Breaking news: Cobra Shot to wiggle more

It’s no secret that I am beyond disgusted with the way Blizz has treated hunters ever since they trashed and then abandoned SV hunters in WoD. After promising to make SV better in “the next expansion”, they proceeded to complete their destruction of it by making it a melee spec in Legion, and a pretty puny one at that. Then they moved on to MM, basically turning it into a turret style damage dealer, removing two of the signature features of hunters — mobility and pets — in one fell swoop. Last, after Ion Hazzikostas told us how BM hunters were “in a pretty good place” just prior to Legion, Blizz went on to ransack that spec, too, removing nearly all possibility of skill play in favor of a couple of cooldowns the player had almost zero control over except to mash the button as soon as they were up.

When the Legion Alpha test went live, skilled and well-respected hunters diligently measured, analyzed, and described to Blizz the many ways the hunter class came up short. Their focus was on play style, not on numbers, and they tried every way possible to make Blizz understand that the very soul of hunters had been ripped away.

Blizz ignored them.

Then when the beta test finally went live, a lot more hunters voiced their anguish to Blizz, again not so much about numbers, but about the fact that the class they had played and loved for years had been stripped of every trace of what made the class unique. Again, these players wrote thousands of pages of feedback in the approved forums, detailing all the factors that contributed to what they perceived was the death of the class.

Blizz ignored them.

By this point, sadly, the leading community hunters had pretty much given up, bruised and battered after months of talking to a brick wall. But then the PTR went live, and hunters who had not previously tried the Legion hunter class expressed their keen sense of loss and anger, again writing reams of comments about the mechanics that made them feel they were no longer true hunters.

Blizz ignored them.

And when I say “Blizz ignored them”, I mean not just that no changes were made or design explanations given, but that Blizz met the entire hunter outcry with a steadfast, impenetrable wall of silence. There were no blue posts that even deigned to acknowledge there might be some problems with the Legion hunter class implementation, no hunter class adjustments as builds were put out (even though there were tons for other classes), no dev mention of the problem, no recognition whatsoever of the near-universal condemnation of the changes they had made to the hunter class. Not even so such as a “F**k you, hunters, we like things the way they are.”

Then, one week before Legion went live, a CM had the chutzpah to make a blue post asking for hunter input on Legion problems. As if the thousands upon thousands of previous posts did not even exist. As if, one week before launch, it would make a difference. He even called the thread “Let’s Talk”, implying that at long last, this late in the cycle, Blizz’s wall of silence would finally be broken. Like Charlie Brown rushing to kick that football he just knew Lucy would hold still for him this time, hunters once again posted thousands of thoughtful, detailed, specific comments about every aspect of the class they felt had been ripped from them.

Blizz ignored them.

In the first Q&A after Legion launch, a few warlock trolls and scumbags bullied their way into it, spamming the pre-event thread and using flame and shame tactics to downvote every question not submitted by a warlock, and then further spamming the live event feed with spittle-flecked tantrums. After very slightly scolding them for their tactics and telling them such actions would not be successful, Ion Hazzikostas proceeded to explain how Blizz was going to fix perceived warlock class problems. Long blue posts were written on the subject, and immediate changes were made in hotfixes, along with a detailed plan for long term fixes.

Meanwhile, hunters, who had played by Blizz’s rules for feedback, who had not thrown public tantrums, continued to be ignored. Then, finally, months after the “Let’s Talk” thread appeared, weeks after the warlock meltdown, there was one relatively short blue post in the hunter forum promising significant changes to the hunter class, but hunters had to be patient, wait for 7.1 and 7.2 because of course these things take time.

Hunters waited. In 7.1, a few paltry changes appeared, nothing of course for BM, but a nerf for MM (as if that were all that was wrong with MM mechanics!), and some stiff for SV presumably to try make it at least semi-viable as a spec.

Hunters continued to wait. In 7.1.5, all hunters had traps restored, and a very slight adjustment was made to correct the awful Aspect of the Cheetah, but it cost a talent to do so. There were multiple other changes, but of note every change to BM dealt with numbers designed to buff the spec’s damage. Nothing Blizz did even began to address the fundamental problems with the spec. Pet pathing — other than slightly speeding up Hati’s slow amble to a target — remained horrible. BM hunters still had no surge ability beyond the worthless Stampede talent. Pet control remained problematic, hit-and-miss in terms of setting your pet on passive for example and having confidence it would remain so. BM hunters themselves had almost zero damage ability without a pet, effectively making them a melee damage dealer who operated out of melee range. The play style — unless you had “the” appropriate legendaries and a 4-pic tier set — remained clunky and slow, with no player control over focus generation, no skill abilities beyond mashing a cooldown button or key as soon as it became available.

Similarly, most of MM changes were to adjust numbers, little was done to address the turret play style, and nothing was done to address the underlying fact that all MM damage was RNG-dependent at its origin.

In short, in spite of months of hunter comments that the class problems were about play style, not about numbers, most of Blizz’s fixes have been to tweak numbers.

Now we are into the 7.2 PTR, and there seems to be no plan to make any further changes to hunters. Except one — shown here.

Yes, at long last, hallelujah! Hunters are finally getting the spell animation changes NO ONE has asked for! And what changes they are! Brace yourself now — Arcane Shot  will soon cause much bigger weapon kick and be more purple! Barrage will have more muzzle flash! Bestial Wrath will cause that symbol to only appear over the hunter’s head, no longer the pet’s!! (Of course, there is no change to that pleasant “I am having a really hard poop” sound that accompanies it…)  A few other similarly HUGE and MOMENTOUS changes, such as Black Arrow will have a bigger bullet!!  (I guess it is a bullet, the demo showed a hunter with a gun…) But the big one, and the one I know all BM hunters have been waiting for: Cobra Shot will wiggle more!!! OMG, I have to sit down, this is too much.

