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I think of this trick as virtual tanking… it is really virtual crowd control. 
Let’s say you are murderizing some Defias in a small town somewhere. Suddenly a second one spots you. 
  
Oh NOES! You are not ready for a second one. And that fire ball looks like it will hurt. No problem! 
 
 Hah! Safe. But wait he is coming this way. How about we give him a target again? 
  
That is it. I hop back out and you stop right there and waste a couple seconds trying to cast a fireball. 
  
Denied! 
 
No, don’t come over here. Stand there and cast some more. I am not done with your friend. 
 
I love it when the fall for the same trick a second time… 
 
Almost done with your friend. 
 
Come on over. 
 
Your turn! 
 
LOS interupts are so much fun!

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The other half of dual boxing…

This post is the flip side of Analogue’s post.

As she said we have been doing RAF. We started things off a month or so back with her doing the ‘new’ and disposable account and power-leveling alts for me. The plan had been to pair that way and then when I had a few up near 58 or so we would swap roles and power level a bunch of alts for her with a different disposable RAF account. This worked well for a while but we finally thought hey, why not just multi-box and do it all at once.

Multi boxing

As many of you know people use this term for one player running several characters. Most people seem to do this with one computer and various mods and macros to synchronize their characters. I personally prefer using multiple computers. I have had a multi computer desk setup for a long time… er… probably 12 or 14 years. Some time in an old game called ShadowBane I started regularly running two accounts. In that game aggro was just a ‘whoever hit it first’ thing so it was super easy to have a meat shield and a healer/nuker. I just put the meat shield on a pack of mobs and then played the other computer until the fight was over. It was easy, effective, and fun.

Later I did a lot of multi accounting on EVE online. In that game, if you have things set right you can be pretty effective with a pair. There were no mods to help but there are various ways to have one ship follow another of fly in formation. Also if I was doing asteroid mining running two machines made a boring task into something slightly less boring and twice as profitable.

With my setups I always use dual keyboards and mice. I never tried a KVM and can’t see how it could possibly help. Nothing beats being able to have one hand on each set of hot keys. Having to flip a switch would suck.

The center piece of a multi computer setup is the desk. I have this sweet one I found at a used office furniture place many years back. It has two halves, front and back. Each is about 1 foot deep and each is independently height adjustable. The whole thing is about 5 feet long. So there is room for a row of monitors in the back and a row of key boards in the front. I added an extra keyboard try on the upper deck so I can pull it out when I am using a third keyboard. Right now my main machine is a mac laptop. I have that mounted on a movable sing arm clamped to the desk’s upper deck. It’s monitor is directly in front of me and the laptop on the arm is off to the right. My second machine is one of our older gaming rigs, mostly build out of a machine Analogue had before we were married. Its monitor is on the left. Its keyboard is on that side too and the main keyboard is in front of me.

I have both mice on the right side of the keyboards. The left computer’s mouse is ‘above’ the other (i.e. slightly farther toward the back of the desk) This means if I am switching my attention to the left side machine I simply turn my head left while moving my left hand left and my right hand ‘up’ and left. Now I am on the other mouse and keyboard. For this multi boxing I actually have a USB gaming keypad between the keyboards so it is a short move from WASD on the main keyboard to the pad just to the left of it. And it is a similarly short distance to hop between the mice. This makes switching back and forth far faster and more intuitive than having to flip some KVM would be. I don’t have to check what a switch is set for, I know based on where my hands are.

WOW dual boxing, my style

I have dual boxed wow a fair bit before. Mostly on lowby characters. It was not all that easy or fun. It was not BAD, but it just was not as fun as playing only one. For one thing your efficiency goes down. So you can either be playing one character and only using the other to loot quest stuff, or you are trying to use two and not being 100% effective with either. This can be annoying. Looting on an offside is triple annoying. So this sucked enough fun away to make me not do it often.

RAF provides the opportunity to fix some of that. For one thing old world leveling is so nerfed that you can be effective even if you are not 100% focused on one character. With RAF the triple makes things SO fast that it is worth it to have an efficiency decrease in your play. The blinding leveling speed adds a ‘sweet!’ element that offsets the annoyance of swapping back and forth. Also the leveling bonus means you can skip most gather quests and avoid a lot of the headache of looting on your offside account.

