Survival Hunter in Shadowlands - DPS Strengths, Best Covenants, Soulbinds and Legendaries
Shadowlands launches on November 23rd / 24th and all classes will be getting new toys to play with -- from Covenant abilities, to Conduits and returning Legendary effects! This article, written by GrayHound, will provide details on the current state of Survival Hunter in Shadowlands, to help you to prepare for the upcoming expansion!
You There! Let Me Bend Your Ear For a Moment. I'm GrayHound and the Survival guide writer for Wowhead. I've been playing melee dps since TBC, and have been multi-classing for the majority of the time from that point. This article will be the second overview of Survival and its performance on Beta.
Here are the link to
previous state of survival
Check out all our Shadowlands Launch Opinion articles by our Class Writers and members of the community! Click on any of the colored specs below to see what articles we've released so far.
These guides were meant to give you a preview of what's to come in the expansion, but don't worry -- our full Shadowlands Class Guides will be updated soon!
Blood Death Knight
Frost Death Knight
Unholy Death Knight
Havoc Demon Hunter
Vengeance Demon Hunter
Beast Mastery Hunter
What Has Changed for Survival Hunter?
Overall very little changes from Pre-patch. The class will play almost the same way, and there will be the loss of Azerite Traits and Essences. However it does not affect survival as much as some of the other classes.
However you will effectively replace your essence with the damaging covenant ability, and you are extremely likely to end up having to use your traps rotationally, so it might be worth to reconsider those keybinds for easy access (especially with the macros that automatically drop traps at your feet, which removes the need to aim the reticle).
Key Class Changed Compared to Previous "State of"
- has been finally "fixed" and no longer has the damage component.
Our focus regen has been fixed (same value as pre-patch) - we can now do damage.
- also been fixed, and now works correctly. Furthermore AoE component of ability is a lot more consistent and now more useful.
proc that you get is now free, and overall works with mastery.
As you can see from this list, most of the issues I've been passive aggressive about have been resolved. This does spark joy.
Talents, Soulbinds, Legendaries, and Everything Else
Talents remained the same as earlier in Beta, and overall mostly the same as live.
This will remain the go-to talent setup for the majority of cases. Just like right now, you will still use
when you go into AoE scenarios.
(Level 52) - Improvement for leveling/questing/pvp and Torghast. Hardly noticeable outside of those scenarios.
(Level 54) - Very niche utility.
(Level 56) - With a heavier focus on rotational trap usage, can actually be fairly good for us.
(Level 58) - Slight increase to value of our crit rating, and free dps, granted very minor in the grand scheme of things.
Survival Hunter Covenants
- fairly strong 2 minute dps cooldown, with built in AoE scaling. Currently it is very potent, even if it does lose to
. However it does have the potential to at least challenge it in some settings, additionally there are some nice "utility" bonuses available in soulbinds.
- somewhat nice for mobility and possibly some utility with the teleport, but that remains to be seen.
- increases the duration and the damage, which is also good overall.
- exclusively single target ability. While it's designed to be the "go to" for pure single target it's not that good, and it is currently losing to multiple covenants in all types of settings. Additionally, it provides no additional benefits in AoE over ST situations, which is a fairly common scenario in both Mythic+ and Raids, as such, while already lagging behind in pure single target, it falls back even further in more realistic scenarios.
- personally my favorite "utility" covenant ability both in it's visual effects, and design. It is somewhat similar to
in terms of utility via its teleport, however both have their ups and downs - cast time but extremely precise targeted ability with fairly lax "path available" requirements, while
is effectively instant.
- makes the proc slightly more frequent and deal more damage.
- a fairly well designed ability, acting as a raw throughput multiplier, with the obvious downside of being limited to that specific location. I believe this may be one of the stronger covenant choices as we progress through expansion, due to simply it's scaling potential. There is some additional utility that you can utilize it's LoS negation potential both in PvP and possibly in PvE.
- possibly the strongest utility ability, as it does remove a number of debuffs across various boss fights in Mythic+, and while they're not as deadly as some of the raid mechanics (which are no longer removable), it is still fairly potent.
