Survival Hunter DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities — Battle for Azeroth (BfA) 8.1

Last updated on Dec 10, 2018 at 14:27 by Azortharion 63 comments

On this page, you will learn how to optimize the rotation of your Survival Hunter in both single-target and multiple-target situations. We also have advanced sections about cooldowns, procs, etc. in order to minmax your DPS. All our content is updated for World of Warcraft — Battle for Azeroth (BfA) 8.1.

1. Single Target Rotation

The single target rotation for a Survival Hunter is based on the following priority system:

  1. Use Coordinated Assault Icon Coordinated Assault on cooldown.
  2. Cast Kill Command Icon Kill Command on cooldown, if it will not Focus cap you.
  3. Cast Wildfire Bomb Icon Wildfire Bomb on cooldown, but only when the DoT is close to expiring.
  4. When you get a Viper's Venom Icon Viper's Venom proc, cast Serpent Sting Icon Serpent Sting to spend it immediately.
  5. Maintain the Serpent Sting Icon Serpent Sting DoT by refreshing it whenever there is less than 3 seconds remaining on it. This is rarely needed with Viper's Venom Icon Viper's Venom.
  6. Cast Raptor Strike Icon Raptor Strike to spend Focus, always trying to prevent yourself from hitting the Focus cap.

2. Alpha Predator Rotation

This rotation is for people using the Alpha Predator Icon Alpha Predator and Mongoose Bite Icon Mongoose Bite talents. Despite what you might first think, this talent adds some complexity to the rotation's decision-making.

The most notable change is that Kill Command Icon Kill Command's second charge in particular does not have a very high priority. You still want to Kill Command regularly, especially in order to ensure that you reach 5 stacks of Mongoose Fury Icon Mongoose Fury quickly and every time. When Mongoose Fury does reach 5 stacks, then spending that Focus on highly efficient Mongoose Bite Icon Mongoose Bites to the end of the Fury window becomes a higher priority than generating Focus with Kill Command.

  1. Use Coordinated Assault Icon Coordinated Assault on cooldown, or when it best suits the fight.
  2. Apply the Serpent Sting Icon Serpent Sting DoT if it has fallen off.
  3. Cast Wildfire Bomb Icon Wildfire Bomb if it is about to reach 2 charges. For specifics on different Infusions, read further below.
  4. Cast Mongoose Bite Icon Mongoose Bite when you have 5 stacks of Mongoose Fury Icon Mongoose Fury.
  5. Cast Kill Command Icon Kill Command to generate Focus for casting more Mongoose Bite Icon Mongoose Bites. A 5-stack Mongoose Bite is a higher priority, however.
  6. Refresh Serpent Sting Icon Serpent Sting when it is a few seconds from expiring. If you are using Birds of Prey Icon Birds of Prey, do not refresh Serpent Sting during Coordinated Assault Icon Coordinated Assault.
  7. Cast Mongoose Bite Icon Mongoose Bite. You should try and start Mongoose Fury Icon Mongoose Fury windows at 60 Focus or above.
  8. During downtime in the rotation when there is nothing to do or manage, you can cast your Wildfire Bomb Icon Wildfire Bomb under certain conditions.

2.1. Wildfire Infusion Usage

Managing your Wildfire Infusion Icon Wildfire Infusion bombs is an important part of getting the most out of the spec. Most of these rules apply to Viper's Venom Icon Viper's Venom/Tip of the Spear Icon Tip of the Spear builds as well, but without the requirements of managing Mongoose Fury Icon Mongoose Fury.

  • Volatile Bomb Icon Volatile Bomb is green, and it refreshes your Serpent Sting Icon Serpent Sting DoT. You should try to use this only when Serpent Sting is close to expiring, or if you are about to reach 2 charges of Wildfire Bomb Icon Wildfire Bomb. Not capping on charges is a more important consideration than anything else. You can also use it if Serpent Sting is up when there is nothing else to do.
  • Shrapnel Bomb Icon Shrapnel Bomb is blue, and it should be used when you are at 60 Focus or above, as this will allow you to build 3 stacks of the bleed before it expires. Ideally, you should save this for when you know that you will be able to do 3 Mongoose Bite Icon Mongoose Bites within its short duration. This is more often the case outside of Mongoose Fury Icon Mongoose Fury windows, when you are pooling a bit of Focus to start a new one. If there is nothing else to do in your rotation, you can use this if you have more than 50 Focus.
  • Pheromone Bomb Icon Pheromone Bomb is red, and it should be used when you are at low Focus. Before using this bomb, you should try to dump as much Focus with Mongoose Bite Icon Mongoose Bite as possible. Ideally, you will get 3 Kill Command Icon Kill Commands off without Focus capping during the debuff. If there is nothing else to do in your rotation, you can cast it regardless of your Focus level.

3. Multiple Target Rotation

Whenever fighting multiple targets of any number, you should spend any time where you are not casting high-priority abilities on cooldown by refreshing and applying Serpent Sting Icon Serpent Sting to all targets you are fighting. If you are using the Hydra's Bite Icon Hydra's Bite talent, this becomes less of an issue.

