18 Feb 2010

Heroics for Dummy Hunters (a guide for the rest of us!) - part 2

OK, in the last part I covered what you should do before getting into a heroic run, and what you should do immediately on arrival inside. Now let’s deal with some etiquette.

Teleporting in will most likely put you into an instance with four people you’ve never met before. Say hello.

Yes, honestly. Just say “hi”, let people know you’re actually at the keyboard and you’re a real human being. Show a bit of friendliness and people will be more forgiving if you do happen to mess up. But that’s not going to happen, is it?

Generally, the run itself will take place in complete silence unless somebody feels the need to have a pop at someone’s DPS, or someone’s drunk, or stoned, or five years old. Possibly all of the above. Trust me. The only time someone’s likely to say something constructive is to give a terse, one-line instruction about tactics for a boss fight. “Hunter on harpoons” or “Kill rifts first” are good examples.

Don’t let this trouble you. The temptation if you’re slightly more sociable is to launch into a chat about the weather, particularly if you’re English. Do not fall into this trap. Dutch people do not talk about the weather. Italian players will probably not understand what you’re talking about.

If you are drunk and/or stoned, do not admit it. Imagine the other players in your group have the ability to call the police or the Temperance League, or both, and send them round to your home. Feel that level of caution. It will serve you well. Admitting you can see fifteen players in your group who all look like trippy Gnomish Cheech and Chongs is tantamount to having an enormous “Vote to Kick” button above your name.

If you do need to ask something, try to do it outside combat. If you’re typing, you’re not killing and everybody knows it. If you’re asking questions or making observations in a boss fight, you can expect a certain level of personal abuse from other group members who feel you’re not pulling your weight. Instead, do it beforehand – especially if you don’t know the boss tactics. In this case, definitely do ask – you’ll be surprised at how many people say “me too! Lol” when you admit you’ve never been somewhere before.

Admitting you don't know boss tactics is not only a good move, it will take some of the heat out of the tank. He'll generally be the one who explains how the fight works, and at least you'll have some idea of what you should be doing. Few things are worse than a wipe because of bashfulness.

Try not to loot while in combat. I understand how juicy and tasty those sparkly bodies look, and I know that plenty of tanks are so sociopathic they can't wait to get away from the other people in the group and so happily sprint past bodies without stopping to loot them. Understand that tanking is a lonely, foul-tempered profession. That is why they won’t hesitate to go for the emotional jugular as they try to hold the attention of six mobs as well as decide whether to roll greed or disenchant because you couldn’t wait to see what dropped.

Hold back until the dust settles.

Also try to refrain from asking questions about specs, glyphs and gear while in combat. Inspecting other players can be fascinating – they can be horribly misgemmed, badly geared or uber 1337 hardcore raiders draped from head to toe in beautiful ilevel 264 items. Asking about their clothing in combat merely demonstrates you’re more attracted to them than you are to shooting things. That's a bit creepy, frankly - and if you creep them out, as a dps you are easily replaceable with somebody who can keep their mind on the job without sounding like the mad fan-woman from that Stephen King novel.

Having said all of that, do not hang about after combat is ended. Most tanks run heroic instances whilst holding their breath, which means they either finish the run within minutes or suffocate. You’ll get used to it. Just don’t expect them to wait while you pick up dozens of serrated fangs from the pack of mobs you just laid waste to.

Please do not antagonise your healer by asking to be healed. Your experience of an instance is all “wow – that’s awesome, I can see the pub from here” and “the architecture I’m splattering with mob blood is reminiscent of European gothic cathedrals”. The healer’s experience of an instance is five health bars and two or three healing spells, punctuated by the occasional glance at their own mana bar. They know you need healing. And they chose to become healers because it’s a silent profession that allows no opportunity for them to expose their own social shortcomings through unnecessary chatter. Do not bother them. They already know how much health you have and how much you’re missing. In straight numbers and percentages.

Spamming recount is also considered bad form. It quickly fills the chat window, getting rid of such useless information as which player was supposed to be on the harpoons during the boss fight. And pretty much everybody will be running recount anyway... they don’t need to see what your addon has recorded. Add to that the fact that everybody understands you are a hunter and as such will reign supreme at the top of the charts by a margin of several thousand dps, and you can see there’s no excuse for embarrassing others by posting dps meter results after every fight.

