Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dawning of a New Age

With the Shattering that has swept across Azeroth and changed everything as we know it forever… all people of both the Horde and the Alliance now face exciting challenges ahead, as Deathwing continues his angry rampage. New characters begin their journey to become heroes, and old heroes must adjust to the shocking changes that have unfolded around them and prepare to gather their strength, to face the dangers sure to appear soon.

This is the first time I’ve ever been around for a new WoW expansion, and this—this Shattering—has really taken my breath away. I am shocked at how beautiful some changes are, how terrible other changes are, and how amazing all the characters, quests, and environment has become. The cinematic sent chills down my spine, the loss of some precious characters and areas has made me tear up, and the many beautiful new models, zones, voiceovers, and other in-depth changes have made me squeal in delight. And I have barely scratched the surface of anything!

Last night, I of course had to partake of some of this new content. Here is the rundown of what I’ve seen and done so far. Though not too much… I’m already drooling for more. xD

Cerylia Dawnwing
At the Shattering: safe in Silvermoon City
Currently: at the Brill inn

Cerylia was safe and sound in Silvermoon when this new content hit, so at first, everything seemed normal enough. After a brief jaunt around the city just to make sure nothing had really changed too dramatically, she stopped by to greet the impressive, armored new warrior trainers in Farstrider Square. Welcome! I hope you keep those stupid Blood Knights in line, or something. xP

She decided to stop by Undercity and see if anything exciting was going on. So off to Sunfury Spire. On the way, Cerylia greeted her beloved faction leaders, Lor’themar, Halduron, and Rommath. All of them have been buffed up to boss levels (previously, Halduron was only level 75, and Rommath level 80), so I was pleased about that. Lor’themar also gets his custom voiceovers. He sounds an awful lot like a narrator in the way he talks, but I’m glad he finally learned to be unique. I feel like he’s just putting on this scripted confidence to assure everyone that it’ll be ok. xD

Well, onwards to Undercity. Despite the destruction of many areas of the world, and the dramatic changes that have resulted, it’s not stopping the Pilgrim’s Harvest celebration! After taking a peek in Undercity and finding that there isn’t much that changed, Cerylia then dashed off to Brill, Serisyna’s favorite town. It certainly looks different now!

After checking in with some of my favorite NPCs, I decided to journey over to Gilneas in celebration of the new world. I set out for Silverpine Forest! Along the way, I found Lady Sylvanas waiting to speak with our new warchief, Garrosh Hellscream, and so I accepted the invitation to watch. The events that unfolded were… shocking, to say the least. (Garrosh even so bluntly calls Sylvanas a “b-tch” to her face. Out loud, voiced over and everything. Well, I guess someone had to say it. xD) But Cerylia can’t say she’s surprised. The Forsaken aren’t known for taking the noble path to victory. Time will tell how Sylvanas’ new plans will pan out…

After being offered a ride south by some friendly Forsaken soldiers, Cerylia saw the conflict unfolding between the Forsaken and the worgen of Gilneas. Admittedly, she was more excited about how doggie-like the worgen sounded and acted, then she was concerned about this new enemy. ^^;

Down by the Sepulcher, Cerylia rode on to Pyrewood Village, now in smoky ruins, and onward to the ruins of Gilneas themselves. As she crossed through the now open Greymane Wall, she took note of a furry creature picking around the ruins… why, it was a pretty blue fox.

Intrigued by such an elusive creature, Cerylia beckoned over to the fox, and after a few minutes of petting and taming, convinced it to be her friend.

The fox is named Krystal, in honor of the lovely blue vixen from the Star Fox video game series. I’m a bit of an anthro-fan, and Star Fox was always one of my favorite video games.

Not wanting to check the rest of the ruins (I’ll be saving that for my own worgen in the future!), Cerylia turned around with her fuzzy new friend and caught a flight path back to Brill. What an adventure! And she has yet to visit her friends in Orgrimmar and see how things have changed there!

Serisyna Vale (human)
At the Shattering: in Ironforge
Currently: in Stormwind City

Serisyna was fortunate in the fact that she wasn’t in Stormwind when Deathwing tore a hole in it and smashed most of the buildings, but it didn’t take her long to find her way there. Upset at the fate that has befallen Magni Bronzebeard, and not at all settled about his wayward daughter making her return (and claims) to the throne of Ironforge, Serisyna decided to let the dwarves sort things out by themselves for a while, and check on how repairs went in Stormwind. They certainly did a good job. Hopefully Varian paid the workers this time. We don’t need a Defias 2.

After admiring all the architecture of the city, meeting some new faces, and saluting her prince (who has finally hit puberty and matured some), Serisyna turned her attentions to the Pilgrim’s Bounty festival. Being so close to the achievement (title + turkey pet) makes me think that I’ll try to work on that this week. Gotta kill turkeys, run Sethekk Halls, shoot some rogues, and then sit at the Horde tables. That’s doable, I think.

It’s important to be thankful for what we do have, rather than lament what has been lost. Both in the game, and in real life.

Warning! Challenger Approaching!

