End of the Expansion PvP

As hunters are losing my favorite spec in Legion, I've been looking for any excuse I can find to play survival before it's gone. Since Blizzard decided to nerf it to the ground in 6.2 (ensuring few people would be playing it when they removed it), the only real option for SV play right now is in PvP, where it's high utility can make up for the lack of damage.

Anyhow, for anyone else who's interested, PvP gear is incredibly easy to come by; build yourself a gladiator's sanctum, and spend just a little bit of time finding an Ashran group, and you'll easily be in all 730 gear within a week. Getting the last 10 ilvls from Conquest gear is very quick now, too, as you get some crazy amounts of conquest from doing Ashran and even random battlegrounds.

However, he fun part (for me at least) comes in arenas with the complexities of learning not only your own comp, but how to best counter other comps.  Dilly the Hunter has started to make some videos specifically to get people started thinking about how to play against some of the more powerful comps out there.

I'll try to update this page as he puts out more videos (or better yet, subscribe to his youtube channel), right now you can check out the videos on dealing with God Comp (Mage/SPriest/RDruid) from a survival hunter's perspective:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Thrill of the Taxa: Birds and Dinos

Birds & Dinosaurs

More like a six-foot turkey.

I think it’s safe to say that thanks to Hollywood, the average person knows that the scientific community agrees that birds are the evolutionary descendants of dinosaurs.  Consider for a moment:

  • Dinosaurs ruled the earth for over a 150 million years, giving rise to countless species in that great length of time.  
  • It was entirely possible for two species of what we lump together as dinosaurs, T. rex and Triceratops for example, to be so distantly related you’d have to go back over 100 million years to find a common ancestor.  
  • It’s been roughly 65 million years since the extinction event that marked the end to the dinosaur’s reign, and allowed modern birds to evolve and radiate to where they are today.  

In this light, it’s easy to see why species that share an evolutionary “branch”, like T. rex and chickens, are more closely related than ones whose branches split over 100 million years ago, like T. rex and Triceratops.

Given the similarity above, dinosaurs and birds have pretty different places in mythos, both IRL and in WoW.  Dinosaurs, when they were first discovered, were given the name “terrible lizard” and have left such an imprint on people’s minds ever since.  Birds, to many people, are for hobbies bird-watching, gardening, or photography.  There’s definite overlap, but I think you see my point.

That being said, it makes sense some places to talk about birds and dinosaurs together (evolutionarily) and separate at other places (thematically).  When I talk about both together I’ll use the broader taxonomic grouping that includes both: Archosaur.

And then we have the Crocolisks.  Here’s come clarification:  crocodiles come from a prehistoric lineage that falls in closer to dinosaurs and modern birds than it does to modern reptiles, not mention being in Archosauria.  Now, most people group crocodiles with reptiles, but if we’re going to assert a dinosaur-bird phylogeny, we must also include crocodilians in there as well.  Shall we continue?

IRL, there is quite a stunning diversity among birds, with about 10,000 species ruffling their feathers in the world today.  While that number can’t hold a candle to the inverts we covered last time (link), it’s roughly double the number of mammals!  In-game, birds don’t only get glossed over, they’re vastly underrepresented, having less than 1/3 the species mammals do.  And things only get worse if we consider all Archosaurs together.

However, my main issue here is with the “Birds of Prey” family.  This is the largest of the bird families with 38 unique looks, and when you look deeper it’s not hard to understand why.  Blizzard has thrown all manner of birds into this group, regardless if they’re actually birds of prey.  IRL, birds of prey refers to a very few families of birds, including hawks, eagles, falcons, vultures, and owls.  Already we have a problem.  Vultures are birds of prey, yet have been given their own family in game.  Blizzard either needs to regroup Carrion Birds into Birds of Prey, or break Birds of Prey into several unique families.  What families might those be, you ask?  Well, aside from those mentioned above, we have three very NON-Birds of prey in this group: parrots, toucans, and seagulls.

Fig 1.  A phylogeny of WoW’s Archosaurs by in-game family.  Numbers above each family represent the number of unique looks (species) within that family.  The three different colors represent different lineages within Archosauria.  *Crocodiles are Archosaurs, and more closely related to dinosaurs than other modern reptiles. **Birds of Prey are a “junk-taxa” for many birds that don’t fit elsewhere. 

There’s a time and place for everything.

The incredible dispersal ability of birds by flight has led them to radiate across the world.  Heck, some birds even travel across the globe on an annual basis.  Take the Arctic Tern, which makes trans-oceanic flights of greater than 12,000 miles from the Arctic to Antarctic and back, every year. Despite birds being on every continent, some families have notable absences.  For example, Cranes are absent from South America, and have their highest diversity in Asia (which makes sense why they were introduced with Pandaria); flightless birds that we would group with Tallstriders (ostrich, emu, cassowary, etc) are almost all found in the southern hemisphere.  With birds being so diverse, again, it’s hard to put them somewhere they aren’t IRL.  I’ll give Blizzard a tentative pass here.

