Thursday, March 27, 2008

Solarian down

Following our success with Al'ar, we surged on to Solarian and taught her a lesson about sun safety.

Solarian is actually pretty straightforward, as long as no-one blows the raid up when they have Wrath of the Astromancer cast upon them. Deadly Boss Mods and Bigwigs are useful, but they're no substitute for staying alert and reacting quickly. A few times we had healers concentrating a little too hard on everyone's health meters, and blam, it was raining men. Well, orcs, taurens, elves, trolls and undead at least.

It also appears that Solarian is like Aran in the way that she casts spells against random targets, including pets. For hunters this means that your pet will probably get clocked and may need copious heals, but it also means that Solarian will target snakes from a Snake Trap as well. 6-8 decoy snakes copping her arcane missiles instead of raiders can save a lot of healer mana, and maybe even a few lives.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Finger Lickin' Good

After many attempts and frustrating evenings, The Endless finally downed Al'ar. Victory always tastes best with eleven secret herbs and spices.

Our biggest improvement was in picking up the adds in the second phase. Great work offtanks!

Al'ar didn't drop the Arcanite Steam-Pistol, but he did drop the Talon of Al'ar, a hunter-only trinket that at first glance looks amazing, but is actually pretty lame - the damage bonus doesn't apply to Auto shot. All three hunters in the raid passed on it, so it went down to a random /roll. The rolls were appallingly poor (reflecting our total lack of interest) but I managed to win the race. Hurrah.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Now What?

My guild The Endless are in TK and SSC at the moment, giving Lurker and Void Reaver a weekly belting. We don't have the tank resist gear to handle Hydross just yet, but we have been concentrating on Al'ar the Phoenix God - or as I like to refer to him, The Big Chook. Al'ar is a bit of a pain, but we've steadily improved our strategy and execution against him. Our best attempt is currently 17% in his second phase, and considering the way people are improving their gear and co-ordination, I think we'll get him down very soon.

The worrying thing is that if we don't get Al'ar down before 2.4 drops, we might not get him down at all. Since the attunement limitations for Hyjal and BT are being lifted, will we persevere with the big chook when we could be taking potshots at Rage Winterchill or High Warlord Naj'entus? Word on the street is that both these bosses are easier than Al'ar, and much much easier than crazy fights like Kael'thas or Lady Vashj. Is gearing up on the BT bunny bosses and then returning in triumph to roast Al'ar over an open flame the way to go, or are we jumping too far ahead? Even if one's guild is devoted to the noble goal of downing every boss in the game, it would make sense to knock off the low hanging fruit and then tackling the more difficult bosses with better gear.

In many ways the brave new attunement-less world of 2.4 is a dangerous one. I can see guilds breaking up over it, as the standard path of progression vanishes and leaves the kind of rudderless freedom one experiences during a drug-fuelled bender or national revolution. What can we do? Anything! We should we do? I have no idea! Let's shoot that guy and set him on fire! Yeah!

Monday, March 17, 2008

So You Want to PvP

PvP in Wow has certainly evolved from the days of random mass gankings in the shadow of Tarren Mill. Battlegrounds and Arena are now integral parts of the game, with torrid action and excellent item rewards attracting legions of players, casual or otherwise. The big problem for new players is that right now, everyone you're going to be fighting has at least some PvP gear. Plus, anyone with any sense wears their PvP gear while running around questing, which can make world PvP fairly lethal. Add in PUG premades often only letting in members with a certain resilience, and it's a hostile world for someone new to PvP.

The good news is that there's help on the way in patch 2.4, with the addition of new PvP Rare Item Sets. Items from these sets are purchasable from faction vendors at Honored reputation with Keepers of Time, Thrallmar / Honor Hold, Lower City, Cenarion Expedition, and The Sha'tar. This provides a relatively easy way for new players to get some basic PvP gear before stepping into the ring and having their faces pounded into mush.

Looking at the hunter set, it's pretty clear that the Stalker's Chain Battlegear isn't as good as the Gladiator's Pursuit in terms of stats and bonuses, but it does provide 86 points of resilience, and 35 more from the 2 piece set bonus. 121 resilience is an excellent starting point for a newbie PvPer, and its decent chunk of stamina doesn't go astray either. Good hunting!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Closer and Closer

