Thoughts while leveling

For the past month or so I have been very slowly leveling a Paladin. It is a class I have always been attracted to but never been able to stick with, probably because it is basically a melee class and I just do not enjoy melee.

Let me admit up front that I know zero about Paladins as a class, other than the most awesome one I ever knew was a Holy Paladin that was not only a fantastic healer but also a really fine raid leader. Of course, that was back in Cata, and I have no idea really of the relative power of the various specs now. I know I see a lot of Pally tanks and have not noticed many healers or damage dealers, but maybe that is just because I have not been paying attention. I selected Retribution for leveling purposes, but I am still drawn to the idea of Holy, partly because of the influence of my old raid leader and partly because I feel more comfortable in a healing spec than in any melee damage spec. But final spec selection is a ways off, as my little Pally is still hovering around the 30 level.

Anyway, herewith my random observations while leveling.

I have always thought of hunter leveling as easy, but having recently leveled a Rogue and now this Pally, I see that all leveling is face-roll easy these days, especially with heirlooms now. I know there are people who consider this development a bad thing, but I am OK with it. I still feel like the process lets me learn a new class at a nice easy pace, lets me explore all the specs without paying a huge price for it. If I want more challenge, I can always play around with pulling lots more mobs or dipping a toe into a zone higher than my current one.

The one thing I don’t like about the current leveling process is the nutty way that new spells are learned. It just seems to make no sense. I think my Pally had a grand total of two damage spells until well into the level 20’s. I do not get bored grinding quests for leveling, but I do get bored punching the same two buttons for level after level. Also, it seems to take forever until you get any AoE spells, which gets a bit annoying.

One of the coolest things Blizz has ever done is give us that Chauffeured Chopper reward from getting a certain number of heirlooms. It certainly makes the very early stages of leveling much more fun. If you are leveling in Eastern Kingdoms, it even makes that marathon run to get to Wetlands and Menethil Harbor seem a smidgeon less than an all-out death march. I always imagine my driver chatting with me when he picks me up, asking how did my quest go, pointing out scenic points as we travel, asking have I ever been here before, what’s our next stop,  when is lunch, etc.

In general, I think I prefer leveling in Eastern Kingdoms to leveling in Kalimdor, although I have done plenty of both. My least favorite zones, though, are Duskwood and both the Plaguelands. I am not a fan of dark, gloomy zones, nor am I fan of any of the multitude of zombie creatures so many people today seem enamored of.

Even though there is no longer much point to it, I usually try to level my professions as I level my alts. For one thing it gives me a small income, but for another it just seems like the right thing to do.

My Pally is my only plate-wearer (or will be once she gets high enough level), so maybe that will give my blacksmith something useful to do for a change. Also, I might get to finally use all those BoA Baleful plate items accumulating in my bank.

I haven’t yet run any instances with my Pally. I am hesitant because I know so little about playing the class, but on the other hand dungeons seem ridiculously easy at low levels now, and likely I would do just fine. OK, now I talked myself into it, I’ll run a couple this week.

One of the most annoying low level quest lines is the set from Abercrombie in Duskwood. The guy has like 4 or 5 quests, and as expected none of them are very challenging, but the thing is he lives a fair distance outside of Darkshire, and for some reason I find the seemingly-endless trips to see him very tedious. I feel like, Dude get a phone for crying out loud, I’ll call you with the quest results! It’s not like he lives in some place nice to visit, either, it’s a big old burned-out tower thingie surrounded by zombies (see above on my feelings about them).

I just always try to get through Duskwood as  fast as possible.

While leveling — especially at low levels — I always keep my hearthstone set to Stormwind, mainly for trips to the auction house and for profession training. I like the inn in Dwarven District, but I have never understood how it could be an inn when it has no place to sleep? One of the fun things I like doing is to get myself to an inn just before I log off, then lie down on a bed and do /sleep. It’s kind of a semi-superstition, makes me feel like my character really is rested when I log back on. But in Dwarven District, I have to find a corner of the floor to sleep on.

