More hunter thoughts

Over the weekend I had a little more chance to play both my MM and BM hunters. My BM hunter is my main, with the 4-piece tier set and ilevel 725. My MM hunter does not have the tier gear and is ilevel 714. I spent time with both of them in some LFRs and heroic instances, along with a lot of time trying out various configurations in front of the target dummies. I also tried MM as an alt spec on my main, but I did not switch out my BM-centric haste gems and enchants, so I was not optimal on mastery, and consequently went with a Sidewinders/Patient Sniper build to take small advantage of my haste stacking.

So far — and yes I know both specs are incomplete without their artifact weapons — I haven’t changed my opinion of the play styles. BM remains a brain-dead spec to play, and MM just has too many dead spots where all you can do is stand around and wait for focus or wait for conditions to be right for certain shots. Still, I am going to stick with them until at least level 110 in Legion in the hope that they vastly improve with gear and leveling.

For anyone who has not already discovered these sites, here is a short list of some excellent guides for hunter builds, rotations, etc.

WowHead guides for BM hunter, written by Bendak, and MM hunter, written by  Delirium. Both of these hunters are masters at combining theory with practical experience, and their guides in my opinion are the most comprehensive available to date for Legion hunters.

Blizzard Watch hunter blog, also written by Bendak aka Adam Koebel. This series breaks down the key elements of Legion hunters into manageable chunks and gives you some great example builds and rotations you can use as starting points.

IcyVeins BM hunter and MM hunter class guides. There were written by Azortharion and seem to rely on Azor’s very extensive and perceptive experience with the specs in both the alpha and beta tests as well as with the current live patch. They are good for getting a quick idea of the basics of each spec, and there are recommendations for talent builds and rotations in different circumstances, as well as good info on secondary stat interactions, gemming and enchanting, etc.

BM Hunter. I had initially tried to get more action from BM by selecting Chimaera Shot as my level 30 talent, but while it gives you one more button to push when it comes off cooldown, my experience was that it is inferior to Stomp for overall DPS. Chimaera Shot also gives you your only direct way to generate focus, which was appealing to me initially — I would like some damn control over my DPS, for crying out loud — but what I found was that I usually had plenty of focus even without it. Because of the requirement to hit all your BM cooldowns as soon as they become available, Chimaera Shot became difficult to use without delaying those cooldowns and also taking care to not let it cap me on focus. Thus, I was not using it efficiently enough to get full advantage of its damage. Stomp turned out to be a significant DPS gain for me, even on single targets.

Oh, and not for nothin’, but Stampede just really blows now. True, it does give you some decent burst damage, but only if you can manage to perfectly position yourself and only if you can anticipate when the target will stand still for several seconds. Unfortunately, by the time you take care to be facing in exactly the precise correct position for it, not only has the target likely moved and you have to reposition, but of course you have lost some DPS by all that repositioning. This talent needs to be target-focused not character-focused. As it stands, it is pretty useless in fights like Iron Reaver, the rapidly-dispersing mobs in Hellfire Assault, or indeed most of the HFC fights. I spent a lot of time waving goodbye to my Stampede beasts as they charged madly off into the empty space where the target used to be…

The talent tier I expect I will have to change most often for BM is the level 90 one, as it seems to be entirely situation-dependent. Being lazy, I wrote a macro to let me bind a single key to whichever talent I select for that tier. I am sure some of you have written similar ones, but for those of you who want to try it out, here is mine. (I copied parts of it months ago from some smart person but I don’t remember exactly where, so I can’t give proper credit.) It is also a good template for any talent tier you want to switch frequently, just substitute the tier level and the spell names and numbers. The only problem I found is that the Blizz UI insists on adding a newly-selected spell to your action bar wherever there is a blank slot, so you end up with your talent spell being available both in the random spot and in the one where you have bound your macro. I wouldn’t need the macro if I could control the slot where Blizz puts the talent spell, but sadly that seems not to be possible.

