Stupid Hunter Tricks

I have a new favourite thing to do in World of Warcraft and that thing, my friends, is soloing Zandalari Warbringers.

It all began because my level 90 priest, who is my enchanter, was severely lacking in various reputations to get the “good” enchants, the ones that need revered with the August Celestials and Shado-Pan. My priest had basically been neutral with both of these factions and I was in absolutely no mood to do countless dailies and such to raise her rep to honored, much less revered. Some searching online revealed that one can get a ridiculous amount of rep with these Bind-to-Account things called “Stolen Insignias”, which drop from Zandalari Warscouts and Zandalari Warbringers.

I’d killed a few Warscouts and I knew of the Warbringers (they had previously kicked my ass) but still felt stuck because I didn’t really know if I could solo them.

At the relatively low equipped ilvl of 525, I’m proud to say that my hunter can, in fact, solo the Warbringers. It is awesome.

Why is it awesome?

Well, not only is my priest the proud owner of all the bracer and weapon MoP-level enchants, but I am getting these awesome things called Big Bag of Zandalari Supplies and Small Bag of Zandalari Supplies. The big bags are themed, so to speak, and are duplicates of the various bags the rares in Townlong Steppes have a chance of dropping. So you could open a bag and get 20 Golden Lotus, along with something like 100 herbs. Or you could open one and get a Sha Crystal, some Mysterious Essences and a crapton of Spirit Dust. Or you could open one up and get a ton of ore and a few gems. The small bags contain gold, plus a stack of a couple of different materials. (I am now drowning in Kyparite, by the way.) These bags and insignias also have a chance to drop from the (much easier) Zandalari Warscouts. (There’s about a 29% chance to get big bags from the Warbringers and a 15% chance from Warscouts, so the Warbringers are definitely better odds, although I quite enjoy killing the Warscouts, too!)

If you don’t need rep and if you don’t need various MoP materials like herbs, enchanting stuff, ore or leather, then there’s still one reason for you to go out and try to kill Warbringers: the mounts.

The Slate Primordial Direhorn

The Slate Primordial Direhorn

So that’s the Slate one that I got the other day. The others are Jade and Amber and you can apparently tell which colour mount is a drop possibility by virtue of what colour mount the Warbringers are on. (or their chairs? I am unclear on this.) At any rate, the mounts are a nice little bonus.

I’ve been killing these guys all weekend long. They have an approximate respawn timer of an hour and they only spawn in five places in the world: Near Chi-Ji’s Cradle in Krasarang Wilds, near the Briny Muck in Dread Wastes, near Sik’vess in Townlong Steppes, near the Yaungol Advance at the eastern edge of Kun-Lai Summit and near Sri-La Village in The Jade Forest.

As a hunter, the hardest part of this is controlling threat. I was very confused as to why my pet’s aggro was, well, terrible. Apparently, they’re immune to taunts, much like the Death Adders on the Timeless Isle. As such, to get it done easily, I personally have to chain misdirect my pet and feign quite a bit. Terrible, but the rewards are good enough and it’s challenging enough for me to keep doing it, despite the immunity to taunts.

If you’re not too concerned with threat, the next major issue is keeping your pet alive. The Glyph of Mend Pet is helpful in removing the potential fear being cast on the primary target of the Warbringer, but the Glyph of Mending is essentially mandatory for this.

The other thing to be worried about, in terms of pet health, is the stupid Vengeful Spirit. You need to turn off all your AOE stuff and keep your pet on passive so it doesn’t change its target, or else you may get the attention of the Vengeful Spirit who can two or three-shot you (or your pet). Keeping Mend Pet up at all times will help to draw her to you, where you can easily run away from her. If you need to feign while she’s up, do so, but then re-cast Mend Pet to ensure she turns around and comes right back to you instead of your pet.

In terms of pets used, I use a turtle for the Last Stand ability as well as the Shell Shield ability. Both can come in fairly handy!

