Saturday, 28 June 2008

Rock, Plastic, Hackers

I can only imagine that the account stealing lowlives are, at this very moment, looking for new avenues of immoral revenue generation.

For those who don't know (all three of you,) Blizzard just announced that it's introducing a new security token for protecting WoW accounts.  Curse has some details, and you can read Blizzard's page on the authenticator.  Rather than simply re-hash what's on those pages, I'm going to go a little into why this is likely going to more-or-less eliminate account stealing, and how it all works.

In The Beginning, There Was "super_funny.jpg.exe"

Firstly, how do people's accounts get stolen in the first place?  There's a few ways to do it; the most direct is to get a keylogger or other malware on to a user's machine.  This software will then either record the user's keystrokes, or simply sniff WoW's memory to get your username and password.  No, copy and pasting it from a file won't help.  Neither will checking "remember account name."

Another way is to simply guess the password.  If you can find out someone's account name, you can make a few educated guesses on their password.  People have a nasty habit of chosing amazingly easy-to-guess passwords like "1234567" or "qwerty" or even, I kid you not, "password."  If you are one of these people, change it now!

Before we get on to how the authenticator works, let's take a little side trip.

Deterministic Capriciousness

Computers can't do random.  They just can't.  A computer has the imagination of a lump of concrete.  Any time you see a computer come up with a "random" number, what it's actually doing is generating a pseudo-random number.  In other words, fake random.

The way it does this is that it starts with a seed.  It can be whatever you want, really.  Typically, it's either zero (not good) or the date and time the computer/program started (better.)  Then you ask for a random number.  The program does a bunch of (waggles fingers around) things to the number.  The result is your random number.

When you ask for another random number, it does those same things to the last number it gave you, which gives you the next one.

Now, what's interesting is that if you know the seed, and the algorithm being used, you can exactly reproduce the entire sequence of random numbers.

Aside time: lots of computer games use this to good effect.  For example, when you started a multiplayer DOOM match, all of the players' computers would be synchronised to the same random seed.  This meant that when a "random" decision was needed, all of the computers would make the exact same decision every time!

If It's Good Enough for Banks, It's Probably Good Enough for a Computer Game

So why did I drag you through that?  Because that's basically how the authenticator works.  Blizzard gives you a little plastic token with four things: a button, a small screen, a serial number and a random seed.  To associate your token with your WoW account, you tell Blizzard the account name and the serial number.

What's important is that only Blizzard knows what seed your token is using.  So when you go to log in, and they tell you to "press the button and type in what number the token shows," they are the only ones who know if it's right.

So let's say someone's managed to get a keylogger on to your machine.  They get your account name, they get your password, and they get a token number.  But that number is useless to them, because each number is only valid exactly once.  Once that code has been used, it isn't used again.

So even if they get your account name and password, they still can't get in!

Same thing with attempting to brute-force your password.  Maybe they'll succeed.  But even if they do, it doesn't matter, because the chances of getting both the password and the token code correct at the same time is infinitessimally small.

Does this replace a good password?  No.  For optimal security, you need three forms of authentication:

  1. Something you know,
  2. something you have and
  3. something you are.

The first is a password, the second is something like these authenticator tokens, and the last is biometrics like fingerprints or DNA.  Blizzard isn't likely to implement the third, nor do I think it's really appropriate or necessary.

Just Five Easy Installments of Your Soul

So then there's the issue of cost.  Some have balked at having to pay US$6.50 for the token.  RSA has a similar product called SecurID where the hardware tokens costs around US$40 each (it's tricky to find exact pricing, mind you.)  Blizzard is offering this at a fraction of the cost.  When you're spending $25 a month to play, paying US$6.50 once to secure your account is not asking much at all.  Keep in mind that this would have required extra infrastructure on Blizzard's end, which they haven't charged you extra for.

Some have said that asking customers to pony up money for it is wrong, and that they should just make the servers more secure.  The problem isn't that the servers aren't secure: I have never heard of a case of Blizzard's servers being compromised.  What is getting compromised are people's accounts.

