Confessions of a mediocre hunter

Let’s get one thing clear up front: I am nowhere close to being a great hunter. At best, I am slightly better than adequate in terms of game play. Oh, sure, I have some moments of greatness now and then — as do we all — but in general the best anyone could say about me is that my game play is “reliable”.

I do not pay much attention to damage numbers during raids, nor do I obsess about rankings. However, we have some people on our raid team who immediately check their boss rating after every single boss kill, who like to equip certain low level pieces of gear so that they will compete for rankings in lower gear categories, who demand certain positions in fights because those positions allow them to just pew-pew and pad their damage numbers, who cannot resist humble-bragging about their DPS or awesome gear, etc. That is not me, and though these are very nice people, frankly I think less of them when they feel compelled to draw everyone’s attention to their game prowess. Where I come from, the truly great are quiet and self-effacing, and the only way you ever know how awesome they are is from others, never ever from them.

But I digress. The fact that I am not a top-notch hunter does not mean I do not constantly try to improve my game play. I spend time every week simming various gear combos, and I conscientiously grind out artifact level increases as much as my available play time permits. After every raid, I go back and analyze my performance in Warcraft Logs or similar log web sites, noting areas where I was deficient and setting a self-training goal for the week based on that analysis. I still spend probably on average 20-30 minutes a week slaving away at the target dummies.

Over the course of Legion, I have definitely improved my hunter timing and cooldown sequencing/coordination, as well as my ability to keep up a rotation even during heavy movement phases.  I still have some problems with focus management — too often am maxed out on focus — but I am working on that. And I have made great strides in my overall raid awareness in the past year — die much less often, need less healing, see more of the raid big picture. As a result of all this, I am performing closer and closer to sim DPS numbers on many fights.

But here’s the thing: whereas I used to frequently be in the top 5 damage dealers in our raid, now I am routinely near the very bottom. The harder I work and the more I improve, the worse my raid performance. I feel like I am running as fast as I can and still losing ground.

It is not a good feeling.

So why is it happening? Well, one reason is that once progression is over and everyone really learns a raid fight, BM hunter mobility stops being much of an advantage. Casters (and I include MM hunters in this) learn where they can stand and for how long, and thus they can take full advantage of their inherently higher damage potential. Melee learn how to maximize their damage even during constant interruptive boss mechanics. In short, BM hunter mobility allows us to start out progression fairly close to the top of our potential, whereas other damage dealers have a more intense learning curve. But once they master it, hunter mobility ceases to be the huge advantage it was at the start.

This is one of the major flaws in Blizz’s BM hunter design. Don’t get me wrong, I love the mobility. But every time hunters complain about puny damage potential, Blizz hollers, “Yeah, but MOBILITY!!” It is true that mobility is a significant factor and should be part of the overall BM damage equation, but it is not nearly as potent as Blizz claims. For one thing, as I described above, its effects are transient — by the middle of a raid tier it counts for very little when compared to other specs’ damage potential. For another thing, most of a BM hunter’s damage is done by pets, which are melee damage dealers, so hunter mobility is kind of a moot point. It doesn’t really make a whole hell of a lot of difference if I can shoot my puny Cobra Shot while moving, since that is not where much damage comes from anyway.

Another reason BM hunters are falling faster in the dps charts is because Blizz has steadfastly refused to treat the BM artifact — which in reality is Hati, not the actual gun — like a real artifact weapon. They have refused to scale Hati with gear level to the same degree as they scale, say, a warrior artifact. To be fair, this is not a unique BM hunter shortfall, there are several specs Blizz designed so poorly that they are unable to scale them with gear level and artifact improvements. More recently, Blizz admitted that the 7.3 Crucible would benefit some classes a lot more than others, and since they had done a shitty job designing some specs’ artifacts, they just threw up their hands in despair and gave these specs a lazy, across-the-board damage increase, hoping that would be sufficient. It is not, mainly because they probably need to do it constantly to keep up with other specs’ increasing power resulting from higher stat levels and artifact upgrades. Thus, we can anticipate these poorly-designed specs to continue their slow relative descent in damage levels.

I would not be overly concerned that much (but certainly not all) of my recent crappy raid performance can be blamed on BM hunter design (or lack thereof), except for one thing — our RL has started negotiations with another guild to see if we can put together a decent combined team for Mythic Tomb, at least to do a few early Mythic bosses, before the next raid tier goes live. I would love to be part of this, but I am afraid my increasingly poor showing will preclude that. If you can pick and choose your 20-man mythic team, you are probably not going to go much below your top 5 damage dealers.

