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Legion Marksmanship Hunter – Doing Poor Well

Despite always feeling that, “this time I am leaving WoW for good,” I find myself subbed again and getting ready for Legion.  What brought me back?  I still have a larger group of online friends in WoW than any other game.  That, and I wanted to see what was going on with all of these Hunter changes!

Well, not quite all.  Never been a big fan of BM, although I have played it from time to time when the situation called for it (like all of TBC and the first few months of Wrath).  Other than those dark days, I have mostly trended towards MM and Survival.  Survival has had its moments of greatness (Wrath trap-dancing, come on!), but MM usually was the better option from a pure kill-the-thing quickly perspective.

With that history, I did a little reading up on the current state of the specs and decided that I would try out MM and Surv in the Broken Shores scenario and Legion invasions and try to figure out which spec suited me for Legion.  My plan for Legion was questing, dungeons, and maybe some light raiding, so I don’t need to be the greatest DPS  of all time.  That being said, I like seeing my name at or near the top of the Recount list, because I am a bit of a narcissist.  So, I went to Icy Veins, figured out the ideal DPS setups and went out to test them in the real virtual world.

After some hiccups, I decided that I loved the feel of Survival and its new, rather complex rotation.  It had some nice synergies and big numbers.  After a little while, I even started getting use to being in melee range.  The one thing, however, that I could not get past was that Disengage was gone.  In its place was Harpoon, a 30 sec. CD ability that pulls you to your target.  On paper, this sounds like a great idea, since you need to be on your target to be doing damage now.  In practice, not having Disengage frankly sucks.

Back in the day, I went to the Frostheim school of Jump-Disengage.  It provides amazing mobility, particularly when you can use it out of combat.  On top of that, the Posthaste talent gives you +60% move speed for 8 seconds after disengaging.  People are complaining about the change to Aspect of the Cheetah (short speed boost on a 3 minute CD), but Disengage+Posthaste makes Aspect of the Cheetah almost irrelevant.  Moreover, it always brought me great joy flinging myself all over the place, even when completely unnecessary or somewhat annoying to others in the group.  By contrast, Harpoon only works in combat, and the speed boost of Posthaste seems very situational.

So, the lack of Disengage ruined Survival for me, and I turned to MM instead.  Actually, I turned to MM earlier, but I didn’t like it.  The optimal DPS setup of Sidewinders (replaces Arcane Shot and Multi Shot, has a cooldown, but applies Vulnerable) plus Patient Sniper (Vulnerable debuff does not stack, is much shorter, and Marked Shot and Aimed Shot do quite a bit more damage) almost roots you in place for several Aimed Shots and can be quite boring.

Realizing this might get a little technical for non-MM people out there, the core of the spec revolves around applying and utilizing,  eh, screw it.  Just read the first two paragraphs of what Wowhead says here, and you will get the gist.  Okay then, the optimal DPS build replaces Arcane Shot and Multi Shot and changes around the stacking nature of Vulnerable to make it more powerful and of shorter duration.  That basically reduces the rotation for MM to Barrage (when available)>Sidewinders>Marked Shot>Aimed Shot*2.  There is a little nuance, but I said “basically.”  I dislike.

After abandoning Survival, I tried MM again.  Still, ick!  So, I played around and came up with what is likely to be a sub-optimal build, but I like it.  Hopefully, I will not get laughed at too much.  There also is not a ton of guidance out there on MM builds that do not use Sidewinders/Patient Sniper.  So here it is, my help to getting your MM Hunter to the middle (or bottom) of the pack.

This is my talent setup:

MM Build

And here is a link to my Non-Optimal Marksman Talent Build.  I am only going to talk about a few talents and then focus on the spastic, movement-friendly rotation.

First, is Lone Wolf.  The other talents kind of suck, but I do like my pocket tank, I mean pet.  When questing, I will probably take Steady Focus and keep my pet with me.  When I have a tank, all signs point to Lone Wolf being head-and-shoulders better than the other talents.  Alternatively, Black Arrow, with its taunting shadow fiend, is a decent choice for questing if you really hate pets but want something to keep the hate off you.

