Thursday, August 30, 2007

On Hunter Melee, Part 4

Recently, I experienced something of a problem in-game.

I am aware that, as only my second post on here, I stood at my newly acquired virtual pulpit and proclaimed what others have said, that Hunter melee was a Bad Thing.(tm) No less a personage than BRK himself expressed his approval of this, and others joined his cry of Amen with one of their own. (*grin*)

However, just a few nights ago, I was assisting a former guildmember on a passage through Zul'Farrak. We attempted the pyramid sequence, the one in which the pyramid is overrun by a large number of trolls, and the fight is aided by a number of both Alliance and Horde NPCs. At first, I attempted to keep range and shoot down the trolls in the supposedly appropriate manner.

I died. Repeatedly. My former guildy and I retreated, deciding to come back once we had figured out how to solve the problem.

Flash forward to the next night, where the friend in question lent me the money needed to purchase one of these daggers, which I equipped as a main hand, while using a slightly more mundane dagger that I had at the time as my offhand.

After obtaining this weapon, our progress through the pyramid battle was successful, and fairly straightforward.

The moral of the story is that although it is exceptionally rare, as a Hunter, you will still very occasionally encounter situations such as the above, where melee is the only option that will allow you to get out alive. So that you may be prepared for such situations when they arise, I offer the following advice, based on what in the past (and what again now in the future) has been my own customary practice. This may at first seem to be in contradiction of what I have already written. It isn't however, as I will outline below.

In addition to a gun or bow, I carry two types of melee weapons. The first is a spear with +Agility, which is the default choice, and which is in the melee weapon slot to provide me with an agility bonus during normal ranged combat. If you can afford it, and if the spear in question is one which you plan to keep for a while, the +35 agility enchant can be a good addition to it. This is also what should be used to apply Wing Clip while kiting, as Wing Clip now allows the weapon's base damage to be applied to the target as well. In situations where you cannot get range, the spear also can be used against single targets with very high armor.

The second type of melee weapon I carry is a pair of daggers. These should ideally be of 1.3 second attack speed as is the dagger linked above, and no slower than 1.7, and should also have +Agility or attack power, both to augment your damage and %dodge, and to enhance your ranged if you need to alternate between dagger fighting and shooting, as can happen. The Blade of Unquenched Thirst, which I linked above and again link here, has +22 attack power, and when I am able to buy a partner for it, I am also going to get the +15 agility enchants on both, which will give me a total of 74 attack power, and probably around 0.66%-0.75% dodge chance.

The daggers are a niche use weapon for us, and are only to be used very sparingly. Either in situations like the pyramid sequence in ZF, where you are overrun with multiple targets and cannot get to range, or in pvp against low armor targets such as priests, mages, or warlocks, where going to range can actually help them more than you, and where their armor is sufficiently low that you can still use the daggers to cut through it quickly.

The next thing I recommend doing is downloading the Outfitter addon, which allows you to associate different equipment sets to either stance changes or keybindings. You can then associate changing to the daggers with Aspect of the Monkey, and back to the polearm with Aspect of the Hawk, as well as setting the polearm as the default weapon for all other aspects. When you need to enter melee, you can thus hit whichever key you have bound to Aspect of the Monkey, and it will change to the daggers automatically.

As a final point, I again want to emphasise that I feel that a Hunter's overall time in melee should still be well below 10%. Use of the above melee weapons is very situational, and is not really something that you can be told about...rather I feel that it is important to develop your own sense of when using them is appropriate, and when it is not.

Another addon you can download is Recount, which as well as giving you a damage meter, will give you a pie chart which you can use to analyse percentages for the different types of damage you are doing. Melee is to the Survival Hunter as magic is to the Blood Elves. We can allow ourselves a certain, extremely small amount in order to curb the addiction and for use in certain scenarios, but too much is deadly to us in itself. ;-)

What is the Hunter the master of?

Someone in the forums just listed the areas in which they felt other classes had "mastery," while at the same time expressing that he didn't feel that Hunters had any specific proficiency of our own. Here's my response to that.


Master of tactics, in all areas of physical combat, both ranged and melee. In addition to the ability to deal devastating damage at range, a skilled Hunter is in control of the flow of battle at all times, utilising traps, Misdirection, and Wyvern Sting to ensure that neither he or his party are ever faced with more opponents than they can handle.

Beast Mastery - The Beast Master is, as the name implies, a master of communing with animals. Able to learn and adopt a wide range of skills from the various beasts he encounters in the wild, the Beast Master is able to pass many of these on to animal companions which they can tame, or use as Aspects to enhance their own abilities. The Beast Master's trademark talent is his ability to harness the inherent ferocity of his pets, and use it to rapidly annihilate his foes, as well as sharing it with the rest of his party.

Marksmanship - The Marksman Hunter is the master of ranged combat, able to hold foes at a distance with an initial stunning shot, and then rapidly pummel them to death with a high powered, magically enhanced barrage. Although he is at a disadvantage in close quarters, a slowing melee ability means that he can regain range quickly enough, giving him back the advantage over his prey. The Marksman Hunter is also able to mystically share his innate dexterity with others in his party, enhancing their own combat ability as well.

Survival - The Survivalist Hunter is a problem solving chameleon, able to leap between ranged and trap-augmented melee combat at will. Tracking allows him to be aware of threats before others in his party, and his enhanced traps, tranquilising shots, and misdirecting ability can be used to control the progress of any fight, and ensure that he and his party members are able to deal with opponents in a rapid and orderly manner, without being overwhelmed. In addition, the Survival Hunter's advanced knowledge of the anatomy of a large number of foes encountered in the wild can be imparted to other members of his party, allowing them to detect vulnerabilities in their foes, and destroy them more efficiently.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Survival Shot Rotation

Survival's traditional shot rotation, pre-3.0, was the same as Marksmanship's; the 1:1.5.

Post-3.0, this sequence would be Autoshot, Steady Shot, Aimed Shot, (Aimed now replaces Multi, due to it doing the same damage and being subject to the same improvements from Marks talents, but using marginally less mana) Auto, Steady, Arcane, Auto, Steady, Auto, Steady. If you're using a Noxious/Imp Stings build, you will want to fire Serpent at the start of this rotation as well.

The above, of course, depends on whether or not you've specced for Aimed Shot. At the moment I haven't, but I'm not missing it; I use Multi, especially considering that the groups I'm in generally don't like CC any more anywayz. Also, substitute Explosive Shot for Arcane above, if you've specced for it and don't have points in Imp Arcane.

The above rotation is also a rough guide; depending on how high your mana is, squeeze as many Steadies into the other shot cooldowns as you feel like. Sometimes I'll only use two, and autos, as it says up there, if my mana is low or I need to watch threat a little. Other times I'll just spam Steady and get 4 in during the time it takes for Multi to come back up.

