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.