Locked and Loaded: Choosing a Hunter spec for Hellfire Citadel
With the launch of patch 6.2 imminent, it’s time to take a look at what Blizzard has in store for the three hunter specs in Hellfire Citadel. Today, hunters are in a unique situation where one can raid with any of the three specs and not only be viable, but excel. It’s a golden age that a pure DPS class rarely gets to witness.
And I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted. Sorry.
Notable PTR changes: None. Beast Mastery was left untouched from patch 6.1.
Tier 18 set bonuses:
- 2-piece: Arcane Shot and Multi-Shot increase the duration of your Focus Fire by 1 sec.
- 4-piece: Your Focus Fire effect also summons a Fel Boar to assist you. The Fel Boar lasts for the duration of Focus Fire.
Talisman of the Master Tracker effect: Bestial Wrath now lasts an additional 30 sec on your pet, and it increases your pet’s damage by an additional (28-42)%.
Outlook: Positive. Beast Mastery will continue to be a jack-of-all-trades, dealing competitive damage in single target, cleave, and AoE. Stacking cooldowns, procs, and trinkets is key to getting the most out of Beast Mastery. For example, Beast Cleave AoE without a high-stack Focus Fire is actually pretty mediocre. However, burst AoE when combined with a fully loaded Focus Fire and Bestial Wrath is some of the best in the game. Beast Mastery can also do well at dealing damage to priority adds that need to die quickly as long as you plan ahead and save cooldowns and Frenzy stacks.
Beast Mastery’s reliance on Focus Fire to deal great damage has made it somewhat prone to bad RNG streaks, but the tier 18 2-piece bonus aims to combat this. The extra Focus Fire uptime should give your pet more chances to generate Frenzy stacks before they’re needed. The 4-piece bonus is similar to the tier 17 one, only the Fel Boar will have higher uptime due to Focus Fire being up more often than Bestial Wrath. The Talisman of the Master Tracker trinket will be one of the best, but its effect does not make you change your gameplay at all. It’s simply more damage.
Notable PTR changes: Aimed Shot buffed by 15%.
Tier 18 set bonuses:
- 2-piece: When you critically hit with Chimera Shot, you have a 40% chance to gain Rapid Fire for 4 sec.
- 4-piece: The cast time of your Aimed Shot is reduced by 100%.
Talisman of the Master Tracker effect: Your shots deal (0.3-0.4)% increased damage per yard between you and the target.
Outlook: Very positive. Marksmanship was already a great single target spec, and the Aimed Shot buff solidifies it as the single target spec of choice. Granted, boss fights aren’t usually pure single target nowadays, but there’s something to be said for dishing out the damage where it counts. Dealing with priority targets makes or breaks a successful boss kill, and that is Marksmanship’s specialty. It deals enhanced damage in the first 80% with Careful Aim, and in the last 35% with Kill Shot. Marksmanship may never get to top the overall charts (except for predominantly single target fights), but it can deal the most damage where it matters. Topping the charts with spamming AoE means nothing if the boss is still alive.
The 2-piece bonus is pretty underwhelming. With proc RNG on top of crit RNG, the end result is a short buff you have very little time to take advantage and little reason to plan for. Before you get upset, take a look at the 4-piece bonus. Instant Aimed Shots! The 4-piece bonus is where Marksmanship takes off and steals the single target DPS crown from Beast Mastery. The Talisman of the Master Tracker trinket will be about as good as you can get if you can stand far away from the target for the majority of the fight.
Recommended builds (in tier 18 gear): Low movement and/or single target focused, heavy movement and/or lots of Chimaera cleave opportunities
Tier 18 set bonuses:
- 2-piece: Your Black Arrow increases all elemental damage done to the target by 15% for 15 sec.
- 4-piece: Your Explosive Shot causes a shadow nova on targets afflicted by your Black Arrow.
Talisman of the Master Tracker effect: Your Arcane Shots and Multi-Shots have a (75-100)% chance to reset the cooldown of Black Arrow.
Outlook: Negative. Where to begin? Survival has been nerfed. Its single target damage is about 10-15% below the other specs. Its AoE and cleave damage has also suffered considerably because of the Serpent Sting nerf. AoE performance is even below Marksmanship until you have tons of targets. I wish I was joking on that final point. Remember the recent WoW Q&A with Ion Hazzikostas where he famously remarked that it was Demonology’s turn to be the worst Warlock spec? I guess that is Survival’s fate in patch 6.2 as well. I can only guess Blizzard isn’t happy with the spec and how it plays, and their interim solution was to nerf it so fewer people will play it. The other possibility is they felt it was too simple to be worthy of competitive damage.
The set bonuses are equally uninspiring in their current state. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the 2-piece, but the 4-piece deals so little damage that it’s hardly worth it. The shadow nova is a short-range AoE explosion. If this set bonus did great damage, it may have been enough to salvage the spec in certain encounters. The Talisman of the Master Tracker bonus is somewhat interesting but not as strong as the others. While it is certainly fun to put Black Arrow on multiple targets, the Focus cost of so many Black Arrows effectively limits you to keeping Black Arrow ticking on no more than 3-4 targets before it has negative consequences on other abilities. It’s a decent boost to cleave damage, but still not enough to make up for other shortcomings. The other problem is there’s no real world difference between the normal and mythic versions as the normal proc chance is already extremely high.
Despite all this doom and gloom, Survival is still a totally playable spec outside of progression raiding. It’s just hard to recommend it over the alternatives if you’re trying to help your guild down a new boss.
TL;DR: Beast Mastery and Marksmanship will both be capable, steer clear of Survival for any kind of serious raiding.
This week’s Q&A
Don’t forget, you can ask me hunter questions in the comments below or on Twitter.
I don’t think it’ll change at all. Hunters being so good at movement and doing special jobs will easily offset the loss of the raid cooldown. You could even say it makes us more valuable to a degree since no one else can DPS on the move like us now.
I assume you mean pythons since we have a serpent family, but definitely dual-wield pistols!
For Beast Mastery, 2-piece T17 + 2-piece T18 is roughly equal to 4-piece T17, but I think I would keep the old 4-piece unless the ilvl jump was big. For Marksmanship, there’s no point in dropping 4-piece T17 until you have 4-piece T18 as the new 2-piece is quite underwhelming.
For stats, it’s mostly unchanged from 6.1: crit for Marksmanship, mastery for Beast Mastery, and multistrike for Survival. Haste also works for Beast Mastery (especially once you get the T18 set bonuses).
The first Hellfire Citadel boss drops the Felfire Munitions Launcher. The normal mode version is equal in ilvl to the stage 5 Shrediron’s Shredder and the stage 6 is equal to the heroic version. The benefit to the engineering gun is choosing your preferred stats. If you don’t want to spend the gold, a decent stopgap is an upgraded Baleful Rifle from Tanaan Jungle: created with Baleful Armament and upgraded to ilvl 695 with Empowered Apexis Fragment.
As for treasures, Fel-Proof Goggles because more goggle transmogs are always welcome.
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