Maximizing Rapid Fire as a Marksman

Morynne —  September 7, 2011 — 25 Comments
Rapid Fire Animations

Rapid Fire Animations

This is a lesson I’ve had to learn over the last couple weeks, and it might not be something you think about to start with.  I want to mention that I’m absolutely not perfect at this yet, but the theory is definitely sound.

First, let’s look at the two abilities to trigger this haste buff:

  • Rapid Fire - Increases ranged attack speed by 40% for 15 sec.
  • Readiness – When activated, this ability immediately finishes the cooldown of all Hunter abilities.

So inherently, these abilities are made to work together, the only catch is that Rapid Fire has a 5 minute cooldown (unless talented), which ultimately doesn’t maximize the time you could be blowing things up.  What talent? Why Posthaste of course.  Each rank of this talent reduces the cooldown of Rapid Fire by 1 minute, and increases your movement speed after using Disengage.  Given that you’ll be putting in 2 points, your Rapid Fire and Readiness will be up at approximately the same time.  Coincidence? Naaah.

Logically, you pop Rapid Fire at full Focus, pop Readiness, then start using your abilities that have cast bars as quickly as possible, right?  Close.

Your two abilities you should be using as a Marksman that have a cast bar are Aimed Shot, and Steady Shot.  Aimed is the super heavy hitter, and Steady helps you regain focus.

Each Aimed Shot costs 50 focus, and starts with a 2.4 second cast timer (without haste).  If you’re in raiding gear, you likely have a considerable amount of haste, so you’ll see that cast timer be lower.  With the haste, you’ll also see faster focus regeneration.  If you’re into numbers, here’s a haste to focus post on EJ.  And of course making your shots fire 40% faster will make a big difference in how many you can cast, and what kind of DPS you can push out.

Now, how does this work out?

First off, during a haste phase like Rapid Fire, or using Heroism/Bloodlust, you will get far less DPS for the amount of focus spent if you weave in Chimera Shots and keep Serpent Sting up.  Forget them while RF is going!

Starting at full focus, you hit Rapid Fire. Dump your focus with Aimed Shots (depending on your haste, 2-3), then regen some Focus with Steady Shot (typically 2), then fire off as many Aimed Shots as possible to dump your Focus again, then repeat the 2 Steady Shots.  Repeat this cycle until your Rapid Fire cycle is over. Then pop Readiness.

Resume your normal rotation with Serpent Sting, Chimera Shot, and your Steadies to regain focus to about 80. Pop your second Rapid Fire, and do it all over again.

Ideally you want to be at a point where you will be casting your Aimed Shots and Steady Shots in pairs during Rapid Fire, and on a stand still fight, it’s definitely worth glyphing Rapid Fire to get yourself an extra 10% haste.  This will net you more DPS than the 1 second reduced cooldown on Chimera Shot, so that is the logical replacement.

TL;DR Summary

  • Start with 100 Focus
  • Cast Rapid Fire
  • Aimed Shot until you’re out of Focus
  • Steady Shot until you get to 50 focus (usually 2)
  • Aimed Shot until you’re out of focus, repeat Steady/Aimed cycle until RF is over.
  • Pop Readiness.
  • Regenerate focus to about 80 on normal rotation
  • Rapid Fire and repeat the process.

I’m not a pro theorycrafter (my eyes tend to glaze over at all those numbers), but I have had good results with this.  This cycle will still give you your Fire! procs and keep your Improved Steady Shot up so you continue to benefit from the additional haste there.

Give it a shot, play around on some target dummies and let me know if this helps you as much as it did me.  If you find something better, post it in the comments!

Good luck! (Edit: If you’ve made it this far, awesome.  Keep reading.  There’s some excellent conversation in the comments!)


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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.

25 responses to Maximizing Rapid Fire as a Marksman

  1. Are we sure Readiness uses a GCD?  I've a macro that is basically: /cast Rapid Fire, /cast Readiness and I've never had to 'double tap' it.  One press and I'm rapid-firing and the cool-down is instantly reset.  In fact, that would explain some wonkiness I've noticed where if I hit it too soon (at the end of a steady or aimed) Readiness gets put on cooldown while rapid fire isn't up.  Might want to double check.  And I know it is technically (at least it has been modeled as such) less DPS, I typically open with MD, pre-pot, chim, rapid/ready macro, chim, 2xsteady, Aimed, Aimed.  I find this gives me a bit more of a chance to start to hit a T12 4piece proc as well as it is 'simpler' for me to execute (being locked out/trying to time an Aimed when the tank is running in while also trying to get the pot in before I'm in combat hurts my tiny brain).  

