A Brief Steel Trap Update

It appears that Steel Trap was secretly changed a while back, and not many folks noticed. Though, perhaps more players had noticed, and I'm just behind the times, but I can at least take comfort that the ability wasn't updated on any major Simulations, either.

I most certainly didn't notice the change, though I could have sworn I checked when I last updated the Hunter Abilities page. Anyhow, I saw some of the hunters over at the SV Hunter Discord (which I've now decided is where I'll have to steal all of my blog topics from) talking about it; so I went to check my logs and sure enough.

The current version of Steel Trap lasts 33.3% longer (5 extra ticks) than the tooltip shows, doing 33.3% more damage overall, as each tick still does the same amount of damage.  

I have no idea when this change might have happened, or even if it was intended or a bug. Regardless, it's a nice buff, making this a very good choice for single target damage, as it wasn't too far behind Caltrops or Guerrilla Tactics before. This also makes Steel Trap a solid option when a boss is being moved too much to get full up-time on Caltrops, Though Guerrilla Tactics will often do stronger DPS in that case if there are extra mobs up that you can hit with Explosive Trap.

Caltrops vs Guerrilla Tactics

Survival Hunter with Sporebat

I've been trying to write an article about playing Survival all week: mostly because I wanted a chance to post this picture that Stoneshank made of Godzilla as an SV hunter with Talonclaw and a Sporebatthra pet, but also, I've just been loving playing SV recently, and really getting into the spec. After playing the incredibly boring new specs that Blizzard claims are Marksmanship and Beast Mastery during the first patch of the xpac, it has been really fun to play a spec that has some actual nuance to it, and requires thought and practice. Having an interesting rotation has even overcome my distaste for playing melee, which was definitely a big hurdle.  However, as I've been trying to write about the spec, I've mostly been staring at a blank page, without much insightful to say.

However, this morning (/last night, depending on your hemisphere) the hunters over in the SV Hunter Discord were talking about the choice between Guerrilla Tactics and Caltrops, I had just finished looking at the same comparison on my SV spreadsheet, so I thought I'd share some of the comparisons I'd found, just for fun.

**Disclaimer** the comparison of these two talents is more complicated than I present below, or than what is generally represented in most simulations, when considered in the context of actual fights.  I'll try to talk about some of the extra considerations toward the end, though I'm sure to miss some of them. Remember to think about the intricacies and specifics of the actual encounter you're in before relying on this or any advice.

Damage Calculations:

For the following, I used what I thought would be a fairly typical heroic Nighthold geared hunter.  I used an artifact weapon with 14274 - 21411 damage range, for an average of 17842.5.  And I assumed one legendary piece of mail gear, and one legendary piece of jewelry (with no agi), just to make everything fairly average; so I use 30889 AP.  I was attempting to represent an average hunter gearset, because some abilities will scale with Weapon Damage, while other scale with AP, so in extreme cases, is someone has a very high ilvl weapon, but very bad gear, or if someone has very good gear with high Agility, but very low Ilvl relics (perhaps they just started working on their SV weapon but have good raiding gear from playing MM or BM), then the results below will skew in favor of the AP based abilities, or the WD based abilities.  

I did not include Versatility in any of the below calculations, nor did I include the damage modifier from the paragon artifact trait, as both of these buffs would affect all things evenly. I did include the extra Crit chance for Flanking Strike as the expected value averaged across all casts, but did not otherwise include Critical Strike in general, which again, should affect most things similarly, across a large enough sample size.  Otherwise, I assumed 3/3 or 1/1 on all artifact traits, and did not include extra buffs from Sharpened Fang or any other trait that might have 4/3 or 5/3 unlocked.  I did include the damage reduction from armor as though we're hitting a raid boss, where applicable, because not all abilities are affected by armor and I wanted to show an accurate comparison. 

MB stands for Mongoose Bite. "mf#" represents the number of Mongoose Fury stacks.  ExpT stands for Explosive Trap. "w/ ET", "w/ GT" and "w/ GTET" refer to the talents Expert Trapper and Guerrilla Tactics.  Also, I've obviously included some abilities here that are not just Caltrops or Explosive Trap.  We'll get to that later.

