Legion - Beast Mastery First Impressions

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote feedback regarding Marksmanship Hunters on the current iteration of Legion Alpha. Prior to that, I wrote feedback regarding Survival Hunters. Once again, this is an extension of that, focusing on Beast Mastery instead.

This will harken back to the feedback regarding the Hunter Preview released on the Blizzard website in November. This will be my impressions regarding Beast Mastery's identity, core combat design, talents, artifact and the current available leveling experience.

LEGION BEAST MASTERY - 

FEROCIOUS PREDATOR BECOMES KIN,  A PROFOUND BOND WITH CREATURES OF THE WILD

This post will consist of,
( clickable table of contents ; use keyboard home to return to this )
  1.  prelude introduction, did Beast Mastery meet expectations from the preview?
  2.  first impressions and go-over of all its core ability spells,
  3.  then impressions of the talents (in regards to its core kit),
  4.  then the artifact and its traits, along with specialization expectations,
  5.  a "too long; didn't read" summary and highlighting changes I'd like to see.

1. PRELUDE

Beast Mastery - the legion class preview told us that Beast Masters were in a good place overall, but that they had refined existing abilities and talents to differentiate them better. It focused on telling us Cobra Shot filled all our free moments in combat, leaving no time for managing our pet, and that this management of pets should be a defining characteristic.

My concern when I wrote my initial Legion Preview feedback was that nothing presented gave us any indication of moving away from filling all our free moments in combat with Cobra Shot towards pet management. In fact, it seemed to insinuate the opposite, insofar that instead of having to regenerate focus with Cobra Shot, we now dumped focus with Cobra Shot while having no direct control over the regeneration. We also lost direct management of our pet damage through Focus Fire, with the only reimplementation of pet management being in the form of summoning random animals with Dire Beast, something we already had the option of in a talent. Despite being in a 'good place overall,' it felt like a far bigger revamp than a 'refining of existing abilities.'

The concern regarding depersonalization with Dire Beast was recently addressed with Celestalon posting there will be a glyph for Dire Beast that selects from your stable pets instead. So for this feedback I'll try to focus on more mechanical concerns, or pointing out where this disconnect still remains.

Did Beast Mastery meet expectations set forth by the Legion Preview?
A profound bond with the creatures of the wild, invigorated by the primal world's dangerous and untamed nature. Ferocious predator becomes kin. In the thrill of the hunt or heat of battle, calling forth a litany of vicious animals to overwhelm prey and gnaw at enemies will. These were the keywords given by the Legion Preview. The core combat abilities presented were Cobra Shot, Dire Beast, Kill Command and Wild Call.

Again, like Marksmanship, one of the aforementioned combat abilities is not an ability: it is a passive. This is curious, because unlike Marksmanship, Beast Mastery has never felt like it had the same sort of slim ability set. We see this further in Beast Mastery's talent setup, having the least amount of active choices or extra buttons between the three specializations. It would seem, for the most part, that Beast Mastery is playing a lot of cards between its three main abilities (Cobra Shot, Dire Beast and Kill Command), and being the only specialization to have two baseline cooldowns (Aspect of the Wild and Bestial Wrath). We see this in the dynamics between Dire Beast, Wild Call and Bestial Wrath in that Dire Beast reduces the cooldown of Bestial Wrath and Wild Call provides extra Dire Beast casts. But did this affect its ability to meet expectations from the Preview?

My personal opinion is yes, and this goes well beyond pet depersonalization on Dire Beast. When I wrote an initial impression from the preview I highlighted that the write up put heavy focus on pet management and moving away from the player filling spaces with Cobra Shot, all while sounding like they were slimming down Beast Mastery away from pet management and at the same time enunciating filled spaces with Cobra. And that is exactly what I experienced on Legion.
More importantly, I'm not entirely sure the Legion Preview still agrees with itself on Beast Mastery being about a litany of animals to overwhelm. Indeed, it was quite jarring next to a profound bond with the creatures of the wild. Since we are not Demonology imp spawners, let's focus on the second one.

For me there were several issues with Beast Mastery, and it was exceptionally hard for me to focus on leveling. As of writing this I don't feel I have put enough time into the specialization as I would like, but am doing so in order to collect all the major points I think need to be addressed before moving forward with it. 


2. BEAST MASTERY'S CORE ABILITY KIT

Beast Mastery has four core abilities I would consider part of its damage arsenal:
Multi-Shot, Dire Beast, Cobra Shot and Kill Command.
I also consider the Artifacts' first unlocked ability a fifth core damage spell:
Titan's Thunder. 

http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=2643/multi-shot -

Multi-Shot, unlike Marksmanship's Multi-Shot, has always been a big part of Beast Mastery's AoE prowess. Beneath the hatches Beast Master's have had a litany of high synergy passives working to complement each other. They have always coalesced the most within Multi-Shot. Like this:
Beast Mastery's Multi-shot also provides http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=115939/beast-cleave, which subsequently would cleave pets' basic abilities like  http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=17253/bite. Bite benefited from the Wild Hunt, since coded into Bite as http://www.wowhead.com/spell=62762/basic-attack-focus-cost-modifier. Furthermore, the live version of Bestial Wrath provided a 50% focus reduction on abilities which allowed Beast Mastery the ability to burst high AoE with low focus cost Multi-Shots and Beast Cleaves, closing this positive feedback loop.