    All that being said, the recommendation is sound and I'll see if I can't break old habits and give this a shot this week. :)

  2. Thoughts on combining with Heroism or using RF to extend the period of awesome haste? (I think you missed this in your post) i.e. longer time spent hasted vs. reduction of having both hastes up.

    I haven't measured the two options, but your raid might not always call for an early Heroism which means if you wait for Heroism you could miss out on having the Haste during the Careful Aim phase. Also, most of the fights taken over 3 minutes possibly 6 (depending on your raid DPS) so you could get away with two or three pairs of RF uses (with Readiness) if you pop it early.

    Generally, I don't save RF until later unless there is a good reason. I'm open to other thoughts though.

    • Smak: As far as I've found, the general theory is to spread out your dynamic haste effects as much as possible. This is mostly (I think) because when you're under rapid and lust/hero your SS goes under the GCD so you're wasting a good bit of that haste. So, if you can avoid it, do not use rapid during lust/hero. I always try to choke out of my RL when he's going to call for it so I can plan around it. Typically I'll always use rapid/ready/rapid to start off to maximize CA+prepot (in addition to CotW). If they're coming off cool-down around when Hero gets popped, I'll hold off until hero is over. Sometimes (Alysrazor comes to mind) they seem to converge.

  3. I agree with most of your approach. Some additional or extending comments are:

    - Not casting Readiness until first RF in the pair is done. You do not want to waste a GCD during RF on Readiness. The big benefit to Readiness besides resetting your RF CD is to reset your CS CD. So between RFs (unless in the CA phase), I usually blow a CS hit Readiness, regen focus for another CS, then regen focus for the next RF sequence.

    And to answer some questions in a previous responses, RF does not cost a GCD but Readiness does. That is why you only have to hit a RF and Readiness macro once.

    - Regening focus with some SSs between RFs in a pair so that you can maximum the number of AIs during the RF. Since you regen about 15-17 focus during an AI cast when under RF, starting the RFs after the first at about 80 focus is ideal.

    - Ideally do not want to stack RF and BL on top of each other. As pointed out, RF alone should get your SS cast below the GCD adding BL on top of it waste the benefit of the BL haste to your SS. Another reason not to stack them is more AI uptime. I recommend hardcasting AI whenever you are under dynamic haste effects. If you spread them out, then you end up casting more AIs over the course of the fight for more DPS. Another factor is haste trinkets. They have a smaller amount of haste, so if they stack with a RF or a BL it is not necessarily a bad situation, but stacking them on top of both is a waste.

    Of course, you do not always control when BL is used and often the RL calls out to use BL at the ideal times to use RF too. One example is BLs at the start of the fight. Since the CA phase is so important to our DPS, I will still stack at least the first RF of the pair on top of the BL and maybe the second as well to maximize the CA phase DPS and to make the next RF pair available sooner. Other situations are when bosses are vulnerable like Magmaw’s head phase or when Alysrazor is on the ground. If these are the ideal times to use RF and no good alternative times exist, then stack them on top of the BL.

    - With the CA phase being the exception due to the high crit rate of AI, casting CS to maintain SrS is always a benefit regardless of the current haste effects, RF included. Even if you have enough haste to get the extreme case where AI has a 1s cast time, CS is still better to use at least soon enough to refresh SrS. This is because CS does almost as much damage as AI by itself, so that when factoring in the SrS damage, the autoshot damage that is not locked out by the AI hardcast, and the additional chance for WQ and T12 4-set procs from that autoshot, CS does more damage. Furthermore, CS is instant cast and cannot be interrupted and can be used on the move. If your AI cast time is longer than 1s, then CS is even a better option since you also have to include a partial SS cast’s damage and the subsequent chances for resultant WQ and FA procs.

    - Contrary to Tibbelkrunk’s comment, I agree with starting RFs with AI casts. Starting non-first RF at about 80 focus as discussed earlier is ideal, but for the RF to open the fight, it is better to start with at least one AI instead of the SS pair to start ISS.

