Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Torment," the Demon Dog

   I considered starting this blog with a post on why I play a BM hunter, or perhaps an overall review on the BM go-to pet, the Spirit Beast.  But I've recently become infatuated with a spur-of-the-moment tame I made, and I decided I want to share this first--in the spirit of the rambling thoughts that blogging tends to promote.

   The pet in question is a red demon dog.  At first glance, it doesn't look like a hunter pet--and indeed, up until the release of WoW's latest expansion, these little beasts weren't classified as Beasts at all, but rather as Demons.  With the implementation of the Dog family, though, these fellows--and their brethren, ranging from ghostly white to solid blue etched with glowing runes--became tameable Beasts.

   The Demon Dogs are one of two models you can currently find in the Dog family.  The other type is the large, heavily-built and droopy (and, I find, quite ugly in their design) mastiff.  These little guys, though, are entirely different.  Most players' first impression will be that they're quite small: even at maximum level, they'll barely come up to the knees of most races.  I'll get back to size in a moment, but first, the rest of the model. 

    Most of the old-world Demon Dogs (the non-glowing ones) are noticeably dated in their design.  Parts of them (like the models of many old-world pets) are pixelated, and the models have a low poly-count, leading to some odd twisting of the dogs' legs and jaws.  The newer Runed Demon Dogs (glowing green, red or blue, depending on the skin) are quite a bit more advanced skin-wise, though they're slapped onto the same old model.  

   That said, I still think they all look pretty good.  Their models aren't as "basic" as many others, and aside from the oddly-animated jaws, there isn't much to complain about.  Their anatomy is solid, their colors are generally appealing, and they have a determined, mischievous air about them that's hard to find anywhere else.  The red one in particular I find quite charming; his colors are very bright and solid, even flashy, and no part of him looks at all sloppy or dated when it comes to the actual colors and shading.  The darker points on his legs, beneath the mane and on his horns are a nice counterpoint to the blazing yellow mane.  This particular dog definitely looks the part of a "demon."

   The model's animations are cute, as well; during combat, the Demon Dog will swipe with his front paws as well as bite.  When idle, it now and then hops forward and back--you have to see this to understand how utterly adorable it really is.  The running and walking animations are smooth and realistically canine.  That said, the Demon Dog seems to lack any Swimming animation--unlike most canine WoW pets, it doesn't do the doggy paddle.  Instead, it uses the walking animation when underwater.  As most players don't spend a ton of time beneath the waves, though, this won't tend to be an issue!

   Back to the pet's size: this can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you look at it; in PvE, they will never get in your way.  You might find them difficult to keep track of, on the other hand, but you can always tame one of the bright, glowing skins if that's your concern!  In PvP, they're quite unobtrusive, meaning they won't get in the way of your targetting and are less likely to be hit by an opponent.  Conversely, your opponent will find it quite easy to target you instead; compare this to, say, a Chimaera pet, or a Devilsaur, where the pet is so huge that it may take your enemy a moment to find you again after a Feign Death at close range, allowing for some uninterrupted burst.  The choice of size in a pet is based on your preference, so be aware that the Demon Dog is on the much smaller end of the scale.

   Now that I've mentioned PvE and PvP, perhaps it's time I went into a bit more detail.  See, the reason most people don't tend to see many of these pets around is that their family ability is a bit...  odd. 

   Lock Jaw is a four-second root--like that of a Spider, or a Silithid--but it's channeled, in the same way as a Crab's.  This means that if you're BM, you're losing a great deal of damage during the time the pet has to hold the channel--and the channel can be interuppted by an AoE fear or the like.  So why would you use a Dog over a Spider?  Well, the dog is Ferocity.  This means that you'll be losing a Spider's or a Silithid's Roar of Sacrifice/Recovery (as well as the Silithid's extra Stamina buff, Qiraji Fortitude) depending on whether you're Beast Mastery.  You'll be losing Intervene from Tenacity if you use a Dog over a Crab.  On the other hand, you gain Culling the Herd and Call of the Wild, both potent overall damage buffs.  You'll also get the added damage of a Ferocity pet along with the emergency instant pet-res, Heart of the Phoenix, depending on how you talent your pet.

