June 8, 2009

The Colosseum: Ninchuu the WoW Hunter

Gladiator Ninchuu is one of the new breed of Hunters doing battle with success in the last two seasons. While Burning Crusades could be considered a dark time for the class, confining the masters of ranged weapons to the slow, highly technical "drain team," Wrath of the Lich King has introduced several different interesting possibilities for the Hunter.

Ninchuu took the time to talk with us about the Hunter class, how they relate to other classes, and how he conducts his time in the Arena. He's got some especially great tips about how Arena hopefuls should be aware of their mindset when stepping foot in the virtual squared circle.

WoW Insider: So, what made you choose your class? What about it appeals to you?

Ninchuu: Originally when WoW came out, I played a Tauren Warrior on US-Magtheridon because I found the rage mechanic unique. I was having tons of fun on my warrior. That is until some random Night Elf Hunter 100% kited me to death multiple times. This happened when I was level 29, one level short before Intercept.

So, I decided to make an Orc Hunter alt, named Chuunin just to see how dumb a hunter was when matched with a melee in world PvP. Pretty soon, I grew attached to my hunter alt. The pet mechanic and kiting aspect was a lot more enjoyable then getting snared non-stop on my warrior, so I stuck with the hunter class from then right up to today.

WoW Insider: One thing that has significantly improved with Wrath is that Warriors have more gap closing options now. Being on the other side of the fence, how much trouble do you find you have with melee now?

Ninchuu: They are definitely much harder to handle now, and I believe the higher representation of Warriors in Arenas is one of the prime reasons why hunters have a lower representation in arenas now. Sure, the hunter nerfs were bad, but when you give any melee class more mobility it will slaughter any ranged class in every bracket of arena.

However, in hindsight, the charge buff and other buffs they received were necessary if they wanted to have a chance in lower brackets.

Early into Season 6, when Disengage was nerfed to a 30 sec cooldown (21 second if glyphed and talented) versus a Warrior's 15 sec (12 sec glyphed) gap closer, it was almost impossible for me to get range versus a good warrior. Sometimes I had to blow Deterrence just to deflect the charge-stun. This is because it was possible for them to instagib me from 60% life to 0% in a span of a few seconds if I didn't have Disengage up.

However, now that Disengage is back to a 25 second cooldown and Charge is stuck at a 15 second cooldown, I find that Blizzard for once did a great job balancing out the gap versus Warriors and Hunters. Overall, I find that warriors are a lot harder to handle than the joke of a class they were in S5, but not as ridiculous as they were before the Juggernaut nerf. They are still a high threat to hunters, but also add some great flavour to arenas, unlike the sea of Death Knight/Paladins or Death Knight/Paladin/Warlock comps seen last season.

WoW Insider: Considering the noise on the official forums, though, Warriors aren't the biggest threat right now. How do you do against Death Knights and Retribution Paladins?

Ninchuu: Melee in general is a big threat, warriors are just bigger because they have so much more potential than others to counter strategies my teammates and I come up with. They do heavy random burst damage, ping pong charge and intercept to interrupt heals, they have a dependable Mortal Strike debuff and, of course, Bladestorm over my Frost and Freezing traps to negate them.

Death Knights have been toned down considerably, but of the three aforementioned melee classes I find that DKs are the hardest to kill. Anti-Magic Shield hasn't changed since S5, Bone Armor and Icebound in Frost Presence provide quite a solid defense (even versus the fire damage of explosive shot) and saccing their pet is another issue I have to deal with. Frost DKs are even worse, they have the most burst potential and can instagib my pet very early in a game, which will compromise my ability to mitigate damage, kite the DK, and keep his or her healer in combat. However, their lack of a Mortal Strike debuff and only one gap closer (Death Grip) make them predictable and easy to kite.

Retribution Paladins are similar to Death Knights in some ways, because they have no Mortal Strike debuff and predictable heavy burst. Retribution paladins are relatively easy to handle, even if it's Ret/Priest in 2s. Good Retribution Paladins Freedom themselves before running over my frost traps. (I lose Lock and Load and kiting area.) They cleanse their partner as soon as possible when I trap or sleep them. Aside from that, I feel as if Retributions are limited to what they're capable of doing, and from what I've seen on the Arena Junkies Paladin boards, I'm not the only one who feels that way.

The only time I lose to Death Knights or Retadins is when they instagib my pet early on, but there have been rumours about making pets scale with resilience, so the future might not be so grim.

WoW Insider: That's an incredibly good summary of your situation with melee -- though, you didn't mention Rogues. Is that because Rogues aren't much of a threat to Hunters?

Ninchuu: This question is tricky. Unlike Death Knights, Retadins, or Warriors, the way a Rogue is handled differs on an extreme scale depending on who his partner(s) are, which in turn affects how dangerous they are as well.