The meat (or lack thereof) in this build is Sentinel and Piercing Shot.  These are, in no way, a DPS increase over the other, preferred talents.  They do, however, allow you to apply Vulnerable in a less stressful, easier to manage way, and deliver a huge amount of damage every 30 seconds with Piercing Shot.

Here is the general idea of the rotation for a single target.  For multiples, just replace Arcane Shot with Multi Shot:

  1. Fire Piercing Shot on CD, when your Focus is 100+.  The damage scales from a lot to a whole bunch depending on how much Focus you have, so you may want to Arcane Shot your focus up if it is about to come off CD.  It is also a great Misdirect opener!
  2. Next, fire Barrage.  If you just used Piercing Shots, you will likely need to weave in an Arcane Shot to build focus.  Also, neither Piercing Shots nor Barrage benefit from Vulnerable, so fire these firsts.
  3. Next, get your three stacks of Vulnerable up on the main target.  You can do this either through natural procs of Marking Targets, or force the situation with your two charges of Sentinel.  Between those two charges and natural procs, you should be up to 3 stacks in no time.
  4. Any time Marking Targets comes up, fire Arcane Shot to trigger Hunter’s Mark, then fire Marked Shot.
  5. When Marking Targets is not up and your other shots are on CD, fire Aimed Shot to dump focus and Arcane Shot to build it up.

You also have Lock and Load procs (2 free, instant cast Aimed Shots) to account for.  Aimed Shot does less damage than Marked Shot, so in the priority list, I would place these free shots below Piercing Shot, Barrage, and Marked Shot, but above an Arcane Shot with Marking Targets (or any other Arcane Shot).  If Piercing Shot is coming off CD, however, I might go with the Aimed Shot proc to build some focus over Barrage or Marked.  In addition, if I have less than three stacks of Vulnerable and the ability to apply more (Sentinel, Marked Shot, or a Marking Targets buff), I would get the stacks up first.  I have nothing to back either of these point up other than general feel.

The only other major issue to account for is your DPS cooldown, Trueshot.  Trueshot makes every Arcane/Multi Shot apply Hunter’s Mark, meaning you can sit there and fire Arcane Shot>Marked Shot repeatedly during the life of the buff.  This is a great way to reach three stacks of Vulnerable without using Sentinel, which can then be saved for times when you want to get off another Marked Shot.  In addition, Trueshot increases haste, lowering the cast time of Aimed Shot.  I’m still not sure whether a long burst of Arcane Shot>Marked Shot beats using hasted Aimed Shot.

Since this build does not use Sidewinders, Arcane Shot is always available for focus regen and applying Hunter’s Mark.  Along with Sentinel, in my limited experience, you will be using Marked Shot in this build much more than in the optimal build.  Piercing Shot also gives you another massive damage dealer on a medium cooldown.  The combined result is less of a reliance up Aimed Shot than the optimal build, which means more mobility.  In addition, no CD on Arcane Shot means small mistakes (like firing off both charges of Sidewinders right before Marking Targets procs) shouldn’t hurt as bad.

More important that all of that is that I like this build better than others and see myself enjoying it.  I hope that it is somewhat competitive with the optimal build, so that I am not gimping myself or my group when rolling it.  It is tough to sit at a dummy and compare different MM builds because it is very RNG dependent.  In my limited testing, however, this build did appear to come in only about 5% lower than optimal.

Good luck with whatever you choose!

 

Marvel Heroes Tips & Tricks from a Non-Diablo Player

Confession: I love Marvel Heroes.  I am a pretty big Marvel nerd, but I never played a Diablo game (or one of its many clones) prior to Marvel Heroes and a handful of games in the genre that I dabbled in to get ready for Marvel Heroes.  Whether it is being new to the genre, the overwhelming amount of Marvel lore, or a combination of both, I love it.

