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.