Sunday the team hit level 80. If it seems that it took a very long time to get those last two levels, it did... sort of. Having gotten to level 78, my group had flying mounts, cold-weather flying, and decent gear upgrades (particularly for the hunters). So I took it easy at that point and played very little. Mostly I would check my auction toon, doing so at least once each day to make sure any expired items did not stay in the mailbox too long. But this past weekend I did a number of short 'quest runs,' mostly in Zul'Drak, and finished their leveling. There is still a lot of questing for them to do, and I haven't even done the Amphitheater quests.
After they hit 80 I spent a bit of time revamping their talents. I switched one of the Survival hunters to Marksman spec, giving me two MM and one SV hunter. I also upgraded some of the paladin's gear and enchants. He's currently at just over 23,500 health and 22,200 armor unbuffed, but his defense is a bit short of the crit-cap. However, there's time to deal with that later, as I still have a pretty full slate of normal instances to run before worrying about heroic dungeons. For the time being I still have quests to complete and reputations to raise and whatever other PvE-oriented goals or ideas come to mind.
I'm also considering leveling up two more shaman in order to have the option of a group consisting of four shaman and the paladin. I may also level one or two additional characters with that group, probably one or two mages/warlocks. I like the thought of having several options to try out later on. But as often happens when I get to the tough sledding, I'll probably play less and spend more time looking for other things to do. Or maybe I'll be more focused this time and actually get some dungeon running done for a change. Who knows?
Hunter DPS rotations
I was asked about the DPS rotations I use for my hunters. Those are still a work-in-progress, and will be for a while. What I do at the moment depends on what I'm dealing with. For every mob, I have a basic 'opening' macro. One of the hunters (who has the Hunter's Mark talent that reduces the mana cost to zero while increasing the effect by 50%) casts Hunter's Mark, any pet buffs (eg, Call of the Wild) and sends the pet to attack. The other two hunters will use the same macro without the Hunter's Mark command. After that...
Non-elites: for non-elite mobs, I have a second key mapped to their primary damage attack. For the Marksman hunters that is Chimera Shot. For the Survival hunter, it is Explosive Shot. Explosive shot is excellent damage, as it does three ticks a second apart. Each tick, as of level 78, was doing around 1,000-1,200 damage, or 2,200-2,500 when they crit. Since Chimera Shot's damage hits all at once, it does about twice the damage "up-front." As of level 78, it was doing 1,900-2,200 damage, and up to 5,400 damage or more when it crit. It's why I switched one of the SV hunters to MM-- I still have a lot of outdoors questing to do, and even level 80 mobs die very quickly when you're hitting them with upwards of 15,000 damage before they even realize that they've been targeted.
Elites/Bosses: for longer fights, I've tried two approaches. One places several attacks on different keys that I can press in a specific sequence. The other uses a castsequence macro. Either works just as well on dungeon trash as they do on bosses. It's just a case of what I find more comfortable to use (and I've got a ways to go before I decide that).
The key sequence starts with the Hunter's Mark/pet buff/send pet macro. Then the next keystroke buffs the hunter's damage (trinkets, abilities, etc). I have separate keys bound to a macro that casts Misdirection on the tank, so that I can rotate the ability if needed. Then it's on to the attacks, which depend on the talent spec. Survival would be something like Black Arrow, then Serpent Sting, Explosive Shot, Aimed Shot, and Steady Shot. Steady Shot gets spammed until the cooldowns refresh on the other abilities. The benefit of using this setup is that I can skip the longer cooldowns (Black Arrow, Serpent Sting) until they're ready to be used again. The Marks hunters would use a rotation along the lines of Serpent Sting, Arcane Shot, Chimera Shot, Aimed Shot, and Steady Shot. Against a boss mob I will also substitute Scorpid Sting for Serpent Sting on one of the hunters, for the reduction in chance-to-hit.
The macro also depends on the talent spec. For SV it might be:
/castsequence reset=30 Black Arrow, Serpent Sting, Explosive Shot, Aimed Shot, Steady Shot, Steady Shot, Explosive Shot, Steady Shot, Steady Shot, Steady Shot, Explosive Shot, Aimed Shot, Steady Shot, Steady ShotThe idea is to set it so that Black Arrow is fired again as soon as it is available, and in the meantime the hunter should be firing Explosive Shot and Aimed Shot as they become available, with Steady Shot filling in. Even with the glyph for Serpent Sting, it won't be refreshed at all times, which is a loss of DPS. But this does mean that I'm tapping one key instead of a row of keys, and might be better DPS overall than the key sequence approach.
