When I first started World of Warcraft, this set the tone for everything that came after;
What is the first thing you see when you hit the 38 second mark?
A Hunter, out in the harsh winter wilderness, alone but for his bear friend and companion. From 38 seconds to 1:08, the Blizzard cinematic team introduced me to something I had never seen in gaming outside of tabletop role playing games; the concept of a Hunter and his pet adventuring together in a wild, crazy world.
Immediately after that, of course, was the Night Elf Druid, shapeshifting in the wild on the fly to race towards danger.
Funny thing is, up to that point, those two classes were the only two I ever preferred to play myself in AD&D. A Ranger with animal companion, or a shape-shifting Druid.
When it came time to play World of Warcraft for the first time, I had a hell of a time choosing which I’d play first. I’d play both of course, but which first?
In the end I chose a Druid, but it was a near run thing.
The cinematic helped cement in my imagination the idea that in World of Warcraft, a Beastmaster Hunter was about a Hunter and his (or her!) pet, alone against the world.
Survival was all about them traps, and Marksmanship was all about those stings, but Beastmaster was all about dat pet.
So I was Beastmaster. So it was, so it is, so it shall ever be.
Fast forward to the end of Warlords of Draenor and ten years of class changes slowly accreting around that core idea like the layers of a pearl.
I was vaguely dissatisfied with the whole damn thing, though I would have been hard put to explain why.
But with the Legion artifact quests it all came home to me; Beastmaster was no longer a duo, it was a symphony.
Nothing shows that better than an artifact that permanently gives you a second pet.
Over time, the Beastmaster class has changed from the idea of a Hunter and his single badass pet to more of a, well, a BEASTMASTER. Someone who is the master of all pets found in the wild.
This should not have come as a surprise. I mean, seriously, this was my generation after all;
The Beastmaster Hunter is pulled from the concept of the original movie; seeing through the eyes of an eagle, running fast as the panther, having tons of pets to do your bidding… not just one.
So it’s a perception issue for me. I’m not into a Beastmaster / literal master of all beasts (Ranger) class to play in the game.
Apparently, I’m more wanting my pet to be the Claude Rains to my Humphrey Bogart.
Oh come on, you know the reference.
You may be getting the idea that I’m having fun writing this post. It’s not everyone who gets to put together an article referencing both Vanilla WoW cinematics and Casablanca. This is why I don’t do this as a job; nobody would pay me to do this. And with good reason.
Believe it or not, there is a point to all this.
I chose Beastmaster to play as a part of a beautiful friendship, only to wake up ten years later with a Titanic weapon throbbing in my hands as part of a mènage á trois.
Queue the dancing bears!
Okay, so I didn’t want to do the Beastmaster artifact first. I didn’t WANT a permanent second pet. Heck, the gun and second pet was actually the least of it, especially after I found out at max level you can complete a special process that lets you have your spirit pet take on the outward shape of any other pet you’d like, so you’re not stuck with a wolf forever.
No, the core issue was all of my abilities summoned more pets, temporarily, to go after the enemy.
Over the years I loved the addition of each and every one of these cool spells / attacks.
I admit it. The scope that shot a woodchuck at the enemy was delightful in it’s place.
Taken all at once in their final form, in any given combat the legitimate question could be asked, “Hey, have you seen my pet around? Is he in there? I can’t tell amid the flying snakes, stampede of rhinos, flock of crows and various random environmental critters mobbing that poor murloc.”
“What, there’s a murloc in there?”
I didn’t want to play a Beastmaster anymore. I just wanted it to be me, my weapon of choice, and my best friend.
This may be my favorite post ever. I’m just saying. Now I’m bringing in Walken bouncing off the walls. Heck yes!
So now what? I’ve identified the source of my problem; I don’t want an army of pets.
But I’m a Beastmaster, ten years strong. What the heck else could I possibly be?
I did queue the dancing bears earlier, right?
Survival is right out, because melee. A cute idea and I’ll certainly mess with it someday, but seriously. If I have issues about tons of pets, can you imagine how freaked I’d be if I played a Hunter without a ranged weapon? I mean seriously.
So this Marksmanship thing… like, what’s that all about man?
I heard you don’t even get to HAVE a pet if you go Marks, man. No pet? I gotta have a pet. I mean hunter, pet, that’s a thing, man.
