Legion Hunter Preview

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The first class blog post rolled out Sunday after Blizzcon, starting the roller coaster that will be all the new Legion class changes. The developers have issued the call for feedback, and I'm sure most of the hunter community has fierce and broad opinions on what they've read. For this post I'm going to take Celestalons word, and assume the perspective of writing it for developer critique. 

edit; this post will consist of
  1. a prelude introduction
  2. section for beast mastery alone
  3. then survival
  4. then marksmanship
  5. then a summary conclusion


I've decided to do that here, rather than on a forum or in a live discussion. This seems like a more proper venue to write a letter. It will also be the first thing I write on the hunter blog, so while it is addressed to the developers call for feedback, I'll also be writing it as general opinion to myself and others who tend to chat with me about hunters. The Might forums may escape Jade-posts in the hunter thread for once...

First and foremost since I have not historically made a post like this yet: I feel it's important to be clear about my perspective reading their proposed changes. My hunter has been my main since I started WoW during its beta in 2004, and while I've also played casually and dabbled in PvP and solo, I've always primarily been a PvE raider. Thus PvE is my perspective - not much valuable insight on a PvP front. It also means I have no attachment to any past or current state of the hunter specializations, because I have experienced every iteration so far, multiple ways. I'm raid ready for the next set of hurdles. 
Further, when reading what I write, please keep in mind I am an unemotional robot. 
I recognize my inability to know the specifics of the class design.
I recognize I am limited in my knowledge of the plans and that a vast majority of judgement for how these changes will play hinge on the interaction between talents and skills from the artifacts, something I could not possibly know yet. 


  • Class identity. 
  • New Legion design.
  • Core combat abilities that are built upon via talents and artifact skills. 
These are the three feedback points I'll keep in mind for this write up. Do all the specs satisfy a class identity, and how do I think of what was fleshed out? Would I change it, and how is it incorporated or displayed by the core abilities? These are also things I touched on briefly when I wrote Missing the Mark for the Warlords of Draenor beta back on Eyes of the Beast and MMO-C. 

Frankly, there's not enough information here to fully extrapolate. Like others, I will remain open minded until we see more development. There are things to praise and discuss in all three venues. Let's start in order. The first paragraphs will be quotes from the Legion blog, with bolded highlights from me.


Among the most gifted hunters, there are those who have from birth felt a profound bond with the creatures of the wild. These beast masters are drawn to the perilous primal world, invigorated by its dangerous and untamed nature. Primitive landscape becomes home. Ferocious predator becomes kin. Whether in the thrill of the hunt or the heat of battle, beast masters call forth a litany of vicious animals to overwhelm prey and gnaw at their enemies’ will.
 Beast Masters were already in a good place overall, but we’ve refined existing abilities and talents to better differentiate them from other Hunters. Previously, Cobra Shot filled all of your free moments in combat, leaving no time for managing your pet, which should be a defining characteristic of Beast Masters. To this end, and to aid in Focus accumulation, Dire Beast is now core to Beast Mastery, allowing you to repeatedly summon wild beasts that generate additional Focus for you through their every attack.
Beast Mastery's current core ability set consists of:
 - Regen: Cobra Shot
 - Dump: Arcane Shot
 - Signature: Kill Command
 - Support: Focus Fire

The new proposed core ability set consists of:
 - Regen: Dire Beast
 - Dump: Cobra Shot
 - Signature: Kill Command
 - Support: ??
(I'm assuming Wild Call is an example of a passive tie in, synergy with the regenerator, and not a supporting core ability). 

First I'd like to commend the dev team for the decision to move forward axing Arcane Shot and the magical element from Beast Mastery. We had this discussion on Twitter about Arcane Shot, and the confusion between Cobra Shot belonging both to BM and SV. This distinction was a move in a good direction, I think, and am interested to see if Steady Shot is going to be showing its face in a new light as well. Cobra Shot doing physical damage makes a lot more sense in this arsenal. 

