Confessions of a mediocre hunter

Let’s get one thing clear up front: I am nowhere close to being a great hunter. At best, I am slightly better than adequate in terms of game play. Oh, sure, I have some moments of greatness now and then — as do we all — but in general the best anyone could say about me is that my game play is “reliable”.

I do not pay much attention to damage numbers during raids, nor do I obsess about rankings. However, we have some people on our raid team who immediately check their boss rating after every single boss kill, who like to equip certain low level pieces of gear so that they will compete for rankings in lower gear categories, who demand certain positions in fights because those positions allow them to just pew-pew and pad their damage numbers, who cannot resist humble-bragging about their DPS or awesome gear, etc. That is not me, and though these are very nice people, frankly I think less of them when they feel compelled to draw everyone’s attention to their game prowess. Where I come from, the truly great are quiet and self-effacing, and the only way you ever know how awesome they are is from others, never ever from them.

But I digress. The fact that I am not a top-notch hunter does not mean I do not constantly try to improve my game play. I spend time every week simming various gear combos, and I conscientiously grind out artifact level increases as much as my available play time permits. After every raid, I go back and analyze my performance in Warcraft Logs or similar log web sites, noting areas where I was deficient and setting a self-training goal for the week based on that analysis. I still spend probably on average 20-30 minutes a week slaving away at the target dummies.

Over the course of Legion, I have definitely improved my hunter timing and cooldown sequencing/coordination, as well as my ability to keep up a rotation even during heavy movement phases.  I still have some problems with focus management — too often am maxed out on focus — but I am working on that. And I have made great strides in my overall raid awareness in the past year — die much less often, need less healing, see more of the raid big picture. As a result of all this, I am performing closer and closer to sim DPS numbers on many fights.

But here’s the thing: whereas I used to frequently be in the top 5 damage dealers in our raid, now I am routinely near the very bottom. The harder I work and the more I improve, the worse my raid performance. I feel like I am running as fast as I can and still losing ground.

It is not a good feeling.

So why is it happening? Well, one reason is that once progression is over and everyone really learns a raid fight, BM hunter mobility stops being much of an advantage. Casters (and I include MM hunters in this) learn where they can stand and for how long, and thus they can take full advantage of their inherently higher damage potential. Melee learn how to maximize their damage even during constant interruptive boss mechanics. In short, BM hunter mobility allows us to start out progression fairly close to the top of our potential, whereas other damage dealers have a more intense learning curve. But once they master it, hunter mobility ceases to be the huge advantage it was at the start.

This is one of the major flaws in Blizz’s BM hunter design. Don’t get me wrong, I love the mobility. But every time hunters complain about puny damage potential, Blizz hollers, “Yeah, but MOBILITY!!” It is true that mobility is a significant factor and should be part of the overall BM damage equation, but it is not nearly as potent as Blizz claims. For one thing, as I described above, its effects are transient — by the middle of a raid tier it counts for very little when compared to other specs’ damage potential. For another thing, most of a BM hunter’s damage is done by pets, which are melee damage dealers, so hunter mobility is kind of a moot point. It doesn’t really make a whole hell of a lot of difference if I can shoot my puny Cobra Shot while moving, since that is not where much damage comes from anyway.

Another reason BM hunters are falling faster in the dps charts is because Blizz has steadfastly refused to treat the BM artifact — which in reality is Hati, not the actual gun — like a real artifact weapon. They have refused to scale Hati with gear level to the same degree as they scale, say, a warrior artifact. To be fair, this is not a unique BM hunter shortfall, there are several specs Blizz designed so poorly that they are unable to scale them with gear level and artifact improvements. More recently, Blizz admitted that the 7.3 Crucible would benefit some classes a lot more than others, and since they had done a shitty job designing some specs’ artifacts, they just threw up their hands in despair and gave these specs a lazy, across-the-board damage increase, hoping that would be sufficient. It is not, mainly because they probably need to do it constantly to keep up with other specs’ increasing power resulting from higher stat levels and artifact upgrades. Thus, we can anticipate these poorly-designed specs to continue their slow relative descent in damage levels.

I would not be overly concerned that much (but certainly not all) of my recent crappy raid performance can be blamed on BM hunter design (or lack thereof), except for one thing — our RL has started negotiations with another guild to see if we can put together a decent combined team for Mythic Tomb, at least to do a few early Mythic bosses, before the next raid tier goes live. I would love to be part of this, but I am afraid my increasingly poor showing will preclude that. If you can pick and choose your 20-man mythic team, you are probably not going to go much below your top 5 damage dealers.

