Latest in Gaming

Image credit:

Scattered Shots: Grandpappy Frostheim on mana

Brian Wood

Scattered Shots is brought to you by Grandpappy Frostheim, who spends his evenings in an Ironforge tavern telling young hunters how much harder things were in his day, when they had to kite mobs uphill, both ways ... back when men were men, and women were men too, and pets were next to useless -- but they were also men. You can ask him questions on Google+.

You hunters these days and your love affair with mana. All I hear from kids lately is, "Waa! I don't want focus. I like my mana!"

Well listen up, pups: You may think you have mana right now, but you don't. I don't know what that little blue bar you have really is -- some kind of frilly decoration that has something to do with "feelings" or "positive reinforcement" or some such nonsense, I imagine. But whatever it is, it ain't mana.

Now back in my day, we had mana! Back then, mana was actually a resource -- something that ran out and left you desperate and gasping, rather than some decoration that offset your health bar prettily. And when you ran out of mana, you didn't have no fancy aspect or Viper Sting to get that mana back in no time. Hell, no! You just sat there and you auto-shot until your mana slowly crept back up enough to fire another shot. And by the Titans, we liked it that way!

You want to learn something about hunters, back before everything was handed to you on a silver platter, back when we exulted in the injustice of our class rather than cried about it? Then listen up!

Mana and healers

Now, I'm talking about hunters here, but mana wasn't just about hunters. All kinds of classes had real mana back then. The healers had the worst part of it. They actually set up what we called healing rotations in those 40-man raid dungeons. If the fight was a long one, it was guaranteed that the healers would run out of mana, so they took turns at it. One set of 'em would heal for a few minutes, and when they got low, another set of healers would take over.

Those first healers would then sit there a spell, not doing much of anything except maybe wanding a little bit. Oh yeah, wands were actually used back then. It's what you did when you ran out of mana. Well, that, and the healers would use the time to update their diaries.

Eh? You didn't know that all healers keep diaries? It's true, mark my words. All filled with hearts and flowers and hippy elf stuff like that, too. Shadow priests keep 'em, too, for some reason, but theirs are filled with all kinds of disturbing stuff. You ever see a shadow priest diary lying around -- listen up, this is important -- if you ever see a shadow priest diary lying around, you do not open it. Some things you just can't unsee.

Now, we mana users had a saying back in those days: "Pot early and pot often."
You see, unlike your sissy alchemists these days, ours knew how to make a good mana potion. It had a 2-minute cooldown, but you could use it every two minutes, whether you were in combat or not. The general strategy was as soon as you used up a decent chunk of your mana -- enough that you wouldn't waste any of that precious potion -- then you'd drink your first mana potion. This ensured that you could use another one as soon as possible and have enough mana to last you the two minutes until you could drink another.

Mana efficiency

Now back then, we hunters were known for being very mana-efficient, and we hardly ever had to use more than two mana potions in a fight. But if we didn't use them wisely, we'd sure as repair bills run out of mana and have nothing to do but auto-shot. Of course, the reason we were so mana-efficient is we didn't do a whole lot other than auto-shot, even when we had mana.

Our rotation was Aimed Shot, Multi-Shot, then sit there and auto-shot for a good 6 seconds or so while we waited for something to come off cooldown. Those auto-shots were important, which is why your elders first developed the stutter-stepping techniques to let those auto-shots off while moving. We didn't have any instant damaging shots to fire, after all. Aimed Shot was a 3-second cast, you know, and shared a cooldown with Arcane Shot.

The Parable of Vael

So we were mana-efficient -- and known for it, too. This was great when we had to fight Vael in BWL. Big fight, the kind that destroyed guilds. Back in those days, you'd wipe for days, for weeks, sometimes over a month on a tough boss, and that's just the way it was. We didn't have overprivileged sissies who wanted to quit after three or five wipes. Heh, three to five wipes -- we were still warming up. Weren't even limber yet, you know, still getting our buzz going and haven't even tapped the second keg.

