Thursday, February 28, 2008


It took The Endless seven tries to get Lurker down last night, which was almost enough to make me throw my leather raiding shorts in the bin and stick to Karathons for heroic badges until 2.4 drops. The crazy thing was that we probably had our best trash clear ever, with Hydross and Lurker groups going down like wheat in a hurricane. When we hit Lurker though, it was a disaster. People were dying on Spouts, rogues were getting one-shotted on Whirls, and adds were running amok everywhere. We really didn't deserve to get him down, but somehow we managed it.

We did discover that it's possible and sometimes even desirable to keep the island adds sheeped for pretty much the entire fight. Our DPS seemed to be lacking for some reason (possibly too many people already dead), and when a new wave arrived, any adds that were still alive weren't replaced. CCing them for the entire fight therefore becomes a decent strategy, although things can get messy if one pops out and immediately multi-shots players who are already low on health.

Nights like that one make me wonder why I even try to raid, but at least we got the bloody fish down. There was also one other fairly amazing bonus too - two Nether Vortexes dropped, so I got to make another kickass druid tank belt for a guildie. Grats Gopala!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Grats Kyo

The second Nether Vortex dropped the other night, so I finally got to make Kyodru his mega mondo druid tanking belt of gnarly stuff.

Of course he was drooling all over the place... and I felt pretty good about being able to make something powerful for a guildie. After 2.4 I expect this belt to become the standard for most druid tanks, so I'll have to come up with a decent crafting price when the queues begin. I'm thinking 50 gold for non-guildies, but it really depends on how many other people have the pattern on Barthilas.

Friday, February 22, 2008

More Haste, Less Rush

There are a tonne of items with Haste rating bonuses dropping in 2.4, which prompts a short examination of the stat and specifically how it affects hunters. Obviously it increases the rate at which we can make physical attacks, but what does that actually mean? Let's start with the basic haste mechanics, which were last changed in patch 2.2. The formula since then has been:

Hasted Speed = Weapon Speed / (Haste bonus 1 * Haste bonus 2 * (1+ (Total Haste Rating / 1576)))

Note the reference to both Haste bonus and Haste rating. These are two different things, and different abilities and items contribute to them. Attack speed increases from quivers and ammo pouches count as a bonus, as does the Beast Mastery talent Serpent's Swiftness, the hunter ability Rapid Fire and the Shaman spell Bloodlust. The Drums of Battle temporarily adds to the haste rating, as do items like my rather lovely Shoulders of Lightning Reflexes.

This formula applied to my current raiding gear is:

Hasted Speed = Sunfury Bow of the Phoenix / (Quiver of a Thousand Feathers * (1+ (Shoulders of Lightning Reflexes / 1576)))
Hasted Speed = 2.90 / (1.15 * (1+ (37 / 1576)))
Hasted Speed = 2.90 / (1.15 * 1.0234)
Hasted Speed = 2.46, which is just what it says on my Auto Shot tooltip. Yay!

It's good to note that Steady Shot's speed is also affected by haste, even though it doesn't say it on its tooltip. Its cast time is 1.5 seconds, which makes the formula for me:

Hasted Steady = 1.5 / (1.15 * 1.0234)
Hasted Steady = 1.27

This is a pretty essential mechanic, particularly if you're a BM hunter. If it was locked at 1.5 seconds, BM Hunters with full Serpent's Swiftness would lose the ability to weave Steady whenever they were Bloodlusted or popped Rapid Fire! So, Steady must accelerate as well.

Now that we've covered how haste works, we can look at what haste actually does. With 105% haste, you make 105 attacks in the time you would've usually made 100, which means a 5% increase in damage per second. This is good stuff, and this increase is a multiplier, which can means that the damage increase from haste gets larger as your gear gets better. If you do 500 DPS normally, a haste increase of 5% will take you to 525 DPS - an increase of 25DPS, which is equivalent to an extra 350 AP using the standard 14AP = 1 DPS conversion. If you do 700 DPS normally, the same 5% haste increase will take you to 735DPS - an increase of 35 DPS, which is equivalent to an extra 490 AP. That's pretty great stuff, so the more haste the better right?

Well, not exactly. The first downside of haste for hunters is that because we're firing faster, we're using mana faster. In endurance fights, this can be a problem. With a lot of haste, you're going to have to be very aggressive with mana pots, and possibly make use of Superior Mana Oil. Boxes in talents like Efficiency and Thrill of the Hunt also help. If you're still having troubles, Aspect of the Viper is your friend.

