Survival Tactics for a Marksman Hunter

Morynne —  December 25, 2010 — 10 Comments

With Cataclysm being a couple weeks behind us, and plenty of people weighing in on what spec is better, I think it really comes down to what you’re working on at the time.

Survival has come up on top of the three Hunter specs — by leaps and bounds.  Survival is better at AOE damage, better at crowd control, and better single-target DPS with less DPS loss during a movement dependent fight — at least for a 329 ilvl rating.  There’s a lot of talk that Marksman and Beastmastery are going to be more gear dependent — which is a good possibility.  We saw that in Wrath with Marksmanship, especially with the focus going to Armor Penetration.  With the gear progression and stats improvement being more linear (and not exponential like ArP was) it’s also a good possibility to continue to see Survival on top of the DPS meters.

That being said, I have spec’d Survival (1/9/31) for heroics and instancing.  Why?

Crowd Control in heroics has become very important.  There are countless pulls that you can no longer just AOE down like we used to in Wrath, and frankly the Survival ability to trap for 20% longer time makes a big difference as you’re taking out the bigger packs.  The trap target no longer has to be the first one downed — it can be closer to the end.

AOE damage has become insane with Survial hunters — so for those occasions when you have to AOE, Multishot (Serpent Spread) now applies Serpent Sting for 6 seconds per target.  It really is crazy.  Be aware when you’re using it, you’re likely to get aggro.  Make sure your healer knows.

The rotation is the easiest of the specs right now, and requires a lot less decision making at certain percentages of the fight.

Basic Survival Shot rotation:

  1. Hunters Mark
  2. Serpent Sting
  3. Explosive Shot
  4. Kill Shot (if available)
  5. Black Arrow
  6. Arcane Shot
  7. Cobra Shot

Lock n’ Load Procs

  1. Explosive Shot
  2. Cobra Shot (or Kill Command depending on focus)
  3. Explosive Shot
  4. Cobra Shot
  5. Explosive Shot

So now you know how Survival is better for instancing and heroics.  Marksmanship still has its merits.  I find it much easier to solo as Marksman.  Why? I’m less likely to pull threat off my pet as I’m soloing.  The hits from my shots aren’t as hard it seems, but the mobs die pretty quick.  I can use a physical DPS pet (like a cat or a tenacity pet) because I don’t see the DPS boost from my wind serpent. (They increase the target’s magic damage taken by 8%, which is most of what Survival damage comes from).  I’ve been using my cat more frequently when soloing because the Agility boost seems to make a difference, but I could see the plus side to using a Fox or a Tallstrider that cause the target to slow attacks, but ultimately pet choice is up to you — we all have our preferences… especially now that everyone isn’t running around with a Wolf just because it gives the best dps gains.

Still want to be a Marksman during raids? I don’t blame you.  I’ll go over Marksman raid information in depth over the next few weeks.

Looking for more Survival information? Warcraft Hunters Union has much more detail!


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Morynne is an avid hunter, and prefers Marksmanship. She has co-hosted the Hunting Party Podcast, and appeared on the Twisted Nether Blogcast. For more information, click here.

10 responses to Survival Tactics for a Marksman Hunter

  1. Merry Christmas to you !

    Is this spec for raiding/Hdungeons or leveling?

    While my own spec has a few points that could probably be adjusted for slight dps gain, at the moment as you mentioned cc is needed and Surv. Hunter is King! lol Seriously though I don't see the benefit of taking the "Hunter vs Wild" talent or why you only have 1 point in "Serpent Spread". Well ok maybe 1 in Serpent Spread because it is just more time. Also, is it really a dps gain to point "Bestail Discipline" over "one with Nature" even if you are not a BM spec?

    Personally I would like to play MM and yet my guild wants me to roll as BM for the BL with a Corehound and I am set on no for that lol. We have several Shamans n Mages and they just want it for heroics not raiding.

    Look forward to your comments and hope you and your family are having a wonderful holiday season.


    • The 1 point in Serpent Spread is really just to get down the tree, and for no other reason. It's a bonus that it gives you extra AOE damage when you have to, now that we're Volley challenged.

      Bestial Discipline lets your pet use its focus dump more frequently, and if you're running with a Wind Serpent (like I do) you want the 8% magic damage debuff on the mob as much as possible, the additional focus lets that happen. One with Nature gives an AP bonus, which is not the primary stat for SV hunters — now if it gave Agility, it would be a different story.

      You can still play MM for raiding, but SV damage is ridiculously better right now. I've tested both SV and MM in a 10 man raid over the weekend, and SV is the better choice right now. When I'm not instancing or in a raid, I'm running as Marksman because I like it better, and seem to be able to solo more efficiently, but that's just me.

      BM has its merits if your guild wants a corehound for Ancient Hysteria in heroics, but if you're running with a mage, or shaman, leave Chromaggus in the stable — let them do heroism/bloodlust.

      I hope you have had a great holiday!!

  2. Ok I see it is for Heroics (as you plainly stated) so ignore my lack of short term memory please.

  3. I am still finding the occasional multi-shot and subsequent serpent spread worth while on any fights with more than 3 mobs not CCd.

    I tried running with various pets other than a cat, and saw the dps gain from the pet drop. The Roar of Courage still seemingly gave me the best numbers as far as I could tell.

    I think in 10/25 raids is where the buff will see bigger gains. A spell caster heavy raid will love seeing a Wind Serpent, especially if a DK or Warrior is in the group already and supplanting the RoC buff.

    Also, curious Morynne….why interweave anything between the Exp shots during LnL? They instant cool down and can be spammed.

    • I tend to use the Cobra Shots between LnL to help regen some focus if I need it. If I'm topped off, I'll just spam Exp shot until LnL is gone and resume the original rotation.

      Depending on the fight I'll run with a few different pets, but the Wind Serpent seems to be the biggest gains for me right now — with caster heavy groups, and most of my shots being "magic" or elemental damage, I see a boost. Depending on the fight I might also pick up a Fox for the attack speed slow, especially if a boss tends to hit extremely hard and fast just to make the healers lives a bit easier.

  4. HEALERS?!?! BAH! Who cares about dirty dirty mana users!!!

  5. You weave shots in among the Explosive Shots during LnL because otherwise you will be clipping off the third dot tick of the Explosive Shots and losing DPS. I use Cobra if I am low focus and Arcane if I am ok on Focus.Of course I use Black Arrow if it is up at that time over either.

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