My goal when we started this most recent dual boxing experiment was to do everything I could to make it simple and fun. More simple and more fun than my previous WOW dual boxing. I use two ways to go about this. One was selecting characters I was very familiar with. This gives me the edge of not having to learn my class at the same time. It works because SAN is on a new server to us and I don’t have a max level hunter there. Plus I had not leveled a hunter in a while. Ages ago I did several of them and the leveling got stale. Now it is all fresh but still familiar.

Let me tell you, for dual boxing hunters are a GREAT choice. Between auto shot and a good dps pet they can do 50-70 percent of their max damage potential just by pressing one key. In retrospect this would have been great for an offside character. The next pair we make I will make an offside hunter. With this pair I had my hunter decked out in the full set of heirlooms, chest, shoulders, trinkets, 2h axe and bow, everything except the ring. This gave me insane damage. Through the whole session the hunter was consistently 65+ percent of our damage for the whole party of 4. I wanted an nice AOE debuff pet so the first thing we did when I hit 10 was have Analogue’s max lvl pally run me to Northrend for a nice hawk (vultures are ugly). (There are level 7 hawks hanging out near Utgarde Keep, the lowest level hawks in the game.)

That covers my main account/computer but what about the offside? Druid ended up being an ok but not super choice. With Analogue healing on both of hers the healing aspects of the druid were not used. However, the druid’s durability compared to other caster classes was nice. I tried two different ways of setting it up first I will cover the one I liked best.

Offside Character Control

First off I used a follow macro like Analogue explained in her post. Super handy, fast, one button and the character is on follow. No targeting and right clicking. The auto targeting is what made that macro great and made it better than our older dual boxing experience.

First way

Of course I did not stop there. Next up I made some nice attack macros. This are the ones I use more than anything else and I LOVED how effective they were. Here it is.

/cast [target=focustarget] wrath

That is it. “target=focustarget” means the spell will be fired at whatever my ‘focus’ has selected. So the first thing I do when logging in and partying up is to set my druid’s focus on my hunter. Now, with that macro, my hunter has full control over who my druid targets and I never have to select targets manually on the other computer. That saves a lot of clicking and means I almost never need to touch the ‘offside’ mouse. I made a macro like that for Starfire, Wrath and, Moonfire. I made them the 1, 2, and 3 keys respectively. So now all I had to do, was target something on my hunter and then pick the 1,2, or 3 depending on how long I wanted the cast time to be.

Setting up a pull was easy. I targeted with the hunter, pressed ‘1’ on the offside keypad to start a nice long Starfire cast and then went to the hunter and selected pet attack (macroed to my #1 using “/petattack”). Then I waited a heartbeat or two (Starfire is a looong cast) and then pressed arcane shot or multishot, depending on the situation. WHAM! That target took a ton of damage. If I wanted to hit it hard some more I just pressed any of the 1-3 on the druid while hitting arcane shot or multi shot again (Mostly alternating them. They both hit hard even on single targets). Doing attacks this way meant that by threat was spread out over two characters so often my bird was able to hold agro even though the target had just had most of its HP blown away. Also it meant even if the pet did not hold agro most targets were dead before they even reached me(us).

In heavier combat it was easy to tab target on my hunter and then start a new attack on the druid, just one button press on the offside. With the hunter in full control of the targeting I was able to get a lot out of the offside account with minimal button pressing. Because I was in command of 3/4 of our TOTAL party damage meant that no marks or anything were needed. Whoever the hunter was targeting was automatically the primary target and it died rather fast. This made fights easy and fast. Being short a player (party of 4) did not hurt us in part because of tightly focused damage dealing.

I also made some macros that auto targeted my focus target for some healing. One button press to hit the focus target for some rejuv or healing touch. I found once things got into heavy fighting I did not bother with that. I let Analogue handle healing while I kept up the focused damage. Sometimes I did use my offside druid’s Vudo setup. That was as easy as grabbing that mouse and right clicking a few frames to spread damage around.

The trickiest thing was positioning. The druid was on follow on the hunter. So if we got over run with mobs she was not always facing the target. One way we dealt with that was for Analogue’s pair to move to the front of the pack as the fight started and throw some tanking moves. This kept things in front of the druid. The other problem there was that the hunter could not back up to get into minimum arrow range. That would face the druid away from the fight. Fortunately with the 2 hand heirloom axe Raptor Strike does a pile of damage. Between that and the ability of the druid to keep nuking without the fuss of maneuvering two characters, I did a lot of melee huntering.

