Friday, February 27, 2009

SV Respec Kit for Dummies, Part 2 of 3

In our previous post, we discovered just how easy it was to accomplish steps one through four in our quest to become an effective end-game raiding SV hunter with minimal fuss.

The next step is, necessarily, a little more complicated, but I am going to break it down for you with some exercises that you can try out at a training dummy. Normally I wouldn't stoop to a dummy...but I decided to get a non-exotic pet and respec SV only hours before a raid, and so I was forced to practice in Ironforge just to avoid being laughed out of the raid. Ever since then, I've taken to practicing regularly on dummies to refine my rotation and keep my skills sharp.


If you've been Beastmaster from the start, understand that you'll need to learn some shots beyond Steady Shot. (I know, I know. Gone are the days of putting a drinking duck to work mashing the steady shot key. I miss those days...)

Your goal as a SV hunter is to use Explosive Shot as often as possible, while keeping your DPS presence high. That is, you should always be casting something, but you want to be casting the right thing at the right time.

Exercise 1: Building Your Basic Shot Rotation
We start simple. You will fire Explosive Shot, then you will fire three Steady Shots. Then you will fire Explosive Shot again, followed by three Steady Shots. But wait! You're glyphed so that Steady Shot is buffed by having Serpent Sting up, right? Indeed. Interweave Serpent Sting, but use it to replace a Steady Shot, NOT an Explosive Shot.

Opening Rotation: ES / SSting / SS / SS / ES / SS / SS / SS / ES / SS / etc.

Go practice this rotation on the heroic training dummy in one of the major cities. Don't worry about your pet spells or buffs or Hunter's Mark, you're just trying to get comfortable with this rotation. What happens if you screw up your rotation? Well, it's true, there is a cut-off point where it is better to delay a Steady Shot and just do nothing until ES comes off of CD. BUT!!! That delay is relatively small. A rotation of ESx1+SSx2+(wait) is lower DPS than ESx1+SSx3, despite the fact that ES comes off of CD partway through firing the third Steady Shot. If ES is not off CD and you are suddenly brain-fogged as to what key to hit next, when in doubt, just hit Steady Shot again, even if there is only half a second left til ES comes off of CD. Don't ever stand around doing nothing. I do this sometimes, but I'm a terrible role model.

Your goal: Maximize your DPS with 100% uptime on Serpent Sting. If Lock and Load procs while you are doing this exercise, don't panic! Ignore it! Bring up your damage meters, fire til you go out of mana, and check your dps. Then do it again. Compare your uptime and the percentage of damage on your different shots. Once you feel comfortable with this rotation, move on to Exercise 2.

Exercise 2: Switching Shot Rotations on the Fly
Lock and Load will not proc unless you have Serpent Sting up on the target OR if the target gets a trap put on it. (This is going to change in 3.1, but you may as well learn how to use the trap trick now.) When Lock and Load procs, it gives you 10 seconds to use 2 mana-free cooldown-free Explosive shots. When Lock and Load procs, I will give you two choices for spell rotation, and you pick the one that is more comfortable for your play style.

Option 1: ES / .5 sec wait / ES / .5 sec wait / ES / (back to basic rotation with SS x 3)
Option 2: ES / Multi-shot / ES / SS / ES / (back to basic rotation with SS x 3)

Don't be a dummy like me and just spam ES as it comes off the GCD. I did this for at least a week. Here's why: ES is a DoT that ticks for 2 full seconds. The GCD is 1.5 seconds. If you spam all your free Explosive Shots in a row when LnL procs, you overwrite the final ticks of your ES DoTs and ruin your DPS.

Here's how to practice your alternate rotation:
  1. When Lock and Load procs, it will show up as a personal buff. Figure out where your buffs show up, and watch that area.
  2. Now, leave the heroic training dummy and find a lowbie dummy.
  3. Take up a position roughly 15 yards away and use your freezing arrow to put a freezing trap smack dab on top of that dummy.
  4. When that trap goes off, you'll see Lock and Load proc.
  5. Immediately start one of the two rotation options I just gave you. (For now, don't put Serpent Sting on the target. It has a chance of proc'ing LnL when you aren't ready for it!)
  6. Once you've finished the LnL shot rotation, move smoothly back into your basic shot rotation of ESx1+SSx3.
  7. Run through your basic rotation a couple times, then leave combat

Your goal: To practice doing the LNL shot rotation and then to slide OUT of it back into the basic rotation without getting befuddled. If you have to count shots to yourself, do it.

