Once upon a time, there was a young hunter questing in Azeroth. It wasn’t long, though, before she became very lonely. She wanted a companion, a partner to help her defeat her foes. She began searching for a pet, but it had to be the perfect pet.
Finally, she found it, stalking its prey on the other side of some bushes. She approached the beast slowly, not wanting to startle it. It saw her, and she began speaking to it calmly, trying to coax it toward her. The beast attacked her, but the hunter continued speaking to it in a calm and soothing voice, willing it to yield. Finally, the beast lay down in the grass, rested its head on its front paws, and looked up at her with big, apologetic eyes.
From that point on, the hunter and her pet were inseparable. She gave him a name, after thinking long and hard about it, fed him, and bound his wounds. In return, he accompanied her on all her missions, taking many a blow for her. They quested into the sunset and lived happily ever after.
Now try substituting a Warlock, an Unholy Death Knight, or even a Mage or Shaman into the above situation. Doesn’t quite work, does it? That’s because hunters as a class have a unique bond with their pets, and I think it’s safe to say that hunters are the only true pet class.
First, think of the complexity of pet ownership for hunters. At level 10, we are faced with the task of taming a pet, but first we have to choose a pet, and boy, do we have a lot of choices. Once we have obtained a pet, we have to increase and maintain its happiness or it won’t give us its full damage potential. Also… remember back before patch 3 point something or other, if we didn’t keep our pets happy they’d run away! Imagine a Voidwalker saying, “Screw this! I’m going back to the void.”
We also have the additional task of naming our pets. Spend some time reading hunter forums, and you’ll discover just how much thought hunters put into their pets’ names! Some hunters even choose to give their pets a name that goes along with the hunter’s name. I named one of my pets after my dog!
Once some of this initial pet stuff is out of the way, hunters can focus on the continuous pet management required as they level. Aside from keeping pets fed and happy (although changes have made this part pretty trivial), hunters must level their pets (also trivial, unless you have more than one), spend their pets’ talent points, and possibly obtain new pets for different situations. We have to know when to send our pets into battle, when to keep them by our sides, when to heal them, and which abilities they should auto-cast. Sometimes, it’s almost like playing two characters.
Compare hunters to other so-called pet classes. While Warlocks have a choice of pets, they can choose only from a pre-determined set of pre-named pets. Death Knights have even less of a choice, and like Warlocks, their pets are pre-named. However, death knights’ pets have a different name each time they are summoned, implying that it’s a different pet each time. Definitely no time for bonding there. Both of these classes also need reagents to summon their pets, which makes them more minions than pets.
Second, let’s look at the bond between a hunter and his or her pet. How many of you still have the first pet you ever tamed? I know I do. He may be stabled right now, but that’s only because he’s a tanking pet that I used for leveling and soloing.
On the other hand, how many of you have ever abandoned a pet? I never have. Even when I switched from beast mastery to survival once I hit 80, I stabled my exotic pets with hopes of questing with them again in the future should I ever re-spec. And we’ve all felt that pang of sadness and guilt when we see our pet’s lifeless body lying there as a reminder of our neglect (damn you, Ick, and your poison nova!).
I simply couldn’t imagine playing a hunter without a pet, or even playing with a pet that plays a less significant role, as is the case with warlocks and death knights. When you return from a dungeon wipe, raid wipe or a solo death (or any other situation where your pet is auto-dismissed), what’s the first thing you do? I’m going to guess that you call your pet. It’s just weird seeing your hunter all alone on the screen; it doesn’t seem right.
Of course, Blizzard designed the hunter class with pets as an important mechanic. But there’s something more, something psychological, going on there, too. We hunters just love our pets, whether Blizzard intended it that way or not. 🙂