Thursday, 29 January 2009

The Hunter Civil War

I just realised something—hunters can be such a clannish, contentious lot. How many classes out there have ever heard of the concept of "Spec Loyalty"? How many classes even agonize over having to change specs as much as hunters? I'm sure there are some individuals out there who are die-hard Retribution Paladins, and I am in no way denigrating the rivalry between the Arcane, Fire and Frost schools amongst our magi; I am sure there are others who think about what talent build or school they prefer being in.

That being said, when their classes are attacked or maligned, they see themselves more collectively as Paladins, Magi, Warlocks, etc. and if one of their schools are nerfed, they all collectively feel pain. But hunters? When one school was nerfed, the others either rejoice at one of the schools being brought low (at worst) or thinking "Now is our time to shine!" (at best).

I have to admit that I felt a little pleased that the beastmasters were losing some of their power, being finally humbled. Only a marksman like me who has been ridiculed by beastmasters during Burning Crusade can ever feel this sort of malice.

Too late did I realise that the weakening of the beastmasters also weakened the marksmen. And now that the survivalists are, actually, the true winners of this nerf—they that had been, in the Burning Crusade, second only in power to the beastmasters... and now more powerful still. They, the survivalists, did not feel the humbling that marksmen had to suffer, and to suddenly be brought to prominence!

But notice, I call them "they" and refer to "we" and "me"... how many druids feel they have to war with other schools? How many rogues argue as to the best school, and feel bad or triumphant when one school is better at some things. They all have a unity of purpose that, when the situation calls for it, allows them freedom of movement between schools, without recrimination and without any doubt to their "loyalty".

But when BRK, the most famous and, arguably, the most powerful beastmaster suddenly left his school to become a survivalist (with the consequence of inducing more beastmasters to become survival too), it was seen as a minor tragedy. They did it to become more powerful, that much is certain. And can I blame them? The beastmasters are in such a weakened state now that they are not even viable for the front lines. Some have mentioned that those who were not loyal to their spec do so only due to lust for power... but if they really believed that, wouldn't they have turned surival when the beastmasters were the most powerful?

Dwarrow feels that I should abandon my school—what is stopping me? When the beastmasters were the dominant school, I stayed as a marksman, content to never be the most powerful hunter in the guild as long as I was "of use" and "powerful enough". For a few glorious moments in the Battle of Mt. Hyjal and in some moments in the Black Temple, I became the most powerful... even against the vaunted beastmasters. Is this what I am still aiming to do?

Am I really still trying to become the most powerful even when in a school that has a lot of its power stripped away? Is it pride driving me to show that I do not need the patronage of the Devas and can still excel? Maybe it was a bad thing for me to have tasted power even once.

For now, I have to face it—I am weak. My constitution and my frame can no longer keep up with anyone. Twice now I have been shamed by survivalists (one of them a former beastmaster), and twice now have I been ridiculed by a Paladin who fancies that he knows my class. But I can hardly blame them—despite my best efforts I can no longer jump as high as I used to, I can no longer fire as swiftly or as accurately as I used to, and so many times with the battle against Thaddius the Construct, I froze in battle, dooming the lives of others.

While I crave to redeem myself, I have to face the fact that my body is tired and old. As I wrote in my previous entry, I think I shall quietly fade away while there is still some respect for my former prowess and make myself available to the Argent Crusade and the Ebon Blade. Dwarrow (bless her) can still go eventually after this brief R&R... it is her time to shine. Not since the loss of Mórrígan so many months ago have I felt so old, so worthless... so useless.

In the end, this shadow war between the three schools of hunters is basically a civil war. In the end, despite the misguided optimism of the Devas, there will be one dominant school once again... and there will be peace for a while where each hunter will know their place. Always have, always will.
Continue reading "The Hunter Civil War"...

Monday, 26 January 2009

I'm afraid I won't survive

I am aware that they are discussing me. Ever since this war on the Lich King was joined and the battles of Naxxramas have gone on, I have known that the raid leaders have been carefully watching our performance. If I have only myself to think about, ever since the last patch I have become much more powerful. I know this. With basically the same gear that I had before we were patched and after (except for an improved enchant to my boots), I have become more effective at dealing damage. All this despite the new regulations that our volleys and our steady shots should no longer be as powerful as it was.