Some people will tell you, that with the changes to autoshot mechanics in WoTLK, that the old shot rotations should not be used.

However, I still use the 1:1.5 rotation myself, and recommend it for other people as well. The single reason why is mana efficiency.

Given that the critical strike damage of autoshot has apparently been nerfed according to the forum, (although Mortal Shots' tooltip does not state this) as well as the above mentioned changes, many forum Hunters simply recommend spamming Steady Shot, with no use of autoshot between Steady.

While this may now be fine in a raid, given the new abilities of various classes to regenerate mana in raids, there will be many scenarios (soloing, primarily) where sufficiently rapid mana regeneration still will not be possible. Because of that, allowing autoshots between Steady Shots will cause your mana to go further than it would otherwise.

You also do not want to use the new Aspect of the Viper at all if you can possibly avoid it, since the 45% hit to your damage while it is up is terrible. I have lots of mana pots, and a few Dark Runes on me as well for guild 5 mans, although I admit that I probably wouldn't expend those resources for pugs. Use each one about halfway through the CD of the other, and you'll hopefully find that even if you're not at 100%, you still always have just enough mana to keep you going without Viper.

EDIT:- There's one other reason for this. I just read about people with Survival using Steady, Steady, (special), but I realised that with the long cast time of Steady, using Steady, (special; Arcane, Aimed, Multi, or ES) ala the 1:1.5, still means that you've got three shots in the air at once, which is still going to mean more damage.

Getting Lock and Load procs

Those of us who have specced for Lock and Load may well want to try and get a trap of some sort down on each pull, in order to get a proc for it. This is certainly worthwhile if you can, but I tend to find that I end up jumping in front of the tank if I try and do it, placing the trap, and then starting to shoot. That of course more or less entirely nullifies whatever extra damage you might have got from the three Explosives or Arcanes, because the amount of time you had to spend with it.

Definitely keep Serpent Sting up, however, as you have a 6% chance to proc Lock and Load from that. I don't put Serpent up at the start of a rotation, but wait until I've fired both Multi/Aimed and Arcane/ES. The reason why is because with them on CD, spending a cooldown on Serpent instead of a single Steady is going to cost me less damage than spending it instead of one of my other specials.

The other proc you want to watch out for very carefully is Kill Shot. It's the new Kill Command, and it's a ton better than the old one. You want every single proc ideally, since I anyway can get up to 5k with this; it'll give you a good spike on the meter. Hit it as soon as it comes up, and do not wait for the next GCD, as very often the mob in question will be dead by then.

Also watch your target's health, and when you're getting close to 20%, don't be afraid to fall back to straight auto for a couple of shots in order to give Kill Shot your undivided concentration; this way you won't be spending any GCDs while it comes up, and can make sure it will go off as soon as it is available.

In terms of Hunter pets, cat or boar?

Someone asked this question in the forums yesterday, in terms of the most overall DPS.

Cats outdps boars in the early game, and it scales. The survivability of a boar is radically greater, but if as BM you're also getting Endurance Training and Thick Hide, you will probably be able to get away with that for balancing the cat's survivability...even more so if you train Great Stamina and Natural Armor.

However, think twice. A cat will give you increased DPS, yes...but the survivability of a boosted cat still won't touch that of a boosted boar, and on top of that, a cat has no way of getting you the initial aggro that you'll get with a boar. As BM currently, with Charge my boar can get 3.5k aggro inside 5 seconds or so. Feigning for me is largely a thing of the past; I never need to do it, especially with Intimidation.

Instead of getting a cat for the DPS, my own advice would be to get a boar for the survivability, and for DPS, work on your own ranged weapon and shot rotation. My boar's DPS is still 117, and with only my second gear rotation, (Steady, Auto, Steady, Auto, Arcane, Auto) I can clear 300. Plus I can tank adds with a much greater degree of confidence than with a cat...Cats die a lot sooner. As it has been said, the DPS of a dead pet is 0.

On going back to Survival - I'm actually wavering

I respecced BM a couple days ago to get to 70 faster. At the time, I was certain that I'd use it to race up to 70, then undoubtedly want to go back to Surv.

If there is one thing, however...and only one thing...that could conceivably convince me to stay with Beast Mastery, (it actually isn't Bestial Wrath, or Serpent Swiftness) it is Intimidation.

A real, controllable, truly viable Taunt is something I've wanted for my pet for pretty much the entire time I've been playing with a Hunter. It lets me keep FD as a I have a second option in emergencies.

It just might sway me.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Spec homesickness

(Warning:- In hindsight, I realise I've been a tad confrontational in this post. If, after reading it, you discover that your own feathers are among those that have been ruffled, then please allow me to apologise in advance. My intent is not at all to deliberately or gratuitously offend people, but this is a can of worms which I've felt needed to be opened for a while)

The title probably sounds really lame, but it describes how I'm feeling.

I really miss Surv. My overall DPS (including the pet) has gone up by around 130 according to Recount. (In the Hellfire Ramparts this morning I maxed out at 440 DPS, including pet...My highest with Survival was 310, including pet)

I also had a surreal experience yesterday morning where I took the BKP "Sparrow" Smallbore with Ironbite Shells into the Scarlet Monastery Cathedral, and experienced the use of a ranged weapon with 172 base DPS at a 1.25 sec attack speed. (0.9 sec with Imp Hawk)

The Sparrow is a level 33 weapon, and 172 is 14 DPS more than what my base was at 60 with Survival. Presumably because of the mobs' lower armour, inside the Cathedral, according to Recount I was able to still clear an overall total of more than 400 DPS with the Sparrow, as well. I used a Rapid Fire/Bestial Wrath combo on Mograine, and he literally lasted less than 3 seconds.

However, here's the problem. I'm missing this game having any real challenge for me now, even at my own character level. I'm missing the problem solving aspects of Survival. I'm missing the sense of excitement during, and satisfaction after, a scenario in which my character genuinely could die, and where I have to work in order to ensure that that doesn't happen. That has never happened with me with BM so far. If things get bad, the most I have to do is maybe swallow a potion, and hit Bestial Wrath. It gets me out of pretty much any otherwise potentially challenging situation that I might be in.

I'm aware that damage wise, Survival actually is a handicap. There; I've said it. It's something which BRK has shown in his own testing, and which I've long known to be true; Survival is the most difficult of the three specs to use effectively. Survival's inherent level of difficulty is the dinosaur in the Hunter's living room; that thing which we all know is there, but which it's not considered politically correct to talk about.

