Evolution of Hunters (PvE:Raiding; WoLK thru MoP)
WoW is an ever changing game. Class mechanics come and go, spells get buffed or nerfed, changing what we do and how we do things. In the last 6 years of my Hunter being my Main and only main raiding character I’ve seen the ups and downs. Most have actually been ups in the sense of playing the class, but at the same time these “ups” to me have been letdowns.
What I show with this post: What was once a ‘harder’(purely in the context of hunters from past to present; this does not deal with comparisons to other classes) class, has now become a more watered down version of the past.
Since I only started playing at the beginning of Wrath, I’m only going to talk from that point on. If anyone has more information on BC and Vanilla, please reply with a similar analysis on it and I’ll edit the main post to add it.
Note: When I mention ‘Skill Cap’ I’m not talking about “good vs bad” players; but more in the sense in depth micro-managing.
Aspects and Mana:
The two main aspects where Dragonhawk( DPS ) and Viper ( Mana Regen ). Yes, we used to be one of those ‘nub’ classes that used mana, until we learned how to focus . To maximize DPS it was best to be in Dragonhawk 100% of the time, especially when the target is below 20% HP, in range of Kill Shot, knowing the fight length, what time in the fight DPS was more important than others, like having to burn down a new or specific Add. One of the downsides to mana was that it was also majorly dependent on your raid group’s composition. If you had enough SPriests, RDruids, RShamans and were in a 25man, you’d almost never have the need to use Viper. If you were in 10man or weren’t in an optimized raid group, you’d be in Viper about 10-20% of the fight. A RDruid HoT used to give back resources to players, but I’ve been known to ask for Innervates before, lol.
Skill Cap: Switching to Viper at the right time. Begging for Innervates
As a Hunter our Auto Shots made up a good portion of our DPS. However, if we were moving we weren’t able to AutoShoot. To avoid losing DPS a technique called stutter-stepping came about. Either you watched your character to see Auto Shot fire or used an addon that showed you your swing timer. You’d then only move after your Auto Shot went off, and then you’d stop moving before the swing timer was finished so you wouldn’t lose that precious millisecond which, in a 10 minute fight, would add up to loss of DPS.
Skill Cap: Stutter-Stepping
Steady Shot was our filler. Whenever our other abilities were on CD we’d use Steady Shot. This was also our primary shot we’d want to use during Aspect of the Viper as it wouldn't hurt our DPS as much. It was our only cast ability(*multishot had an invisible .5s cast; but was instant*). As being a cast ability we weren’t able to use it while moving. This would keep us planted to a spot as our other shots were generally used in such a way that we’d have to cast Steady Shot 3-4 times before an Instant shot was available. Stutter-stepping also worked here, as the GCD was a bit longer than the steady shot cast. Right after steady going off and if auto shot swing timer allowed we’d be able to move a few steps before having to stop. If our instant shots came available this was the prime time to move as we’d only have worry about the swing timer.
Skill Cap: Stutter-Stepping fractions of a second.
If you didn’t have a Cat at the beginning of WoLK you were doing it wrong. If you didn’t have a Wolf near the end of the expansion, you were doing it wrong. Pets didn’t all do the same amount of damage, so to be doing the maximum DPS you were forced to use those pets.
Skill Cap: None. Bring that damn Cat/Wolf!
Hello Cookie-Cutter! This is something that hasn’t changed from expansion to expansion. In WoLK we had way more talents to choose from. If you didn’t use simulators or read guides to tell you what to pick, chances are you would pick 2 or 3 non-optimal talents. Like not picking up Aimed Shot because you didn’t want the button bloat, was a HUGE DPS loss at the end of WoLK where Armor Pen stacking was the correct thing to do.
Rotation hasn’t changed much from expansion to expansion. When Armor Pen became the thing, we just dropped Arcane Shot from our rotation.
Between 0-8 Yards of the target we’d get afraid of the Dragon and weren’t able to shoot. Only conclusion I can come up with as to why.
Aspects and Focus:
Goodbye Viper, Goodbye Mana. Hello Fox, Hello Focus!
Hunters finally evolved and learned that mana had its limits. We no longer have to worry about having a perfect raid composition, no more need to lose DPS to regen our resources. We naturally replenish our focus by doing our ‘optimal’ rotation. Aspect of the Fox provided us with the ability to still be able to cast Steady Shot/Cobra Shot while on the move. We wouldn’t have the extra damage bonus from DragonHawk, but being able to still use our fillers while on the move provided us with a bigger benefit overall. While in the past if a puddle/void zone appeared under you, you had to IMMEDIATELY move causing you to lose DPS as you weren’t able to stutter-step correctly. Fox being off the GCD, meant you could instantly switch to it and start moving immediately out of the puddle/voidzone.