Do I think this satisfies the fantasy set up for the Beast Master?
Frankly, no. This is something I'm going to have to see tied in strongly by talents and the artifact, I believe. What I got from the Beast Mastery fantasy write-up was someone who had a profound bond with creatures of the wild, but what I get from the Beast Mastery core abilities is someone who finds the creatures of the wild expendable. 

When I asked Andrew about frenzy + focus fire (and go for the throat/invigoration) being done away with, he said yes, and that they did not like how it felt to interact with the pet "in this arbitrary fashion." I respect, understand that, and agree, especially after the way haste was changed. But it would be a lie if I said I didn't think this hunter and pet shared push-pull haste dynamic did not exemplify the Beast Mastery bond: 
Focus Fire allowed us to make a choice between haste for the hunter, or burst focus for the pet. It allowed us to make choices regarding our haste versus our pets haste, and how that affected their abilities with the Wild Hunt. I don't see this same dynamic with Dire Beast, or Wild Call, which will allow us to summon even more nameless Dire Beasts. So which is it? A litany of vicious, nameless, expendable animals, or a profound bond where predator become kin?

For sure, I recognize the work and effort put into getting Dire Beast just right. 
Thus, I'm sure it's already been recognized that relying on Dire Beast melee hits for focus must be accounted for some other way. Spirit Bond may be your ticket. Think Fox or Viper: focus generated while active, but with pets attacking too. Otherwise we're at the mercy of an AI keeping up with boss movement.

You tell us our time was previously filled with Cobra Shot casting for regeneration. Our defining characteristic should be managing our pet. This is something I did not see in the gameplay proposed. More active player engagement with frenzy stacks or focus fire would be managing my pet, to me - a player controlling two characters in game, Super Smash Bros icefighters or cho'gall. A way to weave my focus bar and abilities with my pets focus bar and abilities. Or positional requirements. Definitely need to see talents and artifacts to fully judge BM. 

What would I have done differently?
Working with the idea of Dire Beast as a focus generator, I think I would've explored an option more similar to the Windwalker Monks' Storm, Earth and Fire (thematically). Perhaps the Beast Master has such a profound bond with the beasts they've met in the wild that they are able to call on more of them at once, and to focus their attacks on their enemies with two or more of a stabled pal. Perhaps it is these stabled extras who have the Dire Beast regeneration effect - or perhaps their synchronized attacks inspire the wild beasts who watch them performing as a team. In this regard, I would believe more wholly that the Beast Master is channelling his bond with his pets, and inspiring the Dire Beasts around them to join their pack for a time. Rotating in new ones as the others fade simply adding to the 'illusion of the pack.'
This is in stark contrast to the image I see painted of an engineer slinging gunman, bringing beasts with no name or importance to aid for 8 second at a time, throwing cobras from their rifle, just watching. What's next, slinging rabid critters from our scopes? Do we truly have no heart? ;) 

Overall, this largely hinges on what role the extra abilities play in fleshing out the spec. This is definitely something I will revisit in the future.

I'm very concerned that this may turn into a slow, down time ridden specialization. The focus regenerator is essentially a DoT, or "FoT" mana drain. If we sustain this while actively working with our companions, it might work out, especially if there are more focus regen talents like I think there will be. I'm not inclined to stand in the back watching a bunch of animals I do not know and have no attachment to doing my dirty work as expendable imps, summoning more without any direct interaction with their experience in the game world. Is Beast Cleave also done away with? Does the Beast Master no longer have a bond with the beasts? We need more information on what passives aid us. I could arm chair design all day, but at this point it's not appropriate.

