Should I Spec Survival?
Survival is recommended as the best starter spec for raiding. It will dominate other hunter specs at lower gear levels and remains competitive with Marksmanship specs until very high gear levels (and should outdamage BM at all gear levels if played properly). It is a strong spec for fights with target switching and a lot of movement.
If you have a lot of ArPen or a high end weapon, you may want to consider whether it's time to look at Marksmanship for higher dps as it scales better at the high end. You can consult a spreadsheet to get a rough idea of how close the specs are in your gear although there is a fairly large margin of error when comparing two extremely different specs. When choosing a spec also keep in mind whether your raid may need the replenishment you can provide.
1.0 Spec â€“ Talents
There are several viable Survival builds out there. Most of the talents are pretty static but there are a few options to choose from based on your needs, your raid environment, gear level, etc.
1.1 Sample Specs:
0-15-56 - this build is suitable to all gear levels for a raid that requires replenishment. It does not include imp stings so hunters with 2pc T9 might find an imp stings spec preferable
0-18-53 - this build is designed for someone wearing the 2pc T9 bonus who wants to provide replenishment to their raid. Note that this build only has 1 point in expose weakness and if your crit is low you may be better off moving a point from imp stings or hunting party for a 2nd point in EW
6-14-51 - this build is an option for a raid that doesn't require replenishment and where mana regen options in the raid are strong enough that you can afford to skimp on thrill of the hunt. Some variant of this build may be best once you've moved to 4pc T10 and are no longer using the 2pc T9 bonus
2-18-51 - this build is also for a raid that doesn't require replenishment but tends to be a stronger spec for someone wearing the 2pc T9 bonus since it includes imp stings
1.2 Required Talents:
Every viable survival spec should have the following talents:
- 5/5 Lethal Shots
- 5/5 Mortal Shots
- 3/3 Careful Aim
- 1/2 Go for the Throat (1 pt is worth considerable dps, a 2nd point is only really useful if you have low crit)
- 5/5 Improved Tracking (it is not required that your tracking type match the mob anymore, just that it be one of the supported mob types)
- 3/3 Trap Mastery (note this is a fairly low dps talent, so if you have a need for extra range you can choose to move these 3 points to Hawk Eye)
- 2/2 Survival Instincts
- 5/5 Survivalist
- 3/3 T.N.T.
- 3/3 Lock and Load
- 3/3 Hunter vs. Wild
- 3/3 Killer Instinct
- 5/5 Lightning Reflexes
- 1-3/3 Resourcefulness (the 2nd and 3rd points of this talent contribute extra dps, but at a lower rate than the first point, so it's a suitable scavenge point for other talents)
- 1-2/3 Expose Weakness (the 2nd point is recommended unless you have high crit and the 2pc T9 bonus, the 3rd point isn't useful unless your crit is very low)
- 1/1 Wyvern Sting (this contributes no dps but is required to pick up Noxious Stings)
- 1-3/3 Thrill of the Hunt (more points in this talent can be valuable for mana regen, but higher dps builds that don't require replenishment often drop them to free up points for other talents, be sure your raid has good mana regen options if you drop any points in this talent)
- 5/5 Master Tactician
- 3/3 Noxious Stings (this talent is often misread, it provides a damage bonus to all attacks when serpent sting is on your target so it's a high damage talent)
- 1/1 Black Arrow
- 3/3 Sniper Training (if you stand still for 6 seconds it will refresh the benefit from this talent for a full 15 seconds so proper management can keep high uptime even through many movement fights)
- 1/1 Explosive Shot
1.3 Optional Talents:
There are several optional talents that can be taken depending on your needs.
