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hunters 101

I’ve been bemoaning my fate as a hunter in Warcraft since nearly the beginning of the game 😛

Why? Well, because hunters were thrown into the game as something of an afterthought, and didn’t really come into their own until recently. They are the second most popular class now – probably because they are so heavily geared toward PvE content. This leads to two problems that I’ve noticed with the hunter population in general.

  1. Because hunters are so easy to solo with, many hunters are complacent and tend to be less than stellar party members.
  2. Because so many hunters misunderstand their own class, many non-hunter players misunderstand them as well.

Of course, lots of classes are frequently misunderstood. Warriors who think they’re DPS, paladins who think they’re tanks, etc… But hunters are fairly consistently inefficient.

Thus, as one who has played a hunter since the stupid game opened, I’m going to whip out my hubris and pretend I know what I’m talking about when it comes to how to play an efficient hunter character in World of Warcraft.

So… cringe in terror, mere mortals, as I wax really really verbose on a lot of basic hunter stuff. More advanced strategy/high end tactics will probably follow in a future post.

Race

The first choice that a hunter player makes isn’t which pets to capture or which talents to choose. It’s their race. On Alliance side (which is where I have the most experience), the choice is between Dwarves and Night Elves. Horde players can be anything but Undead. Now, if you are planning for end game, your race really doesn’t matter all that much when it comes to stats and things, so I am not going to talk about those. Mostly.

Dwarves – I like dwarves. I am a dwarfoholic. I’ve been playing dwarves in RPG’s since I was in jr high. I’m not going to change. That being put aside, dwarves are one of the most effective PvE hunter races. They get +5 levels in gun and their racial ability effectively grants immunity to poison and disease. Not many people seem to use or even know about this ability. It’s saved my life plenty of times. Stick stoneform on your action bar and spam it, the cooldown’s only 2 minutes.

The treasure tracking is potentially useful – if you can find anywhere to put it with all of your other tracking abilities… I very rarely use it (like once every few months of play).

Night Elves – Elves are sissies. Of course, I’m a dwarf and our men don’t wear dresses, but again, that’s beside the point. Elves are some of the best PvP hunters because they can stealth. Camp, aimed shot snipe, repeat. They also start off with a bit higher agility than everyone else, which isn’t bad either.

Orcs – Orcs are a wierd race. Their stats and racial abilities would seem to suggest that they’re designed for melee types. But they also have a good bit of hunter to them. Their pets hit 5% harder (which can really add up – pets are potentially 20-25% of your damage output as a hunter). They get +5 in axes – a hunterly weapon. And, they are resistant to stunning effects – the bane of all hunters.

Tauren – Cows start with guns and have a lot of social pressure from quest givers and stuff to be hunters. But they’re really not all that suited for the job. Their agility is terrible and well, yeah. They do get more hp than any other race. So if you aren’t opposed to throwing some talents at Survivalist, you could potentially get 10% more HP than other hunters with otherwise similar stats.

Oh, and I lied. Tauren’s racial ability warstomp is a potential gamebreaker. Stomp is on a 5 minute cooldown and stuns a few mobs next to you. It is potentially incredibly useful for getting back into range – kind of like scatter shot.

Trolls – Trolls get +5 to bow (and thrown, for whatever good that does), have +10% to hp regen (and continue to regen health slowly during combat – MAJOR plus for a hunter), and do increased damage to beasts. Talents can bump this up to a total of +8% damage vs beasts. And lots of hunter stuff is geared toward fighting beasts, so this isn’t a bad thing at all.

My general recommendation?

On Alliance, go sissy elf if you just want to gank. Go dwarf if you want to actually be useful in a high level party 😉

Horde, it is tempting to choose orc. Don’t be fooled. Pet damage is nice, but unreliable in raids when it might be a bad idea to keep your pet out. The axe skill doesn’t mean you do more damage with your axe, but that you hit more often with it – and your whole goal in life as a hunter is to stay as far away from melee as possible.

I would say Cows for soloing and PvP (don’t know how many times I’ve lost in one-on-one PK encounters because I was 100 or 200 hp short :P). Warstomp FTW. Trolls are ideally the best party hunters. Accuracy with your ranged weapon is all important when you are shooting raid bosses – having an overwhelming rate of fire doesn’t mean anything if your arrows don’t connect. And being able to continue your natural hp regeneration during combat means that when you get hit for trivial amounts of damage it doesn’t add up.

