Sunday, August 23, 2015

Survival From the Ground Up?

Barring a transition to ranged for one of the Rogue specs, no non-Demon Hunter spec is going through a redesign as drastic as Survival Hunters. While Hunters once had a handful of melee attacks, the class has been pretty strictly ranged since vanilla. In a move to give hunters clearer identities between specs, both Marksmanship and Survival are going through some changes. Marks, however, is just losing the pet - they're effectively getting Lone Wolf baseline, and having the spec focus all on their own attacks.

Survival does get to keep the pet, but they will be a melee spec - wielding the Eagle Spear, an artifact polearm.

So how's that going to work?

First, a disclaimer: my Hunter is Beast Mastery, and though he's occasionally swapped back and forth between that and Marksmanship, I don't think he's ever been specced Survival. That said, I made a goblin hunter alt back in Cataclysm and I did wind up getting him all the way up to 90. So I am somewhat familiar with Survival, if not in a high-level, raiding capacity.

As it stands, a lot of Survival's abilities are going to either have to just go or, if they're iconic, get moved over to Marksmanship or Beast Mastery (personally I see Black Arrow as more Marks, and Explosive Shot as more Beast Mastery.)

But what do we leave Survival?

Honestly, I think we might see all new abilities, or perhaps a return of some of the old archaic melee strikes that have been gone since... Cataclysm?

So there's Raptor Strike, Mongoose Bite, and Wing Clip. The latter seems like it'll be a situational, Hamstring-like ability.

It shouldn't be too hard to build a rotation around the use of focus - have some focus spenders and a focus-builder, just like the ranged specs. I suspect that the focus-builder will not have a cast time, as the last time there was a melee class with an ability that had a "swing time" was Cataclysm-era Arms. Melee strikes are basically all instant - which makes sense, as melee's got a much narrower area to stand when attacking, and it would suck for an enemy to move out of range in the middle of a strike.

These days, Trap Launcher is something you can more or less just leave on at all times. Way back in the day, Hunters used to have to pull enemies onto their traps to activate them - basically, freezing trap was the most versatile CC option, but you have to work to pull it off.

Traps have always been something of a theme for Survival in particular, and being in melee, they might play a larger role. These days, you basically toss Explosive Trap down in mass-AoE situations, but you could actually imagine having Survival laying traps as a regular part of their rotation instead of doing everything as a melee strike.

Survival will be the "melee with a pet" spec, though I wonder if they're going to push interaction with the pet or let it kind of do its thing while you do yours. Beast Mastery is already the super pet-heavy spec (to the extent that your pet can wind up doing more damage than you,) so I think Survival might just use them the way they do now.

I do also wonder to what extent the existing ranged rotation will be incorporated into the new melee one. As it stands, you basically maintain Black Arrow when you can, and then do Explosive Shot when you can and Arcane Shot when you can't. Now, perhaps you could simple re-name and re-work those abilities to be melee strikes, but I wonder if instead there will be a more drastic redesign.

Likewise, the level 90 talents are very much based on the idea of a pure-ranged class. Power Shot, Barrage, and Glaive Toss don't really work at all for a melee class, so I think we could see this row redesigned - for Survival at least, though perhaps for all three specs.

Given that they won't really need to be the "magic damage hunters" to distinguish themselves anymore, I also wonder if we'll see that theme downplayed in favor of some of the more distinctive flavor of the spec - the super-grizzled woodsman (or woodswoman) who doesn't take too kindly to those demons encroaching on his or her land and proceeds to stalk them through the forest or jungle, setting deadly traps and baiting them into ambushes.

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