Try this exercise a few times. Don't hurry it. When you're ready to move on to the bonus round, start the exercise again, but once the trap comes off of cooldown, use Freezing Arrow to drop another trap on the target and re-proc LnL. Conveniently, the LnL internal CD is 30 seconds, same as your trap CD. Stay in combat and try to move smoothly INTO your LNL shot rotation as well as out of it. But don't practice this too much, because you won't be using Freezing Arrow to proc LnL on raid bosses.

Exercise 3: Sniper Training
Guess what? If you are at a boss that has an AOE debuff, you are in luck! You might not know this, but if you look at your spec closely, you probably have some points in Sniper Training. This means, simply by staying at range, you do extra damage. How far away is 30 yards? Well, one way to tell is to simply run out of range (you can tell by the fact that your ES button should look "disabled" when you are far enough away). Then, step in a yard at a time til your ES button re-enables. Congratulations! You're now a sniper.

First try this: Run out til you are at Sniper Training range as described above, then stand still and fire at the boss with your basic rotation, keeping Serpent Sting up. Keep a damage meter up and keep an eye on your dps.
Next, run halfway back to the training dummy, which will put you at about 15 yards. Stand still and fire at the boss with your basic rotation. Notice any different? Hey, you might not. Crits are random, remember. Just be assured, standing 30+ yards away = free DPS!

Exercise 4: Trap Dancing
Better seen than described, but if you've done exercise 2, you won't be too surprised.

With this exercise, you're going to use a trap that DOES proc LnL on a boss most of the time. This means that, if you are lucky and don't get any trap resists, you get 2 free Explosive Shots every 30 seconds. 10 free ESshots on a five minute boss fight? Outstanding!

Here is what you do -- try this on a lower level dummy so you can guarantee the proc for now.
  1. Before starting combat, step into melee range of the dummy.
  2. Drop your Immolation Trap and immediately strafe sideways or step backwards to get out of melee range. Not too far, you're just trying to get to where you can shoot.
  3. As soon as the trap goes off, watch your buff area -- LnL should proc immediately.
  4. Begin your alternate LnL shot rotation, then transition smoothly into your normal shot rotation.
  5. As you notice your trap coming off the 30 second CD, make your way towards melee range without losing too much DPS time -- a few steps during a GCD here and there should do it.
  6. When the trap comes off CD, drop it again on top of the target dummy. I usually wait half a heartbeat after the CD is up just to guarantee that LnL is off CD as well. (Keep an eye on your ES CD, but don't worry if it's less than halfway through CD when LnL procs. You have 10 seconds once LnL procs to get those 2 extra shots in.)
  7. Step quickly out of melee range, either by strafing or moving backwards, and continue with your LnL shot rotation
  8. Rinse and repeat til you are out of mana.
Your goal: To keep LnL proc'ing every 30 seconds, while keeping Serpent Sting up 100% of the time and filling in with Steady Shots every time Explosive Shot is on CD.

Congratulations! You're trap-dancing.

You may be able to combine this with Sniper Training, but I've never had any luck with that. I just use the strategy that's best for the boss at hand. If I need to be at range, I stay at range, and if I can get within melee, I trap-dance.

Just don't take a Hateful Strike from Patchwerk while dropping your trap...

Exercise 5: All Those Cherries on Top
What about Kill Shot? What about Kill Command? What about Rapid Fire? Heart of the Wild? Trinkets?? Oooh there's so much to manage, and Lock and Load procs are already making our head hurt! The short answer is, try to stack them intelligently, and macro the ones you don't need to think about.

Rapid Fire: This is actually your opening spell on a boss most of the time. But, if the Raid Leader says, "Save your cooldowns for 30%", yes, that includes Rapid Fire, so for that boss, you save it. With an unmodified 5 minute CD, you're best off just popping this manually.
Heart of the Wild: Same situation as with Rapid Fire -- and stacking them is a great burst of DPS.
Kill Shot: Doesn't use a GCD. Macro it in front of every spell in your rotation. That way it always goes off when it comes off CD.
Kill Command: 1 minute CD, and you don't want to bother thinking about this one either. Combine it with one (or all) of your shots in a macro.

#showtooltip Explosive Shot
/script UIErrorsFrame:UnregisterEvent("UI_ERROR_MESSAGE");
/cast Kill Command
/cast Kill Shot
/script UIErrorsFrame:RegisterEvent("UI_ERROR_MESSAGE");
/cast Explosive Shot

I combine KC and KS with both ES and SS in two separate macros. Do what you feel comfortable with.