With parts of the 2.4 on the Blizzard background downloader, let's take a quick look at the small list of hunter changes that will be hitting the live realms shortly. Apart from a few animation and display fixes, we have:
  • Hunter's Mark: Hunters with Improved Hunter’s Mark will now properly overwrite Hunter’s Mark cast by Hunters without the talent. Wow, this might be enough to undo part of my recent rejig and get Improved HM again if I can actually tell which mark on a boss is which.
  • Improved Mend Pet now has a 25/50 chance to remove one Curse, Disease, Magic, or Poison effect, up from 15/50%. Very nice for BM hunters, this stops situations where it's easier to let your pet die and rez him clean than deal with unpleasant debuffs.
  • Multi-Shot: This ability will no longer strike any secondary targets which are under the effect of crowd-control spells that break on taking damage. i.e. Polymorph, Sap, etc. I'm not sure I like this one - talk about easy mode! Note that the change says secondary targets, which I translate as meaning that multi will still break CC if you target a CCed mob directly, but it will certainly make multi a lot more useful in raids, instances and even PvP, where at least one enemy is CCed.
  • Track spells will now persist after death. This isn't particularly earth shattering, but it makes life easier, particularly in battlegrounds.
That's it for 2.4 for hunter mechanics - not a lot, but a few interesting ones. The multi change dumbs things down a bit, but to be honest multi-shot was fairly underused in most circumstances. This change will make it more popular, and stop huntards everywhere from embarrassing themselves.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I'd had the Belt of the Black Eagle on my shopping list for a while, and I'd expected to either buy the pattern off the AH or have it drop for me, and then wrestle hordes of guild druids for the vortexes in SSC or TK. What I didn't expect was to see the belt itself on the AH for 800g, and actually have enough cash in my Shiny Items Fund to snap it up right then and there.

Obviously the Vindicator's Chain Girdle is better for PvP, but the Black Eagle will do very nicely for my raid set thank you very much. I fully expect that now that I have the item, the pattern for it will drop in tonight's raid, but that's okay.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I respecced last night before we took on Al'ar and Void Reaver, but before Chain Trap and BRK get all excited, I'm sticking with Marksmanship for now. The talents I dropped were:

Trap Mastery 2/2 - I'm doing less heroics these days, so the extra trap resist is less important. I've also got a lot more armour and HP, so if a trap gets resisted I'll probably survive and be able to kite the mob around.

Improved Hunter's Mark 5/5 - This was a tough choice. The talent adds 110AP to all melee attacks on the marked mob, which can add up to quite a bit if you have a large cadre of rogues and DPS warriors. Our raids don't seem to have that many melee classes though, and most of the time another hunter marks the boss and invalidates the buff, so I think I'll let this one slide.

Barrage 3/3 - I don't tend to use Multi-shot much in raids because of the chance of breaking CC, and I don't use it on bosses because of its mana inefficiency. I do use it in PvP whenever I can get myself into a decent position, but this isn't very often.

With the 10 extra points, I grabbed these talents:

Efficiency 2/5 - I already had three points in this talent, so I added two more points to help with my raiding mana issues. I'll still be potting aggressively, but it will give me a bit more headroom.

Go For The Throat 2/2 - This one's a bit of an experiment in boosting my pet's damage. I crit pretty regularly, so this talent should give him a lot more focus to burn on Bite and Claw. In long boss fights, this hopefully will add up.

Improved Stings 5/5 - Another experiment, with a mainly PvP focus. With these five talent points, Viper Sting will burn 1778 mana off an enemy, and reduce the chance to dispel it by 30%. It also ups Serpent Sting's damage by 30%, which makes it a bit more formidable and efficient. I might even use it in raids if I'm in a group with a mana regenerating buddy.

Combat Experience 1/2 - A small overall buff to Agility and Intellect, which means a few more points of RAP, a teensy bit of crit and a tad more Intellect, which gives me a little bit more mana.

It'll be interesting to see how much actual difference these changes make. Improved Stings in PvP will probably be the most visible, although if Go For The Throat works the way I hope it might it might boost my pet's damage significantly in long battles. Cross fingers!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Cruel World

Despite many moments of temptation, I managed to save up the huge pile of honor points required for this little beauty:

When I bought it, I felt a little bit let down. 30,000 points is an awful lot, and although there's an enormous amount of crit and an excellent PvP activation ability on it, I wondered how often I'd really use it. Well, it turns out that the answer is a lot. I seem to pop this once per Arena game without fail, and quite regularly while running around in battlegrounds. Being able to thwart an enemy's "one more shot and this guy is dead" calculations is worth a mountain of gold, particularly if it gives me enough time for Scatter Shot to come off cooldown, or my druid arena buddy to land a nice fat heal.

