Early look at Battle for Azeroth - Survival

Gnome Survival Hunter

It seems we're about to get Blizzard's attempt at a melee/range hybrid spec, in the new Survival.  I don't know if anyone from Blizzard has actually confirmed that that's the goal, but it's what we've all been assuming, based on the abilities and primarily the new cool down.  I'm intrigued by the idea, so I thought I'd start my look at the new Battle for Azeroth Hunter specs with Survival.

My Best Guess at the Basics:

The spec is set up around a very, very simple set of core abilities.  Raptor Strike to spend focus, Kill Command to build focus, and a Serpent Sting DoT to keep running. Wildfire Bomb, for single target, at least, will be more of a filler piece, not doing enough damage to be high on the priority list, unless you don't have enough focus and need to fill a GCD.  

From there, it looks like there's several build options which I predict (with the limited info we have) will rely heavily on your choice of Level 90 Talents.  The Mongoose Bite build will adjust the core rotation to focus on building up as much focus as possible before starting into a Mongoose Fury buff, then dropping as many Mongoose Bites as possible, just like the old Mongoose Bite, but with focus to manage instead of charges. The Arctic Bola build will return to a feel similar to the MoP version of Hunter where each spec had a "signature" ability, and focus builders and spenders to use in between.  And finally, the Tip of the Spear option, which if it is viable, will change the rotation the least from the core.  

From other talents, we'll add in various abilities to gain more focus, or use more focus, or to fill in some extra GCDs with focus-free abilities.  You could set up your talents to focus on buffing Raptor Strike, or on buffing Kill Command, or just to add in other abilities on top of those two.  Without more information about how Attack Power levels will compare to Weapon Damage, there's no reliable way to show which of those will be preferable, yet.  

Core Abilities

  • Raptor Strike - Two-handed slash, and our core focus-spender. 
  • Wing Clip - Basically Concussive Shot for Melee.
  • Disengage - OMG OMG OMG OMG.  I couldn't be more happy to have this back as a core ability, allowing us to tack on Posthaste, too. Not having Disengage was my primary reason for not playing SV at the beginning of Legion.  Giving it back as a talent was better than nothing, but meant I would never use anything else on that tier, because I don't want to play anything that doesn't have disengage.  Good choice, Blizz. 
  • Kill Command - Same as for BM, though slightly less powerful, also has a 30% chance to not incur a CD, and generates 20 focus. The no-CD mechanic could be interesting, depending on your haste and talent choice. 40 yard range.
  • Wildfire Bomb - Channel your inner Cersei Lannister.  Moderate Damage over Time (a little less than serpent sting) but with some AoE. This is the only core AoE, so far. 40 yard range.
  • Survivalist - After killing something, regen 15% health over 10 seconds. Adds a tiny amount of Survival to the Survival Hunter. 
  • Freezing Trap - Same old Freezing Trap. 40 yard range.
  • Serpent Sting - Same DoT that you know and love.  Basically just gives you something to keep rolling, but isn't going to make anyone excited. 40 yard range.
  • Exhilaration - Same old Heal.
  • Harpoon - I still wish they'd add a silly, mortal combat style sound effect to this. 5-30 yard range.
  • Muzzle - Same old Melee Interrupt.
  • Tar Trap - More repeats. 40 yard range.
  • Aspect of the Hybrid Eagle - Increases your crit, and lets you cast Raptor Strike (or Mongoose Bite) from Range.  Certain top secret sources let me know that what will actually happen, is you'll use your two-handed weapon like a baseball bat and hit spectral eagles at your target. Get pumped.  
  • Misdirection - Why, oh why, did they ever take this away from SV?  Very glad to see it's back.  
  • Maces - if the tooltips are to be believed, SV Hunters will now be able to equip Maces.  Of course, Hunters have always been able to use Maces, it's just we use them to play fetch with our pets, not as weapons.  Nice to know they'll have a place on our backs, as well, in BfAz.

New Mastery - 

Spirit Bond - Focus Spending Abilities deal 8% more damage, and you and your pet regen 1% of max HP every 5 seconds. Assuming this isn't just a placeholder, a generic damage buff like this will likely serve us better than the fun, though somewhat convoluted chance-to-proc-a-charge mechanic we had in Legion. The heal likely won't be much, even at high mastery levels, but at least gives us something other than just the Survivalist ability to help us live up to our names.

A DR might be more useful, but then our Mastery would essentially just be Versatility, and a dodge mechanic might be more thematically appropriate, for an Agi based spec, but those are so random that it'd never actually be useful, so a small heal will have to be good enough, I suppose. If we can get it up to the 5-10% range it may be enough to really help with SV soloing endeavors, too. 

