I’ve just started playing the Battle for Azeroth beta. For an eternal World of Warcraft fangirl like myself, it’s about the most fun I can have with my clothes on. I haven’t been able to test out a lot of actual quests yet (at the time of writing, the intro quests into both Zandalar and Kul Tiras are bugged) but I have been able to look around and marvel at some of the sights in the incredible new zones we’ll be exploring, as well as get a feel for the changes to my pet favourite class, the same class I main – Beast Mastery Hunter.

And, while I’m as excited as everyone else for patch 8.0, the BFA pre-patch that will bring us class changes as well as a range of other things to help us prepare for the expansion’s launch, which will probably go live on 17 or 18 July, but you didn’t hear that from me. And yet, I can’t help but feel a deep amount of regret as, with the end of Legion, I say goodbye to the one thing I loved Legion most for – the way I interacted with my pets.

Years ago, when I first started playing World of Warcraft (on a friend’s account at the time), I saw the class where you could have pets and I knew that was the class for me. And one day, I saw a hunter with Loque’nahak and I knew I that was the pet for me. So I found out you had to be a Beast Mastery Hunter if you wanted to tame him, and that was it. I’ve mained a Beast Master Hunter ever since.

My own, tamed Loque’nahak. Omg.

When I finally got my own account, I had one goal and one goal only – Loque’nahak. The moment I reached the level where I could tame him, I started camping. My friend laughed at me and told me I should just focus on getting to max level, and worry about stupid pets later. I didn’t care. I’d wanted Loque from the first moment I saw him, and nothing else mattered. When I got him, it was one of the best days of my WoW life.

At one point, playing a BMH was considered so ludicrous, I’d get kicked from or yelled at in dungeons. I’ve even had strangers whispering me in Orgrimmar to tell me how silly I was for playing BMH when Survival (I think it was Survival) was so much better. At another point, BMHes were so OP we were sought out by guilds, and my own guild even got me to raid with them for awhile. Marksmanship has been the best spec. Survival has been the best spec. Beast Mastery has been the best spec. I’ve lived through being told I’m playing the most boring spec, the easiest spec, the best spec, the worst spec. I’ve never cared. I play a BMH for my pets. I always have.

Fast forward several years. Loque’nahak was no longer the pet that, when strangers saw you with him, they’d whisper you with an “OMG WHERE DID YOU GET THAT PET IT’S AMAZING”. Now, he was the pet almost every BMH had, because we’re all special snowflakes who are also exactly the same together. I wanted to use other pets, but I always missed Loque and wound up switching back to him. Loque represented the reason why I played my class and spec. He represented days of camping. He represented the first big challenge I set for myself in WoW, and accomplishing that challenge. Loque mattered to me.

Then something really amazing happened. Stampede allowed me to summon my five active pets. For the first time, I could see Loque regularly enough to still feel like he’s always there, always ready to come when I called, but I could also have four other pets to get emotionally attached to. I could match my pet to my transmog (my goblin in Valorous Scourgestalker Battlegear looked badass with my red Direhorn at my side). It was the best time.

And then, one day, after a bit of a hiatus, I came back to WoW, used Stampede, and watched in horror as strange, ugly pets I didn’t know ran across my screen. The spell had been changed to just summon random pets. I was devastated. My triceratops, along with the three other carefully selected pets I had chosen to see regularly, went back into my stable, and Loque’nahak became my one active pet once more.

Never getting over this change to Stampede. Why? Why replace five of my own, carefully chosen pets, with generic, ugly pets like these? Why?

And then something even more amazing happened. Legion came out. And with it, TWO PETS. TWO ACTIVE PETS. I’d never been more excited in my life. Here was something I’ve always wanted as a BMH, and it was given to me. And then, to make it even better, I also had Dire Beast which, if you got the right glyph, lets you sometimes summon pets from your own stable instead of random pets.

I was in my element. For the first time, having a stable of carefully chosen, hand-selected favourite pets really mattered. Not only would I be able to regularly see Loque while playing around with matched sets of pets (my favourite being the mechanical bunny and squirrel), I could also see other pets I loved but rarely got to see as well. BMH in Legion has felt like Blizzard finally gets it – how much my pets matter to me. How much every pet in my stable matters to me. And I could finally see Loque regularly enough to still always have that reminder of my first, most loved pet, but without feeling like I either have to have him out all the time, or never see him.

I was hoping, tentatively, that BFA would bring some minor improvements. I heard that we’d still be able to have two active pets, but that we’d be able to have them be our own, named pets, instead of being forced to have one pet named Hati. Finally! Not only matched pets, but matched names! One problem with the Dire Stable glyph is that it still sometimes called random pets I don’t know or like or want to see, and that it sometimes calls the turtle I feel like I have to have in my stable but don’t actually like. I hoped perhaps we could get a version where we can choose exactly which pets would be called – possibly even say there’s a pet (Loque!) I’d like to see most of.

Instead, I will be forced between seeing pets from my stable regularly, or having two pets out at the same time. When I found that out, it honestly broke my heart. And, having played the beta myself, I have to admit there’s a sad, forlorn longing for a thing from WoW’s past that I’ve never felt before.

I love this game. I’m not going to declare that my class has been ruined and that I regret pre-purchasing Battle for Azeroth and that I’m never going play again. I can’t wait for BFA and there’s no chance of me stopping playing soon. But still, I feel genuinely sad that something so important to me is being taken away. This isn’t about numbers or DPS or raiding or anything. It’s about having a stable full of pets I care about, and certain pets I love a great deal, and wanting to be able to play with them all.

I have eleven 110 characters. Three of them are Beast Mastery Hunters – my old main, my new main, and a failed Ironman I’m going to faction change so that I can play through the Alliance storyline in BFA. The rest are other classes – Warlock, Death Knight, Demon Hunter, Monk, Mage, Rogue, Warrior, Priest. I play them all. I love them all. I don’t play a BMH because I can’t play another class, because of the DPS or the rotation, because it’s the easiest or least challenging or does a lot of damage. I play a BMH for the pets – always have, always will. My pets matter more to me than raiding, than gear, than DPS, than anything, really.

Not everyone is like me. Some only want one pet, and that’s fine, but people who only want one pet also don’t want a “zoo build” – they don’t want to use Dire Beast to summon random pets any more than having a second active pet – so to make those of us who want to see our whole stable choose doesn’t make sense to me.

I’m excited for Battle for Azeroth. I am. Legion has been a wonderful expansion, but it’s over now. I would never try keep the game in the past. But at the same time, I can’t help already look forward to a time when some of the decisions made in BFA are a thing of the past. I really hope, with all my heart, we see a change to this forced choice between two favourite pets and getting to occasionally see every pet, and that we see it soon.

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