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General

Hunter Midnight Launch Reminders

With less than 24 hours to go (and less than 12 hours in Europe) to a midnight launch, those who have pre-purchased Mists of Pandaria will want to go over their final preparations for exploring the continent of Pandaria. Tips are already abound from the blogosphere, such as this one from Tabana at the WoW Hunters Hall. Frostheim also recently wrote up an overview of hunter leveling to 90.

If you are still looking for more tips to make your hunter’s midnight launch go smoothly, use this brief checklist as well.

Bring one or two pets with you only. While it may be tempting to bring five pets in your immediate stable to be able to use stampede as soon as it becomes available, Pandaria has a whole slew of new pets and models to tame. This will enable you to immediately start tracking the new rare pets if you come across their tracks instead of figuring out later which pet you want to abandon. If you are only bringing one pet, take one that can be multipurpose for DPS in dungeons and tanking for solo questing. Otherwise you can bring a dedicated ferocity and a dedicated tenacity pet.

Check your talents. Many testers have already said that the three specializations don’t make a difference during leveling, so choose one that comes to you naturally. Pick up talents that you think will be useful for your own leveling method. I will be leveling as Marksmanship.

Toggle Trap Launcher on. You may have noticed this in the weeks since Patch 5.0.4  rolled out, but Trap Launcher can now be permanently toggled on such that you do not to click the ability every time you want to launch a new trap. If you haven’t already done so, now will be a good time to begin getting used to using it for easy access during leveling.

Are you doing anything special to prepare for your midnight launch?


The Week After

A week has gone by since the surprise announcement of Mists of Pandaria‘s release date. Momentum is slowly building toward the release, and one can definitely see the increasing urgency to wrap things up in Cataclysm.

On Friday, two days after the announcement, I finally achieved something I have never done before: complete an entire expansion’s worth of content while it is still current. Our 10-man raid defeated Heroic Madness of Deathwing for the first time, resulting in a spree of cheers and congratulations all-around. Coincidentally, our victory came exactly six months after we first defeated Madness of Deathwing in normal mode.

Although I started Cataclysm a month late, I worked through all of its raid contents while they were still relevant. Somehow I was entering newer content earlier and earlier, and by the time Dragon Soul hit, I was raiding regularly from the first weekend. I think last week’s announcement gave our raid team a real sense of urgency now that the end is in sight. We needed to finish this expansion after breaking our backs over Heroic Spine of Deathwing for three months.

It really is a strange feeling when I realize I have completed the Cataclysm expansion. A few elusive achievements remain, but this is the first time I can truly say that I’ve beaten World of Warcraft, at least for now. I can finally move on to the next chapter in the story. Thrall’s words in the original Mists of Pandaria preview really spoke to me because I have been there for all the previous events in Azeroth’s history and because I was also facing the Destroyer himself when the preview was released.

It’s nearly impossible to avoid all information from the beta, but I think I’ve read enough to interest me in the next expansion and yet haven’t spoiled myself too much to feel like I am stepping into content that I am already familiar with. I wanted my experience to be fresh and awe-inspiring, just like the moment I entered the portal into Outland, and just like the moment my ship entered the canyons of Howling Fjord.

Mists of Pandaria is personally exciting for me because it is based on a culture that is familiar to me. I can’t wait to see how Blizzard will be tying elements of Oriental cultures into the Warcraft universe. I am already impressed at the artistic elements which have been added into the beta. I anticipate I will be devouring as much of the new content as I can. Many people in the Western world only think of dragons, knights, and princesses when thinking of the fantasy genre. They do not realize that fantasy is also a vibrant genre in the East, filled with mysticism and legends. As a professional working in cultural competency and awareness, I am excited that World of Warcraft can become a platform for introducing new cultures to people.

If you told me two years ago that I would be able to reach the pinnacle of end-game content in this expansion, I would not have believed you. If you ask me now what I will have done at the end of Mists of Pandaria, I do not know. But I do want to know, thus when I set foot on Pandaria, I will open my eyes and ears to any opportunity that will allow me to immerse myself further in the contents of the game. I don’t know where the blog will go in the two years to come, but I hope you will let me take us on this new adventure together.


That Lame Duck Period

For some reason, the new year has brought a “lame duck” aura over Cataclysm, where we are just waiting for the release of the next expansion. This is actually the first time that I have cleared raid content for an expansion while it is current. Loronar, Destroyer’s End, killed Deathwing two weekends ago. Now I’m beginning to focus on my somewhat neglected alts to see if I can get them to 85 before the next expansion.

Cataclysm moved surprisingly fast. The final raid content was released within one year of the expansion’s release, staying true to Blizzard’s commitment at quicker expansion releases in the future.

This may be somewhat concerning for casual players because they may feel that game content is moving at a much faster pace than they can keep up with. Even I’m still trying to catch up on finishing the Argent Tournament. The speed of this expansion really hit me when I realized I can remember last year’s Lunar Festival like it were yesterday.

So what does a hunter do at end of his hunting season? I don’t intend on hanging up my weapon anytime soon, but perhaps putting more time into those neglected alts of other classes will continue to bring new perspectives into how to improve my hunter gamelay.

What will you do?


