Feeling disconnected

Lately I have been feeling, I don’t know how best to describe it, kind of “adrift” in WoW. I can’t put my finger on any one thing, but somehow this entire expansion seems jumbled and disorganized, as if a committee got together and everyone got to have one of their pet projects become part of the game. No unifying theme, just a vague nod to pre-existing lore, toss in a few familiar NPCs for good measure. When some of the inevitable collisions of pet projects occur, Blizz applies a quick fix band-aid and hopes it doesn’t break something else in the process.

I can’t shake the feeling that Blizz has lost its creative genius and is now just mailing it in.

What got me thinking about this was a post yesterday by The Grumpy Elf. Basically, he laid out a pretty good case that healing is broken in this expansion, implying it’s a wonder that anyone is willing to heal at all any more. By removing cheap instant heals from every healing class at the same time they drastically lowered mana regen and added in constant movement fights, Blizz pretty much made it impossible for anyone but exceptional healers to succeed. Certainly my own experience verifies this. I was a decent healer in Mists with my monk, nothing to write home about, but the first go-to if our raid team was missing one of our regular healers. And I enjoyed healing, it was a nice change from DPS. So when I hit 100 recently on my monk, with respectable (for a new 100) 610 gear, I jumped into normal Skyreach.

And promptly fell on my big panda face. I just could not keep the mage and hunter alive unless I let the tank die, and vice-versa. It was not a terrific group, as the DPS insisted on standing in bad stuff, and the tank was trying to set some sort of record for pulling as many trash as possible at one time. Still, in Mists I would have been able to keep such a group alive. And I did in this instance until we got to the first boss, which you will recall is pretty much constant movement. The mage died immediately, but we did down the boss, then proceeded to wipe twice on the next set of trash. At which point I dropped group, felt disgraced, and have not tried to heal since.

But this is a perfect example of the disconnectedness of this whole expansion. For most players, normal Skyreach is their first group instance in WoD. Why in the world would you put a boss like Ranjit as the first for players to encounter? Even if you understand the movement and tanking mechanics — a big if — the fact remains that the near-constant movement is both a DPS-killer and a heals-killer, in light of Blizzard’s decision to remove most instant casts from both healers and casters.

1.  Remove most abilities to cast/heal on the move.

2.  Make the few remaining instants extremely mana-intensive.

3.  Make the first boss in the introductory instance a constant-movement fight.

4.  Allow players below level 100 to do the instance.

5.  Lower the mana regen rate for most healers, especially at low gear levels.

6.  During the xpac beta, reassure players that the new raids and instances will adjust movement and damage to take into account the loss of instants. BWAAAAAHAHAHA!

No two of these decisions play well together, and when you look at them collectively you have to wonder what the hell is going on that would cause any experienced game developer to think this would end well.

Unfortunately, this kind of policy mismatch is the norm in this expansion, not the exception. Look at the whole “immersion” policy. Blizz says they want players to be more immersed in the world. But then they add garrisons, a huge time sink that severely limit a player’s time to do anything other than stay inside and tend to them. They remove flying, forcing players to devote more time, which they no longer have, getting to any point outside their garrison, and making gathering professions and archaeology so ludicrously tedious that most people stop doing those activities. And options for play outside garrisons are very limited. Most rares can only be killed once for loot, treasure-hunting provides no meaningful rewards, and once you have completed the quest lines in an area there is no longer any reason to go there.

So, yeah, be immersed in the world, once you figure out why you would want to be.

The sad fact is, this is a horrible expansion. Once you get past the initial fun of leveling your first character — and that part really was fun — there just is nothing there. All the various pieces of the expansion are just that — individual unrelated pieces that not only don’t complement each other, but often are opposed to each other, and result in game play completely opposite to Blizz’s stated objectives.

Specs and stats

This will be a short post today, as it is a very busy day real-life wise and game wise. Regarding the game, it is of course Tuesday, which for me usually means spamming LFR on alts that can still benefit from it either for gear or for the legendary quest line. I hit 100 on my lock last night, so I will have to take a quick run through Proving Grounds before she queues for LFR. Thanks to having spent a long time in garrison prior to leveling, and thanks to my mains being maxed on their professions, she is pretty well geared for just having hit 100.

