Thursday, June 30, 2011

First night of Firelands: pretty OK

Well we started in on the Firelands last night. We decided to work on Beth'tilac first and didn't quite get her down. It was pretty much always the same problem though, coordinating the upstairs tank and healer. I probably should have paused for longer between pulls and really talked with some of our upstairs healers, since there must be something going on that was causing them to not go back upstairs and heal the tank, but I'm not sure what it was. I wonder if maybe the healers didn't have a good sense of how short the smoldering devastation cast is and were trying to help the raid healer downstairs. That would be an easy trap to fall into, especially since the boss starts spitting fiery poison on the raid the second the cast is done. Tonight I'll consider having them set Beth as a focus or something, so they always know when she's done and they need to get back upstairs. I'll also have them try to stay right next to the upstairs tank so they've always got an eye on her and can see when she goes back up.

It's kind of a frustrating encounter as a hunter. Our taunt is on an 8-second cooldown, and the spinners only melee for about 2,700 or so, so we spend a lot of the time tanking spinners that we have to wait for others to kill. We also spend a lot of time struggling for the focus to use trap launcher to frost and explosive trap the mobs of spiderlings. I'm considering swapping to Survival for the encounter tonight, since that will help with trap cooldowns, serpent spread will help kill the spiderlings, and entrapment will be just as handy as it was on Cho'gall.

That is pretty much my hunter guide for Beth'tilac by the way:

  1. Taunt Cinderweb Spinners
  2. Kill Cinderweb Spinners that are at range from you, and raptor-strike the ones next to you for the damage reduction
  3. Trap Spiderlings
  4. DPS Drones if you have downtime

I also had some pretty bizarrely good luck with drops from the trash. The BoE bracers dropped and I actually whined about them not being the crossbow. So later on, the crossbow dropped too. You would think the loot gods would punish me for my impertinence, but I guess not!

I usually play with sound off, but I guess it has gun noises because it used to be a gun? Also it's bugged such that I can't reforge the mastery on it, which is truly annoying, since the bracers brought me back under the hitcap (they bizarrely have less hit than my old bracers from Chimaeron). I guess this is because the mastery is actually haste, and since the tooltip doesn't match the actual stats, you can't reforge, which means that the most elegant method by which I could hitcap myself is off the table. Sigh!

In other news, I downloaded the trial version of Fraps just to see if my system can support a WoW raid and video capture at the same time. I'm not sure that it can, but it would be neat to make some hunter videos if possible.

Monday, June 20, 2011

One last week of T11

I think I've settled on a combination of binds and macros to help address my issues with ISS uptime. It's not perfect, mostly because changing aspects is still affected by the GCD, even if it doesn't cause a GCD. This is mostly an issue because I frequently want to swap to fox right after using an instant like chimera or arcane, and if I hit it too fast I don't actually change aspects. Nonetheless, I've spent a fair amount of time practicing on target dummies, and I think I've got a pretty good system.

The important thing for me to find out was that, in a macro, putting an exclamation mark before the name of an aspect in a macro means you don't cancel your own macro, which allowed me to macro hawk to my instant casts. This in turn meant that I didn't have to worry about losing the AotH bonus on my instants. Hooray! So if you're curious, chimera and arcane shot now have macros that look like this:

/cast !aspect of the hawk
/cast chimera shot
As far as I know you can't macro aimed shot because of the MMM talent: if you have AiS macroed, you'll end up always hardcasting AiS instead of actually using up the buff and firing a free, instant one. I've got fox manually bound to my middle mouse button, and hawk is bound to ctrl-middle button just in case. Not having AiS macroed isn't a problem because I can always use chimera or arcane first.

Overall, I think this should help me improve my DPS quite a bit, which will help kill new bosses in the Firelands. Hooray!

I've been pugging a lot of raids on my alts, mostly my priest. It's driving me a little bit nuts, because there are a lot of really nice, pretty decent people on my server, and we're all in lots of separate little guilds, all trying to recruit from the barely existent pool of raiders available on a backwater RP server. We all have enough people that trying to merge wouldn't work very well, and anyway I like the way my guild is doing things. I like that the principal function of the gbank is "helping raiders". I like that officers aren't especially more important than members. I like the loot system we're using. I don't want to give those things up - and I'm sure the other little guilds don't want to give up what they've got!

And yet, I want to be friends and play more regularly with some of the people I've met pugging. The best I've been able to think of has been friends-listing the people that I play with, continuing to pug with them, and if VA has open spots on any given night I ask them first. Not perfect, but it's a step.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

On being a lesser part of a greater sum

It was sort of a bitter-sweet raid night for me last night. I mean for sure mostly sweet, and the bitterness was kind of that appealing hint of bitterness you get from pouring hot espresso over ice cream, but it was there nonetheless. We cleared out BoT in just under two hours, which was wonderful. I love, love, love having a raid of farm content go smoothly and quickly, just collecting the few drops we still need and melting the rest to get to the more exclusive stuff from the last boss. Cho'gall himself continues to be a total dick and drops only Conqueror tokens. I'm serious, we've gotten zero Protector or Vanquisher tokens. Screw you, Cho'gall. Getting 4-piece of tier has been a sort of bugbear for me since T5, and it looks like that's likely to continue, since we've got one more raid week with T11 as current content before Firelands is likely to come out, and I'm pretty sure we're just going to head straight there.

