WAWK: Hunter Artifact Edition

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With the recent release of gnome hunters, part 4 of our WAWK series focuses on a class that is newly available to every single race. Similar to being able to pick up a stick and yell at things as a warrior, it seems that there are no longer any racial restrictions to picking up a bow and shooting it at someone. They represent a deep connection between man and beast, and are master trackers and survivors of the wilderness, however few can contest that the elves and tauren are the masters of hunting in the Warcraft universe.

Such is represented among the artifacts that they are able to take up against the Burning Legion this expansion. Markmanship hunters prefer to attack from afar, and the legendary bow Thas’dora, Legacy of the Windrunners comes from a long line of very famous elves. Survival hunters, now melee in Legion, are able to use the Ancient-touched Talonclaw, Spear of the Wild Gods that the Highmountain tauren used for generations, most notable by Huln Highmountain during the War of the Ancients. Beast Masters are able to use magical engineering might of the titan-keeper Mimiron in their artifact weapon Titanstrike… Because when Blizzard have run out of ideas for artifacts, they slap on something titan or vrykul related. However the dwarves are chasing after this one, and dwarven riflemen are most certainly a stereotype within the Warcraft universe.

Introductory Quests

Snowfeather, the white eagle comes to you with an urgent message (Game of Thrones reference?) addressed to you, telling you to go to Emmarel Shadewarden in Dalaran to help in the fight against the Legion. Taking about 3 steps toward the guns and bows shop in Dalaran makes you wonder why the white eagle was needed in the first place, but Shadewarden tells you to go meet with three individuals around the city to help decide on what artifact to pursue in the fight against the Legion.

Grif Wildheart, the beast master, is predictably in the Magical Menagerie looking at all the pets in the stables. He tells you he’s unsure of this Unseen Path faction that Shadewarden is part of, but tells you he’s been working with Brann Bronzebeard to the point where they’re finding the tomb of a vrykul warlord that stole a rifle called Titanstrike. In the Arsenal Absolute, Apata Highmountain claims she is an ally of this Unseen Path and tells you that Talonclaw was lost to a fierce nightsaber called Dakarr. Finally, hanging around the outside of the Silver Covenant’s section of Dalaran Courier Larkspur tells you that Vereesa Windrunner has a lead on the whereabouts of her sister, Alleria. Finding her and her bow would provide a great boon against the might of the Legion.

Returning to Shadewarden she asks you which weapon to seek first, finishing the short and sweet introduction to hunters’ class artifacts.

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Beast Mastery – Titanstrike

Starting with the relatively unknown, Titanstrike is a weapon designed by Keeper Mimiron for his friend, Keeper Thorim to use. How a Gnome expects to hold a weapon to be used by titanic watchers is beyond me, but Warcraft physics are a thing. Using Thunderspark, a relic inside the weapon, it harnesses the raw essence of storms and focuses it into concentrated blasts of energy.

As we found out from Wildheart earlier, the weapon was found by a vrykul warlord named Volund and he used it to conquer his rivals within the Broken Isles until he took Titanstrike to his grave. Shadewarden tells you to meet with the dwarf at Krasus’ Landing, and he tells you that he’s struck a deal with a vrykul guide named Prustaga to aid us in opening the tomb. He tells you to hop onto his gryphon and fly to Shield’s Rest Island off the coast of Stormheim.

After the short trip, you meet up with Prustaga who tolerates your presence, and as you near the tomb the ghost of the warlord warns you to leave, calling you a thief and coveter. Entering the tomb you find a set of obstacles filled with storm and wind to set you back, but killing the Windshapers will cause the winds to stop and your allies to catch up with you.

Once you reach the T junction of the tomb, Prustaga breaks open the wards on the tomb of Volund (the other paths being associated with other artifact quests), and after a few waves of enemies you can enter the tomb. You see titan relics littering the tomb, and up ahead Wildheart spots a mechagnome that he fixes up until it turns itself on. It also switches on a few other robots in the room, and as you quickly dispatch of them, the mechagnome turns on the console to bring an image of Mimiron into the room.

Prustaga makes the keeper show us where Titanstrike is being hidden, and he unlocks a chest to bring us the weapon. Mission accomplished! However, the warlord is unhappy about you stealing his prized possession, and attempts to kill you while warning you to not wield the storms of Titanstrike. After a quick and easy fight, Prustaga plays her hand and stuns everyone in the room, stealing the artifact for herself and teleporting away, claiming that she will become the new god-queen thanks to us.

