Our primary nuke ability. You want to use this as often as possible and it costs a fair amount of focus
Shadow damage over time with a long cooldown. It has low DPS but a very high DPCT (damage per casting time), so you will want to use it on targets that will be alive long enough to get the full effect. This also has a chance to proc Lock and Load on ticks.
Since Cobra Shot refreshes this, you will only have to apply it once per target in most cases. Noxious Stings also allows you to do 10% more damage to mobs afflicted with this sting. Like Black Arrow, it also has low DPS but a very high DPCT (theoretically infinite, with cobra shot refreshing it).
This is our focus dump ability. No cooldown, 25 focus (22 with 3/3 Efficiency). Survival uses a bit more focus for primary shots than other specs so arcane shot usage is normally relatively low compared to others.
Always use this in place of Steady Shot. Generates 9 focus and refreshes Serpent Sting.
AP bonus, always put this up before combat if possible.
A very strong AoE ability for Survival. See the AoE section for more detail.
Shares a cooldown with Black Arrow, but does more damage on multi mob situations in which they stay in the affected area for the duration (20 seconds). It also ticks every 2 seconds, 10 times, which gives it a slightly higher chance to proc Lock and Load, even on single targets. Explosive Trap does not stack with that of other hunters, so only one hunter will be able to use this on a given area. (now stacks)
Right now it looks like this cannot crit and flat out does less damage on single target than explosive trap
Not quite as strong as it used to be (150% weapon damage, down from 200%) but still quite powerful. One of its main benefits is that it costs no focus.
In Cataclysm we have two important aspects during fights: Hawk and Fox. For PVE, the primary benefit of each is that Hawk provides additional AP and Fox allows you to cast Cobra Shot while moving. Ideally, you will not have to use Fox and can do all of your movement while casting instant shot casts (everything but Cobra Shot) and in between auto shot casts. In practice, there will probably be times when you want to move while not having the focus for instant cast shots. Aspects are on a separate global cooldown (GCD) from other abilities, so you can swap between Hawk and Fox without losing a GCD for damage abilities.
The most basic priority for single targets will be something like this:
1. Apply Serpent Sting, especially for the Noxious Stings effect.
2. Explosive Shot
3. If mob is below 20% health, Kill Shot
4. If mob will be alive long enough, Black Arrow
5. If you will have enough focus to use Explosive Shot and Black Arrow, use Arcane Shot
6. Cobra Shot
This becomes much more complicated to execute in practice for a few reasons. One, Thrill of the Hunt procs lead to a somewhat unpredictable focus regeneration rate. Two, number 5 can be difficult to compute since you would also want to take into account how much focus you will regenerate in the time before those abilities come off of cooldown. Generally, it is fine to pool focus so long as you are not capping (reaching 100 focus) or delaying abilities that use a cooldown. Pooling too much focus is probably not ideal because it can quickly lead to capping focus with a string of Thrill of the Hunt procs or a Lock and Load proc.
=Lock and Load=
With damage over time abilities now refreshing without wasting a dot, "interleaving" a cobra shot between procs is less viable. Instead we can more quickly use our explosive shots without wasting charges. Simply spamming Explosive Shot will result in 8 ticks, with 1 lost. Before 4.2 this would have been 7 ticks. If you wait a small fraction of a second after the 1 second GCD, it should be sufficient to get all 9 ticks quickly. This would be 9 explosive shot ticks in about 3.3 seconds assuming you wait 0.1 between each. This is almost always the best usage on single target, although there may be times when filling in an instant cast ability such as kill shot is worthwhile.
Hunter vs. Wild - Optional. To some extent you have about 2 free points to spend in the first two tiers.
Pathing - Required. The talents at this level are not incredibly strong, but this should be a clear win.
Improved Serpent Sting - Required. On single target, the periodic critical strike chance is good and on AoE the interaction with Serpent Spread is very powerful.
Survival Tactics - Optional.
Trap Mastery - Required. At the very least, the boost to Black Arrow is worth it.
Entrapment - Optional. Probably encounter specific for PVE.
Point of No Escape - Optional. Bosses will not trigger Frost Trap and the crit bonus now only affects you, so this talent is fairly weak.
Thrill of the Hunt - Required. This is a substantial amount of focus.
Counterattack - Not Recommended. You will not be doing much parrying in raids.
Lock and Load - Required. For its interaction with T.N.T.
Resourcefulness - Recommended. Black Arrow is strong now, but the internal cooldown on LNL procs may diminish the efficacy of this talent.
Mirrored Blades - Optional. Possibly situational for PVE.
T.N.T. - Required. More Explosive Shots is a good thing.
Toxicology - Required. This is a very powerful talent, even with entry level crit chance.