Overall, it’s a fun, profitable thing to do and it’s something that lesser-geared hunters can do fairly easily, with some practice. Here’s a video guide to soloing a Zandalari Warbringer that I put together this weekend. :)

Quick Alpha Thoughts

Honestly, I have neither the time nor the inclination to talk in-depth about the Alpha patch notes for Warlords of Draenor that we’ve gotten. This may actually be a short entry! (hahahaha, if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.)

The first thing anyone needs to do in order to have an informed opinion on these changes is to read the entirety of the patch notes. No, I’m not kidding. Pretty much everything they posted is necessary to further understand the changes. What is absolutely wonderful about these notes is that they do attempt to give you context. That is amazing and you have to thank the devs for trying to do so. From what I can tell, they attempted to explain the whys pre-emptively. The whole bit about ability pruning is particularly interesting.

So what am I going to discuss here? I’m just going to say that I’m a little disappointed to see some abilities go, from a hunter perspective. In particular, the loss of Aspect of the Hawk, Distracting Shot, Hunter’s Mark, Rapid Fire, Scatter Shot, Silencing Shot and Serpent Sting altogether are, to me, fairly disappointing. The changes to Kill Shot (no longer available to Survival Hunters) and Lock and Load (being removed by itself, but still able to be procced from Black Arrow) also sting a bit. That Stampede is now a talent is interesting, so I’m not all that fussed, although I don’t know how Murder of Crows or Blink Strikes can compete.

Note that I’m not going to lobby to get these things changed — I know things will naturally change and evolve due to feedback and play data in Alpha and Beta. That said, I did want to talk a little bit about why I feel these changes are disappointing, from a PVE standpoint.

Aspect of the Hawk

Okay, seriously, I know. I know! I get it. We always use Aspect of the Hawk. To not use it is to use Aspect of the Cheetah or Aspect of the Pack. This is absolutely ability bloat at its finest. The trouble is, it’s only ability bloat NOW because we used to have other options. We had Aspect of the Wild (nature resistance!), we later had Aspect of the Viper (mana regen!) in addition to Cheetah and Pack. That Aspect of the Hawk finally goes the way of the Wild and the Viper is not terribly surprising to me, but it feels like an iconic part of being a hunter is going. Yes, they’re baking the buff itself into the abilities and such, but I’m someone who actually enjoyed the different aspects back in the day.

What they really need to do is a way to prevent morons from running around with Pack on constantly, particularly in things like LFG and LFR. >.>

Distracting Shot

I will freely admit that I rarely use this ability. However, when I have used it, it’s generally been in key situations where I ended up kiting some damn thing halfway across the room/area/etc. We’re talking General Drakkisath in Upper Blackrock Spire, back in the day. What about on a pull gone horribly awry? Forcing a mob to pay attention to you and chase you down is a core part of what hunters have been. And while I was thrilled to not have to always kite Drak (thank you, Toga!), I enjoyed knowing that I could and that I had successfully done so previously and could do so again. This kind of gameplay doesn’t really happen these days, though, and I think the game is poorer for it.

For what it’s worth, I occasionally use this out on Timeless Isle when fighting the Gulp Frogs if I pull more than one so that my poor bear doesn’t get 10 stacks of their poison. I could use another shot, like Arcane Shot, if I wanted, but I use Distracting Shot because I want that other mob to look at me and I want it to look at me now. The only way we’ll be able to kite things in the future is if we’re the last one standing, essentially. While that means that kiting in the middle of a raid encounter, for example, will no longer be our domain (and perhaps it hasn’t been for a long while), it’s worth taking a moment to think about where we started and to respect what we were able to do.

Hunter’s Mark

More bloat, I’ll grant you, but another iconic ability going the way of the dodo makes me sad. True, it’s automatically applied on virtually any shot. True, with the raid icon markers, we no longer need to use Hunter’s Mark to actually differentiate between different mobs. But it pre-dated the icons and, for a long while, was the only way TO distinguish mobs from each other.

Rapid Fire

They’re getting rid of a lot of cooldowns. I’m okay with that. I’m even basically okay with Rapid Fire being removed. I’m not a fan of blowing all cooldowns on the pull and on CD thereafter, which perhaps makes me not the best hunter in the world (which is one reason I haven’t raided seriously on Kurn since Vanilla). It’s just that it’s so weird to see all of these abilities that have been around forever finally being cut. We lost all of our melee abilities (even our ability to wield both a ranged and a melee weapon) in Cataclysm and this feels like they’re coming back around to finish the job. Even if it’s just a silly cooldown that I probably never used as much as I should have, I’ll still miss it.