#showtooltip
/cast A Murder of Crows
/cast Barrage
/cast Volley
/script m_c=GetSpellInfo(131894); m_ds=GetSpellInfo(120360); m_h=GetSpellInfo(194386)
/run SetMacroSpell(“90t”, GetSpellInfo(m_c) or GetSpellInfo(m_ds) or GetSpellInfo(m_h))

My opinion of BM is still that it does not give the player any real decisions or indeed control over their own damage. It is almost completely driven by short cooldowns, and the only player challenge is hitting those cooldowns immediately. You can improve your proficiency by being able to hit them perfectly even during heavy movement, but that is about it. Oh, and I still really really really miss traps.

MM Hunter. While this is a more complex (and thus more interesting) spec to play than BM, it seems to me to be far more dependent on RNG for its big damage numbers. Also — and this may just be a reflection of sub-110 level stat limitations — I found myself waiting for focus far more often with MM than I did with BM. The other thing about MM is that Blizz — as they did in WoD — has completely stacked the deck to virtually require Lone Wolf as a talent choice. You may be able to use a pet while soloing, but it is a significant DPS loss, enough so that it is unthinkable to play MM with a pet in any raid situation.

The RNG dependency comes from the fact that MM damage numbers are centered on the Hunter’s Mark mechanic. HM is applied randomly when you launch focus-building shots. Once HM has been applied, it makes Marked Shot available for you, which applies a Vulnerability debuff to all marked targets, which in turn increases the damage from several  other shots. It is an interesting cascade effect, but at its core it completely relies on RNG to apply HM. You have no control over that.

As far as I can tell, there is no direct way to improve the RNG basis for HM, even when you get your artifact weapon, so the fact remains that if you get a run of bad luck your damage numbers will be down and there is nothing you can do about it. On the plus side, if you hit a lucky streak you will be a DPS god. (In theory, though, the more focus building shots you can launch, the more chances for HM to proc, so indirectly as you get higher level and gain more secondary stats from gear you will tend to get more HM procs.)

Given the complex chain that MM damage relies on, it should come as no surprise that the MM rotation is one of constant condition monitoring and selecting optimal shots based on those conditions, some of which may only be in effect for a second or two. I won’t go into the details of this for possible talent builds, but I will give you one example from my Sidewinders build. Because of the damage mechanisms I just described, the optimal time to launch Sidewinders is based on (quote taken from the WowHead hunter guide referenced above):

Note that … you’ll generally only cast Sidewinders whenever your auto-shots have proc’ed Marking Targets. In case of bad RNG, you will also use Sidewinders if you have the full 2 charges, in order to maximize your focus regeneration during each fight. To maximize the up-time of Vulnerable, if Marking Targets procs while Vulnerable is still up, you’ll want to hold off on casting Sidewinders until immediately after Vulnerable falls off. In predictable AoE situations, you will also want to save procs of Marking Targets if an add wave is about to come up, so that both Sidewinders and Marked Shot will hit as many targets as possible.

Okay, now that is player choice and decision making. Would that BM had some more of this kind of interaction. And, as with BM, I still really really really miss traps.

Final (for now) comparisons. I think I will still stick with BM for my main for now. Last night I did a very short quick comparison of my actual DPS using BM then MM on my main, and honestly the numbers were roughly the same. There a lot of things I think need improvement in BM as it stands, but it still seems to me to be the one remaining hunter spec that retains any semblance of classic hunter play style. I am willing to wait and see how the spec feels and performs once I get to level 110 and have some of the artifact talents filled out.

I think MM will be a viable alternative, though I hate the petless “requirement” Blizz has stubbornly imposed on it. And even though it is basically the opposite of BM in terms of play style and opportunities for player tactical decisions — a good thing, in my opinion — for me it still feels a bit slow, clumsy, and “un-hunterish”. Again, I will reserve final decision until after I have had a chance to experience it at level 110 with a good number of artifact talents.

Some of my final spec decision will hinge on what kinds of fights there are in Legion raids. If, as in WoD, they tend to be very heavy on rapid target switching, especially for scattered targets, then honestly BM will be pretty terrible. On the other hand, if there are a lot of AoE-intensive fights with packed mobs, then BM should shine a bit brighter than MM (although not a lot).

