Saturday, 31 October 2009

The New Arms Race

"Quantities derive from measurements, figures from quantities, comparisons from figures, and victory from comparison." Sun Tzu, Art of War, IV:18

"There's no end to the arms race, is there?"

"No, I'm afraid not."

It has only been a few months, and most of the gear we won from Ulduar, not to mention Naxxramas, is now considered obsolete. Once again, I consult Shandara on what the best gear is out there.

"So, let's see what you've got..." said Shandara. I've worn all of my raiding kit for this inspection, she thoroughly examines it, her fingers flying over enchanted parchments and beads.

Helm and Cuirass

"I see you still have two pieces of the Scourgestalker set," she says. "The Conqueror's Scourgestalker Headpiece and the Conqueror's Scourgestalker Tunic; the two best pieces to retain from that set, too. Good. Good."

"Are you sure?" I ask. "I have also won the Helm of the Silver Ranger and it seems to be sturdier and has more innate power than my current headgear."

"Yes," she said. "There are plenty of good helms out there that are, on a one-on-one basis, better than your Scourgestalkers, but the collective enchant of at least two pieces in strengthening your Serpent Sting outdoes anything that these have to offer. The only pieces that can possibly be an upgrade to you would be pieces from the Triumphant Windrunner's Battlegear."

"Which version of that battlegear? The normal ones or the enhanced ones?"

"Well," she says, after a short pause and consultation of her enchanted tools. "The enhanced ones would be best, because even if you get one of either the headpiece or the tunic, you can go ahead and immediately replace your old gear. But if you can get two pieces of the normal ones, then their collective enchant will be better than your old Scourgestalker ones. It also affects your Serpent Sting, and you know how important they are to you as a markswoman."

"I see," said I. I suspect she is right. My Chimera Shot depends greatly on my Serpent Sting to be augmented. According to her calculations, I suspect that if I had broken my two-piece enchant, even with the over-all increase in my powers, it may not be able to make up for the loss of 10% of the power from two my most important shots.



"Hmmmm," she says. "I see you managed to obtain a charge from Jaraxxus to protect your throat. This is the best you can until you can earn the right to get an enhanced copy. If you cannot get it, then an enhanced version of Icehowl's collar would prove to be better than what you ar wearing now."


Shoulder guards

"Ah, yes!" she cried. "Well done, you've gotten the Epaulets of the Devourer! For a while, we thought that these were even better than the enhanced Windrunner's Spaulders of Triumph and the enhanced Pauldrons of the Timeless Hunter. Of course, we now know that those latter two are better, but just by a bit. You can leave your shoulder guards to improve last until you can earn the enhanced versions."



"Your cloak from Icehowl," she began, "is probably the best you can normally get. The only ones better than it would be an enhanced copy of it, the Cloak of the Silver Covenant if you have the skill and the daring, or..."

"Or?" I ask.

"You probably would not get it, or even see it draped on anybody else's shoulders but Vereesa's, but if you can hope and if you can earn it and suffer no losses to the Bug King, then Vereesa's cloak is currently the best out there."



I show Shandara my gloves, and she snorts.

"Well, these are normal assasin's leather gloves," she says after turning them over for a while. "Silver Covenant too, I see. Ah, well... I suppose they were better than the ones you had before, but you either have to get an enhanced copy or any of the Windrunner gloves. But don't worry: for the moment those gloves are sufficient and better than anything you do have."


Belt and Boots

"Belt of Dragons... Boots of Living Scale..." she said. "Your handiwork?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Good choices. The ones better than it are only a bit better. Of course, the enhanced belts will beat this any day, but this belt can still last you to the end."

"So, I suppose these are some of the pieces I can replace last, right?"

"Your choice. But if I were you, I wouldn't hesitate to grab other belts or other boots if you can manage it."



"Oh, you simply must replace this!" she cried. She had bent over and was examining my legguards of saronite mesh.

"Why?" I asked. "You told me they were perfectly good leggings some time ago."

"Don't get me wrong: they still are," she says. "But you there are a lot of much, much better gear out there already. This was probably sufficient for your adventures inside Ulduar, but not at the tourney and definitely not when we finally cross into Icecrown."

"What do you suggest? The Windrunner's legguards?"

"Yes... any of them. You can also try to getting your hand on (and your legs into) any of these other ones if you can manage it."

I am loath to replace them. They were comfortable and, more importantly, I won them very late into the offensive into Ulduar.



"Well, well, well," said Shandara. "How were you able to win the pattern to make this from others? I'm sure the competition was fierce. The only thing better would be the enhanced Bracers of the Untold Massacre."

"I didn't win it," I said in a small voice. "I bought it."

"You bought the bracers?" she asked.

"No, I bought the pattern. It's a long story." Shandara raised an eyebrow, so I went on. "When our guild obtained the pattern, I did not win it. According to the rules once one of us can make it, then any other patterns obtained after that are sold to finance the guild—the only way I can learn this pattern is to purchase it from other guilds who are selling their copies."

