Saturday, October 5, 2019

New Best Friend: WoW Classic

Just a quick update on how things are going for my Hunter and his pets. Following my post on the inadequacies of the Idiot Bear and the helpful advice given in the comments, I billetted bear in the Stables and spent a session or two wandering around taming beasts almost at random.

Okay, not entirely at random, but without any out-of-game information the process has randomness imposed upon it to some degree. All you can do is go to different zones and use Beast Lore on whatever you find to see if the animals there have any tricks you haven't learned.

I had two goals. I wanted to test a few different animals to see if they were intrinsically better at holding aggro than the bear and I also wanted to learn any new skills they might have so I could teach them to any pets I might use in future.

Very quickly something became apparent to me that I hadn't noticed before. In any given WoW Classic zone there are only a handful of species of Beast.  

It's easy to get the impression the place is over-run with wildlife. Badlands, for example, is teeming with animals to the point that it can be difficult to go ten paces without having a coyote or a jaguar try to tear the seat out of your leather trews. When you're killing them for quests or just to get from one place to another you tend not to notice just how very limited the variety of local fauna can be.

In Badlands I tamed a cat, a wolf and a bird. There are multiple examples of all of these, with different names and slightly different models (usually just a little larger) but they are all part of one of those three "families".

My first pick was a Level 36 Crag Coyote. From him I learned the "Bite" skill. It didn't take long. I think I got it on the third fight.

I didn't think to take any shots of the temporary pets. Here's one of the bear instead.

I tried him for size for a while and he seemed about the same as the bear. Couldn't hold aggro unless I was very circumspect with the gun.

I'd done with him but it took a bit of fiddling around to figure out how to get rid of him. "Dismissing" a pet just sends him to sulk in his kennel. You have to select "Abandon" from the right-click drop-down menu on his portrait. I had to look that up. I don't count checking UI functions as cheating on in-game information only. House rules apply.

Next I tried a cat, a Ridge Stalker. She had a skill called "Cower", which Wilhelm had warned me about in the comments. It lets the pet drop aggro, something my bear seems to do without the need of any special abilities other than his own innate incompetence.

I had to force the cat to cower by clicking the ability myself. I'm not sure under what circumstances the pet would use it voluntarily or pro-actively. With that in my book I put the Ridge Stalker to the test as a tank and she did noticeably better than the Bear or the Coyote.

For some reason I forget, I didn't keep the Stalker. Instead I abandoned her and went to Hillsbrad Foothills, where I tamed a couple of grey-con creatures, a bear and a spider. It occured to me after a while that taming grey creatures twenty levels below was less than optimal. They keep the level they were when you tamed them and the skills they have are ranked by level. You'd have to level them up to be useful in combat so you might as well just tame the highest you can manage.

I moved to the higher part of the zone and tamed aLevel 31 turtle, who gave me a skill called "Shell Shield". He was still too low so I wandered into Alterac Mountains and swapped him for a level 34 Hulking Mountain Lion.

The lion seemed pretty decent so, to get a fair comparison and since I was very close by, I moved to the huge ogre camp next to the Ruins of Alterac, where the Idiot Bear had let himself down so badly the day before. What  happened next was both instructive and surprising.

Whereas the lion had been holding aggro fairly successfully on the various beasts I set her on, all around her level, she did no better than the bear had on the level 34-36 Ogres. I could barely get off one or two shots on auto-attack before the Ogre would come charging towards me.

Once aggro was lost, the cat could no more get it back than the bear could. I began to formulate a theory that aggro depends on more than just relative levels, amount of taunting successfully applied and damage done.

Everything in Classic has resists. There are several schools of magic plus physical things like bleeding and poison. I can see my resists and my pets' but the resists of mobs are unknown. I began to wonder if the Ogres might be particularly resistant to whatever form of damage the bear and cat were doing, where the Beasts the cat was able to hold up quite nicely might not be.

I had it in mind to follow it up but something else happened to make me put that line of investigation to one side.

Classic doesn't permit you to tame anything higher than your Hunter's own level so I decided to go back to Badlands and grab a Level 39 or 40 beast from the orange sands. Once there, I scanned an Elder Crag Coyote, level 39, and saw he had a skill his junior cousin hadn't known: "Furious Howl". I tamed him to get that and then I set him to tanking for me.

Carry on, don't mind me. I'm just having a snack.
He was a revelation. From the start he could hold aggro better than any pet I'd tried but once I taught him "Growl", the taunt skill, he was able to lock down a mob like a vice. Not only could he grab aggro on the pull and hold it while I unloaded everything I had onto the hapless target, he could also regain aggro almost immediately on the rare occasions I did succeeed in getting the mob's attention.

My bear had never been able to do that, even before he lost his mojo. The bear had extremely poor dps and also suffered from a bizarre inability to taunt and move at the same time. If I had to back off the bear would pirouette and lurch like a drunken ballerina as he tried to complete his animations. Doing that, he was neither taunting nor doing damage, so I had to stand still and let the mob hit me to give him a chance to regain aggro, something he almost never succeeded in doing.

The Elder Coyote had no such aesthetic issues. He just ran at the mob, bit it and taunted and got aggro right back before the mob got anywhere near me. I tested him on any number of different types of creature, Beast and Humanoid and Elemental, and although there were some differences he was able to perform an outstanding job on all of them.

