There's been a lot of debate since 5.2 went out regarding which hunter specialization will be the new supreme choice. Some people say that Beast Mastery is still the primary single target spec, while Survival is still the primarily AoE spec, with Marksmanship falling behind both. Others say that Beast Mastery and Marksman are equal in single target, while Survival is the best AoE. Still others say that both Beast Mastery and Marksman pale in comparison to Survival on both accounts.
In the first week of raiding, I played a mixed combination of BM, SV and MM. In the second week of raiding, I only played MM. After this experience, this is my opinion on the three hunter specs and where we'll see them go as the tier progresses:
The first half of the instance is going to largely favour survival, while the second half of the instance is going to largely favour beast mastery and marksmanship. As far as I can tell, survival is still the king for AoE, while they all do similar single target potential depending on the length and nature of the fight. Anything that's single target with multiple interruptions or travel time will favour marksmanship more than beast mastery. However, anything that's single target that greatly distracts the player without hassling the pet, such as Durumu, will favour beast mastery more than marksmanship. In all cases, the standard deviation for performing well favours survival. The longer the fight, the better marksmanship seems to do. Marksman is also less forgiving with its cooldowns than Beast Mastery is for single target, whereby Beast Mastery gives the players more room to make up for their incorrect whack-a-mole phases.
If you're an orc, you're probably going to favour beast mastery over marksmanship. This is especially true of orc engineers. However, a marksmanship hunter will see huge increases in their damage output swapping from orc to troll. Therefore, if you're troll, you have the option of playing beast mastery for single target (more forgiving, more experience from the rest of the expansion) or playing marksmanship (less forgiving, harder to pull off). Changing my race in various sims from orc to troll for MM is an approximate 1.5K difference, while the opposite is true from troll to orc for BM.
Which spec is the most effective depends on the nature and objectives of the fight. Keep in mind that I play 25s, not 10s. The fights are as follows:
1. Jin'rokh, a very quick single target encounter.
2. Horridon, primarily an AoE encounter with two single target burns at the end.
3. Council of Elders, a cleave fight with multiple targets that die one by one.
4. Tortos, a single target encounter with important AoE mechanics.
5. Megaera, a single target encounter with multiple interruptions.
6. Ji-Kun, a single target encounter with important AoE mechanics.
7. Durumu, a single target encounter with a few distracting mechanics.
8. Primordius, a multiple target fight where you will primarily be single target.
9. Dark Animus, a single target encounter revolving around add control.
10. Iron Qon, a single target encounter.
11. Twin Consorts, a single target encounter.
12. Lei Shen, a mixed but primarily single target encounter with a few AoE mechanics.
When I look through logs for brief analysis', I look for (a) the name and location of the player, prioritizing US and EU performances; (b) the DPSe; (c) consistent timestamps. I assume, for 25s, that all buffs are present and don't nitpick further. I also keep in mind the number of pages present for parses and how many guilds have killed the current boss. For example, there is significantly more data and competition for the first half of the instance than there is the second half. Therefore, I assume that the standard deviation for the lesser played specs is going to be larger than the more popular ones, and thus not entirely accurate representations of the specs potential. Rather than averaging or using the medium of a set of data comparisons, I'll eyeball it based on my own knowledge of the encounter, the spec, and what data is available.
For Jin'rokh, it's a complete wash. The nature of the fight means that luck in your opening rotation plays a large factor. For most people, the encounter doesn't last longer than four minutes. As a result I don't even take the fight that seriously. It's a cute introduction to the tier. All three of the specs, then, are doing roughly the same amount of damage, given the inherent streaks of the encounter. Even on heroic, most of the data so far is pretty consistent between the three specs. For Jin'rokh, I suggest just playing whatever you are most comfortable at playing. Survival has the least complicated play style so I imagine most will choose Survival. I'm also slightly suspicious that the water buff isn't fully transferring to all BM pet abilities, but I haven't actually looked into it.
Horridon has very important AoE segments of the fight, where keeping adds suppressed is a large factor between winning and losing. It's also rather long, averaging out at about ten minutes. You're going to see about a 40k DPS increase using survival over MM or BM, both of which have similar pieces of data. This is for a few reasons that are beneficial to the raid:
- Most of the fight is going to be AoE. You can also still focus primary large adds / dinomancers and lay some thick into them while still effectively suppressing with said AOE.
- Only the last few minutes of the fight is a single target burn, and a short single target burn is the best kind of single target burn for SV.
