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Hunter > WoWFeb 20, 2015 3:00 pm CT

Locked and Loaded: Hunter buffs in patch 6.1

Welcome to Locked and Loaded, Blizzard Watch’s regular column for survival, marksmanship, and beast mastery hunters. This week, your host Adam Koebel (@BendakWoW) will be talking about the exciting changes coming to hunters in patch 6.1

Hunter buffs. Is there a more beautiful combination of words in the English language? Patch 6.1 is coming out in a few short days and it contains a significant amount of specialization and talent balancing for hunters, almost all of it in the form of sweet, glorious buffs. Blizzard did sneak in a couple of nerfs to go along with it, but they aren’t so bad.

At the beginning of Warlords, marksmanship was significantly ahead of the pack in terms of DPS. Then the hotfixes started to roll in. There were dozens of hotfixes all told (I’ve lost count), but it has led to where we are now, on the eve of patch 6.1: Survival on top, with marksmanship and beast mastery trailing behind measurably (but not horribly). With patch 6.1, Blizzard is aiming to address this in a serious way.

Beast mastery changes

  • Improved Focus Fire now grants an 8% increase to attack power per Frenzy stack consumed (up from 5%).

This means when you pop Focus Fire at full stacks, your attack power is going up by a whopping 40%. Compare this to the start of Warlords where it only provided a 10% buff, and the 25% it is now.

When you factor in talent changes (which we’ll discuss soon), beast mastery has the potential to gain 10% more DPS in patch 6.1. This closes the DPS gap between survival and beast mastery.

With so much potential DPS, you’ll have to pay a little more attention to Focus Fire now. In the past, it was something you simply hit when it flashed. That is still applicable, but sometimes bad luck can cause Frenzy to fall off before it reaches 5 stacks. In cases like this, you don’t want to waste those stacks. My general rule of thumb is to use Focus Fire if Frenzy is about to expire. Even with 1-2 stacks, that’s still some extra attack power while I wait for Frenzy to build up again. Another exception is to use Focus Fire before going into Bestial Wrath if Frenzy is at 3+ stacks. The more you can line up Focus Fire and Bestial Wrath, the better.

Secondly, you may want to consider using the Steady Focus talent as beast mastery, especially for AoE fights. Steady Focus also increases pet focus regeneration, which leads to more pet basic attacks (Claw, Bite, Smack), which leads to more chances for Frenzy stacks and higher Focus Fire uptime. Dire Beast is still a solid contender for single target DPS.


Marksmanship changes

  • Careful Aim now increases critical strike chance of Steady Shot, Focusing Shot, and Aimed Shot by 50% (down from 60%).
  • Chimaera Shot damage increased by 30.4%.
  • Sniper Training is now 25% more effective.

The Careful Aim change is a nerf, but it’s not as bad as it looks. I think Blizzard’s main intention was to increase the value of critical strike for marksmanship. We’ve already seen Blizzard do this for the mastery stat for beast mastery in a hotfix. It seems like their goal is to make each spec’s attunement stat be number one. This was never an issue for survival and its multistrike attunement.

The Chimaera Shot and Sniper Training buffs have a similar effect that the beast mastery buff did. When all is said and done, marksmanship hunters have the potential to do about 10% more single target DPS in patch 6.1. Some of that will be reliant on your ability to keep a high uptime on Sniper Training.

Marksmanship AOE DPS is another story entirely. It’s great that single target is back up to par, but where’s the multi-target damage?

Survival changes

  • Trap Mastery no longer reduces the cooldown of all traps and Black Arrow by 6 seconds.
  • Black Arrow now has a cooldown of 24 seconds (down from 30 seconds).
  • Enhanced Traps now reduces the cooldown on all traps by 33% (down from 50%).

The end result here is that survival traps will now have a 20-second cooldown, and Black Arrow will keep its previous 24-second cooldown. This was done mostly to tone down the craziness that was 12-second traps in PvP. It is a miniscule nerf to PvE damage for hunters who were using it on cooldown.

Survival did not receive any other damage tuning. The goal was to bring the other specs up to survival’s level, not bring survival down to their level.

Stampede makes a come back

  • Stampede now lasts 40 seconds (up from 20 seconds).

Not a typo. A Murder of Crows is that good. They had to double Stampede to make it competitive, and by all accounts they were successful. I’ve run some initial tests and this puts Stampede right up there with Crows, and for single target fights it can be even be stronger.

