Sunday, October 26, 2008

From a distance

Quick note: Aspect of the Viper is being changed to work on melee in a coming patch, which is good since I have horrible mana problems right now. In the meantime, I found that AotV works with my Thrown weapon. Weird.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

3.0 Notes

A few very quick notes:
  • My main server, Anvilmar, is probably my least functional server.
  • PvP is also so lagged it's impossible. No Battlemaster title for me in the near future.
  • Gweryc -- and pet wolf Cafall! -- are pushing about 745 - 800 single-target dps without any kind of raid buffs, and wearing straight out AP gear (instead of agi gems and enchants).
  • 2204 melee AP / 19.47% crit chance / 885 pet melee AP
  • If I wear my Thrown weapon (350 skill), my ranged (pet's) crit chance is 19.47%.
  • If I wear no weapon in my ranged slot, my ranged crit is 18.75%.
  • If I wear my gun (1 skill), my ranged crit is 5.79%.
  • This completely validates the need to have raised my Thrown skill. It would be foolish not to put something in that slot for the stats, but if I have an item in the slot, my pet's crit rate decreases if the skill for the weapon type isn't leveled.
  • I adore the practice dummies in Ironforge. They are a godsend to theorycrafters.
  • ...but Engineers should get Track Mechanical. Srsly.
  • Gweryc looks really weird to me with his new shave and haircut.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

WoW 3: Revenge of the Beast Master

The Survival tree looks pretty sorry these days, as far as melee hunting goes. Too many points have to be wasted to get to any of the good stuff. Compare a level 70 beast master build with a possible level 70 hybrid. Four points wasted on Surefooted and Deflection, no Focused Aim (for the hit chance), five points blown on Survivalist just to get Hunter vs. Wild. Beast Mastery is the future of melee hunting.

There are a couple of unanswered questions:

When Focused Aim says it increases "chance to hit by 3%", does that include melee hit, or just ranged? I'm assuming both, since it doesn't say otherwise. I suppose I'll find that out when I respec tonight.

When Petopia claims that "pets now inherit the hunter's hit rate and critical rate as well", does it mean my melee or ranged crit rate? Presumably ranged, especially since pet AP is derived from your RAP, but I won't know until I run some tests with Recount since the pet panel doesn't yet display your pet's hit and crit rate.

But regarding that... your chance to crit is in part determined by your weapon skill. Now, since Levixus boned my Thrown skill, I went ahead and leveled my Thrown skill to 350. Since doing that, I see in the Armory that my ranged crit chance is now 19.47%, far ahead of the untalented 3-4% it was a couple days ago. While Thrown weapons don't count toward using ranged hunter attacks, apparently Thrown weapons do count toward your ranged crit chance, meaning that from here on out I'll want to always use a Thrown weapon and maintain its skill, for the sake of the ranged crit chance from it that my pet will inherit.

Pre-patch, I spent a while regemming and reenchanting for raw AP, in anticipation of the Aspect of the Beast buff. If I'm to be a Beast Master, I want to beef up my pet as much as possible. But I chose raw AP before I saw from Petopia that pets are now supposed to inherit your crit chance. Now I'm rolling in Attack Power (2004 AP/1942 RAP/19.47% crit), but lacking in the notoriously scalable Agility. Again, some tests with Recount are called for. I'll go maul something tonight until I'm out of mana, record the numbers, and consider a retest once I'm back to a more balanced gear configuration.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Did you know that Levixus will mind control you? I did not.

Did you also know that when you're mind controlled, you can get weapon skill points when the entity controlling you puts you on auto attack?

Levixus, you see, decided it would be a neat trick to MC me and have me throw my Merciless Gladiator's War Edge at my pet. And I watched in horror as I picked up skill points.

Insert whatever profanity you feel like here. I'm sure I won't disagree.

But all is not lost.

Just to be sure, I logged onto my Troll hunter alt and equipped him with a Thrown weapon. His entire Marksmanship tree went red, as all the real Hunter goodies read, "Requires Ranged Weapon." Praise Elune.

So, I guess I have a decision to make. My status as melee hunter isn't broken, since even using a Thrown weapon does nothing to make the meat-and-potatoes hunter skills available to you. I can't Arcane Shot, I can't Scorpid Sting. As God intended. So, really, I guess I have to ask, do I live with this wart and maintain my Thrown skill at 4, or do I go ahead and train it up?

On a happier note, congratulations to reader Wren on reaching 40 with his own melee hunter!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

TrackThat! addon

Can't nobody say Gweryc never did nothing for the peoples.

Improved Tracking's requirement of constantly swapping tracking types annoyed the ever-loving crap out of me, so I did what any good Engineer would do and fixed it. I sat down last night and created the TrackThat! addon, downloadable now from

Here's the description I put up on the site:

TrackThat! was designed in response to the Improved Tracking talent, introduced in the WoW 3 patch. The increase of 5% damage to targets being tracked is nice, but the mechanic of switching tracking types in-game isn't nice at all, just annoying!

This addon simplifies life by changing your tracking type to match the type of mob you have targeted, if you're capable of tracking it. Just add either of these slash commands to the top of your main attack macro:


Yes, this works in combat! No, it won't kill you by continually tripping the global cooldown! It's simple, it's functional, it might even be international.


Good luck out there, fellow survival hunters. Let me know what you think!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

PTR Notes

Here is I, on the PTR! It's still pretty buggy, and I could throttle whoever ruined my Survival Instincts talent, taking away the 4% melee boost and forcing me to take 1 point each in Trap Mastery and Survival Tactics instead. Otherwise, it's wonderful to have my pet wolf back at my side, and to get 300 more melee AP just through talent and spell changes.

The now useless Wing Clip costs an insane 202 mana, compared to 135 for Raptor Strike, and 101 for the Mongoose Bite. Deterrence is a baseline talent. Furious Howl's effect is raid-wide, making it an inarguably valuable buff. (Welcome home, Cafall. I've missed you.)

Oh, and Aspect of the Beast isn't removed -- it's just bugged. You can't cast it unless you have a pet out.

With Wing Clip in the rubbish bin and Mongoose Bite its worthy successor, it's time to update my main attack macro:

/castsequence [nopet] reset=5 Call Pet, Revive Pet
/cast [target=pet,dead] Revive Pet
/stopmacro [noexists][nocombat]
/petattack [target=pettarget,noexists]
/castrandom Raptor Strike, Mongoose Bite
/cast Kill Command

Ordinarily Kill Command has conditionals attached -- [target=pettarget,exists] -- but in this macro I don't need them. Between the stopmacro and petattack directives, I know my pet will have a hostile target by the time /cast Kill Command is reached. The /castrandom ensures that we'll hit the Kill Command, too, since Raptor Strike, as an "on next hit" spell, is a fall-through.

Cafall's pet bar is stocked with Dash, Rabid, Furious Howl, and Bite -- no room at all for Growl or Cower. Who cares? Seriously. A dps pet has no business growling in a raid, and no tank in the world should lose aggro to my pet.

As I write this, it looks like instances are down on the PTR, so I'm off to farm motes on the live server. I'll try to hit up an instance soon and test out my new dps capability.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

WoW Heroes (and their pets)

I stumbled on a neat little site, WoW Heroes, which offers "World of Warcraft PvE character info & ratings". My personal review suggests I should be running in MH/BT, which I am, so I'm actually performing somewhat inline with what a regular hunter in my gear should be. That's kind of a neat affirmation.

Besides inspecting your own character, WoW Heroes can rate your guild as a whole, giving you the chance to see where you rank relative to your guildmates. My score of 709 puts me behind one of our ret paladins, and ahead of one of our arms warriors. WWS shows that last night, on our Naj'entus kill, my dps and damage dealt fell between those two, as it should. The ret pally was 7th on damage out, I was 8th, and the arms warrior was 9th. The paladin out-dps'd me, and I out-dps'd the warrior. When you look at it that way, I'm actually doing reasonably well. Crisis of conscience averted.

On review, I found that part of what hurt my dps before was an unnoticed pet death. I vowed never to let that happen again, and here's the tool I'm using to keep that vow:
/castsequence [nopet] reset=5 Call Pet, Revive Pet
/cast [target=pet,dead] Revive Pet

I stuck these two lines at the top of my main attack macro. If you have no active pet and there's no pet corpse on the ground, the first line tries to call your pet. If that fails, it must mean that your pet is dead, so the second keypress will rez your pet. If your pet's corpse is on the ground, the first line is skipped entirely and your pet is immediately rezzed. If your pet is alive and well and at your side, neither line does anything. It's a really superior semi-automated way to keep your pet up.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Aspect of the Expurgated

Rather disappointed, I was, to read that the new Aspect of the Beast, the one that buffs melee AP, was removed in the last WotLK beta release. Oh well. Guess I won't have to worry about mana after all, since that leaves me stuck with Viper.

