Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Trying out fringe setups

Following on the heels of my previous post on haste ratings, I'm trying something super-wonky tonight. I'm going to be eliminating arcane shot from my standard DPS priorities and hardcasting AiS a lot. Since I'm using less ArcS (basically only when I have to dump focus while moving), I'm getting rid of the glyph for it. There aren't too many viable alternative options though, pretty much just the CS glyph and the kill shot glyph. CS glyph sims as an improvement in FemaleDwarf, so... I'm going to give it a shot. I did some testing of how it felt on a target dummy earlier, and to be honest it didn't feel good. I keep watching CS come off of cooldown right as a steady shot starts casting, and it feels like I'm just wasting that glyph slot. There's no way to really determine if I actually am wasting it other than just using it for a raid night and seeing how it goes. And hey, if there's something hilariously wrong like doing 15k DPS on Shannox, I can just swap glyphs again and go back to the comforting arms of arcane shot.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

What's up with 1800/1850 haste rating? Or any haste rating?

Paragon is and has been the fastest-progressing guild in the world since the days of Icecrown Citadel, picking up world-first kills of Heroic Lich King, Sinestra, and Ragnaros (amongst others). So when a hunter from Paragon mentions a specific haste rating, people take notice. Devai somewhat-recently made a post to the Paragon site about a haste plateau to be reached at 1800 haste rating or perhaps 1850 haste rating (there are references to both points here and there on the web).

I have to confess that I have been more than a little puzzled by this. To explain why, let's first establish what we mean when we say that a certain amount of haste reaches a haste "plateau".

For Marksmanship, this will mean one of two things:

  1. Being able to fit an additional shot within the cooldown of Chimera shot.
  2. Being able to easily and neatly glyph Chimera shot.

These two points are complicated somewhat by the fact that a player can choose to delay her Chimera shot, and alternatively that a player can choose not to use a shot and instead wait out a period of dead space for CS to come off of cooldown. A haste plateau, then, would be the haste point at which one of those two things can happen without either pushing back CS or waiting out dead space in which you use no abilities for it.

The final problem with this 1800/1850 haste rating thing is just that: it's a haste rating. Which means it would be different for goblins and/or for people with different numbers of points in pathing or even for people that are getting Dark Intent. For all of these reasons, I personally feel that it's better to talk about haste as given as a percentage on the character-sheet stats.

With our ground work laid, we can now take a look and see if we can figure out what Devai was talking about. The first thing to know is that, although it can seem this way when you're looking at Whitefyst's tables and graphs and calculations in the EJ MM thread, MM haste is not that complicated.

As we all know, everything an MM hunter is going to do is bound by two very simple rules:

  1. Keep Chimera Shot on cooldown.
  2. Keep the ISS buff active on ourselves.

That's it. So all we really need to know is "how much crap can we fit in between Chimera shots without running out of focus or letting the ISS buff fall off?" An unglyphed CS comes off of cooldown every 10 seconds, and 1 second of that is used by the GCD, leaving us with 9 seconds to fill. With this knowledge, all we really need is Zeherah's haste calculator and whatever calculator program came installed on our computer (or even a real physical calculator) and we can figure this stuff out for ourselves. As an educational exercise, we can start with the 12.97% haste target that Whitefyst advocates for. According to him, with that amount of haste, we'll be able to neatly fit 5 steady shots and 2 arcane shots in between every CS.

All we have to do is go to the haste calc and plug in, say, 1300 haste rating. Leave the level set to 85, leave the Goblin checkbox blank, set it to 3/3 ISS and 3/3 pathing, check the 10% haste checkbox, leave everything else blank, and click "Update Steady Shot Speed". You'll see that you get a steady shot cast of 1.39 seconds, rounding off a couple digits.

Now we go to our calculator. The arcane shots are easy - those are just instants, so they'll use the 1-second GCD for a total of 2 seconds. Five steady shots will just be 5 x 1.39, which comes out to 6.95. 6.95 seconds plus 2 seconds is equal to 8.95 seconds. This is almost exactly 9 seconds, which is the amount of CS cooldown that we wanted to fill with stuff. This is why Whitefyst calls it a "tight" rotation: it fits very tightly, in terms of time, within the CS cooldown. This makes it a good example of a plateau: any less haste and you'll be pushing back your Chimera shot. Any more haste and you're just waiting out a GCD.