Round the World We Go

Once again, I am making a pilgrimage back home to Southeast Asia. I can’t guarantee a regular update schedule over the next month, but I hope you’ll still read my entries when they come up~!

Happy hunting to everyone, and may your weapons strike where it hurts the most.


PTR 4.2: Utility Changes

The Public Test Realms received an update last night, most of which seem to be pointed toward improving utility. There are 4 items of note for hunters, most of which seem to revolve around our utility, rather than offensive, abilities.

  • The Aggressive pet stance has been removed and replaced with the Assist stance. This stance will cause the player’s pet to attack the player’s target. The pet will not change targets unless the master attacks a new target for a few seconds.

Sometimes it’s fun putting your pet on aggressive in a low-level area and watch it go berserk on mobs. The Assist stance sounds a lot like the Defensive stance. I’m guessing the difference now is that the pet can change targets mid-fight using the new stance, which may still be situational and will take some time to get used to. If done correctly, this may help with target switching in Omnotron Defense System.

  • Multi-shot damage has been reduced. It now deals 120% weapon damage at level 80 or higher, down from 137%.

For those who are keeping track, this means the Multi-Shot change from patch 4.0.6 to 4.2 is increased damage by 218%, as opposed to the 250% given at patch 4.1. I have not noticed the original change to be overpowering, but the developers must think otherwise. I suppose we will have to reassess once again at how many targets will Multi-Shot be economical for Beast Mastery and Marksmanship hunters.

  • Traps now scale with hunter stats such as hit, expertise, spell penetration and attack power as intended.

This change is heaven-sent. Traps have had numerous issues with being resisted. While rare, it made hunters wonder why this was the case if our hit rating and spell penetration were capped. Surprisingly, developers have said time and again that this was a difficult problem to work with because traps are treated as objects rather than proper spells. To have this change roll out this early on the PTR means they must have found a way to work around that obstacle.

  • [Darkmoon Card: Hurricane] damage done when triggered has been increased by 40%, however, it can no longer deal critical strikes and no longer receives any modifiers to its damage from the equipping player.

This is somewhat interesting. When I was still using the trinket, the damage triggered from it would account for approximately 3% of my total damage. However, I wasn’t aware that it was receiving modifiers. I will go on the PTR again to see if this has made the trinket come to par with either Essence of the Cyclone or Fluid Death.


Writing the Hunter

Hunter blogging is a difficult thing to do. It also used to be the best thing to do.

One can almost immediately identify a hunter blog by its name, especially since many hunter blogs use the name of a talent or skill. But consider this: how many hunter blogs are currently using a name whose meaning has been lost over the years because of changes to the game? There are probably more than you realize.

Take, for example, the great BigRedKitty. It is obvious that BRK writes from a Beast Mastery hunter’s perspective. However, take it to the next level. Why a kitty specifically? Back then, pet DPS was not normalized through the different pet talent categories. If you were raiding, you would bring a cat (or a raptor, I believe) because they performed better on the charts. Even today, it’s still a pet family most, if not all, hunters keep with them. Times have changed, and cats now have normalized damage with all ferocity pets, and Beast Mastery has lost the glory it had in Burning Crusade.

Wrath of the Lich King was a glorious time for tenacity pets, and that was how Big Red Rhino began. Rhinos, which are only found in Northrend, identifies the blog as having been started in the previous expansion. Of course, rhinos being tenacity pets indicate that the blog is about pet tanking. The level of difficulty of Cataclysm‘s dungeons has forced hunters to shy away from challenging themselves and pet tanking. But be honest, how many of you really want to try and pet tank Argaloth?

How many of you remember that Piercing Shots originally gave an armor reduction debuff and was crucial for raid bosses? Or that Mend Pet could be buffed with actual healing (aka Spirit) gear? Do you remember the much desired Stabilized Eternium Scope? Did you know Target Dummies were not always in the game, are properly called Training Dummies, and are not the same as the Engineering-crafted item?

When I looked at the Patch 4.1 PTR notes a few weeks ago, this item stood out for me:

Distracting Shot and Multi-Shot are now properly 40-yard range.

This change has made the name 35 Yards Out obsolete because I began writing from a time when hunters had a maximum range of 35 yards unless talent points were spent on the removed talent Hawk Eye. Does that change the meaning and direction of this blog? Certainly not, but because blog names are somewhat static, something is lost through the changes.

With Mend Pet’s Brajana, Less QQ, More PewPew‘s Drotara, and Aspect of the Hare‘s Pike leaving the hunter blogging scene, the field has suddenly felt very sparse. The soul of hunter blogging that was so vibrant during late Burning Crusade and early Wrath is no longer there. Today, hunter bloggers are expected to provide some “insight” into becoming a numerically better hunter.

Please, make hunter blogging and playing a hunter look fun again.

I’d like to take this time to raise a final toast to Larísa, whom I tremendously respect and have known since she switched from blogging in Swedish to English. May we all bring the spirit of The Pink Pigtail Inn into our own journeys in Azeroth.


