Locked and Loaded: Why I’ll probably play Beast Mastery in Legion
I still question whether the rework of Beast Mastery was even needed. I’m a big believer in the if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it philosophy and I’m pretty sure Beast Mastery is not broken on live servers. One could argue Survival was in a rough spot and warranted a big re-do, but I thought Beast Mastery was pretty solid.
I’ve played it a lot on the Legion alpha and beta, definitely more than the other specs at this point. During this period I haven’t been playing on live servers all that much, so recently when I logged in to do some Timewalking as Beast Mastery, I had actually forgotten what to do. I thought, hey, where’s my Focus? Oh, right, I need to spam that button to get it back. Duh. It took a while, but I think I’m finally getting used to the new Beast Mastery.
We’re in the home stretch. The prepatch is, at best guess, about six weeks away, and the classes are usually finalized by then. Balancing will continue up until Legion, but the class itself probably isn’t going to change much at this point. In past expansions I felt like Blizzard was a little more receptive to early feedback when it came to mechanics. This time around, they pretty much stuck to their guns. A wealth of feedback was offered up by Hunters and very little came of it. Yes, they aren’t designing by democracy here, but I was surprised they stayed this confident in the new design amid all of the player opposition. Living in my little Hunter bubble, I decided to look at the general player response for other classes and saw a lot of similar sentiment. People hate change.
One area I thought they did listen was on the superficial side of things. The idea of summoning an endless stream of random pets via Dire Beast felt somewhat impersonal to many Hunters (myself included) who felt an attachment to their pets. Blizzard responded with the Glyph of the Dire Stable, which makes Dire Beast summon from our stable instead. Some Hunters didn’t even want that, and for them Blizzard added the Dire Frenzy talent to empower your main pet instead of having Dire Beasts. Then there was Hati, a permanent secondary pet that looked the same for every Hunter. Blizzard responded with a neat little quest to acquire the Essence Swapper. To me, it seems like they took the class fantasy related feedback to heart, but feedback about the mechanics? Not as much.
Downtime — get used to it
Beast Mastery is easy to play. The biggest hurdle for most people will be learning to prioritize their cooldowns, and when to hold off on Cobra Shot and simply do nothing. Combine this with being able to cast everything on the move, and it’s going to be a pretty friendly spec for players who have trouble multi-tasking their rotation with difficult dungeon and raid mechanics. I enjoy this simplicity to an extent, but I am slightly worried about a lack of fulfillment when it comes to raiding and being able to improve my DPS by getting better at my class. The basis for any good video game is the concept of flow, and at this point I’m not sure if Beast Mastery has enough challenge to achieve that.
All this being said, I have a lot of fun playing Beast Mastery in Legion — at least when it comes to leveling and doing a few dungeons. Oh, and world quests? Slightly off topic, but they are pretty great. I love being able to open my map, quickly scan the rewards, and decide what to do. It’s what dailies should have always been. Back on topic, what I like is that I do feel like a beast master. I’m doing relatively little damage with my gun or bow, but all of the other pet damage is mostly under my command.
The most interesting talents for me were the level 30 talents: Stomp, Dire Frenzy, and Chimaera Shot. On a recent 100-110 playthrough, I swapped between these frequently and found all of them to be fun and useful, which is pretty rare in talent trees in my experience. Stomp makes your Dire Beasts feel like genuine weapons, like beast projectiles. It’s a good choice for someone interested in making their Dire Beasts very powerful. Dire Frenzy is the opposite of Stomp, removing your Dire Beast completely to empower your pet. It takes the Dire Beast damage and makes it instant, gives more Focus, and the haste buff it provides really improves your Beast Cleave damage. Chimaera Shot is something for those looking to put more of the damage on their Hunter, and give themselves something else to toss into the rotation, reducing the overall downtime.
My experience in dungeons was that Beast Mastery is doing just fine in the damage department (keeping in mind that it’s early and not all number tuning is complete). I was competitive with other classes, and even stronger when it came to AoE damage. Cleave and AoE definitely seems like it will be Beast Mastery’s strength. Even Stampede is more of an AoE cooldown now. There are still talent options to give you a little more oomph in the single target DPS department.
When it comes to mechanics and the rotation, if given the choice between the old and new Beast Mastery, I’d still probably choose the old. At the same time, I like the idea of using beasts as part of the rotation. I guess I can’t have my cake and eat it. But old Beast Mastery plus Titanstrike? I think it would have worked out pretty well.
I can’t give up the pets
Dual wielding pets is the best thing to come out of all this. Once you reach level 110, there is an optional quest to obtain the Essence Swapper. This item allows you to transform Hati into anything you want. Hati will still keep his lightning effects, but otherwise will look like the new pet. Once you use it, you can safely swap your main pet and Hati will keep that look until you change it again. When you factor in the Master of Beasts artifact trait, you essentially have two full blown pets. I was able to unlock this particular trait by level 108 since I took the shortest path to it.
It also helps that some of my favorite new pets are exotics and only available to Beast Mastery. Did you know that we can now tame Thok the Bloodthirsty, the raid boss from Siege of Orgrimmar? There are no other raid boss tames (yet!) but there is a Tortos lookalike with the Lowland Manashell. Oh, and how about Bulvinkel, the spirit moose? There’s also the new Mana Saber family, which are also exotic (though I think they could have fit into the Spirit Beast or Cat family considering there are only two or three colors).
I have a lot of pets I worked really hard to tame over the years, but I often don’t see them because I can only use one at a time. Now I get to see them all the time because of the Glyph of the Dire Stable. With a fully loaded stable, it’s a new surprise every time you use Dire Beast. It’s pretty awesome.
What about the other specs?
Yes, I’ll be playing them (probably on alts), but swapping specs in Legion is not as simple as it is now. Artifacts sort of force you to pick something and stick with it. It’s not just a matter of grinding out the Artifact Power to get all of the traits, but it’s the relics. You could view relics as the replacements for weapon drops in Legion. Their primary purpose is to boost the item level of your artifact. It’s not like how it is now, where you can own one weapon and it works just fine for all three Hunter specs.
The way I see it, there’s good and bad to this system. The bad part is Blizzard could nerf your spec or change something you don’t like, and there’s no simple option to transition to another spec without doing a lot of grinding. The good part is you don’t have to worry about the other specs. Previously I felt almost guilty if I didn’t swap specs because the other one was slightly better on a particular encounter or raid, but now I’m probably going to be better off sticking with what I know. It encourages you to focus on the strengths of the spec you chose rather than worrying about what spec is the flavor of the month. Of course there will be the ultra dedicated Hunters who maintain two or three artifacts. That may have been me 5+ years ago, but it’s not today. I’ll pick my spec and do my best with it, and that’s probably going to be Beast Mastery.
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