Conversation with the WHU's Arth

Fellow hunters, this week I had the pleasure of talking with the hunter who really put raid pet-tanking on the Azerothian map, long time Dues Payer of the largest group of drunken dwarves you’ll ever find, and retired author on the most successful WoW blog ever, Arth.  Let’s jump right in,  Arth, welcome. 

ARTH: Thanks for asking me to be featured on the site. I like a lot of what I’ve seen from Thrill of the Wild so far, and hope your audience keeps growing. And to those hoping for Frostheim, my apologies. Hopefully the 2nd most uncommonly good-looking blogger from the Warcraft Hunters Union is a good consolation prize.

DELIRIUM: Your last project at the WHU (other than that cruel, cruel April Fool’s day joke) was the Hunter Project, which, for those who don’t know, was a gigantic compilation of suggestions and ideas for the hunter class going forward, all of which stayed within Blizzards design philosophy.   Going forward in WoD, I’m getting fairly excited about the Camo buff, especially in regards to making Survival more Survivable, as was called out in the Hunter Project.  Seeing the changes to hunters going into Warlords, are there any points where you feel like the Devs really listened to that project, or at least gave it some consideration?  

ARTH: I think there’s a PC answer here (politically correct, not personal computer), and a reality-based answer. The PC answer is that the devs DID read it (I have Ghostcrawler’s word), considered its points, and there’s some evidence that they took it into account with things like spec differentiation and the Survival changes you mentioned. The real answer is that they probably had a ton of variables in mind that we could never account for, and any perceived overlap between their actual changes and our requests is coincidental.

The Hunter Project was always a bit of a longshot, but even as it was going on, I was firmly of the mind that even if we only changed one small thing about the class in WoD, that it would be a success. So I think the jury’s still out on its influence. But as a collective effort that said “here’s what we can agree on, and here it is presented respectfully,” I think the community can be proud of it regardless.

Just 10 more seconds, then your name is "fluffy".
DELIRIUM: In general, any changes you’re really excited about, or anything that you are somewhat dreading? 

ARTH: Once you take a step back and stop playing, even briefly, the individual changes stop being momentous. Despite tracking hunter changes for years, I was never too caught up in them. I always enjoyed my hunter, and always will. The base mechanics of the class are appealing enough that the rest is just window dressing.

That’s also a kind way of saying I haven’t been following changes too closely. While I’m away from the game, I’m AWAY. Once I come back in WoD, I’ll do a lot more catching up.

DELIRIUM: Getting back to your time at the WHU, as I understand, you began as a guest guide-writer, specifically on the topic of Pet Tanking.   I’ve seen a tale of your first time as a pet main-tank, what would you say was your most memorable experience pet-tanking? 

ARTH: An impossible (but good) question. The most fearful was undoubtedly when I tanked Patchwerk in what was my first real raid-tanking test. The most fun was probably in the all-hunter raids we did where we’d have 3-4 different pet tanks, and were able to come up with some insanely awesome and unique strategies to conquer bosses that 25 DPSers shouldn’t have been able to tackle. Sindragosa has to be at the top, though, because it was the fight that put pet tanking on the map. At about 100K views on Youtube (easily the best I’ve managed), and features on WoW Insider and several smaller sites, it was the first fight where people could watch a hunter tank a boss that, in many cases, their guild was still struggling with. Anything can be tanked eventually, but when maybe only 25% of the raiding guilds on a given server had downed her, and a damn hunter was doing what two normal tanks often couldn’t….well, it was a good feeling.

DELIRIUM: I was talking about the possibility of pet tanking with my current raid group, and one of our support classes, who generally tanks, was saying he didn’t feel like a pet controlled by AI should be able to do what a human controlled character can do; though, I imagine he wasn’t too familiar with the work that went into pet tanking.  How would you describe the difference between the work that goes into playing a traditional tank and playing a pet tank? 

ARTH: I’d stress that you want to start small. It is different, as you mention, which is why your first pet tanking foray shouldn’t be a progression fight or even raid boss on farm. I started with non-heroic dungeons, and would acquire experience (RL experience, not in-game) with holding threat, switching targets, and balancing healing and damage by offering to tank low-level dungeons for friends who were leveling. My Wrath-geared toon started tanking with BC dungeons, and I slowly worked my way up. So the only way to convince some raid groups that you’ll be able to tank a raid boss is to first tank dungeons, heroics, etc. Earning your stripes also has the benefit of giving you low-stress practice. So there may still be hope if you haven’t yet tanked a raid boss.

On your guildmate’s comment, a pet CAN’T do all the things a regular tank can do, so he need not feel threatened by hunters (well, he can, but that’s because we’re just better overall). But we can come close in many aspects. Properly managed, in MoP pets have been able to maintain higher aggro than all but full tank specs and faceroll dps who lack all awareness. But these days, it’s hard to find fights where melee swings from bosses don’t wreck pets beyond any healer’s ability to deal with (which is why I always enjoyed Disc. Priests, whose reductions and shields gave pets a better cushion, whereas their smaller health pools made things harder for traditional healers). And even aggro is problematic with boss mechanics that occasionally won’t recognize pets, spotty implementation of Growl, etc. We’ve always had an uphill battle. But, for example, a hunter should be able to admirably tank any heroic dungeon currently, so we’ve not lost all of our tanking potency.

