Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pet choice for the levelling hunter

Here I am expanding on what was an already long comment on Mania's latest RFC: whats-the-weakest-leveling-pet. I am slowly in the process of revising my own pet reviews and this RFC is something I feel fully qualified to comment on.

My original comment is number 59 on Mania's site. I've reposted it here and expanded some.

Back in October last year I wrote a review of every pet family available to low level hunters. Blizzard have made several changes to pets since I last updated my post but it is still broadly relevant now.

The reviews are at: http://wowdecrypted.blogspot.com/2008/10/hunter-pet-reviews-pre-wrath-patch.html

The main changes since then have been the change to +5/+5/+5 to family stats, adding thunderstomp as a talent for all tenacity pets and tweaks to furious howl and rake.

Mania specifically asked – “For this post, I am mostly interested in levelling and questing before level 40 (although I would love to hear your thoughts on higher levels as well). That’s pre-exotics, and also pre-Thunderstomp for the Tenacity pets.”

Pets get their first talent point at level 20. The first few points make little difference to pet usability, its only when a bunch of talents stack up that it is really noticeable – usually around level 40. The biggest factor then in the lower levels is the pet’s family skill.

Diet can be removed as a factor in pet choice by use of the minor Glyph of Mend Pet. Spam mend pet a few times out of combat and your pet is happy again.

So, what factors make a good family skill for use by a low level “noob” hunter?
– aids in threat management.
– has a short cool-down or longer uptime.
– ease of use.

So, in the 3.1 environment:-

Poor: (5 families)

Bats – Sonic Blast
- 2 second stun and small damage on 20 yard range, long cooldown. Sometimes seems to stutter.

Birds of Prey – Snatch
- limited single target/ humanoid only effect on long cooldown.

Moths – Serenity Dust
- Heal over Time and 10% attack power boost on long cooldown. If left on autocast its often too little too late. Tied to a macro its much more useful. The healing is at best 20% of the pets health for most of the level ranges considered here. Rated poor because its tricky to use well.

Tallstriders – Dust Cloud
- Causes all attackers within 10 yards to miss one attack. 8 second duration, 40 sec cooldown. Hardly worth the effort. What I hadn't considered here is the AOE threat generation. In my testing last year I found they couldn't hold aggro very well on a single target compared to others in the same talent tree.

Crabs – Pin
- a 4-second channelled pin that does little damage on a longish cooldown. This skill is never available when you need it and it's channelled nature makes it more difficult to use successfully. Like most of the immobilise moves, it gets better when tied to a macro.

OK: (7 Families)

Dragonhawks – Fire Breath
- smallish direct damage and 2-sec DoT on fast 10-sec cooldown. The problem with this skill is its 20 yard range - the pet has a tendency to "stutter" into range before it eventually gets its attack off.

Ravagers – Ravage
- decent damage attack, with a 2-second stun. The long 40 sec cooldown is the main issue here. Like other stuns, its better bound to a macro.

Spiders – Web
- 40 second cooldown, 4 second immobilise. Its a bit better than bat's Sonic Blast, simply because its more likely to fire off at a useful time and lasts longer. Much better when bound to a macro.

Wind Serpents – Lightning Breath
- 20-yard range, 10 sec cooldown smallish nature damage attack. The 20-yard range and stutter effect are the problem here.

Boars – Gore
- decent damage, 10 sec cooldown melee attack. Its special bonus is tied to successful use of the charge talent, so should go off about every 2nd fight. Rated as OK simply because other pet's specials don't require talents to be effective.

Turtles – Shell Shield
- 12 seconds per minute of 50% damage reduction. Its pretty nice in an emergency, but on too long a cooldown for general use, plus it doesn't help retain aggro.

Raptors – Savage Rend (Demoted from "good" for this revised post!)
- 1 minute cooldown medium damage + medium damage DoT. Its extra damage boost only comes into play when the pet gets a crit hit using this ability. Low level hunters will not see the benefit from this.

