Who: Brian Wood, aka Frostheim, Grandpappy Frostheim
What: Dwarven hunter; blogger at Warcraft Hunters Union and WoW Insider; guild master of the massive, all-hunter Icecrown (US) guild Warcraft Hunters Union (WHU), recently responsible for the first all-hunter kill of a Cataclysm boss; podcaster with the Hunting Party Podcast; founder of the WoW Hunters Hall community portal; and eponym of the Recovered Cloak of Frostheim
When: Since 2005
Where: Icecrown (US-Alliance)
Why: Purportedly, being an "uncommonly good-looking hunter" has something to do with it.
How: Follow us past the break to find out!
Realm: Icecrown (US-Alliance)
WoW Insider: To so many World of Warcraft players, it seems there's always been a Grandpappy Frostheim at the forefront of the hunter community. When did you start playing World of Warcraft, and how did you come to start? What's your gaming background?
Frostheim: World of Warcraft was my first MMO, but I've always been an avid tabletop gamer; in fact, I used to work in the tabletop industry. Back in 2005, my entire tabletop RPG group started playing WoW. Suddenly the conversation each week as we waited for everyone to show up was filled with WoW talk of DPS and kiting and MAs and MTs, until I couldn't even follow the conversation. I suddenly realized that this is what it must feel like to be a non-gamer! Clearly if all these guys were that into the game, it was something I needed to check out. So in early 2005, I picked up the game and have been playing it nonstop for the last seven years, raiding from MC and BWL on.
Why hunters? And why dwarves?
The very first character I made was Frostheim. Originally I was trying to find a class that the rest of my group of friends didn't already have -- and I knew I didn't want to play a healer. Dwarf was the logical choice due to their rugged good looks, and the idea of playing a dwarf with a gun was sufficient motivation to cinch the idea. Then I just needed a dwarfly-sounding name, and "Frostheim" was the first one I tried.
As I was leveling (which took a long time back in those days), I tried a handful of other classes, but none of them held the appeal of the hunter. It became quickly apparent that the hunter class was designed as the central class in the game, with the others providing supporting roles to the hunter, and so Frostheim was my main and just about the only character that I played.
Tell us how you got into blogging and WoW Insider -- and then, of course, Warcraft Hunters Union.
I started Warcraft Hunters Union in the trailing days of The Burning Crusade partially as a testing platform for some SEO stuff, which is my day job. I took to blogging pretty quickly, however, and blogged every weekday for years. The blog grew enormously over the course of the next year. In December of 2010, just before the release of Icecrown Citadel in Wrath, WoW Insider posted that they were looking for a hunter columnist, and I put in an application. Several weeks later, I was writing Scattered Shots.
The WHU guild started when I was working on the I'm a Hunter video. I wanted some footage of a large number of hunters, so I invited readers of the blog to make level 1 dwarven hunters on Icecrown to go on a raid against Hogger. I was hoping for 20 or 30 hunters to show up to make it look awesome. We ended up with nearly 100 hunters, way more than I expected and more than we could fit into a raid group. For that event, we ended up butchering Hogger in about two seconds.
The mob-like mentality of hunters on the hunt wasn't satisfied with so easy a kill, and we ended up finding the world dragon Ysondre up. About 100 hunters (most at level 2 due to exploration XP) took down Ysondre, thanks to a graveyard right next to the dragon.
The event was so much fun that I made a video of the action and decided we'd need to do them semi-regularly. I started the WHU guild as a way to manage the large numbers of players; rather than forming raid teams, I could just make guild chat only available to officers, and send instructions through guild chat. We set a self-imposed level cap and raised it slightly after each event, so the entire guild slowly leveled throughout Wrath and Cataclysm until we finally hit level 85 and are now gearing up for the big level 85 event.
For me, the big appeal of the game is raiding and theorycrafting, as well as fun ways to stretch the hunter class like extreme soloing and tanking. Most of what I write centers around raiding and theorycrafting. I had to take a step back from raiding for much of Cataclysm, but the nice thing about raiding, unlike PvP, is it's almost all math and target dummy testing.
I've never been a big fan of doing gear guides, since gear decisions tend to vary based on your raid group and your other gear (this was especially true in Wrath, less so now). As a result, I usually avoided them on my blog, but due to the huge demand for them, I would do the gear guides for WoW Insider. Usually, if I'm going to write something very long or that requires a lot of work, like the Grandpappy Frostheim articles or the big class DPS analysis articles, I'll reserve those for WoW Insider. Warcraft Hunters Union has more hunter guides.
And now there's an entire hunter community portal. What's that all about?
