Monday, May 30, 2011

MM guide updated and some other stuff

Alright, the MM guide is updated as well now. It was actually closer to accurate than the Survival guide is, but there's more interest in MM right now because it's the top single-target spec. I also took the first look in a long time at the Marks thread on the EJ forums, which was interesting. The T12 4-piece bonus is resulting in some interesting discussion as everyone tries to figure out how to actually make that bonus result in an increase in DPS for the spec. As far as I can tell there's no super-firm answer yet, but unraveling the thread maintainer's language is always a challenge. It's not super-relevant yet anyway, so I'm not too worried about providing any sort of accurate about it just yet.

I hope everyone has had a delightful long weekend!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Gear list post updated

I have fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinally gotten around to updating my pre-raid gear list post, including items from patch 4.1. I should really go through and update the Survival and Marksmanship guides as well, but updating and editing previously written things is probably the most boring part of the enterprise for me. I'll get around to it eventually! I just don't really have any idea when.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Continuing the theme from my previous post

It's easy to guess that my last post was occasioned, at least in part, by forays into the RDF system. I've been playing my priest a lot, and that's meant a lot of pugging. I've had some mysterious, inexplicable experiences. I've had some poisonously bad experiences. And I've had some good experiences.

Although he didn't especially want to, I wheedled my BF into doing a random troll'roic with me last night. Our first tank dropped immediately after we'd completed the gauntlet to Akil'zon, providing no explanation. Our next tank dropped immediately after Akil'zon was dead due to need vs. greed drama over the bag of coins (it had an exorbitant 40 gold in it). The tank immediately after that lasted about two minutes before the hunter facepulled a group and wiped the party, at which time the hunter and the tank left. The tank after that lasted until Jan'alai, and literally everyone but my boyfriend and myself dropped group after him - I guess because they wanted something he did or didn't drop. Deflated, we gave up for the night.

Earlier today, I did a random troll heroic and it was ZA again. Nalorakk died pretty easily, we made it to Jan'alai and wiped, and the tank left.


I'm not sure where people get the impression that they ought to be able to clear one of those heroics with people they've never met and not wipe once or twice here and there. I don't understand how that patently silly idea gets lodged in their craniums. If you're RDFing the troll heroics, you're going to wipe sometimes. And that's ok.

A later random ZG had me fill in for a healer that had left or DCed or something on the first boss. I clarified that everyone felt familiar with the boss, because there is nothing I hate more than a group staring silently at a boss for 10 seconds then running in and having one or more people who clearly have no idea what's going on. Then I tried to let a heal finish casting on someone and was killed by a poison line. The torrent of venomous (and of course, homophobic) profanity was instant, and I guess they were especially mad because I had asked if everyone know the encounter.

Sigh again.

So I put that entire party on ignore and teleported back to SW. They'd used their votekick on someone else already, so at least I had the satisfaction of forcing them all to leave the group individually and wait out their dungeon cooldown in Stormwind, which was some consolation.

What are these people trying to prove with their ludicrous posturing in RDF groups? Do they think anyone's impressed? Do they think they get points they can spend on gear or companion pets by pissing in the RDF pool?

Perhaps the most utterly confusing part of this sort of stunted, embarrassing behavior is that it actively works against what I would assume is the person's goals. Most people want to clear, right? Get the satchels and the drops and the bonus VP, right? Does anyone really think that's likely to happen if every misstep and every wipe is heralded by a deluge of unthinking, reflexive bile?

Bitch, please.

You know what is likely to clear? Patience. The willingness to explain and wipe a couple times while everyone figures it out. And you know what? If you just want to have every run go flawlessly and wipelessly even though you're using the RDF tool, you know what you're hoping for? You're hoping for a guild group kitted out in raid gear that can carry your sorry ass through the content because you're too crap at the game to figure it out on your own.