With all my new characters, when I reach level 60 I have to make a decision: Do I buy a boost or keep on grinding? Lately I have ended up buying the boost, mainly because I just do not like any of the Cata zone leveling, except for Uldum. I like the Mists leveling, but getting to that point is just very painful in my view. Still, I am conflicted, because I feel like boosting cheats you out of a big chunk of learning your spec. If it is a spec you have played a lot, well no big deal, but if it is a new spec I think it has a slight detrimental effect on your proficiency.

I haven’t yet decided whether or not I will keep my Pally. Usually for me the decision point comes somewhere around level 40. By then I have run a few dungeons, have played with all the specs, and have had a chance to get a basic feel for the play style. So we’ll see.

Meanwhile, I am (mostly) having fun with the leveling process. And getting a good idea of what it consists of these days and how it has changed over the last couple of expansions.

Crocus and daffodils and gritty optimism

We are on the very early cusp of spring here in the Mid-Atlantic region. This after what seemed like a harsh winter because of one gigantic blizzard with massive snowfall and a couple of weeks of exceptionally cold weather, but which was in reality quite a mild winter — our windows were open on Christmas Eve, for heaven’s sake.

Mind you, it is not yet spring — it is still cold and blustery and the trees are completely bare — but there are enough signs to make us all true believers. My crocus and daffodils and even last fall’s pansies have pushed up brave little shoots, promise of cheery spots of color in a month or so. (There will be tulips, also, but they are more cautious and deliberate in their emergence.) I am not someone who likes snow and winter, I hate it and I think of it as something to be endured rather than appreciated. So planting bulbs and fall pansies are for me an act of gritty optimism, an acknowledgment that yes there will be a period of pain, but that indeed I will come through it more or less unscathed, and at the end there will once again be beauty and hope.

For me, the promise of winter is the spring that follows.

Why am I telling you this, in a gaming blog? Well, I think I have arrived at a point of gritty optimism about WoW. I consider Legion to be my winter, and I am preparing as best I can to come through it more or less unscathed. I believe I will, but I do not delude myself that it will be an enjoyable time for me. I am still deciding on what bulbs to plant in anticipation of arriving on the other side. Should I prepare a bed of strong raiding skills? Become a healer for once and for all? Learn to tank? Lay the ground for the mounts, toys, and achievements I usually ignore? Become entrenched in another MMO?

I do think I am approaching the winter of my WoW experience. My spring and summer were glorious fun, and my fall was a time of maturity and rich harvest. What remains to be seen is if the coming Legion winter is indeed the end, or if it is in fact part of a cycle that will usher in a new round of growth and warmth and carefree fun.

For now, all I know is that WoW winter is coming, and I am doing my best to prepare for enduring it.

That, and my daffodils are up as the reward for getting through real winter.

Have a good weekend.

 

The party’s over

At some point in any transition — real or virtual — you stop thinking about the future in the abstract and realize what it will really mean to you personally. Your brain transitions from “some day” to a concrete time estimate like “tomorrow” or “next Thursday”. You finally begin to think of your current situation in terms of history, and the imminent future becomes much more real. That is what I think happened for me with Blizz’s announcement yesterday of the new Legion Alpha Build.

The tipping point was the announcement that, as of this build, all garrison reward missions would award only garrison resources, no more gold. We all knew this was coming, it should not be a shock to anyone. But somehow, the realization that the gold bonanza that has been one of the few highlights of WoD was coming to a screeching halt served to make Legion loom larger in my mind. It is going to happen, not “some day”, but “in 3 or 4 months” (or maybe more likely 6 or 7).

I wish I could say this was a comforting thought.

As I imagine the next few months unfolding, I see a period of real pain, after the pre-expansion event and before Legion goes live. I see that period as one where some of the few really nice things about WoD will disappear and the most gut-wrenching changes of Legion — like huge class changes — will be implemented only partially, not offset by things like your artifact weapon. We will be forced to deal with a Legion class and Legion limitations in a WoD world. Not a pleasant prospect.

Of course, this is the way Blizz always moves to a new expansion, again there is nothing really surprising about it. And in some ways it is a good process, in that you get to become at least passingly familiar with your new class before you are plunged into the new expansion world. I am not sure how else they could effect a reasonable transition, but that does not mean I am looking forward to it. The key will be how long it lasts. A couple of weeks is fine, but anything longer would seem brutal to me.