    Assuming 12.93% haste from gear and Pathing and RF glyph but no AI glyph, lets look at the options for casting your first 2 AIs and SSs. If you start with the ISS pair first, you waste about 57 focus before the first AI is cast. That wastes enough focus to cast over an AI. What I used to recommend is starting with a single AI cast. Sure you lose 17 focus over that first AI cast and another 5 focus during the second AI cast after the first SS pair, but that is only 22 focus wasted, which is much less than half the focus wasted if started with 2 ISSs. Both these cases can cast 5 AIs and 8 SSs during the RF with the case starting with the AI only taking 0.21s longer but ending with 35 more focus.

    However, this recommendation was made at previous T11 haste levels when the RF glyph was not a good option. Reevaluating the situation for current conditions, the above recommend is not bad, but it appears that it is actually better now to start with 2 AI casts despite the slower cast time without ISS up yet. Starting with 2 AIs only wastes the 17 focus over the first AI cast. Thus, it wastes the least amount of focus over the three cases. If you perform the same number of AIs and SSs over the RF, the cycle takes 0.55s longer than the starting with a single AI case, which makes it inferior. However, as things work out in this case, you actually have enough focus and the opportunity with fairly low latency to cast a 6th AI during the RF, which is superior.

    Adding in the benefits to AI cast time and focus regen from haste trinkets that will proc shortly after the start of the fight, its situational on whether starting with one AI or two AIs is better, but if you start with 2 AIs will you waste less focus and have a better chance of being able to squeeze in an extra AI at the end of the RF. Regardless, starting with the SS pair is the inferior option that wastes more focus and is less likely to be able to squeeze in an extra AI.

    • Regarding starting with Rapid Fire + Aimed Shot, I completely agree — that's how I always start fights, too.

      What we don't want to do is start Rapid Fire + Readiness, and then Aimed Shot. That's where we not only lose Readiness's GCD during RF, but also waste the first tick of Rapid Recuperation.

  4. I don't think lust + RF is much of an issue during CA phase because you will still get more Aimed Shots during this phase, which is the real butter of CA. If it's not happening during CA phase then working around it is probably a better deal.

    • Although I agree that stacking RF and BL during the CA phase is often okay since as you state it results in more AIs, it can still not be ideal in some cases, especially in the presence of haste trinkets.

      I currently recommend 12.93% haste from gear and Pathing combined and the RF glyph. In this situation with both RF and BL, SS and AI cast times are 0.72s and 1.04s, respectively. The roughly 1s AI cast time is nice, although a little bit of the haste is wasted on SS casts.

      If we add a normal Hungerer proc on top of that, SS and AI cast times are 0.647s and 0.939s, respectively. Obviously, some haste is being wasted here. With heroic Hungerer, the cast times are 0.639 and 0.927, respectively.

      If Matrix Restabilizer procs haste on top of the Hungerer proc, then cast times are 0.589s and 0.855s, respectively if both normal trinkets and 0.576 and 0.835, respectively if both heroic trinkets. This wastes a lot of the haste benefit of BL. Both normal trinkets procing together with glyphed RF and no BL have cast times of 0.766s and 1.111s, respectively. Both heroic trinkets procing together with glyphed RF and no BL have cast times of 0.749s and 1.086s. Of course, this situation only exists at most for the 15s of the Hungerer proc; however, with just the Matrix proc only for the rest of the 30s, cast times are still low at 0.83-0.84s and 1.20-1.22s, respectively, depending on whether you have normal or heroic trinkets.

      Now what if I am someone with a good amount of T12 heroic gear who reforges more haste so that haste rating is higher than crit rating to ensure that Matrix always procs haste so that it will always allow me to cast haste AIs during its cast time. That additional haste on gear lowers SS and AI cast times even further.

      Unfortunately, FD does not allow me to easily delay when RF is cast, but in the base case with 12.93% haste from gear and Pathing and no haste trinkets. Moving the BL until after the RF (and CA phase) loses about 179 DPS since in that case, stacking them during the CA phase is not bad since all of the haste improves your AI casts. Add in one normal haste trinket, and the loss from moving BL until after the RF is 117 DPS.

      Going with my 378 gear set and reforging haste above crit to have Matrix always proc haste and not stacking RF and BL is a 24 DPS gain. With better gear and higher haste stacking, the gain of not stacking RF and BL is higher.

