Locked and Loaded: First impressions of the melee Survival Hunter
The new melee Survival Hunter spec is now playable in the Legion alpha test, with Beast Mastery and Marksmanship to follow sometime in the future. I spent some time playing it recently and I’m going to share my initial impressions, coming from someone who has only ever played ranged DPS in World of Warcraft.
Quite simply, it’s a whole new class. Almost everything is new. After an hour of trying to make heads or tails of my spellbook and talents, I finally had everything set up the way I wanted it and began. The alpha experience starts with your artifact quest for the Talonclaw spear, and I won’t spoil the details of that, but I will say it’s a solo scenario that doesn’t take too long to complete. After that, you will head to Trueshot Lodge (the Hunter class hall) and begin your journey.
Getting used to melee combat
The Artifact scenario actually served as a nice introduction to all of my new abilities. I took my time and experimented with killing mobs in different ways. I quickly learned that opening up with Flanking Strike (and using it on cooldown) was pretty important. Not just because it does a lot of damage for its Focus cost, but because of the Animal Instincts talent I was using. The combat enhancement it refers to is a random buff that lasts for 6 seconds. The ones I saw were 40% crit chance, 100% haste, 40% mastery, and 20% run speed.
Raptor Strike is your standard Focus spender that you use when Flanking Strike is on cooldown. DoTs also play an important role for Survival, with Laceration and talents like Serpent Sting and Steel Trap. Things start to get interesting with the 3-charge Mongoose Bite, something one could view as a secondary resource for Survival Hunters. The stacking buff from Mongoose Bite gives you enough time to weave one other ability in between each strike, which is something you’ll want to do since it caps at 3 charges and any charges gained while at 3 are wasted. On top of this you have to make sure you’re not Focus capping (more wasted damage). There are cooldowns such as Aspect of the Eagle and Snake Hunter that quickly give you extra Mongoose Bite charges, which you can save for when you already have multiple stacks for maximum damage.
On the AoE front there’s Carve as your basic attack, and a couple of talent options to spread your DoTs around with this ability. There’s also Fury of the Eagle, a channeled AoE that does more damage based on your Mongoose Bite stacks. Couple that with traps, and I didn’t feel like Survival’s AoE was lacking. I used Hatchet Toss to pull a bunch of mobs to me, and then would AoE them all to death.
Focus regenerates more than twice as fast as it does in Warlords, but there’s no longer a Cobra Shot equivalent. I found myself having occasional periods of downtime where I was out of Focus and had no charges of Mongoose Bite, but that will likely improve with gear.
Harpoon is really handy for getting around. The cooldown is relatively short and it has a nice range. When that’s not available there is the new Aspect of the Cheetah, which becomes even better with the Dash talent (3 extra seconds applies to both portions). It’s tough to decide between Dash and Farstrider, as double Disengage never gets old.
Dust off those traps
Survival gains exclusive rights to traps in Legion, and I can safely say they are going to play a role in pretty much any type of content you do. If you don’t need them for crowd control, you’re going to be using them for damage. There are a total of six different traps, but you can only use three of them at a time. They all share a cooldown now (it’s not broken up into frost vs. fire) and Trap Launcher is no longer a thing, they just have a 40 yard range.
- Freezing Trap: The same trap we’ve known for the past 11 years.
- Tar Trap: This is the same as the old Ice Trap but with a new name. No more confusion between ice vs. freezing!
- Explosive Trap: Still does piddly damage, but I’m hoping this can be improved. It does get improved with a talent.
- Steel Trap (talent): This is basically what Bear Trap was going to be in both the Wrath and Warlords betas. Does some pretty decent damage (including on bosses) and replaces Freezing Trap.
- Caltrops (talent): Replaces Tar Trap and adds a small amount of damage when it triggers. It’s a bit underwhelming in its current form. I might suggest something like the target takes increasing damage whenever they move on top of the caltrops (it makes sense, you’re stepping on spikes).
- Dragonsfire Trap (talent): This one is my favorite of the bunch. It’s deeper in the talent tree and is suitably powerful. Replacing Explosive Trap, it lights the target on fire and sends them into a state of panic. The best part about this is it doesn’t break on damage. This gets even more fun when you factor in Expert Trapper.
Expert Trapper is a level 100 talent that adds bonus effects to all of your traps (though Caltrops is currently excluded, hopefully they fix that). Turning the Dragonsfire Trap into AoE was a blast, as it should be since you have to spend two high level talents to get your trap into such a state. Gather up a bunch of mobs, drop the Dragonsfire Trap, then go to town for eight seconds without them being able to fight back. It’s glorious.
The Sentry Turret (level 100 talent) is also worth mentioning even though it’s not really a trap. Right now it does poor damage, but I expect that to improve in the future. It’s a neat little gadget!
Pets and surviving
Pets haven’t changed much, but the one thing I was sorely missing was Misdirection, which is only available to Marksmanship and Beast Mastery. Growl only taunts for three seconds, and when that finishes the enemy usually switches back. Flanking Strike’s extra threat component helps, but not enough to make up for a lack of Misdirection. You will most certainly pull off your pet, so you’ll be taking a lot more damage than you’re used to as a Hunter. This is especially apparent when facing multiple enemies at once since your pet can only gain threat on one of them. In situations like that, you really need to CC the targets (see Dragonsfire Trap above) or kill them fast. Thankfully, Feign Death is still available for Survival. I was using it more than I ever had before.
My pet was also pretty sluggish compared to me jumping around with Harpoon, Aspect of the Cheetah, and Disengage. When I Harpoon to an enemy 40 yards away it takes my pet an eternity to catch up. I found myself waiting around for him quite a bit, which wasn’t fun. Plus Growl has a 30 yard range, so I would Harpoon in, start attacking, then have the mob suddenly run through me to my pet who is still 30 yards behind. These are things that are minor nuisances when playing ranged, but as a melee character I really want my pet locked at my side.
Spirit Bond is no longer available, and not having that constant healing source is very noticeable. The upside is that Exhilaration is now a baseline spell. Talonclaw’s equip effect reduces the cooldown by 5 seconds every time you kill something, but I don’t feel like that’s enough of a cooldown reduction considering it has a 2 minute cooldown. I think something in the 10-20 second range would be more appropriate as I found myself needing that heal pretty often. There is also Survivalist, which heals you for 15% over 10 sec after a successful kill.
In short, I think Survival still needs some work in the survival department.
My initial impressions of melee Survival are mixed. There are times when everything clicks and it feels wonderful, such as Dragonsfire Trapping eight mobs at once, then cleaving them down as they wander around in terror with Carve + Serpent Sting and Fury of the Eagle. There are other times when I found myself waiting for Focus or cooldowns, or just being annoyed by my slowpoke pet. I think Mongoose Bite and the mechanic of gaining extra charges needs work in the UI department. Yeah, I will be able to set up WeakAuras to take care of this, but I think it needs something in the base UI. I want to know when I get a new charge, and I want to know how many I have without glancing at the tiny stack number on the button.
I’m looking forward to playing with it more, and getting my hands on the other specs (which honestly I’m more excited for because they’re ranged). Feel free to leave your questions in the comments and I’ll see what I can answer next time.
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