Wednesday, December 16, 2009

One of THOSE posts

So it's been a couple weeks since I've posted.  The reason lies, as it so often does, in real life.  After two years of on-again, off-again temp work in Florida, I moved to the Twin Cities in Minnesota and got a full-time, permanent position.  And while I'm thankful to have a job, a place to live, and a bed to sleep on, I'm getting up very early and working a lot of hours.  I've been habitually late to raids and often performing poorly when I'm there, in large part because I'm just so freaking tired.  I've had to make the difficult decision to step down from raiding in general, which means Prathi is mostly getting shelved.
This is kinda sad for me - I was really excited about the set bonuses on hunter T10! - but I just can't make the time to raid right now.  I really, simply can't.  And that means I'm not doing the research, raiding, and reading to make it possible for me to write this blog.  I'll be leaving it up - and I think I'm going to update the gear guide now that triumph emblems fall from heroic bosses like delicious candy - but I think Piercing Shots will be on hold until, at least, Cataclysm.
That said, I haven't stopped playing entirely.  I've got a poor neglected disc priest that's having a lot of fun with the random dungeon feature.  And thank you to the two people that have written emails recently!  I'm sorry for being so silent.  For Nicoran - the only way I can think of a pet grabbing aggro off of a tank is if the tank hadn't actually hit it.  Make sure your pet is set to passive (/petpassive) and wait until an avenger's shield (or whatever) has hit the boss before you ctrl+1.  Remember that some bosses have aggro wipes as well, and a pet with dash on could conceivably get back in and bite the boss before the tank had re-established aggro.  If this is happening on a boss without an aggro wipe and well into the fight, then... something's going wrong.  Maybe a mischievous rogue is trixing pets?  I dunno.
Anyway, I hope everyone has a happy holiday!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cooldown Management

Warcraft Hunter's Union and OutDPS recently interviewed Kripparrian and wrote a couple posts about cooldowns as a result of that interview. The WHU post is here and the OutDPS post is here. These are some great posts, but they definitely create some difficulties for me. There is of course the obvious problem with taking Furious Howl off of auto-cast: that's sort of an annoying additional ability to manage for the length of a boss fight, especially if you're trying to match it up with greatness procs. It's also pretty much impossible to model something like that within the confines of a simulator like the spreadsheet or Female Dwarf, so it's hard to know how much - if any - benefit you'd see from the additional overhead. When you get down to it, though, cooldown/proc matching isn't really the thing I'm worried about.
See, I've been popping all my cooldowns at the start of fights, which is fine, but I've been using Berserking along with everything else. I've been well aware that I'm not seeing any benefit to my steady shots from using both at once - the fastest you can get with those is 1.5s, or the speed of the global cooldown. Auto shot will still see a benefit, though, so I've been thinking that the gains in auto shot damage would outweigh the wasted haste as far as steady shot is concerned. On the other hand, my trinket cooldown is shorter than my rapid fire/readiness cooldown combo, so it's conceivable that I could save Berserking for the second AP trinket use.
This possibility raises the spectre of the (for me) dreaded action bar and keybind bloat monster. The reality is that I already have three rows of action bars scaled down and tucked into a niche in my UI and I'm running out of keybinds I can conveniently hit while I'm running away from fire. If I split my cooldowns macro into two different macros, where do I put the second macro?  Maybe I should make one or more of my current action bars invisible to create space for more seldom-used abilities to be on screen, since I'm more likely to actually have to look at them. But then I need to figure out a way to solve the binding dilemma. I really do have almost everything on my keyboard and mouse bound. I could move to alt- and control- combos, but I often struggle to hit those during tense moments when I have to be running at the same time.
I guess what I don't want to admit to myself is that I'm probably going to have to spend the time to totally redo my keybinds. I'll have to re-think which abilities I use the most and put them on 1-6 and then re-train my fingers to use those keybinds. I'll have to finally get around to copying an intelligent macro that calls, mends, or revives my pet as appropriate. Sigh!  At least this might be the impetus I need to make my UI a little prettier.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Well, I was first in damage done for heroic Beasts and second (within a tenth of a percent of first) for heroic Faction Champions last night, so that's done a lot to restore my confidence in my ability to not suck.  I did, however, do terribly on Jaraxxus, especially compared to the other hunter in the raid.  Looking at abilities used over the course of the fight, I did less of pretty much everything than the other hunter, so I think my problem is excessive movement.  I'm not sure if I'm positioning myself poorly and that's causing unnecessary movement or if I'm just running too much.  We'll probably start tonight by clearing ToC25 normal real quick, so I'll try to keep myself from moving unless absolutely necessary and see how I do.
I also tamed one of the tan wolves from Mulgore today.  When wolves first became big I went to Terrokkar and got Ironjaw, but over time I've come to sort of dislike his tusks and coloration.  Leveling a new pet is mildly annoying, but will be worth it looking better.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The curse of DPS

I think probably the most significant stressor for a DPS player, especially us pure DPS classes, is that we really have nothing to hide behind when we perform poorly.  Damage meters are right there on World of Logs after the raid, and unless you had a specific responsibility to take care of during the fight, there's nothing more to say.  You either did good damage or you didn't.  Tanks and healers have difficult, stressful jobs too, but I think it's fair to say that there's no single, objective measuring stick for those roles.  Evaluating a tank or healer's performance on a given fight is always going to be more involved and more complex than "this one has the biggest number!"
I am personally pretty disappointed about my November 10 performance, even though it was just a ToC25-normal farm night.  The new guild was nice enough to give me a couple nice upgrades before the raid, and my damage-done numbers didn't reflect those upgrades like they ought to have.  Looking at the logs afterward was pretty depressing, and it always takes my brain a bit to stop flailing uselessly and start trying to figure out what I could have done better.  Getting a handle on that flailing and coming up with solutions is an important part of things, though, so here's what I've come up with:
  • Most importantly, double-check my DPS assignments with the class lead.  The new guild does some things differently from the old guild, of course, and I think I spent time (for example) DPSing targets that didn't have melee debuffs on them.  DPSing the correct targets should yield improvement.
  • Remember that I've appointed myself the IHM/GoHM hunter, and as such, the other hunter can optimize his glyphs and spec because I'm covering the mark.  Assuming equal gear levels, he should be at least a little ahead of me.  I'm only really in trouble if he's way ahead of me.
  • Depending on fight, reign in my ctrl+1 reflexes.  By which I mean I have a really strong habit of having my dog attack whatever I'm targeting, even on Gormok or Jaraxxus, where it makes more sense for him to stay in melee and consistently DPS one target the entire time.
If I can keep this stuff in mind for the next raid, I should be more in line with the DPS I'd expect from a hunter at my gear level and that, in turn, should help me recover my DPS self esteem.  I think it can be important to remember this sort of stuff as a hunter.  I felt pretty bad looking at logs after a guild run where no one has said anything negative to me.  If you're a player that pugs a lot of raids, the sort of chest-thumping mouth breathers that like to boast about VoA performance can make things pretty miserable.  Keep in mind that you know your gear, class, and latency better than that warrior tank does.  Keep expectations for yourself reasonable, look for improvement where you can, and don't sweat the socially maladjusted troglodytes.  And if anyone would like to share their strategies or stories about confidence recovery, I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Man!  It's been an exciting couple of days in terms of "woah my blog thing exists".
  1. I've gotten a couple comments!
  2. And an email!
  3. And been linked twice in one day on WoW Ladies!
The email was a short one asking for my thoughts on focus.  In short: I'm totally excited about the focus change.  Hunters are a physical DPS class, and having our mechanics depend on blue rage has just always been weird.  I've heard it rumored (although I can't back this up) that the original hunter design used focus or energy of some sort.  They couldn't figure out how to balance it (not that vanilla was balanced) before release and the use of mana was a kludge.
I mean, what other caster has a white-damage swing timer?  What other class in BC was required to DPS with a macro such that its casting-time ability didn't interfere too much with its auto-attack?  Who else had to farm and chain-chug Fel Mana Potions?  Which other caster mortal strikes its own damage as a mana regen mechanic?  It's all just weird.  Our mana management technique consists of "max DPS until you're out of mana, then viper for as little time as is possible".  It's not fun and it doesn't add anything to the class.
From what I've heard/read, they're thinking of maybe changing steady shot to grant you a short-duration buff that increases focus regeneration.  That alone is way cooler and bodes for way more dynamic DPS button-mashing than anything we do right now.   Like rogues and warriors we'll be able to blow our potion cooldown on haste or crit pots instead of mana  pots, while long fights won't punish us uniquely.  Resource management will be an ongoing mini-game for the course of the boss fight, rather than hitting a brick wall and having to awkwardly heave ourselves over it with AotV.
I am excited about the next expansion overall, and for me, the focus change is just another example of everything they're talking about doing right.  It's always possible to screw things up, of course, but so far it looks great. Here's a great thread with a bunch of posts from GC explaining the vision behind the focus change.  I agree with pretty much everything he says here and I think his posts provide a ton of insight.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

