WoD Beta: Feeling Out Survival PvE

After spending a good bit of time playing with my SV rotation at the training dummies, and subsequently going over those logs, there are a few things that I thought could stand being mentioned. However, to start off I want to add a disclaimer that I'm sure I'll be adding to a lot of posts in the near future:  this is the beta. How much damage a shot will do is sure to change significantly as Blizzard goes through attempting to balance the classes, so it's a bit too early to make claims about what our shot priority will be, and certainly way too early to say which spec will have the most damage output.  I don't feel like it's too early to comment on the feel of the rotations, though, and that's what I'll do here.

Serpent Sting: 
One of the major changes to Survival Hunters was the loss of Serpent Sting, and having its mechanic baked into Arcane Shot and Multishot.  The reasoning behind this, as I understand it, was that Serpent Sting was this sort of "set it and forget it" ability that wasn't interesting enough, so they just did away with it.  

However, with the loss of focus-free LnL Explosive Shots, and to some extent the loss of focus-free Kill Shots, at ilvl 660 I need to use a lot of Cobra Shots, which doesn't leave a ton of time for sneaking in Arcanes.   Since Cobra Shot no longer refreshes Serpent Sting, I found myself letting it fall of several times.  Especially close to when I need to use BA, or (if talented) aMoC.   

What it's going to look like, at least for the first (and probably second) tiers, we'll have to start saving up focus a lot sooner than we're used to, and perhaps most importantly, making sure to spread out our Arcane Shots between Cobra Shots. 

Lock and Load:
The LnL mechanic isn't too bad, even with early expansion stat levels.  With 25.29% Multistrike, I averaged 1 LnL ES every 8.15 seconds. At 25% MS I should have a 43.75% chance to get at least one Multistrike for every tick of BA. It averages out to much less than that because one quarter of the time you can't have BA ticking (due to the CD and duration mismatch). 

It's a bit more difficult than before to manage while actually playing, since (just like above in the serpent sting section) it requires you to be more careful with your focus levels.  Even with a really high MS, we won't get super long ES chains like we do in 5.4, because they still cost focus.  Though I haven't been playing it long enough that I can really say the best way to deal with it, what I've been doing so far is to keep my focus above 45 at all times, unless I'm in the middle of an LnL chain.   Then if a BA Multistrikes while ES is on CD, where we used to start spamming ES, now I spam CS.  So long as there's enough time to get one off before ES comes off CD, then I find I always need the extra focus. This can be pretty difficult when you're trying to coordinate Black Arrow and a Murder of Crows. If you cast aMoC and then get more than a couple LnL procs, you'll have to use Cobra Shot before you can get out all of your Explosive Shots, but it will ultimately come down to RNG.  

Thrill of the Hunt:
One interesting bit is the combination of needing more focus (and therefor not using as many arcane shots) along with having all of your shots cost focus (both Arcane Shots while TotH is up, and Explosive Shots with LnL), it means we're getting really close to 100% up-time on TotH.  I over the many 7 minute fights I had with the training dummy, I only had one or two points without TotH up, and I only had 3 total arcane shots while TotH wasn't proc'ed. The talent might as well just give you all cheaper Arcanes and Multishots.

Fervor is working exactly the same as it did before, so I wasn't going to mention it at all, but I did want to take a moment to talk about how its synergy with Focusing Shot.  As you'll read below, Focusing Shot is a higher skill level sort of shot, because it requires some planning ahead,  and the use of Fervor can save you from some mistakes (well, one mistake every 30 seconds), since you can quickly replenish your focus, without having the long delay.   

Level 100 Talents:
Munitions is going to be a significant DPS increase (not to mention the extra benefit each gives) with virtually no skill needed.  This might be a great talent to use while trying to learn your new rotation, or on a particularly hard mechanically focused boss that's making your rotation more difficult. It looks like it will also be a viable option for PvPing, since Lone Wolf won't be an option, and Focusing will require a lot of standing still and have a very high skill cap. 

I'm a big fan of my pets, but I have to admit that Lone Wolf is a lot of fun when soloing.  Kiting has always been a favorite part of huntering for me, and Lone Wolf really forces you to perfect your kiting.  The latest beta build limited the number of shots that benefit from the Lone Wolf buff to Auto, Arcane, Cobra, Black Arrow and Explosive, which primarily means it won't be useful for buffing our AoE, and it won't have an effect on damage from talents.  

Focusing Shot was a big question for me.  I thought it would end up being a lot of fun for MM with the increased total focus, but pretty difficult to keep from focus capping. Celestalon has tweeted in the past that Focusing Shot should be the highest DPS potential, and along with it also have the highest skill cap; however, it seemed really smooth to me.  If you have a fight where you can sit still 3 out of 6 seconds, then this talent works out great.   Between CDs you can pop off one focusing shot, 2 Arcanes and an Explosive for a pretty simple rotation, and if you get some LnL procs, then you'll always have plenty to burn those off (at least with early xpac MS levels) then hit your two Arcanes and FS before ES is off CD again.

The catch for Focusing Shot is (other than needing to stand still), you need to know what you're going to be doing at least 3 seconds before you do it.   If you struggle with managing focus, this can be a huge handicap.  Since not having enough focus for your Explosive Shot, or for Black Arrow means you have to delay them by (almost) 3 seconds.  Over the course of the fight, using FS wrong will cost you a lot more dps than using Cobra Shot wrong.  This is the higher skill cap Celestalon was tweeting about.  

I'll have to keep revisiting each of these talents as I work on my rotation more. It could be that with better skill, their relative value will change, as it seems this is already clearly true regarding the munitions, and will likely become the case with Focusing Shot and (to some extent) Lone Wolf.

Other Thoughts:
Overall,  I really enjoyed the spec while standing still at the target dummies.  I'm a little disappointed that none of the level 100 talents are really amazingly well suited for Survival, but on the other hand, none of them seem really terrible for Survival either.  While (as I've said a five hundred times already in this post) it's still too early to know about damage, it seems like blizzard's goal is to keep BM superior in AoE damage, as evident from the taking Multishot and Serpent Spread off the list of things affected by Lone Wolf. And, I'm still not convinced that they will compensate SV for the loss of even the slightest semblance of burst.

On the plus side, SV might finally have a way to differentiate Great from just OK, if it turns out to be worth while to pool Explosive Shots to use with CDs.  I know a lot of higher ranked hunters have complained about the lack of ways to take advantage of trinket procs, so if the numbers work out, this should be a good change for Survival PvE.  

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