PTR Hunter Preview: The Survival Hunter

Having previously had a look at the Beast Master Hunter spec, followed by the Marksmanship Hunter, we now get around to the spec that’s seen the most change of all: the Survival Hunter spec.

Survival for the longest time has been the red-headed stepchild of the Hunter specs. Never quite up there in terms of popularity or DPS, but it still had its fans, and they were loyal fans as well. So it was quite a niche spec. However Blizzard with the coming of Legion, have seen fit to make wholesale and sweeping changes to the spec, and is the first spec in WoW’s history (correct me if I’m wrong) to change roles. Previously a ranged DPS spec it has now become a melee DPS spec.

With this change, the ability load-outs for the spec have changed considerably as well. Survival in Legion will see the return of some old-school vanilla era abilities that had previously been pruned from the Hunter class.

This means a return to the Hunter spell book of old abilities like:

  • Raptor Strike
  • Mongoose Bite
  • Wing Clip
  • Lacerate

It still retains the pet, but unlike the other specs, BM & MM, pets for Survival are presently problematic, and we’ll get into that later…


Bear in mind here that this testing has, as with the previous previews, been done on the PTR. With Survival changing to using melee weapons, this means that I’ve had to use the crappy 655 polearm that you get by default on the PTR, and accordingly, damage numbers listed here are going to be lower than if I had a 715 weapon as per my gun.

Note that you will get a polearm given to you by Blizz on Patch Day commensurate with your level of raiding. If you don’t raid? iLevel 655. Heroic Raider? iLevel 705. I suppose it’ll be determined on the same basis as the caches you get in your shipyard atm. If you’re getting heroic caches, then expect a heroic weapon given to you for nowt!

The Survival Hunter’s basic rotation and ability list stacks up as follows.

Mongoose Bite: Instant. 3 Charges with a 12 sec recharge. Does 16.8k damage, and damage done stacks by 50% for subsequent MB’s up to a max of 6. We’ll look at this in a bit more depth below, as this spell is the crux of the entire spec.

Raptor Strike: Instant. 25 Focus cost. Does 10k damage.

Flanking Strike: Instant. 50 Focus cost. 6s CD. You deal 13.4k damage, your pet deals 19.1k damage. If you have more threat on the target than your pet, it’s damage will increase by 50% and its threat will increase by 400%, thereby acting like a taunt. If your pet has threat on the target your damage done by this ability will increase by 50%. Doubles the base chance to generate a stack of MB.

Lacerate: Instant. 35 Focus cost. 10s CD. Bleed that does 56.8k damage over 12 seconds.

Carve: Instant. 40 Focus cost. Frontal AoE that hits everything in front of you for 7.2k.

Explosive Trap: Instant. No Focus cost. 15s CD. Hits for 20.7k on initial target, and everything within 5yds for the same amount over 10 seconds. Lasts 1 min.

Harpoon: Instant. No Focus cost. Pulls you to the target and roots them in place for 3 seconds. Does no damage.

Priority here will of course be Mongoose Bite. Not in the above description is the buff using Mongoose Bite (MB) provides to you: Mongoose Fury (MF). Once you hit MB the first time, it opens up a 12 second long, non-refreshing window for you to spam as many MBs in as you can. What MF does is increase the damage of MB during that 12 second window by 50% each time, and stacks up to 6 times. So if your first MB hits for 20k, if you manage to get 6 stacks, your final MB could hit for just over 100k.

Everything else in the spec will be secondary to these 12 second windows of burst of MB spam where you’ll either be using a specific talent or praying to RNGesus to give you more charges to enable you to get to 6. There is a talent that will alter this somewhat, but we’ll get to that in the talents section. And of course there’s also an Artifact talent that you’ll absolutely have to use at 6 stacks, but we’re merely dealing with pre-patch here, so that’ll come another day.

All of your other abilities will essentially be used whilst waiting to get another 3 charges of MB:

  • Explosive Trap on CD
  • Lacerate on CD
  • Flanking Strike on CD
  • Carve with multiple enemies on CD


My chosen load-out:


Level 15 Talents

Animal Instincts: This grants you one of 3 random 6 second long buffs whenever you hit Flanking Strike: +10% Haste / +10% Mastery / +20% Movement Speed. The buff you get is random, and you can get the same buff twice in a row. As a new buff happens every 4 seconds if you’re using FS on CD, you might think you’d get the extra 2 seconds of buff added on? Nope, it’ll merely refresh the same buff again back up to its 6 second duration.

Throwing Axes: Instant. 15 sec recharge with 2 charges. Throws 3 axes in quick succession, dealing 14.8k damage per tick/hit. Well, that’s what the tooltip says, but in practice the 3 axes hit for between 9.8k and 19.8k. Entirely randomised, so probably works out as 14.8k on average, although I’ve seen 3 hit for 9.8k, and likewise 3 hitting for 19.8k each.