I have always run the lock as destro, mainly because that was the spec du jour in Mists. I never dual-specced. So after dinging 100 I decided I would give dual speccing a go. Knowing zero about affliction or demonology, I turned to some web sites and read up a bit on both. My initial thoughts were to go with aff, because that seems to be the “hot” lock spec thus far in the expansion. But I ended up going demo, and the reason was Blizz’s crazy approach to secondary stats. Destro and demo have at least similar preferred secondary stats, aff is completely different. I do not want to be in the mode of chasing gear until the bitter end of this expansion, in hopes of getting the RNG gods to show me a bit of compassion. If I do manage to gather a decent set of lock gear, I don’t want to have to go through the annoyance of doing so twice just to feel like I am doing my best for both specs.

I had a similar revelation on one of my hunters recently. I love playing Survival, and it is actually viable for some raiding now. So both my hunters main spec SV and secondary spec Beastmastery for the spirit and exotic pets. (I have really tried to like Marksman, but even though I played it all through Wrath, it just does not work for me any more — Blizz has ruined it in my opinion.)

But here’s the thing. I do respectable DPS on one hunter as SV, and noticeably less DPS on the other SV hunter, even though they both have the exact same gear level and are enchanted and gemmed for multstrike where possible. When I investigated this, I found that the second hunter has — thanks to the RNG gods — got mostly gear with mastery on it. The first hunter has lucked into some decent multistrike gear. So I made the decision to main spec BM on the second hunter because that’s the kind of gear I have, not because that’s the spec I want to play.

This is crazy. Blizz is pretty much requiring us to pick specs based on random luck. There is so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to start. First, even on the gear you can re-roll stats on — which is only 3 pieces per set — there is zero guarantee of getting your desired stats. And you can’t re-roll stats on all the rest of your gear, which I am pretty sure I would not want to do anyway since it really is just a giant exercise in futility. Why in the world did Blizz take away a perfectly adequate reforging mechanism and replace it with this nightmare?

And yes, I understand that people who play hybrids have always had to deal with this problem, but here’s the other thing: Blizz gave them a way to ensure they would get gear for the spec they wanted. You just set your gear spec for what you want, and for example if you are in the role of a druid tank but want resto gear you can get it. Not so with the pure DPS specs, where secondary stats make a very noticeable difference in performance. If Blizz insists on continuing with this One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest logic for secondary stats, then they absolutely should allow me to get mastery gear if I select BM as my gear choice for my hunter, and multistrike if I select SV gear.

This just has to be yet another award-winning idea from Blizz’s Screw With the Players Department. There is no other rational explanation for it.

Is it time for guild consortiums?

A few days ago I felt like I had hit the wall with this game. Garrisons seemed to be eating up all my play time, and raiding four times a week with two guilds compounded the problem. Raiding with Guild Two is fun and productive — we completed Highmaul normal last week and will have a couple shots at heroic before the new raid content comes out in a few days. But I found I was almost dreading raid nights with Guild One, with a never-ending cycle of who shows up and who doesn’t, who is going to show up late and make us wait for a half hour or more, will we even have the bare minimum of 10 to raid, and if we do does that mean we will have to include a couple under-geared people or people who even after weeks of the same boss cannot grasp the mechanics? Guild One is still 4/7 in normal Highmaul, and honestly, with our usual raid complement, downing Brackenspore, Kor’agh, and Mar’gok seems doubtful in the near future.

So after much painful soul-searching I told my Raid Leader in Guild One I was considering leaving the guild. I would have preferred to just remove my two raiding alts, but since guild policy is all or none for all your characters on the server, my only option was to leave completely. I am quite attached to the guild, have been with it for over three years, and really did not want to leave, but I felt like I had no choice. After some discussion with the RL, I agreed to wait a few days (no way was I going to leave them in the lurch anyway) and he said he would look into some options.

