Friday, October 31, 2008

Holy Mackerel, Batman!

Next time you visit the scenic Scarlet Monastery, why not go fishing? (Gorilla not available to all characters.)

Extreme Monk-Annoying Fishing

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Huntard Corner: Misdirection and the Focus Frame

I know this is going to be old hat to some of you, but so what? This is about things I'm learning and/or that I think may help others learn about faster than I did.

Patch 3.0.2 brought focus frames, long a staple of many UI-modifying addons, into the stock user interface. Focus is essentially a secondary target, something you mark and can then target for all the usual sorts of things - shooting, hitting, casting, healing, etc. - without losing your primary target. The ability to select focus targets and then do stuff to them has always been there, available for macros and addons and directly issued slash commands, but invisible.

Now it's visible. You select your target, right-click, and there's Set Focus as an option. Voila! Its own little frame...which you can right-click to unlock and move it around. Here's what I'm doing with it at the moment:

Tivara and Her Amazing Focus Frame

In the upper left, Tivara's legs and her bright red and black boots. In the middle, the focus frame, moved to right above my action bars. In lower right, the aforementioned action bars.

The red circle marks Misdirect, with 5 seconds remaining on its cooldown. (That great big number comes courtesy of OmniCC, which I recommend even to people who generally avoid addons.) At the moment I took this screen shot I wasn't in a fight. At the start of a pull, I'd click Misdirect and then the frame for the tank - in this case, our fine huge bull orc Gargantax, whom you can't have because we love him. He's got Misdirect, I switch to the first pull target, put up Hunter's Mark, and my pet and I go to work. After Misdirect has cooled down again, I put my right hand over on the mouse and repeat the pair of clicks, while my left hand keeps up Serpent Stinging and Steady Shotting (or whatever it is I'm doing, depending on the enemy), then bring my right hand back to the keyboard. Gargantax gets extra threat, I get a bit less, and my routine isn't disrupted.

Now, you may not have ergonomic preferences anything like mine. I find that I am at my most responsive and productive when I mostly stay on the keyboard, but throw in mouse action from time to time. If you've never thought about your preferences, this is as good a time as any, too. :) Do whatever is handy for you to make your focus frame as accessible and convenient for you as my setup is for me and then use it a lot. Your groups will benefit. It's a hunter treat for the rest of them!

I Can See Kael'thas' House From Here!

Mostly this is an excuse to see how I like the results of doing some screenshot tweaking in Graphic Converter, but I also like the shot. A guildmate and I were doing the Kirin'Var Village quests, and I happened to look north from the church yard and realize, yup, there's Tempest Keep.

Tivara and Sagarmatha Eying Tempest Keep

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Huntard Corner: Fixing the Cower & Prowl Problem

Right now, the Cower and Prowl pet abilities are bugged. They'll be on every time you log in, whatever they were at when you logged out, and they'll turn on again when you make major transitions like entering instances or crossing between Azeroth and Outland. If you forget to check it every so often, you will end up with the horror and embarrassment of your pet dumping too much aggro.
The good news is that the fix is simple. It's a one-line command for each ability:
  • /petautocastoff Cower
  • /petautocastoff Prowl

You can put them in a macro, and then assign it a hotkey or button and mash it from time to time, and that'll get you through until the problem is fixed in a lasting way.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Quests You May Have Missed

A fair number of folks I know, including me, are or have been or are going to be leveling characters through the 60s as Lich King approaches. Path 3.0.2 reduced the cost of 60s levels by 30%, which allows for some fine-tuning: doing just stuff you find fun will move you along fine.

There's some great fun buried deep in various quest chains that a lot of folks either never did or maybe did with main characters long ago and have forgotten about. Here are some of my favorites; please feel free to use comments to suggest more.

Pilot a Fel Reaver!

Sure, it's only for five minutes, but the fact is that a quest - The Fel and the Furious, in both Horde and Alliance versions - lets you pilot a fel reaver and destroy infernals. You can fire missiles and do a couple of different attacks on the demons trying to stop you. It's glorious.