So, Marvel Heroes is a blend between the Marvel Universe and Diablo set in a massively multiplayer environment.  Not having played Diablo before, a lot of things were not immediately obvious to me and the blend of genres also creates some challenges.  Here is my highly incomplete and subjective selection of tips and tricks for making your first couple of hours in Marvel Heroes more user-friendly and hopefully more enjoyable:

Movement and Control:

Having not played Diablo, the lack of WASD controls took some getting used to.  Everything here is click-to-move and click-to-attack, in an isometric perspective.  Here are some tips to make movement and control easier:

  1. Force Stop and Force Move: Holding Shift will root you in place while you attack.  This is especially useful for ranged characters, as your left mouse button will move you and also activate your primary attack.  Hold Shift to ensure that you attack and don’t accidentally move.  On the other end of the spectrum, Control forces you to move.  If you are trying to get out of the way of an attack, hold Control to ensure you are actually moving and not accidentally attacking.  Particularly useful for a melee character trying to dodge a big attack.
  2. Remap you keys: Other than the left and right mouse buttons, your powers are hotkeyed to A, S, D, F, G, and H.  Being a Razor Naga user, I immediately remapped them to 1-6, and have every attack on my mouse.
  3. Players and mobs are solid: I think this is standard in ARPGs, but I have not seen it much in traditional MMOs.  There is collision detection in Marvel Heroes, and it is easy to get trapped in a large group of bad guys and lose the ability to move.  Most characters have a dash or a roll ability that will ignore collision detection and get you out of a jam.  Depending on character, these powers can often be acquired at early levels.  Make sure you spend at least one point on these powers to acquire your escape button.  Early on, it can also serve as a ghetto travel power.

UI Elements and Slash Commands

Most of your menus are selectable at the bottom of the screen.  They are the character panel/inventory, powers (skill trees), cash shop, team roster (where you switch characters), mission log, and option menu.  There is a social panel button at the top-left of the chatbox, which gives you a friends list, ignore list, guild roster, and “nearby” list.  This nearby list is another helpful way to find people to invite to a group who are close to you.

Most importantly from a UI perspective, is the “Bodyslider” button at the top-right of the screen (looks like a house).  It functions as your hearth stone.  Clicking it in the field will take you back to the town area to sell crap, craft, access your bank, etc.  While at the town, clicking bodyslide will bring you right back to where you left off.  The cooldown is very short, around 7.5 minutes.

Those familiar with slash commands will pick them up very quickly.  For talking, /p = party chat, /s = say, /g = guild chat, /w = whisper.  For social, /invite = group invite, /friend adds a friend.  Pretty standard stuff.

Power Selection and Growth:

At first glance, the talent trees and power progression look similar to those in traditional MMOs (pre-Panda WoW, TOR).  In many ways they are.  You put points into a skill, it gets stronger.  Other than your starting powers, you don’t get a power unless you put a point into it, and most powers have a level requirement before they are unlocked.

One major change from WoW or TOR is that, unless there is a direct prerequisite for a higher-tier skill, however, you do not need to put a certain number of points into a tree to access it.  Select and invest points into those powers that you are most interested in.  Plus, don’t forget that you will only get seven active powers at a time.  If a power is not going to be active on your bar at some point (or it’s a passive boost), it is not worth putting any points in the power.  The system gives you tremendous choice in whether to completely min-max or to have several skills that you may swap out depending on the situation.

Also, if you want to respec your powers, Retcon Devices can be purchased from the Cash Shop or drop with some frequency from World Bosses.

Two other points worth making: 1) There are many powers that people refer to as “One Point Wonders” meaning that investing one point in them gets you a large benefit, with pretty steep diminishing returns thereafter.  Some control powers, travel powers, and defensive powers may fall into this category.  Investing only one point in some powers will free up more points to strengthen key powers. 2) Many pieces of gear will give you extra ranks to powers or make them available at earlier levels.  When vendors first open up, visit them to see what they have, and hit the refresh button to change things up.  This is a great way to expand power selection early on and helps put a little more super in your superhero.  This is especially true on your second and third run-throughs, when you will have more credits to spend and higher-level vendors.

To Group or not to Group:

In public areas, it pays to fight alongside other heroes.  Even if you are not grouped, experience is shared, regardless of who tags or kills an enemy, and loot is instanced.  There is no loot stealing in this game and no need to camp.  You can travel though public areas on your own, but the experience will be smoother, faster, and generally more enjoyable if you fight in the area of others.

There are times when you may want to group however.  Some instanced bosses can be tough and will be much easier with another hero or two.  Control+Right Click on a hero in game will give you the option to invite that hero to your party.  If you are working with some other heroes to get to an instance door, throw out a couple of invites to people, and you will likely find yourself with at least a small group for that instance.

