Thursday, October 14, 2010

Farstrider Training - Beast Mastery Talents 4.0

Out of date for Mists of Pandaria. Will be updated in the future!

Let's suppose you start up a new hunter, or want to pick up your old one... but aren't sure what to do. Instead of the familiar talent trees, you now see fancy pictures representing each talent tree. Something with descriptions of each tree, an attack, and then some fancy bonuses. Including a Mastery thing? Whatever that is. You click the button for your respective tree to continue… but instead of the tree you’re used to, you see tiny trees that have way fewer talent points than before! What just happened??

Stop. Don’t panic. These are the new class talent trees for 4.0 (in case you haven't looked at the game since before then!). Instead of the old 51-point talent trees, you now get 31-point talent trees. Instead of getting a talent point every level after level 10, you make one roughly every other level or so. And now you can’t scatter your points across the three trees; you have to spend a minimum of 31 points in one tree before you are free to spend points in other trees.

But obviously, you’re reading this guide because you’re confused and don’t know what to do. So to help you out… I’ll present my own hunter as an example.

The goal is to spend a minimum of 5 talent points in each “tier” of talents to unlock the ones below it, until you get all the way to the bottom. I’ll break it down tier by tier, but do keep in mind I haven’t leveled a hunter with these new talents yet. I just grabbed stuff based on what I wanted with Cerylia already at level 80+. So you might disagree with which talents are more useful to you at whatever level.

Also, Cerylia is oriented towards PvE content, with a bit more emphasis on soloing stuff. PvP builds might be different.

As with all talent tree builds, I encourage you to think about the choices presented and ultimately make your own decision. Nothing wrong with choosing things for yourself. ;)

Cerylia's Beast Mastery Build

Wowhead link (with glyphs included):

Tier 1:
3/3 One With Nature or Bestial Discipline
2/2 Improved Kill Command

If it were me, I’d choose One With Nature. But if you’re going to solo primarily, I can see how Bestial Discipline might be more useful for letting your pet hold aggro as a tank. More focus for pet = more attacks = more threat. So pick whichever one you like better. Improved Kill Command is a must; you’re going to use that all the time.

Tier 2:
3/3 Frenzy
1/2 Improved Mend Pet
1/2 Spirit Bond

Frenzy is a great talent; it means your pet is going to be always attacking faster and faster. More attacks = more damage! It’s also a prerequisite to Focus Fire down below. I went with Improved Mend Pet to add dispelling to the ability, so my pet is always healthy. 2/2 Improved Mend Pet is really not necessary, I think, so I put the other point into Spirit Bond for a bit of extra healing... something any hunter can appreciate. :) If you think Improved Mend Pet isn't necessary at all, you can always put both points into Spirit Bond.

If neither talent appeals to you, you can also head back up and put the two points into 2/3 One With Nature or Bestial Discipline (whichever you didn't pick yet).

Tier 3:
1/1 Fervor
1/1 Focus Fire
3/3 Cobra Strikes

You’re taking everything this tier. It’s up to you what order you go in, though I'd grab Fervor or Focus Fire first, then second. Fervor is your instant focus button, giving you and your pet 50 focus instantly on a 2 minute cooldown. Focus Fire can be used when your pet is fully stacked on Frenzy effects, giving you a nice boost to ranged haste (meaning you shoot faster for a few seconds). They are both excellent abilities. Focus Fire will be a fun game of Whack-a-Mole—as soon as it activates, hit that button right away!

Tier 4:

3/3 Longevity
2/2 Killing Streak or 2/2 Spirit Bond

Here, you'll want Longevity for sure. Other than that, you have a few different options. You can take both points in Killing Streak (we'll grab both points eventually anyway). Or, if you really like the healing of Spirit Bond, you can put one in Killing Streak and then take another point in Spirit Bond. We'll be getting 2/2 in both anyway, so it's all up to you. :)

Tier 5:
1/1 Bestial Wrath
1/1 Ferocious Inspiration
3/3 One With Nature or Bestial Discipline (whatever you didn’t choose the first time)

Now we’re getting to the really fun stuff. Bestial Wrath is a signature move of Beast Mastery hunters; it breaks your pet’s movement impairing abilities and causes it to do additional damage. Ferocious Inspiration is an aura type of effect that increases damage of all party/raid members (and yourself) by 3% if they are near your pet (not you, necessarily. That also means if your pet is dead the effect goes away.). After picking these talents, I recommend heading back up to tier 1 and grabbing what you didn’t get the first time around.