- adds another damage multiplier layer to your cooldowns, which is exceptionally strong.
- another somewhat underwhelming option, as it does not scale exceptionally well in AoE compared to ST (same exact damage), but at the very least we get all of the focus generation instantly. It's main potential advantage over
is that it generates a decent amount of focus thus benefiting our main abilities.
- another channeled utility, but it does provide us with an additional Damage Reduction CD, which can be very useful to counter "nukes", sadly it's far less effective against DoTs.
- due to even greater focus regen it's a decent bonus.
Choosing a Covenant
Given current tuning the choice is fairly simple as you have Kyrian is the first place for effectively all settings, with Night Fae creeping up on it in AoE. The only reason that I would personally consider anything but Kyrian right now, is if you want to potentially use
on the Night Fae, however, that does rely on convincing your GM/RL that it's worth to give up better covenant ability + higher dps soulbind options for a conditional cheat death.
Best Soulbinds for Survival Hunter
The go-to soulbind will be Pelagos, even after the nerf and will look like this. Currently both of the potency soulbinds are fairly close, but
does pull ahead a bit. The reason we take Pelagos is that we get both of the "dps" nodes while still being able to take double potency conduits. With other soulbinds we generally have to pick a dps node or a potency soulbind, but not both.
Kleia is likely to be the second best, but she is significantly behind Pelagos, so unless we see another round of nerfs to him, I doubt that it will be that useful. She is still ahead of Mikanikos, simply due to tuning as her "offensive" abilities are simply stronger than his, at current tuning.
Survival Hunter Soulbind Conduits
Conduits come in three forms: Potency buff damage skills or the Covenant ability, Endurance buff defense and self-healing, and Finesse grant utility.
There are 3 types of conduits : Potency - dps increase, Endurance - survival increase, Finesse - utility increase.
Here are the Potency Conduits:
4 Total Covenant based conduits - Already covered above
- Interesting as it can have synergy with
but at some point given enough haste it will become redundant.
- It looks like a minor AoE gain, but feels a bit too weak (possibly would become better if bonus scaled based on number of targets hit).
- By far the best DPS conduit (in current tuning), very strong in Single Target, still works a bit in AoE, overall just great all around.
- Another conduit that works well in ST and AoE and has good synergy with
Currently I believe that the design goal is that you will almost always want to pick your Covenant's conduit plus 1 based on personal preference which is likely going to be
, in a rare scenario where you would not pick a covenant conduit as your second choice, it's best to go with
for pure ST. The remaining one is simply never worth slotting.
Let's continue with Finesse Conduits:
- can be a tiny dps gain, has synergy with some of the soulbinds in regards to interrupts buffing dps.
- feels more of a PvP utility, as in PvE you're more likely to just trap if you need to get away from an NPC (outside of emergency).
- most likely going to be the go-to Finesse conduit, as it is a nice utility in terms of increased mobility, and
is too situational.
- overall fairly useful, since it's a short cooldown, and you're not going to get a lot of CDR anyway due to trap's cooldown.
And finish up with Endurance Conduits:
- currently feels like it's too little DR to be truly a defensive, but it is consistent.
- by itself I feel like the DR isn't that useful, and generally doesn't reduce itself enough to be significantly useful (you're unlikely to get an extra use per fight, and also unlikely to line up well with mechanics to benefit from it).
- depending on which abilities it affects on specific fights, can be very useful and it is active all the time unlike
- the HoT component is nice, but you're generally using it for instant emergency heal, not so much to avoid some minor DoT.
Survival Hunter Legendaries
Have no fear, orange colored gear is here.
a 90 second cd, which does have potential to make it line up better with mechanics (assuming that we're not hitting levels of haste where we can maintain it for extreme periods of time), however even after the predicted Embers nerf, it is not our go-to choice.
- likely to be exclusively PvP oriented, as even if it did have some exceptional PvE soaking potential would most likely simply get hotfixed.
