A Memory of Hunters

That question took me all of about two seconds to answer.  The hunter class in World of Warcraft.

From a sheer overall enjoyment, most involved, most fun ever, the hunter wins out for me.

There are some other classes that I have quite enjoyed.  I liked my berserkers and swashbucklers in EverQuest II.  I had a soft spot for shadow knights and paladins and all their hybrid woes back in EverQuest.  In Lord of the Rings Online, the rune keeper may have some of the best spell effects ever.  You always know one is around because of those lightning flashes, and that wave of fire spell is a joy to behold.  And if you have never played a dwarf guardian in Middle-earth, then you have missed out on the most enthusiastic warriors ever.

Oddly, Rift holds no spot in my favored class list despite… or because of… the famed flexibility of the soul system that lets you mix and match and create your own flavor of a given class.  I think I just come from an age where a class had a role and a few skills and you made do with what you got and suffered when you couldn’t.

And when it came to making do with what you got, the hunter class had that in spades.  Well, the old hunter class did, the way the class played back when I started WoW in 2005.

Hunters were primarily a ranged weapon class.  You likely went with a gun if you were a dwarf or a tauren, or a bow if you were a night elf or an orc, since that was what they handed you at the outset.  Maybe you opted in for a crossbow later on, if you found a good one and wanted to buy and train up the skill.

But ranged weapons required ammunition, which came in stacks of 200 rounds and which took up space in your inventory.  And you wanted an ammo pouch or quiver because of the speed bonus it gave you, so essentially you ended up forfeiting an entire inventory slot.  This in the limited bag space hell of early WoW.

So you were hauling around stacks of ammo and had to make sure that your ammo pouch was full up before you set off on any prolonged adventure, with maybe a couple extra stacks in your bag, just in case.  And then you would level up and the ammo you wanted would change.

Ammo had a damage value that was rolled into the total damage done with each shot, and as you leveled up, you better ammo became available.  And then there was crafted ammo, which boosted damage a bit more.

And you still had to keep an up to date melee weapon or two around as well.  Ranged weapons had a minimum range, and when things went wrong, you might find yourself fighting toe-to-toe with a hostile mob.   It was nice that hunters could dual wield, and the saying was always “every weapon is a hunter weapon!”  I just hope you were keeping your melee weapon skills up to date as you leveled.  It could be embarrassing to be reminded that you were way behind on a skill in a tight situation.

But it was all worth it once you got your pet, which back in the day required you to get to level 10.  At that point you could run the pet starter quests, learn the skills, and the run off to tame your first pet.


Love at first sight

But what kind of pet should you tame, and what skills would it come with?  You were given a special skill to tell if pets were tameable, which also showed what skills they knew and at what level.

And the level part was important.  You pet might come with all the skills it could learn, but as it leveled up, it would become eligible for a  new tier of its skills.  A couple of basic skills were available from the hunter trainer, but for the rest… you had to hunt.

You had to stable your pet… and your pet was a major part of your ability to fight and survive in the wild… to go find another animal that knew the skill you were looking for.  You had to tame that animal and then go off and kill mobs with it for a while until your close contact with the animal lead to the skill being rubbed off onto you, thus entering your knowledge.

Then, once you had acquired that knowledge, you could dismiss the pet you just tamed and then run back to town, get your own pet out of storage and train him in the new skill.

And then there was the whole food aspect to things.  Once you tamed a pet, you had to feed him to improve his attitude towards you.  A hostile pet would fight badly and might flee.  And each possible pet would only eat certain kinds of food, which you had to keep on had, using up more inventory space, in order to keep your pet a maximum happiness.

And then there was the matter of leveling up your pet.  It had levels and needed experience to advance.  And if the pet you really wanted was lower level than you, then you had to take your new catch out and level him up.

And for all that effort, you would just assume that it would be a sought after class for raids and instances, right?  Not at all.  While the hunter had its uses in groups, it was generally considered to be poor on the damage side relative to just about any alternative, while pets were not really up to the whole boss level tanking aspect of such play.  Besides which, what self-respecting hunter would choose any talent path other than Beast Mastery, the path least likely to make you attractive to a group?

No, your big compensation for choosing such an odd-duck class was the skill “Spirit of the Cheetah” which improved your run speed, which was actually a kind of a big deal back when you had to wait until level 40 to get a mount (and use chain armor).  You just did not want to forget an leave Cheetah running, as having it up meant getting stunned every time you were hit by a mob.

