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Talking Class: Hunters

Article originally posted on Manaflask
Here we are in a new feature, Talking Class. In this series of articles Ensidia players will have discussions and chats with top players from other guilds, digging deep into all the finer points and history of their shared class. This week it's time for the hunters to shine, with Caleb taking over as host and covering all the important issues, reminiscing about the good and bad old times and so on. You should also check out the gallery for more images. Without furter ado, here's Caleb:

 
In this article we’ll dive into the hardcore ways of the hunter class, how it changed over the years, what the things we still love about it are and what things we are happy that Blizzard got rid of. Giving us their insight on the topic are none other than:
Slaught   from  Adept            adept

Justwait  from  Method         method

Balrouge from Premonition    premonition
 
Myself, Caleb from Ensidia 

I will try to keep my answers to my own questions short, so there is more room for the others :P
The article has gotten a bit big, but its definitely worth reading everything.


Give us a short introduction. Where do you come from, how long have you been in a top guild, how long have you been playing a hunter?

adeptSlaught, gone by that ever since I started playing (practically release). That’s just the who. The where has been many servers, never moved from the same battlegroup or more than 4 different servers across 5 years. Why? Well, we all have an addiction or two, the game kept me interested for the first half, and the people for the other half. What can most readily be described as a die-hard hunter striving to be in the best guild most relative to timezone (whilst being the best). Went from the best guild possible on the server, discovering other guilds being better, moving on to them, and doing that for a very long time. Currently in for about 1.5 years I suppose, Australia is so limited. Also I renamed to Coolsexigurl because I figured a joke name like that would go well with the quality of the game right now.

methodHey there, my name is Matthijs Groot and I’m playing the hunter Jûstwait in Method and have been doing so since early 2009. Before that I was in several raiding guilds aiming high, but not as high as Method, really!
I have been playing hunter ever since I first set foot in the World……of Warcraft in 2004, starting out as a noob not knowing how the game works and taking strength gear (Herod’s shoulders look amazing!) while leveling to where I am now. I must say – It’s quite the change!

 
premonition
“Stay a while and listen”.... Hello, my name is Paul and I play a Worgen hunter named Balrogue on the Sen'jin realm, male Worgen of course! I currently live in Las Vegas, Nevada about 15 minutes from the glow of the Las Vegas Strip. Since December of 2004, I have played and enjoyed a hunter as my main character. Unlike many veteran players, I have never strayed from my Hunter roots, and have been a part of only two guilds during my raiding career. Forlorn Legacy, on the Windrunner realm, was the first guild I was a part of. From Onyxia, to the Lich King, and everything in between, we worked hard to achieve our modest world rankings, which varied from around 15-40th. I was the guild master for Forlorn Legacy for over a year. Premonition, on the Sen'jin realm, is where I will finish my WoW career, and I have been here for the exceptional batch of content this tier.

ensidiaHello, I’m Caleb, one of the current guild leaders of Ensidia. I’m from Budapest and I’ve been playing hunter since the AQ days when I rerolled to it from my priest because my guild needed hunters for Huhuran. I would say I’ve been in top guilds for quite some time now, I’ve always been in a server top guild at least. But I really only stepped up my game at the end of vanilla when I joined Forte. Then I got invited into Nihilum at the end of TBC which then as you know merged with SK into Ensidia.


What do you think were the dark ages for hunters, when you really felt like things can’t get much worse for the class?

adeptCata right now, it feels we’re too weak, everyone complains about the first 20% of the boss fight like it overly matters. Sure it gives the sweet deeps, but it’s not sustainable after that (to a point), and most guilds just wipe and are terrible, so they’d see hunters up top. AoEing we’re not even that amazing and the side-uses for a pure dps class is just sad... It seems that everytime we were useful (distracting shot) it got removed. That being said I was one of the guys who kited Halfus drakes on the first heroic kill... Frost traps are so TBC/WoTLK. Silence shotting is where it’s at for Cata, beating people to interrupts and disturbing the peace.

methodI don’t think the hunter has seen many dark ages in PvE. If we have to pick a progress tier however, I must say Sunwell. No matter how much dps we could do back then, the way we did it wasn’t something I look back at with a proud look. We were able to press 1 macro and if you had the right latency your dps was going up a whole lot more than others. Nowadays it’s a lot better in that regard with the change in dps models Blizzard has been taking in WotLK and furthermore in Cataclysm.
 
premonition
The measure of “dark ages” of hunting, for me, can be summed up when the fun is missing. While raiding on my hunter has never been something I did not enjoy, there have been times when the fine-tuning of play was missing, and some of the fun was lost.

