Raiding Efficiently: DoT Sniping and AoE

If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly

On last weekend's Hunting Party Podcast, there were some really important points brought up by Solar and RogerBrown, so I wanted to see if I could flesh them out a bit here.  The basic gist of the discussion was in regards to how we handle AoE vs priority targets, and when it's appropriate to use AoE abilities.

This has, of course, been talked about many, many times before, but the part that I hadn't really thought about much is planning DoT efficiency around AoE targets.  I'll explain what I mean by that. Anyone who follows healers at all will have surely heard Resto Druids complain about people sniping heals. That is, the resto druid, who works with many HoT (heal over time) spells, will have a HoT ticking on a target, and then another classes, often a priest or pally, will heal up the target using a direct heal, cause the rest of the Resto Druid's HoT to all go into the "over-heal" category.  The issue being that, both healers have now wasted mana on a target that would have reached full health anyway.  This is the primary reason that a lot of resto druids, myself included (yes, I do in fact have an alt that isn't a hunter; just one) feel useless unless you're in an incredibly demanding, healing-intensive fight.

Something that seems kind of obvious, then, but I hadn't really spent much time thinking about, is that the same is true for damage dealers, to an extent.  I know a common reaction for myself, at least, is that a pack of adds will come out, and at least part of me wants to cast as many Multi-shots as possible, not because we need them to die really fast, but because I know if I don't get the damage from the adds, then someone else will.  That is to say, it's not so much a cooperative fight to kill the boss any more, but a competition among ourselves to see who can damage the adds first.

In a lot of fights, this really isn't going to matter at all, but in mythic progression, and heroic to some extent, this can be a considerable problem for a couple reasons.

Reason 1: Sniping DoTs

Just like the Resto Druid's HoTs I mentioned above, several DPS specs have AoE DoT effects which we essentially are wasting by spamming instant AoE/Cleave abilities.  SV hunters, of course, have a very obvious AoE DoT in Serpent Sting, so I'll use that as my primary example here.  

For the following numbers, I took an heroic geared (680 at the time of my righting this) SV hunter. The average tick (not including Multistrikes or Crits) of a serpent sting was be 5567.1, while the average crit was 10998.3.  Including MS, we get an average damage of 9073.4 per target.  Multi-shot, without the applied Serpent Sting tick, had a normal hit of about 2392.2, or a crit of 4736.1, bringing it's average, with multistrikes, to 3790.3 per cast per target.  

Our sample hunter here had 40% Multistrike without any procs.  I've already gone over several times how to calculate the expected value from extra serpent sting ticks based on MS percent, so I won't include an explanation here, but it should of course be included in our results. Our formula for calculating the expected damage of a multishot is:

 Multishot avg. dmg.*(1+MS%*.72)+(SS avg. dmg.*(1+MS%*.72))*2*MS%)*# of targets

In that formula, however, we're assuming you're going to use Multishot again before more ticks of serpent sting have had time to, well, tick. If instead, we only cast Multishot once, and let the Serpent Stings tick for fifteen seconds, we'll end up with at least an extra five ticks of Serpent Sting. And here's the important part: five extra ticks of Serpent Sting that don't cost us anything; don't cost us extra focus, and don't cost us GCDs, allowing us to do our full damage single target rotation to the priority target.  

So with the SS and MS numbers I used above, the difference between a Multishot with full ticks, and a Multishot where you hit Multishot again before it has a chance to tick again, our total damage done per cast looks like this:

Targetsfull ticksw/ one tick

What this shows, is you need to spam Multishot 3.2 times (that's 128 focus) to do the same damage as hitting it once and letting the dots tick for the full duration.

If we take a fight like Beastlord Darmac, where 6 adds come out ever 20ish seconds (if I recall correctly), we could have the entire raid cleave/AoE them down.  As SV hunters we might have time to spam 3 or 4 Multishots, if using Thrill of the Hunt.  Or, we could have all of our Multi-dot specs apply a dot to them and then go back to the hitting the boss. For us as we saw above, one multi-shot with full ticks of serpent sting is going to do the same amount of damage to the beast pack as about 3.2 Multishots when spammed, but in addition, we're going to have the extra damage of continuing our single target rotation on Beastlord (or whatever pet he's mounted at the time).  

That's the crux of this issue: we're sniping each other's damage by bursting down the adds.  If we let the DoTs tick, they'll die before the next pack comes out, and we'll all do more damage to the boss. We're not spamming so the raid can down the boss faster, we're spamming to make sure we personally get to do the available damage.  