Really, Blizz? Really? Everything that is wrong with hunters, and this is what you decide has priority?

Words fail me at this point.

A change of pace

Over the weekend I spent some time on my alts, mainly my alt hunter and my druid. It was a nice change for me. I spent time on my alt hunter mainly to finish her jewelcrafting quest chain and to gather a lot of ore, because I have other alts that would benefit from rings and necks and gems and such. (Shhhhhh, don’t tell Ion Hazzikostas … be vewy vewy quiet!).

I did finish the JC line, although of course that means very little — most of my recipes are level 1, and the mats seem to be quite rare. Also, the mining RNG quests seem to have a rather low probability of dropping, so of course I have not yet gotten them, which means (I think) I cannot yet get any Blood of Sargeras from this gathering profession. Without Bloods, I can’t craft high end items, nor can I even gear up enough to get into LFR.

Not making Bloods BoA is one of the worst decisions in Legion, in my opinion. I have over 200 on my main, for the most part worthless, and my alts are crying for them. This critical mat is what I call a “domino mat” — it has game repercussions far beyond what a single material should have. If you are a crafter, you cannot craft many high end items without it. Even if you have enough to craft the items, you can only craft them at a relatively low levels, because anyone wishing to upgrade a crafted picee of armor must do it on their own, using their own Bloods (20 or more just to get a single item upon to mediocre level). Thus, players wishing to use crafted gear to get up to, oh, say ilvl 850 or so — not exactly a high level in Legion — must have a buttload of Bloods in order to do it. That is assuming you have a character — probably a main — who can crank out obliterum at a high level. (Yes, Ion, guess what, we are now at the point of having a main exist to support  alts. Happy?)

Thus, the soulbound nature of Bloods, along with the requirement that gear must be SB to be upgraded, means crafters cannot make and sell  gear above level 815, and players wishing to upgrade this low level gear must be advanced enough to be able to gather the Bloods to do it — which generally means by the time you are able to upgrade your gear you have long ago stopped needing it. (Similar to that ridiculous class hall gear that requires you to have jumped through enough hoops in order to buy 810-830 level gear — or even to buy the final upgrade to get it to level 840 — that by the time you have grubbed enough to get there you no longer need it.)

Great job, Blizz, really excellent planning. This is like a toy manufacturer making a toddler pull toy, but requiring any child using it to earn their own money to pay for it — by the time they can do that, the pull toy is kind of moot.

Thus, when I decided to gear up and play my druid more, it turned out to be a much longer and more tedious process than it should be at this stage of an expansion. Not only for the reasons cited above, but also because suddenly nearly all the gear-rewarding world quests disappeared. Seriously, I thought well if I can’t upgrade my crafted gear on my druid because of lack of Bloods, at least I can run a bunch of world quests and get some decent gear from them. Nope. Whether by recent stealth nerf design or simply because of bad RNG in the WQ selection engine, there were almost no WQs that awarded gear this weekend. It took me literally until Sunday night, after 3 days of grinding, to get enough gear to qualify for LFR. LFR!!!! This is sad.

However, once I did finally get geared up, I had a lot of fun with my druid. I had leveled her as a boomkin, because I have always kind of liked that somewhat quirky play style, but also because honestly Blizz still has not made the leveling process very healer-friendly. (I am always impressed with people who level their healers as healers.) Anyway, having leveled her up a couple of months ago, I decided to switch main spec to resto.

First I had to get the resto artifact weapon, and I have to say I found this quest line to be pretty engaging. I definitely liked that it was heals-centric and required healing to complete. It was not overly long, but for a non-healer like me it was somewhat challenging. (I let my group die once before I succeeded … oops.) I had enough AP saved up to get my heals artifact up to level 24 in one fell swoop, so that was kind of nice.

Armed with my new artifact and a whopping 826 ilevel, I queued for Emerald Nightmare LFR. It was the first LFR I have done in Legion, and especially considering it was late in the game week, it went quite smoothly. As usual, I was stressed healing, but after it was over I realized I had a lot of fun. I got two pieces of gear that pushed me up to qualify for Trial of Valor, but I didn’t queue for it as it was pretty late. I’ll do it tonight (yeah, I know, Monday night LFR is a bad idea).

Side rant: What is it with Blizz and their apparent need to make support functions as annoying as possible for players? Last night I wanted to try out a few heal rotations, and since I knew there were no target dummies in Dal (!!!), I traveled to the druid class hall, thinking of course there are target dummies there — they have them in every other class hall I have an alt for. Nope. No target dummies in the Dream Grove. This of course is along with the Blizz design “feature” of no mailboxes in class halls, no auction house in Dal (don’t start with me on this, engineers!), and of course as I said no target dummies in Dal. Seriously, Blizz, what is the reason behind these annoyances? And don’t give me some bull hockey mumbo-jumbo pseudo-lore crap. I want to know the real reason! Malevolence? Twisted dev humor? Technical limitations? Laziness? Incompetence?

Late edit: See Sar’s comment below. Apparently the druid class hall has both a mailbox and target dummies! Whoops, well now this is awkward, what can I find to rant about?? Maybe clueless players who can’t find stuff in class halls?