Raid night rolled around, and as usual we were having a hard time scraping up 10 people. On top of that, our Vent server was down. It was looking like another typical raid night for this team, and indeed after about a half hour of trying to pull something together the RL surrendered and called it for the night. Poor guy goes through this almost every raid night, I knew he had to be feeling even more discouraged than I was. But he had a surprise for us. Calling everyone to a different Vent server belonging to a friend of his, he announced that we would be merging raid teams with this friend and a few others. RL had been in a raiding guild with them several years ago, and while their guild had lately kind of fallen on hard times, some of them still really wanted to raid but they also were having a hard time getting a quorum most nights. Short story is we will be putting together what sounds like a fairly robust core raid team, giving us the flexibility and stability we need to really progress.

This was enough to cause me to reconsider my decision. (I don’t need much to go on, almost anything is usually enough to give me hope!) We should have the initial team ready to go in about a week, once we sort out a vent channel and an invite list, so I am pretty excited about it. I think it has real potential.

But there are a ton of logistical considerations and ramifications down the road. The current game structure is not very friendly for inter-guild cooperation. You can make a raid team work, because it is basically an invitational pug, but even that could get problematic, because of guild progression statistics and achievements. If one guild has the requisite number of players, it will get credit for the kills, but if not then neither guild does. It pretty much devolves to strictly individual kills for achievements.

Full guild cooperation is even stickier. To make it work within the current game structure, you have to rely on either some very inelegant workarounds or on a series of addons. I am thinking about things like the calendar, chat, instant mail, etc. There are workarounds for chat and the calendar — assuming you can get most guild members to install addons, subscribe to a special closed chat channel, or regularly check a shared website — but they are clunky and end up being ultimately unsatisfactory. There are no workarounds for things like instant mail, roster/profession check, or shared achievements. Probably lots of other things I haven’t thought of as well.

I know some of you are thinking, sheesh just merge guilds. While that is often the best option — and currently is Blizz’s only true option — I think there is a growing need for the cooperation option as well. For one thing, some people have a real attachment to their current guild and it is very unsettling to be forced to give it up because the game requires more resources for some activities than the guild can manage. In the midst of some pretty tumultuous changes in the game itself, a familiar guild can be the one stable spot that helps people cope.

The current raid structure especially calls out for guild cooperation. Take a look at the raid finder listings if you need proof. Anyone wanting to find a normal, heroic or God forbid mythic raid must pretty much fill out a job application to do so. Raid leaders specify a dizzying array of qualifications to join their raid, qualifications that are usually much more strict than those for guild raid team participation. They do this because they don’t personally know the pug raiders, so they compensate by setting the entry bar very high. To me, this indicates that there are a lot of guilds out there having problems filling out their regular raid rosters, and a formal cooperative guild structure might help them a lot.

I am certain that implementing a fully functional Guild Consortium interface is beyond Blizz at the moment. But it seems to me they could do some things to help out guilds wanting to cooperate on their own. For example, they could amend the requirements for guild raid achievements/progression so that if a raid team is composed of players from just two guilds, both guilds get credit. Yes, I know there will be abuses, but these can be dealt with as they arise.

Blizz could also implement a default consortium chat channel that would be like a super-guild channel. This would require the formal registering of Guild X and Guild Y as cooperating guilds, and I understand that is additional administrative overhead for Blizz and probably requires an additional lua variable and data base entry when identifying a player, but it seems like small potatoes when compared to, oh say an entire profession revamp and garrison implementation.

These two changes alone could help out guilds trying to stay viable in a game that requires them to commit more resources than they have by themselves in order to stay alive.

Blizz “attitude” and my “fun”

To the small number of you who follow this blog, apologies for taking a few days off. There were a couple of reasons.

One — and this is almost embarrassing — I broke one of my fingers and have been dealing with that.

*Side comment* It’s not important how I did it — something stupid — but I’ve been amazed at all the  everyday things that become difficult or impossible with a bunged up finger. The one I broke is my “rude” finger on my left hand. It’s in a pretty hefty splint that I am not supposed to get wet. So I am busy figuring out workarounds for hand washing, cooking, normal typing, carrying grocery bags, etc. I am a little worried about tonight, which will be my first raid night since I broke the finger. I usually use my mouse for movement and left hand for keybinds, so you can see the problem. I do have one of those mice with a bajillion buttons on the side, but I normally only use a few of them, mostly for quick react keybinds such as interrupts. So I may be forced to bind most of my shot keys to them now, using the mouse for shooting as well as moving, and the left hand keybinds for the more rare cooldowns and such. I would be less worried if we were just doing the same old bosses in Highmaul, but tonight is our first attempt on Imperator normal.

