Friday, October 1, 2010

Patch 4.0.1 Testing - Priest and Hunter

Priest (Night Elf)
Low level priests have a problem. Every class starts with one ability in 4.0.1, and that ability is some way of killing monsters to get you through your first few quests. For priests, it is Smite. What's odd about starting with Smite is that Smite is not actually a viable attack spell for end game content. Every other class starts with an attack that is actually used by the dps spec of that class to kill monsters at maximum level1. That means they start with an attack that is tuned to be effective as an attack. Smite is not meant to be an attack spell for any dps class. This fact shouldn't really have any impact on how good smite is below level 10, but playing a priest it certainly feels like it does. The damage Smite does seems low and barely increases as you level up, despite increasing cast time. Furthermore it costs a lot of mana compared to low level attacks from other classes, and I ended up just standing around waiting for my mana to come back frequently. Because of super-accelerated low level mana regen this would only be for five or six seconds at a time, but standing around doing nothing at level three to wait for mana made for a much less smooth leveling experience. At level nine I finally got Mind Blast which did about three times as much damage as Smite, so killing things became much more bearable, and at level 10 I chose shadow and abandoned Smite completely in favour of Mind Flay. Getting Flash Heal at level 3 didn't make a lot of sense as a choice for a heal. It was quite expensive and healed me for more than double my maximum health. Shadow Word: Pain only ticked for 9 when I got it, while Smite was hitting for 24-ish, meaning it wasn't even worth casting. Priests have very little to do at low level, much of it is bad and costs too much mana.

Overall Grade: C

Hunter (Troll)
As you likely already know, Hunters begin the game with a pet, though they do not have a pet bar until level 10, so the pet is permanently on defensive mode and can't be given commands. They start with Arcane Shot which does a little more damage than an auto-shot and costs 25 focus, with no cooldown. I spent my first couple of levels spamming arcane shot and killing things in about 2 seconds, and picked up Steady Shot at level 3, which takes 2 seconds to cast and regenerates focus. At this point I moved to a Steady Shot followed by two Arcane Shots to kill monsters. Strangely enough on my way to level 10 pretty much all of the abilities I picked up with free to cast, so Arcane Shot was the only thing that actually used focus. That worked out fine, though, as I was using a variety of my buttons, choosing how often to Steady Shot vs. Arcane Shot actually meant gameplay could by optimized somewhat, and around level 6 things started living long enough that my pet actually was involved meaningfully in the fight. At level 10 I chose Marksmanship and got Aimed shot. It cost 50 focus, was a 2.7 second cast and did less damage than 2 arcane shots which cost 25 focus and are instant casts. Since this was terrible I saved up a bit of money and swapped to Survival. Explosive shot also cost 50 focus and also did less damage than 2 arcane shots. I'm actually not quite sure how Explosive Shot is going to work out in the end, since you regen 6 focus per second, it has a 6 second cooldown and costs 50. Even two steady shots in the mean time don't make up the focus to cast it every 6 seconds. It makes it seem like if it is balanced to be worth casting then it would be the only thing that costs focus that you cast. Despite the significant problems with the signature abilities of the talent specs, my hunter played really well. As someone who never really liked hunters, I managed to have a lot of fun. The change from mana to focus was a very good one.

Overall Grade: B (Would have been an A if Explosive Shot and Aimed Shot weren't such bombs)

1. Warriors instead get a temporary substitute for the attacks they will use that is perfectly serviceable at low levels.

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