One of the mechanics of Vael is that it randomly killed people. No way out of it, you're gonna die. All you could do was run out to the designated death spot so you didn't take any of your raid with you when you blew yourself to smithereens. Well, what with 40 people in the raid back in those days, we had warlock soulstones to go around.

Now, I'm not one to say much good about warlocks, but I will say this. Back in those days, no warlock ever let his soulstone go to waste. A warlock who didn't have a soulstone on someone at all times had his dress taken away and was chased into the woods, where he became a NPC. No one wants a fate like that, so them 'locks spent the hour before every raid killing stuff to fill their bags with soulstones. Not like 'locks today. Can't remember the last time I saw one actually use his damned soulstone, no matter how much easier they've made it for them. Back in my day, they knew that and a cookie were the only reason we brought them along at all.

So we had a lot of warlocks, which meant we had a lot of soulstones. But the problem with Vael was we needed to soulstone those DPSers, because the fight was a DPS race. Only they came back with so little mana that they'd use it up in no time flat, then be useless, wanding fools.

For that fight -- and that one fight alone -- warlocks were forced to set aside their ancient hatred for hunters, and for that glorious fight, we were actually soulstoned. Gives a hunter a good feeling, you know. You get targeted with Vael's ability, and go over to the death spot and die. Then you click on the soulstone and pop back into the fight, knowing that you can go a good couple of minutes on that wee bit of mana you've got left.

Warlock hate

The 'locks and hunters had a special kind of enmity on that fight having to do with DoTs. You see, warlocks had a lot of DoTs, and we hunters just had our Serpent Sting. But the warlocks DoTs were stronger than ours. Now back in those days, you could only have a limited number of debuffs on a boss -- I think it was 16, and that was for 40 players. If you went over that limit, your new debuff would kick another one off.

We hunters were not allowed to use Serpent Sting on that fight because it would bump off a more valuable DoT or debuff -- at least, not until enough useless 'locks had died off that there were debuff slots free for our stings.

The point

The point of the fact of the matter, kids, is that what you think of as mana ain't at all what it should be. The whole system, the whole mechanic, is broken up, down and sideways. Not only wasn't it always like this, it's not supposed to be like this. It's supposed to be a resource, not a decoration. It's supposed to run out, and you're supposed to have to make decisions about whether to do the most damage you can now or to do less damage but save mana. 'Cause maybe that will let you do more damage over the long haul.

Fights were less about damage meters and topping the charts back then. Don't get me wrong; we had meters, and we wanted to top them, but winning was more important. Seems like your generation is happy to lose if you can do it while topping the charts and blaming someone else.

Remember what I told you about the healers? No, not the part about the diary, the part about healing rotations! If you were a fool of a hunter and got yourself caught in void zones and rains of fire that you should've avoided, then those healers had a decision to make. Sure, they could heal you. But if they did, that was less mana they had to heal the tank. If they had too many stupid gits like you to heal, then the whole raid would wipe.

Avoiding damage mattered, maybe even more than DPSing. Heck, I remember one fight where the boss did an AoE centered on himself (the Baron, I think it was). The melee had to all run out to range to avoid it, and it lasted a fair while, too. But they didn't just stand there. They ran out and ran up to an injured person and bandaged them. Because they had nothing else useful to do with those seconds, and that kind of thing mattered.

Well, it's like my grandpappy always said: "If you don't know your history, I'll whip your backside 'til you can't sit for a week."

Well, my own grandpappy may be gone, but I think Blizzard takes after him just a bit. 'Cause from what I'm hearing with Cataclysm, mana is going to be less the hippie elf art that it is today and a bit more like the real resource it was back then. Not quite as harsh, perhaps, but nothing like the coddling you're used to.

So you listen to the words of an old hunter whose been there and seen that. You'd better wrap your heads around the idea of what real mana is. Because even if you won't be using it anymore, your healers will, and your survival depends on you understanding what a resource mechanic really is.

Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. See the Scattered Shots Resource Guide for a full listing of vital and entertaining hunter guides, including how to improve your heroic DPS, understand the impact of skill vs. gear, and getting started with Beast Mastery 101 and Marksman 101.

From around the web

ear iconeye icontext filevr