Edit: ...or not, since Viper procs off ranged attacks. Thanks, Wren. Lrn2read, Gweryc. But according to an anonymous reader, contrary to what I read on WotLK Wiki, Beast is still in the game and still has the melee buff. Hopefully it'll stay that way.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.

Went to Black Temple last night. My performance was abysmal! But hey, at least I'm still honest.

For one thing, I thought I was being clever on Supremus by turning on Aspect of the Cheetah during the kite phases. Oops. Instead a volcano spawned directly on top of me, dazed me, and killed me. Lesson learned. I won't be doing that again.

Also, my gear sucked! This one is my fault. I used my experimental HMAP system to change out some gear, and found that on Naj'entus and Supremus, there's no way I'm going to have mana problems, so yes, I was really overvaluing mana. In fact, I felt it was overvalued to the point that I went into Pawn and set int and mp5 both to zero. If a piece I'm looking at has mana on it, great, it's probably a hunter or enhancement shammy piece that is entirely appropriate for me to wear. But good gravy, did my dps ever take a hit from some of the gear swaps I did. I came in under some of the tanks, which wasn't a problem before.

With all the mana values set to zero, I think HMAP is doing a lot better now. It suggested I re-equip my goggles and a couple other pieces my intuition told me were better, and I should be in good shape for kicking Shade of Akama's ghostly butt tonight. I'll continue to tweak the HMAP values as I go, but I'm not going to waste a lot of time on it with the hunter melee changes coming down the pike in WoW 3.0. I have a starting place for the system I want to build, and that's good enough for now.

Also also, speaking of gear, tonight raiders are expected to bring gear that includes at least 100 shadow resist. With the pieces I selected, I have exactly 100 shadow resist, which is satisfies my mild OCD in exquisite ways. Two of my pieces are engineering trinkets, a pair of self-made Ultra-Flash Shadow Reflectors. They're old-world pieces, so the on-use effect is basically useless in level 70+ content, but they have 20 shadow resist each. (And wow, did it ever feel weird to be out in Arathi Highlands farming Elemental Earth again!) With those trinkets, a couple rings, and a nice pair of Nethersteel Gauntlets of Shadow Protection (enchanted, of course), I'm ready to rock Gorefiend's world. ...Well, not really. I'm scared to death of being The Guy Who Let Constructs in the Raid. We'll see what happens.

Let's talk some more about how much I suck. You know how I said if I were a problem for the raid, I'd step down voluntarily? Well, I'm considering doing just that until the WoW 3.0 changes hit, and my melee abilites and group buffs get a huge boost. I'm really, really undergeared for T6. That's just a fact. I have on a mishmash of kara gear, pvp gear, craftables, and then a couple really nice pieces. I'm doing the best I can, working very hard. But I really ought to be in SSC/TK/ZA, gearing up. In the proper gear, I'd be doing... well, I'd probably be in the bottom of the "acceptable dps" category. But that, combined with competent play, is a strong offering.

I'm being allowed to run with the big boys in Tier 6, but I don't feel like I'm pulling my weight. And I don't at all mean to seem ungrateful. It's actually out of a sense of loyalty that I'm considering bowing out. I badly need upgrades to stay competitive, and with my status as full-time melee hunter, I can't just go pug groups for gear. My guild Nerglish is supportive of my project, but a group of outsiders would laugh me out of their raid. My best option seems to be to request temporary demotion, and join our T4/5 alts and gear-up guild, Nergles. I'm giving raiding my all, and I still believe that with the right gear, I'll be okay. But I can't wait for T6 drops to flesh out my equipment, when a normal hunter in the same crappy gear I'm wearing would already be in the "acceptable" range. I'm afraid I don't have room to just skip ahead as another player might. By virtue of my playstyle, I may not have an option as to whether I spend a time in that lower-end content.

Hopefully I'll see something inspiring on Akama tonight, and I can talk myself out of my raiding hiatus. If not, well, I'll do what's right.

Monday, September 8, 2008

HMAP: Hunter Melee AP equivalence Points system

So, I was reading up on item values. If you visit the Item Values page on WoWWiki, you'll find some really interesting stuff about how Blizzard calculates item levels based on the stats attached to the items. And that's when it struck me -- I could abuse Blizzard's own numbers to create a Hunter Melee AP equivalence Points (HMAP) addon to compare items, much like the one for ranged hunters.

There's a super-cool addon out there called Pawn. (Download it on Curse or WoWUI.IncGamers.) It does the same kind of job as TankPoints, calculating and displaying a numerical score to gear based on certain item values. What makes Pawn special is that you can feed it your own weights for those item values. Pawn users themselves tell the addon how much a point of attack power is worth, how much mana-per-five is worth. It's the perfect framework for what I wanted to do.

I made a quick list of the stats relevant to being a melee hunter: STR, AGI, INT, STA. AP. Crit, hit, expertise, haste ratings. Armor pen. MP5. Next, I pulled base weights for each, directly from Blizzard's own item values as listed on WoWWiki.

Str=1, Agi=1, Int=1, Sta=1
Armor Pen=0.14

Looks good so far, and the weights seem to confirm a lot of things. If you're not hit capped, crit and hit have the same effect. And expertise and hit have identical results for sustained dps. It makes sense that those should all have the same weight. Agility, as it should be, is double the value of attack power. But then, so is strength. That's not right for hunters, but it is the right starting place. What we have to do is modify these base weights specifically for melee hunters. I chose to do that using Attack Power as my baseline stat.

1 str = 1 ap for me, so we reduce str to 0.5. Agi, however, is 1 AP + 0.552 crit, which is 0.5 + (0.552 * 1) = 1.052. Cool, we're back to having agi worth approximately twice what 1 AP is, and strength has been properly devalued. We'll leave int at 1 for now, since I need mana to melee. (More on this in a bit.) Stamina gets set to 0, because until Hunter vs. Wild is released, it has no effect on my attack power. I'm also going to set Hit at a value of 0. I'm assuming that a given set of gear being evaluated will be at or above the hit cap. (And if it isn't, you need to fix your hit rating before you worry about anything else.)

So, yay, new weights!

Str=0.5, Agi=1.052, Int=1, Sta=0
Crit=Expertise=Haste=1; Hit = 0
Armor Pen=0.14

At this point, you have to alter the numbers based on your spec. Survival Instincts will increase the value of AP, Lightning Reflexes will up your agi weight. In my case, I need to set AP to 0.52 (0.5 * 1.04), since I have 2/2 Survival Instincts, for an additional 4% to AP. Your mileage may vary.

Pawn also lets you assign values to gem sockets. Using the weights you've defined above, you can calculate an HMAP value for gems, and plug the highest of those values into the Pawn fields for red, yellow, and blue gems. It's up to you to choose which gems to evaluate. Maybe you're socketing epic gems, or you're willing to PvP for them. I'm not. I just did the weights for JC-created blue-quality gems.

The actual highest values for gems, in my spec, were:

Red: Delicate Living Ruby (HMAP: 8.416)
Yellow: Dazzling Talasite (HMAP: 9)
Blue: Infused Nightseye (HMAP: 9.16)

...But I don't have big problems with mana, and I carry potions for when I need them. So I skipped out on the int/MP5 gems, and found new ones:

Yellow: Wicked Noble Topaz (HMAP: 8.16)
Blue: Shifting Nightseye (HMAP: 4.208)

This still looks good. The 8 agi and 4 agi/6 sta gems are generally considered the staple red and blue gems for hunters and rogues, so my math still seems to line up with reality.

It's worth noting that without my points in Survival Instincts, the yellow gem would have been a toss-up between Wicked Noble Topaz, Smooth Dawnstone, and Brilliant Dawnstone (HMAP: 8), in which case I would likely have gone for the pure crit.

Those HMAP values being equal (8 int = 8 crit rating), it probably seems like I'm overvaluing int. That should be discussed.

The original Hunter AEP discussion found that intellect is quite valuable for hunters. In fact, Marksmen are told to value int over agi, with an agi to int ratio of 0.8 : 1. The Survival ratio was 1.2 : 1, and Beast Master was 1.3 : 1. My weights set agi to int at 1.052 : 1. I may be slightly heavy on int for someone that's technically a Beast Master, but my numbers aren't grossly inaccurate, as that ratio falls between the values listed in the HAEP system. And soon enough, I won't be in Aspect of the Viper anymore, using the revamped Aspect of the Beast instead.

[[EDIT: To use the same ratios as the BM build from the HAEP system, set int to 0.789, and mp5 to 3.785.]]

Meta gems are harder to account for. I know I want the Relentless Earthstorm Diamond (12 agi, 3% additional crit damage), but there's not really a good way to give a static weight to the crit damage modifier. I cheesed out on this one and just rendered it as 12 agi, or an HMAP value of 12.62.

