Sunday, October 31, 2010

Getting a grip

I've just been doing a little reading of Blizz's hunter forums, and it's pretty easy to feel like you're doing everything wrong and there's too much conflicting information and oh my god! What to do!?
It's ok. Take a deep breath, exhale, then take another. Exhale again. Whew. Ok. We're just over a month away from Cataclysm's release. That is not a whole lot of time left at 80, then we're going to be leveling and getting into new 5-person dungeons and heroics, using those to gear for raids. It is actually completely fine if you're not optimally geared and reforged right now. That was the issue that caused this post, by the by: reforging. The big question is "do I reforge crit or haste into mastery? Or both?" Incidentally I'll be giving my version of the answer to that question a little further down, but the real answer is: right now it's honestly not a big deal. The value of every point of rating of everything is going to go down once we start leveling. We have an entirely new resource system and new shot priorities for all three specs. We're not tied to a wolf (or a windserpent, hi burning crusade!) any more. Play around with your specs, practice timing on target dummies, think about the pet you'll want to use for leveling, and if you really really want to, think about what you should reforge on your gear. But honestly? Don't worry about it all that much. T10 doesn't even look as cool as T8 or T6, in my opinion, so I'm probably just going to toss it in the trash when I start replacing it with level 85 dungeon blues. It's ok to not care.
If you do care, I understand. I was over there reading stuff, and I think I do have a conclusion. Personally, I'd like to have a 1.5 second steady shot cast time, so I'm going to hold on to my haste until I hit that point. I'd also like to not go much lower than 50% crit rate, so if I'm dipping under that I'm going to stop reforging. As it happens, I haven't raided with my hunter in months, her gear is out of date, and I actually can't really do much reforging at all. So whatever! I'll just farm my welfare T10, try to help my new little 10-person raiding guild kill Arthas, and then move on to the expansion. I've already upgraded my account and it's finished the download that they've got ready so far (although I'm sure there will be more stuff to download).
In the meantime, at some point yesterday I spent ten minutes apiece on practice dummies, checking my DPS for MM vs. SV. My MM was consistently three to four hundred DPS higher. I've also changed my marks spec to this, essentially dropping marked for death in favor of bombardment. I've had a few procs from RiF since then, and it's a little bit of a bothersome proc, since it doesn't discount the kill command but instead refunds its cost. That means you have to find a space in your timing to borrow 40 focus and lose a GCD. The most natural place I've found is when I've just renewed my ISS buff and would normally cast two arcanes in a row. KC hits harder than an arcane, even for marks, so losing the global works out ok, and the focus refund makes it possible to work in something extra a little bit further on.
Anyway, happy huntering!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Marksmanship Test Night

Well, I think I may have to eat my own words, here. I realized I would be remiss if I didn't try out the new Marksmanship, so I respecced my BM spec to MM and did a little reading. I did actually find it as fun - or perhaps more fun - than Survival, a conclusion that was helped by finding out that the game has gone back to a state where it's more efficient to launch explosive traps on a boss than it is to use black arrow.
MM has the same central starvation-versus-surfeit resource model that all three specs share now, but I really like its twist. Survival has to watch two dots and keep an eye out for LnL procs. BM has to keep on top of using its DPS cooldowns, hopefully stacking them with focus fire and similar effects. MM has to maintain the Improved Steady Shot buff, which is just a little longer in duration than the (glyphed) chimera shot cooldown. That means you're juggling trying to find space to fit in two steady shots in a row, arcane shots when you can for extra damage, and the occasional free instant aimed shot from Master Marksman.
There's a little bit of leeway here. Under the effects of rapid fire, especially, you an let the ISS buff drop off because you can pretty easily just spam arcane and chimera shots. And I've just realized that if I were a competent hunter, I'd be misdirecting under rapid fire, popping readiness, and misdirecting again right at the start of fights - this would be an insane amount of bonus threat for the tank. So I should be doing that. But anyway, that's the new MM (as I understand it) in a nutshell. I do have one thing that bothers me, though.
The interaction between Resistance is Futile and Marked for Death is very non-obvious from the tooltips as well as dissatisfying. Apparently, for PvP reasons, targets marked by the MfD talent will not proc free kill commands from RiF. This means that I honestly can't think of a reason to take the MfD talent as a fairly strictly PvE hunter. I raided for years without needing to have my hunter's mark automatically applied and its duration is still five minutes - I can keep a mark on the boss, and regular hunter's mark will proc RiF. So then what do I do with those talent points that went into MfD? The only thing I can think of is putting them into Bombardment for trash convenience and the bosses that summon packs of adds.
So yeah, I'm not totally happy with that. The wording on the tooltips absolutely doesn't imply that RiF wouldn't work with MfD, and I seriously think it should. Ghostcrawler is I guess worried that it would be too powerful in PvP if not, since you can have multiple targets under the affect of MfD, but even that seems doubtful to me. It lasts fifteen seconds and is a fairly low proc chance, and anyway all it's doing is giving MM free kill commands - not a big deal. And Kill Command has a cooldown anyway! So... so what? Sigh.
Other than that, I picked up these bracers and they're disappointingly awful. I really don't need the hit, and they actually have less agility and crit than my old bracers from ToC25. But they've got a lot more stam! Again: sigh. So, still wearing the 245 bracers. Fester also failed at dropping boots again. Ah well. We did miraculously find a really good feral/resto druid in trade who seems interested in being a regular member of our runs, so... that's totally awesome. Having someone that's happy to DPS the first 10 bosses and then swap to a healer for the final two is really tough, and a druid fits into our raid composition very well, so I'm excited.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Tao of focus

