Well, it’s about that time again. WoW’s second expansion is in beta, and will be bringing with it an absolutely staggering number of changes. So far, I am very pleased with the way things are going.
Today, I am going to try to confine my ramblings to the subject of the hunter talent tree upgrades. Pet changes, new spells, and upgrades to old spells will have to wait until a future post or two. And of course, I’ve also got to write about the priest changes. Hmm… And I’m trying to get my warlock to 70 before the expansion as well… Anyway. Hunters. Talents. Go.
At present, my hunter is a pretty heavy beast mastery spec. If things remain largely unchanged, he will likely become even heavier beast spec immediately upon getting the expansion. Of course… there is so much goodness in the pending changes that I might not actually stick with beast spec much past 70, but this is my current plan for day one in Northrend.
First, let’s discuss what I’m planning on giving up (initially). In order to get 53 points in beast mastery, I will have to give up 11 points from marksmanship and survival. The talents that are going byebye:
- Humanoid Slaying (3 points, T1 survival) – No real pain here. This reduces my damage & crit damage caused to Humanoids by +3% each. Of course… this talent is gone in the expansion anyway. It’s being replaced by the 5 point Improved Tracking ability which gives you +5% base damage to whatever you’re tracking. It’s nominally an upgrade, but it’s not worth the points.
- Improved Hunter’s Mark (5 points, T2 marks) – Shrug. This talent causes my mark’s +AP bonus to apply to melee damage as well (ie, my pet’s). That means -110 AP that my pet would normally enjoy against a target I’ve marked. That’s roughly 8 dps + whatever specials might gain from AP. In the expansion… the talent gets a major buff. Cost is reduced to 3 points and it also gains +30% to resist dispel. I like the improvement, but it’s still not earthshaking.
- Go for the Throat (2 points, T3 marks) – This one makes me cry. Go for the Throat causes my pet to regenerate 50 focus every time I score a ranged critical hit. Getting this talent back will probably be my first major focus – with the planned build, I’ll be able to get this back at level 77.
- Aimed Shot (1 point, T3 marks) – This one also makes me cry. I refuse to explain aimed shot. Anyone who’s read this far knows exactly what it does. I might pick this back up, but it will take some careful juggling.
But oh… oh what am I going to get in exchange 🙂 It’s gonna rock.
Aspect Mastery is a new T3 beast talent. For one point, it buffs your 3 basic aspects. Viper gets +10% to its mana regen rate. Monkey gets 10% damage reduction – that’s right, flat out absorption when the dodge fails. This also means monkey now helps when you’re getting hit by spells. Hawk gets +50% to its AP bonus. At level 70, hawk is worth +155 AP, so this talent is worth +77 AP. At level 80, hawk will be worth +300 AP… 😉
While I’m going this deep in the tree (and since I don’t need the point for Aimed Shot any more), I’ll also be picking up a 3rd point in Catlike Reflexes for an additional +1% to my dodge and +3% to my pet’s dodge.
Invigoration is a new T8 beast talent that for two points causes you to instantly regenerate 2% of your mana every time your pet scores a crit with a special. My pre-existing talents already give my pet +10% crit chance and double focus regen. I’m losing the focus regen from Go for the Throat but am also picking up both of the new T9 talents…
Longevity costs 3 points at T9 beast and reduces cooldowns on Bestial Wrath, Intimidation, and all pet special abilities by 30%. Intimidate’s cooldown goes down from 60 seconds to 40; Bestial Wrath is down from 120 seconds to 84. These cooldowns were already short enough that I have macros that ensure I am able to burn them almost every time they’re up. The buff makes me giddy.
Reducing the cooldown on pet specials by 30% means I don’t have to rely on my pet’s focus dump ability any more. 30% more frequent crits from specials means 30% more frequent procs of Invigoration and happy joyful mana regeneration.
Cobra Strikes costs 3 points at T9 beast and gives me a 60% chance when I crit with Arcane, Steady, or Kill shot to cause my pet’s next 3 specials to crit… In conjunction with Invigoration, this effectively reduces the mana cost for my Steady shots into the realm of the microscopic.
And of course, then there’s Beast Mastery, the new T11 talent. This will allow me to tame exotic pets (devilsaur, chimera, silithid, etc…) and effectively gives all of my pets +20 levels worth of talent points.
The only new beast talents that I’m not actually picking up with this build are:
- Animal Handler (T6, 2 points), which gives my pet +4% to hit (that’s never been a problem) and reduces the cooldown on the new Master’s Call ability by 10 seconds (from 60 to 50). I don’t think I’ll be using Master’s Call much. I’ve already got 84 second Bestial Wrath.
