demon hunter immolation

Initial Thoughts on World of Warcraft’s Demon Hunter

When Blizzard Entertainment first announced the Demon Hunter class for World of Warcraft, it was probably the most exciting time in the game’s history for the thirteen-year-old boy inside all of us. We finally get the chance to live out our dreams as the angsty rebel. The misunderstood antihero. We can now be our own Illidan Stormrage.

Of course, it won’t quite be like playing him in the Warcraft 3 campaign, or even Heroes of the Storm. Instead, there will be thousands of other Demon Hunter wannabes trying to steal our glory, and everyone else will cast us as either overpowered or undesirable. It’ll be similar to the launch of the Death Knight. Everyone thought they were going to be Arthas, and even though Death Knights are a fun class, it’s not quite the same.

demon hunter eye beam

Now that the Demon Hunter class is available for those who pre-ordered Legion, I think it’s safe to give an initial impression; at least on the class at level 100. Of course, anyone who’s had Closed Beta access or attended a number of Blizzard events has had the chance to play through the Demon Hunter starting area. This provided somewhat of an appetizer and overview of the skillset for the class, but it was in a vacuum. There was no way to see how the class would play in dungeons or raids; we simply got a taste for how they would do on solo quests.

Meeting Expectations

Attempting to live up to the Demon Hunter legacy was a very ambitious undertaking by Blizzard. However, I would say that the introductory questline definitely lived up to expectations. Not only do players get to directly assault the legion, but they get the chance to break out of the Vault of Wardens. Ever since the introduction of the Death Knight, Blizzard has increasingly improved the starting zones for new classes and races.

The Demon Hunter starting zone doesn’t fail to impress. Even if you don’t plan on having a Demon Hunter main character, it’s worth the couple hours to see what happened to the Illidari. While we’re on the topic of awesome starter quests, I would also recommend making a Death Knight if you never got around to it. If for no other reason than to play through the Ebon Hold questline.

Besides telling an excellent story, Demon Hunters play in a different manner than any other class currently in World of Warcraft. Of course they have a variety of standard damage and survival skills, but Demon Hunters have unrivaled mobility. Regardless of which specialization you choose, they have multiple, long-ranged gap closers on a relatively short cooldown. Furthermore, they can double jump and glide. Demon Hunters will turn Azeroth into their own parkour playground.

Wreaking Havoc

While leveling through the starting scenario, players will only have access to a couple of skills for the majority of the time. Eventually, they will have the option to choose between the Havoc and Vengeance specializations. Obviously, Havoc is the more DPS oriented class while Vengeance is setup for tanking. Demon Hunters do not have a third, or fourth, specialization like every other class in the game. According to the dev team, there simply wasn’t a reason to create a secondary DPS spec for Demon Hunters.

demon hunter havoc

Initially, I thought there would be nothing holding me back from wanting to main the Havoc specialization. It’s more in line with the traditional Demon Hunter ideals, it has tons of mobility, and it’s all about damage. Unfortunately, at level 100 it is one of the simplest classes in the game. The Demon Hunter is currently tuned as a level 110 class. That means that it doesn’t unlock all of its talents until the end game of Legion. This creates an obvious problem, as we’re still stuck in Warlords of Draenor for a couple of weeks, and the Illidari only have two talents unlocked.

Depending on what talents you pick, the Demon Hunter rotation could only consist of a couple of skills. Demon Blades, which I would highly not recommend, attaches your Fury generator to your auto attack. This makes it counterproductive to use any long animation abilities, like Eye Beam, and results in sitting there spamming Chaos Strike. The more logical talents, as of right now, consist of Fel Mastery and Prepared, which throw Fel Rush and Vengeful Retreat into the mix for the increased Fury generation.

Other than that, there are some fun abilities, such as Blade Dance (AoE + dodge) and Chaos Nova (5-second AoE stun), but the single-target boss rotations can become stale very quickly. This is especially so on restricted terrain where Fel Rush can put players in awkward positions or run them into harm’s way.