Scatter Shot

Once upon a time, back when I spent a lot of time in Warsong Gulch while levelling my hunter, I was defending the flag in the Alliance base. An orc hunter named Dar (not to be confused with the awesome mage Darista, whom we all called Dar) came up the tunnel with a feral druid named Elu and, while I called it out (dude, I had humanoid tracking on and was shadow melded and was watching Dar’s dot come up the tunnel), I was unable to prevent them from taking the flag. Why? Because when I gave chase, I was suddenly disoriented. I lost control of my character. “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?” I yelled at my computer. As I waited to be resurrected (Dar managed to DESTROY me), I scrolled up in my combat log. “Scatter Shot?” I said, “What in the hell is Scatter Shot?”

As a hunter, I knew I must have had the same abilities as Dar, who was about the same level as me, so I found it in my spellbook and put it on my bars AND YOU BET YOUR ASS I Scatter Shotted him every single time I saw him thereafter.

It’s another shot I rarely use, mostly just to prevent spellcasting if Counter Shot or whatever is on cooldown, but I’ll miss it, too.

Silencing Shot

I remember getting Silencing Shot. I believe I spent some time in the Western Plaguelands playing with casters as I learned how to use it. Counter Shot is fine, I guess, and I understand this is part of the larger picture of no longer having silences ATTACHED to interrupts, but it’ll be missed.

Serpent Sting

Oh, Serpent Sting. I think I’ll miss you, most of all! Hunters used to have a fair number of “stings”. Serpent Sting has always been around and it used to be terrible and not worth the debuff slot on mobs in Molten Core, for example. Scorpid Sting helped reduce the target’s chance to hit (and before that, reduced their Strength and Agility by a certain amount). Viper Sting was a mana drain. Wyvern Sting, a Survival-only (for so long) form of CC. I always thought that stings could be a REALLY interesting mechanic for hunters, that Survival hunters, in particular, could be a great DoT class, right up there with warlocks. Instead, they’ve already removed Scorpid and Viper, Wyvern is a talent and now out goes Serpent Sting. It was one of the very first abilities I gained as a hunter and I remember being awestruck and fascinated at the green vapours that appeared on the recipient of my sting.

I think this is the one choice that I don’t really understand. Serpent Sting isn’t automatic. It’s a deliberate choice one makes when they’re attacking the target. Not using Serpent Sting at all, or as much as you can (aiming for 100% uptime), is, well, silly, but it’s also the sign of a not-great hunter (at least on single-target fights). While we all SHOULD use Serpent Sting and aim for that 100% uptime, I’m sure many people don’t. Since it’s not automatic like Hunter’s Mark (unless you’re Survival and using Multi-Shot — which, by the way, will still exist!), I don’t see why Serpent Sting is going away. Is it bloat? Perhaps, I guess, but it’s not bloat like Aspect of the Hawk or Hunter’s Mark, both of which are either used 100% of the time due to lack of other options or are applied automatically. Even world-class players can’t always keep Serpent Sting up 100% of the time. It’s a bit of a mystery to me why this ability, which takes a bit of skill/practice to use properly, is being culled. Alas, poor Serpent Sting, I knew you well. /salute

What about Holy Paladins?

Honestly, good riddance to the Guardian of Ancient Kings as a holy cooldown. Adios, wings. Seeya, Divine Plea. I’m fine with all of these. (My jaw dropped into the apartment below me when I saw Druids are losing Innervate, so I was more prepared for our loss of Divine Plea.) I’m sure I’ll have more to say about healing, but for now, I’m pretty much okay with things. (Although Flash of Light and Holy Light healing for roughly the same amount feels wrong to me, but that’s another rant for another day.)

What do you think about the Alpha notes? Anything you’ll really miss?

