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.

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