That being said, in the later talent tiers there are some really interesting abilities choices. At level 102, Bloodlet gives Throw Glaive a nice bleed effect and Fel Eruption at level 106 does massive damage against enemies who can’t be stunned. The final talent selection, at level 110, has a number of interesting choices; Chaos Blades temporarily boosts damage and turns auto attack into Chaos damage, Demonic allows for more frequent mini-metamorphasis transformations, and Fel Barrage gives Demon Hunters their own Arcane Missiles.

Even though the Havoc spec for Demon Hunters is a little lackluster at level 100, there are a lot of potentially interesting builds once Legion launches.

Full of Vengeance

On the opposite side of the spectrum is the Vengeance tanking specialization. When I first saw the concepts for the Demon Hunter tanking spec, I wasn’t particularly impressed despite being generally drawn toward tanking classes in MMORPGs. They looked like clunky abominations when compared with their agile, Havoc counterparts. However, looks can definitely be deceiving.

wow_vengeance_ demon hunter

Vengeance Demon Hunters feel like a combination of Guardian Druids and Death Knights. They dual-wield Warglaives, which reduces their defense from a shield offhand, but they can utilize both dodge and parry. Furthermore, the Fel Blood mastery reduces physical damage taken and Demonic Wards reduces magic damage while significantly boosting armor and stamina.

This means that healers should expect Demon Hunters to be constantly taking damage during fights similar to a Death Knight. Moreover, Demon Hunters also have access to a number of defensive abilities and a reliable selfheal. The Pain resource is based on damage dealt and received and is required to use Soul Cleave, which does frontal damage and provides a heal. Unlike Death Knights, however, there aren’t any offensive abilities competing for Pain and that should allow a very regular use of Soul Cleave. In addition to the healing ability, Demon Spikes increase parry while reducing physical damage and Empower Wards reduces magical damage.

Now the Vengeance spec isn’t simply about being a giant punching bag. In fact, it’s important for Demon Hunters to do a lot of damage in order to hold aggro. This is especially true for any potentially undergeared tanks because they only have a single-target taunt on an 8-second cooldown. In addition to soaking up a lot of damage, Demon Hunter tanks can also dish it out, and so far it seems like they specialize in area-of-effect damage.

While the variety of skills currently available to the Vengeance spec isn’t mind shattering, it still beats out Havoc. There are currently 4 skills that can be used to hold aggro against multiple mobs: Sigil of Flame, Soul Cleave, Immolation, and Throw Glaive. Technically, Infernal Strike also does AoE damage, but it’s best not to waste movement abilities on damage. None of these abilities has a particularly long cooldown, which is essential to generating threat against multiple targets, and also does quite a bit of damage.

The Vengeance talents consist of a combination of increased damage, damage reduction, and healing. The options we’re given so far are pretty basic and include things like increasing immolation damage or the heal on Soul Cleave. Later on, there are a lot more interesting choices like a revive with demon form attached and Fel Devastation, which unleashes massive damage while healing the player. Even with the limited amount of talents right now, it’s still just as fun to play as most of the other tanking classes.

Should You Play a Demon Hunter?

The decision to play a Demon Hunter is really up to personal preference, but I highly recommend it. Everyone should at least play through the starting missions because they fill in a lot of gaps regarding the story of the Illidari. Will you understand what’s going on in Legion if you don’t play a Demon Hunter? Probably, but parts of it might not have as much meaning. Furthermore, it will be interesting to see if the choices we made have any real effect later in the game.

However, if you’re only looking for a crazy high-skillcap DPS class to play then you should probably look elsewhere. As of right now, the Havoc spec is fairly basic and doesn’t necessarily look like it will get that much more complicated in the future. On the other hand, Vengeance is already a pretty fun tanking class and something I will definitely give a shot once Legion arrives.

Have you played either Demon Hunter specializations yet? We’d like to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

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About Nick Shively

Nick is an eSports and RPG enthusiast. He can normally be found in the deepest parts of a dungeon or in the arena slaying opponents. Nick has been a gamer since an early age and involved in the industry since 2011. He obtained a degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2015.