Dust Settles, Phoenix Rises

17 03 2009

(Yes, that’s a little play on the name of my server for those of you who haven’t managed to stalk me down yet)

Let’s start today with a quote from the glorious new official, Mythic-generated guide to Witch Hunters!

Witch Hunters don’t have big armour but it is possible to balance this weakness, at least a little bit, by increasing the ability with the weapons

delayed post = mild MMO burnout

delayed post = mild MMO burnout

I don’t know about you guys, but that answered all my questions.  OK, OK, I’ll stop; it could have been an EU player speaking outside their mother tongue and as a fairly well-educated linguist I know that English is arguably the hardest language to learn.

But then again, judging by the quality of text on the shiny new official Mythic forums, it wouldn’t surprise me if my ribbing is well-founded.  But Mythic are being good sports about the whole deal: most posters have proven unable either to write or read, as evidenced by the majority of discussion being outside the guidelines requested.  I’m still not certain why it was necessary to throw $$$ at official forums and not, say, developer salaries or server stability (or just more of them; WTB not sitting in a queue outside the Inevitable City while the other 23 members of my all-guild warband get phat lewt) BUT it does seem that some 1.2 changes are a direct product of Mythic reading and responding to feedback on their own forums, picking out valid topics of concern through rapidly expanding QQ cesspools, and for that I must commend them.

So with a quick nod to the title of this post and the wall of text it was threatening to become, thoughts on 1.2 now that everybody’s fairly well adjusted.

  • Witch Hunters are fine, even after the BAL nerf.  Killing tanks is MUCH harder than before, openers were gutted, but at least they didn’t screw stealth into the ground.  I’m killing things just fine, although I haven’t done much dueling against players of comparable gear (except to ambush high-RR Sorcs… mmmmngh yessss)  Pick Lock is amazingly fun, even if it mostly ends up a kamikaze tool with me dead and unrezzable.
  • Zone Domination is nice and in theory quite fair, but it’s definitely made zones (and fortresses!) on my server start flipping like hotcakes.
  • Choppas really hurt my alt Rune Priest and look too much like Black Orcs armor-wise, which is a bummer because that’s the biggest race in the game and should offer the most room for variation.  Not looking forward to facing them at 40, especially if tractor pull stays.
  • Made the mistake of taking up Cultivating to support my Apothecary skill, didn’t manage to get any/all BoP seeds solo farming in an hour as some people, so am apparently screwed.  Also spent lots of money levelling the skill, as I R DOIN IT WRONG
  • The Twisting Tower scenario, like Reikland Factory, was fantastic and ought to be brought back.  The Maw looks like it took about 10 minutes for a developer to toss together, and is just as boring as Reikland Hills.
  • Fuck the Windows key.

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Reach Out, Touch Faith

24 02 2009
captions are for the weak

captions are for the weak

Well, after witnessing our first ever WH-specific Developer post (sorry for the sloppy linkage; it’s the best I could get but you still have to scroll down to the highlight) on the beta forums, it seems that 1.2(a) proves Mythic is starting to listen to us.

I say starting because presumably Burn Away Lies – soon to be virtually the only usable execution – and our offhand auto attacks seem to scale still off Ballistic Skill (say that ten times fast!).  And of course there’s the melee/ranged crit disparity.

EDIT: Well you know, Witch Hunters have hats so we can eat them.  See my hat?  Mmm, hat.  Yummy.  Tastes like foot.

But oh my god, there’s somebody out there reading our shit!

Now all I need is a regular Lost Vale group…

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Fighting the Witch Hunter

19 02 2009

I realize here that I might be giving away trade secrets and impeding my own success, but so be it.  A well-played fight is much more enjoyable for me, and if people learn to counter the career effectively then perhaps we won’t have as many whine posts and ensuing nerfs from Mythic’s attempts to appease the ever-outraged forum crowd.

