Deja vu?

As we all know, Patch 7.3 will go live with the reset next week. Some people are wildly excited about it, others not so much. For myself, I am in a wait-and-see mode about it. On the one hand, I am impressed with Blizz’s lockstep adherence to their stated release goals for Legion patches and raid tiers. I have to admit, when they announced them for Legion I was very skeptical that they would be able to keep up, and that soon we would be in another dire WoD dearth situation. Let’s face it, their recent track record up until Legion was pretty grim. But they have thus far been true to their words, and I hereby eat mine. My following comments notwithstanding, Legion is by any measure a success story for Blizz and for WoW players.

That said, my “on the other hand” comment about 7.3 is about BM hunters. I am starting to get an uneasy, gnawing feeling in my gut about Blizz’s intentions for the spec. Since the first round of class adjustments in 7.1.5 (the one where all hunter specs got their traps back), Blizz has either nerfed BM or ignored it while they buffed many other classes. When they have given us a buff, as in 7.2.5 when they gave us as baseline 2 charges of Dire Beast/Dire Frenzy, they have subsequently taken it away with larger nerf chunks — like the terrible T20 bonuses that made T19 remain the tier of choice for many many ilevels. The net effect — nerfs, leaving it alone while other classes receive buffs — has been that BM has been systematically relegated to lower and lower damage tiers. And this will apparently continue in 7.3. (Check out Bendak’s 7.3 BM outlook here, it is excellent reading.)

In my mind, this systematic downgrading of BM is eerily similar to what Blizz did to SV hunters in WoD. There, after SV was found to be wanting at the beginning of the expansion, they buffed the spec in the first major patch, found they had made a big mistake by making the spec so responsive to the secondary stat Multistrike, decided it was too much trouble to fix the stat mess, so in subsequent patches purposely nerfed SV into the ground in order to make it unplayable for the remainder of the expansion. They did this because they intended to eliminate the spec entirely in Legion, and make a melee spec with the same name. (Of course, they never breathed a word of this to bewildered SV hunters left high and dry in WoD.)

What we are seeing with BM in Legion is not exactly the same as the WoD SV pattern, but it is close enough to give me pause. BM started out Legion on the lower end of the damage spectrum, became a bit OP after 7.1.5 with the combination of tier and a couple of legendaries, and when Blizz realized what they had done they seemed to deliberately embark on a nerf spiral for the spec, with no word of explanation or intent. Are they, in fact, planning yet another huge betrayal of hunters — this time BM hunters — in the next expansion?

I have said before that most of my initial objection to BM in Legion had to do with play style and not numbers. I stand by that, and although I still dislike the general press-the-button-on-CD method, Blizz has added a small amount of complexity to the rotation that helps. Basically, I have made my peace with it.

And while I am not a meter hog, I do understand that numbers matter because of perception. It’s in some ways a self-fulfilling prophecy that if a particular spec is thought to be weak then fewer top level players will play it, thus the spec will sink even lower on the summary charts because almost no experts are playing it, etc. And one of the initial reasons people will consider a spec to be weak, like it or not, are simulation results. These have a lot of flaws, but they do have one overriding feature: for a given spec, talent and gear build, and type of fight, they will show the maximum damage potential. Absent a lottery-winning run of proc luck, almost no player in those same circumstances can hope to do better than the sim number, no matter how perfectly they may play. Now of course for any given raid there is almost never a simulation set of circumstances present. Still, the sims do give a very general benchmark of what to expect from a spec.

More to my point, when the sims as well as the actual damage charts have a spread of over 300k between the top and bottom specs, then in my opinion we are in a situation of class imbalance that implies there are definite winner and loser specs. Try though they may, Blizz has thus far failed to bring about true class balance in Legion, feel-good comments by the Game Director notwithstanding.