Consider it this way. Cobra Shot fills our free moments in combat now, generating 14 focus over 1.5-2 seconds. This is being traded for a passive focus over time drain summoned by a 1 second GCD cast, where we watch a nameless wild beast use melee white swings to gain 4 focus per swing for 8 seconds. If we assume the swing happens every 1 second, we are gaining less than half the focus we currently gain with Cobra Shot. Not only is the focus regenerator less engaging for the player, but it is also less effective. To me, this is a vast slow down in playing pace, without any dramatic increase for 'managing my pet.' My pet is doing the same thing it was doing while I cast Cobra Shot, except now I myself am doing nothing.

As we go forward, please keep in mind specialization synergy and feedback loops [between core actives and supporting passives]. I do not believe class identity can be forged through ability name alone (cobra shot, dire beast, kill command, wild call). I expect there are good surprises waiting for us within Bestial Wrath. A complex play style controlling two game characters at once. Dynamics tying player and pet. Where our "downtime" was once casting cobra, to instead be these new pet dynamics.
Cobra Shot filled all of your free moments in combat, leaving no time for managing your pet, which should be a defining characteristic of Beast Masters.


While all hunters feel a calling to the wild, some serve as a reflection of its brutality. To them, the hunt is defined by unrelenting ferocity, where survival means facing one’s enemy eye-to-eye . . . and is always accompanied by merciless bloodshed. Weapons of great range are abandoned for instruments of close-quarters combat. Survival hunters are instinctive and crafty on the prowl, employing loyal beasts and laying deceptive traps to see their enemies undone. For these hunters know that to truly understand what it means to survive, one must first become familiar with the cruel face of death.
Not only do Survival Hunters use melee weapons instead of ranged weapons, they’re also now the only Hunters that make use of traps—other specs will receive forms of crowd control and AoE damage suited to their distinct characteristics. Survival Hunters will snare and bleed their enemies, fighting them in close quarters with their trustworthy companion to maximize the brutality of the hunt. They have no direct control over Focus regeneration, but instead pool it up during successive Mongoose Bites to further amplify the damage they inflict.
Survival's current core ability set consists of:
 - Regen: Cobra Shot
 - Dump: Arcane Shot
 - Signature: Explosive Shot
 - Support: Black Arrow

The new proposed core ability set consists of:
 - Regen: passive regen
 - Dump: Raptor Strike (Mongoose?)
 - Signature: Mongoose Bite (Flanking?)
 - Support: Lacerate, Flanking Strike
(I'm assuming Harpoon is more a utility ability, like Disengage and Wing Clip and the upcoming Hunter Pummel 2.0, etc). 

Do I think this satisfies the fantasy set up for the Survivalist?
Hard to say, but yes and no. From what I understand we're trying to build a brutal, fierce and merciless melee fighter, yielding certain attributes from a Fury Warrior and a Feral Druid under a two team dynamic of hunter and pet. An opportunistic, hard to predict and hard to control series of procs and reactions with some type of high burst. Savagery.

The current gameplay of this was described to me as "the worst parts of last tier demonology with the worst parts of windwalker with the worst parts of gladiator." Which I'm assuming boils down to an opportunistic, proc based hard to predict series of fast paced action. Sounds bloody awesome to me. I'll wait to judge. Maybe the RNG will drive me crazy. Not in a berserking kind of way.

This pause is required. Throughout every evolution of the hunter class, the one ability that has always had a special place in memory for me was Mongoose Bite. I'm happy to see it not just return, but to return as the keystone centrepiece. In this regard, an ability name alone is appreciated. PS, it's not supposed to be on the global cooldown, so get on that (kidding...)

How you distinguish Arms/Fury Warriors and Feral Druids from Survival Hunters is something I am very interested to learn more about. Lacerate's description does not say bleed, but merciless bloodshed, emphasizing Survival will snare and bleed their enemies, along with Lacerate's history and current proposal as a DoT makes us wonder. One of my main memories on a Warrior alt is from Blackrock Depths, fighting Atramedes. Reading the dynamic of Heroic Raptor Strike, Mongoose Bite and Flanking Strike reminds me of Atramedes as Fury. Others say it is like old Arms. Are we to be their homage?
Nothing wrong with that, but will definitely make for a completely different feel.