Worse, I feel like there is not much I can do about it. I do not have the time to grind AP — and thus artifact levels — harder than I do now. I cannot do much to change my luck with titan-forged gear, so there is not much I can do to increase my overall gear level, which is stuck around 934-938. And there are limited areas for me to improve my game play — focus management being the one I can work on. It is a frustrating feeling. As I have said before in this blog, I am not part of a mythic raiding guild, but I feel like I should be able to contribute on the few occasions when we dabble our toes in that level towards the end of a raid tier. The fact that I am fighting an upstream battle — working as hard as I can — just to slow my regression does not feel good.

This is the human face of Blizz’s lazy approach to class design and balance.

Deja vu?

As we all know, Patch 7.3 will go live with the reset next week. Some people are wildly excited about it, others not so much. For myself, I am in a wait-and-see mode about it. On the one hand, I am impressed with Blizz’s lockstep adherence to their stated release goals for Legion patches and raid tiers. I have to admit, when they announced them for Legion I was very skeptical that they would be able to keep up, and that soon we would be in another dire WoD dearth situation. Let’s face it, their recent track record up until Legion was pretty grim. But they have thus far been true to their words, and I hereby eat mine. My following comments notwithstanding, Legion is by any measure a success story for Blizz and for WoW players.

That said, my “on the other hand” comment about 7.3 is about BM hunters. I am starting to get an uneasy, gnawing feeling in my gut about Blizz’s intentions for the spec. Since the first round of class adjustments in 7.1.5 (the one where all hunter specs got their traps back), Blizz has either nerfed BM or ignored it while they buffed many other classes. When they have given us a buff, as in 7.2.5 when they gave us as baseline 2 charges of Dire Beast/Dire Frenzy, they have subsequently taken it away with larger nerf chunks — like the terrible T20 bonuses that made T19 remain the tier of choice for many many ilevels. The net effect — nerfs, leaving it alone while other classes receive buffs — has been that BM has been systematically relegated to lower and lower damage tiers. And this will apparently continue in 7.3. (Check out Bendak’s 7.3 BM outlook here, it is excellent reading.)

In my mind, this systematic downgrading of BM is eerily similar to what Blizz did to SV hunters in WoD. There, after SV was found to be wanting at the beginning of the expansion, they buffed the spec in the first major patch, found they had made a big mistake by making the spec so responsive to the secondary stat Multistrike, decided it was too much trouble to fix the stat mess, so in subsequent patches purposely nerfed SV into the ground in order to make it unplayable for the remainder of the expansion. They did this because they intended to eliminate the spec entirely in Legion, and make a melee spec with the same name. (Of course, they never breathed a word of this to bewildered SV hunters left high and dry in WoD.)

What we are seeing with BM in Legion is not exactly the same as the WoD SV pattern, but it is close enough to give me pause. BM started out Legion on the lower end of the damage spectrum, became a bit OP after 7.1.5 with the combination of tier and a couple of legendaries, and when Blizz realized what they had done they seemed to deliberately embark on a nerf spiral for the spec, with no word of explanation or intent. Are they, in fact, planning yet another huge betrayal of hunters — this time BM hunters — in the next expansion?

I have said before that most of my initial objection to BM in Legion had to do with play style and not numbers. I stand by that, and although I still dislike the general press-the-button-on-CD method, Blizz has added a small amount of complexity to the rotation that helps. Basically, I have made my peace with it.

And while I am not a meter hog, I do understand that numbers matter because of perception. It’s in some ways a self-fulfilling prophecy that if a particular spec is thought to be weak then fewer top level players will play it, thus the spec will sink even lower on the summary charts because almost no experts are playing it, etc. And one of the initial reasons people will consider a spec to be weak, like it or not, are simulation results. These have a lot of flaws, but they do have one overriding feature: for a given spec, talent and gear build, and type of fight, they will show the maximum damage potential. Absent a lottery-winning run of proc luck, almost no player in those same circumstances can hope to do better than the sim number, no matter how perfectly they may play. Now of course for any given raid there is almost never a simulation set of circumstances present. Still, the sims do give a very general benchmark of what to expect from a spec.

