Survival Hunter State on the Shadowlands Beta - Spec Concerns, Hunter's Mark, Covenants
Feedback and opinions on the current state of Survival Hunter on the Shadowlands beta, discussing spec concerns, Hunter's Mark, Covenants and more!
About the Author
This guide is written by gray_hound, a raider in <Strawberry Puppy Kisses> on Area 52. Gray_hound is an active member of
Trueshot Lodge, the Hunter Discord
. You can catch him online on
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With our transition to Shadowlands we are once again reunited with a number of abilities that have perished once before :
- Fairly high focus cost ability for a very limited use ability. Not worth keybinding outside of PvP.
- Might be somewhat useful in regards to being able to agro a pack of mobs, run away with them and
as a slightly more convenient death-skip, but once again extremely niche.
- Execute mechanic that DOES work with a melee weapon. It's a nice addition, but unlikely to be significant without going Venthyr.
- moved our utility away from a pet and made always available which is a nice change.
- a casted shot that DOES NOT work with a melee weapon...
- an instant shot that cost focus and that DOES NOT work with a melee weapon...
- allows us to track target, but also steals 5% of our aoe/cleave damage. Will be discussed more in-depth below.
Outside of providing us with a sense of pride and accomplishment for getting back our iconic abilities back, we have also received a number (a very small one) of additional class changes :
- does not trigger immediately, but still does not transfer pet threat.
- now a 4 seconds cast time. Unlikely to be noticed in group content, but feels very punishing in solo and pvp.
It should be noted that there is currently a bug with Survival’s focus regen, but this is getting fixed in a future build.
We have received a total of 0 changes in our talents (very minor number tuning aside on some of them).
This is a problem because currently Survival is just a bicycle, where 1 wheel is
and the other is
. If you don't take one, the spec feels a lot more boring; if you don't take either, the spec might as well not exist at all, which is believe is too much pressure on a talent and oppresses other talents in the same row.
While there's still hope that we might get something via a late rework, I believe that we are unlikely to receive anything major, and as a result we will have similar talent selection as seen in BFA (likely with less
dominance due to lack of Azerite). However I believe that things can be improved by simply swapping some talents around. If
was to go into 4th row,
into 1st, and
was to go into 2nd, we would have a much more engaging class that has ability to make choices in multiple rows.
- this seems to have an interesting idea, in regards to having an AoE "Hunter's Mark" and also dealing damage that scales with the number of spells you can use during its duration. However, this is where part of the problem starts - due to (what i believe to be) a bug currently a number of abilities do not seem to count towards that damage trigger, combined with the issue of Survival simply not being able to spend every global for 15 seconds doing some action means that it suffers greatly when trying to maximize this ability.
- somewhat nice for mobility and possibly some utility with the teleport, but that remains to be seen.
- exclusively single target ability, currently also slightly bugged (
does not benefit from Mastery despite being focus spender). While it's designed to be the "go to" for pure single target I'm honestly not even sure if it beats
in that category, but while this can be fixed via tuning, it provides no additional benefits in AoE over ST situation, which is a fairly uncommon scenario in both Mythic+ and Raids.
- 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.
- a fairly well designed ability, acting 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, at least based on current testing in Castle Nathria as it does remove a number of debuffs across various boss fights, unless this gets changed, this will be the best horde side covenant in terms of utility by a landslide. The potential in Mythic+ is somewhat more limited as there are far less deadly debuffs there, but it can still be decent overall.
- 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, rather than being an additional focus drain on the spec that needs all it can get as is.
- 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.
At the moment it's hard to determine which covenant will end up being the best, as they are heavily reliant on tuning, and a number of them are hurting due to various bugs in both covenants, and class itself.
Personally I would say that Night Fae and Venthyr feel the weakest at the moment, in somewhat underwhelming damage and their utility in the form of additional "teleport" type mobility being not as needed unless it allows us to negate a mechanic (such as cutter beam).
- adds another damage multiplier layer to your cooldowns, which is exceptionally strong.
- makes the proc slightly more frequent and deal more damage, but it does mean that it will be a larger portion of our focus drain.
- extremely strong due to even greater focus regen, and a nice damage increase.
- the effect is not exceptionally strong, and the covenant is not exceptionally strong itself.
- 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 2 based on personal preference which is likely going to be
depending on tuning.
- currently feels like it's too little of 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 fight, 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.
- 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 nice utility in terms of increased mobility, and
is too situational.
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), as such if Embers do get nerfed this will likely be 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.
- while any focus is good, since we do not* use traps for our dps rotation, it's unlikely to be useful.
- 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. Currently due to being focus starved it's also fairly easy to squeeze it in without disrupting normal rotational flow. It is also not as position restrictive, as all of the enemies located in our when we set it of will receive a dot, and we do not lose any damage if they move out of it after.
- similar to our Azerite effect, just a bit of extra damage "passively".
- 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 significantly less than the 3x Azerite equivalent one, but it still suffers from the fact that on Single Target fights it’s basically just a bit of extra damage, as we don’t need to manage it at all.
- return of our legion legendary, however greatly depowered due to lack of Hellcarver trait, combined with the addition of AoE caps making it another legendary that's unlikely to be used.
Currently, while I do expect a big nerf to it,
is insanely powerful and by far the strongest option, even after the nerf it might still be the go-to unless
receive some power increase.
