Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.

We meet again, dear readers. Once more unto the breech!

Recently I have despaired that Gweryc had nothing left to accomplish before the next expansion was released. It’s proven to be more work than is worthwhile to repeatedly convince people I bring value to a 5-man group, and it’s debatable whether Gweryc could ever be raid-capable. I'm disinclined to raid, in any case. Put simply, Gweryc had no end-game to pursue. One of my server's forum regulars suggested, possibly jokingly, that I form an arena team through which I could exercise my prowess as a melee hunter.

One brave soul actually responded to the arena suggestion and invited me to team with him. Fellow Hunter Beren of Argent Exodus has proved himself a capable Duelist, as well as a knowledgeable mentor. Whereas I am entirely new to the arena specifically and a PvP noob in general, Beren deals death with all the grim efficiency of a veteran killer. Learning from him and working with him is a delight, and the experience has wholly revitalized my ardor.

Our 2v2 arena team, Woe and Muscadines, hasn't done too badly for itself. We've only been playing for a couple weeks, and - especially coupled with the fact that I am a total greenhorn - I think our current 64% win rate (9-2 the first night, currently 18-10 for the season) and our ability to protect a 1600+ rating both weeks is a notable achievement.

While I did prepare somewhat by levelling my ravager Prognathous to 70 for use in PvP and by upgrading a couple of my more abhorrent pieces of armor, my gear will need to be reworked to better suit the arena. This beautiful weapon, the Vengeful Gladiator's Waraxe, will likely be the first arena reward I purchase. My respec, which technically has changed me from a Survivalist to a Beast Master, seems to be working, but I'll of course keep an eye out for possible improvements.

It feels good to have a purpose again, and I've found the arena to be enjoyable in a way that the battlegrounds are not. I'm looking forward to improving my performance therein.

Monday, October 1, 2007

You face not Gutrot, but the legions he commands!

The legends tell of a vision received by the troll witch doctor Sen'jin, of a young orc named Thrall who would arrive to deliver his people from the threat of human and murloc. Indeed Thrall did arrive, and led the Darkspear to a place of greatness in the Horde.

As he lay dying, Sen'jin received yet another vision, of another hero-to-come. Those who received his final prophecy discounted it as fevered hallucination. From out of the ranks of a re-established Darkspear Tribe would come the mightiest (and most mentally imbalanced) warrior ever known to troll-kind, a hero and champion for a new age, to once again deliver the Darkspear from a grave threat: that of clothing. This prophecy, too, was fulfilled, in modern times.


For those not in the know, the legendary troll warrior Gutrot of Aerie Peak (EU) recently completed his journey to hit level 70 by fighting "butt naked and unarmed" for the entire lifetime of the character. Wielding naught but his fists and attired only by his welded-on loincloth, this arduous task took nearly 32 days played and 15 calendar months.

Gutrot has been an inspiration to freethinkers (and deviants) throughout the World of Warcraft. On his own server he leads the guild Naked Noobs, which boasts two level 70 characters (the other being Katolikk, a fire mage) and 84 characters on its roster. And on the Steamwheedle Cartel (US) server, his project was indirectly responsible for the birth of a young melee-only hunter named Gweryc.

I have always admired Gutrot for his ineffable determination, his willingness to do something strange, his valiant efforts to combat boredom, common sense, and fashion sense. When I heard that he was celebrating his final ding with a party at Sen'jin Village, there was no way I could not attend. Using trial accounts created solely for the purpose of paying homage to this hero, both Auden and I were witnesses to one of the most memorable events in WoW history.

The count of attendees was innumerable. The celebratory guild Gutrot Party Crew reached its maximum capacity of 500 in mere moments. Never before have so many naked trolls gathered together in one place. The sheer population density was, in fact, strongly reminiscent of the opening of the gates of Ahn'Qiraj. And the occasion felt no less momentous.

With Zalazane firmly on farm status, from Sen'jin Village to the zeppelins we went, from Grom'gol to Duskwood to Sentinel Hill, where our marauding nudists laid waste to guards and gryphons. We moved from Westfall to Elwynn Forest, through Goldshire and into Stormwind itself. As this tsunami of blue flesh washed over the unexpecting Alliance, the guards literally froze with indecision. There were simply too many of us to respond to. We pressed on, masses rushing toward Tram and Keep until at last Gutrot imparted unto us his gracious farewell.

Congratulations to you, warrior. Your deeds have surely fixed your name among the pantheon of heroes. Sen'jin. Vol'jin. Gutrot.

Now please... wash your loincloth. Seventy levels is long enough.

Excellent photos of the event begin on page 114 of Gutrot's epic thread.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

False enchantment can last a lifetime.

Somebody finally took the time to create an alt to send me hate mail in-game!

While it's largely blather in the vein of a frightened goose honking at something it doesn't understand, I concede that there's a valid challenge to my logic in there. Was Mongoose the wrong way to go for an enchant on my Felsteel Reaper?

First, consider that I'm using a 2H axe for dps. My rationale for that is as follows:

The majority of my damage comes from Raptor Strikes, which can only be done every six seconds, so I want to get as much as possible out of each Strike when the cooldown is up. With 2/2 points in the Savage Strikes talent, I have an extra 20% chance to crit on a Raptor Strike, in addition to the +170 damage it deals. The slower and heavier my weapon, the bigger those crits will be. That's very important when you consider that we're talking about my strongest attack.

So if I'm sticking with a 2H weapon for now, there's really only three solid enchants to choose from: Savagery (+70 AP), Major Agility (+35 agi), and Mongoose (+120 agi and attack speed...sometimes).

Disregarding Mongoose for the moment, I'm left to choose between 70 AP and 35 agi. rmlinden on Thottbot says it plainly: "Simply put Agility scales AP. Static AP doesnt." Consider what 35 agility (40.25, thanks to Lightning Reflexes) means to me as a hunter. More AP (40.25), more crit (0.96%), more armor (82), more dodge (1.64%). Dodges unlock Mongoose Bites, which are also subject to the 20% increased chance to crit from Savage Strikes. In turn, crits unlock Kill Command. The added chance to crit, Bite, and Kill represents a lot more damage than the additional flat 29.75 AP Savagery would provide over Major Agility. Major Agility wins.

So now it's between Major Agility and Mongoose.

Mongoose seems to be normalized at 1 PPM. Roughly once a minute I'm going to get +120 agi for 15 seconds. Averaged out over that one minute, that's four 15-second blocks of +30 agility. Looking at it that way, yes, that's inferior to +35 agi. I'm coming up 5 agi short.

Now comes the tricky part. The slower the weapon, the more often the Mongoose enchant will proc from instant attacks like Wing Clip and Counterattack.

My base chance to proc Mongoose is ((1 PPM * 3.4 weapon speed) / 60) = 5.67% chance per hit. That same 5.67% chance to proc also applies to my instant attacks, like Wing Clip. I've talked before about using Wing Clip to proc effects, and this is why. At least every two seconds, I'm hitting a special attack. If I haven't gotten off a Counterattack or a Mongoose Bite recently, I'll hit a Wing Clip. So at a minimum I'm doing 30 "bonus rolls" per minute for this proc, and I should be seeing a proc every 18 attacks or so. When you combine the base 1 PPM from my white damage with the additional chance from my special attacks, I'm actually averaging two (or more) Mongoose procs per minute, not one. That takes my minute's worth of four averaged-out 15-second blocks from 30 agility to 60, greatly exceeding Major Agility's 35.

Tl;dr -- Mongoose wins.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Truth is subject to too much analysis.

At last, some more hard numbers. I've been working on an Engineering grind to 375, and part of that included farming attempts for the Felsteel Boomstick schematic and the Khorium Scope schematic. While I was busy slaughtering, I left KombatStats to do its thing.
Count: 790; To Hit: 87%
Damage Dealt: 288,044 (65% hit, 22% crit)
Raptor Strike: 36% (37% crit)
Melee: 26% (23% crit)
Immolation Trap Effect: 12%
Mongoose Bite: 10% (30% crit)
Lightning Strike: 4% (4% crit)
Explosive Trap Effect: 3%
Wing Clip: 2% (15% crit)
Counterattack: 1% (21% crit)
Vengeance: 0% (4% crit)
DPS: 293.2

Count: 473; To Hit: 53%
Damage Taken: 56,490 (51% hit, 2% crit)
145 dodges (30%)
49 parries (10%)
24 misses (5%)
DTPS: 56.3

977 sec. data collected
Count: 720; To Hit: 88%
Damage Dealt: 110,404 (76% hit, 11% crit)
Melee: 53% (7% crit)
Kill Command: 33% (29% crit)
Bite: 13% (11% crit)
DPS: 113.7

Count: 125; To Hit: 87%
Damage Taken: 27,157 (87% hit, 0% crit)
6 dodges (4%)
4 parries (3%)
4 blocks (3%)
2 misses (1%)
DTPS: 27.2

966 sec. data collected

Not too terrible, I suppose. Combined with Cafall, my total dps averaged around +400. I think my tank build is paying off. I could only be hit about half the time, and the rate at which I was crit was extremely low as I'm still climbing toward being uncrittable (372 def and 76 resil right now, for 2.81% decreased chance to be crit). Additionally, I was getting a lot of mileage from those dodges being converted into Mongoose Bites.