That's not entirely gone from Legion because Multi-Shot and Beast Cleave still exist. However, I will point out that there is now no way for Beast Mastery to reduce the focus cost on Multi-Shot and no way to predictably manage its own focus. With the removal of http://www.wowhead.com/spell=82692/focus-fire we have also lost all control over feeding our pets extra focus in order to gain Wild Hunt. In fact, even http://www.wowhead.com/spell=177667/steady-focus is no longer an option for pet focus management.

So while Multi-Shot itself maintains the dynamic of Beast Cleave, I feel perhaps Beast Cleave has overshadowed a more important, more subtle nuance of Beast Mastery's AoE play: Pet focus management. Instead of building up this interaction to be a more conscious choice for the player, it was removed entirely. 

This is something I believe can be remedied through Talent options. As I mentioned earlier, Beast Mastery has the most passive talents of all three specializations, while also having the slimmest core ability set next to Marksmanship. A big part of this is that several of the Talents offered to Beast Mastery probably should have been baseline.
To be more clear, Beast Mastery has 13 passive talent options and 8 active options. Marksmanship has 11 passives, 10 actives. Survival has 10 passives, 7 actives and 4 actives that replace other actives. Furthermore, many of the passives provided to Marksmanship and Survival have a direct affect on gameplay (such as http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=201082/way-of-the-moknathal), whereas the vast majority of Beast Mastery's happen regardless of what you do.
I'll address this more in the talents section, but keep that in mind. There is a litany of old Pet Spells that could help here. Lookin' at you, Roar of Recovery. Alternative source.

http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=120679/dire-beast -

Dire Beast is our new Focus Generator, acting as a Focus over Time (FoT) ability. Happy to see the melee swing issue with the Dire Beast talent addressed now that the ability has a more front line role, but let's talk about some of the other issues with Dire Beast.

First, this spell was addressed in the Legion preview as the herald of "reducing Cobra Shot filler" and increasing pet management. While the Dire Beast glyph will address issues with depersonalization, the core of the matter is that this is not pet management. This is focus management through summoning. It is fundamentally impossible for Dire Beast to take away from Cobra Shot filling our spare moments, because it is exactly Dire Beasts role to funnel us more resources in order to use Cobra Shot.
There was a tweet from Ghostcrawler highlighted earlier this week about how some people don't want a hard to play game. Sometimes they want the equivalent of "walking the dog." That image perfectly fits my experience with Beast Mastery, without a clear way to augment it to fit a more engaging play style. Summoning Dire Beasts isn't pet management with our Primary Pet (or secondary from the artifact). It's the embodiment of walking-the-dog; or in this case, random, other dogs. That's not a bad thing, but please know this is not pet management.

The positive feedback loop that Beast Mastery once had with Focus Fire was replaced with the dynamic of Dire Beast and http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=185789/wild-call. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that this causes a breakdown of the positive feedback loop that once existed. This is no longer player control or pet management, it is a random proc that has the potential to overwrite itself the more successful Dire Beast becomes. For example, if I use Dire Beast and transition into a focus dump phase with Kill Command and Cobra Shot, and within that 10 second cycle of Dire Beast I get a critical strike that procs Wild Call, I now have the opportunity to spawn another Dire Beast. Given all the other dynamics that boost damage based on Dire Beasts active time it would be insane not to. This leaves us in a few situations:
  1. overcap focus and sigh a lot when we're focus drained without Dire Beast.
  2. Waste Dire Beast by not using it right away, risking a new proc of Dire Beast, or the CD coming up.
  3. Have the reset happen at the end of Dire Beasts cooldown cycle, making Dire Beast (which we would've used anyway) suddenly become infuriating because we just missed a free one.
There's one way I can see alleviating this in the current system. That is to give Dire Beast charges. If Dire Beast could have 2 charges, we now have a choice to pool our summoning more strategically with our procs. More importantly, it alleviates the issue of procs overwriting itself, or happening as the cooldown is coming up in the focus cycle. It also gives us better synergy with all the Dire Beast affecting Talents and Artifact Traits, and especially with timing management of Bestial Wrath.

Something else I brought up in my Feedback write up was how slow Beast Mastery seemed to be with the reduction of focus generation. This was addressed in a tweet where I was told the focus regeneration rate was being normalized like Energy, at 10 focus per second. But in my write up I assumed Dire Beast would return focus every second. Dire Beast on the Alpha returns focus every two seconds. Obviously how focus is balanced isn't any of my business, but I will say that the concern about downtime turned out to be true. This is a big part of why many hunters are asking for http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=53209/chimaera-shot to be baseline - there is a gap of uncomfortable downtime in a specialization that wants to be GCD capped. Downtime was expected in Survival, not here. 


http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=193455/cobra-shot -

Arcane Shot. Now, Cobra Shot obviously fits the theme a lot better than Arcane Shot, as well as it dealing physical damage. But let's back pedal and focus on what was said about Cobra Shot in the preview.