Let me say that again. If anyone who reads this blog, is, as a player of the Hunter class, looking for a free lunch, then you need to play one of the other two specs, because even more than the other two, you're not going to get it with Surv. The single main reason why no more than 7% or so of the playerbase choose it is because it genuinely is difficult to the point of being unpalatable for most. If, as BRK has said, BM Hunters can derive a sense of superiority from being the highest damage output spec, the Survival superiority complex is derived from the fact that Surv is a spec where virtually nothing is done for you by the tree itself. It therefore logically follows that a competent Survival Hunter is not merely good; they are by definition awesome at the game, because they have to be. In my experience anyway, Survival is the closest this game gets to being genuinely challenging to play.

That, however, is the one thing that I'm having a lot of trouble with. I feel that as a spec, BM does way too much of the work for me, to the point where I'm now having difficulty deriving a sense of challenge from the game. I will admit that I've worried about that possibility in the past, which is also actually the main reason why I've gone Survival. I like the comparitive degree of difficulty that is inherent in effectively playing Survival...psychologically, I need that. I need that far more than I need a spec which is going to give me an inherently larger degree of damage output than the others, purely on its' own.

That, then, is a question I would ask BRK and any other BM hunters who might read this. How could a player stay specced Beast Mastery and overcome the above problem? Given that a BM hunter is as powerful as they are, how do they still manage to find a sense of genuine challenge within the game?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A visit to Beast Mastery

I decided to try something a bit different this morning. I've changed temporarily to 41/17/0, not only to try it out but to also give me the necessary tailwind to get to 70 within a reasonable space of time. As much as I still love Survival, I think one of its' key mottos is, "Slow and steady wins the race." I'm entirely certain that I'm going to be respeccing back probably at 70; however for levelling, it's not entirely appropriate. I think the single main reason why I can't see myself staying BM permanently is because it's what everyone and his grandmother seems to be doing these days; if there's one thing I've discovered I need in life, it's a genuine sense of individuality. Tyler Durden might have said that we're not all beautiful and unique snowflakes; my own answer to that is that if I'm not, there genuinely isn't much point to my being alive.

I also joined a guild this morning which, from what they tell me, wishes to start raiding Karazhan in October. I'm a little worried that some people from the guild might read the above and reconsider the wisdom of having recruited me; however, they can rest assured that I have been in scenarios in game before where I have needed to follow orders, and can and will do so...the only thing which I will admit that I cannot have dictated to me is spec. That however doesn't mean that I'm going to be stupid, either. I'm well aware, for example, that Mortal Shots is entirely necessary in virtually any instance scenario; about the only time when I'd consider forsaking that now, (although I'd still get Lethal) would be for a temporary pvp scenario where I felt I needed the points for Deflection, Deterrence, and Counterattack instead. Once I start getting the daily quests, I'm going to be able to respec more or less daily as well, and I very much expect that I will be doing so. For raiding though once I start, I recognise the importance of uniform 41/20/0 or 0/21/40 builds entirely, and will not hesitate to commit to using such. 41 point Marksmanship has been largely discredited in the forums as a truly competitive raid spec these days, (at least without phenomenal gear, and a deep intimacy with the tree and what it provides) so I doubt that I would be subjected to pressure to respec in that direction anyway.

Probably the single most interesting aspect of the respec though were the entirely passive changes it made to my character sheet. Although my char sheet DPS went from 198 to 220, my Agility went from 488 to 425, my ap went down by about 100, and my crit dropped from 20% to 15%, which is purely the base 10% + Lethal Shots. I'm none too happy about this last point either, I'll admit...but I can live with it for the time being.

The message here seems to be that BM derives its' increased damage almost purely from increased attack speed, rather than from Agility or attack power as such.

This has some rather interesting implications, even for my usual Survival build. I'm thinking I might have to get into the Suggestions forum and ask if Blizzard would be willing to incorporate some 1.7-1.8 speed bows into the 65+ game as well, since I haven't seen any myself either in-game or thru Wowhead past the High Warlord's Recurve. As Survival I've had a lower level bow at that speed which I used for farming low instances, and I didn't have a problem timing shot rotations with it; so bows of that speed with scaled damage for level 65-70 would probably be really good.

To initially test BM out this morning, I decided to try soloing Zul'Farrak. I wasn't able to get through the entire instance before being disconnected, my server being what it is, but for what I was able to do it turned out that ZF was a good choice, since I was able to survive the pyramid battle, but had to use Bestial Wrath twice in order to do so. The Survival method of getting through that alive probably would have revolved around using Deterrence for the +25% dodge/parry for 10 seconds, but then using Readiness again to increase Deterrence for the full 20 sec. I also possibly would have come out of it with more health left via the Deterrence method as well, since with BW, even though I was doing more damage, I was still taking damage as well.

This however is possibly also a good comparitive illustration of the difference in approach with the two specs. Survival is, as the name implies, primarily defensively oriented, whereas Beast Mastery is apparently overwhelmingly offensive in nature. Even though I still plan to stay Survival on a more permanent basis, I suspect that a week or so with BM will still have much to teach me which, when I go back to Surv, can still be used to improve my performance with that spec.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Hey, Taxi!

Over the past couple of months, I've discovered a means of making some money in-game that I hadn't known of previously.

This method is offering to run lower level characters through instances for a fee. Just earlier today, I was clearing some Alliance out of the Crossroads when someone messaged me and offered 2g 50 for a fast run through the Wailing Caverns.

WC runs may not be all that profitable, but some of the others can be. The trash alone from a Scarlet Monastery Cathedral run is usually worth around 5 gold in my experience. Add in another 2 gold as my fee, as well as being able to do that maybe once every 20 minutes if I'm fast, and if I'm able to get a single blue to disenchant, at least a theoretical number of 30ish gold an hour becomes possible; probably even more if I'm running the Armory, as it's faster. Not much, perhaps...but a steady trickle, and I'm thinking it could at least help towards my epic mount if I work on it. I know everyone says that the way that an epic mount should be paid for is purely via Outland quests, but I've been finding that all of that money has either been going to the AuctionHouse or ammunition's one of the downsides of Survival being such a gear dependent spec, as well as the fact that I'm not really raiding yet.

Instance farming is definitely something that some of you might want to look into, though. As well as being profitable, the SM Cathedral and BRD are fantastic instances for Hunter training and practice in particular; BRK has written about the Cathedral in that respect, and the early trash in BRD is very good for learning about three mob pulls with Wyvern Sting. I also still haven't soloed ST yet, to get to that!

I made a funny

This is something I posted a while ago in the forum in response to a thread entitled, "Vote for the most repetitive forum topic." It was a comment on the amount of threads I see in the forums asking about Survival. A number of people seem to have found it amusing, so I thought I'd repost it here.

The OP in such threads always make themselves sound like they're bi-curious; as though it's a huge change they're contemplating, and they often manage to sound vaguely ashamed of themselves as well, as though they're considering doing something really dirty.

"Umm, I know what people will think of me for this, but lately I've started getting this urge to respec Survival. It was originally only fairly mild, and I could deal with it by thinking about other things, but recently it's become a lot stronger, to the point where it's getting really hard to deal with. I'm scared of what will happen if my spouse or family find out."