World of Warcraft by the Numbers

Good morning. It’s been a while since my last post because I had a week-long trip out of town. Before we get back into the swing of huntery things, I want to present you this graphic that has been making its way around the community. Marvel at Blizzard’s flagship property:

In case you cannot see the graphic, here are the basic information:

  • World of Warcraft is the fourth released game set in the fantasy Warcraft universe.
  • World of Warcraft was almost universally praised by critics upon release.
  • In April 2008, World of Warcraft was estimated to hold 62% of the MMORPG subscription market.
  • In October 2010, lead producer J. Allen Brack announced a fourth expansion set.
  • In the Cataclysm expansion, European guilds claimed all world first normal kills and a majority of heroic kills. In Wrath of the Lich King, North American guilds claimed a majority of world first normal kills and just over half of heroic kills. In Burning Crusade, European guilds claimed two-thirds of the world first kills. In the original game, North American guilds claimed nearly all world first kills.
  • The amount of the highest noted World of Warcraft account trade is US$9,900.
  • NetEase, who is the current operator of World of Warcraft in China, reached 1.1 billion yuan (US$1.59 billion) in online game revenues.
  • In the Cataclysm expansion, guilds claiming world first kills (normal and heroic) include Paragon, Premonition, Method, Adept, and For the Horde. In Wrath of the Lich King, guilds claiming world first kills include Paragon, Premonition, Ensidia, Vodka, and Second String. In Burning Crusade, guilds claiming world first kills include Death and Taxes, SK Gaming, Death Wish, Forte, and Curse. In the original game, guilds claiming world first kills include Vodka, Ascent, Fury, Death and Taxes, and Conquest.
  • 6 of the legendary items were first obtained in North America, and 2 were obtained in Europe.
  • The total number of World of Warcraft players around the world is more than 11.5 million, with nearly 50% of players in Asia.
  • The total value of the subscription fees of players in North America and Europe is US$800 million.
  • 1 in every 5 players is female.
  • Americans dedicate an average of 22.7 hours per week for World of Warcraft, 35 hours for work, and 39.25 hours for television.
  • The World of Warcraft server utilizes 20,000 computers, which amount to 1.3 petabytes of storage, 75,000 CPU cores, and 5.5 million lines of code, which results in US$136,986 in upkeep costs per day.
  • It took 150 developers roughly 4 to 5 years to create World of Warcraft, which includes 30,000 items, 7,600 quests, 5,300 non-player characters, and 1,400 locations.

Compiled by: Video Game Design Colleges


Early Damage Trends in 4.0.6

A new week brings a new set of information and findings for all hunters. Last night, we discovered RaidBots, a versatile alternative to State of DPS in analyzing parses from the World of Logs. What’s the difference between the two?

State of DPS has the unique ability to search for individual players who are within the top 200 parse samples being collected. RaidBots, on the other hand, has a very useful tool that allows you to compare the performance of two different individuals in a boss fight, called Compare Bot. They have different methods of collecting the sample data, but both have ability to select data from different raiding formats: 10-man vs. 25 man, and normal vs. heroic.

Keep in mind that these samples represent the top 200 of each class/talent combination out of 12 million players of the game, so don’t immediately compare your own observations to this data unless you are in one of the top 1% of guilds in the world.

With patch 4.0.6 in full swing for almost a week, let’s take a look at how hunters have performed, courtesy of RaidBots. I specifically chose data from 10-man normal raid environments, which covers the past 14 days up to Sunday, February 13. Here are the results:

As a general rule, DPS will usually trend upward because people get better gear every day. Even taking that into account, you can see Survival hunters are still performing at the top, though their superiority has not improved or worsened. Marksmanship hunters, on the other hand, have seen a dramatic improvement in the raiding scene. Beast Mastery, while seeing modest gains, remains the lowest performer among the three.

We can speculate on these observations:

  • While Survival hunters did see a reduction in the damage output of many of their abilities, their shot rotation has very little ramp-up time, an advantage in fights with target switching. Most Survival shots are damage-over-time effects, which are easier to sustain even if you miss a few. With the fix in Serpent Spread‘s Serpent Sting, Survival AoE attacks remain strong.
  • Despite dramatic improvements in Marksmanship performance, they are likely to perform mediocre in fights which require switching targets. Currently, the use of heavy duty abilities such as Aimed Shot and Chimera Shot means that Marksmanship spends most of its time casting shots and waiting on cooldowns. In between these bursts of damage, we only have Serpent Sting.
  • With Beast Mastery, target switching may also be detrimental to DPS because pets, which contribute a significant percentage of Beast Mastery damage, need travel time. Unlike Marksmanship, Beast Mastery cannot fully maximize output until the pet has reached its appropriate target. These conditions, in addition to the lack of more burst damage, is likely to put Beast Mastery lower than the other two.

As a final note, anticipate future changes, especially with this note from the developers:

  • We are also looking at nerfing Aimed Shot, but compensating hunters through Aspect of the Hawk. (source)

It was expected, especially if I can one-shot level 81 Twilight Dragonkin in Mount Hyjal with my Aimed Shot critical hits.


Threat is Serious Business

Last week, Ghostcrawler wrote a column on threat management, a heavily discussed topic that has resurfaced in Cataclysm and was previously been more of a concern in Burning Crusade than in Wrath. If you regularly follow other bloggers, you will notice the resurfacing of comments regarding how the heroic dungeons of Cataclysm are returning to the style of Burning Crusade with a need for crowd control and threat management.