When you finally do put a boss to sleep, the loot will fall from the sky like... actually, like dirty filthy acid rain that strips away foliage and pollutes rivers. Most bosses will drop blues which probably won’t be as good as the gear you’re buying with emblems. Don’t worry about it. Size up whether it would be a good upgrade.

In order to do this, know your class. You are a hunter, mighty, proud, full to the brim with agility and attack power. Most other things are useless. Make sure it’s an item you can use. Then ask whether you can roll need on it.

Don’t be scared, go ahead and ask. Nobody will think you’re a ninja if you ask first. Ninjas loot first, ask later (if at all). That’s not you. You politely requested it. When the boot’s on the other foot, let the loot slide. People want it for main spec or off-spec, who – really – cares? There’s plenty more where that came from, and it’s doing someone some good instead of being turned into shards or gold. If you can’t use it, don’t let it bother you.

While we’re tackling loot, let me say right now – greed is the roll for frozen orbs. Not need. Never need. It’s greed. Feel free to tell people who roll need on orbs how you feel... no matter how quickly you type, you won’t beat the tank to personally abusing the miscreant. Tanks, in addition to holding their breath, also have voice interpreters wired to their vocal cords which means anything they mutter under their breath spills out into party chat. It’s just how they’re wired. If it's aimed at you, try not to take anything they say personally. After all, they just spent some of their precious breath on you.

15 Feb 2010

Heroics for Dummy Hunters (a guide for the rest of us!) - part 1

Welcome to my easy, step-by-step guide that will hopefully teach you how not to make us hunters look bad in heroic instance runs. It's hard to believe, but some classes just don't recognise hunters as the kings of WoW - this guide will show you how to hammer that point home, run after run.
In this, the first part, I'll be talking about preparation. Half of the battle to run a heroic well is to be prepared and ready when you turn up. So what will you need to know before you teleport in to meet the sad non-hunters who will rely on you to see them safely through their dungeon ordeal? :)

Running 5-man heroics is a great way of gearing up – the first random of the day gets you a couple of [Frost Emblems] (and check out what you can buy with those here!), and after that you’ll get [Emblems of Triumph]. Of course, you also get those for every boss you down in a heroic instance... and there really aren’t any bosses that should seriously challenge you at level 80, even if you’re gear isn’t uber-raid lootz!

Hopefully, these guides will give you some sort of clue as to what you should be doing as a hunter in these runs. It really isn’t hard; mostly you’ll be swapping between aspects to make sure you’ve enough mana for fights, then misdirecting all your threat onto the tank, and spamming volley. Yup – this is the lazy huntering guide to heroics.

At the risk of sparking some debate about specs, I’ll tell you now that your job will probably be easier if you spec as Marksman. Why? Well, you get Trueshot Aura, for a start: everybody in your party gets a huge lift to their damage, whether they’re a hunter or not. Plus you’ll also be doing the most damage for any spec if you’re playing properly. Please note – if you’re playing properly. There’s no reason you can’t spec Survival or Beastmastery, they’re both viable, but I’d say go MM.

Next you’ll want a wolf. Why? Because wolves have a great ability called Furious Howl which also boosts your damage... and that’s what we’re all about!

Before you head in, you’ll also want three addons (at the very least!). In order, they are:

Omen threat meter: You need this because the tank should always have the most threat of anybody in the group. The mobs you’ll be fighting need to stick to the tank who can take the beating they dish out. If they head for anybody else in the party, you’re in trouble – not necessarily fatal trouble, but trouble you can live without. The idea of Omen is simple – it tells you who has the mob’s attention. It will warn you if you are getting dangerously close to taking that threat and pulling the mob onto yourself. Make sure you keep any eye on the threat meters. A handy hint here is to go into the config menu and colour the bars all one colour except for your own. In my setup, everybody else is green, while mine is red. It just makes it easier for me to see what’s happening while I’m unloading Iceblade Arrows into a crowd.

Recount damage meter: You don’t actually need this, but it’s very useful to see how you’re performing. If I were in a heroic instance with you, I’d hope you could do at least 1500dps. If you’re in with very well-geared players, they can carry you... but you don’t want to be the useless one people are whispering each other about, do you? Recount will let you know how your dps is doing and whether you might need to gear up a little more or change your shot rotation or whatever. It’s not – and I repeat NOT – the alpha and omega of being a hunter. Do not let the dps meter rule your life. For a start, it’s not always accurate. And for another thing, some fights mean lots of moving and so less dps. What Recount – or any other damage meter – does is to give you a good idea of whether you’re ready for a certain level of challenge. And of course you can see how other players are doing.