Crocodiles are much more restricted in range.  Most crocodilians can be found in the tropics, although a few branch into the subtropics.  However, all crocodilians require both aquatic habitat for feeding and terrestrial habitat for basking and nesting.  This restricts their range to rivers, marshes, or even the coasts in some species. We see this represented in-game pretty well, so it gets my thumbs-up.

Dinosaurs ruled the earth, right?  

Well, dinosaurs did dominate the terrestrial scene for millions of years, so it makes sense they’d be found most everywhere.  But how does that fit in to a world where they aren't the dominant vertebrates? Vanilla WoW gave us Un’Goro as a “Land of the Lost” type area, which is a pretty common fantasy/sci-fi trope.  But when we start seeing raptors and the like elsewhere in Vanilla WoW (Barrens, Arathi) and those in Outland/Draenor, we run into larger evolutionary problems.

Fig 2.  Did raptors come from Draenor when the orcs crossed the Dark Portal?  Perhaps the orcs brought the raptors with them to Kalimdor when they moved over to establish Orgrimmar.

Follow your nose!

Birds are one instance in WoW where there are many predator-prey interactions either visible or implied.  You’ll often find Carrion Birds around the bones of some larger beast, or actually by the fresh corpse of an animal from the zone.   In several zones, most memorably in Wrath onward, you’ll see some of the actual Birds of Prey occasionally take down a critter or mob!

I recall several “meat piles” surrounding Devilsaur or Raptor nests, so it’s implied there as well, but I don’t recall ever seeing a dinosaur take down another animal in-game. If I recall correctly there’s a couple quests that revolved around getting something that a Crocolisk has eaten.  Perhaps in Sholazar?

Again, we see a lot of social interactions in Archosaurs, both IRL and in-game.  Many species nest communally, and we see this in things like the rocs in Sholazar to the raptors in Un’Goro.  Even crocodiles IRL are sometimes found in large groups, either basking or feeding together.

Speaking of birds in Sholazar, there’s a great example of a symbiotic relationship between birds and mammals there.  If you take the time to look before you shoot, you’ll see that several of the rhinos in Sholazar are carrying around tickbirds on their horns!  When the rhino aggros, the birds fly away too! Funny enough, the tickbirds get their name, not from a sound they make, but their preferred food. IRL, tickbirds are real and commonly known as Oxpeckers. You know, the birds that ride on the backs of the elephants and rhinos?  Previously, scientists thought they fed on parasites (ticks) and other insects the large mammals kicked up, but it’s more recently come to light that that’s only one part of their diet.  When they can’t get enough blood from ticks, the birds will peck open a wound on the animal and actually drink its blood! Some relationship indeed.

Fig 3.  Oxpeckers catch a ride on the back of a rhino.
In-game you can see a similar sight if you visit Sholazar Basin,
and seek out the Shardhorn Rhinos and their Tickbird “friends”.

Fun facts about Archosaurs!

Crocodiles exhibit parental care, just like birds.  They’ll defend a nest and defend the young until they're big enough to disperse on their own.  Not only that, but they also communicate vocally.  Young call to the parent when they’re hatching, and adults will rumble to each other in social interactions, both like birds.

While it’s more well-known now, the Velociraptors from Jurassic Park aren’t scientifically accurate.  IRL, velociraptors were only waist-high, about 6-7 ft long, and covered in feathers.  Originally, the clever girls of JP were Deinonychus, but Spielberg thought “raptors” rolled off the tongue better.  Although, perhaps Utahraptor would have been better suited to the task than either.

That doesn’t look very scary…

While some of the abilities here are believable (Crocolisks with Ankle Crack, or Devilsaurs with Monstrous Bite, for example) there are several that I think are just out of place.

Let’s consider Carrion Birds with Bloody Screech versus Birds of Prey with Tenacity.  Bloody Screech causes the Moral Wounds debuff, aka “Grievously wounds the target” (which reduces healing taken).  Carrion feeders don’t usually take on prey that can fight back, so naturally wouldn’t have need of such an ability.  On the other hand, Tenacity reads, “A master of lone survival…”.  Now, I know that many birds of prey are solitary, but so too are many carrion feeders.  In fact, carrion feeders must, by nature, scavenge for food, that may only be accessible for s short time, across great distances.  Then, if they find it they have to digest rotting meat.  If any bird has mastered lone survival, I vote Carrion Birds.