Ok so the title is maybe a little bit overblown. I still want to talk about sort of the central thing you need to think about when you're playing a PvE hunter now. You're on a see-saw, with "getting focus capped" at one end and "getting focus starved" on the other. Let me explain.

I'll start with the first side of the see-saw: getting focus capped. What this means is that, once a boss fight starts, you never want to be at 100 focus. If you think about your new resource, this will make a lot of intuitive sense. The 4.01 hunter works as hard as she or he can to convert focus into damage: that's how we kill the boss. You're constantly regenerating focus at a set rate, even if you're not casting steadyshots. If you spend any time at 100 focus, then every tick of focus you regenerate past that is focus that's gone forever: you will never be able to turn it into damage, and that is why it's so important to never be focus capped.

The other side of the see-saw, though, is focus starvation. To understand what this means, just take a quick look at all three specs: all three of them have one ability that costs a ton of focus and has a short-duration cooldown. BM has Kill Command, MM has Chimera Shot, and SV has Explosive Shot. You'll notice that two of those have 6-second cooldowns, and chimera shot has cooldown reduction from talents. So here's the thing: you always want these abilities on cooldown. Each spec has other things to monitor and think about, of course, but the first thing you'll want to practice and get a hang of is always being able to hit these abilities the very second they become available. If you've been firing too many Arcane Shots, though, you'll find that you don't have enough focus to cast one of the big abilities as soon as it becomes available. This is focus starvation.

So if you've been feeling lost since the patch, the first thing you'll want to practice is just heading over to a dummy and using nothing but steady shot and one of those focus dumps. You'll find before too long that if you cast nothing but steady shot and chimera shot (or whatever), you'll spend a lot of time at 100 focus. So then you can try adding in some arcane shots to burn some of that focus, or keeping up serpent sting as survival, or whatever. The more you practice, the more you'll find that you're getting a sense for the point of balance between focus surfeit and starvation.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Focus on Survival

Oh man check out that post title. I am so clever, just like a journalist!

Ok, not actually clever, but you know. You've got to title the posts something. Anyway, I just wanted to reiterate that I'm really, really enjoying the new focus-based survival.

I was thinking about this last night (as well as talking about it a bit with the BF), and I think there are two things going on that make me like it a great deal.

First: you're still using a lot of things with cooldowns. BM really gets most of its damage from its pet and from arcane shot, and those are both always available. Survival gets most of its damage from Explosive Shot, a short-cooldown ability, as well as watching two dots. So what you end up doing is planning your focus usage around when those two dots are coming up for re-application and how close to that time your next explosive shot is. If serpent sting, black arrow, and an explosive shot are all coming up at roughly the same time, you're going to need to save up a lot of focus (but be careful not to cap it out).

On the other hand, if you're looking at a lot of open time before you next need to fire explosive and your dots are both fresh, then you can find an occasional opportunity to sneak in an arcane shot. Those little moments are my favorite, as I feel like I'm finding space in the resource system to eke out a little extra damage.

