Monday, October 12, 2009

The BM buff and Tier 10

Now that I'm done with my four-part guide, I was sort of panicking trying to think of something to write. Then I realized that there were a few super-obvious things to prattle about, like the new raid tier's set bonuses for hunters and the semi-recent buff to BM.
I'm slightly ambivalent about the change to the Beast Mastery tree. I know from reading over blue posts - especially GC's posts in the DPS forum - that they've been struggling with how to buff BM damage for a while now. Most suggestions revolved around some sort of signature shot for the BM tree to fire, but it seemed like the dev team didn't really like that idea for a number of reasons. What they eventually went with was a change to The Beast Within. In case you're unfamiliar with the old TBW, they reduced the length of the ability's effect and added a passive 10% damage increase.
There's an extent to which I like this change. I'm certainly glad that BM got a damage boost, the tree needed it. The BM raiding population was minuscule compared to either the Marks or SV raiding populations. I think this change will certainly go a decent ways towards repairing that imbalance. From all reports, it doesn't eliminate the damage gap, but it does reduce it, to the point where a raid leader isn't doing her raid a disservice by bringing a BM hunter. Ferocious Inspiration isn't really ever going to replace Sanctified Retribution (for the same reason that TSA is preferable to the DK or Enhancement Shaman versions: auras have 100% uptime), but for a 10-person raiding guild especially, having that be an option is a real bonus.
The thing that I don't like as much is that, while I can certainly understand why they chose that implementation, it's kind of boring. It gives the tree a needed buff in damage while at the same time giving an answer to the complaints about BM being an "I win" button in PvP, and in that respect it's an elegant fix. It doesn't actually change play style at all, though. I guess it just feels tacked-on, in the same way that the 5% from Improved Tracking does. On the other hand, I guess that's one of the game-wide complaints that they plan on addressing in Cataclysm. Pretty much all the specs of all trees of all classes in the game have a few super-boring but required talents that just add a flat percent to damage, healing, or mitigation. Doing away with those sorts of talents is definitely one of the things that I'm really looking forward to in the next expansion, even though I never thought there would really be another expansion after Wrath.
Before Cataclysm happens, though, we're going to have to clear Icecrown Citadel. And, thank god, the hunter Tier 10 set bonuses are a great recovery from the embarrassment of T9's bonuses. T10, if you haven't seen yet, is boasting these pretty lines of text:
  • 2 Pieces: Your Auto Shots have a 5% chance to cause you and your pet to deal 15% additional damage for until cancelled.
  • 4 Pieces: When your Viper Sting, Serpent Sting, and Wyvern Sting abilities deal damage, you have a 5% chance to gain 20% attack power for 10 seconds.
First, let's all take a few seconds to bask in these bonuses. Let their clear, golden light wash over us and through us. Let us revel in their unequivocal awesomeness, frolic in their originality, and be refreshed by the sparkling brightness of their numbers. Ahhh! Delightful.
Good stuff, huh? Since the Burning Crusade, hunter tier armor set bonuses have had a proclivity towards being boring and borderline useless. For tiers 7, 8, and 9, the 4-piece bonus provided no meaningful boost to damage. Harsh proc chances and standard internal cooldowns made the underwhelming 600 AP proc of 8 and 9 a sadly rare occurrence (and 9 put the proc on the pet, a step down from T8's bonus), while the aspect of the viper-only haste of T7 is better left forgotten. For the first time in this entire expansion, then, we've got a really outstanding 4-piece bonus. A raid-buffed hunter in 245 gear has somewhere North of 5000 AP right now, and 20% of that is 1000 AP. It's a truism of WoW that the best buffs are the buffs that scale with your gear, and this bonus does that.
You might expect the two-piece bonus to be crap to "pay" for the debt incurred by that fantastic 4-piece bonus, but there too, T10 shines. Auto Shot is a far more reliable proc trigger than steady shot, especially for Survival hunters who fire so few steadies, and 15% additional pet damage is crazy. I mean, in T8 gear my wolf - and wolves are used for Furious Howl rather than their own damage, which is worse than cats or raptors - is good for about a thousand DPS. That makes the T10 bonus worth 150 DPS in out of date gear. Scaled up to the item level 260-something gear that's going to drop in Icecrown, we're looking at 225-275 DPS from that bonus. Just nuts.
Its appearance leaves me a little cold at first glance, but I'll reserve judgement. I found the early screenshots of T9 disappointing as well, but in-game it doesn't look bad. Neither of them look as good as T6 or T8 in my opinion, but that's alright. I like the glowing purple highlights on the bottom version of the skin and I think I see hints of a sinister black smoke, which is neat. I certainly won't be enabling the hat, but T8 is the only hat I've ever enabled, so that's fine. All in all, Citadel is looking like an exciting place to be a hunter.
Next week I'll be talking some more about Marksmanship. Specifically I'll be looking at a better way to determine if you've reached the point where you should change your spec and playstyle to drop Arcane Shot and taking a second look at glyphs.

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