Honestly, I have neither the time nor the inclination to talk in-depth about the Alpha patch notes for Warlords of Draenor that we’ve gotten. This may actually be a short entry! (hahahaha, if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.)
The first thing anyone needs to do in order to have an informed opinion on these changes is to read the entirety of the patch notes. No, I’m not kidding. Pretty much everything they posted is necessary to further understand the changes. What is absolutely wonderful about these notes is that they do attempt to give you context. That is amazing and you have to thank the devs for trying to do so. From what I can tell, they attempted to explain the whys pre-emptively. The whole bit about ability pruning is particularly interesting.
So what am I going to discuss here? I’m just going to say that I’m a little disappointed to see some abilities go, from a hunter perspective. In particular, the loss of Aspect of the Hawk, Distracting Shot, Hunter’s Mark, Rapid Fire, Scatter Shot, Silencing Shot and Serpent Sting altogether are, to me, fairly disappointing. The changes to Kill Shot (no longer available to Survival Hunters) and Lock and Load (being removed by itself, but still able to be procced from Black Arrow) also sting a bit. That Stampede is now a talent is interesting, so I’m not all that fussed, although I don’t know how Murder of Crows or Blink Strikes can compete.
Note that I’m not going to lobby to get these things changed — I know things will naturally change and evolve due to feedback and play data in Alpha and Beta. That said, I did want to talk a little bit about why I feel these changes are disappointing, from a PVE standpoint.
Aspect of the Hawk
Okay, seriously, I know. I know! I get it. We always use Aspect of the Hawk. To not use it is to use Aspect of the Cheetah or Aspect of the Pack. This is absolutely ability bloat at its finest. The trouble is, it’s only ability bloat NOW because we used to have other options. We had Aspect of the Wild (nature resistance!), we later had Aspect of the Viper (mana regen!) in addition to Cheetah and Pack. That Aspect of the Hawk finally goes the way of the Wild and the Viper is not terribly surprising to me, but it feels like an iconic part of being a hunter is going. Yes, they’re baking the buff itself into the abilities and such, but I’m someone who actually enjoyed the different aspects back in the day.
What they really need to do is a way to prevent morons from running around with Pack on constantly, particularly in things like LFG and LFR. >.>
I will freely admit that I rarely use this ability. However, when I have used it, it’s generally been in key situations where I ended up kiting some damn thing halfway across the room/area/etc. We’re talking General Drakkisath in Upper Blackrock Spire, back in the day. What about on a pull gone horribly awry? Forcing a mob to pay attention to you and chase you down is a core part of what hunters have been. And while I was thrilled to not have to always kite Drak (thank you, Toga!), I enjoyed knowing that I could and that I had successfully done so previously and could do so again. This kind of gameplay doesn’t really happen these days, though, and I think the game is poorer for it.
For what it’s worth, I occasionally use this out on Timeless Isle when fighting the Gulp Frogs if I pull more than one so that my poor bear doesn’t get 10 stacks of their poison. I could use another shot, like Arcane Shot, if I wanted, but I use Distracting Shot because I want that other mob to look at me and I want it to look at me now. The only way we’ll be able to kite things in the future is if we’re the last one standing, essentially. While that means that kiting in the middle of a raid encounter, for example, will no longer be our domain (and perhaps it hasn’t been for a long while), it’s worth taking a moment to think about where we started and to respect what we were able to do.
More bloat, I’ll grant you, but another iconic ability going the way of the dodo makes me sad. True, it’s automatically applied on virtually any shot. True, with the raid icon markers, we no longer need to use Hunter’s Mark to actually differentiate between different mobs. But it pre-dated the icons and, for a long while, was the only way TO distinguish mobs from each other.
They’re getting rid of a lot of cooldowns. I’m okay with that. I’m even basically okay with Rapid Fire being removed. I’m not a fan of blowing all cooldowns on the pull and on CD thereafter, which perhaps makes me not the best hunter in the world (which is one reason I haven’t raided seriously on Kurn since Vanilla). It’s just that it’s so weird to see all of these abilities that have been around forever finally being cut. We lost all of our melee abilities (even our ability to wield both a ranged and a melee weapon) in Cataclysm and this feels like they’re coming back around to finish the job. Even if it’s just a silly cooldown that I probably never used as much as I should have, I’ll still miss it.