It's that weak password.  It's the software you run on your machine without personally auditing it, or verifying the source.  It's the emails you get from other compromised machines, spammers and relatives filled to bursting with malicious images, animations, scripts, the lot.

People who want to steal your account would be insane to try and attack Blizzard when the end-user's machine typically has all the security of a damp tissue in the middle of a typhoon.

And that's not something Blizzard can "fix."  It's something the entire industry has been struggling with for decades.  You know how they overcome it?  By using hardware tokens and biometrics.  Expecting Blizzard to secure a simple two-factor system is like asking a hippopotamus to learn to fly.  It's just not physically possible.

Others have made objections along the lines of "Blizzard should just allow third parties to produce these."  Ok, fine; user goes and buys a hardware token from "" and loses their account two days later.  Why?  Because "" was a front for gold-sellers, and since they sold the tokens, they know what the random seed is.  Whoops; there goes your security.  The fact is that unless Blizzard sells them itself, it has no way of knowing whether the third parties are trustworthy or not.

I,  For One, Welcome Our New Plastic Security Token Overlords

Long, rambling and somewhat disjointed story short:

The new Blizzard Authenticator is awesome, cheap, as secure as the best internet banking sites, and it's about bloody time.

Disclaimer: I am not a security expert.  I just happen to be a programmer, and have done several courses on the subject at Uni; enough to know what's going on here.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Frosty the Seasonal Boss

Granted, it doesn't really roll off the tongue.  If he'd been 10+ man, I could have said "Frosty the Raid Boss" which would have been perfect.  Alas.

Before we start, why do we want to kill Ahune, exactly?  [The Frost Lord's War Cloak] is why; [Amulet of Bitter Hatred] too if you're doing him on Heroic.

So, you've got your gun/bow/crossbow/squirtgun, a bag full of ammo/arrows/permanent dye and want to go bust up some giant summonable frost lord.  Good for you.  What do you do?

Well, to summon Ahune you need to do one pre-quest in normal-mode Slave Pens.  Just enter Slave Pens, and there will be an NPC right inside the entrance.  Grab the quest from her, and make your way through the instance to the first open area.  There, you'll see the NPC to turn in the quest.  Once done, the same NPC will give you a daily quest to summon Ahune.  The daily quest itself is turned in at the big crystal just to the left of the tunnel you entered through.

Remember that turning in the daily quest will immediately summon Ahune; make sure your group is ready!

Also, you should probably clear the area before summoning him.  Killing the groups on the right, left, the pat and the makrura ahead should do it.  Just don't stand behind Ahune, or you'll pull the naga further on.

Ok, you've summoned Mr. Ahune;  what do you need to know?  Happily, everything you need to know can be condensed into this  list:

  • Ahune has two phases: "kill the adds" and "dps like a caged, rabid grizzly bear."

  • Phase 1: ("kill the adds")

    1. In this phase, Ahune takes 75% less damage, so you shouldn't be shooting at him unless there's nothing else to do.

    2. Don't get within melee range of Ahune himself; he has a mean right-hook.

    3. Keep Aspect of the Viper up.  Don't be afraid to use "normal" ammo for this bit.  DPS isn't the issue; it's keeping your mana and cooldowns in reserve.

    4. At the start of the phase, a large, rocky elemental will spawn.  Smaller elementals will continuously spawn throughout phase 1.  The big guy must be dead by the time you reach phase 2—this shouldn't be a problem.  The little guys have about 1,500 hp on normal.  Try and burn them down as they spawn.

    • Keep a close eye on your pet.  The elemental has a stacking 100 dps dot that cannot be removed.  If it gets to three stacks, pull your pet out and let the dot tick off.  Mend pet does just over 150 hps, so three stacks isn't too bad, but from there it quickly becomes fatal.  If it gets above five, your pet is pretty much dead.

