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Azortharion's Thoughts on the Legion Hunter Preview

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A few days ago, Blizzard released their Legion preview for the Hunter class, which provides a glimpse into the many changes that are scheduled for the Legion expansion. We sat down with Azortharion, reviewer of our Hunter class guides here at Icy Veins, in order to find out what he thinks of the preview.

 

Azortharion is a top-parsing Hunter who raids in Ðanish Terrace, a guild that is rank 19 in the world. You can follow him on Twitter and watch him stream on Twitch.

 

Hunter Class Overall

 

About the changes to the Hunter class overall (before going into detail about each specific spec), he had this to say.

 

The most striking thing, and the greatest success of the recent Hunter class announcement for Legion has to be that they finally succeeded to give each spec an identity. The three hunter specs have been very similar for too long, and if you were good at one of them, you were essentially good at all of them.

 

It’s important to note - not just for Hunters, but for all classes this expansion, 4-5 rows of talents for each spec will be throughput-based. This suggests that on top of the basic gameplay that the spec’s base abilities bring, there will be a lot of depth and optimization added through these talents. My prediction is that choice will play a bigger role than usual. They have mentioned that they will bundle similar talents together - not in rows, but in columns. For example, the leftmost column of talents for a spec may be more mobility-focused than the rest (while still maintaining throughput gains for a number of them).

 

With so many throughput talents to choose from, though, what talents you choose could have a huge impact on how the spec is played, and it is difficult to tell exactly how the specs will look with just the base abilities.

 

It’s important to note that the passive, base focus regeneration of Hunters has been increased from 4 per second to 10 per second, and that all thoughts here take this into account.

 

Beast Mastery

 

Beast Mastery has remained more or less similar to its pre-Legion incarnation, since it retains its beast theme (and one could say that its identity was always more unique than those of the other two specs). Read on to see what Azortharion had to say. 

 

Beast Mastery has until this point been the spec that I prefer for the gameplay alone, but thematically it has always been very lackluster. Your interaction with the pet was very limited, especially for single-target, while Beast Cleave was at least introduced for AoE, rewarding good pet positioning on fights with spread out targets especially.

 

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Now, Beast Mastery has been redesigned, with pets as the main focus as they rightfully should be for this spec. Kill Command will stay, while Dire Beast (previously a talent) becomes part of the spec toolkit. Cobra Shot remains, too, but it now costs 30 focus. I have a suspicion that it may be supposed to generate this, but for now I can only assume that it’s a spender. This leaves Dire Beast as the only way to generate focus besides your passive, static regeneration. This is not very problematic, with our passive focus regeneration being more than doubled.

 

The Beast Mastery spec does not seem as fleshed out as the other two specs. The basic gameplay seems to involve using Dire Beast on cooldown, which reduces the cooldown of Bestial Wrath by 15 seconds per usage, using Kill Command on cooldown, and dumping excess focus with Cobra Shot.

 

Beast Mastery’s Mastery is still called “Master of Beasts”, and still increases the damage done of your pets by 45% with typical Mastery levels.

 

I hope that talents will add much more to this spec, because using some things on cooldown and controlling your focus is the exact same gameplay we’ve had in all three specs for years. I think that they are on the right track when it comes to its thematics, but the base gameplay seems like it’s missing one or two key abilities.

 

Marksmanship

 

Marksmanship Hunters often opted to forego using a pet during Warlords of Draenor, something which Blizzard has decided to incorporate into their new core identity. Here is what Azortharion thinks about the changes.

 

Marksmanship is the spec that I am most excited about. Chimaera Shot is gone, and while it was a nice ability to use for its sheer stopping power, it did not make much thematic sense - an elemental shot that did magical damage. They made a step towards this “de-elementalizing” of Marksmanship by removing Arcane Shot from the spec in the start of Warlords of Draenor. With that said, Arcane Shot is back as a focus generator. I think they could’ve easily made Arcane Shot something else - a physical shot instead of a magical one, at least. Given that it is our generator, we will also be casting it a lot. It plays a huge role.

Still, Marksmanship has a reimagined identity - it is always petless, and a number of its abilities are centered around picking out targets to “snipe”, if you will. The basic gameplay idea is that you apply Hunter’s Mark to one or more targets by using Arcane Shot and Multi-Shot to apply Hunter’s Mark to different targets which it will do at random with a currently unknown chance. Once you have up to 3 targets marked, you will use Marked Shot to deal huge damage to those targets. This will cause Aimed Shot - still our focus dump - to deal vastly increased damage - up to 75% with 3 stacks of the Marked Shot debuff. Finally, Aimed Shot now requires you to stand still, while Marked Shot can be cast on the move. They sped up Aimed Shot’s base cast time by a whole second, though, so it should not be very problematic. There is no more Sniper Training to deal with as we know it, as you’ll see further below.