My worry is that they will feel the need to get something — anything — on the table come early or mid summer, but that the expansion will not go live until near the end of September. And since they failed to plan WoD in any sort of competent manner and consequently have no third patch to keep people occupied, the only possibility for getting something out there is the pre-expansion event. Which would mean a long time spent in limbo — the perks in WoD like the gold deluge will be gone, and the incomplete rework of Legion classes will be reality (incomplete in this case because the class changes depend hugely on augmentation from the artifact weapon).

Unless the pre-event is designed for completion over the course of a month or more, it will be very, very painful to finish it, then wait. And wait. And wait. I have no idea of course what it will involve, but to my way of thinking it should at least get you started on your artifact weapon, and also it should give you a token quest or two to make you think you are already progressing on getting flying in Legion. (Yes, sorry to bring it up, but I guarantee you flying will once again become A Big Emotional Thing in Legion.)

Anyway, if you need to build up your cash reserves, you better get while the getting is good. If you want to take a few nostalgic turns on the class and spec you love best, now is the time to do it. And now is the time to start dumping your WoD mats, all those excess Baleful items you’ve been keeping “just in case”, and even that extra raid gear that has iffy secondary stats but you’ve kept just for the equipment level. Not to mention those extra 43 Left Sharks you’ve accumulated — you may be able to sell a couple in a year or so but you will never sell all of them. It may also be time to gather up some legacy raid gear for when transmog becomes more or less account wide (depending on whether or not your alts can equip it).

The party is over, and whether or not you enjoyed it, it’s time to drink up and move out.

Fun is what Blizz says it is

Blizz is at it again, instructing us in what we must find “fun” in the game. We are all clearly too dim-witted to recognize fun when we see it, and if not told what it is and required to experience it, we would mistakenly go our own way and define it for ourselves, empty little bubble-heads that we are. There, there, not to worry, Blizz is looking out for us.

In the past, Blizz has patiently (and sometimes not so patiently) explained to us that slowly waddling along roads and paths is much more fun than flying over terrain. Being unable to avoid nitnoy trash every time you pass it is really very fun! Immersive! Engaging! It is!

And RNG is just a blast, because no matter how often you kill a boss and the piece of gear you get does not drop for you, it is hysterically fun if it ever does drop. Really. Weeks or months of it not dropping do not demoralize you or wear you down, because  when you finally get it — after it no longer makes a difference because you have out-leveled it — it is just the most fun you can have. I know this, because Blizz has insisted it is true many times. Not to mention, it is rib-tickling to watch other players get that piece of gear every time, because the only thing more fun than anticipating getting it yourself for weeks on end is seeing someone else get it week after week, am I right?

The most recent “fun” to be shoved down our throats is the apparent Legion trend to turn button bloat into button starvation. This is being done through pruning of many talents and spells, as well as by removing player choice from what remains by introducing RNG/RPPM into nearly every aspect of rotational mechanics. The end result, as evidenced in the Legion class feedback forums, is that many classes will resemble the worst part of current Combat Rogue play — much time devoted to standing around waiting for cooldowns or procs, with nothing to fill the time except auto-attack. Oh, and the same thing that goes for random gear drops goes for random procs — Blizz tells us that even though there is no skill we can use to time them, when RNGeezus smiles upon us and they happen, it is woohoo-inducing fun!

Not convinced? Well, that is probably because you have not read Blizz’s most recent pronouncement on the subject:

(Paladin alpha tester comment:)
The class should be designed in a way that regardless of what talent I take I should never be standing around auto attacking waiting for abilities to come off cooldown. The main different between live and legion alpha is that on live, even with the most simple talent options we basically never have to wait for things to come off cooldown 99% of the time and we can generate holy power pretty quickly thanks to the shorter cooldowns on judgement/crusader strike and random procs with exorcism/hammer of wrath.

(Blizz comment:)
The above is a philosophical statement we don’t necessarily agree with. There are people that enjoy a slower pace of combat (one that isn’t gcd locked), and the class design has to service their preferences too.

See? Standing around with your [select digit] up your [select orifice] is fun for some, and the class design has to service their preferences at the expense of yours. Whee!

Paldin Legion play is just the latest in a string of similar complaints on various classes in the alpha forums. And every time such a point is made, Blizz has given pretty much the same answer, the upshot of which is “Not going to change, so learn to love it.”