Mimiron switches on a teleportation pad that will take you to Ulduar, so you can work together to try and retrieve Titanstrike from Prustaga. When you meet up with Mimiron in the Spark of Imagination, he tells you that he will be able to locate the artifact by downloading the data from the tomb into his core processing systems, but says that a few failsafe mechanisms may overload as a result that we’ll have to deal with… Whatever that may mean.

Nevertheless, when we help him it becomes apparent what this means. The fusion core overheats, so you have to jump over rings of fire and deactivate the control panels near them, before the Storm Leviathan unit starts malfunctioning and shoots balls of energy all over the floor. Dodging the void zones and activating the stabilization matrix will allow you to keep the Leviathan in check, and Mimiron tells you some good news and some bad news. The good news being that the download is nearly done, but the bad news is that there may be total system failure. Pushing the big red button labeled “DO NOT PUSH THIS BUTTON” – the very same one that started Firefighter in the Mimiron encounter in Lich King, conveniently doesn’t kill you and allows you to finish the download.

You find out that Prustaga is at Thorim’s throne in the Temple of Storms, on her way to reverse engineer the Thunderspark powering Titanstrike and infuse the storm’s energies into herself. Using Mimiron’s Head, the Aerial Command Unit, we can quickly get to the Temple of Storms and meet with Thorim. When we do, and after a short introduction to his worg, Hati, the vrykul Prustaga has allied herself with start the assault on the temple, before she gets to the throne herself.

Prustaga successfully reverses the effects of Titanstrike and absorbs the power of the Thunderspark into herself, throwing out crashes and thunders of lightning out until the energies overwhelm her and she explodes into a blinding light. Fortunately for us, but not for the worg, Hati absorbs all of the explosive energies into himself. With Hati on the brink of death, Mimiron claims that the power of Thunderstrike may soon be lost forever, but seeing your kinship with the spirits of wild creatures he says that if you bind your spirit with that of Hati’s, you may be able to both save the worg and restore the gun.

When you tame him, Titanstrike becomes available to pick up, and once you do Thorim claims that Hati’s noble spirit is now bound to the weapon and that he will be a loyal companion to you in the dark times ahead against the Legion. Wildheart summons his gryphon to take you back to Dalaran and tells you to return to Shadewarden to find out more about the Unseen Path and to unlock your class order hall at Trueshot Lodge in the peaks of Highmountain.

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Marksmanship – Thas’dorah, Legacy of the Windrunners

The Windrunner family has a long history both in the lore as well as within the games themselves. Alleria Windrunner made her debut in Warcraft II as a special Elven Ranger unit, and the youngest sister Vereesa made a quiet entrance in the novel Day of the Dragon. Sylvanas was the last of the three sisters to be introduced in Warcraft III, though she made appearances in the Tides of Darkness novel. Lirath was their youngest brother, but he was killed by a group of raiding orcs during the Second War.

Thas’dorah is a family heirloom, carved from a bough of the mother tree of Eversong Woods, Thas’alah, and was passed down to the eldest of each generation. She and her bow were last seen when Draenor was destroyed (in our timeline) and Outland was created. However when we invaded Outland ourselves, we found most of the Sons of Lothar apart from Turalyon and Alleria, and it’s only now in Legion where clues to the Windrunner sister’s current whereabouts is.

Shadewarden tells you to meet up with Courier Larkspur at Krasus’ Landing, and he tells you that a demon prisoner has given us a solid lead on where Alleria is. You’re instructed to join Vereesa and the Farstriders on the Broken Shore and after a short flight you meet up with both the ranger-general and the Farstrider Ranger Orestes. The interrogated demon claims that Alleria may be kept on Niskara, so it’s up to us to retrieve the valuable ally as a small strike force. After all, can we really trust demons?

Orestes believes it’s a trap, and insists on going through the portal with Vereesa. She declines, but he ignores orders at the last second and runs through the portal to Niskara once it opens. When you enter the other side, Orestes is nowhere to be seen, so you go with Vereesa to explore the demon world and look for both Alleria and now Orestes.

After a few packs of demons, you find Orestes up ahead surrounded by felhounds and the Hound Mistress Torvis. Kill her and Orestes tells you on his dying breaths that he searched everywhere but the cathedral, so our next stage will take us to there. A few waves of demons and fel raining down from the sky sits between you and the cathedral, and before you can enter the demonic structure itself, Herald Xarbizuld stands in your way.

