Blizzcon has wrapped up for another 12 months, and for the first time in 4 years, we’ve had a Blizzcon expansion announcement!
Battle for Azeroth looks to bring the game back to its classic roots, pitching the Horde and the Alliance into an all out war harkening back to the conflict that birthed the franchise some 20+ years ago in Warcraft 1: Orcs v Humans.
However the base premise of the expansion seems to me to be somewhat forced to say the least. For the duration of Legion the emphasis has been on our Class Order halls. These were Sanctuary spaces where players of each class could, if not interact (still a dumb design decision), at least exist in the same space in a more friendly manner.
Now, all of a sudden that sense of class pride and cross-factional co-operation and camaraderie is being thrown under the bus for the sake of ice cream?
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…
Following on from an earlier article, I’ve still been thinking hard about which class and spec I want to choose as my main for Legion, and perhaps beyond.
I’m not one for rapidly changing classes or specs, having played my Prot Paladin for over 6 years before changing to my Hunter last year.
However given the all-encompassing changes that Hunters are seeing in Legion, which may or may not result in an enjoyable experience for me, another change may become inevitable.
So, given that it’s a bit further on in the previously Alpha and now Beta process of changes, let’s see where my thoughts lie now.
As per the previous article, Rogue, Shaman, Mage, Warrior and DK are all fairly much out of the running due to intrinsic feeling of “meh” I have towards them.
Warlock (completely forgot about this in the last article!)
So, let’s go through them all…
As per usual, Blizzard look to be nerfing abilities and utility of older classes in order to bolster take up of their newest class. It happened when DKs came along in Wrath, Monks in Mists, and now DHs in Legion.
They’re looking completely OP, certainly in terms of mobility with passive double jump, slowfall, gap closers etc, but they are as yet very untested in a live environment, and without beta access and final tuning still to come, it’s next to impossible to make a definitive call on this class.
I’m still really enjoying Holy and to a lesser degree Shadow on my Priest. It’s the spec I’m playing in mainly atm in Thunder’s recent raid resurrection (yes, we’re back and Heroic raiding again!), but sometimes still have to jump on the hunter if we’re loaded with healers, to help out with DPS.
A solid choice, but not a lot of utility and having more removed in Legion, particularly in terms of mobility.
I’ve gone off Mistweaving slightly since the last article. No real reason why, I’m just finding other classes and specs more intriguing.
Holy & Ret are right out the door straight off. No interest really in either spec, so that leaves my old comfort spec of Protection.
Whilst nerfed slightly in terms of self-healing from where it was when I wrote the last article, this is still looking like a strong spec overall in Legion.
However Legion changes to active mitigation (the best thing to ever happen to tanking IMO), and the fact that my reasons for quitting tanking on her haven’t changed since, I doubt this will be an avenue I’ll be pursuing in Legion.
Again, a lack of general utility, being a pure dps class in a similar manner to Mages, means that this is not a class I’ll likely choose for Legion.
In contrast to…
I’ve recently begun levelling a Tauren Druid named Lifebinder, and was enjoying it, so I decided to dust off my old Nelf Druid and faction changed her, again to a male Tauren, this one named Sarcrux.
I was very undecided on this one in the last article in March, but having played it a bit more, I’m really liking the utility Druids offer. Not least the fact that I can semi-tank in bear form, and semi-dps in cat form, both while in Resto Spec.
If I were to choose a druid, Resto would likely be my Main Spec, with an open choice of off-spec.
But given we’ll be getting tri/quad spec in Legion, Off-specs will be an open choice anyway.
This one is a very strong candidate now.
I’m a lot happier about where Hunters are now, in comparison to a few months ago.
MM have their pets back for example, with Lone Wolf being a talent choice again, albeit a level 15 choice rather than 100, so Lone Wolf lovers can essentially level all the way without a pet.