I like to speak in terms of 2s, so I'll start there. As Rogue/Mage or Rogue/Paladin, they tunnel me while controlling my Priest. A good rogue times his stuns flawlessly, anticipates my deterrence and disarms me offensively as opposed to defensively (can't detterence without a weapon). Without deterrence, I'm a sitting duck. If that fails, they'll reset and have a second go at it. Games are very intense and it usually comes down to how well they play, as opposed to how well we play. In 3s they're not as bad, but that might be because we run a double Healer setup and outlast a rogue's CDs.

As for rogue and healer (usually Priest) setups, it's tough. The rogue will sit on my Priest, and the other Priest will just tunnel Mana Burn. Evasion messes me up big time, one missed aimed shot or scatter shot determines the game. Life gets even harder if they're double Undead.

If I had to rank melee in terms of threat it would be as follows: Warriors = Rogues > DKs > Retadins.

WoW Insider: How do you do against casters?

Ninchuu: Mages are relatively (note, relatively) easy to handle, and it's a matter of timing Deterrence before the Shatter and well timed pet Freedoms. The same could be said for Destruction Warlocks.

Affliction warlocks are the only threat. They can do so much damage and utilize line of sight whenever they please. The RNG factor of Fear is also ridiculously hard to handle, especially if it's on the sewers of Dalaran where I can run all the way behind a box or ground floor into a corner.

Since pets don't have resilience, DoTs just eat my pet up and my healer can't afford to burn mana all the time healing it. I firmly believe a hard counter to Hunter/Priest is Warlock/Paladin, but thanks to the higher representation of good melee in 2s, we don't encounter those.

The other casters don't show up often enough for me to form a good analysis of what they're capable of, but I hope down the road Blizzard will diversify arena compositions without homogenizing classes (IE giving everyone a disarm, a MS, an X second invulnerability ability).

WoW Insider: Well, with that being said, you've painted an informative picture of how Hunters play against other classes. Let's talk about your partner a bit, though -- what class is your partner? Why did you choose that one instead of another? Have you ever tried running a Hunter as part of a double-DPS team?

Ninchuu: I play with Smarba (NE disc priest) for 2s, Snoozletoes (Resto Shaman) and Smarba for 3s and the infamous Tugget, Brewkz, and Gordonbombay along with Snoozletoes for 5s.

Saying I chose to play with certain classes would be wrong. All of us, and including some random others, formed our own community and we just kinda mix and match partners without thinking about it. In S5 I played with Snoozzletoes since I've known him forever. This season, I'm with Smarba because I've also known him for a long time and heard priests got buffed up. Admittedly I was quite lucky, because Resto Sham/Surv Hunter in S5 had high synergy, and now Disc Priest / Surv (or Marks) Hunter in S6 have high synergy. Who knows, I might try Druid/Hunter next season for the hell of it.

I want to run a Rogue/Hunter or Ele Sham/Hunter 2s comp, but haven't found the people with the skill or right attitude to do it with.

I find playing with people you know really makes arenas a lot more enjoyable. I would much rather run a bad composition with people I know than a high synergy comp with people I've never played with before. But I'm pretty sure thats how most people feel anyways.

WoW Insider: What do you think your best secrets are for your success?

Ninchuu: The best 'secret' I can share for success in arena, is to enjoy the arena. As geeky as it sounds, if anyone takes arenas seriously they should treat it like a sport. Don't play while under stress or when you're in a bad mood, this only creates tension between you and your teammates and ultimately causes nerd rage. Don't play while sleepy or when hungry, your mind will wander off. And finally, never ever point fingers when you lose an arena match. This isn't dueling, this is a team-based effort, always question what you could've done better rather than demanding more from your teammate.

Another key to success in arenas is to be creative. Just because hunter X uses spec Y with gear setup Z doesn't mean that it's the best thing out there. If survival is the dominating spec, swap to Marksmanship. If marksmanship doesn't work, tweak your build to cover weaknesses in your play style.

In S4, there was a double hunter 2s team that hit gladiator, and last season Mage/Warlock teams were up there in the 2600s. Who knows, next a Fire Mage/Shadow Priest might be the next best thing. I speak from experience that trying new things with your class makes you a better player.

WoW Insider: In terms of creating new stuff and trying out new things, what are you doing right now? What are you working on?

Ninchuu: As of right now I'm trying to make marksmanship work. It's such a fun spec as opposed to survival, despite its mana issues. It took around 2 or 3 different specs and hours of dummy, BG, and Arena testing, but I believe I have found a spec that finally works.

I have yet to test this spec out in 5s, but I have high expectations of it.

As mentioned earlier I wanted to try Elemental Shaman and Marksmanship Hunter in 2s, but I'm committed to my current teams so that'll have to wait for another time.

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