For raiding, this trinket isn't bad either. The crit is lovely, and the ability can provide a few extra delicious seconds of survival to grab a lifesaving heal from a raid healer. So far, I've used it after Lurker's Geyser and Tidewalker's Watery Graves, and I'm expecting to use it against Void Reaver's orbs and Al'ar's meteors and adds too. Note that if your HP is under 1750 when the time runs out, you don't die - you're left with one HP, which can be a little unnerving.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Future Weapons

Hunters are always on the lookout for a better ranged weapon, since every standard shot we make is modified by its quality. Going from an 83 DPS bow to a 93 DPS bow will actually increase your overall DPS by 20, because Auto and Steady Shot both get a 10 DPS boost. Note that Arcane Shot's damage is calculate from Ranged Attack Power only, so the damage of your ranged weapon doesn't matter at all when you're using that type of shot.

The next step up from my current Sunfury Bow of the Phoenix is probably the Arcanite Steam-Pistol from Al'ar. I honestly hadn't even considered this puppy until recently, when The Endless got the big chook to 42% in his second phase. It's a small damage upgrade, but it's one I'd jump on in a second if it actually drops.

Also on my radar is the Merciless Gladiator's Crossbow of the Phoenix, from Arena season two. There's no personal rating limitation on this any more, but at 3261 arena points, it's expensive. That's around 13 weeks of arena play at our usual 1400ish rating. Considering it would only be a minor upgrade and the points would be better spent on Vengeful gear, it's unlikely I'll follow this one through.

The next option is the current season's ranged weapons, the Vengeful Gladiator's Heavy Crossbow, Longbow and Rifle. These are a serious step up in damage, and well worth the 3750 arena points. They also require a rating of 1850, which is pretty impossible for an arena bunny like myself, although the rating restrictions for S2 were removed when S3 launched. This will probably not be the case when S4 launches, with the word on the street being that S3 main weapons and shoulders will still have rating requirements, but they will be lowered. It's also good to note that Season 4 will probably launch a significant amount of time after 2.4 launches too, which will further delay any chance of me getting my hands on one of them.

Probably the most likely and worthwhile upgrade is the super swanky Crossbow of Relentless Strikes which will be available from Smith Hauthaa for 150 Badges of Justice. I'm at 74/150 right now, which will probably mean another 7 weeks of collecting at my fairly casual rate of 10 badges a week. Note that these new items won't be available straight away - Smith Hauthaa only appears in phase three of the Shattered Sun Offensive, which is progressed by everyone on the server completing dailies on the island of Quel'Danas. I'll be there doing my part, let me tell you.

As for weapons like the Serpent Spine Longbow from Vashj or Legionkiller from Supremus, I know they exist but I'm not devoting any brainspace to them, as I'm just not likely to see them any time soon. Even the Ancient Amani Longbow from ZA isn't likely to fall into my hands without a dramatic change in my schedule, and by the time that happens I hopefully will have already upgraded.

Monday, March 3, 2008

You're Late

I'm mainly running Kara for Badges of Justice these days, although I do have a small list of items that have never dropped for me. That list became significantly smaller last Thursday when Legacy and Garona's Signet Ring finally came my way. Legacy is the classic object of lust for hunters everywhere. It's the reason that Kara raiding hunters get a little thrill deep inside every time The Crone pops up in the Opera event rotation. When I finally got it, I felt like I should make a speech thanking god, the academy, and dedicating the run to Heath Ledger.

The problem is, after running some numbers and making some comparisons, the Vengeful Gladiator's Waraxe is simply much better, even for raiding. Giving up hit rating and over 1% of crit just hurts too much, even though the 8mp5 would be nice. I'm definitely just scraping by in the mana stakes, and that's 600 extra mana in a 10 minute boss fight. The pure agility on Legacy is great though, so there's a chance I might use it if I ever respec Survival, but for now it goes over my fireplace.

As for the signet ring, it's yet another solid piece of hit gear that has allowed me to shuffle a few things around for my raid set, making it:

Vengeful Gladiator's Waraxe
Sunfury Bow of the Phoenix
Vengeful Gladiator's Chain Helm
Shoulders of Lightning Reflexes
Ebon Netherscale Breastplate
Vindicator's Chain Bracers
Gauntlets of Sniping
Vindicator's Chain Girdle
Shifting Camouflage Pants
Boots of the Crimson Hawk
Vengeance Wrap
Violet Signet of the Master Assassin
Garona's Signet Ring
Vindicator's Pendant of Triumph
Darkmoon Card: Crusade
Bloodlust Brooch

There's an awful lot of PvP gear in there now, which is interesting. I'd really like to craft the Belt of the Black Eagle now that I have access to Nether Vortexes, but I haven't seen the pattern on the AH for months. It would be nice for it to actually drop in SSC / TK, but just like Legacy, I haven't been lucky with it.