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.