I know that many of us grew up watching Triceratops battling its arch-enemy, the T-rex, only managing to come out alive by using its frill and horns as a defense.  Since then there has been quite a bit of evidence that the frill of many dinosaurs (of the general triceratops-type) weren’t primarily to fend off predators, but more so for competition among members of the same species and courtship. The perception is that Triceratops were the tanks of the Dinosaur age, but a more likely story is that they were just trying to get lucky (and became a little tanky on the side).  If you want a real tank, look to Ankylosaurus.

Fig 4.  A Crocolisk in the temperate region of Loch Modan.  Before the Cataclysm, this lake was home to an astonishingly high amount of crocodiles.  Now, only a few remain.

Thrill of the Taxa

My biggest issue with birds in WoW, aside from the lack of overall representation, is the junk taxonomic group Blizzard has formed with Birds of Prey.  They need to be broken up into several families, and then expanded on. Toucans do not go with Eagles, do not go with Seagulls, do not go with… And furthermore, while Carrion Birds" get their own in-game family, in real life they all fall into the category "Birds of Prey".

If you want more flappy Archosaurs, there’s one group that already exists in-game, is spread about several zones, and has a pre-existing pet model as a base.  Of course, I’m referring to Pterodactyls! Blizzard just needs to reskin newer bat animations, and viola, we have a new Archosaur family that goes wonderfully alongside the existing dinosaurs.

I know I’ve barely mentioned them myself, but there are very few Tallstrider looks.  The existing models haven’t seen much love since Vanilla, and yet still have a cult following. I’m looking at you, Mr. Pink Tallstrider owner (with matching transmog, to boot).

From wild moor!

One group of fantastical beings that Blizzard has yet to capitalize on as hunter pets are the gryphons/hippogriffs.  These are clearly from fantasy, and at least part bird.  These would have a great diversity of models, and would look stunning with many of the mounts in-game. I assume this would mean also instating wind riders as well, for the horde. Their ability could even be mount-related.  Something along the lines of  "Travelling Companion: While the pet is active, increases your speed while mounted by 10%. The mounted movement speed increase does not stack with other effects", similar to the Pathfinding glyph we currently have available.

Aside from that, Dragonhawks are clearly some mix of avian descent.  They seem to fit best in Archosauria, for sure.

Could Sporebats be birds?  They’ve been around for a long time (evidenced by Draenor), and can fly.  Perhaps they’re a missing link, or maybe we’ll never know.

Legion Beta: Pets Return to Marksmanship

The Legion Alpha pendulum took another huge swing today, as WoW game dev celestalon announced there Marks Hunters would be getting their pets back, stating:

  • One of the most common points of feedback we’ve heard is that all of the specs are cool on their own, but none of them maintain the existing “Hunter + Ranged Weapon + Single Pet” archetype that people have grown attached to (Survival is now Melee, Marksmanship has lost its pet, and Beast Mastery has added a ton of additional pets).
  • Marksmanship losing its pet has been one of the most impactful, but contentious changes we’ve made this expansion. We’re going to try returning the pet to Marksmanship, baseline, along with Lone Wolf as a level 15 talent (and very competitively tuned), so that this is a choice again.
  • Exotic Munitions is being removed, and Black Arrow will be moving down to where it was, since the Lone Wolf + Black Arrow combination proved to be very popular and fun (the newest version of Black Arrow, where the minion reliably spawns and taunts the target, that is).
    Click here for the full post.

I'm not yet sure what to think.  On the one hand, having a pet is a defining quality of playing a hunter, and the pet collecting game is certainly one appealing part of playing a hunter.  I had thought that blizzard was going overboard with their desire to differentiate specs.  Having Lone Wolf as a level 15 talents means that you can play the pet-less ranger fantasy for the majority of your leveling experience, if you care to.

On the other hand, I spent the last 3 months or so getting used to the idea that one of the hunter specs was no longer a traditional hunter, but instead a ranger/sentinel.  For horde players, you get to spend a lot of your time leveling through the Broken Isles with Sylvanas, which is pretty awesome as an MM hunter.

Marksmanship Talents and Balance

The current crop of WoW devs has unfortunately had a really hard time balancing talents and specs. So while I'd love to be optimistic and think Lone Wolf will really be an option, it seems likely that it will be so good that it will be "mandatory" in competitive raid environments, or tuned low enough that it won't be taken at all.  It's hard to tell if Celestalon's comment that Lone Wolf will be "very competitively tuned" means they want it to be very even with the other two talents in this tier, or they want it to be the obvious choice for high DPS.