- 1-5/5 Improved Aspect of the Hawk - although haste is not generally high value to hunters, it contributes some dps gain and if there are talents to spare it can be a reasonable option. It's more attractive with the 2pc T10 bonus since it should increase your uptime slightly
- 1/2 Focused Fire - it's possible to get 1 point in this talent with a survival spec that doesn't include replenishment, however to get this talent you have to invest 5 points in imp hawk which isn't one of the strongest dps talents. It's not possible to get 2 points in this talent without giving up on a talent which is worth significantly more dps
- 1-3/3 Focused Aim - if you are significantly low on hit (especially for new 80s gearing up), this talent can be an option to make up some lost hit. It's not recommended you spec into this talent unless you need at least a full % of hit and be sure to check that speccing into it will gain you more dps than taking other talents and gemming/enchanting for more hit
- 1/1 Aimed Shot - highly recommended and is generally in all SV specs that aren't going for focused fire or having to scavenge points for Focused Aim. If you don't have aimed shot you can use multi-shot but you won't get the additional damage that sniper training provides aimed and multi consumes more mana. Additionally aimed shot can be used while moving whereas multi requires you stop long enough to fire it. There are also a few fights where the healing debuff can be useful
- 1-3/3 Improved Stings - a popular option for hunters with 2pc T9. Not recommended without the 2pc T9 bonus
- 1-3/3 Hawk Eye - not generally recommended unless you are running into situations where the extra range is a huge help, in which case points should be taken from Trap Mastery to pick it up and not any other talent
- 1-3/3 Hunting Party - this is required when providing replenishment to the raid. The talent itself also provides an agility bonus so it can become a decent dps talent if your gear level is high enough, but it requires investing 3 points in Thrill of the Hunt to pick up, so many hunters who don't require replenishment invest the points in other places. 2 points in Hunting Party should provide high replenishment uptime at all gear levels, 1 should be enough at high gear levels
You should use 3 of the following 4 major glyphs:
- Glyph of Explosive Shot
- Glyph of Kill Shot
- Glyph of Serpent Sting (will save GCDs and mana)
- Glyph of Steady Shot
Generally the first 3 are recommended, however if you have high ArPen you may find that steady shot will potentially outweigh one of the others. Kill shot's value also varies significantly depending on fight type and at very high crit levels explosive shot may not be worth glyphing for.
It is generally not recommended to use Glyph of the Hawk because the other glyphs will usually provide a more consisstent damage benefit. Glyph of Hunter's Mark will not provide as much of a dps gain as the recommended glyphs and if a raid needs a hunter to provide it, it should be an MM hunter who can pick it up more easily with the improved hunter's mark talent.
None of the minor glyphs provide any real damage benefit, but these are the potentially useful ones:
- Glyph of Feign Death (Allows more frequent threatdumps)
- Glyph of Mend Pet (Allows the pet to gain happiness in combat)
- Glyph of Revive Pet (Allows a faster pet rez during pushback spells)
- Glyph of the Pack (increases range on aspect of the pack, allows for faster raid runbacks after wipes and useful on a few fights like heroic Beasts)
3.0 Shot Priority
SV hunters use a shot priority, not a rotation. This means that you don't use your shots in a consistent order, but rather you always use the highest priority shot that is currently available (or in the case of serpent sting about to expire).
Below is the recommended priority:
- Kill Shot
- Explosive Shot
- Black Arrow
- Serpent Sting
- Steady Shot
Note: If you are using the 2pc T9 bonus, it's typically recommended to move serpent sting above black arrow in priority.
The reason you don't use black arrow and serpent sting before explosive shot even though they apply buffs to other shots is that explosive shot is worth such a large proportion of damage compared to other shots that delaying it even one GCD to get a small damage bonus on it turns out to be a net damage loss.
Make sure to also include Kill Command macroed into your shots so you use it whenever it's up. It is not on the GCD.
Generally it's recommended to delay your lower damage shots (especially steady) for explosive shot or kill shot. How much is the ideal time to delay may depend on gear but in some cases .8-1 second can be a dps gain versus using a steady shot.
When you get a lock and load proc there are two ways to handle it:
- Don't intersperse other shots between each explosive shot, wait .5 sec after the GCD expires (or just watch till the debuff is close to wearing off), then use the next one until all your bonus explosive shots have been used up.
- Intersperse an instant shot between each explosive shot (i.e. aimed shot, black arrow or serpent sting if it's close to expiring). If an instant is not up then wait appropriately for the next explosive shot as described above.
The dps difference between these two methods is not significant and which one will provide optimal dps may be gear dependent. You should do whatever you're most comfortable with. It is not recommended that you use a steady shot to intersperse as the damage per cast time is lower so you get less value from pushing back your explosive shot.
Tip: if you are moving and none of your instant shots are up, it may sometimes make sense to refresh serpent sting early to save yourself a GCD later (although this will be an extra drain on your mana).