But anyway, I'm wandering off track. The point is that last night's raid went really smoothly and in our last half-hour we went to 50% with Al'akir. We've certainly got the DPS to get through P2, we just need to make it through P1 without losing 1 or 2 people to those awesome moments where two squall lines are converging on you at the same time as wind burst is casting and he floods an area with chain lightning. Those moments are of course possible to navigate, but it's also way easy to lose someone. I do like how Al'akir is good for making it feel pretty pro to be a hunter, since if you have to eat a wind burst you can just turn around and disengage mid-air to hop right back on the platform. Not that I came up with that or anything, but it's still pretty cool.

The bitter part comes from uploading the logs and looking at my own damage done on each of the bosses. I think the reality is that, although I have pretty decent situational awarenes and I do ok damage, I'm not playing the MM spec particularly well. On my best fight of the night, Valiona and Theralion, I came in at 19.1k DPS with an abysmal ISS uptime of 76%. Halfus and Council both had worse uptimes. On V&T I should really have an uptime on ISS of close to 95%. That 76% uptime would have been pretty good if I'd had it on Council, but instead I had it at around 63%. Maintaining the ISS buff on myself is the single most important element of the MM damage priority and I'm doing a pretty terrible job of it, costing the raid hundreds of DPS. I'm not so worried about my low DPS on Cho'gall, as I'm Survival for the encounter and I think of my principal responsibility as add management (misdirecting adherents and trapping slimes), but still, I think I could do better there as well.

I think that what I'm going to have to do to address the deficit here is re-think my bindings again. Specifically I need to be able to swap fluidly from aspect of the hawk to fox and back again, because what's happening is that every time there's a lot of movement I'm just moving, instead of moving and casting steadies. My aspect binds are alt 1-5 right now, and there's just no way to hit that while simultaneously hitting Q or E to strafe out of fire. I wonder if, now that I think about it, making a macro to toggle between fox and hawk and binding it to my middle mouse button (which is to say, clicking down on the mouse wheel) would work. I'll have to experiment with that.

I also just might need to upgrade my mouse. I've had my current one for a long time - since before WoW came out, in fact - and although it's an excellent mouse I might just need a couple more buttons. It would be nice to have steady on a bind on my mouse as well, for example, to make it easier to do things while cast that while on the move, something that's pretty difficult right now since my movement-key fingers are also my DPS-key fingers.

I actually think it's pretty cool how this game and other games ask players to really go back to fundamentals if they want to improve. At the end of the day, things like understanding the mathematical underpinnings of the class are important, but if you want to really get better you have to consider the physicality of how you play and fix your issues there. These sorts of things are, taken in aggregate, the real differences between players like me and players in world-first guilds, not things like hours per week spent raiding. Those really high-level players could raid the same six hours a week I do and they'd probably have cleared 13/13 by now: that extra time spent raiding is just to ensure that they do it first, not that they do it at all.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Flintlocke's Woodchucker: ugh

I have to say I'm really not a fan of the new scope. If you didn't notice it from the patch notes I mentioned yesterday, don't feel alone: I didn't see it either. I usually skip right to the "hunter" section and didn't see that they'd added a new scope for engineers to make. It's called Flintlocke's Woodchucker and it gives you a chance to (sigh!) fling a critter at your target, doing instant damage and giving a 10-second 300 agility buff. It will of course be mandatory, and it's going to make me sad. I already didn't like the cobra shot animation, so adding a turkey or whatever doesn't really improve things. I do not especially want to be "the class that throws animals at stuff". But it seems like I don't have much of a choice.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Recent 4.2 PTR patch notes

A couple interesting things from the patch notes for 4.2 posted on MMO Champion today. The first is that MM's mastery, Wild Quiver, is getting pretty significantly buffed. WQ procs are already a not-insignificant portion of my damage from parses, so this change is a pretty straightforward buff, probably to compensate for the nerf to Careful Aim. I'm still not entirely sure why the CA nerf had to happen, but presumably they had their reasons.

The second interesting thing is the buff to Black Arrow, for Survival hunters. I've been considering a mini-post on BA for a little bit now, because I've been thinking that it seemed like the ideal place to bring up Survival's damage. It's the tree's 31-point talent, which means that hunters really should want to keep it on cooldown, while in reality hunters are using explosive trap for LnL procs on mobs that don't move. That's a pretty straightforward design mistake, and making BA just Do More Damage not only helps bring the tree more in line with MM, it also makes that top-level talent feel decent instead of crap.

