The Public Test Realms are now up with patch 4.0.1, which means that even slackers who aren’t in the Cataclysm beta will get an early chance to see the new class and talent tree designs.
If you find this PTR and patch 4.0 business puzzling, all you need to know is that before each previous expansion there have also been many class changes. Blizzard patches the class changes into the live game before the expansion. And no, we don’t know when although November 2nd is the current hot guess for Cataclysm. (Not saying this is set in stone, although I don’t think Boubouille has been wrong before.)
One of the more interesting changes is that the hunters’ pets have had a revamp. Each different type of pet will now be able to provide a different raid buff. And that raid buff will be exactly the same as a player of appropriate class could provide. This includes Bloodlust/ Heroism (which could be provided in future by a Corehound, available to Beastmaster specced hunters.)
Even a trained corehound could do that!
It’s ironic that one of the standard complaints about raiding (usually from non raiders) is “Even a trained monkey could learn to do that!” in a game where the actual trained monkeys are often more useful and easier to control than the players. A pet doesn’t have to worry about getting out of the fire in WoW, for example – they automatically take much much less AE spell damage.
You can probably even set the new pets to automatically renew their buff when the timer runs out. Which would put them way ahead of … well me for example! I do try to keep shouts (warrior buffs) up but sometimes if I’m busy it may be a few seconds late. A pet won’t do that. And some of the ‘skill’ goes out of the game.
So there will be advantages to having pets along to do the buffing.
I don’t actually think giving hunters access to all the raid buffs is overpowered. Although it does give them a privileged position in regards to raid invites. Having one in your raid means a very flexible buffing class. If I played a different dps, I don’t really know how I’d feel about that. It’s not as if the class lacked utility before.
I think it’s a mixed blessing for the actual hunter player. Forget being able to choose which pet you bring to a raid, the raid leader will consult a spreadsheet and tell you. And if that means a tenacity pet which does less dps, then enjoy slipping down the damage meters in order to provide more utility. Look forwards to the joy of feeling obliged to go catch and tame a copy of every type of pet in the game if you are a keen raider, just in case. Enjoy having Beastmaster as an offspec, even if you hate it, just in case one of those exotic buffs turns out to be necessary.
Tanks however, are used to being replaced by pets. The pet’s entire purpose is to tank solo content, and if they can also tank instances and even raid bosses, well it’s just a matter of scaling. What I really want to know is why I can’t have a pet that heals or does ranged dps. I’d look after it and make sure it didn’t get eaten! (Or at least, I’d take better care of it than I do most of my mates in game, where I’d be more likely to point and laugh if they got themselves chewed on by mobs due to doing something daft.)
The strange lack of healing pets
In many ways, the most interesting of the new pet abilities is the heal which Spirit Beasts will be able to provide. Blizzard have shied away hard in the past from healing pets. I never really understood why this was. What’s the problem with a pet that can heal, given that they’re OK with letting them tank the occasional raid bosses? It could be tuned to never heal as well as a player, and to require lots of micromanagement if that’s needed as a balance.
Still, it feels odd to see abilities which used to be signature to a class turning up on a pet. It is a pretty good indication though that the days in which a player might expect to be wanted in a raid just for one buff are over.