During The Burning Crusade, a one-button macro spam spec was prevalent, and this really numbed any sense of challenge one might incur while juggling raid mechanics with personal performance. The beginning of Ulduar also comes to mind. A massive weapon DPS buff was applied across the board to remedy this, but it was rough to kill very early dps checks without a hunter playing perfectly and offering any utility to compensate for low output. Another “dark age” comes to mind when reflecting on the Icecrown Citadel and TOGC farm periods. While the content was partly to blame, a stat called Armor Penetration was also a big culprit to a static rotation, eliminating the dynamic feel of play we see with today's Marksman play. Gearing was quite simple during this period due to the scaling of the above-mentioned stat, and armories all looked the same for top hunters (for the most part).

Each tier has brought with it ample opportunity for a hunter to perform a challenging raid role on at least a couple of fights. However, DPS mechanics don't always couple with these challenges, and for me, that is when the fun is lost. It should also be noted that many Vanilla WoW specs were not as finely tuned or viable as one could hope, however, we were all a little green during that period and very few hunters were actually fully optimized like we see today.


ensidiaI’d have to say back in vanilla when we were only brought to bosses for resistance aura, or when people tried to kill us because we used feign death to save the million elixirs we had to use each try to stay competitive on dps. Also the end of vanilla / start of TBC was pretty bad when we were in the same rank 13 PvP gear for about a year or something.
 
 

Now the opposite, when did you feel that hunters were on the top of the world, that no one could beat us?

adeptWotLK, every time an expansion hit, hunters were stupidly OP because Blizzard couldn’t balance them, and gear made it much worse over time. There were many things hunters could do to micro-manage their DPS like internal CDs and autoshot timers, and if you did that you were a monster (and it was very noticeable). We didn’t feel like the support DPS for once, and could hold our own (statement applicable for arena, too).

methodThe first tier of WotLK! First Beastmaster hunters get outdps'd by their pets and are still the highest and then Survival with trap dancing is topping the meters. Those times were nice and interesting, although the content was quite on the simple side without all the hardmodes we have these days.
 
premonition
Hunters have always been a valuable asset to a raid, when played correctly. There have been periods when our output was not where it needed to be, however, performing jobs on fights can always counter this. I personally felt the most empowered with my class and raid role while progressing through Yogg-0. Using Distracting Shot on Immortal Guardians, (before and after they were renamed) was a lot of fun and also challenging each and every pull.

Any time I can perform a raid role or job during progress is when I am the most pleased and feel “on top of the world”. Each tier brings with it opportunities and situations where a hunter is perfect for a raid job, and I am always quick to volunteer for said jobs. In general, I feel we are one of the stronger classes for encounters which favor AOE or any fights with adds of any kind. Furthermore, encounters which require a lot of movement generally discourage other casting classes, but hunters thrive here as well. The ability to crowd control and guide adds to tanks from ranged is such a unique and enjoyable experience, and always makes for fun hunting.


ensidiaThe one button steady spam as BM during TBC made me feel quite overpowered, we were vastly over any other class both in pve and pvp.


How do you think hunters fit into raids right now? Is there something that you really want to see changed to be better at raiding?

adeptTake 1 or 2 exceptional hunters, for the standard frost traps... Or for just some DPS where your mages or moonkins suck. Want some other things that aren’t internal CDs or % proc chances. Need something like maelstrom weapon on our master marksman and a perfect rotation that equates to high DPS that doesn’t rely on who gets that extra 10% crit on autoshots.

methodCurrently hunters fit in very well, and with the promising looks of Firelands it seems we will continue to do so during all of progress in that tier! Maybe it’s because of the hunters in Method are helping out a great deal in the raid than just DPS, but hunters are for sure not a wasted raid spot. Which you can’t say about Elemental shamans right now, unfortunately! If there was one change I’d see improved it would be that they make hard casting Aimedshot not viable anymore. I still think it’s a broken mechanic and we’ll have to see where Firelands brings it to.
 
premonition
In my opinion, a hunter's raid role can be summed up as a silent, utilitarian, glass-cannon in the current implementation of the game. It is expected that the new add pack or mob will get misdirected, although not always noticed by some raiders. It is beneficial to bring the correct pet debuff to an encounter, however, some classes might not know that you have tamed and summoned a pet for a raid benefit (sometimes with a personal loss). At times we even sacrifice our pets to save tanks or others that are caught out of position, through micro-managing our pets, a skill which is largely overlooked by a lot of the WoW community. While things like traps and “clutch” boss taunts are more noticeable, a lot of what we do goes largely unnoticed but is so clear to the eye of an experienced hunter when raiding alongside other good hunters.
 