I still think they should tie Explosive Shot to weapon damage. The combination of that and the buff to BA would really address the tree's scaling issues (i.e.: Survival drops further behind with each new tier of gear) and help widen the options for what a hunter can play in end-game content. That, in turn, would be a boon for hunters in 10-person guilds, because Marksmanship is so dependent on having the 10% haste buff that it makes it very difficult to play in the absence of that buff. Being able to turn to Survival as a similarly high-damage alternative would be really helpful.

An Aphorism

Thinking about the previous post reminded me of this old saying:

If all you've got is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

Which is true. But also true, and more applicable to WoW, I think, is this:

If you've got a whole box full of different tools with little wiggly bits on the end and you're not quite sure what you're meant to do with the ratchet except maybe "pretend it's a noisemaker for a party," and if almost everything you've encountered has been nails, and maybe the occasional screw and hammering that in like a nail worked ok in the end, it's easy to forget that you're carrying around that whole box of tools and instead just always reach for good ol' hammer.

God I'm good.

PvP: It's No Bigs

I don't currently play on a PvP server, but I have for a while in the past, and I read a sad post yesterday (or maybe the day before) that I want to address at some minor length. A hunter who'd been looking for Sambas for a while finally lucked out and he was up in all his prettiness when she checked. Hooray! So she went to go to tame him, and an opposite-faction DK started messing with her. She's on a PvP server not because she's a big PvPer, but because she has friends and family on the server that she wants to play with.

I didn't quite have family on the server I played on, but I was there because I'd joined a guild on the server, so the situation was somewhat analogous. Like her, I've never really been big into PvP. I've done some battlegrounds, even did some arenas for points so I could get gear to use in PvE, as the arena season 3 hat was hilariously better than the T6 hat. But it's never been something I've been really excited about. So I get it! It's possible to be on a PvP server without really being into PvP.

However, this poor hunter's tale made me really sad because she did everything she could besides PvP. She actually trapped the DK in a freezing trap and tried to tame in the window of its duration. This says a couple things to me:

  1. She's good enough at PvP to get a melee class into a freezing trap
  2. The DK didn't have a PvP trinket equipped

And yet, when I suggested "just killing him" as an option when he started to mess with the tame, she said this:

"I'm absolutely terrible at PvP."

It makes me sad when people say this. Firstly because there's nothing all that special about PvP. When you get to high-level arena play, there's a lot of technical discussion about "countercomps" and stuff, but duels are really, really not a big deal. There's nothing magical, nothing deep and strategic about duels. You're trying to do enough damage to the other person to kill them before they do it back to you.

And the reality is that almost all of the basic dueling tools have an use in PvE as well. I use frost, explosive, and snake traps as well as scatter shot and wyvern sting on Cho'gall. I use disengage all the time! I glyph raptor strike and use it whenever it makes sense to! All while trying to do as much damage as possible to one target or another which, really, is all PvP is, right?

And the really nice thing about world PvP with a single asshole trying to deny you a cool tame is that there's no reason not to blow all your cooldowns the second someone so much as looks at you sideways. Especially as BM (and a lot of the hunters out taming prestige pets are BM) this would be awesome. Someone tries to mess with your tame, ok, sucks to be them! Call out a pet, intimidate, and Rapid Fire/Bestial Wrath/Call of the Wild: they'll be half-dead before the stun ends if, like the DK in question, they don't have a PvP trinket equipped. And you'll still have deterrence, all your traps, any other pet special abilities like pin, scatter shot, and master's call available. A hunter with all their cooldowns up is a dangerous thing.

Finally, maybe you do all this and the person turns out to be someone in arena gear who's actually pretty good and you die anyway. Oh well. If you died when you were trying to fight back, you'd've died when you weren't. At least trying to kill the person gave you a shot at getting the tame, while just trying to tame in spite of harassment is pretty much never going to work.

Fortunately, I don't think I've ever seen a really talented, geared PvPer do something lame and petty like messing with a prestige tame. No matter how bad you think you are at PvP, there are people that are as bad and worse. And the wonderful thing is that these are the people most likely to do griefy, trolly things because they're looking for easy targets to pick on. They get destroyed in battlegrounds and can't look at an arena without dying, so they think "I know! I'll look for easy kills so I can feel better about myself!" These are the easiest people to turn the tables on.

So stop worrying about how bad you are. It doesn't matter, I promise. Just start pushin' some buttons and see how it goes.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

4.2 Careful Aim nerf

I guess CA is only going to affect damage done above 90% health? Why? It's not like hunter DPS was out of line or anything. Why did they feel that this nerf was needed?  And it shouldn't make much of a difference in PvP either. Opening burst is nice, but it's not what wins matches - being able to burst someone from 35% to zero is far more important than getting them from 100% to 80%. On the other hand, MMO champ says there are changes they probably couldn't get ahold of with datamining. Perhaps there's some other change to offset the CA nerf. Still: bleh.