   What this means for PvP is that non-BM specs get a good alternative for a high-damage, PvP-oriented pet.  BM is probably still better off sticking to an Exotic; Spirit Beasts still offer a higher damage output due to their Agi/Stamina buff (depending on if your arena partner or BG-mates already have it covered), and the Spirit Beast heal is still very impressive.  The channel is also an issue: Lock Jaw is channeled, as I've mentioned, meaning that your pet isn't doing anything else for those four seconds, be it an emergency Intimidation stun or keeping buffs up through Bite crits.  In any case, if you're in an arena team where survivability isn't a problem, where the major crit and/or agility/strength buffs are covered, and where an extra root might come in handy, or if for any other reason you want the damage-buffs of a Ferocity pet along with a root--or if you just want to experiment--the Dog might be for you.  Lock Jaw should be, of course, taken off autocast and used judiciously--to stop a target from LoSing you just long enough for the kill or for repositioning or launching a trap, for example.

   In PvE, the dog's special has extremely limited and situational usage.  In almost every case, another pet will do better.  If you're raiding, and every other buff (this includes the Agi/Str, 5% crit, Spell Damage debuff, all the way to the Raptor's ArP ability and the Fox/Tallstrider's AoE attack speed debuff) is covered, you could use a Dog without any loss to anyone.  That said, there may be specific fights where controlling certain adds with a root might be useful--but remember, a rooted mob will generally attack anything in melee range, be it your pet or a healer.  In addition, many Raid-type mobs will be immune to roots, anyway.  This means that you may do more harm than good by using Lock Jaw, or it might be completely ineffective, depending on how you use it.  This isn't to say that the Dog is a terrible pet, of course--but being aware of when and how different pet abilities come in handy is very important in choosing which pet is best for which situation.

   Regardless of where you want to use it, the Dog should be talented for pure damage--if you need PvP survivability, a Spider or Crab, or Silithid for BM, is probably a better choice for a rooting pet.  Take Serpent's Swiftness, Spiked Collar and Spider's Bite at least; if you want to PvP or if you're BM, make sure to pick up Bloodthirsty and potentially Heart of the Phoenix as well.  Call of the Wild (and Rabid if you're BM) are your bread-and-butter damage talents.  Pick up Shark Attack and Wild Hunt for PvE, or just Shark Attack for PvP if your pet has issues with maintaining Focus.  If you choose to talent both Charge and Dash, remember to keep them on your pet bar and toggle them; you don't want your pet to use both at once, which will blow all of its Focus and both cooldowns needlessly.  You can move points for PvP into Lionhearted, Great Resistance or Great Stamina, or Boar's Speed, if you're having trouble one way or another with your pet dying or staying on-target--but again, if you're losing a lot of damage anyway, you might want to consider a Spider for the added benefits of RoS/RoR.

  Now, I don't raid--and I haven't used a dog extensively in PvP, either.  If anyone has tips, tricks or info about the Dog and its family skill, please do leave a comment!  I'd love to know if there's any special uses that the Dog can be put to.  I do think it's a great little pet, and I'd love to have more of an excuse to break him out.
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   About this specific dog: this particular skin can be found only in two places, both of which are dungeons.  I tamed mine (which I've named Torment) in the level 70 10-man raid, Karazhan.  If you choose to get him from here, all you need to do is form a raid group, go into the instance and make a hard right into the spider-webbed area just inside.  Once you clear a good number of spiders, bats and Demon dogs, there will be a /yell alerting you to the spawning of one of three random "rare" bosses.  Rokad the Ravager is the red dog; all you'll need to do is proceed to the end of the Demon Dog area and tame him--assuming he spawns, and you have a one-in-three chance.  If the spider or bat boss spawn instead, you'll need to wait until the next Raid reset and try again.  This skin is only found in one other place, and that's Blackrock Depths--the Bloodhounds, Bloodhound Mastiffs and the boss Verek are all found scattered throughout this level ~50 dungeon.  The lowest level at which this skin becomes available to hunters is level 48.  Petopia's "Hound Skin: Red" page has the information on this skin; check out Petopia's page on Dogs for more info on the Dog family in WoW, including other tameable models and skins (such as white, blue and runed), and where to find them.

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