Weapons

Ok, I mentioned already that axes are a hunterly weapon, but that their use should generally be avoided. Hunters are designed to inflict ranged damage. All but like 4 of a hunter’s abilities are meant to kill things by shooting them. In fact, hunters are most decidedly crippled in melee. Even full survival spec hunters are in trouble.

When it comes to weapon choice. Hunters can buy skill in absolutely everything except maces (and 2h maces). It is fun to play with other weapons, but generally… they’re not going to do you much good.

My advice is to look for weapons that give agility or attack power buffs. If you insist on fighting in melee, remember that your only useful damage-producing ability (raptor strike) has a long (6 second) cooldown. The ability is cheap and meant to be spammed, so if you’re going to rely on it for damage, you really want to have something big and slow to use in the hopes that you’ll crit and actually inflict damage close to what your real weapon would be doing on normal hits 😛

For the kinds of bonuses you’re looking for, hunters will generally find that one-handed axes and daggers are nice (and since you can dual-wield, grab one for each hand) and that spears are also generally quite effective. 2h swords and axes are fun, but don’t usually offer the kinds of plusses that will improve your ranged damage.

A hunter’s real weapons ship in three different shapes. Guns, bows, and crossbows. No race starts out with xbows, you have to buy that privilege from a weapon trainer.

Which weapon you use is generally a matter of personal preference, since their damage output is fairly comparable, but there are a few things you should consider when choosing to change weapons (aside from the whole racial +5 thing). I have used all three weapons extensively in my career, with my gun skill currently actually being the lowest (at like 275 or so, xbow and bow are both capped).

Bows and crossbows both use quivers and fire arrows. Arrows must be purchased, they cannot reliably be manufactured by players at this time. Guns are engineering toys – engineers make bullets and guns and scopes (which are usable on all 3 weapon types). And engineer ammo is consistently better than what you’ll find on vendors. You don’t have to be an engineer to use any of the gun/ammo/scope stuff they build.

Bows have a higher rate of fire than the other two weapon types. As such, they don’t hit as hard (thus having more problems against heavily armoured targets) and they run out faster. Remember that it is much more expensive to keep buying ammo for a bow than it is for a crossbow with equal nominal damage output. For a few levels, I was running around with a bow that poured arrows out like a machine gun. It felt cool and looked cool. But I was always running out of ammo.

Crossbows are actually the slowest of the weapons in most cases. I have a 3.3 second xbow in my vault (recently upgraded to a big slow regular bow with slightly more +agi). Slow weapons are good if you want to kill things and aren’t worried about how you look on the damage report when the raid is over (since other dps classes hit faster and will generally be able to drop enemies while your bow is still recharging). Slow weapons hit harder per shot and thus crit for way more (my xbow would usually crit aimed shots for 1800+ damage, my current bow only crits aimed’s in the 1200 range against most targets).

Slow weapons are also very nicely compatible with aimed shot in that if your weapon’s regular rate of fire is close to aimed’s 3 second casting time, you’re not really going to be missing out on your normal shots – and will thus be able to spam aimed shot during combat with much happiness. With my xbow, I would tap aimed immediately after a regular arrow fired off. Then, when aimed fired, my regular attack would have cooled down and I would accompany it immediately with an auto-shot arrow. That’s generally going to be around double the damage you’d normally do over the same period of time just shooting normal attacks.

Stats

Agility. Nothing else matters. Really. Throw everything else away if it means you can increase your agi. Agility increases your DPS (both ranged and melee), your hit chance, your crit percent, your damage reduction (AC), and your dodge percent. While you don’t get as much dodge as a rogue would, you get more than other classes (and monkey increases it by 8-13% with talents).

Attack power is your next best bet if you can’t get agility on a piece of eq. One point of agility == 2 points of ranged attack power (one point of melee), but remember that by trading agility out for attack, you’re losing crit and hit percentage and are going to take more damage.

Hit chance isn’t so important at lower levels when you’re fighting stuff close to your own size. But it really starts to matter at higher levels, when you’re fighting mobs way bigger than everyone. This is when the dwarves and trolls win with their +5 ranks in their weapon of choice.

Crit chance is very nice for soloing and is probably the only way you are going to outperform other DPS classes in groups. This number applies to your arcane/aimed shots, multi shot, and your regular attacks. So, if you were to attack a mob with aimed/auto/multi, it isn’t unreasonable to expect a lvl 60 hunter to inflict over 1200 damage with the salvo. If all three of those attacks crit, however, you’ll be doing more like 3000+ damage in the same amount of time, for the same amount of mana 😉

Stamina is probably next in importance after agility/attack power. While you aren’t a tank by any means, you get good HP, can wear decent armour, and have a high dodge%. And when you get stuck in melee, your agility is only going to help you so much. The best green drops for hunters are generally the “monkey” set (+agi/+stam).

