Why is Survival Hunter Meta in Season 4 Mythic+ Keystones?
Survival Hunter became one of the most powerful DPS specialization in the early stages of Season 3, and ever since has continued being a dominant spec in Mythic+ across all key levels. In today's article we are going to take a deep dive into the spec and analyze, what makes it so powerful, all the benefits of having one in your party, the complexity of its gameplay and other major concerns regarding the current balance of the spec. Without further to do, let's begin:
What Makes Survival Hunter So Good?
The spec has been part of the Mythic+ "meta" for the past several months and there are no sign of going out of it soon, even after the
most recent nerfs
to it. But what exactly makes them so good you might ask?
First, let's begin by mentioning that Survival Hunter holds one of the strongest AoE damage profiles in the game. Most of its damage comes from the
combined with the
talent choice. Having a great AoE is often a quality that can set the spec from "meta" and "non-meta" choice.
Their single-target damage is also one of the best in the game, and despite the spec being considered melee, you have the option of becoming a "hybrid" essentially being out of melee and still maintaining relatively high DPS.
You have one of the best utilities in the game, starting from -
, which allows the tank to safely escape danger and recover its defensive cooldowns,
, which can provide high mob-control, essentially stopping the important enemy spells even if you have
on cooldown. It also is one of the
classes in the game to have an Enrage Dispel -
(which also removes a Magic Effect if there is any), one of the
classes to have the ability to transfer transfer in the face of
. You also have "Bloodlust" effect once you swap to Ferocity pet -
, a hard-CC if you ever have to "isolate" a specific mob (Inspired for example) out of any pack -
and a mass-area slow
Survival Hunter has some of the best mobility in the game, combined with
They also, outside of their passive-durability (mostly because Versatility is one of their main secondary stats to go for, which also provides damage reduction), have an immunity -
and on-demand small damage-reduction spell coming from
's conduit enhance -
. There are some area-effects that also get to do less damage on you because of the Endurance Conduit -
Moreover, their self-sustain is one of the best in the game, having a passive
(99% of the times you will play Ferocity Pet), and also
Don't forget that Survival Hunter is a hybrid spec, meaning that they can do effective damage even outside of melee, quite rare quality to have as a melee DPS choice.
At last, I will mention a detail, often neglected of its importance, that can save you tons of time if done correctly, and that is priority-target damage, or cleaving from the highest HP enemy to the rest of the pack. Assuring that everything dies, often will positively reflect on the overall dungeon timer.
The Popularity of the Spec
We can see from the data below, in Season 4, Survival Hunter, across all key-levels, is one of the most representative spec in Mythic+:
Image from Raider.io Leaderboards
Ever since introducing tier-sets, early into Season 3, Survival rose to the top, from one of the lowest represented classes across all charts, to one of the most common picked up specs during Season 3 and now Season 4. I will go even to the extent of saying that it is the highest representative class on the keys 20+ and above (see the chart below) this Season and there is a reason behind it.
Now, let's look, on the key-level where the "meta" argument plays a bigger role, 20+
Image from Raider.io Leaderboards
We can see a clear dominance, far more than any other DPS specialization, Survival Hunters are currently the most played class in Mythic+ on key-levels 20 and above.
Even though, this spec has been nerfed not once, but several times, it remains one of the best in the game. The nerfs were heavily focused on AoE damage profile, especially mass AoE, but little do they know, the current dungeon-pools have quite little mass AoE pulls. Let's give an example, Tazavesh: Gambit, Lower Karazhan and Mechagon: Junkyard, have pools in them that can be considered in the mass AoE category. What about the rest of the keys? In the keys where you don't really pull over 4-5-6 mobs at the time? That's where Survival shines the most.
The Impact of Survival Hunter on the Current Mythic+ Meta
Survival Hunter, despite being one of the strongest DPS options in Mythic+, is also one of the most accessible to play. The simplicity of the spec creates a low barrier of entry for any skill-level individual (beginner, intermediate or advanced player) eager to learn something new. Don't let that fool you, despite being easy to pick up, the spec requires, just like any other, a lot of commitment to fully maximize it's potential.
