It's 7:57 am here, and I just dinged level 72 a few minutes ago. I started somewhere between 12:30 and 1 am this morning, and I wasn't very far into level 71 at the time, which means going from 71 and 72 has taken me probably close to nine hours in total, although there was a trip to Dalaran to restock ammunition, and back to Orgrimmar to respec and train Kill Shot.
I don't like Dalaran as much as I liked Shattrath, I've decided. Stormwind is probably my least favourite city in this game, and my distaste for Dalaran exists for more or less the same reasons. Both cities feel extremely small, cramped, and inorganic. I ended up very fond of Shattrath, by comparison, and the reason why is because it was exactly the opposite.
Good urban design in my own mind calls for both intelligent use of the z axis, and a lot of plants, and any city which is all stone or concrete and no greenery at all, generally isn't one that I'm going to be very happy in. It probably goes without saying that Thunder Bluff is a place that I very much enjoy spending time in, although Blizz could possibly improve it with a bit more shrubbery here and there.
As for the other half of this post's title, it's due to me having gone back to 0/10/51, although that's now 0/11/52 considering that I've leveled twice. Given the amount of abuse I've hurled at this spec, you'd be entirely justified in wondering why I would do that.
I will still be using the hybrid for battleground pvp, but for levelling or farming, the main thing is, I realised that Furnurgler was right. I went with the hybrid spec because I thought it would be more DPS, (which it is, marginally) and I was also putting pressure on myself for a while to level up faster, in order to proverbially keep up with the Joneses.
I'm realising now that that was stupid. As long as I trap in place, trapping is actually faster for levelling for the simple reason that trapping means I actually want to play the game at all; with a more dps oriented spec, per-kill levelling might have been faster, but it was boring me and affecting my level of motivation. Now instead of finding killing mobs boring, it's actually partially addictive for me.
I'm not sure I will ever stop wrestling with this entirely, but the one thing I need to learn more than anything else, is to ignore the expectations and preconceptions of other people, and simply follow my own instincts. Once I do that, I enjoy the game. When I stop doing it and cave in to the pressure temporarily, I again find it difficult to stay motivated about playing, because I'm not being true to myself.
For another thing, the difference in DPS between 0/10/51 and 0/30/31 is around 40, (550 while trapping, as opposed to 590ish with a 1:1.5 rotation with Aimed and Serpent with 0/30/31, although by the time I finished this morning, Recount was showing me having peaked at around 640) and the other thing is, I have vastly better mana efficiency and endurance.
With the hybrid spec I have to drink probably every four mobs, and given how densely packed most mobs are in Northrend, I can get half a dozen adds almost without thinking about it. If I'm going to survive that, I need all the mana efficiency I can get. I was dying a few times with the hybrid whereas I don't now, simply because I'd go oom and not be able to finish off all of the adds I was getting because of it.
I know the answer to this from most people will be to get a Gorilla and spam Volley, however there are two reasons why I haven't (and most likely won't) ended up doing that.
The first reason is that simply spamming a single spell (or close to) isn't a playstyle that I enjoy, and was the main reason why I found the 1:1 rotation so unbearable during TBC. If I'm going to avoid getting bored to the point where it is literally physically painful, I need to be able to think about things a bit more than that.
The second reason is that the Gorilla is nerf bait. As much as I hate to say it, I have a very powerful hunch that a Thunderstomp nerf is soon going to be coming to a Gorilla near you. Every time the community has previously decided that there is One Pet To Rule Them All, Blizz have nerfed it, presumably to enforce a greater degree of diversity among chosen pets.
The first victim of the nerf bat was Lightning Breath, after it was found to scale so well. Then came the discovery and subsequent nerfing of both Scorpid Poison, and my own dearly beloved Boar Charge.
These are three powerful precedents, and given how upset I was with the Charge nerf, I've decided I don't want to become attached to and dependent on Thunderstomp, only to have Blizzard take that away from me as well.
As much as Hortus swore until he was blue in the face that Charge's threat generation was bugged, I never believed him. My experience has proven me right; a boar with full Tenacity spec now has nowhere near the aggro holding capacity of a cat, and Ferocity is not a tanking tree.
Boars had (and still have) a 10% penalty to damage, to balance their +10% bonus to health. Given that, unless their means of threat generation is genuinely astronomical, they have no chance of being able to cope whatsoever.
I sincerely hope that I'm wrong about this, because I know there are a lot of Hunters who love their Gorilla, but I have an uncomfortable and persistent feeling that I won't be. The scenario with Thunderstomp is too similar to the previous ones.
The other major point about Explosive Shot is that I quite simply didn't previously know how to use it. ES's primary hit damage (of under 300) is not the point. The point is the additional DoT, which stacks with both Serpent Sting and Immolation Trap.
In that sense, Survival is like the Shaman, whose damage doesn't come from a single source, but comes from totems, the enhancement weapon enchant, shocks/lightning, and melee damage. In Surv's own case, it's Serpent Sting, Immolation Trap, Arcane, Explosive, Kill Shot, and Autoshot, with the occasional raptor strike/wing clip combo while kiting.
Survival's damage is only really primarily crit based inside an instance, where I have a human tank in front of me who has vastly more ability at re-acquiring threat than my pet does if I screw up.
When I'm soloing, however, particularly against groups, critting high gets me killed, because it pulls all of the mobs onto me, and keeps them within melee range, so I can't get them off me, and I can't do enough damage to kill them before they kill me. I want crits, yes; but I primarily want them for proccing things. In damage terms during solo PvE, that is what my dots are for.
So my new rotation is, drop a frost trap and jump back from it slightly, use either Serpent Sting or a dagger for pulling, (the dagger is for very low threat pulls, where I'm worried about adds) and send my cat when the mob hits the trap. I then turn and jump out to 20-25 yards, turn back, apply Serpent if I haven't already, and then use Explosive, Arcane, Explosive due to the Lock and Load proc. The reason why I allow an Arcane in between Explosives is to give the DoT time to do its' work before re-applying it.
I haven't encountered a non-elite mob of my own level yet, that won't be dead by that point. Multiple mobs are a bit harder, but not much. I simply have my cat Growl at each one before opening fire, kite around the edge of the frost slick, and also try and time using my Lock and Load procs for just before Feign Death is back up.
It's a very kinetic, acrobatic playstyle, (almost as much as the Mage, but not quite) and with the addition of Lock and Load, I find that quite aside from being slow, I actually have to move fairly quickly in order to take advantage of, and string together, my various procs. Although I'm still primarily ranged, I'm also finding that I'm a more or less equal partner in tanking with the pet, and have been going through more food than water. Aspect of the Dragonhawk is going to be a real Godsend for me.
The benefit, however, is that I can tank close to half a dozen adds if need be, maintain sufficient mana to deal with all of them, and also, if I'm careful with my threat, survive situations which I am initially sure will kill me. I hardly ever have to drink, either, so my downtime is minimal, although as mentioned, I can spend a fair amount of time eating after a reasonably big pull.
I also know, however, that I don't have the money to keep respeccing, so this is the spec I'm going to stick with, at least until 80. Given how much fun I had this morning though, I don't think that is going to be an issue.