It was like playing a different class. I'd become so used to my pet providing no more than a brief window of opportunity that I'd developed a whole style of play, innvolving stuns, snares, fear and a lot of melee. Suddenly I didn't need any of it. I was able to stand at a comfortable distance and plink or blast away while my pet took all the hits - and he could take them easily, too.

I took him to the ogres just to get a comparison and he slaughtered them. I couldn't pull aggro even when I flat-out tried. I was able to sit and regain mana while he chewed away and when I stood up he'd almost finished the ogre off.  I found out later, hunting trolls and goblins in Stranglethorn, that he could also chase down runners and kill them, another thing the bear could never manage.

In the valley behind the ogres there are plenty of bandits. They're a couple of levels higher and they have more silk. The wolf handles them perfectly. We cleared half a dozen rounds of respawns across the whole valley and I came away with three stacks of silk and Level 41.
All of this leads me to two conclusions: firstly, there is a lot more to aggro management in WoW Classic than first meets the eye and secondly, unlike other MMORPGs, a bear is not automatically going to be first choice when it comes to pet tanking.

Loathe as I am to give up my new best friend, the Wolf, my next move is going to be to teach the bear all the new skills and see how he does. I suspect he'll still struggle. He has never been able to make much of a dent in any mob's health, whereas the Wolf takes great chunks off the target's green bar with every attack. Even if the bear can hold aggro the wolf will still be a lot more useful.

If I was willing to use out of game resources I guess now would be the time to start looking for Rare Beasts, some of whom, as I understand, have unique or best-in-class skills that Hunters covet. Without a guide to follow, I'll just have to chance running into them.

Of course, if I do, I'll have the pet up and won't be able to tame. I'll have to scan the creature, take a screenshot, then kill it if I can. I can then check the screenshot to see if the Rare can do something I'd like to learn, after which I'll have to go stable the pet then camp the spot to see if it respawns.

Without checking outside resources I won't know if that's likely to be an hour, a day or a week. I do know WoW took its rare spawn lead from EverQuest so it could be a long wait.

I probably won't bother. I'll stick with my Wolf for now. Unless the bear can show me he's learned how to do his job. He only had the one, after all...


  1. Do you take hints from outside resources, or is that cheating for you? I have researched this all pretty thoroughly online and have things I could share…

    1. If you want to give tips or hints in the comments please do. I would never discourage anyone from commenting! When people leave information or tips in the comments then I read them and can't un-know them. I'm fine with that - it's not really any different from asking in General Chat in game. I don't particularly want to know a lot of detail because clearly I could just look that up if I wanted. I do look up stuff when I'm completely puzzled, mostly on how to get the UI to do what I want it to do, and I also do some research for posts, usually after I've done something in game and want to be sure I'm not talling complete nonsense - that gives me information i wouldn;t otherwise have, sometimes.

      I'm only loosely avoiding looking stuff up, really, because at the moment that's making the game more entertaining and intriguing. If not knowing how things work starts to become more of a pain than a pleasure I won't hesitate to change tack.

  2. For what it's worth I found that my own bear also really began to struggle in the mid-thirties, but the moment I upgraded his Bite ability from rank 1 to rank 5 there was an immediate improvement. Basically it seems that you can only get away with ignoring your pet's training for so long.

    Also, and I don't know if that is relevant to you, but if your pet has any sort of spammable ability with no cooldown, such as Claw, it's best turned off while soloing. What happens when it's on is that the pet burns through all its energy spamming that one move and then has nothing left over when Growl - the more important threat generator - comes off cooldown.

  3. Lord, I'd completely forgotten pet skill acquisition and training was even a thing. I only lightly touched the hunter class in Classic (or BC for that matter) as I focused pretty much exclusively on Tanks and Healers.

    But when I did let loose on the Hunter alt I quite enjoyed this game-within-the-game. And having come from the classes I did (Warrior in particular) the power of soloing was just absolutely mindblowing.

    Although I don't think I realised quite how much until Un'goro. The difference in experience between Hunter and practically any other class was just night and day.

  4. A wolf is my second oldest pet, though I had a hyena before him. Mostly for the look. At some point the wolf got a howl action that was a group buff, so the wolf became my group pet while the bear became my solo pet, and so it has remained since probably Burning Crusade.

  5. One of my favorite WoW stories was soloing LBRS to get a specific Warg that had Furious Howl # and Bite #, one of which was only on that specific mob at the time. I have a post about it somewhere on my blog... it involved pathing, and FD, and Invis potions. Was a fun achievement!

  6. This is probably mis-remembered stuff and may be for later expansions and not in classic.
    There is a rare wolf in the dwarf starter area, somewhere near Gnomergan, that was a valuable choice for hunters. I forget the reasons why!
    There is a rare cat that has faster attack speed than other cats but unremarkable looks.
    Screech was an AOE threat generator, that made carrion birds and owls decent pets. Bliz took it away from Owls later for a crappy disarm move.
    The pick of the bunch for single target aggro holding was the boar. They have a charge move that would spike aggro to insane levels and you could safely plink away at the target forever without pulling it off the pet. This is why my main hunter alt still has a boar from RFK all these years later.
    Some pets (especially snakes and windserpents) had "caster" stats - low health, low melee damage whereas others of their family had melee stats and performed a lot better.
    I also have a number of hunter pet posts on my blog, but these are from WOTL or later. I think I link back to someone who did an earlier guide and whose blog posting from the mid 2000's might still be live.


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