The quest chain is similar for both factions. You start by fighting infernals right outside your faction's main base (Horde or Alliance as may be). You'll go repeatedly to Legion Hold, and spend a while at the Deathforge, then back to Legion Hold. Finally you have the means to teleport to a remote Burning Legion infernal assembly base, way the heck on the north side of Shadowmoon Valley not otherwise accessible without flying mounts. There it is you meet your big chugging destiny.

Help a Village Full of Ghosts!

Way in the southeast corner of Netherstorm is Kirin'Var Village, founded by an offshoot group of the Kirin Tor. They wanted to do some good arcane work in the magic-rich environment of the Fields of Faralhon, but it got blown up and subjected to sustained mana-ravaging industrial-scale magic, and Netherstorm is what's left. The ghosts there, and the archmage who's the last living member of the expedition, need some help. You can do it. You can also, and I'm not making this up, escort a ghost cow back to the remains of her barn.

The quest chain's available to both Horde and Alliance. It starts with The Archmage's Staff, from high elf apprentice mage Ravandwyr, on the southwest side of Area 52. Once you get to Kirin'Var, there will be a lot of separate side quests; you'll want to have quest slots free for this.

I've Come to the Conclusion...

Sagarmatha Nesting

...that he be nestin'.

(I did not pose this picture. I was helping a guildmate with the arakkoa in northwestern Blade's Edge Mountains, turned around, and there the shot was. I just took it.)

Heroic Wolf Runners

Thanks to various real-life complications, it's been most of a year since I've done a heroic instance with any of my characters, and I've been missing that. Tonight I got to fix that, with a run to heroic Botanica:

Tivara, Timmorn, and Guildmates in Botanica

Tivara and Timmorn in Botanica

I have always loved draenei architecture since I first saw it, and still do.

I did quite well, I think! I had some problems with trapping - the usual "forgot to turn off auto-shoot" problem - but there were some real-life distractions on that. When it comes to damage, the numbers pleased me a lot. Tivara dished out about 550 dps overall, and Timmorn did about 245. And, of course, his Furious Howl enhanced the other damage dealers' performance. He was neck-and-neck in Recount's damage tracking with Samadhi's felguard, so I feel happy about that.

Even better, several of my guildmates feel a real urge to sweep up as many heroic-instance achievements as is feasible in the next couple weeks, so I hope to get in on that. Even when the loot isn't of particular interest, as was the case tonight, the rep and money are very nice.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I Feel Happy

This is not a profound post, particularly, but I think it's important. So much public discourse on, well, any subject with an organized or at least well-connected fandom is likely to end up dominated by complaints. Back when I was conducting a survey of White Wolf customers' thoughts about various prospects, I spent time browsing forums and newsgroups for a wide range of other hobbies, and ended up identifying a few constant elements.

#1. Net discourse skews toward complaints, because people happy with what they've got are more likely to be off doing their thing. Obviously this isn't a total domination sort of thing. There are some persistent, recurring focuses for happy talk, too. But taken overall, what you find in the forums (and blogs and whatever) is going to be weighted some toward dissatisfaction, because the people who can't or don't want to do the thing they're posting about have extra time on their hands.

#2. Net discourse skews toward hard-to-solve problems, because people who need easy or simple fixes get them quickly. A lot of people start their posting histories by needing help - a source of a particular yarn, interpretation of a crash log, credible evaluations of what this state's "organic" certification actually means, whatever. And a great many such people get what they're after and then don't hang around for other conversation. Any problem that's a recurring subject of conversation has a greater-than-otherwise chance of being something that's hard to solve, and that may not have a solution yet. Or it may be simple, but something that makes such trouble that there's a lot of ire built up around it.