More gear stuff + a quick tip

Does anyone out there know of a handy way to link or embed bits of spreadsheets - especially Open Office ones - into blogger posts?  Because it would be really handy.  I just finished comparing the gearset in this post to one that swapped the T9 chest and gloves for the crafted chest and the leather gloves from the previous post.  According to femaledwarf, the 4pc T9 bonus beats out the increased armor pen gearset by about 66 DPS.  This leaves me in a rare condition of indecision, because 600 AP for a Marks hunter's pet seems like an underwhelming bonus, while all that armor pen on the other gearset seems awesome.  Heck, I've got more armor pen in my current gear than my non-heroic BiS gearset has, and my current stuff is all kinds of out of date.  It really seems like I should be wearing the heavy armor pen stuff - it is all the rage, right?  And that T9 bonus is pretty bad.  But still, the spreadsheet thinks the bonus is worth it.  Mysterious!
Anyway, apologies for the short, fairly contentless post.  I have been meaning to mention the "stutter run" for a little while.  Stutter running is a technique to squeeze a few more auto shots out of movement-heavy fights.  A good example of when it's useful is legion flame on Jaraxxus.  A lot of people tend to run continuously for the entire time they have the debuff, but the fire only spawns every couple seconds.  So if you watch your auto shot timer, you can move out of the first fire that drops, wait for an auto shot to fire, then move again.  You can use this when repositioning around the moving worms in beasts, moving out of the way of predictable boss AoE, so on and so forth.  It's not really complicated or tough or anything, but it's something you can do to try to get a little more damage out of times you're forced to move.
If you're wondering why I haven't been putting as much time into the blog for the past couple weeks, it's because I've started a new job, and the hours are pretty long.  Hopefully I'll get into more of a rhythm and resume writing posts worth reading!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Quick note before I go to work

I've been looking at the armories of other hunters, especially Marks hunters, and I think I'm going to be eating some of my words.  I do this pretty often, where I see a new piece of gear with a stat I don't like (in this case the haste on the Crusaders Dragonscale Breastplate) and denounce it.  Later I think about it more, and I notice that there are some nice leather gloves from ToC10, and reconsider my stance on the crafted chest piece.  I'm going to spend some time putting together more gearsets to compare tonight, but I'm thinking I could very easily be reversing my stance on the crafted mail and my insistence on 4pc T9 for hunters.  It's really beginning to look like T9 pants + hat with crafted chest and leather gloves from ToC10 may be the way to go.

Also, who knew this was going to turn into a gear blog?  I am a pretty serious nerd, I guess.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Reposting a guest post!

Hi everyone!  I've got a couple ideas for posts kicking around in my head, and at the very least I can explain what people mean by "stutter-run," but I couldn't manage to turn any of them into a coherent post yet.  So to buy myself a little time, I'm re-posting a guest post I did for World of Snarkcraft.  It's awkward because, while I raided with them at the time, I moved servers and guilds recently.  But I don't have anything else written, so here goes:
At the end of August I had to move.  I won't go in to any great length about why I had to move, but one of the results was that I had to give up playing WoW until I'd settled some things.  Some things have now settled, so I renewed my sub last night.  I didn't do a whole lot – I said hi to the guildies that were on and did a quick heroic ToC-5.  WoW looked a lot prettier than it used to, but I'm not sure if that's innacurate memory or what.  It was mostly just nice to play a little again.
In a sad confirmation of stereotype, one of the things I've been missing has been upgrading my gear.  We all know and love that warm, internal glow from finally getting a shiny new purple.  It's a little bit like the glow a chronic gambling addict gets from their infrequent payouts, I think.  Especially because the longer you go without it, the warmer it is when you finally get another taste.  And man if it hasn't been a while since I had a taste, you know?  I've replaced two things since before the first time I killed Yogg-Saron in the middle of the Summer, both the rings, neither of which came from a 25-person raid.
I'm not sure exactly when I'm going to be able to return to raiding, but it's going to taste pretty sweet when I do.  Especially since I'm sure the rest of the guild is swimming in 245 gear at this point.  Imagine the situation like this: it's a kid's birthday, and he's in the back yard with all his friends.  There's a pinata full of his favorite candy – maybe some kit-kats – and all of his friends are stuffed full of hotdogs, chips, cake, and soda.  They're lying on the ground in a disordered, groaning semi-circle.  You hear the whoosh sound of him swinging the stick a few times, then a sharp crack followed by an avalanche of crinkling wrappers.  Giggling quietly, he scoops up the candy and runs upstairs to stash it in his room.
That's going to be me in the Coliseum.
Distinctly second in the list of stuff I've been missing is the people.  Ha-ha!  Just kidding!  As an emotionally healthy human adult, of course I value interpersonal relationships far more than I value pixels named with purple text.
Has anyone else ever heard a saying that goes something like “if you tell a lie to yourself enough times, you might begin to believe it”?
I'm not sure if that's true.  But, moving on!
I really have missed my guildies, seriously.  Reading Snarkcraft has been the cause of some occasional wistfulness, because it reminds me that I haven't been able to hang out with Seri and Jov, both of whom are pretty excellent ladies.  Axiom is just in general a really fun environment to raid with.  Making fun of the raid leader, making fun of Crutches (can I just say that the Hammer of Ancient Kings is apropos for him), misdirecting bombs onto the druid co-GM, pulling off the tank and wiping the raid in the first 5 seconds of an attempt (my specialty!), imagining the female Orc warrior Kerp speaking with the male Polack voice of her player, just on and on.  It has really been a drag missing out on all of that for a month.
On the other hand, there have been compensations.  This has been a really great way to get out of doing dailies and otherwise farming consumables.  Dragonfin Angelfish, for example, is pretty much never available for sale anywhere ever.  Saving myself the outrage over the prices for alchemy mats has also probably done wonders for my blood pressure.  And can I just say that I could happily live the tortured, immortal existence of an Anne Rice vampire just so long as I never, ever had to encounter the trade channel.  Sadly, that boat has sailed, so no lace and black velvet for me.
For real though, everyone: none of it is funny any more.  None of it.  Any joke you were going to make in trade?  It isn't funny.  Every time you say “anal” and then link an ability or item, it actually creates a hole in the universe.  These holes – and there are, by now, trillions of them – vacuum up and destroy the elementary particle of human joy, known as the “fabulon”*.  Relentlessly and forever.  They don't go away, people.  Now that we've made them, they're going to be here until the heat-death of the Universe.  And while it's true that kittens and puppies generate fabulons at a steady rate, we are rapidly approaching the point at which the holes will be depleting them faster than they can be replaced.  Please, think of the children.
*Entirely different from the god worshipped by the shadowy cult of Naga known only as “The Bravo Demographic”.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mod Configuration: Watcher

In the Burning Crusade, hunters needed one button.  In my case, it was the 3 button, and you would laugh at the difficulties that caused.  I actually bound that action bar button to a fourth button on my mouse, and I would alternate between pressing that button with my right thumb and pressing "3" with right and left index fingers.  Oh my god I hated long fights in the blistering and cramping they caused.  I actually in large part loved Archimonde (even though melee destroyed me on the meters) because it gave me so much extra stuff to do.
Thankfully, those days are behind us, and hunters actually use a few different buttons these days.  This, of course, introduced some new difficulties of its own.  When I first came back to the game and did a Naxx10, I stared at the timers on my action bars and tried to manage a Survival priority system with nothing else.  I actually managed 3k DPS on Patch10 wearing BoE 80 blues and 70 raid gear, which isn't terrible, but the more I raided that way, the more I hated it.  I didn't actually do anything to fix it, though, until I saw my boyfriend setting up his UI to play offspec ret on his holydin.  He found this mod - and I can't remember what it was called - where he set up a simple priority list.  Then the mod would display a large icon of which ability he should be using at that second, with a smaller icon to the right of the next ability he would be using.  If a higher priority ability came off of cooldown during the global cooldown (or rare cast time), the "on deck" icon would change.
It was an epiphany, and the second he finished showing me how it worked, I went back to my computer to find something similar.  The eyestrain-eliminating mod I found was Watcher.
I'll begin by quickly summarizing what the mod is intended to do.  It's pretty simple: first, you set your own shot priorities in the mod's configuration screens.  Then it shows you when those abilities are going to come off of cooldown in an intuitive, scrolling timeline fashion.  It also prioritizes them according to your settings, stacking lower priorities behind higher priorities.  Here's a shot of the mod in action:

Here's what you're seeing in this screen shot:
  • The dark gray vertical bar to the right is where abilities will "stack up".  When an ability's icon reaches this bar, it's off cooldown.
  • The light gray horizontal bar on the bottom is the timeline.  This counts down your cooldowns for you.  I have it set to go out 6 seconds, so I have time to plan what I'm going to do.
  • The icons for Chimera and Aimed Shot are showing how far out those abilities are.  CS will be available in 1.8 seconds, while AiS will be available in 2.6.  The global cooldown is 1.5s, so the rule to follow is: "don't fire a steady shot if you've got a high-priority ability 1.5 seconds or fewer away".
  • You can also see that CS is "behind" AiS, which indicates that Aimed is a higher priority ability.  In this case, however, I would probably choose to go with CS - CS actually does more damage, Aimed's priority is higher because, over the course of a long fight, you're hoping to outweigh lost Chimera Shots with gained Aimed Shots.  If AiS is .8s behind CS, though, I'm just going to use CS.
Next, a shot of the first configuration screen:

Here's what you're seeing in this one, leaving out the self-explanatory stuff:
  • "Bar Scale" is set to 1 because I liked the default size, but you could scale it up and down to make the whole thing bigger or smaller without changing the length of time shown on the timeline.
  • "Alpha" is another word for transparency.  An alpha of "1" is completely opaque, while an alpha of "0" is completely transparent.  I chose an alpha of .5 so it's easy to see, but doesn't obscure the screen behind it.  I've since chosen to set "Background Alpha" to 0, since I only care about the timeline and ability icons.
  • "Max Time" is the number of seconds out the timeline will go.  I've found six to be a good fit for me, but experimentation can't hurt.
  • "Interval", as far as I can tell, sets the first time mark.  Since 1.5s is the length of the GCD, that's what I've chosen.
  • I use Quartz to watch my swing timer and GCD, so I have them disabled here.
And the last shot:

Here's the all-important screen where you set your shot priorities, so there's no bulleted list here.  I've chosen a Survival list here, just because it illustrates how things work better.  I've got Kill Shot as my top priority, because it does more damage than anything else.  Explosive, as my primary damaging ability, is second.  Black Arrow, as my source of LnL procs, edges out AiS, since Aimed is just not very important to SV damage while BA is.  Last listed is AiS.
I've left two things off of this list: Serpent Sting and Steady Shot.  The reason is that neither of these abilities have cooldowns, so they just clutter up the timeline.  I monitor SrS with Quartz and fire Steadies whenever nothing else is available.
I'm sure you've noticed I haven't touched several of the options screens.  I played with the labels and keybind settings, and they do what you'd expect: put extra text on the icons.  If, to use the SV example above, I set the label for my fourth priority as "AiS," then that text would appear in the middle of the icon on the timeline.  The keybind screens are just the same: in my case, AiS is bound to "6", so I would enter 6 for the fourth priority for the primary spec.  Then the icon would have a "6" in the middle when it was visible on the timeline.  I didn't really find either of these options helpful, so I elected not to use them.  Like, I know what the Aimed Shot icon is and I know I've bound to 6, right? I don't really see the point, but maybe those options are good for you. Spell Settings is there for you to add custom spells to the mod, since as you saw, you set your priorities from dropdowns.  As the mod is no longer updated, this screen should hopefully extend its life a bit.
Anyway, this should be enough information to get you up and running with the mod.  As always, I'd be happy to answer any questions about it, about priorities, or anything else!  I would also be more than thrilled if anyone could link in a comment or email me their alternative ability watching mods, especially ones that support priority systems.  If you've got a mod you use and love for this purpose, please let me know!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Argh, Wednesday!

I knew this would happen when I hadn't written the post for Yesterday by the end of last Thursday. There have just been a few routine-upsetting things in real life, and I haven't written it today yet because my boyfriend just got paid and took me out to see Zombieland and have lunch and in a bit we're going to a local gaming place and then date night at a local cafe and... yeah. Won't be online much today. I really do promise a post on Watcher configuration, though.
I have some other things I'd like to natter about as well, but please! If anyone has any questions, comments, or ideas, please send 'em in! Ideally I'd like to write the mod configuration post and my post for this coming Tuesday tomorrow (my weekend is Wednesday/Thursday).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

T9 Non-Heroic BiS Picks

A discussion on WoW Ladies got me thinking about what my picks are for the current BiS list, not counting anything from either heroic version of the Coliseum.  It's a pretty complicated time for gear comparison, with drops from Onyxia competing with drops from 10 and 25 player versions of the Coliseum and the Crusader's Dragonscale crafted pieces.  Some of the itemization on T9 is lackluster, and compared with the itemization on things like the Dragonstalker Helm and the three sockets on the crafted chestpiece, it's easy to wonder if the 4-piece bonus is worth it.  So I worked up a few variations on gear sets both with and without the T9 4-piece bonus and then compared everything at Female Dwarf.
At least according to Zeherah's model (she's the huntress that runs the Female Dwarf site), the 4-piece comes out on top.  So, here's the gear list that I got the top results from:
I would be using the agility enchant on the boots and put a Glinting Flawless Ametrine in the yellow socket in the shoulders, as well as the standard Nightmare Tear in the blue socket of the pants, with otherwise standard enchants and Delicate Cardinal Rubies. Again, this is just the stuff you can get without any heroic versions of the raid, not the BiS gear from the entire tier of content.  The list of course changes once you start doing that, although there are still a couple pieces in it that will come from 10-person raids.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Maximizing Marksmanship

I was taking a look at the Marksmanship thread on EJ and saw someone recently suggesting that, even for a Marks hunter still gemming agility, it's pretty easy to reach the point where it's worthwhile to spec out of imp arcane and drop arcane shot from your rotation.  Further, it was suggested that glyphing for Aimed Shot and True Shot Aura and then moving Aimed Shot's priority above Chimera Shot would yield better damage.
The tests that one person posted looked interesting, so I wandered over to and plugged the changes in just to see what it looked like.  Surprisingly, at least according to a simulated model, it looked like the EJ poster was right.  I switched glyphs around a little bit, but it looked like the highest DPS option was to keep the Serpent Sting glyph and then use the other two glyph slots for the above glyphs.
If you're curious, the reasoning for the priority change goes something like this: if you glyph AiS, you're going to have that cooldown and CS's cooldown run into each other every so often.  CS is always going to do more damage than AiS but it also has a longer cooldown.  This means that when you push it back by the length of a GCD, you create room for more Aimed Shots.  Over the course of a boss fight, this means that you get more extra Aimed Shots than you cost yourself Chimera Shots.  The extra crit chance on Aimed Shot (10% is a ton) also means that the Piercing Shots debuff gets more uptime and more of that uptime comes from Aimed Shot crits instead of Steady Shot crits.  AiS hits harder than SS and that means dot ticks generated from it are bigger.
I also thought that it was a little odd that I would be dropping AS from my spec and rotation with under 500 armor penetration rating.  The usual reasoning behind that change is that, at a certain point of armor pen rating, a Steady Shot plus the bonus damage from the Piercing Shots dot will do more damage than AS, even though AS will always hit harder than SS on their own.  I wasn't aware that I had already reached that point, but I can't say that it was an unpleasant discovery.  Getting the talent points refunded from Imp AS meant that I could put those into Improved Hunter's Mark, which should be good for the raid as a whole.  Of course, simulated models are only so useful, and everything going on in an actual boss fight could negate whatever gains the model says you should see.  It's always going to come down to spending the gold to test out the changes on actual raid bosses and see if they pan out.
The results of the testing have been really encouraging so far.  To begin with, I should note that the bug with the TSA glyph isn't totally fixed.  They have fixed it so that another hunter with TSA on won't overwrite your own aura and break your glyph, but Unleashed Rage and Abominable Might both will.  Luckily, you can deal with this with a macro.  For example, here's my AiS macro:
/cancelaura unleashed rage
/cancelaura abominable might
/cast aimed shot
/cast silencing shot
As you can see, I've also got my silencing shot in there.  That's because silencing does some damage and doesn't activate the GCD, so as long as you've got it macroed to something you use frequently, you can make sure it's kept more or less on cooldown.  It's worth a few extra DPS.
It was really interesting to see how the glyph change altered my damage breakdown.  Northrend Beasts is a pretty solid "stand there and shoot the boss" benchmark fight, so looking at my numbers from it was a great way to verify that the changes I was hoping for actually happened.  The first thing I noticed is that Piercing Shots shifted from 5th-6th on my list of damaging abilities up to 3rd.  What this means is that dropping Arcane and buffing AiS meant I got a lot more uptime on that dot as well as increased the size of the dot ticks.  The next thing I checked was the critical strike rate on AiS to see if my TSA glyph was working as it should.  My baseline, auto shot critical strike rate was about 51%.  I have 3/3 Improved Barrage, which should bring the AiS crit rate up to 63% just on its own.  My actual AiS crit rate was 74.5%: pretty much exactly what you would expect if the glyph was working properly.
The other cool thing about this change is directly related to dropping Arcane Shot.  All of my arcane shots have been replaced by Steady Shots.  Now: on their own, they do less damage.  They increase piercing shots uptime, though, and more importantly for the glyph changes, firing more Steadies means getting more ISS procs.  The glyph of Aimed Shot and glyph of TSA combination then means that I'm channeling more of those ISS procs into Aimed Shots that themselves have a higher critical strike chance, making the Piercing Shot dot ticks even bigger.
The whole thing is an example of what's cool about playing a DPS class: getting to see your gear, spec, glyphs, and playstyle all work together intuitively for big yellow numbers.  Totally enjoyable.
I should mention that Glyph of the Hawk and Glyph of Hunter's Mark are both possible alternatives to the AiS glyph.  It's not quite as aesthetically satisfying, and the numbers seem very close, so I will very possibly keep the AiS glyph, but I do feel duty-bound to test it.  At a guess, it works in a more brute-force fashion by just pumping out more auto shots.  The lowly white damage attack remains the Marks hunter's top source of damage and is one of the few things that's very, very difficult to haste cap, so I could certainly see a straightforward buff to it being effective.  I'll keep testing and post my results here.
Next week's post will be a more in-depth look at configuration of the Watcher addon - complete with screenshots!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Brief Anecdote About Min-Maxing