But Wait, There’s More

Before I forget, my bio and first column are live over at SentryTotem.com! Every Tuesday and Friday, there should be a brand-new column from me about Guild Leadership. In fact, there’s a second column scheduled to go live today, so be sure to check it out sometime after noon Eastern, 9am Pacific. :)

DPSing vs. Healing

I started playing World of Warcraft in October of 2005, as a hunter named Kurnmogh. I primarily raided as a hunter throughout Vanilla, although I was certainly asked to swap to my alt holy paladin, Madrana, for several raids. (I remember healing Sulfuron and Golemagg in MC as Madrana, in particular, not to mention a couple of ZG clears and some AQ20 partial runs.)

When Burning Crusade came out, I dinged 70 on my hunter first. And then I didn’t really have any place to raid. So I dinged Madrana 70 and promptly got snatched up by a guild that was looking for healers. When that situation didn’t work out (8 of the 12 people on the main raid team in that guild got poached by another guild on the server), Majik, myself and a bunch of old Fated Heroes members (our Vanilla guild) formed Apotheosis.

Here’s the thing — I was so well-geared as Madrana, and we had so few healers, that I basically didn’t have a choice but to continue to heal as Madrana in raids.

It was okay. I wasn’t upset. It was very weird to me to progress as a healer, mind, but it wasn’t a problem for me. I just hadn’t really had the ability to choose what I wanted to do during BC. I mean, I wanted my guild to succeed, so I healed because I had the gear and because we needed healers. As time went by, I could have recruited another healer or two in order to replace me, but I didn’t. Over time, I’d made the decision that Kurn would get all the holiday titles and such (primarily for the free epic flying that came with the violet proto-drake) while Madrana would get all the raid titles and mounts and stuff. I’d made my peace with Kurn being my non-raiding character.

When Wrath of the Lich King came out, I was on the fence over what to do. I really enjoyed playing Kurn. I always had. So while I levelled Kurn to 80 first (as always, Kurn is the first to hit level cap), I was debating whether or not I’d raid as Kurn. Almost as soon as I dinged 80 on Kurn, I started levelling Madrana to 80. But I also dipped my toes into casual 10-man Naxxramas runs that my guildies were doing — as Kurn. I figured that it would be a good way to see if I wanted to change how I played the game.

It was the Abomination wing that made up my mind for me. We were trying to down Grobbulus. I’m sure most people in the 10-man raid were undergeared, not hit-capped and such, but we were dying to stupid things. People weren’t dropping things where they were needed to be dropped, adds were running amok and the like.

It was then that I realized that I was just one DPS. No matter what I did, I could not, single-handedly, kill everything. I was doing everything right and still, that was not enough. More to the point, it would never be enough. I, as a single DPS, would never, ever be enough to make up for all the other DPS in a raid situation.

By contrast, a single healer can make a huge difference. A massive difference. Our very first Vashj kill happened because I threw Lay on Hands on our sole remaining tank and it crit, buying us the precious few seconds we needed to get the kill. A well-timed cooldown here, a clutch heal there… Even one healer out of six or seven can make a huge difference, at least compared to one DPS out of 17. And, personally, I like being someone who really makes a difference on a fight.

Why am I talking about this?

I’ve been on a bit of an LFR binge. As of this writing, I have done all the LFRs relating to Tier 14 once. (And gained 5 Sigils of Wisdom and 8 Sigils of Power or something like that.) Of course, I’ve been doing these on my hunter, who has gotten a chunk of gear over the last few days. Madrana, much as I love healing with her, is still sitting pretty at 85, although it’s tempting to start the grind to 90.

We were on Wind Lord Mel’jarak and both tanks were dead by the three-minute mark. The fight continued for another four and a half minutes (total time was 7:22!) and I was literally mashing my buttons and trying to do anything I possibly could to get more damage out. At one point, I realized that was it: I could not put out any more damage. Everything (Rapid Fire, Murder of Crows, Stampede, agi potion, even my cat’s Rabid) was on cooldown and all I could do was wait for something to come back up and try to keep a perfect rotation while I waited.