Intelligence is probably next in importance. As a hunter with loads of agility and attack power eq, I can generally keep up with a rogue in terms of damage production – until I run out of mana. Lots of hunters seem not to spam their shots, but shots == dps == shorter fights . If you are soloing, int doesn’t matter so much, but in parties, you’ll often be screaming for want of mana, and any little increase in max mana means that you don’t have to stop and drink as often. Less downtime in parties is good. But remember, hunter shots aren’t technically spells (at least, not when its convenient), so int doesn’t increase your chance to crit with them.

After that… not much else matters.

Spirit turns into hp/mana regen, but unless you’re a troll, you’re not regenning health during combat anyways, and you don’t want to rely on spirit alone for mana regen between fights. It can be useful in long, protracted battles when your mana runs out and you’re just waiting to regen enough juice to fire off one final shot… but that’s about it. Reliance on water for regen is generally going to serve you better than wasting equipment on spirit.

Of course, eq that offers direct mana regen is another story entirely 😉 That’s good stuff.

Strength is utterly worthless. It only increases your melee damage production, and even then, not by much (+1 str == +1 melee attack power). If, for some ungodly reason, you want to do melee damage, get agility 😉

Abilities

Hunter abilities all cost mana. This is both good and bad. Good in that you can receive int, spirit, and mana regen buffs to increase your potential damage output. Bad in that you’re pretty much hosed if you run out of juice.

Despite their costing mana, they don’t seem to be classified as ‘spells’ when it would be convenient (like for +arcane damage equipment). But they are turned off when you get hit by a silence effect.

Some of your abilites are authentic spells, but those are generally just for dealing with your pets.

Aspects

Hunters receive a number of animal aspect abilities that give them (and sometimes their party) some pretty nice buffs. Aspects are inexpensive to use, are instant cast, and don’t have to be recast like trueshot aura or most other classes’ personal buffs.

Monkey – Aspect of the monkey means an always-on +8% to dodge at level 4. With talents, you can bump this effect up to +13%.

Hawk – Aspect of the hawk increases your ranged attack power. It can also be improved with talents to give it an occasional chance of hasting your ranged attacks (more on this later). At level 10, hawk is only worth 20 attack power (1.4 dps). By level 60, however, the aspect increases your attack power by a whopping 120 points (8.6 dps).

Cheetah and Pack – These aspects give you 30% run speed (and seem to have a minor affect on your swim speed as well). If you blow talents, you can bump this up to 36% speed. The big problem with this ability is that if you take any damage (other than a dot), you will become snared for 3 seconds – reducing your travel speed to something like 40% of what it was before you switched the aspect on. Cheetah comes at level 20 and affects only you, pack comes at 40 and affects any party members close to you.

Beast – Aspect of the beast is worthless. It makes you disappear from the radar of other hunters or druids who are tracking humanoids. Blech.

Wild – Aspect of the wild is a PBAoE buff that gives your party +45 nature damage resistance at level 46 and +60 at level 56. Nature resist is incredibly happy versus mobs with poison type auras around them (like lots of undead).

Shots/Stings

This is the bread and butter of a hunter’s damage output. You should be spending the vast majority of your mana on your special shot and sting attacks. Shots are pretty straightforward. They have a single, quick effect.

Stings proc some sort of negative status effect on your enemy. You may only have one sting active at once, and each mob may only have one sting of any given type on it (excepting for the HP dot stings, which every hunter in the group may lay on the same mob).

Serpent – Serpent sting is a 15 second nature damage over time (dot) effect. At level 4, it only does 20 damage total. At level 60, with talents, it does as much 610 damage over the course of the 15 second duration.

Arcane – Arcane shot is an instant cast arcane damage nuke. It is fairly inexpensive to use, and can be fired on the run, but it is also on a 6 second cooldown. It makes the ultimate pulling attack for groups if you don’t want to generate a lot of aggro onto yourself. Rank one arcane shot only inflicts 13 damage 🙂 At level 50, rank seven arcane shot will do 145 damage – probably about half that of your regular arrows.

But, you must also remember that it is arcane, not physical damage. This means that you can use it to slowly hurt things that are immune to normal attacks, and that it tends to ignore armour and do a guaranteed 145 damage to your victim (unless they have arcane spell resistance).