You should allways check Shandara's spreadsheet or the Hunter DPS Analyzer to judge the relative importance of a given stat for a hunter with your gear and spec. The following gives a general idea of the value of stats for the SV spec:
Hit capping is highly recommended however hit above the cap gives you no benefit. The hit cap for a hunter is 8% (263 hit rating), minus any talents you may have invested in Focused Aim, and you can subtract another 1% from heroic presence if you are regularly in a party with a Draenei. Note that pets do not get the full expertise value from focused aim and get none from heroic presence, but generally this shouldn't impact your decision as to how to achieve your hit cap. Generally if you are significantly below the hit cap (more than 1%) it is more efficient to use focused aim than to gem for it, but if you are not that far from the cap you're better off gemming it (usually via hit/agil gems in yellow sockets). Pet hit will also round down, so being just slightly below the cap is usually worse than being slightly above.
Agility is by far the most important stat for SV once hit capped. This is due primarily to the multiplier talents in the SV tree (Lightning Reflexes and Hunting Party). Don't sacrifice an overly large amount of stats for agility but do make it a priority for gemming.
Crit is generally the most popular stat for SV after agility. In addition to the damage gains from crit, talents like expose weakness, go for the throat and thrill of the hunt all scale with crit well. Generally you don't need to be concerned about capping out on crit (you need 104.8% crit before you max out on a boss), but as your crit gets very high you can spare points in expose weakness, hunting party and thrill of the hunt and still maintain good uptimes, and at very high crit levels it may make sense to drop the explosive shot glyph.
4.4 Attack Power
Very solid stat for SV but not valued more highly than agility. You should get enough of this from gear and should never need to gem for it.
4.5 Armor Penetration
A large percentage of the damage in an SV spec is not affected by ArPen (only kill shot, autoshot, aimed/multishot and steady shot are). That being said, the more ArPen you have, the better it gets, so it scales extremely well as a stat when you have a lot of it. At low gear levels it isn't a very attractive stat, but given it's a stronger stat than haste and most gear you want will have it on there, you will quickly get to a point where it becomes close to as valuable to crit and may possibly surpass it.
Haste is considered to be a poor stat for all hunter specs. The only shots affected by haste are autoshot and steady shot. Steady shot is worth very little dps compared to other shots (and is a small proportion of the SV damage breakdown) so stacking haste to get it down to the GCD is not recommended when you can get more bang for your stat buck with agility, crit, ArPen and AP.
It is not recommended that you gem intellect, however you do get 1 AP for intellect with the Careful Aim talent, so generally gear with int will be more attractive than gear without, although occasionally there are leather items well enough itemized to make them worth wearing over mail.
It is not recommended that you go out of your way to get additional stamina on your gear or gem for it. However with the Hunter vs. Wild talent you will gain 30% of your stamina as additional AP, so it does contribute a small amount of dps and can potentially be a deciding factor in comparing similar items. It is not enough of a gain to make it worth using more than the one blue gem required to activate your meta.
4.9 Ranged Weapon DPS
Explosive shot does not scale with weapon dps, which means that although SV does value the dps on a weapon, it doesn't play as large a factor in your damage as it will with an MM spec. When comparing ranged weapons with different damage be sure to consult a spreadsheet as the stats on the item may sometimes outweigh the damage gap. Weapon speed is generally not significant.
The wolf is the recommended raid pet for SV hunters due to the solid dps and the Furious Howl buff which scales very well with gear.
If you are in a raid without a reliable source of faerie fire you may want to consider a wasp as an alternative as they provide the same buff.
Recommended Ferocity Pet Spec (note that the point in dash and bloodthirsty can be moved as needed, the other points are all recommended dps talents).
You can consult a spreadsheet to estimate the actual dps gain from any profession by testing out the profession benefits provided. Note that since agility is extremely strong for SV the professions which allow you to choose it over AP or other stats give you the best benefit.