Hati and BM in general have also seen improvements, both in terms of Hati’s basic model (looks gorgeous now), and the ability to have her look like one of your other pets, so you can truly dual wield pets of your choice as BM now. Dire Beast has also been given the option of using stabled pets, rather than randoms from your current zone.
I know what you’re thinking. I dislike Mages, Warlocks and Rogues because they’re pure DPS classes and offer little in terms of role variety, so why do Hunters, another pure DPS class get a bye?
Hunters have the pet collection aspect that ameliorates this complaint to a significant degree. For me at least, because I love pet collecting. So ner.
So that’s where I’m at atm, and presently it’s looking like a straight choice between Hunter/Holy Priest/Resto Druid.
Certainly there’s a decidedly healing based skew on those choices, but I’ll only truly be able to make a decision if or when I finally get access to the Legion Beta…
No, still no access.
There are changes to talent swapping that have been made in a very recent build that I’ll be expounding on more, but that’s another article for another time…
Are Blizzard doing any better at shortening the lengthy raid tiers at the end of every expansion? The evidence is damning…
Have a look at that header graphic. I’ve reproduced it below, along with a bar chart for your edification, courtesy of @elvinelol on Twitter:
435 days for Hellfire Citadel, by the time Legion launches, 6 days longer than the 429 days of Siege of Orgrimmar.
Since Vanilla, and with the exception of Dragon Soul, expansion end raids have consistently increased in duration, from 209 days (7 months) to the now 14+ months of recent expansions:
Vanilla: Naxxramas – 209 days (7 months)
Burning Crusade: Sunwell – 230 (8)
Wrath: ICC – 364 (12)
Cata: Dragon Soul – 301 (10)
Mists: Siege of Orgrimmar – 429 (~14)
Warlords: Hellfire Citadel – 435 (>14)
Blizzard, as we all know, have been promising to increase the production speed of expansions since at least Wrath. However it appears that promises like this are putting more pressure on the devs, which, ironically, ends with results contrary to the initial promises.
Personally, I much prefer a 2 year expansion cycle, with 3 raid tiers:
x.0: Launch Day – Raid Tier 1.
x.1: Three months later – 1st Minor Patch for features & systems
x.2: Eight months in – Raid Tier 2.
x.3: Three months later – 2nd Minor Patch for features & systems
x.4: Sixteen months in – Raid Tier 3.
That leaves a final raid tier as current content for 8 months, 2 of which would be pre-patch for the following expansion.
I think that would work perfectly fine. The clamour from players for faster expansions I think is actually more of a desire for regular content both across andbetween expansions, not faster expansions per se.
If end tiers were 6-8 months long, including pre-patches for following expansions to give players a then familiar raid tier to bed class changes in with, then I think players as a whole would be pretty damned happy with that.
2 years is a solid time to spend in an expansion. It doesn’t rush raid tiers, it allows the lore of the expansion time to develop more naturally, whilst giving plenty of time for minor patches to bed in with additional system changes or features.
Most importantly it means we’re not stuck with final raid tiers that last 14 months or longer.
With World of Warcraft aging and getting towards that final expansion, it’s high time for Blizzard to throw in the towel and settle on a rational release schedule, such as the one I’ve suggested above.
It would serve Blizzard as a developer better in the long-term with regards to player retention and income stability, and would hopefully minimise the sort of population crash that Warlords saw over the course of 2015, falling as it did from 10m+ players to less than 4m.
All classes in WoW have seen revamps at some point in the life of the game. Sure, some have been a bit more drastic than others, but it happens.
And usually only to a single spec of any class at a given time.
However something is changing about Blizzard’s philosophy regarding class and spec revamps, and it’s not necessarily a healthy change. Least of all for the players. Especially for those that play Hunters.
Once upon a time, Blizzard’s philosophy was that change should be incremental . Change over time, so that eventually the spec you played was perhaps made completely unrecognisable over the course of 2 or 3 expansions, yet was still familiar to regular players of the spec and class.