Deadly Boss Mods: This is a great little addon that lets you know what bosses are doing in fights – and when you should be doing something in particular. Brohnjam is casting the big whirlwindy thing? DBM tells you it’s happening and warns you to move in. Loken casting his nova-party-wipe-move? DBM tells you when, and shouts at you to sit under his feet before you get blasted. I can’t tell you just how useful Deadly Boss Mods can be if you’re meeting a boss for the first time. You may still die, but at least on your next attempt you’ll know what’s happening before other group members start shouting at you in party chat.

One very important point, and one which hunters talk about in hushed whispers. Ammunition. Yes, I know - who'd forget to show for an instance without enough ammo to see them through it, right? But it's worth checking before you arrive and have to announce you're out of bullets. That's if you're lucky and don't discover the unfortunate fact about ten seconds into the first boss fight. Make sure you have enough arrows or bullets before you enter!

While we're on the subject of stating the bloody obvious, why not make sure your gear is all repaired as well? I don't understand why, but the first thing to take damage and break is usually your ranged weapon. So make sure you're not on 3% durability before you get inside. It's worth repairing and restocking ammo after each run you do.

So. We have a spec. We have a pet. We have addons. We know what our role is. We’ve arrived in the instance and are ready to go. But wait... first there are buffs to be had!

I don’t hold much with using flasks for heroic runs. For a start, they’re expensive. For another thing, you won’t need them unless your dps is pretty awful. You should be able to tackle heroics without a [Flask of Endless Rage] – but if your money tree drops gold like it’s forever Autumn then feel free to bring some.

Buffs, really, come down to two things in heroics. Yours and other people’s.

I know it’s hard, but don’t go haring off just yet in the sheer joy of being able to shoot things. You are not Cypress Hill. Wait around as the other players sort out their buffs – because you’ll get buffs too. I love (and I mean love) Paladins because you can get Blessing of Kings from them. That gives ten per cent extra everything. And if there’s more than one pally, odds are you’ll get Blessing of Might too. All the better to blast you in the face with, my dear mobs. Buffs also have benefits for your pet because its statistics are linked to your own – an extra ten per cent stamina, anyone? Hurray!

Other classes have their own buffs they can give you (Mages can give you extra intellect, which means more man, which means more shooting) but pally buffs are the unarguable kings of buffery. And if you start running into an instance, they lose sight of you which means they can’t cast it on you. So be patient... you’ll get all the carnage you can handle soon enough.

Your buffs should be Trueshot Aura and (initially) Aspect of the Viper. You want Trueshot Aura up all the time anyway but if you’ve died recently you may have forgotten to turn it on. Do so now! Aspect of the Viper simply ensures you’re at full mana when you tackle the first mobs. For a bit of extra wallop in your bow or gun of choice, try eating [Blackened Dragonfin] – this gives you 40 extra Agility and some more stamina. You can also feed your pet [Spiced Mammoth Treats] to give it a bit of extra bite as well.

Where do you get these delicacies from? You can either make them or buy them from the Auction House. Both recipes require a cooking skill of 400 to learn, each Blackened Dragonfin will need 1 [Dragonfin Angelfish] and 1 [Northern Spices], while each Spiced Mammoth Treat needs 1 [Chunk O’Mammoth] and 1 [Northern Spices].

Dragonfin Angelfish can be caught in Dragonblight – the best way is to fly to Moa'ki Harbor and head to the lake just to the Northwest on the map. You can also fly to Wintergarde Keep and head East until you hit the Dragonspine Tributary river. Both places should provide you with plenty of plenty of schools to fish from.

Chucks O’Mammoth, meanwhile, can be farmed from any mammoths in Northrend. My favourite place is near Dun Niffelem in the Storm Peaks. If you can fly there, head West along the valley and you’ll see packs of mammoths to kill.

Northern Spices are rewards from the daily cooking quests in Dalaran – or you can buy them from the Auction House for somewhere around 50s each these days.

All buffed up? Good good. Just one last thing before you begin... are you wearing a chef’s hat? Or a fishing hat? Or carrying a lance? Or a fishing rod? This sound silly, but the number of people who turn up at a random straight from their favourite fishing spot or fresh from the cooking daily quest will surprise you. Until you’re experienced and jaded and laughing at them from the heights of hunter mastery, that is, then it won’t surprise you at all: you’ll be sighing in exasperation at the nab and telling him in party chat to get dressed properly. But until that day, don’t be one of those people.