More to my point, when the sims as well as the actual damage charts have a spread of over 300k between the top and bottom specs, then in my opinion we are in a situation of class imbalance that implies there are definite winner and loser specs. Try though they may, Blizz has thus far failed to bring about true class balance in Legion, feel-good comments by the Game Director notwithstanding.

We can quibble about the exact damage position of BM hunters in 7.2.5 and going forward, but both the charts over time as well as my own anecdotal observations show a definite downward trend. I used to routinely be in the top 5-6 damage dealers in my raid, for example, but over the last month or more it is far more usual for me to only be in the top 10 or even 12. (Which is not very encouraging considering we usually run with only 12-15 DPS.)  Some of this is due to the nature of the bosses in Tomb of Sargeras, and on a couple of bosses may just be my slow learning curve, but some of it is also due to Blizz’s failure to design BM hunters to scale with gear as well as other classes do. This is a clear class balance design flaw, possibly not limited to BM hunters, but that is the spec I pay attention to.

So yeah, I am starting to get worried about the future of BM hunters. I was confused and angry when they nerfed my beloved SV hunter into the ground in WoD, and I certainly did not catch on at the time to their intent. But I am older and wiser now, and I am beginning to suspect I have seen this show before. Fool me once, etc. I will be scrutinizing every word Blizz has on hunters as we move forward, into 7.3 and beyond.

Now I believe beer is in order. Enjoy your weekend.

Raiding — feast or famine

Last night my guild dipped its toe back into the raiding pool. For a variety of reasons, we had stopped raiding in mid-March, so for me who hates to pug, that means other than LFR I just have not been raiding. It was tough to go cold turkey like that, and I think not raiding had a lot to do with my growing hatred of WoD.

I joined my current guild specifically because I liked the raid philosophy and the people on the core team, plus the raid leader really knows his stuff. I liked it so much that I was willing to raid on their West Coast time line even though I live on the East Coast. This makes for some late night raiding — typically midnight to 2 AM my time, but it was so much fun it was worth a little sleep loss.

So when we stopped raiding I really felt adrift. The game lost a lot of its fascination for me, and I started kind of half-heartedly looking for another guild, one with an active raid team I might have a chance of getting on. I don’t like changing guilds, I am a very loyal person not to mention a creature of habit, so really I was not trying very hard to find another raid team, it was more of nagging little thought in the back of my head.

As a consequence of not raiding, I have not paid much attention to continuing to gear up my main, because — why? I kept doing LFR and my shipyard for the ring, but if I missed a few days on the naval missions or a week on LFR tomes it was no big deal, because the ring is really a raid tool anyhow. And my inventory of health and agility potions, 125-stat food, and agi flasks was low, because again why did I need them? Certainly not for LFR or the odd world boss.

So yesterday, knowing we would be raiding later, I spent a couple of hours frantically preparing. It was probably comical to watch. I switched off among all my alts multiple times, transferring mats and crafted gear, allowing me to:

  • Replace my helm with a 6/6 crafted one. Of course first I had to go through several Leather Refurbishing Kits to get the right flavor of helm.
  • Upgrade and equip 3 pieces of Baleful gear. I would have done more, but I only had three pieces that came close to the secondary stats I need, and even those are not ideal.

    Side rant: This whole notion of random secondary stats really stinks. If I select Marksman as my loot spec, I should get only loot with ideal MM secondary stats. Even better, there should be a way to change the stats, like, oh, say reforging! Because as it stands now it doesn’t matter which spec I select as my loot spec, all secondary stats are totally random anyway, and there are so many flippin’ possible combos that the chances of getting the one ideal one is infinitesimally low. I have a total of 83 pieces of baleful gear on 4 characters, and not one piece is the ideal secondary set for that character. There is something very wrong about this.

  • Transmog my new gear, because, well, can’t show up to raid looking anything less than cool, right?
  • Craft and equip an Immaculate level gem for my one gem slot.
  • Make food, flasks, and pots.
  • Grind out my last rep for exalted with Hand of the Prophet so I could buy my Empowered Augment Rune.
  • Review IcyVeins and Fatboss videos and strategies for the first three bosses of HFC, in case there was anything different than for LFR.
  • Make some rapid targeting macros for the important adds in the fights and bound them to my “targeting” row of keys.
  • Review my talents and glyphs to make sure they were what I needed.
  • Update all my addons, especially DBM.