Concuss – Concussive shot is a ranged snare attack. It costs a bunch of mana and is on a relatively long cooldown, but it drops your enemy’s run speed down to 50% for four seconds. If you want to waste talents, you can give it a chance of rooting the enemy in stead of simply snaring them.

Distract – Distracting shot is a ranged taunt. It generates threat with whoever you shoot with it. Good for pulling mobs off of your cloth-wearing party members. It is really very inexpensive to cast and is on an 8 second cooldown, so when paired with a good damaging attack, you can generally do quite a bit to keep your healer safe.

Multi – Multi-shot replaces your normal attack with one that strikes up to 3 enemies. With higher ranks in the ability and talents, it does more damage than a normal attack, and as long as you remember not to use it around sheep and frozen enemies, it’s a great ability to spam and increase your damage output.

Aimed – Aimed shot is purchased with a tier 3 marksmanship talent point and can then be improved with money at higher levels. It has a 3 second casting time but does markedly more damage than your normal attacks – generally somewhere in the neighborhood of 2x your base damage. It shares a timer with arcane shot, so you can’t use both of them in rapid succession.

Scorp – Scorpid sting is a very happy debuff if you are conserving mana and are relying on regular attacks to kill something. It decreases your enemy’s strength and agility by 20 points each at level 22, 68 points at 52. That’s a reduction of 2.8 dps in its weakest incarnation 😉

Scatter – Scatter shot is acquired with a tier five marksmanship talent point. It is a short range attack that confuses your target for a few seconds. Any damage dealt will break the effect, but it’s a nice bit of temporary crowd control.

Viper – Viper sting is a mana DOT to your victim. It doesn’t drain very fast, and it doesn’t drain very much. This makes it pretty useless against mobs who typically have tens of thousands of mana at high levels. It also makes it pretty useless against any player caster who isn’t already almost out of juice – it is nice for keeping priests drained while you kill them via other means for example.

What viper sting is useful against are casters who generally don’t have a lot of mana to begin with: paladins, shamans, and other hunters.

Wyvern – Wyvern sting is acquired with a tier seven survival talent point. It can only be used out of combat and lets you put an enemy to sleep for 12 seconds. If they sleep for the whole duration, they’ll wake up with a poison DOT on them stronger than your serpent sting.

Tranq – Tranquilizing shot is a Molten Core thing. You learn it from a book. The spell then only has one use – to remove a ‘frenzy’ effect from bosses, thus keeping them killable. Currently, only a scant handful of enemies go into frenzies, but when they do… the party’s pretty much dead unless a hunter is able to tranq him.

Tracking

As a hunter, you get a bucketload of tracking abilities. If you’re a dwarf or pick up a gathering profession, you get even more tracking abilities. By max level, you’ll be able to track any creature type – except for those critters that don’t have types set. And, of course critters of the type ‘critter’.

A few things to note about tracking.

  1. All players normally qualify as humanoid, even Forsaken. Shapeshifted players generally track as beasts.
  2. Hunter pets track as beasts, so even if another hunter is trying to hide from you with aspect of the beast, you can still track him unless he sends his pet away.
  3. Warlock pets do not track as demons. They are untrackable.
  4. Other untrackable critters are anything without a specific monster type associated with it – silithids being the most notorious example, but slimes and wavethrashers are also notable in their untrackability.
  5. You will track everything within a given XY distance of yourself. Unfortunately, there is no Z-axis restriction on the tracking. So in areas with multiple floors, you’ll be seeing a lot of garbage on the radar. And, unlike resource tracking, the icons on the map don’t grey out for mobs on different floors than you.
  6. Track hidden is all but useless. It increases your stealth detection ever imperceptably and only tracks those stealthed mobs that you can already see. This ability isn’t helpful at all when hunting the stealthed elementals in Wetlands, for example since you’ve practically got to run into them before they show up on your mini-map anyways. Potentially useful in PvP against rogues… but only barely.

Traps

A hunter has four traps in his arsenal. They all last for one minute after being set and all share a 15 second cooldown. You may only have one trap at a time, so if you change your mind as to which trap to set during the 45 seconds between cooldown and trap expiration, it will remove the first one when you place a new one.

You must also be out of combat to place a trap. But, feign death can take you out of combat if your pet isn’t hammering on something, so you can always feign and place a new trap. You do not have to stand up before clicking the trap button, you’ll set it while laying down and will then stand up automatically – thus generally guaranteeing you stay out of combat long enough to place it.