We can quibble about the exact damage position of BM hunters in 7.2.5 and going forward, but both the charts over time as well as my own anecdotal observations show a definite downward trend. I used to routinely be in the top 5-6 damage dealers in my raid, for example, but over the last month or more it is far more usual for me to only be in the top 10 or even 12. (Which is not very encouraging considering we usually run with only 12-15 DPS.)  Some of this is due to the nature of the bosses in Tomb of Sargeras, and on a couple of bosses may just be my slow learning curve, but some of it is also due to Blizz’s failure to design BM hunters to scale with gear as well as other classes do. This is a clear class balance design flaw, possibly not limited to BM hunters, but that is the spec I pay attention to.

So yeah, I am starting to get worried about the future of BM hunters. I was confused and angry when they nerfed my beloved SV hunter into the ground in WoD, and I certainly did not catch on at the time to their intent. But I am older and wiser now, and I am beginning to suspect I have seen this show before. Fool me once, etc. I will be scrutinizing every word Blizz has on hunters as we move forward, into 7.3 and beyond.

Now I believe beer is in order. Enjoy your weekend.

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 Deja vu?

  1. Marathal says:

    But they are reclassifying a pet as a rodent?

    I know what you mean though. For oh, maybe 3-4 years I have gone to look at patch notes for Priests and have just gotten to a point where I am never surprised when there is nothing. Too many years listening to the top Priest players in “the community” saying we’re fine. Perhaps for them. For me, I just cross off more and more each patch that I am comfortable doing. When I am down around 14-15th in an LFR group for DPS in gear where I should be doing Heroics, I’m not fine. But I am only 1 of a few hundred thousand playing the Class. So I know I really don’t matter. Tuning occurs at the highest level of play now. If your are not there, you suffer for their skill.

    • Fiannor says:

      “Tuning occurs at the highest level of play now.” That seems an astute observation. And I think it ties in with my whole perception thing — if almost no elite players play a certain spec, it suddenly becomes a forgotten spec in terms of balance and play style issues because the “important” players are not complaining about it. On the other hand, if a certain spec becomes preferred by elite players of the class, then the changes made to it are the ones they address as problems, and the tuning is done to very high gear levels, interplay of certain trinkets and legendaries, and raid-oriented rather than solo or small group play.

      • Marathal says:

        If you want to go deeper, maybe the internal testers see certain specs having to high an advantage due to mechanics so make it undesirable to play.

  2. /cheers — have yet another beer.

  3. Banard says:

    People always seem to forget…

    WOTLK….BM first teir was strong but by the end in ICC MM was top (by a huge margin)
    CATA…same story
    MoP…….BM started off very strong but by the end it was Surv.
    WoD…BM started out alright but by the end it was MM (instant aim shot, spec perfection)

    The issue is weapon damage and scaling.

    Since the game started evolving into something more then 1 button spam….BM has always fallen behind in later tiers.

    It seems after 12+ years of wow….the idea off adding weapon damage to the pet damage formula is outrageous.

    I was giving them the benefit of the doubt this xpac that they were going to change things because of the AP system but at this point i really doubt they are.

    This mobility argument seems to be winning out, which is pure BS.

    • Fiannor says:

      Yeah, good observation. I, too, thought the way they structured the BM artifact weapon as being primarily Hati and pet damage meant they had finally come to terms with making a pet grow more powerful with weapon damage increases. But like you, when I saw the blue post you cited it was pretty clear to me that in fact they have not changed their minds on this. Blizz is for some reason very uncomfortable with giving hunters — even so-called “beastmasters” — a powerful pet or even one that can be controlled with any degree of detail.

      And they are even more uncomfortable with the idea of ranged mobility, they seem only to begrudgingly allow it if the damage is weak. This, as you point out, is BS, especially with BM hunters, who have only one puny ranged shot anyway — we are really melee damage dealers with a standoff distance, given it is our pets/Hati that do the majority of damage.

      Worse, having created a spec like BM, they continue to demonstrate they have absolutely no idea how to structure and grow the damage over the course of an expansion. You would think, after all these years, they would have figured it out. It is just inconceivable to me that it is too hard for the class design engineers to understand, so I am left with the explanation that they simply do not give a shit about hunters. We are the throwaway class in WoW.

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