I started WoW Hunters Hall as a way to help smaller hunter blogs get more exposure to more hunters. The idea was to leverage the popularity of Warcraft Hunters Union to give the WHH a strong starting readership.
The site reposts the first couple paragraphs of posts from all hunter blogs with a link to the full post. This way, readers can check out the WHH and see at a glance all of the latest news throughout the hunter community. Currently, hunter Tabana maintains almost everything on the WHH, including posting weekly recaps of all the hunter discussions on Elitist Jerks. It's turned into a pretty cool community portal.
The Recovered Cloak of Frostheim is amazing -- having an item named after you in game in a huge, huge honor (even if I already had a better cloak when this was put in game -- at least you can now transmog into it!). I even have a RL version of the cloak now, made by hunter and reader Wrailyn, who surprised me with it at the hunter get-together at BlizzCon last year.
And hearty congratulations on the WHU take-down of Omnotron! How do you manage to pull together a viable team from among all that pure, unadulterated hunterness?
In this case, it was mostly a matter of choosing bosses we had a chance against and developing the right strategies to take advantage of the hunter toolbox. Arthemystia volunteered to raid lead the attempts, and he and I had a lot of discussion about strategies for various bosses. A big part of it for us is nailing down strategies that give us a chance of success without needing the most hardcore, geared and skilled raiders in the world.
In fact, for Omnotron we had exactly 25 hunters show up for the fight. Admittedly, these were WHU hunters, not the run-of-the-mill guys facepulling mobs in your Raid Finder. We made it work with the guys we had, across a variety of gear and experience levels.
So let's talk a little about those challenges.
I have a full write-up of the strategies for Omnotron, but it's mostly a matter of having a good selection of hunter pets and making full use of the hunter toolbox. We had hunters bring the full range of hunter pets, so we had nearly all pet buffs. Unfortunately, self-healing took precedence over DPS, and thus we only had two of the top-DPS spec hunter to bring their buff. The rest of our hunters were either marksmanship for the self-heal of Chimera Shot or beast mastery for the Spirit Beast heal.
Our MM hunters had a Silencing Shot rotation for interrupts, and we were able to mitigate the damage of some abilities using Feign Death and Deterrence.
The other big advantage we had was tanks that do more damage than standard tanks and full DPS in place of healers. The result is massively higher DPS than a standard raid group could manage, which let us shorten the fight drastically.
The 25-man all-hunter raid has already gone back in and taken down both Atramedes and Maloriak. I'm not entirely certain what we're going to target next. We know we can do Occu'thar (we did it with a 10-man all-hunter raid), but Baradin Hold bosses just aren't that impressive. We're considering Halfus Wyrmbreaker and the potential of some Firelands bosses.
The big challenge with all-hunter raiding is that hunters have very little self-healing, even when we maximize it as much as we can. Therefore, we really need to target bosses that don't have a ton of unavoidable raid damage that's designed to be healed through. Instead, we need to find ones that have mostly avoidable damage and rely on raiding skill and fast kills to push us through.
How many members are in WHU, anyway?
I know when the 1,000-raid-member limit first kicked in, we had to boot inactive members from the guild to make room. We have a policy of kicking any member who's not at the level cap who has been inactive for a month. (They can always get back in at any time.) We're now down to a core of a bit over 600 members, and we get around 300 hunters for any given major in-game event.
Several support guilds have formed around the WHU, but the largest is the Dead Hunters Society, started when the low-level hunters of WHU made high level alts to provide supplies for their low-level mains. Most of these were death knights so they could start leveling from level 55. The DHS currently has over 900 members.
So you've created all of these top-rung resources, yet you're not full-time in any of this! What do you do away from World of Warcraft?
For my day job, I do search engine optimization -- basically, testing to understand how search engine algorithms work and then optimizing websites so that they rank better in the search engines. I currently work on one of the larger e-commerce websites out there.
Any new projects or plans ahead that you could whisper tantalizing tidbits about into our ears?
Yes, actually. I've been working to try to talk Balthazar into doing some more hunter songs. The problem is that he's a professional freelance composer and sound designer and doesn't even play WoW, so when he does one of these songs, he literally turns down paying gigs. The solution we finally settled on was to do a Kickstarter to hopefully make an entire album of awesome original hunter songs without putting Balthazar in the poorhouse.
Even Frostheim himself remains in the dark about where the Recovered Cloak of Frostheim was recovered from, exactly. Chat with him about that and more on the sites listed before the break, or catch him on Twitter.
"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) ... a blind ex-serviceman and the guildmates who keep him raiding as a regular ... and a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.