Unfortunately, both of your ice traps and both of your fire traps look the same. So if you forget which type you placed, you may as well set another one to make sure. It is also troublesome when party members think your shiny blue crystal thing is a frost trap and not a freeze trap… Of course, that problem can be solved with basic communication skills 😉

Immolation – Your immolation trap comes at level 16 and procs a large fire DOT on a single target. This is particularly useful against elementals, who tend to be immune to nature damage (so your serpent sting won’t hurt them).

Freeze – Your freezing trap comes at level 20 and disables a single target for 10 seconds initially. At max rank and with talents, the duration increases to 26 seconds. Like all crowd control abilities, any damage inflicted on your victim will break the spell – so make sure you don’t have an active DOT on the enemy and that your pet isn’t chewing on them or else your trap will have been wasted.

Frost – You get frost trap at 28. When triggered, it creates a large patch of ice that will slow any npc’s or enemy players who step on it down to 40% of their normal run speed. This is generally incredibly useful in parties for plugging doorways and otherwise keeping enemies away from your casters.

Explosive – Your explosive trap comes at level 34 and does fire damage to everything in a small radius around the mob that set the trap off. In addition to the initial burst of damage, it also procs a similarly sized DOT effect on all affected critters. Explosive trap does less damage to a single target than immolation trap.

Melee

The goal of a hunter who finds himself in melee should be a rapid resolution to the problem – that of being too close to your enemy. If something’s almost dead, you can generally hammer it with attacks until it dies, but you’re always less effective up close than at range.

Raptor – This is your only melee damage skill. It bumps up the damage of your next melee attack by a small bit. Crits with raptor strike are actually tolerable damage, but should probably not be relied upon for damage output 😉

Mongoose – While this attack does damage… it doesn’t do much damage. And it’s only available for a few seconds after you dodge an attack. You can use it, and probably should since you’re so low on options once you’re stuck in melee, but it’s probably not going to save your life or anything.

Wing clip – Wing clip is dead useful. It snares your enemy, letting you then run out of melee. It does very negligable damage, but is instant cast with no cooldown period, so you can spam it if you want to. I like using it to train weapon skills, and with the improved wing clip talent, you can generally wail on the button until the root effect procs.

Counter – Purchased with a tier 5 survival talent. It is an unblockable low damage attack that is enabled after you parry something. The nice bit is not the damage, but that it pretty much guarantees a 5 second root effect on your enemy. So, if you have enough fingers to use it, it’s pretty nice for getting out of melee range.

Disengage – Disengage is a melee attack that acts as a fairly wimpy detaunt effect. It is useful for returning aggro back to your pet/tank, but as it only works on one target at a time and requires you to be in melee range to function, it is pretty much obsoleted once you get feign death.

Pet Management

Tame pet – Catch a new pet. The ability is channeled for 20 seconds. If anything stops your channeling, you will fail in the attempt and will have to feign or something and try again.

Eyes of the beast – Lets you take control of your pet. Great for goofing off (making kitty dance around people and stuff) and for exploring areas where eagle eye doesn’t work.

Mend pet – This spell allows you to channel healing to your pet if you are close enough. The range is pretty short, so it is quite possible to be shooting your enemy quite happily and have to close in before being able to heal your pet. With talents, you can buy the ability to also heal negative status effects in addition to hp damage.

Revive pet – Pretty self explanatory. If your pet dies, you actually have to rez it in stead of just resummoning it like a warlock would. You don’t have to actually be anywhere near the corpse to use this ability – your pet doesn’t even need to have a corpse to use it.

If your pet’s corpse is in a safe location, it is possible for healer type players to rez it. Thus wasting their valuable mana in exchange for your expendable mana 😉 Several patches ago, they fixed a funny bug that would give rez sickness to anyone foolish enough to attempt to revive a hunter’s pet for him 😛

Bestial wrath – Purchased with a tier seven beast talent point, this attack is on a 2 minute cooldown and buffs your pet through the roof. It does increased damage and becomes immune to fear and other forms of crowd control.

Misc

Mark – Hunter’s mark puts a big bouncing arrow above your victim. It has a long duration, makes the target show up on your mini-map (and that of party members) even if you’re not tracking their type. It allows you and party members to see stealthed victims, and most importantly, it increases the ranged attack power of everyone shooting the victim by a hefty amount.

Now, nobody in your party but hunters should usually be shooting things 😛 And only one mark may be in place per mob, so you can’t have a group of 5 hunters give themselves a party-wide +600 attack power buff on the poor target. But still, it is very nice.