Previously, all our spare time was spent casting Cobra and not enough on managing our pet. That's what was said. Obviously that's not entirely true, as spare time was not in Beast Mastery's vocabulary being GCD capped. Cobra Shot was a generator to fuel Arcane Shot, so it was theoretically Cobra Shot and Arcane Shot together that fuelled "spare time" between pet management abilities like Kill Command, Bestial Wrath and Focus Fire. Viewing this as "spare time" is a bit weird - it was not so much spare time as it was 'player time.' It was about the player using abilities instead of the pet. Cobra Shot was used to fuel pet abilities and Arcane Shot. So in this manner, it was Arcane Shot that filled our spare time. Now that Cobra Shot is Arcane Shot, it's still Cobra Shot filling our 'spare time.' Except we also now have real spare time in the form of down time.

Therefore, the problem brought up wasn't really solved. It was exacerbated. That's not necessarily Cobra Shot's fault. I think it's more the fault of not having a clear picture of what Beast Mastery should be about. Is it about the player, the pet or both? If the player is doing something that is not relevant to the pet, is this "spare time"?

Cobra Shot itself is not an interesting ability. It does nothing except deal extra damage with our Focus Bar. It's no different than any other focus dump ability from the hunter, like Arcane Shot used to be.
What I do like about Cobra Shot is some of the supporting talents for it. http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=199532/killer-cobra in particular has the right idea, trying to create a positive synergy between Cobra Shot and the signature ability, Kill Command. It's a bit underwhelming being a 25% chance on an ability with a 6 second cooldown cycle, but it's something. It can see further positive reinforcement from something like http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=194306/bestial-fury, fuelling stronger damage cycles in Bestial Wrath via Cobra then reset Kill Commands from Cobra.
Nothing less underwhelming than getting a reset on a 6 second cooldown that you can't generate focus for until the 6 seconds has come and gone. Again, 6 seconds is a bit too tight of a cycle to work with.

If I were to say there was a disconnect between the dynamic of player and pet, this would be it. Cobra itself is a fine focus dump. But maybe Beast Mastery doesn't have enough room to be a lean specialization focusing on profound bonds with its kin pet while bearing this ranged shot. Is there a good way to incorporate the primary pet in the use of Cobra Shot?

http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=34026/kill-command -

A large portion of this is missing without http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=197248/master-of-beasts, so I'd be hard pressed to make comments about the signature feeling weak as others have. I also feel it has a good supply of benefits both from talents and from the artifact traits.

Kill Command has a 6 second cooldown cycle, making this a frequent part of our rotation compared to traditional signatures. This has generally not been noticed with Beast Mastery because it had a satisfying cap to Arcane Shot, along with "fitting in" as many as possible during Bestial Wrath. With the much higher uptime of Bestial Wrath on Legion Beast Mastery, I feel this dynamic has been lost. As a result the "feel" of the spell has become more noticeable to others, who look to Chimaera Shot on a longer, 9 second cooldown cycle to fill in the void. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but its this shift in game play that has made the spec feel empty rotationally. Whether that changes as we gain power I couldn't say yet, but I am on team #baselineChimaera for this reason. There's a 'satisfying thunk.'

Something I think might "cap" Kill Command as a more exciting ability would be the capability of manipulating its power a bit better. For example, if we were given a way to more predictably use our focus and our pets' focus (either Dire Beast charges or something like Roar of Recovery), then having Kill Command benefit from something similar to the Wild Hunt could be an interesting burst talent. Let's say we add Roar of Recovery, causing the pet to roar and generate focus for both of us over 9s. Then we talent into something like Lionhearted or Call of the Wild causing Kill Command to cost 50% more focus but deal 50% more damage, along with http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=130392/blink-strikes which does something similar to the pets Bite. Just throwing ideas out here - you can do better for sure, especially if you delve into the synergy and dynamics of player and pet.
Will there still be a "mini-game" of "fitting in" as many Kill Commands as possible during Bestial Wrath, or is that dynamic missing? Will there be attack power enhancers to time with our pets empowerments, granting us planning and management? 

http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=207068/titans-thunder - 

If I were to rank the starter Artifact traits in order of the ones I liked most, it would be Survival first, Beast Mastery second, Marksmanship third. So why?
Survival's had use, purpose and synergy. I could use it for AoE or single target. Beast Mastery's also has use, purpose and synergy, but it's not as convenient as Survivals and had a longer cooldown. Marksmanship felt like a fish out of water, shoehorned into a story-arc of ghostly winds.

Now, on the note of shoehorning into a story-arc ... Titan's Thunder. Fundamentally I like the idea of having a cooldown to empower all my summoned beasts with electrical energy. Free damage is great - dealing damage is my job. But every time I touched that button I could smell burning fur. Every time I touched that button I questioned my morality as a Beast Master electrocuting something I supposedly had a profound bond with. Obviously it doesn't damage the animals, and obviously this whole electrical Titanstrike story isn't going to randomly change from Thorim to.... Freya or Auriaya, but it certainly doesn't help with the disconnect between the fantasy proposed to the specialization and the artifact story we're given. Truthfully, I'm not sure why Auriaya wasn't the obvious Titan choice. Thorim will work great with gnomes and mechanical pets, of course.

