Tuning Dials

Posted: by Arth

Do you like to PvP? What do you feel about Blizzard’s recent changes? Go ahead, vent all you want. I’ll wait.

Second question: Do you only do PvE? How do you feel about PvE being altered by Blizzard’s PvP changes? PvPers, you owe us a round at the tavern.

This is perhaps the central issue bugging hunters right now. Well, that and the removal of Readiness. Well, those and our relative blah-ness of our dps relative to other classes in PvE. Well, those and ability homogenization. WELL, those and the general problems nagging many, like too many dailies. But I digress…

The Story of Mastery

Let me take you back to Cataclysm, and the introduction of the Mastery stat. Mastery was hailed as a cure for balancing issues. This may have been a community-led celebration, but this idea received at least passing endorsement from Blizzard at the time as well. As I understood it, the original idea for Mastery was something like this:

  • If you spec’d MM, your Wild Quiver procs would do {x} amount damage and have a {x%} chance to proc on all shots. Mastery was not to be a stat on items or trinkets. It may have been baked into a raid buff (and it is), but we couldn’t manipulate the percentage on our own. Then, say MM was low, they could bump the “x” values to whatever was needed, and play with it to ensure balance. It wouldn’t affect gearing, trinkets, gems, or, most importantly, rotational abilities. And the proc rate wouldn’t be affected by things like haste, and the damage quite possibly would also be removed from crit. rating.

In other words, it was almost entirely removed from everything else we were doing. This could be seen as boring, but it was a spec-wide value that could be tweaked with little to no influence on anything around it. A “magic bullet” for balancing. I’ll get back to the idea of magic bullets, and how it’s not quite that easy, but let’s continue for now.

Currently, this is not what Mastery is. Bumping its value up or down can devalue or inflate other stats. It can affect gearing decisions. It is, frankly, MUCH more complicated to use as a tool to balance spec dps.


This isn’t a revolutionary concept. We have mini-dials, as I’ll call them. Passive procs that can be altered by Blizzard. And technically, each ability is a dial that can be manipulated by Blizzard. But they rarely, if ever, exist in a bubble that can be carefully controlled for PvP or PvE alone, or even one spec alone.

Take Dire Beast. A nice passive proc, easily alterable without great consequence. But that’s a tier ability, which then affects the parity of tier talents that Blizzard wants to maintain. And some abilities (like Stampede) benefit from your stats, buffs, and trinket procs, so any alteration to Stampede doesn’t exist in its own bubble…as we’ve seen with recent changes to the ability.


The idea about Mastery covers spec balance, but it doesn’t cover PvP/PvE coexistence. For that, we’d need an independent PvP dial.

When Blizzard introduced PvP Power, I thought they might be trying to do this. Instead, it’s mostly a way to separate PvP gear from PvE gear, without penalizing either. It has served its purpose well. But it doesn’t solve our problem.

What I’d like to see are two sets of “isolated” dials. Maybe they’re procs, maybe they’re other passive bonuses. But one dial needs to be spec-wide without affecting a great number of rotational abilities or stat values. And the other needs to be specific to PvP. We can’t be able to affect them with gems, buffs, or gear. Or they might have a single dial, but different values in PvE and PvP. There are options.

Hell, I’d be fine if they stripped it of the “flavor” Mastery has. SV is nature damage, BM is pet damage. All are complicating factors. Just say “BM gets a 3.4% damage increase to abilities (or to a specific ability), MM get a 6.7%…” and so on. But, be careful, even that could complicate things. What if there are crit. multipliers that are based on damage? Will an isolated 6.7% buff be too much once it begins to be multiplied? Does that multiplier become better as you stack crit? Now we’re back to adjusting stat weights and hitting plateaus.

And to be clear, Mastery doesn’t need to be the dial. It’s just an example. The truest dial would have to be passive and almost entirely isolated from anything else we’re doing. Boring, granted. But easily manipulable.


