Tomorrow, if all goes smoothly, we will see the end of Legion and the beginning of Battle for Azeroth, the seventh expansion in World of Warcraft and the sixth that I will have personally experienced. Yes, I know the actual full expansion does not go live until a month from now, but the pre-expansion patch is the formal beginning. That is when we get many of the user interface changes and new class and spec spells and rotations, and when many of the features of the current expansion go away or get massively nerfed. We will have a month to internalize the changes, make adjustments, develop new muscle memory for our characters. The pre-expansion patch is kind of like the warning bell some schools have that rings a few minutes before the actual start of classes.
There is always a bittersweet tang to transition. We humans, even when we are unhappy, tend to stick with the familiar and be rather reluctant to change. This is as true for leisure games as it is for major life changes. I am someone who often engineers change merely for its own sake — I get tired of ruts even if they are very comfortable — and yet even I am slightly hesitant when it actually comes down to making the changes.
But, ready or not, 8.0 is barreling down on us and in a little over 24 hours it will be a done deal.
My first priority will be to learn my new BM hunter rotation. That will include writing some new WeakAuras, rearranging my action bars and a few keybinds, and spending some intensive time in front of the target dummies. I am trying to be very slightly hopeful that BM hunter will improve in BfA. If Blizz had not been such douches about laying the global cooldown on everything, BM hunter would definitely seem more lively than it has throughout Legion. (Alas, it seems they are incapable of giving anything without also taking away a lot. I am not talking about being OP — hell, I have gotten used to constantly being in the lower quadrant of damage numbers — I am just talking about wanting a fun, engaging play style that allows for some player options beyond twitch responses to hit cooldowns as soon as they become available. Or rather, as soon as the GCD comes off…)
OK, enough bitching. We got what we got. As I was saying, I’ll be spending a lot of time on my main hunter this week, mostly internalizing the new rotation. A great hunter blogger who unfortunately no longer writes, The Grumpy Elf, once wrote a fantastic guide to learning rotations. It is almost seven years old and still relevant, and if you are struggling with a rotation, I highly recommend it. The specific shots and spells he describes are long gone, but the general method is still very useful. That is the technique I will use to develop new muscle memory for the 8.0 rotation.
I have dabbled a bit in the beta and the PTR, so I have an idea of some of the changes I will have to make, but you can bet that I will also do some intensive study of Bendak’s guide to BM hunter for the patch, which he wrote for Wowhead. (You can also find links to the individual sections of the guide, along with some other informative links, in this post in his blog Eyes of the Beast.) I know some people are not big fans of Wowhead, but I have found their hunter guides to be excellent even for experienced hunters. In fact, I have found nearly all of their class guides to be useful, written by players who really are experts in the spec they are writing about.
When I practice with target dummies, I start out just standing in one place and getting used to the rhythm of the new rotation, maybe trying out a few variations, but in general just learning the baseline sequence from which I may later deviate to suit circumstances. Once I have that down pretty well, I add in some target switching and AoE. Next I add movement, the hunter staple. I run the rotation while strafing, moving forward and back and laterally, and disengaging. Finally, I vary the rotation by throwing a few traps and interrupts and learn to resume it as efficiently as I can.
Hopefully, with a few hours of this under my belt, I’ll feel comfortable when I run our weekly normal Antorus at the end of the week. Later, I will do a modified version of my hunter rotation changes on my alts, so as to be a little more prepared once I start leveling them down the road in BfA.
I have already cleaned out banks, sold a ton of excess Legion mats on the auction house, vendored gear (especially trinkets and tier 20) I was saving “just in case”, and put many legendaries into void storage. I am not sure if Blizz has a plan for eventually getting rid of these, but I sure hope so. It seems ridiculous to be stuck with 15-20 (or more) pieces of gear that you cannot ever sell or disenchant.
Beyond preparing new rotations, the pre-expansion patch is also the point at which social changes occur. Our guild has seen some announcements of people leaving the guild, or deciding they are not going to buy BfA, or staying in the guild but opting out of raiding in BfA. There will, as usual, be some turmoil as we work to assemble a viable raid team, though that is still weeks away. One thing I noted in Legion was a growing tendency for quite a few of our raiders to only participate in one raid night a week. We are not hardcore by any means — we run two nights a week during the progression raid cycle. The problem with people only coming once a week is that it is difficult to get reliable teamwork going — there are always one or two people who have not done the current boss before and therefore make the same mistakes the rest of the team did the last time the boss was attempted. Unfortunately, Blizz has lately become enamored of boss fights that feature one-person wipe mechanics — that is, a mechanic in which a mistake by one player wipes the whole raid. This is a deadly trend for casual raid teams that change personnel frequently.
Patch 8.0 brings another big social change to the game — Communities. I think of this as Blizz’s attempt to copy Discord in-game. We will see how well it works, and whether it promotes unity or encourages tribalism…
So, goodbye Legion, you are almost out the door. Let’s hope the transition is an easy one.
Take a deep breath, and see you all on the other side of 8.0.