Mechanically it bothered me that I couldn't use this as an AoE cooldown too. It's a one minute cooldown compared to the other specializations 45 seconds on their first artifact trait, on a specialization that already has two cooldowns compared to one. This probably has more to do with tuning on other artifact benefits, so it's not a big issue. However, the kicker came when it would only benefit from active summons. Using more Dire Beasts after already popping Titan's Thunder? No dice. That makes me mad at Titan's Thunder, and it makes me mad at Dire Beast (while already being mad at Dire Beast), and it makes me mad at Wild Call. So I wound up just not wanting to press it. Not an issue during leveling.
But that's what I'd like to see changed. Empower all my pets that are active while Titan's Thunder is active, not just the ones that are around when it's used. If it's going to be the latter, give it a really bloody satisfying animation where I shoot out electricity into all the pets, singing their hair furs, making them cry. At least then I'll understand why the new pets summoned within the duration aren't supercharged too (didn't zap 'em). 

Finally, Beast Mastery has a few miscellaneous spells in its core kit. I'll address some of the spells I did not address in my write up for Marksmanship and Survival with this one.
Seven utility spellsMisdirection, Flare, Feign Death, Concussive Shot, Aspect of the Cheetah, Counter Shot and Disengage. 
Three survival spells - Exhilaration, Aspect of the Turtle and Mend/Revive Pet.
Two passive abilities - Beast Cleave and Wild Call - I've already covered these above.
And two cooldowns - Aspect of the Wild and Bestial Wrath. 

Seven utility spells - Misdirection, Flare, Feign Death, Concussive Shot, Aspect of the Cheetah, Counter Shot and Disengage.
This seems like quite a large number of spells compared to the previous write ups on utility abilities. Partially because they were either irrelevant to the spec entirely, removed, or addressed elsewhere in talents. For Beast Mastery, I'd like to leave a quick word on all of them. I've ordered them in terms of how much I have to say on each.

http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=34477/misdirection is thus what I have the most to say about.
Misdirection has had a long history with various incarnations, providing a nice nod to hunters' raid role since Molten Core. It was not the tanks pulling mobs, it was hunters. In fact, we were necessary to split the two large giants at the very start of Molten Core back when they were actually threatening. If you pulled them normally they came together. If you pulled them with a hunter, they came together, until you feigned at just the right time - allowing the closest giant to body-aggro onto your tank and the furthest giant to reset. We gained the role of mob pulling. Misdirection is the remnant of one of our core roles, since lost.

Obviously gone in the annals of time, just like Misdirection once working with your next 2 (and 3) abilities rather than for the next X amount of seconds. At one point transferred threat was permanent, and worked with Distracting Shot. But it all boils down to one fundamental thing: What is the purpose of Misdirection?

The purpose of Misdirection is to place aggro on somebody else. It redirects mobs to a chosen target. If it cannot do this reliably then there is no purpose for Misdirection. When did I use Misdirection in a raid?
The Spine of Deathwing. I used Misdirection with Explosive Trap to redirect new blood spawns onto the blood kiting tank. Shek'zeer. I used Misdirection to help guide mobs spawning on either side of the room to the proper tank. Tortos. I used Misdirection to Barrage bats to the bat tank. Those all had purpose. More importantly, they worked.

Since then I have not used Misdirection with any other purpose but to scare other DPS who don't know that Misdirection doesn't do anything. If I cast Misdirect on the mage before the pull of Archimonde the mage is going to freak out - it's really funny and that's about it. Even trying to put Misdirection on someone for add spawns doesn't pan out with those adds on the target I misdirected.

So here's my suggestion about Misdirection, and it's one that might make a few other hunters sweat:
  Remove it from Marksmanship. Make Misdirection unique to Beast Mastery. Give them infinite charges of Misdirection, and give it a purpose of reliably redirecting threat. I see http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=197178/hunters-advantage and I really like that benefit, but the fact of the matter is that it's not what Misdirection has been about. It has never been a defensive cooldown. If  you want to make it one, that's fine - but not at the expense of it's purpose of misdirecting. It is to make a mob going for the wrong character to go to the right character through the manipulation of the hunter. That's its name. This is a huge role for Beast Mastery, because the wrong character is the player and the right character is the pet
And it's this importance of the dynamic between hunter and pet, manipulating that threat between hunter and pet, managing the pet, that makes me believe it should be Beast Mastery specific with infinite (or at least highly reliable) use.

http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=1543/flare - I have a similar comment about Flare. What is its purpose? Flushing out invisible enemies. It's a PvP ability. It always has been. There was a Marksmanship talent trying to make it a PvE ability, but was removed. Flare just - is a lost soul. So here's my suggestion about Flare, and similarly, it's going to make a few hunters sweat (especially the PvP ones):
  Remove it from Beast Mastery and Marksmanship. Make Flare unique to Survival. It already plays a large role in the introduction of the Artifact quest for Survival, which for many will be their first introduction to the new Survival. Maybe something like Light 'Em Up can just be built into Flare itself for Survival. I just don't think Flare adds anything substantial to Beast Mastery or Marksmanship. Or, frankly, anything outside PvP.
"But how will we track the unique invisible pet challenges to tame?" We're walking around with hounds, wolves, cats. Give them abilities to track hidden.

