TBC Classic Survival Hunter Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities
On this page, you will learn how to optimize the rotation of your Survival Hunter in both single-target and multiple-target PvE situations in TBC Classic. We also have advanced sections about cooldowns, procs, etc. in order to minmax your DPS.
The Survival Hunter rotation is based primarily around one ability: Steady Shot. Steady Shot is the one of the highest DPS abilities that Hunters have in TBC due to its low cast time and high AP scaling ratio compared to other shots. One problem that Hunters faced in Classic was the lack of a filler, and Steady Shot was introduced to fill that role, but ended up scaling too well thanks to a high AP coefficient.
95% of your rotation complexity as a Survival Hunter centers around weaving Steady Shot in between Auto Shot uses. Historically, this was done with a notorious "1-button macro" that BM Hunters could use for near optimal DPS. However, thanks to TBC being on the modern game client, this macro no longer works how it once did, and we will once again need to manually cast our rotation. In addition to Steady Shot, there are two other abilities that will regularly be used in our rotation: Kill Command and Multi-Shot. Kill Command is off the GCD and is only usable after you crit, but is worth using on cooldown whenever you can. Multi-Shot is actually slightly more damage per use than Steady Shot, so you can just press it on cooldown in place of a Steady Shot.
Finding your optimal rotation as a Hunter comes down to your weapon speed. You need to find a strong ratio between your Steady Shot and Auto Shot timers that yields the least downtime.
For instance, if your base weapon speed was hypothetically 2 seconds, with some haste that could get lowered to just above 1.5 seconds. The optimal rotation would be 1:1 then, where you would just alternate between Steady Shot and Auto Shot continuously. It would look like the rotation below.
- Auto Shot;
- Auto Shot;
- Steady Shot;
Again, Kill Command should just be used on cooldown whenever it is available, and you can simply slot in a Multi-Shot use whenever it is off cooldown in place of a Steady Shot use.
The most common version of the rotation will be 1:1.5. This is mostly used for when your hasted weapon speed is 2.2-2.4 seconds, allowing you to combine 2 Steady Shots with 1 other instant cast shot for every 2 Auto Shots. This would be for slower bows, where your weapon speed is around 2.8-3.0 baseline. The rotation looks like as follows.
- Auto Shot;
- Steady Shot;
- Multi-Shot or Arcane Shot;
- Auto Shot - this happens while you're still on GCD right after the instant cast;
- Steady Shot;
- Auto Shot;
There are two AoE spells to mention for Hunters, Multi-Shot and Explosive Trap. Remember that in TBC traps can be used in combat, making Explosive Trap a great AoE burst tool. Multi-Shot is already in our rotation because it is our highest DPS ability even on one target, so adding more targets is just a bonus. Explosive Trap is more of a mass-AoE focused ability however, and is only worth using on 7 or more targets. For Multi-Shot specifically, just replace one of your Steady Shot uses in your rotation with Multi-Shot whenever you want to weave it in.
Volley is also something you can use, but is relatively weak. This is only worth using on huge (10+) groups of enemies, and only if both Explosive Trap and Multi-Shot are on cooldown.
While this was a common practice for Hunters in Classic, it is used significantly less in TBC. While some players will try to utilize it and at certain weapon speeds it can be potentially viable, it is hard to recommend. Melee weaving at best will be a tiny DPS increase when done optimally, but is nearly impossible to do optimally. In Classic, Hunters had huge gaps with downtime in their rotations, making melee weaving much more forgiving. In TBC, thanks to the addition of Steady Shot and more haste in general, the windows where you could melee weave are much harder to hit without wasting Steady Shot cast time or Auto Shot time.
The other major issue with melee weaving is that you need to use a hard-hitting 2H weapon. One-handed fist weapons are currently the optimal setup for Hunters because you can use two Adamantite Weightstones, which are very strong thanks to the damage also scaling your ranged weapon damage. 2H weapons also give worse stats than 1H weapons overall, but the difference is more minor.
If you are set on adding melee weaving into your rotation, then you need to find a Steady Shot to Auto Shot ratio that works for you, where you also have enough time to drop a Raptor Strike somewhere in the cycle. This of course will mostly depend on your weapon speed, and is only possible on bosses where you can stand consistently at 5 yards from the boss. The ideal usage is to use the 1:1.5 rotation shown above, and to replace one of the instant casts every 2 cycles with a Raptor Strike.
There are two important things for your opener: cooldowns and a pre-pull Aimed Shot. Aimed Shot is actually your single hardest hitting ability as a Hunter, but has such a long cast time that Steady Shot does more DPS. This is not an issue on pull since you can use the seconds prior to a boss being pulled to cast it. So, an optimal opener will go as follows.
- Hunter's Mark if you are the designated Hunter applying it;
- Misdirection on the tank - very important so you do not pull threat with your opening burst;
- Aimed Shot timed so you finish the cast as the pull timer hits 0;
- Distracting Shot - this is optional, but is your single highest threat shot. This is the best way to give your tank as much threat as possible on pull, which reduces the likelyhood that someone pulls threat away from them;
- Blood Fury or other racial abilities;
- Rapid Fire;
- Start your normal rotation.
Do not forget that you can use Readiness as well to reset all of your cooldowns after your opener, primarily to get a second Rapid Fire.
Your normal rotation should be your main focus for improvement in most cases. However, there are minor optimizations for your movement. You cannot cast Steady Shot while moving, which means that you can use instant-cast abilities such as Multi-Shot, Arcane Shot, and Serpent Sting while moving for free damage. Depending on how fast the movement required is, remember that you can move and stop briefly every couple of seconds to at least get your Auto Shot off.
Remember to make good use of macros, especially for controlling your pet. Pets require lots of micromanagement since they need to be told what to do. Adding "/petattack" to macros is a great way to ensure your pet is attacking what you do. Similarly, you should have a button to put your pet on passive and call it back to you if needed. Perhaps the most important pet optimization however is if you eventually switch to using a Wind Serpent. Wind Serpents cast Lightning Breath, but they will not cast it often enough on their own. If you add "/cast Lightning Breath" to your rotation macro, it ensures that your Wind Serpent will always use its main DPS ability as much as possible. This is only necessary with a Wind Serpent as your pet.
Finally, do not forget that you should always swap to Aspect of the Viper if you ever need more Mana. Aspect of the Viper is incredibly good for Mana regen, and while you do less damage than in Aspect of the Hawk, being able to get more Steady Shot casts in is worth it.
- 25 May 2021: Guide added.
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