      Furthermore, this was a simulation of a 5 min fight during which the CA phase lasts 30s, the same duration as a RF pair and Matrix proc. If the fight is longer with a CA phase longer than 40s, then not stacking BL and RF is even more beneficial since that is more of the CA phase with hasted SSs and AIs.

      Anyway, you still all cases want to use your RF during the CA phase and just deal with having BL whenever it is best for your raid.

  5. I agree that maximizing Rapid Fire is really important. We should strive to get everything we possibly can from the faster cast times and the vastly increased focus regeneration (from Rapid Recuperation).

    During the Careful Aim phase, to avoid wasting even 1 second of Rapid Fire, we shouldn’t use Readiness during Rapid Fire. Instead, wait until RF has run out before using that GCD on Readiness. It sometimes means we get to start one last Aimed Shot during the final second of RF, so we get another whole hasted Aimed Shot.

    During RF #3 (and any others we use while not in Careful Aim), we still want to use Chimera Shot — it costs less than Aimed, takes less time, hits for almost as much, and still has the same chance to trigger Piercing Shots as Aimed does.

    I would definitely not recommend using {Rapid Fire -> Readiness -> Aimed Shot} all while starting at 100 focus. A full 3 seconds of focus regen, plus the first tick of Rapid Recuperation (20% of its benefit) will be wasted due to capping focus before Aimed Shot fires (since we won’t have ISS up yet).

    • Are we sure Readiness uses a GCD? I've a macro that is basically: /cast Rapid Fire, /cast Readiness and I've never had to 'double tap' it. One press and I'm rapid-firing and the cool-down is instantly reset. In fact, that would explain some wonkiness I've noticed where if I hit it too soon (at the end of a steady or aimed) Readiness gets put on cooldown while rapid fire isn't up. Might want to double check. And I know it is technically (at least it has been modeled as such) less DPS, I typically open with MD, pre-pot, chim, rapid/ready macro, chim, 2xsteady, Aimed, Aimed. I find this gives me a bit more of a chance to start to hit a T12 4piece proc as well as it is 'simpler' for me to execute (being locked out/trying to time an Aimed when the tank is running in while also trying to get the pot in before I'm in combat hurts my tiny brain).

      All that being said, the recommendation is sound and I'll see if I can't break old habits and give this a shot this week. :)

    • Good call-outs. Like I said, I'm not perfect at this yet, but I did see an increase in damage using this method. I'm going to be editing with the Careful Aim changes you've mentioned.


    • Yes but Chim Shot doesnt get anything from carefull aim so for the first 10% the serpent sting/chim shot combo is a DPS loss as Aimed shot will be criting 60% or the time making it superfly good. Once the boss gets to 90% and lower weave in Chim shot depending on your haste. if your hast is good only use chim to refresh SS, if its bad use on CD

  6. Probably not optimal but I always start the pull with chimera followed by RF and aimed then start the aimed steady rotation. This ensures extra early threat for the tank, no wasted focus and, although this might just be me, it feels like I'm not wasting my pre-pot waiting for aimed to cast.

  7. Readiness is an odd one to work around. At the start of the fight, i think we're all in agreement here around when to use it with conjunction with rapid fire.

    The thing i'd like to add is regarding when to use the two later in the fight. On most fights you'll only get to use readiness twice. Once at the start, and once towards the end. Personally, I like to use readiness later when i can actually use more abilities off cooldown. I'm looking at your Chimera Shot and Kill Shot.

    That way you're getting a big burst of 2 (or 4) kill shots which will be massive, 2 chimera shots, and then a burst from improved haste.

    - So to start, Pre-Pot, hit Serpent Sting, Chimera Shot, 2x Steady (to get ISS UP), THEN Rapid Fire. No one here has mentioned Call of the Wild, but also this should be hit at the same time. Readiness when RF is off cooldown (maybe sooner if you have the focus to do 2x Chimera Shot), re-Rapid Fire. This is standard

    - I normally re-use Rapid Fire when it comes off cooldown around 2.5mins in to the fight.