Tier 6:
1/1 The Beast Within
2/2 Kindred Spirits
2/2 Invigoration

The Beast Within is a must-have, and is linked to Bestial Wrath. When you use it, not only is your pet pumped up, but YOU also do extra damage AND are broken out of movement-impairing abilities. Just like a PvP trinket! Your focus costs are reduced as well! (For pre-patch hunters, you may notice the tooltip for The Beast Within doesn't make it clear anymore if you break your movement impairing effects while using Bestial Wrath. I've confirmed it still works the same as it did before, so don't worry!)

Kindred Spirits increases your focus and the focus of your pet to 110; there’s no reason not to get it. Invigoration is also a great focus restorer. Take it.

Tier 7 (31-point talent):
1/1 Beast Mastery

The whole point of the tree, yes? You gain the ability to tame exotic family pets (such as devilsaurs, core hounds, and more), and also get some extra talents for your pets. Very nice perks to grab. ^^

From here, you'll have 10 more points by level 85 to grab whatever points you want anywhere else from this point on!

Here are my personal choices:

Beast Mastery:
2/2 Spirit Bond or 2/2 Killing Streak (whichever you didn't take the first time)

3/3 Efficiency
2/2 Go for the Throat
1/2 Sic 'Em!

Efficiency, like its name suggests, reduces focus cost of your key shot, Arcane Shot. I’d highly recommend it. I also chose Go for the Throat so that my pet can get focus back (meaning more attacks for my loyal companion). Sic 'Em ends up being an excellent talent as well if you talent your pet into Wild Hunt. Read below for an alternative spec that uses both points in Sic 'Em.

3/3 Pathing

More ranged haste is something I personally like, so that's what I went with. :)

Other good options you can go with are Improved Serpent Sting (Survival) or Careful Aim (Marksmanship).

Alternative Talent Build:

This talent spec focuses on more DPS and is based off the current "best BM spec" in a raid environment, according to other smart hunters. :) It pretty much just takes the point out of Improved Mend Pet and places it in Sic 'Em! Other hunters also favor taking 2 points out of Pathing and moving them into Careful Aim (Marksmanship) for higher up-front damage.

The glyphs are slightly different too. Check them out. :)

I’m always experimenting with the talents, but I’ve been quite pleased with my results so far. I don’t feel like I’m choking for focus, and I certainly feel like Cerylia is much more durable. Her pet doesn’t die as fast either. I’m really impressed by the differences I see.

Hopefully you will be too. :D

As always, friendly criticism, comments, and suggestions are welcome. If there are mistakes or other things I can discuss here, please let me know. I’m always trying to improve!

Next part of the guide will be over the hunter abilities in general—when to use them and how they work.

Until then~

Check out the rest of my Beast Mastery guide for 4.0!

Farstrider Training - Intro to Beast Mastery 4.0

Cerylia’s green eyes narrowed a little as she peered outside, to the eager young group of Farstrider trainees waiting for their upcoming lesson. A few of them were taking shots at the targets and training dummies set up in the square, while others talked to one another excitedly. With a sigh, Cerylia turned back around and asked, imploringly, “Do I have to?”

With an amused smirk, Ranger-General Halduron Brightwing nodded. “But of course. That’s your job.”

“I know we’ve been trying to get our rangers away from mana dependency, and they’ve been doing a great job,” Cerylia mused, as she reached down to rub her tiger, Kuuma, behind the ears. The huge white cat purred lovingly in response. “But… you want me to take mana out of the picture altogether?”

“Challenge them,” Halduron insisted, following her gaze outside again. “We don’t need magic to be good archers. Force them to believe that.”

“They’re just going to complain. They’re going to perform badly at first, and then they’ll insist that this method makes us worse. That we’re just trying to hinder them.”

Halduron grinned. “But that’s just it. They’ll perform badly at first,” he said. “Push them to get beyond that, and they’ll be better than ever, without depending on magic to fight for them. Archery isn’t a spell one weaves. It’s a skill our bodies and minds hone with practice. Soon it becomes instinct… reflex. So un-train them from mana dependency… and get them focused. Understood?”

Sighing again, Cerylia took her bow off her shoulder and ushered Kuuma out the door, to begin the lesson for the day. “Yes, sir.” But even as she left, she couldn’t help but smile, gazing at the trainees waiting for her.

They would learn. It would just take time.