For boss fights and a few others I would move the druid off ‘follow’ and pre position it somewhere. I would pick a spot with her back to a wall and a good 180 degree view of the battle. This way the hunter could do all the running, jumping, weaving, and shooting she wanted to do and the druid still had sight of her target. Any time I hit the offside keys the druid would deliver its nature-y destruction on target. :D

Second way

I also made some macros just for targeting various targets, the only three needed were the focus (partner), the target of focus, and self (/cleartarget). I found that I actually did not use them for the druid. What I did use them for was a short session where I was controlling both of another RAF pair we have. Using those three target macros, bound to some handy keys (F10, F11, F12) I was able to use all the ability bars that character had already set up for single account play. Those three macros and the previously mentioned follow macro were all it took to make an offside computer account, previously set up for one player use into a decent ‘offside’ character. This assumes a properly setup hot button bar (1-10) and easy access to the other keyboard (or a USB pad with 1-10 and F10-F12).

So those were the two distinct ways I have been messing with to control my dual setup. When the druid gets more abilities I might change things around. I need to find a fast and effective way to target Hurricane and Volley at the same time. I also need to respec the druid to full balance. I also plan to mess with using the hunter as the ‘offside’. On our next pair I am sure to use a hunter offside but I am still trying to decide what the ‘main’ will be. Since the main is the ‘keeper’ character I have to decide what I want to have leveled as well as what will work well in this sort of pairing.

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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 was recently running a UK run on my 69 (now 70) warrior. We had a frost mage in the group. He was speced to make just about everything he cast do a ‘nova’ type effect and freeze things in place. I mentioned he should avoid using nova. In response I got called some names. He kept saying that if I could hold aggro it did not matter and that nova was ‘what mages DO’. He also insisted that on his tank and his 7 levels 80s (yeah right) he had NEVER heard a tank ask for a mage to not use frost nova. If that is true (i doubt it) there is a serious lack of communication going on out there. I decided my next installment needs to be targeted at this particular gap.

This post is aimed specifically at Ranged DPS, though other roles may benefit from it.

As you all know tanks do threat to keep aggro. The more threat they do the more likely they are to hold the attention (aggro) of the pack in question. Tanks do threat to the pack in several ways. Primarily they hit them and get a chunk of aggro equal to their damage done times some multiplier depending on their spec and class. This threat is applied only to the target they are hitting . They also have some abilities which do melee hits on more than one target, usually 2. This means some of the other critters in the pack get threat applied to them also. All classes of tank also have various things that do AOE threat. These moves are have 8 yard radius for Pally and Bear, 20 yard radius (but less threat per second) and 30 or so for things like death and decay. There are a few other moves tanks use for AOE threat but these are the main ones (DK do more other things that don’t have a strict radius (honestly I don’t know a lot about DK moves)). This means that anything within that range of a tank is probably getting some threat. Outside of strict melee (point blank) and this aoe radius, tanks have very few ways to generate threat. There are a few, but compared to the damage that a hit from a ranged DPS, the other tricks don’t amount to anything. So this leaves taunts.

A taunt works a very specific way. It takes the top person on the threat list and gives the tank that much threat. Taunts also force the target to attack the tank. What does this mean to you the RDPS?

Let’s get to some situations you are likely to see. When a creature is in the melee around the tank you have to do 130% of the tank’s threat to get that critter to attack you. Below 130% and it will stay on the tank. Above 130% and you are now that thing’s worst enemy and it will do anything to come and get you. Once the creature turns to come get you the tank has a very tiny window to use a melee ability before that creature is out of melee range. Even if the tank IS able to hit it with a melee move they would have to do 40% more threat instantly to grab aggro back. This is the 30% you beat them by and then the 10% melee range threat buffer.

You see, while you have to do 130% to pull off a tank from caster range, it only takes 110% to pull off a tank in melee range. That is melee range to the creature, not to the tank. That is the melee range threat buffer.

So it would take 130% more threat for the tank to catch up with you and then 10% more for him to out threat you and reclaim aggro… and that is just that first instant. A moment later the critter has passed out of the tank’s melee range and is headed your way. Now to ‘out threat’ you the tank will have to hit it with 30% more threat than you (160% of where he was when you pulled off ago). Which pretty much means he has to taunt it. Either that or he has to run after the critter, and hit it enough times to make up all that threat.