Survival is not the Dark Side. Respeccing Survival will not give you leprosy, AIDS, cooties, or fleas. Survival is not exclusively the domain of basement dwelling mutants or the criminally insane.

It's safe. Honest. ;-)

On Hunter Competence

Something I'm seeing a lot in the forum this morning (although it's a constant feature, of course) is a lot of crying about a particular Survival ability, Wyvern Sting.

Said crying contains the assertion that Wyvern is poorly designed; that it isn't useful; that the cooldown is too long, and the sleep is too short; that the DoT is too weak; that there shouldn't be a DoT on it at all because that means you can't CC a target with it afterwards, etc etc etc.

This raises a very important point, and one of the key elements of Survival as a spec. Survival doesn't have any of the more general use abilities like Bestial Wrath. Everything that we have has a very specific use, and it is up to the Hunter to determine which ability is going to be appropriate for the given situation.

For some things, Wyvern Sting is wonderful. I primarily use it for three mob pulls both farming and in instances. Hit the central mob with Wyvern, freeze trap left, kill right. Refreeze left, kill central with Wyvern's DoT when it wakes, then kill left. You have to move quickly, yes...but it's very possible.

I also use it for stopping runners, and it's great for other such strategies as the one I listed in the above post as well. If you do some experimentation with it, you'll probably be able to find uses for it that nobody else has.

My point is that while our abilities have limitations, (durations, cooldowns, mana costs, level requirements, etc) they're still entirely usable...and also, limitations are what primarily give structure to the game. This video will offer you an understanding of why limits are needed in the game, and what happens when they aren't there.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Lair added to feedburner

I've just added this blog to an account with feedburner, which creates an rss feed of it...apparently I can use that to promote the blog as well.

I don't entirely understand what RSS is exactly, but I believe that it's a mechanism for creating headlines/excerpts of web pages and blog posts, so that if people are subscribed to a lot of such feeds, they can use the single line format to save space, and still be able to see headlines from all their feeds at once.

The link is here, and there's an option to subscribe to it at the top of the page. I think if you click that, you'll be able to set up a mechanism in Firefox somehow where it alerts you when I've made a new blog post.

Required reading IMHO

This blog post describes what a Hunter's real purpose is in groups, rather than being primarily DPS as most people think. I'm fairly sure BRK links to it somewhere as well, but the link is very much worth reposting. Although BRK mentions his belief that we're a damage class, (and I'm not going to disagree with that entirely) as the above linked article says, more than any other single thing, Hunters in groups are pullers and tactical co-ordinators. CC can be used in conjunction with pulling for the primary purpose of ensuring that the rest of the group never gets more mobs than it can handle at any one time.

Hunters themselves aren't the only people who need to read it; people who play other classes and group with Hunters do too, especially Warriors...because more than any other class, in terms of pulling, tanks tend to insist on trying to do what is really our job, and then claim that we don't have a reason to exist at all.

"And these words shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
- Deutoronomy 6:6-9

On Hunter Melee, Part 3 - PvP

I was going to talk about something else in this next post, but a comment I had on the last one deserved some thought, and a response...this was from Tom.

"I can't resist pointing out the one, minor and only sometimes useful counter-point I've run into.

That is in PvP against a more-squishee class. I've annoyed the hell out of a number of Rogues (and a caster Shammy or 2) simply by not freaking out when they come at me. I was BM at the time, but they really didn't care for me criting their face with a Raptor Stike+Wing Clip, maybe getting enough range to Arcane shot once then charging back at them (and I prefer Snake Trap to Immolate, poison to slow them down so I can get range).

That said, I'm not spending points in:
- Improved Wing Clip
- Deterence
- Readiness

Just because that's not useful 99% of the time PvE and it's only useful maybe 50% of the time in 1v1 PvP."

It's confession time again. (This could become a habit. ;))

When I said, "Thou shalt not melee," as Tom says, that was primarily in reference to PvE. For PvP however, the situation becomes a bit more murky.

In terms of world pvp, I personally have won more 1v1 fights as a Hunter (a lot more, actually) utilising melee-centric hybrid tactics (note that I am not saying melee only, here) than I have ranged, primarily because I developed a more thorough understanding of hybrid combat than ranged.

How do I define hybrid tactics? Let's use one of the Mages I've been able to kill with it as an example. If I see them in advance, and am able to approach undetected myself, I can then:-

1) Stay hidden if possible, and open with Aimed Shot. This will give you a good head start, damage wise.
2) Immediately after, hit them with Wyvern Sting. This immobilises them for up to 12 seconds if their trinket isn't up, and even if it is, still puts a 600 point DOT on them.
3) Close to melee range.
4) Wing Clip.
5) Drop an Immolation Trap. (With Wyvern Sting and points in Clever Traps, this means our Mage now has an overall 1.5k DoT, and that's before I've hit him once)
6) Bring pet for additional dps.
7) Activate Deterrence and Blood Fury.
8) Commence melee attacks with (ideally) 1.3-1.4 speed dual wielded daggers, periodically re-applying Wing Clip.
9) When Deterrence runs out, if I've specced Readiness, I have two options. I can hit Readiness and repeat steps 4-8 immediately, or, if they've done too much damage too me already, I can drop a frost trap, Wing Clip the target, jump out to range, activate Rapid Fire, and finish up with my rifle.

I've successfully done this in-game before; so I know that the strategy can work. However:-

1) The strategy is primarily good against casters. Very often the reason why you don't want to stay at range with them is because they need range themselves, so you're actually helping them kill you.

2) Trying it against Paladins will almost certainly get you killed.

3) Trying it against Shamans will also most likely get you killed, since it will expose you to Earthbind Totems. NEVER engage Shamans melee, as nearly all their abilities are melee focused, as are their totems; other than a single lightning shot they have no real ranged abilities at all.

4) Trying it against Marksmen Hunters will only work if you can stay close to them. If they hit you with Scatter and get back to range, either go to range yourself or prepare to be killed. As Survival, melee is actually our area of strength when dealing with a pure Marks Hunter, as he most likely will have greater burst damage at range. However, you will need to use Wing Clip at all times to keep him close, because if he gets back to range, the fight moves back to being on his terms.

5) If you've got higher agility and stamina, it will very often work against Rogues as long as they don't Vanish or CLoS.

6) It will work against Warriors more often than you might think, depending on a) how much health you have, and b) how well geared he is. It is also enormously psychologically painful for a Warrior to lose to us melee, for obvious reasons.

"NO!" I can hear my Marks brethren scream. "Why on Earth would you do such a thing, when you can stay safely at range?"

Because range ain't always completely safe either, guys. Range ain't going to save you from a Pyroblast to the face. Range gives Warlocks opportunities to cast Fear and/or Death Coil. So why do this?