Once upon a time, back when I spent a lot of time in Warsong Gulch while levelling my hunter, I was defending the flag in the Alliance base. An orc hunter named Dar (not to be confused with the awesome mage Darista, whom we all called Dar) came up the tunnel with a feral druid named Elu and, while I called it out (dude, I had humanoid tracking on and was shadow melded and was watching Dar’s dot come up the tunnel), I was unable to prevent them from taking the flag. Why? Because when I gave chase, I was suddenly disoriented. I lost control of my character. “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?” I yelled at my computer. As I waited to be resurrected (Dar managed to DESTROY me), I scrolled up in my combat log. “Scatter Shot?” I said, “What in the hell is Scatter Shot?”
As a hunter, I knew I must have had the same abilities as Dar, who was about the same level as me, so I found it in my spellbook and put it on my bars AND YOU BET YOUR ASS I Scatter Shotted him every single time I saw him thereafter.
It’s another shot I rarely use, mostly just to prevent spellcasting if Counter Shot or whatever is on cooldown, but I’ll miss it, too.
I remember getting Silencing Shot. I believe I spent some time in the Western Plaguelands playing with casters as I learned how to use it. Counter Shot is fine, I guess, and I understand this is part of the larger picture of no longer having silences ATTACHED to interrupts, but it’ll be missed.
Oh, Serpent Sting. I think I’ll miss you, most of all! Hunters used to have a fair number of “stings”. Serpent Sting has always been around and it used to be terrible and not worth the debuff slot on mobs in Molten Core, for example. Scorpid Sting helped reduce the target’s chance to hit (and before that, reduced their Strength and Agility by a certain amount). Viper Sting was a mana drain. Wyvern Sting, a Survival-only (for so long) form of CC. I always thought that stings could be a REALLY interesting mechanic for hunters, that Survival hunters, in particular, could be a great DoT class, right up there with warlocks. Instead, they’ve already removed Scorpid and Viper, Wyvern is a talent and now out goes Serpent Sting. It was one of the very first abilities I gained as a hunter and I remember being awestruck and fascinated at the green vapours that appeared on the recipient of my sting.
I think this is the one choice that I don’t really understand. Serpent Sting isn’t automatic. It’s a deliberate choice one makes when they’re attacking the target. Not using Serpent Sting at all, or as much as you can (aiming for 100% uptime), is, well, silly, but it’s also the sign of a not-great hunter (at least on single-target fights). While we all SHOULD use Serpent Sting and aim for that 100% uptime, I’m sure many people don’t. Since it’s not automatic like Hunter’s Mark (unless you’re Survival and using Multi-Shot — which, by the way, will still exist!), I don’t see why Serpent Sting is going away. Is it bloat? Perhaps, I guess, but it’s not bloat like Aspect of the Hawk or Hunter’s Mark, both of which are either used 100% of the time due to lack of other options or are applied automatically. Even world-class players can’t always keep Serpent Sting up 100% of the time. It’s a bit of a mystery to me why this ability, which takes a bit of skill/practice to use properly, is being culled. Alas, poor Serpent Sting, I knew you well. /salute
What about Holy Paladins?
Honestly, good riddance to the Guardian of Ancient Kings as a holy cooldown. Adios, wings. Seeya, Divine Plea. I’m fine with all of these. (My jaw dropped into the apartment below me when I saw Druids are losing Innervate, so I was more prepared for our loss of Divine Plea.) I’m sure I’ll have more to say about healing, but for now, I’m pretty much okay with things. (Although Flash of Light and Holy Light healing for roughly the same amount feels wrong to me, but that’s another rant for another day.)
What do you think about the Alpha notes? Anything you’ll really miss?
But Wait, There’s More
Before I forget, my bio and first column are live over at SentryTotem.com! Every Tuesday and Friday, there should be a brand-new column from me about Guild Leadership. In fact, there’s a second column scheduled to go live today, so be sure to check it out sometime after noon Eastern, 9am Pacific. :)