Ok, so now we can try to figure out what Devai was talking about. Luckily, it's very clear that part of his goal was to use the Chimera Shot Glyph, which reduces the CS cooldown by 1 second. Here's what I've seen when I look at different possible shot distributions at 1850 haste rating:

  1. 5 steady shots + 2 arcane shots uses 8.7 seconds, pushing back glyphed CS by almost a full second
  2. 4 steady shots + 2 arcane shots uses 7.36 seconds, leaving almost a full second of dead space before firing a glyphed CS
  3. 5 steady shots + 1 hardcast Aimed shot uses 8.64 seconds: basically identical to the 2-arcane shot cycle (this is intuitively true: at this haste point, an aimed shot is just under 2 seconds)
  4. 4 steady shots + 1 hardcast Aimed shot also leaves a lot of dead space, just like the second haste point
  5. 4 steady shots + 3 arcane shots uses 8.36 seconds, and in addition to being strongly focus-negative, it still pushes back your glyphed CS by a significant fraction of a second

On top of this, when I look at my Baleroc parses, my unglyphed Chimera shots tend to come about 10.2 seconds apart from each other, which means I'm averaging two tenths of a second of CS pushback even though I'm currently way over the 12.97% haste plateau. This might be caused by latency, by my own reaction time, or by a combination of the two; whatever is causing it, it's comparable to the pushback I've seen in the logs of hunters that are 6/7 Firelands heroics. I'd think that really super-amazing hunters probably average 10.1 seconds (or 9.1 seconds if CS is glyphed) between their Chimera shots.

What this means is that for any given cycle that pushes back CS, I should probably add another .2 seconds on top of that and then ask myself if it's really worth it.

Even without all of those considerations, however, we can see that 1850 haste rating doesn't seem to correlate to anything we'd want to call a plateau - in fact, it seems like sort of an arbitrary haste point that's half a second between anything neat and tidy. This doesn't mean it's bad, but it also means that it's not really a great target number. If, for example, you're glyphing Chimera shot and using 5 steadies and 2 arcanes, why stop at 1850 haste rating? Especially as a hunter with access to heroic T12 gear? In 391 gear you don't even need to do anything special with reforging such as not reforge into crit on a piece that lacks it and you'll easily be able to reach 2200 haste rating. This would mean a lot less pushback on your glyphed CS, even if it's still not a real "plateau".

There are also at least a few hunters that advocate the following: get as much haste as you can without sacrificing crit, glyph CS, and hardcast Aimed shot. This means giving up the Arcane shot glyph and accepting that, when we have to move we'll have to fire un-glyphed Arcanes.

Now, it's been clear for a while that Aimed shot sims better than even glyphed Arcane shot, but many of us have chosen to rely on ArcS to burn focus anyway, because starting an AiS and not finishing it is a substantial DPS loss. Stated differently: we have chosen to use ArcS because sims are different from the real world raiding environment.

The counter-argument is that if you play intelligently, you don't ever need to interrupt an AiS: you simply use ArcS instead for that moment, then go back to using AiS through those parts of the encounter when you can stand still.

This behavior in turn greatly devalues the ArcS glyph, because you're using so many fewer Arcane shots. In which case, why not use the CS glyph, right? Sure, you're not getting the full value of the glyph, but you're getting something out of it as long as you're not waiting a full second past the glyphed cooldown.

For reference, with my gear (which is nothing special), 5 steady shots and 1 hardcast AiS comes out to 8.58 seconds. If you factor in my average of .2 seconds extra wait time, that's still .4 seconds shaved off every CS as compared to my current ability usage. Which means that I'd theoretically get an extra Chimera shot out of every encounter that I currently fire at least 22 Chimera shots on (this is because the 9-second cooldown of a glyphed Chimera shot divided by .4 seconds = 22.5).

Again, this is at my current, mediocre gear level.

Conclusions and Recommendations!

  • As far as I can tell, there is nothing special about 1800 or 1850 haste rating.
  • However, neat and tidy plateaus are not necessarily that important.
  • Haste is probably always going to be better for single target damage than mastery will at current gear levels.
  • Even if you're not making use of the full value of the CS glyph, as long as you're getting some value out of it, it may be preferable to the Arcane shot glyph.
  • Mastery is way more important than haste for AoE damage. If progression for your guild on any given encounter requires better AoE, reforge for mastery over haste for that encounter.
  • Always test this stuff out for yourself, double-check the math and reasoning of others. Did I say something that doesn't make sense? Then maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I missed something. Please do tell me if this is the case!

There's one last thing I wanted to touch on, and that's number five from my list of possible DPS cycles you could try with around 1800-1850 haste rating. The interesting thing about that cycle is that it was strongly focus-negative. This means that, any given time you do all of those things, you'll be using more focus than you're generating. However, the T12 4-piece bonus has been vexatious for a number of hunters because it makes your next shot or Kill Command free, and it's easy for this to just end up as wasted focus. I've been wondering if the set bonus procs often enough to make a cycle like this, or perhaps one that uses one ArcS and one AiS, focus-positive on average?

Anyway! I hope this clears up some confusion. And don't worry about this kind of stuff TOO much: as long as you're doing well with the two basic rules from the very beginning of the post, you'll be doing pretty decent damage.