The percentage of damage I'm getting from white melee is somewhat depressing, but still useful to know. What that's screaming to me is, "hey, if you ever see a Blinkstrike drop while you're farming motes of air, equip it, nub."

Naturally, just as soon as I collected this data, I finished my engineering grind and replaced my Coif of the Wicked with a Foreman's Reinforced Helmet. And not a moment before that I had upgraded some green "of the Bandit" chest piece with a blue BoE item I found in the auction house. So what I've got on in the armory right now is not only not what I was wearing at the time I got this data, but I've completely forgotten what the shoulders I had were; they've been lost to time. Regardless, what's here is fairly representative of how I'm performing today.

I would love some constructive feedback on this post. Given what you see here, how am I stacking up? Anything I'm doing especially well? And more importantly, where do I have room for improvement?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Epic lulz.

My friend Auden has started a new WoW comic, called Hammer of Grammar, in which Gweryc appears as a character. She's done some excellent work, with very positive reviews on the WoW forums. Definitely worth your time.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I'm holding out for a Hero

With the buzz surrounding the Death Knight Hero Class, I'm reminded of the old pre-BC Hero Class rumors. Anybody else remember those? At the time I was terribly excited by the possibilities. My priest, a Demon Hunter? My druid, a more powerful caster?

Of the predictions made in the Hero Classes rumor, some did find their way into The Burning Crusade. For example, Druids can now summon Treants, and they do have a Crow Form. And mages can summon Water Elementals. In fact, the WoWWiki entry itself remarks:

It may be interesting to note that Summon Water Elemental is now a 41 point Frost Mage talent, released with The Burning Crusade expansion. Considering this article was created prior to the public release of information about Burning Crusade content, this particular part of the rumor leads one to believe there may have been some accuracy behind it.

With whatever accuracy may lie in the Hero Class rumor, let's have a look at this entry for Dwarven hunters:

The Mountaineer is similar to the ranger (no pet, energy bar), but without the stealth aspects. The Mountaineer is hardier in melee combat than the hunter and also has more extensive tracking and detection abilities.

lol wut? Melee, you say? An energy bar, à la rogues -- implying a Mountaineer is meant to melee? In that sense, Gweryc is potentially a forebearer of Mountaineers-to-come rather than a mere modern-day sideshow attraction. Is there some future World of Warcraft where melee hunters are desirable?

Monday, August 6, 2007

"The future will be better tomorrow."

Oh, Blizzard, how you do like to tease. Much is being bandied about at the latest BlizzCon, but it's the new Inscription profession that's caught my attention.

What can you reveal about the new profession coming with the expansion?

The Inscription profession will allow players to permanently enhance their own spells and abilities and those of other players. You can think of it as enchanting for your spells and abilities. We'll provide more specific details on the mechanics of this new profession in the months ahead.

A shorter cooldown on Raptor Strike? A stun proc on Mongoose Bite? What in the world might happen if I added a knockback to Counterattack? Maybe a spell interrupt on Wing Clip? I have no idea what will be possible, but the potential for Inscription is huge.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The urge to expand, extend, develop, mature

Okay! Very little preamble this post. Here are the addons I'm using that are most relevant to the project. Of course I use others -- roleplaying addons, Auctioneer, and so on -- but these are the highlights as they relate to the melee hunter project.

UI Addons!

Aspected Again

Q: What deals holy damage, uses mana, has over 12,000 health, wears metal armor, prefers a two-handed weapon, lays down AoE on the ground that damages anything that walks into it, and has a row of buff icons laid out in an aura bar?

A: A melee hunter with the Darkmoon Card: Vengeance, explosive traps, and the Aspected Again addon.

This addon places a series of buttons for Hunter aspects into the shapeshift bar for convenience. It also will provide a priest with Shadowform or a shaman with Ghost Wolf buttons. This is an almost complete rewrite of PoeticDragon's Aspected mod in order to work with the 2.0.1 patch of WoW.
Fizzwidget's TrackMenu

This indispensable addon causes the tracking icon on your minimap to function as a dropdown menu of tracking skills. It works with all tracking abilities, including hunter talents, gathering skills (like mining), and even the dwarven Treasure Finding talent. This should be part of the default WoW UI. It's that good.

Fizzwidget's Feed-O-Matic

My incredible Feed-O-Matic features state-of-the-art nutritional analyzers to make sure your pet’s hunger is satisfied with a minimum of fuss, advanced selective logic to make your pet doesn’t eat anything you have another use for, and a weight optimizer to make sure the food in your bags stays well organized! Just press the “Feed Now” button and it’ll intelligently choose a food and accurately toss it to your pet.
This is a very handy addon, but my favorite part is the emotes. "Gweryc feeds Cafall a nice [Clefthoof Ribs]. Yum!"

Combat Analysis Addons!


This is the addon I prefer for analyzing my own DPS/IDPS. The breakdown is very detailed and lets me analyze myself and my pet separately or together.


Another tool for analyzing my performance. It's a lot easier to see where my DPS stands in a group using this than it is with KombatStats.


Another valuable analysis tool. I like watching my own threat-per-second, even just against my pet, to know where I stand.

Gear Addons!

This is a mod to make swapping trinkets easier. It will display your two equipped trinkets in a bar. Mouseover on either trinket will display a menu of up to 30 trinkets in your bags to swap.
TrinketMenu is a key component of the Raptor Bite macro listed in the last post. TrinketMenu doesn't just make swapping trinkets easier -- it makes it automatic. As the documentation says: "3.0 introduces auto trinket queues to TrinketMenu. In options you can sort a trinket slot to the order you want trinkets equipped, turn on Auto Queue for that slot (Alt+Click the trinket on the bar or check the tab in options), and the mod will automatically swap trinkets as they're used and come off cooldown."

That's what the "/use 13" line in my Raptor Bite macro is for. It automates use of my melee trinkets for a dps boost any time I've got a trinket available to use, which I nearly always would, thanks to TrinketMenu.

Today, however, I've removed the "/use 13" line from my macro and stopped using TrinketMenu in that way, because I've obtained a single trinket that easily surpasses the utility of a chain of lesser ones. My Bladefist's Breadth, Terokkar tablet, and Core of Ar'kelos have all been put aside in favor of the Darkmoon Card: Vengeance. A ton of stamina and dps? Do want.


This addon is absolutely brilliant. Before I used it, I took it apart and looked at the code, and sure enough, it not only takes into account your class, it even accounts for your spec. It knows, for example, what it means from a tanking perspective that I have points in Lightning Reflexes. It knows that, as a Hunter, I can't use shields, so it disregards the +block value on a given item when calculating its tank points. Brilliant work.

Rating Buster

Another gem from the author of TankPoints. This converts the stats listed on an item into values that are more meaningful, for example, representing str and agi as AP. When used together with TankPoints, it's a lot easier to see where I'm making trade offs in gear.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Things that don't quite make sense can be our most valuable tools.

As an Engineer, I've taken to stocking a number of tools. Some I keep with me, others in my Fel Iron Toolbox in the bank. But no tool is more valuable to me than the macros and add-ons I make daily use of. As my pet wolf Cafall continues his own ascent to level 70 (slowed significantly by the fact that I'm spending a majority of each week in battlegrounds now), I'd like to share some of my favorites. Macros today, and I'll cover add-ons soon.


"Raptor Bite"
#show Mongoose Bite
/cast [nocombat] [group] Furious Howl
/cast Raptor Strike
/stopmacro [nocombat]
/cast [exists,target=pettarget] Kill Command
/use 13
/castrandom Mongoose Bite, Counterattack
This is my workhorse. Almost all of my damage is dealt by this single macro.

Line 1 sets the visible icon for the macro to be the same as Mongoose Bite. I use that as an alert; when the MB icon lights up, I know I need to hit that button as fast as possible until the MB happens.

Next, if I'm out of combat or if I'm in a group, I'll buff with Furious Howl if possible. My tests have shown that if FH is on cooldown, or even if I don't have a pet out, this line is skipped, meaning it's always safe to use. When soloing I only use FH before a fight so Cafall can reserve focus for Bites and Cowers, if necessary. But in a group, when I'm likely to be off-tanking and when there are additional melee classes nearby, the Howl is of more benefit than the Bites.

Now we try to cast Raptor Strike. This is an "on next hit" spell, so it, too, can be part of a fall-through chain of logic.

The "startattack" command initiates combat proper. If I'm in melee range, this begins dealing white damage. If I'm not in melee range, it's the equivalent of right-clicking a mob I can't reach. I stand there looking menacing, brandishing my axe, but doing nothing.

If I'm not in combat at this point, the macro stops. I want this to happen because the command "/use 13" activates the trinket in my first trinket slot if that trinket is not on cooldown. Since trinket effects tend to be short in duration, I want to make sure I'm actually in combat before I use one. As with the other commands so far, a trinket on cooldown is skipped over by this command, so the next line executes.

The line prior to the trinket activation should be familiar to any hunter who likes macros: it orders my pet, if available, to perform a Kill Command. If this is not possible, the command is skipped over.

The last line of the macro is finally one that can't be fallen through. If I've dodged or parried recently, this is the time to perform a Mongoose Bite or Counterattack. By using the "castrandom" command, the button remains spammable. As long as I spam it fast enough, the right attack will happen in a timely fashion.