- Separation Anxiety (T10, 5 points), which is quite probably very cool, really. Fully trained, it gives your pet +10% movement speed when <=20 yards from you and then turns the speed bonus into +10% dps once it gets 20 yards away. This makes interception time even faster and generally translates into an almost permanent +10% pet damage (since 20+ yards is a quite normal range for hunters to shoot from).
I’m vaguely torn by Separation Anxiety. Insert pun here. To pick it up immediately upon WotLK launch would mean foregoing +5% crit chance, and my crits already give my pet huge bonuses that I wouldn’t want to go without.
Of course… the other two talent trees have gotten an even bigger upgrade. Beast was already terribly overpowered, so it is only fair. If it weren’t for the lure of exotic pets, I’d be all over the other trees. As it is, I’m having a hard time deciding what I want out of their first 3 tiers.
The changes to the marks tree mean major improvements to hunter shots, reliable improvements to baseline DPS, and absolute gobs of bonus mana efficiency.
One of my longstanding gripes has been Improved Concussive Shot. In BC, it was a 5 point talent that gave the dubious benefit of a 20% chance of proccing a 3 second stun in addition to the daze effect. There are numerous problems with this that I really don’t want to get into since the bad talent is finally going away. In return, we get a sleek new 2 point talent that increases the duration of the daze by 2 seconds. This is pure awesome. If I were leveling a newbie hunter, this would be my first talent, hands down.
T1 marks also gets the 3 point Focused Aim talent, which gives hunters the same sort of 70% interruption resistance (while charging Aimed & Steady) that other mana-using classes have traditionally been able to buy for low tier talents. I find this to be of questionable usefulness, however – especially since it’s a T1 talent that buffs abilities that aren’t available at level 10. Aimed shot is a T3 talent, so it is first available at level 20. Steady shot rank 1 is level 62…
T2 marks gets some amazing changes, I’ve already mentioned the buff to Improved Mark.
Careful Aim makes an appearance at T2. All the way down from T7. Yup. They moved a tier seven talent down to tier two. And then they buffed it 3x. In stead of a puny +45% of your int converted into RAP, it now gives a full +100%. Epic win.
They have also switched the locations of Mortal Shots (+crit damage) and Efficiency (-mana cost). Mortal Shots is now T2 and becomes Aimed Shot’s pre-req (in stead of the other way around). Efficiency wasn’t very important at low levels, so moving it up to T4 makes more sense (when it’s saving you more than 1 or 2 mana per spell).
In stead of Careful Aim at T7, marks hunters now get Piercing Shots for 3 points. This gives Steady and Aimed shots the ability to ignore 6% of target armour. Very unshabby.
Rapid Recuperation is a new 3 point T8 ability that helps mana efficiency. While using Rapid Fire, both the hunter’s and pet’s abilities are 60% cheaper. This makes for a lot of focus dump happiness for your pet. Additionally, Rapid Killing (which already reduces Rapid Fire’s cooldown) is improved by giving you a mana regen tick that heals you for 150% of the damage dealt by the +20% damage shot you fire to use the Rapid Killing charge. This is quite probably enough to keep high level hunters at full mana forever, so long as things keep dying.
Wild Quiver is a new T9 (3 point) talent that gives you a 10% chance to fire an additional auto shot at 60% damage. Combine this with the fact that heavy marks hunters will likely be using Improved Hawk in stead of Viper (since the marks tree is really taking care of the hunter’s mana needs without it now)… and you have a LOT of extra arrows flying.
T9 also gets Improved Steady Shot (3 points). This gives your steady shots 15% chance to increase the damage of your next aimed/arcane/kill shot by 15% while reducing its mana cost by 40%. See? I told you. Mana efficiency.
The new T10 marks talent is Marked for Death (5 points). It gives your already improved hunter’s mark an additional +10% damage dealt by the hunter & pet and increases your critical strike damage bonus of all shot spells by a further 10%. This really encourages the hunter to mark their targets but I wonder how it plays out with multiple hunters firing on the same target. Do they all get the bonus, or does only the hunter who placed the mark?
And Chimera Shot is the new T11 talent. It’s a 10 second cooldown shot for 125% damage that refreshes your current sting and procs an additional bonus depending on which sting was active. Serpent deals 40% of the sting’s normal damage instantly. Viper heals you for 60% of the amount it drains (mana efficiency). Scorpid procs a 10 second disarm attempt that can only occur once a minute. All told, way cool.
The big change at T1 for the survival tree is that the former pair of 3 point talents Monster Slaying and Humanoid Slaying have been replaced with the 5 point Improved Tracking. I’ve already discussed this above, but just to reiterate:
- Only costs 5 talent points in stead of 6.
- +5% damage in stead of +3% damage and +3% crit damage.
- Works on whatever you’re tracking in stead of just 4 different creature types.