Wyvern Sting - Required. This is a prerequisite for Noxious Stings and Black Arrow.
Noxious Stings - Required. Incredibly powerful talent. 10% damage is a lot.
Hunting Party - Required. Even with this buff already covered in your raid, it is probably worth it for the 2% agility alone.
Sniper Training - Required. The Kill Shot crit chance remains unchanged from WotLK, but the 6% buff now only applies to Cobra Shot. Still worthwhile but less important to maintain on movement intensive phases.
Serpent Spread - Recommended. This talent has no effect on single targets but is incredibly powerful in multi target situations. See the AoE section. You may only want to include 1 point since the only difference is a 6 vs. 9 second duration, and in a heavy AoE situation you will be using another Multi Shot before it wears off.
Black Arrow - Required. High DPCT ability.
Go for the Throat - Required. See the pet section for more details, but obtaining more focus for pets is now a worthwhile pursuit.
Efficiency - Required. 6 focus reduction for Explosive Shot and 3 focus reduction for Arcane Shot
Rapid Killing - Not Recommended.
Sic 'Em! - Optional. For the same reason as Go for the Throat.
Improved Steady Shot - Not Recommended. Not worth using over Cobra Shot.
Careful Aim - Optional - Not very strong, but potentially better than some pet focus talents depending on pet focus regeneration.
Improved Kill Command - Not Recommended. Kill Command is not worth the high focus cost for Survival.
One with Nature - Optional. With the 4.0.6 buff to Aspect of the Hawk, this is a decent talent now.
Bestial Discipline - Optional. Recommended if your pet is not getting the full benefit of Wild Hunt every time. You can fill this talent at the expense of Careful Aim on fights where the first 20% of damage is insignificant.
Talent Calculator - World of Warcraft
With either the T12 4pc or the T13 2pc making the build less focus intensive, arcane shots are more frequent than in T11 and should put that glyph ahead
Recommended Prime Glyphs
Explosive Shot - 6% crit
Kill Shot - effectively lets you do back to back Kill Shot
Arcane Shot - 12% Arcane Shot damage
Serpent Sting - 6% crit
From a damage perspective, there are no required major glyphs for every scenario, although Trap Launcher is recommended for any AoE situations (with Explosive Trap). The others are great options for PVP but in PVE their viability would depend on the encounter. Another potential glyph is the Glyph of Misdirection, which would let you chain MDs on your pet if you get into a threat limited situation.
Pets now do a decent amount of damage for Survival hunters. They inherit 100% of the hunter's hit, haste, and crit, and scale considerably from AP. Each pet will have a focus dump (claw, bite, or smack; all of which are functionally equal) and an additional ability that is a buff, debuff, or some kind of utility such as an interrupt or stun - but NOT damage. Pet family only matters indirectly, in that it determines which special ability it will have and which talent tree (Ferocity, Cunning, or Tenacity) it uses. Aside from the special ability of the pets, two pets with the same talent tree will do the same damage, i.e. a monkey will be the same as a spider in terms of damage.
Ferocity and Cunning are fairly close in terms of damage potential. The former's main benefit is the 10% AP from Call of the Wild which can be stacked with procs and cooldowns.
Cunning: Hunter Pet Calculator - Wowhead
The main debatable point here is the lack of Boar's Speed. Owl's Focus, in conjunction with Wild Hunt, is particularly powerful.
Ferocity: Hunter Pet Calculator - Wowhead (1 extra point for either finishing up Wild Hunt, or getting 1 point in Shark Attack)
There are a couple debatable points. First, the point in Boar's Speed can go into either Blood Thirsty or Charge if needed. More importantly, the value between Wild Hunt and Shark Attack is likely to depend on pet focus regeneration from your own talents. Keep in mind that Wild Hunt now does more damage the more focus your pet has, making it much more powerful than it was in WotLK.
Survival is currently the highest hunter AoE spec by quite a bit.
Multi Shot takes advantage of several talents:
Serpent Spread - Applies 6/9 second duration Serpent Sting. For situations in which you are casting Multi Shot every 6 seconds only one talent point is needed.
Improved Serpent Sting - A large portion of your Multi Shot damage will actually come from this.
Toxicology - Serpent Sting crits for 200%, unlike 150% for other hunter specializations.
Noxious Stings - Subsequent Multi Shots will do 10% more damage.