    • Keep an eye on your healer.  When one of the little adds goes after her (and they will,) nuke it.

    • Once the big guy is down, you might find yourself having trouble killing the little adds that continue to spawn, on account of the melee destroying them in the blink of an eye.  If this is the case, you might as well autoshot Ahune.  It won't do much, but it's better than sitting there twiddling your thumbs.  Also, he's not immune to Serpent Sting, for what that's worth.  /shrug

    • Don't be afraid to set your pet to aggressive once the big elemental is down.  Your pet will not aggro any of the nearby naga or slaves, and it allows you to perforate Ahune while your pet shreds adds that come after you.  Just remember to put him back on passive when you go to phase 2.  If he keeps going after Ahune himself, back off a bit so he's out of your pet's aggro range.

  • Phase 2: ("dps like he just insulted your mother")

    1. Swap in your best ammo.

    2. Send your pet in to attack.

    3. Hit Aspect of the Hawk.

    4. Hunter's Mark the core.

    5. If it's not on cooldown, and it increases your DPS, use it.  That means Bestial Wrath, trinket(s) and Blood Fury for Orcs.  If you don't have a Shammy and can handle it, Rapid Fire too.  A God Mode macro helps here.

    6. DPS the Frozen Core as hard as you can.  Ahune has no direct attacks in this phase, so threat isn't an issue.  (Don't forget about the spikes; see the general section.)

    • Phase 2 lasts about 30 seconds.  Phase 1 lasts for over 2 minutes, which means that Bestial Wrath and most cooldowns will be ready to go by the time phase 2 rolls around again.  Don't equip trinkets if you won't be able to use both in 30 seconds.  I personally only use one "On Use" trinket since I'd probably forget to activate the other one.

  • In general:

    • Stay off the sheet ice on the ground.  There's a random knock-down effect in place.

    • If you see swirly effects near your feet, move.  If you see ice popping out of the ground near you, move faster.  If you don't, a big spike will burst up below you, and throw you into the air.  This is true in both phases, so don't get too focused on DPS.

    • Due to the above, stay on the leftish side of the area, so you don't get thrown into the water.

    • Once he's dead, make sure everyone loots the chest.  Until the chest despawns, you cannot re-summon Ahune.

    • You can attempt Ahune as many times as you like, provided someone in the group hasn't summoned him today.

And that's basically it.  Go in there, nuke him down, and have fun.  I've already gotten my cloak off him, but it's such a fun fight that I'm looking forward to doing it some more before the festival's over.

That the pet schorchling looks awesome has nothing to do with it.  Nope.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Rumours of My Demise...

It's always struck me as something of an odd phrase.  Not "the rumours of my demise are incorrect," but "greatly exaggerated."  Which would be like: "the rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.  I didn't explode in a ball of fire; I actually choked to death on a rather small piece of cheese."

Which means that anyone who uses the phrase must logically be a zombie!

Where was I?

So I didn't post at all last week.  Bad Its.  But, I have a pretty good reason for it.  I wasn't playing WoW.  No, I haven't burned out.  See, my desktop has been getting less and less stable  over the past few months, and it came to a head a few weeks ago when I did an Arcatraz run.  My UI ran out of memory six seconds into the Lady Delrissa fight, leaving me to auto shot the whole time.  And then, almost immediately after engaging the final event, the machine rebooted.  I got back just in time to watch the last mini-boss go down.

I didn't feel it was fair to keep instancing when I couldn't even stay up for more than 20 minutes at a time, so I stopped instancing alltogether.  I also stopped doing dailies when I couldn't even make it up to Blade's Edge from Shattrath without having to restart WoW.

So I didn't write anything last week because I honestly had nothing to write about.  Well, OK, I did, but I just didn't feel like it.

But on Tuesday my new machine arrived!  And yes, I have shamed my ancestors and descendants for generations to come by buying a Dell, but thus far it's working beautifully.

Plus, I now get to play WoW at 1920x1200 with everything maxed at 60 fps on a 24" monitor.

