Look out! The Blizz pendulum is coming at you again!

Today Blizz gave us the first detailed look at their vision for hunter pets in Battle for Azeroth. Interestingly, they posted this information in a forum that requires a “beta” ticket to even comment in. I am trying to talk myself out of the opinion that this means they are too chickenshit to subject themselves to the huge outcries they know they will get from virtually every hunter in the game. Yes, you can make a case for them wanting to only hear from people who can actually try the changes, but who are those people at this stage, the only stage when significant changes will be made? No one but Blizz knows, of course, but my suspicion is that very few of the favored friends and family and streamers actually have BM hunter as their main. They may be familiar with the mechanics, but how many of them really have a passion for the spec and the kind of gut understanding that comes with that?

You can read (but probably not comment on) the Blue post for yourselves, but for a more balanced exposition of the changes, I recommend Bendak’s post on them or Delirium’s from a couple days ago. My logical side says time will tell if these changes turn out to be a boon or a bust for hunters, especially BM hunters, but for now my lack of trust in Blizz makes me very suspicious. Part of me imagines that Blizz, in typical fashion, took the hunter request for more pet talent variety (say, like we had in WoD), and went berserk with it. I can almost hear them sneering, “You little whiners want pet variety? I gotcher pet variety right here! BWAAAAAHAHA, guess you won’t be asking for that again will ya, you little snivelers?”

My initial take is that Blizz is getting ready to do to pets what they did to gear in Legion — make them so complex that we will need a bank of computers to select the most effective one for any given situation. In the process, they are once again demonstrating their complete lack of understanding of the role a pet plays in the overall BM hunter experience, and they may be setting the stage for screwing over BM hunters in BfA.

Start with the complexity issue. They are adding a bewilderingly large matrix of “pet family uniqueness”, endowing certain pets with a single raid cooldown, and assembling a multitude of varied “pet ability packages”. In the process, they are:

  • Removing the option of speccing any pet into Ferocity, Tenacity, or Cunning, because apparently it “feels outdated”. One gets the idea they do not want us to have to bother our little heads about this thing — the same way they solicitously took away reforging so that we would not have to do that icky old math.
    • According to the Blue post, “we’re going to shift all pets to a setup that will work as though they’re specced into both Ferocity and Tenacity”. So what happens with Cunning traits? They just go away? They will be limited to PvP? Or did the Blue poster just forget about them, because who the hell can keep track of all those hunter-ish things anyway?
    • Even though they claim they are rolling all Ferocity/Tenacity traits into the  merged sped, they are removing the powerful Charge spell and buff, no explanation why.
  • Adding Bloodlust to more pets and removing Battle Rez completely from hunter pets. Blizz’s reasoning for this is a textbook example of obfuscation, designed to cover their real reason which is “OMG! Hunters as actual raid utility players? Sound the alarm!” Here it is, for your reading and dining pleasure:

    In a world where we are proliferating abilities to many families, our first inclination was to add Battle Res to a separate third of those families. After seeing that landscape, it felt odd to fully embrace Resurrection as part of the Hunter kit. Further, moving into Battle for Azeroth, we are solidifying Bloodlust and Battle Res as the strong shared cooldowns that a group can bring – one offense, one defense. In that world, Hunters having access to both of the super powerful group benefits didn’t feel appropriate.

  • While Blizz is removing the pet roles of Ferocity, Tenacity, and Cunning, they are keeping the terms as a way to categorize pet families. So every pet will fall into one of the those three categories. These categories form the basis for the matrix of abilities hunters will have to choose from in selecting a pet for a given situation. I am not going to go into detail on this, but it looks like there will be some permutation of at least 18 different abilities (more with Spirit Beasts and maybe Exotics) combined into 3 (or more with the special beasts) each that the hunter will have to select. (I am wondering if Blizz has stock in one of the sim web sites…)

Second point here is that this system completely disregards one of the coolest aspects of being a hunter — the bond you actually form with one or two pets. Blizz is making them just another piece of gear or a second talent tree — pick what works best for each situation. Forget that you always level with your favorite wolf pet, forget that you love Gara and have raided with him ever since you got him early in WoD, forget that your turtle pet has saved your skin more times than you can count while questing solo.