Tanks and healers are looking to get back into the swing and picking up where they left off 2 years ago, but this can’t happen without help from DPS classes, including hunters. The random dungeon system has transformed instance grouping to a weeding out process where if one member of the party does not perform well with others, they are simply removed or leave with frustration. It has become easier to replace someone, but at what cost? By nature, DPS classes number more than tanks and healers, but that doesn’t make you disposable.

Dungeons are no longer easy ways to gain gear and rewards. Don’t make your experience in one less rewarding than the time it takes to wait in queue. Learn what you should be doing and return to the glory days of when DPS can shine in both damage and crowd control. If you have forgotten how to do that, there are those who are willing to help.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however, as Ghostcrawler says:

Now, there are things we don’t like about threat as a mechanic. It’s fairly gamey as game mechanics go and we think there are probably better ways to communicate it to players. There are some mods that do a very credible job given the limited information we provide, but overall we’d like to present threat better since we’re asking you to take it seriously in the PvE game.

Now, there are things we don’t like about threat as a mechanic. It’s fairly gamey as game mechanics go and we think there are probably better ways to communicate it to players. There are some mods that do a very credible job given the limited information we provide, but overall we’d like to present threat better since we’re asking you to take it seriously in the PvE game.

Deathwing shattered this blog

Actually, not really.

But we did redesign the website, complete with a very cute RSS icon (that matches Aspect of the Fox). The information page has been updated to reflect our latest progress in the game, though other pages still need some revamping. Just like every year, there is a snowfall effect in place, which is appropriate because Winter’s Veil started yesterday.

If you’ve only been reading from your feed reader and haven’t checked out the website lately, come on over!


Coming Full Circle

When this entry goes online in the morning, it will have been 22 months to the day since this blog saw any sign of life. I’m sure some of you are surprised that you find yourself reading something from me once again. I never had to chance to write a proper departure message, and I apologize if leaving you in the dark regarding my circumstances caused you worry. If, in the time of absence, you elected to remove me from your blogroll, I do not and will never hold anything against you.

My own departure came as a surprise to me as well. Even as I left the blogosphere and World of Warcraft, I had planned for at least three more entries which are still sitting in my drafts: “Marksmanship Pet Selection and Synergy (Wrath Edition)“, “Improving Hunter Raiding (WoW Meter Online)“, and “What the Economic Crisis Can Tell Us About Patch 3.0.8“. Of course, these are all things of the past, and I cannot remember what I had intended to write back then.

As I look back at the entries I have written and the comments I received since my departure, it is clear that traffic was still coming in, and the content I had written continue to be relevant to some degree. I am pleased with this, and I hope my research will serve as stepping stones to further content generated by bloggers around the world. It even gets me excited on what new information I can explore as I discover the new changes transforming the game.

A few days ago, an old friend from my university days (which I guess was not too long ago), asked if I wanted to join a group of friends returning to play and explore Cataclysm. The offer is tempting, and I have not quite made a solid decision yet. The learning curve for me will once again be steep because I have forgotten everything about hunters in these 2 years. Regardless of the decision, I will let you know on this site. If I ultimately decide against it, I may still continue to offer insights into the new changes from a set of fresh eyes who has not set his eyes on Azeroth in a long time.

A saying among Blog Azeroth writers goes something like this: “At one point, we may leave our blogs and the game, but one day we will somehow find our way back into this community that taught us to be better, more human players.” It is never goodbye. After all, that’s what the Scroll of Resurrection is for.

Many thanks to the kind comments and e-mails I received during my absence, most of which were written by those I have given tribute to by the interspersed links. I dedicate the rest of this entry to those who have departed during our absence (in no particular order and with a regret that I cannot list them all). (more…)


Year of the Tauren

The year 2009 is the year of the Ox, or more appropriately, the year of the Tauren.

According to the lunar calendar, the new year begins today, and it’s a time to honor the elders. Taurens deeply honor their elders, and this is reflected in their customs. They are also a strong and noble race.

According to one Chinese legend, the 12 animals argued as to who would be the first animal in the 12-year cycle. The gods decided to hold a contest in which the animals must cross a river. The first animal to cross the river would be the first on the chart followed by the other animals according to their finish. The rat was the smallest of the animals and was expected by the other animals to finish last. Quickly, the 12 animals jumped into the river, but unknown to the ox, the rat had jumped on his back. As the ox was about to jump on the riverbank to claim first place, the rat jumped off his back and won the race. (source)

Matticus has also posted the horoscope of the Ox zodiac from a World of Warcraft perspective.


Search Engines (and Swimming Mounts) Are Your Friend

How else would you be able to discover new World of Warcraft blogs and find the wealth of information available at your fingertips? Here’s a look at some of the latest searches that have led readers to our blog.

“35 yards out”

Why, yes. You have indeed found the right place.

“wow can i tame an exotic beast then space marksman”

I believe you meant spec Marksmanship. As far as I know, yes, but you will not be able to take that exotic beast out of the stable once you have spec’d out of the 51-point Beast Mastery talent. Perhaps you would like to consider this if you are a Marksmanship hunter who has his or her sights on Loque’nahak.

