Thursday, January 22, 2009

"Should I respec to Survival?"

After the recent patch, this is probably a question which is going through a lot of Hunters' minds, so I'd like to address it.

First, I want to again emphasise, how strongly I support the concept of individuality within this game. This is something which min/maxers on the forum have showered me with abuse for, time and time again, but I still firmly believe that if you are not playing this game for the right reasons, which are your own personal reasons, then you should not be playing it at all.

This is a game; it is an entirely voluntary form of recreation, and you are paying to play it. Nobody is paying you. The point here is, that if with the talent spec you're using, you know the content you're playing, and you know you can generate the damage you need to beat it, that in itself should be enough for you to be able to continue to use it.

The second point to consider, in overall terms, is to carefully evaluate why you do what you do in this game. Ask yourself seriously; is raiding really worth it? What's your motivation? Is it fun, or is it ego-based? Understand that with the amount of control guild leaders tend to want to have of your life, you need to be extremely sure that for you, the payoff is going to be worth it. For me it isn't. Nowhere near it, in fact; which is why I refuse to do it.

The third point to recognise is, if gear is your priority, you don't actually need to raid, at least at the moment. Badge stuff is still good, crafted epics are available, and you can now get T7 purely from farming Heroics.

In terms of what I've read of the guild management philosophy of Matticus in particular, I honestly feel that if he wants to run a guild in the manner he describes, he should be paying his members. The difference between guilds and corporations or military units is that people in both of the latter two organisations are getting a guaranteed form of payment in exchange for their service. Guild members are unpaid volunteers; and sometimes, depending on guild politics, won't even be paid in game terms for their time, let alone in any other way.

If you join a raiding guild, you're basically signing up for a chance that a particular piece of loot that you want will eventually drop. Even if the piece you want drops, you're then running the risk that it will go to someone else, (possibly even a class for whom it is not as relevant as your own) because of guild politics. I read about guilds who did Kara and various other TBC raids for months, and Hunters within them either never saw the drops they wanted, or if they did, said drops got handed to Rogues instead, even while multiple Hunters were present in many cases.

"But I raid to have fun/experience the content!"

Yeah, right. Maybe that's true in the case of the few raiders I'm still willing to speak to online, (Rilgon, Pike, et, al.) but the fact that they have an unusual amount of intelligence and maturity is the reason why I'm willing to associate with them in the first place. For most of the population that I've seen, however, this argument is quite simply BS. The motivation is epeen. Loot is a secondary priority which ultimately falls back to serving the first.

So, with all of that said, Survival. It's been buffed this patch; all the cool kids on the forum are respeccing, and no doubt you're wondering if you should, too.

First of all, recognise that it is unlikely that Surv will stay in its' currently buffed state, long term. Apparently there are already calls for Explosive Shot to be nerfed again. So if you switch to Survival, it will still likely be only temporary. If ES is nerfed again, you will eventually need to respec back, if damage is your sole motivation for choice of spec.

Secondly, for Beast Masters, understand that Survival and BM are only really similar playstyles inside an instance, and even then they aren't entirely, due to more complex rotations.

For soloing, the difference becomes much more pronounced. Beast Mastery is largely stationary. You can stand in one place, send your pet, shoot, and for the most part, not have to move, due not only to Intimidation but increase baseline pet threat generation as well, due to higher pet damage. Against single targets anyway, it's much faster and simpler. Send pet, open fire, Feign or Intimidate if necessary, throw Viper up between mobs, and move on.

Survival on the other hand, is a lot more mobile and kinetic, especially for multiple targets. You put a Frost Trap down and then kite things around with Serpent, Lock and Load, and ES/Multi. Rather than simply letting your pet take all of a mob's focus, you occasionally need to pull threat from the pet in order to allow it to survive as well, depending on the situation. Your pet also doesn't hold threat anywhere near as well as with Beast Mastery, so you have to rely on Entrapment, TNT, Wing Clip, Snake/Frost Trap, and your greater degree of range to keep mobs away from you.

It is also true that Beast Mastery is, as the name implies, much more about enhancing the pet. Survival has literally no talents devoted to pet enhancement at all, which seems to be one of the main reasons why some Beast Masters don't like it. About the only pet buff we might get is Survivalist, and even that is secondary, via the Hunter. If you prefer a scenario where you've got a strong pet, rather than it being more about you, you will definitely be happier with BM.

The fourth point is mana efficiency. Both trees can be mana efficient, but Survival solves this problem in a different way. With Beast Mastery, you either put Viper up at the end of a fight, or if the mobs you're fighting are sufficiently weak, you can actually just leave Viper up all the time.

Survival on the other hand has two talents that reduce mana costs. Resourcefulness, which reduces the mana cost of both melee abilities and traps by 60%, and Thrill of the Hunt, which reduces the cost of any mana shot that crits by 45%. Finally, Survival also has Hunting Party, which procs on crit, and works like Viper to passively restore mana while we fight, or for a few seconds after.

A fifth point is our different areas of specialty in PvP terms. Beast Mastery is primarily anti-caster, with Bestial Wrath being able to chew through low armor targets, and also grant immunity to such things as Fear, Frost Nova/frost effects, and Psychic Scream. A Paladin on the other hand, can probably tank Bestial Wrath, and then one or two shot the pet.

Survival is much more anti-melee, being better suited to dealing with Rogues, Warriors, and to a lesser extent Paladins. This is because with Serpent Sting, Explosive Shot, and Immolation Trap, we have a lot of periodic damage which, while being reduced by Resilience, is still somewhat capable of bypassing heavy armor. On the flip side, we do as poorly against casters as BM can against melee, since without Bestial Wrath, we are vulnerable to Fear, frost, roots etc. Surefooted helps a bit, but not that much.

If the only thing you care about is the amount of damage you're going to do, you're probably going to want to temporarily respec to Surv, in order to enjoy the ES buff while it lasts. If, however, you play for other reasons as well, you may or may not want to stay with BM or Marksmanship.

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