An In-Depth Look at Survival Talents

The Survival tree and the talents that work in conjunction with it are interesting beasts. Putting your talents into Survival for a raid setting will not provide you with the top place in the damage meters. But that doesn’t mean you cannot do great DPS. Having a single Survival Hunter in the raid is similar to the reason some raids bring a single Arms Warrior. They want Blood Frenzy from the Warrior and they want Expose Weakness from you.

When you spec Survival, while BM Hunters may brag about their DPS output, you will brag about your paper doll stats. Your unbuffed agility and your ungodly critical strike chance.

But which talents do we want when we spec for raiding Survival? Let’s start at the top. And by the top, I mean the first level of talents.

Our first set of talents consist of Monster Slaying, Humanoid Slaying, Hawk Eye, and . . umm . . Savage Strikes. Well lets get this out of the way. See Savage Strikes? It doesn’t exist. YOU ARE DEAD TO ME! Now we can talk about the good talents.

Hawk Eye is probably one of the greatest talents available to us. Many people under-estimate the value of 6 more yards. For one, it makes out-ranging AoE from many bosses trivially easy. Any talent spec even delving into Survival should have this talent.

As far as the Slaying talents go, many people take 3 points in each because it will help them get past later tiers of talents, although this may not be beneficial for PvP purposes. Whether you take both Slaying talents depends on your decisions in the next tier of choices.

Here we have two great PvP and 5/10-man talents. The question is, how much do we want them in raiding situations? And how detrimental can they be to us?

Entrapment and Improved Wing Clips are both talents that rely on procs, and both can be absolutely great in a PvP environment. But many people will tell you, these procs at the wrong time can get people killed. When a mob becomes immobilized it will stop and hit the highest person on their aggro list that is in their range. That may be you, a tank, or worse . . . a healer. And while in most raid instances there is not really a place for Frost Traps, the possibility is there. If you are looking at a hybrid PvE/PvP build, skipping Monster Slaying and picking up a point or two in Entrapment might be beneficial to you. Just be wary.

Personally, I never take Deflection as I find the talent not needed at all. For a straight PvE build, I take Improved Wing Clip, because if that happens to proc on a mob that is not immune it’s usually only a single mob that was targeting you anyways.

If you chose to take both Slaying talents or Entrapment, 3/3 Improved Wingclip will allow you to move to Tier 3.

This is a strong tier of talents, especially for 5-man instances and 10-man raids. While your trapping in 25-man instances is almost nil, Clever Traps can be huge when you are responsible for maintaining crowd control in a smaller setting. In fact, if you are heading down Survival at all with the intent of farming heroics, it is definitely worth it.

Deterrence is an “Oh crap” talent, and can be useful in Arenas when you find yourself facing melee, but in raids it is generally not worth the point unless you need to get yourself to the next talent tier, and those “Holycrapheisalmostdeadburnhimdownnow” situations.

Survivalist is a great talent which is perfect to pick up on our way to deeper talents. Even if you don’t take all 5 points, 8% more health can make a huge difference when you suffer damage from residual boss damage from things like AoE or randomly targeted effects.

So far I have only put 16 points in my tree so far, 9 points on the first row, taking Humanoid and Monster Slaying as well as Hawk Eye. I then took 3 points in Improved Wing Clip, followed by 4 points in Survivalist.

And our next choices for talents comes with an All-Star option. Surefooted is an incredible choice, providing us with +3% hit and increases your chance to resist movement impairing effects by 15% The hit chance effectively lowers the hit rating cap for us, down to 95. And you will find that hitting 95 is ridiculously easy. In fact you will probably have lots of openings for re-evaluating your gear choices in favor of raw stats. For example, Worgen Claw Necklace versus Saber Claw Talisman? Saber Claw wins.

Some people swear by Improve Feign Death and some say it’s worthless. This comes down to personal preference. How often do you find yourself threat-capped due to a Feign Death getting resisted? If you feel it’s a problem, it’s worth dropping a point into.

Now I complain about my traps getting resisted a lot. Ask Warbull or Moirainne. It’s ridiculous. But despite my complaints I have never taken Trap Mastery. If I am specced into Survival I never have a problem controlling mobs it seems, as I take Clever Traps a lot. And for 25-man raids I am not in the position where I need to Freezing Trap anything.

