EDIT: With the advent of Patch 3.1, much of the information in the post is now out of date. Please go to my Survival Hunter – Round 3 – Patch 3.1 and subsequent posts for 3.1 information.
Anyone who read my post Survival Hunter Spec in 3.0.8 will know that I did not take to survival hunting when I first tried it (and didn’t really know what I was doing.) I gave it two days and then respecced to Marksman, which I found I enjoyed much more. Well recently I have given it another go, with much more positive results.
I usually run as an MM hunter with two other hunters, one is a BM hunter with a spirit beast and better gear (from 25 mans and BGs, two things I haven’t done), the second is a survival hunter who isn’t able to raid quite so much due to work commitments and so does not have quite such good gear.
In a pet friendly fight, where the spirit beast can do around 50% of the BM hunters damage, the damage and DPS on recount usually went with gear not talent specs or skill (we are all fairly competent at our class, I have no idea if one of us plays it better than the others) so it goes BM > MM > Surv. But recently I had felt that the BM has been pulling away a bit and the Surv hunter has been edging closer to me (grats to them, but it’s made me wonder what I can do to continue improving). Also, the Surv hunter is our main raid replenishment, we don’t have a shadow priest or ret pally (we sometimes have shammie totems), and he is not always able to raid with us. We miss the replenishment when it is not there, and as a MM hunter I am very mana hungry. So I decided to give Surv another go before patch 3.1. I thought it would be good to have an understanding of all three spec, so if there is a clear winner for raiding I can spec that way after the patch. Anyways, that’s the reasoning, here’s my experience:
You can find my spec here. I think it is better than the previous one I tried. It is based on specs recommended on the elitist Jerks site, and those specs used by Drotara from MorePewPew, Lienna from Lienna’s Log, and BRK. All three have written about survival hunters on their blogs and provide some useful information. The Elitist Jerks thread – Survival Hunters in WOTLK – is a must read for all trainee survival hunters.
2. Shot rotation.
The Survival hunters biggest shot (after Kill Shot common to all hunters) is Explosive Shot, which currently (patch 3.0.8) does the following:
Shot rotations are based on a priority list:
1. Kill Shot
2. Explosive Shot
3. Aimed/Multi-Shot (optional)
4. Serpent Sting
5. Steady Shot
*I do not have talents in Aimed shot, I sometimes weave multi-shot in, sometimes not. I am not convinced that is increases DPS significantly, except where there is time for an instant shot before kill or explosive shot become available, but not a long cast steady steady.
It is not really possible to macro the shot rotation and produce DPS as high as weaving the shots, but with auto-shot self firing this is no longer a problem. Usually my shot rotation begins with applying Serpent Sting and Hunters Mark, and then moves to Explosive Shot > Steady Shot > Steady Shot > Explosive Shot > Steady Shot > Steady Shot and repeat unless Serpent Sting or Hunters Mark need renewing (in which case replace a Steady Shot with them in the rotation), or unless Kill Shot becomes available, in which case shoot it asap and then return to the rotation.
3. Lock and Load
If Kill Shot is not available, you want to fire Explosive Shot whenever that is available. To give yourself even more Explosive Shots you want to get Lock and Load to proc whenever possible. Currently (patch 3.0.8) Lock and Load does the following:
*Note Arcane Shot also uses up a lock and load proc. In addition, it shares a cooldown with Explosive Shot. Explosive Shot does significantly more damage. Survival hunters almost never use Arcane Shot. Just take it off your toolbar.
Using traps to trigger lock and load will give a higher proportion of lock and load triggers than relying on Serpent Sting. However, it is not always possible to use traps. Also, placing a trap is an art. It requires you to either stand almost on top of the boss, and the tank to keep the boss absolutely rooted to the spot, so that you can place the trap in front of you (in the melee zone) and continue to fire from your position (in the ranged zone) without moving. Or, it requires you to run in place the trap and then move out again (best to strafe, jump or disengage, rather than move backwards). I find that moving to place my trap upsets my shot rotation and usually lowers my DPS, even though it gives more lock and load procs. Now, granted I new at it, and am probably not very good at it (and as I have mentioned before I commit the heinous crime of not using a mouse), so while experienced survival hunters can get more DPS from trap dancing, I have found more consistent high DPS from sniper training. The times I do use traps to lock and load are either when I get pulled into a boss (e.g. Cyanigosa in Heroic VH, or after the vortex in Malygos), or when I can proc the trap off adds, e.g. the spiders in Maexxna or fire elementals in Obsidian Sanctum.
