Survival is changing for the better in 4.3. Its DPS is going up both in relative and absolute terms, leaving it more appealing than it has been since its nerf after Cataclysm launched. What is there to know about SV gameplay that might be different for returning hunters?
edit: The post now includes updates resulting from conversations held in the comment section.
The baseline SV shot priority is and will be the same as it has been this whole expansion. You want to use Explosive Shot and Black Arrow on cooldown, keep Serpent Sting up on the target with Cobra Shot, and dump any extra Focus during free globals using Arcane Shot.
There are a few differences from patch 4.0 that returning hunters may wish to note:
- Black Arrow does enough damage that it is the Lock and Load proc source of choice for single targets. Zeherah notes, though, that changes to the internal cooldown of Lock and Load on the PTR may make Explosive Trap again a reasonable if not preferred way to proc Lock and Load.
- The Glyph of Arcane Shot is better than the Glyph of Serpent Sting even without the new two piece tier bonus. The other two glyphs of choice are still Kill Shot and Explosive Shot. Keep in mind that on AoE fights or in fights where AoE damage is simply more important than single target damage that you may wish to glyph into SrS rather than AS (thanks Zeherah!).
- A OwN/SE build is now the way to go, meaning that SV no longer takes Careful Aim (and hasn’t since the CA nerf). This in turn means that the SV rotation no longer varies with the CA phase, making things even simpler than before.
- The proper Lock and Load sequence no longer interposes a shot between the first two Explosive Shots.
This last point merits some elaboration. Hunters over at Elitist Jerks have come across a new LnL sequence that squeezes the Explosive Shots in a LnL closer together without clipping (and that’s a good thing). Clipping results from an Explosive Shot following too quickly on the tail of a preceding Explosive Shot, overwriting or “clipping” the last tic of that ES. This causes you to get eight Explosive Shot tics from a LnL sequence rather than nine.
An easy way to avoid clipping would be to just fire Cobra Shots between all ESs during LnL. The thing is, though, that we want to cram as many Explosive Shots into a fight duration as possible, and that means getting Explosive Shots in our LnL sequences as close together as we can without clipping. I tested the new method from EJ a bit myself and think that it offers a nice way of tightening things up. Under most conditions you can simply go through your LnL sequence as before except excluding the shot that was previously interwoven between the first two ESs in the sequence.
Unfortunately, “most conditions” are not “all conditions.” There are some situations (as commenters below point out) where having no delay between the first and second ESs results in clipping. One such situation is when you are moving toward the target. This causes the ESs to arrive too close together and clip. Because of this it helps to make sure that you are not firing the second ES in a LnL sequence before there is one second left on the first ES. Zeherah cautiously recommends using an addon to watch fractional seconds. I personally recommend NeedtoKnow for this but other addons may work too. Regardless, to be on the safe side, I recommend putting a slight delay (but, again, not a shot) between the first two ESs in a Lock and Load sequence. This delay should be very small, substantially shorter than a global, and I recommend testing it out yourself on training dummies to get a feel for what works for you.
If you have 66 Focus (including regen) and do not need to save for BA, you want a LnL to go like this:
ES > slight delay > ES > AS > ES
If you cannot pay for an AS plus an ES or need to save up for BA, you want a LnL to go like this:
ES > slight delay > ES > CoS > ES
Some contend that you need an additional delay beyond an AS between the second and third ESs, but I can’t substantiate this with my own testing.