But of course, what kind of an altoholic would I be if I didn’t roll something brand-new? My newest member of my WoW brood made her debut as well, and I spent most of my night on her. Meet my pretty dwarf hunter, Sajataria Wildheart.

Her name is based on Sagittarius, the sign of the hunter in the zodiac. May also be related to the hunter trainer in Kharanos, Grif Wildheart. I made up her last name independently of him. xD Then I met him and was surprised.

The more I played her, the more I wondered why I didn’t roll a dwarf earlier. She is SO cute! Her braid flies up a little every time she shoots her gun. xD She also reminds me a lot of myself in real life. Small, cute, kinda quiet, a bit tomboyish, and loves her animals! She’s even a brunette like me. The only difference is that I’m rather scrawny, while Saja is stout and strong like all dwarves are naturally. I also really like the dwarven female animations and stances, the more I look at her. I think she’s going to be a favorite with the new content. ^^

She’s level 7 now, and helping her brothers and sisters to fend off the angry frost trolls in Dun Morogh. It’s so beautiful, this new yet still familiar territory. I remember the old zone when I leveled my gnome warlock long ago, and it’s so wonderful to do it again as a dwarf in this new world.

The only silly thing was the sheer number of dwarf shamans and gnome priests I saw all night. I don’t think I’ve seen so many dwarves and gnomes before. xD

Well, those have been my Shattering adventures so far. I’m sure there will be more to come! How did you all spend your first moments with the new content? Did you roll new characters, or run around on your old ones to see what changed?

Whatever you do, please be careful! Deathwing still threatens us all…

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Farstrider Training - Beast Mastery Rotation and Abilities 4.0

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

Welcome back, fledgling hunters. :)

Now that you’ve gotten your talent tree squared away, I’m sure many of you are curious about the ideal rotation to use in battle.

For those of you not familiar with the term “rotation,” it’s a word generally used to refer to the sequence of abilities you use in a fight. Obviously this refers to PvE content (a PvP situation is much too unpredictable to have a regular sequence of attacks to hit), and particularly long fights such as a dungeon boss. Prior to Patch 4.0.1, many classes had a sequence of attacks that a player simply had to hit in repeated order as the fight progressed, perhaps popping a few cooldowns or using a procced ability here and there.

However, after this patch, many of those classes/specs have gone to a priority-based model. Rather than hitting the same attacks in the general same order, you now have a list of attacks that you want to use based on priority. If three attacks are available for you to use at once, which is the first one you want to hit? After that, which is the second one? Kinda like that. Beast Mastery hunter has gone this way as well; fortunately, it’s not too terribly complicated to figure out. I came up with this general shot priority just by experimenting independently, which I’ve since confirmed has also been figured out by other, more think-y kinds of hunters elsewhere.

Shot priority for a Beast Mastery hunter, in a single-target, standard fight:

1.) Hunter’s Mark at the beginning of the fight. I have a targeting macro that does this for me. After that, apply Serpent’s Sting. Keep an eye on the debuff, and be sure to refresh it right when it is about to run out. (Once you learn Cobra Shot, you should no longer have to refresh your Serpent's Sting in a fight, as Cobra Shot does that for you.)
2.) Kill Shot – This only is available when your enemy target is at 20% health or less. As soon as it comes up, go ahead and use it.
3.) Kill Command – your go-to attack. When it’s off cooldown, you hit it. This requires your pet to be alive, fighting, and within range of the enemy, though. Time your attacks so that you always have enough focus to use Kill Command when it is up.
4.) Focus Fire – when it procs on your screen (assuming you have spell alerts on, which I do), use it immediately! This occurs when your pet gets 5 stacks of Frenzy. It’s extra haste, which means more attacks for you, which means more damage! It should proc fairly frequently, so be ready for it!
5.) Arcane Shot – If the above attacks aren’t available, this is when you spend your time firing your main attack—Arcane Shot. Remember you can shoot it several times in a row now. :)
6.) Steady Shot/Cobra Shot – While a sort of boring shot, it’s very important. You use these to regenerate your focus. (Steady Shot is replaced by Cobra Shot in your rotation once you learn it at level 82.) The drawback is that you must be standing still to shoot this, and it takes a few seconds to fire off. At 83, you will get Aspect of the Fox—a useful aspect that will allow you to shoot Steady Shot on the run. (Useful in fights where you know you'll need to move often.) But until then, you have to plan around this limitation.

Essentially: start with a Hunter’s Mark, begin the fight with Serpent’s Sting (refreshing it if necessary), then bounce between Arcane/Cobra Shot and Steady Shot depending on whether you have focus handy. Kill Shot, Kill Command, and Focus Fire all take precedence (in that order), so use them immediately when they are available.

Sounds easy, right? Well, it kinda is… but at the same time, you can’t just mindlessly hit these attacks either. Because of the focus mechanic, it behooves you to develop an eye for how to save focus for those attacks you want to get off, while still attacking in the meantime. For instance, instead of shooting another Arcane Shot, I sometimes choose to fire a Steady Shot instead, because I can see that Kill Command is going to go off cooldown soon. If I used Arcane Shot, I wouldn’t have enough focus to use Kill Command as soon as it came up. It’s easy to shoot your opponent… but can you do it well?

