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Scattered Shots: Hunter mailbag Q&A

Every Thursday, WoW Insider brings you Scattered Shots for beast mastery, marksmanship and survival hunters. Frostheim of Warcraft Hunters Union and the WoW Hunter Podcast uses logic and science (mixed with a few mugs of Dwarven stout) to look deep into the hunter class. Mail your hunter questions to Frostheim.

Patch 4.3 info is starting to trickle out of the Blizzard PR department, and it's looking like there's going to be both a lot more news and a lot of big news. Thus far, we haven't seen any big hunter info coming out, but I'm certain it's on its way. So this calm before the storm sounds like a good time to clean out the ol' mailbag!

From transmogrification to trinket math to haste plateaus, I'm going to be answering the questions that I'm getting most often in my email lately. If you've got a pesky hunter question that's been tickling the back of your brain, there are decent odds that it'll get answered here. If your question isn't answered, feel free to email me.

You can now transmogrify bows into guns! You must be so happy! That means you can get your dwarven racial bonus on bows that you've transmogrified, right?

No. Transmogrification is cosmetic only. It can make a bow look like a gun and even sound like a gun, but it will still be a bow for all mechanical purposes, including racial bonuses.

Normally, you cannot transmogrify a weapon of one type (axe) into another type (sword). Ranged weapons are an exception to that -- we can make our bows look like guns and vice versa, but it is only changing the look (and sound) of the item.

On the transmogrification topic, WoW Insider is running a transmogrification series about how to find the PVE set pieces you might want, and I have a hunter transmogrification guide with images of all the major PVE sets for every hunter race. If we have time next week (and any interest), I might put together a hunter transmogrification video guide for you guys.

How do you tell the difference between a hard haste plateau and a soft haste plateau? Which one makes you start losing DPS?

To be very clear: No haste plateau causes you to lose DPS. Adding more haste is always going to increase your DPS. Some calculators like Female Dwarf might show you losing DPS by adding haste, but that's just an artifact of the shot modeling and not the actual result you'll see. More haste always means more DPS (just like more crit, mastery, or agility always means more DPS).

Hard and soft plateaus are words that I use to describe the way different amounts of haste affect your shot rotation. A hard plateau is the point at which you can fit an extra shot into your standard base rotation (and note that there are a lot of things that interrupt your base rotation). So if my rotation is Explosive Shot and three Cobra Shots, I'll hit a hard plateau when I can fit in Explosive Shot and four Cobra Shots.

If you can fit that extra shot in without delaying your signature shot, that's a hard plateau. However, it can still be worth squeezing that extra shot in and pushing your signature shot back by a second or so. When you do that, it's a soft plateau.

This is important because it affects the value of each additional point of haste rating. When you're at a hard plateau, each point of haste increases your Auto-Shot rate of fire, your focus regen, your pet's auto-attack speed, and your pet's focus regen. When you're at a soft plateau but not yet at a hard one, then each point of haste does all of that plus shortens the amount of time you have to delay your signature shot.

Thus at the soft plateau, you get an extra shot. Then from the soft plateau to the hard plateau, haste is actually giving you more DPS, because it's effectively letting you cast more signature shots by shortening that delay. Then after the hard plateau, haste is still helping you, but it's helping you less.

It's worth noting that in most cases, you do not want to chase after any particular haste. You don't need a certain amount. The haste plateaus are only really important for knowing when to switch up your base rotation and if you're really optimizing for knowing when to reforge for haste and when to reforge for crit (never reforge into mastery, however). See reforging priorities for more.

What is the best hunter pet?

Sporebat.

I know the hit cap is 8%, but is that just for raiding, or is it different for running 5-mans?

It's different. The 8% hit cap is for raid bosses, which are considered level 88 for purposes of calculating miss chance. For 5-man dungeons, the bosses are only level 87, making the hit cap only 6%, or 721 hit rating.

I'm having a hard time figuring out which trinket to use. Why do different gear optimization sites all give me different recommendations, and why do those keep changing?

The different recommendations have to do with the different ways trinket procs/on-use abilities are modeled (well, and that fact that some of the gear optimizing sites are really bad for hunters). As an example, let's say we have a trinket that gives us an on-use ability that gives us 2,000 agility for 20 seconds with a 2-minute cooldown.

One way to model that is pure averaging. We know that every 2 minutes, we get 20 seconds of boosted agility, which is 16.667% of the time. With pure averaging, that's basically the same as getting 333.333 agility all of the time. This gives us a number that's easy to compare and scales perfectly to any fight length -- this is the way I usually calculate out trinkets at first pass.

Another way of averaging is to figure out how often you could actually use that trinket. In a 5-minute fight, for example, we can use it right away, then again a bit over 2 minutes in, then a bit over 4 minutes in. Then we can't use it again -- so in actuality we can only use it three times, for a total of 3*20=60 seconds out of a 5-minute fight. That's 20% of the time, or an average of 400 agility. Note I think this staggered averaging is the way Zeherah does it on Female Dwarf.

Of course with staggered averaging, your benefit changes based on the duration of the fight. As the fight gets longer than that 5 minutes, the agility average of the trinket goes down and down until all of the sudden, you get another use and it shoots back up higher than ever. So staggered averaging gives you a more accurate average, as long as your fight duration is right on -- but you can see some significant changes in the value of the trinket as durations change.

Another way of doing it is via Simulationcraft, which actually simulates hundreds of fights with slightly different effects based on randomness and then averages the results of all those simulations together to get something of a cross between pure and staggered averaging -- a number that takes the total number of procs into account but doesn't jump as severely with duration (assuming that you simulated varied fight durations; otherwise, it still will).

And of course, this isn't considering the potential benefit of stacking cooldowns. Using that proc during Rapid Fire is going to give you a greater DPS benefit than any averaged number will, for example. Most procs and cooldowns stack multiplicatively with other procs and cooldowns.

In the end, if two reliable sources disagree about trinkets, the difference between them probably isn't that great, and a bit of common sense will usually steer you in the right direction.

When will hunters get a PvP buff? We really need it!

Soon.* (* "Soon" is an official trademark of Blizzard Entertainment, referring to a specific point in time sometime between the very next patch and the end of all time itself.) Actually, your guess is as good as mine -- we don't seem to be getting much PVP attention lately, but I can't imagine Blizzard is unaware of our complaints. Perhaps the upcoming patch 4.3 might yield some hope?

Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. From leveling your hunter and choosing the best patch 4.2 gear to learning the DPS value of skill, we've got you covered. If you're stuck in one of the nine support classes, why not move up to the big league and play a hunter?

Filed under: Hunter, (Hunter) Scattered Shots

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