/cast [modifier] Wing Clip(Rank 1); Wing Clip
This is another spam-friendly macro. If I'm trying to cause an on-hit effect to proc (my Maelstrom trinket, for example) I can hold down the alt key and expend less mana while I "gamble" for the proc; otherwise I can just press the button normally and get the most potent Wing Clip.

#show Immolation Trap
/cast [nomodifier] Immolation Trap; Explosive Trap
#show Freezing Trap
/cast [nomodifier] Freezing Trap; Frost Trap
Fire and Frost are variations on a theme. Single-target traps by pressing the button normally, and AoE effects by holding down a modifier key.

#show Call Pet
/cast [pet] Dismiss Pet; Call Pet
One-button macro for calling and dismissing my pet.

#show Revive Pet
/cast [nomodifier] Mend Pet; Revive Pet
Another one-button macro. Heals or revives my pet.

I confess that I'm no expert at the WoW macro system, so there may be bugs I don't know about or optimizations I could make to any of what I've listed above. If any are apparent, I'd love to know about them. Hopefully, though, some of you will find these useful and be able to modify them for your own use, particularly the "Raptor Bite".

Bis zum nächsten Mal!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Today is the first day of the rest of your life: DING 70.

So I herd sum things. The melee hunter isn't viable, eh?

Please, if we haven't met yet, let me introduce myself. My name's Gweryc. I'm a melee-only hunter, and have been from level 1 all the way up to level 70. Not once in my life have I fired a ranged weapon. Don't believe me? Check out my weapon skills in the armory!

Not viable, they say. Hmm. Not viable for what? Levelling? Scratch that -- I made it to 70.

Not viable for grouping? No... I didn't solo my way to the Choker of Bloodied Feathers and the Delicate Green Poncho.

Not viable for instancing? No, that can't be right, or I couldn't be wearing a quest reward from Hellfire Ramparts. I'd never have gone to Zul'Farrak at 47 with an all-peer group and gotten my Carrot on a Stick. I can chain trap with the best of them, AoE with fire traps and bombs, AoE CC with ice grenades. Thanks to engineering, I can even do a traditional "ranged" pull with Misdirection and my Goblin Rocket Launcher to set mobs on the tank. And in fact, I usually end up off-tanking! I'm at 11k health and climbing, and I'm working on becoming uncrittable. Don't think I'll make it? Well, I'll bet a lot of you wouldn't have believed a melee-only hunter would make it to 70, either.

Not viable for reputation farming? Nuh-uh. The Kurenai were happy to hand me a Far Seer's Helm when I reached Exalted with them.

Not viable in PvP? I can't tell you how many times I captured the flag this weekend in EoS, and consistently came in on the middle of the "damage dealt" column. But you'll have to take my word for that one since I don't have "Justicar" over my head... yet.

Not viable for having fun? Let me tell you guys. I'm not a min/maxer, as you might have guessed. I'm not one of the hardcore, nor do I really aspire to be "elite". As I said at the start of this project, I get my kicks from stretching the game to its limits. And I've honestly had a blast with this character.

It's a challenge playing this way, it really is. And that's exactly what I love about it. This way of playing isn't for everybody! That's okay! Some people enjoy raiding, some enjoy crafting or fishing, some like PvP. To each their own. For my part, I'll keep on looking for ways to do things just a little different, to make it work, and to have fun with it as I go.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hey Vegeta, what’s the scouter say about his Health Level?


Yep. The creation of my Goblin Rocket Launcher last night netted me enough health to finally push past the 10k mark -- 10,229 unbuffed to be exact, and I'm still working toward my Furies deck. Is it can be off-tank tiem now plees? (I know, I ought to work on my defense if I'm super-serious about the idea of tanking. That Wind Trader's Band I picked up sure is a nice tool for the job, though.)

I also hit level 69 last night, meaning I got to equip my Crystalforged War Axe with the +35 agi. The DPS output was significant. In fact, against the two pitiful mobs I tried it out on, it went up by 33%, which seems way too high to be realistic. I realize two mobs is hardly a representative sample. Clearly some disciplined study is required.

Intimidation, which I specced into at 68, continues to be a very nice tool. I've been farming a lot of ogres in Nagrand -- the warrior kind that can charge at you -- and I've appreciated using it to stun the ogre before he can charge and stun me. It also makes a great snap aggro grab if I hit an emergency situation and need Cafall to pull something off me.

One more level, just one, and I'll finally have arrived. I apologize for the lack of hard data in the last couple of posts. I understand that saying "Kill Command is cool" and "my new axe hits hard" is scarcely informative. But with 70 in sight, I'm just too excited to stop and do the data collection.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Die Liebe ist ein wildes Tier (Ding 66)

All hail Kill Command!

Roughly speaking, this one new talent now represents a large percentage of Cafall's damage dealt. Unfortunately, "rough" is going to be the theme for this entry, as it describes my two-handed axe skill, how I got a two-handed axe, why that (lack of) skill is relevant to a post about Kill Command, and the language I'll be using to talk about it. Let's begin.

Sixty-six is a landmark level for Gweryc. In addition to gaining KC, a pug in Nagrand netted him the Honed Voidaxe, which will be with him until 69 when it will be replaced with a Crystalforged War Axe with +35 agi.

To date, this has traditionally been the moment when I'd brag about how well Gweryc did, how great the group was, et cetera. But because I'm honest, I'll let you all in on the truth. The Ring of Blood chain became a total clusterfuck. We were too low to have really tried, we got hassled by Horde, we died many, many times. We actually did well up to the Final Challenge. I was proud up 'til then. But Mogor just ate our lunch. We pulled in outside dps, and we still died. Some of that dps left, we got new dps, and died again. And again. I tried tanking when the paladin went down, and it was nearly enough... we'd get so close, so very close to winning. And then, we wouldn't. Until somehow... we did! I think half of Nagrand must have ended up coming to help our group before it was all over with. So while it was not exactly Gweryc's proudest moment, it was still a really nice thing to see just how many people were willing to pitch in. Give yourself a pat on the back, Alliance. You're good people.

So I've got two great two-handed axes now, which will take me all the way into 70. Time to start training up that 2H axe skill, yes? My 2H axe skill is very poor -- 287/330 as I type this, and that's after grinding it for a long time. My lack of skill is impacting my crit chance, which impacts my chance to proc Kill Command, which impacts Cafall's damage dealt. Thus, I won't have any solid numbers to post on KC until I get that axe skill up. All I can say for now is a highly subjective, yet gratified, "niiiiice."

There was one bit of strategy from the Ring of Blood chain that I was pleased with, and can share here. Since becoming an engineer, I've taken the time to make all three Mechanical Dragonlings. The dragons are on a one hour cooldown individually, but only share a one minute cooldown with each other. Meaning for three consecutive minutes, you could deploy all three dragons if you wanted. You just can't have two out simultaneously. Before certain Ring of Blood bosses, I'd equip one dragon and let it out, then swap out the dragon trinket for my Maelstrom card before entering combat. The dragons stay deployed when you unequip their trinkets, so I got damage boosts from both the dragon and the card, while leaving my Bladefist's Breadth untouched in my other trinket slot. The trick worked perfectly, as I'd hoped, and it's something I'll be looking to repeat in future boss encounters.

It makes me wonder -- can I use Misdirection with my Goblin Rocket Launcher at 70, to perform the traditional Hunter role of fixing a mob on the tank with a ranged attack?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Behold, O God, our shield

More instancing to discuss, this time in Hellfire Ramparts. My role this time was an off-tank, as I had done before (albeit unintentionally) in Zul'Farrak. I'm defining an off-tank here as "a player that can safely and effectively tank one enemy," as recognized by The Way of the Punch Bag - A Guide to Tanking v2.0 on Allakhazam. For every pull the main tank made, I singled out at least one mob and tanked it until it was dead. That was my job, and really, it makes perfect sense.

When I choose my gear, I look primarily at two areas: damage mitigation and attack power. Those categories break down into things like agi, str, def, dodge, and so on, but broadly those two categories are it. Can I kill it, and can I stay alive while it's trying to kill me. There's a couple ways I might have chosen to gear myself toward that end. One is the agi/dodge heavy setup some rogues prefer, which I've never really explored. Instead, I've gone the route of favoring survivability except in cases where an item is available that has ridiculously more AP.

So here I am, a guy in the second heaviest armor in the game, dressed with tank stats in mind, a 26.3% dodge rate, and attacks that are opened up by dodging and parrying. Off-tanking just seems like a natural fit, nicht wahr?

And it works. I always tanked at least one mob, sometimes more when my AoE fire traps caught their attention. And since I was an OT, my special attacks were regularly unlocked. I came in second on the damage meters, below our level 68 tank and above a 64 warlock. (I was 63 at the time.) I did die a couple times, but I attribute the deaths to mistakes (some mine, some not) rather than a fundamentally flawed strategy. Generally my health never got lower than about 50%.

Proof of our group's success can be seen in my armory profile for now, as I'm currently wearing the Handguards of Precision quest reward.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

One man's "magic" is another man's engineering.

And I should have looked into this particular magic a long time ago: at level 40, in fact.

I've finally succumbed to the temptation to swap professions. From levels 1 to 40, leatherworking was great, because I could gear myself well with items I made. But the drop-off after 40, when I began to wear chain mail, was precipitous. I haven't made anything personally useful in ages. When I can deck myself from head to toe in epic gear with PvP rewards alone, there's just no compelling reason to keep leatherworking as a profession.

