Legion Beta: Pets Return to Marksmanship

The Legion Alpha pendulum took another huge swing today, as WoW game dev celestalon announced there Marks Hunters would be getting their pets back, stating:

  • One of the most common points of feedback we’ve heard is that all of the specs are cool on their own, but none of them maintain the existing “Hunter + Ranged Weapon + Single Pet” archetype that people have grown attached to (Survival is now Melee, Marksmanship has lost its pet, and Beast Mastery has added a ton of additional pets).
  • Marksmanship losing its pet has been one of the most impactful, but contentious changes we’ve made this expansion. We’re going to try returning the pet to Marksmanship, baseline, along with Lone Wolf as a level 15 talent (and very competitively tuned), so that this is a choice again.
  • Exotic Munitions is being removed, and Black Arrow will be moving down to where it was, since the Lone Wolf + Black Arrow combination proved to be very popular and fun (the newest version of Black Arrow, where the minion reliably spawns and taunts the target, that is).
    Click here for the full post.

I'm not yet sure what to think.  On the one hand, having a pet is a defining quality of playing a hunter, and the pet collecting game is certainly one appealing part of playing a hunter.  I had thought that blizzard was going overboard with their desire to differentiate specs.  Having Lone Wolf as a level 15 talents means that you can play the pet-less ranger fantasy for the majority of your leveling experience, if you care to.

On the other hand, I spent the last 3 months or so getting used to the idea that one of the hunter specs was no longer a traditional hunter, but instead a ranger/sentinel.  For horde players, you get to spend a lot of your time leveling through the Broken Isles with Sylvanas, which is pretty awesome as an MM hunter.

Marksmanship Talents and Balance

The current crop of WoW devs has unfortunately had a really hard time balancing talents and specs. So while I'd love to be optimistic and think Lone Wolf will really be an option, it seems likely that it will be so good that it will be "mandatory" in competitive raid environments, or tuned low enough that it won't be taken at all.  It's hard to tell if Celestalon's comment that Lone Wolf will be "very competitively tuned" means they want it to be very even with the other two talents in this tier, or they want it to be the obvious choice for high DPS.

There are two major problems in balancing the Lone Wolf talent as it currently stands in the live version of the game: Kill Shot and Focusing Shot, neither of which will exist in Legion.  The problem with having Lone Wolf on the same tier as Focusing Shot means you have to choose between a slightly easier rotational ability (easier in that you're punished less for poor focus management) with a huge movement restriction, and a passive buff with absolutely no movement restriction.  Given the nature of "hunter jobs" in raid, that means pretty much everyone was going to take Lone Wolf for progression. As far as balancing DPS, Focusing Shot and Lone Wolf would have been balanced very well, except for Kill Shot. Against Single Target bosses, Kill Shot doesn't make much of an impact with the Lone Wolf talent, but since every single fight in Hellfire Citadel involved high priority adds, the portion of each fight where Kill Shot was accessible went way up, causing the Lone Wolf talent to be pretty much the only talent anyone uses at the moment.

In Legion, with Lone Wolf on the level 15 tier, we'll basically have the choice between True Aim for pure single target, and Lone Wolf for everything else. At least as it currently exists, True Aim is incredibly over powered if you never have to switch targets, but that has the side effect of turning you into a bad raider, wanting to tunnel all the time instead of switching to priority targets.  So depending on what percent the Lone Wolf buff is tuned to, and which abilities it applies to, it's hard to imagine it not being the preferable talent.  Especially now that there aren't any talents you're missing out on (since all of the talents involving pets were already removed from MM).

As a side note, Steady Focus (which is currently on the same tier as True Aim, where Lone Wolf will be) is kind of a joke.  When the primary purpose of Arcane Shot is not to build focus, but instead to proc Hunter's Mark, using it twice in a row feels silly.  With Hunter's Mark proc'ing through RPPM, you're always significantly more likely to proc Hunter's Mark on the first cast than the second, which means you want to be switching to Marked Shot. Once you get into your rotation (when you're not trying to build stacks of your debuffs, but just maintain them with one Marked Shot every 10 seconds), if you cast 2 Arcanes and then and Aimed Shot, you will have gained 88 focus in between spending any focus, meaning you will likely have wasted the extra focus you passively regen'ed from Steady Focus by hitting the focus cap.  That is to say, when I'm already passively getting 15 focus each GCD, an extra 3 focus per GCD doesn't exactly excite me.

Listening to Feedback

The most important thing Celestalon said was "One of the most common points of feedback we’ve heard is that all of the specs are cool on their own, but none of them maintain the existing “Hunter + Ranged Weapon + Single Pet” archetype that people have grown attached to".  That has been my major complaint throughout the Alpha process.  While I would prefer to see Beast Mastery return to be more similar to how it plays on live (mostly because the legion version is painfully boring), at least they're admitting they made a mistake, and looking for ways to rectify it.  That's a good sign. 


  1. Imo LW should be baseline and work how it doesn't in WoD. This way you get a Pet for solo situation with added utility (personal tank,spirit bind etc) and cutting-edge DPS for group/raiding situations. And let's not forget the ability to tame most beasts without needing to respec (actually my biggest concern about 100% petless MM).

    1. I'd like to add that with this solution, DPS should be balanced around the petless hunter, but pets should provide all sorts of benefits when DPS does not matter, so that people choose playing with a pet frequently still.

    2. That's an interesting idea. If pets for MM were seen more as a utility talent, rather than a dps talent. I'm not sure how it would work, but there's some potential there.

      I've had the same concern with purely petless MM. When I first started leveling from scratch, that was pretty much what got me exploring the world outside of specific quests, looking at all the awesome potential pets, i mean. So I'd hate to see a new player who decided to try out Marks not have that option.