Scattered Shots: Autocast bugs and other animal handling issues in 3.0.2

Daniel Whitcomb
D. Whitcomb|10.31.08

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Scattered Shots: Autocast bugs and other animal handling issues in 3.0.2
I shall call him Squishy, and he shall be mine. And he shall be my Squishy.
Welcome to Scattered Shots, where Daniel Whitcomb loves his Hunter Judgement, but wishes he got the cool looking shoulders too.

So between 3.0.2, the Scourge Invasion, and Hallow's End, my Hunter's seen a lot of play as I've been going after the title and the undead armor and playing with all the new changes on a live server and all, and in that time, I've had some chance to see how stuff works out when it's thrown into the crucible of live server playing. Most of my observations have ended up focusing around pets, which is probably to be expected. After all, they've changed quite a bit. Here's what's I've learned from 3.0.2 in the last few weeks about managing your pet:

Avoiding the Autocast Bugout

So this is a problem I know some of you have told me you've been having: You think you have a skill on autocast, say, Heart of the Phoenix, and it doesn't trigger when it should. Or, you take a skill off autocast, and it triggers anyway, and when you check, it's back on autocast.

This is a bug that seems to pop up pretty frequently ever since the talent change, on the Beta, on PTRs, and now live servers. No-one's quite hammered down how the bug happens that I've been able to find out. It may happen when you log out, when you enter a dungeon, or even when your pet automatically attacks a monster. Luckily, there's a few ways to deal with this.

The first is to put the ability on your main cast bar. The abilities in those 4 slots generally keep the state their in and will autocast (or not autocast) properly. Of course, the problem with this is that with the new pet talents and family skills, chances are you have more than 4 abilities to keep track of, which brings us to our next option.

The next option is to use /petautocastoff and /petautocaston in macros to make sure your abilities are working right. You can just create a straight up macro that you can press periodically to reset your preferred cast and autocast abilities, or you can weave them into another useful macro. Here's a very simple example:

/cast Hunter's Mark
/petautocastoff Cower

This is a simple attack macro that marks your target, sends your pet in to attack, and makes sure that Cower is off auto attack. This is very useful when soloing for sure. Of course, even with these two options, this is still a very annoying little bug, and hopefully Blizzard will squash it soon.

Pet Aggro and Tanking

In Pet Tanking news, I have good news and bad news: The good news is that a Tenacity Pet can do some pretty serious tanking. The bad news is that the aggro of some families is still very dicey, and you'll have to work extra hard to keep from pulling aggro off of them. Whether this changes at 80, I can't say for sure, but for now, given a normal growl and damage rotation, I find myself having to throttle my DPS to make sure my pet Boar can keep the attention of the stuff we're fighting.

Of course, it is, once again, possible to use a few handy macros and a bit of planning to get around that. Misdirection's cooldown is up pretty swiftly nowadays, which gives you a good excuse to use it. Creating a specialized Misdirection Macro focus on your pet can do wonders for letting your pet keep the monster's attention. Here's an example:

/target (your pet's name)
/cast Misdirection

This will quickly target your pet, give it Misdirection, then switch back to your original target so you can start unloading the threat immediately. Of course, you can streamline the process quite a bit more. Here's a more involved macro from WoWWiki:

#showtooltip Misdirection
/cast [target=focus,help][help][target=pet,exists,nodead] Misdirection

If you have a focused target, this macro will automatically cast on your focus. If you don't, it will cast on your pet. If you don't use your focus for keeping track of enemies, setting your focus on the tank can be helpful in keeping Misdirection flowing in the right direction.

In the good news section, there's still a whole lot of tanking going on. If you grab a Tenacity pet with a family ability more suited for gaining aggro, such as a Gorilla or a Worm, and/or if you keep Misdirection going, you can tank stuff pretty well. My Boar has personally tanked the Headless Horseman 6 times in a row while back by a Holy Paladin, and solo, I've managed to solo level 66-68 elites with a bit of mend pet. Just unload with the Intimidation and Bestial Wrath up front and keep that Misdirection going, and your pet should be able to grab a large enough chunk of aggro that you can stay comfortably behind her.

My Pet has Skills

As I mentioned earlier, there is one more problem that 3.0.2 has bought to the world of Hunter pets: the overflow of skills. Just with a simple ferocity build at 70, you might have skills like Call of the Wild and Heart of the Phoenix that you'd like to be able to trigger at will. Unfortunately, by the time you fit Growl, Cower, Bite, Claw, or Slap, and your pet's family skill on the pet bar, you have no room.

Luckily, there is a solution, if you have some extra room for another macro. Then you can just write a simple two-line macro:

/cast Call of the Wild

Voila. You now have access to the skill even if you don't have room for it on the pet bar. You can do this with any other pet skill as well, of course.

Other Random Observations

  • Always remember to switch out of Aspect of the Viper. Gaining mana is now a much more involved process since Aspect of the Viper lowers your DPS. Of course, if you need artificially throttle your DPS a bit, such as if you're overtaking your pet on threat, it gives you a good excuse to switch out of Viper. Just make sure you switch back into Hawk before the boss.
  • Pet tanking is still not quite imba, except maybe for Gorillas. Level 70 elites will definitely still bruise your pet something fierce, even if you are chain casting Mend Pet. But with skills like Blood of the Rhino, a good healer should be able to keep a Tenacity pet up against your basic elite.
  • Disengaging yourself off the side of a cliff is actually pretty hilarious in hindsight, but not something you want to make a habit of, probably.
Let Scattered Shots help fill your every Hunter need with columns on everything from Roleplaying your Hunter to setting traps to speccing your Hunter for 3.0.2. Also, don't miss BRK'S Wrath pet videos!
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