All of this combined, makes the spec truly the "king" of Mythic+, we were not surprised to acknowledge the first +30 Keystone level done on live servers, was done by
Survival Hunters as a DPS options (see screenshot below). If that is not a sign that Survival Hunters are just too good to have just one in your party, I don't know any other evidence to suggest you otherwise. Truth is, this can have consequences promoting healthy balancing of the game, which can discourage a lot of new players into exploring the variety of other options World of Warcraft can offer.
But wait a second, haven't we seen something similar in the past?
However, the high representation of a specific specialization can only suggest one thing only, their value makes people consider bringing another one of the same spec, which makes things quite unfortunate for any other DPS spec in the LFG que window. In other words, pugging might be rough, because the general population will prefer to take Survival Hunter over, for example
(not that Shadow is bad, but Survival Hunter is overpowered). But why am I mentioning all of this? Because something similar happened back in Battle for Azeroth, during Season 2 and Season 3, Outlaw rogue was in similar shoes as Survival Hunter at the moment, one of the most representative class across not only average keys (15 keystone level) but also higher keys where they held the highest representation (see charts below):
Image from Raider.io
Season 2 of Mythic+ during BFA, targeting 15 keys and above (average keys)
Image from Raider.io
Season 2 of Mythic+ during BFA, targeting the higher end keys 20 and above
The history repeats itself as Outlaw Rogue was in a similar boat to Survival Hunter this season:
They had one of the best damage profile across all DPS specialization, not only for AoE but also 2 and 3 targets cleave during Season 2 and Season 3.
One of the best mobility in the game -
Great self-sustain coming from
The best mob-control in the game -
, which, especially on high keys, have an immense amount of value for your team.
The best party-wise utility,
, which can buy you time if used accordingly, as well as,
which can reset combat and used for skips - similar to Hunter's
Similar to Hunter, Outlaw (and any Rogue spec) can transfer threat with
which made tank aggro issues significantly smaller.
The only area where Outlaw was better than Hunter, was the survivability, Outlaw was the king back then.
made you immune against any magical damage,
neutralized any physical damage coming your way as melee attacks (if you take aggro), on top of this you had
which allowed you to have a second life in case you received a life blow. Remember that
seconds cooldown and was covering only abilities that will count as area effect, still quite broken, and at last, don't forget that one of their main stats was
which grants you with passive damage-reduction the more you have.
All of this created the "meta" where stacking 2 o 3 Outlaw Rogue weren't that uncommon, even made it to competitive Mythic+ (MDI) which was present for many matches until the spec received a nerf.
Suggestions and Possible Solutions
Possible solution is to further nerf Survival Hunter's AoE capabilities or nerf the way the spec interacts with
. It either buff the rest of the classes to come on their level of damage. The quality of the spec makes it irreplaceable in the current meta, and we have seen that in the most recent competitive World of Warcraft Tournament, where the spec has a 100% representation among each match, regardless of the region or dungeon difference. The low barrier of entry playstyle combined with all the qualities of the specialization makes variety choice quite one-sided once you open the LFG toolkit, yes you will be picking up Survival Hunter.
At last, World of Warcraft is a game where there is always a clear winner, each season, regardless of its PvE or PvP, there will be a specialization that is going to be ahead of others, therefore creating a "meta" and that is normal for majority of the MMORPG games. However, I am a huge advocate for reducing the difference between the very best class and the very last class in terms of performance, closing the gap means that there shouldn't be such a significant difference between those specs (example Survival Hunter vs Balance Druid). Tuning properly the season requires time, patience and actively listening to the community's feedback, which Blizzard is getting a lot better in the recent months. I hope for a solution going forward to Dragonflight where you have a variety of options between each individual spec/class to choose from when you sign up in the LFG.
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