In the words of RogerBrown, raid leader of World First Blackrock Foundry guild Method, (paraphrasing) "just put a DoTs on them, return to DPSing the boss, and trust your Boomkins finish them off with Starfall".  

Reason 2: Negating the Benefits of Gear

Something I've heard brought up a lot in the past couple weeks is as Blizzard's raid design becomes more focused on "mechanics checks" rather than "dps checks", it becomes less and less possible to simply farm the bosses you've already killed until you can simply overpower the boss you're working on.  While I do see that as true, there are still several ways we can take advantage of better gear (other than just having higher DPS) while progressing through a raid. 

While it may be the case, that during your first week of progression on a particular boss, your tank might not have enough survivability, and you'll need to burst down adds as quickly as possible to ensure the tanks aren't taking too much damage.  As we progress through a raid, and start farming bosses for gear, our tanks are going to have a lot more passive and active damage mitigation and much more powerful cooldowns, but not only that, our healers will be able to heal through a much greater amount of damage.  My point is, it's going to be less and less important to get the adds down as quickly as possible, so you can spend more time focusing on the boss, which will of course allow you to beat the boss faster.  

If we continue to treat fights the same when we're still using mostly the previous teir's gear, as we do when we're using mostly the current tier's gear, we're negating the benefit of having that gear.  

The Ever-swinging Raiding Pendulum

Even as I write this, I'm somewhat worried about some of the possible consequences.  I'm sure we can all remember countless times where we've been in raids and constantly failed because people are tunneling on the boss, and ignoring the add that is wiping the raid.  Just to be clear, that is not at all what I'm suggesting we do here.  To clarify, let's look at an example from Blackrock Foundry. 

Operator Thogar

During Operator Thogar we get large packs of adds.  I have no idea how many off the top of my head, but tons of Iron Crackshots, and Iron Raiders, which often come out at the same time as a Flamemender or Man-of-arms.  During these packs of adds, anyone with even the slightest amount of raiding experience should be able to tell you that simply tunneling the boss is the wrong thing to do, and will very shortly result in wiping the raid.  However, it is equally wrong to just start spamming AoE on the largest pack of adds you can find.

Everyone during this fight should have a priority target at all times.  For the us hunters it may be the Gunnery Sarge, the Grom'kar Men-at-Arms, the Grom-kar Firemenders, or Thogar himself, at any given time during the fight.  Whatever the priority, we can apply the our AoE DoT efficiency.  That is, throw a quick DoT on everything, then single-target down the appropriate priority target.  There is almost never a time when simply spamming as many AoE abilities as possible is going to result in downing the boss faster.  

Exceptions to the Rule & Getting to the Point

As with anything, pretty much ever, there are nearly always some exceptions.  One might be, in Beastlord Darmac, as mentioned above, if you don't have enough multi-dotters to kill the pack before the next one comes out.  Another exception might be for those classes/specs who have abilities who serve in both AoE and Single-target fights, like Barrage for us Hunters.  

The point of this isn't to say don't use AoE abilities at all, of course.  And I'm not trying to discourage people from padding the meters once they have a boss on farm (that can be a fun meta-game in and of itself).  The point is simply, when working on a progression boss, to look for the most efficient way to kill it. If that means you don't get to do as much DPS, who cares??  Your DPS doesn't rank if you don't kill the boss anyway.  

The Liebster Game

Liebster Award
I've been chosen to play the Liebster Award game by the Grumpy Elf over at the Grumpy Elf's blog.  I can't say I really know what this is, but it's always nice to have a guideline for posts, rather than just think of them off the top of my head, so thanks, GE.


    Write a blog post about the Liebster Award
    Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog
    Display the award on your blog
    Answer the eleven questions that the blogger who nominated you gives you
    Give eleven random facts about yourself
    Nominate five blogs that you think deserve the award
    Create eleven questions for them to answer
    List the rules in your post
    Inform the bloggers that they’ve been nominated and provide them the link to your post

Blogs I Nominate:

JC Sway at Lolsurvival.
Darkbrew at the Brew Hall.
Bendak at Eyes of the Beast.
Kurn at Kurn's Corner.
Dayani at Healiocentric.