 

During progression this tier, it was nearly essential to use resist trinkets and play perfectly to not die where other classes would live. Sure we have the Raptor Strike Glyph, Disengage, Deterrence, Master's Call, and Feign Death to pull out of the bag of tricks when things look bad, but these are just not enough when compared to the survivability of other classes. While I enjoy the challenge, I can't help but think I would enjoy being the class that didn't die where others can live. Ideally, this new survivability would take skill to implement, and would not be a free pass to standing in fire and scoffing at it while your feet are burning. Perhaps Camouflage could have two functions, one in combat and one out of combat. A talented or glyphed Camouflage will not put you in stealth if used during combat, but rather reduce all damage taken for a period of time, but increasing the damage a Hunter's pet takes for the duration. A hunter is skilled in the art of evasion and can make himself appear to be invisible, while his pet distracts his foe and receives the majority of the damage the Hunter would otherwise receive.

ensidiaI’d love if our interrupting capability got a bit better. I mean I realize that having a ranged class who can silence is a huge balance risk. But right now I feel like we could be so much better in raids if we had silencing shot moved out of the MM tree and had it as a base spell with a bit shorter cooldown.


List a few design changes that you think affected the hunter class in a negative manner? Maybe even elaborate on how else things could have been changed.

adeptFox and Hawk dancing, it’s boring and a waste of time, it doesn’t indicate skill, only those who know how to incorporate it into macros. Master Marksman is awful, and the free aimed shot during cast as it procs was killer, they should give that back, it gave some skill to the class (even if it was RNG) through rotation and knowing how to use focus. Nerfing steady shot to be horrendous across the years has been the worst thing done to Hunters.

methodThere aren't many changes that affected hutners so negatlively that it is still on my mind, to be honest. I do however think they could change the way dead-zone works. Currently on some of the bigger bosses they have basicaly removed the deadzones by giving them a special sort of hitbox so we can shoot them from anywhere. Ever since they started doing this I have wondered why they don’t just do it for all the bosses or just remove the dead-zone. I know it is one of the ‘hunter’ things that they would rather not touch but it has been so long that hunters have had problems with it in both PvE and PvP. Especially at a high level, where it matters most, dead-zones are either being abused (PvP) or are a problem for our dps when gathering (PvE).
 
premonition
I mentioned this earlier, and our class wasn't alone in the effects, but the Armor Penetration stat really dulled down gearing and itemization choices for hunters. Never before has one stat composed 80% of our class, and nearly drowned out the fun of Huntering as Armor Penetration did in WOTLK.

I really miss the variation in play styles derived from the weapons we used. At level 60, equipped with the Ashjre'thul Crossbow of Smiting, my Aimed and Multi-shots were a lot of fun to play with, and I felt like I was using a large, bulky, “bruiser” play style which rewarded long casts and yielded capacious results to create good burst play. On the other hand, we had the IAoTH builds, utilizing faster weapons and benefiting from scope damage, great for sustained glass-cannon Hunting and resulting in a completely different feel from that of the “bruiser” style. Weapon normalization brought with it some fixes for weapons which were out of synch with where they were intended to rank, but in the process, we lost a great deal of choice. Weapon speed is all but ignored now, and our ranged weapon is merely handed to us as a default gear upgrade each tier.



Call me old school, but I enjoyed farming for ammo and consumables. Using pet food, scrolls, and either grinding rep, dungeons, working with professions, or mobs for ammo mats was part of being raid-ready. Nowadays, I am a little busier than I used to be, but I do think ammo could have taken a very interesting turn with regards to our class. At some point in a patch the best type of ammo will become standard to use, but when the patch is first released, the journey to get that ammo type and be one of the first in the world with it is lost. Any number of interesting “proc” ammo, boss specific, instance specific, spec specific ammo could have been introduced to hunters along the years. Ammo with no combat benefits at all, exhibiting properties of non-combat pets have would have been a lovely little addition to this ever-growing ammo system which never came to life. I feel it is an aspect of the game that was scrapped before it had a chance to develop.

Rhok'delar Long bow of the Ancient Keepers, any hunter who completed this quest and earned this bow at level 60 was worth bringing to a raid. There has been no other item in the game that I am aware of which challenged a player outside of raids to this extent. Not only was the bow amazing, it came with a staff, shape-shifting properties, and also rewarded a special quiver upon completing the quest, fulfilling the wish list of any Hunter. I would have really liked to see this trend continue with each expansion, even at the cost of never acquiring a legendary bow. The quest was so epic, and literally trained the level 60 player. While I wouldn't expect a hunter to learn as much nowadays with a quest like this, class changes and new challenges would keep it fresh and something we really looked forward to each expansion.