Friday, August 26, 2011

This Week in Review: Unreservedly Good

Well, I scheduled myself for the bench, but I ended up being needed both nights. This was awesome because not only did I fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinally upgrade my shoulders - as you can see in the new header image - but we also finally got our Alysrazor kill. It was very delayed, in large part I think due to yet more roster instabilities earlier in the month. Now that we seem to have a really, really stable roster things are looking up. On the same night we got our first kill of Alysrazor, we pushed Majordomo Staghelm to 5%. We just need to be a little bit quicker on our feet adjusting to the very random position of the orbs and, Bob's your uncle, we'll be 6/7 normals. This gives me really great hope that we'll be able to clear the tier (and maybe I'll even get the bow off Rag) before the T13 release, which would be a huge, huge boost. Especially if we could get a couple of the easier FL heroics down, we could walk into the final raid of the expack with an average item level of 380 or so, making initial progress much easier.

I'm really looking forward to it.

I do apologize about the utter lack of videos. :/ The videos from guild first kills are (with the exception of Alys, which I think Fraps cut into two clips :( ) sort of overflowing with my own embarrassing play mistakes. So I keep hoping for a better cap, and then that's sort of a pain to re-do the voiceover for and maybe it still has a screwup in it, so I put it off yet another week... yeesh.

I also need to do a sort of "raiding quick tips" post, a post on keybinds, and use some pictures I took yesterday to put together a guide post on the Single Most Important Raid Consumable. It's not even crafted in-game! So yeah, I've got a ton of things to take care of.

But that makes it sound as if I'm complaining, and I'm really not. All in all, it's been a pretty exciting time for me inside and outside of WoW recently, and I'm pretty optimistic for the coming months.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I'm benching myself this week. I'm probably still going to have to come in for Beth'tilac and Rhyolith, just because I'm one of our two (2) ranged DPS and even the other ranged doesn't have a good way to handle spiderlings. But I'm still going to be missing out on the majority of the night of raiding (and the VP!) and probably a guild-first Alysrazor kill. And depending on how things go, maybe a guild-first Staghelm kill. I dunno! So it's a little bit of a bummer, but to be honest I should have been rotating myself onto the bench well before now. It's easy to make yourself feel indispensable, but the reality is that if I ascended into a being of pure energy tomorrow, the raid team would get along without me.

On the other hand, most of my gaming time has been going into WoW recently, and that's a bit of a shame. I own a bunch of great games that I like very much (Dragon Age, Civ IV, Medieval 2: Total War, Heroes of Might & Magic V, Sims 3, etc.) and I've probably spent less time playing them, combined, than I've spent on WoW.

That's the goal and nature of MMOs, to an extent, but I've been doing things like looking at some of Total Biscuit's video reviews and reading Rock Paper Shotgun recently, and there's a ton of pretty neat stuff that I've been missing out on. I've still never played the Mass Effects, which has meant that I've missed out on one of my favorite things in CRPG playing: creating a character and watch her grow in power and experience throughout several lengthy storylines. My plate-clad, dual-wielding warrior in the original DA:O. My half-elven Ranger that I took all the way from her humble beginnings in Baldur's Gate 1 to the very end of Throne of Baal (GOD that last boss fight sucked).

Further, my Starcraft 2 single player campaign has stalled out, as has my ladder ranking (lol gold). I've probably dropped back to being a silver-league player in SC2, actually. And Diablo 3 is coming out! And dear sweet merciful biscuits if I don't want to play a sorceress (or I guess "lady Wizard"). I watched some gameplay footage last night and she was able to shoot these two laser-fire beams out of her hands and nuke some monsters. It looked really fun, especially since I could probably be playing coop and talking on vent with WoW guildies.

This isn't even mentioning music, books, movies, and so on.

Basically there's a lot of cool stuff out there, and it's easy to let WoW eat your "cool stuff" time. So even though I'm sort of anxious at the prospect of (mostly) missing a raid week, but it's not really a bad thing. I can just park Pradzha outside the instance portal, hang out on vent, and do some other stuff in the meantime.

Apropos of nothing: this is the coolest WoW fanart I've seen in a while. I love it so much.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Raidleading vs. Rageleading

And of course in writing the previous post, I totally forgot something else I wanted to talk about. Someone made a thread on the bnet dungeons and raids forum recently where they linked to a video of a raidleader losing his damn fool mind on vent. A few other people linked to similar videos of raid leaders screaming at their raid or specific members of their raid or both at the same incoherent time. And of course there's the infamous "50 DKP minus" video.

At first I just laughed, in part due to discomfort and the nervous laughter that spawns, and in part because it seemed genuinely funny that people were getting so angry. And then I thought about some of the stuff from Kurn's most recent post and I imagined someone treating the people I raid with that way and I actually got angry.

Just so we know what I'm talking about, you can take a look at a couple of the videos in question (caution - all audio NSFW):

More from the Nicsnock guy - seems like a real champ I guess

Anyway, this is the sort of behavior I'm talking about. I'm gonna go ahead and say that if you think you have the right to treat other people like that, then you have experienced an ethical lapse of which you ought to be ashamed. Absolutely disgraceful.

