Survival Hunter Spec in 3.0.8

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:

Lienna’s Log

Elitist Jerks Survival Forum

Big Red Kitty Trap Dancing movie

Drotara Patchwerk DPS as Survival


14 responses to “Survival Hunter Spec in 3.0.8

  1. Yeah, I’ve been thinking about going SV, but who cares, I’m not raiding yet. I’m just doing gorilla questing, why would I change SV at this point, so I’ll consider it again when I reach 80. But seriously, we don’t have to follow what Elitist Jerks tells us to do. I say if you like your Spiritbeast, stay a BM hunter.

  2. At last! Someone who feels like me! I have always been a BM apart from at short period at lvl 60 before BC, when MM was the “only” thing for raiding, but I am BM at heart. I respecced SV shortly after starting raiding and found my dps dropped around 20%-30% compared to my BM (just nerfed), but I will give it a couple of weeks to see if I can get it to work and like it. But you are right, there is a lot of looking at cooldowns which takes away attention from the game and a lot of theroycrafting has to be studied. I might, perhaps try a MM as well, but I’m not sure.

  3. Another factor to consider is your general gear as a SV hunter is alot different to a MM or BM. Agility is the Key stat for SV and in my experience Aimed Shot is not used in rotations just Serpent Sting(when required)/Exp. Shot/Steady Shot/Steady Shot etc. but keeping eye put for LnL proc’s to weave in (or use macro)
    Exp. Shot/S.Shot/Exp.Shot/S.Shot/Exp.Shot/S.Shot
    then continue with normal rotation’s.

    I think people coming from BM and MM for a pure DPS increase are approaching this the wrong way as SV is completely different to all other spec’s (like if i went BM which i never have) I would struggle with shot rotations/gear choices. Still u have to try it to see if u like it, Survival is like Marmite….you either love it or hate it.

  4. I respecced from BM to SV for about half an hour before switching back.
    I admit I too didn’t give it enough time…it was too different. I no like change.
    Having said that I think I will give it another shot.
    I spent most of the time watching my action bar making sure I didn’t miss an ES and whatnot that I had no clue what was actually going on.
    I guess change takes getting used to.
    As soon as BM is back to normal (which I hope will happen) I’ll be back to my spirit beast.
    To pretty to be stabled 😦

  5. I love the marmite comment, Baradin! 🙂

    And I agree completely, plus I know I wasn’t playing it right, or geared right. I will have to give it a go again some other time. I really just wanted to say to people, it’s not as easy as switching and carrying on as before.

  6. Give SV a chance, it will grow on you.

    I was skeptical until I got my dps back up nearly where it was.

    Patchwerk dps:
    BM – ~4300
    SV – ~4100

    The coolest part is pulling aggro again.
    We generate nearly twice as much threat as BM did.

    Work those tanks!

  7. As a dyed-in-the-wool BM hunter I was unhappy to change to SV. However, I really felt the need to contribute more to the raid than I was as the nerf bat battered BM I had become. I’m still mucking with my shots and my gear is laughable for SV. I’m working on it, and I sort of enjoy it in a “hey at least I’m not healing” type of way.

    Pre patch we had four raiding hunters, three BM and one SV, and I was usually neck in neck for top hunter dps with one of the other BM fellows. We now have two SV (including me) one BM and one I-don’t-know-what-to-do hunter who has tried three *very* different specs in our three post-patch raids.

    And I’m topping the dps meters, hunter-wise which says that it’s not necessarily SV, but the combination of a good spec and a player who is really willing to try his or her best.

  8. @oriniwen – Careful who reads your comment about healing, or you may find yourself suddenly dying a lot in your next raid. 🙂

    Of course, as a Hunter, you don’t have the healing option of a healer respec without an 80 level grind first. That is the blessing (and curse) of the hybrid class. 😉

  9. Great article, I started out survival going into wrath. Sinse then I have switched back to BM, and have the spirit beast, and just love BM too much to go back to survival…That’s okay, I’ll ride this one out, and see what happens!

  10. As Elisius give it a chance. I too am a BM at heart but i need better gear and I am not putting out enough dps to run when I am BM. SV is a beautiful spec when learned how to play. It is one of those specs as Elisius said it will grow on you but its also not over the night things. It will take a while. I know survival spec very well cause before Lich King at 70 i was SV but I also didnt do any raids at that level as I do now at 70. I used it for bgs and it was fun because I never died. Even when the pallys just destoryed everything and everyone I honostly wasnt affected by it. There is nothing else I can say besides give is one more chance and also give it an honest chance.

  11. You should not be rotating in arcane, as it shares the same cooldown as aimed shot.

    I’ve been playing SV for about 2 weeks now, and my target dummy DPS is around 1900-1980 sustained. In raids of course its a fair bit higher. My DPS increased gradually during these two weeks, partly down to better gear (from running Naxx 25man), but also because I was getting better with the shot rotations etc. Don’t forget to rotate in Killshot once your target gets low enough HP – its a great way to ramp up your DPS.

  12. Chris, Arcane shot does not share a cooldown with Aimed Shot. Multi-shot shares a cooldown with Aimed Shot and Arcane shares a cooldown with Explosive. Clearly, the ones you should choose of these are Aimed and Explosive (against a single target).

  13. Pingback: Survival hunter - round 2 « steady shot

  14. Hey fellow Hunters,

    In my opinion, and as a TBC survival specced hunter (since we had 6/7 BM’s) i always went toe to toe with BM’s, but survival spec seem a bit off to me atm. Spamming ES (i know about the shot rotation required, yes!) and waiting on a LnL proc is not exactly what i call fun while raiding. And while back in those days, Surv was about giving raid some extra dps (support spec), the spec now is a bit about face-rolling and i dont value that.
    Bottom line: As a survival hunter, i do miss the tbc specs too 😦