Posted by: thakarron | November 17, 2009

No Survivors! Part 3 – Abilities and Rotation

The third installment in my guide to playing as Survival spec. Now that I’ve explained the spec I use and why I’ll go into detail on how the key abilities you gain as Survival spec are used and how to put them all together into a “rotation”.

Key Abilities

Black Arrow – This is the unique DOT that Survival hunters get, when a target is afflicted with it we gain bonus damage against them and it’s ticks can proc the the Lock and Load talent (more on that later!). Considering all the benefits we get from this spell there are of course some downsides. It has a 15 second uptime with a 24 second cooldown that is shared by fire-type traps (when talented), which means your target will be without the debuff for 9 seconds. This shot is best used in tandem with Serpent Sting, since when glyphed its duration coincides well with the reapplication of Black Arrow.

Explosive Shot – The crown jewel of the Survival tree. It’s our primary source of damage and benefits from many other talents we have, not to mention it looks badass when it’s ticking on a mob (‘splosions are win! xD). Speaking of ticking, Explosive Shot ticks 3 times over the course of 2 seconds with a 6 second cooldown (shared with Arcane Shot). Needless to say we should be using this every time its off cooldown in a normal rotation, but when we proc Lock and Load things get interesting.

Lock and Load – I’ve talked a lot about this earlier, mainly because its a unique mechanic and takes a little know-how to use properly. When you gain this buff (which procs off of Black Arrow ticks or trap effects) the next 2 Explosive Shots (or Arcane..which we never use) trigger no cooldown and use no mana. This would lead you to believe you can just pop off your Explosive Shots on every global cooldown, but that isn’t the case. Explosive Shot has 3 ticks over the course of 2 seconds, at the 0-second, 1-second, and 2-second mark. That means if you fire an Explosive Shot every GCD (1.5 seconds) you’ll be overwriting the last tick, losing a lot of damage and generally looking dumb! Early on there was a lot of debate over how to use a Lock and Load (weaving in an Aimed Shot between Explosive Shots, for example) but the best strategy is generally the simplest. It’s best to just fire off the Explosive Shot’s back to back, waiting until the previous shot fades to shoot the next one. It may be hard to avoid pressing as many buttons as much as possible, but just relax and get that 0.5 second pause between GCD’s down.


Rotation Priority List

Survival, like many other Hunter specs doesn’t have a set rotation. Instead it has a priority list, with some shots being more important than others. What this means is if 2 shots are off cooldown at the same time, the one that has higher priority should be used first. Here’s the priorty list I  use, although in some situations certain abilities are better used at special times that vary depending on the fight (Rapid Fire comes to mind).

1. Kill Shot (only available when the mob is below 20% health, should be used as much as possible when available due to high crit chance and huge damage bonus)
2. Rapid Fire (in a simple tank and spank fight this should be used every time its available, but in most fights it should be used at special times to maximize its effectiveness, i.e. when Icehowl is stunned)
3. Black Arrow (you want to have this up as much as you can for the buffs and Lock and Load procs)
4. Serpent Sting (should be reapplied every time it fades from the target)
5. Explosive Shot (brings the pain, obviously)
6. Aimed Shot (still brings pain, but not as much)
7. Steady Shot (filler while you wait for something better to go off cooldown)

That’s pretty much the entire list, but nothing is set in stone and in certain fights you’ll be required to add in additional shots that may lead to you sacrificing some DPS (tranq shotting enrages/buffs, trapping, crowd control, etc). These shots always take high priority because although they might not do huge damage they can spell doom for the raid if not used liberally. Don’t think that the other hunter will do it, a proactive hunter is a good hunter =]

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