- Jewelcrafting: 3 improved gems for a potential 42 agil gain
- Blacksmithing: 2 additional gem sockets for a potential 40 agil gain
- Alchemy: 80 AP bonus to flasks
- Enchanting: 2 40 AP enchants to ring for a potential 80 AP gain
- Engineering: choice of haste or damage glove enchant, option of a 24 crit boot enchant (compared to 16 agil or 12 hit/12 crit from enchanters), 1 agil gain on cloak enchant, other useful toys
- Inscription: improved shoulder enchant for an 80 AP gain
- Leatherworking: improved bracer enchant for an 80 AP gain
- Skinning: 40 crit rating
- Tailoring: swordguard embroidery cloak enchant procs for 400 AP for 15 sec
- Mining: 60 stamina (small dps gain from Hunter vs. Wild)
- Herbalism: no dps gain bonuses
- Helm: Arcanum of Torment (Knights of Ebon Blade rep)
- Shoulder: Greater Inscription of the Axe (Sons of Hodir rep or if you're a scribe you can use the improved shoulder enchant)
- Cloak: Enchant Cloak - Major Agility (22 agil from enchanters, or flexweave underlay if you're an engineer)
- Chest: Enchant Chest - Powerful Stats (10 stats from enchanters)
- Bracers: Enchant Bracers - Greater Assault (50 AP, or leatherworkers can use their improved bracer enchant, blacksmiths can also add an extra socket)
- Gloves: Enchant Gloves - Major Agility (20 agil) or Enchant Gloves - Precision (20 hit) if you're low on hit (from an enchanter, engineers can use the haste enchant or rocket, blacksmiths can also add an extra socket)
- Belt: Eternal Belt Buckle (add an extra socket created by BS, engineers can also use a frag belt enchant to throw bombs)
- Pants: Icescale Leg Armor (75 AP/22 crit created by LW, LW get a cheaper version)
- Boots: Enchant Boots - Superior Agility (16 agil) or Enchant Boots - Icewalker (12 hit/12 crit) if you need the hit (from enchanters, engineers also can use the 24 crit rocket boots)
- 2H Weapon: Enchant 2H Weapon - Massacre (110 AP) or Enchant Weapon - Accuracy (25 hit/crit) if you need hit (from enchanters)
- 1H Weapon: Enchant Weapon - Accuracy (25 hit/crit) or Enchant Weapon - Exceptional Agility (26 agil) if you don't need hit (from enchanters)
- Ranged Weapon: Heartseeker Scope (40 crit, crafted by engineers)
- Meta: Relentless Earthsiege Diamond (requires 1 gem of each color to activate)
- Red Sockets: Agility if hit capped (delicate), agil/hit if not (glinting)
- Yellow Sockets: If below hit cap use agil/hit or hit (rigid) to cap. If capped use agility unless the socket bonus is very good (i.e. 4 agil or better, possibly higher, consult the spreadsheet to be sure) in which case use agil/crit (deadly)
- Blue Sockets: Use a Nightmare Tear in your best blue socket bonus (if you have none you can put it in a yellow or red socket). Ignore all other blue socket bonuses and gem agility (or hit if needed). If you have two extremely good socket bonuses (i.e. 8 agil or better, pretty unlikely) you can use an agil/stam (shifting) gem in one
- Flask of Endless Rage (180 AP) is preferred, although in some cases it may be preferable to use an elixir combination of Elixir of Mighty Agility (45 agil) and Elixir of Mighty Thoughts (45 int)
- Blackened Dragonfin (40 agil/40 stam) is usually a noticable dps gain although on less challenging content using a fish feast will still be good and cheaper
- Spiced Mammoth Treats (30 str/stam for your pet) is recommended for maximum dps but Kibler's Bits (20 str/stam for your pet) is a suitable alternative for less challenging content
- Potion of Speed (500 haste for 15 sec) is preferred for maximum dps but Potion of Wild Magic (200 crit for 15 sec) may be preferable in some circumstances
10.0 Cooldown Management
SV hunters generally only have 2 cooldowns, both with 5 minute timers- Rapid Fire and Call of the Wild (some hunters may also have activated trinkets or racial bonuses, it isn't recommended to spec for rapid killing). It is recommended you use these cooldowns stacked together. Whenever possible they should also be stacked with other cooldowns such as trinket or set bonus procs or heroism/bloodlust for maximum effect.
Since they have long timers you should try to use them early in the fight when possible to allow a second use of them on longer fights. You will also generally get slightly more benefit from stacking haste bonuses than by separating them because they have a multiplicative effect and generally you gain more from the additional autoshots than you lose by having a longer period of time with steady shot at or below the GCD.
You can also use a dps potion in conjunction with your other cooldowns for an additional dps boost. If you use a potion immediately before entering combat (known as pre-potting) you can gain the benefit from it and still have another available during the fight when the cooldown expires.
11.0 Useful Mods
- Power Auras (can be configured to give graphical effects on various events including L&L procs)
- NeedToKnow (tracks timers on buffs and debuffs)
- TellMeWhen (gives notification of various events)
- ForteXorcist (timers on debuffs/cooldowns)
- SexyCooldown (timers on debuffs/cooldowns, including internal item cooldowns)
- Satrina Buff Frame (configurable buff/debuff frame replacement)