Haste also isn't that useful in Arena or Battlegrounds, unless you have a significant chunk of it. If you've got a very respectable 158 points of haste rating (a 10% speed increase) you're going to fire 10 shots in your standard time of 9, which will certainly help in bursting someone down, but it's unlikely you'll get the chance with all the interrupts, stuns, fears, traps, charms, intimidations and blinds flying about like doves in a John Woo movie. Personally, I'm going to concentrate on Stamina and Resilience, but I can see that half a second in the Arena can mean the difference between a win or a loss, not to mention peppering a caster with shots can almost halt their spells entirely.

There's also a limit to the amount of haste that can be stacked before it starts messing with a hunter's shot rotation. Auto Shot has a 0.5 second hidden cast time, which reduces the time Steady has to fire without delaying the next Auto. The standard player to server latency is around 0.2 seconds, but for me in Australia it's more like 0.35 seconds. This means, with my current raid gear:

Auto Speed = 2.46
Steady Speed = 1.27
Real Steady Speed = 1.27 + 0.5 + 0.35
Real Steady Speed = 2.12

This leaves 0.34 seconds of time to safely absorb network blips and human error without clipping my Auto Shot. When everything is running smoothly, it even allows me to sneak an Arcane shot into that gap every few cycles, which is good for the DPS. Now, If I had 200 points of haste rating and a 2.7 speed weapon like the Wolfslayer Sniper Rifle, the numbers would be:

Auto Speed = 2.08
Steady Speed = 1.16
Real Steady Speed = 1.16 + 0.5 + 0.35
Real Steady Speed = 2.01

This leaves only 0.07 seconds of safe time, which isn't enough to avoid clipping, given network jitters and my inevitable late night reflex degradation. I'd also lose the ability to slide in Arcane shot. This is an extreme example, but it demonstrates that although haste is quite powerful, it ultimately has a limit. Weapon speed, talents, latency and shot rotation all play their part, as well as all the other stats and bonuses you'll be missing out on by specializing in haste gear.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Little Bit of 2.4

I've been meaning to get around to posting about the upcoming 2.4 patch for a while now, but every time I start to put something together, another tasty morsel is announced. Well, this what has caught my eye just for now.

Number one with a bullet are the new items purchasable with Badges of Justice. WowHead has posted them already, and I'm drooling like Homer with a jumbo box of donuts over the Gauntlets of Rapidity (75 Badges), the Scaled Drakeskin Chestguard (100 Badges), the Leggings of the Pursuit (100 Badges) and a ring named Angelista's Revenge (60 Badges). There's also one more item of such enormous power that I tremble at the mere mention of its name - the Crossbow of Relentless Strikes for 150 Badges. By Elune's petticoat, that's a lovely piece of hunter gear.

Naturally there are a lot of raiders QQing over T6-equivalent loot being bought for tokens that can be grabbed from mere Heroics and lowly Kara, but I disagree. Just one loot progression path caters for just one type of player, and one type of game. Battleground loot creates a different game, as does Arena loot. Even crafted loot creates a different game (more on that in a bit). Having many ways to get geared does tend to wreck the "BT gear = I am awesome" rules, but they were always a bit stale and simplistic. It also means there's a better pool of talent for raiding guilds, which is good... right?

A new area is coming, called the Isle of Quel'Danas, with a 25 man raid instance called The Sunwell Plateau contained therein. This instance is above Black Temple in difficulty, which makes it Very Scary Indeed. I have no illusions about running through there, but there are a number of pretty amazing patterns that drop in the instance, and I hope to see the Embrace of the Phoenix on the AH soon. Holy goblin pornography batman, that's a sweet item. There's also a 5 man instance called Magister's Terrace, which is meant to be around Shattered Halls / Shadow Labyrinth difficulty. There's a nice hunter chest piece called the Hauberk of the Warbringer (no Wowhead link yet) in there, so I might have to check it out.

Of particular interest to me is the news that Primal Nethers and Nether Vortexes are becoming bind on equip in the patch. This unlocks numerous patterns for all levels of player, and creates a few interesting little economies within the game. Vortexes are also purchasable with 15 Badges and 7 gold, which is another good use of Badges if you really want one.

2.4 also sees the attunements for Hyjal and Black Temple removed, which allows mere mortals to see those instances before the expansion launches. This is cool, although extremely unpopular with the raiding crowd for obvious reasons. They're also removing the requirement of downing all the other bosses before fighting Vashj and Kael'thas in their respective instances. This removal is fine with the Burning Crusade winding up now, but I hope they keep the occasional attunement in WotLK. I hope they avoid the "kill the final boss in this instance and you can progress to the next instance" thing though - that's an obviously artificial barrier.