The second reason I haven’t posted for awhile is that I realized this expansion really is not much fun. By the time I get garrison chores (and they seem exactly like that) done for only my four characters who have garrisons, there is no time left to do fun things. That’s if I could figure out where the fun is. Because I am just not seeing it. Garrison invasions and apexis dailies long ago lost their allure for me. I might be more interested in the apexis dailies if you could actually use the crystals for something worthwhile AND the things you could buy with them didn’t cost approximately a million crystals apiece.

I detest pugs (well, “detest” is perhaps too weak a word for what I feel), so while I do enjoy raiding I am not going to engage in it via the stupidly inefficient group finder  — a procedural annoyance in advance of what is usually a horrible pug experience. No thank you. On Tuesdays I run whatever LFRs I have to — at least they are usually mercifully quick — in order to get the abrogator stones for alts that need them, but once they have the quest done that’s it for LFR.

Weekly world boss kill? Please. Not fun, and gear is now worthless.

I am not someone who ordinarily enjoys leveling, but right now that is the most enjoyable part of this expansion. I have three more alts to level, and after that — if I am still playing — I am not sure what I will do. Level a couple new classes maybe? Abandon Draenor completely and solo old content?

I used to get a lot of enjoyment out of working my professions — making things for guildies or selling them. Towards the end of Mists, even if the prices were fairly low, the items were still in demand and could be sold for a small profit. Blizz has pretty much ended all that in this expansion. Crafted items take far too much time to give them away, and while AH prices are very high, it means the items rarely sell because people are understandably not going to spend thousands and thousands of gold on what is at best mediocre gear.

In Mists, towards the end of the expansion, I still had fun by tinkering around with mat farming and finishing up old quest lines and achievements I had not done while leveling. The graphics and landscape, I thought, were beautiful, and I got a huge amount of enjoyment out of flying around, swooping and soaring and admiring the scenery, while I farmed mats and went from place to place for whatever achieve I was working on. But if I had had to run everywhere, avoiding or fighting ridiculously annoying mobs at almost every step, and not had the aesthetic reward of the beautiful huge vistas, I would not have done it. And I am not going to do it in Draenor for that very reason.

Speaking of which, there was an interesting series of blue posts and comments today by and about Bashiok. You should take a look at them, they make for a very interesting — if unsettling — glimpse into Blizz’s steadfast refusal to take on the professional responsibilities of a large international business.

Basically, several readers were calling Bashiok to task for what they — and I suspect most people — consider his flippant, snide attitude towards some very real player concerns over the whole no-fly thing. One thing that struck me was the serious and non-emotional tone of the readers. These were not “Dood u $uck! Imma unsub if u dont get ur shit together n let me fly” type of comments. They were well thought out, well expressed, valid concerns about Blizz’s complete lack of serious communication addressing what is apparently a decision to ignore player unhappiness with the no-fly policy.

An even more interesting subtext is in Bashiok’s response, which was basically that well he was just expressing his own personal opinion as an individual player, he was not actually speaking for Blizzard. He goes on to say that in fact he often speaks in this manner, as do other blue posters, he does not always represent official Blizzard policy in his comments.

Excuse me? He is a Blizzard employee, fairly high up the management chain, posting blue posts in an official Blizzard forum. And he doesn’t speak for Blizzard?? There are two possible explanations for this, both of which are unsettling. Either this is not true but he believes Blizz customers are stupid enough to believe it, or he is actually telling the truth which means Blizzard has no interest in providing a valid official communication link with its customers.

So I’ve said it before, and now I will say it again: Blizz’s management acts like they are a couple guys in a garage, not like the large international business they are. For crying out loud, Blizz, hire a professional communications director, do some actual training for all your customer service reps, set up a real feedback mechanism, and stop letting public relations disasters like Bashiok be your public face.