I did a small amount of druid healing in LFR and a few random instances in WoD, but it was nothing to write home about. Before I queued last night, I got some quick pointers from one of our guild’s top druid healers, and that was very helpful. As it turned out, no one died — well except for a couple who died from trash because they stupidly outran the raid. I was pretty low on the healing charts, but I was always in with the actual healing group not the also-healers like Spriests and Pallies, and anyway I don’t give healing numbers much notice. I did do a lot of overhealing, but our raid healer explained that is pretty much unavoidable with druids, and he gets a lot of good natured grief over it in our raids.

It seems like Blizz pretty much left resto druids alone as they worked over many of the other classes. I suppose those of you out there who main a resto druid might disagree, but from my untrained perspective I did not notice a huge difference between what I did in WoD and what I did last night in Legion. I think I like the druid healing style because it reminds me of what all hunters used to be — highly mobile, with quite a few extra tricks in their bag. Also, I find it refreshing once in a while to get away from the kill-kill-kill mentality of damage dealers. There is a certain satisfaction in helping out your group members in such a direct way. (But I still find it stressful while doing it.)

Anyway, I enjoyed my sojourn into druid healyland over the weekend. I expect I will be spending more time pursuing this as Legion wears on.

Patches 7.1.5 and 7.2

Today’s post may be a bit disjointed, I am still juggling repairs for our flooded basement and hot water heater replacement, but I wanted to jot down a few thoughts about some of the recent changes in the game.

Patch 7.1.5 rolled out Tuesday, and from my point of view it was pretty smooth, with the exception of the patch notes goat rope. The class changes took a little getting used to for some specs, and our Tuesday night raid was kind of off as a result, but there are some nice features in the patch.

I am fine with the BM hunter changes, and the MM hunters in our guild — one of whom admits he is a real dps whore — are good with their changes, also. MM lost a little AoE capability but it seems not too significant. BM got some very decent buffs, making the spec pretty crazy with massive AoE. And traps are back, which is awesome.

I think Blizz made incremental progress in giving a few more actual choices in talent tiers, but there are still too many where there is one clear required talent and/or one clearly useless talent. Barrage, in spite of getting a buff for BM, is still the worst choice by far in that tier, but on the other hand Volley now has some utility in certain situations.

The one change I did notice that makes a noticeable difference, though, is the nerf to the BM legendary belt, Roar of the Seven Lions. In my opinion, the previous stats on it were the one thing that seemed to correct the abysmally slow BM rotation, the saving change that brought back some fun to the spec. Now that the belt’s focus cost reduction has been nerfed by 25%, we are back to a very clunky rotation.

And the BM changes have still done nothing to give the spec any semblance of burst capability, no cooldowns unless you count Stampede which few hunters do since it stinks so bad as a talent. It is frustrating to be at a crucial point in downing a boss, and when the RL says to give it everything you’ve got, all you can do is maybe punch your keyboard harder (at the same slow pace) and set your mouth in a determined manner.

Also, I  can’t really tell any difference in Hati’s relative speed (or lack thereof) in ambling towards a target.

I am not a fan of Brawler’s Guild, but the people in my guild that enjoy it seemed pleased with its return and the new bosses. Me, I had some fun with the new books you can buy and send to your alts that bump up your artifact knowledge to level 20 (if you have completed level 25 on the character you buy it on). It was kind of a kick to use the book, then do a couple of World Quests and advance your artifact traits by 10 or more all at once.

Other than these things, I have not had a lot of time to explore the 7.1.5 changes (spent a lot of time the past couple of days with plumbers and contractors), but it seems to be a decent patch for a “minor” patch. Hopefully maybe next week we can get a look at the Mists timewalking dungeons, and I will have some time to check out a few more of the quality of life improvements in the group finder, and explore the new world quests. I don’t have a leveled engineer or enchanter, so those changes aren’t of much interest to me, and my JC is still stuck in the ridiculous dungeon requirements so probably not too interested in the JC changes.

Our guild has both EN and ToV heroic on farm,  and we have even downed a couple of EN mythic bosses, so the release of Nighthold next week will be fun. When it was first announced, I thought it might be a little soon, but honestly we are pretty bored with the current tier. And it will be nice to complain about not getting tier gear instead of complaining about not getting regular gear 😉

Now people’s attention will turn to Patch 7.2, which we are told will soon be up on the PTR. Of course the main thing I am looking forward to is flying — we will see how many more requirements Blizz piles on before they let us have it.

The other two things we have been promised in 7.2 — from Thursday’s dev Q&A — are more class changes, specifically more hunter changes (unspecified), and some more profession changes. Not to get too deeply into the whole professions thing, but it seems like Blizz kind of knows they screwed them up in Legion, even though in the Q&A Kubit explained to us how much of a success things like obliterum, and quickly obsolete crafted gear, and expensive mats are.

I was kind of amazed that Kubit seemed to think the whole reason mats are more expensive in Legion is because they cannot be farmed in a garrison like they were in WoD. No mention of the great gold giveaway that led to pretty significant inflation for all items.

I was also amused that both he and Lore are under the impression that time required to craft an item (as well as to gather mats) translates to a higher price. My experience has been that long crafting times (such as the ones we had in WoD due to cooldowns) or scattered nodes mean absolutely nothing for prices after about the first month. There are always people willing to sell them for a few gold over mat cost, with no regard for the amount of time invested in crafting the item or gathering the mats. Most people place no value on their time in a computer game, maybe since their purpose usually is to waste time anyway.

7.1.5 seems a relative success, but 7.2 really is the patch I hold out the most hope for.

Sorry for the scattershot approach in this post. Hopefully by Monday I will have my thoughts better organized. Everyone have a great weekend.