Way of the Mok’Nathal: Passive. Raptor Strike now gives you a stacking buff that boosts your overall attack power by 3% for 8 seconds. Stacks up to 4 times, and a new stack refreshes the duration of the buff.

Personal Choice: WotM. It’s passive, and is a more reliable and straightforward boost to your damage with no RNG. You’ll need to weave in regular Raptor Strikes to your rotation, but as it only costs 25 focus this shouldn’t be a problem.


Level 30 Talents

Caltrops: Instant. Targeted. No Focus Cost. 15s CD. AoE slow and bleed. Slows enemies in the AoE by 70% and they bleed for 1.5k damage every sec, lasts 23 secs.

Improved Traps: Passive. Reduces the CD of your traps: Freezing Trap by 15% and Explosive and Tar Traps by 50%.

Steel Trap: Instant. Targeted. No Focus Cost. 1 min CD. 30 sec immobilise trap that does 89k bleed damage over the 30 secs. Broken by any other damage.

Personal Choice: Steel Trap will be nigh-on useless in a raiding environment, but may have seen more use if the Talent swapping changes weren’t as dumb as they currently are. Ditto Caltrops. So my choice here is going to be another passive: Improved Traps. If you’re going to be using Explosive Trap in your rotation then it’ll be a dps increase, as well as a personal survival one.


Level 45 Talents

Exactly the same as the BM & MM talents at this level, so copy & paste again!

Posthaste: Same as live, a 60% speed boost for 8 seconds whenever you use Disengage.

Farstrider: Ability crits have a 10% chance to reset the cooldown on Disengage.

Dash: Increases the duration of Aspect of the Cheetah by 3 seconds.

Personal Choice: Again I’ll be going the same route here as I currently do on live: Posthaste. The other 2 choices are very underwhelming, especially Dash. The changes to Aspect of the Cheetah are a real disappointment, and Dash does nothing to ameliorate that feeling.


Level 60 Talents

A Murder of Crows: Same as live, crows attack your target doing essentially DoT damage over 15 secs. Resets if the target dies during its duration.

Mortal Wounds: Passive. Each time Lacerate deals damage you have a 2% chance to gain an extra charge of Mongoose Bite.

Snake Hunter: Instant. 90s CD. No Focus Cost. Instantly gives you 3 charges of Mongoose Bite. Does not increase charges above 3, so use only when at zero charges.

Personal Choice: Snake Hunter. Gives you on-demand 3 charges of MB for extra burst, and likely to be the biggest DPS increasing talent in this tier, and useful in single and multi-target raid encounters after you get your Artifact. Mortal Wounds has approximately the same chance to proc an extra charge as you do of getting Ashes of A’lar. Yeah, thanks, but no. Otherwise, AMoC, but it appears to be lacklustre beside SH.


Level 75 Talents

Sticky Bomb: Instant. 30s CD. Sticks a bomb to your current target that explodes for no damage but does knock back your target and all nearby enemies.

Ranger’s Net: Replaces Wing Clip. Roots the target for 3 secs, then reduces their movement speed by 50% for 15 secs. Damage breaks either effect.

Camouflage: Instant. No focus cost. Puts you into stealth for up to 1 min, with a 1 min CD as it is on live. Heals you for 2% of your health every second.

Personal Choice: Same as live here, Camo is too good to pass up for my play-style, plus the bonus HoT element again. Especially as the other 2 talents do no damage and merely CC specific enemies, Camo has far more overall utility IMO.


Level 90 Talents

Butchery: Replaces Carve. Instant. 40 Focus Cost. 15s recharge with 2 charges. 4 times more damaging than Carve, deals 25.8k damage to each enemy within 8 yds in front of you.

Dragonsfire Grenade: Instant. No Focus Cost. 30s CD. Hits your current target with a flame grenade that ticks for 5.8k damage per sec. Ticks can crit. Also scorches nearby enemies for the same damage.

Serpent’s Sting: Passive. Makes Carve & Raptor Strike put a bleed on any enemies hit for 32.2k damage over 15 secs.

Personal Choice: Probably either Butchery or SS. SS more likely, as again it’s a passive adding damage to abilities you’ll already use, but Butchery is a good talent as well. DG seems to pale in comparison to the other 2 abilities, regardless of mob numbers.


Level 100 Talents

Spitting Cobra: Instant. 1 min CD. Summons a Cobra (large one, similar to the ones in Sholazar Basin) for 30 secs that does 1.2k damage every 2 seconds. Also generates an extra 3 focus per second whilst active.