If you're playing as marksman or BM, chances are you'll be focusing on Horridon more than the adds. A beast master would either leave his pet on Horridon, to avoid all the downtime of running around and to whittle the dino, OR would bring his pet into the AoE conundrum to help beast cleave. Either way, you're just straight up going to see more contribution laying on some real AoE with Survival. When I did this fight as Marksman, I did a lot of target swapping, focusing most of my single target into Horridon as he gained more cracked shell debuffs while balancing my AoE when I thought I'd get the most time efficiency out of bombardment. If bombardment is constantly going to be dropping because it's less throughput to use multishot until 5 seconds in the future, it just doesn't seem worth it. Definitely recommend only SV for Horridon.
COUNCIL OF ELDERS
This is a cleave fight with multiple targets, and it's not particularly important that they all die at once. Whenever you have multiple targets you're going to see more throughput by speccing into Survival. Once again, the same holds true here, and with one of the cleave targets also summoning adds, it's pretty much the same no brainer regarding Survival and the other specs. We can't even really help contribute to single targeting Kazra'jin, since other classes will do single target focus far better than any of our specs will while depending on a moving pet as any sort of damage input. Cleaving with survival and AoEing the sand adds is the way to go.
One note I hadn't mentioned before, Master's Call can get you out of a sand trap.
Tortos is interesting because you would assume that, even though he summons adds, it would be a hunters primary contribution to single down the boss. It's the opposite, however, since Tortos will only really be taking damage when he is afflicted by Shell Concussion. Any other time during the fight, you will be single target/cleaving down whirl turtles or AoEing bats.
For the most part, ranged will be set to turtles and melee on bats, but it's rather important to make sure those bats go to melee in the first place. They spawn from the roof, which can make them difficult for a tank to pick up prior to them getting healing aggro from multiple points in the room. It's also important that the bats die before the stomp, so the melee can actually escape from falling rocks.
Therefore the progress of Tortos is going to be primarily cleave/AoE with brief periods of focused single target. This is still going to benefit Survival, allowing you to misdirect and unload onto bats when they spawn and to help get them down low with survivals great AoE burst.
You'll also have plenty of opportunities to cleave each of the turtles, or onto the boss from the turtles.
The first four bosses of the tier, for the most part, highly favour survival. This is why you see the general consensus that survival is the new best spec for hunters, regardless of the situation. This is sort of true - from what I can tell, survival is just the best spec for AoE by a land slide. Yet it can still keep up on single target, thus making it the most effective choice for *throughput only* in multiple target encounters. An experienced player should still see a single target damage increase playing as beast mastery or marksmanship. As I said before, in terms of difficulty and forgiveness, I feel the specs rank Survival > Beast Mastery > Marksmanship. So if you're not confident with your Marksman abilities or fight foresight, or you never really took to the whack-a-mole nature of Beast Mastery, Survival is going to be your friend. Nonetheless any hunter looking to push their DPSe in the first third of ToT is going to be looking at Survival. I'm actually a little disappointed in this, since I find survival to be the driest to play, especially after the black arrow proc rate increase.
The next two thirds of ToT, as there are eight more bosses, may change that prioritization.
After Tortos is Megaera, Ji-Kun, Durumu and Primordius. Of these four, only Ji-Kun and Primordius involve significant importance of other adds besides the boss, and in Primordius' case most involvement is still going to be single target beyond padding for numbers (or some weird AoE kiting strategy).
I like Megaera. In terms of fight progression, it feels like doing Jin'rokh several times over and over in waves of three. This is annoying and invasive for a rotation, which can throw off a marksman. It also requires a lot of running around for the pet, which can throw off a beast master. Its simplicity doesn't really bother the survivalist. Therefore, I found most of the three specs performing relatively equally. For the timestamps I was looking at, they all hovered around 110K.
The marksman will find Megaera more unforgiving than usual, since their cooldowns can line up inappropriately and the Careful Aim phase - while repeating - doesn't last long enough to give the benefit it usually does.
Beast Mastery will be inconvenienced by the running around of the pet each rampage phase, but for the most part this isn't a huge deal and won't be such a huge detriment as it will be to marksmen. Both marksmanship and Beast Mastery have the ability to lay down traps during each intermission when they're standing around with no targets. Survival won't want to do this, though, since it will put black arrow on cooldown.