    - When Bloodlust/Heroism is activated I'll proc Call of the wild (if it's off cooldown), and a potion of the tol'vir

    - Then when the boss drops below 20% i'll hit my first Kill Shots, Readiness, Kill Shots, Chimera Shot, Rapid Fire again

    the only other thing of note, is, if you're stacking a lot of haste and you have the Matrix Re-stabilizer, you can actually get it to proc a nice chunk of haste. It's most definitely work hard-casting Aimed Shot over Chimera Shot when the trinket procs. You can actually get a nice Aimed Shot cast time.. around 1.7s with this up.. it's wonderful.

    • Definitely for later use of RF-Readiness-RF, the most ideal time to use it is during the KS phase. Not only does using the Readiness between RFs allow CS-KS-Readiness-CS-KS but the point(s) in Termination help to maximize the number of AIs that can be fired over the RFs. After the CA phase, the KS phase is the best time to use a RF pair, ideally with trinket procs.

      As indicated previously, I do not agree with your start of fight. SrS and CS ideally should not be used during the CA phase since guaranteed crit AIs are vastly superior. Casting SrS and CS to start takes both focus and time away from being able to maximize the number of AIs that you can cast during the CA phase and is a loss of DPS.

    • And if you are pre-potting, you definitely do not want to delay the start of RF. You want to start it immediately, not only for faster AI and SS casts during the pot but also to get faster autshots during the potion and more chances for WQ and FAs too.

      • i think that might depend on the amount of haste you have, and therefore how much pot-time you're wasting getting ISS up. I'm stacking haste like a bitch, so this is probably half a second or more quicker than a lot of people here.

        additionally, pre-potting as late as possible, which appears to be fight dependant can actually negate the time wasted getting ISS. e.g. in some instances you have a second or two after the pull before you hit combat.

        I'm still toying with the HC major domo fight, which i have the luck of sitting out of the group on. I'm not entirely sure if it's better to RF/CotW immediately, or when the focus bar is more full.

  8. First off thank you Morynne for your time in working on this post, and also to all the commenters with the extra excellent insights. My question is, if anyone has worked it out, is at what percent haste do we say, ok that's about as much as I need to go for, unbuffed and get back to adding some crit? There is a lot of info out there with many different takes on haste caps, no haste caps, reforge every last point into haste, etc. etc. but nothing on any type of a step increase for haste. Any input is greatly appreciated. You guys have proven that we are truly the best class when it comes to our community.

  9. BTW as a side note, Mr.Robot is out of his mind possibly lol. It wants me to stack haste for BM and reforge everything from haste to crit for MM??

  10. As I'm not a EJ robot, sometimes I make some shots that are not align with the perfect shot rotation.

    One of the common issues I've is when I'm around 85 focus and the priority tells me I need to perform AI (under big haste effect or above 90% HP).

    Now as AI takes its time, about half of the time of the AI is taken when I'm focus capped.

    What's better, go with the priority and perform AI when there will be 0.8 sec that I will be focused over capped. Or to reduce the focus a bit by AS and only then start the AI?

    • If your AI hardcast is sufficiently hasted (my guideline is 1.8s) or in the CA phase, it is generally best to cast the AI and waste a little focus than to cast AS to try to prevent focus wasting. AI is the superior shot. Plus, casting the AS wastes a hasted GCD that could have been applied to AI or SS.

      During a glyphed RF (worst case for focus wasting due to RR), your AI cast only generates a little more than 15 focus with 0% haste on gear and just under 14 with 25% haste from gear during its cast. Thus, if you start the cast with less than 85 focus, you will never loss any focus. Even if you start the cast at 100 focus, you will only waste 15 focus at most with normal haste levels. Wasting 15 focus is worth it to get more very hasted AIs cast.

      During a BL, its about a constant 9 focus generated during the AI hardcast regardless of what haste from gear that you have. Hence, during a BL, if your start with less than 91 focus for the AI hardcast, you will not waste any focus at all. If you start with 100 focus, you will only waste 9. Once again, this is more than worth it.

      With neither BL or RF, the situation for all haste from gear and trinket procs levels is the same as during a BL. Your AI hardcast, no mater what haste level you are at, has a little more than 9 focus generated over its cast. Hence, the most focus you can waste over its cast is 9.

  11. Thank you for this post, it really opened my eyes to the possibility of Rapid Fire! I usually use it near the beginning of a fight, popping Berserking, then Serpent Sting, Chimaera Shot, and then popping Rapid Fire to Aimed Shot once before rebuilding my focus with Steady. Your method seems much greater! I'm about to go test it out on some unlucky dummy's in Org.


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