And therein lies the seed of a huge problem. As was the case in WoD, Blizz is ignoring a key game play flaw (this time in class mechanics), as pointed out by the very testers they have selected for the expected value of their feedback. They are clearly going ahead with this pattern come hell or high water, just as they bulled ahead in WoD despite massive beta feedback that the expansion had no repeatable content worth doing after leveling. When the beta comments bore out in live, and there was a mass exodus from the game, Blizz had to scramble to apply band-aids and in some instances apply emergency resuscitation just to keep the game going. Just my opinion, of course, but I can’t help thinking that had Blizz made some reasonable fixes while still in beta — based on the strong feedback from their beta testers — WoD would not have become the debacle many consider it to be.

And now I think we are seeing the same pattern play out in Legion alpha. Apparently the lesson Blizz learned from WoD is “We need repeatable content,” and not the larger lesson of “We need to pay attention to widespread tester feedback.”

When Blizz finally does realize that slow rotations are not engaging game play — as they almost certainly will when it hits them in the pocketbook — they will be forced to try and retrofit spec rotations. Given their dismal history of unbalancing classes when they attempt “tweaks”, this is bound to destroy certain specs as well as unintentionally elevating others to god status. If you add in the inevitable frustration of starting anew with artifact weapon quests and random drops, changing specs becomes an exercise in frustration for most players.

Worse, given a demonstrated inability to tie class mechanics to raid mechanics, what happens when certain classes — maybe because of their slowness — are simply not suitable for fast-paced bosses? If you think this would never happen, I give you historical exhibit A, in which Blizz removed instants from nearly every class, promising raid mechanics less dependent on movement, and then gave us constantly-moving belts, trash gauntlets, and fights like Iron Reaver.

Button starvation and waiting around for a pseudo-random generator to generate something is the class play style Blizz intends for Legion. I don’t like it, you probably don’t like it, and even Blizz’s hand-picked premium testers seem not to like it, but that is where we are heading nevertheless. It will be “fun.”

Maybe we can all get in a couple rounds of Hearthstone on every boss, how fun would that be?!?! Deal them cards!

 

 

Who are your alts?

As I usually do at the end of an expansion, I have been spending quite a bit of time with my alts. Getting reacquainted with them and in the process learning new things about them, I have to admit, is really one of my favorite activities in this game. If it weren’t for the time factor ( as in I already spend too much time on the game), I could see myself being a multi-account maxed-out number of characters type of player.

As it is, I feel like I can barely manage my current nine characters on my single account:

  • Worgen hunter main, level 100
  • Night elf hunter almost-main, level 100
  • Panda mistweaver monk, level 100
  • Gnome destro lock, level 100
  • Night elf druid I have never been able to settle on a spec for, level 100
  • Human mage (currently arcane) I keep threatening to delete, level 100
  • Human rogue I just rolled and leveled a couple of months ago, level 100
  • Human paladin I just rolled recently, level 30
  • Human priest that has been my banker for several years, level 18

The first four are the ones I feel most comfortable with, the ones I have raided with at various times, the ones I always level first in a new expansion. My night elf hunter was my very first character and my uncontested main until the current expansion, when for unimportant reasons having to do with various guild memberships and raiding activities, my Worgen hunter became my main. I run my Worgen as MM, my Night elf as BM, and I think of my BM as the fun hunter spec — the one I like doing old content on, the one I use to chase achievements, etc. If I had to dump all my characters but one, I would keep my Night elf hunter. Hands down, no contest.

I rolled my Worgen and my Panda when those races became available, just to see if I liked them. I did, obviously, and I have never looked back. I usually like to try new races, classes and specs when they come out, but sometimes it is just a passing fancy with me. I have tried DK twice, both times leveling to whatever the max was at the time, but just cannot make myself like them as a class. I will definitely roll a DH in Legion, but from what I have seen so far it will probably turn out like DK did for me. And — because I am stubborn and bull headed and still immersed in my tantrum — I will not roll a SV hunter. (As I write them, those look very much like Famous Last Words. I give you permission now to laugh in my face if I cave at some point on this…) I am certainly considering rolling a third — Gnome — hunter, though, when they become available.

