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Archive for June, 2010

We’ve been using Recruit a Friend to level up some alts on Argent Dawn where SAN lives, but the obvious flaw with this scheme was that Reversion was about to get multiple level 60s characters and I wouldn’t have any once the RAF account lapsed. So we did the obvious thing and linked an RAF account to my main account for him to play, making four active accounts for us for a while (Analogue main, Analogue RAF, Reversion main, Reversion RAF)

And obviously once you’ve got four accounts that can level at triple XP speeds, what do you do? Run all four at once, of course! So Reversion created a hunter (main) and a druid (RAF), while I created a shaman (main) and a paladin (RAF). Rev has two computers setup on his desk so he has one account on each; my offside machine is having video card issues so I hooked up a second monitor to my machine and ran two WOW instances in windowed mode.

Reversion is planning to discuss some of his strategies for getting the most out of his setup; he uses a lot of macros and interesting techniques. Mine are a bit less complicated and less effective, since I only have one mouse and keyboard to control things and I have to switch which WOW is the active one in order to do things on that character.

Some general things we’ve learned: We set up with me controlling both my accounts and Rev doing both of his, which works ok except we’re constantly having to check to make sure the other halves of our RAF pairs are close enough for XP. If we do another quartet like this we might have to swap accounts around.

Our mains have heirlooms for an additional 20% XP gain and some really hard hits. We have to work to keep the other characters close to the same level. Usually, we just pick some drop quest to only do on the lower characters and haul them back to level.

The hunter is doing most of the damage. With the heirloom chest, shoulders, bow, and sword, things just drop dead. If we’re out questing I run with the shaman and nuke things with lightning bolts and save the paladin for healing when things get sticky. Going to talk about our adventures in Deadmines in a bit and how that was different.

The key for me being able to do this successfully is Vuhdo, that queen of mods that I’ve rhapsodized in the past. Both the paladin and the shaman start out with one long slow heal; I mapped that in Vuhdo to right click. Later they gain a short heal and a dispel; I’ve set the short heal to the right side button and the dispel to the mouse wheel scroll up action. All I have to do is move my mouse to the correct Vuhdo setup and click. At worst I have to click twice, if I am trying to do something in the copy of WoW that was not active, the first click activates it and the second does what I want.

We quested in Teldrassil, then moved to Westfall where the killing is good and the quests are plentiful. Seems there was a plague of red-bandana’d Defias. And some gnolls. There were a lot less of both after we steamrolled across the zone, a multi-boxing killing machine of death. (Wait, killing machine of death? You’re getting carried away there…)

In ordinary questing, I pretty much ignored the paladin except to keep up buffs, loot quest items, and throw some heals. The one macro I did write on both accounts that was key was a follow macro:

/tar CharacterName
/follow

A neat trick for this macro is you can do as many /tar lines as you want. So if you’re doing multiple sets of RAF pairings, write one account-wide macro that looks like this:

/tar Character1
/tar Character2
/tar Character3
/follow

and you don’t have to keep recreating it. The downside is, if you have more than one of these characters in your party it will end up targeting the last one on the list, even if that character is not there, or offline, so plan things out carefully.

Anyway the ordinary questing went well. Reversion’s hunter did most of our killing, my shaman helped and my paladin threw around heals. Since I was mostly using lightning bolts on my shaman, I could set a lightning bolt casting, switch to the shaman, start a heal, switch back and do lightning, switch back and do heals… it worked really well.

We did all the quest chains leading up to Deadmines and dinged 20 on all our characters. I took my shaman to get her water totem, and then we went and manually found the entrance to Deadmines (how weird is that!) and decided to see how well we could do. We were a higher level than the instance, so we thought we had a pretty good chance.

I started pretty much the same way I’d done the questing, with the paladin basically just on follow. Then we got to the first boss, the ogre dude, and I figured what the heck, it’s easy to grab aggro with a paladin, so I turned on Righteous Fury, taunted, and let the paladin tank while I healed and threw lightning with the shaman. It worked really well. The guy dropped and we didn’t.

After that I worked harder to use the pair. Most fights didn’t last long enough, but when a patrol came by I’d grab aggro with the paladin, start healing with the shaman, and drop some fire novas when I could. Reversion shot things and Moonfired on his druid and we were just steamrolling through the place.

It helped a lot that we were higher level, that we knew the place well, and that we knew our classes and roles well. Reversion’s original main is a hunter and that class is like a well worn pair of shoes for him. I have a paladin tank and I set this paladin’s abilities in the same spot as that tank’s. I’ve never done a shaman past about 25, but I do know how to heal and I’d already set up Vuhdo to let me do what I needed; tanking and healing at the same time was not too hard.

