And to top it all off, one little tidbit contained herein comes to you hot hot hot off the press, breaking news!!! just discovered last night. Read on for more!
All excellent questions. Lets take a look...
Malygos Spark Management
How do you see where sparks are coming from, for my first time in there it was really confusing trying to find these sparks that were flying all over the place, and with no DK to gather them up maly even got to eat one.
For those unfamiliar with the encounter, the Malygos fight takes place on a circular platform. During Phase 1, sparks form periodically around the outside of the room, and slowly make their way towards Malygos (who is the one and only mob you're fighting during P1). If a spark reaches Malygos, he does mean things to your raid. If you kill a spark before it reaches the dragon, a little patch of sweetness lands on the ground for a little while. If you stand in the sweet spot, your damage output is amplified greatly (forget the percentage increase off the top of my head, but it is very very nice). Spark Sweet Spots can stack, so if you pile dead sparks on top of one another, your DPS reaches Ludicrous Speed.
Spark placement is a balancing act. Clearly, your first motivation is to kill them before they reach Malygos. However, if you kill them too far away, then your Melee DPS can't stand in the sweet spots, hurting the raid. Its like The Price is Right, you want to get the spark as close to maly as you can without letting him eat it.
In 25-man raids, we generally use 2 methods for spark management. (A) Death Knight grip to bring spark over to where you want it, followed by focus fire for quick death. (B) Boomkin entangling roots to keep sparks from moving while Death Grip is on cooldown. The Boomkin will spend lots of his time scanning for sparks, which I can only imagine hurts his DPS, but he's performing a very valued service in return.
There are more sophisticated techniques that involve tank movement for optimal stacking of 3 or more sparks, but we're only just dabbling with that, so I can't confidently comment on how its done yet. It is this kind of mobile tanking solution that would be required if you want to stack sparks but have no DK available.
In 10's, you have much less wiggle room or extra classes. I've had to be the spark lookout sometimes in 10's. Unfortunately the only advice I can offer is practice. You need to constantly swivel your camera around to look for new sparks. Since P1 is not very mobile, other than the repositioning following a Vortex, it does get easier to figure out where the sparks are forming. Sorry, no quick easy solution here.
Hot Hot Hot off the presses! To make use of Improved Tracking, I generally slap on Undead, Humanoids, or Dragonkin, depending upon where we're going. Sure, since a recent patch, it doesnt matter what type of mob you track, just so long as you dont track minerals and whatnot. Well, discovering half way through Sapphiron that I was tracking "and whatnot", I stumble to quickly select someting. ANYTHING. that isnt a mineral or herb. I landed on Track Elementals.
Fast forward 20 minutes, and we're in malygos, and I'm seeing these strange red dots on my minimap, starting out from the perimeter and moving slowly towards the center.
Track Elementals, Bitches! The sparks show up there, making it much easier to identify and locate their position.
FYI, this is likely NOT breaking news, and I bet others have found it months and months ago. But for me and the hunters I roll with, it was a revelation, so there!
Speaking of assist, I still haven't encountered a group that uses it, and I think it would be such a huge benefit for everyone to be able to just concentrate fire on one thing at a time without guessing what the target is. Any explanation of how to set it up and use it properly would be appreciated.
Main Assist (MA) is a technique wherein a single player in your raid is assigned the aptly named job of Main Assist. The job of this player is to select targets. The job of the rest of the DPS is to assist the MA for selection of new targets.
Very simple in concept, very powerful in results. In a 25-person raid, if you have a 6-mob trash pull, and everybody chooses discrete targets, you'll have 6 mobs at 25% health, hitting just as hard as 6 mobs at 100% health. However, if you focus fire and burn down mobs one at a time, you will quickly remove each individual mob very quickly, thus reducing the burden on your crowd controllers (if you are employing them), and your healers and tanks (we love them).
Using a MA is a very effective way to achieve this focused fire.
1) It starts with the raid leader. The RL needs to assign the job of MA and communicate it out to the raid.
2) DPS needs to have an easy method for assisting the MA. Two good methods are:
a) Assist macro (/assist Player-Name) This works pretty well, just spam the macro as your target reaches the end of his life.
b) ORA2 Tank Frames. If your raid uses ORA2, the RL can designate the MA as one of the tanks (or there might be an actual MA function in ora2), and that player and his target will appear in your ORA2 Tank Frame.
I end up using both 2a and 2b simultaneously. For slow controlled fights, the visual effect of the tank frame is good, and when the stuff hits the fan, I spam my assist macro.
3) As the current mob reaches 10-15% remaining health, the MA should switch targets to the next one, and the other DPS should stay with the current target until its dead. This allows for seamless transition from one mob to the next.