Prepping my alts for Legion

I spent quite a bit of last week going through what has become a fairly long process of preparing my alts for Legion leveling. I went through certain steps for each alt, namely:

  • Clear out all accumulated transmog gear in bank and in void storage, then equip the BoEs in the mailbox and clear that out.
  • Set up Ark Inventory for bag and bank. I love this addon, and the author has done a terrific job of working on it for 7.0, but the transition has been rather painful.
  • Select my spec.
  • Read up on current balance of talents, think about how I will be playing the alt, and select initial talents.
  • Check out IcyVeins for new stat priorities, then reroll stats on crafted gear, get new gems and enchants as necessary, and stock up on new food.
  • Have my inscriptionist send the alt a stack of tomes for talent switching in the field.
  • Again using IcyVeins, learn about starter rotations, cooldown usage, and priorities and use that to set up initial action bars.
  • Configure main addons to reflect the changes. This meant Weakauras for all alts plus Healbot for healers.
  • Head to the target dummies, try everything out, tweak/reconfigure as necessary. Rinse and repeat.
  • If I still felt really unsure after all this, I would do a couple of LFR runs to shake out the kinks and get a little confidence back.

As you can see, it was quite a long process, usually a couple of days per alt before I felt like I had something even minimally ready for pre-expansion events as well as for leveling in Legion. Some seemed to go a little faster than others, due I think to a combination of me being more confident playing them going in, and the nature and extent of 7.0 changes for each.

As a side note, I did finally say goodbye to my mage. After years of struggling to play her, I finally admitted that I just do not enjoy the play style, not any spec, not any expansion. Legion will be time-consuming enough without feeling guilted into leveling and gearing an alt I dread playing. So I sold off all her gear and professional cooldowns, cashed in her currencies for anything of value, sent her gold to my bank alt, and unceremoniously deleted her. I am loyal, it is true, but eventually I figure out when to cut my losses and admit defeat.

So I have a few anecdotal observations as a result of my prep process.

Demonology warlock is far more interesting than BM hunter. In fact, the demo lock play style is what BM hunter should be, in my opinion. The lock has far more intricate, interesting player choices than does the hunter, and honestly it seems to have more control over its dark beasts, too. Whereas BM hunter is all about whack-a-mole for hitting RNG-derived cooldowns as soon as they pop up, demo lock actually gives you some choices that affect your final damage efficiency. Demo lock is a skill spec, BM hunter is a lottery ticket spec.

Balance Druid might actually be a decent damage spec in Legion. I opted for Balance with a resto attunement, and so far I have been pleasantly surprised at the improvement in the spec. It seems to have more snap to it, a better feel than the lumbering slow play style I found it to be in WoD. (I can’t speak much for change to resto, but my personal impression is that it did not change nearly as drastically as some other specs.)

I like the new boomkin skin and art, too, although I have an  objection to one aspect of it —  if you take Blessing of the Ancients, the strongest of the level 90 talents, you always have a spectral form, there is nothing you can do to look solid. This annoys me to such an extent that I dumped the talent, even though nearly every site says it is by far the most powerful in that tier. I have never liked the “spectral” look of characters, and while I can put up with it for very short periods to reflect certain buffs or auras, I hate looking like that all the time. I created a good solid character, and dammit I jolly well want to stay that way!

Marksmanship hunter still feels clunky to me. I set up my “off hunter” as MM, just to try out the spec and see if it might be more pleasing to play that my main’s BM spec. So far, the answer is no for me. It seems more powerful than BM, but of course that is without artifacts yet, and also the power is once again dependent on selecting Lone Wolf. The spec is clearly meant to be a petless one, and it is obvious that Blizz only added in the possibility of a pet to try and shut up some of the hunter community whining over it. And yes, I was one of the whiners, but adding a pet while making it a net DPS loss just seems kind of spiteful to me.

MM hunter still does not flow well in terms of play style, it is cumbersome, less mobile than BM, and still too dependent on RNG procs for excellent damage. Of course, like all specs it is incomplete without the artifact weapon, but still it seems clumsy. Having said that, however, at least it offers more player choice than BM does. Skill in making the right decisions at the right time can (if the RNG gods are with you) make a difference in your play. Contrast this with BM, where in essence you have zero real decisions to make, you just punch the buttons when they come available.

Mistweaver monk has some real potential for fun. I actually liked the Mists and WoD style for MW healing, but I have to say I think the Legion changes are a net gain for the spec. It remains quite mobile, can function adequately either as a tank healer or raid healer, has a good array of spells available, and retains a very robust offensive capability. Whether MW monks will be able to compete with other, more traditional healers, in elite raid settings is a question, I suppose, but at the level I play, they will be just fine.

I was a little worried about the removal of Chi as a power source, especially when combined with the removal of Mana Tea as we knew it, but so far I have not found it to be a problem. I am a little annoyed at a few of the changes, though. Mana Tea, for example, does not in fact provide you with more mana now, it merely lowers the mana cost of your next couple of spells. That strikes me as false labeling, and if nothing else I would like the buff to be renamed. Also, I feel a tad betrayed by Blizz making the statue a talent instead of keeping it as one of the iconic features of the spec. Still, overall I really like the changes, and I anticipate making my MW my first alt to level in Legion, after my main.

