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BigRedKitty: Just Say No to Serpent Sting

Each week, Daniel Howell contributes BigRedKitty, a column with strategies, tips and tricks for and about the hunter class sprinkled with a healthy dose of completely improper, sometimes libelous, personal commentary.

One of the problems with leveling a hunter is that one gets used to grinding. Nobody can deny that leveling a hunter is pretty dag-gum easy and it is all too simple to fall into the trap, "What was good for leveling is good for instances." But it is a trap and far too many hunters never realize that they're caught in it. We call it "Grinding-Think".

The perfect example of Grinding-Think is the use of Serpent Sting. Serpent Sting is first learned at level four. It's the first sting we're given and we use it on every mob we face. It's our opening salvo for level upon level and it becomes so ingrained in our thoughts that we can smash our Serpent Sting key blindfolded and wigged-out on "Mountain Dew and Red Bull" smoothies.

But Serpent Sting stinks and BigRedKitty wants you to quit raiding with it. There is a much better Hunter Sting that we want you to learn and use in its place. You guessed it: Scorpid Sting.

Scorpid Sting? But it doesn't do any damage!

That's right, Chester, it doesn't. But then if you think applying Serpent Sting is "doing damage" you might want to ask your friendly -- or not-so-friendly as is more likely the case -- Warlock what his opinion of Serpent Sting is. Just be prepared for a snort, giggle, and guffaw in response, in addition to:

"You call that a DoT? I've got moldy greenies from Scarlet Monastery rotting in my bank that'll do more damage than that. You keep playing with your kitties and puppies while we 'Locks summon our minions, use them for our personal pleasure, sacrifice them for fun, and drop 10,000-damage Seed of Corruption crits in 5v5 arenas. Now get outta the way; you're hogging all the darkness."

Warlocks. Do they all have mild personality disorders because they play warlocks, or do they all play warlocks because they have mild personality disorders? Someone should do some research into this; it would make a good paper.

So we've told you that Serpent Sting both sucks and blows but you may not believe us. Pre-BC, during 40-man raids into Molten Core and the other Big Places, hunters were told to not even bother with applying a sting because the mobs had a limited number of debuff slots, just sixteen, and a warlock's debuff was much more important than our piddly DoT. If we kept Serpent Sting on a boss in Molten Core, then that would keep a "real" DoT from being applied. When BRK raided Molten Core, we just left it off our action bars altogether.

Nowadays, mobs can have forty debuff slots and there is plenty of room for a hunter sting, so we can apply one and not get yelled at anymore. Hooray! But if the people in your raid knew how pathetic your Serpent Sting was, they'd tell you not to bother, to just save your mana.

But we know, so we'll tell you. Don't use Serpent Sting in instances; don't waste your mana.

From the tooltip you can see that the biggest, baddest Serpent Sting we have, Rank 10, does a whopping 660 damage over 15 seconds at a cost of 275 mana. Compare that to Steady Shot which, for the cost of 110 mana will do:

Steady Shot Damage = ( Ranged_Attack_Power * 0.3 ) + 150

For BRK's RAP of 1770, our Steady Shot does 681 damage. That's twice as efficient as Serpent Sting and a much better use of our mana. If you're a Marksman with a RAP in the 2300 area, you're doing 840 damage with your Steady Shot. You've already got mana-conservation issues and you're going to waste it on Serpent Sting? Please.

But Steady Shot isn't a DoT, is it? Course it isn't. We've got room on our mob for a sting, so let's pick one that will help our raid the most. To be more specific, let's help our dearest friends, our great buddies, our sweet-smelling and oh-so-wonderful Tanks, shall we?

Scorpid Sting. It's been modified since the last time you might have looked at it. It used to reduce the strength and agility of the target mob and it had multiple ranks, but the damage-mitigation that resulted from applying this sting was negligible and thus it was very infrequently used. So the sneaky Blizzard programmers had some fun and buffed the beejezus out of it, but kinda kept it on the QT.

Take a gander at that tooltip, why don't you: Reduces the chance to hit by 5%. Now we hunters aren't standing next to that mob and taking a beating, our friendly neighbor tank is. Ask him this question next time you run a raid,

"Um, Mr. Tank? I was wondering. Would you be interested if I sacrificed 44 DPS by not applying my Serpent Sting and instead reduced the total melee-damage you take by 5%?"

What do you think his answer will be? You might get begging and pleading. You might get happy demands, both forceful and curse-laden. You might even get a peck on the cheek, (tanks are emotional; it's part of their job).

Now the tooltip does not say, "reduces total melee damage by 5%", but disregarding crits, blocks, parries, and any other defensive tactics your tank my employ, it's a fairly reasonable estimate to make. Tank Survival is Raid Survival. Fewer tank-beatings means fewer heals, which means more healer-mana, which means longer raid survival.

Think of it this way. Not only are you going to boost the DPS of loads of people in your party -- via Ferocious Inspiration, Trueshot Aura, or Expose Weakness -- but now you're going to also increase the survivability of your tank and prolong the mana pool of your healers. You're pretty nifty, aren't you.

Of course, there is the mana-cost that should be considered. Nine percent of your base mana, just how much is that? For BRK's mana pool of 6400, that would be a cost of 576 mana every 20 seconds -- don't forget to reapply Scorpid every 20 seconds. The mana-efficiency is hard to calculate as Scorpid isn't doing damage, it's preventing it. It's an apples-and-oranges comparison that doesn't bolster a pro-or-anti Scorpid-stance much. But since Scorpid isn't affected by the mob's level -- it isn't less effective against a 73 elite as opposed to a 71 elite -- one could say that the harder and faster a mob hits, the more mana-efficient Scorpid Sting is. The harder the fight, the more you're helping.

There are some limitations, addendums, and quid-pro-quos with which you should be familiar. Scorpid Sting does not stack like Serpent Sting. If you have a raid with two hunters, assign one of them to do Scorpid and let the other do Serpent, or nothing at all. Also, Scorpid Sting is ineffective against casters; it does not reduce the chance of spells to hit, only melee.

Scorpid does not break crowd-control, unlike Serpent. If a hunter drops a Serpent Sting on a mob and a mage tries to Polymorph that mob, the Serpent Sting will cause the sheep to break. Bad, naughty hunter. However, if the hunter then slaps a Scorpid Sting on that mob it will cause the Serpent Sting to be removed -- a hunter can only have a single sting applied at a time -- and then the mage can Polymorph at will.

"That's great BRK, but I don't have room on my action bar to add another frickin' spell!" you wail. That's fine, we can accommodate you with a handy two-line macro:

  1. /cast [nomodifier] Serpent Sting
  2. /cast [modifier:alt] Scorpid Sting

While you're grinding, use Serpent Sting to your heart's content. When you're in an instance and saving your tank's neck is critical, hold down your Alt key and you'll fire Scorpid Sting instead. Problem solved.

Of course, you may be the only person in your raid who sees the difference between a Scorpid Sting and a Serpent Sting debuff on the screen; they look very similar. We recommend that you casually point it out to your tank and let him know that he's getting some Hunter Love. Unlike that warlock who sacrificed his minion instead of letting Blood Pact help the tank.

Warlock Love? That's an oxymoron.

Daniel Howell continues his quest to understand warlocks and figure out why his pet thinks they taste so good as the hunter-pet duo extraordinaire known to lore as BigRedKitty. More of his theorycrafting and slanderous belittling of the lesser classes can be found at bigredkitty.blogspot.com.

Filed under: (Hunter) Big Red Kitty, Hunter, Tips

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