The worst times we had were with patrols coming up behind us – they do that a lot in Deadmines. It would take a while to grab aggro, and peoples’ health would get pretty low. But we got to the boat with no wipes!

We took down Mr. Smite easy – Reversion’s hunter hits like a ton of bricks and he took out the adds fast so we didn’t have any trouble getting through the stuns. Then we carefully cleared onto the boat. Being higher level here really helped. It is tricky at the best of times not aggroing half that boat down from above, and when you’re maneuvering multiple characters at once it gets hard.

We took down Captain Greenskin with only minimal “ack we’re going to die heal heal grab aggro ack DIE!” angst – nobody actually died – and then set up for Van Cleef himself. I set my totems, switched to the paladin, pulled, consecrated, switched to the shaman and healed, switched back to pick up more adds, back again to heal – and then the “Achievement Complete!” box popped up, we finished taking down the adds, and victory!

Of course after this screenshot we jumped down and killed Cookie. I stole his rolling pin, hah!

And we were done! Turned in quests, and logged out for the night. Whew!

It was a lot of fun and we’re looking forward to seeing what else we can pull off with a quartet like this. Might be slower than with actual other players, but on the other hand we don’t have to deal with idiots…

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Raiding with SAN

SAN was supposed to go to Ulduar Saturday afternoon, but we couldn’t find another tank or some dps (only seven SAN folks were able to attend) so we decided to do the weekly, Marrowgar. From SAN, we had:

Me, Divergent, as a holy paladin
Reversion as Consolidate, a feral druid
Harrygiblets the hunter
Enyss the Resto druid
Shifthappens the Resto druid
Edamaxim the DK
and (I think) Norinka the Boomkin

We pugged in another tank, a shaman, and a mage and set off to ICC to clear trash. Whee! Some folks had never been in there, but the SAN folks were all on vent and we had a good time clearing – until Enyss dc’d. We still had trash to clear so we kept going. Then she came back in Vent and told us her internet was dead (she was using dialup for Vent) with no sign of coming back, so we sadly decided to replace her. We decided to go with two healers and the pug tank brought in a hunter friend of hers.

We had some fun with giants and traps and wiped once – heh – but got all ready at Marrowgar. Gave the briefing and went ahead.

Well the bonespikes just didn’t get attacked, people didn’t stack back up after bonestorms, and we wiped. We had at least three people who were new to the fight so I wasn’t surprised. I told people to stack on the tree – Shifthappens was doing a really good job getting back into position and it’s very easy to spot the tree and stand on him. (Note to Blizzard: please let us keep trees around in Cataclysm…)

I glanced at Recount so I could remind people to switch to Bonespikes and I got a surprise: neither pugged DPS had attacked the bonespikes at all. A mage and an elemental shaman, I couldn’t think of any excuse for that since they’d agreed that they understood what they needed to do. Even the new SAN people who hadn’t seen this fight had some damage to the spikes! I called them out specifically and reminded them to switch to spikes and to avoid fire; they agreed.

We went again. THIS time, the spikes died. (Harry had been trying a /tar bonespike macro that hadn’t worked before; this time he switched manually. I don’t know if anyone else had the same problem but the change was obvious). People stacked back up after fires. It wasn’t a fast kill, but slowly Marrowgar’s hit points dropped until at last he was dead.

We were victorious! Loot got handed out and while the SAN folks were eager to continue, the puggers dropped and we couldn’t progress.

I checked combat logs after the fight and guess what? All the SAN folks, even the new ones, had killed Bonespikes like they were supposed to. That mage and shaman? Nope. The mage not at all, the shaman had a little damage against the spikes but not much. Yes they were high on overall dps but they hadn’t bothered doing what they needed to do. Sigh.

So anyway SAN raid group needs more people! We’ve got a really good spread of healers; what we need is another good tank and some solid dps. Ranged or melee. We’d like to do more. Daruma the shaman is about to ding 80 and be ready to raid with us; with just a few more folks we can start working in ICC. If a blogger guild raid sounds like fun, it is! So if you’ve got a spare character lying around, transfer it over to Argent Dawn US Alliance side… or level one up. Plenty of folks around to help you gear up and get ready.

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Just glancing over the newly released Cataclysm talent trees for druids (you can find them at http://www.wow.com or http://www.mmo-champion.com or cata.wowhead.com) and this occurred to me:

Improved Barkskin: Grants 80/160% additional armor contribution from cloth and leather items while in Travel Form or while not shapeshifted, increases the damage reduction granted by your Barkskin spell by 5/10% and reduces the chance your Barkskin is dispelled by 35/70%.

