Patch 5.0.4 has fallen upon us. Talent trees have been removed. Prime Glyphs are no more. Alliance characters have been lost. But what I find myself mourning the most is the loss of the ranged slot.
Most classes simply lost the occasional opportunity to shoot or throw a weapon for damage at a distance. Hunters, on the other hand, found their style of play completely altered. Since the birth of the World of Warcraft, all characters have had the option of attacking at range or fighting up close; although, each class had a defined role. Warriors were always intended to be a brutal melee class; mages were always intended to be slinging spells from afar. Early on, hunters seemed able to walk the fine line of targeting from a distance or approaching in for close quarters combat. Hunters were even given the option of dual-wielding as a skill, so that they could be as effective as necessary when an enemy got too close. Over the years, Blizzard has worked to reinforce the idea that hunters are only ranged DPS, and removing the separate ranged slot is the final nail in the melee-hunter-coffin.
What is disappointing about this isn’t that I won’t be able to fight with two axes or a staff anymore; I can still equip them and hamstring my abilities as much as I want (There are those who do just that!). What is disappointing is that so long as I want to have my gun/bow/crossbow equipped (and I will, since that’s my primary weapon), I won’t be able to equip any melee weapons for flavor. One of the defunct benefits to using a gun or bow was when that weapon is in use, you could still see your melee weapons on your back or at your side. At a much lower level I could run around Feralas shooting everything in sight, and my two axes hung at my waist. Even lately, I’ve transmogged my staff to a Sturdy Quarterstaff because I enjoyed seeing that holstered on my back. Now I’ll only have the bow in my hands, and my character is a little poorer for it.
I am glad that minimum range is gone. It always felt awkward when a mob got too close that I was stuck clubbing it. Raptor Strike and Wing Clip were token abilities for this scenario, but they were primarily intended to buy time to get back to range (thanks, Disengage!) Now I can stand toe to toe and deal just as much damage, provided I’m willing to take it as well. I’d still rather be at range, but I’ll feel a bit more viable in those unexpected situations.
Hunters aren’t the only class affected by this change. Rogues were designed with the idea that they could throw a dagger or an axe into someone’s back from a distance, and Fan of Knives gave them this effect in spades. While rogues are being further emphasized as a melee DPS class, they will retain Fan as an AoE attack. It’s a nod to their legacy that allows them to preserve the flavor, even though the mechanic has been altered.
Now that ranged weapons are primary weapons, wands will be getting a renewed focus in the coming expansion. For mages and warlocks, it will be interesting to see if they will continue to be reliant upon their staves, or if their wands will finally be drawn for casting.
The ranged weapon slot has been essential to character builds since the original beta. While some of the characters who were sacrificed in Tides of War have been around just as long, the ranged slot was with us everywhere we went. Of all the changes that 5.0.4 introduced to Azeroth, it’s the one feature I’ll miss the most.
Macs have been having heat issues since the new patch. This sounds like Goblin technology! http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/6412493648?page=16#320
Blizzard has an ongoing story about Li Li, Chen Stormstout’s neice. I wonder if she’ll show up in the expansion… http://eu.battle.net/wow/en/game/lore/destination-pandaria/lilis-travel-journal/1