The cheese continued when I added weapon weights. That seemed useful, but it didn't align with the simple item values method I was using. I pretty much like the same weapons as ret paladins: big, heavy two-handers. So I found a ret pally's weapon numbers and totally ripped them off. (I did re-enter the values as melee-only, because I don't care about evaluating the dps on thrown/ranged weapons, just the stats they provide.)

MeleeDps=2.1, MeleeSpeed=54.1

So... I guess we're done. Since Pawn lets you import and export scales, I'll post the import data for untalented melee hunters (lol) here. Remember, if you want to use this, you'll need to edit the values to reflect your actual spec. You might even want to go the extra mile and add in additional math to reflect your stats when raid buffed (BoK, etc).
( Pawn: v1: "HMAP": ArmorPenetration=0.14, MeleeDps=2.1, MeleeSpeed=54.1, CritRating=1, Intellect=1, Strength=0.5, MetaSocket=12.624, RedSocket=8.416, Agility=1.052, HasteRating=1, BlueSocket=4.208, YellowSocket=8, ExpertiseRating=1, Mp5=2.5, Ap=0.5 )
I know this is a very simple system I've created, and I'm sure it's flawed in many, many ways. For example, I'm not calculating the value of armor penetration dynamically. But using Pawn, I have to assign armor pen some static value, and Blizzard's own numbers strike me as good as any I might have invented on my own. As a system for baseline comparison, what I've come up with seems to work really well. I don't know how many other melee hunters are out there to make use of this, but... there you go! And as always, I'm open to constructive feedback.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

You are going to DPS slowly!

Well. Turns out I didn't wipe the raid a single time on our Archimonde attempt! Because I was standing in the auction house the whole time. Our raid composition at start lacked decursers, and I was one of the people subbed out. Disappointing, but completely understandable.

However, I did learn a bit just from practice before the fight. One of Archie's abilities is "Air Burst," something that tosses you into the air high enough to kill you if you don't break your fall somehow. Some classes can naturally counter it, like mages' Slow Fall. For the rest of us, Tyrande Whisperwind gives you an item, Tears of the Goddess, that works in the same way, slowing your fall for two seconds. Because of the very short duration on the Tears's slowfall effect, you've got to be pretty dead-on, using the item just before you hit the ground.

So, we all spent a while before the raid started, practicing with the Tears by jumping off a cliff inside the instance. I was really good with mine, but I did die once when a hill stuck out farther than I expected. That's when I realized I could be doing something a lot smarter.
/use Tears of the Goddess
/use Parachute Cloak
My lovely Parachute Cloak, on a fairly short thirty second cooldown, gives me ten seconds of slowfall, versus the two seconds from the Tears. The Tears are on a shorter, 10 second cooldown, so they go first in the macro. But generally speaking, it's the Parachute Cloak that's going to save my butt, as it gives me much more lead time to break my fall. And since Archimonde is a survival fight, not a dps race, I don't miss the dps from swapping my cloak at all.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I can resist anything but temptation.

Turns out it wasn't as hard as I expected to assemble a shadow resist set. Through a multifarious collection of vile AH greens, I've got 235 shadow resist -- which includes an offhand, so no big two-handed axe for me in that set. Instead, I took my old mongoose-enchanted Blinkstrike out of the bank, and put the whole ensemble to use against Kaz'rogal last night.

It worked pretty well. I survived the fight through a combination of shadow resistance and by using no mana-based abilities at all. I found that with my new resist set, I have plenty of mana to spare now. With a better sense of my new limits, I'll be able to dps a lot harder next time. I did 523 dps on him this round, which I think is not bad at all, given the conditions I was working with. I didn't do as well on Anatheron, which I'm still learning, but I again popped up over the 1k mark on DPS, doing 1022 on Rage Winterchill.

Plus fat loots were had! A Choker of Serrated Blades and the Valestalker Girdle. Mmm, delicious haste.

One of my guild mates gave me a friendly ribbing over my new gear, teasing me about being a (the?) Tier 6 Melee Hunter. That brief whisper reminded me of what a privilege it is to participate in our guild raids. I don't want to be carried through. I want to contribute, through skill, ability, attentiveness. If at any point I'm a hindrance to the raid, I will step down without hesitation. But I, this oddball theorycrafter with a toon most people would call broken, have been swept along to face off against some of the most exclusive and lore-steeped content Blizzard has to offer. And I am deeply grateful.

All of last night's Hyjal run was a success, really. It was a very smooth experience marked by positive attitudes. Only Archimonde remains, and, Elune willing, we'll take him down tonight...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

You ain't got to tell me 'bout them epics

Last week I was promoted within the guild to a full raider rank. Wow. I'm still a little awestruck. (How many of you thought this blog was going to focus on the xpac until it was released? *raises his own hand*)

Last week we did Hyjal and SSC. I picked up a couple of much-needed pieces of new gear, the True-Aim Stalker Bands (who ever said I can't aim? They're not the True-Shot bands...) and my tier 5 gloves, the Rift Stalker Gauntlets.

And what a learning experience all that was. I've got a lot of catching up to do.

Rage Winterchill and Archimonde demand players have their PvP trinket, to break fear. I'm collecting honor to buy one now. On Rage Winterchill, it's my repair bill and mine alone if I die as a result of not having the trinket. That, I can live with, although of course I'd rather stay alive to help dps. Archimonde, though... if I get feared into fire and he gains a soul charge from killing me, that could start a chain reaction that wipes the raid. That makes me a heavy liability, and places my PvP trinket at the very top of my shopping list.

I do not like Kaz'rogal. He has a debuff that drains 3000 mana from you, and once you're out of mana you explode like a bomb. As a melee hunter, I've never really had to worry about mana before, so my mana pool is rather shallow. Which means on this fight I basically get to dish out white damage and drink potions on this fight while I wait for my inevitable end. Awesome. I'm going to need some more gear with intellect on it for this one.

I ran into another mana issue in SSC. On Hydross, I was in the tank group, using my nature resist aspect to help the tank. Without Viper up, I actually had to resort to potions. Again, this is an encouragement to start favoring actual hunter or enhancement shaman gear over rogue stuff with no intellect on it. I wonder what my mana concerns will be like when the new talent changes hit, and I'm not spamming Wing Clip anymore.

So, in addition to general gear upgrades and the pvp trinket, I have to assemble a shadow resist set -- 200 unbuffed -- by September 10th for Mother Shahraz (and it would help on Kaz'rogal, too). Shadowmoon Valley, here I come.

And I've got homework -- twenty boss strategies to memorize. "SSC, TK, Hyjal and first 4 in BT," sayeth our raid forums. I need some kind of CliffsNotes of WoW.

Add to that the general upgrades I'm after: my season 2 shoulders, the craftable Vengeance Wrap.

One of my friends says raiding, from his outside perspective, looks like a job you don't get paid for. I see his point, and in a way, he's right. It's a lot of work with no real-world reward. But so far, I'm having fun with it, and as I've always insisted, that's what counts.

Friday, August 22, 2008

One last drive through the suburbs

Gweryc's once again packed his things away in boxes, moving along with his guild Nerglish to the PvE server Anvilmar. I'll let our guild master speak on behalf of the guild regarding the reasons for the guild's move, but I was personally motivated to follow them for no other reason than to continue playing with the group of friends I had made in the guild.

I've played on RP servers for years. It's a truly discomfiting experience to play on a non-RP realm again. I'm essentially suffering culture shock. In a way, it's a lot like moving to the Big City after being a farm boy your whole life. There are people everywhere -- loud people, all vying for attention. Trade chat spins by at a ridiculous clip, a street filled with hucksters ready to sell me one of the many fine watches secreted away in their trenchcoats. The auction house is filled to bursting, a veritable mega-mall that puts The Scryers's humble general store to shame. PvP queue times are thick, a congestion of traffic. People have strange names; elves carry monikers less Darnassian than Shadowrun. I'm constantly preening my ruffled feathers, reminding myself that the flood of out-of-character names, chat, guild tags, aren't reportable offenses.

I entered into several AVs my first night, helping the Alliance to win a majority of victories. In the end, I had accumulated enough honor from AV to buy a new Thrown weapon, in addition to finding a Truestrike Ring for sale at a good price, and trading some badges in for the Bloodlust Brooch. Three epics in one night isn't a bad haul, not at all. Hopefully this is the start of a trend for the guild as a whole, an omen of good fortune for our new home.

WotLK Forecast: Inscription, misc. changes

More fun! The previously mentioned improvement to Aspect of the Beast, the buff to melee AP, now increases pet AP as well. Kill Command, however, has been changed from a 5 sec cooldown to a full minute. Ouch.