1) It can be fast. (As in 8-12 seconds) I pounced on a 67 lock at 62 myself with the above strategy, and his health was at around 3% before he even knew what had hit him. He managed to Fear me right before dying, but I'd dotted him with Immo and Wyvern beforehand, so it didn't save him.

2) It comes across as totally crazy, in a semi-suicidal, Martin Riggs kind of way. Most people won't have seen Wyvern Sting in the wild. It also shatters the renowned "no Hunter melee" rule utterly to smithereens. The thought process of someone who is a victim to the above strategy, if also executed with enough speed, is likely to be,

"An insane and utterly uncharacteristic Hunter just hit me with a stun I've never seen before, leapt out of the bushes, snared me, dotted me up like a Warlock, and is now rapidly cutting me apart in the same manner as a Rogue. HELP ME!"

While they're thus busy feeling scared and unable to determine what to do next, you can be busy finishing them off.

3) For the above psychological reasons, it can at least be an effective gesture of defiance towards a class that you're fairly certain you're going to lose against anywayz, even at range. (Such as a Paladin)

So the overall answer to the question is:-

Melee is nearly always a bad idea for PvE, but for PvP can be highly effective on a situational basis, as long as you understand that it involves alternating between range and melee both, and not relying exclusively on melee. Realise that understanding when melee will help you, and when it will get you killed, is one of the primary fundamental challenges of effectively playing a Survival Hunter. In PvE, if either the main tank or your pet is alive, it's a no-no. In PvP, it's a gamble; sometimes it will pay off, others it won't. If you're...

1) Fighting low armor targets that you can keep locked down, (Casters, Rogues)
2) Fighting by necessity in close quarters where you can't get range,
3) Fighting by necessity in places where line of sight is a problem,

then melee is useful. The rest of the time, stay at range.

This animal is what I've now adopted for myself anyway as Survival's mascot. Remember the metaphor I made with him. During instances or pve, you will need to stay in the water (range) more or less exclusively; pvp is when you can sometimes benefit from taking a few steps onto the land. (melee)

The primary motto here is, "Match the weapon to the target." If your target seems to hold all the aces melee (which is far more common) then don't even think about it. Scatter, Conc Shot, or Wyvern, then jump in and drop a frost trap, then jump back and give them both barrels at range.

However, if your target is for example a Fire Mage, who needs range to buy the time to get off a Pyroblast, (which will very often one-shot us) then by all means, get in his face, lock him down with Wyvern, Wing Clip and a trap with Entrapment points, and cut him up fast.

This is what Survival is about; its' heart and soul. You don't use one strategy all the time; you develop the ability to identify which strategy is going to be optimal for the scenario at hand, and use it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

On Melee Hunters, part 2

After writing my original melee hunter rant, I woke up this afternoon to find people in the forum still advocating the way of hunter melee. Someone also commented on BRK's blog that he didn't feel that I specifically went into the mechanics here it is again, in bullet form, focused on the mechanics, and without my customary abstract waffling.

Why Hunter Melee Is A Bad Idea, The Attention Deficit Disorder Version:-

1) Our damage mitigation from armor will never be above 45%.

2) With range these days I can do Steady/Auto rotations which will occasionally both crit for 1k each, meaning that for purely that rotation anywayz my effective DPS is probably around 5-700...and my long term sustained max DPS according to Recount is 242. The best sustained melee DPS I can get is about 180, and given that that's with daggers, that's assuming I'm fighting cloth wearers...since against anything with higher armor, my damage will go down due to mitigation. An immolation trap will maybe push that up about another 10-20, depending.

3) If you want to find out just how viable it really is, try doing it in the presence of a newb healer, not a good one. Unless Deterrence is up, you will marvel at how quickly you'll die...and even if you've got a good healer, watch how frantically he has to keep casting in order to keep you alive.

4) We can't do decent sustained melee damage with anything that has an attack speed of more than 1.7, tops...and even then it won't go beyond the listed paperdoll DPS. By contrast, with range I can go close to 100 dps higher than what's listed on my char sheet, and I'm a newb. Hunters at 70 who really know how to play can go much higher.

5) There are probably at least three other classes that can give someone playing a melee Hunter what they want, and with said other classes they'll be doing it a heap more effectively and actually helping their group. By contrast, with a melee hunter, a group has to be more focused on keeping the hunter alive than actually killing things.

No, I'm not telling other people how to play. There are people who've been doing this, and who are going to keep doing it, regardless of what anyone says. That's's your funeral. Just realise that you're very likely to get increasingly frustrated as you continue to play the game, especially if actually doing serious damage was what you had in mind. There are changes that Blizz could make that would render Hunter melee viable, and I'll admit that I'd love it myself if they did...but given the current mechanics, it doesn't work.

On Starting a Survival Hunter, Part 2

First of all, I've had some really positive feedback so far. Thanks a lot for that guys, and yes, I do plan to keep writing.

Warning:- This is a looooong post. I talk about a lot of things, about doing a lot of things, and the reasons why I've done said things. It might seem like a bit of a pain at first, but if you can put up with it, it'll give you insight into why I make the suggestions I do.

In part 1 I essentially advised against putting points in Survival straight from level 10, while saying that Survival is more appropriately a more high end spec.

So, with that said, how do I advocate starting out? The conventional wisdom among Hunters, AFAIK, is that Beast Mastery is overall the best 10-60 levelling spec. BM is a very viable option, particularly because with the first eight points, you're combining survivability (in terms of Endurance Training and Thick Hide) with BM's damage talents later on. If you want to go this path, you can get direction here either from BRK, or from Wolfstalker who has also written a tutorial on the subject.

However, for people who are interested in something a bit more experimental, I thought I'd also share another levelling spec. This doesn't have the same degree of (immediate) survivability, but instead focuses on damage straight out of the gate, whereas with the BM path, you don't get down to the actual damage talents until level 20. In terms of levelling, the extra crits are still making it fast, and I don't die with it excessively either.

To more fully explain my rationale for what I'm going to outline here, let me digress a bit. A bit ago, BRK mentioned a guy who stacked Stamina and made his health the main focus of his character; Grimhorn of Illidan server. (Who has also apparently since respecced/geared to something a lot more orthodox)

BRK mentioned that this guy had done that primarily to be unstoppable within Warsong Gulch. This is relevant because, back when I was a baby Hunter, (think 10-19 and/or 20-29) I was primarily dedicated to Warsong Gulch. I was absolutely fanatical about it; I'm Revered with the Warsong Outriders and got that way without meaning to, whereas my rep tab is basically a mess otherwise. For WSG, a survivability first perspective will take you far. It won't put you at the top of the chart in kills, but it will make you very successful when it comes to flagrunning and defense, which more than kills is what winning WSG is about anywayz. I was extremely defensively focused. Not only that, but as I mentioned in my melee hunter post, on the pve front, I was being asked to fill in as an offtank as for a while I thought that worked.