Anyway, I've actually cleared more often than not with my groups. I had yet another group (it's been a wow-heavy weekend) that did, in fact, clear ZA. We wiped a few times on Jan'alai, and although the mage and the arms warrior got into a fight over who was killing which adds and who was bad and whatever else, the very nice tank and myself got them to calm down and kill the boss. Said mage rolled on the cloth spirit bracers that Halazzi dropped, and I could have pitched a fit about it, but I didn't. Everyone else kind of did, but you know what? Whatever. I'm sure I'll kill Halazzi again. It's not a big deal, and I let everyone know as much. Then when we killed Dakaara, I got a new mainhand and some nice tells from the tank. Much more satisfying than yelling at people would have been.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ease, difficulty, bads, and learning curves.

I'm actually pretty surprised that I find myself with a desire to write this post. There are some sort of basic assumptions about difficulty in WoW that I thought were universal, but it turns out they're not. I shouldn't really be surprised, of course. There does not exist an opinion about this game that you can't find someone to disagree with. Up to and including the opinion that it is in fact a game. There are a number of ways to disagree with that, but then I'm wondering off-course.

Alright, difficulty. To begin with, I think that any given encounter or activity or place in the game has a learning curve. These curves vary in steepness. Lost City of the Tol'vir, for example, is easier to learn than pre-nerf heroic Stonecore, where all the bosses had a number of instant-kill mechanics. Instant-kill things are tougher to learn because if you miss them once you're simply dead, and you don't get another look at the warning until the party wipes and comes back or the next time you do the instance. The important part I'm getting at here, though, is that some encounters are more difficult to learn than others.

I also think that WoW is entirely about teamwork. Classes are designed to create synergies, mechanics require correct relative positioning, battlegrounds and arenas depend on communication and cooperation, on and on. Right? I don't think any of this should be controversial.

If you accept the previous two statements, however, I think you're pretty much required to accept the logical conclusions that extend from them. One of those conclusions is that there is no such thing in the game as something that is hard or something that is easy. The Sinestra encounter one-shot farm content for many guilds at this point. So it's easy for them, but that doesn't mean it's just plain old easy. Converseley, even though most guilds aren't even going to pull Sinestra, that doesn't mean it's difficult. It's just difficult for them.

This might seem like froofy, new-age nonsense, but I really don't think it is. I think an encounter's difficulty is entirely dependent on the group that's engaging with it. A guild group on vent with a lot of experience working together can pretty believably get a new ZA bear on the first run through the place, as long as they've all read up on things beforehand. A group assembled of people that don't know each other through the RDF system can wipe several times in ZA even if everyone in that group has cleared the instance a few times before. The encounters are not inherently easy or inherently difficult. The most that can be said about them is that their learning curves may be steeper or shallower depending on the group making the pull.

In turn, this is why I don't really feel like it makes a lot of sense to upbraid your RDF party members as bads or terribles or whatever. Any particular person may be having trouble picking up or executing a particular thing in an encounter, but they're just a part of the group or raid. A sufficiently practiced group can carry pretty much anyone through pretty much any encounter, as illustrated by guilds doing things like selling achievement drakes (or achievement bears from the raid version of ZA a couple expansions ago).

Basically, if you're calling your party members bads, you're saying you're not good enough to cover for them. If you feel like someone just isn't getting something, you can vote-kick, sure. But going on about how stuff is "easy" and not at all like other stuff that's "hard" just gets you into an endless pissing match that, unless you're in a top-100 guild, you're not going to win. I've seen people that (like me!) still haven't cleared T11 normal calling people bad. Or people calling their teammates in BGs bads and terribles even though, on later armorying, their arena/rated BG teams are in that 1500-1600 range.

As long as you can keep in mind that no particular thing is "easy" and other things are "hard," you should hopefully have an easier time reigning in those impulses to shout at your teammates. Unless of course they're being little pricks, which is the one thing that's guaranteed to get me shouting at someone.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Prediction true!