There are finally some known hunter glyphs worth talking about. No decreased cooldown on my melee attacks as I'd hoped, but still some worth noting:

Aspect Glyphs
  • Glyph of Aspect of the Beast: Increases the attack power bonus of Aspect of the Beast for you and your pet by an additional 2%.
  • Glyph of Aspect of the Monkey: While Aspect of the Monkey is active, each time you dodge you gain 30% increased movement speed for 6 sec. This speed does not stack with other movement speed increasing effects.
  • Glyph of Aspect of the Viper: You regenerate mana from Aspect of the Viper as if you had 15% less mana in your current mana pool.
Attack Glyphs
  • Glyph of Bestial Wrath: Decreases the cooldown of Bestial Wrath by 20 sec.
  • Glyph of Deterrence: Decreases the cooldown of Deterrence by 20 sec.
Trap Glyphs
  • Glyph of Immolation Trap: Decreases the duration of the effect from your Immolation Trap by 6 sec., but damage while active is increased by 100%.
  • Glyph of Snake Trap: Your Snake Trap creates 2 additional snakes.
There are others, of course, but I found these the most relevant. There are interesting options for both tanking and dps roles, though I'm really looking at dps as my fixed role in Lich King. With the addition of a fourth tanking class, the death knight (of which there will be 23857628 per guild, come the expansion), and the improved ability of hunters' Tenacity pets to tank, I don't think there's any need to try to fill a tanking role, especially with the wonderful melee dps buffs I'll be getting.

I can't say what glyphs I'll want to run with yet, especially since it's not known which of the glyphs are greater, lesser, or minor. And I still have hope that there might be a Glyph of Raptor Strike. For sheer dps, looking at what's available, I can say I'll at least want the Glyph of Aspect of the Beast. I wouldn't say no to the Bestial Wrath and Glyph of Immolation Trap options, either.

Monday, August 18, 2008

WotLK Forecast: Pet spec

Daniel Whitcomb of WoW Insider recently covered the pet talent trees in the Wrath beta. He proposed a build for Ferocity pets that I largely found palatable, but I disagree with his choice of using the pet-rezzing talent Heart of the Phoenix. Blizzard seems undecided on how to implement the spell at this time, with a number of players expressing concerns over its mechanics. In any event, the talent seems somewhat superfluous to me for a hunter already specced into Improved Revive Pet. It seems far better to me to invest that point in the group utility talent Call of the Wild, leaving us with this build.

Jeder lacht über dich

Never let it be said I lack a sense of humor.

I was reading about another oddball melee-only character, Triops, the melee Warlock. I noticed he was level 12 and went to check his armory entry; I was curious how he was spending his talent points. Turns out he hadn't spent them yet. The funny thing is, when you haven't spent your talent points and are a high enough level to have an armory entry, you don't come up as "Talent Specialization: None," or anything like that. You're tagged as "untalented."

Somebody at Blizzard has a wry sense of humor to have done that, and I got a good laugh out of it. Well, given that I've been accused of being "untalented" myself, I offer this screenshot for the ages -- proof that I am, in fact, untalented.


Friday, August 15, 2008

WotLK Forecast: Melee Hunter Spec

The Survival tree has undergone some big changes. Survival Instincts has jumped up to a Tier 2 talent, and the new talents "T.N.T." and "Hunter vs. Wild" have been added. Wowhead doesn't have entries for the new talents yet, so I'll list them here:
Rank: 3/3
Requires 5 points in Survival Talents
Your Immolation Trap, Explosive Trap, and Explosive Shot have a 15% chance to stun targets for 2 sec when they deal damage, and increases the critical strike chance of your Explosive Shot and Explosive Trap by 15%.

Hunter vs. Wild
Rank: 3/3
Requires 5 points in Survivalist
Requires 20 points in Survival Talents
Increases you and your pet's attack power and ranged attack power equal to 30% of your total Stamina.

That's some pretty neat stuff, especially Hunter vs. Wild. I'm a little wary of the stun proc on T.N.T. in PvE, but I'll just have to be careful about when I lay down traps.

Speaking of traps, Trap Mastery has been reduced to a single-point talent, with a description that reads "Design not implemented (do not report)." Presumably this will provide a 10% decrease in chance for enemies to resist trap effects, as the old Trap Mastery(Rank 2) did. I've passed on this talent, given how infrequently mobs in PvE resist traps anyway. I've also passed on Deflection and Counterattack, given their limited usefulness in a dps raiding role.

Over in the BM tree, Spirit Bond has been changed to increase healing to you and your pet by 5/10%, in addition to the old effect of 1/2% health regen per 10 sec. I admit, I've always been a fan of Spirit Bond. In PvE, I consider one point in Improved Mend Pet sufficient, to enable the cleanse effect, and the passive healing from Spirit Bond useful for both hunter and pet. With the improved heal effect, I'm that much happier to spec into Spirit Bond.

Bigger news: the +hit effect on Animal Handler has, blessedly, been rendered obsolete in PvE. There is no excuse for a dedicated player to fall short of the hit cap. That said, class designer Koraa has said that the plan now is for pets to be given the master's +hit%. This is true of both warlocks and hunters. Since I must be hit capped, it follows that my pet will also inevitably be hit capped. This means that Animal Handler is now primarily a PvP talent, where it can be used for the reduced cooldown on the base ability Master's Call.

For now, I've passed on the mana-efficiency talents Resourcefulness and the new Invigoration (When your pet scores a critical hit with a special ability, you instantly regain 1/2% mana.) Until I have a reason to think otherwise, I'm assuming that my own mana pool will remain obscenely large for my attack rotation's limited scope. That leaves me free to put 5/5 into both Lightning Reflexes and Serpent's Swiftness, resulting in this build.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

WotLK Forecast: Pet System

Pets will be differentiated less by species than by category: Cunning pets, Ferocious pets, and Tenacious pets. Each of the three categories has its own talent tree: Cunning, Ferocity, or Tenacity. It seems that Cunning is a utility tree, Ferocity a DPS tree, and Tenacity a tanking tree. Pets will each belong to one of these three categories. Additionally, each pet family (e.g., wolves, tallstriders, etc.) will have one unique ability available only to that family. For example, crabs have Pin, worms have Acid Spit.

I am not interested in Tenacious pets. But it's a hard call between Cunning and Ferocity. When I'm looking at a build, either for myself or my pet now, I have to consider both my own dps, and the buffs I can bring to a raid. It's nice if I can do the same damage as a ret paladin, but I don't exactly bring raid-wide utility to the table the way they do. Ferocious Inspiration only goes so far. So, what can my pet bring?

If I'm considering a Ferocious pet for pure dps, Furious Howl may be the best I can offer. The Cunning pet offers seem poor, but I can imagine a spore bat's Spore Cloud being useful for the armor reduction, especially since the effect would be raid-wide, not just applied to my party the way wolf buffs are. The bigger draw to Cunning pets comes from the mana problem I may have by running in Aspect of the Beast instead of Viper.

Say I take my wolf Cafall and make him my dps pet in Lich King. His build might look something like this. He'd have Furious Howl, Ferocious Inspiration, and Call of the Wild for my party. That's pretty good.

But let's consider a spore bat. We'll call him... Jularlmin, just because. Between Feeding Frenzy and Cornered, Jularlmin's build has the potential to deal more damage than Cafall would. And I pick up Roar of Recovery, a kind of hunter Innervate, which seems like a good way to address the issue of no longer running with Aspect of the Viper. This, in addition to the Spore Cloud ability.

In reality, I'm probably not going to have mana issues, any more than I do today. Since I won't be spamming Wing Clip anymore, the frequency with which I use mana-burning abilities will pale in comparison to a ranged hunter. And it's hard to argue that Jularlmin would be a better choice than Cafall in a raid setting. Although the Spore Cloud ability is a raid-wide effect, reducing the armor of a target by 700, I just don't think that's going to compare to the dps increase of buffing my party with Furious Howl and Call of the Wild. So while I'm using a ravager today, it looks like Cafall may be coming out of retirement in WotLK along with Gweryc himself.

WotLK Forecast: Attack Rotation and Aspects

Gweryc is growing fat and lazy these days, enjoying an extended rest and a good bit of fishing. Meanwhile I'm playing melee hunter on paper, tracking Wrath of the Lich King changes. There's some interesting stuff going on right now.

Cayl of Dentarg pointed out a couple things:
The Aspect of the Beast change is astounding and completely unforeseen. As DPS today, I run with Aspect of the Viper up. No other aspect is worthwhile. This is good, because it lets me focus on collecting agility/AP gear, whether or not it has int on it. My mana pool today is really no consideration. In the future, I'll clearly want to keep Beast up instead of Viper. This means that I'll have to be a lot more careful about the size of my mana pool, and I may be forced to use mana pots instead of haste pots during long fights.

The superb Mongoose Bite change will completely alter my DPS rotation. It's nice to note that Mongoose Bite scales with AP. And both Raptor Strike and Mongoose Bite, as my staple attacks, will benefit from from Savage Strikes, ensuring a reasonably steady stream of Kill Commands.

