WoD Beta: Getting the Hang of Marksmanship PvE

I spent a good while working on my Marksmanship rotation last night, and so today I wanted to continue my review of the current new incarnations of the hunter specs.

I started out playing attempting to level with MM for a while, just to get adjusted to the new feel without all the perks and the new talents, and I have to say it was very clunky.  At such low levels of haste, not having Arcane Shot is really clunky, especially once you pick up a few mobs.  Leveling from 1 - 70ish I love Marksmanship, but as soon as Aimed Shot stops one shotting every mob, I generally switch to BM or SV. This will be even more the case while leveling from 90 - 100, unless you get really good luck with the perks.

However, this spec, more than BM or SV, seems to be really built around having Draenor Perks.  At level 100 with all ten it gets much, much more smooth.   Some of the highlights:

Having 120 focus makes things much easier.  Even with the really long cast times at the early stat levels of the xpac, staying under the focus cap takes almost no concentration, and with the lowered cost of Chimeara Shot and Aimed Shot, you have a really wide margin to make sure you can still cast a Chim Shot.

Level 60 Talents:
Throughout the last couple seasons in WoW, I've really liked running Marksmanship with Fervor.  That on-demand focus, to me, felt like it worked really well with MM's high focus costs.  However, with the new lowered costs, and the extra focus, and the fact that we don't have those instant Arcane Shots, it just didn't seem like that great of a talent anymore.  As with all of these things, we don't really have enough info to do the math and say this for sure, but to me, it just didn't feel as good as it used to.

Thrill of the Hunt, on the other hand, when applied to Aimed Shot was amazing.  Even after taking into account that you have to make a little adding adjustment in your head to plan focus (whether or not TotH is proc'ed), it just plays really smoothly, and goes into a great synergy with Rapid Fire, which I'll explain below.

Careful Aim:
Careful Aim being applied to Rapid Fire is one of the big new features of MM huntering, and it is just plain awesome.  If you take Thrill of the Hunt for cheaper Aimed Shots, and add in that you get 20 focus back from aimed shots that crit (which pretty much all should while Careful Aim is up), and you're prepared to do some crazy burst damage.

What I found worked best, is just like BM hunters will pool focus for BW, MM hunters will now want to pool focus for Rapid Fire.  It's unclear yet whether we're going to want to save Rapid Fire to stack with a trinket proc, or if instead we'll want to use it on CD to get as many as possible out of the fight, but one thing that's clear right now, is you want to wait until you have full procs of Thrill of the Hunt (this should only take one or two shots, anyway, and if you get a proc close to when RF is off CD, it'd probably be worth saving them, since you'll want to start pooling focus at that point anyway).  I like to start out with a Chim Shot right before, just to make sure I can keep that on CD as long as possible, then hit Rapid Fire and pump out Aimed Shots, all the way until the next Chim Shot is ready.  If you have even the slightest luck with TotH procs, you'll still have plenty of focus to get off your Chim Shot and keep pumping out Aimed Shots for the entire duration of Rapid Fire.

For some perspective, in 660 gear, my Aimed Shot had a 2.33 sec cast time normally.  With Rapid Fire up, that's 1.66 sec.  That means the 8 global cooldowns between Chim Shots can be filled with 6 Aimed Shots, assuming they all crit.  That is an insane amount of damage!  Against the raid lvl 103 raid training dummies, completely unbuffed, my Aimed Shot crits average over 24k damage each (which doesn't sound like a lot, but after the squish, it's pretty good), if you can line that up with trinket procs or potions, we're talking about a 50-75% damage increase for those 15 seconds.

Level 100 Talents:
I tried out each of the level 100 talents, and actually found most of them underwhelming with Marksmanship.  Both Lone Wolf and Exotic Munitions you don't really even notice, as they have little effect on gameplay.  With Lone Wolf, I didn't necessarily notice that my Aimed Shots and Chim Shots were hitting considerably harder.  Though I'm sure they were, it just seemed like good RNG, and didn't give me that amazing feeling of seeing some ridiculously huge crit.

Focusing Shot was the most interesting of the three, though I didn't really get into a rhythm using it like I did using it on SV.  As MM, it did feel good as long as I coupled it with TotH.  With Fervor, it felt a bit clunky, since Fervor simply doesn't give you as much focus as TotH, which meant casting a lot more Focusing Shots.

Focusing Shot's big upside is that if you have bad RNG during Rapid Fire, and happen to miss a few crits, you'll only give up two seconds to regain 58-60 focus (at 660 ilvl haste, Focusing Shot takes 1.99 seconds during Rapid Fire), where as with steady shot you'd have to cast several to get the same focus back, wasting a significant amount of Careful Aim.  Because of that, I think Focusing Shot might be the go to ability for the first couple of tiers, and lose some value after we get up to 100% crit during Careful Aim.

Aside from being way to clunky while leveling, MM's major drawback is going to continue to be the lack of AoE damage.  I happen to like the Bombardment mechanic; however, it just doesn't have the punch that BM's AoE has, or the ease of SV's AoE.  I had been excited about the updated Piercing Shots, which would apply bleeds to crit MultiShots, even as a passive it's felt like it belonged with MM.  Now that that's gone, we'll need to see a significant buff to Bombardment to make MM AoE competitive.

Perhaps the currently most controversial mechanic for MM hunters is the new Mastery: Sniper Training.  I'm a big fan of this mechanic, but unless MM is is balanced to only have this part of the time, it will be very difficult in today's raid design of all movement, all the time.   Ideally, this should be a huge reward for MM hunters who can find a way to keep it up 100% of the time, but I'm definitely concerned that it will end up being that MM hunters are punished for not using this, but only do average dps when they do use it.