I was pretty confident we'd kill Cho'gall last night and hey! Now he's dead. Two more patch end-bosses to go and we'll have cleared T11. Yaaaay!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I haven't been totally idle...

...I just haven't felt like I've had much to say on this blog. I think part of the posting slump has been because the end of the school year ate 30-40% of my raid for the last three weeks or so, and it's been really disheartening to go from progression with a stable group of good people to fishing in trade for pugs and wiping on farm content. Thankfully, last night the prodigal raiders returned, and it was completely delightful clearing content with them. Very few wipes and some great progression on Cho'gall - I am about 90% confident that we'll get him tonight. And he seems like a really farmable encounter, very repeatable once you go back with a group that already has experience with him.

I suppose it may be worthwhile to chat about playing a hunter on Cho'gall. I think that unless you're in a raid where someone else - a frost mage, maybe - has the same sort of control options available to them, you should absolutely have a Survival spec for this encounter, and I think you should have entrapment in it. The reduced cooldown on traps and the 4-second immobilize is so useful.

What we do is we have our add tank pile up the corpse-puddles as closely together as she can, then I lay a frost and an explosive trap directly on that, then a snake trap about 10-15 yards in front of those. As soon as the slimes appear they get frozen in place while all the ranged unload on them with AoEs including serpent spread, which is really phenomenal AoE DPS. Once the entrapment period ends and the slimes get off the frost patch they hit the snake trap, which immobilizes them again. Hammer them with more AoE. If you timed that first frost trap well, it should be coming off of cooldown just about now, and you should be able to chain a third entrapment proc on the slimes right at the end. If you do this well, and your raid is lined up so the slimes aren't blobbing off to the sides of the room, you should be in really great shape and they should really die by the end of the third entrapment proc.

Awesome, huh? It actually makes the encounter really fun. I mostly leave my pet on Cho'gall himself to help the melee push that phase transition into phase 2. Once we really get set with his positioning in phase 2 and kill the tentacles with a quickness, we'll be set. Yay!

Other than that, my concerns with the T12 4-pc remain the same. I'm also not looking forward to questing out Hyjal on my hunter, as I've done it in its entirety once on my warrior and about a third of it twice on my priestess. I guess I should make some gold, at least.

Other than that, I've written a few thousand words of the first novel I've started that I've felt pretty confident about finishing a first draft of. I've also been futzing with Starcraft 2 a little bit again. And I quite possibly have a new job. And with the coming of Spring I've been running again. So I suppose that all in all, things are pretty decent 'round these parts.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Oh look, set bonuses!

Haha, woops. I made my music video post, then opened up my feed reader and everyone was making posts about the new set bonuses. Here are the hunter T12 bonuses:

  • Hunter 2 Pieces - Your Steady Shot and Cobra Shot have a 10% chance to trigger a Flaming Arrow, dealing 0% instant weapon damage as Fire.
  • Hunter 4 Pieces - You have a 10% chance from your autoshots to make your next shot cost no focus.

2pc is as boring and passive as they usually are. Just a damage bonus. It's of course hard to say how much damage it will be worth, but I would guess somewhere in the 50-100 DPS range. Just a nice little nudge upwards in damage done with no extra effort, so hey, that's fine.

4pc will be interesting. The way to make set bonuses engaging for DPS classes is to have them alter our priorities or cycle in some way, and this will do that. The current priority systems as MM already requires cycle to cycle alteration sometimes, at least for me. There are times when I'll want to tack a third steady shot onto the SS pair between chimeras and other times when I'll want to put a third arcane shot in there instead, depending on how high or low on focus I am.

I'm quite curious as to what will end up making the best use of the procs from the bonus. On the one hand, I'm inclined to feel like it would be wasted on arcane shots, but on the other hand, chimera shot is generally on cooldown and aimed shot has such a long cast time that I'm unsure if making it free will make it something you're free to use. Especially since the need to keep the ISS buff up 100% of the time means you can't just cast the free aimed and then two arcanes and a chimera, because if you do that you're going to lose the ISS buff. The bonus may just end up being a thing where if it procs before a pair or trio of arcanes, it forces us to use a trio? I'm not sure.

