Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pet Battles: More fun than expected.

 So, I know I said I'd update the Shadow DPS guide last week. Well, I've been busy. (Haven't we all!) Don't worry, it's still coming, just not for a bit longer. Leveling was much more interesting than I had expected. I've never been very interested in quests, (and I still wasn't,) but hunting down and soloing all the various rare champion mobs was seriously fun. Heroics have been mostly a bit of a letdown, but challenge modes are just about perfectly tuned. Organizing a Sha of Anger raid was hard, but the fight itself was easy. I also rolled a monk. As expected, they're crazy OP. My level 15 mistweaver is doing 100 DPS... while also healing. None of that has anything to do with this post though; today, I'm writing about pet battles.

As the title says, pet battles are more fun than I expected. To get started, ask a guard to direct you to the pet battle trainer in Stormwind or Orgrimmar. You'll need 100g to begin, which you'll soon win back in prizes from defeating NPC pet battlers. The trainer will give you your starter Pokemon pet, and then the fun begins.

Battles take the form of alternating turns between your pet and the opponent's. On a turn, you select one of 6 actions: 3 pet specific attacks, throw a trap, switch pets, or do nothing. At first, your level 1 pets will have only one attack, but will quickly learn more. Unlike Pokemon, status-altering and other non-damaging moves are actually worth using most of the time. The battle continues until either team flees from battle, or either team has no remaining pets. Then the other team is declared the winner. Each pet on the winning team receives XP based on the difficulty of the battle, and healing proportional to how much HP they lost in that battle.


The primary activity you can pursue in pet battling is levelling your pets. Because XP in pet battles has similar mechanics to XP in the rest of WoW, most of the time your pets will level the most quickly by fighting other pets of similar level. This means most battles are not trivial, and pose a significant threat to your pets' HP. Since fainted pets receive no XP, you must take care to keep them all alive long enough for Revive Pets to come off cooldown. The cooldown is 8 minutes, which is about 4-5 battles if you're focusing on it.

To survive all the way to the 8 minute cooldown, you need to pick your fights carefully. As you level in a zone, you'll begin to learn which wild pets are dangerous, and which are easy pickings. For example, frogs are easy, until level 4 when they learn Frog Kiss, a potentially-devastating move that can repeatedly CC your team every turn if you're unlucky. On the other hand, rats are pretty much always easy, as their moves do terribly-low damage. Fights can also become much easier (or much, much harder) based on type and mechanic interactions. Like Pokemon, there are several different pet and move types, which interact to boost or reduce damage dealt. Sometimes, pets' passive effects or moves are particularly suited to fighting some kind of opponent. Returning to the previous example, all critters are immune to the CC from Frog Kiss, thanks to the Critter passive, which reduces the duration by 1 round, down to zero.

Switching pets in battle can also help you level faster. Starting at about level 4 or 5, most wild pet encounters will feature two enemy pets, so obviously switching can help you deal with the type and abilities of the hidden second pet. Like in Pokemon, you can also use the "bait and switch" method: send out a weak pet, then quickly switch it to something stronger. Unlike in Pokemon, each pet must attack at least once in order to get XP for the battle. A third reason to switch: XP is not "split" fully between participants; one pet winning a fight earns less total XP than two pets winning that fight, which earn less still than if you had used all three. Also, many pet abilities persist after the pet switches out, and may also interact with mechanics they don't have, and so switching can be strategically relevant to the fight itself.


If you're not new to WoW, you probably already have a LOT of pets. But we can always use more, right? Right. So how do we get them? Well, all the old ways of accumulating pets still exist, but you knew about those. Let's talk about catching 'em all.

To catch a wild pet, first you need to weaken it to less than 35% of its max HP. There's an achievement for catching one below 5%, but you'll get that by accident at some point. I think, but do not know, that having the HP lower improves your odds. At any rate, once a wild pet is low enough, simply throw a trap and hope for the best. If it fails, you can try again on your next turn. Each failure improves your odds on future tries in the same battle, so just keep trying. If you succeed, you can't catch any more pets in that battle, so think carefully about which pet you want to capture in a battle with more than one!

Now that you know how to capture, let's talk about what to capture. At first, you won't have very many pets, and nearly all of them will be critter or beast type. To start off, you'll probably want to sample pets of different types and mechanics. For example, even though a Fawn is critter type, it's interesting because it has the ability to heal other pets in your party on its turn. Also, you should pay attention to how strong wild pets seem, because different individuals of the same species come with different stats. If they hit harder than other pets of the same species and level, or have more HP, you should try to catch them. It uses the standard WoW item quality colors; particularly strong pets are rare quality, while crappy ones are poor. Even within the same species, same level and same quality, stats vary a bit. Catch the strongest pets you can.

Lastly, let's talk about where to find pets. As a rule of thumb, pets tend to show up in any non-instanced area that all players can travel to, that has quests in it. So that rules out dungeons, battlegrounds, the Deeprun Tram, the goblin starting area, etc. Pretty much anywhere else is fair game - including cities. If you know exactly what pet you want to find, you can search for it in the ingame pet journal, and the journal can tell you which zone or zones it appears in. If you can't seem to find it, it may be rare, or may only appear in certain conditions, like 'at night' or 'near water'. It may even only appear as the hidden pet in a battle with other pets. Also, some will require a flying mount to get to, even in newbie zones (curse yoooooou, Tiny Brown Ram!)

Parting Thoughts

It would be fairly simple to write a variety of addons that could provide additional information to pet battlers. For example, an addon that shows a list of pets that can be caught in your current zone and which ones you have. Or one that would show whether or not you've caught a member of a species you're facing in battle, and if so, the stats of the strongest one you have compared to the new wild one. Or an addon that tells you whether the pet you're facing is rare/uncommon or not. Maybe some of these even exist already; I haven't looked yet.

Just remember, none of this will in any way effect your raiding, PvP, or whatever else. It's for fun. If you're not having fun with it, don't force yourself. Just because I like pet battling doesn't mean you need to.

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