My Questions For Them:

1. What's the best (and/or your favorite) blog post you've ever written, and why?
2. If you could take any moment from your life, and relive it, what would it be?
3. What was your favorite tier in WoW?
4. Where would you, and where would your characters, like to grow old, once they're finished killing dragons?
5. What book are you reading right now (or the most recent book) and why did you like it?
6. If you could have any super hero power, what would it be?
7. If you could change any one thing in WoW, what would it be?
8. What was your favorite lore moment in WoW?
9. If you had to be stranded on a deserted island with on NPC from WoW, who would it be?
10. What other games do you like to play?
11. What's your inspiration for writing WoW blogs?

My Answered Questions:

1. What is your favorite expansion of warcraft and why do you think its your favorite?

This might be a really unpopular answer, but MoP was my favorite from a lore perspective.  I've never really been violent enough to really fit in with WoW, so I really liked where they went with Pandaria's make peace campaign.  With that said, I also really liked that we got to destroy Garrosh. There was a moment in one of the remade cataclysm zones, when garrosh called my queen a bitch, right to her face, with me standing their watching but somehow, magically unable to attack him... Well, since then I've been biding my time, finding a moment when I could strike out against Garrosh, and Pandaland gave me that opportunity. I suppose I also killed him several times during Cata, too, but only on my ally characters, so MoP gave me an opportunity to kick his ass with all my characters.  :-)

Anyhow, to everyone who thinks I'm crazy, I'd have to remind you that I barely played at all during classic wow, and didn't come back to the game until late Wrath, not even hitting max level until after the lich king was dead.  So I didn't really get to experience any of those xpacs in full.

2. What is your favorite fantasy book of all time? (fantasy, sci/fi, horror, they all fit)

Cat's Cradle, by Vonnegut, basically gave me enough hope to get through highschool, and then it helped me get through college.  It's still helping me get through life, a little happier, a little less alone.  I think I was in the 8th grade when my dad gave me the book, and since then I've re-read it at least once every year or two. The cover came off a few years ago, as I'd read it too many time (was a cheap paperback from the sixties, perhaps not meant to last this long).  I should probably get a new copy, soon. 

Dune, by Frank Herbert, was another huge one in my life.  I can't remember how old I was when I first read it; some point not too long after reading Cat's Cradle.  I was convinced that I was a mentat, and that at some point, my parents were going to let me know that they'd actually been secretly training me to be one all those years.  I suppose I can be honest with your here, I still kind of think that I'm a mentat. :-P   I kept reading the series all the way up to the point where (spoiler alert?) he turns into a sand worm.  It got kind of weird.  But that first book was amazing.

3. If you could make one change to warcraft what would be it?  

I don't know that there's any one change that would make a huge difference.  I think it's more likely that there are lots of small changes that need to happen.  I think, the thing that most discourages me about WoW isn't any aspect of the game, but the player base, so I'd make it that anything you write in trade chat gets emailed to your mother.  Or grandmother.  Maybe that's to vindictive of me, I mean, I imagine most of the trolls in game are doing what they do because they're lonely and depressed, so maybe that would be the best change to the game, if everyone who played it could somehow, magically no longer feel like they were alone.

4. Where would you have your character/(s) call home?

Grizzly Hills is my favorite spot in the game, and if I lived in Azeroth, that's where I'd be.  It's beautiful and has great music and great forests and mountains.  Plus it's really close to some of the more extreme landscapes.  As for my characters, they're not really good at calling any place 'home'. They all need to be out, exploring and saving people.   

As they age, my DK might like to settle down near half hill in pandaland.  He's had a really rough life; wrought much destruction.  And I could see him settling down on a farm for the simple life, one day, much like Thanos on his Mars Farm after realizing he'd intentionally given up the Infinity Gauntlet.

My hunters and my druid, however, would remain nomads in the wild.  Like Rexar, they may be called upon to fight from time to time, but their home isn't in a silly garrison or city, it's in the wilds. (I'm still very annoyed that I get a "well rested" buff by being in cities, when I'm obviously much better rested in the wild).

5. Have you ever met anyone in real life that you met online first?

Sure,  I have an OKCupid account, and have gone on a few dates from there.  And I've of course been to blizzcon, to meet many guild and hunter friends.  Even here in Chicago, as it's not the smallest of towns, I've met up with a couple of Warcraft Hunters Union members, when we found out we lived near eachother.  NBD

6. If you could add one race not currently in game at all to the game as a playable race, what would it be?

Hmmmm...  Not in the game at all is hard.  If I could choose any race, it would be Mok'nathal.  But not in the game is really hard to choose, as it's really opens up the possibilities.  I realize that humans are already in the game, but I would like for their to be a separate race of humans.  They'd be feral humans, living in anarchistic band society.  And they'd definitely be against the dastardly tyrant Varian Wrynn, which would lead them to siding with the horde, in a battle.  

