Locked and Loaded: Legion alpha Hunter updates

We’re now about three months into Legion alpha testing the Hunter class, so I thought it would be worthwhile to revisit each spec and see what has changed since my initial first impression columns (Survival, Marksmanship, Beast Mastery). This week’s build in particular comes with some exciting changes for Marksmanship.

General updates

  • There are now a total of three new pet families. None of them are Exotic, so Survival can tame them all as well.
    • Mechanicals: Includes things such as mechanical chickens, mechano striders, mechanical sheep, mechanical bunnies, and possibly more.
    • Scalehides: Includes mushan, kodos, and stegodons.
    • Oxen: Includes yaks, shoveltusks, and musken.
  • Sand reavers have been added to the Silithid family and mana wyrms have been added to the Serpent family. Mana sabers are also coming, but I’m not sure if they will be part of the cat family or their own family.
  • Several Hunter-specific legendaries are being added. These are still in progress, but here are three examples. Once these are finalized we’ll cover them more in depth:
  • Several cosmetic minor glyphs have been added such as Glyph of Arachnophobia, Glyph of the Skullseye, and Glyph of the Hook.
  • Aspect of the Cheetah now has a 3-minute cooldown, up from 1 minute.
Harpoon now has an eagle that follows you

Harpoon now has an eagle that follows you

Survival updates

It’s hard to believe that it’s been three months since I first got my hands on Survival in the Legion alpha test. My initial impressions were lukewarm, but a few improvements have been made since then.

  • The pet has been made more responsive thanks to changes to Flanking Strike. Your pet will immediately switch and charge to your target whenever you use Flanking Strike (charge range seems to be about the same as Kill Command). This is a welcome improvement and addresses one of my original complaints. The pet still falls behind occasionally when using Harpoon, but the overall problem has been mitigated.
  • Mongoose Bite’s stacking damage buff now lasts 12 seconds (up from 3.5 seconds), but it will no longer increase the duration when stacking. In the previous iteration, you were encouraged to weave other abilities in between your Mongoose Bites, and the slightest delay could mean losing your stacks. Now, you’re encouraged to save up your Mongoose Bite charges and use them all consecutively. This simplifies the gameplay, and I actually prefer it this way.
  • The global cooldown has been increased to 1.5 seconds, up from 1 second. This makes things feel a little sluggish, but it also allows more time for Focus to regenerate between attacks (which is a big problem for Survival at the moment).
  • Disengage has been removed from Survival. I’m so sorry. Posthaste now works with Harpoon instead.
  • Harpoon has a new visual effect of an eagle following you when you use it. It looks great.
  • Talents have received a few revisions, but I would expect a lot more. Some highlights include Butchery, a new level 90 AOE talent that replaces Carve, and Spitting Cobra (functions similar to the original turret, but also regenerates Focus).

Focus regeneration is an issue right now. There’s simply too much down time while waiting for Focus. I feel like traps are still being under-utilized considering this is now the only spec that can use them. In my original post I gushed about how cool the old Dragonsfire Trap was, but that was later changed. It’s now called Dragonsfire Grenade and instead of confusing the target, it just slows them by 20%. Maybe it was overpowered before, but at least it was a genuinely cool trap. Right now the whole talent tree feels dragged down by these trap talents that I have little desire in taking.

I believe Survival still needs a hook other than “it’s a melee Hunter.” A special tool or perk perhaps. It feels like you’re giving up the benefits of being ranged but get nothing in return. Is that what melee classes are in WoW? I really wouldn’t know, being a Hunter for my entire WoW career.

Trick Shot in action

Trick Shot in action

Marksmanship updates

Marksmanship has probably seen the most iteration thus far. It’s been steadily improving and most Hunters I know who have tried it are seriously considering it as their primary spec in Legion.

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  • Seek Vulnerabilities has seen some adjustments to how Hunter’s Mark is applied. Instead of a flat 50% chance, it’s now a RPPM system with Arcane Shot and Multi-Shot.
  • The stacking buff applied by Marked Shot now lasts 30 seconds, up from 12. Much easier to maintain.
  • Aimed Shot now has a 2 second base cast time, up from 1.5 seconds.
  • Multi-Shot now generates 2 Focus per target hit (it still costs 40 to initially cast).
  • The much-hyped Dark Ranger talent has been removed.
  • However, Dark Ranger’s core functionality of summoning a minion to temporarily tank for you has been moved to the Black Arrow talent. Black Arrow no longer has 3 charges, but it will summon a minion that taunts your current target for the duration. This is clearly going to be the leveling and soloing talent of choice.
  • The powerful Head Shot talent has been moved to the level 100 tier, receiving a damage buff and an increased cooldown.
  • Sidewinders is the new level 100 talent replacing Dark Ranger. It completely replaces Arcane Shot and Multi-Shot. It hits multiple targets (in a cone similar to Barrage) and generates 60 Focus per cast. It has 2 charges and regenerates a charge every 12 seconds. This talent is fun!
  • Windburst has had its damage doubled.
  • Explosive Shot has been re-designed as a talent. Now you get to decide where it explodes. Using the ability a second time detonates the projectile (it moves slower than a regular shot). If you don’t detonate in time it seems to fizzle out.
  • Many more talent revisions, such as Patient Sniper and Trick Shot.
  • The base Focus pool has been reduced to 100.

Marksmanship has the most exciting set of talents at this point if you ask me. It’s also the only spec where I’m not feeling Focus starved, probably because it retains some active Focus regeneration. I am enjoying the new Sidewinders talent in combination with Trick Shot and Patient Sniper. It feels wonderful to mark all of the targets in one fell swoop, then ricochet your Aimed Shots to them all. Marksmanship has has a solid foundation and its future looks positive.

Double Kill Command!

Double Kill Command!

Beast Mastery updates

As the most recent spec unlocked on the alpha, Beast Mastery has also seen the least amount of revision. There are a few things worth mentioning outside my initial impressions from last time.

  • Hati looks like she might be getting a facelift (see this video). This new model isn’t enabled in the alpha yet, but it’s a good bet this is intended for Hati.
  • Hati is now healed when you use Mend Pet (for roughly 30% of what your pet gets healed). Hati’s controls are still non-existent and desperately needed.
  • Dire Beast now regenerates 4 Focus every 2 seconds while active. Previously the beast had to hit the target to generate Focus. This means more consistent Focus regeneration as each Dire Beast will give the exact same amount. An excellent change.
  • Bestial Wrath has a new effect, but it’s a little too subtle for my taste. More red please!

Lack of Focus always seems to be a problem, though it can be mitigated by taking both the Dire Stable and Chimaera Shot talents. Being locked into two talents so you don’t feel constantly Focus starved is not ideal. There are more changes on the way, as Celestalon previously hinted at a new talented shot that replaces Dire Beast. I am also excited for the future glyph that will let Dire Beast use my own stable of pets. I’m not a big fan of the random beasts.

Blizzard has been adding multiple charges to many Hunter abilities in Legion, and I think this would be a good fit for Dire Beast. The Wild Call mechanic which resets the Dire Beast cooldown has been equal parts frustrating and fun. It’s frustrating because it always seems to reset the cooldown when there’s only a couple of seconds left on the cooldown. This is inevitable when you have a cooldown reset mechanic on a 10-second cooldown ability. If Dire Beast had two charges it would solve this problem, result in more net Focus regeneration, and also make a talent like One With the Pack more competitive with the “mandatory” Dire Stable.

As a side note, now that we have maxed artifacts available for testing, I must say how cool it is to have Hati use Kill Command, Beast Cleave, and Bestial Wrath with my main pet. I have high hopes for Beast Mastery, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

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