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Scattered Shots: Crowd control

Brian Karasek

Last week David covered Arenas for the hunter, while I laid low and did a little more leveling. I'm to the point now where crowd control becomes not only an option, but at times a requirement. Hunters are known for our ranged damage output. It's practically the thing hunters are made to do: stand back and shoot. We are also quite good at crowd control using our traps, though. You'll see it in the Looking for Group channel fairly regularly: "LF1M DPS/CC."

That's us. Damage per Second and Crowd Control. They might be thinking Rogue or Warlock, but you should see those five letters and think "that's me." Not only is crowd control something hunters are good at, it's something which not all hunters do reliably or well. Being able to trap, and trap competently, will go a long way towards making you friends in both instances and the open road.

In this article I'll be discussing ways to use your Freezing Trap as a method of both controlling crowds and making friends. For those of you who haven't yet learned it, Freezing Trap is learned at level twenty. Rank One provides a ten second freeze. Rank Two upgrades at level forty for a fifteen second freeze. Rank three upgrades at level sixty for a twenty second freeze. Once the trap is laid, it will remain in place for sixty seconds before fading if it is not sprung. Meanwhile, the trap's cooldown is thirty seconds. Laying one trap while another is ready to spring will cancel the first one in favor of the second one.

Several talents exist to assist with trapping, in the Survival talent tree. Points spent on Entrapment give your traps an increasing chance to snare any opponent which trips them. Points spent on Clever Traps increase the duration of Frost and Freezing traps, the damage from Explosive and Immolation traps, and the number of snakes summoned from Snake traps. Points spent on Trap Mastery decrease the chance your opponents have to resist your traps. Points spent on Resourcefulness decrease the mana cost of traps (and melee abilities) as well as their cooldown. Talent specialization is up to you, but be aware that some or all of these talents will make your job as a trapper much easier.

We start trapping things after the jump.

Setting the Trap
For the purposes of this article, I'll deal mainly with Freezing Trap, as that's our standard method of crowd control. The basics are pretty easy. When you lay the trap, you will see it appear in front of you. It will remain in that place until sixty seconds have elapsed or until something sets it off. Once an enemy target sets the trap off, that target will be frozen in place for the duration of the trap or until it takes damage.

Damage Breaks Traps
Bear that damage part in mind. A target which already has a Damage Over Time effect on it will not be useful to trap, as it will only remain frozen until the next tick of the Damage Over Time. Similarly, a target which is trapped within the Area of Effect of a damaging effect will unfreeze as soon as it takes damage from that effect. For this reason it's always a good idea for a group to agree on which target is yours to trap. That way no group members should be putting a Damage Over Time effect on it. Do not be shy about explaining this in low level groups. It doesn't have to be a harsh or bossy explanation. Simply say something to the effect of "I'll trap that one, please no one put any DOTs on it or I won't be able to." Assume your group knows the basics, but don't assume that a reminder won't be handy.

Areas of Effect Happen at the Melee Site
Areas of Effect are more your responsibility than any other group member. You should have an idea of where your tank will be conducting their melee combat. Do not trap your target anywhere near that place. Putting a trap too close to the melee combat subjects it to AOE attacks from your casters (or you), as well as any AOE attacks the tank might have. Not all of these abilities will always break the trap, but it is always a good idea to get in the habit of trapping some ways back from the melee combat. At the very least, having your trap 20 yards away from the action means it will have farther to run once it thaws, giving you more time to lay another or to kite it around and keep it busy.

Timing is Essential
You will be able to lay another trap thirty seconds (perhaps less with talents or gear) after you lay one. However, your trap will be in position for sixty seconds after you lay it, meaning there's a thirty second window when you'll have a trap on the ground and one "in your pocket" ready to lay.

Watch What You Trap
The way you trap a target is to cause it to enter into your trap's radius. It sounds simple, doesn't it? However, a lot of group leaders, hunter and otherwise, forget an important part of that: it is difficult to trap targets which have ranged attacks. When first getting the hang of trapping for crowd control, try to be sure your trap target is a melee attacker. Very little breaks a hunter's heart so much as placing a nice trap, shooting a target, and seeing that target just start shooting back. At that point, you've got its attention, your trap is useless, and you have nothing to do but trade shots with it until you can lay another trap. If you absolutely must trap a caster or ranged attacker, don't lay the trap and wait for it. Once combat begins, you'll have to run at the target and lay a trap at its feet.

So, Like I Said, Setting the Trap
With all this in mind, a nice safe approach to the positioning of the trap is as follows:

  • Identify to the group which target you will be trapping.
  • Determine the location of the melee combat.
  • Lay a trap twenty yards behind that spot, and target your intended trap target.
  • Convince your tank to wait thirty seconds before they pull. This will allow you to have a trap ready to drop as soon as your target is trapped.
  • Allow the tank to pull the group.
  • As soon as he has gotten the group's attention, shoot your target to draw aggro off the tank and get that target to come to you.
Fwoosh. You've trapped your target.

Keeping Cool
Once you have your target trapped, you'll likely want to keep it that way as long as possible. This becomes easier later in the game as you get more duration on your Freezing Trap and perhaps add talents and gear, but the concepts remain the same. As soon as your trap is cooled down, lay another. Don't lay it too close to where the target is already trapped. If you place the next trap too close, the target will be affected by it immediately, replacing the current trap. This will reset the trap's timer, but it may also throw off your plans to keep the thing trapped. A better idea is to place the next trap some distance from where the target is initially trapped.