But what in the world has happened to Wing Clip? It's been consolidated to a single rank, no longer deals damage, and costs 6% of the hunter's base mana. The old Wing Clip(Rank 1), at a cost of 40 mana, would have basically been free when you consider the increased size of our mana pools in WotLK. With this change, Wing Clip is completely useless to me in a PvE DPS rotation. No more spamming it for procs. This is a horrible disappointment.

Taking all this into consideration, my DPS rotation should look something like: Immo trap, Mongoose Bite, Kill Command, Raptor Strike. Of course, I'm efficient (lazy), so I'll probably cram all the melee attacks into a /castrandom macro or something.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The future, according to some scientists, will be exactly like the past, only far more expensive.

A fascinating post on Allakhazam's forums claims to detail a years-old PDF, attributed to Blizzard, listing five possible expansion sets, the first two of which have actually manifested -- the Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King. Is this for real?

Draenor Set

Azuremyst Isle - 1 to 10
Bloodmyrk Isle - 10 to 20
Eversong Forest - 1 to 10
Quel'thalas - 10 to 20
Hellfire Peninsula - 58 to 62
Zangarmarsh - 60 to 64
Terokkar Forest - 61 to 65
The Deadlands - 63 to 67
Nagrand - 64 to 68
Blade's Edge Mountains - 66 to 70
Netherstorm - 67 to 70
Shadowmoon Valley - 69 to 70

Northrend Set

Borean Tundra - 67 to 70
Howling Fjord - 67 to 70
Dragonblight - 69 to 72
Grizzly Hills - 70 to 73
Crystalsong Forest - 72 to 75
Zul'drak - 73 to 76
Sholazar Basin - 75 to 79
Storm Peaks - 76 to 80
Icecrown Glacier - 78 to 80

Maelstrom Set

Gilneas - 77 to 80
Grim Batol - 78 to 81
Kul Tiras - 79 to 82
Kezan - 81 to 86
Tel Abim - 83 to 85
Zandalar - 84 to 87
Plunder Isle - 86 to 88
The Broken Isles - 87 to 90
The Maelstrom - 89 to 90

Plane Set

Pandaria - 1 to 10
Hiji - 10 to 20
Wolfenhold - 1 to 10
Xorothian Plains - 10 to 20
The Green Lands - 88 to 91
The Dying Paradise - 91 to 94
The Emerald Nightmare - 94 to 97
The Eye of Ysera - 97 to 100
Deephome - 88 to 91
Skywall - 91 to 94
The Abyssal Maw - 94 to 97
The Firelands - 97 to 100

Legion Set

K'aresh - 96 to 99
Argus Meadowlands - 97 to 100
Mac'Aree - 99 to 100
Maw of Oblivion - 100+
The Burning Citadel - 100+++

The "Deadlands" zone is speculated to be today's Bone Wastes in Terokkar Forest. And note that the "Plane Set," i.e., the Emerald Dream, would introduce Pandaren and Worgen.

Some chat on Elitist Jerks challenges the post. One cynical retort claims that the story of the Draenei is too poorly integrated with WoW's lore to have been planned out. Another points out that it's odd that some expansions would introduce new races, while others would not. Yet another condemns the material as being assembled from companion material like the Warcraft RPG Source Books.

Other opinions have come forth in support of the supposed roadmap, pointing out that Worgen have recently received new animations, that Hero classes could make up for the expansion phases that lack new races.

I admit, I find it doubtful this is real. As Metrosexuelf of the EJ forums points out, "It's no secret that eventually they will have to turn to the Maelstrom/South Seas, Emerald Dream, and possibly the elemental planes for future content." But it's certainly food for thought.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Wisdom comes with winters.

Wrath of the Lich King has entered into beta, putting an end to the non-disclosure agreement that veiled the Friends and Family alpha. ...And there was much rejoicing.

Any talk about the LK beta should of course mention the WotLK Information Wiki, which aims to be the definitive repository of knowledge for the forthcoming expansion.

Of particular note to melee hunters:
  • We are not receiving a "melee tree." While I would have liked to see a choice between Survival and BM/MM represent a choice in class functionality similar to other hybrids, Gweryc will press on as he always has, making do with what's available. In truth, this is just fine with me. As I mentioned before, it's the "Aspect of the Hacker" facet of playing a melee hunter that really keeps me interested.
  • New ability ranks for Kill Command, Counterattack, Explosive/Immo trap, Raptor Strike have been added. Wing Clip and Mongoose Bite are, thus far, conspicuously absent from that list.
  • The "Improved Tracking" ability will replace Monster Slaying and Humanoid Slaying, increasing damage done to targets being tracked by 1/2/3/4/5%.
All hunters should take note of the radical changes to the pet system. I won't cover it comprehensively here, but highlights include the use of pet talent trees instead of skill points, the removal of the "pet loyalty" mechanic, and the fact that pets will only have to be leveled "a maximum of five levels."

Engineers: looks like we're getting motorcycles! This will be an awesome mount for Gweryc. I think it really suits his personality.

Inscription. There's finally some information available on this. A new "glyph interface" will be added to the player's spellbook. Up to six glyphs, most of which can be traded or sold, can be added to the glyph system. Each player can add up to 6 Glyphs to their interface: 2 Greater Glyphs, 2 Lesser Glyphs, and 2 Minor Glyphs.
  • Greater Glyphs provide major upgrades to spells. Examples that have been given are the addition of stuns or DoTs to spells, increased damage, or knockbacks.
  • Lesser Glyphs provide upgrades to spells similar to Greater Glyphs, but are not as powerful.
  • Minor Glyphs provide small upgrades, or cosmetic improvements. Examples that have been given are the removal of reagent requirements from spells, lowering spell costs, or changing spell graphics.

Little information is available on what glyphs can be used, and there are no known glyphs for hunters at this point. We can guess what sort of things will be coming though. For my Greater Glyphs, I'd likely be interested in either increasing the damage dealt by Raptor Strike, or better, decreasing the cooldown on it. Augmenting my Wing Clip spam with, say, a damage proc, would be delicious as well. I'm not sure how likely it is that I'll be able to do any of that. The known glyphs on the wiki all mention specific spells. I don't know that anyone will care enough to create, say, a Raptor Strike-specific glyph.

Life as a melee hunter does get lonely sometimes. A lot of my goals are personal, not group-oriented. That's where the highly laudable Player Achievement system comes in. I'll let Blizzard speak for themselves on this:

World of Warcraft's achievements system will launch with more than 500 individual achievements covering every aspect of gameplay, including world exploration, PvE, PvP, professions, and character development; from the purely whimsical to the truly epic, there will be something for everyone. Some achievements come with in-game rewards such as tabards, vanity pets, and titles. All of these rewards are purely cosmetic and just for fun, but you'll certainly stand out when you proudly display them.

And don't fret about running out of achievements anytime soon. The list is easily expandable, so you can expect additional achievements with each new World of Warcraft content update.

Honestly, it sounds like the Achievement system is the most significant development in the history of World of Warcraft. Cosmetic toys like the motorcycle are fun. The ability to customize your character with the Glyph system is of course welcome, and I hope I can abuse it efficiently. But the Player Achievement system is a radical development, with something to offer everyone.

When I talked about Nick Yee's player motivations assessment, I mentioned that there are three broad categories that describe gamers: achievers, socializers, and immersionists. Achievers have always had goals to pursue. These are the people that were rank 14 pvp'ers, the people that are Duelists and tier 6 raiders today. Blizzard's new achievement system brings new goals for these players, and puts additional goals on the table for players in the other camps. Socializers will find plenty of new goals to work on together beyond just completing quests. Immersionists, long neglected, should rejoice to find that World Exploration is specifically rewarded. Customized appearances will also be available -- one "whimsical" achievement goal Blizzard mentions is to get a shave and a haircut. The achievement system is a huge step toward making the game approachable to players with disparate motivations, and I highly commend Blizzard on this development.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Alembic Pentameter

A sonnet in iambic pentameter, dedicated to one of my more generally useless trinkets.

Infernal Power, thou art stalwart, true
Yet raiding calls for something stronger still
Resilient, blessing bearers mana blue
Mine enemies should fall before my will

Of trinkets, is it agi foremost bless'd?
Should retribution's crit my path so be?
A devil rogue's raw power manifest?
A mage's int, prolonging trickery?

Of thy heroic power I perceive
Thine star most brightly shines in PvP
For all I would my deficits relieve
When raiding, thou art little use to me

If in the end I would be bless'd by kings
I know that I should seek out other things.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The cure for boredom is curiosity.

Dorothy Parker apparently found curiosity a good answer to boredom. Little Gamer Girl, however, found a number of solutions. I may try some of them.