A word of warning about mark and PvP. People see when they get hit by mark. So, if you’re aimed-shot sniping people… don’t put mark on them or they’ll know something’s up.

Volley – Volley is a channeled AoE arcane DOT. It is on an annoyingly long one minute cooldown timer, but is otherwise quite nice in parties and in conjunction with frost traps. Despite its being a ranged attack, its radius is equal to your minimum attack range – meaning you can actually use it to hit targets in melee range with you. But since it’s channeled, any time they hit you, the spell’s remaining duration will be reduced.

Beast lore – Lets you find out information about a particular creature. Beast lore turns the target beast-type creature’s tooltip into a stat sheet. You see all kinds of numbers, including whether it is tameable, what the creature would eat if tamed, and what abilities it will bring with it. Is also nice for checking out other hunters’ pets.

Feign dead – You fall to the ground and play dead in an attempt to discard any aggro you’ve built up. Mobs who don’t resist the effect will completely forget you and just return to whatever they were doing. If you’re in a party, this generally means that they’ll run off and attack somebody else. If you’re solo, it means the mobs will go back on patrol or whatever.

As long as your pet is not fighting something, feign dead will also remove you from combat. This means that you will be able to place another trap or fire off a wyvern sting.

Eagle eye – Only works outdoors. Eagle eye lets you change your point of view to pretty much anywhere you can click on. Is great for scouting enemy camps and stuff. It creates a big sparkly animation where you’re looking from – which means that other players can tell that a hunter (or an engineer with a spyglass) is scrying on the location.

Scare beast – Causes a single targetted beast to run away for 10-20 seconds. Standard crowd control effect rules apply, so you can’t fear a critter and then shoot it while it runs around. Only one beast may be feared at a time, and the spell isn’t instant cast, so you have to stop running in order to use it.

Deterrance – Purchased with a tier three survival talent point. Deterrance is on a 5 minute cooldown and gives you a 10 second +25% buff to both your dodge and parry chances. This is particularly nice in tight spots where something pretty nasty is bearing down on you and you’re going to have to kill it in melee.

Rapid fire – Costs 100 mana, is on a 5 minute cooldown. Gives you a +40% ranged attack speed buff for 15 seconds. Quite nice for bosses and other thick-skinned enemies. Downright devastating when paired with improved hawk’s additional 30% speed buff 😉

Flare – Throws up a very wimpy firework animation and unstealths anything within the area of effect. This is generally more effective than track hidden for flushing out stealthed NPC’s, since you can use it from a greater distance. Mobs affected by flare will be kept from re-stealthing for a short while and will not be aggrivated.

Trueshot Aura – Purchased with a tier seven marksmanship talent point. This gives you and nearby party members a +attack power buff. At max level, it’s pretty good, 100 points. The downside is that it’s expensive and constantly has to be renewed – and that two hunters’ auras won’t stack.

Pets

There are lots of decisions to make when choosing a pet. Pets come in three basic types: tanks, dps, and average. Tank pets will have either increased HP or AC and will inflict less damage with their normal attacks. DPS pets will have lower HP/AC but will hit harder.

In all reality, you’ll find that DPS pets still tank better than you do and that tank pets can frequently withstand more damage than a paladin might. The choice is generally a matter of personal play style. I actually keep one pet of each type. I might consider grabbing a boar in the near future if the highest level boars weren’t so tiny.

In addition to the type of pet you’re looking at, you should consider its diet, any special racial abilities it can get, and its model’s animation. Yup, the picture does matter. Flying pets may do nice damage, but they’re dangerously spammy on your screen. Pets flying around (most notably winged serpents) will frequently make clicking on individual targets really pretty difficult. I use an owl right now, and it gets in the way a lot – but not as often as a snake would.

Diet is pretty important if you don’t mind spending all of your cash on keeping your pet fed. Pets that eat fish are the cheapest – since fish is free, or at least really easy to get for next to no price. Pets that eat meat are the next cheapest – since most beast-type mobs tend to drop edible meat. Pets that only eat fruit/mushrooms are obnoxious. These kind of drop aren’t terribly common in most places, so you’ll have to dedicate part of your allowance to buying pet food in addition to ammo.

Special attacks… can be pretty cool, and they can be a waste of time. In recent patches, Blizzard has been churning out a constant stream of new abilities for pets to use. Cats can stealth and ambush, snakes can breathe lightning, birds can screech, and turtles can stand there looking stupid.