"Min-Maxing" is a term that came to the MMO gamer from the pen and paper world, and is often spoken of in derisive tones.  I don't really think this is fair; at its root, min-maxing is just another little puzzle-game that you play as part of the larger game.  I thought I might step through the thought process that I went through with a few different upgrades, enchants, and gems yesterday and today to sort of show what's really going on when people talk about min-maxing.
To begin with, before I did a couple off-night tens last night, I happened to be exactly on hit cap using only  Icewalker.  Then I got a new necklace, the Sparkling Onyxia Tooth Pendant.  The hit on the neck piece meant I was able to replace my Iron-Studded Mantle with the Pauldrons of the Devourer, which was good because those are the best shoulder items available right now, as far as I know.
The change did create a slight problem though: it put me four hit rating over the hitcap.  At first I was going to leave it alone, since Icewalker is a slightly better enchant than Superior Agility.  However, as I thought about it more, I realized that wasting 4 of those 12 points of hit was just too much.  Especially because my new shoulders had a yellow socket with a 4 agility bonus on it!  If I swapped Icewalker to the agility enchant, I would waste two less hit rating and get a four agility socket bonus I'd previously been missing.  I made those changes earlier tonight and was glad to do it - I just feel better if I've gotten every point out of my gear that I can find in it, you know?  And that's all min-maxing is: playing the little gear/enchant/gem puzzle game.  Think of it like Bejeweled.

Friday, October 16, 2009


My six year old nephew has seen me doing a few dailies and a couple raids now, and he was talking about it with my boyfriend. He apparently said "I hope there's a book about the game so I can learn how to play it when I'm older." Which is pretty cute on its own, but he also said "and I was wondering if maybe there was a way I could make a man?"
So of course we sat him down in front of the character creation screen. His dad was there and thought he should make a male dwarf warrior, but he was pretty adamant about having a female Blood Elf mage. Like, when we asked him whether he wanted to use a sword or magic, the answer "magic!" was instant. And then, while I dithered about how to explain the differences between the various magic-using classes, he pointed at the mage icon and went "the red one is the magic one!" So that's what we went with.
The name stymied us for a bit, because he's, you know, six and staring at a keyboard full of letters is a little intimidating. We ended up using the random name feature and that he was fine. He chose the super-huge bouffant with the hairband but was indifferent to all the other customization options.
Explaining quests was kind of slow. He reads at a second to third grade level, but that's still well below WoW quest text, you know? So we sort of explained what the quests wanted, but also encouraged him to run around, explore, and shoot fireballs at stuff. He was really, really cute. Like, fireball on a new mage is bound to 2, so he'd laboriously navigate within range of a wyrm and then whisper "two!" really intensely as he dramatically pressed the button with his right index finger, followed by "yesss!" when the mana wyrm/lynx died. The best was when he pulled a two-lynx pair, killed them both, and then threw both hands in the air and yelled "go fireball, whoooo!"
Anyway it was pretty cute so I wanted to share.

I missed raiding

Any guildies that read this: please note that I'm not trying to say I'm awesome and you're not or whatever.  It was just nice to be able to come back, raid again, and see that even if my gear's a little out of date I'm not dragging the raid down.  Well.  Except when I don't use my survival cooldowns on champions or Anub and get killed.  Twice.
Anyway!  The point being: the Troll beast-slaying racial is finally OP for at least one boss fight:

(Yes, that's Northrend Beasts.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

The BM buff and Tier 10

Now that I'm done with my four-part guide, I was sort of panicking trying to think of something to write. Then I realized that there were a few super-obvious things to prattle about, like the new raid tier's set bonuses for hunters and the semi-recent buff to BM.
I'm slightly ambivalent about the change to the Beast Mastery tree. I know from reading over blue posts - especially GC's posts in the DPS forum - that they've been struggling with how to buff BM damage for a while now. Most suggestions revolved around some sort of signature shot for the BM tree to fire, but it seemed like the dev team didn't really like that idea for a number of reasons. What they eventually went with was a change to The Beast Within. In case you're unfamiliar with the old TBW, they reduced the length of the ability's effect and added a passive 10% damage increase.
There's an extent to which I like this change. I'm certainly glad that BM got a damage boost, the tree needed it. The BM raiding population was minuscule compared to either the Marks or SV raiding populations. I think this change will certainly go a decent ways towards repairing that imbalance. From all reports, it doesn't eliminate the damage gap, but it does reduce it, to the point where a raid leader isn't doing her raid a disservice by bringing a BM hunter. Ferocious Inspiration isn't really ever going to replace Sanctified Retribution (for the same reason that TSA is preferable to the DK or Enhancement Shaman versions: auras have 100% uptime), but for a 10-person raiding guild especially, having that be an option is a real bonus.
The thing that I don't like as much is that, while I can certainly understand why they chose that implementation, it's kind of boring. It gives the tree a needed buff in damage while at the same time giving an answer to the complaints about BM being an "I win" button in PvP, and in that respect it's an elegant fix. It doesn't actually change play style at all, though. I guess it just feels tacked-on, in the same way that the 5% from Improved Tracking does. On the other hand, I guess that's one of the game-wide complaints that they plan on addressing in Cataclysm. Pretty much all the specs of all trees of all classes in the game have a few super-boring but required talents that just add a flat percent to damage, healing, or mitigation. Doing away with those sorts of talents is definitely one of the things that I'm really looking forward to in the next expansion, even though I never thought there would really be another expansion after Wrath.
Before Cataclysm happens, though, we're going to have to clear Icecrown Citadel. And, thank god, the hunter Tier 10 set bonuses are a great recovery from the embarrassment of T9's bonuses. T10, if you haven't seen yet, is boasting these pretty lines of text:
  • 2 Pieces: Your Auto Shots have a 5% chance to cause you and your pet to deal 15% additional damage for until cancelled.
  • 4 Pieces: When your Viper Sting, Serpent Sting, and Wyvern Sting abilities deal damage, you have a 5% chance to gain 20% attack power for 10 seconds.
First, let's all take a few seconds to bask in these bonuses. Let their clear, golden light wash over us and through us. Let us revel in their unequivocal awesomeness, frolic in their originality, and be refreshed by the sparkling brightness of their numbers. Ahhh! Delightful.
Good stuff, huh? Since the Burning Crusade, hunter tier armor set bonuses have had a proclivity towards being boring and borderline useless. For tiers 7, 8, and 9, the 4-piece bonus provided no meaningful boost to damage. Harsh proc chances and standard internal cooldowns made the underwhelming 600 AP proc of 8 and 9 a sadly rare occurrence (and 9 put the proc on the pet, a step down from T8's bonus), while the aspect of the viper-only haste of T7 is better left forgotten. For the first time in this entire expansion, then, we've got a really outstanding 4-piece bonus. A raid-buffed hunter in 245 gear has somewhere North of 5000 AP right now, and 20% of that is 1000 AP. It's a truism of WoW that the best buffs are the buffs that scale with your gear, and this bonus does that.
You might expect the two-piece bonus to be crap to "pay" for the debt incurred by that fantastic 4-piece bonus, but there too, T10 shines. Auto Shot is a far more reliable proc trigger than steady shot, especially for Survival hunters who fire so few steadies, and 15% additional pet damage is crazy. I mean, in T8 gear my wolf - and wolves are used for Furious Howl rather than their own damage, which is worse than cats or raptors - is good for about a thousand DPS. That makes the T10 bonus worth 150 DPS in out of date gear. Scaled up to the item level 260-something gear that's going to drop in Icecrown, we're looking at 225-275 DPS from that bonus. Just nuts.
Its appearance leaves me a little cold at first glance, but I'll reserve judgement. I found the early screenshots of T9 disappointing as well, but in-game it doesn't look bad. Neither of them look as good as T6 or T8 in my opinion, but that's alright. I like the glowing purple highlights on the bottom version of the skin and I think I see hints of a sinister black smoke, which is neat. I certainly won't be enabling the hat, but T8 is the only hat I've ever enabled, so that's fine. All in all, Citadel is looking like an exciting place to be a hunter.
Next week I'll be talking some more about Marksmanship. Specifically I'll be looking at a better way to determine if you've reached the point where you should change your spec and playstyle to drop Arcane Shot and taking a second look at glyphs.