The Jargon File, the online version of The New Hacker's Dictionary, offers several definitions of what a hacker is, including this one:

7. One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations.
I realized something about Gweryc, or rather, the reason I've enjoyed him more than any other character. He's a hack. A living, axe-wielding hack. (Funny enough, the Jargon File claims that the etymological origin of the word "hacker" was someone who made furniture with an axe.) I took something that wasn't supposed to work, and made it relatively successful. That was the challenge, and the fun.

The sad thing is, I'm running out of hacks. I don't believe I can coax much more dps out of Gweryc without better gear, and it seems unlikely I'll regularly see content beyond Karazhan at this point. As my guild progresses into more exclusive endgame content, leaving Kara behind, my feelings toward the game echo the ennui I felt at level 37. I'm a member of a guild full of great people that I have limited opportunities to play with. How frustrating.

What novelties are left to me? Taming Ghost Wolves, where once officially endorsed, is no longer possible. My Ravenholdt rep grind is slowly progressing. I guess I could work on my fishing skill, or "go corporate" and try manipulating Auction House prices. Maybe I could shoot for the Baron's skeletal mount, while my guild works on their ZA bears. If all else fails, I am on a roleplaying server...

Dorothy Parker had kinder words on boredom than Samuel Butler, who incised, "The man who lets himself be bored is even more contemptible than the bore." Am I contemptible in my languor? That seems an extreme position to take over a video game. Maybe the right thing to do is to step back from the game itself for a while. Or I could try ERP.

On the subject of hacks, Little Gamer Girl is wrong. The Deeprun Tram isn't the place to level up your weapon skill. It's the Blasted Lands. Attack the unkillable Servants of Allistarj, and afk your way to victory.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why does my fortress of ultimate evil have kicky throw pillows?

By some act of God, Gweryc technically became a tier 6 raider on 11 June, when he entered into the Black Temple, helping to take down Najentus, Supremus, and Shade of Akama.
91% present; 1,614,949 dmg out; 4% out; 548 dps; 29% dps time

Yeah, my DPS time was pretty miserable, as I was trying to be cautious my first time in. I was watching and learning the fights (I hadn't done my homework because I didn't expect to go), I was bandaging myself, avoiding fires and volcanoes, etc etc. I have screen shots I can post soon, but I wanted to get the data recorded here before it evanesced from WWS. Because this one just makes me giggle:

Shade of Akama fight, Gweryc:

1020 dps.

Yeah, I know, I'm still not on par with the other raiders. But, seriously. I broke a thousand dps. I never thought that would happen, ever.


Regarding that breakthrough, and in reply to the recent anonymous poster challenging my "big red" BM-heavy spec, I think that is the sort of compromise I have to make. I have to take performance where I can, and even if that's a 61/0/0 BM build, then so be it. But keep in mind, what I really did was shuffle just a few points around to trade some of my mana efficiency (meh) and a bit of agility for Ferocious Inspiration. On paper, I'm getting the same dps boost from FI as I do from putting the three points back into Lightning Reflexes, and making myself a lot more desirable as a raider by making that boost a group buff.

In fact, a melee hunter with Ferocious Inspiration does something really cool to group makeup. Instead of gimping a ranged hunter by putting him in a melee group to share Ferocious Inspiration, you can put that ranged guy back in a group with a shadow priest for mana returns, letting him use Aspect of the Hawk instead of Aspect of the Viper, and you stash your melee hunter in with a melee group, where they get the Ferocious Inspiration buff, and the melee hunter benefits from Windfury totems, etc.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Disclosure is so important (because) without it we really cannot know ourselves.

For the numbers fans, Kara WWS reports I've collected so far:

2008-06-07: b2zspvasc3n3m
2,575,780 dmg out, 573 dps

2008-05-29: iuznafsrjimfu
1,916,570 dmg out, 514 dps

Thanks to my guild master Daxx for permission to post links.

By the way, in a total abuse of my blog, which is meant to be focused on being a melee hunter, not Other Stuff... we're recruiting a raid healer, if anybody wants to think about joining me on The Scryers! Check us out at

Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work.

I doubt my math on this, because it seems unrealistic. I was looking at the WWS report from my last Karazhan run, evaluating my gear, etc., paying special attention to my trinkets. I've been a long-time fan of my Maelstrom card. Last Kara, my DPS time was 1h., 14min (4440 sec.), and the card dealt 31,921 damage. 31921 dmg/4440 sec = 7.18 dps. Right?

But, wait... that number is huge, x-box hueg. Because if 1 dps = 14 AP, as conventional wisdom tells us, then 7.18 dps = 100.52 AP. Read that again, please, because I've got to have gotten something wrong. My level 60 Darkmoon card has more base attack power than a trinket from Black Temple? I've long preached the seekrit powar of using Wing Clip spam to proc things -- is it seriously that effective?

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Magnanimous Benefactor

It didn't come about the way I'd anticipated, but I'm finally carrying a title: Gweryc of the Shattered Sun. I deliberated on the issue of taking the title for some time. In the end, it wasn't a question of gold. It actually came down to my feelings about the Shattered Sun storyline.

The best quest chain I've ever done was the Great Masquerade chain. You know the one. General Marcus Jonathan, High Commander of Stormwind Defense, names you a hero before charging you with escorting Reginald Windsor to slay Onyxia. City patrollers stand in awe as you march past them, marveling at the "living legend" Windsor, a man who needed your help. As a result of your heroic efforts, Stormwind itself stands still. The entire quest chain is one long lore-gasm, and if you give half a damn about the story of the Warcraft universe, you're made to feel absolutely an essential part of that lore.

The push to reclaim the Isle is nearly unique, in that the change produced by your exertions is persistent. If I kill Onyxia, she'll be back next week. I've likened the World of Warcraft to Hell in that way. I can imagine few realities worse that one in which your every effort is absolutely futile. You may change yourself, but nothing you do matters. But on the Isle, I have watched my efforts impact an army. And like Marcus Jonathan commanding an army to part before me, or Justine Demalier calling, "That one, Malagan ... Gweryc is his name," the characters around me confirm it. "I guarantee that without Gweryc, this whole offensive would have been a failure."

The more I worked at my daily quests on the Isle, the more I felt as if what I was doing mattered. I wasn't just grinding rep or gold -- I was part of an army, part of a team. Like the collaborative Gates of Ahn'Qiraj push, my guildmates and server-mates cared whether or not I was doing my part. And critically, as with the Great Masquerade chain, the NPCs seemed to care about me, Gweryc, a lore character too. "We've got your back, Gweryc!" "Everyone, look! It's Gweryc!" and so on.

In the end, it proved irresistible. As I survey the Isle of Quel'danas, as I see and hear that I have truly done something meaningful to drive despair into the heart of Kael'thas Sunstrider, I feel proud to bear my title.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

It will be an uphill fight to the end, and would we have it otherwise?

A few nights ago, a couple of my guildmates and I went out to test various sets of gear against Durn the Hungerer. My tests were to examine the differences between Gorehowl (GH) and Gladiator's Right Ripper (GRR) + King's Defender (KD) for tanking, and Gorehowl versus Gladiator's Right Ripper + Guile of Khoraazi (GK) for non-aggro dps.

For tanking, Gorehowl (enchanted with Mongoose) came out on top. The effective health provided by the large chunk of agility and stamina couldn't be matched by the GRR+KD setup. The unenchanted GRR+KD setup was a superior dps combination, though, offering 310 dps to GH's 320. Following down this path, there are clear upgrades. Trollbane would be the next step.

For dps (non-tanking), dual-wielding was the winner. I found that my enchanted Gorehowl and the unenchanted GRR+GK did the same 265 dps. (For these tests, I only did melee damage. No traps, no pet, no bombs, etc.)

What made dual-wielding so strong? The major contributing factor seems to be the fact that white damage constitutes so much of my dps. GH has a 3.6 weapon speed, and my +hit is low since I've spent so much of my item budget on mitigation. If I miss on a white strike or a Raptor Strike, I've seriously hurt my threat. With dual-wield, I seldom stop attacking, which naturally raises my dps.

Why am I looking at all this again? True story: a chain mail dps belt dropped in Kara, and when someone raised the question of why it was offered to a ret paladin instead of me, the loot master said, 'Oh yeah... I forget Gweryc's a hunter.' While my ego swelled like a balloon at that, it actually presents a problem. I'm good enough right now that I'm asked to main tank, not off-tank, but my tps isn't scaling with my mitigation, so I'm not convinced I can MT beyond Kara because of that. I've already felt the pain, tanking Heroic Magisters' Terrace. It's great to be a damage sponge, but with my tps being low, I just can't MT the way I'd like to. (Blizzard, please, I beg you, give me a taunt via an Engineering trinket!)

