Tuesday, 31 March 2009

... and the humble shall inherit the earth

It has been more than a month since I reluctantly let go of my pride and went before the survivalists for training. During the month immediately after, I was engaged in numerous encounters in the ongoing battle of Naxxramas. At the beginning I asked myself "Was this worth it?" After more than 5 weeks of after action reports, the answer was clear—Yes.

My personal DPS rank went up... there was no doubt about it. The explosive shot is probably the single most powerful ranged attack that hunters have in their arsenal. It fires very often, hits very hard, and there are times when opportunities to lock and load present themselves, allowing me to pump explosive shells even more frequently with more power. It is also notable that the more personally powerful I become, my explosive shots seem to benefit in direct proportion. It eventually became my most used shot, with it doing more damage than auto shot.

This is very different from the way I used my magical shots as a marksman. My auto shot was my primary source of damage, with chimera, arcane, stings and then the indiscriminate use of the weakened volley. As a survivalist, what need have I for magical ammo? I eschewed entirely the use of arcane, using stings to create lock and load opportunities, and just explosive shot. From 6th rank, I eventually gained 3rd... in some encounters, I even placed first.

Yes, my DPS rank went up... but for some reason, I was still doing roughly the same amount of damage. Perhaps, I reasoned, it's because I limited myself to just using normal ammo and explosive shots so I eventually tried finding ways to weave in some multi-shots... probably the odd aimed shot. My DPS went up a bit... but it was never as much an improvement as I had hoped. Before all this, my survivalist colleagues in the guild and the free company allied with us used to out-DPS me by 20%-30% when I was a marksman... and I had been expecting to improve my personal DPS by that amount.

For those who saw only rankings, what I had done was enough—I was a capable hunter once more. But I could not shake the idea that something was wrong—my DPS was roughly the same, with only a marginal improvement... and yet I outranked the other physical damage dealers in a lot of encounters. I also found that it took us a minute longer at times to kill the more powerful unit commanders in the battles in the wings of Naxxramas.

A retribution paladin made the observation that another pally in a different guild who was similarly attired to her was doing significantly more damage because of a shaman's unleashed rage. She was commenting on our forums that maybe if we had an enhancement shaman, we would benefit as well. The free company's protection paladin, however, said that unleashed rage (which only happens on occasion) is not necessary as long as there was a marksman's trueshot aura available.

True shot aura! I hurried back to the after action reports and confirmed my suspicions. While my personal DPS did not change much, those of others—notably our melee fighters (rogues, feral druids and the retribution paladin) and ranged physical DPS (the survival hunters)—were negatively affected. Our most powerful DPS (a survival hunter), who used to do so much more DPS was reduced to doing basically the same numbers as I was.

The paladin from the free company was shocked when I told him that I had gone survival. To his mind it was more important to be useful to the most number of people on the team than to just one; he said he couldn't blame me for wanting to be "powerful" but the loss of such a useful but, admittedly, not so self-serving buff clearly disturbed him.

And so, I went back to being a marksman. My DPS is comparatively lower again and, as Negathle the Tauren Hunter once remarked, being a competitive DPS takes more effort as a marksman... but at least in my weakness my team can become strong.

Was my sojourn as a survivalist worth it? Yes, it was worth it. For one thing, now that the Blizzard Devas have finally decreed that we can now have two talent builds that is not restricted by school, I have gained invaluable knowledge in how survival works.

Furthermore, there was something about the shot priorities of survival that when applied to marksmanship, makes me an even better marksman—my personal DPS is at an all-time high. In the last forays into that dread citadel and in the skirmishes of the Obsidian Sanctum and the Eye of Eternity, I have found that, while I cannot outrank my fellow hunters (who happen to be survivalists), our collective strength has noticeably increased (allowing us to defeat some of the more dangerous foes later on).

While it was pride that prevented me from leaving the marksmanship school to join with the survivalists it is with the humility that I have returned.

Continue reading "... and the humble shall inherit the earth"...