And finally, I'm assuming here that we'll get the full 21 ticks of Caltrops.  Depending on boss movement, there may be situations where  we can't get the full amount per cast, which means we'll likely end up casting it more often (since the CD for Caltrops is lower than its duration), and wasting extra GCDs. The below does not account for that, and is assuming optimum play (or a relatively still boss). 

1 Target2 Targets3 Targets4 Targets5 Targets
ExpT w/ ET501556.3788159.91074763.41361367.01647970.6
ExpT w/ GT429905.4859810.81289716.11719621.52149526.9
ExpT w/GTET752334.41182239.81612145.22042050.62471955.9
Caltrops w/ ET592675.91185351.81778027.72370703.62963379.5
Flanking Strike379274.6379274.6379274.6379274.6379274.6
Raptor Strike121827.5121827.5121827.5121827.5121827.5

A quick comparison shows that in the single target column, Explosive Trap with Guerrilla Tactics and Expert Trapper averages about 752,334.4 while adding Explosive trap with Expert Trapper to Caltrops with Expert Trapper gives us 1094232.2.  The key difference here, however, is that extra GCD.  This is why I've included other abilities in the chart above: to give us some examples of what we might be able to fill in the extra GCD with.  

Single Target Comparisons

In single target, Flanking Strike and Mongoose Bite seem to be the clear choices.  In Multi-Target situations, we'll likely use Butchery, or simply another Mongoose Bite.  

1 Targets2 Targets
ExpT w/ET + Calt w/ET1094232.21973511.6
ExpT w/GTET + Flank Strike1131609.01561514.4
ExpT w/GTET + Raptor Strike874162.01304067.3
ExpT w/GTET + MB-mf61158426.21588331.6
ExpT w/GTET + MB-mf51107664.81537570.1
ExpT w/GTET + MB-mf41056903.31486808.7

Here, we see using Explosive Trap plus Caltrops (both with Expert Trapper) does less damage on single target than Explosive Trap (with Expert Trapper and Guerrilla Tactics) plus Flanking Strike or Mongoose Bite at full stacks of Mongoose Fury.  

Replacing Caltrops with Mongoose Fury is a somewhat unreliable comparison; ideally, we're casting our max number of Mongoose Bites regardless of other talents taken.  However, it's possible if we're taking Caltrops that we may push back the beginning of a Mongoose Fury chain in order to cast Caltrops before the first Mongoose Bite, so I wanted to include that comparison.  In this case, as long as we're getting an extra Mongoose Bite with at 5 or 6 stacks of Mongoose Fury, then we come out ahead in single target. 

If we're using that extra GCD for a Raptor Strike, then we're losing DPS, as the total of Raptor Strike plus Explosive Trap with both Expert Trapper and Guerrilla Tactics will never be as high Caltrops plus Explosive Trap.  This is an important comparison to note, as Raptor Strike is likely the only completely reliable ability to fill in extra GCDs, assuming optimal play, where you already have as much up-time as possible for Lacerate, and are already getting the max casts of Mongoose Bite.

I also included the 2 targets column in this chart just to make clear than none of these single target abilities come close to the damage of Explosive Trap plus Caltrops on 2 or more targets.

Multi-Target Comparisons

Multi-target is again a bit hard to come up with an easy comparison.  Butchery, however, is the most obvious choice. I've included Mongoose Bite (which of course doesn't scale at all with multiple targets) below just as a comparison, to keep perspective.  

1 Targets2 Targets3 Targets4 Targets5 Targets
ExpT w/ET + Calt w/ET1094232.21973511.62852791.13732070.64611350.1
ExpT w/GTET + MB-mf61158426.21588331.62018237.02448142.42878047.8
ExpT w/GTET + Butchery1016028.41709627.82403227.23096826.63790426.0

At 2 or greater targets, compared to Butchery with Explosive Trap, we see Caltrops with Explosive Trap as the clear winner in every column.  The major benefit here is that the effects of Expert Trapper on Caltrops scales with multiple targets, while the effects of of Expert Trapper on Explosive Trap only affect the enemy who triggers the trap.  Guerrilla Tactics does of course scale with multiple targets, but apparently not enough to make up for the loss of that Caltrops damage, even with Butchery.  