1. Notice the Opener. You just got jumped!  Read your scrolling combat text, scan the debuff icon, create an Aura or other mod, or look at your character.  Swirly barbs will encircle you in three pretty colors: red (anti-melee), blue (anti-spell), and green (anti-movement).  Decide whether the sacrifice of action is worthwhile and act accordingly.  If jumped with green swirlies and you think you can run to help or safety, that might be best but otherwise stand still and pivot to deny the WH your flank and keep him in your frontal parry/block cone.  If jumped with red, play defensively unless you know the WH is particularly squishy and you feel confident about soaking the damage whilst eliminating the threat.  If jumped with blue and you need to cast to defend yourself, use a morale ability if possible and make your decisions carefully e.g. as a DoK, try to heal via melee instead of spells.

2. Communicate! Stealth classes have always preyed on disorganization and lack of intelligence among their opponents.  If you get jumped, make a macro to alert your teammates (not that anyone ever reads chat while fighting; I blame Mythic for making the spell animations too pretty) or speak up in Ventrilo.  If you were ambushed on your way out of a warcamp or at a choke point, announce it in region chat; chances are a Witch Elf won’t be able to resist the opportunity to duel, or there might be a zerg passing by that could steamroll your aggressor.  Conversely, keep an eye on your own rear lines in battle and be proactive if your teammates are uncommunicative.

3. Location, Location, Location. Don’t be alone if you can avoid it, don’t overextend yourself (I love punishing greedy tanks that outrange their healers), and as mentioned before don’t let a WH take potshots at your rear.  Stay close to your tanks if you have a Guard, but also keep them between yourself and where you anticipate a WH’s entry.  Use terrain to your advantage – stand with your back to the wall or in a difficult-to-reach spot.  If knockback is one of your primary defenses, take a moment to plan where you’re going to send the hapless WH flying so you don’t simply send him 2 feet backward into an incline or obstacle.

Choose wisely, young grasshopper.

Choose wisely, young grasshopper.

4. Know Your Class, Know Theirs. It’s amazing how many people will never detaunt or seem unaware that they can cleanse/remove a WH’s debuffs.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; if you’re hit with a healing debuff like Punish the False (and can’t cure it), removing DOTs might end up being more damage prevention than trying to spam heal yourself.  If I use Repel Blasphemy (and perhaps augment it with Riposte), don’t waste a Rend Soul or other melee ability with a long cooldown; DO turtle behind your shield, use attacks that are undefendable, and expect me to follow up with a Confess! If you are a caster and I just jumped you with Fanatical Zeal, popped Shroud of Magnus, and am slotting Vindication, spamming spells at me is tantamount to suicide.  Read your combat log after a death to figure out what you could have done better.

5. CC is Your Friend. A WH has three goals: DPS, harass, and/or get out alive.  He must accomplish all of these quickly; prolonged fights are his nightmare.  A disarm shuts him down almost completely; snares and movement barbs too.  And if you can counter his (very limited) escape options, remember that the WH is a cloth wearing class with typically low resists and will die very fast to focus fire.  Unless I’ve been skirmishing for a while and acquired an Unstoppable buff, it generally only takes one form of (well-applied) CC to deny me a kill and lay me out for a beating.  Look for a window of opportunity and abuse it.

(For the Order folks reading, a lot of that applies against Witch Elves as well, although they do have very different tactics and abilities despite being our mirror; do your research and don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

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The One.Two Punch

17 02 2009

The PTS is up, the sky is falling, my character is copied and I’m here with what everbody’s been speculating madly about – numbers.

…OK, and a little commentary.

Burn Armor: This ability has had its damage contribution from stats reduced.

  • 37% nerf (real, i.e. actual damage testing and not tooltip/delve only)
  • already barely hit hard enough against most classes you’d use it for (tanks, Marauders, melee DoKs)
Blessed Bullets of Styrofoam, go!

Blessed Bullets of Styrofoam, go!

Sudden Accusation: This ability has had its damage contribution from stats reduced.