#3. Net discourse skews toward people willing to do anything to win an argument. If you're prepared to toss aside honesty, consistency, temperance, and the like, you can crush a lot of people trying to disagreeing with you. In fact, you can make a lot of them give up not just on that argument, but on the whole forum. Of course, in the long run this leaves you with only your fellow lovers of toxic waste for regular company.

Blogs have some advantages over forums in this regard, in that they can be engaged in cross-site conversation but aren't as tightly bound together as any single forum. Still, some of the same forces are at work.

It's in this context that I note that I have, in many ways, a pretty miserable real life, and that, yes, I do use World of Warcraft as a source of escape. If the game ever becomes reliably more of a nuisance than a pleasure, I'll give it up. I've had times when I did need a hiatus for a little while to catch my notional breath, think about priorities, and try fresh runs around obstacles to satisfying play.

Right now, though, I am really deeply into a happy groove, just as I've got some fresh real-world stresses I won't belabor you with. (Mostly it's the personal ramifications of macro-scale economic and political junk. Boring, really, and painful only because I do have to deal with my little corner of it.) So the game is doing its job really, really well, in cheering me up and giving me engaging, happy things to think about.

I'm sure the repeated refrain must sometimes get a little tiresome. But I've done my time being a gloomy prognosticator. The fact is that I do feel very happy indeed about World of Warcraft, my characters, and the stuff I'm doing and seeing with them, and I intend to keep this blog a source of good cheer just as often as I think it's warranted. Which is, frankly, a lot, for now at least.

You've been warned. :)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

What the Scourge Event Means to Me

It means a gorilla fighting the undead:

Sagarmatha Vs The Scourge

I'll have more to say later, but for now: rock on, gorilla mio.

Friday, October 24, 2008

All These Mobs Will Be Lost in Time Like Tears in /Guild

Today I was riding around the Eastern Plaguelands, filling in Tivara's map for the exploration achievement, when I saw one of those very, very familiar rings of white stone with bubbling blood inside. Old-timers know what I'm talking about: the Blood of Heroes, needed in some old-time high-end crafting, which spawned two elite ghostly guardians. You'd be trundling along, minding your own business, and blam! You'd be deadized, if you weren't in some of that elite tiered gear. Many's the time I'd come over a hill and discover a Blood of Heroes pool on the downhill slope, by running over it.

So, full of curiosity, I flew over it with Tivara's swift broom mount. Nothing. I dismounted and had Sagarmatha run across it. Nothing. Went up to poke at it. And found...

A gear icon.

Brothers and sisters, you now have to deliberately click a Blood of Heroes pool to extract the blood.

Now all is desolation, sorrow, and nerfs.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Huntard Corner: Leveling a pet from 65 to 70

It's great watching a newly tamed pet jump from level 1 or 30 or 45 to 65 all in a flash. But then you've still got five levels to go. Of all the places I've tried leveling a newly tamed pet so far, I am happiest with the Death's Door region of southeastern Blade's Edge Mountains.

Tivara and Timmorn in Death's Door

It's a very compact place, it's easy to get to even with a very slow flying mount for both Horde (from Mok'nathal Village) and Alliance (from Toshley Station), and it's loaded up with mobs of level 68-69 - enough to generate good quick experience, not high or tough enough to be a pain to deal with - and with plenty of places to pause to rest, recuperate, go afk to read blogs for a few, or whatever. It's also a nice source of some Cenarion Expedition reputation along the way, thanks to a quest chain that starts with a damaged gas mask dropped by any of those fel corruptors who roam the area north of Toshley Station.

By the numbers, there's a good chance your level 70 hunter is Aldor. Something like two-thirds of level 70s who have an Aldor or Scryer reputation went with the Aldor. If so, then this is a good place for you: it's loaded with Marks of Sargaras. I've been raking them in at 30 or so per hour, on average, and sometimes better than that. But even if your hunter is Scryer or unaligned, the marks are worth gathering. They're in much shorter supply than Sunfury Signets, which means they auction at better prices. It's money on the hoof.