I guess part of why I'm actually upset about it is that this guy and people like him get away with it. They get away with it in game and they get away with it whenever they get the tiniest sliver of leverage over another human. They abuse the waitstaff when they go out, they abuse their family, and god forbid they become supervisors at work because you can be damn sure they abuse their subordinates. And, like torture, it doesn't even work.

Just screaming at your raid does not address the issue.

If something needs to change, there is no way in hell someone is going to speak up to tell you.

Further, people do not perform well when they are scared, or tense, or feeling poorly about themselves. You need sure fingers, clear vision, and mental focus to raid normal modes, much less heroic modes.

I in fact read an article in - I think? - Scientific American some time ago about a particular sort of pattern of brain activity that seemed to be common across mammals, emerging when they engaged in the activity that most directly defined their ability to survive. For rats, they entered this state when exploring; rabbits entered it when frozen in a state of abject terror. The interesting part was that this profile of brain activity could be seen emerging in humans in a whole variety of activities. Performing arithmetic, running a 100-meter dash, running a marathon, writing a novel, or indeed: playing video games.

This state of calm, loose focus is what we need to get new encounters down, to learn them and commit them to muscle memory. This is the state where you're moving out of the puddle of bad before the animation has fully appeared, not missing a single GCD of your DPS rotation, and monitoring the position of the rest of the raid at the same time so you can be in the correct place in 10 seconds. This is also the feeling I've experienced at fencing tournaments when I've done really well.

I can not see any way that someone could enter and maintain this state in a raid where the RL is screaming like a petulant, spoilt child.

Which is not to say that it would be alright to act like that if it helped. It wouldn't. I'm just being clear that there is not even the slightest excuse for it.

Meeting people! Also Alysrazor!

My boyfriend and myself recently hung out with one of our guildies, the lovely Maae. It was fun! She's in fact the first WoW-guildie I've met that I didn't know before I even started playing the game so, although I've met internet friends face to face before, this was a first WoW-based meeting.

Now that I put it that way, I'm actually pretty surprised at that - I've been playing this game for quite a while, even if I've taken a break here and there. I guess most of my guildies have historically been on the coasts, and I've generally been a Midwestern boy (minus a few years in upstate NY, Florida, and elsewhere).

It was a little bit of an adventure organizing the meeting. Said boyfriend works days and I work nights, so there was no really obvious time when we'd both be awake without at least one of us at work. What we ended up doing was that he took a nap after he got off work, then we went and picked her up after midnight, when I got off work. Then we hung out and talked in a Perkins for a bit. Nothing very exciting! But when you only have limited opportunities for stuff like this, you've got to take advantage of them in whatever way you can.

We had a somewhat heartbreaking night on Alysrazor on Thursday. On the one hand, I feel like once everyone is really comfortable with the tornadoes, she'll be a quick addition to the farm content roster and going 5/7 on our first night will be really easy. On the other hand arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh we're so close. Our DPS is high enough that we won't even be making it to the second burn phase. She's going to re-ignite once and then fall from the sky, dead, about 20 seconds after that. We just need to get a single clean phase 1, a tornado-death-free transition, and she'll die.

Also, Alys is a good fight for DPS in terms of alternative things to epeen about. It was fun going to the various wipes and looking at the "damage taken" graphs, unchecking everyone's name but my own and enjoying the way my green line lay dormant along the bottom of the graph.

So yes: Alysrazor should die this coming week. She really, really should.

Then Staghelm.

Then Rag.

It is hard to express how much I would like to clear the tier on normal difficulty before 4.3 hits. And there are guilds on my server that started work on Rag like 3 weeks ago and still don't have it.

On the other hand, stressing out about it won't help either!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

This Just In: Threat Now Irrelevant

I have to say I don't actually particularly care one way or another about the threat change. It was a sliiiiiight issue for some of the DPS in our raid without a real threat dump, but between my healer, my tank, and my hunter, I've never cared that much about threat. It's just been a sort of base-level mechanic that I don't devote much thought to. And even for the dedicated tanks, "doing good tank DPS" is still a worthwhile goal (especially for Alysrazor!), so it's not as if this changes very much.

I am much more interested in how the active mitigation model will work out. On the face of it I think it sounds awesome. I know that, when I'm tanking, I basically keep shield block on cooldown and use shield wall/last stand/enraged regen for spikes. Once those are down I pretty much hope I don't die.

So if they do it right, I really think the active mit model could not only be more fun for tanks, but also be an excellent way for the skilled tanks to differentiate themselves from the not-so-skilled.

Basically when I'm a healer, I think I show skill when everything goes pearshaped and I keep everyone (or enough people) alive. As a tank, skill has always been in keeping things from pearshaping. This change could really bring that skill to the forefront.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

That "The Raid" documentary, amongst other things

A documentary called The Raid was released recently, with its first broadcast being the live stream that I just linked to a recording of. If you'd like to watch it, you'll have to skip past the talking heads at the beginning, but otherwise it seems pretty intact.