What would I have done differently?
Not enough information to say. I understand highlighting Harpoon and Wing Clip, but don't feel they brought enough to the table in regards to judging specialization identity (yet). I will say I've never seen a harpoon that acts like a grappling hook / heroic charge. Wing Clip costing Focus insinuates some sort of damage component. 

Beyond brutality, ferocity and bloodshed, I would've liked to have seen more fleshing out of the core abilities in regards to being instinctive and crafty on the prowl, employing our loyal beast and laying deceptive traps. How do these things play into snares and bleeds?
I'd like to see one of the focus dumps off of the global cooldown, just like the old mongoose bite used to be. Slamming a Raptor Strike and Mongoose Bite into an unsuspecting player who crept too close from the dead zone was a lot of oomph and fun back in Alterac Valley. It hit as hard as Aimed Shot and essentially doubled our damage if the mistake was made. Perhaps being off the GCD causes too much problem with macros, or those who disliked the high APM of gladiator.  

Furthermore, I believe it is imperative that Camouflage and traps play more than sideline roles. Traps must have a synergy with our abilities in some way - why are we laying them? Why should I use traps in PvE, how are they an important part of my gameplay as Survival? How am I crafty on the prowl, and indeed, how am I on the prowl at all? These are things not answered by the core combat abilities presented. Will Bear Trap show up, will we see a bleed enhancing mechanic? 
Is the new uniqueness of 'traps' for survival simply that nobody else has them any more?

The loyal beast I understand, as I believe Flanking Strike was intended to be a dual attack by the pet and hunter. Looking forward to see how this plays out, and how much of a 'signature' it is over Mongoose Bite. Definitely would like to see our traps interact with Lacerate. And really, really wary on whether Flanking Strike will be the ability that gives Survival more dynamic with their pet than Beast Mastery has.

I like fast paced, complex game play, and this looks very promising. Some are worried it may be a one button pony with Mongoose spam. I'm concerned that Survival may still yet lack a core identity. Are we dead ideas from Warriors and Ferals, or are we a truly unique melee experience? Does it scream hunter, predator, and not generic melee combat #532? Will Harpoon and Disengage be enough movement for the perils of melee? Is this my PvP spec, that I cannot use in PvE raids? 

Show me how you have made my favourite ability interesting. I look forward to seeing the customization choices for Mongoose Bite in talents and with the spear. This is something I hope to be able to provide feedback on going forward, as the intentions of gameplay become more obvious in testing. Whether it is spam burst, or crafty weaving. 
Snares are not a typical PvE ability. Bleeds were not enunciated in this core setup, and I don't see how the brutality of Raptor Strike and Mongoose Bite are integrated with my bleeds and snares from Lacerate and Wing Clip. Camouflage was not mentioned, and Flanking Strike was not fleshed out clearly. Indeed, why do we want to snare players in front of us? Is our burst that impressive, will mobs flee?
Survival Hunters will snare and bleed their enemies, fighting them in close quarters with their trustworthy companion to maximize the brutality of the hunt.


Marksmen, too, shroud themselves in the perils of the untamed wilds, perfecting the use of weapons that are deadliest from great range. They’ve maintained little interest, however, in gaining the loyalty of the many beasts inhabiting these crude landscapes. Instead, the marksman blends into the surrounding environment, surveying behavior of all manner of predator and gleaning deadly methods for stalking their own prey. A sniper in hiding, the marksman unleashes arrows and bullets with deadly precision, exposing the weakness in whoever—or whatever—passes through their crosshairs.
The Lone Wolf gameplay introduced in Warlords of Draenor proved extremely popular with Hunters, and that play style fit perfectly with our vision of Marksmanship Hunters as master archers and snipers, relying on their skill and precision with weapons rather than animal companions. All Marksmanship Hunters now gain Lone Wolf by default, ranging through the wilds without a pet beside them. On the resource front, the Marksman now gains Focus from the use of Arcane Shot. And, as a note for those who enjoyed the previous version of Survival gameplay, we have moved certain abilities, such as Black Arrow and Lock and Load, to Marksmanship-specific talents.
Marksmanships current core ability set consists of:
 - Regen: Steady Shot
 - Dump: Aimed Shot
 - Signature: Chimaera Shot
 - Support: ??
(Careful Aim and Kill Shot are really Marksmanships support abilities, giving it the umph and utility it possesses in sniping priority adds). 