There are two major problems in balancing the Lone Wolf talent as it currently stands in the live version of the game: Kill Shot and Focusing Shot, neither of which will exist in Legion.  The problem with having Lone Wolf on the same tier as Focusing Shot means you have to choose between a slightly easier rotational ability (easier in that you're punished less for poor focus management) with a huge movement restriction, and a passive buff with absolutely no movement restriction.  Given the nature of "hunter jobs" in raid, that means pretty much everyone was going to take Lone Wolf for progression. As far as balancing DPS, Focusing Shot and Lone Wolf would have been balanced very well, except for Kill Shot. Against Single Target bosses, Kill Shot doesn't make much of an impact with the Lone Wolf talent, but since every single fight in Hellfire Citadel involved high priority adds, the portion of each fight where Kill Shot was accessible went way up, causing the Lone Wolf talent to be pretty much the only talent anyone uses at the moment.

In Legion, with Lone Wolf on the level 15 tier, we'll basically have the choice between True Aim for pure single target, and Lone Wolf for everything else. At least as it currently exists, True Aim is incredibly over powered if you never have to switch targets, but that has the side effect of turning you into a bad raider, wanting to tunnel all the time instead of switching to priority targets.  So depending on what percent the Lone Wolf buff is tuned to, and which abilities it applies to, it's hard to imagine it not being the preferable talent.  Especially now that there aren't any talents you're missing out on (since all of the talents involving pets were already removed from MM).

As a side note, Steady Focus (which is currently on the same tier as True Aim, where Lone Wolf will be) is kind of a joke.  When the primary purpose of Arcane Shot is not to build focus, but instead to proc Hunter's Mark, using it twice in a row feels silly.  With Hunter's Mark proc'ing through RPPM, you're always significantly more likely to proc Hunter's Mark on the first cast than the second, which means you want to be switching to Marked Shot. Once you get into your rotation (when you're not trying to build stacks of your debuffs, but just maintain them with one Marked Shot every 10 seconds), if you cast 2 Arcanes and then and Aimed Shot, you will have gained 88 focus in between spending any focus, meaning you will likely have wasted the extra focus you passively regen'ed from Steady Focus by hitting the focus cap.  That is to say, when I'm already passively getting 15 focus each GCD, an extra 3 focus per GCD doesn't exactly excite me.

Listening to Feedback

The most important thing Celestalon said was "One of the most common points of feedback we’ve heard is that all of the specs are cool on their own, but none of them maintain the existing “Hunter + Ranged Weapon + Single Pet” archetype that people have grown attached to".  That has been my major complaint throughout the Alpha process.  While I would prefer to see Beast Mastery return to be more similar to how it plays on live (mostly because the legion version is painfully boring), at least they're admitting they made a mistake, and looking for ways to rectify it.  That's a good sign. 

Legion Beta: Hunter's Mark

Hunter's Mark in Legion World of Warcraft


The RPPM for Hunter's Mark was changed the day after I wrote this.  Once I have enough data, I'll try to update the whole post with current numbers. 

On the Hunting Party Podcast the other day,  I did a fairly horrible job of explaining the effect of Hunter's Mark changing to an RPPM.  As such, I thought I'd go over the basics of it here, and perhaps what we can expect.

Marksmanship Core Mechanics Refresher:

  • Hunter's Mark - Your Arcane Shot and Multi-Shot have a chance to apply Hunter's Mark, marking the targets for Marked Shot.
  • Marked Shot
    • Rapidly fires a shot at all targets that are affected by Hunter's Mark, dealing 350% Physical damage. 
    • Also exposes Vulnerabilities in the target, snaring them by 15%, and increasing Aimed Shot damage done to the target by 25%. Lasts 30 sec, and stacks up to 3 times.
  • Relevant Talents:
    • Heightened Vulnerability - Level 75 Tier - Your next Marked Shot applies 3 stacks of Vulnerability to all Marked Targets.
    • Patient Sniper - Level 75 Tier - Gain the patience of a veteran sniper, increasing your maximum focus by 30 and causing Marked Shot to apply Deadeye instead of Vulnerable. Deadeye increases your Aimed Shot damage by 150% for 6 sec.
    • Sidewinder - Level 100 Tier -  
      • Launches Sidewinders that travel toward the target, weaving back and forth, dealing 300% AP as Nature damage to each target that they hit. Cannot hit the same target twice. 
      • Generates 60 Focus. 
      • Replaces Arcane Shot and Multi-Shot.
These mechanics together create the core rotation (if it can be called that) of Marksmanship Hunters in Legion.  Cast Arcane Shots to proc Hunter's Mark; cast Marked Shot to convert Hunter's Mark into a stack of Vulnerable; repeat to build 3 stacks of Vulnerable, then cast very powerful Aimed Shots, while maintaining your 3 stacks of Vulnerable with Arcane/Marked Shot combos as necessary. There is of course some nuance to how you weave in various talents and other abilities, and this can change substantially depending on if you take any of the 3 talents listed above, but the basic rotation revolves around the interaction of Hunter's Mark, Vulnerable and buffed Aimed Shots.