Alas, I do not live alone in this world. Even though I have improved, hunters of the Survival School have been improving more, and doing more than the other schools. Their explosive shots have been made more efficient, more powerful... more deadly.

I know they are talking about me, but not in glowing terms. After the high days of the battle of Mount Hyjal and the battles for the Black Temple, I am sure that they do not see what is, compared to survival hunters, a marginal increase of lethality on my part. While I rejoice that a once obscure school is finally getting the reputation they were long due, my rank in comparison to theirs has suffered... and, thus, so have my reputation.

The shadow war between the three schools of hunters are still claiming casualties.

It is unfortunate that the marksman tree had, in the past, been the only powerful school; the beastmasters and the survivalists do not easily forget nor do they forgive. But, as it were, the beastmaster school became much too powerful during the time of the Burning Crusade... and people's memories are long.

In one fell swoop, the power of the beastmasters was severely gutted. A lot of the beastmasters have started migrating to the new, dominant school... even, if the rumor has any truth, the most famous beastmaster in the Alliance forces.

As I mentioned, because of the early dominance of the marksmen, we are not easily forgotten or forgiven... and though we have gotten back some of our power, it was only in relation to the beastmasters. The fellowship of marksmen dwindles, with those remaining becoming embittered, loud and, unfortunately, no help in dispelling the image of the haughty, elitist marksman of days past. While I, too, cannot help but be bitter—I feel that I fight harder against even more odds than those who can just lob their explosive ammo safely from a distance—I have to realize that marksmen aren't the true targets of this new pogrom but the beastmasters.

For so long the beastmaster have lorded over the battlefields with their powerful pets and swift flying arrows and shells... and they were proud. Now that they have been brought low even I find it ironic and funny that they have been so humiliated that they have to crawl to the gates of the survival school, begging for entrance just so that their guilds would not think they are losing any of their powers.

But my joviality does not last long. My guild has scrutinized me and I know they are asking why I am no longer the most powerful hunter. I never wanted to be the most powerful, and my recent glories were, themselves, just another whim of those who fight the shadow war. I know I shall lose my place on the front lines... but it is just as well. I had been working too hard, and I have not gone back to lend aid to the Argent Crusade as I had promised. Perhaps now, while they think I am weak, I can have a bit of rest.

Also, perhaps, that the other hunters who I believe never forgave me for taking their place would finally get back their past glory... and forgive me.

Dwarrow, my dear sister, would rather that I abandon my now weak school and join with the survivalists... and show them that I am still the best hunter. But, I am not, and therefore, I will not. The Lord gives, the Lord taketh away... I was powerful for a few shining moments and I will be eternally thankful.

But now is the time of realization... I am needed by the Argent Crusade and the death knights of the Ebon Blade. I will not be the best, but I will still be of use.
Continue reading "I'm afraid I won't survive"...

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

If I had to choose, I'd rather be wise than be mighty

Sometimes, I am disappointed with Paladins... these so-called knights and warriors of the light. I suppose I have to accept that they are mortal and of the younger races, and therefore have the natural tendency to think that to be mighty is always better than being wise.

But in this, I feel I must make an effort at some apologetics—I had been accused of not being zealous enough for requesting a Greater Blessing of Wisdom from them rather than a Greater Blessing of Might. It had been implied that I did not know my job enough to make the "informed" decision to want to be powerful rather than be wise. And it was the paladin who would dare say so! The paladin! They who belong to the same order as Tirion, who long ago chose wisdom and loyalty over strength and now is the most powerful paladin alive.

I feel I must explain myself. Even a nightelf can lose face. Even a nightelf can be shamed. I am a hunter... one who aspired to be a Sentinel or a Warden. By Elune, I shall not take this lying down.

I will state it as simply as possible first, then deal with the objection. Basically, a Blessing of Wisdom allows me to delay my use of Aspect of the Viper as long as I possibly can which, in my experience, gives me more DPS because I spend more time in 100% DPS mode than when I have to frequently switch aspects to regen mana.

Objection: You are gimping your DPS if you'd rather have mana regen than an attack power buff.