Explosive Trap is your other AoE ability which again does more damage than other hunter specializations because of Trap Mastery and Resourcefulness. It has a small base damage (29 per tick) but with a 54.5% RAP coefficient it does a substantial amount of damage. It is also our most efficient ability by far, costing 0 focus if dropped in place or 20 focus with Trap Launcher (10 focus glyphed). Lastly, with 10 ticks, it has a higher chance of proccing Lock and Load than Black Arrow, even on a single target. A full duration explosive trap will surpass Black Arrow in DPS on just two targets. Explosive Trap's major caveat is obviously that it requires the target(s) to stay in the targeted area for 20 seconds for full effect, making it impractical on some fights. It also does not stack over the explosive trap of another hunter; only one of you will get the benefit. (now usable by multiple hunters)
For less generalized stat weights, it is recommended that you use your gear in Zeherah's DPS Analyzer or similar tool.
Your best stat, by far, with the possible exception of hit. One agility provides two AP and 1/324.85 critical strike percent, before scaling. Into the Wilderness (Survival specialization) boosts this by 15%, you get 5% from wearing mail, 5% from raid buffs, and 2% from Hunting Party. These stack multiplicatively for a 29.32% increase.
Gearing for the hit cap is generally a good idea. Ranged attacks have a 8% chance to miss against mobs 3 levels higher than us and each point of hit rating gives us 1/120.109%, so we need 961 hit to reach this, or 841 for draenei.
Almost all abilities crit for 200% damage, or 206% damage with a . Some exceptions include Explosive Trap which uses spell crit damage (and crit chance) - 150%, or immolation trap which cannot crit. Thanks to Toxicology, Serpent Sting and Black Arrow crit at 200% like your shots. 179.28 Crit rating gives 1% crit at level 85.
Haste affects both the speed of your shots (cobra and auto) and your rate of focus regeneration. You need 128.057 haste rating to get 1% haste. Haste effects generally scale multiplicatively. If you have 32% haste from gear, 3% from Pathing, and Rapid Fire, a base casting time of X would now be X/1.32/1.03/1.4. Procs that increase haste rating will stack additively with your total haste rating value (32% in this example). Focus regeneration appears to be a base of 4 focus per second scaling multiplicatively with haste; i.e. 30% haste would be 4*1.3=5.2 fps. You will likely not see a huge increase in focus regen from upgrading gear.
All of our "spell" (non-physical) damage is affected by this stat. This is almost all of our abilities except for auto shot and multi shot. By specializing in Survival you get 8% elemental damage plus 1% per percent of mastery. At level 85, 179.28 mastery (same as crit) gives 1% damage. Mastery also reportedly affects various non-hunter abilities and procs, such as and engineering effects. (Source)
Relative to each other, Agi is significantly greater than any other stat with Hit a bit behind. The three remaining secondary stats are fairly close in value. Crit is favored over Mastery with current gear, while Haste is somewhat less clear but is likely better than Mastery.
Haste is also subject to numerous situations where its benefit to special abilities is diminished due to not being able to fit in an extra cobra shot before reaching a theoretical threshold. For instance, a common window is the 6 second window between Explosive Shots. 1 second is due to the GCD, but exactly 3 Cobra Shots can be fit into the remaining 5 seconds if they are hasted to 1.67 seconds each. This is a 20% haste increase, so assuming 3% Pathing and 10% Hunting Party, the rest would be obtained with 757 haste rating. More haste than this would mean we either delay Explosive Shot in favor of a fourth Cobra Shot (not ideal at haste close to 20%) or we would have a short wait time resulting in no DPS increase for special shots in this time window. Keep in mind that auto shot damage is not subject to these thresholds and will always increase steadily. We would also want to consider other time windows where the threshold is different, such as under the effect of haste procs/bloodlust or when using other 1 second special shots between Explosive Shots.
Finally, it should be noted that no stat should be examined in a vacuum. They function together and change the relative value of each other. For example, acquiring more crit will increase the power of mastery relative to its power before that crit. Although in current gear choosing crit over mastery in more situations would be ideal, substituting ALL mastery for crit would probably not be preferred over balancing them in terms of some ratio. This post may be informative on the subject.
Head: (Ramkahen Revered)
Shoulders: (Therazane Revered) or Swiftsteel Inscription (Scribes only)
Wrist: Enchant Bracer - Agility or Draconic Embossment - Agility (Leatherworkers only)
Boots: (if not using . Movement speed is somewhat less powerful as a DPS increase in the age of Aspect of the Fox as well.)
Two-Hand Weapon: Enchant 2H Weapon - Mighty Agility
Please note that the three enchants here that use Wrath of the Lich King mats are actually not cheap alternatives to Cataclysm enchants. They are superior or at least on par with the Cataclysm alternatives.
Gem choices are fairly obvious now that our only viable meta gem is . Agility is more than twice as valuable as any secondary stat, so with superior quality gems the only socket bonuses worth picking up are those that give 20 agility or more. For example, the tier helmet and chest. Other sockets can safely be filled with with socket bonuses ignored.