Whew! You would think I was planning the Invasion of Normandy. But at least I felt as prepared as I could be.

We had only 7 of our normal core raid team, so we pugged and wound up at 13. We only had one stinker in the pug group, a hunter who called us noobs and idiots for not having higher DPS after we one-shotted Iron Reaver. Unfortunately, he rage quit before the RL could kick him, so we were deprived of that small satisfaction. I was embarrassed on behalf of all hunters.

But it was a great night. We downed the first three bosses, only wiping once — on Kormrok. We had expected to have a lot more trouble being as we were out of practice and most of our gear levels were somewhere in the 690-ish area. Best of all, we had a lot of fun. We didn’t go any further because it was getting late, but I think it was such a success that we may at least start doing once a week scheduled raids.

Interestingly, as I was waiting for the raid to start, I got whispered by two different people asking if I would consider joining their guilds to raid. I knew both of them. One was a group my old guild co-raided with, and the other was someone I have run into in LFR and a few other places. I wonder if maybe some of the guilds are getting more energized now that WoD is on its way out and we have something new to look forward to.

I chatted with both of them and ended up asking if I could think about it and thanking them for the offer. I said I would let them know Monday. The co-raid group said they would be happy to take me on an alt — especially if that alt were my healer — but the other group wanted my main. Both groups raid twice a week.

A few days ago I probably would have jumped at the chance, but after last night I am not so eager. As I said, given even the slightest pretext, I will stay with whatever guild I am in, and now we are back into raiding, that is my pretext. Also, earlier this year I was raiding three nights a week with two different guilds, and I got pretty burned out, it was starting to feel like a job. If I am honest with myself, two nights a week is probably my max, and for now I am even happy with just one night a week. I would like to get more proficient on my healer, so the offer with my old co-raid group is tempting, but that would mean at least 3 raids per week, one on my main and two on my healer. Seems to be more than I want to take on at this point.

Anyway, I will think about it. (Maybe we will get to the point of doing alt runs again in my current guild, and that would allow me to play my healer more.)

Meanwhile, woohoo for us, we had a fun night of raiding again!

The end of hunters?

We have had a day now to digest the initial information about Legion, and a few more snippets have emerged. It’s a lot to grasp, and certainly a clearer picture will emerge in the days and weeks ahead. And while I find a lot to like in what we know so far, I am extremely concerned about the direction emerging for hunters. (Emphasis in the quote below is mine.)

  • Classes will evolve in a number of ways in Legion. The development team is looking closely at the core fantasy for each class. Talent changes and class changes are being made – stay tuned. The PvP talent system also gives the developers room to take PvP-type talents out of the current talent trees. PvP talents will not function in PvE environments.
  • As an example of class changes, the Survival Hunter ‘spear’ Artifact was brought up. In Legion, Survival Hunters will be a melee spec that utilizes a pet. To differentiate specializations, the developers will try to de-homogenize the classes. Further to this, Beast Mastery Hunters will fight at range with a pet, while Marksmanship Hunters will fight at range with NO PET.

These comments are from the IcyVeins post linked above, so I caveat them by saying they are not direct quotes from Chilton or Hazzikostas, but rather IcyVeins’ rephrasing of their comments.

I suspect some hunters will welcome these drastic changes, but I see in them the demise of the soul of the hunter class.

First, I take issue with the statement that the devs are trying to “de-homogenize the classes” with these changes. On the contrary, they are forcing hunters into the generic mold of most other classes. That is, they are bringing hunters closer and closer to a hybrid class, without giving us a true role choice such as damage/heals/tank. In other words, they are giving hunters all the disadvantages of a hybrid class without any of the advantages.

Second, the devs certainly have zero notion of “the core fantasy” for hunters. Hunters are one with their entire environment. Hunters make optimum use of whatever space is available to them, moving freely to get the best shot or escape threats. Hunters have such an understanding of their prey that they easily tame prey to their own use. They may not always have use for tamed animals, but they must always have the option of employing them.

I have said it before, and I am saying it again: Blizz seems to have no one on their dev staff who both plays a hunter and loves the class.