Outlaw rogues seem incredibly complex to play. This is not to say they do not have potential for great fun, but I am having a devil of a time feeling even marginally comfortable with mine. The biggest change to this former Combat spec is the Roll the Bones mechanic. For those of you unfamiliar with it, basically the spell gives you one or more (up to three) of six possible random buffs. Each buff or combo of buffs affects one or more of your other spells. Thus, the outcome of RtB affects what your next spell or series of spells should optimally be. RtB has a very short cooldown, so if you do not like the outcome you can pretty much keep rolling it until you get one you do like — of course, your overall damage takes a hit if you are spending your time trying to get a good buff setup instead of doing, you know, actual damage.

While RtB is an innovative mechanic, I really don’t know how it will turn out for outlaw rogues. In its current incarnation, it seems too edgy and iffy to count on for even semi-serious raiding, dooming this spec to the clown spec, one chosen simply for the pirate motif. AAAAAARRRRRHHHH!! It is hard to envision group pleas for “Prefer outlaw rogue to fill melee ranks.”

I am not even sure it is possible to play RtB in any way except what the name implies: roll the dice and hope for a good outcome. It seems almost impossible to effectively select your next casts based on what RtB yields, given the large number of possible permutations and the relatively short available response times. A few elite players may learn to do it, I suppose, but the vast majority of players will just plant their faces on the keyboard and hope for the best. Of course, there will inevitably be an addon that “selects” for you, but even with that it will be virtually impossible to optimize your response, and nothing will compensate for a run of bad luck in terms of not getting the “best” RtB outcome. Thus, outlaw rogue, like far too many Legion specs, remains overly dependent on RNG for its damage potential.

I am still working on my rogue, and I have yet to start my pally’s Legion prep, but at least there is finally an end in sight. Not a moment too soon, either. With the introduction of Demon Hunters next week and presumably the pre-expansion events the following week, not to mention Legion itself two weeks after that, the pace of play is about to accelerate big time.

Well, whaddya think?

Whew! Patch 7.0.3 rolled out yesterday, with surprisingly few glitches, and honestly my main impression so far is: this is a helluva lot of work! Yes, work. I am sure I have never before labored so hard as I have done for the past two days, just to make a game playable. And my most optimistic estimate is that this will go on for at least another three or four days. Maybe longer.

The drudgery started Monday night, when I realized that all those garrison resources I had capped out on for most of my characters would be virtually worthless come the patch. Even using a couple of macros, it took me over two hours just to trade in all my resources for sacks of gold. True, I cleared close to 30k gold doing it, but it was tedious. And not exactly wild fun.

Then I tackled all the salvage crates I had saved up for the past month or so. I think I only had about 500 or so total in my account — not nearly as many as some of my guildies had — but that was just painful. Open them up, sell the follower gear and gray items, bank the mats, and sort out where to send which type of gear, using mailboxes as a temporary banking system. Ugh. The only saving grace for me was that I had pretty much been doing this for the last year. I would open crates maybe once a week for everyone, then check each item to see if it was most suitable for transmog for someone, or for AH sales, for DE, or for vendoring. Then about a month ago my banks began to fill up with transmog gear that would not fit in void storage, so I just kept the crates because they at least stacked.

The other thing I am glad I did was that whenever I would send some transmog gear to a character over the past year, I made sure to equip it and make it soulbound. I became very thankful for this foresight last night as I was busily equipping all the BoE gear I had sent around Monday night, so that I could sell it after making sure the appearance made it into my transmog tab. Still, it was tedious even with the relatively few BoE pieces I had to deal with. I got my two hunters sorted out for transmogs and cleaned out all the accumulated gear in their banks and void storage areas. It took several hours, and the process was made more complex by the fact that the main storage addon I use, Ark Inventory, had some major glitches. They eventually got more or less fixed, kind of, but it was a real mess.

While I am on the subject, though, I have to give some major kudos to all the addon authors. At least for the major addons I use, these folks were on top of the situation. They had done the prior work to make their addons mostly 7.0.3 ready, and most of them were issuing updates every few minutes yesterday as bug reports came in. Sure, I know they have had a long time to do this while they were in the alpha and beta tests, but most of them do this for no direct money, and I am pretty sure even what revenue they may derive from forum and blog sites and whatnot is not exactly vast riches (the addons themselves are free, and they may not ask for donations or anything on compendium sites like Curse).

Next I tackled changes with my main hunter. I have been MM since patch 6.2 — 13 months — and decided that I would at least start Legion as BM. Honestly, it is kind of a Hobson’s choice. Some of the very early comparisons seem to point to MM/LW being “THE” raiding spec for Legion — as it has been for most of WoD — but it really is too early to know for sure. But I have never been comfortable with MM in WoD, never really liked the limits on movement, never got used to not having a pet by my side. My current plan is to make my main hunter BM and my almost-main hunter MM to start Legion. This is a pretty stupid decision on my part, because right now they are the opposite, which means I will have to switch both of them. But my “main” main has a lot more cooler pets … It just seems right to make her the BM hunter.

Setting up new action bars and keybinds is not a trivial chore. Not to mention, I rely on Weakauras as the major part of my UI, and all of my auras had to be redone, many deleted, new ones added, and so forth. As to gear, I made some minor changes in light of Multistrike going away, Crit becoming pretty “meh” for BM, and trinkets getting nerfed, but for the most part I am not going to get overly concerned about secondary stats for the remaining few weeks of WoD. I will change out some gems on my BM hunter to stack some haste, but if I have a lot of Mastery instead of the slightly-better Versatility, I am not going to worry about it. Secondary stats are pretty meaningless anyway, as they will shortly be overshadowed by artifact weapons. And Blizz is still tinkering with them for many specs. Bottom line for my BM hunter — keep most of my gear, change out a trinket, stack Haste when convenient, move on.