11 Feb 2010

Truly random dungeons

What’s WoW missing? And I don’t mean Guild housing. I mean, do you really want to spend your play time sat in an instance with nothing in it except you and your guildies? Missing out on trade spam? Doing nothing except talking in guild chat? Are you too lazy to run to a bank to access the guild’s resources?

No, what WoW is missing – certainly in instance terms – is a random dungeon. Not a random let’s-grind-emblems-of-triumph random instance, but a truly random dungeon.

Consider the amount of content you could plough through, playing properly rather than spamming the same abilities over and over, if there was a random dungeon generator. Please Blizz, set up a couple of instance servers that randomly put together a layout each time you visit it. Stick some caves or entrances around the place and phase them so everybody else sees a sealed-off cave or locked door once you or your party has gone inside.

And what would I put in it? Well, the mobs in WoW come in different flavours. There’s the easy, who-cares mob you grind for fun. Then there’s the slightly better version; the “Elder” boar or “Greater” spider or whatever. Then you have elite mobs. Then you have rare elite mobs.

Why not use this to stock a small instance with mobs? When you enter – or just outside the door - you fight the rubbish ones. When you get inside there are slightly harder ones. Towards the end are elites, with a mini-boss to tackle to complete it.

Layouts may sound like a problem given there’s a persistent world to take into account, but even that’s solved fairly easily. Azeroth is a true 3D world, so put a spiral staircase or shaft to take you well down into the ground. As I recall from levelling, there’s a place under Feralas which I hated having to go into to do quests because it plunged straight down before entering a rabbit-warren of passages. Something like that would be ideal.

It would be different every time you went in, which might offend some lore purists, but who cares? It’s different every time, something you don’t really get in PvE.

Once you have a set of predefined ‘tiles’ which lay out into an instance, apply a set of textures to it. Fancy a crypt – voila! A cave? Here you go.

Personally, I’d be more than happy to take these on. Especially if each generated an ID in the same way raids do – enter your ID at the door and you’re back in the same instance.

But it’s a lot of development, I guess, which could be better spent elsewhere. Buffing BM spec for hunters would be good. But failing that, could we please have more randomness?

8 Feb 2010

Love's Fool bracelets

There's a method of farming [Lovely Charm Bracelets] that involves going into Ulduar and farming the dwarves from vehicles at the start - but if you want more fun and lots of charms to make bracelets with, here's a good spot to farm.

Frenzyhearts in Sholazar Basin have a little circle of guys who look at though they're training on a round piece of rock right here.

As a hunter, it was easy to send my pet in with misdirect on it, then Volley them all down and collect somewhere between five and ten [Lovely Charms] in seconds.

But the best thing? If you loot everything, then jump on your flying mount and head away they'll all respawn seconds later, meaning you can go back, rinse and repeat.

And at 20-30g a bracelet on my server, it's easy money!

30 Jan 2010

PUG-e-mon... gotta avoid them all!

Part two - Death Nabs

One Death Knight in a PUG usually makes me smell the sweet aroma of potential trouble, but when you get two... well, the opportunities for disaster rise exponentially.

So when I went along on a Violet Hold run and discovered both the tank and one of the DPS were Death Knights, both from the same guild on the same realm, I started wondering what I was in for.

But I didn't have to worry about it for long - both did the same amount of woeful damage (around 600-800DPS) compared to anybody else in the party. The pally healer could probably have facerolled Holy Shock and hit harder, frankly.

But I'm not a meter-Nazi and so I didn't say anything. VH is pretty easy, so who cares?

What troubled me was that they weren't competing as DPS. They were competing as tanks.

That became obvious when a portal opened on the left hand walkway and out rolled a blue dragonflight squad. Because we were waiting on the ground floor (waiting, I should say, for the tank to head up there), the squad split in two and came around each way to find us. Both DKs ran forward, one left, one right, and lay down their AoE. And death-gripped a mob each from the two half-squads. The remainder of the squad battered them, the other two DPS tried to kill the split mobs and the healer tried to divide his attention between the two. Predictably, the marked tank died. As did the DPS tank.

But what rankled, as I Feigned Death, watched the healer and warrior die and waited for it all to blow over, was their /p conversation lolling about who was the best tank.

Here's the answer... NEITHER OF YOU.

27 Jan 2010

PUG-e-mon... gotta avoid them all!