It is worth noting here again that the full benefits of Caltrops requires targets be alive for a little over 21 seconds. Targets need to take 16 or more ticks of Caltrops do more damage per cast than Butchery will do.

1 Targets2 Targets3 Targets4 Targets5 Targets
ExpT w/ET + 21 Caltrops1094232.21634839.72344783.23054726.73764670.2
ExpT w/ET + 16 Caltrops953118.91691285.02429451.23167617.43905783.5
ExpT w/ET + 15 Caltrops924896.21634839.72344783.23054726.73764670.2
ExpT w/GTET + Butchery1016028.41709627.82403227.23096826.63790426.0

Other Considerations

All of the above is an overly simplistic comparison of Guerrilla Tactics and Caltrops.  A major contributing factor in making the decision, which isn't apparent at all in the above numbers, is Mastery.  The higher Mastery you have, and to some extent the higher Haste you have, of course, the more procs of Mongoose Bite you can cast.  With low incredibly low Mastery levels, you may not have enough to do to fill up all of your GCDs, in which case choose Caltrops will be clearly the better choice, as it will always do more damage than nothing.  

Another important consideration is how good you are at managing lots of short cooldowns.  If you often go longer than 30 or 40 seconds before you reapply Caltrops, then it's value to your DPS goes down significantly.  There are certainly a lot of buttons to push as SV, so having less to manage may be the better choice for players new to SV.  

In the same vein, for the above calculations I'm assuming we're casting Caltrops every 24 seconds.  I made that assumption because it's about what I average and what I see top parses averaging close to, and because that way I can justify comparing the damage of Explosive Trap alone but buffed to the damage of Explosive Trap plus Caltrops.  It is possible, however, to cast it every 21.25 seconds for maximum up-time, increasing it's value a bit (assuming you can do so without getting in the way of higher priority abilities).  This will mean that Caltrops will take up more GCDs in the long run, but also do more damage, especially in AoE situations.

Last, as I try to always mention in any entries here that deal with multi-target situations:  just because an ability does more damage overall doesn't mean it's the right choice.  In most raid encounters, there will be a priority target.  This isn't always true, and sometimes just doing AoE damage to kill as many adds as possible as quickly as possible is the right choice.  But in most cases, there will be some target that we want to do most of our damage to. For SV hunters, that often looks like casting Mongoose Bites instead of AoE abilities.


For easy choices - 

Take Caltrops if:

  • you have Multiple Targets throughout a fight; -and-
  • those targets will be alive for at least 16 seconds; -or-
  • you don't have enough Hunters Companion Procs or other abilities to cast something on all of your GCDs other than Raptor Strike.

Take Guerrilla Tactics if:

  • you have unusually high Mastery; -or- 
  • you're in a pure single target fight; -or-
  • you have waves of adds living for less than 16 seconds;  -or-
  • you're in a high movement fight that won't allow full reapplication of Caltrops for the full 15 seconds; -or-
  • you're struggling to manage all of your short cooldowns.

New Artifact Traits in 7.2

New Artifact Traits are now on the PTR, so I thought I'd go through the hunter traits.  Everything of course carries the normal perils of datamined and PTR material, it will all most likely change.


I think Mongoose Bite is a fine candidate for a generic damage boost, as it encourages you further to get your rotation right, doing max possible Mongoose Bites during Mongoose Fury.  Talon Bond isn't really anything I'd get excited about, as Talon Strike is already a fairly uninteresting, un-impactful ability. Echos of Eche'ro, as our new Golden Trait has the potential to be pretty cool.  I like a Flanking Strike heavy rotation when I play SV, so hopefully this will be a significant DPS boost, and bring Flanking Strike a bit higher on our priority list.


I'm in favor of anything that increases Vulnerable damage, as it gives us more reason to play the spec "normally" and less reason to play the meme-version.  I have mixed feeling about the Windburst change. Having to choose between the utility of gaining an additional application of Vulnerable and simply using it as a very powerful shot is kind of a weird decision to have to make. The vulnerable buff will help to offset this, but if Windburst gets too much more powerful, we'll likely need to use it on CD, regardless of vulnerable debuffs.  A side benefit to the snare portion of this change is for any of you out there using Sephuz, this should give you a more solid way to proc the haste buff on fights with adds that can be snared.