  • 68% nerf (real)
  • all the keyboard turners can continue typing in /gu while on autorun; this won’t pose a threat any longer

Fanatical Zeal: This ability has had its damage contribution from stats reduced.

  • 22% nerf (real)
  • Sorcerers/Magi should already be easy targets, but this and other buffs to healers will make them much tougher marks

Trial by Pain: This ability will deal slightly more damage, and activate Blessed Bullets twice if allowed to run the full duration.

  • 25% buff (real)
  • procs bullets before first and last of the 6 shots
  • looks like they increased the base damage but lowered the scaling…? too little, too late; still worthless.

Burn Away Lies: This ability will now deal more damage.

  • 65% buff (tooltip*)
  • NOTE: I have not had the opportunity to test the real damage on this; it could be that the base has improved but scaling decreased, similar to TbP above.  …and then the server crashed, and characters were wiped, and someone else managed to get the info first ; looks like 50-60% real.
  • does away with the irony of the “burst damage” mastery tree offering less burst than the alternative harass/debuff tree
  • still calculated through Ballistics from what I can tell, despite being a melee-range ability like Burn, Heretic (which improves with Strength)

I’ll not address the various bug fixes.  If they’re accurately implemented, hurrah; if not, then nothing’s changed anyway.

The bullet nerf is unkind, to be sure, and does nothing to bridge the gap between WE kisses and our mechanic.  If anything, it widens because the newly-possible bullet crits seem dependent on the ranged critical% (which no WH in their right mind stacks) and not melee.  But the dual stat dependency dilemma is a huge issue in itself, and I won’t get started on that here.  The stealth nerf – no longer being able to sneak away when under attack, even if you disrupt/parry/dodge everything – is salt on the wound for careers with already very limited survivability and escape mechanisms.

Overall we seem to have gotten hit by a lot of crossfire in the QQ-inspired Witch Elf nerfs.  I won’t get on a soapbox yet or scream about the apocalypse as some would, but it doesn’t look pretty.

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Hip, Hip, Hurrah! Hip, Hip… huuuh?

4 02 2009

Witch Hunter morale abilities have for some time now fallen into the category of “things that make you go hmm” (or in some cases, the simple “wtf?” will suffice); our career-specific tricks are especially lackluster.  For the confused Witch Hunter in all of us I hereby present: Morale 101.

somewhere there is an entire industry for staging photos of happy office workers

somewhere there is an entire industry for staging photos of happy office workers

Rank 1 morales: quick to build, possible even in a duel if long enough (30+ secs for me, roughly)

Sever Nerve:  In my anti-caster setup.  Best coordinated with other burst damage.  Lackluster in PvE, only 20 DPS if spammed and may interfere with using other morales.  I pass over it in favor of…

Confusing Movements: Five stars.  In my anti-melee lineup.  Fantastic when dueling a melee class or Squig Herder; combine with REPEL BLASPHEMY for 12+ seconds of 100% parry.  Great in PvE for evade tanking e.g. (1) tank dies, you buy healer time to rez (2) trash on the squishies, smack ’em around and buy time until a tank can pick them up.

Exoneration: Worthless. 133 health per second and (at best) 80% AP regen for 9 seconds shouldn’t make a difference in any situation, and Confusing Movements’ damage avoidance is probably superior unless you’re being nuked by casters.  If anything, socket Sever Nerve to kill your target more quickly and make your escape before you ‘need’ this pitiful trash.

Rank 2 morales: also quick to build, probably our most useful

Force of Will: Nice against most careers if used properly; hit it early in a fight and/or when you’re low on AP to cripple your opponent and get the most benefit.  Great start to any fight against a tank because it limits their options (if you’re using Judgment bullets also you just made their life hell) and nice for draining a Zealot/Shaman so they can’t spam heal themselves.