Second: survival's proc is just way more entertaining. BM has an ability that eats your pet's focus and gives you haste, but there's not too much interaction happening with that. When the built-in power auras go off, you use the ability. That's it. You also have the proc that makes the occasional kill command hit harder, but you're using KC on cooldown as BM anyway, so it doesn't change your behavior at all. Lock and Load is still pretty much the same talent/proc that it used to be, but that's a fundamentally satisfying proc. You have a chance to proc two free, no-cooldown explosives off of black arrow damage ticks. When you get 'em, you need to drop whatever else you're doing to fire three explosives, but you need to make sure not to clip the last tick of the dot.


So in summary, new survival involves the fundamental decision making of wanting to always keep explosive shot on cooldown but also wanting to keep your dots up and finding spaces for an extra arcane here and there. This is made more fun by reacting to a proc that requires you to alter your ability use to react to it properly.

I've done a little thinking about gear as well. I have to say the changes make me happy, because they mean I don't have to feel embarrassed by my crit/haste cloak from heroic beasts any more, and they make things like the JP-purchasable belt a much more attractive gear option now. It'll take roughly a zillion heroics to really gear my chicka up, but that's ok - and maybe I'll pug an ICC or something here and there.

In general, I think I'm going to hitcap again by shuffling gems a little, then reforge haste for mastery. Haste is certainly good now, but I think crit is still a more generally valuable stat, so I'd rather keep that. Other than that, the downside to "the bad gear is good now," is that gear priorities pretty much amount to "lay your claws on the highest item-level crap you can." There's really just not a whole lot of comparison worth doing. I'm assuming that will change with the cataclysm raids, though, with things like mastery appearing on gear without needing to reforge it. Until then my little inner excel nerd can nap, I guess.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Well well well

Preliminary findings from the research staff here at Piercing Shots indicate strongly that focus is fucking awesome.

So that's good.

You can take a look at the specs I've gone with on my armory page, linked to the right, and especially with so little wiggle room I'd say they're mostly right. I'll probably re-do the BM spec and shift points from Kindred Spirits into something else, but other than that, I feel pretty good about them.

I'm mostly going on intuition, of course, but I think I've got a pretty good plan for both BM and SV worked out so far. BM feels, I dunno, clunkier? Maybe it's just that arcane shot isn't very interesting, and the lack of cooldown on it makes focus management annoying. The focus fire proc is also fairly uninteresting - you just kind of use it when it's up. Anyway, what I eventually settled on with it was:

Send in the pet and Kill Command.
2 x Arcane Shot
2 x Steady shot
Kill Command

Repeat ad nauseum. I think in a boss fight I'd probably wait for the first focus fire before I blew my cooldowns for the first time, then I'd just blow them on cooldown for the remainder of the fight.

Survival was a ton more satisfying for me. It just felt like it all clicked together like a kid with Asperger's and a new Lego set, you know? You're almost always either using your big focus dumps, generally Explosive Shot, or saving up focus with Steady Shots. I felt like very occasionally I could sneak in an Arcane, which made me feel awesome, but I also had to be careful for times when Serpent, Black Arrow, and Explosive were all coming up soon and I'd need a nearly-full bar of focus (without, of course, letting it cap out).

I haven't installed Recount yet, so I don't have a clear picture of the damage I'm doing to training dummies, but Survival just feels like it's doing more damage than BM. A lot of that is, I think, the same problem that BM has always had: your pet is doing so much of your damage, you can begin to feel like you're just kind of chaperoning him around. Survival feels like it's actively slinging death down range.

Its icon is also way cooler.

Haven't reforged or re-gemmed anything yet, but I have to say it's kind of nice how the disappearance of armor penetration means I don't have to feel bad about things like my cloak from heroic Beasts any more. On the other hand, it's tough to know what I should really be striving for on my gear. I'm thinking in general I'll re-hitcap myself and then reforge for mastery.

I also think it's interesting that the official hunter forums have been really concentrating on MM and how to play it now. I mean, guys, come on. It's wide open now. You can play MM, sure, but why not experiment with the other two?

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Hello again.

I haven't played in - hm - a few months. I was actually playing while this blog was on hiatus (it may still be, I haven't really decided), but I was playing on my priest and raiding only ICC10 with a guild of mostly RL friends. The 4.01 patch has hit, and my boyfriend has been excited about wow again, so I resubbed and downloaded and patched tonight. I'm about to load up the game and see what's up.

It's sort of neat that the hunter community is flailing and panicking right now. Spec choice is wide open, there's a new resource to futz with, and tier 11 is shockingly ugly. So. I think I'll log in to the ol' huntress and see if farming 'roix for welfare T10 is any fun.