“trueshot aura or ferocious inspiration”

Even in Wrath, this choice is sometimes still a matter of raid composition and need. Trueshot Aura has been promoted to a raid-wide and scaling buff, but it still does not stack. Ferocious Inspiration, on the other hand, is still a stacking buff, so you can have as many Beast Mastery hunters as you’d like providing damage bonus. On the other hand, having more than one Marksmanship hunter in your raid does not add any significant contribution to the overall raid. If you are prepared to provide your raid with the benefit of Trueshot Aura, don’t hesitate from doing so. You may find that you like the Marksmanship tree as well.

“hunter dragonhawk viper macro”

Such a macro is actually very simple. For example, you can use this one-line macro:

/cast [button:2] Aspect of the Viper; Aspect of the Dragonhawk

Right-click on a mouse will provide you with Viper, and left-click provides Dragonhawk. There are, of course, other variations of this macro.

“improved hunter’s mark 3/3 level 80″

It appears you have read into my mind, dear reader. A research post is in the works and will be released sometime next week on this topic. Like my previous research into Aspect of the Dragonhawk and Trueshot Aura, this one promises insight into the new mechanics of Improved Hunter’s Mark. Be patient, and you will soon find the fruit of your search.

“marksmanship hunter glyphs”

My personal choices would be Glyph of Arcane Shot, Glyph of Hunter’s Mark, and Glyph of Steady Shot for major glyphs. The only minor glyphs that have some value are Glyph of Mend Pet, Glyph of Feigh Death, and Glyph of Revive Pet. In truth, most of the minor glyphs are quite lackluster, but these three provide survivability.

“can 5 level 80 do serpentshrine cavern”

I don’t know, but you’re certainly welcome to try be the first ones. Let me know when you do, so I can break the story.

“very first chuck norris joke”

I was baffled at how this search could end up here. It turns out this exact phrase was uttered by Euripedes in a comment to my post about memories (though in a slightly different context). I’m not sure how I should respond to this find.

I also found something I must have missed that was announced at BlizzCon: swimming mounts in Patch 3.1.

You want to know why that is one of the most exciting changes, in my opinion, for hunters? You see, pets on defensive have a tendency to engage enemies you may have accidentally or unintentionally aggro’d while running on your mount. As you get away from water, you are now in combat and can’t simply mount up again without having to kill that which you have aggro’d (or run from it until your pet despawns or the mob disengages).

Forget 3.0.8 and its problems. I want to see 3.1 goodies!


20 Questions with Feanoro of Not Quite Immortal

In this special feature, we had the privilege of interviewing Feanoro of Not Quite Immortal, the top-ranked guild on US-Silver Hand. We first met Feanoro through his blog Trueshot Aura last July. He is an active raider and participated in realm-first kills of Wrath of the Lich King raid bosses as a Marksmanship hunter. We’ll let him tell the rest in his own words.

First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m Feanoro, a Marksman raiding hunter on Silver Hand. I’ve been through all the raid content for classic and BC, and, barring any disasters, I should see all the content Wrath will offer us.

What brought you to World of Warcraft?

Originally, I came in on a guest pass from a friend on Silver Hand, Leonius. I’d completed plenty of other Blizzard titles before… all the Warcraft series, of course, Diablo 1 and 2, a little Starcraft… but I have to admit, I was concerned WoW would be following EverQuest‘s “grind or die” philosophy. In retrospect, I should’ve had a bit more faith in Blizzard, but it can’t be helped. I’m here now, and enjoying every minute.

What made you choose to play a Marksmanship hunter?

I chose a Hunter because I’ve found I prefer ranged combat, scouting, and pulling in fantasy games. I prefer Marksman spec because it brings a balance of high personal damage and utility, which is my preference.

I know your focus has primarily been PvE raiding. Do you find time to PvP?

Very occasionally, but by choice rather than time limitations. I’m not going to give a rendition of “Woe Is Me, A Hunter in PVP” but I do think we could use some work in that area. Also, unless going with friends or guild, I just don’t enjoy it that much. Personal preference, really.

What’s your take on the current state of Marksmanship hunters?

After the debacle of BC and hunter damage being based on working around mechanics no one will argue were broken, the class and MM in particular have gotten a nice shot in the arm. While you could push MM to do decently in BC, it was sadly impossible to equal BM numbers, due to Serpent’s Swiftness proving that linked Auto Shots and specials was a poor design. Right now, the trees are a bit uneven, despite Blizzard’s stated goal to encourage pure dps to spec for their preference, but the 3.0.8 patch will correct that a bit, I think. MM specifically will be requiring a bit more cooldown watching and timing, but I feel that MM has always been about a variety of shots and a more complex rotation.

If there is one thing about hunters you could change, what would it be?

What to change? The entire pet system, and subsequently the Beast Mastery tree. As it stands, a not insignificant amount of our damage is based on the assumption our pets are alive and attacking. As we all know, there are many times when it’s difficult to have our pets attacking (and in some cases, alive!) the entire fight, artificially limiting our dps. This is worst for BM, as many of their talents boost only the pet. Blizzard has made some baby steps towards correcting this with spells like Ferocity’s Bloodthirsty talent, but there’s much more to be done. I’d like to see pets remade to be a bit more like Death Knight pets, where being unable to use your pet isn’t quite so harshly penalized. Further, I’d like to see talents more modestly improve the pet but also the Hunter. This is not to say I think we should be able to go without our pets, only there’s plenty of room for improvement.

