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.