Additionally, I do have a small concern that none of the legendaries have any synergy between one another - it is a safe bet to assume that at a later point in an expansion we will be able to wear 2(+?) of them at the same time, and while for a number of classes / specs they have multiple ones affecting same ability / same part of the kit, letting the effective amps/multipliers stack, survival does not have such benefit and everything is extremely disjointed and has 0 interactions with each other. Not only that but we are ending up in a situation where
all have synergy until you pass a haste threshold and they start falling off in usefulness extremely fast.
Quite honestly going into this beta I was prepared to be disappointed by the lack of changes we've received, but this ability manages to accomplish this, as I actively wish it did not exist (except as one of the PvP talents). It feels extremely unfun to play on anything that's not pure single target as we have to spend a global everytime we swap targets or lose out on 5% damage, and while currently we have enough empty globals in our rotation to not only do that, but also to tab out and change our playlist it is not a rewarding experience. Not only that, but due to it being only active on 1 target, it means that all of our AoE/Cleave damage effectively misses out on that bonus for all additional targets. In a world where number tuning will be done around situations where this has 100% uptime, every single target swap will be a dps loss. This problem is not limited to only Survival, and arguably not even the worst for Survival as compared to BM and MM, it is still an addition that simply punishes us and has no fun factor that works with our spec (ie potential small focus refund when using abilities on targets with HM, or at least letting us passively auto apply it with
Spec utility / Identity
This is the same exact issue as what we have in BFA, seeing as how the spec is exactly the same (except missing a bunch of power due to azerite, and haste). A number of other specs melee specs have received a number of useful raid wide utility, be it defensive cooldowns, slight dps increases, or some other ones, at the same time survival has not received anything, in terms of its place in raid it is effectively just an inferior BM hunter that is limited to being in melee range, the ONLY possible way that Survival can take a raid spot over BM one, is if it provides significantly higher damage. However even in that case, in the majority of boss fights you are actively punished by bringing too many melee, and the main form of "anti-range" punishment is simply making them move a lot, which BM is immune to anyway. As a result of that, in most raid groups a Survival hunter will generally be competing not only against Beast Mastery, but also against all of the other melee specs. The issue with that is that Survival is just a single spec with a single focus of toolkit (which at the moment is sustained single target dps) while when you are competing with Rogues, Warriors, or Death Knights, you're not just competing with 1 spec for each, but all of them, so it has to be better than Outlaw on AoE fight, better than Assassination on Melee Cleave fights, and better than Subtlety on Zul fights, all with a much smaller toolkit - less potential legendaries, conduits, talents. As a result of all of those issues I simply do not see a situation where Survival will ever be "optimal" without receiving it's own niche that it is EXTREMELY potent at, or some form of unique raid utility.
In addition it simply feels as something disjointed from the past of the spec, there is no strong identity, in Legion it was the "dot" spec with 3(?) separate dots to maintain and some additional buffs, combined with rotational offensive traps. Now it doesn't have any of it, and most of its core abilities are simply pasted on from BM or MM.
At this point I don't think it's a secret that Survival has been one of the "meme" specs in WoW over last 2 expansions, even the two closest specs (sub and arcane) have a far great representation both overall and even in just their class (both as a percentage and a raw number of players). While some might argue that having a very low number of players on a spec does not make it bad, it does mean that for some reason people do not want to play it, and that there's still a reason for this, so something should be done to bring that number up. There are a few solutions -
Making it ranged. Now a number of survival players will hate this idea, but the simple fact is that if it was to become another ranged spec, with some hybrid potential, it would be far more popular. Consider this, all of the abilities besides Raptor/Mongoose and auto-attacks are already "ranged", if there was a system similar to other specs where they can pick what weapon they want to use, while everything else remains constant, it would become far more popular, say make Raptor/Mongoose transform from "strike" into "shot", but do 2-3% less damage, the actual rotation and the spec identity (Mongoose stacks) would be preserved, but it would become a lot more raid viable.
Unique utility. While this suggestion might cause outrage from some BM or MM players, I do believe it is fairly reasonable. Currently you're making a lot of sacrifices with no "mechanical" advantages, I am not sure what exact utility would be a good fit for this. Some people have suggested Aspect of the Fox, but I believe it might not be that useful in current raid fight design. It could also be something similar to Enhancement's windfury, which isn't exceptionally strong, but it is unique and not shared with Elemental. Or possibly even simply getting to "steal" some other class utility as something like physical vulnerability boss debuff, or something similar.
A strong niche. Currently Survival's niche is closest to "single target with very even, non bursty damage", however that damage pattern is not ideal; in almost all raid and dungeon situations, if you are given a choice between two classes that do same overall dps but one is extremely bursty it will generally be the go to. As such, it's might benefit from getting a change to it's damage pattern, in becoming far more bursty, at the cost of slightly lower sustain, or if staying with the strong sustain, doubling down on the legion idea, and becoming an extemely potent dot spec - similar to Assassination, which while isn't always the best spec for rogues, is generally a very safe pick.
Overall Survival is effectively the same as it is in BFA, if we are to strip all of the bonuses it has obtained via Azerite, Corruption and Essences, it struggles with its spec identity where its key defining characteristic (Mongoose Bite) is still a talent and not an actual core ability, it has received no noticeable improvements going into Shadowlands, and as all other "unpopular" specs like Feral / Enhancement continue to receive reworks and improvements it lags more and more behind them.
Previous Feedback Articles
These are all the spec feedback articles that we have done through the Shadowlands Alpha and Beta. Some of these are older than others, so please make sure to check the date. We'll be doing a second round of these articles once we're closer to the end of Beta.
Blood Death Knight
Frost Death Knight
Unholy Death Knight
Havoc Demon Hunter
Vengeance Demon Hunter
Beast Mastery Hunter
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