were easier pre-patch, are suddenly a lot more difficult for players with gear lower than about 740. Soloing Mogushan Vaults for example on 10 man normal? Easy as pie pre-patch, but now? Now it’s insanely difficult. Mainly due to the removal of a lot of burst abilities such as Rapid Fire. Add in the general squishiness of pets overall, combined with the dicey threat issues due to the MD glyph’s removal? Nightmare 🙁
For players above 740-ish though, DPS seems to be where it was or better. So obviously there are scaling issues at work here.
Before the patch, my Orc hunter, at ilevel 723, was capable of putting in a respectable 80-100k dps, fairly consistently. However after the patch, still in (the stronger) MM spec, the best I can eke out in a single target encounter is about 38k, less than half of what I used to be doing. AoE seems slightly better, at up to about 80k, where before the patch I’d be bursting in AoE situations at up to 240k DPS.
Getting away from Hunters for a bit, and sidling into Resto Spec for a second. My druid’s resto spec and overall experience has barely changed, which is a relief. Although what I’m hating about it is the removal of Spirit. Only towards the end of 6.2.4 did I get over 2k spirit, and feel like I had mana regen at a comfortable place.
Now all mana regen is standardised, presumably across all healing specs in the game. You can no longer customise your mana regen to your own personal comfort level, and as a result, the Resto Druid spec overall feels a lot tighter on Mana than my other two healing classes: Mistweaver and Holy Priest. Hopefully this will alleviate somewhat over the coming weeks and months with gear and levels under our belts.
Overall the present situation is very mixed. I’m more than aware we’re in a strange limbo-like situation at the moment being as we are with our new toolkits, but without our Artifact weapons, which will themselves bring additional abilities to help fill out those action bars, as well as increased damage all round for all specs.
The pluses for me, especially Gnome Hunters and the Transmog Wardrobe features, are enough to keep me sated generally until Legion launches in 5 weeks time.
I’m willing to put up with the lower DPS levels, pet squishiness, and the general all-round lack of abilities until then.
Until then, however, the removal of utility from Hunters, a class previously famed for it, will merely continue to gnaw and gall significantly.