Mainly, though, my decision will hang on how much fun I can find in either spec.

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.

6 Responses to More hunter thoughts

  1. Grumsta says:

    For your macro that changes depending on which talent you’ve selected, I just use this:

    #showtooltip
    /use [talent:7/1] A Murder Of Crows
    /use [talent:7/2] Barrage
    /use [talent:7/3] Volley

    This is just a theoretical example: 7 is the talent tier and 1 – 3 are the choices on that tier. Adjust as necessary.

    And that takes care of everything. I’m not even sure you need #showtooltip anymore.

    ============

    Did you find playing MM as offspec on your BM main was easier (and more powerful) because of the T18 set bonus despite having the wrong enchants & gems? I’ve tried playing my MM without that tier bonus and it feels awful and weak: having to stand still to fire off aimed shot and no “Icy Floes” style Mage mechanic available to help.

    • Fiannor says:

      Hehe, leave it to me to find the most complicated way to do something simple. I like yours much better, not sure why I didn’t think of the /use command. /headslap

      Yes, I should have mentioned the MM tier gear difference. The spec in general feels clumsy to me, but without the tier gear it is downright painful to play. At least with the tier gear there are no restrictions on mobility, bringing the spec closer to the essence of “hunterness”.

      Blizz’s decision to handicap MM hunters in WoD unless they participated in normal or higher raiding to get the tier gear still sticks in my craw. The very foundation of hunters, in my opinion, rests on their high mobility, it is the one trait makes them unique in the ranged damage class. It springs from the original concept of hunters as physical damage dealers, not spell casters, and physical damage dealers in WoW have very high mobility. Players should be able to play their specs in full as soon as they reach max level. Gear can of course enhance their play and make them more powerful, but it should not be necessary to have certain gear — determined by participating in certain specific activities as well as by luck in getting the gear to drop — just to play your spec as it is intended. This to me was another example of Blizz’s complete failure to understand essence of the hunter class they had created.

      To some extent, Blizz seems to be doubling down on this concept with artifact weapons in Legion. That is, your class is incomplete without a certain piece of gear. They have made that gear far more accessible than the WoD hunter tier gear, but the idea is the same. While I still disagree with this approach, at least Blizz has made it so the required gear is available to all players.

      The centrality of Legion’s artifact weapon, though, does bring up the question of what will happen in the next expansion when/if the weapon is discontinued as a foundation of each spec. Blizz has strongly hinted that the weapon is a one-expansion device, and if that is so then that means that once again (sigh) all classes and specs will have to be drastically reworked for the next expansion. This is not an encouraging thought. Even more drastically, if the weapon does continue into the next expansion, then there will have to be expansions of its powers/talent trees, along with catch-up mechanisms for new players. Also not an encouraging thought. I suspect Blizz will find artifact weapons to be the same as riding the tiger — as long as you stay on, it’s fine, but as soon as you want to get off you have a big problem.

      • I really like your distinction on the difference between spell casters like mages and damage dealers like hunters and how, naturally, we have far more mobility. This fits right into Class Fantasy and should be the starting point to any design decisions.

      • Fiannor says:

        Yeah, I always enjoyed it in fights like Thok the Bloodthirsty back in SoO when all casters had to stop casting, but hunters could keep right on plugging away because of the fact that nearly all their damage was physical, not casted. (I think maybe SV back then had like one shot that did magical damage and we couldn’t use, but everything else was good to go.)

      • Grumsta says:

        At least in Legion we can get Tier gear and class trinkets from LFR again. Really pleased with that change 🙂

    • demonnick says:

      In addition to this I find the addon MacroTip (https://mods.curse.com/addons/wow/macrotip) to be extremely useful for swapping between talents. Basically, you just create a macro the same as you’ve done, but this will allow you to use modifiers if that’s your thing.

      For example:

      #macrotip tier7
      /cast [mod:ctrl, @focus][@mouseover, exists] A Murder of Crows
      /cast [mod:alt, @focus] Barrage
      /cast [mod:shft, @focus] Volley

      The addon hasn’t been updated for 7.0 yet but it still works.