A couple of hours this morning, including idle time for blog reading, IM chatting, and like that, got me the 80 marks I needed to get Tivara to revered with the Aldor, and it got Timmorn (seen above gnawing on a Death's Might demon) from 66 to 68. Good stuff!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

An Alterac Valley Question

Today I've been in five matches settled by reinforcement depletion, all of them involving a gap of less than 100 reinforcements, four involving gaps of less than 20. What's up with that? Luck of the draw, a new flavor of the day, something else?

Giving the Cold Shoulder...With Lightning!

This is another entry in the "why I love reaping the benefits of better understanding of WoW via more directed, systematic play" file.

Tivara with Merciless Gladiator's Chain Spaulders

Merciless Gladiator's Chain Spaulders! That's my fourth piece of the season 2 PVP gear, which means I get the +35 resilience and also the 1-second reduction in Multi-Shot cooldown, plus more places to put gems. And yes, they really do spit lightning from time to time. Love this stuff.

So, Yeah, Ferocity Is Also Cool

Today my guildmate Marendyn and I provided some fine instancing cheesing for our friend's speed-leveled warrior Ugorok. As previously noted, speed-leveling tends to leave a character way short of proper gear. This generated some money and loot with which to fix that, along with letting Mar and Tivara get the Stratholme achievement.

And, of course, it's Hallow's End. What goes with Hallow's End? Pumpkin heads and glowing eyes, of course! Here's Tivara drinking up just before we go in through Stratholme's back door.

Tivara and Gorynych in Hallow's End

I'm tickled by this shot, for suggesting a growl-off between Gorynych and Marendyn that didn't actually take place:


I must say: while I love the tenacity pet for what it can do for me when I'm out and roaming around, it's awfully nice to leave the tanking to an expert and just make with the pew-pew for a while. Gorynych is not an optimal raid pet - I'm leaning toward a wolf for the group attack power buff for when I do more raiding - but he does dish out a lot of damage. It makes he happy to be an effective part of a team with people whose company I enjoy.

And, y'know. Dinosaur. Doesn't get better than fighting with dinosaurs.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Blogrolling: Blogatelle

Roleplaying in World of Warcraft is a fragile sort of endeavor. The game isn't exactly hostile to it, but neither is it particularly friendly to it, and the rules that would help protect better environments for it go mostly unenforced. So it takes some real determination to make it work.

Enter Blogatelle.

This is a group venture by folks with that determination. They talk about lore, its applications, and the nitty-gritty practicalities of roleplaying in WoW. If you're interested in that, check it out. Good reading!

And Now, The Results of That Quest

I've already written about how much I like being able to finish up tasks I either haven't before, or had a very hard time with before. I'm going to say it again!

Sunday night I got to finish off not one but two quest chains unfamiliar to me: the one in Netherstorm that leads to confrontation with demon overlord Socrethar, and the one in Blade's Edge Mountains that leads to shooting down portals in Death's Door and confronting the demon Baelmon the Hound-Master. I really love how well World of Warcraft presents really big things, and these massive, towering eredar commanders are just so much fun to watch and to fight.

As an added benefit, I got Tivara to revered with the Cenarion Expedition while doing the Death's Door chain. It's very nice to have the better grade of arrow, damage being my little friend.

This is just exactly where I want to be in these pre-Lich King weeks: seeing new-to-me sites, getting things I've wanted to do done, enjoying both solo ability and companionship.

Now it's time for draenei Cirna to get better at skinning, cooking, and fishing.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Some Gorilla Numbers

Tonight I thought to have Recount running during my Quel'danas dailies sweep, reset after the bombing run and the reinforcements attack.

My routine is to do the bombing run and naval battle first, then a loop to gather blood berries and mana remnants, fix robots, take ley line readings, and slaughter numbers of Dawnblade troops and demons, and finally a loop to free murloc prisoners, get ore, and finish off the readings. This is handy, it turns out, for measuring combat statistics, since there's a segment of all single-target encounters followed by a swath of multi-target fights.