PvE tokens can also be used to buy PvP gear, with Tier 4 tokens equating to S1 Gladiator's gear, Tier 5 and 6 tokens buying S2 Gladiator's gear, and Tier 6 Sunwell tokens buying S3 belts/bracers/boots. The ever-useful Badges can also be used to buy S2 battlegrounds armor. Is there anything Badges can't do?

Obviously, that's a small slice of what I've seen around the traps for 2.4. MMO Champion is probably the best place for more details. Whee!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Current Addons

I played WoW for a very long time without any addons at all, which I think was a good thing. It's healthy to get an idea of how the basic interface works, and then add to it, particularly as there are a ridiculous number of addons out there that do all sorts of stuff. I'm a bit of a minimalist, and only run the few extra addons that I think I really need. For now, those are:

Omen The most important tool in a Hunter's arsenal, it tracks the threat of everyone in your group. It shows when you can DPS hard, when you need to Feign Death to clear your threat, and even when Feign Death is resisted! I prefer Omen to KTM because of the separate threat targeting, too.

Deadly Boss Mods Vital for raiding, it displays countdown bars and warning for various boss abilities. Being aware of deadly events and changes in phase in these fights is invaluable.

Auctioneer Classic This addon builds an internal database of item prices on the AH, and displays average prices in tooltips. It's a bit dependent on how often you run a scan, but it's worth its weight in gold (literally) when trying to price an item you're unfamiliar with. Personally, I prefer the Classic version of Auctioneer.

Mapcoords (Updated) A small addon that shows simple co-ordinates on the main map screen, both for the character and pointer.

OmniCC I used to run CooldownTimerBars for ages, but recently made the switch and am quite pleased so far. Instead of shrinking bars like DBM, this mod adds a numeric countdown on the action bar and on items in your bags. I find this works better for me, as my eyes are on my action bars during most fights. It also adds a numeric debuff countdown on mobs, which is excellent for keeping Stings and Hunter's Mark up.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Good, Bad, Ugly

I'm still having all manner of problems with my ADSL in the evenings, which is making WoW a bit of a nightmare. Everything dropped out at exactly 7pm (just when the SSC raid was being formed) and after an hour on the phone with IINet tech support going through the standard routines, they agreed that there really was a fault, and that someone from second level support would give me a call back in the next 24 hours. Then at 8:45pm, the line came up and everything was peachy again.

I didn't hold a lot of hope for getting back into SSC, but I managed to swap in just after the Lurker trash was cleared. We wiped once, and on the second go downed the salty old bugger. It was an eventful fight too, with Lurker submerging on 1% health, and leaving many in the raid thinking he was dead as a new wave of adds arrived and wrecked havoc. A few surprised people went down in screaming heaps, but we managed to CC enough of them to stay alive and polish the big guy off when he came up for air.

Getting Lurker down was good stuff, both for the raiders involved and for the guild as a whole. It's much harder for parasite guilds to poach players when we're actually downing bosses. The loot was good too - the main tank got his Mallet of the Tides, and I scored the leatherworking Pattern: Belt of Natural Power. Apparently this makes the best druid tanking belt in the game, and one of our feral druids went a little nuts when it dropped. I've promised to make it for him when I get the two Nether Vortexes (vortices?), although I really have no idea when that will be. TeePee rightly pointed out that the druid should have to pay DKP for me to get the Vortexes for the purpose of making the belt, as there are probably other people who want them as well. This seems to make sense - I hope people understand the process.

Getting that belt pattern suddenly makes me very, very attractive to feral druids, which makes the recent Feral Guard comic even funnier. Ladies, the line starts to the left. Wait, the Horde's druids are all Tauren! Runnnnnn!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Get Up Off the Canvas

Last night was one of those nights where everything seemed to go wrong. The Endless ran SSC for the first time since our top raiders left, with the intention of downing Lurker. It was always going to be rough, but things went completely gnome-shaped for me when I joined the raid - my ADSL went down and flopped about like a dying fish for the next two hours. I could see it bringing up the line, trying to connect and dropping out repeatedly, but when I finally got through to support, they only had the standard "power cycle your router" crap. It eventually fixed itself, but I am no longer the huge fan of IINet that I once was. You let me down, you bunch of spanner crabs.

When I finally got back in, I swapped for Ozziehunter, who was having serious framerate issues. The poor guy only gets 15 fps in the Arena starting rooms, so A'dal only knows what a 25 man raid was doing to his system. The group was only just clearing the final trash mob group near Lurker when I made it inside, with the respawn timer running down. This was due to the main tank regularly disconnecting in the middle of battle and wiping the raid, which in turn was due to his broadband being capped, which was due to his brother downloading 50GB of porn and blowing his monthly quota. He's clearly the best-geared tank we have in the guild, but stuff like that just wastes everyone's time.

