Shot Rotations for Dummies

While reading some threads over at Blog Azeroth, there were some questions regarding shot rotations for Hunters. I linked some of the popular references for rotation information, but some people asked for a description that didn’t require a math degree to understand. So this post is my attempt to explain the shot rotation.

1. What is a shot rotation?

A shot rotation is the order in which you fire your shots in order to maximize your DPS, as well as conserving your mana so that you can continue attacking for the duration of a fight.

2. Why is it important?

The Auto-Shot mechanic works a little different than Auto-Attack does. You can essentially “lose” your Auto-Shot if you use an attack like Steady Shot right before your Auto-Shot goes off. So if you are casting Steady Shot during the interval when your gun or bow would have fired, you have essentially lost that one shot forever. If you do this repeatedly, you will suffer in DPS. It is important to understand the concept of a shot rotation and weaving shots in order to maximize your DPS and prevent this clipping effect.

An important thing to understand is your weapon speed and your Auto-Shot timer. Most of the time, they are the same thing. For example, my Gladiator’s Heavy Crossbow attacks every 2.7 seconds after factoring in my quiver and any other haste I might have. So if I stand still and let it Auto-Shoot, I will fire an arrow every 2.7 seconds.

(Click on the images to enlarge them)

The idea of a shot rotation is what other attacks I can fit in that 2.7 seconds before my Auto-Shot goes off again. This is commonly referred to as “weaving your shots.” For example, if we want to “weave” a Steady Shot in between our Auto-Shots, we would wait for an Auto-Shot to fire, hit our Steady Shot button, and then wait for Auto-Shot to fire again before we fired another Steady Shot.

As you can see, we still have a lot of time after our Steady Shot goes off before our Auto-Shot will fire. So let’s now squeeze in an Arcane Shot. Something important to remember is that every shot you fire is going to trigger the Global Cooldown, which is 1.5 seconds. Since Steady Shot has a 1.5 second cast time, the Global Cooldown is expired as soon as the shot fires, allowing us to follow immediately with something else. Make note, however, that with your Quiver and Serpent’s Swiftness (if you have it) it decreases the cast time of Steady Shot. However, the Global Cooldown of 1.5 seconds remains unchanged so at this point it is irrelevant.

So what you see happening now is that the Global Cooldown is overlapping our Auto-Shot. This doesn’t stop our Auto-Shot from shooting; it just prevents us from firing our Steady Shot till a little later into our Auto-Shot timer. As a Marksman Hunter, I have 5 points in Improved Arcane Shot. This brings my Arcane Shot cooldown to 5 seconds. This allows me to fire Arcane Shot during the Auto-Shot cooldown every other rotation.

Let’s keep a running time total of the time spent with our shots to see how that works.

I turn on Auto-Shot, and fire a Steady Shot, followed quickly by Arcane Shot which triggers the Global Cooldown (1.5 seconds). My Auto-Shot goes off, in which I follow with a Steady Shot the moment the GCD is ready. This is a 1.5 second cast (3 seconds). There is a small amount of dead time following that Steady Shot before the next Auto-Shot fires, which is equal to about 0.9 seconds (4.4 seconds). After that Auto-Shot, I quickly fire Steady Shot again (5.9 seconds) and I can now fire Arcane Shot again. Of course this is in a perfect, lag-free world.

Now looking at the numbers I have above, you notice that by the time I fire Arcane Shot again, I have almost hit the 6 second mark. What is the importance of this? It means that I could have used a slightly faster gun or bow and still managed to get my Arcane Shot off. For example, if I was using my Sunfury Bow of the Phoenix with its 2.9 speed, my quiver would have dropped the attack speed to approximately 2.52 seconds. This would have still allowed me to fire an Arcane Shot every other rotation, but my Auto-Shots would have come quicker, which means more DPS over the course of a long fight.

The tighter your rotation is, the more DPS you do. So the best ranged weapon is the one that allows you to fire your shots with the shortest amount of dead time between them.

Now if you find yourself on an unstable connection, or one that is prone to lots of lag, a slower weapon might be better for you. This extra dead time like you see in my diagram can be very beneficial for you, as it gives you a larger window to get that Steady Shot off before you clip an Auto-Shot. And remember, in my example I am using the Season 1 Gladiator Crossbow that takes a whooping 3.1 seconds to fire, before factoring in quiver and other bonuses. 3.1 seconds is an eternity for ranged weapons.

Another important note to remember is that if you are a Beast Mastery Hunter this concept of weaving shots becomes incredibly easy. Your shot rotation consists of Auto-Shot, Steady Shot, Auto-Shot, Steady Shot, and on and on and on. This is due to the talent Serpent’s Swiftness. It essentially makes your attack speed fast enough that you cannot squeeze in any other attacks between those two shots without clipping something.

If you have any questions, comments, or corrections, please feel free to leave a response or fire off an e-mail my way. Hope this can help some of you!

Also if you decide you want to get more in-depth in understanding shot rotations, feel free to visit these links:
Shot Rotation on Elitist Jerks
TKA Something Shot Rotations

About Drotara

Drotara (or BehemothDan) considers himself a geek on many levels. A web developer and programmer by trade, he has no shortage of geeky hobbies. When not fulfilling husband and daddy duties, he enjoys WoW, the WoW TCG, Magic: The Gathering, and great board games with friends and family.