Monday, July 11, 2011

"Random Pet Challenge:" Ashtail

   So, once upon a time ages ago, I created a thread on the Petopia forums.  The name--and theme--was the "Random Pet Challenge."  The idea basically involved me using a Random Number Generator website to assign interested people pets to tame.  The players would then tame the pets and review them.  I had a number of suggested "review criteria" they could cover, so that potential users of the same pets could get an idea of the pros and cons of any given pet.  It turned out to be extremely popular, running to a couple dozen pages pretty fast, and becoming quite overwhelming!  Other players picked up the idea once I stopped, and now the Random Pet Challenge is in its third incarnation.  Sometimes I myself go back and request one--out of boredom, or curiosity.  Today, my assigned pet was Ashtail, the rare blue-gray fox from Loch Modan.
Dancing delicately between Vrykul ankles.
The Tame

   Ashtail's a uniquely colored rare Fox placed in Loch Modan.  He's a Ferocity pet (being a Fox, though most would expect them to be Cunning!), Neutral, and is on a 30-90 minute respawn timer.  The fox family ability, Tail Spin, reduces the ranged/melee attack speed of enemies within 10 yards for 20 seconds.  In addition, he gets Trick, a cute little move that lets him dance for a few seconds!   When I first went to pick him up (I flew over from Twilight Highlands as a Horde), he actually wasn't spawned.  I did a double-check on Wowhead for his timer & spawnpoint, parked myself, entered him into NPC-Scan and waited.  About a half hour later, he spawned.

   When he's "wild," he's apparently a rogue--he'll use Shadowstep and Evasion on you while fighting.  Well, cunning devil!  Oh wait, I mean Ferocity.  I named him Smoke due to his color, and off we went.

Model & Animations

   The first thing I did was take him for a run around Orgrimmar and have a look at his idle animations, and at his Trick.  Blizzard still hasn't changed Trick in that the fox will carry on using it even when the player is moving, so you can have a fox out now racing at 100%+ speed along the ground on its two back legs!
Foxes are party animals!
   The animations are smooth, but the run looks somewhat awkward--the back bends in two different places depending on whether he's gathering up or flexing.  It's a bit hard to catch in a screenshot, but maybe this will give an idea.  (Notice also the way his front leg thins down oddly far when running.)

Oddly, perhaps because he shares the coyote model and animations, the fox also howls while idle--although he makes no sound:

He also has a noticeable overbite, which hard to "unsee" once you've noticed it.  Lastly, his ears move ludicrously far when he does his sniffing-the-ground idle animation--they actually cover his face!

   As for his model and appearance, he's looking good!  His colors are a soft blue-gray, very pretty to look at and shading into a dark navy blue and then black on the legs.  His tail has a pale tip, and his underbelly and throat, along with his face, has pale gray-white markings.  His eyes actually glow, a very bright and pale aqua blue.  His model and skin are both advanced Cataclysm tech, so they're very smooth and pretty to look at.

   One odd thing that I noticed, though, is that from the front he always looks either startled or completely blank--his eyes are really widely spaced, and very round.

   He makes no idle sounds; his in-combat noises are quiet, but I personally find them somewhat irritating.  Mind you that's a personal thing; many people might find them endearing!

   His overall size is pleasant; he's about the same size as a coyote-model wolf pet, perhaps a bit smaller.  He is large enough to feel like a solid presence at your side without becoming overly large or obtrusive, or detrimental to targetting.


   This pet seems pretty useless in PvP.  Maybe it's just me, but I'd think non-BM hunters would want a root and likely a Cunning or even Tenacity pet, and that BM would want something with a damage boost or more adaptable utility.  The AoE debuff is okay in huge groups, like Tol Barad, but it doesn't affect casters and doesn't buff you at all.

   In group PvE, tanks will cover the fox's debuff.  In solo PvE, though, this guy's pretty nifty--his AoE debuff will both help him keep aggro on multiple mobs and will allow him to take a bit less damage from physically-attacking enemies.  If you like the look of a fox and want somewhere to use it, I'd think that questing and grinding is his place to shine!

   All in all, this is a fun pet to play with, and overall he's pretty to look at.  For me, though, some of the animation quirks put me off, and his relative uselessness probably means I won't keep him around (a Spirit Beast's damage buff + aggro generated by Spirit Mend, along with the utility of Spirit Mend itself, leaves little competition for me!).  He's fun, though, and he's pretty, and I'm guessing a great many folks really love this guy to death!

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