I'm getting old. There is grey in my beard. Depending on where you live and which data you trust I've already hit middle age. And I'm catching myself thinking and saying the things older people do when they are struggling to understand changes in the world. Lately I’ve been saying crazy shit like, “There hasn’t been a really good Hip Hop album since 2000” and “Yeah, we sagged our pants. But not like the kids do today.” Yep, I’m getting to be a close-minded old fart. And I wonder if that is why I feel the way I do about the Lone Wolf talent.
I’ve been playing a hunter since Vanilla. I’ve actually been playing the same hunter since then (with quite a few race changes mixed-in). I’ve seen a lot of changes: mana to focus, ammo, the dead zone, pet happiness. While I can’t say I’ve embraced every major change to our class, I’ve never had a reaction as strong as how I feel about the idea of Lone Wolf. I hate it. I’m just praying it was a placeholder. I think it’s contrary to what it means to be a hunter, and it has serious potential to be a balance nightmare.
Hunters are the pet class. Pets are one of the most important aspects of our class’ identity. Some of us collect them. Some of us use them to tank current raid content. Some of us (me) forget to dismiss them, jump off a ledge, and pull all of UBRS to our group. A big part of being a decent hunter is having the right pet for your situation and properly controlling it. The fact that Blizzard is considering allowing hunters to bypass that part of the hunter experience is just baffling to me. I don’t get it. We’re not the only ranged DPS class in the game. If someone wants to play ranged but can’t handle a pet they have at least three other options. But there is more going on here than me being an old curmudgeon.
There are two prevalent arguments in favor of Lone Wolf. The first is simply, “A lot of hunters want to play without their pets.” I don’t think it’s really that many. I don’t think someone would roll a hunter if they don’t like pets. I don’t like melee, so I know better than to roll a DK. Furthermore, a lot of hunters want quite a few different things. They haven’t given us pistols or a dedicated tanking spec yet. The second argument for it is more interesting, but it still falls short. There are a number of situations where our pets struggle. Some fights just don’t play well with pet pathing, etc. My pet despawns all the time during Immersius, for example. Don't get me started on the Hagara encounter. There is one of these fights pretty much every tier. Some say Lone Wolf is an option for fights where pets don’t function as they should. The problem with that argument is our pets not working is simply unacceptable. Frankly, we hunters have been too forgiving when it comes to these situations. I mean really, can you imagine Blizzard releasing a fight where pally tanks’ shields didn’t work? Or telling rogues that stealth doesn’t work as intended in the new BG? That just wouldn’t happen. It should be just as unacceptable for hunter pets to be borked. Lone Wolf could create a fairly dangerous situation where Blizzard can justify even more of these fights and we are required to get rid of our pets for them. All of a sudden for some fights we are essentially required to ditch a defining aspect of our class. That would be a fucking debacle.
I also worry about balance. Spec balance for hunters has been relatively good as of late. Such a fundamental change, especially one intended to be optional, could really screw things up. If Blizzard goes ahead with this experiment, they are going to have to be spot on with the balancing. I’d actually go a step further. Choosing Lone Wolf should cost a hunter a little dps. We should be rewarded for the added complexity of managing a pet. If I feel compelled to get rid of my pet, even for one fight each tier, I’ll be pissed. Beware the wrath of the angry old man.