Feign Death, Concussive Shot, Aspect of the Cheetah, Counter Shot and Disengage... Not much else to say on these that hasn't already been said. Feign Death and Turtle make a great combination for reviving pets [awkwardly Feign Death does a better job misdirecting than Misdirection]. Concussive Shot should probably be unique to Marksmanship and (as I've said before) integrated with better synergy between Marks' many slows. No idea why Counter Shot has a travel time. Still salty about Survival Disengage.
But a note on that. Leveling up the three specializations, I never once touched Disengage as Beast Mastery except for when Misdirection failed me. As Marksmanship, every once in a while to gain extra distance to Aimed Shot a mob still alive or reposition during the raid testing. As Survival I used it every damn chance I got to gather more mobs. Harpoon group, Disengage different group, Hatchet Toss other groups, Hellcarver. Hell, Disengage was built into its game play via talents and traits. And that's why I'm salty it's on Beast Mastery but not Survival; to me it highlights why it should be on Survival, and why Misdirection failed. Beast Mastery doesn't need Harpoon to get to its mob, it has ranged attacks and a charge on its pet - that is the equivalent of Harpoon, nor jumping around via Disengage given its mobility and lack of casts. But let's stay on task here...

Three survival spells - Exhilaration, Aspect of the Turtle and Mend/Revive Pet.
Nothing more to add on Exhilaration and Aspect of the Turtle that I haven't already written about.

http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=2649/growl is one spell I'd consider an augment to the survival spells, and tied by context with Misdirection. While leveling I had an instance where I used Exhilaration to (over)heal myself and my pet after pulling an extra two mobs. Those two mobs instantly ran to me, so I used Misdirection, which did absolutely nothing. My pet then used Growl on one - it focused on my pet for 3 seconds before turning back to me. What kind of survival ability is that, Exhilaration?
Exhilaration has seemingly too much threat associated to the player. Growl being a 3 second taunt is bizarre. What I'd like to see is a return of Growl being threat - at one point Growl was a threat generation and the 3 second taunt was an entirely different spell, cleverly named Taunt. It doesn't need to be a different spell, but combine these elements with Growl. High threat, also a taunt. Similarly, I'd love to see a return of Silverback - it regenerated pet health during Growl. For example, let's say a pet uses Growl. It taunts the mob for 3 seconds, and increases threat generated for the next 5 seconds. Silverback would grant x% health return for those 3, or 5 seconds.



http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=136/mend-pet found its way in leveling as a rotational ability. Partially my fault for being stubborn and leaving my pet as Ferocity. Torn nonetheless on how I felt about that - on one hand, it provided a highly needed second of focus regeneration on Beast Mastery's slow rotation. On the other, it highlighted that walking-the-dog and patting him on the head all the time from getting hurt every ten seconds was the bulk of pet management with the new Beast Mastery.
Largely, a big part of this was probably pet regeneration outside of combat. With a small health pool, low survivability and insanely low health regeneration without the ability to stop and feed him like a player would, the health regeneration was a nuisance. Growl health regeneration would help this. Extra HP regeneration out of combat would help this. Heck, Feed Pet acting like muffin-eating would help this.

edit;  I said muffin-eating in jest, but truthfully there is still feed pet. However, it still also requires a stack of food to use with the pet, and at least two or three clicks to activate. Would like to see this reworked so it checks the bags for a usable item, then auto-uses it. This could get annoying with items we want to keep for cooking, so maybe the option to make 200x pet food from a single object, which the ability prioritizes. 

Two passive abilities - Beast Cleave and Wild Call.
Nothing more to add outside of what was said in Multi-Shot and Dire Beast sections.
Don't be afraid of giving specializations more passives. Sometimes, less isn't more.
There's a lot of passives in the Talent tree to be cut or made baseline.

And two cooldowns - Aspect of the Wild and Bestial Wrath.
http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=19574/bestial-wrath is more of a rotational ability now more than ever, so I understand its role here and why it's a bit misplaced being called a cooldown. However, I think it's important that Bestial Wrath doesn't lose the feeling of a cooldown. We are, after all, unleashing Bestial Wrath. That doesn't come out of nowhere - the pets would be exhausted little bundles of fury.
Nonetheless, happy to see it integrated. Would like to see it polished. Mostly, I think I just need to see it in action more. I'm a delusional dreamer and saw Bestial Wrath and The Beast Within merging with Eyes of the Beast to be a rotational cooldown. Yes, I know.

http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=193530/aspect-of-the-wild, OK, it makes sense. Every specialization seems to have a secondary stat boost. This one is just a carbon copy of http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=186289/aspect-of-the-eagle with focus regeneration instead of Mongoose stuff, but still. Please think about it though: why focus on Aspect of the Wild? Because it was once part of Bestial Wrath? Do you like what the focus separation on Beast Mastery has become? Not sure many other hunters agree. Maybe we can add some sort of Artifact Trait to bring back a form of Call of the Wild, and add more player-pet interaction or management. The extra focus is nice, but only being accessible a 2 minute cooldown causes a huge desire for something more.
Would also like to see a more dramatic animation added for it, since it's our real cooldown. The iconic leaf with the Aspect activation is fun, but whirlwinds of leaves would be fun too.