Good: (8 Families)

Serpents – Poison Spit
- 30 yard range, 10 sec medium-high nature damage DoT (8 seconds uptime). It also has a slowing effect on casting times. This ability is great. The 30-yard range means the pet gets off its first shot at the same range the hunter does most times. It has a short cooldown and is effectively up 80% of the time. The anti-caster effect is an added bonus.

Carrion Birds – Demoralizing Screech
- 10-sec cooldown AOE Attack Power debuff (that generates threat) to all in melee, with 100% uptime AND a single target medium-damage attack (also generating threat), thats also available widely at any level you like? Sign me up!

Cats – Rake
- 10 sec cooldown, low damage, low DoT melee attack that has almost 100% uptime. Easy to use, decent ability that can occasionally be paired with a successful Prowl.

Hyenas – Tendon Rip
- 20 sec cooldown low-medium damage melee attack with a 6-second slow. Like all disabling moves, this would be better on a macro but even autocast the combination of duration and cooldown means its ready to go when needed most fights. The damage it does is a nice threat boost too.

Raptors – Savage Rend (moved to OK section for this revised post)

Wolves – Furious Howl
- 40 sec cooldown, 20sec duration Attack Power boost for both pet and hunter. For most fights this is a better than 50% uptime DPS boost that is fairly easy to manage. This skill was reworked somewhere between 3.0.3 and 3.1. It is a much better levelling skill than when initially reviewed.

Bears – Swipe
- 5 second cooldown (!) AOE melee damage. Uncomplicated and deadly. It appears that the front-facing limitation has been removed in a recent patch. One of the best skills available for a levelling pet.

Crocolisks – Bad Attitude
- 2 minute cooldown, 45 sec uptime melee AOE medium-high reactive damage. This skill is interesting. Every attacker that hits the pet takes damage. Every single attack, for 45 seconds. Great for AOE aggro generation and generates significant damage in the right circumstances. Probably better taken off autocast and tied to one of the hunter's attack buttons so its not triggered too early.

Scorpids – Scorpid Poison
- 10 second cooldown medium-low DoT nature damage with 100% uptime. Simple to use. Rarely resisted. Sustained aggro generation.

Not available to low levels: (12 Families)

Chimaeras – Froststorm Breath
Nether Rays – Nether Shock
Silithids – Venom Web Spray
Sporebats – Spore Cloud
Core Hounds – Lava Breath
Devilsaurs – Monstrous Bite
Spirit Beasts – Spirit Strike
Wasps – Sting
Gorillas – Pummel *lowest level gorilla is level 32.
Rhinos – Stampede
Warp Stalkers – Warp
Worms – Acid Spit

By the time a hunter can get one of these pets, they and the pet have significant talent points to spend. Individual family skills make less difference in most cases than appropriate talent choices. The exotic pet families usually combine skills that are similar to others reviewed above. Also by this stage, most hunters have learned a thing or two about playing their class, further smoothing out the rough edges in family skill differences.

What pets would I recommend? Probably Bear and Carrion Bird for most playstyles. Both are AOE, but only in melee range. Serpents are awesome if you are regularly going against humanoids. Thunderstomp for tenacity pets, available at the earliest at level 44, is an awesome addition. Ferocity pets become essentially unkillable once they get bloodthirsty by the mid-30's.


Ray7996 said...

I'd disagree with the placement of Wind Serpents, as a hunter who leveled with a WC one, mine rarely "stutters" and it can get aggro before it even makes it to the enemy, meaning it's more forgiving if you start shooting early. Raptors are also great for leveling, all my friends leveled with them. I'd like to comment there aren't many Cunning dearies in the Good list compared to Ferocity. That may be sensible, but I've found Cunning's a miracle for leveling. From 1-20 I was with a Bird of Prey, 20-40 I've leveled with a wind serpent, 40-77 with a croc, 77-79 with my dear Chimera (soon 80, as well).

Cryptography said...

Hey Ray. I rated wind serpents in the "OK" category, along with the somewhat similar Dragonhawks. In both cases, while otherwise decent enough, their failing is the 20-yard range and the stutter effect that can cause. Perhaps it occurs more for me due to the ~400ms latency I usually play under. Serpents, with their 30 yard range almost never suffer the stutter effect.