Relentless Assault: Eeeeh, meh.  Strictly PvE, of course, and lately I’ve been getting more use out of a morale3 I’ll discuss shortly.  More for your group than yourself (you could get twice as much from Force of Will)

Reversal of Fortune: The disarm probably won’t land if you’re dueling one other player because you’ll have already given them Unstoppable, but in skirmishes and medium-to-large battles it can save squishies – including yourself – and the damage is gravy.  Our only decent AE without speccing deep Confession, slotting weird tactics and such.  I pop this constantly.

Rank 3 morales: diminishing returns kick in here; they take significantly longer to reach

Broad Swings: Why, Mythic, why?  At best it’s 6 attacks that become slightly AE (seems like a very small radius); I’ve only ever heard of it being novel when combined with Trial By Pain (procs on each half-second bullet) and Dragon Gun.

Witchfinder’s Protection: A lot of people are sour on this, and understandably so – it’s another PvE-only, seemingly lackluster ability.  Recently, though, I’ve been getting a lot of love out of this one.  It helps the rear-line squishies when they get aggro from trash, and tanks by being a quasi-Shield Wall.  For example, last night my LV group was attempting Sechar (and beat him without a Warrior Priest spamming groupheal, much to the surprise of elder guilds) and for his 30-second pleasure aura – the tougher for us to deal with – we rotated Shield Walls and this morale.  As I don’t use ranks 2, 4, or usually even 1 during PvE, this has become my staple “O SH*T” button to sit on.

Rank 4 morales: probably restricted to sieges; as a disclaimer, I haven’t fiddled with all of these extensively

Frenzied Slaughter: After factoring in global cooldown, this ends up applying to only four abilities used immdiately afterward.  Unless you got all the way to rank 4 morale just for a big Exit Wound or Absolution crit, this isn’t going to make much of a difference.  At all.  In practice: the AP reduction = minor, damage = mediocre, cooldown reduction = moot.

Divine Blast: Keep/fortress siege; aim at choke point, profit.

Excommunicate: Fortress siege – pop it on their main tank and watch him die.  Or you could blow an entire bar of hard-earned morale to kill any 1 player that might be receiving heals.  The damage is a bonus.

Expurgation: Another anti-zerg ability.  Hope you can make it out alive afterward.  Double the damage of Excommunicate, and a handsome snare component.

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28 01 2009

Aah, the hotfix.  I don’t recall when exactly it became a staple for MMORPG developers, but they sure love it now.

When ORvR influence was implemented, it was a fantastic way to motivate players and get them out of WoW-battleground-esque scenario queues, even if only to play musical keeps.  The promise of extremely sexy equipment rewards drew many, myself included, to the kind of RvR DAoC players knew and missed.

After roughly a month of influence farming, I finally finished Dwarf vs. Greenskin and proudly chose my Bloodfist Rapier reward, which boasted a Boost proc to buff melee critical % and damage.



I thought I’d try something out and paired it with my epic offhand weapon, Wyvernsting, for double Boost procs and proceeded to build my character around various synergies.  Inquisitor’s Fury would hasten me, which would cause me to attack faster, thereby critting more often, etc.  I was able to achieve 75-80% uptime on both the haste and crit buffs, and I began resocketing my gear from my former spec to a more melee-oriented lineup.  I also respecialized Judgment-Confession to take advantage of strong positionals and burst DPS that would compliment my crit frenzy.  For a while, I almost did as much damage as a Witch Elf (almost)!

And then something damning came to pass.

The poor rapier had been victim of botched coding and had received a hidden Hemorr(h)age proc – a pitifully weak bleed.  I barely saw it go off and could have cared less, but it was reason enough for a Mythic developer to heavyhandedly butcher the weapon in an overnight hotfix.

I woke up one morning to find my beloved weapon not with the hidden bleed proc removed, as one might expect, but to have the Boost proc removed and me stuck with a disgusting Hemorr(h)age proc.  My precious Boost was now on a different weapon – the other ORvR influence sword – which I was barred from receiving since I had already chosen my rewards.

Suffice to say I avoided RvR for a few days because my performance had tanked with all my strategies gone awry. Myself and many Witch Hunters are frustrated for several reasons.