Hence, my entire spec early on was based around three talents, pretty much:- Endurance Training in the BM tree, Survivalist in the Survival tree, and Improved Aspect of the Monkey, again in the BM tree. For a long time, that worked ok. Not always great, but ok. I also tended to do better in world pvp in particular than anyone expected. (Including me)

However, eventually it got to the point where doing negligible damage just wasn't much fun. As I levelled higher, I also started running into situations where my higher level of health didn't cut it; doing negligible damage was getting me killed. It might take longer than other people, but I was still dying.

This taught me the truth of the proverb, at least where WoW is concerned; that the best defense really is a good offense. I'm now going to stop yammering and move on to the actual spec itself, however the reason why I devote so much time to explanation is because I myself am someone who can't usually be told anything; if I'm going to do something, I have to have a very thorough understanding of the logic behind it first. I've now got many of these talents with my main, and although this isn't how I originally started, it's what I've respecced to, as well as being actually how I now believe I should have started, and I'm also in the process of putting together an alt where I have done this right from scratch. I also have respecced pure Marks before, so I'm not advocating that anyone use talents that I haven't used myself.

In terms of pet, up until around 30 I suggest a cat or a raptor. You'll level faster due to the additional damage, and you also won't come up against anything sufficiently nasty that their lack of tanking ability is a serious problem, if you pre-plan your fights and pull carefully. At 29-30, you can get a Rotting Ama'gar from Razorfen Krawl, and I strongly recommend doing so. Charge is indispensable both in pve and pvp, and the boar's ability to tank multiple adds will also save your life. I've still got mine, and will be keeping him for life.

The other reason why you need Charge is for the initial aggro generation; if you get the Omen threat meter addon, let your boar charge first and watch how much initial aggro it generates. If you allow the boar to generate a good amount of aggro before opening fire yourself, you will be able to do a lot of damage to a target (including crits) before needing to feign. Because Survival's ranged damage is crit based, that's important.

In terms of starting professions, Mining and Skinning. Mining is the only profession I know of where you can earn literal gold from level 6; the index price of copper bars is 1g per stack of 20, tho I find they sell faster at 95s. Thunder Ridge in Durotar is one of the best areas for copper mining I know of. I've seen 70s there, camping the vein's good, easy money regardless of the level.

Light leather also goes for around 30s per stack of 20, and a good Wailing Caverns run will get you prolly three stacks. Because Survival is a lot more gear based than the other two trees, how to make serious bling is something you're going to want to know about. On that score, I also recommend picking up Enchanting up to prolly 130 at around level 45-50 or so, because at that point you'll be able to farm Herod and the SM Cathedral and disenchant the blue boss drops, for Small Radiant Shards which sell for about 6g apiece.

Also before we begin, note that Agility, Stamina, and Attack Power are going to be your three main attributes to look for here, with a slightly higher preference going to Agility. Go with "of the Monkey" items exclusively; either from the Auction House or from instance drops if you can find them.

Once you get to Outland, look for "of the Bandit," stuff, but you don't want to use that exclusively either. If you can get 3-4 pieces of Bandit gear for a decent amount of base rap, do whatever you feel with the rest, (in terms of blues etc) as long as they're focused on Agility, +hit, and +crit primarily. You can use knothide to boost your Stam a bit, although being a glass cannon to some extent won't hurt you as much as I used to think it would.

Don't bother with gear that has caster stats early on, as it will merely waste space you want for Agility. (Spi, Int) Yes, Marks' mana efficiency (or lack of) is truly horrible, and the Efficiency talent doesn't help enough for me anywayz to choose it over IHM...however that won't hurt you much at all, early on. My own Int was white till around 64, and it didn't really start bothering me until then. Later on in Surv you'll be able to get Thrill of the Hunt, which gives you 40% of the cost back of any mana shot that crits, as well as Resourcefulness which gives you a 60% discount on the mana cost of melee skills and traps, and these two things really help. Also later you'll find stuff that gives you Ag, Stam, and Int...but that won't happen for a while.

Anyway, for the first five talent points, from 10-15, I advocate putting them in Lethal Shots, in the Marks tree. 15-17, I'm going to use the only 2 early game points I'll be putting into Survival, and get Savage Strikes. So with this, by level 16, you've already got an extra 5% crit chance for ranged damage, and an extra 20% crit chance for Raptor Strike. No, I'm not advocating being melee more than 5-7% of the time, tops...but especially before you get feign death, there are going to be times when melee happens. If melee can at all be avoided, you generally want to avoid it; but this way, for those scenarios when it can't, you'll still hit hard.

From level 16-21, I'm putting 5 points in Improved Hunter's Mark, in the Marks tree. This will give the full ap bonus of Hunter's Mark to your pet while you're soloing, and to other people in your group when you're not.

From 21-23, I'm putting 2 points in Go for the Throat. This gives your pet back 50 Focus when you crit, so if you get a spell like Gore or Claw for your pet, it can use that 50 Focus for these spells. It can also use it sometimes for an extra Growl in order to perhaps hold aggro, as well.

From 23-24, I'm putting 1 point in Aimed Shot. Once you get Steady Shot at 62, you won't have much use for this spell any more, but you can still use it before then, probably primarily in PvP. For my purposes here though, I mainly suggest it as the prerequisite for Mortal Shots. From 24-26, put 2 points in Rapid Killing as the last prerequisite for Mortal Shots, and also to get Rapid Fire back faster.

From 26-31, put 5 points in Mortal Shots. You've now got your full 30% crit damage bonus, and the shorter cooldown for Rapid Fire, just in time for the Scarlet Monastery. Go kick Herod's ass, and enjoy the blue +crit helm he drops when you're able to wear mail at 40, at least for a few levels.

After level 31, there are a number of options. Probably what I'd recommend would be to stay with Marks until you get a minimum of 400 (or even 500 if you can wait that long) Agility, which is the amount you'll need before starting to get any benefit out of Expose Weakness. However, if you're impatient, and want your traps and the extra crit from Killer Instinct early, that can also work...but realise that you won't do as much damage while you're waiting for your agility, as if you'd stayed with Marks.

20 point Marks at level 31.

Marks at 60, just prior to respec.

Marks/Surv respec at 60. (Probably the earliest you'll be able to break 400 agility. Note the inclusion of Scatter Shot, invaluable in PvP)

My intended Survival spec at 70. Includes EW for the raid/party buff, Wyvern Sting to allow 3 mob CC pulls, Thrill of the Hunt for ranged mana efficiency, and Resourcefulness for mana efficiency while trapping.

