World of Warcraft is changing. The Hunter class is changing. The way we play is changing. With the Beta in full swing we have heard (and seen) enough changes, that indicate that our beloved hunter class will feel completely different to play once the Cataclysm hits. First lets review all the changes that will impact the hunter playstyle:
1. No more mana. Instead hunters will now use Focus (similar to rogue energy)
2. No more Volley. (Also all other classes have had their AoE nerfed.)
3. Misdirection transferred threat fades after 30sec. (same with Tricks of the Trade.)
4. Silencing Shot damage removed.
5. Trap launcher will allow to launch any trap to a specified location.
6. Aimed shot now deals 300% weapon damge + X-damage and is on a 2 sec cast.
There are numerous other changes, but I feel these are the ones that hunters can prepare for now, whilst the other changes, such as the change to Chimera Shot (now effect being dependent on venoms instead of stings) will need the Beta or actual game to be practiced.
Preparing for Cataclysm now, means changing your play- style. This will cause you to most likely drop in DPS. Discuss with your guild your intentions. Some of the ways to prepare will need the help of the rest of your guild during raids or dungeons. Without access to the beta it will be difficult to see how these changes will play out, but there are ways in the current game in which players without beta-acces can prepare.
Threat management will be very different in Cataclysm. With the transferred threat disappearing, I suspect that any misdirects will be used as openers or Add management only. So to prepare, use it as such. Only misdirect to pull bosses or put adds onto a tank. Refrain from using Misdirection in your rotation and instead work Feign Death into your rotation a little more.
There will be a lot more emphasis on Crowd Control in Cataclysm. With Volley removed and other AoE's nerved, AoE tanking will happen a lot less frequently. This means CCs will need to be put into place. So see if your guild will allow its players to practice that during current raids. Practice Frost trap pulling as much as possible as this will also give you a feel for how the new trap launcher will most likely work.
Shot rotation will be something that's difficult to practice now without all the skills available, and without gimping your dps too much. But if your guild agrees for you to practice, there a 2 things that can be done. First unmacro Silencing Shot and use it purely for its interrupting purpose.
Second use Aimed Shot as an opener only. The 2 second casttime will not make it viable to use as part of our rotation.
Focus instead of Mana
As stated before, Focus will function similarly to Rogue Energy. So the best way to see how it will feel is roll a rogue. Be careful however. Rogues do not have the same regenerating skills that hunters will have (their only one being Adrenalin Rush and it is on a 45 sec cooldown). So even though you'll see how Focus will work, it will not give you an idea on how it will affect your shot rotation.
To see an idea of how Focus will effect your shot rotation, macro Aspect of the Viper with your Steady shot and use it only when you get below 50% mana.
So there you have it, a few ideas to show how one could prepare their play-style for Cataclysm. I must remind again though these changes will lower your dps considerably. Check with your guild to see if they will allow you to use these techniques on raids and let your group mates know on randoms. I also suggest to make these changes on a second separate Action bar, as not to screw up your main raid action bar. Also consider that these are theoretical ideas. certainly Threat Management and effective Crowd control can be practiced without too much worry, but Any changes to Shot rotation are purely theoretical.
keep on hunting,