I want stun bombs and rocket launchers. I want teleporters and goggles. At level 60 I think I've more than adequately demonstrated the viability of melee-only hunting as a levelling path. I'm hungry to grow my repertoire beyond the handful of attacks I have now. Engineering won't pave my way from 60 to 70, but it might keep me entertained enough to actually get there.

For the nonce I'll keep skinning, but trade leatherworking for mining. The skinning/mining combo should enable me to make a nice profit from materials as I level mining. Once my mining is levelled up adequately to power level my engineering, I'll drop skinning and complete the transition.

This presents an interesting problem in terms of roleplay, too. How can somebody not dexterous enough to use a gun negotiate a gyromatic micro-adjuster? I may need to find a sympathetic gnome willing to craft a handicapped-friendly version.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

It is delicious patch. I must eat it.

Today's 2.1 patch boasts several nice enhancements relevant to the melee hunter. Of particular note:
  • The Cobra Reflexes skill, previously usable only by King Bangalash, can now be taught to hunter pets. This effect increases attack speed, but reduces damage dealt per attack. Petopia's initial report observes that the increase in speed is sufficient to raise overall pet DPS, despite the reduction in attack power.
  • There are several fixes/improvements to Kill Command. It can now trigger from Ferocious Inspiration, and Frenzy can be triggered from Kill Command. Kill Command has been removed from the global cooldown, and it can be used even when your pet is out of line-of-sight.
  • The Survival Instincts talent increases attack power by 2/4%.
  • Mend Pet has been changed from a channeled spell to an instant cast HoT, getting you back into combat faster. Improved Mend Pet also reduces the mana cost for the heal.
I've been dawdling at level 60 for a while, putzing around Hellfire Peninsula. The Kill Command changes are really encouraging me to make the push to 66. I want to start seeing those Rank 1 Wing Clip crits dishing out +130 damage, instead of the 7 damage they do now.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ding 58: Gweryc Does Outland

This is a land in which I had long ago made my home, but which welcomed me only recently. Surrounded by new faces and new threats, my strength of will remains unbroken.

I am Gweryc, called Halfhand. Remember that name, you denizens of Outland. For I vow mastery over you. None on my home world were challenge enough. Even before the Alliance would admit I had made my way to stand among them at Honor Hold, I had proved myself more than a match for the demons plaguing Hellfire Peninsula. Inevitably, even prominent officers from Stormwind and the Wildhammer aviators confessed to needing my help.

Crippled I may be, but disabled I am not. Though my maimed hand may no longer be suited to a gun, I still have strength of arm. I am capable. Yes, I have something to prove. And with the Light as my witness, I vow to prove it.

Monday, May 7, 2007

That it were mine to crush the Demon

At last, the much-anticipated level 52 opened up for me like a flower, permitting me to partake of its sweet nectar: a Demonslayer sword bearing a Demonslaying enchant. This was the first item Gweryc had used that I actually considered a twink. Characteristically, I'd found the sword itself at a bargain price using Auctioneer. However, the enchant was donated by my main, who had rather fortuitously bought the Enchant Weapon - Demonslaying formula at nearly the same time I'd found the sword.

The sword itself, I'm sorry to say, was a tremendous disappointment. Although the sword is a natural host for the enchant, the +99 AP on the Demonslayer just doesn't make up for the loss of the stats on my Ice Barbed Spear. Let us speak no more of that sword, forever.

So what about the enchant itself? Demonslaying has a chance on hit of afflicting a demon with Smite Demon, dealing 75-125 Holy damage and a 5 second stun. Reports on the proc rate are mixed. Some claim it procs so infrequently it's not worth it, while still others claim several times per fight. The most reliable reports claim about 2 ppm.

Demonslaying is definitely better than a sharp stick in the eye, but it too fell short of my expectations. I confess that I didn't observe the exact performance of the enchant with my usual statistical rigor, so I can only offer anecdotal evidence. When it procs, it's a Very Good Thing. The Holy damage is nice, but the real win is the stun. I was generally able to take off half the demon's life before he recovered from that stun. However, the stun didn't proc nearly enough for me to feel as overpowered as I'd hoped. It certainly wasn't bad, but it was hardly imbalanced, either.

I like predictability. When I pay for an enchant, I want to have confidence in what it can do for me. Yes, I did better with this enchant grinding on the demons of Felwood than I would have without it, and I did appear able to cause it to proc off Wing Clips as I'd hoped. However, the enchant didn't proc on the majority of fights. Like critical hits, the effect it yields is a pleasant bonus, but it's not something you want your life to depend on. (And unlike critical hits, there's no gear I can obtain to increase the proc rate.) Down the road, this has really discouraged me from taking the proc-based Mongoose enchant over the reliable Savagery or Major Agility.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out! (Ding 52!)

With my objectives of gaining the Argent Dawn Commission at 50 and Ice Barbed Spear at 51 completed, I wondered what I should do to get myself to level 52. As an unguilded Hunter with some pieces of gear being several levels old, grinding in Azshara seemed like a natural fit. (Nĭ huì shuō zhōng wén ma?) But who to kill, what to kill... There's a lot of animals around to skin, but for now my leatherworking's in pretty good shape. Decisions, decisions...

When suddenly it struck me. The Timbermaw. The Timbermaw, who attack outsiders without provocation. The Timbermaw, insular scum who would cull Azeroth's population of anyone foolish enough to try walking through their precious little tunnel without first kowtowing to their tribe. The Timbermaw, "gentle, ursine children of the forest," who deign to share their secrets of craftmanship only with those who prove themselves to be relentlessly dedicated to their genocidal pogroms against other Furbolg tribes.

I was glowing with satisfaction when my reputation dropped to Hated.

In character, yes, I have a real beef with the Timbermaw. In actuality, my frustrations are born of the mechanics of reputation grinding in pre-BC content. Rep grinding was never a thrill. And with the level cap raised to 70, there is no way for a player to reach exalted status with any pre-BC faction in a timely manner. For example, I would love to earn an Earthstrike trinket, meaning I need to reach Exalted with the Cenarion Circle. I don't see any way to do that without spending so much time in Silithus that I level past Hellfire Peninsula without ever having been there. Is it really worth the time to do that, when I can drop into Outland and pick up Bladefist's Breadth at level 58?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the release of the Burning Crusade has made some old territory ridiculously easy, opening avenues that were previously quite exclusive. Lord Incendius, for example, can be farmed for the Ace of Elementals by practically any level 70. It takes maybe six minutes to reach and kill him, then exit and reset the instance. Consequently the price of building an Elementals deck has been drastically lowered. I watched the auction house for several levels, collecting each card as it became available at a bargain price, and completed my own deck for 58 gold. So come the next Faire, I'll be redeeming my deck for the Darkmoon Card: Maelstrom, which has a chance on hit to deal 200-300 Nature damage. Not bad, not bad at all. And certainly a lot easier than grinding Cenarion Circle rep!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Feel the fury of the sands!

A couple nights ago, in an hour at which all right-thinking people would be in bed, I was up questing in Tanaris when I got an invitation to Zul'Farrak. I joined, double-checking, "You did see my player note in the LFG tool, right? Melee only?" "Yeah, that's okay." "...Cool."

The group original group constituency was: 46 warlock, 47 warlock, 44 priest, 46 hunter, and me, a 47 hunter. (The 46 hunter left and was replaced by a 45 hunter later on.) At last, my first all-peer instance group! I was really excited to see how this would play out.

There was a bit of trepidation about the lack of a proper tank. We compensated by using both voidwalkers, and pets where necessary. Overall that particular strategy worked well. Our only wipes were from silly things, like aggroing scarabs that chewed on the priest and interrupted her healing, and the occasional bit of simple bad luck. But the strategy that impressed me most was the way we handled the stairs. At someone's suggestion we left all four of our pets and minions, set to Stay and Aggressive, halfway down the steps. This formed a highly effective phalanx. A lot of the trolls that came running up the steps never made it past. Those that did had taken a fair bit of damage, making it easier for Bly and us to dispatch them. And we did well on more than the stairs -- the whole run was a big success. All in all, it was probably the most fun ZF run I've ever done. Thanks to Sabethon, Triplestack, Firewisp, Moodion, and Sierrahunt for showing a crusty old dwarf a really good time.

What of this relates specifically to melee hunting? For one, I felt like I performed quite well versus my peers. Consequently I've lost all hesitation about looking for instance groups. I'll still alert people about my play style, but I have no reason to think I should avoid them in favor of soloing anymore. The ZF experience altered my perspective to the point that if a group declines me, I feel like they're the ones missing out.

My role in the group was primarily DPS, but I did (accidentally) off-tank some mobs as well, in the same vein as I did in RFK. I tanked one healer for what felt like two or three minutes, and held several trolls at bay on the stairs encounter. And what of my DPS? Well, at no point did I ever see myself fall from first place. According to my meter, I was always Number One. Naturally, I don't believe that for a second. I suspect that since I was the only melee fighter, I missed a lot of damage notices from the other players because I was out of range of them. I'll take it as a reminder that when possible you should sync your damage meters. Even so, it was plain to see that I was a true peer, not just some oddball the other four had brought along for the ride.