For discussion’s sake let us say the critter gets all the way to you and then the tank taunts. Now that this moment the tank has the exactly same aggro as you. He also has the creatures attention. The creature will turn and head toward the tank. If you continue to attack that creature you will only have to do 10% more threat to pull it off the tank. And is taunt is on cooldown. Hence this is a very critical window when you must do something difficult and complicated. That thing that you must do is this: STOP SHOOTTING THAT ONE!!!

Have I fully explained why that is? Is it completely clear that the tank can’t do much more after he taunts and must rely on that creature coming back into his melee range? Well there is one thing.. Lets see what that looks like, shall we? Let us say that you keep shooting that one. Now you blow past that 10% and you are once again getting beat on by that critter. What are the tanks options. Keep in mind he already had to rotate his camera around, find where that guy ran too, select the moving target, and fire his taunt. A good tank can do all that pretty fast, but that ‘pretty fast’ is still a distraction from what he had been doing. While he was doing all that he was NOT continuing to apply threat moves to the targets around him. Now maybe it only took one, or two global cooldowns, not a big amount of time, but it still was a distraction.

Back to his options after you agro through his taunt.. Some tanks might have death grip, charge or another taunt (pallys have two ranged taunts). If he has to taunt again he is still back where he was a moment ago, relying on you to change targets. Even worse if he charges or runs over to get them off you the hard way he/she is risking all the other creatures he was tanking pulling off and attacking other party members. Every moment you are distracting the tank is a moment where the healer or another DPS might pulls something off.

So you absolutely must change targets or that one you pulled had better be very very close to dead.

What else can you do during all this that would really annoy the tank? Frost nova. What did that do? Now you have a critter that is completely stuck and unable to run back to the tank. Even if the tank taunts the critter is stuck. Best case here is the tank taunts, and you change targets and the creature is safely back ‘on’ the tank even though it is stuck. But, the tank might not KNOW it is back on him. It is hard to tell when they are stuck over there. So it is still a source of distraction for your tank.

Here is the part that is worse. A creature stuck in place, able to hit things, but unable to reach the top target on its threat table, will attack anything it can reach. If you fail to move away from the nova the creature will still hit you, even after the tank taunts it ‘off’ you. Even if you DO move it can still hit anyone that was near you. Which might include a healer or another ranged DPS.

“Oh,” You say. “But they only have to move away too.” Sure. But do they notice? How many hits can a healer take? Is the healer too concerned with keeping the tank alive, or saving that rogue over there standing in the fire? She might not SEE the nova-ed thing next to her. A healer’s biggest enemy is tunnel vision on the health bars. It is quite often that a healer can see nothing else. The health bars are their whole world. Plus even if the healer DOES notice and moves away that movement might have interrupted a important cast that was going to save someone.

All of this about Frost Nova also goes for things like earth bind totem. It goes for any move that holds things in place but does not stop their attacks.  Those moves are only intended to keep things OFF you. In a party that is the tank’s job, not yours. And those moves interfere with the tank doing that job. It is not a wash or a nitpick to rail against that. Anything that you do to make the tanks job harder is endangering the whole party.

Just be cause you have a move does not mean it is a good idea to use it in instances.

One of the the tanks roles is to position the battle. They chose where the battle takes place and, if needed, they move the battle around (for example to avoid a patrol or to shift the boss off the fire). Anything that interferes with this must be used with caution or not at all. Typhoon and Thunderstorm are problems here too. They seriously disrupt the tanks ability to position and move the group and they blow things completely out of the tank’s AOE threat radius. While they are nifty and fun moves they have only a very VERY limited use in instances and should be avoided in most cases. THIS IS NOT TRIVIAL. The tank is not just whining and being a douche for complaining about it. These things make his/her job a lot harder. Just because a few tanks were overly nice and did not complain in the past does not mean most tanks are not annoyed by these moves. For example part of my warrior’s opening rotation is to align the pack into the cone in front of me and then use shockwave. It really hampers things, wastes a cooldown, and risks pulling stuff off me if someone typhoons at the start of a fight. This blows all of them out of my shockwave target area and ensures my next thunderclap will not hit them all.

Yes, most of the time using one of these will not wipe a group or even cause a big problem. That does not mean you should use them. And it does not meant a tank is being whiny to complain about you using them.

If all of this was too confusing click here.


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