And, since I'm the one making this up, they wouldn't be able to play any of the annoying classes. They could be druids, hunters, rogues, shaman, monks or warriors.  Shamanism and the druidic arts would be the only forms of magic they'd practice.  And definitely none of those holier-than-thou religious type priests or pallies.

7. What inspires you to write a post?

Well, in the practical sense, I generally write a post when I'm curious about something. A huge number of my posts started with me hearing something Solar said on his old podcast, or more recently on the hunting party podcast, and wanting to explore the idea, look into the math behind it. Basically me just seeing if I could prove or disprove it.  

In a more broad since, what inspires me to write in general is curiosity.  I think curiosity is the greatest of virtues.  Long before I started this blog, I was basically making the same posts just for myself, where I'd spend hours making spreadsheets and looking at various ways to model playing a hunter computationally. And I guess, me making this into a blog instead of just writing it completely for myself, is a hope that others will join me in curiosity.  I realize that I'm just writing about playing video games, but I hope that, even if just a little bit, I'm encouraging people to think critically; to not accept things people tell us, but look for reasoning.

8. What other types of games do you like?

I like good stories, so that's definitely something I look for in any game I play solo.  If it's not as good of a story as I would get from reading a book, then I'll probably go read a book instead.  Games like the Dragon Age series have definitely met that criteria.  Mass Effect, Witcher III, or on console, I really liked the Xmen Legends series and the actionRPG version of Prince of Persia that came out back in the early aughts.  Which brings me to my other love in gaming, which is puzzles.  I like to solve logic puzzles, so of course, portal and portal 2 are two of my favorite games of all time.

9. Do you snack while gaming, if so, on what?

I don't know if this is normal or not, but one of the reasons I'd rather get my stories in game form rather than TV/Movie form is it keeps my hands busy, which is my primary reason for snacking (that it gives me something to do with my hands).  However, I do tend to drink while gaming.  A lot.  By the end of a raid night, it is not uncommon for me to have my keyboard on my lap, as my desk becomes covered in beer bottles. :-P  

In fact, one of the reasons I'm such a strong proponent of Focusing Shot for hunters, is it gives you a couple seconds where you can take a drink.

10. If you were stranded on a desert island with three CDs and they were the only three you would ever have, which ones would you bring?  (no greatest hits or live, only standard release)

I do like listening to music, but only when I'm doing something else also (like cleaning, or driving, or playing a game), and there are no three CDs I'd want to, only, for the rest of my life.  Instead of bringing CDs and some sort of CD player, I'll bring a guitar, instead.

11. What is your favorite lore moment and how would you inject your main character into that story?

I don't know that I really have a favorite moment.  I recently enjoyed the cut scene where Thrall killed Garry.  But I was already there, and didn't really help, kind of just watched.  As I mentioned above, I'd liked to have really been there when Garry called Sylvanus a bitch, and then we would destroy Garry right then and there; my love would assume the role of warchief, and I'd serve beside her.

One of the nice things about WoW, is all the best lore moments you are there for.  So it's not like you're missing anything. Is it?