Non Sequitur

I couldn't decide whether or not I wanted to post this, but I thought for a little bit about my favorite WoW blogs and realized that they're not entirely about WoW.  So I decided that posting this would be ok.  I'm going to put it behind a "read more," though, so if you're not interested in something that has nothing to do with WoW, feel free to skip it.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Interim Maundering

Well, I'm quite proud of myself. I actually managed to write a post about hunters and schedule it for automatic posting at 12:01 AM on Tuesday. This means I'll actually have a post set to go for downtime.
I'm also experimenting a little with some publicity. I sent in a request to get listed on Twisted Nether and I'm considering making an intro post on Blog Azeroth. I'm a little embarrassed about advertising this thing, even though I'm not normally a particularly shy person. I guess it just seems a little forward. But really, if I didn't care about other people reading this stuff, I'd be writing these things up in Open Office and saving them locally instead of posting them to the 'net.
Unrelated, and since I haven't mentioned it, I was able to renew my WoW subscription on Friday night, which was happy. Well, sort of. It also puts me in a tough spot. I'd like to keep raiding with Axiom, but I've moved from Florida to Minnesota. I really love the state a lot. I grew up here, and I'm treated to scenes like this one from yesterday:

The car on the right is mine.

On the other hand, I also moved from Eastern time to Central time. This means that Axiom's raids start at 6 P.M. for me now, and it's really tough for me to swing that. I'm not sure what I'm going to end up doing about it. But hey, of all the problems you can have in this life, "how can I make a raid time work?" is definitely one of the least troubling ones.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

So your hunter's finally 80, part 4

Update: this guide is out of date! I'll be writing a new series for Cataclysm.
(Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
That last little hurdle that a lot of people have when they finally get to 80 is the world of item enhancement. By that I mean everything from profession perks to gem sockets (including metagems!) to enchantments to shoulder inscriptions. It can seem (and is!) quite intimidating, so we'll break it down into sections, starting with the easiest.
I'll just do this by item slot, and I'll stick to the standard enchantments. If you have a profession perk that replaces an enchantment (Leatherworking's fur linings, for example), then you should of course use that profession perk. And now, on with the item slots:
Arcanum of Torment (+50 AP and +20 Crit Rating)
Major Agility (+22 Agility)
Greater Inscription of the Axe (+40 AP and +15 Crit Rating)
Powerful Stats (+10 to all stats)
Greater Assault (+50 AP)
Precision (+20 Hit)
Major Agility (+20 Agility)
Eternal Belt Buckle (adds one prismatic socket)
Icescale Leg Armor (+75 AP and +22 Crit Rating)
Icewalker (+12 Hit and +12 Crit Rating)
Superior Agility (+16 Agility)
Melee Weapon (One-handed):
Exceptional Agility (+26 Agility)
Superior Potency (+65 AP)
Melee Weapon (Two-handed):
Massacre (+110 AP)
Ranged Weapon:
Hearseeker Scope (+40 Crit Rating)
A couple notes on all this stuff. First and foremost, it's not that hard to get to exalted with the Sons of Hodir and get the proper shoulder inscription. Please, if you want to raid, just do the dailies. I even did them on my alt priest using a 60% speed flying carpet, before the buff to normal flight. If you can't get this done, then raiding is probably not for you.
Second, where there are options for different enchants on the same item slot, I've listed the preferred enchant first. For the most part this is an issue of expense, as a lot of people don't want to spend the gold or farming time necessary to put top-shelf enchants on a lesser piece that they'll be replacing soon. I'm targeting this series of posts towards the hunter that wants to start raiding, though, so this list of enchants is what your gear should have when you start applying to raiding guilds. Feel free to put Greater Savagery on that Icier Barbed Spear, but you should be upgrading to the same enchantments you'd be putting on raid gear before you expect to get into a raid. Sadly, enchantments aren't everything. You've also got to fill your
Gem Sockets!
Filing the sockets in your gear with bright, sparkly gems is one of WoW's minigames for the quivering, OCD-afflicted MMO addict. It's also what those addicts use to make fun of their less OCD colleagues on the official forums. To the new hunter, the teasing and outright mockery seem capricious, unfair, and downright silly. This is especially true of hunters that carefully select all of their gems to activate the various socket bonuses in their gear. Socket bonuses say "bonus" right in the name, why shouldn't we use them?
There are three simple rules you can follow to silence the forum critics and, more importantly, increase your damage. They are, in order of importance:
  1. Activate your metagem
  2. Reach the hit rating cap
  3. Maximize Agility
Let's address these in order. Beginning with:
1. The metagem every hunter should be using is the Relentless Earthsiege Diamond. The relevant features of this meta are that it provides agility, gives you an extra 3% damage on your crits, and is activated by equipping one gem of every color somewhere in your gear. Agility is the most important stat for hunters, so of course the agility meta is preferable to the critical strike rating meta. 3% extra damage on your crits is an extremely important contribution to your damage, especially as critical strike percentages climb past 50% unbuffed (by far the majority of your damage comes from crits).
Metagem activation is one of those things that can be a little confusing, so it gets its own paragraph. What the text of the meta means is that you need one instance of each of the primary colors red, yellow, and blue. The secondary color gems (green, orange, and purple) are all effectively two gems for this purpose, and prismatic gems count as three. That is: a green gem counts as one yellow and one blue, while a prismatic gem counts as one yellow, one red, and one blue gem. This means that, most of the time, a Nightmare Tear is going to be the best way to activate your meta. They simply squeeze more stats out of a gem socket than do any of the single or multi-color gems that you might find yourself using.
2. Most hunters are going to need at least one hit rating gem, either a Glinting Ametrine or a Rigid King's Amber to reach hitcap, and many will need more. "Hitcap" is the amount of hit rating you need from gear and buffs in order to never miss a raid boss. In Wrath of the Lich King, the target for hunters is 8%, which equates to 263 hit rating. There are a few rules of thumb to remember with hit rating and hit rating gems. First, the thing I always tell newer hunters is "you can gem for more hit rating, but you can't gem for talent points". What I mean by this is that, in my opinion, putting talent points into Focused Aim is always a last resort. You should always try to get the hit rating you need from gems, enchants, elixirs, and buff foods before you spend talent points on it. Second, if at all possible, use the Icewalker enchant. Icewalker is worth slightly more damage than the agility enchant. It's nothing to fret over, but it's worth trying for. Finally, achieving exactly 263 hit rating is pretty difficult, and often won't happen. In general, as long as you're going to be within 5 rating points of 263 either way, I would prefer to be under rather than over the cap. This is because hit rating is expensive in terms of item budget, and any points in it past 263 are entirely wasted. If you miss with one ability over the course of a night's raiding, that's not going to affect your damage a whole lot. Once you reach the point where you're deciding between 6 rating under or 4 rating over, however, go over the cap.
3. Maximizing your agility is the last, simplest step. Once you've satisfied the first and second requirements, just socket straight Delicate Cardinal Rubies. I'm serious. Ignore any remaining socket bonuses unless the bonus is pretty good and attached to a yellow socket, in which case it may be worth socketing a Deadly Ametrine. Even then, check in a spreadsheet or on Female Dwarf beforehand. Of course, you should have been able to cherry-pick the best socket bonuses in the course of fulfilling the first two requirements. Tier 9 pants, for example are an excellent spot to put that prismatic Nightmare Tear and get the 6 agility bonus. Pauldrons of the Devourer would be a nice spot to put a hit gem and get another agility bonus.
See? It only looks confusing or complex on the surface. As long as you follow those three rules, though, gemming and enchanting strategy comes naturally. If you're curious about whether Armor Penetration gems are the right choice for you, by all means check part 3 in this series, where I explain how that works.
The last and final section is what I've decided to call:
Random Crap!
Hooray! This is all the stuff that didn't obviously fit anywhere else. I'll begin with one of the things that turned out to be the secret to keeping my pet alive. I had a lot of pet deaths occur while I was reaching for the ctrl+2 combo to make my pet return to me to get him out of AoE, and Bartender wouldn't let me bind my own keys to the pet bar (probably because of a limitation with WoW). So I made this exceedingly simple macro:
And put it on my regular action bars. My pet started dying a lot less. Of course, the other part of this is that you the hunter need to keep a sharp watch on two parts of the boss fight: you have to watch yourself to make sure you're not standing in fire and you need to watch the melee and bring your pet back to your side when the rogues scatter like cockroaches. If you're looking for a standard raiding spec for pets, I link to one in my post for Survival hunters.
Enchantments, gems, and pets aren't the only things you're doing to maximize your damage during a raid, though. You've also got to come prepared with the proper consumables, the term that covers flasks, elixirs, and buff foods.
Blackened Dragonfin is our preferred buff food. If you need Snapper Extreme to reach your hitcap that's ok, but with the gear available to new hunters at this point, that shouldn't really be an issue. The only other option is for extremely well-geared hunters, who may be at a point where they would consider switching to Hearty Rhino. Again, this is all for maximum performance on progression bosses. If your guild is just clearing farm content in order to reach new stuff, then go ahead and use that fish feast the guild's farming maven put down. Once you get to the hard stuff though, you should be pulling out the real food.
The elixir vs. flask question needs to be considered too. The elixirs you would most likely use would be a combination of Mighty Agility and Mighty Thoughts elixirs; the only flask a hunter is going to be using will be Endless Rage. The decision of which to use comes down to you answering one question: "am I regularly running out of mana on attempts"? If you are, the extra mana pool and extra regen from the intellect elixir will put you above the flask's performance because it will keep you out of Aspect of the Viper and its 50% damage reduction. If, however, mana is not a problem, then the flask is always going to be better damage. The exception here is, again, armor penetration. If you're one of those Marksmanship hunters that's converted to an armor penetration build, then an Elixir of Armor Piercing will combine with the intellect elixir to yield greater performance. Much like with food, the best answer to the question is not which choice is more convenient, but instead which choice produces better damage.
And that concludes this series of guide posts! I would be more than appreciative of any questions anyone might have, suggestions on things that should be clarified, or any other missives you might want to send me. This isn't limited to anything I've already posted, either, I'd be happy to do a gear critique, address any leveling questions, whatever you might think of. Thanks for reading!