With all due respect to the paladin and some other hunters out there who may think the same way, this is not strictly true. It is not that I do not want attack power buffs—I already have it. Since I made sure I do not need buffs to cap my hit rating (which means I don't need food buffs) I can safely bring buff foods and elixirs or flasks that increase my attack power already. And any hunter of any talent build will invest in talents that already increase DPS without having to resort to another class' buffs (we are a very strong soloable class, after all). What I need is hefty mana regen. It's a question of balance.

But the pally is insistent: It's better to hit hard and kill the opponent faster than to make sure your mana pool is not emptied—use your mana and if you really want your mana back, use AotV. It seems reasonable. It even seems logical. But in practice, it's impractical. Let me illustrate. I have exactly 6161 base mana, my items add an additional 5070 mana, for a total of 11,231 mana.

I use the following shots in rotation to maintain DPS:
  • Arcane Shot (costs 7% of my base mana or 432 mana, cooldown 6 seconds)
  • Serpent Sting (costs 15 mana, no cooldown)
  • Chimera Shot (costs 16% of my base mana or 986 mana, cooldown 10 seconds)
  • Steady Shot (costs 5% base mana or 308 mana, 2 second cast time)

I open with casting Hunter's Mark (with a macro to also send my pet) then cast Serpent Sting, and then I rotate by casting Chimera Shot (which refreshes the sting), then cast Arcane Shot, cast Steady Shot 3-4 times, then I rinse and repeat. Hunter's Mark costs 2% of base mana, so it's 123 mana. So, at the opening, that would be 123 + 15 + 986 + 432 + (308 * 3) = 2652 mana in that opening salvo, and 986 + 432 + (308 * 3) = 2514 mana every cycle.

Since mana regen even for hunters is actually spirit based and since no hunter would ever itemize, enchant or gem for spirit, our base mana regen has no innate bonuses whatsoever. From WoW Wiki, MP5 = 5 * (0.001 + sqrt(INT) * SPI * Base Regen) then our base MP5 = 5 * (0.001 + sqrt(431) * 105 * 0.005575). So that's 5 * (0.001 + 20.760539492026695) * 105 * 0.005575 = 5 * 20.761539492026695 * 105 * 0.005575 = 60.766430900725632928125 mana. Rounding up, that's 61 mana every 5 seconds, or 12 mana per second. But this is only true if you follow the 5-second rule (FSR) because this is the Spirit-based mana regen that even hunters have.

What does this mean? It means that this 61 MP5 only happens when:
  • 5 seconds have passed after an instant spell is cast
  • 5 seconds have passed after a channeled spell is begun
If I channeled exactly Steady Shot, the moment I start channeling, the FSR begins. If Steady Shot channels for 2 seconds, this 61 MP5 only begins 3 seconds later... if I am not casting anything else. But wait! Look at my shot rotation: I try to channel Steady Shot every 2 seconds, and use instant shots one after the other. What does this mean?

To dumb it down, this already paltry 61 MP5 almost never happens for me except if I pause long enough to let only Auto Shot to go. Suffice to say, I don't even consider it for my mana regen needs.

If I expend 2514 mana every cycle, with a total mana of 11,231, how many cycles am I capable of? Only four to five cycles. That's not bad. To make it simpler, let's say I did around 25,000 worth of damage (unmitaged) per cycle, each cycle lasting 10 to 12 seconds (roughly 2.5k DPS), I would be doing around 100,000-125,000 worth of damage until my mana runs dry.

Now, let's pretend that it takes only 10 seconds to refill my mana bar after I switch to AotV (pre-patch 3.0.8, this switching actually resets the GCD, so I can't shoot for 1 full second after I switch, and I can only regen mana when I'm doing damage), during that entire time (the length of one cycle) I'm doing 12,500 damage since my damage output is halved during this time.

Obviously, even the 91 MP5 that Greater Blessing of Wisdom (plus any other MP5 I get from items, both of which do not follow the FSR) will not prevent me from eventually switching to AotV... but because it does not follow the FSR it regens my mana even when I am casting.

What does this mean. If I can do even just one more cycle before running out of mana, I can potentially up my damage done by at least 25k more and reduce the time spent in AotV doing only 50% damage.

But the original objection remains: Ok, [huntard], let's say you do spend more time doing 100% damage... but if I give you an attack power buff, you'd do more than 100% of your damage even if you run out of mana. Let's inspect that (Disclaimer: to make the equations simple enough to be understood, I am not regarding the other AP bonuses my armor, food buffs, consumables and enchants already give; I mean, I already have that anyway. I am also, due to time constraints, not making the actual figures Elitist Jerks precise, but I have made the figures as close as possible in the hope that I can show that it is valid to be spending more time doing 100% damage is better than frequently doing 50% damage).