For a really good reference on pets and pet abilities, try these sites:

  • Good Intentions – a guild on the Azjul-Nerub server has what has long been the de-facto standard in hunter pet ability cheat sheets. They list all ranks of all pet skills and what creatures may be tamed in order to learn them.
  • Petopia is kind of like a slower version of the Good Intentions Guild site. It is more picture-oriented, so you can actually see what the pet looks like. They also have exhaustive stat numbers on pets and such as well as several essays on interesting pet-related topics.

Dash/Dive is great. It’s cheap and it means that your pet will be able to close in on a target almost instantly. Definately worth having on any pet who can learn it.

Screech is incredible. It is an AoE attack power debuf that generates massive amounts of hate and does a minor bit of damage to boot. Oh, and it’s fast and cheap.

Shell Shield is… like the ultimate cower ability. Turtles will only autocast it when they’re about to die. Which is a good thing, because not only is it on a 5 minute cooldown, it also paralyzes your pet for the duration, meaning that they stop growling or anything and won’t follow the mob when it turns to come eat you. It is also available at a very low level and doesn’t improve – it’s always the same 50% damage reduction whether it’s on a level 20 turtle or a level 58 one.

Furious Howl is a waste. It costs 60 whopping focus and at rank 4 only gives a +50 damage buff to the party’s next attack. If it lasted multiple attacks, that’d be one thing, but it is only going to happen once per fight if you have anything else on autocast.

Charge is awesome. Not only do piggies eat anything, they get the 1 second stun effect on top of the huge attack power bonus that charge generates. Rank 5 means a 390 attack power buff on the pig’s second attack after the charge. Stacking charge with dash? Does this make for teleporting little piggies? 🙂

Despite being expensive, thunderstomp seems to be quite useful. Since monkeys make such better tanks than birds do, this particular AoE taunt is very nice for crowd control purposes – and it’s one of the hardest hitting pet attacks in the game.

Scorpid poison is fun. Scorpions make quite passable pets and already do decent damage with claw. Throw an inexpensive DOT on top of that, and you’ve got the potential for some great fun. For even more happy joy, throw multiple scorpions at the same mob. The DOT stacks up to 5 times.

Lightning breath is pretty lame. Not only does it cost half of your snake’s focus, not only is it for winged serpents which are annoying pets to begin with, it doesn’t really do all that much damage for your trouble – about 100 points. Bite does almost as much and is way cheaper. The only advantage here is that it is nature type damage and not physical.

Prowl gives cats the ability to stealth and then deliver an ambush attack when coming out of stealth. It stacks with dash, so the speed reduction isn’t a problem when using it to start fights.

Tactics

Most hunter abilities are best used in concert with each other. And, as a hunter, you have a lot of options which means that playing your character will require some actual thought if you want to be efficient. Here are a few basic strategies that every hunter should know.

Taming

Tired of getting knocked around while trying to tame a new pet? Try rooting/freezing/fearing the sucker first. Also, if you know that your crowd control effect isn’t going to keep the animal busy for the entire 20 seconds, make sure you’re in monkey form so you are able to avoid some of the attacks that do get through.

Also remember that as your pet advances in levels, they don’t automagically pick up new skill ranks. So, to upgrade your pet’s attacks, you will have to learn the ability from other animals who know them. This is generally done by stabling your preferred pet, catching a new creature that you know has the ability you want, and then watching the pet perform the command a few times. You’ll then be able to abandon the junk animal and teach the new technique to your real pet.

Traps

Placing traps only requires a few seconds of preparation and thinking. So if you’re not just carving a swath of unpausing destruction through a crowd of mobs, taking the time to place traps will make life much easier. There are only four types of trap, and I talked about their general use a bit earlier.

The most important thing with traps is letting your party know about them. Drill it into their head that you are using traps and that traps make everyone’s life easier. Convince the tank to back up a few steps so the mob actually hits the damage trap or whatever.

Pulling across freezing traps requires that everyone pay attention. I’ve been in more than a handfull of parties who’ve wiped because some moron attacked the frozen fire elemental in stead of the one they were supposed to hit. Concussive shot is helpful when pulling a pair of tight mobs across the trap – mark and concuss one. The other one will run faster and will freeze – and your party doesn’t have much of an excuse to miss seeing the big floating arrow 😉

The Dead Zone

This isn’t so much a technique as a word of caution. Every hunter is surrounded by an invisible ring of death. If your enemies can manage to get into and stay in this ring, you are dead. The ring extends from between 5 yards to 8 yeards away from you. Just far enough away that you can’t hit them with melee attacks and too close to shoot. Hunters are the only ranged attackers who have a minimum effective range. Casters can blast you into oblivion from up close.

