This post has been replaced by it’s updated version here.
This is a pure survival spec and glyph post that will go over the cookie cutter builds. It’s still valid for patch 3.2, but I combed over it to make sure (and eliminate typos… d’oh)
First- my favorite. 0/15/55 is the spec I use, and it’s fairly popular. There’s a floater point in there you can allocate as you wish. Lets go over the basics, and why I took (or didn’t take) things.
In general, you want to take things that increase your ability to DPS at range or with a pet, but not in melee. Also, each point should generate as much DPS as possible. Open up the wowhead talent calculator and follow along.
First tier: Max out improved tracking for a 5% DPS on most bosses. Hawk eye allows us to move less on kite fights, but is not a direct DPS increase. It’s nice to have though, so consider putting your floater point here. Savage strikes is melee. Don’t take it.
Second tier: Max out survival instincts because it gives us 4% crit. The only other talent that will increase our DPS is trap mastery, which is 30% to black arrow. Black arrow was 5% of my damage done the other night, and untalented, it would have gone down to 3%. 3 talent points for 2% overall DPS is not the best, but it’s a hell of a lot better than entrapment or surefooted. I might consider moving a point from trap mastery to hawk eye in tier 1, but only if I really need to.
Third tier: Survivalist is your best DPS per point here, so max it out. Only because it allows you to get to another talent that unlocks the DPS in all that stamina on your gear. Scatter shot, deflection, and survival tactics all do nothing for our DPS.
Fourth tier: You’re going to spend more than the minimum of points here because TNT and lock and load are so good. TNT boosts the damage from explosive shot, and lock and load allows us to fire three of them in a row sometimes, depending on black arrow procs. Max them both out.
Fifth tier: Hunter vs. wild is that talent I mentioned in the third tier. It turns your stamina into a little bit of attack power, but since much of our gear comes with stamina and we had to max out survivalist to get here, it’s well worth maxing out. Killer instinct is also good enough to justify a full 3 points, which puts us beyond the minimum for this tier as well. Counterattack should not be available because we’re not taking deflection, and is really a pvp melee ability.
Sixth tier: Again, more than the minimum here. Lightning reflexes should be maxed out because it’s awesome, and it leads to something awesome. Resourcefullness should also be maxed out, because it will shorten the cooldown on black arrow, which increases the uptime, which increases the number of lock and loads you’ll get, as well as the uptime of the 6% damage boost.
Seventh tier: You only need two points in expose weakness because you will crit so much, but you do want it. This talent, by the way, is partly why agility is so much better than AP for us. It magnifies your agility by 25%. Now we’re going to pretty much waste a point on wyvern sting, but only because it leads us to something good. Lastly, thrill of the hunt is for reducing your mana spent. If you don’t need to bring replenishment and your fights are short enough that you never run OOM, then feel free to skip this for some points in the BM tree. I’ll go over this later.
Eighth tier: Master tactician should be maxed out. It’s good DPS per point. And, since you wasted that point in the last tier, you want to max out your reward of noxious stings. Yet another flat out percent damage increase. It makes serpent sting worth having on our bars.
Ninth tier: Obviously, we want black arrow. It increases our DPS by 6% when it’s up, and allows us occasional lock and load procs. And it’s a damage over time. We also want to max out sniper training, which is another 6% DPS if we can stand still for 6 seconds. Get used to counting your GCDs while standing still- as soon as you get 4 shots off, you can move for a little bit before having to stand still again. Good for fights like Razorscale. We want to ignore point of no escape, as it’s more of a pvp skill and we’ll almost never have bosses that are vulnerable to traps.
Tenth tier: If you need to bring replenishment to the raid, you can do it with hunting party. I’ll go on about this after I finish.