That’s kind of a deal breaker.
And then I promptly switched to Marksmanship and I’ve never looked back. Not once.
See, here’s the thing. Before I can pick something, I have to know what I want.
I want to be a rugged individualist.
I want a pet, ONE pet, my bestest friend ever, because friendship is magic, damnit.
I’m getting to the point already, sheesh!
I want a weapon, a ranged weapon, that shoots projectiles. Maybe it shoots hot loads, hot magic loads, I don’t care but what I don’t want it to do is shoot squirrels, snakes or other assorted living creatures downrange because seriously WTF is up with that?
Is that really so much to ask?
From what I read on Icy Veins, yes, YES when you are in a raid or an instance Marskmanship is strongest when you’re running the Lone Wolf Talent without an active pet. So they recommend the whole no pet thing while running in groups.
Sue me, bitch.
It’s not mandatory. I mean, it’s not like I’m raiding. They don’t make you sign a waiver swearing you’ll never sneak out and quest with a pet, no not even that cute little foxy… fox… that you got in the Eastern Kingdoms two expansions ago.
For all non-raiding general questing have fun poking my nose into shit that doesn’t concern me, having Steady Focus and an active pet works just fine.
All my usual misdirection shenanigans are good to go, for example. Pets still get Talent specs like tank, they can still Growl, they’re still, ya’know, pets.
So if for example I went Marksmanship, and for Talents I took Steady Focus, Lock and Load, Posthaste, Patient Sniper, Binding Shot, Barrage and Trick Shot, what I’d end up with is a build that has me, my weapon that hastes me so I move faster, my tanky bear pet that I can misdirect Barrage to like a BADASS, and not a single other extra from Marlin Perkins’ Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.
No, no link to that. There are some lengths I’m not willing to go for a sight gag.
“And now let’s watch as Jim goes down the river and wrestles a rhinoceros in heat. Be careful there, Jim. He looks horny!”
Oh, who the hell am I kidding.
Sorry about that pun. No, no I’m not.
So what I have now is a rotation something like this.
I have a misdirect macro to my pet, of course. So I’ll run up to a large group of monsters because Barrage and Multi-Shot so fuck it, pull ’em all, let Blizz sort ’em out.
I misdirect to my pet, often while in camouflage since it doesn’t break stealth, then Barrage a whole group to dump aggro into my bear.
Then I’ll pump a few multi-shots into the group until my Hunter’s Mark proc lights up the multi-shot and arcane shot icons, indicating my next casting of either spell will dump a Hunter’s Mark on all affected targets, setting them up for a big boom.
Then, with Hunter’s Mark on them, my Marked Shot icon lights up. This attack is both single target and multi-shot. However many targets you lit up with a Hunter’s Mark on your last shot, the Marked Shot attack will hit them all. So if you’re single targeting, then you’re doing Arcane Shot and Marked Shot. If you’re firing into a group, it’s Multi-shot and Marked Shot. It’s not rocket science here.
When Marked Shot goes off, it clears the Hunter’s Mark, BUT it applies a Vulnerable debuff that lets your ‘stand-in-one-place’ Aimed Shot do more damage.
And that sets you up for squeezing off two Aimed Shots before the Vulnerable wears off.
Once Vulnerable is gone from your target, return to misdirecting, Barraging, and multi-shot / arcane shotting until you get another Hunter’s Mark proc.
Really, that’s it.
The only real other change is your artifact has a powerful single target attack that you can cast whenever it’s up, but once you gain a few levels of artifact power you can choose an ability that lets the artifact attack directly apply the Vulnerable debuff. So no need to wait specifically for that whole ‘arcane shot lit up shoot it now Marked Shot now Aimed Shot Aimed Shot’ sequence.
Instead, you can Misdirect, Barrage, Windburst (the artifact ability), Aimed Shot, Aimed Shot, then Arcane Shot fillers until shits off cooldown or you get a Hunter’s Mark proc.
Now does that sound complicated?
No seriously, does Barrage, Windburst, Aimed Shot, Aimed Shot, Arcane Shot x3 to refill focus sound that bad of an opening sequence?
And wonder of wonders, it perfectly fulfills my desire to play as an adventurous wanderer making my way through the world, my rifle on my shoulder and my trusted companion by my side.
Come at me, world. Bring it.