Yeah ok that’s not a change from what it is now, right? Only… we’re not going to be trees in Cataclysm, which means the extra armor we get from tree form goes away. I know, Blizzard is going to make that up somehow – but what if that somehow is “Take two points in Improved Barkskin and call me in the morning”?

I like Improved Barkskin, I specced into it when I could afford to drop Celestial Focus. It gives me a margin of error for Bonestorms, Exhales, Decimates, what have you. Not every PVE resto druid takes it though; it’s more a PVP talent and if your haste is low, you can’t afford it. All the theorycrafting will change in Cataclysm of course and we won’t need CF any more but… just wondering.

Oh, and is the new version of Improved Tranquility useless, or totally useless? Changes the second part of the effect from “Reduces the cooldown by 30/60%” to “Reduces damage taken while casting by 25/50%”. Way to ensure nobody ever, ever takes those points, Blizzard.

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Can’t hear you lalalalala

Corporate Raider

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I transferred my prot/holy pally to Argent Dawn to play in SAN Sunday afternoon. I’ve recently gotten her Holy gear at least viable. It was a weird mishmash of ilvl 200 blues and 251 purples for a while but oh well. Anyway SAN went to Naxx and I decided to to raid heal. I’ve done a few heroics but this was my first raid.

I set Vuhdo up (or so I thought) to show Beacon of Light and Sacred Shield and set my mouse click bindings and we were ready to go. Or not; as we started clearing trash I realized that Vuhdo wasn’t showing me what I needed to know. I like having my raid frames set to show class colors and have the bars correspond to health. So as the person takes damage his health bar gets less full, very intuitive. Well it wasn’t doing that; the bars were just sitting there, a dull dirty color. I knew why things were screwy – Vuhdo recently released version 2.0 and I haven’t figured out all the tricks, and since I’d just transferred servers all my settings were off. It took two bosses to figure out what was going on since you can’t change Vuhdo settings while you’re in combat (argh). Anyway I need to find resources for the new version of Vuhdo and link them because some of the changes were not intuitive. (If anyone had the same problem I did, it turned out I needed to select the “Health bar/class color” option on the Panels > Bars page, in one of the dropdowns there.)

That angst over, I settled into healing. I Beaconed the lesser geared tank and spammed heals on the other tank (Reversion’s second druid Consolidate was one of the tanks and a guildy Warrior, Craghammer, the other), just like my paladin research told me to do.

For a while I just spammed Holy Light but I started running out of mana so I had to remember to go Judge Wisdom and take some swings at whoever we were fighting whenever I could. That helped a lot. Then I tried using Flash of Light, since the tanks weren’t taking that much damage, and that worked pretty well too. I kept forgetting about that instant cast heal spell thing. Somehow paladin healing feels like it should just be spamming heals. Instant casts were throwing me off.

It was a lot of fun running old content with the SAN folks. We chatted on Vent and had a good time (and this being a blogging guild, Vent chatter included discussion of Wow demographics, whether women played healers more, as well as just strategy)

I failed at Heigan dancing – I’ll justify myself and say I *thought* I was a step forward of where I was when I stopped to cast a heal. I’m not used to not being able to heal on the run. Then I missed the jump from the platform at Thaddius – twice. Oops. Good thing the raid overgeared the place!

And we wiped spectacularly on the Horsemen, once, as we tried figuring out a strategy. We’d been nine manning it up to then because one of our pugged folks went afk after the first boss and got kicked. After that wipe one of our other puggers disappeared without a word, so we grabbed two more random people and finished the Horsemen off. No problem. Not even an interesting fight.

One of the new folks wanted to tank, so Reversion went heals and Enyss, who had been healing, went boomkin. We went upstairs, killed a dragon, and then took down Kel’Thuzad. Boom! Achievement completed! Actually that was my first Naxx full clear in one session. I didn’t really get into raiding until ToC came out. Even massively overgearing the content, it was an accomplishment. Still, I found the first few fights while I was getting used to paladin healing most interesting than later on. There’s just no sense of danger in Naxx these days, not unless you take off gear and nobody is willing to do that. It’s fun seeing the old fights but – they’re dated, and that’s sort of sad.

Monday night we took Consolidate and Divergent to a TOC pug. The pug took a while to form and they had trouble deciding what they wanted me to do. I ended up healing, along with Consolidate and another paladin, this one far better geared than me, if snotty. This was a full pug, nobody else from SAN along, and on the worms literally half the raid dies, including Consolidate.