As of this evening, with her current gear , Tivara is dealing about 360 dps to single targets, and Sagarmatha is doing about 150 dps to them. Still getting a sense of how high the AOE damage can get.

I do have a devilsaur. Here he is being nautical:
Gorynych at Sea

I hadn't reset Recount after the bombing run so I can't vouch for his damage beyond "it's good". But he just can't hold aggro like Sagarmatha, and so I visited the QD stable master after returning to the island upon completing this quest

For the future: I should try out a crocolisk and compare its reactive-damage special power to Sagarmatha's style.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Huntard Corner: Aspect of the Viper and Its Use

I'm prone to moments of great cluelessness. Years-long moments, sometimes. The Huntard Corner will be where I note down things I feel I should have learned earlier, and occasionally where I note things I find myself repeatedly helping others with. But mostly, this is me documenting things I benefitted from, in the hopes that they do someone else good.

First up, the new use of Aspect of the Viper.

It turns out this a simple one. It's a short-term toggle. When you're low on mana, switch to Aspect of the Viper and keep shooting. You regenerate an astounding quantity of mana. When you're topped off, or as topped off as you need to be, switch back to Aspect of the Hawk or whatever you may have been using, and enjoy your refreshed mana pool.

Go forth and slay and stop drinking so much!

Friday, October 17, 2008

My Gorilla's Aggro Is As The Aggro Of Ten

Tonight one of my guildmates, blood elf 67 hunter Lexxia, asked me if I felt like trying out gorilla tanking so he could pick up some achievements. I dithered, then accepted; we were joined by guildmate Amedina, tauren 70 resto druid who's just recently finished her epic flight form quest chain, who's one of my all-time favorite healers to group with.

We rocked the house. Three bosses down, no fuss, no muss.

Now, Sagarmatha is no rival at all for any really competent tank. But I've grouped with plenty of tanks who were something else. And I do now think that Sagarmatha could do an entirely serviceable job as tank in a full group for an instance at our level. I hope I get to try it soon.


My Take on the Recruit-a-Friend Program

Tivara, my main character, is a beneficiary of Blizzard's Recruit-a-Friend program, and so is one of my alts, Cirna. Obviously I'm getting some use out of it. Part of my day job is blogging about gaming for the group blog hosted by science fiction/fantasy publisher Tor Books, and you can read my analysis of the program's pros and cons - when to use it, and when to think about not - if you'd like.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Labeling Myself: Tenacious Beastmaster

I like having names for things. Makes them easier to talk about with others. in the spirit of useful identification, I've decided that the right name for the way I'm playing these days:

Tenacious Beastmaster

That is all.

Patch 3.0.2 T+1

Early impressions of the Echoes of Doom Era

So. It's been a full day and some hours since the update. How do I feel about it? I feel great about it!

I spent a lot of Tuesday and some of Wednesday experimenting with pets exotic or just plain new. (Also the barber shops. Astute observers will note that all three of my characters have hair styles not available to their respective species before Tuesday.)

Tivara and the Kurken

I like a whole lot of them, but it didn't take me long to come back to Sagarmatha. He quickly hit 70, so he has a new level of Growl and therefore gets the early aggro built up fast, and the reduced cooldown on Thunderstomp makes things amazing. I send him at many mobs, he stomps, I volley away...and since Volley no longer has a cooldown, I can do that as long as it takes. For me, it really is the fun parts of protection paladins' AOE grinding without nearly so much attention and stressful worrying about whether I'm about to get overwhelmed. Sagarmatha has a huge wide safety zone of health and focus, and I've got a bunch of things I can have Tivara and Sagarmatha do if Tivara ends up with unwanted attention. The kill tallies that follow from this just keep overwhelming me. Wow.