3. AUGMENTING TALENT CHOICES

My understanding of this talent system is that they are to augment our core kits for various situations: single target, AoE, burst, sustain, etc, and do so in a variety of methods ranging from easy (passive), to hard (more engaged). This is how I'll evaluate.
T15
comments
Full passive tier, no engagement.
Just one more reason to ask for Dire Beast to store itself in at least two charges. Still ultimately doesn't change game play.
Way of the Cobra, so that we can fill all our extra time with Cobra Shot. Another reason for storing Dire Beast charges: to make this talent have game play manipulation potential.
Feel this regeneration level should be baseline. I assume this is where you're looking to add in "Dire Shot" replacements?
T30
comments
Movement tier, prior comments stand.
Preferred choice. Useful for moving from place to place since Aspect of the Cheetah isn't reliable (available).
Still underwhelming, don't see what point this serves. Do our pet critical strikes contribute?
If we compare this mathematically and scientifically it's technically Aspect of the Snail.
T45
comments
Conflicted tier, needs refinement.
Great AoE option. What was wrong with 'Thunderstomp'? More reasons to ask for charge storing.
Really think the only great part about this talent is the aesthetics. Therefore, a better aesthetic glyph. Thematically I understand Marks, but have the same comment there.
As mentioned, I am #TeamBaseline for Chimaera Shot.  But I do like an active use heavy hitting shot ability here complementing Stomp.
T60
comments
Tier is okay. Neither here nor there.
Great. Did better mob management than my pet and misdirection combined. Binding Shot + Feign Death should get together and teach Fluffy and Misdirection a thing or two.
Same comments as on Marksmanship.
Though I see people taking this who miss Freezing Trap.
Warming up to this at a 5 second duration. Do you still believe it compares even remotely to Binding Shot?
T75
comments
Full passive tier, no engagement.
Careful Aim was borne of Marksmanship during Aimed Shots cast time. It was high reward on a high focus cost ability. It changed our rotation. This doesn't do that here. Regardless, solid Single Target option.
An AoE and Single Target burst option that synergizes with Bestial Wrath. I like it individually, but still doesn't overly add any game play options.
Torn. A classic, but mostly for Quality of Life. Damage bonus is nice, but also still passive, and Single Target. Is this really the place for it?
T90
comments
Like the tier, needs refinement.
Same comments as Marksmanship. Will it still benefit from Mastery? TBH this has the most satisfying spell animation in the entire Hunter kit.
Will this have a place in Beast Mastery's AoE kit when we're so strongly tied to the costly Multi-Shot already, with no ability to manage our own focus?
Same comment as Barrage. See you in ten years regenerating that focus to do anything else as BM. But it's not these talents' fault.
T100
comments
Like the tier.
Shadow damage, am I reading that right? Is it possible to dynamically shape the 'herd' charge to the landscape? Right now the animals charge through the floor and walls if used on an uneven surface.
Has the right idea, but needs a lot more oomph. Kill Command has a rather low CD cycle, plus the whole using a focus-dump to reset a focus-dump on a spec without much focus control is a downer.
A passive bleed is fine. Easy to use. Now where are the hard to master but high reward talents?
Not to mention - those other benefits are stellar options on a personal, solo level. Built in http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=197178/hunters-advantage?
I did not feel like I could customize my game play with the talents proposed. Beast Mastery has a heavy issue regarding passive Talents and lack of engaging, game play manipulating options. It's stuck on "Walk-the-dog" mode.  This is very evident with T15, T30 and T75 being a full row of 3 passive choices. For Marks and Survival only T30 met this fate. Every other talent row had an active choice, or at the very least, a passive choice that heavily modified game play. None of these passives adequately do the same. 

Survival had an 'extra button' problem where its active choices didn't bring much to the table. Marksmanship seemed too creatively restrained by its slim ability set. Beast Mastery is the worst part of both worlds, having a 'passive ability' problem that doesn't bring much to the table while also being restrained by a slim ability set. 
Many of the options feel like they could have, or should have been baseline. Dire Stable being the biggest offender. Blink Strikes, even with the damage component, will always be a Quality of Life change made to fix issues with pet AI to me. I have a very hard time accepting it as a talent, even on WoD live. Bestial Fury also would have been a good place for an active, or being made baseline. 

Celestalon commented the following while writing this: 
We're also considering a talent that replaces Dire Beast with a new shot, and are interested in feedback and ideas on that concept.
And I already placed my initial remarks in the thread, voicing concern about integration with Titan's Thunder, Renewed Vigor and the various Dire Beast talents. That post also included my initial reaction of reusing Viper Sting as its traditional Resource-over-Time mechanic. However, with Dire Beast being properly changed to a "Focus over Time" by restoring focus while the beasts are active, and not per attack, I feel there isn't much purpose to a 'Dire Shot.' It comes back full circle to my question up above: is it about the pet, the player, or both? Do you focus on pet abilities, hunter shots, or the dynamic of both? I think it's far more important to make hunter and pet work as a team. I think it's more important to give us active buttons, not replace them. Some of Survival's "active replacement" talents work for that reason - it is active heavy and just needed to add synergy. Beast Mastery is active light, and could use some to add rotation, and to help augment synergy.

If we do not see Dire Beast (or 'Dire Shot') add in a charge system to alleviate problems outlined by Wild Call and resets above, consider that for one of the talents. It's not an active ability, but it'd sure give us some more active choices. Would love to see an extra Talent added for focus management, and a lot more priority given to integrating better primary pet [management] dynamics.

