Patch 5.4 drops on the 27th, so we have just over a week to prepare for it. The following is a long post from the devs concerning hunters in 5.4. It addresses many of the changes we’ve seen, and the reasoning behind them. While I don’t necessarily agree with everything they say, a lot of it makes sense from a design or balancing perspective.
We had three main issues we wanted to resolve for Hunters this patch: Silencing Shot, Readiness, and Stampede.
The problem with Silencing Shot is it’s just too powerful as a talent. No self-respecting Hunter is going to choose any talent but Silencing Shot, especially in PvP, but in PvE as well. At the same time, we think Hunters, especially Beast Mastery, have proven really powerful in PvP this expansion—and frankly the game has too many blanket silences already, so we didn’t want to just give Silencing Shot to all Hunters. Our decision was to give Silencing Shot to Marksman, who needed a PvP buff anyway. We did give all Hunters a base interrupt with the new Counter Shot, which can interrupt a spell being cast, but can’t pre-silence a caster.
Readiness has been another problematic ability for us to solve. It started as a talent, but was too good compared to the other choices. We ended up giving Readiness to all Hunters, but we were never happy with this implementation. For PvP, it made Hunters really difficult to balance with the ability to reset so many offensive and defensive abilities. For PvE, we felt like Readiness wasn’t doing anything interesting besides making the opening attack sequence twice as complicated as it needed to be. If Readiness was an ability that a clever Hunter would bust out at a clutch moment, then you could argue it would be an interesting ability, but of course it was never actually used that way. Given that Hunters already have a lot of cooldowns, situational abilities, and just buttons in general, we didn’t think Readiness was worth saving. We did make small buffs to Deterrence and Disengage and we will make sure DPS is where it needs to be (which, if I had to guess, will be relatively higher than it was in Patch 5.3).
We felt like Stampede had been nerfed too much in PvE for PvP reasons. It’s the intent that Stampede is a potent cooldown for Hunters, so we increased its damage back to an exciting level and just had it do less damage in PvP. Finally, we made a change that some (though to be fair not all) Survival Hunters had asked for a long time, to remove Explosive Trap from Lock and Load (and therefore from the shared cooldown with Black Arrow) so that they could use Explosive Trap (typically with the knockback glyph) without interfering with Black Arrow/Lock and Load.
Hunter talents were in a pretty good spot overall after a bit of iteration throughout MoP. We did nerf Aspect of the Iron Hawk, because as with Shadow Priests and Balance Druids, we felt like the damage reduction was just too potent. We changed Narrow Escape to be dispellable as a PvP nerf. We buffed Spirit Bond, which has felt particularly weak, and we buffed A Murder of Crows.
Certainly Readiness will be missed by many. And I’d take issue with the idea that it was ONLY used for complicated opening dps. But their point about balance and rotation complication is well made, and we have been compensated in our dps so that, overall, we should be a bit higher in 5.4 relative to other classes than we were in 5.3.
Stampede still packs a PvE punch (sorry PvPers), and the addition of Counter Shot to all specs should adequately make up for the loss of Silencing Shot as an ability than any spec can have. It’s not as good as Silencing, of course, but it doesn’t leave us entirely out in the cold.
For PvP, it seems our time of dominance is at an end. Though it’s also likely we won’t be nuked entirely back to the dark ages of Wrath and Cata. Hunters still have a diverse toolbox for PvP, and we’ll likely see things get a bit harder for us, but it will also be more fair to other classes.