The reasoning behind this philosophy was that too many changes in too short of a timespan led to players being left feeling confused or burnt out and more likely to quit playing the class or the game as a whole through dissatisfaction.
This was a great approach, as it allowed Blizzard the opportunity to tweak specs, to tighten them up, and basically to tinker in order to ensure a spec was both competitive against other specs/classes but more importantly was also still fun to play.
What this approach allowed the players on the other hand, was the chance to retain a familiarity with a spec or a class. Even if Blizzard makes changes to a spec that means you don’t get the same enjoyment out of it anymore, there are 2 to 3 other specs to play that you will have at least a passing familiarity with and can maybe segue into.
There are 3 types of class in WoW:
Pure DPS classes, for example Hunters, Rogues, Mages, and Warlocks, each with their three DPS specs.
Semi-hybrid classes like Warriors (2 DPS/1 Tank), Priests (2 Heal/1 DPS), Shaman (2 DPS/1 Heal) and DKs (2 DPS/1 Tank).
Absolute Hybrid classes such as Paladins, Monks & Druids, where a change in spec equates to a change in role.
Obviously the further down that list you go, the greater the Impact of Change will be on players of those respective classes.
For example, for players of Pure DPS classes, changes to a spec will mean either gaining familiarity with the new changes, or at the very least a change in spec to another more familiar one. A change in spec for these players will not require a change in role. Pure Ranged DPS is Ranged and Rogues do it from behind regardless of spec.
On the other end of the spectrum, unsatisfying changes to a spec for Absolute Hybrid classes will mean either gaining familiarity with the new changes, or a change in role or class. The Impact of Change to players of these classes are the greatest.
Obviously the Impact of Change will occur with Semi-Hybrids to varying degrees, dependant on the chosen spec, where it can mean either a change in spec or a change in role.
Regardless of which of these three categories your chosen class falls into, the vast majority of players will have that passing familiarity I mentioned earlier with the other specs and/or roles within their chosen class.
In short, players of any given class will have some sort of refuge in one of their class’s other specs, even if it means a change in role.
However, Blizzard seem to have abandoned that philosophy when it comes to changes to the Hunter class in Legion.
No Safe Haven
Current players of the Hunter class, will in short, have no safe haven come Legion.
For Survival players, they will be seeing not only a complete change in role, switching from ranged to melee (itself not a wise change, as melee is already a crowded gamespace), but this will also see and mean a fundamental change in the abilities used by the spec. No more Black Arrow, Lock & Load etc, and hello again to the likes of Mongoose Bite and Wing Clip.
For MM players, they will see not only fundamental changes to the abilities used by the spec (no more signature Chimaera Shot for one), but they will also completely lose the ability to use a pet, one of the most fundamental and basic abilities of the Hunter class since Vanilla. MM will permanently lose part of the class aesthetic, fantasy and flavour that has been baked into the DNA of the class since its inception.
Beast Mastery players will see not only fundamental changes to their spec, how it plays and the abilities used, but they’ll see their own importance in gameplay de-emphasised in preference to becoming the logistical manager that I alluded to in a previous post.
They will lose the ability to generate their own focus, and to a large degree will also lose the ability to deal significant damage directly. BM players will be utterly reliant on their summoned beasts for both focus and the vast majority of their damage.
Of course both BM & MM will lose the ability to use any sort of trap, as they will become the exclusive territory of Survival players. Because of course melee players need to kite and CC mobs all the time…
A Lost Fantasy
Sarcasm aside, this loss of utility for BM and MM players, not only in the lack of traps for both, but the lack of pet for MM to boot is galling.
But more galling than that?
The entire fantasy of a lone Hunter with only their loyal, chosen Pet by their side, doing damage from range while their pet goes into melee to protect their master?
Survival will be melee only, no longer a ranged role.
BM will sacrifice the lone, chosen pet playstyle for an endless crowd of random animals.
MM will lose the pet altogether.