OMG it's Tuesday!

I've started working on Part 4, I'll get it up at some point tonight, I promise! Man, I've really defeated my own purpose of posting on Tuesdays so that people can read it during downtime. I guess I should move post days to Monday.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

So your hunter's finally 80, part 3

Update: this guide is out of date! I'll be writing a new series for Cataclysm.
(Previously: Part 1, Part 2)
Alright, we've made it to post three in a series of four! The next and last post will cover things like enchantments, gem choices and strategies, and miscellaneous tips - but first:
Marksmanship Hunter PvE Primer!
Marksmanship as a raiding spec emerged early in 3.1 due to a variety of factors. The first was that Survival took a couple nerfs to the face, so the theorycrafters started looking around for alternatives. What some of them noticed was that armor penetration had been buffed and Marks hunters did a lot of physical damage. Not only that, but the base weapon damage of items dropped in Ulduar were buffed in a patch to account for the lack of new ammo to match the new raid tier, and Marks abilities make better use of that weapon damage than do Survival abilities. Before too long, the spec that emerged was this: 7/57/7. Following is a quick rundown of some of the key talents and why they're important.
  • The talents in the Beast Mastery tree are pretty self explanatory, free haste and a free 2% extra damage.
  • The Survival talents are similar, a free 5% damage and free crit on two of the spec's more frequently used shots.
  • Improved Arcane shot and Rapid Killing are the first talents from the Marks tree that are different from talents that Survival or even BM hunters would pick up. Improved Arcane Shot makes Arcane Shot(AS) an important part of your damage, and Rapid Killing synergizes well with the Readiness talent, further down the tree.
  • Improved Stings is taken because it makes your Chimera Shots (CS), another extremely important part of your damage, hit harder.
  • Readiness is an important ability that, combined with Rapid Killing, allows Marks hunters to use Rapid Fire four times in many boss fights.
  • Barrage and Improved Barrage are both required, maxed talents. Not only do they give AiS a nice boost on their own, they also drive up your damage from:
  • Piercing Shots. This initially unprepossessing talent will actually end up being more and more important to your damage as your gear improves. By the time your armor penetration rating is climbing past 600, damage from this talent should have moved up to third on your list of damaging abilities, passed in importance only by Chimera Shot and Auto Shot.
  • Trueshot Aura is one of those talents that sort of depends. Some hunters that raid exclusively in a 25-person raid will choose not to take it because someone else is covering the buff. If you're a brand new 80 and you're running a lot of heroics, however, you should definitely take it. And even if you're, say, a raider switching classes to hunter and there's a Blood DK or Enhancement Shaman providing their equivalent buffs, I would suggest you take the talent. TSA is guaranteed 100% uptime, while Abomination's Might and Unleashed Rage both have downtime. Your fellow hunters and the melee DPS will thank you.
  • Improved Steady Shot is the tree's best "flex" talent. What I mean by this is that if you need points for another talent that's not budgeted for in the spec I linked to, take those points from ISS. Are you raiding a lot of 10-mans and feel like you could use the mana from Rapid Recuperation? Take them from ISS. Hit-starved and want to knock a couple percent off your cap with Focused Aim? ISS is where to get them.
  • Chimera Shot is, of course, the tree's primary non-automatic damaging ability. We'll cover that below.
You'll remember the "damage priority" concept from the previous post on Survival hunters. The Marksmanship priority is actually easier to manage than the Survival priority, and by the way, that's one of the reasons I find Ghostcrawler's comments about how Beast Mastery is "easier" than the other two trees a little odd. But then, down that road lies only finicky and annoying pedantic argument, so instead we'll move on with the guide. The Marksmanship damage priorities look like this:
As you can see, only one of those abilities is a DOT, and it's the easiest to manage DOT of all of them. That's pretty much the entirety of why the Marksmanship priority is easier to manage than Survival. Some may be curious about why SrS is so much further up the priority here than it is for its sister tree, and the answer is in Chimera Shot. Most of CS's damage is derived from the SrS DOT (which is part of why so many hunters swapped to Marksmanship for Ulduar, the hunter tier 8 two-piece bonus is a direct buff to CS), and a CS fired at a target that doesn't have SrS applied to it is a waste of a GCD and the CS cooldown.
The Aimed/Multi choice is the same as it was for Survival. If a Multi will hit several targets, as in phase 4 of the Mimiron encounter, you should use it. If you're doing single-target damage, Aimed is the right answer.
That's pretty much it, with the exception of one quirk: cooldown management. Now, by "cooldown," I don't mean the Chimera Shot or AiS cooldowns, but the big cooldowns. Things like Rapid Fire, Call of the Wild, AP-on-use trinkets like the Wrathstone, and how those all interact with Readiness.
To start with, I would recommend making a macro that just blew everything all at once. I'd also say you should figure out what mod works best for you to track your cooldowns, because getting the most out of them is way more important for a Marksmanship hunter than it is for Survival. In an ideal boss fight, you would be able to do something like this:
  1. Use your "blow everything" macro within the first fifteen seconds of the encounter, ideally after you've fired your first Chimera, Aimed, and Arcane shots, then immediately use Readiness.
  2. Once your first Rapid Fire has worn off, immediately use it again. Your goal here is to get everything on cooldown as soon as possible.
  3. In three minutes, use your macro and then immediately use Readiness again.
  4. Once your third Rapid Fire has worn off, use it again, for a total of four Rapid Fires over the course of an average-length boss fight.
The idea here should be pretty apparent. You're trying to get the most value possible out of the first Readiness (cutting three shot cooldowns short) and maximizing your chance to get another two Rapid Fires later in the boss fight. The obvious danger is that dumping all your cooldowns so early makes it very easy to pull off the tank, so don't be shy with that early Feign Death. The earlier you get everything on cooldown, the earlier it can all come off of cooldown and let you use it again. This is especially important because a Marksmanship hunter's top damaging ability is Auto Shot, the only thing we've got that receives almost unlimited benefit from haste.
The only real wrinkle in this scheme is the existence of Bloodlust. The only thing better than stacking a bunch of AP effects on top of Rapid Fire is stacking the same effects on top of Rapid Fire and a 'lust. Sadly, the timing of the Bloodlust is outside of your control, and in most cases, it's not going to be worth losing two entire Rapid Fires for the sake of having one really, really good 'lust. However, if the Bloodlust is called sometime in the middle, and you've got, for example, an AP trinket but nothing else available, by all means! Use the trinket with the Bloodlust! Just don't delay your very first Rapid Fire/Readiness sequence while you're waiting for it to be called.
Marksmanship pet and gem/enchantment considerations are identical to those for Survival, so scroll down a post if you skipped that part last week. Well, identical with one exception, and that exception has created enough confusion everywhere to warrant its own little section. So!
Armor Penetration and the Marksmanship Hunter!
Shortly after the release of Patch 3.1, some bright theorycrafter noticed a few things:
  1. There was a lot of armor penetration rating on the mail that dropped in Ulduar
  2. Hunter ranged weapon damage had gone way, way up to make up for the loss of higher damage ammunition
  3. Marksmanship hunters did a lot more physical damage than Survival hunters and,
  4. Their damaging abilities incorporated base weapon damage while Explosive Shot incorporated only Ranged AP
  5. Finally, the 10-man hard mode version of the Thorim encounter had a chance to drop a trinket called the Mjolnir Runestone
The conclusion that this person reached was that, with enough Ulduar gear, you could drop some agility gems for armor penetration gems such that the Runestone's proc would bring you to 100% armor penetration. With this level of gear you could drop Arcane Shot from your priority and use the three talent points thus saved on something else, like Improved Hunter's Mark. The theory was borne out, with top Marks hunters posting numbers like 8-9,000 DPS on stand-still fights like Ignis.
Suddenly there was mass confusion. Hunters at all gear levels and specs had heard that somewhere, the hunters in the top progression guilds in the world were gemming exclusively for armor penetration and began to wonder if they should too. When was the tipping point? Should they respec? Did they need a better weapon, or something more? So on and so forth, and to this day, it's not extremely well understood. To make things worse, they nerfed armor penetration rating by 12% in patch 3.2, so all of the already-posted numbers were no longer valid. So here's what you need to know:
  1. You need 1380 armor penetration rating total to reach 100% penetration. This includes gear, trinket procs, gems, enchantments, buff foods, and elixirs.
  2. This means that if you've got a Runestone, you would want your armor penetration rating before the trinket's proc to total 714.
  3. If you don't have a Runestone, you'll be better off gemming straight agility until you reach a very high armor penetration rating from gear. I would suggest the ability to reach a threshold of 80%, or 1103 rating. Which is to say that the earliest I would even try switching to armor penetration gems is if I reached the point where rating gained from gear, gems, enchants, buff food, and elixir totaled 1103 rating.
  4. Once you reach the point where you're within reach of 90% or more armor penetration, you should absolutely respec and regem.
And that's it, really. It's not actually too confusing, it's just that it's a little harder to find the exact numbers than it is to find the numbers for, say, hit rating. Speaking of, however, hit rating will be one of the subjects I cover in part 4 of this series. I'm going to go over enchantments, sockets, metagem requirements and hitcap, and everything else that goes in to maximizing your performance in a raid. I'll also share a couple tips in the form of macros and UI tweaks that have been really helpful for me, and that will wrap up the series. I know, I know: I'm ignoring the poor Beast Mastery hunters. I'm sorry! I just haven't raided as BM since the Burning Crusade and I'm just not up to date on them. Still, maybe researching and posting about them can be a project for the future!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

