25 Reasons Survival Hunters are Awesome

Four or five years ago, Frostheim of the Warcraft Hunters Union, wrote one of the greatest, most comprehensive lists of why Hunters are so awesome for his Hunter column on WoW Insider. However, the new melee Survival spec didn't exist back then, so he was unable to to include the multitudes of awesomeness that comprise the melee Survival Hunter.

I don't actually know Frostheim well personally, but he did once reply to a tweet of mine, and I like to think that that twitter reply was really his way of passing me the proverbial torch, of handing me the reigns and saying "You, Delirium, must go forth and continue to spread my message of Hunters, Math, and Beer." (Sometimes, you've got to really read between the lines to get at what someone is really trying to say).

In these dark days of down-time in our rotations as BM Hunters and the monotony of the MM rotation, there's a light: Survival. And so, I present for all of you who have ever doubted in the awesome-itude that is Survival Hunters:

25 Reason Survival Hunters are Just Awesome

  1. Survival Hunters are close enough to /pet their pets during combat.
  2. Everyone knows Hunters are unreasonably good-looking, so why stand at range, making people look at you from afar? Playing Survival means you can ease your enemies’ pain by letting them bask in your good looks up close, as you smash their faces.
  3. Survival Hunters are the only spec in the game with a viable build for every single talent we have.

  4. Butchery: because when I  want to use an ability that will one-shot a pack of mobs, I don’t want to have to worry about little things like targeting, or whether or not they’re in front of or behind me.

  5. Rexxar is a Survival Hunter.

  6. Survival Hunters are so well liked, healers don't even mind healing you when you stand in fire, but for those times when you don't want to, we've got Disengage: the single most badass movement ability in the game.

  7. All hunters can Disengage, but only SV Hunters can also Re-engage.

  8. Don't worry Indiana, we've got Snake Hunter.

  9. While Mongoose Bite can protect you from snakes, if we don't like you, we will not hesitate to drop a Cobra in your lap.

  10. Survival Hunters learn how to use Raptor Strike from working with real raptors.

  11. SV Hunters never pull entire instances with Barrage.

  12. Prince Oberyn is a Survival Hunter.

  13. Like Prince Oberyn, even on the rare occasion we lose a fight (because we were too obsessed with finding vengeance for our family to finish the fight), we still looked damn good while fighting.

  14. World of Warcraft Developer Muffinus has assured us that Survival Hunters will soon be able to tame Druids. (I read about it in this article on Survival Hunters)

  15. Survival Hunters are so respected in the world, we get special emotes from the Tauren of High Mountain.

  16. On Firefly, referring to swordfighting, Inara once said "We're fragile creatures. It takes less than a pound of pressure to cut skin."  But, baffling scientists everywhere, it takes less than half that for a Survival Hunter's Polearm.

  17. Flanking Strike: it's like synchronized swimming, except just you and your pet, and no water, and causing your enemies to crumble before you... ok, it's not really at all like synchronized swimming...

  18. Princess Mononoke is a Survival Hunter.

  19. All Survival Hunters know how to juggle. We can even juggle axes. We can even juggle axes at your face.

  20. It's said "what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger", but the Way of the Mok'nathal means what doesn't kill you only makes me stronger.

  21. If someone isn't nice to a Survival Hunter, no one will want to be around them. Mostly because we can just set a Sticky Bomb and then watch their friends scatter as they're all knocked back.

  22. You know that guy in raid who just never stops talking, even during pulls?  We've got muzzle for that.

  23. When Survival Hunters yell "Get off my lawn", it's not because they're mean old geezers, it's because of the Explosive Traps, Freezing Traps, Tar Traps, Steel Traps and Caltrops.

  24. Survival Hunters don't have a limit of only being able to equip two legendaries, because every piece of gear is a legendary when a Survival Hunter equips 

  25. After realizing the full extent of how amazing Survival Hunters were, Blizzard had to introduce an entire new class to the game, the demon hunter, for players who wanted to play melee and wanted to be called hunters, but were worried they weren't good looking enough to play Survival.