Side comment: In their official Pre-Patch Notes from two days ago, Blizz claimed that this patch would allow us to equip more than 3 crafted items, but I was not able to do so last night. ??? And in searching just now for the actual quote, I find that in fact the notes have been changed since that particular tidbit was put out. They said it, they announced it, then they unsaid it. No explanations, no apologies, just a selective edit and memory erasure. What, hmmmm? No, we never claimed that….. Poor dear *pat pat* you must be working too hard….

Anyway, back to my hunter. After I finally got things more or less squared away last night, I stepped into a couple of LFRs with her. Grim. Of course, no one ever does any cc in LFR, but I felt completely useless in that area. No traps is a huge deal, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And no, Wyvern Sting is in no way even close as a substitute. I also really felt the loss of specialty shots like Tranq and Distracting Shot. True, I never used them all that often, but I liked knowing they were there if the situation called for them. The new Aspect of the Cheetah, with its timer and cooldown just really sucks. This just seems to be a mean-spirited change, driven only by some sort of hunter envy. And no camouflage will hurt a lot when it comes time to level, I am sure.

I am probably one of the few hunters who actually enjoyed doing lots of little extra raid chores. Now, we have almost no utility for those things. We are just another damage dealer in a crowd. As for actual damage numbers, it is a bit hard to tell. No one was doing anywhere close to what we were seeing before the patch, but whether that is mainly due to spec changes or to everyone having to relearn rotations is not clear. BM will always stink at rapid target switching, and much of HFC involves that. I had not selected an AoE-heavy talent build, but I still did respectable damage with lots of targets if they were all bunched up. Volley is a pretty cool talent, very similar to the rogue’s Blade Flurry. Stampede just blows, at least in any situation where the tank keeps moving adds or the boss — it is completely dependent on your own directional orientation, has absolutely nothing to do with targets.

I will point out that Blizz needs to cut back on some of the audio effects for hunters, though. The constant Dire Beast whistle gets very annoying very fast, and the Bestial Wrath scream is just nerve-grating.

The thing with BM is that most of your damage is based on your pets, and you lose a ton of damage if you miss even one Kill Command or Dire Beast when they either proc because of spell interactions or just come off their rather short cooldowns. I had also taken Chimaera Shot as a talent, and that, too, requires very close monitoring. What I found myself doing was tunnel visioning my hot bars (or my Weakauras), and I lost a lot of raid awareness as a result. Since there are a lot of dynamic cooldown and focus regen changes, it does not seem possible to get into a second-sense rhythm of when things are about to become available. I am somewhat dubious that it will ever be possible to do so. Of course, it was my first real group effort with the new BM, so it is still early in the process.

Anyway, I have gone on far longer than I intended to for this post. Bottom line is that so far I have found the pre-patch to be a lot of drudgery, I think the new transmog system is a welcome improvement, and BM hunters still stink.

I would be very interested in your early impressions.

Overly complex, overly simple

I have been dipping my toe into Legion, via the PTR and the beta, now for a little over a week, and so far my strongest impression is one of total confusion. I cannot keep track of all the various “things” I need to be working on, mainly because I have absolutely zero idea of how many things I should be trying to level and how they interact with each other. Take this “explanation” from Ion Hazzikostas supposedly enlightening us all on the details of artifacts weapons, artifact power, artifact knowledge, artifact traits and talents, class hall research and research tomes, and for all I know if you read it backwards and upside down it may reveal where Jimmy Hoffa is buried or summon Satan to claim your soul:

Max-level players in this build may notice an important new Artifact feature. The researcher/scribe NPC in your Class Hall will offer you a quest to retrieve a set of tomes from around the world. Once these are recovered, you can instruct your researcher to work on deciphering these tomes. Each step of research will require some Order Resources (which are primarily obtained through World Quests), and will grant increased “Artifact Knowledge.”

Increasing Artifact Knowledge permanently increases your rate of Artifact Power gains, and this bonus applies to all artifact weapons your character may possess. (And no, Artifact Power items obtained at a lower Knowledge level won’t automatically update, so hoarding items for future use won’t benefit you.) This system is key to the pacing of overall artifact progression, and to making it easier for players to maintain multiple artifacts if they so desire. For example, at Knowledge Level 7, you would be earning Artifact Power at over triple the base rate. Thus, if you wanted to switch to a spec you hadn’t yet tried at that point, you’d find yourself very quickly able to get that artifact up to par with your primary one.

As your scribes progress through their translation and research, you will fill in pages of a great tome in your Class Hall that provides more backstory and information about your artifact (this is not yet fully hooked up for some classes). Finally, in the live game, the speed at which your researchers can work will increase as the expansion progresses, allowing latecomers or alts to catch up on their artifact progress.

Well, that certainly clears that up. And the whole long comment does not even address the idea of Artifact Relics — which are a whole other thing — or the Rube Goldberg talent path you unlock as you gain Artifact Power at your appropriate Artifact Knowledge rate which is gained from tomes that you give your class hall researchers who do research projects that fill in pages in The Big Giant Tome in your class hall.

As if keeping track of this mess for your artifact weapon were not enough, now we learn that you get to do it for a special fishing pole artifact, too. Oh boy! It’s not clear if the  character-wide Artifact Power will also apply to the artifact fishing pole, but if I were betting, I would bet not, so there will be a whole separate set of AP earned just for this separate artifact, thus a second set of things to keep track of. And this will be for every alt that you wish to use fishing to collect the critical crafting mat Blood of Sargeras on.