No, just roll-a-pet depending on the situation, they are just another piece of gear, who cares? Certainly no one at Blizz, where no one understands the emotional bond hunters have for their pets, much less ever experienced that for themselves.

Further, this announced change still does absolutely nothing to bolster the whole idea of BM being “Master of Beasts”. One additional active power button does not give us much more control over pets, we remain essentially leash holders whose main function is to drop the leashes and let the pets do what they will, while we stand back and fire off one or two puny little shots. One could actually argue that both MM and SV will have greater control over pets in BfA. MM will be able to call a pet — say for a quick Bloodlust — and dismiss it in a few seconds, thus hardly even touching their 18% Lone Wolf buff. SV seems like it will work hand in hand with their pets, and increases to hunter damage through higher level gear and more secondary stats will scale very well with their pet damage. This is not true of BM hunters, at least so far as we have seen — Blizz is willing to see SV pets as an integral part of their power, but they are opposed to pets scaling equally for BM hunters.

Last, what do these pet changes mean for the future of BM hunters in the next expansion? Given the dearth of BM hunter changes so far — especially when compared to the very significant changes announced for SV and MM — is this Rube Goldberg-esque pet matrix what passes for major BM changes in BfA? Does Blizz think they can switch a few talents around and give us this pet complexity and call it done for BM? I am getting the uncomfortable feeling the answer is yes. So far, I am seeing nothing close to compensating for the damage we will lose when we lose Hati and our artifact weapon, and bear in mind even with those things in Legion we are close to the very bottom of damage charts in nearly every fight.

And as an aside, what is going on with Tranq Shot and A Murder of Crows? The Blue post seemed to hint that the vaunted restoration of Tranq Shot for hunters may actually turn out to be a pet ability, though it was a bit unclear. If that is the case, it certainly waters down the already-puny raid utilities left to hunters in BfA (which were already watered down in Legion). As for Crows, all the changes I have seen now clearly label that talent “Marksman Hunter”. It seems ludicrous that MM would be gaining this and BM would be losing it. As I indicated above, who the hell is supposed to be the Master of Beasts, anyway? A spec whose fantasy is flailing away with super-high potency guns or bows suddenly can call in a flock of crows and the Master of Beasts suddenly cannot? I hope I am wrong about both of these things.

As a further aside, when are we going to get a bigger stable for hunter pets? You can have hundreds of mounts and foo-foo vanity pets in the game, but no no no, absolutely must limit the number of hunter pets? Blizz, could you at least try to appear a bit more even-handed? 🙄

Anyway, get your sims and spreadsheets and matrices ready for pet selection in BfA. And maybe say goodbye to your favorite pets — just explain to them they are not “optimal” any more, and it is time for them to go to a nice farm where they will always be happy and run in the sunshine…

Oh, and watch out for that nasty pendulum.

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.

16 Responses to Look out! The Blizz pendulum is coming at you again!

  1. Marathal says:

    I have a gut feeling that BfA will reveal to us the direction of how they want the game to move forward. And I think a lot of people will not be happy.

    • Marathal says:

      I guess the big question is are people playing the content, and the way they want it played more than they expected. Only they know, and I doubt they will tell us.

  2. ScryersHecubus says:

    Maybe Blizzard should have dropped the Tenacity/Ferocity labels? This seems to be a huge sticking point… As I understand it, all pets will do the same damage and have the same movement cooldown. So it doesn’t really matter which one you use one for tanking vs. dps. It’ll be a matter of what pet brings the most utility (or has the best look, if that’s what you prefer).

    I’m fine with a utility focus. I’m going to sorely miss raiding with Prydaz once the legendary gear becomes unusable/obsolete. I’ve had a number of encounters where that shield saved my poor Troll behind from death. Having a pet offer 10% extra health and a damage reduction cooldown will help.