Once you defeat him, High Inquisitor Qormaladon taunts you that he sees all – every truth and every lie. So we have to kill him and his eyes to make Niskara blind to what’s happening. Be careful to let the frosty eyes get in melee range with you, as they’ll stun you for a few seconds that can lead to a bad time. Once you defeat him, you continue your search for Alleria before you come across her bow sitting on a plinth inside the demonic structure.

With no Alleria there, Vereesa concludes that she escaped and attempted to use Vereesa as measure to try and lure Alleria back to Niskara. Vereesa gifts the bow to you for use against the Legion on the Broken Isles, and Gorelix arrives on Niskara (you may remember him from the Blood Death Knight scenario) to retake the cathedral for the Legion. It’s high time you escaped now that the mission is accomplished.

Returning to Dalaran, you are able to reconvene with Shadewarden, who then sends you to Trueshot Lodge in Highmountain to discover more about the Unseen Path and to set up your order hall.

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Survival – Talonclaw, Spear of the Wild

To fill out the trio of ranged weapons with a crossbow artifact weapon for hunters must have been too difficult for Blizzard, so they opted to change the entire spec to return to its vanilla roots and become focused on being a melee class! Jokes aside, hunters now have the capabilities of being a melee class and the tauren are here to help us get our artifact for it.

The Highmountain tauren crafted this spear more than 10,000 years ago, and ever since then wielders of Talonclaw have fought alongside the Wild Gods of Azeroth to combat against threats to the wildlife and the world. These Wild Gods, the Ancients, have over time bestowed blessings upon the weapon, imbuing it with a portion of their power. Unfortunately, the weapon was lost many years ago to the magically corrupted monstrosity called Dakarr, so we have to travel to Stormheim and reclaim it for the fight against the Legion once more.

When you meet with Apata Highmountain at Krasus’ Landing to set off for the spear, she says that you must first speak with Ohn’ara, the eagle spirit, to receive her blessing and listen to any knowledge with that she may impart. You’ll be taken to Spiritwatch Point in Highmountain while Apata tells you a bit of history of Talonclaw’s wielders, explaining that Dorro Highmountain was the last to wield the eagle spear before his end came to Dakarr, the nightsaber that was corrupted by a vrykul mystic. She says that once every so often a brave hunter seeks Talonclaw, communes with the Eagle Spirit, receives her blessing and then begin their hunt. None ever returned.

When you reach Spiritwatch Point, you find that it’s under attack by weird growths and the flora around it, so you’re forced to land nearby on the cliffs in Highmountain. When you reach Spiritwatch Point, you Degar Bloodtotem has ensnared Ohn’ahra and is claiming Talonclaw for his own clan. Kill him, and Ohn’ahra flies out of the cave. Meet with her, and she gives you her blessing, allowing you to depart for Stormheim as an avatar of the Eagle Spirit.

When you land, you meet with Wuho Highmountain and devise a plan to find the artifact. The kvaldir nearby speak of a giant cat that made its lair in the swamps, and they created a wall of magical wards to keep it at bay. Apata and Wuho set off to examine the wards while we investigate the harbor. Making your way through the swamp, you find a kvaldir Mist Warder go to activate a wardstone, so you’re prompted to trap him and steal it for yourself, and to do so three more times around the harbor.

Afterwards, you go find the tauren in the swamp, to find Wuho getting very impatient while Apata tries to calm him down. You tell them to use the wards you found and to harpoon your way across the fog wall. When you reach the other side, it feels too quiet… But Apata is sure you’re being watched. Before long, you find Dakarr is in the mists, and sends illusions after you that disperse themselves into the mists. Keep flare up and AoE them down, before continuing into the mists themselves to meet with the beast.

Going into the mist, you can place a large trap to ensnare the nightsaber, and once you do a short fight breaks out. Once the beast realises its losing however, it pounces on and kills Wuho, while wounding you to 75% of your health before running into the mists once more. Another mist trap laid, and Dakarr strikes again! This time when he loses, he finishes off Apata and runs into his cave lair, wounding you to 50% of your health. You run into the cave to find the nightsaber and Talonclaw behind him! When you finally kill him in his lair, the wound wears off and Talonclaw is yours for the taking.

When you take it, Dorro’s spirit claims that now the monster is dead and the spear reclaimed, he can finally move on, before creating a portal to Dalaran for you and telling you to return to Shadewarden to find out more about the Unseen Path and to create your class order hall.