On Being a Single-Emphasis Player

I note that pretty much all the best hunter bloggers are recommending that hunters try out the range of specs and pets. That's good advice. Let me explain why I'm not doing it, though. For those of you who haven't read me before, I have chronic auto-immune problems, and cascading complications from that. I'm not the Boy in the Bubble, but I do face the challenges of dealing with berserk allergic reactions to common environmental things like soil molds and orris root (the base ingredient in most perfumes), abject failure on my body's part at repelling infections, and all that, plus depression rising from imbalances in neurotransmitter production, chronic fatigue and other nastiness from defective neurotransmitter recycling, lymphatic action, and on and on. I live a restricted life, and there's a narrow range of things that reliably provide me fun in gaming that I can manage without getting exhausted or anything.

I got on this hunter kick in the first place because of that, actually. I had to shelve my rogue and paladin as raiders because I couldn't commit to them. A random bad health moment the afternoon of a raid - or for that matter a flare-up of something acute during a raid - and pfft, there goes my participation. I had a lot of last-minute cancellations and a fair number of mid-raid bailouts, and while raid leaders never pressured me about it, I know it added complications, and furthermore, it made me feel like a failure. I have too many opportunities for that already. I wanted something that would leave me feeling more reliably successful - something that would, to abuse programming jargon, degrade gracefully, rewarding detailed manipulation of options when I feel up to that but also work reasonably well when all I can manage is simple commands. For me, hunter is that something.

The key to it is a very strong pet. The more the pet can lift the burden of being hit from me, the better: I get to focus on what I intend to do, rather than responding to things forced on me by enemies. (Warlocks also have this advantage, depending the pet used, but other complexities that wear me down right now.) So the Beast Mastery talent tree is the right thing for me, since it improves my pets in a bunch of ways. And Tenacity pets, or at least pets with a good solid AOE capability, are the right thing for me too, since they protect me most thoroughly in the widest range of circumstances.

I'm definitely interested in what the other specs can do for me, but not in an urgent way. I already have good reason to believe they won't make me better at the stuff I just described, and that's what counts for me now. I may well wait until the dual-spec option comes along so that I can keep this as a ready fallback and experiment with notional seat belts in place. For now, it's more important to me to succeed at something than to dabble and do okay, or poorly, or worse - reliability is the key. Experimentation will come when the foundation's in better shape. In the meantime, I am constantly cheered, and often surprised, and just how very, very well this particular little niche does work for me. I've got to arrange some pet tanking instance runs with friends and see how far I can really push it.


I have two low-level hunters on the Alliance side. Night elf Sengakuji is in her mid-20s now; draenei Cirna is advancing with recruit-a-friend experience multiplication and is therefore now (when you read this) nowhere near her level then (when I wrote it). It looks like both will go the same route: bear, then gorilla. The variety will be in the folks I play with and the quests done. It's the same mechanical operations, but it feels different to me as the context changes, and since what counts is my satisfaction and performance, my vote wins. (And of course there are some real differences with racial abilities, professions, and such.) I'll be experimenting some, but I'm really happy with Sengakuji's bear Higashiyama (originally, Mangeclaw from the east end of Loch Modan) and Cirna's Toulemne (originally a simple young black bear from the vicinity of Kharanos in Loch Modan).

Sengakuji and Higashiyama in Ironforge

Cirna and Toulemne Visit an Auction

And that's all the news for now.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Quick Note on Low-Level Pets

This has come up several times among folks I know. if you tame a low-level pet - anything below 20, after auto-leveling and all - you may wonder where its talent points are. Turns out that pets get their first talent point at 20, and then another every 4th level. This is in the notes but it's not super obvious and it's easy to overlook. Now you know.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ray, I Feel So Funky

Yes, while waiting for the patch to install, I get even more obscure than usual in my quotes and allusions. No, there isn't really anything you can do about it.

So anyway, in the two days immediately following Tivara reaching 70, I got to take her on two raids, one to Magtheridon's Lair and one to the top part of Karazhan (starting with the Shade of Aran). It certainly helped to have prior experience with those places, so that what I needed to learn was just what ranged dps characters do in the various fights.