Patch 7.2: The Salt of Sargeras

Sometimes, I just feel like ranting.  Most of those times, I write an entry here, then reread it and realize it's not worth posting.  Today, for some reason, I want to rant in public (or well, the "public" of all 12 of you who still read blogs), instead of just to myself.

Mob Scaling with Item Level

The biggest event on patch day was the player base realizing that mobs in the world would scale with higher item levels.  To be as fair as possible to Blizzard, it was apparently on the PTR since January, and I did play a fair bit on the PTR without ever noticed anything seeming harder or taking more time.  I also did three emissary quests of four world quests each on patch day, including the Warden quests, and only had one moment when I thought "did that take longer to kill than usual?". I think the change affected Hunters least of all the classes, because, as the only legendary class in the game, we come equipped with pet tanks and/or preternatural kiting abilities.

On the one Warden quest that where I noticed something was off, it wasn't just because it was taking longer to kill that made things seem weird.  It was that a lower geared player came along and tagged the creature then ran off, and instead of increasing the creature's HP as it used to, it actually decreased its HP.  And that brings up what I really think was completely ridiculous about the changes they implemented: not that they made a change to make world content more difficult, but how poorly they thought it all out.

Removing Gear

Blizzard has already admitted several times what a bad job they did, but I'd still like to rub it in their faces just a bit more.  How in the world do you release a system where it's easier to kill something after taking off a piece of gear?

I actually stumbled upon this little trick on accident, when I was on the broken shore and trying to do those demon portal things by myself.  I noticed a few of the mobs hit fairly hard, and wanted to swap to the Legendary that makes Feign Death heal you.  I didn't happen to have a spare ring in my bag (or maybe I just couldn't find it, I need to clean up my bags), so I just left that slot unequipped, which brought my ilvl now down to 860ish, which is, if I understand correctly, around where the scaling begins, so now the mobs I faced were scaled to match people who were in primarily gear from world quests and dungeons, and it cut down the time it took to kill a pack of mobs to one use of Butchery or Marked Shot.

The great thing about taking off a ring, of course, was that I didn't lose any Agility.  I lost out on perhaps a few percent crit and mastery, which does of course reduce my damage output a little bit, but not nearly as much as it reduced the HP of mobs. My Attack Power, and therefore my Weapon Damage, were unchanged.

Chips and Guacamole 

Do you ever have those moments where you eat all of your guacamole, but  you still have some chips on your plate, so you get more guac, but then you run out of chips before guac, so you get more chips, and on and on until you're completely full but all you've eaten are corn chips and avacados?

This is what baffles me the most about the ilvl scaling implementation. If blizzard wants us to increase in power roughly 250% over the course of an expansion, rather than 500%, relative to the world, then the obvious solution would be to let us increase in power 250% over the course of an expansion, rather than 500%.  Not to have us increase by 500%, then have the mobs scale up to make the difference...

I'm actually kind of amazed that they decided to remove the mob scaling due to ilvl.  You'd think Blizzard's response would just be to give players a blanket buff to make up for it...

Marksmanship Nerf

Another spectacular mistake they made came last night, one single day after the patch was released, when no one had time to unlock more than 5 of the new artifact traits, Blizzard announces all of these incoming nerfs to the new artifact traits.  I can't, for the life of me, figure out what could be going on over there that the game is being managed so poorly.  Perhaps the WoW team has been gutted, and they just don't have the staff to do basic QA/QC. 

Anyhow, the one trait that was making me excited to play Marks, has been nerfed to the ground. Previously, Unerring Arrows was to buff Aimed Shot during Vulnerable by 10% per trait.  This made the Patient Sniper talent (which I'm not a fan of) relatively less powerful, and closer to in line with the other talents on its tier (though still the best single target choice in most cases), and gave us an opportunity to do some really good priority target damage, that had at least some level of skill cap (even if minor) attached to it in that you had to use the Aimed Shots while Vulnerable was up.  

To be clear, I'm not arguing that Unerring Arrows wasn't a strong trait. That's what had people excited about it. And in the classic Blizzard style of never making minor adjustments, the new version took the 10% per trait value and reduced it to 4% per trait. Not 8% per trait for a reasonable 20% nerf. Not even 5% per trait which would have been an already extreme 50% nerf.  4%.   You would have to have all four ranks, and have a relic that buffs the trait to 5/4, before you got back to it being as powerful as having 2 ranks of the trait was...  