11 Random Facts about Me

  1. I grew up in the Ozarks; if you've ever seen that Jennifer Lawrence movie, Winter's Bone, yes, that's pretty much dead on accurate.  As with most little kids in the area, climbing trees was my favorite past-time.  And playing with legos.  
  2. I studied Logic when I was in college. 
  3. I lived in Beijing for a couple of years after college, but never made it to Zhangjiajie, which is still on my list of most important places I need to go before I die.
  4. I work for a not-for-profit organization that provides housing for homeless and low-income folk in chicago, as well as providing a lot of job training and other resources.  
  5. Doug Hofstadter's book Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, is probably the most important book in my life, as far as shaping how I think. 
  6. I'd consider living in a hobit house.  The indigenous people to the Ozark Plateau were nomadic gatherer-hunters and often lived in one of the many, many caves.  Due to the thick vegetation and rough landscape, they were able to remain in band society much longer than other north american indigenous people, who became more civilized nations/empires, like the near-by Cahokia, or later on, the Osage.  Also, Caves:  warmin in the winter, cool in the summer. 
  7. Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-philosophicus is a close second. Though I read it much later in life (well, you know, relatively later, for someone my age).
  8. Sometimes I get quite distraught that I wasn't alive roughly 10 - 15 thousand years ago, on this continent.  The ice sheet had just receded; mastodons and bison were everywhere.  We could hang out and play all day with nomadic gatherer-hunters, living in bands...  Sometimes I get quite distraught that there are no more mastodons.
  9. I teach a class on bicycle mechanics at a local community bike collective.  
  10. In school, I was classically trained in percussion.  I love learning new instruments, and would count among the instruments I can play at least proficiently:  tympani, marimba, vibraphone, most hand drums, the drum kit, guitar, banjo, piano and mandolin.  I'm currently working on learning to play the accordion (I can play a few songs so far, but I'm not amazing).   I love the accordion music coming out of the sort of folk/cajun/street music scenes in New Orleans right now (check out Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship, or Hurray For the Riff Raff).  I do not know how to play any woodwind or brass instruments. 
  11. Sometimes the mountains call to me.  Chicago's incredibly flat, and it takes hours to get out of the city, and even then, you're just in industrial farmland.  Sometimes I dream of being in the the Lizard Range in BC, or the Chugach in Alaska, or the Tibetan Plateau, or Southeast Asia / Thailand / Vietnam, or the Andes in Chile, or the Tetons in Wyoming / Montana, or the Southern Alps in New Zealand.  So many great mountains out there... 

Prepping for Blizzcon 2015

Blizzcon 2015 Housing
I recieved confirmation yesterday, and now officially have a house for Blizzcon!  It's just south of the convention center about a quarter of a mile, so I'm really exited about it.  The place looks ridiculously awesome; where most of the houses near there decorated with Mickey Mouse disney things, we've got a zebra print rug.  So I thought it'd be fun to put up some pictures here. 

Blizzcon 2015 moar housing
Nice view of Blizzcon 2015 housing

The Delirium Who Stole Pi Day

Anti-pi day

Pi is totally wrong

For more on the evils of Pi, check out this article by Randyn Charles Bartholomew, in Scientific American.  Or read the Tau Manifesto, by  Michael Hartl.  Or, if you prefer to take in your math in song, listen to Vi Hart's Circle Constant Song (or her explanation, here).

#TeamHunter Returning to Blizzcon

As I'm sure the entire internet now knows, this afternoon, Blizzard announce the dates of Blizzcon 2015, and I, for one, spent the rest of my day accomplishing nothing, just talking with friends about what we did at previous Blizzcons, and what we're going to do at the this Blizzcon.

We've already begun planning for the next all-hunter / Team Hunter / Warcraft Hunters Union party. We'll be renting a conference room for the party this year, and as can be expected, there will be much beer.  Prepare you're livers, hunters. To go along with it, we've also got the beginnings of this years WHU/Team Hunter Shirts, as well.

If you have even the slightest desire to go, I'll be there Wednesday through Sunday at least, to talk Hunters with anyone I can find and perform miraculous amounts of drinking.  Last year we didn't have the Hunter gathering until the end of the con, which meant I didn't meet a lot of people until it was time to go home.  This year we're talking about possibly having the gathering on Friday night, which should make things easier.  If you do see me around before then, feel free to come say hi; my goal this year is to have a beer with every hunter at the con.

We'll probably end up doing some crowd-sourcing/fundraising at some point to subsidize the cost of the conference room, and some recognizable hunter items (last year we did lanyards, who knows what'll happen this year).  Make sure you follow @ArtemisHowl on twitter for updates, or bug her with ideas, if you have some.

I know it's still 9 months away, but it looks like I'd better go start practicing. Let's see, what rhymes with hunter?

Hunter Pedagogy: Why the Unskilled are Unaware

Some of us like to be prepared

The other day, I was re-reading a popular essay, titled Why the Unskilled Are Unaware: Further Explorations of (Absent) Self-Insight Among the Incompetent (here), which got me thinking about some of the requests for hunter help I get, on this sight or in general forums.

The common request tends to be something like: "I'm doing my rotation right so I know that's not the problem; will you look at my gear to tell me how to do more DPS?"  Of course many are more nuanced than that, but several times I've seen someone write that they know they are doing their rotation correctly.  In a totally unscientific, anecdotal study based on a sample size of "those I can recall off the top of my head", hunters tend to analyze their own performance exactly in correlation with each of the five studies shown in Why the Unskilled.

This is, of course, exactly what we would expect (we being, anyone who's read that essay, or others on the same subject); the popular reasoning being that the less skilled you are at playing a hunter, the less able you'll be to adequately evaluate your play.