It's quite fun.

So, with a non-crashy machine to play on, I've dived head-long into the Midsummer Fire Festival.  Over yesterday and today, I took Its out to every bonfire, honouring/dousing as appropriate.  I also snuck him into each of the Alliance capital cities to get my [Crown of the Fire Festival].

If you're curious, Ironforge was the hardest, Darnassus was second (although the fire itself is just in Rut'Theran which is a complete cakewalk to get to, there's a bonfire in Dolanaar which means going all the way through Darnassus to get to it,) Stormwind a distant third with the Exodar a complete push-over.  Seriously, it's no wonder the Blood Elves were able to sabotage the ship; they'd be more secure if they fired their security staff and hired a bunch of fuzzy baby hampsters!

It was actually really fun trying to get into the cities without dying repeatedly.  Stormwind was really entertaining; I managed to find a way up on to the ramparts.  From there, I managed to get to the little back-alley between the main drag and the bank without dying.  Feigned to lose the guards, mounted up again, and rode straight to the flame.  By the time I got there, the guards had given up on me!

I felt sorry for the silly humans, so I did a dance for them.  Then this pally showed up.  I think he wanted to take a crack at me and steal me lucky charms get some honor points.  Sadly for him, I'm an Engineer, so I hit my Gnomish Cloaking Device, hopped into the canals and hearthed to Shattrath.

Right now, I still need another 150 or so blossoms to get the shoes; I've already grabbed the shoulders and robe.  I've also gotten myself a little pet dancing fire dranaei thingy:

I also managed to get a group together tonight to get my first stab at Ahune.  I have to say that I can't remember having this much fun in a boss fight... ever!  It was hectic, lots of movement, cool sound effects, and I got to DPS my little heart out.  I'll post some tips for Hunters wanting to take a shot at him in a bit.

The cape I wanted dropped first try... but the other hunter won it.  Story of Its' life, really.  It seems like awesome gear only ever drops if there's someone else in the group that also wants it.

In other news, Its also finally got his [Beast Lord Mantle].  After I don't know how many SV runs, the first time it dropped, the other hunter won it (see, told you it was the story of his life!)  However, it dropped for the second time ever yesterday.  And there was another hunter.  But this time, I won the roll!  Hooray for me!

I also finally got my pair of  [The Sunbreaker]s (shouldn't they be called "A Sunbreaker" if they're non-unique?) enchanted with +20 agi, giving me a really nice pair of raiding weapons.

Now, if only I could find some Cobrahide Armor Kits on the AH...

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Because Thinking is Hard

On the off chance that you haven't noticed, the Interwebs are ablaze at the moment, with the release of several new features to Wowhead.  OK, so maybe "ablaze" isn't the right word.  Perhaps "smouldering."  Possibly even "smoking a bit, but not an actual fire hazard per-se."


The feature that most people are yammering on about are item scales.  If you don't know what they are, these are basically a scoring system for gear.  You assign relative scores to various attributes and bonus effects, and Wowhead will then compute relative scores for different bits of gear.  For example, let's say I'm a very narrow-minded fire mage who earnestly believes that every point of +spell damage is worth 10 +intellect, and that's all there is to gearing.

Here's what the Wowhead scale would look like:

And here's a snippet of how it would score some items:

As you can see, this is pretty useful for getting a rough idea of how valuable a piece of gear is.   You'll also notice that since I did this search on "Armor" in general, it's not limited to stuff Mages can actually wear.  The scales can be used in conjunction with the existing filters, so you could easily search on gear usable by Mages that drops in heroic-mode instances and is epic, or whatever you want.

However, item scales aren't new; they've been around for ages.  The first (at least, that I know of) was AEP or Agility Equivalence Points.  It was designed for rogues to give them a simple way to rate gear.  There have been a few other point systems dreamed up over the years (TankPoints is one notable exception in that, as far as I know, it actually does some theorycrafting on the fly for you as opposed to simply summing attributes.)

