Beast mastery is a fan favorite. It was also unbalanced for the first part of this expansion, and got nerfed hard in patch 3.0.8. After that patch, the majority of people who played BM in a raiding environment were people who really liked the playstyle, and had more skill with it than they did using another spec. All the “fair weather” beast masters moved on to survival, and then marks, and now, it seems, back to survival. All this while, however, beast mastery has been getting small buffs to bring it back into the fold of “raid viability” (which I define as being at a point where you are not asked to respec if your guild is hitting the enrage timer on a boss).
The first steps have already been taken, and some of the die-hard BM enthusiasts have already started to give the fair weather players a run for their money. The next step is live on the PTR, and while that doesn’t mean it’s coming for sure, I’d not bet against it:
According to mmo-champion, the beast within now gets an additional 30% mana cost reduction to spells cast while it’s active, in addition to the 20% it already has.
This enrage is going through some interesting changes- it had to be changed to reduce it’s overpowering force in arena, so they reduced its duration to 10 seconds and added a passive 10% to hunter DPS that works even when you’re not enraged. This ended up being a slight PvE buff [edit: added link]. 10% of about half your damage is slightly better than 8 more seconds of enrage time per use of bestial wrath. This buff came at a cost, however, of mana. The amount of time you could save 20% on your shots was reduced. And that brings us to today’s discovery: increasing from 20% to 50% mana savings while enraged more than makes up for the lower enrage time in terms of mana. Now it’s a slight PvE buff with no strings attached. Except you can’t make a beast cleave arena team any more.
Of course, all this analysis is comparing raw DPS throughput on a fight like patchwerk. All current content has encounters that bias toward one spec or another. Yogg and faction champions are fights where BM does well (because of DPS continuance through gaze avoidance and the enrage breaking all the same CC as a trinket), but the twin val’kyr is biased against them (since our pets do not benefit directly from the DPS buffs we can collect). Comparing specs is not a science, and the only benchmark we can use doesn’t reflect many of the encounters we currently play.