Sadly, it's fairly underwhelming. I think that there are interesting places to go with a documentary that chooses and follows a certain small group of people, but this documentary didn't go to those places. Instead, it went to the same places we've already been: sort of tired pontificating about MMOs in general, hand in hand with a gently flailing attempt to explain the appeal of the hobby.

We've seen all of that before.

The documentary I would have liked to have seen would have been one that followed a raid team's progression. The ideal would have been to find a team that was just forming, where the people hadn't necessarily known each other a long time, and really dig into how that team meshed or didn't mesh. Further, the footage of the actual boss encounters had no context and no explanation. Why not? He had interviews with raiders talking about how hard things were, how important teamwork is, all of the sorts of motivational poster things we say about our hobby.

Why not get into that?

Why not illustrated Ventrilo recordings of the raid team figuring out how they'll tackle an encounter? As in, play the audio of a recording while on the screen you have someone illustrating the suggestions and corrections? "Ok so we'll start with Putricide in the center of the room. When the slimes come out, I'll need the fixate target to run North while the rest of the raid stacks up for the impact of the green slime." I think that - especially for something called "The Raid" - they missed a golden opportunity to do things like compare first wipes with final kill pulls. Disappointing.

There was also sort of a stupid quote from Lore, of Tankspot. The specifics aren't important, just that Yet Again someone felt the need to place an entire gender into one neatly compartmented box. I wish we'd get over this behavior. Humans, while we share commonalities with each other, are unique. People are good, bad, and mediocre at the game, as they are at anything. We vary. There is no variance that you have encountered that is a sound basis for saying that all (or even the mealy-mouthed "most") members of any given set share some particular traits. Just stop it.

A couple days after I watched the documentary, a person on WoW_Ladies also linked this article about "guild princesses". I largely agree with it, although I know that we have at least one woman in the guild who's uncomfortable with it. There's also a fair criticism to be made of it along the lines of it being a little patronizing (teehee, feminist patronizing, giggle) to say "oh, she just hasn't figured out enough feminism yet". Still, I think you can remove that particular statement and it still works. If you're in a guild with what you consider to be a guild princess, and especially if you're a woman, I think it's worthwhile to remember the forces that may be acting on her. Sure, she's responsible for her choices, but those choices aren't made in a vacuum - we all live in a culture whose ideal person tends to be the Straight White Male.

For those of us that are never going to be that, it can be tough to remember that we have our own intrinsic value and we don't need to steal any from our fellows.

Luckily, any sort of discussion of that sort of stuff is academic for me at this point. We care for each other in my guild because we know and like each other. Even if there was anything to be gained from some sort of manipulative behavior - and there isn't, you need merely ask for a thing and if we can help, we will - who would anyone manipulate?

Lord what I wouldn't give for a paid guild name change, though.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Apparently I Have The Soul of an Actuary

I just realized I had the most boring WoW dream that has ever been dreamed. Yes. I dreamt that cauldrons suddenly came in containers that weren't BoP, so I'd be able to give cauldrons to the raid when I couldn't be present.

Seriously. That is a dream I had. It wasn't even something cool like dreaming about killing heroic rag or getting a shoulder upgrade (lol, as if that will ever happen), I dreamt about a minor convenience.

The title of this post is probably unfair. I bet there are plenty of actuaries that use their piles of ill-gotten cash to snort cocaine off of the six-packs of male models and then leap out of airplanes or something. This dream probably means I'm uniquely, startlingly boring.

I am also now disappointed in the Blogger spellchecker. "Dreamt" is perfectly acceptable usage, it's simply more common in British English than in American. And "dreamed" sounds weird to me.

I should probably go get ready for work now.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cataclysm PvE Huntering at 85: Haste Plateaus

Well, we all knew this post was coming. Haste has become the Armor Penetration of Cataclysm hunters, in that it's pretty much a mystery to a lot of people. The EJ thread has tables with focus costs and abbreviations for things like "left GCDs" and "used GCDs" and it's different for different specs, different tier set bonuses, and so on. Further, even for those hunters that go to FemaleDwarf or use SimCraft, it remains confusing. A hunter can run her gear through FD and see that the site is saying haste is worth a lot of DPS for her. So then she runs a new sim having reforged everything to haste and suddenly haste isn't worth very much. What in the world is going on when this happens?

Well, what's happening is that she's running into these haste "plateaus". Basically, the value of haste is increasing rapidly as she gets closer to something big such as "being able to use another Steady Shot in between every single Chimera Shot". Once she's got that extra Steady Shot wedged in the middle of those Chimeras, however, she's suddenly thousands of haste rating away from being able to squeeze yet another in, so haste's value drops precipitately. This also holds true for Survival hunters who could, for example, theoretically reach a point where they could fire 4 cobra shots in between every Explosive shot without pushing that Explosive back.