Current players of the Hunter class will know no familiarity with the class that they used to know come Legion. There will be no familiar spec, no familiar role, no familiar playstyle.
Hell, no familiar class.
Change for the sake of it, especially overwhelming changes to an entire class like this is not healthy, and is certainly not conducive to player retention.
Hunters did not need this complete overhaul. Ok, the changes to Survival may see its use increase somewhat, at least initially. However BM and MM were both largely (80%) fine as they were.
So what should have happened?
If I was the Hunter class designer for Legion, these are the changes I would’ve made to BM and MM:
Make the T18 4-Piece bonus baseline for the spec. Instant Aimed shots made the balance between pooling and spending focus an engaging mini-game, and enhanced the play-style of the spec immensely.
Balance Lone Wolf (with its array of buff choices) vs the other level 100 Talents a lot better. Make it actually viable to NOT take Lone Wolf for those that prefer a pet (like me). For those that enjoy the petless play-style? Carry on using it! Knock yourself out!
Make it an option to use a pet or not, but give players that choice.
Kill Shot. Keep it. And while you’re at it? Keep Traps too. CC in solo play is important too.
Three to four small changes. That’s it.
Honestly? It didn’t take or need that much effort or work.
Give players a talent to allow them to call a 2nd, permanent pet. Give them the ability to mix and match with this 2nd pet to give players a greater ability to create an identity and enhance spec fantasy.
Make the pet abilities at the player’s control, like Kill Command, Bestial Wrath, Focus Fire etc, all apply to the 2nd pet as well. No need for an uncontrollable throng of random animals that, let’s be honest, no-one really wants or cares for that I’ve heard so far.
I don’t think any current BM players have ever fantasised about being Ace Ventura, or Snow White…
Leave Stampede as-is. It’s fine Blizzard, seriously.
If you’re so concerned about crowding the melee space for a whopping 40 seconds every 5 minutes, then why the hell are you converting one ranged spec and forcing it into the melee area, while simultaneously introducing another entirely new melee class in Legion?
The new Stampede? Well heaven help you if the boss moves, given that it’s a 10 second AoE effect now (eurgh).
Have Growl make the enemy focus on whichever Pet has least threat, allowing for easier pet maintenance and healing.
Keep Spirit Bond. FFS.
Keep Camouflage. Jesus wept.
Kill Shot and Traps. Again.
And with that?
Both BM & MM players would retain familiarity with their chosen spec. No massive overhauls required, no changes in play-style necessary.
Now that BM is now live on the Alpha, we now have access to all 3 Hunter Specs, and it’s not all rosy…
So Alpha has returned and it’s brought with it a new build or two, and opened up more specs for testing.
This includes Beast Mastery for Hunters, which rounds out the entire class for testing.
From looking at the BM spec as-is on Alpha (remember I don’t have Alpha access, so this is all based on what I’m seeing on YouTube and reading from elsewhere), there are a still growing number of concerns that began with MM/Survival changes, and BM is only adding to that pile.
Dire Beast for example, is designed to be used on cooldown, and it now has a very short cooldown of 10 seconds. Add in the chance for Dire Beast to get reset with Wild Call and its use is going to get very spammy.
Similarly Bestial Wrath is going to see more frequent use, despite the fact its cooldown has been increased 50% to 90 seconds, beast summons will reduce that cooldown, and it will probably be up for longer than it’s on normal cooldown, given the frequency you’ll be using Dire Beast.
Stampede as it exists on live has been essentially removed, and replaced with an AoE with the same name and icon. Now when it’s used, you carpet an area in front of you with, well, a stampede of pets (not your own pets, these are randoms!), and this lasts for 10 seconds.
Think Barrage, but with animals rather than bullets, and in a box shaped AoE right in front of you, rather than a cone.
This of course means no more cool screenshots or showing off with your active pets anymore…
All these random pet cooldowns with BM lead me to think that Blizzard are trying to de-emphasize me as a player in direct control of the damage equation.