Well both tanks are up and so are the paladin healers so I check that I’ve got one tank beaconed and the other pally has the other tank and I start spamming Flash of Light on the rest. The one dps’er and the two tanks. Yeah. We down the worms without too much trouble and in comes Icehowl.

It turns out that as long as the healers don’t run out of mana, Icehowl is kind of easier with only five people because there’s less chance of someone getting trampled. It took us ten minutes to down him but nobody got trampled even once, nobody else died, and I didn’t even run low on mana. I’d used pretty much nothing but Flash of Light and the other paladin commented something about how he was doing most of the healing. I said nothing, but by the end of the run, yes, Other Pally had almost 50% of the heals (versus Consolidate and myself) but was also beating Consolidate on overhealing. Beating a druid at overhealing doesn’t say much. AND he was keeping people way too high on phase 3 Anub… but that didn’t matter. We steamrolled TOC, I picked up some upgrades for Divergent’s healing set, getting her to almost that psychologically important 5k gearscore. She’s definitely ICC viable in both specs now.

Anyway I love the versatility of the paladin. Paladin tanking is a lot of fun in 5 mans, although I find raid tanking boring. You get to set the pace, be the leader, in 5 mans, but in raids you just get hit in the face. I’d rather heal, where it feels like you’re helping out everyone else on the team to get their job done. Kind of like being a cheerleader. Only, you know, useful. And with better outfits.

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Big Bear Butt just posted an outstandingly good post on what the real meaning of being in a party is. It is important for all of us to have the attitude of ‘what can I do to make this party succeed’. The points BBB laid out are very solid and cover each of the three rolls in general. I will look at hunters specifically.

Why? Because I like hunters. I do a lot of druiding these days but I still feel like my hunter is my main. Plus hunters have a lot of tools for helping the party succeed.

Do Good DPS

Of course everyone knows that roll of a good DPSer is to DPS well. Right. But how? Hunters have three very different specs each of them use different abilities as part of their regular rotation. Just because on spec uses a skill a lot does not mean you have any business using it in another. The thing is that hunters are very easy to suck at. By that I mean you can get by and even do somewhat ok while not being any good at all as a hunter. Part of this is because they can do some ‘ok’ damage with just autoshot and a pet. And because their pet keeps them alive a hunter might not be challenged to kill things with any speed. Some classes find it harder to get to 80 while being completely bad at their class. Hunters can do that.

So don’t do that. Take the time to find out what rotation works well and use it. Being ‘good enough’ is not good enough. Doing just find a few shots and say ‘oh but I like how I play’. Just because your damage is high enough to not get your kicked does not mean you are really doing your part to help the group. Yes you can still play Beast Mastery even if that is not the bleeding edge highest DPS. Play any spec you like. But at least take the time to play that spec WELL. Find out how you can tweak your build to get more out of it. If you are mostly doing PVE content, know what talents and glyphs are not very useful for PVE and avoid them. There are a lot of skills that are intended to be mostly useful in PVP. For example talent points that make you and your pet more durable. Those are ok solo. But know that those are almost completely a waste if you are running a lot of instances.

Turn off your pet growl

Seriously, just do it. No, removing the icon from the pet bar is not how you do that. Right click until that glowing boarder goes away.

Get a DPS pet

In instances your bear or turtle are not as effective as a cat or raptor. Look up what pets do better damage and tame one. Don’t chose your pet based on the look of it. Chose based on its damage output. You can swap back to your favorite looking one when you get back to town.

Manage your threat

Hunters played well do gobs of threat. That is why Bliz gave us such great agro management tools. You should get a threat meter and use it.

Keep Feign Death on a handy hot button and be ready to hit it.

Macro your Misdirect

No, just using it sometimes at the start of fights is not enough. Make a macro for it. It is really easy.

First type /macro in the chat window to bring up the interface.

Next click the new button.

Name the macro.

Don’t bother picking an icon, leave it as the default question mark and it will select the right one for you when you are done.

Now, in the big area on the left type this:

/cast [target=focus] misdirect

You are done. Put that on your bar somewhere handy. Now at the start of each run, select the tank, right click them and ‘set focus’. Now any time you press your MD macro it will do it on the tank. There are other ways to set up a macro for it. If you know another one, use that. You can even set one up so it will hit your pet instead if there is no tank focused. Either way, do it.

Why? Simple. Because for a long fights, where you are doing good damage, one MD is not enough. And for rapid pull runs your MD might not be off cooldown at the start of a fight. With a macro you can quickly and easily use MD during a fight without almost zero impact on your DPS.