99% Sure Someone Made This Change Who Didn't Understand the Math

I don't have any inside knowledge of what goes on in the development department at blizzard, but I'm almost completely sure that someone didn't remember, or didn't think through how they built the marksmanship spec, and just saw that this said "40%" (at rank 4/4) and panicked, thinking that was too much. 

A Somewhat Random Anecdote: When Blizzard announced that they were nerfing Elisande's total HP by 10%, one of my guildmates suggested that this was actually a 30% nerf to the fight, since we would have to do 10% less damage in 3 phases...   Of course, that's not how percentages work, and we continue to (lovingly) tease this raider about it every chance we get: essentially, anytime anyone brings up anything about a percent, someone will say "oh, that's actually 30%, right?"

The point of that story is:  a 40% buff to Vulnerable's affect on Aimed Shot is not the same thing as a 40% buff to Aimed Shot.  If (and that's a big if) every single one of  your Aimed Shots fall within Vulnerable and you aren't using Patient Sniper, then 4/4 Unerring Arrows will represent a 20% buff to Aimed Shot. If you're take Patient Sniper and get an average increased vulnerable buff (which most get higher than because of the Aimed Shot cast time), then 4/4 Unerring Arrows is about a 17.4% buff to Aimed Shot.

And we have plenty of example of a spec's core ability being buffed by 20% at 4/4.  Beast Mastery Hunters, for example, have Pack Leader, buffing Kill Command by 20% at 4/4.  So it's not like that's an unreasonably large buff for an artifact trait to give.

If We Make the Rewards Undesirable, Maybe They Won't Feel the Need To Grind AP

While I don't really think it's ever productive to follow these lines of thinking, part of me wonders if they were really, intentionally trying to make the new traits undesirable to make the AP grind seem less necessary.  Blizz devs have stated that that was their strategy with making the higher levels of the new paragon trait unobtainable.  Perhaps they realized that wasn't enough, and to combat player burn-out, instead of lowering the grind, or putting a weekly cap on it, they decided to just make the new traits so bad that no one would want to really push that hard...

Surely that's not what's going on?  Right?  ... right?  :-/


PS, if you've made it this far, I'm working on updating the Hunter Stats and Abilities page with the new 7.2 abilities and changes (primarily just the new golden traits have abilities tied to them).  The reverse engineering is a lot harder than it's been in the past, because the traits aren't available to test on a training dummy without actually grinding out the AP.  So I've either got to wait until the I have all of the weapons finished on live, or use data from inside dungeons on the PTR.

Lock and Load and Patient Sniper

Delaying Lock and Load

I received a question about Lock and Load recently, where a hunter had been told, when using Lock and Load with Patient Sniper, that they should hold their two instant cast Aimed Shots for the last two GCDs of Vulnerable, which they were a bit confused about and were hoping for some clarification.  The only clarification I have to give on that is... don't.  

The best case scenario, by holding Aimed Shot until the end of Vulnerable, you get one Aimed Shot with 150% buff, and one with 160% buff.  If you use Lock and Load on the first two free GCDs after casting Marked Shot, you'll get a 110% buff on one, and a 120% (or maybe 130%, if you have very low haste), which is less, sure, but after, you've still got plenty of time to cast another Aimed Shot for 150% or 160% damage (if you have >21.43% Haste and are casting your Marked Shots with >60 focus, you can even squeeze in two more Aimed Shots after the lock and load Aimed Shots).

A 60% buff?

I'm concerned that there might be a mistaken idea in the hunter community right now that views the difference between a regular vulnerable Aimed Shot and an end-of-Patient-Sniper-Vunlerable  Aimed Shot as vastly different, when an Aimed Shot in the very last second of Patient Sniper actually only does 30% more damage than an Aimed Shot in Vulnerable without Patient Sniper.  