Now if you take nothing but Surefooted and have currently put your points into the same things I have, you need 1 more point to get to the next level. Your most viable options are one in Improved Feign Death, Deterrence, Clever Traps, or Trap Mastery. Place it where you feel would benefit you the most.

This row of talents is a no-brainer really. Killer Instincts and Survival Instincts are amazing talents with totals that just so happen to equal 5 points to get you down to the next tier. Unless you are planning on a hardcore PvP Survival build, Counterattack is not worth it for raiding or instances in my opinion.

We are now getting into the bread and butter of the Survival tree. Lightning Reflexes is one of the hottest talents around. Ask any other class if they would like a talent that increases their main stat by 15%. See what their answer is. While some people enjoy Resourcefulness for the short trap cooldown especially when it’s coupled with Clever Traps, sticking the 5 points in Lightning Reflexes and moving on is going to allow us the most flexibility in the other trees.

Welcome to the reason a Survival Hunter is wanted in 25-man raids. This is it. Expose Weakness. This talent isn’t even an option. As soon as this row of talents light up, drop 3 points in it. The other talent, Thrill of the Hunt, is one of my personal favorites. It goes a long way in helping with your mana efficiency. A loooong way. As a Survival Hunter, your critical strike chance will be huge, which directly translates into returned mana. Two critical strikes from Steady Shot pays for a third Steady Shot. And if you are the Hunter that ends up taking Improved Hunter’s Mark, you are going to definitely want to have this talent if you do not get Efficiency as well.

Wyvern Sting can be very useful in small groups as far as a CC goes. You have to be careful however that someone doesn’t try to re-CC the mob until you apply Scorpid Sting to remove the DoT. It can be a lot of fun in PvP when used in combination with a Freezing Trap and keeping two targets CC’ed. It annoys them a lot. But as far as raiding goes, there isn’t much use for it.

We will talk about the last 2 talents together, since they are linked.

Let me get this out of the way. Readiness is a great talent in theory and in casual conversation. There are a few applications where you can use it too. But take into consideration the actual cooldowns you would be resetting with this talent. In reality, your cooldowns consist of Rapid Fire, Feign Death, your traps, and Misdirection. And those are not a bad list by any means. Double Misdirection with chaining Rapid Fires? Yes please.

But the problem here is Master Tactician. This talent gets worse as your gear gets better. If you are a fledgling Survival Hunter barely pulling out a 30% critical strike chance, having this proc and jumping to 40% is a great boost. However if you are even relatively well-geared, you will already be sitting at 40-45% critical strike chance. And a jump from 45 to 55% is far less noticeable. Once you hit almost 50% crit chance, in theory you are critting every other shot on paper at least. And over the course of a long fight you can track difference, but you will already be maintaining Expose Weakness the whole time.

And the other options you can get in other trees, or fleshing out a few other Survival ones you wanted might be a better option.

So now that we have worked out the Survival tree, there are a few required talents every Hunter should have, so I will just point them out briefly since you should have them already. You should have 5/5 Lethal Shots, and then choose between Efficiency or Improved Hunter’s Mark depending on your other Hunters, followed by 2/2 Go for the Throat, Aimed Shot, and 2/2 Rapid Killing. Then drop 5 in Mortal Shots.

If you have followed my spec so far, you have exactly 5 points left. But where to put them? There is an important decision to make here. And that decision is Scatter Shot. It is almost a required PvP skill in my book. Trapping in instances and 10-mans is infinitely easy with Scatter Shot. But do you want to drop that single point to get it? This is all dependent on your level of content and whether or not you went all the way down to Readiness. Because if you did, your spec is done. All points have been used.

Personally when I respec back to Survival my options are going to be between Improved Aspect of the Hawk or Improved Arcane Shot. Some popular builds also take Barrage.

So right now my final build looks something like this.

I highly recommend checking out http://www.nightdrifter.com for more specific builds and a lot more math regarding things like Expose Weakness and what not. It is a great site and Alu knows a ton about Survival Hunters.

My last recommendation is that if you are looking to maximize your PvE DPS, pick up a Wind Serpent. Lightning Breath costs 50 focus, which just so happens to be how much Focus your pet gains when you score a critical strike. Which you are going to be doing a lot. Coupled with the fact that Lightning Breath has no cooldown, and is a spell so it ignores armor, it is working out great for pet DPS.

This was a long post, hopefully you were able to bear with me. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or corrections, feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

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.