Edit: In this post I dipped my toe into Survival Hunting and drew it out quickly. However, more recently I have tried it again. Read this article by all means, but then check out my Survival Hunter – round 2 – if you want advice on survival hunters :)
At the moment, the consensus seems to be that high end raiders can squeeze more DPS out of a Survival Spec in raids than out of the other two specs. Even the BM Czar himself, BRK, has gone Survival for raiding. On a Wow Insider podcast recently BRK said, while he might be a BM still at heart, and might still sometimes solo BM, but when it came to raiding, if he could get an extra 400DPS from speccing survival, that’s what he was going to do.
In a throw away comment on in a WOW insider article Zach Yonzon said, “Even Hunters, who were supposed to get a nerf, simply re-specced to Survival and went along their merry DPS meter-topping ways.”
Sounds incredibly easy right, just respec, get an extra 400DPS and continue topping the damage meters? No so easy. Survival is a very different play-style from what you have been used to, particularly the play-style needed to squeeze the maximum DPS from it. On the same WOW Insider podcast, BRK also mentioned he has spent 2 weeks learning how to play survival, and spends most of his time now, when not raiding, hanging out with his new best enemies, the target dummies.
My respeccing experiment with Survival did not last two weeks, it lasted two days, and I couldn’t part with my 50G to respec fast enough.
I freely admit that I did not give Survival long enough for a fair test, or learn how to play it properly. I mostly tried out a Sniper survival play-style, and build leaning towards that, although I also did play with some trap dancing. My DPS as a new Survival Hunter on target dummies and in heroics dropped to between 13-1500 as opposed to 1900-2200 for a MM build (in one fight where I was trap dancing more successfully I did get survival up to 2000). Now, I know a lot of this was because I was not playing Survival very well, I wasn’t always getting to range, or trap dancing, I was still learning my shot rotation, and had not found a macro that produced higher DPS than anything I could thread manually.
Now, I researched the theory and my talent build before doing this, and jumped in a lot less blind than many hunters who might try it. I am sure if I stuck with it, I could make it work. However, the reason I couldn’t respec fast enough was that I felt it didn’t suit my play-style. I felt it was a bit too gimicky and mechanical in order to get the higher DPS, it didn’t feel ‘natural’ – it felt like I was playing a the sort of reaction-time game like Simon, where you are waiting for each button to light up before pressing it. I felt I was too focussed on the shot rotation buttons,whether I was standing 28 – or 32 yards from the mob, or on my trap dancing exploit, and not aware enough of what else was going on around me. I have always been good at being aware of the fight situation – grabbing the loose mob in an emergency trap, protecting the healer, chain trapping, a bit off off tanking if needed with my pet, alerting the party to a patrol that is about to add. I didn’t feel I was able to do this so much, as I was much more focussed on those cooldowns and gimmicks of the play-style instead. Now, I don’t want easy mode. I liked the MM build I tried precisely because I could do more than just Serpent Sting and Steady Shot, and because it was much more important that my Serpent Sting and Hunter’s Mark stayed on the mob. So yes, I was using a macro to thread Steady, arcane and aimed a lot of the time, but not all of the time, and I was threading other things in between those. But at the same time I was still able to be situationally aware and do the other reactive things I like doing in a fight.
So anyway, I decided Survival was not for me at the moment. I might go back to it at some point. I am not going to post my spec or suggestions for shot rotations, I know they were not the problem, I knew the theory, I got it from the experts, I just didn’t take the time to learn the execution as I didn’t like it. I will instead post the links to the experts, below.
The purpose of this post really is to say that, yes I am sure people are right, that Survival can produce more DPS in raids. But it is a very different play-style and it will take time to learn, so don’t just jump in blind. You cannot just ‘respec and go along your merry way topping the damage charts.’ It might also not be as effective in solo and smaller group situations than raids (not sure about the last bit, but most of the big DPS data is about raids, and BRK mentions it not being massively better on a target dummy). If you want to be survival do you homework and take time to practice before going raiding.
If you don’t like Survival having tried it, don’t feel bad about respeccing. Don’t feel you have to spec a certain way because the theory crafters on Elitist Jerks tell you it is possible to get the highest DPS from that spec. The game is about having fun. It is about finding a spec that suits how you like to play, and then making that spec work for you.
Now, clearly if one tree were very much weaker than the others, so no matter how well played, you would still not be able to out-DPS yourself, compared to if you respecced in another tree, you might need to rethink this strategy for raids and groups. And that was kind of the case previously with an all powerful BM spec, but the nerfs and changes Blizzard have made are in part trying to address that and make the trees more even.
I am hoping to find a spec that I am comfortable with post-3.0.8 in these brief respec experiments, and then I will spend some time with that one, learning how to play it to the best of my ability and squeezing the most DPS out of it I can. For me personally, I don’t think that spec will be a Survival Build, but for you it could be. To find out for yourself, check out these links to the experts:
Elitist Jerks Survival Forum
Big Red Kitty Trap Dancing movie
Drotara Patchwerk DPS as Survival