The only abilities you have that can target the dead zone are scatter shot and volley. So… do everything in your power to keep enemies from exploting this.

Kiting

Kiting is a traditional MMORPG combat strategy. It involves running away from/around your enemy in such a way that you are able to keep shooting them but they are unable to engage you in melee.

Hunters are built to kite. You have several slowing attacks and (if you’re careful) a run speed aspect to increase the gap. Kiting takes more effort than sending your pet in to tank for you, but there are lots of situations where your pet will probably get chewed into little pieces if it tanks – but if you kite correctly, neither you or your pet will take much damage.

The general procedure is to wing clip/concuss your enemy, DOT, run away, shoot them a few times, and re-snare them when the wing clip and/or concuss effects wear off. Faster weapons are better for this than crossbows, and arcane shot is your friend since it fires instantly.

Jump Shot

Advanced exercises in efficient kiting will involve the jump shot. Behold the technique:

  1. Place your character in auto-run mode, preferrably running away from your enemy. One way to do this effectively is by holding down both mouse buttons.
  2. Jump. That’s the big blank button at the bottom of your keyboard.
  3. While in the air you will continue traveling in the same direction you were running.
  4. Whip your mouse to the side (you are holding the right mouse button, aren’t you?) enough to turn your char about 90-120 degrees.
  5. Tap your shot/sting on the keyboard. You don’t need to be directly facing the mob, your attacks have a pretty good arc of usability to them.
  6. The instant your attack fires, rotate the mouse back to its original position and you should land and continue running in approximately the same direction you were before you jumped.

Pulling

Hunters are the best pullers in the game. Don’t listen to the lies that other classes keep spreading about us – and that we frequently spread about ourselves.

I could wax philosophical on how to effectively and safely pull as a hunter, but that’s already been done for me. Take a look at Brian Clevinger’s essay on creating what he calls The Perfect Zone of Ultimate Safety.

hooray for vorbis

I currently have approximately 400gb of old anime fansubs lying around on hard drives here at home, and they need to be burnt off to dvd’s in the worst way. I’ve been stalling until a few days ago when I finally decided to put some sort of effort into the archival. After three days of diligence, I have managed to produce a whopping 6 discs. Yup, six.

Why the slowness when it only takes 15 minutes to burn a dvd at 4x and only 30 more minutes to copy the files across the network in order to burn? Because I’m picky.

I want my shows to fit neatly onto discs. Given a standard issue series of 26 episodes at 175mb per file, it fits almost perfectly on a normal dvd. At least, it would, if the discs were like 50mb larger 🙁

So, I shuffle and I juggle, and I try to find ways to fit the blasted data onto discs w/o having single episode leftovers… and usually I fail. I’d been trying to edit some of the larger files, cropping the closing credits or something to trim enough data to make things work. This is iffy at best – most of the time I have to either re-encode the video (a badness) or I suffer problems with a/v sync getting thrown all out of whack.

And then, a few seconds ago, it finally hit me. I can turn them into OGM files 😉 I mean, I use Vorbis to cut filesizes in half for my music library, so why not on my videos as well?

The thought had occurred to me previously, but I’d always dismissed it because the typical episode’s audio track only takes up something like 20mb, and chopping 8-10 meg off of a file isn’t enough to make much of a dent in my 50mb quota. At least, that’s how my thought process was going at the time. Who knows what I was thinking. 8-10mb times 26 files makes an enormous difference 😛

And it’s a fast process too. I think my script takes something like 3 minutes per episode to re-package when running on Hedwig. And I’m normalizing the audio tracks while I’m at it.

Total savings on a 26 episode series when going from 128kbps CBR mp3 to ~64kbps VBR Vorbis? Well, I was hoping for about 250mb. After 12 episodes converted, however, I have already saved 163mb 😉 Woo! This puts me on track for an extra hundred meg that I wasn’t expecting. Oh, and the files sound good too.

Me likey Vorbis lots. Heap big lots.

The script in question?

It’s kind of clunky, really doesn’t need to be done in php, and could be tuned up quite a bit, but meh, it’s doing the job quite happily, and without supervision 😉 I should think about making it traverse the directory tree recursively and let it run overnight to convert everything.

Update

Yeehaw! Series completed. 387mb saved over 26 episodes. I’m busily making a simple little bash script to recursively call the php script above…

force_ssl.php