Top ten profession suggestions

A few weeks ago I posted my thoughts about professions in this expansion — tl;dr: They are completely broken. In the spirit of being constructive instead of whiny, here is my list of the top things Blizz could do to help fix the abysmal state they are now in.

1.  Remove the 3-item limit on equipping crafted items. This would increase the market for crafters wanting to sell their items, and might actually make it worthwhile to craft things with the goal of selling them. It would also make leveling alts a bit easier and consequently less annoying.

As it stands now, after the first month of the expansion, crafted items are not selling well at all, at least on my server. I don’t mean they are no longer selling for ridiculously high prices, I mean they just are not selling. I suppose you could sell them easily for a couple hundred gold, but I am talking about a price that is not insane but still makes it worth the time you have to spend getting the mats.

I never understood the 3-item limit in the first place. I mean, why should Blizz — or anyone else for that matter — care how you got your gear, as long as it does not violate the EULA? If Blizz truly — as they constantly advertise — wants to make the game enjoyable for a wide range of play styles, why would they not want people who hate raiding to be able to gradually gear up their characters without playing a style they detest? My suspicion is that Blizz once again bowed to the very small but very vocal minority, those self-proclaimed “elite” players who constantly whine that “casual players” (ack, ick, *ptui*) should not not not get any gear handed to them, they should have to work for it by raiding with “real” raid teams because that’s how this game should be played, dammit. In the snow! Barefoot! Uphill! Both ways!

2.  Remove the need to log in and do crafting cooldowns on every alt every day. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for this requirement. All it does is penalize players who have real lives and likely have responsibilities that do not permit them to spend over an hour a day on a computer game. In other words, it penalizes the vast majority of Blizz’s customers. If Blizz wants to limit crafting mat production, make the limit a weekly one — 7 per week instead of one per day. That way, if you still want to log in every day and craft one, you can do so. Or you can craft 2 at a time and log in every other day. Or 7 at once and only have to log in once a week on that alt. This would give players options, which most players think is a good thing, but which apparently gives Blizz a major case of the heebie-jeebies. “What!!?? Player options? Sounds like the cheese has slipped off your cracker, dude, you need to get a grip.”

3.  Balance the production rates of Savage Blood and the profession soulbound mats needed to craft upgrades. Early on, I had sufficient soulbound mats to craft upgrades, but no chance of getting the required number of Savage Bloods to do so. After I finally got 2 level 3 barns going, I find I have lots of Savage Bloods but it takes literally weeks to craft the required number of other mats to do the upgrades.

4.  While we are on the subject, make the upgrades a bit less onerous to craft. I say this not to antagonize the whiny l33t-ists (although that is kind of a side benefit), but to help players that want to sell their crafted items do so, and to make crafted upgrades actually a viable way to increase your ilevel. As it stands now, for most players who use their professions, upgrades are pretty much out of reach. They take literally weeks to craft even one. This has two effects. First, if you want to buy an upgrade on the AH, they are priced way beyond most people’s reach (on my server even the lower level upgrades still list at tens of thousands of gold). The reason they are priced so outrageously is understandable — if it takes the seller several weeks to craft the item, they are not going to sell it for a few hundred gold. On the flip side, it does not pay to craft these items for sale since most people are not interested in buying them for the required price. Second, by the time someone is able to either craft or buy two upgrades for a piece of crafted gear — close to 6 weeks in the best of cases — they have likely replaced that piece of gear from drops, mission rewards, etc. In short, upgrades are pretty worthless to most players.

5.  Allow miners to do prospecting and smelting for current ores. The fact that these two mining abilities are now completely worthless just is incomprehensible to me. In fact, this is a piece of a larger problem with professions, which is basically that Blizz has made them not worth leveling any more. The things you can do with a leveled profession — such as crafting upgrades — are worthless in the current game, and the things that have some worth — gathering mats, crafting basic items — can be done by anyone with a garrison. Which is everyone.

6.  Bring back the engineering ability to craft explosives that will open current lockboxes. And though I have not yet done blacksmithing in this expansion, do the same for BS keys if they also are missing.