Just Fake it

Use Feign Death. Use it a lot. Watch your threat meter and use it BEFORE you pull threat. Make sure you stay dead long enough for your threat to drop. If you just hit the button and then start shooting right off it might not have taken effect yet.

Trap Stuff

Learn how to use your traps and be ready to use them. Keep in mind that a particular tank might not like having a target trapped. If they complain, don’t argue, just change what you are doing. No the tank is not to be worshiped or anything, but you are doing this to make their life easier. Anything that helps the tank stay focused and not get thrown off stride is good. If the tank says trapping stuff is messing up his pull then don’t trap stuff. Simple.

Watch that Tab!

Tab target is a handy feature. However, when combined with autoshot it is very dangerous for hunters. Be careful! And be ready with the FD.

Control your pet

The pet is an extension of the hunter. If it goes running off after something it is your fault. No, it is not blizzard’s fault for giving you a crazy pet. There are fast and simple ways to control your pet. Use them. In addition to the button bar three are easy macros and there are also key binds. By default pressing ctrl-2 will cause your pet to return to you. If it starts to run somewhere you don’t want it to, press ctrl-2. Yes, pets can be buggy. But if you had time to reign your pet in and failed to do so then it is not blizzards poor programming that is at fault. It is your fault.

Know how defensive, passive and aggressive settings work and use them as appropriate. Don’t just leave your pet on passive. The pet is a VERY large chunk of your damage output. Leaving it on passive to make things easier for you is lazy and a huge disservice to your fellow party members. Don’t do it. If you can’t control a pet, go roll a mage. You will find if you try that controlling your pet can become second nature. But you can’t get better if you don’t try.

For most situations, putting your pat on ‘defensive’, being fast with ctrl-2, and carful with tab targeting things will solve most pet control problems.

LET THE TANK PULL

Misdirect is great. Super great. But it lets us hunters get away with doing some amazingly rude and annoying things. It lets us start fights and not instantly die. Try to avoid the temptation to do that. You can push it a little by starting shooting just as the tank engages but try not to start shooting just BEFORE the tank engages. Doing that may throw the tank’s pull off. Most of the time it is no big deal but it can be annoying to the tank and that is simply not helpful. You are making harder the hardest job in the party. Don’t do that for a few extra points of on the meter. It is just not worth it.

Cut it close? Sure! Learn the tanks rhythm and pull style and adapt your play to it. You can be right on their tail with some nice hefty damage but reign it in just enough that you ARE following their lead and not setting your own pace.

Being an Asshat or being an Asset

With MD and FD plus wearing mail (to say nothing of traps) hunters can get away a very large amount of being an asshat without actually dying. Don’t do it. Just because you lived does not mean you are not on the rest of the parties ignore list now.

Those same tools can be very effective and helping a party succeed. You can save a healer with traps. You can really boost a poorly geared tank’s threat output and keep agro on them. You can MD whole packs of adds that the tank failed to notice and get them over to the tank. You can be a tanks best friend or their worst enemy. Instead of taking pride in only your recount score and in the tears of QQ why not take pride in saving the day?

There are a lot of hunters out there but only a few really good ones. And ‘really good’ huntering is not defined by recount.

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I have decided to do a few posts on specific fun and interesting pulling tricks. This is a personal favorite of mine.

Name: Hit and run

Use: Pulling a caster pack or mixed pack when no LOS is available and you need to move the pack toward the party.

Difficulty: High. The actual complexity of the pull is medium but the chance of the party letting you do it right is low.

Classes: Any. Works well with charging tanks but can be done with any tank.

How to: Move to the maximum range of your longest range move targeting the closest member of the pack. Fire. Turn IMMEDIATELY and run like heck directly away from the pack. If possible keep an eye over your shoulder on the pack itself. Keep running until the pack is roughly where you want to tank them. Turn around and move to engage the pack. At this time you may use a charge. If the pack is spread out you might want to charge one of the targets in the back (farthest from you). Move in, round them up, tank as normal.

About: This technique is great because it allows you to move a pack with casters closer to you. It allows you to do that WITHOUT a ranged silence move. This is good if you don’t have such a move, or can’t hit all caster targets with such a move. That makes it great for lower level tanks who don’t have a ranged silence yet. It is also good for any class that is not a tank such as AOE grinding mages. It is even good as a single target pull against casters when soloing on any class, not just tanks.

The point of running away is to interrupt the cast of the ranged attackers and to get out of their max range. This forces them to follow you until you turn and re-engage.

Basically any time you need to pull a caster to you, don’t have a ranged silence, and have room to run behind you, then this is a good pull to use.

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