So your hunter's finally 80, part 2

Update: this guide is out of date! I'll be writing a new series for Cataclysm.
(Previously: Part 1)
So with the first post in this series in-hand, you've started working on the list of pre-raid gear you're trying to acquire. You're ready to run heroics - and lots of them! - but you're unsure of your spec, rotation, and pet choice. Maybe you've heard that Survival is a good tree to spec into as a new 80, but what talents should you take? Which glyphs? What should you do when Lock and Load procs? All these answers and more below, in the
Survival Hunter PvE Primer!
To begin with, I'll expand a little bit on the notion that "Survival is a good tree to start with." This is true in one way and untrue in another. It's true because a SV hunter's primary damaging ability, Explosive Shot (or ExS), doesn't factor base weapon or ammo damage into its damage-done equation. This means that it's not as limited by weapon as Marksmanship hunters are; a SV hunter's damage output scales more evenly with their gear considered as a whole. It's untrue because the SV rotation is actually a little more complex and it has an ability proc to deal with. When Lock and Load (LnL) procs, you have to react to that proc correctly before resuming your rotation. And the word "rotation" isn't even really accurate any more, merely convenient! Hunters, like most DPS classes these days, operate by assigning priorities to various abilities and always using the highest-priority available ability.
More on that in a bit, though. First, the spec. For a new hunter just starting out and running a lot of heroics, I would recommend this spec: 0/15/56. Here's what you're getting with that spec:
  • 5/5 Improved Tracking is a free 5% damage that all hunter specs should be taking.
  • Trap Mastery and Survival Instincts are the only 2nd-tier talents that actually do more damage: the only thing that matters for a PvE hunter.
  • Resourcefulness is required because it decreases the cooldown of Black Arrow (BA). BA not only gives you temporary free 6% damage, it's where you get your LnL procs, and those are an extremely important part of your damage. I think the reason you'll occasionally see hunters without this talent maxed out is because they didn't read the last sentence in the tooltip.
  • Lightning Reflexes and Expose Weakness are defining talents for the tree. Survival hunters have truly insane amounts of agility, and a quarter of that agility turns into free AP. 2/3 Expose Weakness is, however, sufficient: even a hunter in poor gear will see something like 80% buff uptime with two points in this talent, and the remaining point is better spent elsewhere.
  • Noxious Stings is another talent new and inexperienced hunters skip. The reality is that few other talents in any tree (or for any class) have returns as high as Noxious Stings'. A few moments reflection is good enough to see this. If you're pulling 2k DPS on a boss without Noxious Stings, you would be pulling 2060 with it. 3 points in improved aspect of the hawk, for example, will never get you 60 DPS, and Noxious Stings just gets better the better your gear is.
  • 3/3 Thrill of the Hunt (TotH) and 2/3 Hunting Party (HP) are mostly good for hunters running a lot of five-man dungeons. A good tank/healer team that chain pull the instance (getting it done faster) can also run their DPS out of mana pretty quickly, so the efficiency from TotH and the replenishment from HP are good for everyone. Once you're regularly raiding 25-mans, you'll shift those points to other talents, but this is the best place for them for now.
  • The talents from the Marks tree are required for every hunter spec, with the possible exceptions of Go for the Throat (GftT) and Aimed Shot (AiS). Beast Mastery hunters can choose to regenerate pet focus by other means and so may skip GftT. Aimed Shot is a matter of preference. I prefer to have an instant-cast healing debuff as part of my rotation. Many hunters, however, prefer to put that point into Improved Aspect of the Hawk (IAotH), and that's perfectly valid.
  • The glyphs are fairly standard. Glyphing Serpent Sting (SrS) means you waste fewer GCDs re-applying SrS for the Noxious Stings benefit, allowing you to spend those GCDs on abilities that actually do appreciable damage. The ExS simply provides more crit for your most damaging ability. The Kill Shot (KS) glyph isn't ideal for 5-mans, but there aren't any really suitable replacements. Minor glyphs are matters of convenience and, in my opinion, the feign, pack, and mend pet glyphs provide the most of it.
Whew, ok! So that's spec and glyphs. Now what? Oh right, that thing about assigning priorities or whatever. Ok. Here's the thing: "rotations" have pretty much disappeared from WoW since the vanilla/BC days. No one just memorizes a sequence of abilities and uses them in exactly the same order for the entire length of a boss fight. How it works these days is that you figure out which abilities do the most damage, and then use your abilities in that order. The priorities for a SV hunter look like this:
  1. Kill Shot
  2. Explosive Shot
  3. Black Arrow
  4. Aimed Shot/Multi Shot
  5. Serpent Sting
  6. Steady Shot
What this means is that if, for example, KS had no CD and no restriction on its use, you would just mash your KS button the entire time, because that would do the most damage. KS has both a cooldown and restrictions, though, so if you can't Kill Shot, you use ExS. If you can't ExS and BA is off of cooldown, then you put BA on the boss, and so on all the way down the line. There are a few things that are possibly confusing about this priority, so I'll address each of these in turn.
The first thing that trips up a lot of hunters is that ExS comes before BA. "If I used BA first," the new hunter says, "won't my ExS do 6% more damage and wouldn't that be better?" The answer is that yes, that particular ExS would do 6% more damage but you're delaying the firing of that ExS by 1.5s (the length of the GCD) in order to do so. Over the course of an entire boss fight, you're going to lose several Explosive Shots if you try to set them up with a black arrow. Think of it this way: ExS has a 6 second CD and BA lasts for 15 seconds. Either way, you're getting in at least one ExS with an extra 6% damage. If you use BA before ExS, you're electing to get 6% more damage on a single ExS use instead of firing more total Explosive Shots. Firing another ExS will always do more damage than 6% of one.
The second possible point of confusion is the Aimed vs. Multi Shot entry. Aimed and Multi Shot share a cooldown, so this line is basically saying "if you've specced into AiS, use it now. If not, use Multi". The only caveat here is that if you're clearing trash or fighting a boss with adds or multiple components (think Grand Magus Telestra), then a Multi that will hit multiple targets will do more damage than an AiS. Against a single target, AiS will always do more damage, especially if you've been able to stand still long enough to get the Sniper Training buff.
The third and last thing to note is Serpent Sting. All this line means is that, if SrS has fallen off the boss, now is the time to re-apply it. Much like BA vs. ExS, the extra 3% damage is worth speccing for, and it's more important than another Steady Shot, but anything else is more worthwhile, because those things have cooldowns and SrS/Steady Shot do not.
A mod like Watcher (discussed in a previous post) and some time on a training dummy can help get used to the priority system. You'll find after a while that it's really not too difficult to maintain, except for one little problem: Lock and Load.
The thing that makes this proc interesting is that ExS is actually a 3-second DOT (Damage Over Time effect). The GCD is only 1.5s, which means that if you just mash your ExS button three times when you get an LnL proc, you'll overwrite the last tick of the DOT when the new ExS lands, meaning an overall loss of damage. A lot of hunters realize this and try to compensate by putting things like an instant-cast AiS in between Explosive Shots. The problem with this is that hunter shots have a travel time - they actually travel through the air before they land on the target and apply their effect.
The upshot is that you only need to wait half a second, a full second less than the global cooldown. That is to say, the correct way to deal with an LnL proc (where "correct" means "the way that does the most damage") is this:
ExS > wait half second > ExS > wait a half second > ExS
All of this, of course, sort of neglects one of the defining elements of the hunter class: the pet. Sadly, there's not a whole lot of choice between pets for raiding hunters right now. Most hunters you see in Dalaran will have a wolf at their side, and pretty much the sole reason for that is Furious Howl. In (if I remember correctly) patch 3.1, they changed things such that the AP gain from the wolf's howl stacks with other AP effects such as Blessing of Might. The free 320 AP from the wolf overrides all other pet abilities in most cases, although certain raids will have certain exceptions. For most hunters, though, your best bet is going to be a wolf. I would recommend speccing your pet like this. There is of course more to pet management in a raid, especially during bosses with lots of targeted AoE, but that's a subject for another post.
This almost brings this post to a close. The last things to consider are gems and enchantments. I'll address this in more detail in part 4 of this guide series, but your guiding principle is agility. By far your most numerous gem should be the Delicate Cardinal Ruby, to the point of ignoring socket bonuses. Very, very few socket bonuses will be worth as much damage as the 10 agility you would be losing if you used a purple or orange gem to get them. When choosing between enchants, if an agility option is available, you should take it.
That just about covers it! Don't sweat the little stuff too much - your damage will improve quickly at this stage, both with gear and with improvement in managing our abilities. Raiding guilds will appreciate the effort and research you've put into your class, and any competent mid-level raid guild would rather have a recruit with a gear deficit rather than a skill deficit. Have fun!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