For Marks, the macro would look something like this:
/castsequence reset=21 Serpent Sting, Chimera Shot, Aimed Shot, Arcane Shot, Steady Shot, Steady Shot, Steady Shot, Arcane Shot, Steady Shot, Chimera Shot, Aimed Shot, Arcane Shot, Steady Shot, Steady ShotThe idea is the same as above, except that because the glyphed Serpent Sting is the longest cooldown, I can have it up all the time. Which is good because Chimera Shot does additional damage when Serpent Sting is active. Other than that, the rotation attempts to use the other DPS abilities as soon as they become available, using Steady Shot to fill in the gaps. I have not done much testing with any of this, as most of my time has been spent doing outdoors quests, and even boss-level elites in the outdoors are pretty easy to defeat with sub-optimal DPS.
Survival has a nice ability that lets party members regenerate a small amount of mana under certain abilities. For my group, that usually happens when Explosive Shot gets a critical tick of damage, which is why I had two SV hunters in the group for a while. But I don't think that the extra mana regen (which doesn't stack from multiple hunters, aside from refreshing the duration) is as good as the tighter (and potentially far more efficient) DPS rotation when using a castsequence macro as an MM hunter. This is all specifically being applied to a multiboxing setup, of course.
Gold, gold, everywhere
The guild's money situation is as good as ever, as I've taken a much more practical approach to both making and spending gold. The guild bank is getting close to 27,000 gold now. Upon reaching level 80, the group of five had about 11,000 gold as well. This is gold that is left after purchasing their "slow" flying skill and mounts as well as the cold-weather flying skill and all of their spells and abilities for level 80, as well as a 15 gold charge for resetting their talents. This is also after I had spent 1,000 gold to get the shaman the dual-spec option. Not bad...
This actually doesn't seem like a lot of money now, since there are so many ways to accumulate gold in the game. I've had my auction alt mostly doing bottom feeding, grabbing up auctions that have been set way below the norm and reselling them*, and focusing on items (such as glyphs and enchanting materials) that have very low listing fees. I've also been auctioning a lot of items that my characters gather and create. I used to hoard gathered items so that I'd have them available later, as a "just in case" contingency. But for the most part, item values depreciate over time in an MMORPG. Sure, some items will increase in value at a later date (such as low level herbs when inscription was introduced). But in general you'll get more for an item now than you will later.
An example of this is Titansteel bars. I had built up a stockpile of them, about 24 bars worth, and then decided to auction them off. I don't know how much value they had lost in the meantime, but it may have been more than 100 gold per bar! All I know is that over the course of a few weeks, I sold them at an average of around 270-300 gold per bar. When I wanted to make some of the epic craftable items for my paladin, I was short eight Titansteel bars. So I went to the auction house and purchased them, paying 168 gold for each bar. In the past, I would have considered that the bars that I had saved in the bank were "free" because I didn't have to pay for them via the auction house. But instead, I not only had the bars I needed to make the items I wanted, I also wound up with more than a thousand gold in the bargain. That's not counting the other materials that go into making a Titansteel bar, which I also auctioned for extra gold.
After this spending spree, the hunters still have around 1,800-2,000 gold each, the shaman has around 1,600 gold, and the paladin has something like 300 gold left. And now that they're level 80, their expenses from now on are almost exclusively repairs. Gear will be obtained from quests, dungeons, and badge or emblem vendors. Quests and dailies will reward gold along with whatever other gains I get from them (rep, mostly). I guess that I'll still occasionally spend gold on reputation rewards, but those will be easily paid for from quest/daily gold. I have to wonder why anyone would turn to gold sellers these days (or if anyone still does). There are so many ways to make gold now, and not much to spend it on. Oh well...
* PS- I know that the notion of scraping up lowball auctions and reselling rankles many people, but there's no practical argument against the idea. There are appeals to emotion and "ethics," the latter usually devolving into an argument on relativism (ie, when someone complains that buy low/sell high auctioners are hurting others, he's really saying that you are hurting him.). Then there are the angry people who simply hurl invective. They tend to follow the "ethics" angle more stridently than other people. Since the argument nearly always devolves into one of moral relativism, there's little sense to attempting to discuss it. You are wrong because someone said you're wrong, and that's pretty much all there is to it.