    Right now for the most part I raid/mythic+ with either my Core Hound or a Quilen for their utility. I’ve got a lovely stable of spirit beasts and others who don’t see the light of day (barring transmogging Hati). With us losing the combat rez, any ferocity pet can bring bloodlust, so my pet options have dramatically increased.

    My biggest beef so far are that I’m not sure that Beast Mastery pets really feel all that special compared to other hunters. Would be really lovely if a BM tenacity pet had another ability (or a reduced cooldown on their existing on use ability).

    • Fiannor says:

      Yeah, I hadn’t thought about it, but dropping the labels altogether would have helped — if there is no distinction, why maintain it? Even using the labels just for pet families seems needlessly confusing, though I suppose it was done to facilitate new code without going back and replacing those variable names throughout the game.

      But you put your finger on the source of my unease about BM in BfA — there seems to be no effort whatsoever to make the spec feel unique or special. Merely having access to spirit beasts — especially when there is not a lot of extra benefit to having them — is not enough. For some time now I have had the feeling Blizz considers BM to be a toddler spec, not really worthy of serious play. They have even said once or twice they consider it to be an “entry” spec, and that is why they took steps in Legion to “simplify” the rotation. This would not automatically be bad, but if a corollary to that philosophy is that Blizz feels they do not need to waste resources making the spec feel unique, then it is indeed bad.

      • ScryersHecubus says:

        BM has a reputation for being easy to play. But I think Blizzard most classes have specs that are pretty easy to play. Arcane mages, Frost DKs don’t require a huge amount of button pushing. The Resto Druids in my guild joke about hot everything in sight and casting tranq on cooldown. Permanent Corruption makes Affliction ‘locks simpler to manage. Easiest is in the eye of the beholder.

        It looks like there’s been a few changes that will benefit BM hunters. Pet damage scaling with attack power and weapon damage will be a boon. I’m tired of being decent in the first part of an expansion and seeing BM drop behind others (or require a boost to our attack power/aspect of hawk/damage aura) to keep up.

        I haven’t had much issue with Hati not keeping up with my main pet. I’ve macro’ed pet attack into most of my abilities though. That seems to help. So I’m happy to see an option for a second pet. We’ll see how it works out. I’d rather not loose my dire beast. I really enjoy the flavour from the glyph that pulls most of the dire beasts from my stable.

        I”m cautiously optimistic about the pet changes overall. Apart from looking at the math around 3% leech, the benefit for ferocity does seem pretty weak. Hopefully they boost that. I’d really like to have an excuse to bring out someone from the ferocity family apart from needing bloodlust.

  3. Bheleu says:

    regarding you comment, “So far, I am seeing nothing close to compensating for the damage we will lose when we lose Hati and our artifact weapon”, have you seen: http://bfa.wowhead.com/spell=267116/animal-companion-nyi
    Looks like you may be able to talent into a second pet. Not sure how this will balance out for the talents though. Will it be a must take talent? Or will one of the other talents be better?

    • Fiannor says:

      I did see that, and it is interesting, although I would be willing to bet it will end up being a cosmetic talent, more for visuals than real additional damage. It sounded to me like the same kind of “concession” Blizz made in response to MM hunters complaining they should be able to have a pet — a throwaway talent designed for show, not go.

  4. Alunaria says:

    I am not playing a Hunter myself anymore, but that class has always been dear to me.

    It does seem as if they continue down the path of making things more complex for no good reason.

    I mean, remember Blizzcon?

    Am I the only one who miss the old, much more simpler times, where an expansion announcement was more about the lore and zones? Now it’s more focused on an attempt to explain whatever new grinding system will be put in place to keep the “playing for 16 hours a day” segment busy.

    Belonging to the player segment that just have an hour or or a day to play, I will always find ways to enjoy myself though. I will never run out of stuff to do, and I never have to bother with things like the Nether light Crucible. But I can easily relate to how you guys feel.