  • We can’t be naive enough to believe there are infallible magic bullets to these issues. Even if Mastery weren’t a manipulable stat through gear, enchants, or gems, it can have an affect on our abilities. Wild Quiver is a great example to use above, because it’s a largely-isolated proc. Something like SV’s mastery has a direct affect on the damage done by rotational shots, so it doesn’t exist in the same ideal bubble.
  • Second, maybe Blizzard prefers to tweak interactive abilities instead of passive benefits that we can’t actively control or cast or stack in our gear.
  • Third, this solution wouldn’t necessarily mitigate problems with burst dps, or burst healing, or burst survivability. Our current PvP/PvE problems stem from this, and it again points to the lack of a silver bullet in some cases.
  • Lastly, we do need to remember that, on the whole, class balance is better in MoP than in Cata, which was better than WotLK which was better than in BC. Blizzard isn’t terrible at their jobs, and hunters have never been as maligned as some classes (well, maybe in PvP prior to MoP, but never in PvE).

On the first point there, if my idea were to be implemented, I’d say that Mastery benefits may need to be revisited for the next expansion. Or if Blizzard likes Mastery as-is, a new dial needs to be created that is devoid of the current trappings of our stat management.

To the second, I’d say that if Blizzard doesn’t want a master dial, per se, they might still benefit from a couple smaller dials that hide in the background. Maybe it doesn’t have to be the cure-all for balance, but it would give them a tool to subtly push classes in one direction or another to get closer to true parity. Because the fear is a passive dial-style proc that’s suddenly doing 10% of our total damage to help balance us. That’s terrible. But when we talk about broken classes, 10% is a worst-case scenario. Usually it’s < 5%. Other buffs/nerfs would be needed for bigger problems. But the dial’s influence would never need to be more than, say, 1-2%.

The third point is the trickiest, because we see the problems with armchair game design. A dial won’t give us controllable burst dps, which is what PvE hunters are currently lamenting the loss of. And it won’t solve many PvP issues, which revolve around burst or utility shots like Silencing Shot or traps. Balance is more than just stat weights. It’s a give and a take between classes in PvP, and it’s being able to contribute the right amounts at the right times in PvE. An isolated dial wouldn’t fix these things. But it could get us closer in some areas.

And on the last point, I’ll only say “hang in there.” Not to go Grandpappy Frostheim on you (Pappy Arthheim? No, no, let’s not do that), but hunters of numerous expansions would kill to be having a discussion about percentage-based balancing issues and maintaining our dominance in PvP, and not how minimum range wrecks us entirely in PvP or some PvE encounters, or how we need to be able to bring a pet other than a Wolf to do top dps (Wrath hunters will remember this one).


…and then, once we have our Master Dial(s) to help overall balance, we can start petitioning for Blizzard to turn hunter dials up to 11! Come on, you thought I wasn’t going to do a Spinal Tap joke in this column?

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  1. Arth says:

    It should be noted that some have suggested a separate spec for PvP, but that’s not a cure-all either. For one, it doesn’t address PvE balancing concerns. And two, there’s still ability overlap for all specs, so unless they completely rewrote the damage values for each shot for PvP, it wouldn’t remove us from these struggles.

    Blizzard has shown an unwillingness to create a specific PvP spec, and I think this is an alternative solution.

    • Phydeux says:

      “Uncle Arth”

      • Arth says:

        I’ve been thinking about “Arth’s Story Time.” There’ll be juice boxes and orange slices if you’re all good girls and boys.

    • Noxxana says:

      I agree that it’s very unlikely they ever create something like a “PvP spec”. It’s not just 11 damage specs, they’d to do it for healers and propably tanks (though I doubt the need for tanks in PvP, that’s more a design fault in some BGs — correct me if i’m wrong, I don’t do arena). Aside from the coding nightmare as someone called it there’s one thing they had to address if they were really serious about separating PvP from PvE this way: Hybrids. It would mean to take away e.g. the major healing abilities from pure damage specs. Looking at the scary decrease of subscriptions it’s pretty obvious that they’re simply not in the position for such an experiment. Even if they would want.

      I know a lot of people who mostly do PvE and are pretty much fed up by “PvP balancing” that hurts PvE. It’s the same for the PvP folks as well. I think we’ll see more “it works this way in PvE and that way in PvP” changes in the future. Stuff like immunities to break the “cc train”, rather than just remove or seriously damage cc abilities at all. It’s the closest you can get to seperate the two worlds without pissing off too many players at the same time.

