I put a lot of time into getting my hunter’s gear ready before ZA last week, making sure every item was gemmed and enchanted to cap my hit rating and maximize my agility. I felt like I was pretty much set until the next upgrade, so the week before the next ZA run was spent putzing around, farming, and doing dailies. The weekend’s raiding plans included ZA again on Friday night and a speedy badge run through Karazhan on Sunday evening. I made sure my quiver was full of arrows and that I was fully repaired and ready to go, and then spent most of the week playing my mage.
On Friday night before the ZA run, one of our tank/healer couples was having internet connectivity problems at their house. We really wanted to raid, but until the thunderstorm at their place passed, they weren’t going to be able to stay connected for more than a few minutes at a time. We waited a while, and they finally decided to just drop out and have us to replace them. We didn’t have quite a strong enough crew for ZA, so it was decided that we’d switch things up and go ahead and do the Kara speed run, and then go to ZA Sunday instead. There was a lot of toon swapping as folks filled in with their other tanks/healers or switched out to DPSers that they needed badges for. The goal was a speedthrough for badges, clearing as much as we could before everyone had to poop out.
In short, the Kara run was a lot of fun. We one-shotted everything and came away with a total of 18 badges. (We skipped the dragons, because it was getting late.) We got the Big Bad Wolf for the Opera event, and he dropped the Wolfslayer Sniper Rifle! It was a nice upgrade from the Steelhawk Crossbow I’d been using, and it went to me! Woo! I’m not a huge fan of guns in the game, but, what the heck. DPS, right? The other hunter on the run encouraged me to go ahead and use it, but I didn’t have any bullets on me. (The next day, when I finally decided to equip the gun, it turned out I’d never trained to use guns anyway. Ha!)
On Saturday morning, I did some reading about my new gun. There are a lot of discussions and calculations out there about whether it is better than the bow from Prince, but I think most folks would agree it was an upgrade from the crossbow that I was using. Swapping it out made me lose 16 hit, however, putting me 13 hit below the cap. That would not do. I studied the rest of my gear, and determined that even with the most creative gemming, I could not make up 13 hit without sacrificing a fair amount of agility. Living rubies have been difficult to come by lately, so I wasn’t anxious to replace the ones I had socketed with hit gems, either. I began looking at other alternatives.
I noticed that one of the cheaper badge upgrades available to me would do the trick. I could replace my Saberclaw Talisman with a Choker of Vile intent, which would not only cap my hit but boost my DPS a bit. The Choker was only 25 badges, too! I checked my bank… 24 badges. I popped myself in the LFG for some heroics, mentioned in my guild chat that I was looking for heroics, and started doing the dailies that offered the Shattered Sun Supplies as rewards while I waited for a group to form. I have not gotten a single badge out of one of these in all the time I’ve been doing these dailies, but I crossed my fingers.
The first one I did was the “Maintaining the Sunwell Portal” daily, collecting smuggled mana cells. I flew to Blade’s Edge, got the phase shifter thing, collected the mana cells, and hearthed back to Shattrath to turn in the quest. Inside the supply pack: A badge!! WoooooO!! Unbelievable!! But, faced with the real option of buying the Choker, I wasn’t totally sure I wanted to do it. Before that gun dropped, I had pretty much decided that my next badge upgrade would be replacing my Rip-Flayer Leggings with the Leggings of the Pursuit (which have +15 hit on them). I decided to wait a day and think about it.
On Sunday morning, I was looking at the gun a bit more. Whenever I finally equipped it, I’d certainly need a scope for it. BRK suggested a stabilized eternium scope for it in one of his posts, so I decided to delay my decision about the neckpiece by doing some ore farming. To farm more quickly, I finally shelled out the cash for my epic flying mount for my mage. So awesome! I can’t believe how speedy I am now. I know some folks immediately feel some buyer’s remorse after their epic flying mount purchase, but I felt immediately that It was totally worth every copper.
I did manage to get some farming done, but kept getting distracted by people asking for DPS for instances. I ended up bringing my mage to three instance runs with the guild. Three! In one day! It was so much fun. It did mean that I only collected about half the ore I needed, however. I decided I’d go ahead and use the gun without a scope for the evening’s ZA run, so I stopped farming and popped over to my hunter for a few final preparations. I picked up the gun skill (heh), made her an ammo bag, put her quiver in the bank, and then went to the vendor by Karazhan to buy the fancy epic bullets. I then took her out to Nagrand to shoot stuff for a while (with cheapie bullets, of course), and level my gun skill. We had a guild meeting about an hour before the ZA run, so this cut my time a bit short, but I still managed to get her gun skill up to about 325. The rest would happen in ZA.