Knowing a variety of young, newbie hunters, I realized that all of them were going to freak out (or already have) at seeing the drastic changes Patch 4.0 has unleashed upon the class. While all classes were affected by the patch, hunters had some of the most dramatic of changes. Where hunters once used mana as a resource… we now have a new system of focus. And with focus comes an overhaul of all our abilities, as well as everything we thought we ever knew about rotation.

Gone is the ability to fire shots in rotation, as soon as they come off cooldown. Gone is the need for mana management (Viper, Hawk, Viper, Hawk, Viper…). Gone is our ammo, meaning more bag room and less worry about whether we have enough arrows/bullets on hand. And gone is the odd stacking of attack power and armor penetration—nether stat exists on gear anymore (though you’ll still see attack power in buffs, certain gear pieces, etc.).

Despite all the panic from hunters about this new system, I’ve been having a ton of fun. Prior to this patch, Beast Mastery was only considered a useful spec for leveling; no one ever really used it at end-game. It is my hope that with this new expansion, BM hunter will prove to be just as good as the other two hunter specs. :)

What’s a Beast Mastery hunter all about? In a nutshell, a Beast Mastery hunter forms a particularly tight bond with the pet they tame. Many of the talents and abilities are aimed at making the pet stronger. Without their pet, a BM hunter is much weaker and more vulnerable, but with their pet… they are a powerful team. Specced Beast Mastery, your pet will be able to survive better than the pets of those hunters who do not choose BM, and will do much more damage. It’s great for soloing and taking on challenges you would never be able to do alone.

What will follow is a multi-post guide to organizing your hunter’s abilities, talenting and glyphing the hunter for Beast Mastery, and establishing an effective shot priority—a “rotation” if you will. Keep in mind that this guide is more for the casual WoW player, particularly new players who still were trying to learn about hunter before getting these changes dumped on them. It should also be somewhat helpful for players who are just hopelessly confused about Beast Mastery hunter in the new patch.

If you’re looking for a way to maximize your DPS with these new changes, I honestly couldn’t help you. I don’t believe in turning my gaming experience into a numbers game, so I actually try to avoid use of such things as Recount, Gear Score, and the like. I just know I know how to play my particular class/spec decently. I won’t give you a reason to scream at me in dungeons/raids, but you probably won’t be blown away by my performance. I’m always welcome to friendly suggestions on how to improve, though. :)

I also can’t help you if you’re looking for a Survival or Marksmanship guide. I may try out the other two specs at a later date, but that date is not now.

Well, if that’s all settled, please stand at attention and listen up. ;)

Lecture start!

Patch 4.0 – Hunter Guides (Out of Date for Mists of Pandaria):
- Beast Mastery Talents
- Beast Mastery Rotation and Abilities
- Beast Mastery Glyphs
- Optional Macros (rewritten for 4.0)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

By Moonlight

This is part 4 of Serisyna's story. For previous installments, please click the Storylines link to find them. Thanks, and enjoy! ^^

Before Serisyna even entered the somber village of Deathknell, she could feel the greatest of agonies, the blackest of hatreds, and the faintest of hopes, all from its inhabitants.

It was hard to determine how or why she could feel this, but simply reaching out—not with her hand, but with her mind, her being—she could be aware of each life that dwelled within Deathknell. Well… perhaps “life” was not the appropriate term, for she could also feel the scarring upon them. The scars of death, as well as those resulting from the process of being brought back into undeath, were evident in her mind’s eye. Not one being in this village, save for a few minor vermin, was truly alive.

“Is everyone like us?” Serisyna asked, her soft voice filling the otherwise still air.

Terrence was walking so far ahead of her on the path—almost as if he were trying not to be associated with her—that at first, she worried that he had not heard her. But he had, for he stopped and turned around to give her a frown.

“Undead, you mean? Yeah. Why?”

“I just… can feel it. They are dead, and yet, not dead…”

“You can… what, feel it?” Terrence repeated, his gaunt face taking on even more of a disapproving expression. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Serisyna lowered her head, staring down at her feet. Her pale, bare toes seemed oddly bright against the dead, rust-colored earth that marked the path into Deathknell, and she wiggled them. They felt strangely numb; she could feel that they moved, but she couldn’t really feel the roughness of the ground or the chill of the packed soil. Frowning, she looked back up at Terrence, still waiting for her response.

“It’s hard to explain,” she said, quietly. “You know how you can feel someone next to you sometimes, even if you don’t look?”

Terrence shrugged. “Yeah.”

