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ow that patch 4.0.1 looks like it's going to be deployed on live servers any week, it's about time to look into preparing our hunters for the transition. I should stress right here that these preparations are mostly with the raiding hunter (who is actually still raiding) in mind.
If you're just burning time until Cataclysm hits, you really don't need to do anything much to prepare. You will replace your gear while you level. You don't care if your gear is slightly suboptimal for level 80 raiding if you're not raiding -- that is not going to matter when you're leveling. You'll replace it when leveling, then replace it several times over at level 85.
But if you're still pushing current content, knocking down bosses and topping damage meters, join me after the cut for the rundown of what to expect and what you'll need to change to keep raiding at peak performance when the patch hits.
Patch 4.0.1 will give you access to the new talent trees, focus, new and changed hunter abilities at level 80 and below, new glyphs and more. The following things will not be available to you in patch 4.0.1:
worgen or goblins
flying in the old world
levels above 80
What will the "best" spec be?
Alas, on the PTR and beta, we're still seeing big changes to hunter shots in every build, and we don't know for certain what is going to go live. This means that there are two things we really don't know: which spec will do the most DPS in your raids, and what the exact weighting of the stats will be.
Right now it's looking like MM is going to remain the level 80 raiding spec of choice in 4.0.1. Both BM and SV suffer from the lack of Cobra Shot at level 80. Without it, they have to use the less-damaging Steady Shot and they have to manually refresh their Serpent Sting, so it's probably not surprising to see MM edging them out. MM does require a bit more brainspan to play really well, however -- specifically, in managing your Improved Steady Shot uptime, which can be tricky in movement fights.
If you're doing some testing yourself when the patch goes live, just don't forget that the new MM Careful Aim talent (and the way it combos with Piercing Shots) can give very skewed DPS results on the target dummies. You have to do some math to compensate for the fact that the target dummies are probably always over 80 percent health.
Changes to your gear
Hunter gear will be changing radically, and all hunter gear in the game will be changed to fit with the new stats. We will no longer have intellect on our gear (since we won't have mana); we'll no longer have attack power as a stat (though it still appears as procs); and we no longer have armor penetration rating. Instead, our agility will now grant us 2 attack power per point of agility, and all that ArP will turn mostly into haste but occasionally into crit rating.
The end result of this is that you will see much higher haste and crit ratings on your character.
Our Serpent Sting will be changing so that its ticks can crit automatically. That means that if you're still using your tier 9 two-piece set bonus, you want to replace that with the full T10 four-piece set. It looks like you want to do this now, before the patch hits, since the conversion from emblem system to justice/valor point system isn't looking favorable.
We will also get Mail Specialization in the patch, which means you want to make sure you do not have any leather gear equipped. Get mail to replace them; 5 percent agility is good enough to make it worth your while.
Beware the crit cap, my son ...
The changes to our gear will put us in danger of hitting the level 80 crit cap. For hunters, that is about 104.8 percent crit rating. It sounds like a lot (and it is), but keep in mind that's not counting raid buffs or talents that increase crit rating.
Full 25-man raid buffs will give you around 14 percent crit rating -- bringing your crit cap down to 90.8 percent. A SV hunter with full ranks of Sniper Training has a 75.8 percent soft cap on Kill Shot crit. SV also has a glyphed Explosive Shot crit cap of 84.8 percent. BM can get a Kill Command crit cap of around 70.3 percent.
You want to be aware of this because, as mentioned, your crit is going to be going up. Possibly way up.
Changes to your gems
You will almost certainly need to do some regemming.
Your ArP gems will turn into crit rating gems. As we just discussed, with the crit-capping dangers if you're gemming all ArP and that all turns into crit, you're likely to go over the cap and start wasting some of the effect of that crit rating. You probably want to change those over to agility gems.
Your hit gems will become blue gems (or purple hybrid gems). This means that if you have hit rating gems in your yellow sockets, you're going to lose those socket bonuses when the gems suddenly turn blue. Furthermore, you can now move them into blue sockets to pick up those socket bonuses.
We are losing the Focused Aim talent. If you have any points there, you are going to need a bunch of hit gems or enchants to make up for that hit rating.
You no longer want to use a Nightmare Tear gem. Since we no longer have the Careful Aim talent, we aren't getting any benefit at all from the intellect provided by the gem, and we can use hit rating gems to satisfy our blue socket requirement
New pets and abilities
You are going to get access to the new giant stable and all the awesome new pet raid buff abilities. You are probably going to want to take a look at all the new pet abilities, figure out which ones your raid team is going to need and pre-train those pets and get them leveled up to 80.
Once the patch hits, you'll want to tame up one of each raid buff, plus whatever other pets strike your fancy. Right now, the worm is looking like the new tanking pet of choice, the only tenacity pet with an AoE ability in the form of Burrow Attack.
Ammo goes away
Ammo is going away entirely. Your high-level ranged weapons will have their base DPS increased to compensate. So only carry as much ammo as you absolutely need at the moment. It's about to become obsolete.
Similarly, your ammo pouches will no longer be needed. One of your ammo pouches will turn into an actual bag. It looks like it will be called the same thing but will be a normal bag capable of holding any items. Currently, these are becoming 24-slot bags.
First stop: the trainer
When the patch hits, be sure to visit your trainer at once! You will have access to some new abilities, but you still have to train them to get them in your spellbook. This includes:
Scatter Shot This is now baseline for all hunters, regardless of spec.
Call Pet There is no more Call Stabled Pet; instead, you have access to four different Call Pet spells (increasing to five by level 85).
Trap Launcher Note that Freezing Arrow is gone.
Mastery While you don't yet have any mastery rating on gear, you will start off with 8 mastery -- but again, only if you train it.
The debut of reforging
Right now it's looking like reforging will be available in patch 4.0.1, which means that you'll have the options to change some of the stats on your gear. In general, you are probably going to be interested in getting rid of some of your haste rating and turning it into hit rating to compensate for the Focused Aim loss -- or even turning it into mastery, a stat we otherwise wouldn't see on our gear until Cataclysm.
New glyph system
We'll also be seeing the new glyph system. We're not yet completely certain if existing glyphs you have will convert into the new glyph system, or if you'll have to buy them from a vendor, or what. Suffice it to say you're going to be wanting some new glyphs.
If you want to buy up one of every glyph now because you think they'll convert, that's your decision.
The highest combat ratings ever
Now you're ready to go out and hit the target dummies, get comfortable with the focus system, then hit the raids and enjoy the highest crit chance you'll ever have. By the time you reach level 85, the combat rating scaling will cause your haste and crit chances to plummet, and they will not return to these levels again.
Also keep in mind that some things that you're experiencing are not the level 85 play experience that the new systems are balanced around. BM and SV don't have Cobra Shot, their main go-to shot. Everyone has ridiculous crit levels helping SV's focus regen and pet damage.
But then, being on the overpowered side is definitely a nice way to start out getting the hang of your new mechanics and abilities.
Don't Upset Me . . . I'm Running Out of Places To Hide The Bodies.
"I don't want to kill you, but if you advance, I will have no choice. Then I will kill the kindness in my own heart, and fully embrace death. Then there will be no mercy, no turning back. This bridge will be the battle field where our dreams collide, now I must fight for my dream, just as you fight for yours. Please do not blame me. I fight for someone who is precious to me. I live for him, and I'd face death for him, so that his dream will become reality. That is my dream, and for the sack of that dream, if I must, I will act a beast, and take your lives"
"You don't need a reason to help people"