Proc'ing Hunter's Mark

The way Hunter's Mark has proc'ed has been changing over the last few builds of the Legion Alpha. From a fairly simple flat percent chance to proc when you cast Arcane Shot, to a more complicated RPPM chance to proc, with an added synthetic bad luck protection.

With the previous flat chance to proc Hunter's Mark (in one build it was a 50% chance per Arcane Shot), you run into a sort of oddity, in that the number of Hunter's Mark procs you get is going to be directly related to the number of Arcane Shots you cast.  There's no problem with that inherently, but it feels weird (for lack of a better term) to occasionally want to spam your Focus generating ability despite not needing to generate focus, but because you're trying to get a Hunter's Mark proc.

That aspect of it didn't bother me too much, but what did concern me was how much variation there would then be in our DPS because of this RNG factor.  With a flat 50% chance to proc Hunter's Mark on each Arcane Shot, for every 3 Arcane Shots you cast, you have a 12.5% chance of proc'ing Hunter's Mark on each one of them, and really 1 in 8 isn't at all uncommon.  At the same time, you also have the exact same chance, 12.5%, of not getting any procs at all.  So one out of eight pulls you'll have an amazing, meter-breaking opener, and one out of eight pulls you'll just want to go die and try to wipe the raid, 'cause your on-pull burst will be ruined.

The RPPM Hunter's Mark

My understanding is that the goal of implenenting RPPM in general was twofold: to provide an alternative to the predictability of ICDs, and to create a mechanic for proc'ing something that has a similar chance to proc regardless of your APM (actions per minute, or in this case, actions that could cause a proc per minute).  The way it does this is by increasing the chance to proc by how long it's been since your last chance to proc.  That is, if it's been 2 seconds since your last chance to proc something, then you'll have double the chance from when it had only been 1 second since your last chance to proc.

For the current iteration of Hunter's Mark we have 6 rppm, which is affected by haste. Only Arcane Shot and Multi-shot can proc HM (though i'll only be talking about Arcane Shot today), so we can look specifically at "time since our last Arcane Shot" instead of more generally "time since last chance to proc".  If we call that T, measured in seconds, and use "h" to represent our haste percentage as a floating point decimal, then if P(x) is our chance to proc Hunter's Mark, we have:

P(x) = 6T(1+h)/60

It's worth noting here that is capped at 10 seconds. This info is based on what Blizzard has told us about how other RPPM mechanics work; while I haven't found any indication that this isn't the case for Hunter's Mark, I still don't have enough data to actually say so definitively, so we're just working on that assumption.

What this means is if we have, for example, 15% haste, we should expect to average one Hunter's Mark proc every 8.696 seconds, regardless of whether we cast Arcane Shot on every single GCD, every other GCD, or every third GCD, etc.  This is because two 11.5% chances gives you the same expected value as one  23% chance.

A fun mathematical oddity: while this remains true for the average over a large enough data set, they do have different ranges. So if we were looking instead for the maximum possible result (as we sometimes do when trying to theorycraft for DPS ranking, instead of progression raiding),  Two 11.5% chances have slightly less chance to get 1 proc than one 23% chance; however, two 11.5% chances have a slight chance (1.3225% of the time) of getting two procs, while that's never possible with one 23% chance. This of course only affects rare occasions, and will in no way affect how you play Marksmanship in normal raiding situations.  

Bad Luck Streak Prevention

Just a couple patches after introducing the RPPM mechanic, Blizzard decided to add in a Bad Luck Streak prevention, since RPPM chances tended to be much lower than the chances on the old ICD method, which meant it was much more common that you'd never get a proc.  The bad luck streak prevention adds in another multiplier that increases your chance to proc something after you're gone more than 1.5 times the average proc interval, without getting a proc.

So if we have 15% haste, then we have a base RPPM of 6*1.15, which means the average proc interval will be 8.7 seconds.  If, then, we've gone more than 13.04 seconds without proc'ing a Hunter's Mark, the proc chance will start to go up.  The commonly used expression for this is:


For our calculation above, with 15% haste, if it's been 14 seconds since our last proc, our bad luck prevention multiplier will be:

MAX(1, 1+((14/8.7-1.5)*3) = 1.33

Bad Luck RPPM Integration

We then need to just include the result from the bad luck prevention as a multiplier in with our RPPM calculation.  If we defined MAX(1,1+((TimeSinceLastSuccessfulProc/AverageProcInterval)-1.5)*3) as B, then we have:

P(x) = 6*T*B*(1+h)/60

In most cases, (that is, until we've gone more than 1.5*AvgProcInterval without a proc) B will equal 1, and won't change the likelihood of a proc, but it starts scaling very quickly as soon as we go above 1.5 times the average proc interval.