Besides which, I enjoy innovation, and I've gotten the tanking thing down well enough that it doesn't feel so much like a creative endeavour as it does my job. I'm a tank now, I know what I'm doing in that role, full stop. And you know what? I'm desperately tempted to shoot my gun -- because it would change everything. It could only improve my performance in my chosen roles. Open up with Distracting Shots to lock aggro, go ranged dps when I'm not the MT and actually get into Tier 5/6 content... but if I do that, I've broken the project of playing a melee-only hunter, and that's unacceptable.

So what's the plan? I'm choosing to fight a different uphill battle, one with what appears to be a lesser slope. I am, once again, revisiting a pure dps role. No, I'm not giving up on tanking! I still want to take down Prince Melchazzar, and I promise when I do, there will be video. I'll continue to play Gwera, looking for tanking tricks I might mash up in the blender and spoon-feed to my baby Gweryc. But as I continue on exploring tanking by proxy, I'm going to take advantage of being in a raiding guild and collect some dps loot, and see what I can do. Thanks to Nerglish, the landscape has changed since I tried this last. Many more avenues are open to me now, and I really ought to make the most of that.

My minimum dps goal before trying to leave Karazhan is 700. It's funny. I'm looking at this now, thinking to myself, 'It sounds difficult, but I think I can do it...' A perfect echo of my thoughts as I first typed the name 'Gweryc' into the character creation screen.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Greatness is more than potential. ... You need the appropriate training.

It hasn't escaped my attention that I've repeatedly griped about my inexperience as a tank. Being as there's no substitute for practice, I made the decision to level a proper tank. My goals in that are to fully absorb the mindset of what it means to be an unabashed main tank, and to look for tools and techniques that I can analogize and emulate on Gweryc.

Enter Gwera, Dwarf paladin.

Tanking gives you wiiiiiings! 2008-03-30

Gwera is not a replacement for Gweryc, nor a successor. She is instead an experiment-within-an-experiment, a spin-off of my beloved m'unter. (If I intend to keep playing her long-term, she'll very likely end up ret, not prot.)

Why a paladin, instead of a druid or warrior? In my mind, paladins really are the class that most closely parallels the way I've learned to fight as Gweryc, and they pursue the same kind of stats. In fact, most of Gwera's attacks have been macroed to either function or simply look like Gweryc's abilities. To look at her attack buttons, you'd think she was a hunter. But there are a few abilites she has, useful for tanking, that have no direct analog on Gweryc, and those are the things I want to emulate.

Sadly, Righteous Fury is right out. There's nothing I can come up with, save the 2% Threat enchant, that increases my innate threat. But I've already taken something away from her: Righteous Defense.

I can make most arguments into semantic ones. Gwera's Righteous Defense has reminded me that my job is not to be a tank. My job is to stop other people from taking damage. Subtle, but very important, because my pet Cafall, now trained into Growl instead of Cower, is my Righteous Defense.

If I see a non-tank taking damage, I may not be able to peel off a boss and pick up a second target. I may not have time to reach the poor squishy before they die. But Cafall can. He has things I don't: Dash, a kind of pet-based Charge (especially if I can use Intimidation on the mob), and a taunt, Growl. I can use Cafall to quickly intercept and taunt a mob gone wrong, and then pull Cafall back to me, mob in tow. If you'll forgive the pun, that's Righteous. (Macro and add-on wizards, if you can figure out how to make this intercept work as a click-cast on a friendly target instead of the mob, I'll send you something nice next Valentine's Day.)

Something else I've learned was to be more aware of Paladin blessings. Sometimes a raid or party member gets a little click-happy with their buffing tools and forgets that I'm not your average hunter. So this has been added to the top of my main attack macro:

/cancelaura Greater Blessing of Salvation
/cancelaura Blessing of Salvation

Edit: looks like I could use the Damnation addon to achieve the same result, without adding to my macro.

Continuing on with the hallucination that I'm a paladin with a dog, I found the Retribution DPS gear ranking tool on to be very useful. I'm trying to collect a "ret set" in addition to my "prot set" of gear, for fights where I'm not tanking. To search on MaxDPS, I enter my numerical stats, check off Divine Strength (Lightning Reflexes), Improved Judgement (my attack cooldowns are naturally shorter than Judgement), Conviction (Humanoid Slaying/Savage Strikes), and Precision (Surefooted), allow the "Include Leather/Mail" option, and then I just ignore the plate mail that comes up.

The ret rotation MaxDPS suggests -- white damage, Seal of Command, Judgement of Command, Crusader Strike -- isn't too far off from what I do as dps: white damage, Immolation Trap, Wing Clip + attack procs (e.g., Romulo's Poison Vial), Raptor Strike. And the dps forecasts it gives are actually pretty accurate for Gweryc's numbers, so I have some trust that the items it's suggesting are worth looking at, so long as I'm careful about the value it places on strength over agility, which is why in-game I also lean on RatingBuster's assessment.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Karazhan, continued.

I thought it might be fun to post a few more screenshots from my continued Karazhan runs.

I've done Midnight a few more times, but forget that... it's Moroes I wanted revenge on.

/spit, 2008-04-05

Take that, you well-mannered, undead bitch.

Disabling the Curator, 2008-03-30

I adore the Curator fight. His voice is so compellingly soothing that the fight is almost like guided meditation.

Dancing with Netherspite, 2008-03-30

Ugh, Netherspite. In the beam! Out of the beam! One beam, two beam, red beam, blue beam! I'd have killed us all if it weren't for the exceptional on-the-fly coaching from my veteran friends. As it was, I did the job perfectly. My guild was impressed with me on this one, which amounts to being impressed with my ability to follow directions. I, in turn, was impressed with their ability to tend to their own duties while telling me what to do at the same time. That takes talent.

I did not move when Flame Wreath was cast, 2008-04-06

The Shade of Aran! I was terribly excited to do this fight. Usually I feel like such a noob, but finally, I was going to do one where I already knew how it goes! As soon as I saw him on screen, I heard the Shade of Aran Chant in my head:

I will not move
when Flame Wreath is cast
or the raid blows up

In my laughable eagerness, I may have sung a little over Vent. But I did not move when Flame Wreath was cast. We did not blow up.

Tanking Illhoof, 2008-04-06

This one, I'll admit to being proud of. I not only tanked Illhoof successfully, I was the only tank left to do it. Our druid MT had to leave after Prince, and with him gone, we circled back for Aran and Illhoof with me as the only tank left in the raid. I appreciated the raid's confidence in me to do this, without the safety net of a "real" tank. I did just fine on Illhoof, who decided to reward my fortitude by dropping a Gilded Thorium Cloak for me.

I had not, however, done as well on Prince.

The usual view, 2008-03-30

Yeah, this screen shot is older than the ones of Illhoof and Aran, but what's the difference? I'm still getting myself killed on Prince, where I go as DPS, not a tank (yet). Apparently I have a real problem running away from things that blow me up. I ought to work on that, eh?

Oh, well. It's good to have something to keep me humble.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

You have trying times ahead of you, Gweryc. Let us hope your strength does not fail you.

Among dwinding opportunities on Steamwheedle Cartel, I was made an offer I couldn't refuse. Real-life friend Lochrann on The Scryers had talked with his tier-five raiding guild, Nerglish, about the possibility of bringing in a certain melee hunter as an off-tank. A majority were either amused, intrigued, or indulgent enough to make the offer a reality. And so I came to contradict myself; against my assertions that it would never happen, Gweryc would become a raider.

I carefully packed my bags, emptied my mailbox, transferred the bulk of my gold, and with great trepidation initiated the transfer from SwC to The Scryers, hoping fervently that Blizzard's caveat that characters may not come through a server transfer completely intact didn't include an accidental increase in my prized non-existent ranged weapon skills.

Of course I had nothing to fear. As with every other character transfer I've done, the digital wizards at Blizzard carried out the transfer quickly and flawlessly. And so I landed disoriented in an Azeroth much like my own, but filled with names and faces alien to me -- a medieval-styled twilight zone, a parallel universe of new opportunities.

What does it mean to say I'm a raider? Well, I'm not tanking Lady Vashj or Gruul with the guild core. I'm not working on progression content. Instead I was to become a full-on Karazhan off-tank. But first I had to prove myself, submitting to good-natured but purposeful fraternal hazing by accepting the challenge of main tanking my own Karazhan key frag run. And so, off to Shadow Labs I went, with four broad-minded folk supporting me in the most ambitious phase to date of Project Gweryc.

Disbelief, 2008-03-14

Let's give credit where it's due. I had tier 5 raiders supporting me, meaning I had powerful heals and strong dps, all of them drilled through long practice in understanding threat mechanics, so that none of them would surpass what I was able to put out as a tank. Surprisingly, I -- no, we -- pulled it off. Hellmaw, Blackheart, Vorpil, and Murmur, all notches on my belt.

