The end of hunters?

We have had a day now to digest the initial information about Legion, and a few more snippets have emerged. It’s a lot to grasp, and certainly a clearer picture will emerge in the days and weeks ahead. And while I find a lot to like in what we know so far, I am extremely concerned about the direction emerging for hunters. (Emphasis in the quote below is mine.)

  • Classes will evolve in a number of ways in Legion. The development team is looking closely at the core fantasy for each class. Talent changes and class changes are being made – stay tuned. The PvP talent system also gives the developers room to take PvP-type talents out of the current talent trees. PvP talents will not function in PvE environments.
  • As an example of class changes, the Survival Hunter ‘spear’ Artifact was brought up. In Legion, Survival Hunters will be a melee spec that utilizes a pet. To differentiate specializations, the developers will try to de-homogenize the classes. Further to this, Beast Mastery Hunters will fight at range with a pet, while Marksmanship Hunters will fight at range with NO PET.

These comments are from the IcyVeins post linked above, so I caveat them by saying they are not direct quotes from Chilton or Hazzikostas, but rather IcyVeins’ rephrasing of their comments.

I suspect some hunters will welcome these drastic changes, but I see in them the demise of the soul of the hunter class.

First, I take issue with the statement that the devs are trying to “de-homogenize the classes” with these changes. On the contrary, they are forcing hunters into the generic mold of most other classes. That is, they are bringing hunters closer and closer to a hybrid class, without giving us a true role choice such as damage/heals/tank. In other words, they are giving hunters all the disadvantages of a hybrid class without any of the advantages.

Second, the devs certainly have zero notion of “the core fantasy” for hunters. Hunters are one with their entire environment. Hunters make optimum use of whatever space is available to them, moving freely to get the best shot or escape threats. Hunters have such an understanding of their prey that they easily tame prey to their own use. They may not always have use for tamed animals, but they must always have the option of employing them.

I have said it before, and I am saying it again: Blizz seems to have no one on their dev staff who both plays a hunter and loves the class.

To make Survival a melee spec is to remove the very essence of hunters — it confines a hunter to a small space and negates the advantage of a pet, relegating it to a clumsy DoT mechanism. Pet positioning control becomes moot, because both the hunter and the pet must remain in melee range for all targets. Target switching — long a strength of hunters — becomes prohibitively costly and inefficient. Absent a complete rewrite of SV talents, skills such as disengage and feign death become useless.

It is similarly heinous to remove pets completely from MM hunters. Almost certainly, MM hunters will have few if any instant shots — Blizz almost never backs away from trends once embarked on them, and limiting MM movement is such a trend. MM thus will be complete as nothing more than a physical damage dealing mage. In no way does this serve to “de-homogenize” the class.

That leaves Beastmastery as the sole choice for hunters like me who love the ranged freedom that has always been the hallmark of a hunter. And the phrasing “at range” — though not a direct quote, I know — makes me perk up my ears. Does it mean hunters will return to having a dead space in their targeting range, will we be unable to fight close in if the raid requires it for stacking?

(Forgive my suspicious nature, but I am starting to smell another round of PvP “adjustments” that end up gutting hunters.)

What will this mean to those of us who main a hunter? For one thing, it will mean we must master three different play styles — mage, warrior, and classic hunter — if we wish to truly master our class. At the very least, we must master two in order to maintain a viable dual spec. This would be less of an issue if hunters were intended to be a hybrid class, but we are only damage dealers. Raid leaders have gotten used to expecting pretty close to the same damage from us no matter what spec we are, and we ourselves have become quite adept at switching specs to suit the fight.

And I won’t even discuss the nightmare it will be when Blizz inevitably screws up one spec so badly that it becomes unplayable. Instead of having to learn the nuances of a different spec, as happens now, we will have to learn an entirely different play style. Whether we enjoy that play style or not. Whether we are suited for it or not.

Oh, and this is not to mention we will probably not be able to ever play more than one spec for the entire Legion expansion, because we only get one specific weapon per spec. So we could switch, but of course we probably won’t have a weapon.

Pure DPS classes only bring damage as their raid contribution, and I strongly believe Blizz owes it to us to make it as easy as possible to maximize that damage. People who like different play styles have for years been able to select a hybrid class — druid, for example — but no one expects them to be as geared or as proficient in an off spec as they are in their main spec. But for most group leaders, a hunter is a hunter, with a specific unique set of skills, and the spec they play is of only minor importance unless they are on an elite raid team.

Congratulations, Blizz, you are well on your way to destroying the uniqueness, the fun, and the freedom of choice of the hunter class.

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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