No, it was the class itself, which at the time was done better than any pet class I had ever played, that was the draw.  Warts and all, it has always been a popular class in Azeroth.  And getting the right pet has always been part of the allure.  Back when storage was limited, and strict leveling was in place, you really had to pick and focus on one or two companions.  My daughter and I traveled all over Azeroth to tame special pets.

Flare the Dragonhawk

Flare the Dragonhawk

My daughter would scan the site Petopia looking for new and interesting animals to consider taming.

Things have changed since the early days.  Skills are easy now.  Pets jump to your level on being tamed.  Feeding is no longer about attitude, just about healing.  Keeping pets with you or stabling them has changed dramatically.  And there is a whole tier of exotic pets.

None of which is bad I suppose.  The class has evolved with the game and has become more viable over time while remaining popular.

But there is something in me that misses the early days of hunters in Azeroth.

19 thoughts on “A Memory of Hunters

  1. Warsyde

    For WoW, Druid ended up being my favorite class, though I leveled a Hunter to 60 first. The ability to tank, heal, or melee dps depending on mood and spec was great (if expensive).

    I liked the old version of the hunter (warts and all), and the more they dumbed the class down, the less I liked it. The various pet mechanics were one of the draws of the class, and while I like some of the improvements (changes to stabling/summoning) I dislike the loss of skill acquisition, loyalty, feeding, etc. That was part of the fun!

    Favorite class in any MMO ever? I’m not sure, I’ve played so many. Possibly the pre-nerf Tanker in City of Heroes — nothing else has ever quite lived up to the thrill of being able to leap into a huge swarm of extremely powerful enemies and survive almost indefinitely. Deal damage? Not so much. Face overwhelming odds and survive? Oh yeah.

    If I were to ignore “moments in time” and go for general feel . . . probably the WoW Druid. GW2 Mesmer gets 2nd place for most intriguing.


  2. bhagpuss

    I’d better not get started on this one or we’ll be here all night.

    Favorite MMO class ever is an easy one, though: Disciple in Vanguard. Although that’s tied in so tightly for me with the fox race (Raki) that really it’s the race/class combo that puts it in top place. Watching a chunky cartoon fox whirling and spinning and kicking, healing himself and his groupmates by the simple expedient of dealing vicious damage just never, ever gets old.

    I love playing a healer and I like playing a tank but I loathe Paladins so Vanguard was the first chance I really had to do both at the same time and it was magical. It took a lot of concentration to heal a group by hitting things, holding agro and not getting killed all at the same time. Certainly a long way from another of my favorites, the Everquest sit-and-heal cleric.

    I probably had most of my best MMO grouping experiences clericing. Nothing like the knowledge that everyone’s relying on you to keep them alive to keep you focused, especially if you’re trying to keep up your end in the banter stakes at the same time.

    Other classes I really like would be EQ2 Necromancer, again played as a main healer, although in a duo not a full group. Mrs Bhagpuss and I played a Bruiser/Necro combo for the best part of five years. Later I played my own Bruiser and that’s a great class too, as is EQ2 Berserker.

    EQ1 Beastlord is another favorite. Best bond between pet and player in my opinion, and a fantastically versatile class.

    None of the LotRO classes did it for me. Skald in DAOC was fun but it was about the only class there I took to. In WoW I also liked the Hunter, although it was past its prime by the time I came to it and I strongly disliked the “want a new pet, get rid of an old one” part.

    If I was going to have a rule of thumb for picking a class in an MMO, though, it would have to be “if in doubt Go Necro”. I think necromancers and their analogues are probably the most reliably capable and entertaining of all classes. Can’t really go wrong with a cackling sack of bones and a stack of dots.


  3. Mike Craft

    Favorite Class Ever – Druid in EQ1.

    Talk about the original JOAT class. Heals, DPS, Ports, Kiting, SoW…it had it all. While they weren’t particularly sought after in groups the ability to speed up your travels in Norrath made all the difference.

    Want to go kiting Sand Giants for some extra cash, no problem. Want to sit NOT in /roleplay and get constant tells for ports and bring in even more cash, done. Verant also did an excellent job with all classes in actually capturing the look & feel of what the class was about, along with ensuring that each class had it’s proper role. This made you feel different and/or needed…something that WoW and other games have lost with their constant need to homogenize classes.