First of all, I'm really looking forward to seeing how Distracting Shot works once the patch is done. It is hard (at least it was hard for me) to get enough threat generation going to actually pull my assigned trapping target to me rather than having it sucked up in the seething vortex of aggro that always forms around a well-geared tank. I've been practicing my trapping, and I'd say that I'm now fairly reliable at it. I'm hoping to drop the "fairly" part at it in the next week or two, and maybe be at what I'd consider genuinely good by the time Lich King comes out.

(In my personal hierarchy of performance, there's the point at which you can be counted upon to do your task at a useful level, and then there's the point at which you do it well enough that it's worth others' going out of their way to give you more chances to do it, because it really helps out more than the norm.)

Wow, raiding sure is easier and less stressful when you're not a healer or a tank. Responsibility? We've heard of it, but we have no truck with such nonsense. A little trapping, sure, but mostly it's just me and my pet blasting away except when we need to hold fire for a moment.

And what do we get for that heroic control? We get dead bosses, that's what we get. Here's Tivara, Alcyone, and guildmates in the aftermath of downing the Shade of Aran in Karazhan.

Tivara, Guildmate, and the Remains of Aran

I want to be careful not to extrapolate too much from a limited set of data, generated in the euphoria of getting to try out hunter raiding. But if even just most of this level of satisfaction carries over into the longer term, I'm going to enjoy raiding a lot more in 2009 than I did in much of 2008. Repeatedly running into a wall and finding "I can't do this anymore" is tiring and disappointing. Even if I do find limits I'm not thinking of right now, I'm hoping to go farther this time, and to make a softer landing when and if I do have to say that I've gone as far as I can, since I know so much more about what constitutes an early warning sign of raiding trouble in particular for me now. But I really do hope to be in there plinking and trapping away as far as Archon and friends can go.

Oh, yeah, knowing that I've got some readers who aren't up on all the details of WoW: If I'm so happy with my gorilla (and I am), why aren't I bringing him raiding? That's simple enough. In raids, there are people who specialize in getting monsters' attention and holding it, while damage dealers (like Tivara) beat the monsters down. This works best when amateurs aren't competing for prizes in the "most appealing to monsters" category. Gorillas' Thunderstomp would compete with the real tanking characters for aggro (the monsters' attention), but Sagarmatha doesn't have nearly the capacity to absorb damage or do other useful things that, say, Marendyn and Grimfell (in the picture above) do. Alcyone's single-target damage dealing works great, however - if I play my part well, neither Tivara nor Alcyone draw aggro away from the tanks, but do help with the beatdown. Essentially, Sagarmatha is a tank for times I don't have a tank. But when I do have a real tank, it's foolish to try to duplicate that role, and Alcyone puts more hurting on the designated target per unit of time.

Hunters have Swiss Army Stables, essentially - the right pet for the job at hand.

Monday, October 13, 2008

AOE Pets and All Outdoors

I spend a lot of time in solo play. I have an erratic sleep cycle, and chronic health problems often keep in in a skittish variable state where I'll want to take a break on very short notice, then ramp up unexpectedly and wish to engage intensely for a while. One of my goals for Tivara was to pick up the reputation benefits I keep skipping or losing track of, so I've been grinding at least as much as I've been questing.

It was more or less on a whim that I tried out a gorilla. Big Red Kitty has been talking up the advantages of Tenacity pets and the pleasures of pets doing AOE damage, and I thought, well, why not give it a try? So I did.

As I mentioned in my intro post, I've become thoroughly, strongly, delightedly sold on their merits.

Outland, as Burning Crusade players will have noticed, is filled with packs of critters. I presume that Northrend will be too. The problem with a pet whose attacks are all aimed at single-targets is that it's really easy for the enemies not currently being eaten to decide to go aggro me instead of my pet, and it's very unwise to do much multi-target attacking of my own. There are, of course, ways of dealing with all that, and good hunters need to know how to do it. I'm learning. It's just that sometimes I really don't want to.