How long have you been with Not Quite Immortal? Do you hold any key positions?

I’ve been with NQI since early 2007, about when we started killing Gruul, and currently am honored to hold an officer’s position. Among other things, I work with our hunters and tanks to ensure smooth boss pulls and steady chain pulling on trash, as well as working with people to improve their dps.

Silver Hand is an RP server. Is a raiding guild any different in an RP server than in any other server?

Well, we don’t call raid directions in iambic pentameter if that’s what you mean. We don’t actively encourage or discourage RP among our members, and many at the very least have established personality traits for their mains. During raids, we joke about such, and turn it into a motivator on farm content or something to relieve any stress. For example, a running joke back in Sunwell that we used to keep up our pace was Feanoro despising Blood Elves and wanting to keep moving to slaughter more of them.

Describe a typical NQI raid night for us.

We joke and kid around on vent, but overall, NQI doesn’t screw around in raids. We keep up a steady, fast (but not rushed) pace, and pride ourselves on high dps, with friendly contests to push each other to improve.

Where is NQI now in raiding?

I’m pleased to say NQI has cleared all the current 10- and 25-man content, our latest kill being Sartharion with three drakes. It’s a good challenging encounter without being twitchy like say Eredar Twins, testing your ability to control a fight while not being a hard gear check.

You’ve mentioned to me that you entered Naxxramas when it still hovered in Eastern Plaguelands. How is it different now from the one you remember before Burning Crusade?

One major difference is the overall tuning of the place. Naxx was the pinnacle of classic raiding, and, in many ways, Blizzard’s answer to raiders stacking every buff they could possibly find in that the place practically required all those buffs. Compared to other classic raids, Naxx was a huge step up in the amount of coordination and discipline a raid needed to succeed. However, most serious raid groups are now used to encounters at those levels, and Blizzard has thankfully greatly reformed the buff systems. Combined with very slight nerfs (Heigen’s poison splash doesn’t one-shot, tanks do not need to perfectly position themselves for phase one of Thaddius) and of course everyone’s previous familiarity with the fights, the new Naxx isn’t a pushover, but it’s certainly not difficult.

What has been the most memorable moment from playing World of Warcraft?

Well, although it’ll sound like bragging, the most memorable point has to be earning my Rhok’delar back in classic WoW. That event was incredible, and gave a real sense of accomplishment. Many of the old school hunters, myself included, wish Blizzard would revive the idea of class quests like that one.

Do you have any plans to go back to blogging? I’m sure some people would like to see the perspective of an experienced Marksmanship hunter on the cutting edge of raiding.

In all honesty, ceasing to blog was a combination of real life being busy and my being a tad lazy towards it. I do plan to start again, perhaps with small pieces, to get myself in the habit of semi-regular writing. One idea I’ve had is to talk about each of the current content’s bosses from the Hunter’s perspective, to avoid limiting myself just to theorycraft and mechanics discussion.

Favorite hunter ability?

As of Wrath, I definitely have to say Chimera Shot. I love the versatility it offers as well as the punch it packs, especially if Improved Steady Shot is up.

Is Hemet Nesingwary evil?

Evil, no. A bit crazy, but what Dwarf isn’t? I think the best word for him is “enthusiastic”.

Bow, gun, or crossbow?

Ideally a bow, since the gun sound slowly drives me insane.

Have you ever met Pike of Aspect of the Hare (Tawyn on Silver Hand)?

I’m afraid I haven’t had the pleasure, but I’d certainly welcome such a meeting.

Favorite quote?

“First know your class, second know your spec, third, see steps 1 and 2.”
—Howitzer of <Fusion> on Turalyon

Three tips for an aspiring raider?

First, know your class and spec inside out. Know as much as you can about each skill and talent, constantly experiment to learn new techniques.

Second, get to know your fellow raiders. Learn how they do things, learn how to work with them. Heroics are a great place to really get an idea of others’ capabilities, especially if you make a point of going with different groups.

Third, THINK. This is something no one can teach you. Don’t just grind along in the raid, following orders and waiting to be told what to do. Observe everything that’s going on, and you start to see “aha, Blizz is repeating the ol’ expanding poison/wall of fire/pie to the face trick” rather than “Boss A does Ability Q every X seconds”. When you can anticipate and react on the fly, you’ll be doing very well indeed.

Would you like to make any shoutouts?

Thanks of course to NQI’s awesome raiding team. It’s a pleasure to rip up all the challenges Blizzard tosses at us with all of you.

And it has been our pleasure speaking with you as well. Many thanks to Feanoro for this interview. Please stop by his blog if you have the time, take a look around, and say hello!


Change Is in the Air

While the United States is draped with a message of change and hope on this day, change also appears to be coming to the hunter community. Announcement of an extended maintenance has led many to believe that today is indeed the day for Patch 3.0.8.

In what has been called the “Great Hunter Nerf of 2008″, playing a hunter will no longer be the same should the patch hit the servers. Here are a few highlights of the most updated patch notes:

Steady Shot: Now gains 10% of attack power as damage instead of 20%.
Arcane Shot: Mana cost lowered to match the cost of Steady Shot.
Ferocious Inspiration: This talent now also increase the damage the Hunter does with Arcane Shot by 3/6/9%.

