(See, I’m doing my bit to make this blog spoiler friendly!)

I’ll be honest, this preview has left me a little worried about the Hunter class. The change from mana to focus is going to cause the class to change a lot, and I’m currently trying out Rogue, the energy mechanic frustrates me somewhat. I’m a little bit scared that I’ll go into Cataclysm and find that I dislike the Hunter class, and what then? Would I just quit after seeing the new content, or reroll? Anyway, that’s me getting a little ahead of myself because this is, after all, just a preview and things are subject to change. Though from what we’ve seen already, Beast Mastery looks to be a strong contender for most interesting talent tree.

For starters: Cobra Shot:A new shot that deals Nature damage instead of Physical damage. This ability will share a cooldown with Steady Shot. This will give hunters an alternative to Steady Shot on heavily-armored targets, and we will have talent incentives in the Beast Mastery tree to make this a signature shot.” This could either make or break Beast Mastery, giving them an entirely new shot to use instead of Steady Shot. My prediction is that it will hit like a train for a while, but I’m definitely interested in this one. One thing I wonder is how the nature damage aspect will work. Does this mean that Hunters will scale with spell power (or.. intellect I guess now) the same way that Unholy DKs don’t exactly suffer from it? What of hit and resistances?

Trap Launcher: “When used, the next trap can be shot to a location within 40 yards. This provides the current Freezing Arrow treatment to all traps and, as a result, we will be removing the current ability Freezing Arrow. 1-minute cooldown. No global cooldown.” Nice. Freezing Arrow has been a pretty useful tool, this means that we can plonk down an Explosive/Frost/Snake trap in a bundle of enemies in PvP without dragging ourselves into the thick of it at all.

Camouflage: “The hunter enters an obscured state that prevents him or her from taking ranged damage. The character would still be subject to melee or area-of-effect attacks, and dealing or taking damage will break the Camouflage effect. The hunter can move and set traps when under Camouflage, and will receive a damage bonus when attacking while under Camouflage (which will then break the effect).” At first glance, I thought, “what the hell?” and I looked again and I suppose this could be a nice tool for the start of a rotation, especially when used with the new BM talent, Careful Aim which “increases the damage of the next Steady Shot or Cobra Shot, but also increases the cast time of these abilities.” I can live with that, it’s a nice boost for BM.

The new focus mechanic worries me. I get frustrated at Rogue energy which regenerates at roughly 10per second. Focus will regenerate at around 6 per second. Eep. BM has always seemed to me to be the spec which focuses the most on Steady Shot. Steady Shot and Cobra Shot will be the focus regenning shot, thus I can see BM being much better for focus regen. Not to mention BM will receive mastery (which I still haven’t worked out /blush) talents for Haste, which will increase focus regeneration rates.

The pet changes could be just the thing I’ve been asking for! For starters, the mention of active and stabled pets, enabling us to keep pets that we may have certain attachments to but only carrying around the pets we plan to use, has been further confirmed. The amount of active pets allowed to us will probably be 3, though BM hunters may be getting 5 active slots. To switch a pet from passive to active and vice versa we will need to visit a Stable Master, which makes sense. The other pet changes I am particularly fond of? “Additionally, hunters will now start with a race-appropriate pet at level 1 and will be able to tame a different pet at level 10. We are also changing many pet family abilities to provide important buffs and debuffs. The intention is to allow the hunter to be able to swap pets and fill a position if a certain role is missing from the group. The goal is to have all pets provide a damage increase that is very similar and no greater than any other pet. Some examples of the changes we are making to the pet families are listed below:

  • Wind Serpents: Will provide a debuff that increases the amount of spell damage taken by an enemy (similar to a weaker version of the warlock ability Curse of Elements).
  • Ravagers: Will provide a debuff that will increase an enemy’s Physical damage vulnerability (similar to a weaker version of the warrior ability Rampage).
  • Hyenas: Will provide bleed damage (similar to a weaker version of the druid ability Mangle).

Yes, yes, yes! This could be just the thing to bring back a bit of variety in pet choices, and enforcing Hunters as a ranged class as early as the 1-10 bracket. Good. Those of us who’ve played for a while can manage okay with kiting mostly, though some players struggle with it, and even more so for newer players who may get used to meleeing as normality. Not to mention this is exactly what Razorstorm commented about in my last post ranting about pet mechanics. Nice call 😛

TL;DR Conclusion: I like a lot of these ideas. I think I’m drawn more towards Beast Mastery as my Cataclysm spec from the sounds of a lot of the changes (and I don’t tend to enjoy BM as much as MM or Surv as it stands now). The pet changes might well be just what the doctor ordered, and if these go through I’ll be happy with it. I’m terrified of where focus will lead the Hunter class, as I struggle with energy classes, I’m worried it might lead to me rerolling if I really don’t like it (probably Shadow Priest or Warlock if it came down to it), though of course I will give it a try because I will probably be completely wrong and it will make the Hunter class just a little bit cooler. Of course, if you want to read the full changes, MMO Champion has them up, this post is purely a recap.

You might notice I haven’t kept up on Cataclysm changes too much, but I’d like to have a rough idea on how to play my class when it does come around.