But what's really got me excited is how well the new Wowhead scales work with an old addon I've been using for ages: Pawn.

This addon basically does exactly the same thing that Wowhead now does: you tell it the relative worth of different attributes and bonus effects, and it will compute a score for each piece of gear you look at.  The great thing is that instead of having to fire up a browser to check an item's score, Pawn will insert the score into the item's tooltip.

The big problem with scales is coming up with them in the first place.  Take mages as an example.  How much is crit worth relative to spell damage?  Relative to intellect?  Relative to strength?  [1]

However, the fine, fine human beings at Wowhead have done most of the work for us by coming up with default scales for every class and spec.  That's not to say they're perfect; but they do give us a starting point.  What's more, now that this exists in the main stream, it's likely we'll see people posting "optimised" item scales that we can use.

Let's say you've found an item scale that you like.  Like, say, our fire mage scale above.  You'd rather like to be able to use that in-game.  Well, OK; maybe not you personally, but work with me here.  This is long enough without trying to do something actually useful.

First of all, grab Pawn and install it.

Once you've done that, you can bring up the Pawn configuration by typing /pawn.  There's also a button on your character sheet if you'd rather use that.  You'll get an initial "go read the documentation," message, but we can ignore that for now.  Click on the "Options" tab down the bottom.

A few notes on these options.

  • Show item levels will show an item's level in its tooltip.  This isn't the "required level;" an item's level determines how much of each stat it gets.  For example, weapons that drop off heroic end-bosses are ilvl 105, whilst gear from those same bosses are ilvl 110; Tier 4 is ilvl 120, except for stuff that drops off Prince Malchezaar which is ilvl 125.  That said, the item level is not the be-all and end-all.

  • Show item IDs will tell you an item's unique identifier.  For instance, my [Surestrike Goggles v2.0] have an itemid of 32474.  Fun fact: look at the URL for Wowhead's page on that item; the last part of the URL is the itemid itself.  This means you can always get an itemid from an item's tooltip in-game, and then directly enter the Wowhead URL for that item!

  • Show inventory icons displays the icon for an item above its tooltip in some cases.  Personally, I prefer it off, but turn it on and see if you like it.

  • Add a blank line before values does exactly what it says: it adds some padding into the tooltip.

  • Align values to the right edge of tooltip also does what it says; with this turned off, the scores are right next to the scale's name; this makes them a little harder to find when you're scanning a tooltip, so I prefer to have this checked.

  • Show (*) on unrecognized stats relates to things that Pawn doesn't know how to score (for example: the minor run speed increase on some meta gems.)  If it finds something it doesn't understand, it puts "(*)" next to the score.  I turn the warning text off because I'm well aware of what it means by now.

  • Digits of precision is useful if you have a lot of really close scores.  Personally, I leave this at 1 and try to engineer my scales so that scores aren't so close together that I need to increase the precision.

  • Calculate unenchanted values will display an item's score as if it wasn't enchanted.  This is important because when you get a new drop it's not going to be enchanted, is it?  This levels the playing field a bit.

  • Calculate enchanted values will display an item's score including its enchant.  This is important because when you get a new drop it's not going to be enchanted, is it?  This lets you know if the new drop is already better than what you have even before enchanting.

  • Normalize values can be useful if your scores are all 6+ digits; your scores will generally drop to very small numbers with this.  It doesn't change how they're computed, however; it's just visual.

The rest you can leave or fiddle with, but they're the important ones.  So, with that done, let's look at porting a scale from Wowhead to Pawn, shall we?  Click on the "Scales" tab.  You should see the default Pawn scale; uncheck the "Show this scale in tooltips" box down the bottom to hide it.  Now, click on the "New empty" button, set "Fire Mage" as the name and hit enter.

Now, let's get to work.  The big list on the left contains all the things Pawn knows about.  When you click on one, a description shows up on the right, along with a box for entering its value.  First of all, we'll click on Intellect, and set it to "1."

