I always get antsy before a big content push goes on the Public Test Realm (or, for that matter, before a beta starts) — partially because I know that the changes will mean a flurry of activity for Petopia, but mostly because I’m addicted to change. At this point in the game, the normal gameplay is secondary to me — the thing that catches my attention and gets me excited is ‘new’. I don’t raid or PvP, but keeping up with changes — pet changes in particular — is my elder game.
Anyway, I was very excited to see 2.1.0 go up on the PTR Thursday night (and annoyed that I’d played hooky from work already this week, so I couldn’t do it again and spend more time with the changes). There were a large number of changes for hunters and pets andI’m sure that the power hunters will be debating the relative merits of each change for weeks to come. But let’s take a quick look at the big pet changes that I find most interesting.
The big news, of course, is the two new passive pet skills: Avoidance and Cobra Reflexes. There’s some confusion right now with Avoidance: the description on the pet trainer reads “Increases your pet’s chance to avoid area of effect attacks by an additional X%” while the description in the pet skill panel reads “Reduces the damage your pet takes from area of effect attacks by an additional X%”. But regardless, it’s an ability that a lot of raiding hunters seem very excited about trying out. For myself, personally, not so much — but I am quite pleased to see more situational passive skills available. Adding more skills that suit particular situations is the best place for the pet system to expand and restore an important element of choice, I believe.
And that’s why I’m rather disappointed with Cobra Reflexes. What I *wanted* out of Cobra Reflexes was a skill that changed attack speed without changing displayed DPS. This is how the old differences in attack speed worked — Broken Tooth (1.0 AS) had the same DPS displayed on the pet panel as Echeyakee (2.0 AS). Now the slower/faster attack speeds had some subtle effects on actual, in-play DPS, but these were often situational — there were reasons to want a slow pet and reasons to want a fast pet, depending on your play style and what you were doing at the time.
But Cobra Reflexes doesn’t restore this situational choice. CR increases attack speed and decreases damage per hit, but it doesn’t decrease damage per hit enough to make up for the increase in attack speed, so overal displayed DPS goes up significantly when you train your pet with Cobra Reflexes. (In my very simple testing so far, it looks like CR raises displayed DPS by something in the neighborhood of 10%. More testing will follow.) That increase in DPS will overwhelm the subtle advantages of a slower attack speed for almost all hunters — effectively making CR a required skill for all pets. That’s a buff of a sort for pet DPS in general, but an unfortunate setback for situational variety and choice. This is especially true since Cobra Reflexes is most useful in conjunction with the hunter talent Serpent’s Swiftness — and a hunter is not going to re-spec every time they want to change from a fast attack pet to a slow one.
I had hoped, when Cobra Reflexes first showed up on King Bangalash, that Blizzard would take some time before they made the skill more widespread to work these issues out. I am disappointed that they did not — although since I know how these things happen in MMO development I am not terribly surprised.
On a side note, I have seen a couple of posts commenting that this proves that Petopia was wrong when it said Cobra Reflexes was a bug. What I said, though, was that CR on King B *only* was a bug, which appears to be the case since they went ahead and put it on the pet trainer. King B retains CR when tamed on the PTR, but that is becoming more common: there are a couple other passive skills pre-trained on pets now, like the Outland scorpids that come with Natural Armor.
But on to more changes! The Death Ravager can no longer be tamed — but we knew that was coming, and considering the problems the Death Ravager had with PvP and normal pet behavior, it’s probably for the best. Although we are losing that unique ravager skin, we are gaining another (and arguably a nicer one): Razorfang Ravagers can be tamed in patch 2.1. Those are the spiky red/orange ravagers in Hellfire Peninsula with the glowing red eyes.
The patch notes also mention (hidden under leatherworking) that “additional snakes that drop cobra scales are in the highlands of Nagrand as well as in Shadowmoon Valley”. I wasn’t able to find the Nagrand snakes, but the Shadowmoon snakes are unfortunately snakes, not serpents, and cannot be tamed. I assume that the Nagrand snakes are similar.
There are some other interesting tidbits in those notes, but I’ll have to take them on later. Pet-wise, this patch leaves me wanting more — more useful variety, more family-specific skills, more skins. But then, I always want more. It’s the nature of the beast.