Tuesday, October 6, 2009

So your hunter's finally 80, part 4

(Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
That last little hurdle that a lot of people have when they finally get to 80 is the world of item enhancement. By that I mean everything from profession perks to gem sockets (including metagems!) to enchantments to shoulder inscriptions. It can seem (and is!) quite intimidating, so we'll break it down into sections, starting with the easiest.
I'll just do this by item slot, and I'll stick to the standard enchantments. If you have a profession perk that replaces an enchantment (Leatherworking's fur linings, for example), then you should of course use that profession perk. And now, on with the item slots:
Arcanum of Torment (+50 AP and +20 Crit Rating)
Major Agility (+22 Agility)
Greater Inscription of the Axe (+40 AP and +15 Crit Rating)
Powerful Stats (+10 to all stats)
Greater Assault (+50 AP)
Precision (+20 Hit)
Major Agility (+20 Agility)
Eternal Belt Buckle (adds one prismatic socket)
Icescale Leg Armor (+75 AP and +22 Crit Rating)
Icewalker (+12 Hit and +12 Crit Rating)
Superior Agility (+16 Agility)
Melee Weapon (One-handed):
Exceptional Agility (+26 Agility)
Superior Potency (+65 AP)
Melee Weapon (Two-handed):
Massacre (+110 AP)
Ranged Weapon:
Hearseeker Scope (+40 Crit Rating)
A couple notes on all this stuff. First and foremost, it's not that hard to get to exalted with the Sons of Hodir and get the proper shoulder inscription. Please, if you want to raid, just do the dailies. I even did them on my alt priest using a 60% speed flying carpet, before the buff to normal flight. If you can't get this done, then raiding is probably not for you.
Second, where there are options for different enchants on the same item slot, I've listed the preferred enchant first. For the most part this is an issue of expense, as a lot of people don't want to spend the gold or farming time necessary to put top-shelf enchants on a lesser piece that they'll be replacing soon. I'm targeting this series of posts towards the hunter that wants to start raiding, though, so this list of enchants is what your gear should have when you start applying to raiding guilds. Feel free to put Greater Savagery on that Icier Barbed Spear, but you should be upgrading to the same enchantments you'd be putting on raid gear before you expect to get into a raid. Sadly, enchantments aren't everything. You've also got to fill your
Gem Sockets!
Filing the sockets in your gear with bright, sparkly gems is one of WoW's minigames for the quivering, OCD-afflicted MMO addict. It's also what those addicts use to make fun of their less OCD colleagues on the official forums. To the new hunter, the teasing and outright mockery seem capricious, unfair, and downright silly. This is especially true of hunters that carefully select all of their gems to activate the various socket bonuses in their gear. Socket bonuses say "bonus" right in the name, why shouldn't we use them?
There are three simple rules you can follow to silence the forum critics and, more importantly, increase your damage. They are, in order of importance:
  1. Activate your metagem
  2. Reach the hit rating cap
  3. Maximize Agility
Let's address these in order. Beginning with:
1. The metagem every hunter should be using is the Relentless Earthsiege Diamond. The relevant features of this meta are that it provides agility, gives you an extra 3% damage on your crits, and is activated by equipping one gem of every color somewhere in your gear. Agility is the most important stat for hunters, so of course the agility meta is preferable to the critical strike rating meta. 3% extra damage on your crits is an extremely important contribution to your damage, especially as critical strike percentages climb past 50% unbuffed (by far the majority of your damage comes from crits).
Metagem activation is one of those things that can be a little confusing, so it gets its own paragraph. What the text of the meta means is that you need one instance of each of the primary colors red, yellow, and blue. The secondary color gems (green, orange, and purple) are all effectively two gems for this purpose, and prismatic gems count as three. That is: a green gem counts as one yellow and one blue, while a prismatic gem counts as one yellow, one red, and one blue gem. This means that, most of the time, a Nightmare Tear is going to be the best way to activate your meta. They simply squeeze more stats out of a gem socket than do any of the single or multi-color gems that you might find yourself using.