Between the tables, racials, haste rating, different specs, and conflicting sources, it can be difficult to tell what you should be gearing for, so the goal of this post is (as always) to make it easy. I think the best way to do that is to start by addressing the answers that are pretty much always good answers.

Good Answer #1: Marksmanship and the Five Steady Shot Cycle

Marksmanship is the top raiding spec as of the writing of this post, and it turns out that there's a simple rule for haste that will yield good results for Marksmanship hunters of any gear level, working on any content. Here it is:

Get at least 13.5% character-sheet haste with a spec that includes 3/3 Pathing and doesn't glyph Chimera Shot.

That's it. For real. Open up your character sheet, expand out the stats, and hover your mouse over the "haste" section under ranged. This automatically includes buffs, talents, racials, and gear, so make sure you're not picking up random extra haste from a party member or anything.

If you're curious, the theorycrafted minimum is 12.97%, but that would be with perfect play and 0 latency, two things I certainly don't have. You might need a little bit more or a little bit less - the way to test is to go to a target dummy partied with someone that supplies the 10% haste buff. You should be able to maintain the following cycle indefinitely:

Chimera Shot -> Steady Shot x2 -> Arcane Shot x2 -> Steady Shot x3 -> Chimera Shot

When MMM gives you a free, instant Aimed Shot, you can place it either immediately after the Chimera Shot or immediately after the Arcane Shot pair, and then remove one steady shot from the trio at the end of the cycle. If you find that you're consistently pushing back your Chimera shot, get a little more haste. For reference, my latency is usually between 40 and 70 ms, and I stick with 13.5% to 14% character-sheet haste.

This is about as forgiving and flexible as MM DPS gets, and isn't excessively punished by movement or target switches. It's easily altered to account for procs such as the instant Aimed Shot and the Tier 12 4-piece bonus proccing. It does very competitive damage, and depending on encounter, gear, raid buffs, and debuffs on the boss anyone can use this style of play to achieve results in the 20-30k single-target DPS range.

Good Answer #2: Survival and the Three Cobra Shot per Explosive Shot Cycle

Just as Marksmanship DPS is constrained by the twin requirements of the Chimera Shot cooldown and the duration of the Improved Steady Shot buff, Survival is constrained by the Explosive Shot cooldown. At current gear levels, there's exactly one reachable haste plateau for Survival hunters:

Get at least 20% character-sheet haste with a spec that includes 3/3 Pathing.

The theoretical minimum haste rating for this is 757, but again, I'd recommend going a little over. You want to be able to do this:

Explosive Shot -> Cobra Shot x3 -> Explosive Shot

ad infinitum.

Good Answer #3: These Aren't the Only Answers

There's actually a fair amount of flexibility with regards to haste and haste plateaus. There's at least one fairly progressed hunter who has over 15% haste from rating alone, glyphs Chimera Shot, and hardcasts Aimed Shot. This playstyle works for him and his guild. And when T11 was more current, there was a different haste plateau for the 4-piece bonus that used the Chimera Shot glyph. There are also highly progressed hunters that glyph Chimera Shot instead of Rapid Fire with T12, still use Arcane Shot, and aim for yet another haste plateau.

But what is relevant for the players on the bleeding edge of progression is not necessarily relevant for the average hunter. You could absolutely do worse than follow the advice above. These are very popular playstyles, and they're popular with good reason. Maybe you'll get bitten by the theorycraft bug and decide to do your own tables and spreadsheets of DPS cycles and leave these behind - that's fine! Hooray! But until then you can raid and do great damage with either of these very simple guidelines.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


I've updated the Marksmanship and the gear guide posts, which is exciting. I think the gear guide at least will be stable for a couple months, which is a boon - all that link copy and pasting is a pain. It's like... the most looked-at page on my blog, though, so I really ought to have updated it earlier. So many people google that thing! I hope it's been a force for good in the world.

There are also daily posts to the WoW hunter forum about haste plateaus for MM and SV (mostly MM, of course), so I've decided I need to write a post just on those. It's funny how very different the brains of the super-mathy folks are from my own. I mean I do fine with math, I placed into second-semester calculus my freshman year at University, but the theorycrafters always find a way to phrase things and format tables and abbreviate things such that it totally obfuscates things for me. Which I should be thankful for! The effort of translating all that stuff back into (I hope) more intuitive language is the whole purpose of this blog.

My guild is also at an interesting point. I've been spying on the parses from the server-first guild, and our parses are in many ways either just as good as or, in some cases, superior to theirs. And they're 7/7 FL normals with heroic Shannox dead (yes, I'm on a low-progression server). The important bit is that, present within the ranks of my guild's raiding core, is a team that could have cleared the normals by now. I've definitely made plenty of mistakes trying to build and maintain this raid team, but I feel like we're getting close to the point where we can really distinguish ourselves as accomplished, casual raiders.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

In keeping with our theme from yesterday

The video for lord Rhyolith still hasn't had a successful upload. I'll get it one of these nights! It would probably help if I got the size down a bit more though - I'm amazed at how large video files are.