The confusion may lie in the wording of the debuffs.  If you hover your mouse over the debuff of Vulnerable with Patient Sniper, between 0 and 1 seconds, it says it does 100% increased damage, and between 6 and 7 seconds it says 160% increased damage.  However, what that looks like is:

0-1 sec Patient Sniper:

6-7 sec Patient Sniper:

Other than the Vulnerable buffs, that is: a 14.5% buff from Windflight Arrows (assuming a level 54 weapon); an 18% buff from Lone wolf; a 12% buff from the Wind Arrows trait; 297% weapon damage with normalized AP (which is actually in a game a 275% weapon damage coefficient with an 8% buff in the form of a spec-wide aura); the buffs from Versatility and Mastery (treating "m" and "v" percentages as decimals); and finally the damage reduction due to a raid boss's armor.

For those following along, the only difference is the "2*" and "2.6*" at the beginning, and of course 2.6 is 30% more than 2, not 60% more.  This is still a significant buff, and we should aim for getting as many Aimed Shots toward the end of Vulnerable as possible, just not if it means getting less total Aimed Shots in Vulnerable.

A Time to Delay Lock and Load

That isn't to say there isn't any time to delay Aimed Shots when lock and load is proc'ed.  During Vulnerable, there are some odd Haste Points where you'll want to squeeze in an Arcane Shot or two right after casting Marked Shot or Windburst.  This happens when you have greater than 14.28% Haste, and less than 21.43% Haste.  The reason is, you don't have enough haste to squeeze in a fourth Aimed Shot, making 3 the most you can possibly do, so you want to stack those as close to the end of vulnerable as possible.  

The second occasion that it's worth delaying Lock and Load (which I'm sure is obvious to most any hunter) is if Vulnerable is not up.  In that case, the Aimed Shots without Vulnerable are worth only half as much as they would be during Vulnerable, and if you took patient sniper, they're worth even less than half.  

Because I haven't done any probabilities on here in a while:

There is a very, very small chance that you might ever go greater than 15 seconds (the duration of the Lock and Load buff) without getting a chance to apply Vulnerable.  with 0% haste, that's a 3.754% chance iff you proc LnL immediately following the end of a Vulnerable debuff that was caused by Windburst, and otherwise you performed your rotation optimally (not cutting off vulnerable).

That would mean your last marking targets was 8 seconds before your Windburst, which provides you an additional 7 seconds of Vulnerable (plus the 1.5 second cast time of Windburst).  At that point, we will have cast 5 auto-shots, each having a 25% chance to proc Marking Targets, and one more auto-shot right after vulnerable ends that also has a 25% chance to proc MT.  There's a 17.798% chance we get that far without proc'ing Marking Targets: .1779785=(1-.25)^6.  However, that's when bad luck protection kicks in, so the next auto-shot has a 43.75% chance to proc MT, and the one after that has a 62.5% chance.  If we make it that far without proc'ing MT, we'll have waited long enough to cast another Windburst, so we don't have to worry about proc'ing Marking Targets again.  So at worst, we have a 3.75% chance to not proc MT for that entire duration, which is: .037542=(1-.25)^6*(1-.4375)*(1-.625).

A Chance of Wasting Lock and Load Procs

Lock and Load has a plain 8% chance to proc on every Auto-shot (no fancy PPM or RPPM mechanics), which is fairly low, but every once in a while, you do get a glorious double, or even triple procs, right in a row.   While those moments can feel fairly awesome, they are rare enough that they won't affect whether or not we choose to delay using Lock and Load Aimed Shots.

There's only a 0.64% chance that we'll get two Lock and Load procs on subsequent Auto-shots.  Say we got a proc while Marking Targets wasn't up and Windburst was on Cooldown for at least another 6 seconds.  You choose not to wait and cast your Aimed Shots immediately and just luck out, LnL procs again and you fire those off.  You've done (without considering crits, which would average out to the same in any case) 4 times the base Aimed Shot damage for 0 focus cost.  If instead, you delay using Aimed Shot until you can get Vulnerable up, you only get two focus-free Aimed Shots, but those, even without Patient Sniper will do double the damage, letting you break even.  If you do have Patient Sniper up, you're now ahead in damage by delaying, because each will do more than double the base damage.