Next, scroll down the list to the "Spell stats" section, and select "Spell damage."  Set that to "10."

That's it; we're done!  Because we're a Fire Mage (not really,) change the colour to a nice firey orange and click "Close."  Now, let's see if it's working...

Cool, huh?  Note that it's not the same score as Wowhead gives us, however.  This is because Wowhead and Pawn use different normalisation techniques for the scores.  If you go back to the options screen and check "Normalize values," this will get the two close, but they still won't match.

So if they don't match, why is this useful?  Well, imagine you're in an instance and some inconsiderate bastard starts looting corpses while you're still busy DPSing your little heart out.  The item pops up and... ooh, that might be useful.  But is it better than what you've got?  Hmm, not as much spell damage, but it does have a bit more crit...

In situations like these, you can look at the scores in the tooltip to give you a quick indication of whether a piece of gear is worth further investigation or not.  Combined with an addon that shows comparison tooltips, it can save you a lot of time better spent causing things to violently explode.

Now, there are a few more caveats: Wowhead's system will automatically fill gem slots with whatever gems give it the best result (maybe; it's not documented anywhere, but that's what it looks like it does.)  Pawn doesn't do that; instead, it allows you to assign a score to different coloured sockets.  So what to do?

The trick here is to look up the gems you're likely to put in those slots.  Count up its stats, and work out what the gem's score would be.  It's important that you don't just look at Wowhead's score for the gem, since this won't be directly compatible with your Pawn scales.  It's not that hard, though.  Take [Runed Living Ruby] as an example.  We said that each point of spell damage was worth "10" in our scale, so the gem itself is worth "90."  Assuming you intend to put those into your red gem slots, plug in "90" as the value for red gem slots.

Meta gems are a complete pain in the rear end, but since you're not likely to ever upgrade to a piece of stylish scalp-protector without one (at least, not until WotLK,) once you're in gear that has them, you can probably just ignore the meta gem value (or give them some silly high value like 1000.)

There's another trick that might be of interest to the hunters out there.  You all know how weapon speed is basically the deciding factor in ranged weapons, right?  Well, Pawn supports a nifty little trick that Wowhead doesn't.

First of all, you need to decide which direction you want to go with weapon speed.  Head down to the "Special weapon stats" section, and select "Ranged: speed".  If you're BM, enter a big negative number (which will give higher scores to faster weapons;) otherwise enter a positive number (which will favour slower weapons.)  This part will also sort of work with Wowhead.  [2]

What you do then is scroll right down to the bottom and select "Speed baseline" and enter your ideal weapon speed.  In my case, I set "Ranged: speed" to -500, and "Speed baseline" to 2.5.  This means that weapons faster than 2.5 will gain points, and weapons slower than 2.5 will lose points.  Nifty, eh?

One last final tip before I go: you might not be happy with the scores.  Specifically, if you don't normalise, you can end up with big scores like 3890, and if you do normalise you end up with tiny scores like 1.57.  If you want something in the middle, you can divide all the attribute values by a power of 10.  So instead of using "68" as a score, use "6.8" or ".68".  Just remember to do this to all of your values.

And that's really all there is to using Pawn.  I would recommend that you use as many scales as you have roles.  For instance, Druids should have a "Tank" scale, a "Kitteh DPS" scale, a "HPS" scale and a "HPM" scale.  This will let you quickly decide if any particular piece of gear is an upgrade for one of your gear sets or not.

Does this mean you can rely entirely on Wowhead and Pawn for gear choices?  Don't talk crazy like that.  Things like this aren't a substitute for experience (or at least, really complex theorycrafting,) but they do help you make quick "ballpark" guesstimates.

P.S.  If you didn't get the joke in the comic, that's because you're pronouncing "pawn" and "porn" wrong.  No, the British pronunciation was in use first, ergo it wins.

[1]  Yeah, OK, that last one was a trick question.  :D

[2]  "Sort of" because Wowhead seems to have hiccups with negative scores.