This will change in Patch 3.1. A new shot called Black Arrow is being introduced. It counts as a trap, but is fired not placed (I believe), and will form the basis for the Survival Hunters Lock and Load Procs.
When Lock and Load Procs you want to change your rotation slightly. I used to do this wrong. I would just spam my Explosive Shots. But this was a no no, and lowered my DPS, as I was overwriting the DOT the explosive shot leaves on the target. Instead, I now fire explosive shot > multi-shot > explosive shot > steady Shot, or something to that effect. Watching the explosive shot DOT, to make sure it has finished it’s last tick before applying the next one. My survivals DPS is a lot higher since I worked this out.
4 Sniper training
Taking 3/3 points in Hawk Eye and 3/3 points in Sniper Training means that if you stand at more than 30 yards from your target you do significantly more damage.
There are a few fights it is not possible to do this for, but some others where it is a positive advantage. In Sapphiron, you can stand out of the way of the blizzard, and when I tried this with Kel’Thuzad I didn’t get ice blocked once (make sure you are in range of a healer though), so I wondered whether that was luck or whether I was actually out of range?
5. Addons for the survival hunter
To make it easier to know when you are 30 yards or more away, get a range addon. The one I use is RangeDisplay. I find this excellent and simple.
I also a great fan of PowerAuras. I will do a separate article on Power Auras, I use it for several things on my hunter and level 77 pally, but the big one for a survival spec is a big flashing Lock and Load Icon which shows when Lock and Load is available.
For my lock and load power aura you need to import the following text into lock and load:
gcd:bofalse;soundfile:st;owntex:botrue;b:nu0.94509803921569; anim1:nu4;duration:nu0;g:nu0.98039215686275;thresholdinvert:bofalse; ignoremaj:botrue;opt2:nu0;speed:nu2;stance:nu10; icon:stInterface\Icons\Ability_Hunter_LockAndLoad; size:nu0.29999998211861;torsion:nu1;multiids:st; stacksOperator:st=;realaura:nu1;mine:bofalse;optunitn:bofalse; x:nu0;inverse:bofalse;begin:nu1;off:bofalse;isdebuff:bofalse; timer:bofalse;customname:stLock and Load;target:bofalse; combat:nu0;wowtex:bofalse;groupany:bofalse;customsound:st; timerduration:nu0;exact:botrue;threshold:nu50; unitn:stOnly for raid/group.;bufftype:nu1; stacks:nu0;aurastextfont:nu1;party:bofalse;customtex:bofalse; focus:bofalse;isenchant:bofalse;raid:bofalse;isdebufftype:bofalse; texture:nu13;buffname:stLock and Load;anim2:nu0;opt1:nu0;r:nu1; randomcolor:bofalse;y:nu193;alpha:nu1;aurastext:st;textaura:bofalse; texmode:nu2;symetrie:nu0;ismounted:bofalse;targetfriend:bofalse; sound:nu0;isinraid:bofalse;finish:nu2
To do this, install powerauras, copy the string of blue text above, open powerauras in game by typing /powa, click the import button, paste the text string into the window that pops up, then click accept. (Hope this works, I had to put returns in to fit the text in.)
6. Kill Shot
Kill Shot will still do more damage than explosive shot, and so should skill be fired when it is available as a priority. As you know, it has a long cooldown and can only be fired when the target is less than 20% health, but then you want to maximize it. I have it hot keyed separately and macroed in with my steady shot, so that if I go to fire a steady shot when Kill Shot is available, I will fire a Kill Shot instead:#showtooltip Steady Shot /cast kill Shot
/cast Steady Shot
7. Gear Stats
Gear is about balance these day. Gone are the days when survival hunters ran around in rogue leather. Agility is still very important to us, but not quite as important as it once was, and Intellect is more important than it was, and is not something rogue gear comes with (you don’t need to be smart to be a rogue, just sneaky.) Look carefully at your talents, you agility, stamina and intellect will buff other talents such as your attack power. Go with balance, and don’t forget the hit cap.
8. Concluding thoughts
So far, I am enjoying Survival this time around. My damage and DPS has increased from my MM build, although it is hard to state exactly how much, as my gear has been upgraded a bit too. The rotation (if you are not trap dancing) is easier than the MM rotation, though not as easy as a BM one. It is important to try to keep my pet alive, but he is not vital, as with a BM hunter. My pet is something like doing 15% of my damage, not 50%. From MM, though, I do miss the range of instant shots I could use on the run. And one grumble with the Surv tree is that I would like to take the improve trapping talents and have cause to use them, but firstly other talents are more useful for increasing dps so that necessitates dropping them, and secondly we very rarely cc anything anymore.