Effects on the Marksmanship Playstyle

As I briefly mentioned above, the primary effect this will have on our play-style is removing the temptation to spam Arcane Shot when you're building stacks of vulnerable.  There's no reason not to use Aimed Shot or other focus dumping talents in between Arcane Shots, because of how the RPPM mechanic affects proc chance.  

Of course, with Sidewinder, Heightened Vulnerability and Patient Sniper, things will work out a little differently.  I'll be going more in depth into those in Part II.  

Overwatch Release

After a quick leak of the release date for Overwatch, Blizzard has officially announced the release date as May 24, 2016.  You can see the press release here.

I first had a chance to play Overwatch at Blizzcon 2014. For those that don't remember, Blizzard had been in development of a new, top secret game for years, only to tell us they had given up on the title in mid-2014 (if I recall correctly).  I bought the line as much as most people did, and as they likely expected, I went crazy when they played the first Overwatch teaser at the Blizzcon opening ceremony.  After, they had an area where you could play a fairly limitted version of the game, and it was easily the most fun I'd ever had playing an FPS.  Surely some of that was just the hype, and being in that moment, but I really did feel like this was a genuinely good FPS.

It turns out, I'm terrible at Overwatch. At blizzcon no one knew what they were doing, so I could kind of keep up.  But now that there are a significant number of really skilled players on the OW beta, I kind of feel bad queuing up.  I should probably invest some time looking at the maps so I can be a bit better prepared when the real game comes out.  And perhaps find some friends who will help me get some experience without the pressure of performing well in a random group.

With that said, don't take my advice on how to do anything in game, or even which characters to play. I still want to talk about a few of my early favorites, just don't assume that means they're actually good.


Name: Fareeha Amari
Home:  Giza, Egypt
Affiliation: Helix Security International
Role:  Offense

  • Weapon: Rocket Launcher
  • Jet Pack (movement)
  • Concussive Shot (snare)
  • Ultimate Ability:  Barrage

Pharah is the only offense character that I've really gotten excited about while playing.  While her ultimate ability felt a bit underwhelming, I enjoyed not having a machine gun feel, and thus every shot being important.  I also really liked trying to find creative uses for the jet pack: trying to sneak up on people, hover around corners and such, or shooting people from a direction they thought was safe, like when Widowmaker is in a sniper position, or occasionally you can catch Genji during his ultimate.


Name: Hanzo Shimada
Home: Hanamura, Japan
Affiliation: Shimada Clan
Role: Defense

  • Weapon: Storm Bow
  • Sonic Arrows (hunter's mark)
  • Scatter Arrow (aoe)
  • Ultimate Ability: Dragonstrike
Hanzo was the first character I randomly picked up when playing at blizzcon, and I imagine many non-dwarven hunters will have similar reaction to getting to use a bow.  His ultimate ability has an awesome visual, maybe the best visual in the game, really.  And both Scatter Arrow and Sonic Arrows give you a great edge when defending, making sure no one can sneak up on you.  

I found myself gravitating toward the defense role, which is a little bit odd, because in RBGs I hate having to play the typical hunter role of just sitting on a node, hoping someone attacks me.  Of course in Overwatch, there are no stretches where you'd go an entire match without anyone attacking, everyone is pushing/attacking and defending, at various points.  


Name:  Zhou Mei-ling
Home: Xi'an, China
Affiliation: Overwatch
Role: Defense

  • Weapon: Endothermic Blaster
  • Cryo-freeze (Ice Block)
  • Ice Wall (CC)
  • Ultimate Ability: Blizzard
A scientist who's been studying in Antarctica, Mei is fairly awesome.  I didn't enjoy her main weapon as much as the others; not a big fan of the machine gun or constant stream of damage feel (at least, it feels kind of weak after playing Hanzo/Pharah),but having the CC effect added to it makes Mei super fun to play. When used strategically, and also employing Ice Wall, you've got plenty of time to kill off the most OP attackers. Ice wall only lasts for a few seconds, but it gives you opportunities to pull of some pretty clutch moves when you're under attack.  

Early Release

While I've been enjoying playing in the closed beta, the open beta will be May 5th-9th, and should introduce tons more players to the limited current pool, plus an early release of the open beta starting the 3rd for anyone who pre-purchases the game. If you're planning on playing, and feel like teaching me how to dougie, let me know!  

Thrill of the Taxa: Invertebrates

Chibee giant silk worm hunter pet

Thrill of the Taxa is a series where everyone's favorite hunter/behavioral ecologist Aukatos is going over hunter pets from a biological lens.  We'll be working our way through some of the loosely defined phylum and classes of tamable hunter pets (and non-tamable hunter pets); last week he covered mammals, and this week Aukatos delves into invertebrates.