7.  Make the secondary professions count for something again. Cooking may actually make a comeback with the new foods in 6.1, if you can believe Blizz. But make it worthwhile to keep up with first aid also. And for crying out loud, do something to allow a fishing catch-up mechanism, it is still the worst secondary profession to level up, and really there is zero benefit to doing so. Same for archy, the extreme boringness of which is now compounded by the annoyance of no flying, along with the close to zero incentive for leveling it. And give those of us who have avoided pet battling a decent catch-up mechanism.

8.  Bring back meaningful transmutation for alchemists. While we’re on the subject, bring back the alchemy  specializations of flasks/elixirs/transmutation. Why were they axed anyway?

9.  Make all currently soulbound crafting mats BoA. This action alone would go a long way towards making professions viable, helping to solve many of the items I listed above.

10.  Bring back profession combat perks. This would make profession leveling count for something again. Getting rid of them was yet another of Blizz’s kowtows to the player snobs, who whined that the extra 200 DPS they got from, say, engineering, was “required” if they wanted to get a spot on the WeRockEveryoneElseSucks raid team.  Attention Blizz: PROFESSION PERKS ARE WHAT MADE PEOPLE WANT TO LEVEL THEM. If a small minority of players felt “pressured” to have a certain profession, boo-hoo. The rest of us — most of Blizz’s customers — thought they were fun and a good reason to level up a certain profession.

So those are my suggestions. Happy to hear any you might have.

Ding Dong, Brack is dead!

WOOOOHOOO! Last night our raid team (the one I run with in my non-primary guild) finally downed Brackenspore normal. We had spent most of the time since Highmaul opened up just ignoring him. A couple of early tries made it pretty obvious we did not have the DPS to avoid the soft enrage of getting eaten by all that creeping moss. So for the past few weeks we’ve just detoured around him as we progressed through the other bosses. But he’s been there silently mocking us as we tiptoed around his area. So a couple of days ago our raid leader announced that the Thursday raid would start with Brack. Enough is after all enough.

The announcement included raid assignments for the encounter. The RL had decided that SV hunters would be ideal for the flame throwers. We usually run with three hunters when we have 12-15 team size — one BM hunter, 2 SV. The BM guy is a DPS god, really pumps out the damage, so it would have been silly to put him on a flame thrower. I made a half-hearted attempt to convince the RL that I was definitely in the process of switching to BM as a main spec, but he was not buying it. Hey, I took a shot, OK?

So we set it up with 2 hunters — including yours truly — on flame throwers, the BM hunter as primary on spore shooters, and the two next highest ranged DPS assisting when more than one spore shooter was up. The RL made sure everyone was clear on the kill order and the mushroom dancing mechanics. We got him down to about 20% on our first try but got overwhelmed by the creepy moss. Turned out a couple people had neglected flasks/pots/food. Doh!

We killed him on the second try. And I have to admit, I kind of enjoyed doing flame thrower duty. For one thing, it really cut down on the insane constant target switching that ranged has to do on that fight. I would bounce around and spot kill encroaching moss, then hightail it back towards the group and pew pew either the boss or the big add, while keeping my eyes peeled for nearby moss. Rinse and repeat. My flame thrower counterpart was doing the same on the other side of the boss. It only got really crazy when the boss was down to about 15%, when moss would keep appearing directly under the boss or the group. But our tanks and healers were great at buying us a second or two to allow us to burn it.

The key to those flame throwers is to never ever let the heat bar fill up. Once or twice I got close, but I called it out and my teammate took up the slack. I did the same for him. Also, there is quite a while at the beginning of the fight when you can just target the boss/adds, no need to run to the very edges of the area to burn moss that is not really a threat. Success in this utility duty really comes down to three things: never let the bar fill up, only burn the moss that is a threat, and don’t stress over doing DPS — consider any damage you do as a bonus, never let it delay burning the moss.

I can see some of you out there rolling your eyes, “Normal Brackenspore, big deal. We did that the first week.” Well, keep in mind that this is a semi-casual team, we only raid 4 hours a week total. There is not huge pressure to gear up immediately, although the required gear levels to raid with the team increase incrementally over time. And I think the  raiding strategy worked — we quickly figured out we did not have the DPS for Brack early on, so we concentrated on farming the other three early bosses to help get the necessary gear.