It's worth noting here that "focus Spending Abilities" isn't nearly as substantial as it is for Marksmanship Hunters.  Out of our core abilities, only Raptor Strike and Serpent Sting will benefit from Mastery.  For our pets, only the Bite/Claw/Smack ability will benefit.  Even once you add in the talents, most new abilities you can add to your rotation won't benefit from the mastery buff, with only aMoC and Butchery benefiting (as well as talents that buff Raptor Strike or Serpent Sting).

Removed Abilities

  • Flanking Strike - This will be sort of returned in the Talent of the same name, though not quite the power-house it is now. 
  • Mongoose Bite - Again, this can return in a talent, but a fairly watered down version of it: 20% buff per hit, rather than 50%, and no charge juggling/proc'ing mechanic. 
  • Carve - I'm not sure if I'm missing something. 
  • Lacerate - We've just got Serpent Sting now.

Talents: How much of Legion Survival can we fit into one talent tree?

Level 15 Talents:

  • Terms of Engagement - Reset the CD of Harpoon on Kill, and generate 40 focus over 10 seconds. This is oddly the talent I'm most excited to see. SV, as it stands, is a leveling/questing machine, just destroying everything in its path; however, it is a bit slow moving, even after getting Aspect of the Cheetah.  Having the Harpoon reset mechanic on the artifact weapon was great for doing Legion world content, and I've been waiting for some answer on how they'd incorporate that into the spec going forward. Getting it at Level 15 might be a mistake, however, since we don't actually get harpoon until level 26, but at this point getting it anywhere under level 100 will be a pleasant addition to the spec. Even if this is never good enough to use in raid (though it might be in some target swapping fight), I'm still super glad they added it on here. 
  • Flanking Strike - Flanking Strike returns, just kinda weaker.  This is a watered down version of Flanking Strike that adds essentially an auto-attack to the newly acquired Kill Command.  It also gives you 10 focus, which might make it a decent raid ability, especially with focus sucking talents like Mongoose Bite.

Level 30 Talents - The AoE Tier:

  • Guerrilla Tactics - Wildfire Bomb now has 2 charges. It's hard to guess at this one without really knowing how the rotation is going to work.  I'm guessing this may end up as a filler talent, or being only very situationally useful.  Adding a charge is best when we sometimes need to use it multiple times in a row, or if it has a random recharge mechanic (like BM's Dire Beast).  
  • Hydra's Bite - Serpent Sting hits up to 2 additional targets, and increases in damage by 30%.  I predict, unless the rest of other talents here change drastically, that this will be our top choice in most, if not all situations, AoE or not. I may be a bit biased, as I have fond memories of that brief period during WoD when SV was getting extra instant Serpent Sting damage from Multi-shot's / Arcane Shot's Multistrikes, so I like the idea of a Multi-shot Serpent Sting combo.  But this just seems like the obvious choice: if you're hitting three targets, then Hydra Bite is going to do more damage than any of your single target abilities just from the initial damage (that might not be true for raptor strike, as we don't yet have enough info on weapon damage scaling relative to AP scaling in the new xpac), and it doesn't have any of the cooldown restrictions that GT or Butchery have; add on top of that the rolling 30% buffed DoT that will help you out on both Priority Target damage and during add waves, and we've got a fairly solid talent, at least compared to the rest of the tier. 
  • Butchery - 3 charges, but now with an obscene 30 second recharge, and this time it's not replacing anything, just an extra ability.  It's a tried and true ability, and I really like the 3 charges for burst AoE damage without getting in the way of our single target damage the rest of the time, but at such a long recharge time, I don't see how this could really be useful on too many different fights.  Maybe if there were really sporadic add waves... 

Level 45 Talents - The "You can run or you can hide" Tier:

  • Trailblazer - Nothing new, maybe for dungeons or leveling, if you're into that sort of thing.
  • Posthaste - Back with a vengeance?  I mean, it's really been around all legion, but I wasn't interested in Post-harpoon Posthaste. Bringing it back to Disengage is all I've really ever wanted. 
  • Camouflage - Hide and Heal. If disengage/post-haste isn't useful, this is a fine choice.  Also gives you some extra heal after you Feign Death so you don't have to run back after a wipe with the support classes.  