Who says they lack backbone?

If you are still reading from the first post in this series, you’ll recall that I tossed out a statistic in the first sentence, specifically that of the 8-14 million species that reside on the planet, only about 55,000 of them are vertebrates; that leaves the rest for the invertebrates, or animals without bones.

There’s a little bit of clarification to get out of the way. First, the way scientists classify all living organisms is broken down into a hierarchical scheme called taxonomy, with each higher levels encompassing more and more of life, and lower levels becoming very specific.

When I say vertebrates, you could take it literally to mean anything with bones, but what really separates them is a little wider. For example, there are some vertebrates without a proper backbone, namely hagfish. However, what hagfish do have is a notochord (spinal cord) which runs through the backbone of all vertebrates, and is something that all invertebrates lack. Some other distinctions can only be seen in embryonic development of many of the animals that come to mind today. For example, all humans have a tail for a brief time as an embryo. Fun!

Now that we’ve got a separation between vertebrates and invertebrates out of the way, let’s turn our lens more closely to the topic today.

Out of all the invertebrates that make up the vast majority of life on earth, the diversity in WoW represented by tameable pets are comprised almost entirely of one portion of invertebrates known as the arthropods. Arthropods are what most people think of as “bugs”, but it also encompasses everything from arachnids to crustaceans.

Aside from arthropods, the only other family of inverts that WoW features are the worms, which most likely belong to the phylum Annelida (think earthworms vs flatworms).

In WoW wasps have the highest species abundance (different models/skins), followed by spiders, then crabs. IRL, beetles take the prize for the most species in one Order. That’s not just invertebrate Order, but ANY animal Order. It’s true! Creepy-crawly beetles make up about a quarter of all animal species on the planet, and comprise almost half of insects!! I mean, few hunters have been interested in battle beetles since Ahn'Qiraj, but the scarcity still nags at me.

Wow Hunter pets invertebrates
Figure 1. A phylogeny of Wow’s invertebrates by in-game family. Numbers above each family represent the number of unique looks (species) within that family. Moths are the only pet family tameable at multiple life stages in WoW.

Under your skin

Yeah, sure, mammals have radiated far and wide, but inverts have done a pretty bang-up job considering they can’t internally regulate their body temperature. Inhabiting every continent, even Antarctica, arthropods can be found in the air, on the land, underground, and underwater.

High reproductive effort coupled with a high tolerance for temperature variation are just a couple of the reasons many inverts have radiated to fill almost every niche on the planet. This ability to occupy unused space, and exploit available resources therein, is just another reason for the success of our spineless friends.

Like the preceding article on mammals, we run into a problem. Invertebrates are so diverse in form and function it’s impossible to make generalizations about them all, so I’ll again be choosing a few specific taxa for discussion below.

Spiders are found on every continent save Antartica, and thrive in both urban and natural environments. If there’s prey to catch, spiders can almost assuredly be found spinning their webs close by. Spiders can tolerate both heat and drought, as well as an excess of water or (temporary) extreme cold. Some spiders can survive a partial freezing of their body! If you want a spider-free zone in WoW, you’d need to look to Winterspring, or perhaps Storm Peaks or Icecrown.

Worms fall much into the same category, depending on the type of worm. So do moths. And beetles. And the list goes on…

An Insect’s Life

Above I said that inverts had evolved to fill almost every available niche in the environments they inhabit. For example, you’ll find arthropods in all manner of places, from decomposing organic matter at the forest floor to eating living plants in the canopy. You’ll find them eating other animals too, from mammals, to fish, to birds, to themselves.

In-game, the only real recollection I have of seeing inverts preying on other animals is in the form the well-used quest trope: free *insert NPC here* from the spider webs! We don’t have any real direct interactions like we see in the cats or wolves, where they actually chase down their prey. How cool would it be to see a critter walk into a spider web, get caught, then a spider come down and grab it!? Eh? Maybe it’s just me.

When it comes to social interactions, insects have some of the best studied social systems in the world. Blizzard has played on this, heavily at times and more subtly at others. On one extreme, take Ahn’Qiraj or the Nerubian Empire. These anthropomorphic arthropods have constructed vast hives and cities that clearly plays on the sociality of insects. While elsewhere, perhaps in the Jade Forest, you might run into a hive surrounded by Orchid Wasps or Honeykeeper much like would in real life.

There’s something unique to the invert pet families that isn’t found anywhere else in WoW. You are able to tame the same “species” at multiple life stages, as different pet families! The Silkworms of Pandaria are simply the larvae of the moths they pupate into! In real life, the domestic species is Bombyx mori, and at least the adult moth resemblance is clear in-game.