  4. khoram

    EQ1 Enchanter. So many fluff spells, so many abilities that were unique to the classes. Man I loved that enchanter class: all the illusions, the dumb-ass “pet”, Tash, color flux, gravity flux, whirl-til-you-hurl, mezz, clarity, alacrity. So awesome.

    #2: EQ1 Shadowknight.


  5. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Mike Craft – I regret to this very day deciding to roll a ranger rather than a druid as my first character in EQ. Druids had ALL the fun. Plus, at what point in time has “ranger” ever been the right choice? What was I thinking?

    @Bhagpuss – I always found the Beastlord in EQ to be… awkward I guess. It never quite worked for me. Then the WoW hunter class came along and it was just the right pet class for me, which only made the EQII Beastlord feel even more awkward when it finally showed up years too late. What is it with SOE and pet control UI?


  6. Jenks

    WoW Hunters really were fantastic, they were my first love in that game from beta and my first max level after release. I’d say they’re my second favorite class ever. I was watching my lady play a hunter recently, and it made me sad how gutted they are. They’re a perfect microcosm of the entire game.

    My favorite class would be EQ1 Beastlord. My love of lizardmen knows no bounds, and combining my vanilla main (magician) with my second main (iksar sk) made me so incredibly happy. I never had a problem getting a group between beast crack and some good slows, even with a shaman the bst’s job was to pre-slow. My scaled wolf was my favorite pet ever, which is saying something since I play a pet class in just about every MMO.


  7. Tesh

    I do like Hunters circa “Vanilla” or Classic WoW, and overall, I’ve liked them as they aged, but my favorite will likely always be the WoW Druid. It’s not perfect, but the flexibility of animal forms is great, and Flight Form is where I spend easily half of my time. I Explore. That’s what I do. Flight Form with a side order of Cat stealth facilitates that like no other class in any game.


  8. Mekhios

    Warlock and then hunter in vanilla WoW. Warlock was one of the least understood classes in WoW which is why it was my favourite class. Hunter for the shear utility of that class and managing pets was a lot of fun.

    Current favourites are the engineer and the mesmer in GW2. The mesmer is a difficult class to play well which is why I love it. Engineer because I love gadgets and turrets.


  9. NoAstronomer

    Although I did well with a hunter in TBC WoW I never really had fun with it. For most of the game I just stood there, sent the pet in, and went through a rotation. Finding and looking after a pet was fun though. I convinced a PUG to help me tame one of the decrepid looking boars from Razorfen Kraul. Thanks again guys.

    But the day it all went south on a run through the Slave Pens was the day I fell in love with my WoW Druid. I was moonkin spec’d for DPS but the tank failed to spot a roaming group and pulled too much aggro. He went down quickly and the healer followed seconds after. Pull agggro onto me, battle-rez the healer, drop some HoTs on him, shift to bear form and tank the rest of the encounter. No problem.



  10. Joseph Skyrim

    Favourite class ever was the classless hero I (and everyone else) was in UO. I do miss the days when you had to load up on ammo and supplies before an adventure. These days it seems not only do people have magic infinity ammo but your characters don’t even need to eat. o_o


  11. SynCaine

    As a raid leader, god did I hate vanilla huntards and “every item is an upgrade for me” druids. But I agree, the original hunter class was a ton of fun solo or in a small group; hunting down the rare spawn pets was very unique to the class, which is what an MMO should contain.


  12. Xantya Terona

    Hi there,

    My favorite class and the only class I leveled to 90 in WoW was rogue. I start played in Vanilla in 2005. I had two rogues, one female human Shutzu and one blood elf female Xantya. Both PvP equipped and with only purpose BG and arena. But I quit in March this year. WoW was by far my longest subscription.
    In other games I followed the same archetype I was assassin in AION till 34, witch hunter in Warhammer, rogue in RIFT till 50, assassin in SWTOR till 50, thief in GW2 till 60. But I quit all these games in less than two months.

    For me the rogue class was/is perfect suitable for my play style and I really loved it.

    Have fun,



  13. kiantremayne

    I never really got into my hunter alt in WoW – shaman all the way for me, and some of us were melee shammies before BC made it cool.