4) If a sudden target change is necessary, the MA should call it out on voice. A good example is when Shade of Naxxramas appears mid-pull. MA needs to be a player who is alert enough and knowledgeable enough to make decisions like that.
When I started raiding 10's in Karazhan, we did not use MA, and personally, I think it led to a harder learning curve for the team at the time.
When we entered 25's and I became the Raid Leader, one of the first things I introduced was the MA, and it's been a part of my raiding ever since.
Hovering Bad Guys in Malygos Phase 2
How do you see those damn flying guys in phase two. I had a hell of a time looking up and trying to find them. Maybe a target macro would be in order, but I'm thinking maybe using assist would be the better solution.
Arrrgggh, Malygos! One of the most visually overwhelming encounters I've done.
First night in there, I was helplessly lost. I couldnt find these flying guys for the life of me, and I was beginning to go crosseyed by the end of the night.
I'm happy to say, its gotten much better.
Four things I do to make Flying-Guy-DPS easier:
1) Camera Zoom: I set my camera to zoom out further via...
/console cameradistancemaxfactor 4
Then zoom out as far as you can. Seeing the full battlefield makes life sooo much easier.
2) Main Assist: Durgan touched upon it in his question, and he's right. Using a Main Assist is outstanding here. Of course, this requires that you have a player capable of targeting the discs without the help of a MA, but oh well. If that guy happens to be you, hopefully a combination of #1 above and #3 below will make your life easier.
3) Tab Targeting: Once the mobs on the ground are dead, you can use Tab button to target new guys. Usually works ok, but its a little tricky visually locating the guy you just targeted. He might be out of range, or he might be slowly revolving around you so that he was in front for Tab to target him, but by the time you start firing, he's moved out of LOS. TAB does help, though.
4) Steady Shot: Ok, so Steady Shot doesn't help me acquire a target, but it does help me stay locked on. As long as your target is vaguely in front of you, your toon will automatically rotate to track your target while you cast Steady Shot. This helps very much as your target moves. Only works when you are safely under a magic bubble and get to stand still for a few seconds.
Last but not least...Teh Suck
One question though, how is that I, a sad little casual running around in my sad crafted purples and a few lucky drops from raids can out dps the other hunters in my raids by anywhere from 1000 to 1500 dps. I don't even know how a hunter with almost all BiS gear can do only 1500 dps
Yeah, I'm not sure where to go with this one. It is definitely true that you come across all types of output from all types of players.
Of course there's the basic stuff which can be Armoried, like:
1) Gear. Just a simple upgrade from the level 70 peacock xbow to my sweet and beautiful Arrowsong led to a nearly 30% DPS increase. I know that's extreme, because it was also a jump in 10 levels, but it proved the point to me that solid output requires solid gear. But Durgan's question addressed gear, indicating the players have good stuff, so we need to look further.
2) Polish. How do the enchants look? Empty gem slots or slots filled with green-quality gems? How's the help arcanum and shoulder inscription look? If you consider each enchant or gem on its own, they feel small, but the cumulative effect across all gear slots adds ~20% to your toon.
3) Hit Rating. This one is tricky. For a player who doesn't spend the time and energy that most blog readers/writers do, the concept of hit rating might go totally missed, since there's not a whole lot in-game to educate you about it. These players might have very good gear, but if itemized incorrectly, might be missing large percent of the time.
4) Spec. Talent points invested in the "wrong" spots can gimp damage big-time. Now, I'm not one to judge, because I think people should more or less do what ever the hell they want with regards to spec. However, raiders I want next to me will have cookie-cutter or very close to cookie-cutter for the talent tree they want to use.
Each of those points above can be armoried, so if the question were more than rhetorical, you can find pretty concrete answers.
But to get deeper than that, how about some of the things I've written about my own experiences?
Lag management - That's a sophisticated term for "spam your buttons". In my own case, I've seen a roughy 1k DPS difference when I spam or don't spam.
Rotation - This can mostly be seen via combat log reports. You can examine the relative percentages of overall damage coming from each type of attack. It should be roughly consistent across Hunters of the same spec. Maybe its a hunter who used to play BM in TBC, and is still pounding a 1:1 steady:auto macro. Times have changed, and so must we.
Kill Command - I remember back in TBC, one of the biggest things I found as I inspected new hunters was the limited KC usage.
Cooldowns - See that trinket? "On Use" means you have to use it. Look at combat log to see what they're doing.
Pet on Vacation - The only PuGs I do anymore are the occasional 5-man, and its not uncommon to see a pet just stand by the hunter's side the entire run. Silly, but very easy to notice.
Teh Suck - This could come out of inexperience, or could in fact be that they just suck. Inexperience can be fixed quickly via practice. But that requires the person to actually care about their performance and be interested in doing something about it. If they just plain old suck, well, that's why we're called Huntards :-)