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A Hunter’s 4.0.6 Patch Day

In case you have not heard or figured out from the 8-hour downtime, patch 4.0.6 is being deployed on the live realms this morning. Along with it come some of the first major class changes Ghostcrawler had promised several weeks back. The official notes is quite lengthy to peruse and contains more information than what was already listed in the PTR notes.

Before we go into talent specifics, here are some of the general hunter highlights:

  • Hunters can now use Auto Shot when moving. This is quite a big change in the class mechanic of hunters. One of the “skill” that a hunter often picks up in the course of playing is stutter shooting, learning how to move without clipping Auto Shot. This change now means that hunters have a new skill they must learn: the “aspect dance” between Hawk and Fox.
  • The PvE hunter 4-piece set bonus has been redesigned. It now reduces the cast time of Steady Shot and Cobra Shot by .2 seconds. I assume this change was brought about by the balancing of the talent trees because the original tier 11 4-piece bonus might no longer provide equal bonuses due to some abilities being buffed and others being nerfed. I’m still not certain how (un)impressive this change is as I’ve yet to see a hunter sport the 4-piece bonus.
  • Pets now have 70% of the master’s armor, rather than a different value based on which type of pet they are. Because I am not an expert on pets, I will leave this to others to analyze, though I do find the change interesting. If it has any effect on pet tanking, for those who are interested, I’m sure Big Red Rhino will pick up the story.
  • New meta gems have been added: Agile Shadowspirit Diamond (Agility/3% critical damage), [etc]. These new recipes are unbound and can drop from any Cataclysm creature. The new meta gems have a requirement of 3 red gems equipped. This is quite possibly the new best meta gem for hunters. As far as I know, [Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond] will have its gem requirement reverted to 3 red gems. The old [Thundering Skyflare Diamond] had been a popular alternative when Chaotic had its previous more blue than red gem requirement.
  • Aspect of the Wild, Aspect of the Hawk, and Aspect of the Fox can now be cast while mounted. This is quite possibly the best change for hunters with regards to mobility since the implementation of swimming ground mounts.
  • It was not confirmed through the PTR realms, but [Dragonkiller Tunic] is getting a gem socket. I’m not certain if [Corded Viper Belt] will as well.

Before yesterday, I had not realized how badly performing the Marksmanship and Beast Mastery trees had been performing, until I discovered State of DPS, which is a sampling of raid performance according to each class talent tree from World of Logs. In my discussion with fellow hunters from the blogosphere and my own testing on the PTR, it seems that the three talent trees are converging quite well in terms of DPS. Bliky of One Man Raid observed that his testing indicated a spread of 1000 DPS among the three trees, which is quite impressive in my opinion. Let’s examine some of the changes that made this possible:

  • Animal Handler now provides a passive 25% bonus to attack power, up from 15%. In addition to the increase in Kill Command damage, this change proves to be the major factor in increasing the Beast Mastery hunter’s DPS. These two changes essentially buff both the hunter and the pet at the same time, enabling them up to match the other two talent trees in terms of viability.
  • Chimera Shot’s overall damage has been increased by roughly 50%. This is a very huge increase numerically, and considering how important this ability is to Marksmanship hunters, it very much improves their DPS output, making them once again the top hunter talent tree by just slightly.
  • Black Arrow and Explosive Shot damage has been reduced by 15%. Many Survival hunters are actually upset by this change because Explosive Shot, as a signature shot for their talent tree, is getting to much of a damage reduction. Unfortunately, on top of the reduction in the passive agility mastery, this brings Survival once again to the bottom among the three trees for the time being.

This patch, however, is not simply about buffing or nerfing a specific tree. In fact, there are changes that have mixed effects for multiple talent trees. In particular, there are two important ability changes:

  • Arcane Shot damage has been increased by 15%. While Arcane Shot has been a strong component to the Beast Mastery and Marksmanship shot rotations for a long time, it is a new optional addition for Survival hunters. It is not unthinkable to speculate that Arcane Shot could help Survival hunters mitigate some of their DPS loss. Arcane Shot has exactly half the focus of Explosive Shot. By testing different ratios of Arcane/Explosive, Survival DPS could possibly improve, especially if [Glyph of Arcane Shot] becomes a more economical choice over [Glyph of Explosive Shot] in 4.0.6. Of course, this will require intensive testing and is subject to debate whether Arcane or Explosive will be the better choice now when Lock and Load is enabled.
  • Kill Shot’s attack power scaling has been increased by 50%.This is a general buff to all trees, especially with Beast Mastery getting an increase in its attack power bonus. This ability is glyphed for all three trees and is a top shot priority at the end of all fights. While this ability cannot be tested on the PTR targeting dummies, it is likely that Marksmanship hunters will pull ahead because of the additional buff from Trueshot Aura. When Kill Shot’s buff is added to the Termination (Rank 2) talent, it makes the final 20% of a boss fight even more critical for Marksmanship hunters.

Contrary to patch 3.0.8, this isn’t really a disaster for hunters. In fact, patch 4.0.6 probably has more goodies for hunters in general rather than nerfs. We are likely to remain near the top, if not at the top, of DPS charts. I am looking forward to how the hunter class will develop from here. I hope you are too.

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3 responses

  1. The thing I don’t like about the spec changes is how they are basically forcing those of us who enjoyed SV to play something different if we want to remain viable in raids. I don’t mind playing another spec, per se, but I liked SV and Explosive Shot and the fact it’s being suggested that SV use something else than their signature shot seems to me to indicate a problem. That said, I plan to try SV before panicking and changing to MM immediately.

    Thanks for your insights and opinions here, love to read them.

    8 February 2011 at 12:30

    • Your last sentence, Ozolin, is exactly the mindset all hunters should have. With every content patch, do not panic and say that your particular talent tree is no longer playable. If you love that tree, you will learn to play with it. There is virtue in not conforming and proving to others that your talent tree is not useless.

      8 February 2011 at 22:47

  2. Bolder63

    In my opinion Survival will not fall the bottom from these changes. On the face of it they sound crippling but SV’s damage was way over the top and the buffs will not be bringing MM & BM anywhere close to that level. When less than 1kdps separates the 3 specs it’s pretty hard to say one is dead in the water already.

    In our current gear I think Survival is still on top, at heroic or next tier gear MM will catch up, where BM lands is uncertain though that spec may have received the most buffs in this patch.

    8 February 2011 at 13:50

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