    One can hope that comment might be allowed once the Beta is open for more? But perhaps that would mean a lot of trolling too, so I’m not sure.

    I can remember back when I was raiding, I never checked the Ptr. My rule was, if it’s not written in stone, it’s not worth it to get worked up over (expression?)

    But these days it does appear as most things make it to live despite numerous bug reports? I’m not sure though how different the Alpha of Legion was compared to live?

    • Fiannor says:

      At least for hunters, the Legion alpha was almost exactly what we got in live, despite literally thousands of well documented and well thought out change suggestions from the true hunters involved in the testing. This is why it is not too early to get concerned about class changes (or lack of them) for BfA now — Blizz has shown a reluctance to make any changes even early on, beyond fixing bonafide bugs. They may say they want “substantive” input, but they have also shown themselves to be tone deaf when they get it.

  5. Mobhunter says:

    I am assuming from this post on WoWhead that BM hunters will benefit from this change in the damage calculation for pet attacks such as Kill Command. Unclear to me if normal pet attacks will also be factored into this. Hope so. Of course, individual class scaling will also play a role.

    http://www.wowhead.com/news=281913/battle-for-azeroth-new-formula-for-calculating-ability-damage

    At least this seems to me to offer a glimmer of hope, however faint overall.

    • Fiannor says:

      I saw that, and it seems like it offers some reason for optimism. However, Blizz has for several years shown great reluctance to allow hunter pet attacks to become as powerful as a weapon. This was more or less acceptable when pets were really just an auxiliary, automated DoT. But with Legion’s changes to BM, where the pet IS the main weapon and the actual hunter weapon wields pretty puny power overall, this reluctance to let them scale was pretty much a death knell for the spec.

      So, although it looks like the calculation change described in the post will really help BM hunters, I remain skeptical that Blizz will allow it. I hope they do, but I will believe it when I see it.

  6. I was actually excited to see the designers look at beast mastery early in the expac re-vamp. But, now, having read your post; I’m all bummed out.
    And I agree about the stable; taming takes effort — sometimes a lot of effort — and we keep seeing new trendy families to tame open up.

    • Fiannor says:

      Sorry. I was probably a bit more pessimistic than is warranted, given that we have not seen the changes in action nor in conjunction with the whole package of hunter changes. Unfortunately, the pet changes seem thus far to be the ONLY significant changes to BM, and that to me is very worrisome.

      • Marathal says:

        I’m wondering. And don’t take this wrong, but are the old school hunters and players the problem? Those that have overflowing stables that want more room? Compared to a brand new player, how long would it take them to amass a similar stable? Maybe they are looking at how to close the gap between a new to the game, and a 10+ year vet

      • Fiannor says:

        To be honest, I am not really a hard core hunter pet collector. I do like wolves and the odd Spririt Beast or Exotic, but beyond that I do not go out of my way to collect pets. In WoD I made an effort to get one of each special ability pet, so as to be able to provide what was needed for the raid. But even still, just doing this, I am getting close to filling my stable, and I suspect if I try to get one of each possible ability combo in BfA I will actually fill it up. And remember, I am not someone who usually cares about collecting all the various skins for each type of pet. The point is, it does not take long — if you really enjoy taming pets — to fill up the hunter stable, even if you are a new player.

        Blizz has actually spent quite a number of years enticing hunters to collect more and more special-looking pets, they have to some extent promoted the “fun” of getting lots and lots of different looking ones. For them now to stubbornly refuse to provide a place to keep the ever-growing number people collect seems uncaring at best and churlish at worst.

  7. Marathal says:

    A thought I’ll stick here since my favorite bloggers will read this and I’d be interested in your thoughts.

    First Aid is changing. Tailors make bandages now. But Rogues make anti venom, do you think Blizzard is going to double down on First Aid like they did with the crafting professions requiring components from different professions to make somewhat useful things?

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