To make Survival a melee spec is to remove the very essence of hunters — it confines a hunter to a small space and negates the advantage of a pet, relegating it to a clumsy DoT mechanism. Pet positioning control becomes moot, because both the hunter and the pet must remain in melee range for all targets. Target switching — long a strength of hunters — becomes prohibitively costly and inefficient. Absent a complete rewrite of SV talents, skills such as disengage and feign death become useless.

It is similarly heinous to remove pets completely from MM hunters. Almost certainly, MM hunters will have few if any instant shots — Blizz almost never backs away from trends once embarked on them, and limiting MM movement is such a trend. MM thus will be complete as nothing more than a physical damage dealing mage. In no way does this serve to “de-homogenize” the class.

That leaves Beastmastery as the sole choice for hunters like me who love the ranged freedom that has always been the hallmark of a hunter. And the phrasing “at range” — though not a direct quote, I know — makes me perk up my ears. Does it mean hunters will return to having a dead space in their targeting range, will we be unable to fight close in if the raid requires it for stacking?

(Forgive my suspicious nature, but I am starting to smell another round of PvP “adjustments” that end up gutting hunters.)

What will this mean to those of us who main a hunter? For one thing, it will mean we must master three different play styles — mage, warrior, and classic hunter — if we wish to truly master our class. At the very least, we must master two in order to maintain a viable dual spec. This would be less of an issue if hunters were intended to be a hybrid class, but we are only damage dealers. Raid leaders have gotten used to expecting pretty close to the same damage from us no matter what spec we are, and we ourselves have become quite adept at switching specs to suit the fight.

And I won’t even discuss the nightmare it will be when Blizz inevitably screws up one spec so badly that it becomes unplayable. Instead of having to learn the nuances of a different spec, as happens now, we will have to learn an entirely different play style. Whether we enjoy that play style or not. Whether we are suited for it or not.

Oh, and this is not to mention we will probably not be able to ever play more than one spec for the entire Legion expansion, because we only get one specific weapon per spec. So we could switch, but of course we probably won’t have a weapon.

Pure DPS classes only bring damage as their raid contribution, and I strongly believe Blizz owes it to us to make it as easy as possible to maximize that damage. People who like different play styles have for years been able to select a hybrid class — druid, for example — but no one expects them to be as geared or as proficient in an off spec as they are in their main spec. But for most group leaders, a hunter is a hunter, with a specific unique set of skills, and the spec they play is of only minor importance unless they are on an elite raid team.

Congratulations, Blizz, you are well on your way to destroying the uniqueness, the fun, and the freedom of choice of the hunter class.

Specs and stats

When Blizz first announced Patch 6.0.2 class and stat changes, they went to some pains to explain to us how much better and less complicated our lives would be with the changes. In particular, they eliminated reforging because they wanted to save us from math and from having to go to a website like AskMrRobot to figure out our optimum secondary stats for a piece of gear. As it turned out, they didn’t save us from anything other than being able to get and use decent gear. Thanks, Blizz, your Nobel Prize nomination is almost finalized.

Just my opinion, of course, but secondary stats are a mess right now. First, they are a part of the loot-by-luck RNG scheme, and it is a double-blind system. Not only do you have to be lucky enough to win class-appropriate gear, but you also have to be lucky enough to win spec-appropriate gear, even if you are not a hybrid class.

Think about that for a minute. It is no longer possible for a pure damage class like hunters to switch specs without also switching gear sets. Not if they want to maximize their damage which of course is their only reason for being. In Mists, if I knew that an upcoming raid would face bosses that Beastmastery would be much better for than Survival, for example, I could switch specs to BM, pay a quick visit to my local reforger, and be set to provide my best effort for the raid team. But in WoD, that is impossible. I can still switch specs to fit a fight, but if I do not have a ready-made alternate gear set, doing so will probably yield less damage than if I did not switch specs, even if I am equally skilled in both specs.

And getting spec-appropriate gear is completely luck-based. Blizz has made gear for pure classes as spec-dependent as it is for hybrid classes, without the ability to select gear for a particular spec. On my monk, I can play as a windwalker but select to receive mistweaver gear, and I will get gear with intellect, possibly also spirit and multistrike.  But on my hunter, even if I opt to receive Beastmastery gear while playing Survival, it makes zero difference. All the secondary stats are pure crapshoots. Yet they are a very significant part of hunter damage.