Greater Blessing of Wisdom gives us an additional 550 attack power. At level 80, self-buffed and not counting food or elixir buffs, I already have 3610 attack power (unbuffed), which, if every 14 attack power adds 1 DPS to my base DPS, already adds +257.85 DPS to my existing DPS. 3610 + 550 = 4160 RAP... which makes my RAP bonus go up to +297.14 DPS (a difference of roughly 40 more DPS.

If my base DPS is 197.1 (129.6 from the bow and 67.5 from my ammo), then DPS is:
  • No BoM: 454.95 DPS
  • With BoM: 494.24 DPS
Let's say that, due to BoW, I am able to do 6 cycles, each cycles lasting 10 seconds each, and having at least 10 seconds to regen mana with AotV. Each cycle will be doing 4549.5 damage, for a total of 27,297 damage in 6 cycles, and additional 2,274.75 damage done during AotV, for total of 29,571.75 damage done after 6 cycles and a cycle of AotV.

Let's say that, with BoM, I am only able to do 5 cycles because my mana runs out faster. Each cycle will do 4942.4 damage (wow! bigger figure)... for a total of 24,712 damage done after 5 cycles (wha-?), and additional 2471.2 damage done during AotV, for a total of 27,183.2 damage done after 5 cycles and a cycle of AotV.

Now, will I want that 29,571.75 damage done in one repetition (thanks to BoW), or 27,183.2 (with BoM)?

And that's assuming that the time spent in AotV is the same amount of time=10 seconds.

Now, these cycles are actually more complex in practice... and I only did the math right now to show how mana regen can make a difference.

The additional reason why I'd rather not run out of mana is downtime. In a typical trash mob fight, I can only go through one repetition, and I'd rather end the encounter with a bit of mana so I do not have to drink after the encounter or, if I do drink, it would not last too long. With more mana regen, I can go through 2 or even 3 waves of trash mobs before having to drink, compared to (in my experience) the having to drink after every wave with BoM.

Let me repeat: we hunters will eventually go Aspect of the Viper anyway and, especially for long boss fights, this is necessary. I am also not dissing AotV... unlike other classes with a mana regen mechanic, it allows me to still do damage while regenerating mana.

My point is that if I ask for BoW, it is not "gimping" my DPS. If there are 2 pallies that can give me BoM and BoW, I'll gladly take both.

And, even if BoM does give me some very small percentage of DPS increase, I'd rather have 2.5k DPS (which is sufficiently effective for most heroic instances) and not have to drink very often than have 2.7k DPS and go through a stack of tea.

Yes,I know there are some that will do anything just to appear at the top of the Recount meters, and they think it proves they are 1337 DPS and that they, therefore, better than the next DPS they out-DPSed by about 200 DPS. I don't get my kicks out of having some number—I get my kicks out of being effective and efficient.

I have presented this argument already with the paladin, but because two other hunters insist that BoM is better and, as a result, they are higher than me on the DPS charts, this paladin still insists on giving me this blessing even when he is the only paladin around.

In all fairness and with all due humility, I was using the Sawed-off Hand Cannon reputation reward from the Alliance Vanguard, and they both had the Drake-mounted Crossbow. Even if I had better RAP bonuses and crit ratings and was hit-capped compared to them, my base damage coefficient is much, much lower than theirs. It was this, more than anything else, that made me decide to bite the bullet and purchase a Nessingwary 4000. I didn't want to—I was perfectly happy with my blue gun and my performance was satisfactory even by Naxx standards... but I hate it when they think I'm a noob just because I make a reasonable request for what is actually a more beneficial blessing.

Even then, they still technically outgeared me (they had more epic 200 ilvl items, and I still have blue items and 1 green) and I cannot overtake their DPS—what nobody wanted to notice was that I was approaching their DPS all of a sudden with my inferior gear, but with a better balance of stat bonuses, hit rating and crit. That is, I was coming so close behind them... and all they saw was "Ha-ha, I'm over you."
Continue reading "If I had to choose, I'd rather be wise than be mighty"...