Beast Mastery:

Aspect of the Wild is one of the least exciting major CDs in the game. This is generally fine for BM hunters, because Bestial Wrath is a great cooldown, and when they're stacked together, AotW isn't as bad. Still, any boost to make AotW better is a good thing. It sounds to me like they're creating a sort of miniature beast cleave available to all pets for the duration of AotW.  This could be pretty cool, depending on where they end up balancing it. An AoE boost might seem like the last thing BM hunters need, but it could be that this just makes Beast Cleave passive, allowing you to use all of your focus on single target DPS, while still maintaining AoE damage from this trait. 

Slithering Serpents has to be the least exciting of all of the new traits we've seen; that doesn't, however, mean it's a bad improvement.  As the spec currently exists, until you get to a certain haste level, there are a lot of times when doing nothing is preferable to doing something.  That is, if you cast a Cobra Shot to fill in some extra time while abilities come off CD, you're likely to affect your DPS negatively compared to just doing nothing and waiting.  This is of course incredibly boring for anyone used to the pre 7.0 version of hunters.  I'd like to see this ability upped to 3 focus per rank, bringing the cost of Cobra Shot to 28 focus. The best  part of the lower focus costing Cobra Shot is the final Golden Trait for BM hunters, Cobra Commander.  Finally Cobra Shot is more than just a snakehead on your bullets (or arrows), as it will now have a chance to summon snakes.  Though I have no evidence that this is true, I'd love to see a return of the snakes from snake trap, as a more interesting way to provide a damage buff for BM's single target damage.  

Marked Shot vs Aimed Shot in Multi-target Scenarios

As we're seeing a lot of large AoE situations in Nighthold, I put together a little comparison of Marked Shot and Aimed Shot (with Trick Shot and Patient Sniper).  both abilities are based on Weapon Damage and scale with MM's Mastery, so we can simply look at the difference in the coefficients to compare, without having to plug in Attack Power and Weapon Damage.

For the below chart, I'm including the artifact damage increase from Windrunner's Guidance at 3/3 and Wind Arrows at 1/1. I'm not including the damage differences from the crit chance and crit damage artifact traits, or from Call of the Hunter and Legacy of the Windrunners (which I'll go over below).

Baseline Weapon Damage Coefficient:

AbilityCoefficient:Artifact BonusTrick Shot STTrickshot MT
Marked Shot5.9410%
Aimed Shot2.9712%15%30%

From there we can put together a little table comparing the abilities with different numbers of targets, as well as including separate lines for Aimed Shot without Vulnerability and Aimed Shot with Vulnerability.

Marked Shot6.53413.06819.60226.13632.670
Aimed Shot3.3263.3263.3263.3263.326
AiS w/ Vuln7.6518.64910.64412.64014.636

Of course here, Aimed Shot doesn't start scaling from multiple targets (due to Trick Shot) until we introduce Vulnerability into the equation.  With Vulnerability, Aimed Shot is the clear winner for single target, though Marked Shot does more damage with 2 or more targets. 

In many AoE situations, we might be using the Explosive Shot talent, in which case this is the end of our little test.  However, on some fights, we may have portions of the fight with high AoE needs, and other portions with high single target or priority target needs. So I wanted to through Patient Sniper into the mix.  In patch 7.1.5 we have a new version of Patient Sniper, which increases the damage bonus of your Vulnerable debuff by 10% each second, stacking.  This in turn applies to trick shot damage.  So every second Vulnerable is up, Aimed Shot does more damage.  If we include 7 seconds of Vulnerable with Patient Sniper, our damage comparisons look like this:

Marked Shot6.53413.06819.60226.13632.670
Aimed Shot3.3263.3263.3263.3263.326
AiS w/ Vuln7.6518.64910.64412.64014.636
AiS w/ V&PS18.4169.51411.70913.90416.100
AiS w/ V&PS29.18110.37812.77315.16817.563
AiS w/ V&PS39.94611.24313.83816.43219.027
AiS w/ V&PS410.71112.10814.90217.69620.491
AiS w/ V&PS511.47612.97315.96718.96021.954
AiS w/ V&PS612.24113.83817.03120.22523.418
AiS w/ V&PS713.00614.70318.09621.48924.881
"w/ V&PS#" here means that vulnerability is up, and it has been # seconds since it began.  