4. ARTIFACTS AND EXPECTATIONS

Beast Mastery means more to other people than it does to me. My experience with Beast Mastery has been hit or miss; fundamentally I still process it as a leveling specialization. That will probably never change for me, and it's in that perspective that I've always held reservations each time the spec sees buffs that grant it optimal raid performance.
Often I refer back to Throne of Thunder writing these pieces, but that's because I found Throne of Thunder to be the most successful hunter iteration ever. You could bring two specs: most players chose Beast Mastery for Single Target and Survival for AoE. I chose Marksmanship for Single Target and Survival for AoE, up until the mid tier Aspect of the Hawk buff. Why?  Because traditionally Beast Mastery scaled exceptionally well with attack power. Far better than Marksmanship and Survival. As a result, when that mid tier Aspect of the Hawk buff rolled out and buffed hunter attack power, Beast Mastery saw the most benefit.

Which meant the prior equal balance between Beast Mastery and Marksmanship disappeared. Marksmanship was no longer ever so slightly better single target than Beast Mastery at the expense of a harder playstyle and weaker cleave - instead it was worse in every way. Unfortunate, yes, but at the time we were working on Lei Shen, which mechanically favoured the cleave from Beast Mastery anyway. Had the Hawk buff come sooner, I would've been a lot less impressed.

The new iterations on all three specializations has left this evaluation scrambled. I don't know where the three specs will fall regarding leveling or mechanical prowess, or what the plans are. What I do know is that the hunter class is the most played class in the game. Most of these hunters are Beast Masters. Many who play hunter do so for 'the cool and exotic (cute) pets.' They do it for the hunt. They do it for the companionship and the thrill of solo. There are solo players, taking on group content alone. There are calm players, casually strolling with a 'Walk-the-dog' mentality.
Because of that, I don't mind Beast Mastery being simple. But I do mind the lack of options to make it engaging. And I don't like it when simplicity ruins solo play. Truly, it must be hard to balance these two completely different groups: the difficult solo group content beast master and the easi-peasi kitti-collecter beast master.
So my question here is, what expectations are there for Beast Mastery, the artifact, and the level of detail it should entail? Is the plan to reduce the amount of people playing hunters, or to make them like their hunter more than ever before?
US realm Hunters with level range 100-100 population proportion.
EU realm chart looks similar, at 844k and 12.8%.


TITANSTRIKE

Just Titanstrike.
Of the three artifact quests, Titanstrike's impressed me the most. It had the most attention to detail and the strongest storytelling. I commend you there. Titanstrike is farfetched on a specialization with a profound bond of nature, so it was definitely needed.

My first impression was the highlight of Beast Mastery's strong mobility through the use of the electrical orbs and Ta'yaks tornado mechanics, which was great. Trust me, I have not forgotten. As for the electric orbs, maybe a bit more of this. My second impression was that somebody was definitely going to die from undertuned damage, exceptionally squishy pets, and the unreliability of Misdirection. It wasn't me, but it was everyone else who I told to test the spec. Ha.
Greatly enjoyed Mimiron, was sadly disappointed that the Big-Red-Button didn't cause some catastrophic disaster, but - most importantly - Hati.

Love the decision; don't use the model. I'm assuming it's absolutely place holder, but just in case it is not: don't use the model. Ulduar may have been during Wrath of the Lich King, but we are not. We are from Legion, and at minimum Draenor models are expected. This isn't the 5th dimension yet. There is a new electric Draenor worg model, so I'm going to assume that is the proper Hati. It would be exceptionally unprofessional to use the Wrath worg and would be such a dismal respect of detail that it'd be completely unexpected from a company like Blizzard. So, I don't expect it to be the case... But... Just putting it out there.
Further, as is probably obvious, a lot of people play hunters. A lot of them play Beast Mastery. A lot of them are casually walking-the-dog, and will probably want far more robust customization options for Hati. C'mon Thorim, not your babysitter.
In all seriousness, why Thorim? Why not Auriaya?

Here's how I'm going to speed up feedback about the Artifact traits: by Golden Dragon, with each paired by their own connectors. In a table like the talents. I had no idea how to group these properly. Not sure this is the best pathway progression.



ZONE 1:
Titan’s Thunder
GOLDEN
regular
regular

Addressed in the core kit. Overall happy with it.
Good starter. Solidifies Cobra as our core damage dump. Would've expected this to be Kill Command's damage down here.
Expected to see Pack Leader or AoE. Is more mechanically interesting, but proc rate is pretty boring. Make it hurt if it's literally going to be the chance of being struck by thunder.

