To the PVE hunter, Focus can seem perfectly fine. It satisfies the costs of a rotation. It requires enough management to be interesting but not enough to be distracting. It can largely be considered a successful class change on Blizzard’s part. But many PVP hunters think otherwise. The official forums are riddled with threads about issues related to hunter PVP and almost ubiquitous among them is the complaint that Focus is fundamentally flawed in PVP. Why is this argued?
Focus is generated in three ways: passive regeneration, cooldowns and gains resulting from successful Steady and Cobra Shots. Cooldowns (Rapid Recuperation, Roar of Recovery and Fervor) are too infrequent and too finite to provide sustaining levels of Focus. The passive regeneration rate (including Thrill of the Hunt, Termination and Invigoration) is far too low to supply anything close to the Focus required for good DPS or meaningful pressure. Basically, Steadies and/or Cobras are necessary for a Focus gain rate that is adequate and sustainable. Consequently, when a hunter is prevented from firing Steady or Cobra Shots, she is prevented from maintaining levels of damage on par with other classes. This is rarely an issue in PVE thanks to Aspect of the Fox; why should PVP be any different?
The answer rests largely in the fact that by having Focus regeneration tied to our shots, our resource gains are hurt by anything that negates, slows or preempts successful shots. Examples include our minimum range, line of sight, and sources of complete mitigation like Ice Block. If a target runs within the min range: reduced to passive regen. If the target runs behind a pillar: reduced to passive regen. If the target pops a bubble: reduced to passive regen.
Additionally troublesome is the fact that Steady and Cobra Shots have cast times. They can be slowed by attack and cast speed increases. They can be seen and thereby preempted. They also perform two checks regarding whether a target meets the criteria of being beyond minimum range and being in line of sight: once at the start of the cast and once at the end of it. This makes pillar skirting and min range humping powerful tactics for denying hunters both shots in the present and the resources to fire other shots in the future. These tactics often combine in the sense that if you chase someone around a pillar to stay in line of sight, you necessarily end up getting closer to them and they can then simply min range hump you instead.
Skilled hunters of course know how to snare, root, kite, stay at range and switch targets to avoid or lessen some of these issues. But skilled enemies know how to use terrain and the hunter’s minimum range to their advantage against hunter limitations. The issue is not that hunters lose all shot-derived Focus regen in PVP; it’s that they lose enough to be at a real disadvantage compared to other classes that have no such issues with their resource system and who can afford to pay for their abilities whenever they are otherwise able to use them. Hunters are not balanced such that they deal more damage when they have Focus to make up for this; they either deal normal damage with Focus or below normal damage when prevented from generating it.
Why doesn’t Blizzard fix this? Blizzard is constrained on a few fronts. The first is the PVP-PVE balance. They can’t buff Focus to alleviate PVP issues without overpowering Focus in PVE where it already works fine. This, to my mind, is the primary stumbling block; Focus is fundamentally problematic in PVP and fundamentally okay in PVE, leaving Blizzard without an easy or simple fix. A second front is that they want to keep Focus interesting. Focus’s gimmick is that it is generated in large part through shots. If they were to make Focus entirely passive it would lose its distinctiveness and indeed become quite boring, like Runic Power without Runes or Energy without Combo Points. This means that Blizzard is very unlikely to make Focus more functional in PVP by simpifying it. A third front is that they just made a massive overhaul to our resource system half a year ago. They’re probably not interested in overhauling it again anytime soon.
Our resource system is simply awkward for PVP, and it leaves hunters in a position where our longtime weaknesses (min range, pillars, etc.) are now hurting us doubly, not just on damage up front like always but also in resources down the line. This is not to say that hunters are utterly helpless. We’re not. Hunters can indeed do well in Arenas and RBGs when played with skill. It is more the case that our resource system places us under an additional handicap: success is not precluded, but more work is required than with other classes in order to achieve it.