Now, you will obviously have to adapt to other situations that you may encounter. Sometimes you’ll have to deal with more than one enemy, while other times ranged attacks cannot be used in a certain part of the fight. No matter what the situation, though, you’re going to have to figure out on your own how to use your other abilities and your pet to your advantage. If you were looking for some kind of "hunter walkthrough," you’re playing the wrong kind of game. ^^;

Other “Must-Have” abilities in PvE situations:
Fervor – A button to hit for those situations when you really need focus! I save it for emergencies.
Misdirection – temporarily direct the aggro you generate to the tank or your pet. Works great in conjunction with AoE attacks like Multi Shot or Explosive Trap.
Bestial Wrath – both a “trinket” and a cooldown to pop for more power. I pop it during tough fights, such as when facing a boss, or when I get feared/mind controlled/stunned/etc. Depends on the fight and what I anticipate.
Multi Shot - your AoE attack. It hits your target and all the enemies within range nearby, so be careful how you use it. I usually use this in conjunction with Misdirection to gather up a group of enemies at the beginning of a pull, and send them to my tank or pet. Because of the high focus cost, it's difficult to spam, and I've found it's not terribly useful outside of large trash packs.
Rapid Fire – another cooldown to pop for more ranged attack speed, though on a longer cooldown (5 minutes). I like saving this one for big boss fights.
Feign Death – An ability that takes you out of combat, removes your threat, and makes you appear to be dead to enemies. You can lay there for up to 5 minutes if need be. Mostly used for wiping your aggro on enemies (Feign Death, then jump up and start fighting again), though it can also sometimes save you from wiping along with the rest of your group. :P It’s great for soloing as well; you can use it to get out of fights you can’t win. Just be careful where you use it, or you’ll be stuck in a spot surrounded by enemies!
Disengage – While this is probably most useful in PvP or soloing situations (gets you away from an enemy in melee range, so you can have distance for your next ranged attack), it has some good use in PvE as well. Use it to get out of dangerous AoE attacks, get away from a boss if they pull you close unexpectedly, or use it after placing a trap or slowing an enemy. Just be mindful of what’s behind you!
Deterrence – Another ability that’s mostly useful in PvP or solo situations, but can give you a few seconds of life in a PvE situation as well. Might be all the time your tank needs to pull an enemy off you, or for your healer to get that emergency heal on you.
Trap Launcher + Traps – Each trap has its own uses; the fire traps can generate AoE or damage over time, while the ice traps can slow or crowd control enemies if placed right. (I rarely use Snake Trap, admittedly.) Until you learn Trap Launcher, you'll have to run up to enemies to place the trap or carefully lay a trap and lure the enemies across it. At end-game, you'll often be called upon to crowd control (CC) in dungeons with a well-launched Freezing Trap.
Pet care abilities – Your Mend Pet, Revive Pet, Dismiss Pet, and Call Pet abilities should be available for you to use at all times! I think that’s a given. ;)

Abilities that are more useful in “Soloing” situations:
Intimidation – A stun/aggro generating ability your pet can use on the enemy. Great for when you pull aggro and your pet needs to tank it back, or if you want a spell interrupted. It doesn’t work on all enemies, though.
Concussive Shot - A slowing shot that you can use to keep enemies at bay as well. A nice way to pull, or kite a mob around. Rarely used in instances, as your tank should be keeping enemies off you, but for emergency kiting needs, it's definitely helpful. It gets lots of use in PvP as well.
Wing Clip – for those emergency situations when you accidentally pull aggro on a target, and need to get back to ranged. Used a lot in PvP as well.
Scare Beast – I’m not a fan of using fears, but it did save my life a couple times in Stranglethorn Vale. A fear you can use on beasts to make them run away for a few seconds.

Abilities that are mostly exclusive to PvP situations, but may find use in occasional PvE situations:
• Widow Venom
• Flare
• Tranquilizing Shot (keep it on hand for the occasional boss in dungeons that has a dispellable enrage)
• Master’s Call
• Scatter Shot

Note: I wrote this expecting that you know exactly what the ability does when I mention it. But if you have any confusion, here is a list of all hunter abilities:

Don’t forget about your racial abilities! Many of them are very useful to hunters. If you are a noble Farstrider, you have the ability Arcane Torrent at your disposal. While we are attempting to get away from mana dependency, we know we cannot separate ourselves from our natural connection to magic. By tapping into the magic present around us, we can rejuvenate ourselves with a nice portion of focus.

But even if you are not a native of Silvermoon, your racial abilities can serve you well in combat. Try them out. :)

Overall, keep the basic priority system in mind, while being flexible and adapting to the particular situation at hand. It’s something you develop with experience… so just get out in the field and start practicing!

Next lesson, we'll go into useful glyphs for Beast Mastery hunters!

As always, friendly comments, criticism, and suggestions are welcome. If I've missed anything, let me know!

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