Thursday, August 26, 2010

The State of Hunter AoE in Cataclysm

I, sadly, I do not have a beta invitation for Cataclysm, but there's so much information out there about the beta that I feel almost as if I've been there myself. I am reserving my final opinion of the hunter class until after release (and after so many years as a hunter I doubt they could "ruin" the class for me). I'm the type of person to roll with the punches and Blizzard has yet to make a change to the hunter class that has truly upset me. Removing Volley, however, is an... interesting decision.

I'm not sure why I feel so attached to Volley. I'm not usually the type of hunter that gets all sentimental-like over skills and specs. I've always followed the "best" rotation and spec at the time. Judging from the forumsplosion I'm not the only one that appears to have been sentimentally attached to this skill.

It's really been a bit of a neglected skill. They even tried to spiff it up a little with a new effect... that was not well received by the hunter community. They've made endless changes to the damage and behavior of the skill, but it seems Blizzard is still not satisfied, and as Ghostcrawler notes "We’ve been trying to consolidate abilities and free up some bar space and having multiple AEs that competed with each other seems like a good area to hit up." Meaning we already have Multi-shot and they feel they can fix this up to behave more like an AoE, filling the role.

For me, the competition bit is very true. I do use Multi-shot on occasion, but it's not in my rotation (I use Aimed shot instead) and it's not my go-to shot for AoE. It's more of an "I use it on occasion because it's there and I feel that I should" and this is not a good reason to use a skill.

The idea of having fewer skills on my bars is very appealing. Having only really played a Hunter, Shaman and Druid at 80 I don't exactly have the complete experience, but I do feel that my hunter has far more skills that I want on my bars "just in case" than the other classes I've played, especially since Shaman now have that handy totem bar. Hunters do and should have a lot of utility skills, but I agree with Ghostcrawler, some can be consolidated.

I think the only real thing Volley has going for it over Multi-shot is that it is really the only shot we use on a regular basis that has a different mode of execution. Multi-shot is just another press-it-and-go kind of shot, where as Volley is of the select and area variety. This may be part of why some hunters feel so attached to the shot.

AoE is King

In Wrath, 5-man trash pulls became AoE-fests and hunters found Volley to suddenly be a useful spell on a regular basis. Instances in the Burning Crusade were not usually like this. There were AoE pulls, but for the most part Crowd Control was what a group needed. Volley was something used sparingly and didn't do great damage. This changed in Wrath. Now, Volley is comparable to most other forms of AoE and we can really hold our own. This may be another reason some hunters are attached to this skill, up until now it has been a source of quite a bit of our non-boss damage.

This appears to be changing with Cataclysm. Blizzard appears to prefer the more controlled CC pulls, rather than the current omgkilleverythingdie approach currently in use. Again, I haven't played Cataclysm in any way, but I speculate that this will actually mean fewer, if longer, trash pulls.

The Replacement

Don't worry, Blizzard is not planning on leaving us high and dry. They have already changed Multi-Shot on the beta server to no longer have a target cap, meaning it behaves more like Fan of Knives. I'm intereesting in seeing where this is going, as I understand Fan of Knives to cause damage in an area around the caster, which doesn't make a lot of sense when the source of the AoE is a bow or gun. I'd guess it's going to be more of a cone instead.

Some hunters feel this is not an adequate replacement because it cannot be used on mobs or players in melee range, as Volley could be used. This may actually have been intentional, as it is also rumored Ghostcrawler did not care for Volley because it pulled Rogues and other stealthy individuals back into visibility. This does appear to be a rumor, however. I am not able to find any confirmation that Ghostcrawler did in fact say this.

And remember, there's always Explosive Trap. And now, you can shoot it.

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