"These things are rare," she said at length. "It must have impoverished you."

"Yes," I replied. "Yes, it did."



"May I see your rings please," she continued. I had not put my gloves back on and had, instead, tucked them into my belt. Presently, I presented my hands to be inspected.

"Yes... yes... The Ring of Callous Aggression and the Dexterous Brightstone Ring; very good rings. About the only things better are the enchanced copies of these others."

"So I can safely leave this last to upgrade?" I asked. She nodded.



"I suppose your guild is one of those who no longer want to go back to that terrible place up in Ulduar?" she asked. "Yes," I replied. "Only some of the replacements still wish to go there."

"I can't blame your guild," she said. "That place is pure madness... but unfortunate, as some of trinkets better than the ones you have can be had there. Fortunately, the ones better than those are available from the tourney. Your Darkmoon Card: Greatness you can replace last, but only with a Death's Verdict (either one). Your Pyrite Infuser may be a bit difficult to replace, as it gives you both power and accuracy, so replace them only with a Death's Verdict or a Mark of Supremacy."

"But the mark's powers will have to be triggered, won't it?"

"Yes," she said. "But the infusion of power lasts longer and is more predictable. Still, your choice; it is only slightly better than the infuser anyway. What you should aim for are the trinkets dropped by Lightbane."


Ranged Weapons

I proudly handed her my Talonstrike, fully confident that only an enhanced copy would be better than this. I was surprised when she shook her head.

"Ah, the Talonstrike..." she muttered. "What a shame."

"Excuse me, but didn't you say that this was the best ranged weapon out there?"

"Yes, it was." She handed it back to me. "To be sure, the enhanced copy is still the second best out there, but there are quite a few other weapons much better than that one you are holding now. In fact, that weapon now barely makes the list."

I was shocked. This weapon was sought after and caused no small amount of drama for some guilds as to who had the right to use it.

"These weapons," she continued, "currently are much better than your Talonstrike." I looked at the list and was perplexed by some of the items.

"Excuse me," I said, after a moment. "I can understand why some of these weapons are better than mine, but why would arena gear be so much better than everything but two?"

"Because these weapons are wicked powerful," she replied at once. "To be sure, there are some Relentless Gladiator ranged weaponry which will not be more powerful than the one you have now, but these others on the list are so powerful that even your normal non-magical ammunition would hit so much harder."

"Besides," she adds. "As a marksman, you know how dependent you are on powerful weapons to augment your special shots." She speaks truly—my Chimera Shot gets most of its power from the damage the weapon is capable of dealing. A survival hunter's Explosive Shot scales much better with collective enchantments, auras and the like than Chimera. It makes sense to get the most powerful weapon.

But easier said than done. "There is no way I can obtain these weapons, can I?"

"All up to you," she said. "If you cannot fight and win in the arena, better hope you can get that gun from the Dragoness's lair."


Melee Weapon

With very little confidence, I hand my staff over to her for her perusal.

"Ah, the staff carved from the Deconstructor's twisted visage. Still a very good weapon, but..." I knew it, "currently outclassed by a few pieces out there. Very hard to replace, however. I see you've been using it to help make your shots more accurate?"

"Yes, I have."

"Yes... a pity..." she went to her parchments again, then handed a list to me.

"It goes without saying that you'll probably never see the enhanced weaponry," she said, hating her for it. "Not that it matters; you'll be confronted with the same problem of losing a lot of accuracy with these weapons (except for that one at the top of the list)... accuracy that you'll have to compensate for elsewhere. What you can do is use two one-handers as a sufficient bipod for accuracy."

This lifted my spirits up, for I had won two one-handers. "I currently have a couple of Steel Bladebreakers; would those be sufficient?"

"No," she said. "Your only real options would be a pair of Twin Spikes; a crossed pair of those would help your accuracy and be a good replacement for your staff. If you can get a hold of some of the enhanced versions of the other daggers (including the Steel Bladebreakers) they have gem slots and you can use gems to augment your accuracy. But at that level, the two-handers are actually much better so it's better to earn those instead."


I thank Shandara before leaving the hall. Ah, if only obtaining these upgrades were just as simple as pointing them out. While I find that the new system of earning the gear is, in itself, good, those who have been so used to the old system still insist on using the old methods with distributing rewards. Because of this, some can get so many trophies and not know what to do with them, while those who desperately need them (and who know for which gear they work towards) oftentimes do not get any. Dwarrow, for instance, has a trophy she won (fair and square) that she knows not how to spend, whereas I (among a few others) have ammassed great quantities of emblems but cannot purchase the ones we need for lack of a trophy. Most of the trophies end up with hired mercenaries, in fact (something that troubles those of us Dragoons who are left).

That is a story for another time. I am weary and must now retire.

Continue reading "The New Arms Race"...