As for races, I am not big on either Draenei or Dwarves. I have tried both, but I can never get past the aesthetics of hooves and a tail for Draenei, and although I think Dwarves fit the hunter fantasy well, I just don’t like looking at mobile fire plugs every time I log in to them. My only Dwarf, however, was female, so maybe at some point I would do better with a male. (And yes, I realize it is extremely sexist of me to think it fine for a male to be short, squat, and ugly, but not a female. I am not proud of it, but there it is. Sadly, we cannot always escape our cultural biases.)

I have two or three times tried rolling a Horde alt, but I just am not a Horde person. In addition to the ugliness of some of the races, I can’t get past the baseline fantasy of the whole Horde concept. I like my leisure escapism to be clear cut Good-versus-Evil, with me solidly on the side of Good. I get that the Horde are nuanced and conflicted, and have what seems to be a richer and more complex story than Alliance, but honestly I get plenty of nuanced and conflicted in real life thank you very much.

Anyway, back to my alts. I am fascinated by the fact that, as I play them, their individual personalities emerge, each quite different from the others. My Worgen is all business, very intense, competent, and professional. Also tends towards gruffness, gets impatient with frivolity. My Night Elf hunter, on the other hand, has a very laid back and balanced view of things. She is like someone’s really cool granny, who can enjoy being silly with the kids but who also has a strong grip on how to lead the family and who still stays on top of her professional skills. Nothing really fazes her, she takes it all calmly in stride.

My Panda is still figuring out her professional niche, hasn’t quite reached the top of her game yet, and tends to be a little insecure.  She is at heart a caretaker, a healer who dislikes doing harm to others except as necessary in the cause of saving those in her charge. I am not an expert healer on her, but I am respectable, and I find the healing mechanics very quirky and fun. We will see if they will stay that way in Legion.

My Gnome is all spit and fire, who gives off a clear signal of “Don’t f**k with me or I will kick your ass”. I think she is very cute, but I would never let her know that, because — well — she would kick my ass. But I find warlocks to be huge fun to play. If I feel the need to abandon my hunters in Legion, I think my lock will become my main.

I have had both my Druid and my Mage for a long time, but I have never really bonded with either of them. I think part of the problem is that I can’t seem to identify with a single spec for them. My Mage is all over the place on specs every expansion, although fire really is my favorite. I should probably just go with fire no matter what, and maybe then I would develop a bit more continuity and expertise with the class. As for my Druid, I like the idea of Boomkin best, think it is the most fun, but in WoD it has been horrible to play. I keep thinking I should learn to heal on her, because I think Resto Druids are quite powerful healers when played well, but so far I have found it to be a daunting learning curve. Still, I find Druids to be a fascinating class for their abilities to tank, heal, and be both ranged and melee damage dealers — really the most versatile class in the game.

My Rogue and Pally are experiments in melee classes for me. I rolled the rogue mainly to have someone to open lock boxes for my characters, and because I need one final profession to have them all. I find it to be an interesting class to play, but I am pretty bad at it still, and I get anxious when I have to just wait for  power build-ups and spells to become available. (I am a mad button pusher…)  My Pally is my only plate wearer, and is too low level yet for me to decide much about the class.

Well, this has been a longer and more rambling post than I intended. Possibly it reflects my scattershot, unfocused approach to the game these days. I’d be interested to hear how others view their alts.

An open letter to Blizzard

February 17, 2016
Somewhere in Azeroth

Dear Blizz,

I am writing this with the certain knowledge that you will never read it, much less respond to it, and even less take any remedial action as a result. Still, I feel compelled to write it, if only to be able to say I tried.

Please reconsider your entire treatment of the hunter class in Legion.

What you have proposed for hunter changes are so drastic as to completely destroy the class many of us have played and loved for years. You have said that it is very early in the alpha test, and that many things can and will change before Legion goes live, so I feel that now may be the last chance to save hunters as a class.

This is not about numbers and balancing tweaks, this is about the very soul of the class. The Legion changes will rip away nearly every aspect of what has made hunters such an awesome class to play since the beginning of the game. You may think of it as “de-homogenization” or fixing “button bloat”, but you are stripping away the essence of hunterness.