- any focus is good, and since it got significantly buffed from the previous beta build, this is the go-to legendary on single target, and 3rd best choice on AoE.
- introducing "using traps for our dps rotation", this is actually an interesting design as it introduces 2 generally non rotational abilities into the rotation, and with a very strong potential. It is also not as position restrictive, as all of the enemies located in our
when we set it off will receive a dot, and we do not lose any damage if they move out of it after. Overall it's exceptionally strong in both single target, and aoe, and it's decently strong for other hunter specs, making it a very safe pick for all situations.
- similar to our Azerite effect, just a bit of extra damage "passively", currently this is the only Survival specific power, that's good, and it's generally the best choice for AoE situations.
- while there is potential for it to be good in later tiers with increased haste levels, currently seems too infrequent to be useful.
- another Azerite trait resurrected, might end up being somewhat fun to use on AoE when combined with
, but outside of that also doesn't have a lot of rotational gameplay implications. Part of the issue is that the damage is lagging behind some of the generic powers.
- return of our legion legendary, however greatly depowered due to lack of
trait, combined with the addition of AoE caps making it another legendary that's unlikely to be used.
Choosing a Legendary
The situation has improved compared to earlier beta and we do have a number of choices when it comes to legendaries. On a single target we can use
(granted Hemet's is significantly ahead at the moment). Furthermore we do have a few powers trailing behind (
), however they are both significantly behind, so it's not recommended. When we move to the AoE we once again have a choice of
However, we're still in a weird position where some of our legendaries that are suppose to be single target focused, are losing out to AoE ones, most of the spec specific ones are getting significantly out-performed by generic ones, at least one of them seems completely pointless, so while things have gotten better, there is a lot of room for improvement.
Conclusion / Concerns
Overall, the spec is not as broken as it was during the writing of the previous article (and not in the good way), however all of the changes were simply bug fixes or class wide changes. As such we are still left with all of the problems that plagued Survival for the last expansion. It still has no unique (from BM/MM) utility that would help it earn it's raid spot, and as such it will always be a comparison of melee dps versus two range dps specs, which often enough even do more damage.
It still suffers when compared to other melee specs, as generally they have access to a lot more tools / more flexible overall compared to survival : while a rogue player can go Outlaw for AoE, Assassination for slightly spread dot cleave, or say Subtlety for pure single target, a survival player has to try and win in all 3 scenarios, just with 1 spec, and smaller legendary pool.
As the result of this, and the lack of *ANY* attention to the spec (compared to Feral, or Enhancement) I do not see Survival's status quo changing from where it was for all of BFA, it will still be the lowest representation spec, that generally gets overshadowed by either the two ranged specs of the same class, or the more flexible melee specs with strong damage niches.
As such, while it is too early to give tier ranking to survival, unless some sort of tuning miracle happens, where it magically starts to out-perform every other hunter spec, I do not see it being viewed favorably. It pays a very heavy melee tax in regards to it's raid spot (the difficulty of some bosses goes up exponentially once you pass 5-6 melee dps), it does not have a well defined niche (when we can compare it to say 3 rogue specs, having their own distinct strength), and it doesn't have any of the unique utility that some other melee classes can bring (Windfury totem for Enh, Physical debuff from Windwalker), as such it will never be raid ~optimal~ without : 1) beating both of the other hunter specs significantly 2) beating majority of other melee specs while not having access to some sort of unique utility. This is always an issue as BM/MM does not have to deal with issue #2 and most other melee dps don't have to deal with #1. Furthermore, I simply do not believe that it's realistic to expect tuning in which Survival will outpace the ranged specs enough to be wanted. I don't have an elegant solution to this problem, outside of just working to make a very definitive niche for Survival (similar to how it was the absolute king of mass AoE in Legion) and making sure that when the fights fit it's niche, it's absolutely great at it, while also trying to improve it's spec identity (is it combat traps, is it mongoose, is it keeping up a ton of buffs/debuffs?).
Alternatively bring back Range Survival and turn this into a hybrid spec, where you can play from melee or range with full ability set.
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