We ended up having only one shot at Lurker, and although it was pretty ragged, we managed to get him down to about 60%. I'm going to suggest that we divide the raid into groups next time, with each group having three dps, one tank and a healer, all assigned to a particular island. I fell through the cracks with respect to healing, and bought the farm when I got Geysered into the scalding water.

After we called the SSC run, the world server crashed, which was nice. After that, we got a Kara group together to finish off Nightbane and Netherspite, but couldn't manage anything better than five wipes on NB before everyone gave up. The tank was having trouble with his stance-dance macros, and we seemed to have all kinds of bother getting the skeletons down.

About this time, I was feeling pretty despondent. All I had for the evening was a big repair bill and a headache, but I decided that leaving the night at such a low ebb was unhealthy. Getting clobbered sucks, but getting back off the deck, dusting yourself off and getting some stuff done is the sign of good character, even if it's small. To that end, we got our ten 3v3 Arena games in, even though we had to find a sub for Ozziehunter, as he had bailed for the evening. It was rough and frustrating, but we got there, and I feel better for it. Whew.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Hit Rating

I managed to get myself the rather nifty Gauntlets of Sniping the other day, for 60 Badges of Justice. I really should've grabbed these before the Shifting Camouflage Pants because of their excellent hit rating. I was stuck shuffling things around a bit for the last week or so, and it would've been nice to be able to fall back on those gauntlets to keep myself hit capped for raiding.

In case you're wondering, the hit rating cap for level 70 Hunters on level 73 raid bosses is 142, or 95 with 3/3 points in the Surefooted talent in the Survival tree. It's also possible to build a "trash raid set" based on the fact that trash is usually level 71 or 72, and needs less hit rating. This table should help a little:
Mob Level  Hit %  Hit Rating  Hit Rating (Surefooted)  

Note the huge jump from 72 to 73 - this explains how some Hunters flog all manner of head on trash, then take a severe hit in dps on bosses. You need 15.77 points of hit rating for each 1% to hit, so make sure you're covered.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Guild Drama

Unfortunately, The Endless had a bit of guild drama this week, with several of our top raiders (including the guild master) quitting and heading off to another, "more progressed" guild. This isn't exactly big news, but it tends to sting a bit for those left behind. The grass is always greener, and pretty much everyone talks up their guild at any opportunity, even if they're all a bunch of complete muppets.

Their departure leaves our raid crew with a number of serious holes that we'll either need to fill through recruiting, or through the development of existing members. The great thing was that after the initial dismay bomb, the remaining senior guildies leaped into action, organizing runs for ZA and Gruul, and even booking a Lurker run for next Monday. We successfully downed Gruul, but it was very messy and there were a number of wipes. I'll be pleasantly surprised if we punch Lurker in the gills, but the important thing is that we're all continuing to push forward.

I'm actually quite keen to run Zul'Aman, since I've only seen the first couple of bosses, and the loot is rather nice. Switching back to a ten man instance does seem like a bit of a step backwards, which isn't good for guild morale. It should help to gear people up though. Wish us luck.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


On a good day, a few games in Battlegrounds are excellent fun. They're done quickly, the action is fast and furious, and the ultimate honor point rewards are very good. Obviously having a decent set of PvP gear helps (200 resilience, woot!) but there's plenty anyone can do to help win the day, even if one's gear is lacking.

The fly in the ointment is the rampancy of premade groups (mostly Alliance in my Bloodlust battlegroup), where a number of players from one server form a team and join a battleground together. This as an idea is fine, as running battlegrounds with your mates is a core gameplay concept, and one Blizzard loves. The problem arises when premades are dialed up to their logical conclusion, with awesome PvP gear, a vent server, balanced class makeup, and razor-sharp strategy. Here's an example, where we didn't manage to score even a single point:

This is like going down to park on a Sunday with your mates to play social soccer, and having a team of guys turn up in uniforms, with a coach, and beat you 26-0. I suppose congratulations are in order, but neither team really got a lot out of the game, and when this happens game after game, it tends to sully the experience. Then by accident, I ended up as an extra with a Horde premade against an Alliance premade, and this happened:

The entire team left! Man, that's weak - they realized that another premade would be more of a challenge than a hapless team of randoms, so they left and chose to eat the Deserter debuff instead. Another day I joined a premade with some friends from a previous guild, and we came up against another premade:

Now, this Alliance team didn't leave. In fact, this was the best bloody fight I'd had in ages. Bodies were everywhere, bases were capped, stolen, defended, recapped, special teams would attack, feint, fall back, link up and attack in waves. We narrowly lost the game in the end, but it really was great fun. This is the way premades should be played - they should be matched up with other premades, and earn bonus honor points. Premades are tougher than pugs, so they should be rewarded accordingly.