Image of tasty looking tempura prawns © Swamibu, the not-real-at-all girl who is actually really wearing a bikini under those black bars © myvirtuallady, and the pawn that I spent like 10 minutes cutting out is © Jud McCranie.

Wait, what?

Just a quicky: I found the following while wandering around the WotLK leaks wiki page for uncategorised spells.

51663 Slap to the Face Delivers a face slap to all nearby players, stunning them. Targets affected by this ability can still communicate through the forums. Lasts until the next patch is released.

For some reason, I have a funny feeling that's not going to make it live...

Ninja edit: there's something absolutely hilarious down the bottom of the page regarding Nesingwary. I decided not to post it here verbatim, as some might prefer not to see it. From what I can tell, it's apparently something you would get in the mail. Click the link above, head to the bottom, and have a look. I lol'ed.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Playing Catch Up

One of the biggest issues with pets is levelling.  Unlike Warlock pets which stay in perfect lock-step with their master's level, hunter pets have their own independant level, and gain XP independantly of the hunter.

Typically, this isn't a huge issue.  However, if you've got a pet that you haven't taken out grinding for a long time, or are trying to bring up a low level pet you trained (perhaps for its unique looks,) you're in for a long and painful grind.

The second oldest of my pets (in terms of how long I've had him in my stables) is Bisque, my turtle.  Sadly, turtles don't make very good questing or grinding companions due to their sub-par damage and, by extension, threat output.  As a result, Bisque has lagged pretty far behind my other pet, Tiddles.

However, I've been making an effort lately to bring the poor thing up to level 70.  The trick with this is that hunter pets only gain XP on kills from which you would also gain XP.  That means that if you are level 70 and your pet is at level 10, you have to kill mobs level 62+ or your pet won't get any XP.

That said, some mobs are better to kill than others.  For my money, the best mobs to grind on when levelling up a pet are these chaps and chapettes:

The Firewing Warlocks are by far the best mobs to use for this purpose once you're at level 70, for several reasons:

  1. They're the right level: 62-63 for the most part, meaning you should have no trouble dispatching them even when your pet isn't really in a position to help.
  2. They're all in pansy cloth armour, meaning you don't lose too much damage against them.
  3. They drop tons of stuff you can sell off; trash, rep turn-ins and cloth by the truckload.

But most importantly: they're casters.  That means that unless they're trying to escape you, they're just going to stand there chucking shadowbolts at you.  This means you don't have to stuff about with kiting or traps or letting your pet tank.  Here's what I do when I'm grinding on them:

  1. Hunter's Mark him.  Let him know that you're coming for him, and that there's no escape.  Running will only make him die tired.
  2. Send your pet in.  Yeah, the poor thing's not likely to do much damage, depending on its level, but at least it won't be bored.
  3. Wind up an Aimed Shot.  Nothing says "so long, and thanks for the XP" than an Aimed Shot crit to the face.
  4. Just before Aimed Shot fires off, hit Arcane Shot.  They should both go off at the same time for that extra punch.
  5. If you're lucky, you might have gotten a double crit, which usually kills these guys outright.  If not, just fall into a normal 1:1 Steady:Auto rotation.  The warlock should be dead inside of four or five shots.

The reason I send my pet in ahead of opening fire is that the warlocks will typically start casting a Shadowbolt at my pet when they see him.  Bisque is more than capable of taking a few shadowbolts, and it means I get to work my shot rotation without any pesky pushback.

You also shouldn't have any problems with runners; they don't tend to get very far once you're into your shot rotation.

And that's basically it.  Just stay in the area around the mana bomb, and grind on them until you're covered in Elf  blood from head-to-toe.  Or your pet gets a level.  Or you get bored.  Or your bags fill with so much cloth that you have to go and unload.  You know, whatever suits you.

One last piece of advice: put together some grinding music.  Personally, I like stuff with a strong beat, stuff ripped from 90's video games, and Yakety Sax.  Seriously, that song makes anything entertaining (warning: that second one is rated Very M for Lots of Blood.  Thou hast been warned.)

