6.2 and the Nerf Bat

Yesterday, we got our first look at datamining and PTR patchnotes for patch 6.2.  This included some fairly substantial changes for hunters, including the loss of Aspect of the Fox, and some minor tweaks for MM and BM (MM had Aimed Shot buffed, BM had its mastery buffed, as well as kill command).

Survival, on the other hand, saw some minor changes, and on huge nerf.  On the small adjustment side, we'll be seeing a nerf to explosive shot, with a buff to SV's Mastery.  Overall, that should end up being a buff to SV single target and multi-target DPS.  The other change, however, is much, much larger than it appears.

Serpent Sting no longer deals an initial "tick" of damage when the periodic effect is first applied.

That doesn't sound huge, but if you've been following the SV hunter mechanics this xpac, it's going to equate to a huge DPS nerf.

To explain why, it's important to understand why SV hunters are so madly in-love with the multistrike stat.  While yes, the actual multistrikes do more damage for us as it's our attunement stat, and we get a little bit more of the stat when it's on our gear.  However, those amount to a relatively small amount of DPS, compared to the primary purpose of Multistrike for SV hunters: when Arcane or Multishot multistrikes, it applies an additional tick of Serpent Sting damage.

Without an "initial tick" of serpent sting, the most ticks of serpent sting damage we'll ever be N*T/3 (where N is the number of targets, and T is the average time the targets are alive in seconds).  For an example, this is a friend of mine's combat log from heroic Gruul the other day.

As you see, he had 235 ticks of Serpent Sting, for a total of 2.44 million damage.  Had this same fight included the new 6.2 Serpent Sting mechanic, the most he could have done is the duration of the fight divided by 3 (that is, one tick every three seconds).  At four minutes and thirteen seconds, that would have been a maximum of 84 ticks of serpent sting (253/3), A little arithmetic tells us that he'd be missing out on 64.3% of that total Serpent Sting damage, so instead of doing 2.44 million damage, it would have only done 871K damage.

That's a loss of 6,197 dps total over the course of the fight.  In a fight where he had 39k dps, that's about a 16% nerf.  And, that's for a pure single target fight, where this nerf will affect us the least.

AoE Aftershocks

In AoE fights with fast spawning and dying adds, there will be little reason to even both with Mulstishot.  If adds will be alive for longer, it will still be worthwhile to multishot once, to see that everything has a serpent sting DoT on it, but after there, you won't be using multishot again for fifteen seconds, unless you're dealing with just insane numbers of adds.

Let's look back to my friend's log. I took his log from Operator Thogar run some basic arithmetic on, since that fight includes a good mix of AoE and Single Target.  For this fight, each of his Multi-Shots (which doesn't include the damage from serpent sting) averaged 2,567 damage per target (not including Crits or Multistrikes, which should effect both abilities similarly). His Arcane Shots, on the other hand, averaged 10,351 damage per hit (again, without crits or multistrikes).   That means, after applying your initial Multishot to apply Serpent Sting, you'll need to be facing more than four targets before there's any reason to use your AoE ability.  (It's worth noting here, that this isn't even including the additional damage we'll get from Arcane Shot due to the Mastery buff).

The moral of the story, is even Marksmanship will have stronger burst AoE than Survival in 6.2.

Make Sure Your Harness is Secure

Odd that just the day before this was all announced, we were on the Hunting Party Podcast, talking about how amazing it was that all three specs were so well balanced, and had such similar potential for DPS (at least in single target scenarios).  Should have known that would mean changes weren't far away.  I never would have guessed they were planning on buffing the already strongest spec we had, and nerfing our lowest performing spec.

As Bendak mentioned last night, it's time for another round on the hunter-balancing roller coaster.  I can't imagine that Blizzard would leave SV hunters so severely gimped, so I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for more patchnotes or PTR releases.   

I've heard several hunters mention that maybe blizzard didn't know that Survival's Multistrike was "double dipping".  If true, that would, for one, be pretty embarrassing, but would make the nerf more understandable, as they had announced before that they didn't want the mechanics working that way.  Still, even if it was a mistake/bug, it was the only thing keeping Survival competitive.

I'd assume we're about to find out they have more reasonable changes planned, or at least, I'm hopeful that that's the case.  Until then, I'm gonna go play some more Skyrim... :-)


  1. I never take the first round of patch notes seriously, at least not the numbers. SV has been Hunter's AoE spec for so long that I seriously doubt Blizzard intends to gut it.

    While we're speculating, though, I think they are cleaning up the "double dipping" of each spec, so I don't expect this change to simply be reverted. That said, it seems like this change along with maybe a bigger buff to mastery would still make SV less of an AoE champ, and without DPS cooldowns or execute DPS, SV might be back to red-headed step-child status.

    1. I recall there being several other specs that had a similar mechanic with Multistrike, where it would double dip and cause it to proc extra damage (more than the 30% intended). But I can't remember what they were. Any chance you know, and saw if they were removed also?

      anyhow, I imagine you're right. No way the first draft of patch notes goes live.

    2. I'll stick with one other example, which is also from from this round of changes, since this would otherwise become a whole blog post of a response. I might do that, actually, right after a post about how boring versatility is. Anyway:

      Monk's Tiger Strikes cause autoattacks and autoattack multistrikes to increase multistrike by 25%. This is changing to autoattacks only, but going from 10% to 40% chance to proc. Whether this is intended to come out as neutral or a slight nerf (as other WW Monk changes are), the 30% boost shows just how powerful the double dip currently is.

      Back to speculating, I think cleaning up these double dips is a long term fix done early. I could see there being a lot of "multistrike being OP" problems in 6.3 if they don't get fundamentally fixed now.

  2. I knew they would have to curb this multistrike scaling for SV eventually as we got to more and more extreme levels of multistrike... but I didn't think they would just gut the spec entirely by removing this interaction entirely. The correct line of action would have been buffs to Explosive Shot and Multi-Shot and a nerf to Serpent Sting damage. Keep the overall performance of the spec mostly intact, while keeping Serpent Sting from accounting for 40%+ of your total damage.

    Survival will need more changes before this goes live or it may as well not even exist, especially with unnecessary buffs to BM/MM.

  3. The patch note says "when the periodic effect is first applied". are you perhaps jumping the gun on the severity of this nerf? Could it be that the extra tick is still applied as long as SS is already rolling on the target?

    1. I wish that were the case, which would make it a good bit less of a nerf. I did test all of this on the PTR, though. At least as of now, the most you can get is one full tick every three seconds. That regular tick can multistrike, but when Arcane Shot (or multishot) is cast, or when it multistrikes, it doesn't have any effect on Serpent Stings.