Part one - the desperate tank

There are times as a healer you have to feel hard-done-by. So far, I've managed to avoid the PUG curse which deals you dps-specced tanks or Death Noobs, but last night I finally found out why everybody told me healing 5-mans would be a bad idea on my pally alt.

We hit Culling of Stratholme, which I usually enjoy as a dps (spam Volley, anyone?), and within seconds the tank asked whether we could do [Zombiefest]. Everybody else said no, forget it - it's best to do that with a group you know. I have the achievement on my hunter, so I knew how tough it could be in a random group (I managed it eventually in a guild run).

Not to be denied, he tried pulling all of the zombies at the start... which quickly led to trouble. No deaths, but he was told it wasn't possible there as you can't pull the 100 zombies needed. The entire party told him again not to do it, and he agreed - albeit relucatantly.

So when we reached the end of the secret passage strung out in a line and he took off pulling every mob possible, comments ranged from "suicide" to "stupid". He managed to hit 25% health in seconds, I couldn't heal him as he was out of range and Line of Sight, and needless to say he died.

Followed by the rest of the group.

I left without comment. It's not that he tried and failed. It's not that he stupidly and needlessly ranged and LoSed me. It's that he lied about trying for it.

24 Jan 2010

Fast Mining levelling 1-450

Need to level your Mining profession up from 1 to 450? Just follow this guide. Mining is a gathering profession and a big earner – even Copper Ore goes for a decent amount because crafters don’t want to farm materials at low levels. The ore and metals serve three crafting professions: serves three professions: Blacksmithing, Engineering and Jewelcrafting, so if you have any of those as a secondary profession you could earn even more. And the fact all three are looking out for metals keeps prices fairly stable. There are all sorts of places to level by mining nodes – but this guide focuses on the best places with the most nodes.

What is essential if you want to level quickly is an addon which shows where the nodes are. Gatherer is good, personally I prefer Carbonite.

To start go to a trainer in any capital city in Azeroth – Darnassus, Ironforge, Stormwind or the Exodar. To find them, ask a guard. Once you reach the trainer, learn Apprentice Mining.

Skill level 1-65
[Copper Ore] - Dun Morogh, Elywnn Forest
When you have around 30 copper Ore, go and Smelt them and repeat the cycle, go mine ores then smelt them. Save the Copper Bars, you will need them.

Learn Mining Journeyman from a trainer.

Skill level 65-75
[Tin Ore], [Copper Ore] - Thousand Needles, Redridge Mountains
Tin can be a real pain to find – which is where your addon comes into play. You’ll find a lot of iron in the zones with Tin in, but you won’t be able to mine it yet.

Skill level 75-125

[Silver Ore] - Thousand Needles, Redridge Mountains
At 75, smelt the ores and use your Copper and Tin Bars to make Bronze Bars. At 75 you can learn how to smelt Silver Ore from a trainer. You can buy this from the Auction House and smelt it if you can afford it – or just mine Tin and Smelt Bronze until 125.

Learn Expert Mining from a trainer.

Skill level 125-175
[Iron Ore], [Tin Ore], [Gold Ore] - Arathi Highlands, Thousand Needles
At 155 learn to smelt Gold Ore from a trainer – if you can afford 30 and smelt them that will help you reach 175.
Skill level 175-245
[Mithril Ore], [Truesilver Ore] - The Hinterlands, Tanaris
At 230 head for a trainer learn to smelt Truesilver Ore to reach 225 quickly.
Skill level 245-300
[Thorium Ore] – Winterspring, Eastern Plaguelands
At 250, you’ll be able to learn to smelt Thorium Bars – you can only mine small Thorium Veins until you hit 275, which is a real bottleneck. If you can, buy the enchantment [Enchant Gloves – Advanced Mining] as it’ll get you through this much more quickly.

Next, head for Outland to learn Master Mining from a trainer.

Skill level 300-325
[Fel Iron Ore] - Hellfire Peninsula
Skill level 325-350
[Adamantite Ore] – Nagrand

You’ve exhausted Outland’s mining possibilities – time to go to Northrend, find a trainer and learn Grand Master Mining.

Skill level 350-400
[Cobalt Ore] - Borean Tundra
Skill level 400-450
[Saronite Ore] - Sholazar Basin

Congratulations - you're a maxed-out miner! Now learn to smelt Titanium and Titansteel bars: Titansteel has a 20-hour cooldown but makes a lot of profit because it's in such short supply.