Where Stampede has a problem is when there’s any kind of target switching. You have no control over your Stampede pets, so when you switch targets they will leisurely walk across the room to the new target and waste potential attacks. A Murder of Crows also has the cooldown reset mechanic which is valuable if used intelligently.

But if you know you’ll be on the target for 40 seconds uninterrupted, or the fight is predominantly single target, Stampede is going to win out in terms of raw damage almost every time.


Level 90 talent buffs

These changes ensure that it will always be worthwhile to integrate our level 90 talents into our single target rotation. Prior to this, they were not worth using in some cases (mainly for survival). I’m not going to complain about the AoE damage buff either. Is Powershot worth using in a raid now? Sure, on a boss like Gruul it can be. Bosses are immune to the knockback, but it could cause problems elsewhere. A minor glyph that removes knockback would be a nice addition. It’s not something I’m too keen on using in a dungeon or raid. If I wanted something low cost and easier to integrate into my rotation, I’d stick with Glaive Toss. On the other hand, I can see this new Powershot being quite fun in PvP.

Outside of level 90 talents, Exhilaration also received a buff from a 22% heal to a 30% heal. Nothing too exciting, but it’s something.

Pet changes

  • Basilisks now have a pet family ability. Stone Scales reduces damage taken by the pet. Previously, Basilisks did not have a pet family ability.
  • Hydra pets should no longer be excessively large.
  • Spirit Beast’s Spirit Beast Blessing now also provides a 5% increase to critical strike chance. Does not stack with other critical strike chance buffs. Previously, other exotic pet families provided buffs to 2 stats while Spirit Beasts provided only 1.
  • All pet battle resurrection spells (e.g. Gift of Chi-Ji) now have a 40 yard range, up from 20 yards.

Poor basilisks finally have something, even if it is just a re-branded Shell Shield. I haven’t noticed any size difference for any of my hydra pets on the PTR, but this may be referring to hydras summoned by Dire Beast which were massive.

I love the change to Spirit Beast Blessing, but they’re wrong about all exotic pets providing buffs to 2 stats. Chimaera, Core Hound, Devilsaur, and Quilen all provide a single stat buff (though they do have some other special abilities).

Patch 6.1 in a nutshell

This is a good patch for hunters. What impresses me most is how close the three specs are in terms of damage output. Barring any last minute changes, you should feel confident in playing any spec.

If you’ve already been gearing around survival (lots of multistrike), you don’t have to worry about using that gear with the other specs as both value multistrike. The only change you may want to consider if you plan on going full time with another spec is swapping enchants and gems (mastery for beast mastery and critical strike for marksmanship). If you’ll be swapping between two specs and one of them is survival, I would stick with multistrike.

locked and loaded - q&a

This week’s Q&A

As I discussed previously, all future Locked and Loaded columns will feature a short Q&A at the end. I’ll be pulling questions directly from the comments.

Sanpravus asked:
Should special (Exotic) pets still be available solely to beast mastery?

In my opinion, yes. Not only does it let you identify a beast mastery hunter at a glance, but it’s one more thing that differentiates the specs. I wouldn’t object to unique perks for the other specs. For example, I always thought Exotic Munitions (or some variant of the idea) would be a cool marksmanship perk rather than a talent.

Chrth asked:
Dwarf is obviously #1; what is your second favorite Hunter race?


Phere2 asked:
I have a question – Barrage or Glaive Toss? Yes, barrage on a test dummy might show stronger DPS, but the focus requirement plus the situational concerns of it have me not using it more often than I use it. Glaive might be weaker, but I can fit that into almost any rotation consistently.

Glaive Toss is just fine for any fight where there’s not crazy amounts of AoE opportunities, but for fights such as Operator Thogar, Blast Furnace, or Beastlord Darmac you’d be short changing yourself by not using Barrage. Otherwise, you shouldn’t have any qualms about using Glaive Toss.

ErmelynP asked:
If you’re new to the hunter class, or returning after not playing it in a very long time, what spec would you recommend?

For leveling up I’d recommend beast mastery, and my primary reason for that is Beast Cleave! Plus I think you’ll have a little more fun leveling up when you can tame exotic pets along the way. Even if you end up playing another spec later, it will teach you to respect the pet and control it properly. If we’re talking about getting started at level 100, I think survival is a good choice for dungeons and LFR. It’s easy to pick up and does well in any type of fight.

WhatYouWant commented:
Bring back Ammo.

OK, we’re done here.

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