      • Garfurion says:

        In classic wwe had the situation where you had PvE specs (prot warrior,MM, healing spec for hybrids), levelling specs (BM, dps specs for hybrids)and potentially a spec which was better for PvP. But of course we didn’t have arena’s to put balance under a microscope.

        In terms of class balance arena’s may have been the worst feature introduced tot WoW. Classes shouldn’t be balanced around 1 vs 1.

      • Noxxana says:

        Garfurion, I completely agree with that. But the “pvp spec” we’re talking about (as far as I understand it) would mean a complete separation of PvE and PvP abilities, talents, glyphs, numbers… It would definitely solve the problem of PvP “adjustments” damaging PvE and vice versa. And it would probably lead to 11+ wonderful balanced and boring PvP specs. Which I don’t care about. But it won’t happen anyways :)

  2. Valmordang says:

    Since I let my account lapse I cannot post on the forums or post/suggest changes to the ptr. I am on the ptr. Every change to the hunter class I do the same thing. I go to locations where the panda rares spawn and kill them. Or vice versa. I keep the same gear as I have / had on live. Raid finder and best Valor, or I wear my full tyrannical. I attempt to kill the rare.
    Before 5.4 I would scatter the spinning kick and silence the mist then heal up with exzill. Pop readiness and get ready to scatter again. Sometimes I would fail on live at this. Pet dies or what not. On the ptr without readiness this fight becomes annoying and I have yet to have a pet live. And now it is a struggle So this is why I am not going to play.
    Love Val

  3. Beergasm says:

    Yeah I think it is, and has always been, utterly retarded to balance a game based around a facet of a game that the vast majority of WoW players don’t ever engage in.

    No soapbox from me, that’s how I feel.

  4. Jaeger says:

    I think WoW’s problem is just feature accumulation without any central design, which happens to all software over time. I don’t think they ever expected that there would be 34 specs, we’d be up to level 90, etc. There isn’t really anything that I can see them doing to fix it at this point. It would require far too much change to the game.

    Hopefully, they are carrying the lessons learned into Titan.

    • Garfurion says:

      Both Ghostcrawler and Tigole have hinted at reducing the number of our abilities in the next expansion but as we’ve seen in the past they don’t always prune the right abilities (e.g. eyes of the beast).

  5. Med says:

    5.4 prediction….

    Tier starts off fine for hunters…..some really good dps numbers will show up.

    Gearing begins, other classes begin to pull away from hunters dps and it starts to get out of control.

    Our usual last tier aspect of the hawk buff comes in 5.5 to bring the class back to reasonable respectability.

    The “don’t worry, we know and will fix it” is just getting old at this point.

  6. Zetora says:

    Couldn’t you consider auto shot dmg to be the overall tuning mechanism they originally introduced? As you point out it wouldn’t be ideal since haste and crit affect it but not to the point where you would stack has for more shots.

    They have even homogenised the weapon speed to make it easier to tune to.

    I personally like the fact that stacking different stats could change the way you play (not a 2 button spam btw) but change priorities and such. Makes things more interesting.

    I personally know my skill as a hunter has dropped … no more movement penalty, no min range, jump-shot, etc … al this adds up to why we are homogenised. There are less places for us to screw it up (or excell) making our overall dps bounds closer together. This has knock on affects which we are experiencing.

    P.S. adding the date and time stamp on replies is brilliant! Thank you. Makes viewing new posts much easier.

    • Arth says:

      Auto-shot as a dial would certainly fit a lot of the criteria. My only worry might be that auto-shot represents a significant percentage of our dps already. I wouldn’t want it to become too powerful. It might also be tricky to use it for PvP/PvE differences. But I agree that it could work.

  7. Wraticus says:

    Been a while since I’ve visited – end of Patch dulldrums. Is it me, or are hunters the only class in the game that always reforges out of Mastery? I have a few alts, and keep up to date on other classes changes – and I keep seeing good mastery applications, except to us hunters. I haev never gemmed or reforged into Mastery….would be nice to see useful benefit….