Also, as of the last major patch, Marvel Heroes added an Auto-Party option for private instances.  It is a check-box in the Gameplay section of the Options menu.  Basically, it attempts to group up people who have entered the same instance.  They are still tweaking this to make it work properly, and I have heard mixed reviews of how well it currently works.  If you are having difficulty with a particular instance or want to try group play without having to look for a party, definitely check out this option.

Vendors/Crafting:

You can sell unwanted gear to vendors for credits to buy other gear just like in any other game.  In addition Alt+Right Click will trade in your gear for “Vendor XP.”  Through these trade-ins, you level up the vendors and get access to better gear or crafting recipes.  All vendors of a similar type are linked, so if you level up one weapons vendor, all weapons vendors will be similarly leveled (there are also gear vendors and crafters).

Spend Real Money Wisely:

Marvel Heroes is a Free to Play game.  Its primary revenue stream comes from selling you different heroes to play (and different costumes).  You get to choose one hero from five free Starter Heroes and, assuming the build does not change before launch, you will get a second random Starter Hero as quest reward early on (so one free by choice, one free random).  Any hero has a chance of dropping in game, but the drop rates are pretty low.  Apparently, you will also get a random hero drop (not limited to Starter Heroes) for beating Dr. Doom.  Outside of drops, 16 of the 21 heroes in the game must be purchased through the store.

Another quick issue, each character really plays as a different class.  You have tanks, melee dps, ranged dps, stronger support, etc.  While there is some overlap in heroes’ abilities, the designers have done a good job of making the heroes different and true to their roots.  Read up on the heroes you might buy before you drop money on them.

Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.  Whether you have only a passing knowledge of the Marvel Universe or have been reading comics since the 1970s, there is probably a character (or two, or six) that you want to play more than any other character.  You may, however, want to see what the game has to offer before laying down real money.  The five Starter Heroes you can choose from (Thing, Hawkeye, Daredevil, Storm, Scarlet Witch), while filling a variety of roles, are probably not the heroes you dreamed of being when you were a kid.  Don’t get me wrong, each of those heroes can be great in the game, but deep down, you probably have your heart set on somebody else.

To make your dollar go further, think about who you want to buy before you select your free Starter Hero, that way, you can have characters that fill multiple roles.  If I know I will buy Wolverine if I enjoy the game, then I would want my free Starter Hero to be a ranged character (Hawkeye, Storm, Scarlet Witch).  If you only like to play tanks, you are going to take Thing as a starter, even though you might pick up Colossus or Thor later.

Finally, don’t spend your money until you are sure that you actually like your Starter Hero(es).  You only get to choose one starter for free with your account (you can always buy other starter heroes from the cash shop and you get that second random one from a quest).  If you get to level 10, and you absolutely hate your Starter Hero (but still want to play the game), you can fairly easily create another account to try out another character.  I only recommend doing this if you hate the character, as there are advantages to maintaining all of your characters on one account (leveling vendors and crafters + shared inventory and credits).

Reserve Judgment:

There are a couple of different jumps in awesomeness early on in the game.  Do not let your level 1 play through of the Raft (the tutorial) color your judgment of the game.  You will start to get a better idea of the game when you get into Hell’s Kitchen and start fighting alongside other heroes, when you kill Electro, and when you find your first mini-dungeon door (hint: go through it).  World Boss events and these side missions are completely optional, but they can be very fun and very rewarding.

The second big jump in enjoyment will likely happen at level 4, 6, or 10, depending on the hero you pick.  Every even level, you will gain access to new powers.  You will not start to get a feel for how awesome many of the heroes can be until you gain some of these powers.  For example, Scarlet Witch becomes an AoE powerhouse, but you wouldn’t know that at level 5.  Similar story with Cyclops, who gets very key powers around levels 6 and 10.  (Note: these illustrations are from an earlier build, but still illustrate the point)  Some characters start slower, and the slowness lasts longer, than others.  If you are concerned about this issue (which is present in many games), read up on the various heroes.

Bottom line:  Marvel Heroes is fun, free, and different from most other games currently on the market.  I hope you check it out when it goes live on June 4th (or after the servers stabilize following launch), and I hope that these tips help make the game more enjoyable for you.