Monday, August 20, 2007

My Tag System

Although this isn't fully developed yet, and is subject to continued evolution over time, the three common tags which I'm going to be using on articles, and their definitions, are given here. As you're reading my blog, this will assist you in knowing what an article is likely to be about ahead of time, so you can thus have more of an idea of whether you want to read it. Tags of course also allow related things to be grouped together.

Basics - Posts with this tag will usually about stuff that either applies to the early part of the game, or elements of playstyle which I've come to feel are central to being a Hunter more or less in general, at least for me. These are things which I'm inclined to feel are relevant regardless of a person's level. They can also be about fundamental elements of this blog in general; this document itself is an example.

Philosophy - Posts with this tag are usually rants of various length, talking about my perspective on a particular issue, or on whether or not I feel certain things in-game are a good idea. (My melee hunter post is a good example of what I mean, here) Theorycrafting also comes under this heading; they're usually posts about the "why" of something rather than the "how," as such.

Survival - Posts with this tag will be about issues of specific relevance to the Survival talent spec in particular.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

On Starting a Survival Hunter, Part 1

One of the more rare questions that's come up on the Hunter forum (but which has still been asked occasionally) is, "So how do I start a Survival Hunter?"

The short answer is, you don't.

Shocked? Read on.

What I mean by that is that using Survival straight from level 10 is highly inadvisable, if making things easier for yourself while you get used to being a Hunter in general is what you want. To a degree, (with some other stuff from the BM tree) I myself did it, and my experiences while doing that are a very large part of the reason why I'm saying that you shouldn't, because in the early game it will make your life a lot more difficult. (Not to mention expensive, since you will have to shell out large amounts of money on items to try and match the degree of damage output that people of other specs are getting straight out of their trees, earlier on)

Initially when you read this, you're probably going to be wondering if this means that I'm telling you that you shouldn't be Survival at all. Quite the contrary; I fully believe in the truth of the quote of Trissan which I have on the front page, and intend to advocate Survival as a spec to anyone who is willing to take it. Part of the whole point with Survival is that a prerequisite is thinking out of the box, and unfortunately people seem to think that that only applies to going the misbegotten "melee hunter" route. The truth is, that this is an unorthodox spec, and that even while being fully ranged, in order to get good results you'll still have to do things which will at times have your peers looking at you a little strangely. We've always been the black sheep of the Hunter family, and while patch 2.1 made us somewhat more mainstream, it didn't remove the Uncle Fester element entirely. If it had, I probably wouldn't want to still be Surv myself. (*crazed cackle*)

However, (and this is a BIG however) in order to do genuinely respectable damage with Survival, you need two very important things, one of which you're not going to be able to get until level 29 at the earliest. This first element is 20 talent points spent in the Marksmanship tree, down to Mortal Shots.

While BRK writes that he has never seen any reason not to take it for his own Beast Mastery build as it is as wonderful as it is for damage enhancement, I'm going to go further and say that in my own opinion anyway, 20 point Marks goes beyond being wonderful to being absolutely critical for Survival, as it is essentially the backbone of the ranged damage we do.

That is not to say that Survival itself doesn't enhance ranged damage, but that is the key word here, people; enhance. A couple of people on the Hunter forum have occasionally drawn an analogy between Survival and the Shaman's Enhancement tree, and they're correct in that like that tree, Survival enhances the damage that you're able to bring to the table from other sources, (such as your gear and points spent in the other two trees) but it doesn't so much directly provide damage straight off. (as in the case of BM, and to a lesser extent Marks) If you're willing to hone your edge as a Hunter to a fine point on your own, Survival will make it razor.

Following on from that, then, the other essential thing that I feel you'll need, for a good amount of damage with Survival, is a minimum of probably 400 points of Agility, which you're most likely not going to be able to get until around level 60. People on the Hunter forum will tell you that you actually need 600+; I disagree with that, but you will probably want at least 400 in order for Expose Weakness to generate 100 points of attack power for you and the rest of the people you're in a group with. 500 is better, since with that EW will generate 125 AP, which is the equivalent of the Mark's tree's Trueshot Aura, but 400 will give you a bit more than the same boost you get from Hunter's Mark, so it's ok to start with.

Hence the two reasons why Survival can't really be taken straight from level 10. (Well, it can, but like I said you probably just won't enjoy it much)

Now that I've talked about (to a degree anywayz) what perhaps shouldn't be done when starting out as Survival, I'll go into talking about what I feel perhaps should in part 2.

Why I use a slow ranged weapon

(This was originally posted here in the Hunter forum.)

From what I've seen, although different speed bows can have the same DPS, slower bows will usually have a higher maximum damage.

To give you an example, take two weapons:-

The High Warlord's Street Sweeper, with a DPS of 55.9, damage range 129-195, attack speed 2.9.
The High Warlord's Recurve, with a DPS of 55.8, damage range 80-121, attack speed 1.8.

At first glance, you're possibly going to assume that all other things being equal, the Recurve will give you more damage. After all, more overall shots fired = more overall damage, right?

Yes...and no.

Out of these two weapons, for my spec, I chose the Street Sweeper, for two reasons.

The first reason is that out of the 129-195 damage range, the Street Sweeper will hypothetically average prolly 140-150 or so. (This isn't counting ap, of course) The catch here however is what happens with armor. If in PvP, you hit a Warrior with 50% damage mitigation, (for the sake of argument) that 150 damage becomes 75.

With the Recurve, you're probably averaging 100 damage per hit. Against our hypothetical Warrior with 50% damage mitigation, (probably a conservative estimate) that goes down to 50 damage, which translates to 25 less damage per hit than the Street Sweeper.

The reason why this is important is because:-

1. Often during kiting in pvp, you'll only get one shot off before having to move you want that one shot to count as much as possible.

2. The Recurve's damage (and crit damage) range even with Aimed Shot and friends will therefore also be lower per hit as well, for the same cost in mana.

3. Your damage numbers with the Recurve will be more inconsistent, depending on the armor value of the target.

The other major reason why I chose the Street Sweeper is because even in pvp, if I can get my boar or another player to tank my target and thus stay at range, I like to have a nice, stable shot rotation...because inflicting the maximum possible amount of pain and suffering upon the Alliance is something I greatly enjoy. ;-)

What I mean by that is, when you fire a Steady Shot or one of your other mana shots, what will often happen is that an autoshot will fire immediately afterwards, which can get you another white crit immediately after the mana shot. With a 2.9 speed weapon, it's a lot easier to make sure that this happens, in order to maximise your damage output. With a 1.8 speed weapon, it becomes a lot more difficult to time each mana shot; you'll be button mashing in order to try and keep up, which will either mean you don't get an autoshot between mana shots at all, or you get more of them than you anticipated.

Thus, I'm finding a slow weapon to be better for both pvp and pve.