In fact, secondary stats now play a much greater role than Blizz originally led us to believe they would. (Surprise!) When first announced, it was to be a simple 5% increase to your attuned stat — for example, +5% multistrike for SV hunters. This indicated that getting multistrike gear was desirable if you were SV, but it wasn’t a major problem if you didn’t. Similarly, if you had gear that was a mixed bag of secondary stats, you really wouldn’t be penalized by switching specs. All that would happen is that, for example, whatever mastery you had would be increased by 5% if you switched to BM.

But of course Blizz had to go completely overboard, they could not leave well enough alone. Trinkets, buffs, spells, passives, etc. suddenly had their benefits greatly enhanced by the amount of your attunement stat. This meant that something that started out as a nice-to-have suddenly became crucial to your ability to perform your role. But in their usual slipshod way, Blizz failed to adjust baseline mechanisms when they went berserk on attunement-based numbers.  Instead, they made band-aid fixes that ended up doing more harm than good to some classes.  Obviously, for me the example that springs to mind is Survival hunters, where the band-aid fix to extreme multistrike attunement resulted in a non-viable spec. In fact, I venture to say that the mass “fixes” to secondary stat attunements resulted in greater class imbalance, at a time when class balance was none too strong to begin with.

So, for a Survival hunter like me, I am left in the situation where:

1.  I can no longer play my spec. In addition to nerfing AoE, which was the spec’s strength, there are no cooldowns and no surge capability, rendering play purely mechanical, without meaningful player choices.

2.  Since I had gone to a lot of effort to accumulate gear with multistrike on it, and since I have been forced into another spec, now most of that gear is nigh unto worthless for me.

3. Blizz has removed reforging, so the only way I can get more appropriate gear is by double-blind luck with loot drops.

4. I have to trust that, even if I do get some spec-appropriate gear, Blizz will not suddenly decide to make that spec unplayable and force me to start all over again.

Basically, Blizz has given pure damage classes all the bad attributes of hybrids and none of the good ones. That is, we have to carry multiple gear sets but it is close to impossible to assemble and continue to upgrade the gear. The only raid role we can provide is damage, but we are greatly hindered in our ability to maximize that role.

So in Patch 6.3 (because there will be such a patch), I would like to see two major changes regarding secondary stats:

Bring back reforging. Very few players do their own math even now, everyone goes to MrRobot even to check if a piece of gear is an upgrade, because the secondary stat computations have gotten so intricate. 

Take away the second RNG factor in loot drops — make appropriate secondary stats automatically conform to your spec. 

Have a good weekend.

Proving Grounds revisited

Yesterday I decided to try and gear up my destro warlock and discovered, when I went to queue up for the 3 instances needed for round two of the legendary, that I had not yet completed the proving grounds requirement. So I took a deep breath and entered the PG instance.

I have only done the WoD version on my two hunters and on my MW monk, all of them when they were at relatively low ilevels. The instance starts at 615 and scales up the difficulty if your gear is above that level. I think my three characters were all around ilvl 600 when they did it, but the instance does not scale down the difficulty to account for anything below 615.

The DPS PG is ridiculously easy for a hunter — even an undergeared one, and especially a survival hunter — and I had zero problems getting silver on both of mine, first try, plenty of time left over.  (And no, I have no interest whatsoever in getting gold or god forbid endless.) My MW was a little more challenging, it took me about 6 or 7 tries to get the silver. It’s been awhile, but I seem to remember that I got much better results when I pitched in with some damage to help out the pitiful DPS NPCs.

My lock is somewhere around 652 ilevel, and honestly getting silver was not a walk in the park. I got bronze immediately, but it took me a few tries to get the silver. I attribute most of this difficulty to my lack of recent practice with my lock. Once I switched around a few talents to get more AoE power and had regained some proficiency with using my cooldowns, I was fine.

The experience made me think a little about the whole PG concept. I recall that I was pretty excited about it when it was announced for 5.4, thinking it would be a great way — finally — for tanks and healers to practice without subjecting a group to the painful realities of their learning curve. In fact, Blizz promoted it this way, saying it would be a tutorial  experience, a hands-on way to improve your skills. Unfortunately, I envisioned a somewhat grander and more useful tool than what we got, but still it was a good game addition.

In the hype leading up to WoD, Blizz said that the PG would be improved by providing much more in the way of tutorials, and also that it would be a requirement for heroics. I think this was yet another example of Blizz over-promising, as what I see is that the “more tutorials” consists of that NPC “teaching” you to not stand in bad shit and to interrupt casters. Big whoop.