My suggestion, again, is to play whichever spec you're more comfortable with. However, between the two specs I consider as single target, I'd suggest beast mastery as being the more effective. Most people, I imagine, will decide to continue playing as Survival. I will probably use Marksmanship for heroic, but we'll see when we get there.
Ji-Kun is a disaster for Beast Mastery. Not only does your pet tend to despawn when jumping around to the platforms, they also don't appear to benefit fully from primal nutriment buffs. They also cannot help you if your juveniles fly away and you need to chase after them in the air.
Since you are AoEing platforms of hatchlings, people are once again favouring Survival for its superior AoE. This is completely valid and entirely true. Making sure your hatchlings die is imperative for this fight. I will point out, though, that the majority of the fight does not include AoE and that players with similar primal nutriment buffs, playing survival and marksmanship, are only about 20K apart. The main difference here giving survival better numbers is the moments you are AoEing, and the beneficial nature of percentile damage buffs to crit potential DoT classes. Take, for example, a move that hits for 60 000 - a 100% damage buff presumably adds another 60 000 (not actually that simple). On the other hand, a move that hits for 60 000 in three parts will get that 100% damage buff three times to 20 000, which also adds up to 60 000, but gives three extra chances for crits. If the first 60k burst doesn't crit, then just a single tick crit in the three segmented 60k will result in higher damage.
Basically, what I'm saying is that because survivals single target potential is still fairly good, the nature of its DoTs being able to crit makes damage buffs favour survival in the long span of things. The actual math of such occurrences won't be as simple as I made it out, nor may it even apply since the specs don't do similar amounts of damage per move set (chimera, explosive shot and kill command all hit for different values), but I hope you understand my logic a bit nonetheless.
Good throughput on Ji-Kun is going to depend on how good you are at maintaining your primal nutriment buff and making the best of it while you have it. Survival is the most forgiving in this regard, and also will ensure that you have the most success at clearing out your nests.
Once again, recommending Survival.
Durumu is a different beast entirely. And when I say beast, I mean it'll favour beast mastery. Even if you're focusing REALLY, REALLY HARD on avoiding the maze during death beam, your pet isn't going to care. It will happily continue focusing Durumu down while you run around. On the other hand, Marksmen and Survival hunters will probably see some sort of downtime distraction during this phase.
The same holds true during the tri-beam phase, where target swapping will be annoying for anyone besides the beast master. Recommend leaving the pet on the boss for the tri-beam phase, the down time for running isn't really worth it unless you're struggling to kill adds. Which you shouldn't be due to their low, low health pool. Generally issue in this phase comes from other huddles.
I will probably continue using Marksmanship for Durumu, but recognize that I'd have better throughput as Beast Mastery. Depending on the usefulness of Marksmanship in heroics and with higher gear sets, especially without the t14 bonus, I may reforge back to a BM/SV setup and weep sad tears for marksmanship once more.
While Durumu seemed to favour beast mastery, Primordius seemed to favour marksmanship. Sure, it's nice to sit on him as survival and just spam multishot onto everything around it, but that doesn't really matter if the adds aren't actually dying. Each spawn point is too far away to AoE, and you want them dead before they're in range of other things so you can pick up the mutation buffs. As BM or Marksmanship, you can kill your own adds without issue, even if you didn't catch them right at their spawn point. The faster single target you sink into adds, the faster you can sink single target damage into Primordius.
That said, the disadvantage to beast mastery is how dependant you are on having your pet with you for that single target focus. It looks like the pets are getting the fully mutated buff, but I'm not actually sure about if it's seeing any noticeable increase. As a marksman, you don't need to wait for your pet to catch up to do half your damage. I recommend making sure you get a mutated buff as soon as possible to get onto Primordius before he is out of Careful Aim phase. If you let someone else go before you, you're wasting the 75% crit marksman hunters get by not fully utilizing your first 2 minute mutation buff with CA.
The second set of four bosses is a mixed bag. For the most part you can continue playing as Survival, and will definitely want to be survival for Ji-Kun. If you're a BM/SV mix, you will probably want to play BM for Megaera, Survival for Ji-Kun, BM for Durumu and Survival for Primordius. Again, Survival is just overall easier to play. Any time you see multiple targets, your throughput will increase being Survival. However, if adds are not an issue and you feel you can play your single target spec up to par, then you may as well switch for the extra single target focus. '
If you're a MM/SV mix, you'll probably want to play MM for Megaera, survival or marksman for Ji-Kun depending on what you're having the most difficulty with (if your adds are fine and you're bad at timing primal nutriment marksmanship is an okay choice; still recommend survival nonetheless). Then marksmanship for both Durumu and Primordius. Once again, the standard deviation for Survival is lower and far more forgiving.