Figure 2. The silkworm, Bombyx mori, as cultivated by the Pandaren, and its adult counterpart. In the Valley of the Four Winds, both Silkworm and Silkmoth were mutated and ill-tempered (no laser beams attached to the heads though).
Figure 3. WTB Tamable Waterbears!


What pet do you want by your side in a raid? How about something that you can freeze, boil, drown, dehydrate, irradiate, and throw into the vacuum of space and it still comes out swinging? Look no further than the nigh-indestructible Tardigrade, also known as the water bear. These basically microscopic creatures have all the above on their resume, not to mention a few hundred-million years’ experience on earth.

IRL Insect Abilities

In a perfect world, the flying families probably wouldn’t bite as a first method of attack; instead, they need a sting ability, which is currently only available to Scorpids.  Though overall, the Bite ability is fairly accurate for most invertebrates.

You can really tell that the developers at Blizzard played on the exoskeleton aspect of invertebrates. Beetles have Harden Carapace, Crabs have Harden Shell, Ravagers have Chitinous Armor, etc. In real life, these insects can’t actively harden their exoskeletons, but I get the feeling they’re going for here. Still, it would be nice if they could branch out a little and give the families a smidge more thought. After all, you can’t judge a beetle by its cover. 

Scorpions, the real-world version of the in game Scorpids, can only consume a liquid diet; the venom they inject into their prey allows the insides to be turned into liquid that can then be sucked out. We can assume that in game, if you use feed pet on a scorpid to feed them meet of some kind, they must be liquifying it before eating.  The good news is, for those of you who haven't used your Feed Pet ability since pet happiness was removed in Cataclysm, some Scorpions can go up to a year without feeding.

Silithids, Sporebats, and Shale Spiders. Oh my!

While it’s easy to say that Silithids or Ravagers are most likely invertebrates, they’re clearly invented by Blizzard and don’t have a perfect, or most likely even intended, analog in real life. However, one reason I’m not more upset about Beetle diversity in-game is because it wouldn’t be a great stretch of the imagination to see something like Silithids as close relatives to beetles.

Shale spiders are clearly elemental beings. Despite the “spider” nomenclature, they only have four legs and don’t seem to spin webs, nor do they have venom. Maybe I missed some lore somewhere?

And finally, we must revisit Sporebats again. Where do these guys fit in? They almost look like some invertebrate with the wings and tendrils. If I had to guess, they're invertebrates, But there’s the whole, animate fungi issue…

Legion Beta: Stat Scaling

Legion Hunter Stat Scaling

Stat Conversions in Legion

We received a fairly unexpected announcement from one of the blizzard developers today, regarding a complete overhaul of the way stats will scale on gear.  The reasoning they gave was that there are some specs that are just miserable to play until you get to a certain level of secondary stats; the common example being fire mages, which apparently aren't much fun until you have a significant amount of crit.  This was true for SV hunters and Multistrike at the beginning of WoD (before the complete and total nerfing of the spec so there would be no one playing SV in PvE when they switched it to a melee class).  This seems somewhat true for MM hunters at the moment, as your reliance on RNG goes down at higher crit levels, and to me, less RNG means more fun in most situations.

This is being accomplished by a combination of two methods.  First off, they're changing the stat conversions, so it only takes half as much of a stat to get 1% of a stat (as it would have taken at level 110). This means that in dungeon-level blue gear, the secondary stats on each piece of gear will be worth about twice as you normally start an expansion with. Second, once your piece of gear is then above a certain ilvl, the amount of secondary stats it gets will (hopefully gradually) switch from an exponential stat increase to a linear stat increase.  The Agility on the items will continue to increase exponentially, as it currently does.

If you'd like to read the full post from Celestalon, you can do so here.

The explanation we've been giving for the need for exponential gear/stat scaling is that it lets a wider range of players complete content.  That is to say, a guild like Method, with a very high skill level and effort, should be completing mythics in week one, with only a week's worth of mythic gear, while a guild like mine, with considerably less skill and effort, won't finish the last mythic boss until we have maybe a dozen weeks of farming mythic gear, and we're all basically in our "best in slot" sets.

I know of several people who I've heard complain about the exponential scaling of gear being a significant problem for the game (the Grumpy Elf comes to mind, for one). At this point, I tend to agree with them.  The introduction of split raids makes the reason for having exponential stat increases less compelling.  A side benefit of it may be needing stat squishes less often (if wow ends up having more expansions than Legion).

Anyhow, I don't want to pass much judgement before getting a chance to experience the "feel" of it on beta, which I think I'll go do now, as they also just opened up level 110 testing on the beta.