I suppose the problem with it in general is that MM hunters are already so tightly constrained in our cycles. We are bound by duration of the ISS buff and further circumscribed by the chimera shot cooldown. The T11 4pc is good because the reduction in steady cast time makes the DPS cycle looser. T12 4pc is perhaps not so great because it's difficult to cram more stuff in there.

This is less of a concern for SV hunters, for whom it will pretty much translate into free arcanes. I mean it will mostly get used on explosive shots, but the excess focus that creates will get dumped into arcanes. So it's a good bonus for them. BM as well will just get free arcanes out of it.

Also: why is there mastery on EVERYTHING in the firelands? Gah! I mean it's not a terrible stat, but not as good (for any hunter spec!) as haste or crit.

Anthem of the Casual Raider

This came on the radio yesterday while I was on my way to lake Harriet for a run, and it helped me chill out a little bit about my progression anxiety. And hey, it's a good song in its own right. Totally void of autotune too, which makes me wonder why he uses it ever? He's got a nice voice!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Distractions and diversions

It can be a little strange having a gaming blog, especially one so narrow as a class-specific WoW blog. Things will happen in the real world, like tsunami or the death of bin Laden, and you're not sure whether you ought to comment on it. Does it seem weird that you haven't mentioned it? Or would it seem weird for a WoW hunter blog to suddenly start talking about SEAL team 6 in Pakistan?

I guess all I'll really say about that is that, while I'm glad the guy's dead, I wish it had been Army Special Forces that did him in. Just a little vestigial branch loyalty from my time in.

Now that my priestess has also made it to 85 and done a few heroics, I really must admit that I like healing a lot more than I like tanking. I've been playing her as discipline, and for me there really aren't any tanking moments comparable to popping wings with a full stack of evangelism and then casting penance into an inner-focused greater heal. It's pretty feasible to bring a nearly-dead tank back to almost full health, and just the juggling and triage in general is more satisfying for me than rounding up mobs. You do have to be willing to dive into your combat log to prove things though. I had a group wipe a couple times on Karsh in H-BRC and you could tell they were winding up into "blame the healer" territory.

I went into my combat log and found the last tick of heat wave that I'd eaten was for 28k. The damage from those climbs the more stacks of the debuff he's got on him, so if you're leaving him in the fire long enough to get 4 or 5 new stacks of the debuff, that's 20,000+ damage ticking on everyone in the party every second, in addition to melee swings on the tank. There's no way a healer with an average item level of 333 is healing through that, you know? People were falling over dead even when I popped PI on myself and spammed prayer of healing.

Some boss mechanics are a little bit better at illustrating to the DPS that they have responsibilities past "DPS the boss real hard". I haven't yet had a group clear Drahga in Grim Batol without a single wipe, because DPS are just loathe to swap targets. Having a fire elemental ram into them and blow up, insta-killing them, is a pretty good wake up, though. Well, sort of. After a couple wipes on him last night, the PvP-geared arms warrior bailed to be replaced by the most delightful rogue, who made the encounter trivially easy. She also kicked casts on later mobs! When I remarked on how many DPS don't seem to like to use their interrupts, she said "they do no damage," then had a whole little comic monologue about "y i use if no damage, i no waste golds on training it" and stuff. So that was great.

In raiding news, I feel like I'm pretty sure that we're not going to clear T11 before T12 launches, which is a shame. I guess once we out-gear it we can come back later and clear it. Maybe I'm being pessimistic? I hope so. Part of it's my fault, as I've known I need to do some recruiting for... a while now and I haven't gotten around to doing so. Recruiting is a lot of work, and especially for a small casual guild with poor progression it's tough to attract the people that will really help with that.