Speaking of oddities, I picked up a curious item while I was there, the Shriveled Heart. +13 sta, but -5 str and -5 spi. The chatter on Thottbot about the item is filled with people who apparently feel cheated or otherwise bewildered by the fact that the item adds to one stat while reducing a couple others. I don't understand that. When you replace one item with another, you're making the exact same decision. Am I willing to give up x stats in exchange for y stats? In my case the answer was yes. I have more spirit than I need, so that's not even a factor. The 13 sta, to me, was worth giving up the 12 agi from my old necklace and 5 str.

Then, as it happened, I put the Shriveled Heart in the bank and re-equipped my agility necklace a day later when I bought my first epic item, the Ring of Saviors. I got it for a fair price, and it was paid for entirely out of my hunter's own funds. (I'm shocked by just how profitable grinding is.) I had a bit of angst about laying out the money for it, but I've also been very disappointed by how hard it's been to find level-appropriate mail armor with the stats I need. This ring went a long way toward compensating for that.

Right now I'm at 49, and collecting Sunken Temple quests. One quest I already soloed, grabbing the Guardian Talisman, which I took into WPL and tested out on some undead. I have several exciting milestones coming up. At 50 I can grab an Argent Dawn Commission. 51 opens up Alterac Valley and the luscious Ice Barbed Spear, and at 52... well, for now let's just say that I'm pretty excited about level 52.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Let me clip your dirty wings

In the heady days of my youth in Westfall I had envisioned Wing Clip as a viable, if weak, supplement to my regular attacks. As it happened, I was to be sorely disappointed when an attempt at putting that hypothesis into practice did, in fact, boost my dps but also drained my mana pool so quickly that I was unable to execute any Raptor Strikes and promptly died at the hands of a Defias something-or-other.

In the present, however, I was able to revisit the idea of Wing Clip as a supplemental attack. For a period of time in my 30s I experienced mild concern about the size of my mana pool, which has been largely neglected for the entirety of this character's life. But at 47, with 3/3 points in the Resourcefulness talent, I may as well have infinite mana. With Wing Clip excluded from my regular attack rotation, there is no longer any point at which my regular rate of mana consumption (2100 mp) exceeds what my Spirit (74 spi: 55+19) is able to regenerate during my normal downtime. My stack of Moonberry Juice, now 12 levels old, is so far past its expiration date there are Druids who want to study the new life growing inside.

So what happens when I add Wing Clip back in, in the same way that failed so utterly outside Furlbrow's farm? Well, to begin with, I have two ranks of Wing Clip now, not just one, so I have to decide which rank to spam. I mentioned in a prior post the idea of using Wing Clip to increase the chance to proc a chance-on-hit effect; the assurance of maintaining speed reduction against a mob is appealing as well. Additionally, when I learn Kill Command, a cheap Wing Clip crit should still be enough to open up that ability. As WoWWiki observes, "the damage dealt by this ability is pointless". It's the effects we want, so we capitalize on that by using Rank 1, hitting higher ranks only when we need the increased speed reduction.

I set up this macro:
/cast [modifier] Wing Clip(Rank 1); Wing Clip
With this, I can hit the button normally for a max rank Wing Clip, or hold down alt to get the cheapest (least mana intensive) version. I first tried this by spamming rank 1 whenever I was not busy with any other special attack. The drain on my mana was not crippling but was still significant. My mind was filled with nightmare visions of having to explain to the Moonberry Juicians that I was about to drink them, forever eradicating their unique society. So I eased back and hit the Wing Clips every two seconds. That worked out well. My mana regen was back to a point where it would naturally compensate for what I used, without coercing me into quaffing a cup of fourth-grade science project.

For the present, there's no practical reason for me to use the Wing Clips. I have no chance-on-hit effects to proc on my weapon, no Kill Command to unlock. If I'm worried about mobs running away, I know how to use Wing Clip situationally -- the barrage of them is unnecessary. But there's an impractical reason to use it that's actually not insignificant. It makes my character Do Stuff.

My weapon is very slow, and my special attacks are unsteady in their frequency. Consequently, I spend a lot of time watching this dwarf ruminate over each attack. Patience may be a virtue, but have you ever been in a group with a melee character that just refused to stop? Sorry, priest, no time to drink! There's mobs ahead! Leeeeeeroooooyyy....!!! As foolhardy as it may be, there's a reason a lot of melee players succumb to that sort of behavior. Melee is, by definition, a kinetic activity. And an object in motion, even psychologically, tends to stay in motion. Or to aggro mobs before you've regened your mana and refreshed your pally buffs, as it were. It's a real exercise in restraint to play as a melee class, hit your combat rhythm, and stop. Then start, and stop. And again. And again. This frustration arises during combat, too, not just in the interstices. It's a real trial to know that I'm going to get punched in the face three or four times by that Ogre before my [Polearm of Molasses-in-January] finally connects with its vitals. Intellectually, I know that the 5 points of damage Wing Clip does are negligible. But psychologically it's greatly rewarding to see myself unceasingly spinning, jumping, thrusting. The heightened sense of engagement is palpable. For the minor additional cost in mana, I'd say it's worth it for that alone.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Challenge is a dragon with a gift in its mouth…Tame the dragon and the gift is yours.

I just completed the quest for Dragonscale Leatherworking specialization. Dragonscale is really the only sensible path for hunters, since it's the only choice that deals in mail armor. And yet it seems like much of the gear you can make down this path is really designed with shamans in mind. Not that Netherscale Armor or Black Dragon Mail are useless, but I do feel like I'm going to be getting a lot less use out of my trade skill in my post-40 life.

There was a lot of conflicting and misleading information about taking this specialization, so I'd like to relay what I found. What follows is, naturally, relevant to the Alliance quest-giver.

First off, you need to be level 40 -- not 35! -- and have a leatherworking skill of 225. At that point you can accept the relevant quest from Peter Galen, Master Dragonscale Leatherworker. (The Wild Leather quests in Feralas are not a prerequisite for taking Dragonscale Leatherworking as some people claimed, though I believe it is required for Tribal.) Peter tells you to bring him 2 Tough Scorpid Breastplates, 2 Tough Scorpid Gloves, and 10 Worn Dragonscales. I collected my Scorpid Scales from Tanaris, and my Dragonscales from the dragonkin in the Wyrmbog outside Onyxia's Lair in Dustwallow Marsh. However, any or all of these items can be bought from the auction house if you prefer not to bother with producing them yourself. For the Tough Scorpid items especially that might not be a bad choice, as the pattern for both items comes from drops, not trainers.

Once you've collected all the quest items, take them to Peter Galen. Peter is in Azshara, a place I hadn't been to yet. I flew into Astranaar and rode east along the road, stopping just across the border in Azshara to get the flight path. Peter himself is almost directly south of the Ruins of Eldarath, and just a bit east of where the path cuts into the north edge of the Forlorn Ridge on the map. (His coordinates are 37,65.) You can reach him without encountering any mobs by cutting through the Forlorn Ridge at the point where you see the Horde watchtower. The tower is abandoned, so you won't be accosted by Horde NPCs. Just cut up through the path, into the Ridge, and travel east until you see Peter's tent. If you're having trouble finding him, turn on humanoid tracking. From there just hand in your goods, and that's it!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Water, taken in moderation, cannot hurt anybody.

The experience of visiting my hunter trainer is remarkably like that of seeing my druid trainer. Such anticipation! Will I get a new rank of Starfire? Healing Touch? A new spell altogether? ...Oh, feral stuff. Ho hum. And so it was for the hunter when I hit 42 earlier this week. "Oh, hooray," I drawled indifferently, "a couple zillion ranged spells I don't want, and a new rank of Counterattack." So I decided to reward myself with something a little better -- I farmed a Hydrocane from the Viscous Fallout in Gnomeregan.

Because of its passive effect of giving you underwater breathing while it's equipped, Hydrocane is one of the few items in the game I consider absolutely indispensable. Even my druid carries one, so he can cast while underwater. There are all kinds of situations where you want to use this: any quest that sends you underwater, farming pearls or the Big Iron Fishing Pole, going AFK in a safe spot off land, evading PvP, luring PvP opponents into the water to freeze trap and drown them...

If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Ding 40!

I managed to keep myself entertained over the last couple of days by participating in group quests, zone quest groups, and one instance run through Razorfen Kraul. I was a bit high level to be in RFK, and I ended up tanking (and doing a decent job!) as a result of my damage output. I kept stealing aggro from our warrior, and I was actually able to evade tank some trash mobs and one boss before the group fell apart.

In Stranglethorn Vale I had a fun time assaulting Colonel Kurzen with a pick-up group before I finally gave in and started grinding again. But ah, grinding with a purpose! I went south from Kurzen and farmed Cold Eye Basilisks until one dropped a Cold Basilisk Eye for me. I've gotten good at body pulling in the way Paladins do, but having a trinket that lets me do a ranged pull every few minutes has a lot of value.

Eventually the basilisks yielded not only my trinket but enough experience to push me to level 40. I'd been collecting chain mail pieces for several levels in anticipation of the Great Ding, so I'm fairly well outfitted with chain now. I couldn't find a compelling upgrade for my belt, and the 18 agi on my Triprunner Dungarees still can't be beaten. I'll be in mixed gear for a while, it seems, but the mail upgrades were very welcome.