Fare thee well autoshot cast timers! I really miss not planning movement around autoshot casts. The most memorable and best example I can give of this was during Mimiron Firefighter progress. While I didn't realize it then, and it might seem insignificant to you now, actually stopping to finish an autoshot during spin-up was great fun and is missed on new encounters. While I despise having to use an addon to perform a function of my class, I will stand by the autoshot timer as a staple of good hunting that is long since missed. As gear improved and fight times got shorter, there was still room for more autoshots to go off because you actually became better at the fight. Gone are the days of positioning yourself better and reacting correctly as to maximize autoshot counts, and I for one miss that aspect of hunting.


ensidiaDeadzone is a *****. Especially when they are so inconsistent about it. I understand you need it for pvp “balance”, but give a more actual example. During the Majordomo Staghelm encounter, you can pretty much be in melee from Majordomo but when you gather after cat phase you can’t shoot the kitties he spawns from close range... WHAT IS UP WITH THAT?!


Now list a few things that you think were good changes, changes you were waiting for, changes that made you happy :D

adeptAutoshot whilst running was a good/bad change, it took away a fun aspect, but it was annoying to monitor when you’re Australian. Aimed shot buff, making it ridiculous~ I was really happy to see the big damage for once. Volley having the sweet new graphic was banging, arrows flying and junk.
 
 

methodThat Blizzard removed the dead-zone… Oh snap, that was from previous question. No more ammunition needed! It has really made life easier and I don’t have to bother checking if I have the right arrows on me before a raid! Another change that has my thumbs up was the pet normalization, where all pets of the same type would get the same stats assigned to them instead of having to camp Broken tooth’s spawn point just to get a pet that attacks faster! Bringing back Aimed Shot as a cast as they did with Cataclysm was something I liked as well, since it does give a bit of the vanilla feel to it, where we were afk shooting them all the time!
 
premonition
Focus! I am a fan of the new focus system. It wasn't easy to transition to for a lot of us, but I much prefer being self-reliant to produce my resources to deal damage. During TOGC and Ulduar especially, a target without Judgment of Wisdom was just scary to deal damage to, as you were always in fear of swapping to Aspect of the Viper for a substantial damage loss. I am a big boy and I should decide when I play poorly and consume my resources in a manner which hinders my play. Yes, there are times when I am focus-starved, but that is alright, I can plan better and solve it on my own. It is no longer a matter of harassing the paladins in my raid to use Judgments so that I can play at my potential, it is on me.

Pet debuffs and pet utility is something I didn't think I would see when I was raiding years ago. Any opportunity to bring a vital raid buff or debuff is something that gets us more play time and helps the raid. Taming and housing more pets, and then intelligently using the correct pet on call is something I do enjoy. While I was never a fan of catching every Pokemon, I do have to admit I have gone and tamed some pets based on aesthetics ( don't tell anyone ). The larger stable and overall improved functionality of taming and choosing a pet is an improvement.

With the focus system came spec changes which have made us very different hunters than we have been in the past. We actually have three raid viable specs, and each one is unique and feels different to play. While I enjoy all three, I primarily focus on survival for AOE, and the MM and BM specs for non AOE encounters. The changes made to the Marksman spec have come together to produce the most dynamic and rewarding Hunter spec to date. There is no rotation as it stands, and the priority system is engaging and rewarding when executed correctly, but punishing when it is not.

The new Multi-Shot is one of my favorite spell changes in a long time. The graphic of a wall of arrows flying towards your foes is unique and nearly laughable at the implied force of such a spell. The old Volley felt like a Mage Blizzard, and didn't fit well into the Hunter repertoire. Serpent Spread works well with the new Multi-Shot and provides for effective AOE damage, and when coupled with Explosive Trap, makes for interesting game play to boot.

 
 

ensidiaNo more ammo. God was I happy about that, I mean sure after they changed it so they stacked more than 200 in one stack at least inventory space was not an issue, but we had the legendary weapon already at that point that used no ammo. :D Have to mention the pet changes too. I’m really happy about the IDEA of having pets bring missing buffs/debuffs, it’s just the implementation that could have used some more brainstorming. Some debuffs/buffs are still exclusive to one pet family. They really could have just let us pick the pet and train it the ability we want it to use in raid.