The whole direction BM appears to be headed in makes me think we’re going to be less of a hunter, and more of a logistical manager for random pets while playing whack-a-mole with our cooldowns on the side.
This is in direct contrast to MM, where you can’t use pets at all, and the damage you bring is based entirely on your use of your abilities.
Overall Hunter Issues
I have quite a lot of issues with the current Hunter class on Alpha, namely in the areas of removal of: Customisation, choice, survivability and utility.
Camouflage is now a talent, on the same row as Binding Shot. It is now a 1 min lasting effect, but now has a 3 minute cooldown. No more perma-stealth in PvP, waiting to ambush the enemy, or ghosting through old instances for very long.
Plus, if you’re BM? You get no choice of Camo AT ALL. You get Intimidation instead. WAT?
This one irks me quite a lot. I love the stealth aspect of playing a Hunter, particularly in PvP. And I love pets. Now? Now I don’t have the option of utilising both. It’s one or t’other.
Lack of a pet in MM. Hunters are the best and original pet class, hell they’re THE pet class in WoW, and all 3 specs should use them. If Focusing Shot had been higher DPS in HFC than Lone Wolf, would we even be having this consideration?
As a side note, this enforced lack of a pet for MM means we’re going to spend a lot of time either kiting without any major CC, or we’ll be spending a lot more time face-tanking mobs.
De-emphasis of your chosen pet in the only remaining ranged spec in the class that uses them (BM).
Stampede ushers in a throng of random pets, and Dire Beast also uses random pets. Not random pets from your stables, no, just random pet models from the zone you’re in (DB) or from the game as a whole (Stampede).
If only MM would let you call a permanent pet, and use only one pet (no Dire Beast or Stampede), that would still provide contrast against BM, emphasise your choice of pet, and solve the above issue with no MM pets.
As it stands, BM is now all about summoning a multitude of random, temporary pets that you have no connection to, and your “life-bonded companion” just gets lost in an ever maddening crowd…
The forced use of an 9-10 year old model in Hati that you have very little control over or customisation of. Yes, I get it’s tied into Ulduar/Titanstrike, but really? Using such an old model for the latest and greatest weapon/expansion?
Don’t get me wrong, I like the saber worg model, but it’s going to do 2 things: a 2007 model will look out of place in 2016/2017, and look very generic with every BM hunter having the same pet.
Again, de-emphasising your choice of pets for random/forced options.
Admittedly it is still early in the alpha/beta process, so it’s possible that this may change, but given that they’ve already introduced different skins for this saber worg in the alpha, albeit not implemented yet, suggests, but doesn’t confirm, that Hati will have different colours dependant on your artifact look. So even less likely that the choice of model for Hati will change.
Spirit Bond has been removed. In fact there is very little in the way of maintenance healing in the Hunter class now, as all we’ve got is the Spirit Beast heal (obviously BM only) and a now baseline Exhilaration with a 50% heal.
Combine that with the lack of CC, and the lack of a pet to tank for you in MM and there’s going to be a lot more downtime for MM hunters while we passively heal up outside of Exhilaration.
Removal of Traps from all specs bar Survival. More CC gone. Oh goody.
Kill Shot has been removed. No more execute ability, and no more big hits in the last 20-30% of the boss’s health.
No more Lone Wolf choice of raid buffs. Lone Wolf may be baseline for MM, but we no longer get the option to provide any raid buffs, AT ALL as MM.
Or BM or Survival for that matter.
In fact looking at WoWHead, Hunters will no longer bring any raid buffs to the table at all.
Unless Critical Strikes, a 10% crit buff you get from level 1, applies to the raid as well as yourself, IE: an aura. But it’s passive, so not manually applicable to a player, therefore giving potential issues where one section of the raid is phased (Nether Banish, Archimonde), and lose the buff?
Aspect of the Cheetah is now a 3 minute cooldown that lasts for a whopping 3 seconds at +90% speed and another 30% for 9 seconds. No more perma-speed boost outside of combat.