We had our guild meeting (always fun), and ZA invites began immediately after. As always, I headed right to the stone to help with summoning. We got everyone together and a few folks also summoned and parked alts right by the instance, just in case we needed to swap people out. It took 20 extra minutes or so to get all of this coordinated and get everybody settled. (We were held up by things like, “Oh hey, while the mage is here, let’s go ahead and have her buff everyone and make a table,” and people having last minute thoughts about who would be best for the line-up.) I waited patiently, helping with the resummoning and so forth. We finally got inside the instance and I did my usual checks: pet on passive, growl is off, riding crop is replaced with the appropriate trinket, correct bullets are equipped. And that’s when I notice… Dammit. I forgot to buy the Choker!
So, there I was, walking into ZA, ready to try out my new gun and enjoy the beefy DPS it has to offer and my hit rating wasn’t even capped. My DPS was going to suck rocks. At this point, I was so embarrassed about my oversight, I didn’t want to ask if I could port out and buy it. I had all that time by the summoning stone while people were swapping toons in and out to notice this, and somehow, I did not. I searched for a magical solution in my inventory, and found that amongst the food I’d brought to feed my pet, I had 7 Spicy Hot Talbuk. This was not nearly enough to get me through the boss fights planned, plus the gauntlet, plus any wiping we might do, but it would cap my hit. Oh well. I was not as prepared as I’d hoped, but I’d do my best.
As it turned out, I did pretty well. My DPS was in the top three, and I was second for damage done in the Nalorakk fight. We cleared Nalorakk under the timer, ran the Akil’zon gauntlet (it was not as smooth as last time, but we did it in one attempt), and then headed to Akil’zon. We had a bit of a snafu on Akil’zon — the tank ran in before everyone was at the top of the stairs, so some folks (including myself) were blocked from entering the fight. They decided to force a wipe and just let him kill everyone. We got him the next time with no troubles.
We didn’t have much crowd control, but somehow, it took us less time to get to Jan’alai than on our last run. We did lose a couple people along the way (who then had to run back in), but I managed to stay alive and keep my precious food buff. I only had a couple left in my stack, however, and I was getting nervous. While folks were running back to us at one point, one of them used a hex stick on a frog and out popped a food vendor. “Anyone need anything?” they asked. And then someone else said, “No, I’ve got plenty. In fact, I have some extra Spicy Hot Talbuk here if anyone would like some.” Oh yeah!! I asked for some, and she gave me 10. Awesome. Finally, I relaxed a bit.
I was excited to see Jan’alai again. We didn’t manage to down him, but we definitely understand the fight now. It’s those damn firebombs that keep taking people out (different people each attempt), and despite the battle rezzes, we were unable to recover each time. I managed to stay alive through all of our attempts on him, which made me very proud. I know, hunters can feign death to improve their chances of this, etc, but it wasn’t that. I was able to stand in the right place! Sounds silly, but this is a new thing for me. In my first several attempts at Maiden or Shade, I was always getting blown up in the first couple minutes of the fight because I was simply standing in the wrong place. (Note, I’ve never moved during Shade’s flame wreath — it just took me a while to figure out the sweet spots where I could easily avoid the blizzard.) So, I was very proud of myself for already understanding this fight well enough to successfully do the dance part of it. I think we’ll get him next time.
I’m picking up some new habits preparing for each of these long raid fights, too. I always feed my pet right before the fight, even if she’s perfectly happy going into it. It sucks to see that green smiley turn to a yellow when the boss is at 50%. I’ve also been bringing plenty of Kibler’s Bits to boost her damage. I’m remembering to pop my trinkets regularly, and timing my use of mana potions a bit more wisely, taking into consideration the potion cooldowns so that I never run out. (I shoot so speedily, that steady shot really burns up my mana in the long fights!) It’s like pacing yourself for a marathon, and takes some practice.
So, I had a few small triumphs and a few moments of idiocy. A balanced weekend, I suppose. Also, I think I’m addicted to raiding now…