Worse, I feel like there is not much I can do about it. I do not have the time to grind AP — and thus artifact levels — harder than I do now. I cannot do much to change my luck with titan-forged gear, so there is not much I can do to increase my overall gear level, which is stuck around 934-938. And there are limited areas for me to improve my game play — focus management being the one I can work on. It is a frustrating feeling. As I have said before in this blog, I am not part of a mythic raiding guild, but I feel like I should be able to contribute on the few occasions when we dabble our toes in that level towards the end of a raid tier. The fact that I am fighting an upstream battle — working as hard as I can — just to slow my regression does not feel good.

This is the human face of Blizz’s lazy approach to class design and balance.

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.

3 Responses to Confessions of a mediocre hunter

  1. Ugrel says:

    Beast Mastery has a particularly rough time in mythic content because it performs abysmally at sustained cleave, especially against a relatively low number of targets. It also has no spread cleave mechanism. Sustained, low target, spread cleave is commonplace in mythic ToS. Beast Mastery just doesn’t have the tools to cope.

    Having said that, Beast Mastery is still desirable on most Mythic progression teams simply due to flexibility, mobility, and the fact that it still does at least SOME damage during aspect of the turtle (they don’t call it the Tomb of Soakgeras for nothing), unlike MM which has to completely re-start the vulnerability cycle. It’s not a high-damage spec even in heroic, and it’s downright low in mythic, but in the post-netherlight-crucible world this generally isn’t that big an issue. Most mythic teams have plenty of damage to spare.

    From a raw throughput perspective (i.e., unconstrained by the unfortunate prevalence of adverse encounter geometry), Beast Mastery is viable, if unspectacular. I personally have managed the post-crucible transition by successively moving from Killer Cobra stomp, to AotB stomp in a qa’pla rotation, to a non-qa’pla AoTB build that becomes viable really only once the dire beast proc rate becomes so commonplace that it “overloads” the qa’pla rotation. At this point, the level 15 cobra talent begins boosting cobra to a ridiculous degree (2M+ cobra shots are possible), and the spec becomes (counter intuitively) weapon-damage centric, with kill command providing a relatively lower percentage of damage, and providing that damage primarily outside of bestial wrath while in “cruise” mode. Once this state is achieved (and in a good gearing setup, this can happen as early as the high 920’s), 1.5M single target dps becomes a fairly regular occurrence. This setup also performs extremely well at bursty, closely spaced cleave due to the ability to chain stomps, but suffers from all the typical problems with sustained and/or spread cleave.

    It should be noted that for all my enthusiasm for the spec, I will readily admit that it does not have the raw throughput potential of many, many other specs in the game, and that is only accentuated by the inability to deal with mythic encounter geometry. Still, if you’re looking to secure a mythic raiding spot, it may be worth it to explore a more weapon-damage oriented setup such as an uncapped AoTB build. It should provide relatively impressive results on single target fights at the least, which might raise the overall perception of your potential throughput.

    I guess I should throw one caveat out there- if you do “sell out” to a high-proc AoTB spec, you will be largely unable to effectively transition to Marksman unless you maintain a second set of gear. High-proc AoTB builds generally rock 40% or more crit and 35% or more haste. That sort of crit-haste emphasis often leaves mastery at an extremely low level, which just guts your potential in an MM spec. That much haste is also very awkward in MM, as you’ll either have an induced pause even during a 2-arc 2-aimed vuln rota, or be in the sad position of trying to force a 2-and-2 when you really just have too much haste for a 1-and-2 but not enough for the 2-and-2, leading to way too many “just missed paydirt” non-vulnerable aimed shots.

    Anyhow. Long, unsolicited comment is long and unsolicited. It’s quite possible (even probable) that I’m just reiterating things you already know, in which case I apologize and promise that no slight was intended. I just have felt *relatively* ok with my beast mastery journey post-crucible (though yes, I can absolutely feel the spec’s throughput potential limitations, and they ARE frustrating) and wanted to share in the hope that it might offer a glimmer of optimism. I certainly hope you find a home on your impending mythic raid team. Best of luck, and thank you very much for maintaining your informative and entertaining blog.

    • Fiannor says:

      Some excellent points in this thoughtful comment, thank you for taking the time to post it.

      I have recently been thinking about what you term a “high-proc AoTB spec” — have seen it described in a couple other places. My problem is that I really do not have adequate gear for it — nearly all of my gear is Mastery-heavy — and my loot luck is pretty abysmal. Enchants and gems can change, of course, but in general they do not effect a major change in stats.

      Still, it would be nice if artifact increases actually gave me a bigger boost in damage than they currently do, given Blizz’s phobia about increasing pet damage. I have zero intention of playing MM this expansion, so the drawback you mention is not important to me. You make a decent argument for at least exploring this path, and I think I may go through my stashed gear to see if I can make it work in the next few days. If it turns out not to be feasible, I will have lost nothing except the cost of a few enchants and gems, since I can always go back to my current gear and talents.

      Thanks again for an insightful post.

  2. I hope you get a spot. Now is when being “reliable” can really pay off!

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