That is the basic gameplay, and as you can probably tell, it’s vastly more complicated than any Hunter spec has been in the past 3 expansions. As someone who really enjoys getting the maximum out of a spec, increasing the difficulty makes the impact of that way more significant. It’s the kind of complex difficulty that I think may turn off non-raiders or just more casual players, but perhaps the philosophy is that Marksmanship will be the advanced raider’s spec that deals the highest damage if all is done correctly. Of course, we can only speculate on that for now.

 

Marksmanship’s Mastery is a simplified version of Sniper Training that increases the range and critical strike damage of all your shots by 20% in “typical” gear, as Blizzard puts it. Previously, you could not feasibly rely on the extra range that Mastery gave you, since it required so much standing still. Now, Marksmanship Hunters can reliably stand further away than anyone else. This new Mastery does not require standing still at all, it is constantly active.

 

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Survival

 

Survival is probably going through the most aggressive of changes in Legion. The spec will become a melee spec, and traps will be exclusive to Survival Hunters. Read Azortharion's analysis to get a better idea of where the spec is heading.

 

When people asked me what I thought about Survival going melee when it was first announced, I told them that I didn’t care much for that aspect - I still don’t. In the end, it all comes down to whether it is fun to play -the spec-. Sure, being in melee is a big difference, but if the spec is fun I won’t let that hold me back. On the flip-side, if the spec is awful, I wouldn’t touch it even if I strongly preferred melee.

Thematically, I think the new Survival is the best one of the specs. Being in melee with your pet and using purely physical attacks is a fantasy that many Hunters have been yearning for, even if some might think that this fantasy should be applied to the Beast Mastery spec instead. I actually agree with that, especially in the light of some mechanics with Survival that I think would have been awesome as Beast Mastery, but onwards to the spec!

Survival, thematically, is supposed to be a spear user. A number of old-timey abilities are back - Raptor Strike, Wing Clip, and Mongoose Bite. For the most part, they are fairly similar to how we once knew them, with Wing Clip and Raptor Strike costing focus, and Mongoose Bite working on a charge system as we’ll see below.

One of the central mechanics of the spec is that Mongoose Bite has up to 3 charges. Whenever you use Mongoose Bite, another Mongoose Bite following it within 3.5 seconds will deal 50% increased damage, stacking up to 6 times.

A new ability is introduced through Flanking Strike, which also costs a bit of focus and has a short, 6-second cooldown. This is the pet-oriented ability I was talking about. It causes both you and your pet to deal heavy damage at the same time. If the target is attacking you, the pet does more damage, and if it’s not attacking you, you will do more damage, this is most likely as a means for the pet to get aggro more easily during solo content.

Survival has no focus regeneration besides passive regeneration, which is now 10 focus per second. The gameplay will largely consist of dumping excess focus using Raptor Strike, keeping up the newly introduced Laceration DoT which simply deals damage, and keeping Flanking Strike on cooldown. Mongoose Bite management will play a central role in what the player’s mind is on when playing the spec. They mention a talent that instantly gives you 3 charges of Mongoose Bite, which is what makes stacking the damage bonus up to 6 possible, along with the Mastery that we will see in a moment.

 

I imagine a number of the talents will be centered around amplifying your Mongoose Bite’s damage, charge count, and debuff length. You don’t want to waste any charges, naturally, so at least one should continously be kept on cooldown. When you need to do more damage - or during cooldowns - you would dump your charges and stack up Mongoose Bite’s damage, and then use something like the talent Snake Hunter (shown as an example of what is in store for Survival talents in the class preview) to restore 3 charges and continue, stacking up some insanely powerful Mongoose Bites by the end of your cooldowns.

Survival’s Mastery, “Hunting Companion”, causes your pet’s attacks to have a 20% chance (in typical gear) to give you an extra charge of Mongoose Bite.

With some talents added, I see Survival becoming a very involved spec, just like Marksmanship. Even if the Flanking Strike and Hunting Companion mechanics seem more fit for Beast Mastery in the thematical sense, I am just happy to be in there with my pet wreaking some havoc.

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