The Hunter’s Path

With the first tier of Raiding in Shadowlands over the hump, how is my choice of Hunter main looking now?

After a strong start to Shadowlands, and a forced change of spec from BM to MM, Shadowlands began with Hunters looking strong, and well placed to take on the challenges of Castle Nathria.

However, over the course of clearing Normal, then Heroic, and now beginning to progress into Mythic (2/10 Mythic at the current time of writing), Hunters are beginning to fall by the wayside in terms of their relative power levels.

As you can see above, MM, currently the Hunter class’s strongest spec, has been steadily falling further and further down the DPS rankings. Falling from a lofty 3rd place in the opening week of Castle Nathria, MM has fallen to become the absolute middle of the pack spec.

However the main issue here isn’t that MM is falling down the rankings, it’s more that other classes seem like they’re benefitting more from the few pieces of gear that can be obtained in raiding atm.

Bolt onto that the fact that the remaining Hunter specs currently prop the ranking table, rooted to the bottom of the output charts as they are, means that Hunters overall are looking like a worse prospect for Mythic progression as time goes by.

BM this week will be getting a measly 5% buff, which as you can probably tell from my language isn’t IMO anywhere near enough to see it catch up with MM, let alone become a well-regarded spec in current content on a par with the Balance Druids or Affliction Warlocks of Nathria raids.

The only other character I’ve got to 60 with so far is my Affliction Warlock (no shocker there), and I’m slowly gearing her in anticipation of having the option to main switch should Hunters both continue to fall behind the pack, and receive no MM buffs to bring them up to par. She’s Kyrian atm, but as soon as I have her transmog set complete, I’ll be switching her to Night Fae for the damage output, as sadly Night Fae is by far the best covenant for all Warlock Specs, same as Hunter, Druid, and many other DPS specs in the game right now.

Would I mind switching?

No, not at all. It would mean my Void Elf would get some proper game time, and would put me in a better position to justify a raid slot via damage output. I can apparently play my Aff Lock just as well, if not a bit better, than my MM spec, so a change, with the right gear, wouldn’t be a bad thing.

But any change would be coming in the next tier of content. Unless I get benched due to lack of DPS I’ll continue to progress Mythic Nathria on my Hunter. If I do get benched, then I’ll set about putting a serious effort into getting my Warlock geared, mainly in our Alt raids, and putting in the time on the bench to run a lot more Mythic+ than I currently do on the Hunter.

As it stands, I’ve run through one full clear of Normal Nathria on my Warlock, and at item level I did a lot better in 70% of fights than I did on my Hunter at the same item level. About 10-15% better on parse scores, and between 100-600 dps better. Given gear, I would be doing a LOT more damage as Warlock than Hunter.

But any change will come with the next raid tier, and a lot more gear for the Warlock. She’s currently sitting at iLevel 185, which is a far cry off my Hunter’s 215. Even still, she’s doing pretty well so far, even playing the most complex build possible for the Affliction Warlock:

Still some work to do, especially on the fights that MM excels at, such as Sun King (but which I’m still fairly meh at on either class), but that should improve greatly over the coming weeks as I get more practice…

The other main advantage is just plain survivability. I didn’t die once on the Warlock, whereas in a raid on the hunter I would die at least two to three times, mainly down to how brittle MM is as a spec.

In fact, MM is the most fragile spec in the entire game at the moment, by a fair margin, followed a fair bit behind by BM, which is usually pretty hardy:

MM dying earlier than every other spec in the game, even at Heroic…

Irritating, because I’m seeing this happen on a regular basis, and dying myself to effects that just don’t bother other classes. I mean take a look at two specific damage reductions: Survival of the Fittest (Hunter) and Unending Resolve (Warlock).

Survival of the Fittest:
3 min CD
20% Damage Reduction
Lasts 6 seconds

Unending Resolve:
3 min CD (can be situationally reduced by specific conduits)
40% Damage Reduction
Lasts 8 seconds
Makes you immune to interrupts, silence and knockbacks

Quite a noticeable difference in power. The Warlock personal DR is twice as strong, lasts 33% longer, gives additional benefits, and can further be reduced through certain conduits.

But what about Turtle?

Well, let’s just say I’ve died twice this past couple of weeks whilst Turtle was up already, so Turtle isn’t as good as it once was. But either way, Warlocks get access to Dark Pact, which is a talent that lets you take 20% health damage to get an absorb shield for 250% of the health sacrificed, which in effect adds a shield for 50% of your max health. On demand, on a 1 min CD, so…

Anyway, all just talk for the time being, and hopefully MM can get better at damage output, stronger survivability, and BM becomes a tonne better than it currently is.

At least it looks like Soulforge Embers is starting to be the 2nd best legendary now for BM, overtaken by Rylak’s. So a small silver lining there at least…