Also apropos to the theme from yesterday, I've got a couple short stories from the RDF and even a tiny one from trade. The first story is from Selinah, my gathering alt and tank. The further we progress into the Firelands, the easier it is to cap my main on VP, so I get a chance to heal or tank every so often. Last night after work, I thought it might be fun to pick up a satchel especially because tanks get instant queues.

I zoned in to a fresh ZA and we started up. Someone facepulled the little group of mobs right before the start of the gauntlet just as I ran up to the scout, so I got to tank a few extra adds and what have you, but it went fine. One of the DPS died on Akil'zon, but I didn't see where it happened and assumed that they'd stood in the lightning storm.

Then, as I was preparing to head off in the direction of Nalorakk, the healer says "Tank. You take too much damage."

I was pretty flabbergasted - it's not as if Akil'zon does a lot of tank damage, he's one of the party damage bosses. Further, I've tanked ZA and ZG several times, occasionally with somewhat undergeared healers. I use my cooldowns and debuff the bosses, and unless I stand in fire or something, I'm never really the point of failure.

There's this funny thing that happens in RDF parties though, where whoever first calls someone else bad tends to get others to agree with them. So if I'd called the healer a bad for letting someone die - even if that person had stood in the lightning storm - things probably would have gone differently.

I suggested that maybe if tank damage was an issue for him, he should consider using healing touch, but he was adamant that lifebloom should be able to heal 100% of the damage in an encounter.

Now for reference, here's the armory of the healer in question: Tankshifter of Silvermoon.

What happened last night was that, still flabbergasted, I said "uh, I've tanked this entire place multiple times and my gear is obviously sufficient. Maybe you should cast HT. But if you're TOTALLY CONVINCED of yourself, votekick me I guess?" And they did. And the healer apparently got some sort of tank to carry him, and probably lied about how I was bad.

In retrospect, I wish I'd been bitchier.

I wish I'd inspected him and said "oh look, someone with unenchanted pvp gear and welfare epix wants to get carried by an overgeared tank."

To the DPS that chimed in with him, I wish I'd said "maybe if your DPS wasn't so hilariously awful, Akil'zon wouldn't have taken so long and run our terrible healer OOM."

I wish I'd said "I'm obviously wearing enough gear for the content and I use my cooldowns, which means that if you can't heal me you're just bad."

I wish I'd said that healing through Nefarian after he'd been nerfed six feet under the ground didn't mean you were anything better than mediocre.

The group still would have kicked me, probably, and the healer especially would still have thought he was right... but I'd've felt better.

That said, my re-queue got me into a ZG group which ended up being fun. We got two DPS that had never been to the instance before, so I gave them quick tips on everything. The first couple healers saw that we had two new DPS and bailed, but the third healer, who was wearing T12 (Paladin T12 hat + shoulders look SO COOL) and was clearly only there for VP, stuck with us, even killing some of the quest mobs.

All of the DPS - all of them - died on the Zanzil encounter, chewed up by the berserker that I'd told them to kill (even melee, DPS in general was loooow and there was no way we'd be zerging Zanzil down without killing the zerker), and the healer and myself whittled down the last 40% or so of Zanzil's health ourselves.

I used all my cooldowns multiple times, used darkflight three times and intervene even more often to keep myself away from the berserker, and the paladin used holy's perpetual sprints to keep away from it. It was glorious.

We had to reset Jin'do once because I guess they thought I was kidding when I said "stand in the green on phase 1", but the second pull was successful (if hilarious). We actually broke the shields on all three chains before the first chain had died. I had never seen that happen before - a platform full of twisted spirits, none of the chains shielded, and no berserker up nor any reason to have one. So I spent a lot of time stunning and killing spirits and generally keeping them off of the healer and DPS. It was probably the longest Jin'do encounter I've ever seen, just like Man'dokir with that group was the longest I've seen it go on and actually result in a kill.

At the end of it, though, I'd had a lot of fun. More fun than I've had in any of a number of fast and smooth yet mute RDF runs.

Also I won the barrel from Gub and it was full of Sagefish. Yay!

Finally, this afternoon when I was on briefly before work to take care of some stuff and check auctions, trade chat had a little series of questions. There was one guy that was asking if the int heirlooms were for casters and the agi ones were for phys DPS. And it wasn't even that he was asking that general question, but he would link each individual set and then go "is this for casters?"

And, you know, yes. It is. But once that you've established that int is for casters, why do you need to ask individually for the cloth, leather, and mail heirlooms?

Another person had a very basic question about how to play their spec, and I remarked that the official forums typically have a well-maintained stickied guide thread for any given spec, and it would be faster and less prone to error to read that.

Some people in trade thought I was being rude, but I really don't think I was. I wasn't being insulting or mean about it - just letting people know that there are easier resources than asking trade, which often has 32 different flavors of the wrong answer for any given question due to a combination of people being mistaken and being trolls.