On 2 targets and above, your rotation remains the same as normal, although you should ensure that you have both targets in the cone of your Wildfire Bomb Icon Wildfire Bomb. You should also be using Carve Icon Carve to reduce the cooldown of Wildfire Bomb Icon Wildfire Bomb.

The most important thing to note is that the multi-target rotation can get very Focus expensive. You should always make sure to cast Kill Command Icon Kill Command on cooldown.

Especially on a lot of targets (5+), you can risk wasting a lot of Carve Icon Carve's cooldown reduction on Wildfire Bomb Icon Wildfire Bomb if you do not make sure to cast Wildfire Bomb directly on cooldown. In those situations it is usually worth delaying Carve for a global in order to cast Wildfire Bomb first.

With the recommended Azerite trait Latent Poison Icon Latent Poison, you should try to only consume stacks when they are either very high, or if the target is going to die soon. You cannot play like you do on a single-target, because there is not enough Focus to constantly consume stacks on multiple targets. You need Focus to cast Carve Icon Carve on cooldown, and refresh Serpent Sting Icon Serpent Sting on multiple targets.

4. Cooldown Usage

As a Survival Hunter, your main DPS cooldown is Coordinated Assault Icon Coordinated Assault. It is a hefty, flat damage increase, and it makes the cooldown of Kill Command Icon Kill Command reset much more often.

5. Opener Sequence

This section describes the recommended way to start the fight as a Survival Hunter. It assumes you are using the recommended talents for the spec.

  1. Just before the encounter starts, use your combat potion.
  2. About 1.5 seconds before the encounter starts, use Coordinated Assault Icon Coordinated Assault.
  3. Apply Serpent Sting Icon Serpent Sting.
  4. Cast Wildfire Bomb Icon Wildfire Bomb.
  5. Cast Raptor Strike Icon Raptor Strike once to burn a little Focus.
  6. Cast Kill Command Icon Kill Command to put it on cooldown.
  7. Proceed with your normal rotation, generating and spending as much Focus as possible without capping it, and reacting to Viper's Venom Icon Viper's Venom procs as they come up.

6. Optional Read: Mastering Your Survival Hunter

While the rotations we gave in the previous sections will yield very good results, there are many things you should be aware of, in order to play your Survival Hunter to its full potential. You will need to understand all the subtleties, pertaining to your abilities, rotations, and cooldown usage, that we present below.

6.1. Focus

Hunters and their pets use a unique resource, called Focus. Focus works in much the same way as other class resources, like Rage and Energy, in the sense that some abilities grant Focus, while others cost Focus to be used.

A Survival Hunter's Focus has a maximum capacity of 100, and regenerates at a slow rate that varies by spec. In addition to this passive flow of incoming Focus, certain talents and abilities will amplify your Focus regeneration, or simply generate more of it.

Most of the abilities in the hunter rotation cost Focus to use, and some talents decrease the Focus costs, or offer other ways to gain additional Focus.

Hunter pet Focus works similarly, and is of no concern to you as you cannot do anything to modify it, nor will you be casting pet abilities manually.

As a general rule, you should always have enough Focus to cast your abilities as soon as they come off cooldown, but also to never have 100 Focus (as any extra Focus you generate would then go to waste).

6.2. Detailed Cooldown Usage

6.2.1. Coordinated Assault

Coordinated Assault Icon Coordinated Assault's main effect outside of its damage increase is that the cooldown of Kill Command Icon Kill Command will reset much more often. This does not have a direct effect on your rotation, since you will prioritize and use Kill Command according to the same rules. You should always try to use Coordinated Assault on high Focus with Kill Command already on cooldown, and Wildfire Bomb Icon Wildfire Bomb recently used.

7. Talents and the Rotation

7.1. Tier 1 Talents

Viper's Venom Icon Viper's Venom procs should be spent immediately by casting Serpent Sting Icon Serpent Sting, provided that Kill Command and Wildfire Bomb are both on cooldown.

Terms of Engagement Icon Terms of Engagement means that Harpoon Icon Harpoon should be used on cooldown as a low-priority ability. Try to use it when you are on low Focus and would otherwise cast Raptor Strike Icon Raptor Strike

Alpha Predator Icon Alpha Predator changes the way you treat Kill Command Icon Kill Command and other abilities. You can see a detailed rundown of the Alpha Predator rotation in the fully-fledged rotation section above.

7.2. Tier 2 Talents

Guerrilla Tactics Icon Guerrilla Tactics allows you to cast 2 Wildfire Bomb Icon Wildfire Bombs back-to-back. However, because the debuff from the Bomb lasts for 6 seconds, you should never cast two Bombs within 6 seconds of each other, as this will overwrite and waste you ticks of the debuff.

Hydra's Bite Icon Hydra's Bite allows you to use Serpent Sting Icon Serpent Sting to automatically multi-DoT several targets. Simply keep in mind how many nearby targets are affected by Serpent Sting. If any of them are missing, cast Serpent Sting directly on them or a nearby target to refresh it.