As we whittled the boss down, I sat there thinking about how I could have made a difference as a healer. Maybe I could have kept at least one of the tanks alive. Maybe a druid would have given me Symbiosis, granting me a battle rez, allowing me to rez one of the tanks. The boss’ health kept dropping, I kept mashing my buttons and watching as OmniCC’s 1m started counting down in seconds on a couple of my abilities, rather than minutes.

Throughout it all, I knew that even that boost granted me by Rapid Fire and Murder of Crows was, ultimately, not the make-it-or-break-it portion of the fight. Even if the fight were extended by another 15 or 20 seconds, we would probably down it. Of course, it was LFR. In a normal or, more likely, heroic version of a fight where there are unforgiving enrage timers, DPS makes more of a difference. They have to put out a lot of damage or the entire raid will die. But even in those cases, I don’t think that I can ever feel as though I, personally, made a difference. Anyone can do damage. The fact that I’ve ranked on World of Logs on the majority of my LFR excursions, after not playing for 13 months, attests to that. ;)

There have always been jokes in my guild, and among my friends, that I’ve always wanted to raid as my hunter. I got teased a lot about it in Cataclysm as new people would join the guild and go “what the fuck, you don’t raid as Kurn but you want us to call you that and you refer to your non-raiding character as your main? What is up with THAT, you freak?!” (Well, perhaps they were a bit more polite than that, at least until they’d been in the guild for a while.) People made the assumption that because I wanted them to call me Kurn and because Kurn was my so-called “main”, that I wanted to raid as Kurn.

Nope. Healing is my preferred raid role. I could easily blame it on being used to healing, but that wouldn’t really be honest. I like being someone who is a difference-maker. That’s not to say DPS can’t make a difference, because they can — we had lots of people in Apotheosis whose presence would be the key to downing a new fight. But individually, I personally feel a lot more useful as a healer than as a DPS.

The fringe benefits (shorter queues for various content) are nice, too, but, for me,  it’s really all about keeping those other people alive so THEY can do crazy amounts of damage, as a solid group of 17ish DPS. As for myself, I’ll take being part of a kick-ass team of healers over disappearing into the huge group of DPS any day of the week.

As for my plans for the last three days of this trial: I have one mob left for the Glorious! achievement and I plan to try to do all of Throne of Thunder and Siege of Orgrimmar’s LFRs over the course of the weekend. (Wish me luck!) And I’d also like to get Gold Proving Grounds, too. :)

What are you doing in WoW this weekend?

Apotheosis (A-25m-2/8HM, seeking casters and a resto shaman! </shamelessplug>) got Heroic Hagara down as a server-first and our next target is Heroic Yor’sahj the Unsleeping.

Assuming holy paladins are in the mix, a popular healing strategy is to beacon the tanks and heal the pets in the raid, because heals from Beacon of Light do not stack Deep Corruption and pets don’t receive stacks of Deep Corruption.

The question came up, the other day, about whether or not a hunter should use a Tenacity pet, who has the Blood of the Rhino talent. Would the lower DPS be worth 40% extra healing to a pet and then, ostensibly, 20% extra healing to the tank through Beacon of Light?

This was a popular strategy back on Valithria Dreamwalker. You would park a turtle or some other Tenacity pet with the same +healing talent basically on top of Dreamwalker or right next to her and you’d heal the pet for extra healing done. Unfortunately, this stopped being viable eventually when they fixed Blood of the Rhino to only affect the pet and no copied heals from that (ie: Beacon of Light).

But that was back in 3.3. Did 4.3 mean this was somehow working again?

I bothered Daey to get on his holy paladin, Saerani, while I was on Kurn and we experimented with him beaconing me and healing my pet. The first pet he healed was my cat, Whisper, who has no +healing talents at all, being a Ferocity pet.

So you can see here that Daey hits Whisper for 55355 (crit). This bounces to me for 27677, which is just half of that heal. (Yeah, I miss 100% Beacon transfers, too!) The same with the 27672 hit, that gets me for half — 13836. That is totally expected. This is the control for the experiment. Now let’s look at Daey healing my bear, Fozzie.

First, note that the non-crit heal hits for 40,102. Based on the heals Whisper got, it’s clear that Fozzie has the Blood of the Rhino talent if it hit him for a 40k non-crit.