Trinkets: Depends on the trinket, you'll just need to use your best judgment as to how to best weave it in to your rotation. If your trinket increases speed, try to stack it with an effect that increases AP or crit. If your trinket increases agility or armor Pen, stack it with, for example, Rapid Fire, or a Lock and Load proc.

To be continued...

SV Respec Kit for Dummies, Part 1 of 3

PVE and end-game raiding as a SV hunter is not hard. It's a little tougher than BM, with more movement, but if you want to do some respectable DPS, AND have fun doing it, survival's a great way to go. Many people have told me they find it intimidating, particularly if they've been BM or MM all the way. Why is this for dummies? First, because I did all the research before I respecced, checked out every talent, planned my gear, practiced, modified my macros, and STILL made a ton of mistakes along the way (yes, I'm still making them even now). Second, because you will be using not just dummies like me to learn, but the training dummies in capital cities.

I'm going to summarize what I learned, slough off all the unnecessary stuff, and give you some exercises -- yes, homework -- that you can use to practice and get better very quickly. You can vary the directions below with excellent results if you are willing to take the time to understand what you are doing, as with anything. The best way to learn however, is to simply jump right in and start exploding things with DoTs. Still intimidated? Fear not, hunter friend, the barrier to entry on SV is lower than you might think.

Here's a quick plan to get you going right away on SV. I have simplified many of the SV concepts; most of them are more complicated under the hood, but I don't want to scare you off, so here you go.


Pick 1-18-52 or 6-14-51 . If your haste is above 10%, pick the former, below 10%, pick the latter. Don't agonize, you can always respec again for refinements.

Once you've respecced, retrain your skills. I can't emphasize this enough. I raided with Explosive Shot rank 1 for many weeks, maybe even for months. You'll prefer to have Explosive Shot Rank 4.


Your majors for the majority of raid situations: Glyph of Steady Shot, Glyph of Serpent Sting, Glyph of Improved Aspect of the Hawk. Your minors stay the same.


Hey, awesome! You're wearing hunter gear! Congratulations, you don't need to change anything.

More extended discussion: all the same things that were important as MM and BM are important as SV. Hit rating and getting to the hit cap is the most important thing. Do you read BRK? Did you know that your pet's hit rating rounds DOWN to the nearest whole number? Yeah... that means, if you have 262 hit rating and no points in Focused Aim, you may have 7.99% hit, but your pet has 7.0% hit.

Your gear will transfer smoothly between specs, but the difference is the stats that you will come to see as "frosting". That is, you should be stacking Hit and Agi, and don't forget Int. Regardless of your spec, 3/3 Careful Aim means you skip the rogue gear and put on hunter gear! The "frosting" on your hit/agi/int cake for SV contains a delicious creamy mixture of haste and crit. Sure, I still equip the Incisor Fragment because I haven't gotten anything better for my second trinket slot. Armor Pen is good frosting, but it's the lesser imitation vanilla kind.

Most people get why crit is important, but why stack haste? The short answer is, Explosive Shot and Steady Shot are like oil and water -- they don't mix, they don't play well together. When you stack enough haste to bring the speed of Steady Shot down to the GCD, you get a perfect emulsion, a mouthwatering vinaigrette of ESx1+SSx3 that dresses a boss salad like nobody's business.

In summary, you don't have to make any changes immediately, especially if you've taken 5/5 Improved Aspect of the Hawk. But as you go, consider a haste gem here, an Agi-instead-of-AP enchant there, a sidegrade piece of gear that gets extra haste or crit.


Your flask stays the same for a raid. You might prefer to switch your food buff from a Feast (or other AP) to Agi food. Your pet food buff stays the same.

To be continued....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mad. So Mad

This is really the first time I've been able to write coherently about how mad I was about the Fool for Love Achievement. I religiously set out to farm the various achievements and then with 2 and a half days to go, I was down to missing one achievement -- the candy hearts. I had 7 of the 8 sayings needed.

For every hour I was awake and at home, I logged into my character parked in Ironforge and wearing smelly stuff. Each hour I became adored. Over the course of the 2.5 days, I received four more candy heart bags. Over the course of those four bags, I failed to open the last candy I needed. At the end of the event, or when I had to log as it was nearing midnight, I was still missing the last saying.

I object to having to fight the random number generator twice for that stupid achievement. I object to not being a fool for love. I object to waiting even LONGER for my mount reward.

If I were feeling snarky, I'd calculate the odds of this happening. But I'm afraid it would break my heart even more completely.