One big problem with Legion hunter changes

OK, there is more than one big problem, at least in my opinion, with the proposed Legion hunter changes. But today I am focusing on just one.

Since Blizz refuses to comment on any of their plans for hunter specs — beyond the announcement that SV will be melee, MM will be ranged but petless, and BM will be ranged with a pet — we are left to speculate on what these changes might mean for those of us who actually play the class. I like to think Blizz has anticipated the fallout from their changes and has a plan for dealing with it, but honestly their track record for seeing consequences of their actions is not good.

Here is today’s question, which I hope Blizz has asked themselves and has a realistic answer for, even if it is still Top Secret (because it is much better to not tell the players anything at all and thereby encourage rumor and speculation):

How will you balance the abilities, talent tiers and glyphs for what is now effectively three different classes?

The baseline set of melee damage talents and abilities is very different from the baseline set of ranged damage talents and abilities. I am speaking generically here, not specifically. That is, hunter abilities are focused now on ranged weapons, on damage mitigation at range, and on pet control that assumes distance between hunter and pet. Melee abilities, on the other hand, are focused on single or dual-wield melee weapons, on multiple ways to rush towards a target or bring the target to you, on fairly robust damage mitigation mechanics, and providing one or two useful raid-wide buffs or temporary enhancements.

Hunters do not currently have any melee-oriented abilities. Will these be added for SV only? If so, will they replace current — more hunter-generic — abilities, or will they be in addition to them? Will every talent in the talent tier table now have three different variations, one for each spec?

Will we have to learn new reactions for standard hunter abilities based on what spec we are? For example, most hunters have completely assimilated the mechanic of disengage, to the point where it is done almost without thinking about it. If disengage becomes some kind of “disengage forward” for SV — to fill the void of a mechanic that rapidly closes the distance to a mob — then that requires a complete relearning for any hunter who plays SV, as well as for any hunter who switches between SV and one other spec. It is not huge, but there will always be that split second thought before you hit your keybind, “Wait, am I going to go forward or back when I do this?”

Look at the number of hunter abilities that require a ranged weapon: Distracting Shot, Tranq Shot, Multi-Shot, Counter Shot, Concussive Shot, Cobra Shot, Barrage, Exotic Munitions, Focusing Shot, Power Shot, Arcane Shot (and thus the dependent Serpent Sting effect), and probably a few more I can’t think of at the moment. Making these melee-friendly involves far more than changing the tooltip to read “Requires Ranged Weapon or Spear“.

My point is, any melee changes to hunter abilities and talents are massive. They will require a complete rewrite of nearly all hunter abilities. And the result will be so out of sync with how hunters currently react, that not only will they require rethinking while playing SV, but they will also have an adverse effect on reactions for all specs.

Additionally, several of the current hunter abilities are pet-focused — Adaptation, of course, Blink Strikes, Spirit Bond, Intimidation, Stampede, Master’s Call, Misdirection and Distracting Shot (to some extent, in that much of their usefulness is that you can make your pet the recipient of them). Some of them — such as Blink Strikes — are specifically designed for ranged attacks. How do you reconcile these with the new hunter spec structure?

Currently if you select Lone Wolf as a talent, you basically have to ignore these pet-centric talents and select another one in that tier (or in the case of basic abilities, just not be able to use them), except for Stampede. I suppose the thinking on Stampede is that even if you are playing petless for the moment, you still have a stable of pets at your disposal. But if the plan is for MM to never play with a pet, that implies MM hunters cannot tame pets, thus will not have any stabled pets to call for a talent such as Stampede.

Basically, nearly every current hunter talent or ability is tied to either ranged weapons or pets, and adding petless and melee specs implies that either all these abilities will have to be rewritten with a different version for each spec, or that the number of available abilities for each spec will be drastically curtailed because most of them will apply only to one or two hunter specs.

Blizz has proven themselves incapable of balancing the hunter class even when all of the specs share common baseline characteristics. It seems extremely doubtful that their plan to make the specs equivalent to playing three different classes will improve the balance.

This may be, as some have suggested, a grand experiment for subsequent application to all classes, but honestly it just seems wrong to place this burden on hunters in a new expansion, without placing a similar burden on all classes. Come on, Blizz, show some backbone, stop being such timid, cowardly chickens (buk-buk-BWAAAK) — make every class furious with you, quit singling out hunters to dump on.

(*Late edit: Check out The Grumpy Elf’s post today for a further complicating factor regarding PvP.)

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.

2 Responses to One big problem with Legion hunter changes

  1. Grumsta says:

    “Wait, am I going to go forward or back when I do this?”

    The dilema I have when I switch between my MM and Arcane Mage every single time 😀

    There is a melee class currently that has a pet – Unholy DK. Blizz need to make sure they don’t duplicate that idea too. Trying to squeeze two new melee classes into an already crowded (in every sense) part of the raid will not be easy. And trying to change a ranged class to melee as well…. good luck Blizz.

    I cannot think of anything new that either SV or DH melee can bring to the party that isn’t already covered by all the existing varieties of melee. Maybe Blizz have something cunning up their sleeve? (Actually they need two DIFFERENT cunning things up their sleeve or else this is a waste of time frankly).

    Blizz cannot afford for either one to be a flop, so I believe it’s reasonable to assume that both SV and DH will be “OP” to encourage players to adopt them. This is my single biggest worry, and could harm the Hunter class in its current form.

    One final thought: raid balancing will be interesting. Let’s say there are 15 Hunters in your LFR group; how many are ranged and how many melee?

    • Fiannor says:

      I think you are right that there seems to be nothing that two new melee classes can bring to a raid that isn’t already covered. I am really mystified as to their reasoning for adding two new melee classes to an already crowded area. I was reading somewhere (can’t remember where now) that, since launch of WoW, the only classes Blizz has ever added have been melee. No new ranged have ever been added.

      Maybe the ever-dwindling number of ranged will make them more sought after for raids. But as you say, the new hunter arrangement will make it harder to do raid composition. RLs will need to know what spec each of the hunters is. On the plus side, hunters will no longer be the automatic dirty little jobs stuckee for extra raid duties. SV hunters used to be the ideal choice for these duties because they were highly mobile, almost all shots were instant, they had fantastic cc and AoE, and they did not suffer as great a DPS loss from pet target switching as did BM hunters. Now? Get a mage to do your junk jobs!

      Even if SV is made to be greatly OP, I will not have that spec on my main. It is not a hunter, and I will never back off of that. I may try it on an alt just because as a hunter I should know what the spec can do, but even if it means I lose a spot on my raid team I will not main that spec. Matter of principle.