With this new chart, Aimed Shot of course remains the clear winner in single target situations while Vulnerable is up. And Marked Shot is still ahead in most multi-target situations. However, when there are two targets up, during the last few seconds of Vulnerable, Aimed Shot pulls back ahead.  

Even with 3 targets, during the last second of Vulnerable Aimed Shot does very close to as much damage.  Though once we get to 4 or more targets, Marked Shot wins out by a fairly large margin, even at the very end of Patient Sniper/Vulnerability.  

Call of the Hunter and Legacy of the Windrunners

Legacy of the Windrunners is easy enough to calculate.  It has a 15% chance to proc everytime we cast Aimed Shot, and does .4*Weapon Damage,  benefiting from everything that benefits Aimed Shot except for Trick Shots against Multiple Targets (it does inherit the 15% damage buff from single target, though).  The expected value of Legacy of the Windrunner with a 15% chance to proc is the same as adding 15% of that ability's damage to each Aimed Shot. That's a fairly small buff to each Aimed Shot at roughly .414*weapon damage more for single target, scaling with Patient Sniper but not multi-target.  

However, Call of the Hunter presents a couple of problems in that it proc's based on RPPM, and it scales directly with Attack Power, rather than Weapon Damage.  We could plug in Weapon Damage and Attack power in order to add the damage from CotH to Marked Shot, but we still couldn't get a direct comparison without simulating a full rotation, because as an RPPM based ability, it does not affect each Marked Shot similarly; that is to say, you should get the same number of CotH proc's if you cast one Marked Shot every 10 seconds, or one Marked Shot ever 3 seconds.  So in the case of a large multi-target situation where you might want to spam Marked Shot as much as possible, CotH will provide the same amount of damage (on average) as if you're running your typical rotation with the exception that it will scale with the number of targets (that is, the number of targets with Hunter's Mark).  

Most DPS vs. Most Important DPS

The big deciding factor then, would be whether we want to see a lot of damage done to our priority target, and a little damage done to our AoE targets, or a moderate amount of damage done to all of our targets equally.  

For example, against 4 targets, Marked Shot does roughly 20% more damage than an Aimed Shot. However, an Aimed Shot will do nearly twice as much damage to the priority target, while doing about 25% as much damage to each of the additional targets.  

It's important to note, that we're not really talking about the difference between spamming a bunch of Aimed Shots vs spamming a bunch of Marked Shots. In most situations, the decision we're making is while we're in the middle of casting Aimed Shots (or Multi-Shots/Arcane Shots if we're low on Focus) Marking Targets Procs, and we need to decide if we want to cast a Multi-Shot and  a Marked Shot, resetting Vulnerable and thus the Patient Sniper timer, or if we want to use another Aimed Shot or two while at the end of Vulnerable and max Patient Sniper before we restart it all with another Multi-Shot and a Marked Shot.  

The difference between important dps and max dps is, I think, something we have to decide on a situation by situation basis, with a goal in mind of "how can I help my raid team kill the boss as quickly as possible?" There are of course situations where being a bit of a "meters whore" is the right decision, where the most important thing to do is to get down a pack of adds as quickly as possible. And of course, there are other situations where the best thing you can do is sacrifice your rightful place at the top of the meters in order to kill a priority target as quickly as possible, letting your team move on to more bosses and more loot (after all, the quicker you kill bosses, the more loot you get, letting you re-gain your place at the top of the meters).  

I'm curious to hear about how people think this will apply specifically in Nighthold.  Any specific fights in nighthold where you're using Marked Shot as often as possible to clear out packs of adds rather than finishing out your Vulnerability debuff with Aimed Shots?  Any bosses you think it's best to stick to your maximum priority target damage at the expense of overall damage?  Let me know in the comments or on twitter so I can compile a list.