    Personal all time favourite is the DAoC friar. Not just because the combo of healing and melee made it one of the most self-sufficient classes in the game, or because their unique staff fighting style looked so cool. It was the joy if hanging at the back in an RvR fight trying to look like a nice squishy wizard with your robe and staff, and then belting the living shit out of any dumb-ass assassin who couldn’t tell the difference


  14. jokeefe

    Probably WoW Warlock for me. I loved the ability to DoT those dang Rogues with their stealth and keep them at bay with Fear. I liked the general kvetching from the Imp pet and the variety of abilities (Healthstones, etc.).


  15. Attic Lion

    I never got into EQ and didn’t play WoW until 2010 so my favorite class doesn’t come from either of those sources.

    My favorite class of all time was FFXI’s Beastmaster. Mechanically, all you did was charm wild monsters and then pit them against other mobs. But within the actual game they were so much more.

    In a game where grouping was mandatory for leveling because even a mob 7 levels below you stood a good chance of utterly destroying you BSTs were shunned and unwanted. From misconceptions about pets stealing the groups xp (they did take 30% of their master’s xp though) to the fact that pets could semi-randomly uncharm midcombat and start attacking you. Nobody wanted to party with a BST.

    And it was the best damn thing that ever happened to the class. Beastmasters became the games original premiere soloing class through being outcast and unwanted. It was the perfect way to play the game in an entirely different, and vastly more challenging, way.

    Where normal groups sought out camps that were easy to get to and contained the most minimally threatening monsters, BSTs went out into the dark corners of the world. Places nobody else cared about because they were too far away, too dangerous, or didn’t have anything worth farming.

    It truly was playing the game on hard mode. You spent the vast majority of your time utterly alone in places that might not see another player for hours and totally dependent upon your skills and your luck. You really needed to carefully consider a load of variables in order to have any great success.

    I can remember killing off sub-par pets trying to get ones with better levels to spawn so that I had a small stable of appropriately strong pets that I could cycle though. I remember planning my pet swaps. I remember the uncertainty of uncharming my pet when the mob had the barest sliver of life left so that I could get the last shot in and get around the pet exp penalty, and I remember the times where I almost died (or did die) because of a string of horribly unlucky misses failed to take off that barest sliver. I can remember the times when everything ticked along like clockwork, the times where everything balanced on the edge of a knife, and the times where everything went to hell and conspired against me. I especially remember the times that I won by the skin of my teeth against all the odds.

    There was nothing else like it. And there still isn’t.

    Ahh, memory lane.


  16. Jack

    >>As a raid leader, god did I hate vanilla huntards and “every item is an upgrade for me” druids. But I agree, the original hunter class was a ton of fun solo or in a small group; hunting down the rare spawn pets was very unique to the class, which is what an MMO should contain.

    Good hunters in Vanilla wow could out damage almost anything without aggro problems in the molten core. Good pulling hunters could keep a group constantly killing with no down time and cut down instance/raid trash clearing times by a lot. Problem was 1% of hunters were good and 99% were huntards.

    The hunter epic quest was hard as hell and very worth it. I kept waiting for similar quests for my other toons but Blizzard gave up on the idea.

    The mobility of a hunter in PvP was outstanding. Some of the best PvP battles I’ve had in wow were either as a hunter or fighting against hunters. Just an all around great class before they killed it.


  17. Chaosrook

    I know I spent hours watching Television while camped in a specific tree south east of a particular coastal town in the barrens to get a very hard to get pet …Humar the Pride Lord for my dwarven hunter. This was back when you needed to be the same level as the pet so as not to die when trying to tame it, or not hving to level it up as you had mentioned. This was also back in the day where having a Cat mount as a Dwarf was something that I had to work on as one of the major accomplishments of the game.


  18. Drew

    Just duplicate Attic Lion’s comments about the FFXI Beastmaster (BST) here. What a wonderfully unique class and experience that was.


  19. Whorhay

    In EQ I started with a Ranger but ended up loving my Ogre Shaman far more, SoW, stat buffs, haste, slows, healing, and DoTs that though not as good as a Necro’s were plenty to solo with. The only down side being that you didn’t have Ports or Rezzes, and if you were solo’ing, everyone wanted you to come join a group.

    In WoW I played a Hunter to 60, then a Mage, before I tried my hand at a Fury Warrior and fell in love. I was a good DPS warrior and always brought Tanking gear in case I was needed to do that, I even carried a full set of Fire Resist gear to Molten Core with me.

    In SQG I did Master Smuggler first but ended up as a Commando for a long while. I ended up as a Master Doctor and Master Polearm, which I think was really the most fun.


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