Turning to other professions, these, too, seem unnecessarily complex. Every profession has a series of quests through which you level up, and these quests continue through your regular character leveling process, taking you to every zone in the Broken Isles. However, once you have learned your profession’s recipes, you are still not really done, as there is a process of “stars” that adds levels of efficiency with which you can create crafted items. In the case of gathering professions, there are also star levels that let you gather more things as you progress.

Then there is Obliterum.

The Obliterum Forge, unlocked with a questline at level 110, will allow players to destroy their crafted gear and obtain Obliterum. Obliterum, in turn, can be used to make crafted gear more powerful.

As far as I can understand — I do not yet have a max level character on the beta so have not reached this stage — the idea is you craft items for the purpose of destroying them so that you can add gear levels to other crafted items. (The max level to which you can upgrade crafted gear this way is not clear at this time, but each Obliterum upgrades the level by 5.) This strikes me as an overly complex way to force us to use up more crafting mats, since you need to use Blood of Sargeras and other mats to craft the items to be destroyed as well as the items you wish to upgrade, then more BoS to actually use the forge and destroy the sacrificial items. It is also not clear how many items will have to be destroyed in order to obtain enough Obliterum Ash to upgrade one item, but most of the comments I have read indicate it is at least three, possibly more.

All of this means that BoS assumes overriding importance for the entire crafting process. Without it, you might as well not have a crafting profession. And, as I wrote about a couple of days ago, it is currently BoP as well as incredibly scarce to gather when compared to the numbers of it you need to do most anything.

It is possible to argue the relative merits of the Legion profession system, and in general, in the small picture, making professions more interesting might be a good thing. But, as is my habit, I like to try and see the bigger picture. And the big picture I see is a game that is growing vastly more complex each expansion, at almost a geometric rate. I am not going to try and figure out if that is a bad or a good thing, but I also see that as usual Blizz is talking out of both sides of its collective mouth on this.

On the one side they are doing all the things I describe to add extreme complexity to the game. But on the other side, they are condemning any semblance of complexity in class mechanics as evil evil evil. Remember at the beginning of WoD when they told us we should not be bothering our little heads with icky math, and we should not have to go to a web site to see what was best for our character, so therefore they were removing reforging from the game? And then they gave us the “solution” of 12-15 different “flavors” of gear with so many permutations and combinations of secondary stats that if you did not have a degree in math to figure out what was best, well then everyone went to a web site to get the answer anyway.

And the biggest hypocrisy: WoD and Legion class “pruning” in the name of simplifying class mechanics. I take BM hunters in Legion as the prime example — it is a mind-numbingly boring spec to play in Legion, there is just no other way to describe it. And honestly, Blizz had already pretty much pruned it to death in WoD, so why they considered it needed even further dumbing down is just puzzling.

(Although, as a side issue, I note that Blizz is perfectly willing to keep fairly sophisticated and engaging play for its favorite classes, which in Legion seem to be Demon Hunter and SV Hunter. It is only the classes the devs have no love for they seem to want to simplify down into oblivion.)

So we should not have to suffer the trauma of engaging complicated class play, but we can easily deal with multiple and incomprehensible talent trees for class, artifact weapon, even freaking fishing poles, and with  levels upon levels of professions, and with a new multiple step process to just upgrade gear, not to mention the ever increasing madness of mechanics stacked upon mechanics stacked upon even more mechanics for raids? Yeah, clearly having those 3-4 extra buttons to push for your class is what was making the game too complex.

Blizz, I don’t mind you making a complex game, but for crying out loud have the backbone to admit that is what it is. Stop trying to tell us you have our best interests at heart by making our spec easy enough for a potato to play, when what you are really doing is trying to simplify your constant problem of class balance. We play our class and spec because we like it, we enjoy figuring out the nuances of spell interactions, we like getting really good at it when it is challenging — so please stop insulting us by saying we are too stupid to figure out a few extra rotation buttons but can easily deal with fantastically complicated mechanics for every other part of the game. And while you are at it, get down on your knees and thank third-party sites like Wowhead and IcyVeins and AskMrRobot and others, because without them your game would be too frustrating to play for all but the most hardcore of your players.

Legion Beast Mastery Hunter – First impressions

SPOILER ALERT: I am not going to intentionally hold back on what I am experiencing as I make my way through the Broken Isles. That may include subjects you consider to be “spoilers” — you have been warned.

I have played my Legion Beast Mastery hunter now for a couple of game sessions, have taken her through getting her artifact weapon, made it to the hunter class hall, and advanced to level 101. Selected mining and jewel crafting for professions and have just started with them.

Even though it is early in the process, I have to say I am not happy with the changes to BM. It has a slow, clunky, puny feel to it. Maybe it is a matter of just getting used to it, or maybe it is a matter of filling out some more of the artifact weapon talent tree, so I am not giving up on it yet, but I am not feeling good about it so far.

Let me start at the beginning. Once I finally got to new Dalaran, a bird (owl?) appeared behind me with my starter quest for my artifact weapon. The quest line was kind of fun, involved a little running around to find NPCs in Dal, then a few fun solo scenarios in Ulduar, Stormheim, and ultimately Storm Peaks where I finally got Titanstrike (the BM weapon) after fighting alongside Thorim and his wolf Hati. (Pronounced “Hottie” by the NPC in the scenario…) Hati, of course, is key to Titanstrike, bound to it in some mystical fashion so that he becomes your second pet once you equip the weapon. (For an excellent rundown of the BM artifact weapon quest line, with great screen shots, see Elizabeth Harper’s Blizzard Watch article about it.)