SILVER
--
--

An empowered version of Aspect of the Beast. Does it stack?
Damage reduction on pet doesn't matter if Misdirection can't get mobs there reliably. Maybe reduce MD CD as 3/3 reg and make Jaws silver instead.
--
ZONE 2:
Surge of the Stormgod
regular
regular
GOLDEN

Does this make Aspect of the Wild 'complete', or does it make Aspect of the Wild cool? Don't rob us. What synergy makes this neat?
This is not http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=190514/survival-of-the-fittest or http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=203748/embrace-of-the-wild and frankly these are all on the wrong specializations. Survival on Survival, The Wild on BM makes more sense. Dodge, seriously? Give dodge synergy if so.
Electrical-cleave Beast Cleave. You're going to be asked for this to have a better range than 5 yards. Ideally this will be 5y around every pet empowered.
ZONE 3:
Stormshot
regular
regular
GOLDEN

An absolutely incredible healing trait and fully worthy of Turtles long cooldown. Gets to laugh at http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=190503/healing-shell. Where's the pets'?
Jaws of Thunder called, it wants to trade places. Then again, that makes both sides of Zone 1 about single target and no AoE.
I'm a hunter, not a mage; not a shaman. I do like the control on release with Cobra Shot. Will have to see it in action.
ZONE 4:
Master of Beasts
SILVER
regular
regular

It's http://legion.wowhead.com/spell=203749/exhilaration-of-joy only seemingly better! How joyous. Strange location - this is where I would've expected the Golden.
Marks' version of this was underwhelming, but BM's is great. Multi focus reduction is what it needs. Almost as good as old BWrath reduction, A+.
By the way, did you know Bestial Wrath is a rotational button for you now? Clear cut, beautiful - an increase to all previous abilities.

SILVER
regular
GOLDEN

Vigor, Shell, Reflexes, Advantage. MM and SV didn't have all this. What's broken with BM that it does? I like this one the most though.
AoE on Focus of Titans and Fury Swipes isn't seen until we're almost done the build. Weird. Like it though: clear, simple on our AoE.
Hati is feeling better now. Want to see it in action versus the other specializations final Goldens.

5. TOO LONG, DIDN'T READ SUMMARY // CHANGE REQUESTS

Reading Time
3 min
All of this will have been covered in better detail above. It also, obviously, doesn't cover everything above. I recommend reading the above and using this as extra reading.

TL;DR
Beast Mastery was exceptionally boring to level. It was very difficult to force myself through it, and it had everything to do with game play. There was not enough there, and there were not enough options provided to let me change that.  I don't say that lightly because I know how it sounds. It's very simple and straight forward - that's good, I like that, I think Beast Mastery most of all needs to be simple and straight forward given its wide demographic. But it needs something that will give it more for players like myself. It needs Talent reworks. Maybe even some baseline reworks. 

Marksmanship has 3 core abilities just like Beast Mastery does. However, Marksmanship is trying very hard for a synergy dynamic feedback loop played between Marked empowering Aimed. Cobra, Dire Beast and Kill Command do not have something similar. The closest is Dire Beast reducing the cooldown on Bestial Wrath. So how do you dynamically tie Cobra and Kill Command to Bestial Wrath? 

The main concern for me is that Beast Mastery does not seem to be about pet management. Dire Beast is not pet management, it is focus management, and does not affect our primary pet. We have no more direct influence or management with the primary pet beyond Kill Command and Bestial Wrath, and those don't feel like the same dynamic of haste push-pull from Focus Fire or focus / Wild Hunt management. Worse, Dire Beast works against itself regarding 'Cobra Shot' spam and Wild Call reset overwrites. The new GUI provides us a floating health bar for our character, and for other classes their buffs. For Beast Mastery, nothing - no pet bar, no pet buffs. Let's see that get added (and since I mentioned it, also an interface option to remove them).

'Keeping it simple' is always a good mantra, but if Marks Beast Mastery keeps it too simple its new charm will go to waste. I'm worried Beast Mastery was gutted too viciously, and that all the current Talents and Artifact Traits aren't "augmenting" or "enhancing" Beast Mastery so much as they are "putting it back together." 
Its got 'Walking-the-Dog' down pat, so now let's work on something harder. 

Requested Highlights
Dire Beast: Would like to see this provide more functional control over all the various Dire Beast dynamics and focus gains. Please allow it to charge up to 2. I just cannot fathom playing this without wanting to punch the Dire Beast spell in the mouth every time it wastes a proc on me. RNG is okay, especially on a "wild" specialization like Beast Mastery, but not at the expense of creating downtime.

Synergy: Build more rotational synergy and choice into Beast Mastery's talent options. The vast majority of its core kit is disconnected. How can we make Cobra Shot affect rotational game play, or Kill Command? Consider adding an extra baseline ability if nothing else. Chimaera Shot has a strong following to become baseline for these reasons (mainly because it eases current focus downtime woes accounting from Dire Beast). If not Chimaera, maybe something similar.

Talents: Beast Mastery has the least amount of core abilities and the most amount of non-affective passive talents. Please comb back over BM talents and seriously consider making some of the non-affective passive talents baseline. Alternatively, replace them with passives that change game play, or as active button options. Further, keep in mind the player-pet dynamic and current lack of pet management. An active focus option like Roar of Recovery, affecting both player and pet focus regen, would be phenomenal.

Misdirection: The glyph for this was made specifically with Beast Mastery in mind. Perhaps it's time to hand Beast Mastery sole ownership of Misdirection, and restore its usefulness with infinite casts. Perhaps a mechanical tweak here and there to improve its effectiveness at directing as well.

Growl and HP Regen: Pet health regeneration is infuriatingly slow, most noticeably out of combat. As a player I can stop and eat food. My pets don't have this option. Consider providing growl a heal component, or somehow granting us faster pet HP regeneration tools out of combat.

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