And the ram! Oh, the ram! Finally I can ride places instead of relying on Aspect of the Cheetah! Distressingly, the ram feels slow since I'm accustomed to my main's epic mount, but the difference is still a relative luxury.

So at 40, I've still not yet hit any major snags, no deep pain points where I wished fervently for a ranged weapon, no point at which I've felt ashamed of my damage or damage taken. I admit, this isn't the normal route to take, but it's worked well so far. Maybe that will change in the future. But honestly, I don't think it will. To whomever may be following along, thanks for reading this far, and I hope you'll be here when I hit 70!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

It are a fact. I know because of my learnings.

If you want your hunter to level up skill with a type of melee weapon quickly, go find a group of mobs about ten levels lower than you and spam Wing Clip (Rank 1) at them until they're dead. Your weapon skill will rise very quickly.

Ding Thirty-seeee... OMG BORED BORED BORED

I think perhaps I've been too mindful of keeping my melee hunting (or munting, as it were -- see the example for definition 2) away from other people. Having spent nearly the entirety of this character's life focusing on grinding beasts for leatherworking and questing a bit here and there, I think I'm experiencing a distinctive type of burnout often associated with the level-by-grinding method.

I had intended to try for an instance group last night, but found that nobody was forming groups for Scarlet Monastery -- or any other instance for that matter. I took a friend up on her offer of a "guided tour" of the Monastery, and gained a level and a Bonebiter in the process, plus Herod's Shoulder for when I hit 40 and can wear mail.

It's really remarkable to me that the largest problem I have with this character isn't in killing things. I'm pretty efficient as far as that's concerned. No, the problem is feeling like a social leper, which is something I anticipated (and am partially responsible for as a consequence of my self-imposed isolation) but find dissatisfying regardless.

At this point, I need to adapt. I need to work harder at looking for instances, or possibly find a guild to join that is supportive of this concept. I also have the option of PvP for the present, since there are some nice mail upgrades I could work toward. I could start watching movies while I grind. Or maybe just taking a break would help. I am indeed looking forward to chain mail and my mount, but I don't want to get burned out striving toward them.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Orthodox medicine has not found an answer to your complaint. However, luckily for you, I happen to be a quack.

Having mentioned this idea earlier, I thought I'd explore more fully the idea of a non-healing character acting in a healing capacity.

To begin, take First Aid and max out your abilities in that profession at the earliest opportunities. When healing others with bandages you should always use the highest rank bandage it's possible for a character of your level to produce. There are two reasons for this. First is the "Recently Bandaged" debuff. If the bandaging should be interrupted, you want to have accomplished as much healing as possible in the time you were able to bandage. Second, healing others quicker means you're able to heal your next target sooner.

As a rule, never, ever apply a bandage to a target that has aggro. As soon as that target takes his next hit, the bandaging will be interrupted and he'll have received the "Recently Bandaged" debuff for naught. Instead, work with your group to establish aggro sharing so you can work a bandage rotation on your tanks, or look for items with a "Heals your Target" effect. Draenei can also use their Gift of the Naaru as a heal spell in this case.

Also, do not neglect Anti-Venoms as a component of first aid. The most effective healers decurse as well as heal. If you want to do your best as a healer, Anti-Venoms are essential.

The type of items you'll be looking to carry are those that give you healing abilities or otherwise impact group stats in a positive way. I found these to be of interest. There are almost certainly other items I've missed. Among these are the sort of items you'll be using to heal a target that has aggro.
Some character choices complement the un-healer concept better than others. Only Engineers, for example, can use Jumper Cables and Recombobulators. Mages can naturally decurse, as well as provide food during fights. Warlocks can provide healthstones. But both mages and warlocks are limited to cloth armor, meaning there are a couple items on the above list that are inaccessible to them. A hunter who feigns death may be able to recover a party using his jumper cables on the rezzer. And as mentioned before, any Draenei receives the delicious Gift of the Naaru.

There are some good tools available to help manage your healing. I prefer Clique and Grid. With Grid, I can see who has aggro to avoid bandaging them, who has a debuff on them that I can cleanse, and who has an incoming heal (meaning they don't need to get bandaged). The Grid squares that provide all this data support click-casting, and Clique is the tool I use to do that. I configure Clique to use the healing items and bandages I have on me when I click a player's Grid square, and from there healing is as simple as paying attention and clicking the squares to use the right item on the right person. A comprehensive discussion of Clique and Grid is certainly beyond the scope of this missive, but suffice to say they're extremely powerful tools when wielded competently.

Remember also to maintain your cooking! Having stacks of buff foods to hand out to the party helps to lessen damage taken and improve damage done.

Can all this make you into an effective main healer? No. Not a chance. As an off-healer, though, I think it's feasible. Back to the idea of the melee hunter -- which seems more useful to a group: an off-healer with party buffs, or a really poor melee fighter? It's something to think about.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Go forth to meet the shadowy future, without fear.

Keeping in mind that I infrequently use Wing Clip, and that sometimes an Immolation Trap misses and wastes time in combat, I tried to evaluate Counterattack's usefulness by running some tests on Young Stranglethorn Tigers, one at a time in batches of ten, using various combinations of only Raptor Strike, Counterattack, and Mongoose Bite. For the tests I kept my pet dismissed and used no other attacks at any time or buffs other than Aspect of the Monkey in an effort to normalize the results as much as possible.

While Raptor Strike and Mongoose Bite were doing the lion's share of damage, Counterattack generally represented 5% of the overall damage when it was brought into the mix. As I said for Immolation Trap, five percent is not insignificant. My average dps across tests was 47.2.

And yet it's clear that Counterattack is not really designed for melee. It does fair damage, but the attack immobilizes the target for 5 seconds and cannot be blocked, dodged, or parried. Like Wing Clip, the real purpose of Counterattack is plainly to allow the hunter to escape to a point where he can resume ranged attacks.

The trick, then, to maximizing melee damage is to make every attack hit as hard as possible. This means more than just using a hard hitting two-handed weapon. It means maximizing your crit chance and adding in more damage whenever and however possible. Using a good weapon is a start, but I found that using a weapon that has a chance on hit proc is even better.

After looking at my average dps, I applied a bottle of Shadow Oil to my polearm. Shadow Oil gives your melee weapon a 15% chance on hit of casting Shadow Bolt (Rank 3) at your opponent when it hits, causing 48 to 56 shadow damage. My dps jumped from 47.2 up to 53.0, a full 12% increase. I also observed that the chance on hit effect did apply to my "special" attacks, proccing after Raptor Strikes and Counterattack as well as regular melee attacks. I also saw that the Shadow Bolts would occasionally crit. This is great news. Those pitiful Wing Clips, for example, now have a 15% chance of hitting for 61 damage instead of 5.

Granted, Shadow Oil isn't a panacea, because it doesn't scale. But looking at this effect in a generalized context, it points out that a weapon that naturally carries a chance on hit, like the Diabolic Skiver or the Grim Reaper, has the potential to greatly improve your melee results. I've not yet had the chance to test out a DoT effect from a weapon versus a simple bonus attack such as the Shadow Oil provided, but I've procured a Poison-tipped Bone Spear that I intend to begin using.

With my next major melee attack, Kill Command, not coming until level 66, I'll continue to look for ways to improve the immediate efficacy of my physical attacks.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world: indeed it's the only thing that ever has!

Last night I saw a group forming for Gnomeregan. Ordinarily my hatred for that instance is so severe that I wouldn't consider grouping for it, but for the melee hunter Gnomeregan is an interesting opportunity. So few people actually care to go that when I saw a group forming I took a chance and whispered the group leader, explaining that I was an experimental character who would not use ranged weapons. This was met with curiosity, and lo, I was actually accepted into the group! I spent a few moments gathering quests and set out.

As it turned out, the group was being run through the instance by a 62 warrior who was generous to a fault. (Thank you, Naubudis!) For the sake of the project I was hoping to evaluate my performance against a peer group, but I wasn't going to decline the run. And as it turned out, it was still a learning experience for me.

Pets in an instance can be perilous. Even with my pet set to defensive and on follow, he would sometimes take off in a direction I didn't want when I gained aggro from a group down the hall -- very dangerous. Ultimately I decided that if the pet was to be out at all, he needed to be on passive and follow, with me controlling exactly what targets (if any) he was to attack.

Even though none of us "lowbies" were a big source of dps relative to our tank, I was still able to contribute significantly by acting as the navigator -- I was the only person in the group with a solid knowledge of the dungeon's layout. This, to me, represents the essence of good play. Don't focus on expectations. Discover what you can do, and maximize those contributions.

Had this been a pure peer group, I was still prepared to make contributions. As my main is a healing class, I have a number of healing add-ons that let me monitor health, incoming heals, who has aggro, etc. With my bandages and some good decision making about when and on whom to apply them, I can make an effective off-healer while my pet does dps on my behalf. (I off-heal with bandages in moonkin form on my main, so I assure you this works, even though I've not been called on to do it with my hunter yet.) Using items like the Gem-studded Leather Belt, Gauntlets of the Sea, Recombobulators and other items and trinkets, a creative person can actually make a pretty effective off-healer, so I may try to make off-healing and crowd control via traps and Wing Clips my dwarf's focus in any future instances, while my pet does the dps. I was also able to keep the group buffed with +10 stamina with my Pendant of the Agate Shield.

My pet wolf, I have decided, is a poor choice for running instances. I chose him as my primary companion because he complements my melee play. But in an instance, I need a higher dps pet to compensate for the fact that I will (hopefully) never have aggro, so for the whole of a run I won't be able to execute a Mongoose Bite or a Counterattack. I considered a ravager, but there's a big gap from level 24 to 48 where the Gore skill can't be upgraded. Its ranks skip from Gore 4 off Bellygrub to Gore 7 from Ashmane Boars in the Blasted Lands. This encouraged me to consider cats, and I'm glad I did.

Reports indicate that the mob King Bangalash, a 43 elite cat in Stranglethorn Vale, is unique in having a passive skill called Cobra Reflexes that lowers his attack power slightly but increases his attack speed by 30%, making him the best possible choice for a dps pet. I'm not at a point where I can tame the King just yet, but now that I'm aware of him, I'll be working on capturing a cat soon, with the goal of replacing him with King B later on.

When I do go to tame King B, I'll be using a trick I found. If you lay down a Freezing Trap before initiating a Tame Beast, the mob will run across it and be frozen in the trap while the taming continues, making it a lot more likely you'll succeed in the taming.

Freezing Trap's AoE counterpart Frost Trap confounds me. I just can't find a very good use for it outside of PvP. Defending the flag room with it, especially with talent points put into Entrapment, seems like a big win. But in PvE... what good is it? I could possibly drop one if I get aggro from multiple mobs, run away from them and the trap until the trap procs, then run them all back across it and hit Aspect of the Cheetah to get away, but I already escape group aggro by using my wolf to distract them. I'm not ready to delete it from my hotbar just yet, but I'm sure not in love with it, either.

After tearing apart Gnomeregan and taking some serious gear upgrades from the Triprunner Dungarees and the Gnomebot Operating Boots (which, embarrassingly, replaced my level 13 Blackened Defias Boots) I had dinged not just 30, but 31. With Counterattack finally added to my repertoire, I'm ready to re-examine my damage distribution. Look for a post concerning that soon.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The [Dwarven] race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.

It's necessary to revisit the question of dual-wield versus a two-handed weapon. Beclemund and his co-star Anonymous both suggested that I reconsider two-handed weapons as my primary choice.

Beclemund pointed out to me that I had misinterpreted Kalgan's post about dual-wield for Warriors. I don't know what I was thinking when I read "1h+s" except possibly "one-handed weapon and a Stabby-dagger," but of course Kalgan was talking about the damage mitigation from shields, which I can't use. The parts about miss rates still apply, but any "damage mitigation" will come from the items' overall stats -- dps, agi, sta, etc. -- not from any inherent benefit in dual-wielding weapons or not.

A couple posts I found (finally!) that relate specifically to Hunters and dual-wield in melee seems to say that 2H weapons' dps generally outperform dual-wield dps. The anonymous comment to this blog supports 2H weapons as well, asserting that 2H+Raptor Strike+Savage Strikes should dish out markedly superior damage.

Even the question of weapon enchants is changed with the Burning Crusade, since the best of the relevant enchants, Savagery (+70 AP) and Major Agility (+35 agi), are for a two-handed weapon. Dual +15 agi enchants are no longer the king. (Yes, there's Mongoose for one-handers, but I don't see myself getting two 1H weapons that together rival a 2H and then putting Mongoose on both of them. I'm also not convinced of the superiority of Mongoose procs over a consistent +35 agi.)

The 2H weapon choices look pretty good in the expansion, too, with items like the Hellforged Halbard out there.

As long as I'm able to hold aggro against my pet when I'm using a 2H weapon, I don't mind using one. But in reality, it's the availability of weapons that dictates what you use, especially when leveling. With respect to that, polearms seem to make a great choice. Before I developed such a crush on dual-wielding, my plan had been to use polearms exclusively. There are a lot of good polearms out there with stats that complement my plan, and many of them sell for next to nothing in the auction house because so few people actually use them.

Which is the Ultimate Answer? (No, the other Ultimate Answer. Nerds.) It has to be taken on a case-by-case basis, according to what's really available. It's not just dps that matters. It's agi, sta, int... the whole kit-and-caboodle. One weapon has to be judged against another (or two) holistically to really see what's better. But having reconsidered the question, I won't be so quick to dismiss two-handers now. In fact, I think it's time to pull that Gargoyle's Bite out of storage, kick the tires, and take it on a long test drive.

Anon and Beclemund, thanks for the input!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ding 26!

Starting at the moment I dinged level 25, I cleared out my battle history as recorded by KombatStats and allowed the addon to collect data as I made my way from 25 to 26.

It's interesting to see, percentage-wise, how my attacks were actually utilized. I dealt a total of 117,083 damage, divided between my attacks as follows:
  • Melee: 48.7%
  • Raptor Strike: 37.0%
  • Mongoose Bite: 7.3%
  • Immolation Trap: 5.2%
  • Wing Clip: 1.8%
Together my pet wolf Cafall and I dealt a total of 164,255 damage, with Cafall accounting for 47,172 of that -- a minority 28.7% of the total damage.

I'm happy to see that my Raptor Strikes represent a healthy percentage of my damage, but I find myself longing for level 30, when I finally pick up Counterattack. Over the course of the level I parried 103 times. That's a lot of lost opportunities.

Looking at Immolation Trap's damage dealt, it's fair to say that 5% is not insignificant, and I think it reinforces my earlier assertion that traps are an important part of the melee hunter's repertoire.

Incidentally, just to reinforce that it's me, not my pet, who's the primary combatant, the damage taken breakdown was 60% (26,958) to me and 40% (18,172) to Cafall. He is neither tank nor battle champion -- only a fast friend who stands ready to assist.

Part of what causes Cafall to take damage is my technique of using him to perform ranged pulls. Sometimes a pull just doesn't go off like I'd hoped (and I expect Dash to help with that when he learns it). Poor Cafall sometimes finds himself swamped with adds, whimpering as he limps valiantly back toward me. And how do I handle it? I abandon him to his fate. (Nobody tell G.E.T.A., okay?) I'll toss on Aspect of the Cheetah and book it in the opposite direction, leaving him dazed and in the dust. Eventually I get so far away from him that he disappears! This is great, because it prevents him (and me) from dying on those bad pulls. As soon as he's vanished and I'm out of combat, I just blow my whistle and he's right back by my side, ready to try again, his happiness icon still just as green as the grasses of Mulgore.

When I do take damage, I find that it's not always practical to sit and eat or to bandage after combat. Since I primarily grind on beasts, cloth for bandages isn't readily available so I prefer to save bandages for when I'm in combat and don't have the option of eating. And I don't always want to sit down to another meal of Curiously Tasty Omelet when I still have 13 minutes left on my last food buff. So to kill the time, I do leatherworking in the field while my health and mana regenerate. I don't manufacture items, but I work Light and Medium Leather into Heavy Leather. That frees bag space and saves food and bandages, ultimately letting me grind for longer before I head back to town.

When I hit level 25, I put a point into Deterrence. Ordinarily Deterrence would be considered a panic button similar to a Rogue's Evasion. For the melee hunter, Deterrence's increase to dodge and parry chances by 25% for 10 seconds means that the chance to Mongoose Bite or Counterattack are also increased. Deterrence has a very long cooldown -- five minutes -- meaning that it probably should be saved for those uncomfortable occasions when you need a boost to kill off something quickly, or survive just that little bit longer.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it.

Back to the topic of racial abilities. The elves' +1% to dodge would have been nice for Mongoose Bite, but it seemed weak compared to Stoneform and Gift of the Naaru. The few times I've played Draenei, their Gift of the Naaru spell has essentially worked as a very strong damage mitigator -- once it lands, you have a few seconds where your HoT is ticking for near the same rate as the damage that's incoming from a single mob. Used as a damage mitigator it compares favorably with Stoneform. Gift, however, can be used out of combat to reduce downtime, whereas during combat Stoneform shines, as it reduces damage by increasing armor by 10%, and also grants immunity to bleed, poison, and disease effects. Since I'm always carrying so much food from cooked meat, I'm not especially worried about having another means of healing myself out of combat.

There is a thread on Thottbot regarding dual-wield that I found enlightening. In particular, one post relays information from Blizzard employee Kalgan's response to warriors about dual-wield. The relevant portion of Kalgan's post is as follows:
While you will kill more quickly using 2h, you are expected to end the fight with a lower remaining health compared to the same fight using 1h+s. In the 1h+s case you will be killing more slowly, but have more health at the end of the fight, and therefore less downtime over the long haul (and yes, it is balanced to account for the fact that killing more quickly implies taking less hits from the enemy).
For a class not specifically designed with melee as a primary combat style, it seems sensible to take the approach that should, theoretically, end with me having taken less damage. Additionally, I have a second weapon providing an additional stat boost. So when level 20 rolled around, I definitely decided that dual-wield was the right way to go.

Conventional wisdom dictates that when dual-wielding, you should place a slower weapon in your main hand and a faster weapon in your off-hand due to the increased miss rate for your off-hand weapon. In terms of roleplay, this is perfect for my Dwarf. His main hand is the one that was crippled by his pet, so he would strike more slowly with it. And any person striking out with their non-dominant hand is sure to land fewer attempted blows.

As WoWWiki notes, since patch 2.0.1 traps can be placed in combat. Although I didn't initially anticipate it, traps are a valuable part of my play. When pulling a mob, I lay an immolation trap, send in my pet, have him grab the mob's attention and then bring it back across the trap to apply a DoT as I jump in with a Raptor Strike and a Wing Clip. (I always keep a Wing Clip up in case an unexpected crit sends the mob running.) When I charge into a mob along side my pet, I don't always drop an immolation trap right away. In that case I usually wait to see if I need some more DPS in the fight. The reason I wait is because I prefer having my freezing traps off cooldown, either to trap an unexpected add, or to trap my combat target so I can back away and bandage. I prefer freezing traps to fearing beasts for crowd control since runners sometimes bring friends back with them.

I also didn't quite expect the utility of Entrapment or Improved Wing Clip to be so helpful. Both of these talents sometimes give me a surprise moment where I have the luxury to back out and decide to heal myself or my pet for a little extra security.

Similarly, in a pinch I may choose to use Disengage and momentarily activate my pet's Growl to drop aggro and cause the mob to focus on my pet while I heal. Aggro sharing with my pet isn't optimal since it limits my opportunities for Mongoose Bites and Counterattacks, but it's a valuable tool when necessary.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Every man is the architect of his own fortune.

At level 24, I've already made a good deal of progress, so I'd like to take a minute, just sit right there, and I'll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel-Air.

...wait, let me start over.

Before I rolled the character, I had several choices to make. I wanted to hit the ground running with a plan in mind, so I had premeditated my choices for race, profession, pet, and gear to some extent.

Realistically, I've chosen my race very poorly. Trolls get passive health regeneration, +5% to beast slaying, and berzerking. Orcs have blood fury, resistance to stuns, +5% to your pet's melee damage, and +5 to axe skill. Tauren have war stomp and +5% to max health, and Blood Elves can manage weaponless ranged pulls by using Mana Tap. Meanwhile on the Alliance side, Night Elves have +1% to dodge, Draenei have a racial HoT, and Dwarves have stoneform. It should be obvious that any of the Horde races would have been a superior choice, but I'm just not comfortable playing that faction. So between the Alliance races, none of my choices were outstanding, but I opted for stoneform. Besides which, the personality I was imagining for this character simply seemed to suit a Dwarf better.

Leatherworking as a profession was an easy choice. Since I'd be avoiding instances, the ability to craft my own gear was not only convenient, but a necessity unless I planned to rely only on world drops, quest rewards, PvP gear, and auction house buys. Since I have an aversion to PvP, it was plain that not taking up leatherworking would have been grossly irresponsible. I decided that in the event that I simply had to attend battlegrounds for the sake of obtaining gear, working for trinkets and weapons would be a lot less demanding than working every 10 levels for a full set of armor.

I do carry ranged weapons, but only for the sake of stats. My current ranged weapon is a quested crossbow with +1 agi/+1 str. In-character I explain my willingness to carry a ranged weapon as a sort of sentimentality. In reality it's because I need the agility and strength on it.

Stat-wise, I found that agility was my number one stat to pursue. There are very lengthy discussions about this on WoWWiki, but the short of it is that a hunter gets +attack power, +crit, +armor and +dodge from agility. Stamina is my secondary stat, since it's necessary for me to have aggro (more on this in a bit). Strength can (and should!) be neglected in favor of agility, since for a hunter 1 str adds the same attack power as 1 agi, and 1 agi raises so many other stats besides just AP.

Why is it necessary for me to have aggro, and not my pet? To understand that we have to look at the hunter's melee attacks. Raptor Strike can be dished out once every six seconds, regardless of who has aggro. Wing Clip has no cooldown, but deals so little damage it can't rightly be considered a viable attack -- it's purely a crowd control mechanism. The remaining melee attacks are Mongoose Bite, which can only be used after you dodge, Counterattack, which requires that you parry, and Kill Command, which can be used whenever you've landed a crit. So if you do not have aggro, you will never be able to perform a Mongoose Bite or a Counterattack, because you will never have the opportunity to dodge or parry.

An alternate approach would be to put a lot of points into Beastmastery to boost my pet's dps and rely only on Raptor Strike and Kill Command. In my opinion, this is not viable for the "melee hunter" project, because at this point, it's the pet that's meleeing, with the hunter acting in a support role. Besides which, Kill Command isn't learned until level 66, and it seems unrealistic to claim you've been a melee hunter for 66 levels when your pet has killed everything for you while you back it up with white damage and a Raptor Strike every now and then.

The necessity of maintaining aggro also influenced my choice of pet. I looked over Petopia. Clearly none of the defensive pets were an option, because I don't want a pet that maintains aggro. Similarly a high-dps pet seemed like a poor idea; I was concerned that even without the pet Growling that its dps would outdo mine and draw aggro that way. So I looked at the "well-rounded" catalog. I was sold on the wolf: the only pet with the Furious Howl ability, a buff to both hunter and pet that increases melee damage dealt.

With leatherworking and skinning, a pet that eats meat, a need to cook to buff my stamina and regenerate health, the Monster Slaying talent available in the Survival tree, and various beastslaying enchants out there, I anticipated a lot of synergies happening that practically begged that I focus my efforts on grinding on beasts. And so I have, which is how I've gotten artisan skinning at level 24, and I'm ready for the artisan cooking quest. The quest in the Wetlands that rewards you with a leather chestpiece, the Raptorbane Armor, that adds 30 AP when fighting beasts was awesome for me.

That's been the plan, and I've largely stuck to it. Thus far it's been a really positive experience, and pretty smooth. I don't feel like I'm gimped. Rather, it all seems pretty natural.

Next post I'll talk about some of the things I discovered as I've leveled, including thoughts on dual-wield, stoneform, and using traps in melee.

Why not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is?

My first level 60 (pre-expansion) was a shadow priest. After him came a druid who is now a moonkin. A close friend of mine plays a paladin tank. So you might say that I have a certain familiarity with and sympathy for unusual gameplay. I like doing things nobody believes in, just to spite them. I like pushing limits. For me, World of Warcraft ceased being about pwnage and phat lewtz a very, very long time ago. My monthly subscription rents me a playground, not a bunch of pixellated e-peen enlargers, not a spot as somebody's slave in a raid guild. It's all about fun, and I get a major kick out of pushing the envelope. So I suppose it was really inevitable that I level a 100% pure melee hunter at some point. I mean, look at these quotes:
Honestly, how could I resist that?

Now, I'm not unrealistic. The hunter class is designed for ranged damage. (Although Blizzard concedes that when "wearing light to medium armor, hunters can also dual wield weapons in combat, fighting beside their pets in battle.") I don't expect to dish out massive damage. I don't expect to be number one in anything, except possibly Leatherworking. But I do believe that a melee hunter is perfectly viable as a personal playstyle, and I intend to prove it.

To make this work, I've had to make some concessions.

First off, I will not group for an instance unless the group knows beforehand that I will not, under any circumstance, deal ranged damage. While it is precisely the "your class must play this way" cookie-cutter mentality I'm challenging, I have no desire to upset someone else's gaming experience by forcing my own strange choices on them. This effectively excludes me from any instance group, but that's fine. WoW accommodates questing/grinding to the exclusion of instancing.

Second, I will not join a guild that is not aware of my decision. Guilds -- good ones, anyway -- work hard to maintain their reputation, and a 100% melee hunter is a potentially massive source of embarrassment.

I will, however, willingly participate in group quests outside instances without preamble if I'm invited to do so, because this character is hosted on a PvE roleplaying server. The RP environment should be relatively accommodating of a person doing strange things out in the world. And if it's decided that I am not welcome in a group, asking me to leave before fighting a pack of elite dogs outside somewhere is not the same as reaching a boss halfway through an instance, then realizing that you need to replace a team member.

Without instancing, I intend to rely nearly exclusively on my leatherworking skill to maintain my armor. To keep my weapons current, I will allow myself to participate in battlegrounds. Unless the group in a battleground is pre-formed, battlegrounds are different from instance groups in that the constituency of the group is random. In other words, you take what you're given. I believe that I have a right to participate in a random grouping like that, as much as a shadow priest or other non-optimally specced character. And certainly an active BG'er of any style is immeasurably preferable to an AFK'er. However, I am not particularly fond of battlegrounds, so it may prove to be that I will use my main to purchase BoE blue weapons at every ?8-level (18, 28, and so on) from the auction house that are approximately equal to the rewards I could have gotten had I spent the time in Warsong Gulch.

I will also permit my main, an enchanter, to put enchantments on my gear, though nothing grossly disproportionate. No Fiery enchant on my level 10 "of the Monkey" dagger. Overpowering the hunter by use of enchants would be antithetical to the purpose of the project, which is to demonstrate the viability of a melee hunter. At that point it's the twink gear winning the battle, not me and my wolf. Gifting myself level-appropriate enchantments doesn't seem unreasonable to me. I have a Draenei friend who is a jewelcrafter near my own level that sends me items to use, just as I send her gemstones and patterns she can use, and I have a tailor friend that has donated bags. Even a backwards Dwarf has friends in the world, and their assistance is always welcome.

While my self-imposed restrictions represent a significant limitation in the number of avenues open to me, I firmly believe that I will be successful in reaching level 70 without tremendous difficulty. I will use this space to detail both my journey to 70 and the tricks I've learned as a pure melee combatant, just as I would welcome constructive criticism.

For Khaz Modan!