Once you have the weapon, you have a couple more quests that take you to the hunter class hall in Highmountain, where you take an oath of service to fight the Legion and perform your first artifact weapon “training” at an altar in the hall.

LB-Hunter-BM-AW 02

Artifact weapon talent tree after initial “training”

Having the weapon — even baseline — makes a noticeable difference in your power as a hunter. Before equipping it, I probably died 8-10 times because I just did not have the power to take on more than one level 100 mob at a time, and even that was a bit iffy under certain circumstances. Clearly, some of this was due to my unfamiliarity with the new hunter style, as well as to the fact that my beta-rolled hunter was below level 680, but mostly it highlights the overriding importance this one piece of gear plays in Legion. After I got the weapon, my death rate decreased in subsequent questing. Note, though, that it did not go away, and I have died 3-4 more times in the last day, even being very careful about the number of mobs I take on at once. This of course is a completely new experience for me and I suspect will be for most hunters.

While I am on the subject of dying, I want to also point out that my pet seems extremely squishy and really unable to hold aggro well at all. It seems to make no difference if he is in Ferocity spec or Tenacity. He died a lot, and the times when he didn’t die, I spent most of my time spamming heals at him (Mend Pet is now on a cooldown, also).

At any rate, while things went a little better after I got Titanstrike, I still have a lot of problem with the way BM plays out. I chose Highmountain to start leveling in (which seems to me to be very similar to the Tauren starting zone in Azeroth, so if cows are not your thing, you might want to avoid this zone for a while). When you are at your class hall, there is a map that allows you  to select which area you want to be adventuring in. (Remember, zones are scaled.) What I will probably do is one or two levels in Highmountain, then move to a different zone for a level or two, and basically check them all out.

LB-HCH-Scouting Map

Hovering over the exclamation points tells you a little about each zone and gives you the opportunity to select it for your questing area

So why am I not happy with my BM hunter experience so far? In a nutshell:

  • It seems far too passive.
    • You press a couple of pet spell buttons, but then your only real active shot is Cobra Shot for single target and Multi-Shot for AoE. Each consumes 40 focus, and they compete for focus with your pet spells of Kill Command and Bestial Wrath. The basic BM hunter rotation is solely dependent on passive focus regeneration, there are no baseline shots you can fire that are focus builders.
    • There are one or two talents you can take that amend this somewhat, but even with one of them — Dire Frenzy — I felt focus-starved all the time. I frequently found myself tapping my foot, unable to do anything for a second or two just waiting for focus to generate. It is a very helpless, feeble feeling. (I am still playing with my talents, so I won’t go into them in great detail here, but you can check out the Wowhead database for what they are in Legion.)
  • For a spec with the fantasy of being a master of beasts, in reality you have very little control over them except for your regular pet (which, as pointed out above, is very squishy).
    • Hati is a passive pet, either chained for some things to your regular pet, or reacting to passive RNG.
    • The Legion version of Stampede stinks, in my opinion. No longer do you summon 5 pets to attack your main target, you get multiple waves of pets rushing past you, damaging whatever is in their path, like Barrage but with pets instead of arrows or bullets. I don’t find the visual particularly compelling, it all happens so  quickly that there is really little chance to appreciate it. But that aside, the baseline concept now suffers from all the shortfalls of Barrage — positioning, damage waste if there is only one target, etc.
  • I find myself missing traps, camouflage, Thrill of the Hunt, Master’s Call, and Kill Shot. They are just flat out gone, and with them much of the real fun of playing a hunter. (I say again, how in hell can you have any hunter “fantasy” that does not include expertise with camouflage and traps?)
    • The only CC you have is your Level 75 talent line — Binding Shot, Wyvern Sting, and Intimidation. All pale, in my opinion, to current hunter traps.
    • No camouflage, so guess what — you get to deal with Every. Stinkin’. Mob. You. Come. Close. To. (You think Blizz would dare to take Invis away from mages? Never in a thousand years.)
    • Thrill of the Hunt to me has been one of those fun challenges for hunters — if you have been efficient but judicious with your focus, when it procs it is just huge fun. There is nothing I have found so far to take the place of that kind of fun in Legion.
    • Master’s Call is one of those things that makes controlling a pet fun. Did I use it that often? No, but  when I did use it to free up a healer or even myself, it was just awesome to see my pet rushing to the rescue. It was a fantastically unique hunter ability. Gone in Legion.
    • Kill Shot is one of those things most of us have built up ingrained muscle memory for, and it just feels good to use it to finish a mob off. Without it, I have actually found myself in situations where the mob is down to a couple of percentage points of health, and I am standing around twiddling my thumbs waiting for focus to generate. Very frustrating.
  • So far, I have not found a real tangible surge combination for BM.
    • Not only does it feel slow and mostly passive, but short of pressing your few buttons at the same slow pace but with greatly increased fervor, there is nothing much you can do when the raid leader tells everyone to “pour it on”. There just is nothing to pour.
  • Aspect of the Turtle is just a different visualization for current Deterrence, but unfortunately the second charge is gone. 

So that is it for my first impressions. The spec depends completely on pets for damage, which is fine for Beast Mastery, I have no problem with that concept, find it kind of intriguing actually. But having embarked upon it, Blizz has failed to give us any semblance of real player interaction with those pets. A BM hunter has become little more than a leash holder, able to affect a fight only by deciding when to let go of the leash. Worse, the leash holds not the Dogs of War but creatures more aptly described as the Fluffy Bunnies of War.

Up tomorrow: Some overall impressions on the leveling experience in general, along with some of the quality of life changes I have found so far.