Sadly, even those people that make it to the forums don't necessarily read the stickies. Most days, there are 2-3 new threads posted to the hunter forum that say "how do I play Marksmanship?"

Now, I'm all for people asking that question and coming to the forums for help with it. But there stickied threads right at the top of the forum that are clearly guides for how to play MM and SV post-4.1.

I'd be fine with someone posting a thread that said "I read the stickies and didn't understand this particular part..." or "So in the sticky it said this thing about 4.1, but is that still true in 4.2?" or "the guide doesn't make any recommendations for how to do a fight like Beth'tilac, can anyone give me advice on that boss?" But no one does that! They show up in the forum, don't read the stickies, and then want people to re-type all of it just for them.

Why does this happen? I don't get it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Closer to Rhyolith video, but...

I've been playing with Vegas' export functions, and I've gotten my filesize to a much more manageable point. The videos it's producing are still larger than the original fraps capture, though, which is a little strange. I'm playing with codec and compression settings to try and get a smaller filesize without turning it into a blurry soup. We'll see how it goes.

Other than that, people in this game confuse me sometimes. I'm not always right about things, but I generally have reasons for what I'm doing. I decide to spec or play in a certain way because I've read tooltips, or read comments on wowhead or EJ, or observed some in-game behavior, and I decide something based on that. It often seems to me like a lot of players decide things for no reason. They don't think about it or read tooltips or anything - they just decide a thing is true.

I read and sometimes post on the official WoW forums, and there was a thread today from a guy confused about marksmanship hunters and haste (by the way, these threads are posted daily - haste is the armor penetration of Cataclysm). There's a small cadre of very knowledgeable, highly progressed hunters that try to help people out, but none of them had posted to that thread by the time I saw it.

Who had posted was some guy that just copied and pasted the links to WHU's old "haste plateau" posts that are problematic for several reasons, not least the fact that none of them actually explicitly state the haste breakpoint that most hunters are going to be looking for. They just sort of state rating numbers in a vacuum.

This person declared that the links he posted contained "everything any hunter would need to know," which just isn't true. But this guy had for some reason decided that, without even reading the OP's question, he could answer them by posting links that could as well have been from a recipe site for all the good they did.

Very frustrating.

A little later on, I offered to heal on my priest for one of the extremely common T11 pugs that started showing up with the 4.2 nerfs to that content.

Now, I realize that it's rude to offer advice to someone who hasn't asked for it, but... Sigh. Their hunter - who is a main raider in their guild, and seems to be of an officer rank - is not specced into any points in Bestial Discipline or Frenzy, but has 2/2 Improved Serpent Sting. For a Marks hunter especially, those two talent points are going to get you extra damage maybe 3 or 4 times in an encounter where you switch several times between large-healthpool targets; despite this, he dismissed Rapid Killing as "too situational". His raid had several druids and a paladin and yet he put a point into True Shot Aura and both points into Termination. He has over 16% haste and has put the new scope on his 378 crossbow (about a 20 DPS upgrade), but has neglected to put the 50 agility enchant on his bracers.

Perhaps most tellingly, at one point he said on vent "oh yeah, I forgot I was playing with my wolf now, 5% crit is nice" and summoned his wolf. I mentioned that the feral druid supplied the 5% crit buff, and he said that they were unique buffs and they stacked.

It was at this point that I heaved a heavy sigh. To his credit, I noticed shortly after that I'd gained the furious howl buff, then gained it again once it wore off. He'd clearly opened up his character sheet and was looking at it and seeing his critical strike chance not change. He then brought out his fox (without saying anything, natch).

I don't expect everyone to know everything about the game - I sure don't. But there's no reason for you to only be testing out how buffs work in a raid. If you'd read the tooltip for improved serpent sting you'd know that it's borderline useless for MM. If you thought things through, you'd realize that if you're putting talent points into Go for the Throat and Sic 'Em, maybe your pet is worth the talent points in Bestial Discipline and Frenzy. If you paid attention to the constraints placed on your DPS, you'd think maybe Termination's extra focus would be pretty much wasted.

These are all things that people can mostly reason through and test for themselves. The exact haste breakpoint to squeeze the maximum DPS in between Chimera shots: sure, that's finnicky. But we all know that other people have already done that finnicking for us, right? You just have to do a little looking.

The alternative is just sort of slapping talent points down based on the pictures in the icon, and I think our fellow raiders deserve better than that. This guy's fellow raiders certainly deserved better than his 13-15k DPS with a 378 weapon.

As is often the case, the lesson for me personally is "be thankful for your guild, dummy." I've had a couple of these moments recently, where I've looked at parses from people in the Dungeons & Raids forum hitting Baleroc's enrage, or struggling with other encounters, and I really have to be grateful. Everyone in VA has put in more effort than a lot of people ever have.