I get that you may not want to believe me, or may dismiss me as just another loud-mouthed rabble rouser. I don’t take it personally, it is probably a tag I richly deserve. So don’t listen just to me, check out these links from some of the most respected hunter writers in the blogosphere — Bendak, The Grumpy Elf, Pherian, Delirium, Sar. (OK, honestly I don’t know Sar, but he/she makes some excellent points about the hunter class “feel” in Legion.) These are people who care deeply about the whole hunter immersive experience in your game, and they are saying that you are diminishing their opportunities for such an experience, in a major way, in Legion.

I am willing to compromise here. Even though your destruction of the Survival spec was a hard pill for me to swallow, go ahead with your plans to make it a melee spec. I won’t play it, but I can live with playing another hunter spec. And go ahead and keep your hunter class hall in an area with absolutely zero historical significance for hunters, living among a faction invented just for the purpose of giving some scenery to the area. I will only drop in there as necessary to collect quests. And I won’t even ask you to restore the old version of Hunter’s Mark, even though I still miss it every day and think it was a big mistake to take away such an iconic spell from hunters, as an easy way to remove a PvP complaint and write it off to pruning button bloat.

But here are my suggestions — well, okay, my earnest pleas — for fundamental changes to restore the feel and fun of playing a hunter in Legion:

Restore the hunter pet experience to all specs. All hunters have a special bond with their pets, as Bendak so well described, and Legion reduces hunter pets to just another graphic depiction of AoE or DoT effects. One of the most iconic features of hunters since the game began has been our pets — we name them, we care for them, we spend hours or days or even weeks finding and taming them. We level with them, we heal them, we pause in the middle of fights to rez them if they die, and they have saved our bacon more often than we can count. Our pets are not warlock minions or mage elementals or hobby “fighting” pets. They are our constant game companions.

Give Marksman back a true hunter pet option. (NOT that talent that is a poor knockoff imitation of a warlock or DK “pet”.)

Give us back control over selecting our own pets for Dire Beast and Stampede, and give us the same option for the Hati spirit.

Restore our pet’s survivability in fights, there is no reason to make them as squishy as the alpha indicates they will be.

Restore traps and camouflage to all specs. I don’t even know how it is possible to conceive of a hunter without trapping abilities and expertise in camouflage. I don’t care how you define the hunter “fantasy”, there is no interpretation that can ignore the need for trapping and camouflage abilities.

Beyond the fantasy betrayal that lack of traps represents, there is the practical problem that every hunter since the beginning of the game has developed a play style for which traps are an integral part. In addition to the fact we will have to learn an entirely new class and play style if as a hunter we wish to play SV, now both MM and BM will also have to completely relearn critical skills such as kiting and crowd control.

Restore focus control to BM. The current plan to regenerate focus only passively through the frequent use of Dire Beast is not an engaging or challenging play style. It removes a huge amount of player choice and control and largely reduces the BM experience to one of pressing a few buttons, wait, press a few buttons, wait, etc. Let us decide when we want to spend or pool focus, and whether or not such a choice is a good one. We like being wrong sometimes and learning from it. We don’t like twiddling our thumbs while we wait for the game to generate a trickle of focus for us.

Give us back our self-defense abilities and our raid contributions. Deterrence has been nerfed to a single-use effect with a 3-minute cooldown. Many of our hard-won self-healing abilities, even puny as they were, are gone. Our ability to “pour it on” when most needed when a boss hits 20-30% health disappears because Kill Shot is gone for all specs. Unless we are SV, we have minimal if any ability to contribute to cc duties in our raid. And no matter what spec we play, we have zero raid buffs to bring to the table.

Blizz, as I said in the beginning of this post, I do not expect any reaction from you. I know you are busy, and I know I am nobody important. But I have to try, because this is about more than a few numbers. This is about trying to save the hunter class.

Sincerely,

Fiannor

 

Beastmastery in Legion — still iffy

The first impressions of Legion Beastmastery hunter are just starting to come in from alpha testers, and I am devouring every tiny morsel of information I can find. BM, I have decided, is my best hope of being able to keep my main as a hunter in Legion. I refuse, on principal, to become a melee fighter as SV, and while I have not completely rejected Marksman, I just don’t think I would be happy without the option to have a pet.