Level 60 Talents - The DoT Tier:

  • Bloodseeker - Adds a DoT to Kill Command, and provides an attack speed bonus. I have a feeling this will be one of those things where I spend forever trying to figure out how to optimize this talent to get crazy high attack speed, but then it never really makes my DPS go up... We'll see, though. 
  • Steel Trap - Decent single-target damage every 30 seconds. Unless it does significantly more damage than aMoC, taking twice as many GCDs and requiring aiming it on the ground will make it hard to choose this.  If it does significantly more damage, then we're good to go.  It's possible the utility here could make it useful, as  you'll have two immobilizing traps, but that will likely be rare in raids and such.  
  • A Murder of Crows - Same old Flock of Birds. 

Level 75 Talents - The Tier No One Bothers With Putting In Guides: 

... really, who cares?

Level 90 Talents - The Raptor Strike Tier: 

  • Tip of the Spear - Kill Command increases the damage of Raptor Strike by 15%, stacking up to thrice. If Raptor Strike's damage is high enough for 15-45% to matter, then this could be an OK single target talent, with high haste and decent luck on the no-cd for KC mechanic.  
  • Mongoose Bite -  Replaces Raptor Strike with Mongoose Bite.  Similar to its legion version, Mongoose Bite will add a stacking buff each time its applied giving you 20% more damage for 14 seconds, up to a 100% buff. Mongoose Bite starts out doing less than 80% as much damage as Raptor Strike, so this will require a complete reworking of the rotation, relying on getting to full stacks nearly every single time.  
  • Arctic Bola - Throw an Icy Bola at your enemy every 6 GCDs. This would kind of make the spec work a little bit like the MoP version of hunters, where every spec had a signature ability, and you just played with focus in between, and maybe kept some DoTs rolling.  It's not super exciting, but it might be interesting. Keep in mind it does frost damage, and won't be affected by armor, when comparing its damage to other talents/abilities.  

Level 100 Talents - The "Shouldn't it be 105?" Tier:

  • Birds of Prey - If you hit the same target as your pet with Raptor Strike, you gain an extra second of Aspect of the Eagle. 
  • Primal Instincts - Harpoon gives you a 15% crit buff for 12 seconds;  Disengage gives you a 15% haste buff for 12 seconds; no overlapping allowed.  I have no idea how to judge, at this point in development, whether or not this will be worth anything.  But I kind of like the ridiculousness of it.  I'm all for jumping back and forth with Disengage and Harpoon as often as possible, and the potential for stacking these buffs with other things (like AotE) might turn out to be decent.
  • Chakrams - I'm still annoyed that they gave my Glaive Toss to demon hunters.  So now we get them back, but they're called Chakrams.  For anyone who grew up in the '90s, I looked it up, and it turned out these are the little weapons that Xena Warrior Princess used.  

Overall Impression Of Survival in Battle for Azeroth

I'd like to say I'm cautiously optimistic.  It's kind of hard to imagine in a game with such rigidly defined rolls as WoW, that they're really going to create a viable melee/ranged hybrid class.  Though, a "melee class that can occasionally play at range" is much more believable, which seems to be what this is.  Several Melee specs have ranged abilities, so it's not too unreasonable the way SV is set up now, and the convert-everything-to-ranged CD, Aspect of the Eagle, is a fun bit of flavor.  

Some of the small flavor changes are kind of exciting to me too.  It looks like our core abilities will require 2 handed weapons, but extending that from one exclusive spear, to any polearm, ax, mace or staff will be fun.  Mostly just the Ax, really. It's not quite as cool as double-fisting axes like Rexxar, but still pretty cool.  

It is, of course, always hard to tell if I'm really excited about playing the class, or if I'm just having a "oh, something new and shiny" moment.  But so far I'm enjoying looking at the class. 


  1. You do still manage charges with Mongoose Bite it looks, max 5 stacks. I assume SV still has auto attack? If so I would think you would always want to be melee if possible, with Eagle having a bit of protection against using it and then getting peeled.

    1. Right, there are stacks of the Mongoose Fury buff, but no three charges like there used to be, as far as I can tell. What I meant to say (may not have been clear), was that you have to get to those stacks through managing your focus, rather than managing charges and getting mongoose bite charge procs.

      I'm quite curious how melees will work. If it wasn't clear, I don't at all have alpha, just looking at datamining and pestering my friend Shootenheim who is already in. My spreadsheet is as incomplete as the datamining is, but even just from looking at the datamined damage of each ability (without actually knowing the AP to Weapon Damage balance), melees will obviously be a significant portion of damage, even more so if you take Bloodseeker, and I'm fairly sure that Flanking Strike's extra auto-attack requires melee.

      My prediction is, at this point, that if they make the AotE buff significant, then you won't be able to use it from melee unless you use particular talent builds. Though who knows, they might come up with a broader ranged solution for AotE.