Until this happens, I suppose I'm stuck with premades, although it does create perhaps the most satisfying feeling in the game - beating a premade with a pug. Ooooh, that's gotta hurt.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Axe-is of Evil

It took one extra week that it should've done, but I got my Vengeful Gladiator's Waraxe.

Seriously, no Hunter worth his or her salt should be without this puppy. It's 1000 Arena points, which is four weeks at a rating of 1226 in 3v3, or four weeks at a rating of 1434 in 2v2. If you can't manage that (and that rating for 3v3 is pretty easy), just do another week.

There's so much to love on this axe - hit rating, crit (46, holy crap), a tonne of stamina and a buttload of attack power. I'd forgotten just how much resilience is on it though. Wow. Now I just need to get it enchanted with Savagery before we run Gruul this evening.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Kara etc

I managed to finally get a good solid Kara run in on Saturday, which earned me a whopping 19 Heroic Badges and the Drape of the Dark Reavers. We downed everyone except Prince, who decided to stick his Infernals in an uncomfortable place (what... like the back of a Volkswagen?). That drape has some nice hit rating, and will allow me to shuffle a few things around for raids. It'll might even get a run in PvP because of its stamina bonus - my Vengeance Wrap is lovely, but has no stamina bonus at all, which is pretty icky for PvP.

It was really nice to get back into Kara again though, and put the hurt on those old, familiar bosses. I only raid Mondays and Wednesdays, and recently both those evenings have been filled with VR and Lurker runs, with a bit of Gruul on the side. Kara is the easiest way to get badges these days, and not being able to run it severely gimped my progression towards another piece of hit gear - the Gauntlets of Sniping. Now I'm just four badges away, which means that I don't miss Kara so much. I would've liked to down Prince and get that lovely Ring of a Thousand Marks though. Ah well, next time.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Great New Item

I saved my gold, checked the AH carefully, and finally went from this:

To this:

For the record, it's a Dell 2707WFP and it drops from the Dell store.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Very Early 2.4 Notes

MMO Champion have compiled a pre-release list of changes for the coming 2.4 patch that have been garnered from various blue posts on the forums. Some great stuff in there, although note that any of these may change in the time between now and when the patch goes live. Here are few highlights:
  • Patch 2.4 will remove the restriction for Ritual of Summoning that prevents you from summoning players into instances. Provided the player meets the instance requirements, you'll be able to summon them in from anywhere in the world. Fantastic. Less down time swapping groups members when raiding or running instances. Makes locks even more valuable.
  • Once every 24 hours, through Enchanting (not Alchemy) you'll be able to split a Void Crystal into two Large Prismatic Shards. This is through a new recipe that's being added in 2.4. Good stuff, the market for Large Prismatics has gone through the roof, and most guild banks are filled with unused Void Crystals.
  • Players will now be able to purchase level 70 Superior quality (blue) PvP items from reputation vendors in Outland. If these items are good, this will help solo players to make the leap to endgame content. Hopefully they will be reasonable.
  • Players can now only carry 80 Conjured Manna Biscuits at a time. Solid work, stop people from stealing all the pies.
  • We've reached a point where we're now confident that applying diminishing returns to honor is no longer necessary, and we're currently planning to remove it with the 2.4 patch. Plus, What the removal of diminishing returns means for you is that as soon as you defeat an opponent that rewards you honor, you will receive that honor, and you will be able to spend it right then. There will no longer be an estimate, and you will no longer need to wait until the next day until you can actually spend it. Your achievements through honor-based PvP will be instantaneous. Bloody excellent. No more silly estimates or click-overs - earn your honor and spend it then and there. Two thumbs up.
  • All 25-player raid bosses that drop set tokens will now drop an additional token! Groovy I guess, was it taking ages for people to get their T5 bits? Maybe.
  • All 25-player raid bosses will drop more gold. Good, running TK and SSC was costing me a tonne in repairs, and I get to feign death all the time.
  • Loot dropped by Doomlord Kazzak and Doomwalker has been changed to Bind on Equip. In addition, the cash dropped by these bosses has been significantly increased. Wow, nice. I look forward to seeing the Ring of Reciprocity, the Scaled Greaves of the Marksman, the Black-Iron Battlecloak, and the Barrel-Blade Longrifle on the AH.
This is only the initial list of things for 2.4, and some of them will change, but there's some positive stuff there, even before mentioning all the goodness of the Sunwell Plateau. Huzzah.