Thursday, October 27, 2011

Using your pet's abilities

I recently got an email with some great questions about the use of our pets' abilities. The sender has been playing the class for a couple years and has done a lot of their own research, but found that it seems like there are some things you're assumed to just know. In reality of course, there's no reason anyone would just know the answers to these things! In point of fact, I never really found any guides that answered these questions either, so the answers I have are all "this is what works for me." I'm not claiming that the way I do things is the best way or the only way, merely that it's a way.

That established, here are the actual questions as I understand them:
  1. Should pet abilities be on autocast or should the player choose when to use them?
  2. Is there any way to make the pet bar bigger, allowing you to fit more pet abilities onto it?
  3. If the answer to number 2 is "no," then is it possible to macro pet abilities?
  4. If the answer to number 3 is "yes," are they cast abilities, use abilities, or something else?
I think these are great questions, especially because pet control is so important to the class. If you're ever in a group with another hunter, watch their pet during trash pulls: does it run all the way back to their side in between mobs, or are they manually moving it to the next target right before the previous one dies?

I don't think that the latter is necessarily a bad hunter or anything! I just think it's more likely that that person doesn't think of their pet as an important part of their damage and hasn't developed the habits that make pet-control during boss encounters second nature.

Our pets' abilities are another aspect of pet control, and I think it's a great sign if you're asking yourself questions like those above and trying to find answers for them. To be good at something isn't to say "I know all the answers," it is instead to say "how could I be better?"

Ok! Having made a pretentious, melodramatic big deal out of things, I should probably answer the questions as best I can.

Number 1. The answer is "it depends." Growl should of course be turned off. Your pet's spammable attack, things like Claw, should be left on autocast. Call of the Wild and Roar of Recovery should be used manually and, more specifically, they should be stacked with either Rapid Fire or Bloodlust. I'll come back to that in a second. I leave Dash on autocast. They automatically use it whenever they have to get farther than a certain minimum distance, and with the short cooldown it's often available at good times. Any DPS you may lose from your pet using the focus on dash is more than made up for by increased time on target.

If your raid group is having you pet-tank adds (as happened a lot with Nefarian), then the usual recommendation is to leave Shell Shield and the similar scarab ability on autocast. The threshhold that pets seem to have for their Shell Shield use seems to work quite well. If your raid ever determines that they want access to abilities like Roar of Sacrifice for a specific encounter, then you'll definitely want to turn autocast off and use them deliberately there. The bat's stun is another example of this: some raids had their hunters bring bats for Ragnaros so they'd have another stun to use on Sons of Flame.

The reason I say that you pretty much must stack Call of the Wild or Roar of Recovery with Rapid Fire or Bloodlust is because RF and BL are cooldowns that multiply other effects. CotW and RoR could read more simply as "you do higher damage for a little while," so attacking more often with that higher damage is the best use of it. And don't underestimate RoR, either! If your raid needs Curse of Elements, you should absolutely use one of the two cunning pets that supply it. RoR allows you to fit a whole extra Aimed Shot in during the Careful Aim window, which is huge. My aimed shots have a 100% crit chance during CA, land for over 70,000 damage, and roll the Piercing Shots bleed, whose ticks get monstrously large by the end of the CA window.

Number 2. There's actually no way to change the size of the pet bar, even with mods, so far as I know. This means that yes, you'll probably be using macros.

Number 3. Yep!

Number 4. In general, abilities work through /cast commands in macros, while things like telling your pet to attack something or changing her stance work through their own specific commands. For the first example, let's look at how I use Call of the Wild in a macro:
/cast Rapid Fire
/use Potion of the Tol'vir
/cast Call of the Wild
Make sure to spam that button a few times to make sure everything activates. If you have an on-use trinket such as the Ancient Petrified Seed, put that in there as well. The /cast command will work for any activated pet ability. So if you're doing the bat pet for Ragnaros thing, you could make a macro that had "/cast Sonic Blast" and that macro would make your pet use his stun on whatever you've got targeted.

It's possibly worth noting that this opens up possibilities for doing cool things with pet control, especially with mouseover targeting. So you could make a macro that looked like this:

/cast [target=mouseover] Sonic Blast
Then, during Ragnaros, you could be targeting and DPSing one Son when you see that another is getting dangerously close to the hammer. Even if you're in the middle of casting an Aimed Shot, you could leave your current Son targeted, hover your mouse cursor over the worrisome one, and push the button for that macro. Your bat would swoop over, stun it, and then swoop back to your current target.

I mostly manage my pet's position through the use of macros telling her to attack, come to my side, be passive, or assist. Ever since the Burning Crusade I've developed super-strong muscle memory of hitting control-1 to tell my pet to attack, so I chose to bind my other commands to control-2 and control-3. I have these macros on a hidden action bar on the left-hand side of my screen that also houses trap launcher, my traps, and my aspect switching macro. Well, sort of! Control-1 is the default pet attack button, so I didn't change that, but I did make macros for the other things.

The first macro brings my pet to my side, and is used to make sure she doesn't get killed by things that target a specific spots. Mimiron's rockets in Ulduar for example, or Rag's hammer impact for lava wave, that kind of thing. The other thing it's good for is getting your pet in range for use of Master's Call. Whenever there's a dispellable immobilization or snare debuff in an encounter, you should use Master's Call. Let your healers know that you are not a priority for dispels and that they can and should conserve their mana unless you ask for help.

The macro looks like this:
That macro is 100% guaranteed to make your pet break off from whatever she's doing and come running back to you. Mine is titled "come". If you want to macro having your pet attack so you can bind it somewhere else, by the way, the command is simply "/petattack".

Finally I have control-3 bound to put her back on the assist setting. It's worth noting that you don't necessarily have to have her on assist. I use it for some fights and don't use it for others. If I'm going to be switching targets frequently but I want my pet to attack only one target, then I leave her on passive and just tell her to attack the correct target at the beginning. That said, here's my macro to put my pet on assist:
The /petfollow command is there because sometimes I'll hit control-3 after having directed my pet to stand in a specific spot. Petfollow does not make your pet come to your side, it simply tells her to follow you around if she's not doing anything else. Sending her a /petpassive command will always make her come back to you, even if she's already set to passive. Without that /petfollow in there, you could end up with her standing in some random spot, probably wagging her tail with a goofy look on her face.

That's most of what leaps to mind for me! Which tips have I missed? Also, I keep making these kind of long posts without really intending to. Blogger has an option to cut these into an intro and a body, hiding the body unless someone clicks to see it. Would anyone prefer that I start doing that?

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