The only way you could do more damage by using it immediately, is if not only do you luck out and succeed on that 0.64% chance to get two LnLs in a row, but you also get a Marking Targets proc before after the first two Aimed Shots, and then get Vulnerable up before casting the last two Aimed Shots.  Though again, this is so unlikely a scenario, the vast majority of the time it's best to just wait and cast your Aimed Shots with Vulnerable.

Using Marked Shot Early for Lock and Load

A general rule for MM Hunters is not to cast Marked Shot if you don't have at the very least 67 Focus (assuming haste isn't high enough for 3 Aimed Shots within Vulnerable). This lets your focus use during Vulnerable look something like this:

Starting Focus67
Marked Shot Cost-2542
Regen during Marked1557
Arcane Shot Cost865
Regen during Arcane1580
Aimed Shot Cost-5030
Regen during Aimed2050
Aimed Shot Cost-500
Regen during Aimed2020

You can continue use that basic pattern between 0% and 16.667% Haste.  At greater than 16.667% haste, with  no human delay or lag, the second aimed shot will begin to cast before the 6 second mark, causing it to hit in the +150% range, rather than +160% range.

Anyhow, the 67 starting focus can be lowered to 37 Focus if you proc Lock and Load when Marking Targets is proc'ed.


If Lock and Load procs while vulnerable isn't up, save it until Vulnerable is up.  If Lock and Load is proc'ed while Vulnerable is up, only delay its use if doing so will not result in a lower number of total Aimed Shots cast during Vulnerable.  

Four More Days Until Mass Effect: Andromeda

I haven't been this excited for a game to come out since, well probably just since Dragon Age: Inquisition, which I suppose wasn't actually that long ago.  Still, I'm super excited.  

I spent the last couple weeks quickly replaying ME:1 and ME:2, and am currently finishing up ME:3. A couple days ago I finished all of my sidequests and the leviathan DLC, so all I have left to do is the Citadel DLC (which I happen to think is the finest DLC ever created, even if it doesn't fit into the game's storyline very well), and then take the fight to cerburus and finish off the reapers.  I wanted to save these last parts for when I had some actual time to enjoy them, so I've got a nice bottle of gin and a free evening tonight to enjoy one last part with the crew of the Normandy before changing the galaxy forever (and then heading to Andromeda next tuesday).  

If there's anyone reading this who hasn't played Mass Effect before, obviously I think it's a brilliant game. I even still enjoy ME:1, which is quite dated at this point. There are a couple of mods that give you mostly HD textures, but even with those, the graphics are, well, a bit rough for modern PC gamers (kind of like going back to Duskwood to try to tame that Spirit Fox after spending nearly all of your time in the Broken Isles).  But still, the music is brilliant, and the story is great.  The combat is also a bit dated, but still worth it to have a full picture of who game's storyline.  

I've been trying to think of what might be the best ME class for those who like Hunters in WoW, and I've got to go with Infiltrator.  In ME:1 the infiltrator was kind of a hybrid class between the soldier and the engineer, but in ME:2 and ME:3, it becomes it's own unique class. The basics are, you have a cloaking mechanism that turns you almost invisible, and you fight with very high powered sniper rifles.  So if you just build up your other teammates to be fairly tanky, you can send them into battle much like Hunter Pets (well... maybe not really like hunter pets), while you stand at a distance and pop up out of cover to deliver crazy head shots.  If anyone comes nearby just cloak and move to another strategic point.  

Unlike in the other Bioware game (Dragon Age), you can't actually take control of your squadmates in Mass Effect, but you can give out commands, to have them use their powerful abilities to help you or to move to a particular spot, take cover and the like.  

Anyhow, I've been trying to read as little as possible about Mass Effect: Andromeda, as I'm really hoping to play spoiler free. I can't even really write about the things I'm most looking forward to in the game.  Just need to make it through this weekend, and hope it will be as fun as the original trilogy.

Choosing Stats for Fun

This morning in the Survival discord channel, I saw some interesting comments that I wanted to talk about a bit. Essentially the problem is: ever since Blizzard decided to give us longer GCDs that are affected by haste, stacking as much haste as possible is the only way to make the spec feel as fast and fun as it used to be; however, while it is the most fun stat for many specs, it isn't always the most beneficial stat for our DPS.

