Keeping up with the HUNTER class. Find out this class’ strengths and weaknesses, what’s changed, how they play and what is fun about Hunters.
BEAST MASTERY HUNTER
This spec is easy to play and can absolutely do anything while it is moving. Thus making it perfect for handling raid assignments. It is also a great pick for players who may tend to be overwhelmed when they have a lot going on plus their raid assignments. Fun is subjective but it is fair to say that Beast Mastery (BM) is not especially fun but BM engages well with gameplay scenarios of WoW. With Shadowlands, Blizzard took ‘if ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ type of approach. With that said, how does BM play?
BM uses bestial wrath with kill command and cobra shot. Get as many kill command, squeezed into bestial wrath cooldown window as you can. Cobra shot is important too as it makes up quite a bit of your damage. Barbed shot puts a bleed in your target and gives your pet a stack of frenzy. Frenzy is a buff that can stack up to 3 times and is basically important. The duration of frenzy is the same as the barbed shot bleed so you must refresh barbed shot as late as you can and ensure that your pet is frenzied for as many stacks as long as possible. Each barbed shot will decrease the cooldown of bestial wrath so you can see how these gameplay loops tie together. How would you mess up this spec? By dumping too much focus into cobra shot that you can’t cast kill command and letting frenzy fall off your pet by not getting most out of barbed shot.
Sometimes your wild call procs with wild call being a mechanic where your auto shots can just reset the cooldown of barbed shot. Sometimes the RNG there is unlucky so you might want to do a barbed shot but it is on cooldown and wild call just won’t proc for you and so the buff falls off. This can really happen to many players, go with the scent of blood talent which gives two charges of barbed shots whenever you do a bestial wrath and this will help you maintain your frenzy stacks longer. As you get more haste, you will be doing more auto shots and you’ll get more wild call procs and that will smooth out this aspect of the BM hunter. For AOE, throw in a multi shot every 4 seconds which will ensure that beast cleave is maintained.
Beast Mastery TALENTS
Jumping into talents is a flat-ish one as there’s no defining talent builds of BM, nothing transformative nor extremely fun. Some of the talents are:
Murder of crows and barrage are fun but a bit bolted on and do not seem to engage well with the rest of the spec.
Bloodshed is an active one which will give you a little bit more and it is a one minute cooldown, basically a damage window mechanic. Killer cobra resets the cooldown of kill command when you are on bestial wrath
Beast Mastery LEGENDARIES
Some boring legendaries are dire command and rylakstalker’s piercing. Flamewaker’s cobra sting gives cobra shot a chance to make your next kill command be free. Eredun war order cooldowns reduction mechanic. What most are using right now is soulforge embers but some find it somewhat annoying to use.
A neat legendary would be nesingwary’s trapping apparatus which gives you 45% focus and 100% focus gain for 5 seconds whenever a trap is triggers.
STRENGTH AND WEAKNESSES
- Can cast while moving
- Consistent DPS
- Very mobile
- Great utility
- Average DPS
- No priority burst
With that being said, Beast Mastery fits WoW so well, they are the envy of every other range whenever there is a high movement situation. They just engage really well with the game.
Blizzard tweaked up some values with Marksmanship, changed its major pain point and made the main cooldown feel far better to use.
Aimed shot is MM’s big damage dealer. It has 2 charges, just a hard cast and you cannot do that cast while moving. This means the focus of the spec is to ensure you never cap 2 charges of aimed shot and you have enough focus to use it when you want to. Whenever you cast the aimed shot, you will generate one or two stacks of precise shots. Precise shots is a buff that makes your next multi shot or arcane shot more powerful. So the flow of gameplay is to do an aimed shot and then use precise shots and then use another aimed shot or try to get some focus back using rapid fire. Rapid fire is something you want to keep on cooldown and kicks into gear with AOE. Steady shot is your filler generator. The fun part is, AOE is done by a mechanic called trick shots. So if you are a multi-shot hit (3 or more targets) then your next aimed shot or rapid fire will ricochet about the place. Your screen explodes in numbers as you go multi-shot, aimed shot, rapid fire and so on. Another is you can identify where you can do a trick shot and you get a whole bunch of damage as a reward.
True shots is a big 2 minute cooldown. However it is now way more fun for it reduces the cooldown of aimed shot and rapid fire by 50% and increases your focus regenerate by 50%, all for 15 seconds. Blizzard also removed the damage component in hunter’s mark which is another major change is the hunter’s mark.
A great Shadowlands addition is the new version of the classic talents. Volley talent rains down damage but it also activates trick shots plus you can delete a pack of mobs. However the 15 and 45 tiers seem a bit bland and the others are just fine. Volley is great because it is tied into the core spec mechanics. Something good also is the steady focus, where 2 back to back steady shots gives you a haste buff. Streamline is another good one, which makes rapid fire more powerful and decreases the cast on your next aimed shot. The rest can use more work like double tap. Overall, there could be more of the talents but you can definitely find a talent build that is exciting.
Serpentstalker’s trickery is not the most interesting thing, it causes aimed shot to apply serpent thing and that’s it. You will barely notice it in single target but it does mean you can multi-DoT with aimed shot and you can also do that with lock and load but is a little more neat if you try to actively play around it. Eagletalon’s true focus causes trueshot to also reduce the cost of abilities by 50%. That means you can use your precise shots more during trueshot which would actually feel more great. There’s also secrets of the unblinking vigil which gives you free aimed shots when you get trick shots but it is currently very AOE. Surging shots is a free damage buff and a rapid fire cooldown. Overall, there’s decent choices of legendaries.
STRENGTH AND WEAKNESSES
- Solid DPS
- Decent burst
- Almost super mobile
- Good survivability
- Great utility
For weaknesses, it is hard to think of a major downside because this is a great spec. There are rooms for improvement but in general it gets a thumbs up.
In terms of play rates, Survival is the least played spec in the game. This spec did not get any change for this expansion. Blizzard saw how Survival was rarely played thus did not put any work on it. Survival can still do enough damage but it is barely played and barely changed plus you do not gain much from going melee. Nothing much to say for this spec
Most are going with Night Fae where they get wild spirits, which is pretty simple- slap a big circle on the floor and anything in that circle takes extra damage whenever you do a spell. And that shouts a whole lot of fun! As for Kyrian, it lets you shoot through walls but in general use- you slap it down and enjoy its 30% crit. For both MM and BM, you might prefer to have a 2 minute cooldown that is more powerful than a less powerful but 1 minute cooldown.
For Venthyr, flayed shots are good but it does not really work out that well. It is basically a DoT and each tick of it can proc a kill shot. However it lacks versatility of the Kyrian and Night Fae abilities which are good for any kind of situation. Finally, Necrolord’s death chakram is also neat- throw it out, deal damage and get some focus. Unlike the flayed shot, it is good to have something to use moment to moment with your hunter gameplay but Necrolords are not a good match for hunters overall. Night Fae and Kyrian are default choices so they are offering you a great experience.
To wrap up, BM and MM are in a good spot as they both connect well with the WoW gameplay experience.
0:59 Beast Mastery
18:52 Hunter Covenants