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Hunter “Balance” Reaches Tipping Point in 4.3

As reported by MMO-Champion, a new test build is being deployed on the PTR today. While they call it “a very minor build with almost no changes”, it isn’t very minor at all for hunters.

  • Beast Mastery: Focus Fire now lasts 20 sec, up from 15 sec.
  • Survival: T.N.T. now has a 10/20% chance to proc, up from 6/12%.

This is an interesting buff on top of what the two trees are already getting because a developer mentioned this a few days ago, with my emphasis:

Our internal 4.3 testing for hunters shows Marksman, Survival, and Beast Mastery very close. This doesn’t always play out in encounters, because players often develop different strategies when encounters go live (than they did during PTR testing).

As with any vague blue post, this does not give any indication as to which talent tree is actually on top. However, the changes being deployed today might indicate that they think Survival and Beast Mastery performance can still go up a bit.

Assuming Patch 4.3 will be the last major patch before Mists of Pandaria, we can therefore observe the overall changes that have happened with hunter talent trees during Cataclysm:

  1. Beast Mastery has always been getting buffed, but gradually.
  2. Marksmanship received the strongest one-time buff and was nerfed slightly later on.
  3. Survival received the strongest one-time nerf and is being restored near its original state.

If you monitor the talent tree changes that occur in 4.0.6, 4.2.0, and 4.3.0, Beast Mastery’s passive mastery will now be twice as powerful as it was during release of Cataclysm. For Survival hunters, the early reduction in Black Arrow damage has since been negated, and Explosive Shot will return near its original state with this new patch.

Now pay attention to the second sentence of that blue post. The takeaway message of that part of the blue post is that the “balance” they are currently seeing may not be replicated when Dragon Soul goes live next month. Therefore, the changes being deployed in the realms today may be the buffer for that “just in case” scenario.

It is likely that with this change, we’ll be seeing some fights where one talent tree will perform better over the other two, and one of the other two trees will perform better on a different fight, and so on. This is true “balance”, where the talent trees’ strengths are played out according to different encounters, not that all three specializations perform equally for every individual encounter.

So why is this the tipping point? Because DPS can never be truly balanced. Instead, it hovers around a state where DPS will favor one specialization at a given point of time and then gravitate toward another at a different point of time. Call it a sine wave if you’re familiar with mathematics, and the “balance” is what you would call convergence. If this is what the developers have in mind, it is what we will finally see after next month’s patch.

(I put the word “balance” in quotes because, although people like to see that word thrown around, it’s a very vague concept that has no actual meaning. Talent tree balance is a subjective thing and can be seen differently depending on the person assessing this imaginary state of affairs.)

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3 responses

  1. I switched to SV in Wrath and have never really looked back. I think I’m one of the few who didn’t jump ship for MM in Cata, but I’ve been able to more than hold my own in 10man raiding as SV. I’m just riding that wave!

    Thanks for your continued excellent reporting and insight, Loronar. I’m a fan.

    15 November 2011 at 10:45

    • Thank you for being a faithful reader, Ozolin. Readers like you make me want to keep writing. :)

      15 November 2011 at 17:31

  2. Pingback: Hunters at the End of Cataclysm « 35 Yards Out

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