So, it is pretty much BM or main another class entirely, a Hobson’s Choice that still makes me really angry with Blizz.

From what I have seen so far on BM, I think the viability of the spec is still shaky. I admit there is a ton of balancing to be done on it yet, and I can hope that will fix some of the worst mechanics, but as I have said before, Blizz has a bad track record on making any substantive changes during beta tests (and the “alpha” is really a beta, just with a much more select group of Blizz’s besties).

The most recent video I saw on BM is the FinalBoss one on MMO-C. The guy that does these is not really a hunter, but he does a decent job of describing talents, shots, and some of the interplay he sees happening, along with potential trouble spots.

Between that video and some of the initial datamined speculation I have seen over the last couple of months, from respected hunters, I am starting to have some serious concerns over BM. The concerns are not so much about weak numbers — those can and likely will be fixed — as they are about the fundamental feel of BM play.

My first qualm is about what seems to be extreme pruning. As Final Boss points out, there remain only three BM basic buttons, not counting any talents you might take. Three. Add to that the fact that some of our usual filler stuff has been removed (for example, no possibility of tossing in an explosive trap during down time), and that seems to indicate an overly simplistic play style, to the point where you have to wonder if there is a whole lot that skill can bring to improve it.

On the plus side, BM has a lot of CDs to manage, so that may mitigate what appears at first glance to be a kindergarten set of basic spells/shots. But from what I can tell so far, many of the CDs are RNG-based. On top of that, some of the CD/talent interactions are based on other CD procs, so you get a double whammy of Blizz’s RNG — 20% chance X will proc, and 30% chance Y will proc if X does.

I know in Blizz’s Happyland players love RNG because of the “fun” of winning when you hit, but here on Earth most players find absolutely nothing fun in complete reliance on a roll of the dice for things that are supposed to be mainly skill-based. (Same with gear — they like to feel they can work for it and earn it, not watch some inveterately lucky but terrible player sail through picking up piece after piece of great gear.)

The second major concern I have with BM so far is that there is virtually no active focus generator (except for Dire Beast, more about that below). Basically, when you get low on focus, you stand around and twiddle your thumbs until it regenerates. Or you play it safe and never get low on focus, thus squandering a lot of damage potential. The point is, you are not in control of your focus pool, Blizz is.

Dire Beast is the only focus generator available to BM, but the regeneration rate is controlled by the number of DB attacks — 4 focus per attack — not directly by the hunter. Dire Beast thus becomes the defacto signature shot for the spec, since it will be critical to maximize its up time, and since several other talents interact with it. Given its central role, I expect that the talent that has a chance to reset Dire Beast’s cooldown will be pretty much required.

Watching the Final Boss video, I was struck by the sheer number of beasts BM can generate at a time. In addition to the hunter’s usual pet, there will be one or more Dire Beasts active, plus the artifact-generated beast as well as the possibility of intermittent waves of Stampede beasts charging through the boss’s melee space.

Basically, both SV and BM hunters will be contributing a ton of additional bodies and ground effects to the already-crowded and confusing boss space. And I won’t even mention the new DH melee class. At the start of WoD, Blizz announced they wanted to declutter that space, as it had become distracting and detrimental to melee play. So now in Legion they are adding two new melee classes, along with a veritable zoo of big clumsy hunter beasts? I don’t get it.

I have not by any means given up on BM for Legion, but I have serious questions about the play style, and I am starting to feel it will have a slow, clumsy feel to it. Blizz has said, in its description of the Beastmastery “fantasy” (emphasis mine),

Beast Masters were already in a good place overall, but we’ve refined existing abilities and talents to better differentiate them from other Hunters. Previously, Cobra Shot filled all of your free moments in combat, leaving no time for managing your pet, which should be a defining characteristic of Beast Masters. To this end, and to aid in Focus accumulation, Dire Beast is now core to Beast Mastery, allowing you to repeatedly summon wild beasts that generate additional Focus for you through their every attack.

Nothing that I have seen about BM so far indicates any increase in the ability to “manage your pet”, only in the ability to send more uncontrolled pets into the fight. This is not managing your pet, this is Cobra Shot with less control and a different visual effect.

Jury is still out on this spec for me.