A popular youtuber, on the channel Veritasium, wrote his phd dissertation in science education on a similar subject. His basic point (if I may be so bold as to boil down years of research into a few words) was:

People generally overestimate how much they know about a subject, or how much they understand how something works. Because of that, when presented with new information on a subject, they will assume the data support their previously held view, instead of considering whether or not the data challenges that view. Therefore, educators must first convince someone that they are misunderstanding a topic before they can teach them to understand it differently.

This seems to be the biggest problem with trying to teach someone "how to hunter": most players are already convinced that they're playing the best way possible, they just don't have the right gear, or don't have the best pet for the DPS.

Self - Analysis

The reason I brought all of this up, is not only because I want to complain about people asking for help, but at least somewhat, because I'm curious how often I'm suffering from the same problem.  I can think of several occasions where I've been raiding with another hunter who out-dps'ed me, and of course my first thought isn't "I should look at their log and see what I could have done better" it's "they must have had better RNG than I". There's obvious dissonance between my analysis of myself and my actual performance. 

One of the conclusions from Why the Unskilled... was that there is a causal relationship between how well students adjudicate themselves (or how not overconfident they are) and being taught that intelligence, or traits are malleable. That is, if a student believes that there are some people who are just good at math, and some who aren't, then they're very likely to think they're performing better at math than they actually are; whereas a student who believes that "good at math" is something you can learn is much more likely to have an accurate impression of their own abilities.  

I've been trying to imagine how this could apply to playing a hunter.  Is it the case that people who say things like "I know my rotation is right, so why is my dps so low?" believe that people are either good at video game or not, instead of believing it's something you learn and get better at?  That's certainly conceivable. 

Inward Analysis vs Outward Presentation

One of the largest problems for young hunters out there, I'd imagine, is segregating self-analysis from how we present ourselves to others. That is to say, while it is demonstrably true that the more over-confident we are, the harder it is to improve, it also seems to be the case that the more over-confident we appear, the more people trust you know what you're doing.  

If you're playing WoW at any sort of competitive level, the vast majority of raid leaders won't know how to play your class, so if you say you know what you're doing confidently and can provide at least a little explanations, they'll tend to believe you and think you're a good player. This is very unfortunate then, for raid leaders hoping to be good at recruiting, as the opposite tends to actually be true. 

While I tend to think that being duped by the presentation of confidence is a sign of a bad leader (whether in game or out) it's still a reality that most players will have to deal with.  If we're actually trying to get better though, the trick seems to be to learn to segregate the confidence you need to present in order to be given a chance, and the realistic self-analysis you need to improve as a player.

Getting the Message Across

The main point of me writing this down, other than simply because I like thinking about interesting things, is I'm curious if we need a new approach to hunter guide writing.  Perhaps one that doesn't just say "this is your rotation" but says "this is how to think about rotations".  I've been a bit cautious of employing that sort of writing anywhere but on this blog (which has a much more particular reader base than, for example, the WHU, who, I hope, are more interested in the theory behind things than simply the results) because I know I've been frustrated when playing other games very casually, and I simply want a quick easy answer on "the best X, Y and Z".  But I'm certainly curious if it's been a disservice to those reading the guides.

How to actually write guides that are both challenging in that manner, and accessible is currently beyond my knowledge of pedagogy.  It is, however, definitely something I'm interested in, both because I want to be an effectual guide writer, and I want to improve as a player.  

Thrill of the Spreadsheet: Frenzy Procs and Focus Fire

Frenzy Procs compared with Focus Fire usage in Top Parses

As of patch 6.1 one, we're seeing Beast Mastery hunters making a strong showing on the DPS meters; some of that due to the strength of our tier set bonuses, but a lot due to the continual buffs to our cooldown Focus Fire.  The trouble that we're now encountering, as blizzard seems to be decided on using Focus Fire as the BM tuning nob, is we're more and more reliant on RNG for the best parses.

Let's look at a couple of the RNG factors we're relying on: on top of the usual Trinket Procs and Scope Procs, multistrike chances and crit chances, we need to proc frenzy five times, at 40% chance every 3 seconds, and we get a chance to reset the CD on Bestial Wrath once every six seconds (well, it's RPPM, but you get the idea).

In the picture above, you can see what our Focus Fire buffs might look like with some good RNG. While all of the parses I took these for were top BM parses, and obviously took a tremendous amount of skill, they also required some pretty great RNG.  So what I wanted to look at is exactly how good of luck do we need to get, for example, the nearly 80% up-time one of these parses had.