Remember that the target, while frozen, is still ticked off at you. Once the trap thaws, it will come for you again. When you place the follow up trap, position yourself on the opposite side of it from your trap target. When it thaws, it will run at you and hit your trap first. Fwoosh. You've re-trapped it.

Some things to keep in mind for re-trapping
The farther your target has to run to hit your trap, the longer your trap has to cooldown, and the closer you get to being able to lay another trap afterwards. There are several ways to take advantage of this fact. Positioning your follow up trap farther away from the target means it will have longer to go. Shooting your trap target with Concussive Shot once it thaws will make that trip slower, no matter how far it is.

The longer your trap sits on the ground waiting to be sprung, the more time you have to cool down. Keep an eye on your trap cooldown, and try to lay the follow up as soon as possible. In the early levels you will likely run out of traps and cooldowns before too long, but don't get frustrated. Being able to trap a target twice with a ten second trap duration will make it that much easier to keep one trapped constantly later on, when you have a twenty-six second duration.

Chain-Trapping and Double Traps
Ah, here we get fancy. Chain trapping is simply the method above, augmented by level and talents (and not a little bit of practice). Once you are accustomed to the concepts of retrapping, and you're at a level where your traps have a good duration, it becomes a lot easier. The execution is the same, but with increased duration and decreased cooldowns, you'll be easily able to chain trap.

Double trapping is even easier but it looks fancier. As mentioned above, you will be able to lay another trap before an existing one has been sprung. If you need, you can take advantage of this by trapping two targets at once. Again, very easy. Once you've laid your first trap, let it cooldown to where you can cast one again. As soon as your first target is trapped, lay another trap and pick another target. Here again, Distracting Shot is your friend. When your second target hits the second trap, both it and your first target will be frozen. Bear in mind though that this leaves you empty when your first target thaws, which might be quite soon for some of us.

Double trapping is generally an "on demand" kind of thing, you probably won't be called upon to do it except in moments of duress. As with much of our class, a lot depends on you being accustomed to our class mechanics and aware of your timing. I have often used the double trap to keep a spare mob from killing a caster or worse yet a healer. The sight of one hunter between two traps looks impressive to most players. If the second of those traps saved their life, even better for you.

Backup Crowd Control
Now that you've got some good ideas on how to trap your own targets, let's discuss the crowd control of other classes. We're not the only ones who can keep a target held in place. Rogues can Sap, Priests can Shackle, Warlocks can Seduce with the right demon, and Mages can Polymorph, among others. You can use your trap to not only chain your own target, but also to serve as a backup for the crowd control target of another player. We'll use a Priest for an example of other crowd control, in a hypothetical group containing a priest, rogue, mage, warrior, and hunter who are fighting a group of four undead targets.

Priests can Shackle undead targets, which locks that target in place for 30-50 seconds depending on their level. Shackle is broken by damage, or by Shackling another target. So in a group, you and your priest might each have your own target, with their own agenda. Here's a good way to put your traps to double use.

At the beginning of the fight, the warrior pulls the group of NPCs. The priest shackles one and you trap one, while the warrior, rogue, and mage begin damaging the remaining NPCs. You know the priest's shackle won't last forever, and you also know when your trap will expire. When the priest's target becomes unshackled, it will run at the priest. When your trapped target thaws, it will run at you. When you place a follow up trap for your target, you can place it in a position to help you or the priest, whoever needs it first.

Imagine a straight line between you and your trapped target, and another between the priest and his shackled target. If you place a trap at the intersection of these two lines, whichever target gets loose first will run at the trap. This way, even if the shackle is broken accidentally, the priest's target will hit your trap before it hits the priest. I guarantee you, any priest who watches this happen will never forget it. Be aware that if you do this and your trap is sprung by the other player's crowd control target, you'll need to compensate when your trapped target thaws.

This diagram illustrates the situation described above. The Rogue and Warrior are attacking one target while the warrior also holds the aggro of the extra loose NPC. The mage provides support fire to the rogue and warrior. The priest is healing the rogue and the warrior as needed, while the hunter is shooting the warrior's target. Meanwhile, look at the controlled NPCs. Note the paths of the shackled and the trapped NPCs. The solid blue square represents where the next trap should go. The hunter here has positioned himself as I describe above: when the shackle breaks it will head for the priest and hit the trap first. When the trap thaws, that NPC will head for the hunter and it will hit the trap first.

Extra Rounds
It's important to make sure that your trapped target is focused on you. The last thing you want is for your trap to thaw right as your priest is casting a powerful heal spell, which can cause your target to attack the priest instead of you. Be sure as your trap wears down that your target is still targeting you. Remember Distracting Shot does no damage, only threat. You can cast a Distracting Shot on a frozen target (and only that, don't let any other shots go on it) to be sure and keep your threat high for that target. A less risky approach is to simply target your trapped target as it gets close to thawing, and shoot it a couple times as it breaks, to be sure.

Clearing the Chamber
It is very easy to play a hunter poorly. It's only slightly harder to play one well. I cannot stress enough that a level of comfort with the mechanics of the class as well as the timing of our skills is essential. Keeping a cool head and a full sack of ammo can make all the difference between being "a hunter" and being "My Favorite Hunter."

And everyone likes to be someone's favorite.

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