I also dump raptors in the "OK" category. I'll be testing them again fairly soon, but the savage rend skill generates only a few percent of their total damage, mostly because of its long cooldown and short uptime. They are much better later in the game when they benefit from higher crit%.

Back in the pre 3.0 world, I loved the high dps pets, ravager, raptor, cat, and the owls with screech. My early hunter levels were often done with these or boars by my side. Things changed with Wrath. Lots of the comments on Mania's thread dont seem to be taking this into account. Once great pets are no longer so great.

Even so, the worst pet (say Bats perhaps) are still entirely viable and not all that far behind the best.

Scott Morgan said...

Some /agree, some not. One of the things I see here and which I noticed back on the original thread is that people (myself included) sometimes have trouble "rolling back" their learned skills and tricks to truly view huntering in its most skill-less form - I noted many cases where the truly simplest playing style was sort of passed over in favor of low grade workarounds; in my view the pet diet/mend pet glyph being one such.

Bears, boars, carrion birds and hyenas I agree with (although with the above caveat that compensating for limited pet diet with a glyph arguably could make it less of a "simple" pet - for one thing it may take a new hunter some time to scrape together the 5-10g for the glyph let alone know about it to begin with).

Not sure why crabs are downrated for pin due to 40 sec CD (which as you noted does better with a macro), whilst crocs merit top placement with their 2 minute CD bad attitude (which you recommend triggering manually).

"I am asking specifically in terms of a pet for a new hunter, because I’d like you to assume that the hunter is not a particularly skillful player. Some pets can really shine when used well, but not so much when you just leave them to their own devices."

But, this list is good for anyone who is planning on putting at least a minimum of effort into learning tactics/macros/etc, so all in all I like it.

Scott Morgan said...

Also, on serpents - if we were talking about anything but solo PVE (like PVP or raids) I'd agree with putting them in top bracket, but for solo PVE I've found ranged pet attacks hurt more than help, .e.g instead of tying up the enemy far away, they pull it in closer, where an aggro break is more dangerous than if you have the additional space to slow it down or finish it off... plus you have to hold back on DPS a little longer.

The only way I'd play a serpent, wind serp or dragonhawk in solo PVE would be with its ranged ability set to /autocastoff, and tied into a macro.

Spirit beasts are a notable exception (I love their spirit strike/charge combo), but they don't apply to the lvl 20-40 discussion...

Cryptography said...

Hey Scott. Crocolisks are "better" than crabs despite the long cooldown because of the way the skills behave.

If left on autocast, a Crab will use pin right near the start of battle, meaning its root effect will be used up long before its useful (eg against fleeing humanoids). Its then got most of the rest of its 40-sec cooldown to wait before its useable again, so there may be another complete battle done before its up again.

A crocolisk with bad attitude on autocast however will have triggered it early in the fight as well, but the effect will still be running for 45 seconds. This should see it through the entirety of the first fight, and possibly be of use in a second battle, or for handling adds. Once the ability runs out there is a longish cooldown remaining but by this time the hunter will probably be resting and looting their kills anyway so it doesn't always contribute to downtime.

Bad attitude isnt really one of my favourite skills, but it is fairly easy to use and reasonably valuable even when used haphazardly.

On diets, any creature that eats meat or fish is easy to care for. Meat drops all over the place and fishing is available to anyone with a little patience. While a truly newbie huntard in the making wouldn't have the glyph, it is an obvious choice for most hunters as they research and develop their character.

I still defend my position on Serpents. I have them as pets on a number of mid-20's hunters and they are great. The poison spit skill does enough damage that it provides an aggro spike early on. It doesn't suffer the ill effects of most other ranged attacks. The anti-caster debuff is just a nice extra.

I open most fights with a serpent sting rather than any other attack. This gives any pet a chance to get off a growl before there is any significant threat generated. I very rarely have aggro problems, and it is perhaps this that most distinguishes my playstyle from that of a true newbie. The rest of the time I just mash buttons mostly in true huntard style!

I play my warlocks in a similar way, opening with a DoT attack that hasn't had a chance to build aggro before the pet is in there, munching face.