“It’s… like that. But I can feel them from far away too. And not only that…” She paused to focus, as if reaching out with her mind and stroking each soul she felt like a pet animal. “I can… feel their emotions, and their intents. Even you. I can see you for who you are…”

Slightly unnerved, Terrence backed away as Serisyna’s eyes seemed to bore into him. “Look, you,” he growled. “I don’t know what kind of Light-ridden voodoo you’re armed with, but don’t be waving it around so carelessly. The undead despise the Light, you know.”

Serisyna recalled briefly the burst of light she had somehow called upon back in the tomb. It certainly had seemed to be effective in repelling Terrence, at any rate. And it did sting her a little as well…

“I get that you’re new and haven’t met any other Forsaken yet. I get it,” the Deathguard continued, running a gauntleted hand through his wild, spiky hair. Serisyna noted with mild interest that his hair was green with decay and age, only adding to the surreal feeling of the whole situation. “But you’re going to have to learn how to survive, and quick. People are just gonna take advantage of you otherwise. Maybe even kill you if you can’t keep up.”

At that, a sudden sinking feeling came over Serisyna, and it took her a moment before she realized what she was feeling was terror. “K-kill me?” she whimpered. “But why?”

Terrence didn’t reply; instead, he paused, looking ahead. Serisyna followed his gaze and noticed that they were now at the entrance to Deathknell, the thin path turning to cobbled stone overgrown with weeds. Dilapidated houses rose up on either side of the road, the wood grey and rotted. Spider webs covered dirty windows, and if Serisyna looked hard enough, she could see the creatures’ black, fattened bodies scuttling in and out of sight. A rat or two occasionally made a quick dash across the road, visible but for a second before finding a new hiding place.

“Dismal, huh?” Terrence muttered.

The priestess was inclined to agree, though she really hadn’t the words to do so. Instead she silently followed Terrence when he beckoned, the two of them stepping into the desolate town. She could feel souls about her, so she knew they weren’t exactly alone. But not being able to actually see anyone was creepy.

“There,” Terrence said, and he pointed at a small chapel ahead on the road, casting a dark, impressive silhouette against the full moon behind it. Serisyna stopped and stared, eyes wide at the sight. The way those spires jutted into the sky, framed by the pale moon, seemed so familiar—

Lungs burning with fatigue, she managed to lift her head just enough to see the beginnings of gravestones, of the chapel that should have been sanctuary. Indeed, with the glow of the moon behind it, it seemed blessed by the Light itself. She would have called to her companions, to encourage them onwards, but she had no breath left. Nor many companions left to call to.

“My lady! You have to keep going!”

She turned around to see a young man in armor, caked with blood, barely able to keep his sword and shield held up against the legions of undead that lurched towards them. A tattered tabard, emblazoned with a faded, stained blue L, reminded Serisyna of the kingdom now falling apart before her very eyes. His face was pale with shock, and blood ran down a large cut on his forehead. She could tell with a glance that he was as exhausted as she was.

“Come with me… the chapel is near…” she gasped.

The knight shook his head, beckoning a few more clergymen and civilians past him, all of them crying as they realized they were going to die. The chapel was a dead end. The undead would never relent.

“I can’t,” he said simply, setting his jaw tightly. His blond spiky hair stuck to his forehead as he turned back around to face the legions of dead before him. “Look… if we’re going to die, I’m at least going to die fighting. You can understand that… can’t you?”

Serisyna felt the tears spill down her face, realizing before he even moved a few paces that those were the last words she’d ever hear him say. She tried to race to his side, but someone held her back, and she could only watch as he threw himself into the midst of the undead army. For a moment, it seemed as if he could take them all alone, his sword cutting dozens of them down, and his soul bright with battle fire. But sheer numbers were against him, and in the end, he was overcome, torn apart by claws and teeth and blades.

Whatever screams or sickening sounds there might have been were blotted out, by Serisyna’s sobs.

With a jolt, Serisyna’s vision cleared once more. The vision was disorienting, leaving her shaken and filled with emotions she could barely make sense of. A soft gasp escaped her as her hand went to her throat; it was still tight with agony, as if she had been crying.


She snapped to attention at Terrence’s urgent cry. It was only then that she became aware of the three figures standing before her, approaching her with arms outstretched.

She realized—quickly, but still too late—that these were truly mindless zombies, and not Forsaken with wills of their own. The first one grabbed her arms powerfully, hauling her forward. She looked into his empty eye sockets, coated with blackened blood and swarming with foul worms, and saw nothing. He was truly dead, even as he opened his rotting mouth and moaned at her.

She screamed.

As always, comments and critique are welcome. It's been a while since I completed any writing, so it's nice to finally get this installment over with.