For reference, when I ground on these guys to get Bisque from level 64 and a half to 65, I went through half a stack of water, ~1200 bullets and had the following in my bags afterwards:

  • 40 Netherweave Cloth,
  • 75 Runecloth,
  • 4 greens and a lockbox,
  • a smattering of various health and mana pots
  • 70 Firewing Signets,
  • 1 Arcane Tome and
  • ~6 gold worth of vendor trash.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Looking For Macro

Every time I log on, I forget to do something really important: put myself in LFG.  It's just a pain in the bit that I sit on to have to click through the drop boxes over and over and over again.  So I did what all good programmers do; I jury-rigged a macro to do the work for me!  [1]

/script local a,b;a=SetLFGType;b=SetLookingForGroup a(1,2);b(1,2,7) a(2,2);b(2,2,9) a(3,2);b(3,2,11)
/script SetLFGComment "BM Hunter; I kill stuff dead."

Yes, it looks horrible, but it's not too obtuse.  Well, OK, it is, but at least there's a method to the madness!

/script local a,b;a=SetLFGType;b=SetLookingForGroup

Programmers are lazy, and since "SetLFGType" and "SetLookingForGroup" are kinda long to type, I just set up a shorter name for them: "a" and "b" respectively.

... a(1,2);b(1,2,7) a(2,2);b(2,2,9) a(3,2);b(3,2,11)

Here's how the LFG system works: the system gives each player three "slots."  For each of these slots, you specify the type of thing you're looking for (dungeon group, raid group, battleground, etc.) and the specific location (Mana Tombs, Karazhan, Warsong Gulch, etc.)

"a(1,2)" is saying "set the first slot to look for a Dungeon group," while "b(1,2,7)" says "set the first slot to look for a Dungeon group for Steamvaults."  Yes, the "1,2" in the first call means the same as the "1,2" in the second.  Don't ask me why it's repeated; as far as I can tell, it just has to be.

So where did those numbers come from?  Here's the trick: open up the LFG window, and set it to look for a group.  Pull down the first drop down.  It should have a list like "None, Dungeon, Raid, ...".  The first entry in this list is "1", the second is "2" and so on.  The same applies to the second drop down.

Say you want to look for a group to run Zul'Aman; pull down the category list, and count down to "Raid."  Let's say it's the third one down.  Now pull down the second list and look for "Zul'Aman."  Suppose that it's ninth in the list.  Finally, we'll use the first LFG slot for this.  The code would be:


That's not too bad, right?  In the example of my macro, I'm looking for groups for Steamvault, Shattered Halls and The Arcatraz.

/script SetLFGComment "BM Hunter; I kill stuff dead."

This one's pretty simple: it sets the LFG comment.  I like to make mine at least moderately amusing.

So that's it; when I log in now, I can just hit that macro, and it sets me up in LFG.  And the next time some half-brained level 12 idiot invites me to a group without saying a word so I can run him through RFC, it only takes a second to fix it back up!

[1]  Dance, computer. Dance!

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Sunday, 1 June 2008

My First Linkage

So what do I discover today while thumbing [1] through my Google Reader?

A New Hunter Aspect: Capricious (Blog)!

Sniffle.  My first [2] link from someone else's blog.  And from a well-known WoW blogger, to boot.  There are many links on the internet, but this one is mine.  Alright, it's really Kestrel's, but you get the idea.

And since Kestrel seemed to like the cartoons, I'll see about posting a new one on Wednesday.

[1]  Not literally thumbing, you understand.  I personally use my index finger for scroll wheel spinning.  I just said that as a sort of metaphor-type thing.  Using the scroll wheel with your thumb would probably be kinda awkward.

[2]  Well, OK, to be fair it's technically the second since BRK linked here from the big "list of posts what are about the RoDB," but I get my very own post with this one!  I shall have to have it framed.  Or maybe just starred.