Though I'm open to playing with the 6 second duration Sniper Training currently has, it's reward is no where near adequate compensation for the skill required.  Increasing the duration to 9 seconds sounds considerably more reasonable to me; in this scenario, we'd have 6 seconds to move before needing to sit still for 3.  Alternatively, keeping the duration at six seconds but lowering the still requirement to 2 seconds would achieve a similar effect.  Having only 3 seconds to move at a time, as it is currently, makes MM nearly unplayable on most of the fights in SoO.  As Solar pointed out on the Cloak and Quiver podcast, there is no way to get inside the desecrations against Garrosh, and having to wait three seconds after running to the engineer before doing full damage is just silly.

Other thoughts:
Once I realized how much more smoothly TotH played, I started having lots of fun with MM.  Yes, it's an overly simplistic rotation, but once I got my groove going, it felt pretty good.  Between managing focus and managing Sniper Training, I felt like I had enough to worry about, so having the rotation be overly simple wasn't the worst thing in the world.

I'm looking forward to see if they adjust the AoE or not, and, of course, to see how it ends up comparing to the other two specs as far as total damage out-put goes, but for now, I'm surprisingly happy with the feel of the spec.


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  2. I've seen a lot of negative feed back about the lack of instants in MM, as well as the slow/clunky pace that losing Steady Focus has forced on it; something compounded by focusing shot being the go to talent for MM. Between Focusing and Aimed you spend more time casting than many spellcasters it seems, and it can lead to issues with swapping/bursting adds if you don't have chimera up and you have to wait 2.3 seconds before you get any damage in on them. Additionally there are complaints of the rotation being monotone/boring once the initial period of acclimating to it is over.

    It seems to me like they either have to decrease the base cast time on Aimed or give back the % haste buff, likely as a passive since juggling Steady Focus buff and managing Sniper training at the same time would be asking too much in a raid setting in terms of what it takes to maintain max dps. Someone how I doubt that they will give this to MM though, even at 10% instead of 15%.

    I additionally had this thought, and I've not seen this suggested anywhere on the beta forums yet:
    Why not have Aimed shot function like they are going to have Crusader Strike/HoR function for Paladins in WoD? Any time Care Aim would be active, the ability appears and casts as Aimed shot and does the damage of aimed shot, outside of these periods (so sub 80% and outside of rapid fire) it is a different shot (but the same button), let's call it 'Quick/Rapid/Snipe Shot' or w/e, that is instant, cost less focus and does less damage but is still a physical damage shot. This, to me, very cleanly solve the problem of a monotone rotation by changing it drastically in and outside of Careful Aim. A final idea, something that could be tacked on to this shot to provide the missing haste buff as well as give MM a ramp time and some positive rotation synergy (two things it has lost completely) is this: Each time this 'Quick Shot' hits a target you gave a stack of 3-5% haste up to 10-15% that lasts x seconds; you could make the duration short enough that if you aren't careful about timing prior to a rapid fire or just after it that it has the risk of falling off (so, say 15 seconds) if you wanted to, or much longer so that there really isn't any risk of a player following a good rotation will ever see it fall off outside of transition periods (so, say 20-25 seconds). Neither of those situations really require much thought to upkeep from a good/great player's perspective, but sniper training is our skill check now anyway.

    I agree with what you are saying about Sniper Training and it's what most of the feedback about it is: Activation time is too long or the duration is too short or both, and the baseline mastery is too low to really see a difference. Also, many people are noting that having the range increase only while the buff is up ends up being more negative than positive and should likely just be passive, whether it's still part of the mastery or shifted else where. Many also like the idea of Sniper training but are wary of it being our mastery instead of a non-stat mechanic as it means that an entire stat from gear can have a zero dps effect in certain scenarios, which I have to admit is a fair point as I'm not thinking of any other mastery like that off the top of my head for dps. One suggestion I have heard repeated often that actually seems like a good idea to me is shifting Sniper training to being a MM spec ability and reintroducing Piercing Shots as the mastery as a scaleble bleed on either all damage or crits.

    PS: And yeah, they really do still need to do something about MM aoe.
    PPS: I don't currently have beta access (so I suppose take my ideas with a grain of salt), but I have been paying extremely close attention to many good players that do and think a lot about game design in general. Would love to hear thoughts on this, but obviously can't post in beta class threads.

    1. I was really excited when I first heard sniper training was coming back, so I'd be a little sad if they removed it totally again. Though I won't be surprised. It somewhat depends on the raid design philosophy, too, I suppose.

      I think Piercing Shots as a Mastery would be awesome. That's a great idea.

      Some of the fine folks behind SimCraft have already started putting together some new spreadsheets, and as the beta stands right now, even on a completely stand still, 100% up-time on sniper training, patchwerk fight, mastery is still our least valuable stat by a huge margin. In t17 N gear, our stat weights (dps gain per point) looks like:

      Agi: 3.23
      Crit: 1.4
      Haste: 1.06
      Mastery: 0.88
      mult: 1.4
      Vers: 1.27

      So basically it's just clear they haven't balanced the new secondary stats yet. Still, Mastery is severely underperforming with the current iteration.

      As for cast times, I was thinking about it a bit last night when a couple people were talking about it on twitter. I don't really feel too terrible about it. I mean, yeah it's long. But after attempting to level with MM for an hour or so, playing with it on the target dummies didn't feel too bad. Maybe it was just relatively, but even if they leave mm as is, I could see playing it on a few stand and shoot kind of fights (if we have any), assuming they balance the damage.