Survival's Stat Problems

For Survival Hunters, this problem is amplified by a couple things.  First, our mastery's stat conversion is incredibly low compared to every other stat, including even Versatility. Second, our 4 piece set bonus is powerful enough that it makes having a minimum amount of mastery (enough that you can expect to nearly always get 6 stacks of Mongoose Fury for during each application).  

Haste has a conversion rate of 1% increased attack speed, decreased cast times, etc., per 375 stats, SV's mastery, on the other hand, has a conversion rate of 1% increased chance to proc a Mongoose Bite charge per 800 stats.  

Because it takes more than twice as much stats to get 1% mastery as it does haste, to reach that base level of needed mastery, you have to give up a lot of haste (or crit or versatility).  Let's say we have a mythic ilvl ring.  The more abundant secondary stat on that ring might have around 2200 of that stat, if that's 2200 haste, we get nearly 6% haste.  If it's 2200 crit, we get 5.5% increased crit.  If it's 2200 mastery, we get a disappointing 2.75% mastery.  

The Fun of a Stat

It's really hard to quantify how "fun" a stat is.  With something like Versatility, there's no direct fun in the stat, but some indirect fun if you're able to stay alive ever so slightly easier and do slightly more damage.  Crit gets closer to what most people find fun, in that we all like seeing relatively huge numbers every once in a while, despite knowing that on average, it might not be much more damage than we get from a flat damage % increase, for some reason it feels better to get those occasional huge crits.  

Haste, I'd argue, has the most obviously direct effect on how much fun I'm having. While I wouldn't try to speak for all wow players, as I'm completely sure there are people with very different preferences than I have, it does seem clear that most people who have chosen to play hunters since the change to Focus, and possibly even in the mana days, did so because they enjoyed the faster paced play-style, and always having something to do.  I have no problem with other players if they happen to enjoy downtime, or slower cast times, more time to really plan out the next move perfectly. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, it just isn't what I like, and I imagine it's not what most people who've choose to play hunter over the last few expansions would like.  

Haste vs Mastery as SV

So having high haste just feels good. If I were to stack haste, I can get up around 40%, which brings me almost back to that 1 second GCD we had during the previous expansions, and just makes me feel like I'm doing something, rather than waiting for something.  

SV's mastery does feel good to some extent.  Having Hunting Companion procs gives you more to do, and you have to choose between starting your next Mongoose Fury chain or getting your traps or DoTs up.  However, it doesn't scale linearly at all.  With very low mastery, you essentially don't feel it at all.  When you get between 11-13% mastery, you're at a fairly sweet spot. About 12% mastery seems to normally get you to a full 6 stacks of Mongoose Fury, with some moments of bad luck, and some moments of good luck where you can spam Mongoose Bite for quite a while.  After that point, it seems fairly useless once again, though.  

To reach that sweet spot, again (because the conversion rate is so ridiculous) you have to use up a lot of your items' stat budgets. Which means less for the stat that really makes the spec fun.  

This is really the whole point I wanted to make with all of that rambling: it just seems odd to have to choose between getting a stat that is fun, and a stat that you need for DPS. This is even more true, when you have to choose between a lot of a fun stat, or a tiny little bit of a stat you need for DPS.  

Updating Hunters and Tools page

Foxxy over at the Warcraft Hunter's Union recently showed me a couple of Hunter youtubers that I was completely unaware of, including Signs of Kelani, whose video on maximizing MM Hunter DPS in Nighthold is above.

It occurred to me that I haven't really kept up very well with the broader hunter community in Legion. Some of that has just been a time constraint, or my grumpiness about the state of the game making me prioritize thinking about it.  Regardless, I'm hoping to rectify that.

I'd like to update the Hunters and Tools page as much as possible.  A large number of blogs I have linked there haven't been active in months, if not years, and I'm sure that I'm missing tons of new (or old that I just never noticed) content creators.

If you have a favorite hunter website or streamer or youtuber or, I don't know, forum poster, let me know.