Coming home

Over the past week or two, Blizzard has been working on class balancing, across specs in individual classes as well as across classes. I admit I have ridiculed one or two of their moves, but now I want to give credit where credit is due.

Hunter specs now stink less than they did.

There. I said it, and I only hope by doing so I have not jinxed any further balancing, because more is definitely needed.

At the end of Mists, as the beta info on hunters was coming out, I switched from my beloved Survival spec to Beast Mastery. I did so not out of any love for the spec but because SV was about to be gutted, and Marksman — well, as I have said many times before, if I wanted to play like a mage I would roll a mage.

I wouldn’t say I have a love-hate relationship with BM, it’s not nearly that strong, more of a kinda-like-kinda-don’t relationship. It has some very nice features, but I’ve never been really comfortable playing it. And truthfully, I’ve never been very good at it. I like some of the exotic pets you can tame, and I really like the healing boost from spirit beasts. In general, the additional pet damage BM enjoys (especially with the very powerful Tier 7 talent Adaptation) is a terrific DoT, but you lose much of that benefit in a fight with lots of target switching. Because pets are crucial to BM DPS, sometimes you have to stop your own shooting to heal your pet.

Overall, BM has some fairly intricate dependencies that you have to manage skillfully if you want to really play the spec well. For example, as I hinted at above, you have to be smart about target switching and even then you might have to use some cheats, such as throwing Master’s Call on a teammate just to get your pet into a particular target area very quickly.

All this is by way of introduction to a chat I had yesterday with an exceptional BM hunter in our guild. I was spending some quality time with a target dummy, trying to internalize the timing and sequencing of Bestial Wrath and Focus Fire, in light of the recent buff to FF. I was failing. I noticed he was logged on, and as he had previously offered to help me if I had any questions, I decided to take him up on it. I asked if he had a few minutes to chat, which he did, and we began a fairly technical discussion of the BW/FF thing. He gave me some pointers and told me how he adjusts for raid situations. I determined one of the things I needed was a good weakauras cooldown counter for BW.

So it was an instructive chat, and as always he was generous in imparting information, but the important part came at the end. He said he had had a good look at the recent hunter class changes, and he was of the opinion that the specs were now close enough that any of the three is viable for our raid team. (We are a social guild that does semi-casual raiding.)

You would think I might have figured this out myself, but for some reason I hadn’t. I think, as it was very difficult for me to give up SV, I had firmly categorized the spec as unplayable for the foreseeable future. Shame on me for being so shortsighted and close-minded. His comment caused me to realize “Ohhhhh, I could play SV again!”

With this epiphany, it took me all of about a minute to dash off to the hunter trainer, dump my MM off spec, and respec into SV. Then I spent about 30 minutes selecting talents and glyphs, keybinding, and polishing up some out of date weakauras. Off to the target dummies I went, singing my happy song.

It was awesome. It was fun. I actually giggled! Even being rusty and with no personal or raid buffs,  I was consistently doing at least 3k higher DPS than I had been doing as BM. I am convinced this was because I just really really like playing SV. It felt good. It felt like I had come home, finally, after a long journey to an unfriendly land.

So I think I’ll go back to playing SV, at least for awhile. There are still some drawbacks to it, some things I don’t like about it. Blizz really needs to give us some kind of burst capability, something beyond having to pick the suboptimal Stampede talent. Seriously, Blizz, would Western Civilization disintegrate if you gave Kill Shot back to SV hunters?

I’ll keep BM as an alternate spec, especially for some of the raid buffs and for the break it can give healers. And I’ll keep trying to improve my play at it. But at least for awhile, I am kicking off my shoes and enjoying being back where I belong.

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

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