Enter the gorilla:


Thunderstomp does some damage to all targets in range. It's got a 60-second cooldown now, going down to 8 seconds come tomorrow. And Blizzard's programmers made it smart - the gorilla thunderstomps only when two or more enemies are damaging it. It's a beautiful thing. In the wake of a thunderstomp I can use Multishot and Volley, as long as I'm not too stupid about it. All it needs now is animation showing the gorilla throwing barrels.

There's very little I can fight at all that Sagarmatha can't keep busy. The dps I get is of course lower than it would be with what'll be Ferocity pets tomorrow. But it feels less prone to annoyance, which for me includes having to feign death more than I like, needing to do extended efforts at shrugging off aggro, and anything else that distracts me from perching comfortably and shooting a lot. It gives me time to practice shot sequences, or to coast along happily, as I may wish.

There's also another advantage to having a gorilla pet: there is no fight in World of Warcraft that does not become that much funnier because it's a gorilla beating up something. It's funny in itself, and it also inspires jokes and comments when I'm grouped with others, or soloing but gabbing in guild chat.

I haven't yet taken Sagarmatha into an instance, except for one run through Hellfire instances in the low 60s when guildies at 70 helped a couple of us blast through. But I'm looking forward to trying real pet tanking with him.

The Usual and Customary Introduction

This is my third try at World of Warcraft blogging. Third time may be the charm!

I've played every class in the game, and gotten an affliction warlock, restoration shaman, combat rogue, and protection paladin to 70. But I find myself most thoroughly comfortable with my newest 70, Tivara the blood elf beast master hunter. Hunter turns out to be the class that most accommodates my wildly variable competence and willingness to engage in complex detail management - I can coast well, and I can get intense well. I can be a slow learner, but I'm trying to notice when I'm having fun, so that I can do more of it. So. Hunter it is.

In the past I got into blogging trouble by announcing over-ambitious goals. It turns out that I'm not one of those people who does very well living up to them. This time, therefore, I've got a more modest goal: I'll chronicle what I'm doing with Tivara and what I'm thinking about WoW in general, and talk about other characters when it feels like they're worth talking about.

Here's the scorecard the day before patch 3.0.2 comes out:

Tivara is 70, and geared with two pieces of season 2 (Merciless Gladiator's) armor, with more coming. She got to go help kill Magtheridon the day after she hit 70, and we've got a guild run to the Molten Core coming up on Saturday.

Her main pet right now is Sagarmatha (Nepalese for "The Head of the Sky", the Nepalese name for Mt. Everest). He's the rare white gorilla Uhk'loc, now level 69. I have completely fallen in love with pets that can do AOE. I get impatient and distracted with the flying pets (apart from nether rays and presumably spore bats), with wings getting in the way, but now I find my gorilla indispensable for grinding. I'm looking forward to seeing what rhinos can do, too. The pet families that will become Ferocity families are certainly cool - what in this game is just so thoroughly graceful and neat as a cat on the offensive? what is so much fun as the boom boom boom of a freshly tamed devilsaur? - but Tenacity seems likely to be my "home base" family of families.

For dps purposes, I have Alcyone, a nether ray from Slave Pens, currently level 68. He did quite well for himself in Magtheridon's Lair, and I think I'll keep leveling him up for instances where pet AOE isn't particularly wanted.

Tivara belongs to a cool guild, Archon on Horde-side Shadow Council. We're sort of the textbook casual guild, with a core of folks interested in raiding and a lot of dabblers, some PVPers, and like that. I came in knowing a few of the folks from elsewhere and have made some real friends among people I didn't know before. One of my real regrets about Burning Crusade is the progression opportunities I missed by spreading my attention among too many alts. I'm looking forward to focusing more and seeing more of the game in the upcoming expansion, rather than looping through the earlier parts more times.

And that's my introduction.