Just the other day on the official forum, I saw one of the usual "One True Spec," threads. Someone in there was talking about how they felt this was Beast Mastery, for ALL situations.
I (without at all trashing BM, at least I thought) offered a response as to why I thought Survival had some benefits. The previous author basically rode straight over the top of those, and ended his post with, "BM still superior spec in all scenarios."
I'm not going to try and claim that I've never indulged in spec bigotry myself. I think at some point, in our weaker moments, many (if not all) of us do. However, in this particular post I'm going to do the exact opposite. I want to try and end the rationale for flame wars about which is the "best" Hunter spec, and demonstrate why I feel that a group (in terms of 5 mans anywayz; I can't speak for raids yet) with both a BM and a Survival Hunter is going to be vastly more effective than a group with only one of them alone.
I once had the incredibly good fortune of doing a Black Rock Depths run with myself, two other Hunters, (one BM, and one pure Marks) and two Warlocks. Any sane reader of this will immediately wonder why not having a tank and healer could be considered fortunate; however we only wiped once, (we got caught by the dwarves below the ledge leading up to Incendius) but other than that, we were utterly unstoppable. The Marks Hunter gave the other two of us TSA and their usual awesome burst, the BM Hunter provided FI and the proverbial big red kitty periodically, and I was able to keep adds locked down with Freezing Trap and also provide some tanking with my boar.
This is my point; each spec only illustrates a single, lone aspect of our class. The reason why I'm going to love having a BM Hunter in a five man is the same reason why a Protection spec Warrior is going to love having one; like the Warrior, as Survival, damage isn't primarily what I do. To use another analogy, BM is to a Hunter what Shadow spec is to a Priest; namely, offense, or damage dealing. Conversely, as Survival, to again use the Priest analogy, you could compare me to their Holy spec. Damage isn't my main priority; helping keep the group alive is.
A BM Hunter's main yardstick for their worth in a group is possibly going to be, "Did I top the damage meter?" at the end of it. Conversely however, my own at the end of a group is more likely to be, "Did we wipe, and if so, how many times?" If the BM Hunter wasn't at the top of the damage meter, he's likely going to want to improve his game. Likewise, if the group I was in wiped, I'm going to want to improve mine in terms of CC, careful pulling, protecting healers, and negotiating for the co-operation of the group.
BM Hunters, I don't feel that anyone who is Survival should take it as an insult or an indication of inferiority if you beat us on the damage meter. I in fact sincerely hope you do, and am relying on you to do so, because that's not my job. My job is noticing when a stray mob has got past the tank and is on a healer, or using CC to make sure the tank preferably only has a single target at once.
I know Pike or BRK would tell me that BM can perform those roles just fine; I'm not saying you can't. But picture this; we're both in a group together. Because you've got me, you can focus exclusively on burning down Skull faster than anyone else, (what you're specced for) and because I've got you, I can focus exclusively on CC and keeping the cloth safe, (what I'm specced for) which in itself can be a full time job.
According to my own philosophy of play, the ideal attitude for a Survival Hunter is not to care if (other than keeping EW up) a single arrow of theirs is actually fired at the group's target(s) at all. (For trash pulling anyway; single boss targets are different, of course)
If EW stays up, CC goes off without a hitch, the tank is able to focus on the target in front of him without needing to worry about the people behind him, the cloth classes (and thus, the rest of the group) stay alive, and we don't wipe, I've done my job.
So, to those BM Hunters who possibly have some difficulty understanding this, (and this isn't directed at either Pike or BRK, because I know they both do) please understand that the simple fact that you do a lot more damage than Survival does not mean that Survival lacks justification for its' existence as a spec. Yes, you do more damage than us. That's perfectly fine. Working 100% as intended. If you're not beating me on the damage meter, there's something wrong. To again use the analogy; Shadow Priests do damage. Holy (for the most part, except when soloing) don't.
Also, to people who like leading five mans; purely as an idle experiment, if you're at 60 or 70, next time you do so, considering getting a tank and healer, but after that actually filling the other three slots with a Hunter from each spec. If each truly knows their spec, I predict that the results will amaze you.