So your hunter's finally 80, part 1

Update on 11/11/2010: this guide is out of date! I'll write a new one for Cataclysm in about a month.
Alright, welcome to the first in a series of guides for new hunters! I thought it appropriate to start with a gear list, since that's often the most overwhelming part of a new (or especially a first!) 80. The list is arranged by item slot and within each slot items are ranked by quality, so that the best item for that slot is listed first. There are a number of items that require emblems or farming the heroic Trial of the Champion instance, so don't ignore the items further down the list! You can pick those up to improve your performance while farming emblems for the other stuff, or before you feel like your DPS is ready for the higher damage requirements of ToC. A hunter with a healthy mix of the items on this list would certainly be capable of between 4K to 5.5K DPS (depending on boss and raid composition) and could apply to many active raiding guilds with a clear conscience. And that is, after all, the goal of this gear guide: to help you gear your new hunter to a point where you can get started with raiding. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions!

Conqueror's Scourgestalker Headpiece (Emblem purchase)
Truesight Ice Blinders (Engineer-only crafted)
Plunderer's Helmet (H-UK)

Broach of the Wailing Night (Emblem purchase)
Ancient Pendant of Arathor (H-ToC)
Titanium Impact Choker (Crafted)
Necklace of the Arcane Spheres (H-VH)
Necklace of the Chrono Lord (H-CS)
The Severed Noose of Westwind (Icecrown quest reward)

Hammerhead Sharkskin Cloak (Emblem purchase)
Cloak of the Gushing Wound (H-VH)
Ice Striker's Cloak (Crafted)
Embrace of Sorrow (HoL)

Pauldrons of Concealed Loathing (H-ToC)
Spaulders of the Abomination (H-CoS)
Spaulders of Lost Secrets (HoL quest reward)

Conqueror's Scourgestalker Tunic (Emblem purchase)
Polished Regimental Hauberk (Argent rep)
Linked Armor of the Spheres (HoS)
Aviary Guardsman's Hauberk (BoE)
Assault Hauberk (Coldarra quest reward)

Slime Stream Bands (BoE)
Bracers of the Smothering Inferno (BoE)
Armguard of the Tower Archer (Emblem purchase)
Eaglebane Bracers (Crafted)

Gloves of the Dark Exile (H-ToC)
Rusted-Link Spiked Gauntlets (BoE)
Grips of the Beast God (H-Gun'drak)
Tear-Linked Gauntlets (UP)

Belt of Dragons (Crafted with runed orbs purchased with emblems)
Sovereign's Belt (H-UP)
Vereesa's Silver Chain Belt (Emblem purchase)
Cord of Swirling Winds (H-HoS)
Giant Ring Belt (Sons of Hodir rep)
Belt of Tasseled Lanterns (BoE)

Leggings of the Tireless Sentry (Emblem purchase)
Leggings of the Stone Halls (H-HoS)
Hollowed Mandible Legplates (H-AN)
Leather-Braced Chain Legguards (HoL)

Boots of Living Scale (Crafted with runed orbs purchased with emblems)
Pack-Ice Striders (Emblem purchase)
Dragon Slayer's Sabatons (H-Nexus)

Surge Needle Ring (BoE)
Ring of Invincibility (Emblem purchase)
Titanium Impact Band (Crafted)
Bjarngrim Family Signet (HoL)
Mobius Band (H-VH)
Signet of Bridenbrad (Icecrown quest reward)
Jagged Ice Band (Storm Peaks quest reward)

Darkmoon Card: Greatness (Crafted)
Mirror of Truth (Emblem purchase)
Banner of Victory (ToC)
Sphere of Red Dragon's Blood (H-Nexus)
Incisor Fragment (H-DTK)
Figurine - Emerald Boar (decent trinket JCs can make themselves)
Mighty Alchemist's Stone (similar, but for alchemists)
Chuchu's Tiny Box of Horrors (Icecrown quest reward)

Melee Weapons:
Marrowstrike (H-ToC)
Staff of Trickery (H-VH)
Fang of Truth (Wyrmrest rep)
Ymiron's Blade (UP)
Whale-Stick Harpoon (Kalu'ak rep)
Icier Barbed Spear (100% More Chilling)

True-aim Long Rifle (H-ToC)
Drake-Mounted Crossbow (H-UK)
Sen'jin Beakblade Longrifle (Argent Tourney)
Titanium Compound Bow (H-OK)