Could Survival Eventually Become a Tanking Spec?

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I was listening to Azortharion on his recent interview with Finalbosstv and talking about the Survival changes in the latest Legion alpha build, and while I was getting distracted by other things around me, many of the changes discussed made me speculate on possible tank playstyle if Blizzard decided to go down that route after Legion.

I mean, it makes sense right? Players have been asking for the pure DPS classes to branch out into hybrid roles for years, and although Beast Mastery has always been the go-to as the suggestion for Hunters’ tank specialisation, with Survival going melee, it seems like a good transition. After all, what are tanks for if not being as survivable as possible?

Personally, I don’t agree with Blizzard’s stance on adding new DPS specialisations as melee only. If you’ve been a die-hard Horde fan from the start of WoW, you were introduced to:

  • [TBC] Retribution Paladins
  • [WotLK] Blood, Frost, Unholy Death Knights
  • [MoP] Windwalker Monks
  • [Legion] Survival Hunters; Havoc Demon Hunters

The Alliance may have gained Elemental Shamans in TBC, but outside of class revamps that make the specs feel completely different, we haven’t had any fresh blood of ranged DPS to fill our raids in WoW. Blizzard are getting better with making mechanics more melee friendly, but at the end of the day you’re usually going to have more ranged DPS than melee in a raiding environment. By the time Legion hits, we’ll be seeing 13 melee DPS specs up against 11 ranged DPS. The bloat for melee is real, and we don’t need to be adding to that roster any more.

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Having said that, I do realise that the tanking role is even tighter than melee, and with six specs to fill two raid spots we’re definitely not going to see every tank specialisation represented in raids. It could definitely be argued that, of anything, we shouldn’t be getting more tank roles. My argument for is that each tank, while homogenised to the extent that they can all perform well at high level, each tank does have its own niche and playstyle to make them different enough to see balanced play. In addition, it’s always fun to see the World Race to see which tanks are in the meta – such as when double Monk was a thing for Blackhand mythic.

Druids are big slabs of meat that have high health pools (and have more healing taken); DKs are masters of cooldowns with a button to press for every large magic or physical damage spike; Monks focus on dodging enemy attacks and staggering hits to be taken over the following few seconds; Warriors are block kings, focusing many of their attacks and defenses on the slab of wood and metal on their left arm; Paladins are as close as you’re going to get to a rotation-based tank with their active mitigation being very reliable and helps with damage smoothing. Vengeance Demon Hunters look to be mobile, parrying fiends that simply have flat damage reduction and pure healing and are insane at AoE threat, so where would that leave Survival if it became a tanking role?

As one of the Hunters specs to still keep their pets, I think it would be interesting to see Survival Hunters have a hybrid between agile dodges and parries, while also allowing their pets to take some of the damage for them. It would involve heavy changes to their talents as a result as I believe there’s only two talents, Animal Instincts and Aspect of the Beast, that actually affects what your pets do, though there are many damage-oriented talents that can be switched out for more defensive capabilities.

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Playstyle would likely involve the Hunter being in charge of keeping his pet alive, or to have healing and damage be shared between them and their pet, to avoid having to train healers how to heal pets. They could have a lower natural health pool, but offset by the fact that they have two health pools in themselves and the pet.

Other than getting a base threat increase regardless, Raptor Strike would have to change into either a free ability or focus generator, and change Mongoose Strike to be the focus spender with each stack reducing damage taken by more and more per stack. Traps could be reworked so that a debuff is placed on affected targets to increase your dodge chance against them.

There’s already cooldowns in Aspect of the Turtle and Exhilaration, and Survival’s Mastery alongside Aspect of the Eagle under what I propose for Mongoose Strike are also viable defensive cooldowns. Finally, I’d suggest Flanking Strike could become the low cooldown defensive at 60-90sec cooldown, to allow you pet to “take a hit” for you.

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One of the larger draws in my opinion for Survival to become a tanking spec would be that if the fight calls for a single tank or if you have a flexible roster in your raiding team, the offspec would give a potential ranged DPS – something we only see with Guardian Druids currently (assuming they have a viable Balance offspec, but at least they have the ability to do so). In addition, it opens up the class to being more than just a pure damage dealer, and although in Legion they now get the opportunity to switch it up between melee, ranged with pet or ranged without pet, it’s something that’s always driven me away from Mage, Warlock, Rogue and Hunter in that it’s all they can do.