A small disclaimer here, the following will have very little to do with actually playing or improving as a Beast Mastery hunter.  It will, hopefully, shed some light on the mechanics going on behind the scenes that make BM work.

Frenzy Probabilities

Frenzy -- Your pet has a 40% chance to gain 4% increased attack speed after attacking with a Basic Attack, lasting for 30 seconds and stacking up to 5 times.

The mechanics of frenzy are fairly cut and dry: 40% chance to gain a stack.  Where we get into more complications is looking at how often it will have the opportunity, however.  This is due to one of the Draenor Perks, Enhanced Basic Attacks.

Enhanced Basic Attacks -- Your pet's Basic Attacks have a 15% chance to reset the basic attack cooldown and make the next basic attack free.  

That adds another layer of complication, but shouldn't hurt us too much, since we're only going to be looking at averages/expected values, anyhow.  So, let's get started.

It's worth noting that there may be even more complication to this, in that our pet's generally don't have enough focus to cast their Basic Attack every 3 seconds, but for now, let's just assume we're taking the Steady Focus talent, in which case our pets will have plenty of focus. 

Calculating our Chances

In trying to model the situation, let's start with the variable constant, T.  T is going to represent how long we have measured in seconds, so we can come up with a formula that can work with any length fight.  Without Enhanced Basic Attacks, the maximum number of Frenzy Stacks we can gain is T/3, since our pets will cast a Basic Attack every 3 seconds.  To add in EBA (which is what I've decided to call Enhanced Basic Attacks), we need to show that 15% of the time, our pet's Basic Attack happens every 1 second, not every 3.  

Another way to say that, is on average, our pet's Basic Attacks take 3 seconds 85% of the time, and 1 second 15% of the time, which is pretty simple to add together to give us how often we can expect another basic attack:
.85*3 + .15*1 = 2.7

That means our total opportunities to proc a frenzy stack is T/2.7.  From there we can apply some basic probabilities to see what our options are. So where E(f) is the expected number of a Frenzy stacks proc'ing over time T:
E(f) = .4 * T/2.7
or simplified:
E(f) = T * 0.148148148...

Another way to look at that is to say we should get, on average, 0.148 frenzy stacks (or 4/27 of a frenzy stack) per second.  

Consuming Frenzies for Focus Fire

If we're building Frenzy stacks at an average rate of 4/27 per second, we should be expecting to have five frenzy stacks after 33.75 seconds. Note that if that number seems more often than you generally get to cast Focus Fire, it could be because you're not taking Steady Focus, or not getting enough up-time on steady focus; this is, in fact, why Steady Focus is such a great talent for BM.  If, just to show a more realistic rotation, you have about 80% up-time on steady focus, you'll be looking at about 1 basic attack every 2.8 seconds on average, which will of course slightly extend how long it takes to build up to five frenzy stacks.  

Compared to Top Parses

Anyhow, back to our ideal numbers, that's roughly 1.7778 Focus Fires per minute, which gives us an up time of just a little less than 60%.  To get that up to 80%, instead of 5 Frenzy stacks every 33.75 seconds, we'd need to hit 5 stacks in 25 seconds.  Since we average nine and a quarter pet Basic Attacks every 25 seconds, we'd need to get frenzy stacks on about 54% of them. 

When I look at it that way, it doesn't seem to unreasonable.  14% higher than average RNG (even if this is only one of the several RNG factors in the fight) isn't too much.

For funsies, it's also worth looking at what we would need to get 100% up-time on Focus Fire. To get 5 stacks of Frenzy every 20 seconds, we'd need 5/(20/2.7), or ~65.7% of your pet's Basic Attacks to proc Frenzy.  Any more than that, and we'll generally just be sitting at 5 stacks longer waiting for the previous Focus Fire to end in order to cast another..  

Drawing Conclusions

As I mentioned above, this really has very little to do with how we play BM.  It doesn't even really help us compare Steady Focus with other abilities.  If I were to draw any conclusions though, I would say that the gap between good RNG and bad RNG isn't as huge as one might guess.  The key is to play as well as possible every pull, so when you do start to get some decent RNG, it pays off. 

Dragon Age Inquisition Theorycrafting

Sera is the best companion in Dragon Age
I have no idea how many cross-game players might happen to read this blog, but I needed somewhere to put these numbers where I'd have them handy, so today I'm doing a Dragon Age post.