But then you see that the heal to me was only 14322.

MATH TIME.

14322 x2 = 28644 x 1.4 = 40,101.6 = 40,102.

So the original heal size, without the Blood of the Rhino bonus was 28644. With the 40% extra healing, we get 40,101.6 (rounded up to 40,102). If this +healing did transfer through Beacon of Light, we wouldn’t see me being healed for half of the original heal’s size. We would see it be half of the final heal’s size. The final heal was 40,102, so we would be looking for 20,051 as the heal that I got. But alas, I was only healed for 14,322.

Let’s see how this holds up with the next heal.

Fozzie is healed for 71865. I get healed for 25666.

25666 x2 = 51,332 x 1.4 = 71,864.8 = 71,865

Yup, same deal.

So it’s quite clear — Blood of the Rhino does not transfer any extra +healing from the pet to the Beacon of Light target. As such, on the Heroic Yor’sahj the Unsleeping encounter, I do encourage you to beacon the tanks and heal the pets, but don’t gimp your hunters’ DPS by forcing them to bring a Tenacity pet to the raid. Their regular pet will do exactly the same thing a Tenacity pet will.

Once a hunter…

This happened back on Thursday, but I felt compelled to write this down somewhere because it delighted me so very much.

We took a ten-man group into Bastion of Twilight to play with Halfus Wyrmbreaker (worst. combo. ever. Slate, Storm and Whelps.) and we got to the enrage, which I view as a moral victory.

The trash, the initial trash, was painful. We wiped a few times on it. The first group, not a problem. But we had trouble pulling the second group without pulling either side.

Finally, I watched my tanks as they pulled and I realized what the issue was. They were cheating to the left side and pulling the left side of trash as well as the second group of central trash.

We released. We ran.

“Stand back,” I said. “I’m pulling.”

“Wait. YOU’RE pulling?!” exclaimed my brother, one of our tanks.

“Yes.”

“Okayyyyy.”

Well, why not, right? I have a 35y range on my judgements, I have a bubble.

So I was on the steps, smack dab in the middle of the staircase and ran up to pull the pat as they turned away.

Et voila. Just pulled those four (or five?) mobs. Ran back and bubbled and that trash group died quickly.

Playing a hunter for five years, even if I don’t raid as one most of the time, has instilled in me good pulling habits. I can pull off “risky” pulls that others dare not attempt because I know how to pull properly. Not to say that my guildies or my tanks that night don’t, but there’s a certain something about knowing the angles and typical mob behaviour that can’t really be adequately communicated. It’s just something you learn.

There was a pull I loved (and hated) in Strat Live. I don’t even know if the pull still exists. It was after the rat cage. There was an Abomination that patted left and right and if you pulled it at the wrong time, you’d get a group of trash as well as the Abom and, back in the day, that was almost certainly a wipe. Nailing that pull took me a long time and a lot of practice, but at a certain point, I was able to snag that Abom perfectly every single time.

I know WHY my tanks kept pulling the sides. They didn’t want to stand right in the middle and risk getting both sides. In their defense, I think the safe zone at the top of the stairs in the beginning of Bastion of Twilight is maybe 5 yards wide. Too far left, you get the left group. Too far right, you get the right group. I was definitely taking a chance in standing in the middle, but my hunter instincts were like “just stand in the middle”. I couldn’t even explain why. I just knew.

There’s a certain je ne sais quoi that you get after playing this game for a while. You might not know the trash at all, but you learn to watch for healing spells on mobs with mana bars. You learn to watch for cleaves on mobs with large weapons. You learn how to position yourself and your group and the mobs for a pull.

It’s like you’re playing pool and you see your opponent trying to sink a ball from across the table. And you know the angle’s not right. It looks okay, but you KNOW that the 4 is not going to get sunk. You KNOW it’s just going to ricochet off the side.

It’s about instincts.

I may not have been on my hunter on Thursday and I don’t even know when or if Kurn will ever see the inside of Bastion of Twilight, but, by golly, making that pull is why I still call myself Kurn. :)

It felt pretty damn awesome. :)

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