At any rate, it was a fun night. We have only Kor’agh and Imperator left, and two weeks to get them down before the next raid opens up. Looking very possible.

Hunter gear for each spec?

Bendak, author of the terrific Eyes of the Beast blog, has a recent post about the effects of the new mastery and haste calculations for Beast Mastery hunters. Spot on as always, if you play a hunter you should take a look at it. His main point is that if you play BM exclusively, you will be better off gemming/enchanting/selecting gear for mastery and haste than for multistrike. But if you play SV or MM and occasionally swap for BM then stay with multstrike even though you will not be optimized while in BM. My response is, we should not have to change gear to do optimal DPS in any spec.

Now, I know hunters are basically in a pretty good place these days damage-wise. (However, despite the usual cries of HUNTER OP HUNTER OP HUNTER OP, we are not OP just because we can move and shoot more or less constantly — if you wanted to shoot on the move why did you roll a mage or lock?) And while the haste/mastery changes are decent for BM hunters, I feel like Blizz has once again dealt a gotcha to us.

The whole point of playing a “pure” class as opposed to a hybrid is higher output in a variety of situations, at the expense of role versatility. In a pinch, my hunter cannot raid heal or tank (well, not really, although I did once successfully use my turtle as an off tank in Mogushan Vaults, but that’s another story). Pure DPS classes fill one role and one role only. As such, we can use an incredible array of tools to exactly tailor our damage to any situation. One of those tools is — well, should be — switch specs as necessary to bring the exact type of damage and other raid helps as needed. In doing so, we should not have to carry another set of gear just to be able to maximize the other spec.

I know some of you out there are thinking “Boohoo, more hunter QQ, welcome to my world, I’m a dual specced druid.” But there is a big difference. A druid who can play two roles is almost always going to be more versatile for a raid than a pure DPS, all other factors such as player skill being equal. To have similar utility for the raid, a pure DPS needs to be able to fine tune high damage to account for things like single target fights versus fights with many adds. This is, in my opinion, THE differentiation between pure classes and hybrids, and one that Blizz fails to grasp. A hybrid class can have one main spec that they are well geared for and play most of the time, and another completely different spec that is adequate in a pinch. This is not necessarily so for pure DPS, who are expected to put out very high damage no matter what spec they are.

Hunters are the perfect example of this concept. Most of the hunters I know have either a primary or secondary BM spec, because one key hunter utility is the variety of raid buffs provided by exotic and spirit pets. I know for myself, throughout all the pretty big WoD pendulum swings for hunters (SV sucks, MM rules, BM is average/good/not so good, oops SV is now OK in fact pretty good, MM is now average, Lone Wolf rocks, Lone Wolf is now just OK,  etc etc etc),  I always kept a BM spec. It is not my spec of choice, but I felt I could not abandon it because it provides terrific raid damage and buff utility in a wide range of situations. I practice the spec and am as skilled at it as I am with my preferred SV, I just don’t enjoy playing it. Here’s the thing: If my Raid Leader asks me to switch from SV to BM for a fight in order to bring a particular raid utility or to lessen the healing load, I should not have to explain that by doing so I will certainly do less damage just because my gear stats are not tuned for it. I am a pure DPS class, I am expected to put out max damage no matter what my spec is.

Even worse is the fact that Blizz pretty much declared all reforging to be evil evil evil, so they removed it as an option for current gear. This means, now, that the luck of the draw on gear secondary stats can dictate what spec a hunter needs to play. Get gear with multstrike, play MM or SV. Get mostly gear with mastery and/or haste, play BM. Not my choice any more, rather the choice of the RNG gods. (Don’t talk to me about the ridiculous rerolling for secondary stats — reforging to a known stat is evil but random reforging is OK, especially if you have to reroll 40-50 times to get what you want? This just has to be another award winning idea from Blizz’s Screw With the Players Department.)

So while it may look like Blizz helped BM  hunters, in the long run they nerfed the hunter class.