I picked up DA:I back when it first came out, but as Warlords of Draenor came out around the same time, I was very slow in getting started.  The first quarter of the game wasn't really that fun for me, anyway, so I actually spent a couple months just getting through the first 20 hours or so.  Once I moved from Haven to Skyhold, it was like a totally different game; I got really into the story and played for about nine years, in a row, at a time...

At some point in there, I got really into dragon hunting, and wanting to attempt some solo dragon hunting in the nightmare mode.  I'm pretty sure I saw that someone had beaten the game in Nightmare mode, solo.  I'm going to settle for just killing the dragons, though.

As with anything, I had to get started with data collection and spreadsheets!  I'd imagine other people have already found all of this information, but I didn't see it after a quick googling, so I decided to post it all here.

My favorite build for nightmare is, of course, a rogue archer.  All of the specialties seem to work really well, with very similar strats.  I like Assasin and Tempest, using the grappling hook, and leaping shot as often as possible, with heavy crit builds and Looked Like It Hurt. So, that's the perspective I'm coming from when I did most of my testing here.

Role-playing DPS Stats:
1 Dexterity = .5% Attack & 1% Crit damage
1 Cunning = .5% Crit chance
1 Willpower =  .5% Attack
1 Constitution = 5 Health

Math DPS stats:
x% Attack = (1+x/100) ability damage multiplier
x% Armor Pen = Target Armor - (Target Armor * x/100)
x% Crit Damage Bonus = Base Damage * (1.4 + x/100)
x% Flanking Damage Bonus = Base Damage * (1.25 + x/100)

Base Damage:
Weapon Damage is the base damage you do, upon which all of your modifiers are based.  As in most games, Weapons are normalized that you'll have essentially similar DPS among the same tier of weapons.  However, Abilities are based on your Weapon Damage, not your Weapon DPS.  So, at least for my purposes, the higher Weapon Damage is much more important than the Weapon DPS.

Crit chance percent seems to work just as expected.  The crit damage increase applies before armor reduction.  So, without any crit bonus damage, we have our base of 140% damage for Crits; to Calculate the ability damage then, we use: Base Damage * (1.4+CritBns/100) - Armor.  The expected value of Crit will be: 1% Crit Chance increases damage by .4% + .01% for every percent of crit damage bonus.

Flanking damage works the same as Crit, but with a base of 25% (instead of 40%).  It's also worth noting that they, and most other modifiers, work multiplicatively.  So, if we add in flanking damage to a critical hit, we get a formula that looks like: Base Damage * (1.4+CritBns/100) * (1.25+FlnkngBns/100) - Armor.   The expected Value of Flanking Bonus will then be (if all abilities are used while flanking) 1% increased overall damage per 1% Flanking Bonus.

Armor Pen:
Armor Pen, as the name might suggest, only applies to armor, and reduces the effectiveness of armor by the % Armor Pen.  So if we have our formula from above (which is getting long, already), it would look like: Base Damage * (1.4+CritBns/100) * (1.25+FlnkngBns/100) - (Armor*(1-ArmrPen/100).

Attack % works differently than the stats above, because it is applied after the Armor reduction. So it's better viewed as a modifier for the ability you're using, rather than a weapon damage modifier. Going back again to our damage formula, we would add Attack damage outside all of it, like: (Base Damage * (1.4+CritBns/100) * (1.25+FlnkngBns/100) - (Armor*(1-ArmrPen/100))*(1+Attck/100).

Someone mentioned to me, so I'm mentioning it here, also, that certain abilities have different modifiers than attack, and in which case, attack doesn't do anything.  The example they used was the Archer's Long Shot, which uses distance from target as a modifier for the ability.  I haven't been able to verify exactly how this works, yet.

Ability Modifiers:
That brings us to our last modifiers, and that's what's shown on your tooltips for abilities.  These modifiers are, as I sort of mentioned above, multiplied after armor reduction.  So with, as an example, Full Draw (while the target is at full health), assuming we were flanking the target and had a critical hit, our damage would be:   (Base Damage * (1.4+CritBns/100) * (1.25+FlnkngBns/100) - (Armor*(1-ArmrPen/100))*(1+Attck/100) * 8.00.

What's Next

Ok.  I still have a lot of work to do with defensive abilities, but this is what I've got now. I have enjoyed the project thus far, though I doubt I'm going to make a full out DPS spreadsheet for Dragon Age. This at least helps me have more of an idea how my DPS will be affected to really dig into each stat like this.