The new proposed core ability set consists of:
 - Regen: Arcane Shot
 - Dump: Aimed Shot
 - Signature: Marked Shot
 - Support: Expose Weakness [Passive]
(I list Careful Aim and Kill Shot as ?? above, but for the sake of clarity decided to include the new passive in the support slot. I also took the opportunity to homage the original name, rather than Seek Vulnerabilities). 

Do I think this satisfies the fantasy set up for the Marksman?
Yes. Potentially no. Everything described here that I could tell had a pure focus on ranged weaponry and using them to become even more effective than they were a second prior. What it doesn't capture is how heavily camouflage is insinuated in the fantasy write up. I might be reading into how the gameplay is to work, but it's interesting that some form of BRASS is being brought to Marks.  

In this regard, Steady Shot will always make more sense to me than Arcane Shot, as even now there is no mention of magic. It's all about the weapon, stalking, arrows and bullets with deadly precision, crosshairs... When we move away from physical damage into magic, or away from control and precision into proc-based gameplay and 'on-chance' activators, it shrouds this fantasy. 
But to that end, if we consider this in the game world it inhabits, Warcraft Marksman would have a grasp of the magical - especially elves. 

What would I have done differently?
There are a lot of ways to build Marksmanship. Integrating tools similar to Arcane Mages as a weapon damage variant? Not sure that would've been my first choice - hunters, especially the ranged and raiding portions, have always been about speed and haste to me, even when it was centralized around crit or mastery. Our spells were all instant cast, our mobility was top notch, our big cooldown was itself a haste cooldown. 

Expose Weakness is something I like to see coming back. Placing it on a new ability that takes Chimaera Shots place is excellent. The final head of the stings has been chopped. All I really wanted for  Marks was to see integration of Aimed Shot and Chimaera - this is being done with Aimed Shot and Marked Shot instead. Further, it's being managed with a buff we have to maintain via our focus dump, and buff maintenance wasn't discussed in the other hunter specs' new identities. Hunters Mark with Arcane Shot triggering Expose Weakness for increased damage on Aimed Shot is also a good setup. Definitely a far cry from its current sniper mode with Careful Aim, however, requiring far more set up for sustain damage rather than burst and priority add damage. At a glance, at least.

Which is where I assume 'blending into the environment', and being a 'sniper in hiding' will come into play. If not, this is what I would do differently. Maintaining an idea of Careful Aim burst with a cooldown component of stealth that allows us to focus massive damage on priority adds despite our main core abilities focusing on a more extended/maintained set up. 

The ability synergy looks great, and is something we haven't seen on hunters in a long time. It's missing in BM and SV right now, but very interested to see how it will be built upon for Marksmanship. I'm concerned it might not have the proper "control" one would expect from a true marksman, nor that it fully captures the fantasy of a sniper in hiding. This is further enunciated with the adaptation of Survival abilities back into the Marksman arsenal, with proccy lock and loads and low percentage chances of Aimed Shot burst. Of all the specs, I want to have the most precision control with this one, and the most ability integration. The latter currently shows potential.
Master archers and snipers, relying on their skill and precision with weapons.


