The Lone Wolf Skill Cap

World of Warcraft Lone Wolf Hunter
Over at the Eyes of the Beast, there's a pretty interesting conversation going on in the comments of his article about some tweets with a little more info regarding Lone Wolf.   And overall, there's just been a lot of buzz about the Lone Wolf talent for MM and SV hunters at level 100 in WoD.   It seems many people who choose to play hunter saw themselves more as "rangers" than hunters; these are the people who saw the Night Elf Sentinels and thought a hunter was close enough.  

Though I can see how it could be fun to occasionally not have to worry about my pet in strange boss fights,  for the most part, I'm a big fan of the pet interactions.  It is incredibly frustrating when on Garrosh, you've got Stampede up,  and they waste half there time running back and forth between Garrosh and the Weapon that you had only wanted to throw some DoTs on, or you get back from one of the transition phases and they just don't attack at all.   In this, and many other buggy situations, being able to opt for no pet would be at least convenient.

The Catch

Warcraft Lone Wolf TalentThis is something I don't imagine will be a problem for top-end raiders.  But there's a skill cap that is going to be involved with Lone Wolf that I worry a lot of hunters aren't considering.   Currently,  the way hunters work, we have two ways of gaining DPS that are basically completely free DPS.   We have autoshot,  which is similar to what all melee have (or casters with wands).  And we also have pet damage.  
I realize that I was just a couple paragraphs complaining about my pets not always being on the boss, and losing some of that damage; however, for the most part our pets are free damage, that we don't really have to think about at all,  just set on the boss and let them do their thing.   

This is what I'm afraid many hunters will neglect to think about.   Because with our pet's free damage gone, performing your rotation correctly will become even more important.   For example:

Let's say your maximum possible SimC DPS is 375k dps throughout a single target fight.  A pretty good,  normal-with-some-heroics type raider will do about 80% of their sim damage, which puts us at 300k DPS in a real fight.   Of that 300k dps, 56k (~15% of 375k) was pet damage and 31k was Autoshot Damage.  That means your rotation acounted for 213k.  If we take pet damage and autoshot damage out of your simmed dps,  the total possible that your rotation could have done is 288k.

Even though your total dps was doing 80% of your simmed dps,  in actuality you were accounting for about 74% of your simmed total.   Since the free pet and autoshot damage inflate how much you do, and how much is possible,  it makes it seem like we're doing our rotation better than we actually are.   

So let's look at that without pet damage.  We now add 30% more damage to all our shots (including auto) but we lose the pet damage.  Most would assume that would at up to a net gain of 15% more DPS.   But because pet damage was inflating our DPS and our rotation will now be accounting for a larger percentage of our DPS,  the 30% increase only brings our total dps up to 317.2k.   

That's only a 5.7% increase,  not the 15% increase we were expecting.   

And that's if you're doing 80% of your simmed DPS.  As any of us who have been in LFR know,  a lot of people are doing much much much less than that.   If we adjust the numbers to someone who is, for example, doing 65% of their simmed DPS, then subtracting their pet DPS and adding 30% to everything else, will end them up at the exact same place they were before.   

Here are some examples given a 250k simmed DPS,  and some varying skill levels regarding how much DPS they can actually do:

75% sim 70% sim 65% sim 60% sim
Simmed DPS: 250,000 250,000 250,000 250,000
Actual DPS 187,500 175,000 162,500 150,000
Pet Damage 37,500 37,500 37,500 37,500
DPS w/ Lone Wolf 195,000 178,750 162,500 146,250

If you can perform your rotation close to perfect,   this will create a significant DPS increase of 15%.   Without a perfect rotation, however,  it becomes less and less valuable.  Until, as I mentioned, for someone who can only do 65% of their simmed DPS, Lone Wolf provides no gain at all.  
World of Warcraft Hunter Lone Wolf

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