T2 gets a new talent called T.N.T.. Hehe. This gives your fire traps 15% chance to deal a 2 second stun when they do damage (I assume this means 15% each time the dot procs…). It also increases the crit chance of your explosive trap by 15%. And… the talent also extends these bonuses to your Explosive Shot (which is the new T11 talent that effectively acts as a ranged explosive trap). I could live with this.
Tier 2 also gets Survival Instincts. Yup, another high tier talent moving down into cherry picking range. They didn’t even nerf it in the process (but they didn’t buff it like they did Careful Aim). This formerly 5th tier talent gives you a whopping 4% damage reduction and 4% AP for 2 points.
T3 sees an upgraded version of Deflection. This talent previously cost 5 T2 points for +5% parry bonus. Now it costs 3 T4 points for +6% bonus. Deflection also becomes Counterattack’s new pre-req (since the old pre-req, Deterrence is becoming a baseline ability now). Win.
T3 also gets Trap Mastery, which is currently unimplemented. But I believe it is supposed to be a combination of the previous T3 Clever Traps talent and the previous T4 Trap Mastery talent.
And… T3 also gets an improved version of the formerly T4 Improved Feign Death. Survival Tactics (2 points) is Improved Feign Death (+4% to difficulty to resist feign) plus a 4 second reduction to Disengage’s cooldown.
At T4, Surefooted is slightly changed to cut the duration of snares in half. Previously it supposedly gave you a +15% chance to resist them, but I’m not the only one who’s noticed that a lot of CC/snare/etc… type effects are, well, simply irresistible. So this is a nice improvement. They’re actually doing this sort of thing all across the board (changing chance to resist effects that weren’t ever actually resistible to a reduction in that effect’s duration).
Lock and Load is a new 3 point T4 survival talent that gives you a crazy weird clearcasting type effect that procs whenever you trap a target or 15% of the time you sting something. The proc is that your next 3 arcane and explosive shots are free to cast and have no cooldown (they normally both have a 6 second cooldown). I really wonder if successive explosive shot dots stack… because explosive trap + 3x explosive shot = actual big boy aoe dps. This would actually make hunters vaguely useful in situations where previously only mages & warlocks would do.
Hunter vs Wild is a new T5 talent for 3 points that increases you and your pet’s AP by 30% of your total stamina. 5 points in Survivalist are the nominal pre-req, but when considering taking a talent like this, who’d pass up a +10% stamina bonus anyway?
Noxious Stings is new at T8 and has Wyvern as a pre-req and gives your wyvern sting a backlash effect that hits the dispeller for 50% of the remaining sting duration. In addition, it also increases all damage dealt to victims of your serpent sting by 3%. This really improves the usefulness of wyvern in pvp and makes serpent a nice addition to an improved mark in group situations. I don’t think this should be a T8 talent with a pre-req… but there really isn’t room to put it anywhere else 😉
Point of No Escape is a new T9 survival talent that costs 3 points and increases the crit chance of all attacks on victims of your ice traps (and possibly bear trap, but I think they’re doing away with that one). This is very nice for frost trap and potentially very very fun with the rumored changes to freeze trap (it won’t break on any old damage now). This means you might get to cycle off two big crit shots into something when breaking its freeze now.
Sniper Training is another new T9 talent (3 points). This increases the damage dealt by steady, aimed, and explosive shots by 6% when you are >30 yards away from the target. It also (possibly more importantly) improves your chance to crit by 15% when executing with Kill Shot. It’s kind of a shame this is so mutually exclusive with Separation Anxiety (+pet dps at long range).
The new T10 survival talent is Hunting Party (5 points) and serves as an awesome hunter version of Vampiric Touch (shadow priest spell that dots an enemy and turns the damage into mana for the party). Hunting Party has Thrill of the Hunt as a pre-req (regen 40% of shot costs when you crit) and heals your whole party’s mana/energy/rage/runic power slightly whenever you crit with an arcane/explosive/steady shot. Hehehe. Oh, and remember, TNT gives explosive shots +15% to crit while Lock and Load makes them subject to chain clearcasting 🙂
And of course then there’s Explosive Shot at T11. We’ve already seen numerous other talents that improve it, but what is it? It’s a ranged explosive trap on a 6 second cooldown. It hits the primary target for a good chunk of fire damage and then splashes everything within 5 yards with a dot for half of the base damage again over 2 seconds.
And so… with so many wonderful options, I am really starting to wish for the first time that they will let us dual spec somehow. It would mean I can keep my insanely heavy beast spec for soloing and take something from marks and/or survival for groups/pvp. Mmm. Happy ideas.
Anyhow, I’ve spent entirely too long on this, and now I’m less sure than ever of what I’ll be doing with my 10 shiny new lvl 71-80 talent points. Oh well. Respecs aren’t really that expensive after all.