More utility (and fun!) gone.
At least we still have Posthaste.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Chimaera is gone.
Deterrence is gone, and replaced by a 3 minute cooldown called Aspect of the Turtle. Admittedly it has a pretty cool shell shield style graphical effect, but it’s a one shot deal, no more second charge. More survivability gone.
Combine that with a lack of CC, no maintenance heal, and the inability to use a tanking pet for MM?
Yeah, you can see where I’m going with this…
DOWNTIME. GET USED TO IT.
The removal and outright rug-pulling changes to the class, this late into the game’s life cycle is not what I would consider a sensible move. Look what happened with Star Wars Galaxies when they did something similar with the NGE. Players exited the game in droves and the game nearly collapsed as a result. Arguably it never really recovered.
We lost a metric fuckton of players during WoD’s first 9 months, we can’t really afford to lose a lot more. Especially from the most popular class in the game.
The entire class seems to be changing outright, and a lot of what brought me to the class is being dispensed with between expansions.
Prefer playing as Ranged DPS? There goes 1 spec. Cya Survival!
Pet collector? There goes another spec. Buh-bye Marksmanship!
Hope you like whack-a-mole with a crowd of mainly random, no-choice selection of “animals”.
I can’t even bring myself to call them pets. The term “Pet” implies a choice, a bond, a story, a history.
Not BM. Not anymore.
Now? Your choice of pet now merely makes a guest appearance on a crowded stage filled with randomers.
In fact it’s less like logistical manager, more like a raid leader for a group of mindless, minimum-effort randoms in LFR.
Oh, and you also have to put up with no chance to use camouflage.
So, Legion beta alpha has gone live, and so far the only people with access are those that are either chummy with the devs, have loads of viewers/subscribers on Twitch/YouTube, or have tonnes of readers/followers on Twitter.
Obviously I fall into none of the above categories, so no Alpha here as yet 😛
So far though what I’ve been seeing from others who are in the alpha are limited. Alpha itself is limited to creating Demon Hunters at the moment, but datamining has pulled out both massive lore spoilers (none here), and some nice shots for the various class halls.
The first ones I’ve really liked the look of were the Paladin and Priest halls:
The paladin class order hall is really lovely. It’s probably my favourite so far from all of the ones I’ve seen. It’s really classy and evinces a very holy and devout atmosphere. Great job by the devs and art team so far on this one.
I like the Priest class hall for pretty similar reasons as the Paladin one. It has an appropriately designed aesthetic and looks pretty cosy as well.
I’ve seen the Hunter Class Hall, and tbh, I’m getting Horde Garrison flashbacks:
That said, the interior looks ok:
Could be worse though, could be the Warlock one, which I have a feeling will look very similar to the Demon Hunter one.
I’ll be avoiding printing any major lore spoilers here, and if you’re looking to avoid reading any I strongly advise staying the hell away from MMO-C, WoWhead etc over the next few weeks…
The WoW community on Twitter is a wonderful and amazing thing, y’know?
Mooooose is a deferred drop from Heroic Archimonde. Deferred in the sense that he drops a quest item that leads directly to the Mooooose itself.
People on Twitter have taken it upon themselves to organise runs to not only get players their mount, but to also get people geared up enough to be able to partake in an Heroic Archimonde kill to get it.
The typical players that will be looking to make use of this are players that never see Heroic end-game, and in some cases barely ever see normal mode end-game that are being brought along and given a shot at the mount. I say shot, but it’s a guaranteed drop since 6.2.3 went live, and will only be hanging around until Legion. Once Legion drops, in about, oh say 10 months from now, it’ll presumably be gone for good, just like the Garrosh heirloom drops in Mists.
This is why the WoW community on Twitter are so great. Regardless of faction, region, class or spec, the community has come together to organise these runs to get anyone their gear and their mount.
If you’re interested then you can contact the following peeps: