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.