The work isn’t necessarily different though. You optimize your play-style and adopt the role like anything else. I enjoyed tanking because it was also an introduction to leading groups, which paid off for me as I led raid teams in Wrath and Cata (and all-hunter runs in Wrath, Cata, and MoP).

Because someone needs to take responsibility for my actions
DELIRIUM: With the change in tanking gameplay, from threat generation to active damage mitigation, do you see much of a future for raid pet-tanking?  

ARTH: It’s hard to say. We thought Wrath was the last call for such shenanigans, but hunters collectively tanked way more bosses in Cata. MoP has been tougher sledding, and it looks like WoD will be as well, but a lot will depend on balancing issues with raid bosses and pet mechanics that we don’t have enough info on currently.

DELIRIUM: Finally, you’ve been in retirement for several months now, as we approach (hopefully) the WoD Beta, and start to get a lot more news, and a lot more information to start playing with,  do you have any desire to get back into the WoW blogging game?   Or have you not looked back at all, just enjoying it without the responsibilities?  

ARTH: Blogging, no. That was Frostheim’s thing. I enjoyed the WHU, but running it was always going to be a temporary gig for me. I do miss the podcast. That was epic fun. I don’t regret ending it at episode 200 (a horribly paced and chaotic episode, but Soooo much fun), but I miss everyone that was involved with it. Darkbrew, Alisaunder, Euripides, Frostheim, all of our awesome guests and co-hosts. Probably my one regret is that I wasn’t involved with the podcast until its final 40 episodes or so, and that we didn’t have the collective time or will to keep it going. But it was also an immovable weekly obligation, and as I played less I felt less and less qualified to talk to a bunch of knowledgeable hunters about the game. So the timing was right.

Arth and Frostheim read Hunter Poetry at the WHU BBQ
It was never about the responsibility though, but the time, which usually ends up being the case for many people. I like being the one that has responsibility. But I don’t do “casual” well in WoW. I want to min/max, organize all-hunter raid runs for world firsts and glory, hunt down potential pet tanking achievements, and pimp out my main and shoot for server firsts (which I sadly never achieved, though in Wrath my guild had numerous top 10s on a competitive server). And while I was in college, and in the 2-3 years after as I floated between part-time jobs, and didn’t have a robust social life, that was all easy to do. But now, seven years or so after I started playing, with numerous personal and professional projects on my plate (among other things), that kind of commitment just isn’t in the cards. I’m hoping I still have the time in WoD to take my main seriously. And maybe my alt if I’m lucky. The only other toon I’ve ever leveled is my Disc. Priest, which is the only spec – not class, but spec – outside of the hunter that I enjoy (everything else is so terrible…how do people play other classes?!). But for me to even have a shot at maintaining a WoW account, I had to drop the WHU community stuff, especially once Frostheim hung up his gun for the last time.

DELIRIUM: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this, I know I for one have really appreciated what you've added to the Hunter Community (way back whenever, I spent a long time going over those pet-tanking guides, dreaming of finding a guild who’d be willing to try it), and I'm certain there are many others who feel the same way. 

ARTH: Thank you! I was part of what we dubbed the 2nd generation of hunter bloggers. BRK and a few other oldies were generation 1. And with the WHU’s massive traffic at its peak and many community projects, Frostheim was undoubtedly the leader of generation 2. It’s encouraging to see several promising blogs (and a podcast!) taking the place of the WHU and HPP (Hunting Party Podcast). Generation 3 is in good hands, and Thrill of the Wild will be on my list of regular visits.

One quick plug before I go: The WHU isn’t updating anymore, although I do update the final-article Resource Guide to remain current, and it’s quite comprehensive. But if there are hunters out there that want to go back and see the history of the hunter community, a LOT of it is catalogued in the WHU’s penultimate article on its history (link below). I always prided the site on being more than patch notes and rotation guides. We were a community site in every sense of the word, and it really shows when you look at everything we accomplished.

So if you ever get tired of poring through the minutia of the latest patch notes or blue post, and want to, say, read some poetry about hunters getting drunk and shooting things, head on over. Or if you’d like to join our Facebook group (still active, and 860 members strong!). Or want to read Frost’s cranky rants about how things were back in vanilla, or see 25-man all-hunter raids kill current-expansion bosses, or see pictures of hunter thongs at IRL get-togethers, or…you get the idea. That stuff is what made WoW the transcendent experience for me that it was, and it’s what I come back to when I get nostalgic.

But thanks again, and best of luck!


  1. Great Article. I hope TotW can take off where WHU stopped. ~Flint

  2. Great "hearing" from Arth. I too miss the podcast, but am very pleased with the current state of the Hunter community.

    Keep up the good work!

    1. I'm leaving it up to you to plan the 10-year reunion show in 2024. ;-)

  3. Great interview with a great guy. If anyone does go back through the WHU stuff, read the Hunter Poetry. It's amazing.

    1. That was maybe my favorite thing ever on the WHU. Such creative and hilarious hunters out there.