I don’t feel I can comment on the heals PG, as I have only done it a couple times. But I’ve done the DPS one now something like 10 times on various alts, up to silver. It has one or two extremely limited uses, which I will discuss below, but in general it stinks as a DPS tutorial or even as a DPS gate for heroics. In my opinion, it is basically just an AoE race. The single target guys are easy to deal with, and the required “movement” consists of getting behind the shield dudes and kiting that Big Ball o’ Wax so that it hits a mob.

Where the challenge comes is when you have to apply AoE on those disgusting little rabbit creatures as you are killing the single targets. You cannot engage the rabbits one by one or you will run out of time. This is simple for a hunter and a lock, not so simple for some other classes. Classes/specs that lack a robust cleave or AoE will have a significantly harder time completing silver in my opinion. Not sure I will even attempt it on my arcane mage, but that is one example that comes to mind.

The only use I can see for the current PG is that it forces you to practice with your class/spec buttons. That’s it. So if you have not used your character for awhile, it serves as a quick refresher. Or if for example you leveled your hybrid as DPS but really want to play it at level as a healer or tank, the PG  can help you practice a couple of rotations as a practical exercise that is different from using a target dummy. Will it teach you how to tank or heal? Not even close.

There is no good reason to require PG silver for heroics. Beyond a pre-school kind of “training” it is meaningless as a predictor for competence. I am not saying Blizz should get rid of the requirement, just that it is useless as one. It’s like requiring players to visit Goldshire before they can queue for heroics — possibly interesting, more likely annoying, but completely unrelated to performance in an instance.

I still believe there is a lot of potential for the idea of Proving Grounds. For example, offering a better variety of scenarios would be interesting. You might choose, for example, among scenarios including little to no movement, high movement, single target or lots of adds, tank switching, raid-wide damage versus heavy tank damage for healers to contend with, etc. You could also work on certain mechanics in a PG. For example, the conveyor belt mechanic has been used a lot since 5.4, so having that in a PG  might be useful as an option.

Another nice innovation would be the option to take one or two people into the PG with you. This would be useful in lots of circumstances. For example, someone just learning a new role or class might ask the guild expert on that to give them pointers while in the PG. One or two raid team members might want to work on some specific coordination techniques. Lots of possibilities.

Proving Grounds in their current state are close to useless, in my opinion. But that doesn’t mean Blizz should abandon them. It would be nice to see them expanded and improved in the next expansion.

I wish I were as good as the sims say I should be

Been dabbling a bit with SimulationCraft. I didn’t really mess with it long enough to get any real deep insights, but below are some random observations. I used these options:
—  Fia’s SV talent/glyph/gear spec
—  Patchwerk style fight (stand in one spot and hammer the boss)
—  100% active time (yeah, right — I am usually lucky to break 90%)
—  All CDs and shots as they are available
—  576 second fight
  • Figuring out how many total seconds are spent per shot, plus how much damage each shot does, the best “bank for the buck” shots are (in descending order of awesomeness)

The least bang for buck comes from Auto Shot, and next worst is Cobra Shot. My take on what this means is, focus control is critical to maxing dps — every time I insert an unneeded Cobra Shot because I am over-compensating on focus, I am wasting dps.

  • In this standing 9.6 minute fight, I should ideally be firing off:
Over 100 each Cobra Shots and Explosive Shots
14 Dire Beast
87 Arcane Shots

Explosive Shot should account for 20% of my dps. In comparing some of the World of Logs entries for a recent one of our guild raid fights similar to a Patchwerk style, I see that I do actually come pretty close to this 20% number, but my total number of shots is nowhere near “ideal”, even pro-rating for differences in time.

I am not/not a methods player by any stretch of the imagination. But I think once in awhile these kinds of simulators can help me to think about how I can become better.

My main takeaways from this little exercise are:

  • I have to get better at minimizing my shot down time. More active time = more shots fired = more dps
  • I need to do a better job managing my focus. I am pretty good about dumping it with Arcane Shot above 75, pretty good about building it below 20 if Black Arrow or Crows is about to come off cooldown, but in the middle I am sloppy about it.  (Use the WalMart logistics model: “just in time” focus!)

Back to the practice dummies.  And come on, Proving Grounds!