  • The change doesn’t make sense – why not just delete the hidden proc?  Why stick us with the proc that we deliberately avoided in the first place?
  • Why an unannounced hotfix?  Ironwind was more seriously bugged (with stats calibrated for a two-handed weapon), but had its fix written in patch notes.  A similar issue with a KotBS sword’s procs in 1.2 received a nod in the patch notes instead.
  • Why have we no recourse?  The T4 ORvR influence rewards are a one-time choice, and although the Boost proc that we sought still exists on different equipment, myself and several WHs have spoken with CSRs only to be told that we cannot have influence refunded or an option to rechoose, although Mythic gives free mastery point respecializations to players after drastic patch changes and that option is actually available in-game for a few gold.
  • These are the best weapons in the game.  Lost Vale drops could be better, but in fact are loaded down with obscure stats like +34 Willpower, missing talisman slots, and lack any procs whatsoever.  Also many players will probably never see them because of the dedication, organization, and effort required to run the most difficult instance in the game.

WAR Community Coordinator James Nichols did address the issue equivocally, but nothing has surfaced since then and the prognosis is bleak.  If you know of another career that was affected by a similar change, I encourage you to submit feedback, create forum posts, and try to draw attention.

I wasn’t really expecting this from Mythic, to be honest; a large reason why I hopped onboard for WAR was because I remembered their superior dedication to the community and honest dealings.  This was certainly a rude awakening, and I hope not a sign of what’s to come.

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Burninating the Heretics!

24 01 2009

Well, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that a lot of the reason I chose a Witch Hunter was the appearance and lore.  Not the most well-reasoned decision perhaps, but so be it.

As I stand now at 40/48, I’m having a blast.  Whether on the front lines or infiltrating the enemy ranks, when played well the WH can be a true marvel of dancing around the battlefield taking out tactical targets while incapacitating others.

I only wanted to borrow a cup of sugar...

I only wanted to borrow a cup of sugar...

Which is not to say that I play well all (or even most) of the time, or that it’s easy.  I find myself testing strategies and learning new things as often as I find myself dying, which is an awful lot.  Balancing offense, defense, CC, and being situationally aware of whether or not you’ve become someone’s target of choice can be a lot to process, and striking a balance is never the same.

And that balance is hard to achieve.  I think Witch Hunters get a bad reputation for being the rash cloth-armored kamikaze that charges into enemy lines and dies before accomplishing anything or giving a healer ample time to save them.  It seems sometimes healers have decided we’re so squishy that we’re not even worth attempting to keep alive, and I can count the number of times I’ve been guarded by a tank on one hand.

If you look only at damage done in a scenario, you’d probably conclude than an average WH is one of the worst DPS classes in the game, which is misrepresentation.  Looking also at the killing blows and maybe solo kills of those same characters and reading between the lines is where the WH shines.  A caster can stand in the rear and tab-DOT everything that comes in range from the safety of his healers and tanks, farming damage for the scoreboard, but a DOT on a tank is about as likely to result in a kill as tripping over WAR’s sticky geometry.  DOTs create pressure, but that alone is easily outhealed because it’s so predictable – just slap a HOT down or cleanse the debuff.  A burst DPS class, however, will land the kill.  We watch health bars, we assist, we remove the buffs and HOTs, and when someone gets low and an opportunity presents itself, we put out that surprise DPS that clinches the deal before they can recover.

My take on the class so far in general is that it’s very well suited for smaller scale, group- and objective-oriented (yes, we can be soloists, but our versatility benefits others too) battles.  My most enjoyable fights so far have been scenarios – both PUG and guild – when I had supporting and capable allies, and was in the thick of combat from beginning to end.

Is it hard to learn?  Yes.  Waralytics data (as inaccurate as it may sometimes be) shows that Witch Hunter is one of the classes least likely to make it through the leveling process to 40.

But I’m having a grand old time burning the heretics and I’ll probably stick with it for the foreseeable future.  That’s what games are about, anyway – having fun!

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