Expert Trapper: Passive. Improves all your traps in various ways. When Freezing Trap’s incapacitate ends, reduces the movement speed of the target and all nearby enemies by 50% for 4 secs. Explosive Trap’s damage is increased by 100%. Tar Trap: Chance for a 4s root. Steel Trap: An extra 29.6k damage when triggered. Caltrops: +50% damage increase.

Aspect of the Beast: Passive. Using Flanking Strike provides an extra effect based on your pet’s spec. Ferocity: Puts a bleed on the target for 5.3k damage over 6 secs. Tenacity: Pet takes 15% reduced damage for 6 secs. Cunning: Target’s movement speed is reduced by 50% for 4 secs.

Personal Choice: SC seems very lacklustre, and only attractive if you’re hurting for focus. So it’ll either be ET or AotB. For me, AotB is the more attractive talent, as it puts an emphasis on your pet, which as a hunter is more attractive to me than better traps.


Overall thoughts on the new Survival Hunter?

Well, it’s different, I’ll give it that. It’s certainly got its own flavour, entirely distinct from that of BM and MM, that’s for damn certain. Does it still feel like a Hunter though?

Well, to be honest it’s debatable. The continued use of the Hunter pet is a bonus, and helps to retain that hunter flavour, as does the re-use of some old-school hunter abilities. However in game-play it feels like an old-school Arms Warrior.

The Mongoose Bite centred damage window game-play feels similar to the old Colossus Smash buffed damage windows. All the bleeds and slows feel like a mixture of old-school warrior and rogue game-play.

Obviously with the artifact during Legion, with the choice of talents above, your game-play is going to be something like:

  • Get up your 4 stacks of Raptor Strike buff from Way of the Mok’Nathal.
  • Use 3 stacks of Mongoose Bite.
    • Snake Hunter for 3 charges of MB (Off the GCD)
    • Aspect of the Eagle (Off the GCD)
  • 3 x MB
  • Fury of the Eagle (Artifact ability).

The above is probably close to optimal (no promises, sims will likely come up with far better) to keep both WotM and Mongoose Fury buffs up as much as possible, and have at least the MF buff up for the full duration of Fury of the Eagle.

You’ll obviously be able to keep up the WotM buff at all other times, but trying to keep it up during the middle of the above rotation at lower haste levels is problematic and can cut short the length of time you have Mongoose Fury up for Fury of the Eagle. That’s assuming current models of buffs on channelled abilities dropping their bonus damage mid-way through the channel still holds.

If you only need even 1 second of Mongoose Fury left when you hit Fury of the Eagle to have Fury of the Eagle benefit from Mongoose Fury for its full 4 sec duration? You can slip another WotM buffing Raptor Strike in after those last 3 MB’s to keep both buffs up and have them both active for FotE.

This is where Beta would be handy 😉

You may have to shift around RS a bit to keep timings tight and within your own personal acceptable ability and play-style though. All of the above is entirely dependent on your haste levels of course, and how much they lower the overall GCD. The closer you are to a 1sec GCD, the easier this will be to pull off.

Mongoose Bite will obviously be the highest source of your DPS, accounting for about 30-50%+ of your overall damage output on average. Add in the damage buffs from WotM and Aspect of the Eagle and you’re looking at a regular cycle of burst DPS intertwined with periods of lower DPS where you’re waiting for MB to regain 3 charges, as you’ll need to use Snake Hunter on every other cycle given its current 90 sec cooldown vs the 45 sec cooldown on Fury of the Eagle. During these lower periods of damage, you’ll be putting your other abilities to use, like Carve, Lacerate, Flanking Strike etc.

Overall it’s too different atm to say if it’s going to be better or worse than the Hunter’s ranged specs. A bit more playtime and a decent weapon will help decide, but atm I’d lean towards staying with one of the two ranged specs, and maybe use Survival as an OS.

Problematic pets?

Yeah, as mentioned at the head of this article, certainly when soloing at least, pets tend to be very squishy. More so for Survival than the other two specs for some reason, as whilst testing during invasions on the PTR I died as a result of no tanking pet far more often than I did as either MM or BM. Keeping both my pet and I up as either of the ranged specs didn’t seem to be a problem.

Perhaps it’s due to the nature of playing a melee class, too busy keeping an eye on your immediate surroundings for danger like melee range AoE during boss fights to keep close tabs on your pet? Perhaps they should have made Survival the pet-free spec instead of trying it with MM? Obviously it’ll be something that will come with practice, but just be prepared for higher repair bills in the meantime 😉

Regardless, liberal use of Exhilaration will be needed in all 3 specs.

Generally on the PTR, pets seem to be a lot less sturdy than they are currently on live, and Mend Pet has inexplicably been given a 10 second cool-down to match its 10 second duration, but that’s something we’ll go through in the next article where I’ll be giving my overall verdict on the Legion Hunter class outlook.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look over all the new Hunter specs.

Change, it seems, is certainly a-comin…