  • Beast Mastery: A profound bond with creatures of the wild, where ferocious predator becomes kin, with a litany of vicious animals to overwhelm enemies. A defining characteristic should be managing our pet.
The current proposal is more along this fantasy than the old state of Beast Mastery. Despite my conflict regarding the expendability and dissociation of pets in the current description of Dire Beast, I do agree this is a better option that fits the theme overall better - especially if we focus just on a litany of vicious animals to overwhelm. A constant stream of managed dire beasts will give this feel. Very heavily relies on how the pet will be tied into gameplay with augmented abilities and passives. Worried it may feel slow paced, boring and have no major interaction for the player ['to manage'].
  • Survival: a reflection of brutality with an unrelenting ferocity, accompanied by merciless bloodshed. They are instinctive and crafty on the prowl, laying deceptive traps. They snare and bleed, fighting in close quarters with a trustworthy companion for the brutality of the hunt.
Not sure about this one now that I summarize it. Survival of the fittest, perhaps, but the smartest survival skill set is not being in danger. Perhaps this is where we will see prowling and traps come into play? This will be a fine line to walk balancing a trustworthy melee fighting companion with the profound bond beast mastery promised. 

This is by far and away a huge improvement over the confusion that was Survival previously - a cornucopia of marksmanship abilities, slinging DoT magic, missing the hunter sting and aspect tie from Chimaera Shot. Perhaps the greatest irony is Expose Weakness having been a survival ability. Looking forward to seeing how we reforge survival as a melee trap wielder intending to win the survival of the fittest game, especially with a focus on snares and bleeds. While it's no longer a confused Shadow Hunter, being a deceptive melee fighter focused on direct brutality is itself confusing. Fast, proc based RNG seems to fit here more than elsewhere. But is it because ultimately we're rage based, not focus?
  • Marksmanship:  Perfecting the use of weapons deadliest from range, marksmen blend into the surrounding environment as a sniper in hiding, exposing enemy weakness with deadly precision. Master archers and snipers, relying on skill and precision with weaponry.
A ranger. Makes perfect sense. So far looking good. The current proposal actually seems less like this fantasy than the current Marksman, who is heavily weapon damage focused and highly reliant on sniping priority adds in Careful Aim with Aimed Shot and finishing them with opportunistic Kill Shots. But its exactly this current opportunistic gameplay that makes me believe a more steady, predictable and marked gameplay will fit it better. I think it will be hard to capture the essence of control, skill and precision with what is presented, but definitely feeling the weapon heavy vibe. 
Still missing the 'in hiding' and 'blending' aspect to this, and confused why it is included. 

A more mobile mage? Count me in, but get too much of a caster feel and disengage from a haste heavy, fast hitting, complex system and it might lose me. Maybe Sniper Training is irrelevant. Mastery on BM and MM is showing a tie to crit. Will we really use shot range? Is it important? Will it tie into stealth? Keep it slim and focused: some abilities that were lost to Survival for too long may need more drastic reworks to fit back into the Marksman concept. 
Very much liking all the abilities current feedback loops for potential rotation gameplay, though 6 seconds window on Hunters Mark is... interesting. A chance to apply Hunters Mark, which we then must react to? I assume it will be balanced so that it will flow appropriately with control and not be missing for many 6 second cycles. IE, I hope marksman 'performance' doesn't boil down to how many opportunities we are given to use Marked Shot at high focus cycles based on RNG proc.

TL;DR - idk yet, moar plz. 

1 comment :

  1. I didn't put it in the post, because I wanted to focus on what was presented to us and because it was already too long...

    But had I been redesigning Beast Mastery, my main priority would've been in resurrecting Eyes of the Beast. With the intention of fully integrating it into the BM play style. Would it have worked? I don't know - but the fluid possession of pet to player makes sense to me. Take control of the pet during Bestial Wrath, perhaps, then back out to the hunter while it's down, or during periods of regeneration.

    A logistical nightmare and a programmers worst nightmare? Maybe. Super cool and unique to Beast Mastery, with an iconic ability we once had? Totally! And how much more interactive is having full control over your pet as your actual character versus controlling it with a movement reticle?