On Melee Hunters

It is actually fitting, in retrospect, that this should be the first issue I deal with in this blog. For those who do not know, melee combat is actually part of the heritage of a Survival Hunter. During the closed beta of World of Warcraft, before the public release of the game, I have heard tell that Survival was "the melee tree," for the Hunter class, and was restructured just prior to release.

Also, be warned. This is going to be a long post.

However, I will begin by stating that I have a confession to make. Father, forgive me, for I have sinned.

I'm going to tell you one of my darkest, dirtiest secrets, here.

I used to be a melee hunter.

In fact, I was a melee hunter for most of my hunting career up to this point; I only really entered rehabilitation at about level 62 or so.

Oh, I wasn't completely melee. Sometimes I'd even feign on gaining aggro, to hand it back to my boar, in order to continue shooting. However, there were also times where, with a pair of fast daggers, I'd feel an irresistable urge to become a hybrid Rogue, and would begin attacking mobs in that manner.

Although BRK has written himself about this topic, having been Survival spec since level 10, I feel that for me, it is a lot closer to home, since as I noted above, there was at least one point in WoW prehistory where in an official sense, Survival melee was considered a forgiveable practice. Thus, the issue of Hunter melee is primarily a monkey on Survival's back, and it's appropriate that a Survival Hunter attempt to slay it.

In addition, although attempts beyond number have been made to flog it to death, the issue of Hunter melee viability is an exceedingly stubborn undead equine which steadfastly refuses to stay buried, and repeatedly rises on the Hunter forum periodically, to the great distress of the forum's denizens. Given this, I am going here to discharge several shells from my own shotgun into the corpse, in the hopes that I can at least persuade it to remain dormant for an extended period, if not permanently.

So, given the current state of the game, just why is Hunter melee such a bad idea, anyway?

The whole problem with this question is that, at certain points in the game anyway, Hunter melee can seem as though it isn't a bad idea. One of the main reasons for this is because, in a number of the early instances, the mobs are sufficiently weak where even a Hunter of the same level can engage primarily in melee and have a fairly good chance of surviving the experience, particularly if a capable healer is present.

It's also highly seductive. Trap augmented, dual wield melee is a fast paced playstyle that can be highly enjoyable, and can also give the Hunter an illusionary sense of being extremely powerful, because said Hunter won't be looking at how much damage the rest of their group are actually doing, or how in many cases other group members are getting virtually none of the healer's attention, because the healer is having to spend all of his time keeping the Hunter alive.

Thirdly, in the early game at least, it can seem necessary. There is currently, and has for some time now, been a tank shortage in World of Warcraft. Often four people are able to get together for an instance quite capably, but can be kept waiting for hours because of the lack of a Warrior. An impetuous young Hunter might notice how high his Stamina is in comparison to his peers in the group, as well as that of his pet, and think to himself that he can compensate for the lack of a Warrior, and serve as a tank instead. Again, with a sufficiently capable healer and DPS backup, in the early game it's even possible. I myself main tanked Zul'Farrak at level 52, and the Sunken Temple (including the avatar of Hakkar and the attendant trash) at 60.

This might sound like what I'm really saying is that Hunter melee is viable. It isn't. Let me put it this way.

Although I don't know what the Survival tree looked like during the closed beta, I suspect that the transition for it from a melee to a ranged tree had to be made rather quickly. Possibly because it had to be made so quickly, the metamorphosis didn't entirely take, and rather than an entirely ranged tree being the result, what we instead ended up with is the ranged/melee equivalent of a platypus or a Mexican walking fish. In other words, when you look at such talents as Savage Strikes, Deflection, Deterrence, and Improved Wing Clip, you'd initially be justified in assuming that Survival was still the "melee tree." However, when you go further down you get Thrill of the Hunt, which gives back part of the mana cost of ranged critical mana shots, and Expose Weakness and Master Tactician, both of which activate from ranged critical hits.

What does this mean? It means that Survival is not, in fact, a melee tree, but rather that the talents in the first two levels make it initially appear to be one. Deterrence is probably the most striking example. By increasing Dodge and Parry chance by 25%, this might initially look like a talent intended for melee use. However, look closer. Deterrence increases dodge and parry by 25%, yes...but for 10 seconds.

A walking fish can temporarily leave the water, and even appear to walk along the ground in a clumsy way while it is out of the water. However, eventually it must return to the water, or it will die. It is exactly the same with Survival. Using it, you can engage in melee, however clumsily, poorly, and very temporarily. If you do not return to the water, (range) which is your primary habitat, you will die.

I used to rail against the people in the forum condemning Hunter melee myself, but on entering Outland, I very quickly learned why it was condemned. After level 60, for the most part a melee Hunter is quite simply a dead Hunter; and as much fun as having the illusion of being Godlike in the Sunken Temple might have been, dying as much as I did in Outland before I learned my lesson (and especially the accompanying repair bill) most certainly wasn't.

Even if you go Survival, use your bow. (or gun) That's what it's there for. If you get aggro from your pet, or an additional mob, feign death, and then jump back. You'll do more damage, the mob will die more quickly, and you're far less likely to die in the process.



This will be devoted to talking about my level 66 Orc Hunter on the Jubei'Thos Oceanic server, within World of Warcraft. It will also contain links to material written about the Hunter class by those more knowledgeable than I, and occasional musings on those issues which I consider relevant at least to my own character, if not the Hunter class in general.

I am, apparently, in somewhat of a minority where the Hunter class is concerned, because in terms of talent specialisation within the game, I am a Survivalist. According to a survey here, Survival Hunters comprise 5.1% of all players within World of Warcraft, however I read about another survey on the Hunter forum recently which claimed that since the first survey, the number had risen to 7%. Either way, however you slice it, we're rare.

Hence part of my motivation for beginning this blog. The official Hunter forum gets a steady flow of questions from the curious about what life is like for a Survival Hunter, and whether or not it might benefit them to make Survival their own spec. It is my hope that I can offer people who are curious about Survival at least my own perspective on the answers to these questions, and also, my even greater hope that I can spare you the need to go into the Hunter forum directly in order to ask them. The inhabitants of the Hunter forum are, largely without exception, a group of relentlessly vicious and deeply elitist individuals, and I would not willingly see their lack of compassion inflicted upon anyone, especially newcomers to the Hunter class or this game in general.

As Exhibit A in terms of evidence supporting the idea that Survival is indeed a viable Hunter specialisation, I also offer the Armory's talent profile of Ahoq, the Hunter class officer of the European guild Nihilum, which from what I have been able to learn is one of the most accomplished guilds on the planet.

Acknowledgement is also given here to BigRedKitty, a fellow Hunter within this game who is infinitely more knowledgeable and experienced than am I, and from whose writings I have learned much. Although his own specialisation is Beast Mastery, while remaining Survival I also recognise the worthiness of that spec, particularly for PvP and levelling. I probably would have won a lot more pvp fights than I have if I had the Bestial Wrath talent.