The final bosses of the tier are Dark Animus, Iron Qon, Twin Consorts and Lei Shen.
Again, the same as Primordius - it's nice to cleave around you and pad and have fancy numbers, but you don't actually want to AoE down a whole bunch of adds (or maybe you have some strange strategy and you do; in which case nevermind). I saw this fight primarily as a single target burn with a few smaller adds that I'd have to help with in between allowing myself to be the target of matter swaps.
So once you have Dark Animus activated, whatever is going to let you patchwerk him the best is what you want to be. Marksmanship and Beast Mastery's potential seems very, very similar to me here, while Survival will do slightly less but have an easier play style.
Four phases, each at about equal length. The only thing that will really interrupt your playing is the tornadoes. Your pet should still be able to hit him. A rough estimation of the three specs for Iron Qon, right now, is at about 100k SV, 110k MM, 115K BM, after taking into consideration the number of statistics provided for data. The only deviation regarding skill will be between marksman and BM, whereas SV is easiest to play but still not coming out on top. Once again, your choice will be what you can play best, favouring either BM or MM as your single target.
If you get slowed from the third phase, you can use Master's Call to clear it. Deterrence will be your best friend if you're bad at tornadoes. Disengaging is safe if you're going forward to the stage, but I kept walking myself into a tornado when we swapped to go the other direction. Don't be brain dead like me! I sabotaged my uptime.
Exactly the same story as Iron Qon, except in two phases rather than four. This will give marksman slightly longer to take advantage of Careful Aim with its buffs up and give more leeway to execution. I was killed when I did this fight and feel that I easily would've done the same amount or more damage as Beast Mastery. Once again, your choice will be what you can play best, favouring either BM or MM as your single target. If you're worried about any mechanics or messing up, SV is still a safe choice. Beyond spreading out, this is more or less just a burn for us.
Lei Shen is a fun fight, and it does have some AoE mechanics, but for the most part they are inconsequential. If you want to look like you have crazy amounts of damage, then go ahead and spec Survival. If you're having trouble killing ball lightning, then it's a valid choice regardless.
The AoE on MM and BM seems efficient enough to handle it, though, while providing more single target focus onto Lei Shen. I feel single target on Lei Shen is more important, especially if you're trying to push him before he uses certain abilities. I didn't play perfectly but was able to push 96K into just Lei Shen, focusing a bit more heavily on helping with Ball Lightning despite being Marksmanship than otherwise was necessary (24k). In contrast, the highest ranked BM hunter with a similar timestamp put 91k onto Lei Shen and 17k into ball lightning, with the highest ranked SV hunter with a similar timestamp putting 96K into Lei Shen and 37k into ball lightning.
So, ultimately, once again, they are all very close. There is significantly more data for Survival than the other two specs, and therefore, while the specific numbers I provided makes it look like survival will do just as much or more single target while also providing more AoE burst, it's my opinion that the marksmanship and BM hunters could play better than they did and easily surpass the 96k performance - while, on the other hand, I feel survival will be stuck along that plateau.
The final four bosses of the tier, then, are all primarily single target and will favour whichever of the three specs you feel you're best at playing. Beast Mastery will be the easiest to maintain strong single target with, while Marksmanship should perform just as equally or slightly better if played particularly well (which is hard to do, especially at this gear level). Survival is a good fall back point because it will still have its uses, especially on Lei Shen, and can keep up pace with the other two specs single target. Played at an equal level it will be a downgrade, but played at a better level than you'd play the other two you'll see an increase.
- If you're an orc, you're going to want to stay BM/SV.
- If you're a troll, you're probably still going to want to stay BM/SV, but you have the option of also playing as MM/SV. The latter can perform just as well, but is more difficult.
- You will absolutely want to keep survival and will see use out of it any time there is more than one target. Your decision will be based on which of the targets is more important: multiples or a singular.
I'm going to keep running with Marksmanship as long as I can to see how it's shaping up in comparison, but I'm worried about its longevity. The downsides to the playstyle isn't made up for in its throughput, especially considering BM/SV share similar reforge needs (crit>mastery) while MM/SV does not (crit>haste vs survivals crit>mastery).