2. Most hunters are going to need at least one hit rating gem, either a Glinting Ametrine or a Rigid King's Amber to reach hitcap, and many will need more. "Hitcap" is the amount of hit rating you need from gear and buffs in order to never miss a raid boss. In Wrath of the Lich King, the target for hunters is 9%, which equates to 263 hit rating. There are a few rules of thumb to remember with hit rating and hit rating gems. First, the thing I always tell newer hunters is "you can gem for more hit rating, but you can't gem for talent points". What I mean by this is that, in my opinion, putting talent points into Focused Aim is always a last resort. You should always try to get the hit rating you need from gems, enchants, elixirs, and buff foods before you spend talent points on it. Second, if at all possible, use the Icewalker enchant. Icewalker is worth slightly more damage than the agility enchant. It's nothing to fret over, but it's worth trying for. Finally, achieving exactly 263 hit rating is pretty difficult, and often won't happen. In general, as long as you're going to be within 5 rating points of 263 either way, I would prefer to be under rather than over the cap. This is because hit rating is expensive in terms of item budget, and any points in it past 263 are entirely wasted. If you miss with one ability over the course of a night's raiding, that's not going to affect your damage a whole lot. Once you reach the point where you're deciding between 6 rating under or 4 rating over, however, go over the cap.
3. Maximizing your agility is the last, simplest step. Once you've satisfied the first and second requirements, just socket straight Delicate Cardinal Rubies. I'm serious. Ignore any remaining socket bonuses unless the bonus is 10 or more Agility or 12 or more AP or Crit Rating. This is because otherwise you're going to get less damage out of that particular socket than if you'd simply put more agility in it. Of course, you should have been able to cherry-pick the best socket bonuses in the course of fulfilling the first two requirements. Tier 9 pants, for example are an excellent spot to put that prismatic Nightmare Tear and get the 6 agility bonus. Pauldrons of the Devourer would be a nice spot to put a hit gem and get another agility bonus.
See? It only looks confusing or complex on the surface. As long as you follow those three rules, though, gemming and enchanting strategy comes naturally. If you're curious about whether Armor Penetration gems are the right choice for you, by all means check part 3 in this series, where I explain how that works.
The last and final section is what I've decided to call:
Random Crap!
Hooray! This is all the stuff that didn't obviously fit anywhere else. I'll begin with one of the things that turned out to be the secret to keeping my pet alive. I had a lot of pet deaths occur while I was reaching for the ctrl+2 combo to make my pet return to me to get him out of AoE, and Bartender wouldn't let me bind my own keys to the pet bar (probably because of a limitation with WoW). So I made this exceedingly simple macro:
And put it on my regular action bars. My pet started dying a lot less. Of course, the other part of this is that you the hunter need to keep a sharp watch on two parts of the boss fight: you have to watch yourself to make sure you're not standing in fire and you need to watch the melee and bring your pet back to your side when the rogues scatter like cockroaches. If you're looking for a standard raiding spec for pets, I link to one in my post for Survival hunters.
Enchantments, gems, and pets aren't the only things you're doing to maximize your damage during a raid, though. You've also got to come prepared with the proper consumables, the term that covers flasks, elixirs, and buff foods.
Blackened Dragonfin is our preferred buff food. If you need Snapper Extreme to reach your hitcap that's ok, but with the gear available to new hunters at this point, that shouldn't really be an issue. The only other option is for extremely well-geared hunters, who may be at a point where they would consider switching to Hearty Rhino. Again, this is all for maximum performance on progression bosses. If your guild is just clearing farm content in order to reach new stuff, then go ahead and use that fish feast the guild's farming maven put down. Once you get to the hard stuff though, you should be pulling out the real food.
The elixir vs. flask question needs to be considered too. The elixirs you would most likely use would be a combination of Mighty Agility and Mighty Thoughts elixirs; the only flask a hunter is going to be using will be Endless Rage. The decision of which to use comes down to you answering one question: "am I regularly running out of mana on attempts"? If you are, the extra mana pool and extra regen from the intellect elixir will put you above the flask's performance because it will keep you out of Aspect of the Viper and its 50% damage reduction. If, however, mana is not a problem, then the flask is always going to be better damage. The exception here is, again, armor penetration. If you're one of those Marksmanship hunters that's converted to an armor penetration build, then an Elixir of Armor Piercing will combine with the intellect elixir to yield greater performance. Much like with food, the best answer to the question is not which choice is more convenient, but instead which choice produces better damage.
And that concludes this series of guide posts! I would be more than appreciative of any questions anyone might have, suggestions on things that should be clarified, or any other missives you might want to send me. This isn't limited to anything I've already posted, either, I'd be happy to do a gear critique, address any leveling questions, whatever you might think of. Thanks for reading!

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