Skill Cap: Instant attention/reaction to switching to Fox before ever moving.
With the new arrival of Aspect of the Fox allowing us to cast steady/cobra on the move, they removed the restriction of not being able to move for auto shot. We now could cast Auto Shot while moving. This was a HUGE DPS gain for players who hadn’t been using the stutter-step technique.
Skill Cap: Removed stutter-step. Auto Shot is now just a passive damage output. If it wasn’t for DPS meters, I don’t think I’d even miss if they removed Auto Shot from the game.
Still our filler, not able to cast on the move unless we switched to Aspect of the Fox. This is our focus regen ability, which is part of our optimal rotation.
Skill Cap: Instant attention/reaction to switching to Fox before ever moving.
Our pets got turned into Buffs. Yup, at this point other raiders stop considering them as pets and more of, “Drairon we need 4% Physical Debuff”. If you were in a 25man raid this wasn’t that big of a deal and you would bring any pet you liked. But raiding in a 10man I had to purposely nerf my damage by using a non-ferocity pet to provide the 4% Physical Debuff. My pet ravager Feffy was my raiding companion ALL thru Cata.
Skill Cap: Knowing which buff/debuff was missing.
Hello Cookie-Cutter! This is something that hasn’t changed from expansion to expansion. In CATA we lost most of our talents to choose from, we still had to use simulators or read guides that told you what to pick, chances are you would pick 1 or 2 non-optimal talents.
Rotation hasn’t changed much from expansion to expansion. The only major change in rotation affected MM. If you got your haste high enough, you could drop Arcane Shot from your rotation and just use Aimed Shot as your focus dump. Haste provided almost the same effect as Armor Pen did back in WoLK.
Aspect and Focus:
HELLO ADD/ADHD! Goodbye Fox! We still have our focus regen thru Cobra/Steady. All our cast abilities (except the powershot talent) can be cast while on the move (and Aimed Shot if glyphed). I spend my time now in raids taunting healers and other casters that are planted to a spot. I’ve been known to hit Auto-Run at the start of a fight, and either run around in circles around the Boss all fight; or do figure-eights around caster classes out of sheer boredom.
Skill Cap: None - Hit Auto Run and have fun.
Stutter-Step was removed in Cata. Hit Auto Run and have fun.
Skill Cap: None
Still our filler; follow optimal rotation. Hit Auto Run and have fun.
Skill Cap: None
Still the Buff/Debuff Bots of the raid group. 10man pick what is missing. 25man, sorry bring that Tallstrider!!(only AoE Sunder)
Skill Cap: Knowing which buff/debuff is missing.
Hello Cookie-Cutter! This is something that still hasn’t changed from expansion to expansion. In MoP we only have 6 talents to choose from, we still have to use simulators or read guides that tell you what to pick. Only the last 3 talent tiers affect DPS, and with the exception of the 6th tier the other 2 change from patch to patch.
Rotation hasn’t changed much from expansion to expansion. Depending your choices on the last 3 tiers of the talent tree, just replace the corresponding ones with whatever the new best is after a patch.
We finally lost our Dead Zone. We’re officially not afraid of that Dragon and are able to stand under it and shoot him!
All the tricks and micro managing of your character that were used at the beginning of WoLK were removed. Called “QoL” changes. While these changes have changed Hunters for the better; Hunters have evolved to require less of a Skill Cap to be played correctly.
What currently makes one Hunter better than another?
- Did we both read EJ, WHU?
- Does one of us have more/less lag than the other?
- One of us not following proper rotation?
- One of us not following proper reforge?
I didn’t mention Skill Cap for Rotation; but this is where the BIGGEST difference comes from nowadays. We have a few more random Procs to pay attention that will vary our rotation. As SV, if we get a Lock and Load but hit Cobra Shot instead of dumping our LNL Explosive Shots. As BM if Focus Fire stacks reach 5 and we accidently hit it during Bestial Wrath. As MM getting a trinket haste proc causing our Aimed Shot to have a low enough cast time to use over Arcane. A small delay in reaction time to procs would cause you to use the wrong ability at the wrong time. Another thing would be reacting to ‘Bad’ while still following proper rotation. The ability to not panic when a void zone appears under you.
So the question now turns to you: Do you like the changes Blizzard has implemented over the last few expansions? And the reduced skill cap for hunters? Or do you think that the watering down of the class has taken away some of the challenge and fun of playing hunters?