Eleventh tier: Explosive shot is what we’ve been working toward this whole time. It’s the lion’s share of your damage, because properly magnified by all the other talents (black arrow, lock and load, serpent sting, sniper training), it hits like a convoy of mac trucks. [3.2 edit: these metaphorical trucks are carrying metaphorical anvils now]
Okay, lets talk about hunting party and replenishment. It’s not always a requirement- for example, in 25 mans with plenty of shadow priests, ret paladins and other SV hunters who do bring it, you’ll have plenty of mana floating around. One thing to bear in mind is that hunting party has a weird mechanic. Each point gives you a chance to proc what I’ll call a “mana blast”. This will go out and find up to 10 players without a replenishment buff already and give them one. It will give them a quarter percent of their mana per second for 15 seconds, and does not stack. The more of the blasts you trigger, the higher the average uptime on replenishment will be per raider. The thing is, a single point from a single hunter gives us over 80% uptime. Another point (even from another hunter) will raise that uptime to maybe 95%, and every point after that will get you from 95% to 99.999% uptime. There’s a serious diminishing return. It’s even worse in 10 man- assuming 7 mana users, is it safe to assume that you’ll get a 33% chance proc from 15 seconds of critting like a banchee? Luckily, it also increases our DPS a little, but only by about as much as the first few points in the beast mastery tree. I take one point in case I’m the only hunter.
Now we have two other trees we can use to poke raid bosses full of holes. Beast mastery and Marksmanship. I’ll start with the weird one. Beast mastery.
The second popular raiding build sacrifices a bunch of points in mana regen and conservation for the ability to get a point in the second tier of BM. Focus fire (tier two, BM tree) is more than a 1% increase to overall DPS. Problem is that the points in tier one are less than 1% each. Improved aspect of the hawk increases your DPS by increasing your haste. Haste won’t make explosive shot or black arrow come off cooldown any faster, so it really only affects your auto-shots and steady shots (if they happen to be slower than the global cooldown). When I do the math for my character, a point in IAotH is worth about as much DPS as the agility from hunting party. Not much. However, factor in unlimited mana and a raid that doesn’t need your replenishment to get it, and this build becomes more DPS: 6/14/51. Be aware that this is not the build you use if you run out of mana normally.
Next up, the marks tree. Both the above builds have points in the marks tree.
Tier one: We max lethal shots for more crits. We don’t take improved concussive shot because it’s for pvp. Wait, won’t my steady shots do more damage with it? No, because (a) many bosses aren’t capable of being dazed, and (b) even if they were, you wouldn’t make back the lost damage from wasting a global cooldown on a non-damaging shot by buffing your weakest shot a little. We might have to take focused aim if we can’t get hit capped any other way, but it’s generally better to get your hit through gear. Especially because now that hit from focused aim doesn’t appear to pass as much expertise to pets as hit from gear does.
Tier three: Take only one point in go for the throat. It’s a fairly good DPS increase because even with mac truck convoys of explosive shots, our pets will do 10% of our DPS. This goes down considerably if they’re focus starved. But since we crit so damn much, taking the second point will almost always be a waste as the pet won’t be able to spend his focus as fast as you generate it. If you are taking the mana regen build (0/15/55 plus one floater), consider taking aimed shot. You can cast it while running, and it won’t break CC or damage adds that aren’t allowed to be damaged, like multi-shot, it’s free companion. It also gets the 6% boost from sniper training, which multi-shot won’t. Still, multi is better when there’s more than one target you’re allowed to damage. Have them both key bound. If you elect to not take aimed shot, take a point in improved aspect of the hawk.
Lastly, glyphs. No matter what spec you choose, the best DPS seems to be from the following three glyphs: glyph of explosive shot, glyph of kill shot, and glyph of steady shot. Kill shot is still situational, and you have to be on the ball about using it, but on add fights (like most of Ulduar) it’s nice to be able to do 18k crits to finish off an add and get back to the boss. You just have to be aware that the health of your target is getting low and maybe hold off on that last explosive shot to use kill shot, thereby saving the explosive for the next add.