This sequence of changes is part of the core changes designed to balance the three talent trees a bit more. By reducing the damage bonus of Steady Shot, which is the core of a Beast Mastery rotation, it makes Arcane Shot slightly more attractive due to the reduced mana cost. Although it remains to be seen how much this will impact how shot rotations are designed, it certainly is something worth further studies.

Lock and Load: Now has a 30 second cooldown.

This is an interesting change. Because Lock and Load currently triggers from the periodic damage of Serpent Sting, Blizzard implemented the cooldown to make the talent conform more with the cooldown period of traps. (See Lienna’s thoughts of the periodic damage proc.) What I’m interested on finding out is if bonuses such as one from the Beast Lord Armor could (or should) reduce the cooldown on this talent as well. With this change, I see this talent more useful for long boss fights rather than for regular battles.

Rake: This hunter pet ability has had its damage adjusted to prevent unreasonable scaling with attack power.
Scorpid Poison: No longer stacks. The damage has been adjusted to prevent unreasonable scaling with attack power.

An unfortunate change for Marksmanship hunters, cats and scorpids were still considered two of the top pet choices after the entire pet skill system was redesigned. By adjusting the attack power scaling of these two pets, Marksmanship hunters no longer gain a great advantage from using them in fights. Somehow this change reminds me of Znodis’ old prognostication that “[s]ome new mechanic will cause one and only one pet ability to be overpowered”, except in this case it is two pet abilities.

All Silence spells now have diminishing returns. This includes: Arcane Torrent, Garrote silence effect, Improved Counterspell effect, Improved Kick effect, Silence, Gag Order, Silencing Shot, Spell Lock, and Strangulate.

Unfortunately, this change will make the ability a bit more lackluster than before. It will slowly lose appeal before finally deemed unnecessary in a Marksmanship talent build. When it comes to that day, it will be a sad and quiet end for the old 41-point talent.

Although the changes we see in the horizon may not be at all positive, we hunters have always adapted and excelled. It is what makes us that much better because we are under constant attack, yet we continue to shine despite everything that has been thrown at us. There is still hope for us yet.


When World of Warcraft Meets College Culture

We’re back, and classes start today for my last semester. So while we’re on the topic, let’s talk about World of Warcraft culture in college.

Just last week, PC World posted an article on whether World of Warcraft could be a college class. It cites the economic practices that appear to come into play in the game. While I don’t doubt that there is some theory that can come out of such an economics class, some factors make it difficult to really understand the inner workings of the community. For one, there lacks any real-time tracking method for transactions made among players.

Although World of Warcraft can be made into course content, I believe it shouldn’t. From a student’s perspective, such a class would have little to no direction. The experiment itself risks compromise if the people who enroll are players who believe they will get an easy ‘A’ out of the class just because they play. In fact, the one sentence that bothers me the most in this article is this:

After all, it’s a chance to legitimize all that time you’re planning to spend holed up in your dorm slaughtering Bloodfen Scytheclaws and Ragged Young Wolves and launching company-sized all-nighter raids…

Back in May 2006, MapWoW listed the top .edu domain addresses that visited the site. Although the number of subscriptions back then was only a bit more than half the number of subscriptions today, the listing provided a snapshot of how the culture of each university impacted students playing the World of Warcraft. My own university was listed 22nd in this survey. Truthfully, I’m surprised at the number of big name schools on the list. What is evident from the list is that each university has its own environment that either promotes and hinders the players’ ability to play regularly.

If an academic is seriously considering an endeavor like this, it should only be done at a campus that has a conducive environment. It is not as simple as introducing a course with planned materials. One must also understand the experiment from the points-of-view of those who will be taking the course, be it players or non-players.


Happy Winter Veil

happy-winter-veilGood morning and Happy Winter Veil to all!

I hope you’ve been good boys and girls while I’m gone. May Blizzard give you the presents you wished for and may you find a chance to spend time with your families (inside and outside Azeroth).

The snow effect will be sticking around here until New Year, so enjoy a white Winter Veil with us if there is no snow where you are!


Escaping the Cold North

jakartaBy the time you read this, I am already on a plane to go home for vacation. Where I come from, cable internet is more like glorified dial-up. This means no playing for about 3 weeks, but I’ll keep in touch from time to time to make sure the hunter community hasn’t exploded when I come back from vacation. While sporadic, I have also scheduled a few posts in advance for your reading.

I will also probably on Twitter. If you can’t find me, your best bet is to reach me there or by e-mail. This blog’s e-mail address is on the sidebar.

In the meantime, go down those raid bosses.

Oh the joys of 20-some-hour flights…


Have You Ever Noticed World of Warcraft Is Everywhere?

I went to watch The Day the Earth Stood Still on Wednesday after my final exams ended. About 20 minutes in, lo and behold. The boy Jacob Benson, who is a main supporting character in the movie, plays World of Warcraft. In one scene, he can be seen playing a human paladin killing Nagas in Stranglethorn Vale. The famous Stormwind music from the Valley of Heroes also played for several seconds in the background. I suspect WoW is in Earth as an unofficial nod to the game, especially since the phrase “Klaatu barada nikto” was referenced in the game with two characters as a nod to the original 1951 version of the film.