What is your favourite hunter ability, something you can not live without, something that would make you cry if they removed it from the game?
 
adeptDisengage, it’s the lazy ability for when you don’t want to move out of a void zone, or use it offensively to get places. Everyone loves this ability, but using it out of combat would be better, and probably pushing forward would be more enjoyable (more LAZY).
disengage
 
methodCall pet, no pet on hunter! – But if we keep it serious I’d say Hunter’s mark. It might not seem as big of a spell, but it has been there since the beginning and always served me nicely in increasing my DPS! From the point where it had to stack up and give us more AP to the point where we can apply it with a simple Arcane shot / Chimera Shot with talents. Missing this would really shed a tear in my eyes.
 
hunter's mark
  
premonition
This is an easy one, disengage has always been the most interesting, fun to implement, and the most outrageously fun ability to experiment with. Disengage does not work like blink, while there is an “invulnerability” zone with blink that is guaranteed the instant you cast it, Disengage does not offer the same comfort zone. The physical game-world location remains at your launch point until your destination point is confirmed and relayed to the server. Any ability that crosses the launch point path will interact with your character as if you were still there. Therefore, the ability is not a get out of jail free card and requires planning to use effectively. However, when it is used effectively, it is quite rewarding and satisfying. 
 
  
disengage

ensidiaDisengage, I’d literally die if we didn’t have this ability. Saved my life so many times, increased my DPS significantly. Just all around awesomesouce. And it gets even better when you are MM with the Posthaste talent. Not only do you leap back but then you get extra movement speed after it. AWESOME!
 
disengage

 
Which is your favorite pet? Is it the one you most frequently raid with? What new pet types would you like to see added to our arsenal?

adeptCouldn’t care over the pet families. They should actually just remove pets for MM and SV and give 11% passive damage. I’ll go with my wolf or cat anyday anyway, no new pets should be added, just new skins, instead of relevant-to-the-instance types. This will hopefully keep the e-girl hunters still playing, aw ye.
 
 

methodMy favorite pet is the Ghost Wolf I tamed back in TBC with heroism, mind control and reducing cast time by half meta gem! I love my Airwolf and I’m happy they did not remove it when they decided it shouldn’t be allowed to be tamed anymore. They did add back a spirit beast with the same looks but fortunately didn’t change the old one so I don’t have to spec BM to keep him around!

There are enough pet families and looks right now that I don’t think new pet types are needed. The only reason and things that can happen is that the new pets will have some special gimmick ability that will be helping out so much in raids or PvP everyone will be walking around with it, not something I want to happen!

 

 
premonition
My favorite pet is my Mini-Diablo from the original collector's edition! In all seriousness, I don't really prefer one pet type over the other, and have no attachment to any pet. I am partial to Skoll from Storm Peaks for aesthetics purposes, he really looks amazing. However, I typically only use the pet which supplies needed raid utility. If an add is out of melee range, I will opt for the Ravager to apply the 4% increased physical damage taken debuff, for example. I use what is needed.

With the new patch, a string of pets will be made available to tame and are said to offer some challenge to those that wish to tame them. If these pets are challenging to tame, and offer a rewarding and engaging experience, I will be there. Much like the Rhok'delar quest mentioned previously, this is an amazing method to teach new hunters their class, and gives us old farts something to do when we're not raiding, and keeps us out of those capital cities we sit in! I am all for adding pets which are challenging to tame to the game, I am not too concerned what model they use as they are typically under a boss' leg annoying those darn melee. Scratch that, make them as large as possible to annoy those darn melee even further.

ensidiaI don’t really have a favourite. I admit the ravager grew on me a bit now during Cataclysm while we didn’t have frost DKs in the raid. I’d love to be able to tame some real dragon or dragonkin. I know we’ve got “dragonhawk”, but it’s just not the real thing.
 
ravager
 

Final shout outs, to your hunter buddies out there or to anyone you want to mention:

adeptTo the friends who keep us playing because they’re more fun than the game. To the American’s and Euro crowd, I hope you get Australian internet and playerbase and realize how much more problems we have to deal with. And to the b*****s who make us use colon three faces.

methodRogerbrown, Dabears for being the amazing hunter team at Method we are!
Also to all the hunters who spend time reading this, thank you for being interested and good luck getting where you want to be if you aren’t yet! And last but not least a shoutout to all other top hunters and may our arrows shoot hard and fast this expansion to keep us on top of those meters!

 
premonition
I suppose I owe a thank you to all the hunters I have raided with over the years and learned from. Solid play always inspires me to do better, and I have only them to thank for that. Also thanks to all of my guild mates for the amazing raid environment that helps make Hunting so much fun.

ensidiaShout out to all the hunters out there, having your /petattack macroed is NOT OK, GET BETTER AT PET MANAGEMENT!
 
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Thanks to the guys who took the time to answer my questions and thanks for sticking with the hunter class throughout all the trying times. You all know we still rock, keep it real!