My inexperience as a tank showed through. For example, I was caught a number of times by Murmur's Sonic Boom. I thought I was supposed to stand in the center of his body to attack, not on the edges, so I frequently didn't have time to run out of range. This highlights the different mindset between healing and tanking. As a resto druid, the Murmur fight looked like every other fight ever: a bunch of whack-a-mole healing squares to click. As a tank, I actually got to -- needed to -- watch the fight. Amazing! Nescience aside, the run was a success. I had capably filled the role of main tank. With the theory proven, we continued with the rest of the necessary dungeon crawls, opting for speed over theory-crafting, as I took back seat to a proper tank and we simply zerged the rest of the key fragments.

Finally, it was showtime. Buffed to the hilt with everything I could imagine -- raid buffs, scrolls, potions, food... prayers -- Gweryc entered Medivh's Ivory Tower.

Quite honestly, I was nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Really, wasn't this the logical next-step I'd been building up to? In a literal sort of way, this was do-or-die time. Well, do-or-kill-ten-people time, really, and that was a major factor in my anxiety. I had a platoon of good and trusting people looking to me to make the unthinkable a reality, to be their shield against harm. Of course such thinking was over-dramatic, but hey, that's pretty characteristic of me. If we wiped, it's a few gold each from people that knew what I was up to and wanted to lend their support. But to me, this was a decisive moment. Either Gweryc was ready for this, or he would never be, and I would resign myself to frustrating the hell out of rogues in PvP until the next expansion altered the landscape.

After a few trash pulls, I was feeling marginally more confident about my chances. That's when Lochrann announced, "Okay, Gweryc, you wanna tank Midnight?"

As they say in the common tongue of the realm, "WTF?!" I'd expected to grab a few trash mobs while our main tank did the heavy lifting. Sure, a Stable Hand or Spectral Charger, but I hadn't planned on actually tanking a boss! But there it was. Maimed hand unsteady with the responsibility, Gweryc lifted his Goblin Rocket Launcher and loosed the first strike. I charged in, Cafall howling and axe swinging, trying as hard as I could to push threat. The heals came rolling in, followed by bombardment from our dps'ers. And with great credit to the team supporting me, I held the line.

Gweryc tanking Midnight, 2008-03-15

Of course it was our main tank that stepped in when Attumen spawned and rider and horse were joined in unholy union. Yet the fact remains, I had successfully tanked a raid boss.

So, what next? Moroes, of course.

Gweryc about to get schooled by Moroes, 2008-03-15

Moroes put the hurt on ol' Gweryc. Not because I couldn't tank him, but because I had grabbed aggro from a second boss, and the incoming damage was simply more than I could handle. We did wipe here, but it was collectively attributed to a normal foul-up rather than my lack of aptitude. A second attempt laid him low, and we continued on to the Opera event.

Gweryc tanking Tinhead, 2008-03-15

It didn't seem especially glamorous to be tanking Tinhead. Although it was an essential task, it seemed like something anybody could do. He just didn't seem to hit that hard, and as the rust debuff stacked, it got even easier. I didn't even realize until days later that Tinhead actually calls for a Tank, versus being tanked, or kited. I spanked Tinhead like a red-headed stepchild, despite my initial misunderstanding of the fight. When I was told "kite him back and forth along the back of the stage," I thought I was supposed to walk backward, continually striking and building threat, not to run up to and past him in a path opposite his. Again, a misstep borne of inexperience rather than inadequacy.

We took on the Maiden of Virtue that night, too, but I declined to tank that one. So far as I was concerned, I was really there in an off-tank role, not a main tank, and I didn't see the need to strain the group unnecessarily for a single-tank fight. At my request, our pro tempore tankadin and nominal healer Lochrann was the one to lead that charge.

We called it a night after four bosses. My lack of experience got me killed more than once: aggroing things at the top of a staircase, pulling aggro when I shouldn't, doing the wrong -- or right -- thing at the wrong time. You can clearly see it as the durability of my armor decreases in each successive screen shot. But this would definitely not the last time Gweryc would set foot in Karazhan. Even when I called openly for criticism at the end of our run, the group expressed enthusiasm for what we'd just done. My new friends in Nerglish were looking forward, as I was, to continuing to press the limits of my bizarre play. And besides, when did it ever hurt to pick up another guild tank, right? :-D

Afterward, as I returned to the familiar battlegrounds grind to collect more armor upgrades matching my unique tanking needs of mitigation combined with attack power, one curious player caught sight of my gloves:

r u serious? 2008-03-20

I are serious tank. This is serious thread.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

There are only two ways of telling the complete truth -- anonymously and posthumously.

I have been thoroughly humbled by the wisdom of a recent anonymous poster to this blog. Unsure as I am how many readers or subscribers to this blog visit the comments, I felt that the very clever points made were wholly worthy of a post to the main blog.

In summary:
  • Three things dramatically reduce threat generation for any tank, whether their class was intended to tank or not: misses, dodges and parries. Misses are counterbalanced by Hit Rating; dodges & parries are counterbalanced by Expertise.
  • Mend Pet can be used to generate additional threat by way of healer aggro.
  • Mana Potions, Healing Potions and Healthstones all generate threat equivalent to the amount of health/mana returned. Also, use of Fel Mana Potions is probably your best angle here, since it returns mana over time and gives a guaranteed 3200 mana. Additionally, since hunter mechanics don't work off of spell damage, there is no drawback to these potions.

The observation about Fel Mana Potions is simply brilliant. With a healer behind me, it's fairly safe to consume these instead of healing potions, and they don't cause me to suffer an important stat reduction in the way a Fel Regeneration Potion would. In practical terms, a Fel Mana Potion is like a bottle of Liquid Threat (base threat is 0.5x Mana gained). WoWWiki spells it out in their post on Threat:

Threat caused by beneficial effects is divided amongst all NPCs that are aware of the character. This global threat applies to heals, bonus threat from buffs (such as Battle Shout or Arcane Brilliance), and power gains (such as a Mana Potion or Rage Potion).

What's more, the observation about healer aggro positively shamed me. I should have been far more conscious of that. I've mentioned before that I also play a druid. In fact, Gweryc is the first character I've ever really played that wasn't a healer. As many times as I've yelled at my computer screen, fists pumping and voice quavering with nerd rage about tanks that don't understand what healing aggro is -- how could I have overlooked that? I may have been aware of it, but I never considered that it might be exploitable.

This concept is enough to make me reconsider my entire combat strategy and even my spec. Given a patient enough team and a pet trained in Cower, I should be able to send in Cafall first and let him take some damage, then pick up the "bonus threat" from Mend Pet while I immediately take aggro off Cafall with a Raptor Strike or an Explosive Trap. I will absolutely be playing with this idea, and if I can work out how to reliably exploit it, I may even respec into Improved Mend Pet.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A person's abilities are tested best when defending rather than attacking.

When I went back through my last blog entry to add my TankPoints values to the items I'd listed, I thought it was incredibly odd that the resilience elixir had a value of zero. Maybe there was a bug in the TankPoints calculator?

...And then I saw it.

"The critical hit % reduction from Defense and Resilience % may be combined to reduce the chance of being critically hit by a raid boss by 5.6% making the player immune to critical hits." -- WoWWiki

Image Hosted by
Shot at 2008-03-13

Image Hosted by
Shot at 2008-03-13

Unless I've misunderstood those numbers (1.2% + 4.97% = 6.17%), I had become crit immune without realizing it. WoWWiki lists a macro I can run to double-check:


If the value reported by the macro is zero or negative, then I really am uncrittable against level 73 bosses. What a milestone!

Edit: Confirmed.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Let us not rest all our hopes on parchment and on paper.

President Kennedy was right. We should also rest our hopes on flasks, elixirs, and foods. In my ongoing mission to bang my melee-hunting head against the wall in the most efficient way possible, I put together a list* for myself of the more useful self-buffing items. This isn't a terribly informative post, I know -- I'm mainly putting it here for my own reference. I've got a few thoughts at the bottom that might interest you, though.

Isn't it something, the way so many people overlook scrolls?

Elixirs - Battle

Elixirs - Guardian


Foods - Self

Foods - Pet


Stormchops is a very cool item for solo AoE farming, but it has a terribly risky quality in groups: it breaks CC. This may change in patch 2.4, when a number of AoE attacks will be changed so they don't hit CC'd targets.

Hit is a squirrely kind of stat, with some people claiming it's overrated, and others insisting it's the fastest way to improve their dps. I tend to the idea that since all my threat currently comes from raw damage, Hit very likely is my most important stat in my role as a tank until I'm capped. That really elevates the importance of Spicy Hot Talbuk. In an ideal group, with Heroic Presence and a moonkin's Improved Faerie Fire, I may be able to pass on that food and use an agi or stamina booster instead.

* The values in square brackets are TankPoints values for my current gear. Interestingly, the TankPoints value for Major Agility + Major Defense elixirs together is 1661, not 1641. In either case, the two together are theoretically superior to the Fortification flask alone.