This is not the first time the game has made it into a blockbuster film. Remember when [The Unstoppable Force] met [The Immovable Object] in The Dark Knight? It’s not even limited to films. Last week I saw a guy wear the J!NX +20 Frost Resistance Hoodie in the grocery store. My apartmentmate owns the generic hoodie with the game’s logo.

It’s great that there’s a lot of publicity for the game we all love, but what do other people see when they see all these cameo appearances? Most of all, what does it tell them of about the people who play the game?

I’m sure the majority of the population see these references and won’t know they are actually references to World of Warcraft or even connect the dots and realize they all reference to one thing. They’re very subtle, but even the media recognizes that people from all walks of life play this game, and they’re not afraid to acknowledge that we’ve become a phenomenon. But have we come to acknowledge our place in society? Many claim that this is an open game, yet there are scores of players who are unwilling to help new players become acquainted with the game.

Especially with the release of Wrath of the Lich King, there would be a lot of people who are interested in finding out what the game is all about. But with all the established players in Northrend, who is available in Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor to help the new players? What if those looking from the outside inward see a community full of inside jokes and cliques that make it difficult to penetrate or understand? We risk being misunderstood by society despite being acknowledged by it. The all-too-general and unfair statement made last week by an official of the Federal Communications Commission is one example.

With a growing player base, the only thing certain is that World of Warcraft won’t disappear from the headlines. It will only generate more talk, and the one thing we can do is stop people from generalizing.


Please Update Your Feed Readers

If you’re a regular visitor or reader of 35 Yards Out, I’d appreciate it if you could take a few moments to change the feed URL in your feed reader to:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/35yards/

Many thanks in advance!


Request for Data: Level 80 RAP

In light of Tuesday’s announcement of hunter changes, I’m trying to make some changes to my “research” in relation to Trueshot Aura. However, I lack a general sense of estimation, and since I’m not level 80 yet, I don’t know what the typical RAP for level 80 hunters are (buffed or unbuffed).

So for readers and visitors who are already level 80, would you mind letting me know what your RAPs are? Buffed and unbuffed?

Thanks in advance!


Analysis of A Nerf

Approximately 2 hours ago, the hunter community was caught off-guard by Ghostcrawler’s announcement that “[h]unters of all specs…are doing too much damage in PvE”.

What concerns me is not that a nerf actually came. If anything, I’m surprised that the nerf came this early on in the expansion. Could this be a sign that Blizzard was not ready to release Wrath after all? The developers are saying that they had “hoped other classes would be able to catch up [to hunters] in a way they have as yet been unable to do”. This statement essentially means that they had not extensively tested the class balancing in endgame content.

This announcement is among the many problems that have been plaguing Wrath. The nerf, on top of the fact that Trap Mastery was not tuned by launch, leaves all the hunter talent trees in shambles.

Even pets were not left alone in this mess. How many times have pets been tuned since Patch 3.0 was first released? With all the effort they put into pet balancing with talent trees and , they are still nerfing Rake and Scorpid Poison. This means the pets were not balanced in the first place.

Most of the changes have been made to affect Beast Mastery hunters the most, but with the changes not live and are still being developed in the Public Test Realm, there is no way to know if the developers will implement further changes to all talent trees. I only fear the morale of hunters after this.


One Hundredth

100th blog post, not including the ones I migrated over from the original Ranger’s Bow blog.

Writing a post on Trueshot Aura. It should be interesting, so keep an eye out.

And I need to find more time to play…


Aspect of the (Dragon)Hawk and Its Consequences

Ding 74.

You have learned a new spell: Aspect of the Dragonhawk (Rank 1).

Wait, what? Did my attack power bonus seriously just go up by 75 from Aspect of the Hawk (Rank 8)?

This new spell essentially make Aspect of the Hawk obsolete beginning level 74. Any enhancement to this spell will apply to Aspect of the Dragonhawk.

To better display this boost in attack power bonus, I’ve provided this graphical analysis:

rap-correlation

You will notice the linear increase during each expansion, but with each expansion, the linear progression increases by more than two-fold. This has been somewhat reflective of the combat rating system when you take a look at the stats for Wrath of the Lich King. (296 is the new hit cap? What!)

But what’s the impact of this?

At level 73, I am upwards of more than 2800 RAP when Aspect of the Hawk and Trueshot Aura are on. Now, at level 74, I’m reaching that 3000 mark. I honestly will not be surprised if end-game hunters in Wrath can see 4000 RAP fully buffed.

This kind of progression can become detrimental. As the curve becomes steeper and steeper, the combat rating system becomes too cumbersome to maintain. It becomes a true inflation, and gear in future expansions will provide ungodly high numbers for Agility, Stamina, etc. The statistical gap between levels, say, 89 and 90 will be so large that players may not be able to keep up.

Leveling actually becomes more difficult because the difference in future ranks of the Aspect matters, and the wait to train the new rank will be a hindrance.

So what’s the takeaway of this?

Aspect of the Dragonhawk and its 230/300 attack power bonus are surely something to see, but if you’re ever caught without it on, the penalty to your DPS output can be very high. Players will have to be more aware of what Aspect they have active (Dragonhawk or Viper).


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