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.

3 thoughts on “Beastmastery in Legion — still iffy

  1. I haven’t seen many people talking about the thematic aspects of BM in Legion, and that’s where most of my concerns lie. Not saying your points aren’t important to, just that no one is talking about them. One, the artifact makes no sense. What do hunters, especially Beast Master hunters, have to do with Ulduar and the Titans? Why do we have a lightning AoE that shocks through our pets?

    Most importantly, why am I forced to have a wolf? Why can I not imbue one of my existing pets with my artifact? There are various skins, but in the end you’re still stuck with a wolf, of the skinny Northrend model. If your hunter doesn’t use wolves, well, too bad.

    Also, this may just be alpha being alpha, but pet AI is currently extremely bad, and pets are very squishy, especially the artifact pet. For a class who relies on their pets, that’s really inexcusable, especially because Mend Pet has a cooldown and Spirit Bond is removed. (At least at 100, I didn’t play to max. It may be a talent later on.)

    But yeah, the random factor and lack of control are my other huge concerns. It goes against everything the word “master” implies. If we’re just throwing random wild animals at the enemy, they should change the name.

    1. You are right on the mark about some of the pet-related fantasies, and about the hunter fantasy in general. Bendak has written some pieces on aspects of this. He talked about the squishy pet thing very early in the alpha, which is a definite concern, and as far as I know it has not been addressed by Blizz, and no indication it will be. Also check out his recent piece on the whole pet selection issue you bring up:

      I am not a huge hunter pet collector, but wolves are my favorites, so I am not personally annoyed by the artifact selection for the extra pet, but I totally agree with you and Bendak that there should be a choice.

      The whole Legion treatment of hunters just reinforces to me that there is no one at Blizz who plays, understands, and loves the hunter class. They just don’t seem to get the reasons many of us have loved playing hunters for years, and they have zero idea of what many of us believe the true class fantasy to be. Honestly, I started to think this was the case back when Blizz took away our Hunter’s Mark, something I thought of as absolutely iconic for us, but which was dismissed as “button bloat” and sacrificed to the altar of PvP whines. I still miss it, and its reappearance in Legion as a random proc is not even close to the same thing, in my opinion.

      Back in August I wrote a piece somewhat relevant to what you are talking about, mainly in reaction to the hunter class hall location.

      I am with you on your thematic concerns for Legion hunters. Unfortunately I think no one at Blizz gets it.

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