Butchery Icon Butchery should be used on cooldown on 2 targets and above.

7.3. Tier 4 Talents

Bloodseeker Icon Bloodseeker's encourages you to cycle the targets you cast Kill Command Icon Kill Command on, especially when you get resets on Kill Command's cooldown. Whenever possible, you should try to cast Kill Command on a different target each time in multi-target situations to get the most out of the attack speed buff.

Steel Trap Icon Steel Trap should be used on cooldown.

A Murder of Crows Icon A Murder of Crows should be cast on cooldown. You can get even more damage out of it by casting it on targets that are about 10 seconds from dying. When they die, this will reset the cooldown of the ability and allow you to use it again for a large damage boost.

7.4. Tier 6 Talents

Tip of the Spear Icon Tip of the Spear means that you should never cast Kill Command Icon Kill Command more than 3 times in a row. This rarely happens anyway, but is worth keeping in mind to not waste the buff. You should not try to stack the buff to 3 stacks before using Raptor Strike Icon Raptor Strike.

Mongoose Bite Icon Mongoose Bite replaces Raptor Strike Icon Raptor Strike. It has the same cost and its role in the rotation is the same, but because of Mongoose Fury Icon Mongoose Fury, you want to use it in a way that allows the highest amount of Mongoose Bites in the 14-second window. Most importantly, you want to start Mongoose Fury windows (by casting the first Mongoose Bite to start the buff) at high Focus and with Kill Command Icon Kill Command on cooldown.

Flanking Strike Icon Flanking Strike should be used on cooldown when you are at a large Focus deficit.

7.4.1. Tier 7 Talents

Birds of Prey Icon Birds of Prey can impact your rotation slightly. If you are at the end of Coordinated Assault Icon Coordinated Assault and you have a pool of Focus left, then you should cast Raptor Strike Icon Raptor Strike repeatedly to extend the buff and spend all your Focus within the buff. This is a higher priority than any other cast during this period.

Wildfire Infusion Icon Wildfire Infusion does not directly impact your rotation by itself. However, the Pheromone Bomb Icon Pheromone Bomb effect causes Kill Command Icon Kill Command to always reset its cooldown which will impact how you play, although the same rules apply to Kill Command usage as normal. Additionally, if Serpent Sting Icon Serpent Sting is just about to expire, but Volatile Bomb Icon Volatile Bomb is coming up, you should simply refresh your Serpent Sting using the Bomb, rather than manually refreshing it.

If you are also using Guerrilla Tactics Icon Guerrilla Tactics with this talent, you can save the Volatile Bomb until you would otherwise refresh Serpent Sting manually, since you have 2 charges to play around with. Note that it is never worth reaching 2 charges.

Shrapnel Bomb Icon Shrapnel Bomb causes your Raptor Strike Icon Raptor Strike to apply a stacking bleed. It is worth pooling about 60 Focus before using Shrapnel Bomb, as this will allow you to cast multiple Raptor Strikes immediately after Shrapnel Bomb, allowing you to stack the bleed up quickly.

Chakrams Icon Chakrams should be used on cooldown.

8. Changelog

  • 10 Dec. 2018: This page has been reviewed for Patch 8.1 and no changes are necessary.
  • 12 Oct. 2018: Added note about Serpent Sting usage during Coordinated Assault with Birds of Prey.
  • 24 Sep. 2018: Reworded/simplified the Kill Command line of the AP rotation slightly.
  • 20 Sep. 2018: Added note about Alpha Predator changing the rotation.
  • 18 Sep. 2018: Added an Alpha Predator section to the rotation, catered towards slightly more advanced players, since we recommend Viper's Venom for most people and the DPS gain is miniscule.
  • 27 Aug. 2018: Expanded and updated on the Survival multi-target rotation.
  • 26 Aug. 2018: It is now worth it to refresh Serpent Sting during Mongoose Fury. Updated the guide accordingly.
  • 25 Aug. 2018: Added note about not wasting Wildfire Bomb ticks with Guerrilla Tactics.
  • 24 Aug. 2018: Added Coordinated Assault to the rotation priority list.
  • 18 Aug. 2018: Added note about not attempting to play around Tip of the Spear more than necessary.
  • 17 Aug. 2018: Added note about deliberately extending Coordinated Assault at the end of its duration, when using the Birds of Prey talent.
  • 13 Aug. 2018: Updated the usage of Shrapnel Bomb from Wildfire Infusion slightly.
  • 12 Aug. 2018: Updated for Battle for Azeroth launch.
  • 04 Aug. 2018: Expanded on the Mongoose Bite talent's effect on the rotation.
  • 31 Jul. 2018: Small additions to some talents' effect on the rotation.
    • Expanded Butchery usage to cover 2 targets, whereas Carve is >3.
    • Added note about not refreshing Serpent Sting during Mongoose Fury.
  • 23 Jul. 2018: Expanded on single-target rotation using Guerrilla Tactics.
  • 19 Jul. 2018: Expanded on the impact that Wildfire Infusion can have on your rotation when trying to play optimally.
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