Updated: These simulations and some of this information is now outdated after we’ve received more hotfixes in the weeks since this was posted. The overall point of the article still stands, but you should know the following:
- Survival has the highest single target DPS potential (especially with Focusing Shot, but also Lone Wolf in many cases). Its AoE is also very strong.
- Marksmanship remains strong single target, but has weak AoE.
- Beast Mastery has the weakest single target (just a smidge below MM), but it’s AoE is very good.
- Specs are within 5-10% of each other for single target DPS (varies depending on your gear).
- Updated simulations for patch 6.1
Original post follows.
A post I made a little over a week ago about spec inequality and bad attitudes towards players who choose not to play the “best” spec ended up generating a lot of discussion in the community. At the time, marksmanship was simply doing more single target damage. I argued it wasn’t such a gap that you should feel guilty for playing something else, but some people have a hard time just saying “no” to extra damage.
Well, we don’t have to worry about this stuff anymore. The specs are now relatively balanced after a couple of rounds of hotfixes. Here is the gist of what was changed:
- Aimed Shot and Kill Shot damage was nerfed by 10%
- Serpent Sting damage was buffed by 60%
- Focus Fire now grants 25% bonus attack power when used at 5 stacks (up from 10%) via the Draenor perk
These changes were enough to get the specs so close together that I feel comfortable in saying you can play anything you want, even in a competitive/progression group. Let’s take a look at each spec’s strengths.
Marksmanship: Good single target
Marksmanship will still come out on top for those situations where you have mostly single target damage and little movement (where you can keep Sniper Training up 80+% of the time). Marksmanship also has other strengths such as being able to burst down adds (such as on Brackenspore) extremely quickly.
While it will come out ahead in that specific situation, this difference is 5% or less. One could argue you’ll do just as well as BM or SV if you play it better.
Is Marksmanship your preferred spec? Then play it.
Beast Mastery: The AoE King
Beast Mastery excels at 5+ target AoE, but it’s also pretty good at single target and 2-3 target cleave as well. The Focus Fire buff was immediately noticeable for me. Not just on the meters, but beefier Kill Command crits! It further emphasizes just how important Focus Fire is now. It’s literally your highest priority button.
The only thing that sucks is when you get unlucky streaks and no procs for an extended period of time. It is rare, but I am thinking about making a WeakAura to track the stacks and timer now. I’d rather use a 3 or 4 stack that’s about to expire than lose it completely. On the flip side, you can sometimes get really lucky and have another Focus Fire ready even before your current one is finished.
Is Beast Mastery your preferred spec? Then play it.
Survival: Jack of all Trades
Survival excels at 2-3 target cleave, but it’s also very good at single target (it can even be the best if you have a lot of multistrike), and also very good at 5+ target AoE (just slightly behind BM). Basically it can do everything well. The Serpent Sting buff was a small single target buff, but a tremendous cleave and AoE buff.
Survival’s sustained damage is quite high, but it has very little burst to speak of. You will most likely see yourself slowly rise on the meters as the fight progresses and you get past everyone else’s opening burst. Once you get into execute range, you will start to see others catch up to you. If the idea of high sustained damage (basically the same DPS for the entire fight) appeals to you, then Survival may be your thing. As mentioned above, the cleave and AoE is also excellent after this buff.
Is Survival your preferred spec? Then play it.
What spec are you best at?
That is the real question! Small differences in DPS can be erased or reversed if you are more comfortable with one spec over the other. That’s the beauty of having the specs as close as they are now. No need to worry about losing “potential” DPS anymore. The gap is small enough that quality of play will be the biggest deciding factor in how well you do with each spec.
These simulations were outdated so they’ve been removed. For some patch 6.1 sims, see this post: http://eyesofthebeast.com/2015/02/patch-6-1-shrinking-gap-specs/
What about Lone Wolf?
Lone Wolf is still strong for single target, there’s no denying it. The gap between the talents is much less for survival. This is probably due to its elemental mastery and the fact that Serpent Sting is not buffed by Lone Wolf. For me it was less than 1k DPS between Exotic Munitions and Lone Wolf. The gap is probably a bit bigger for MM. Focusing Shot is theoretically higher than Lone Wolf, but that is under ideal conditions (and again, the gap is very tiny).
In my opinion, if they were to very slightly buff Exotic Munitions (just the Poisoned Ammo) it would put the whole talent tier in a better place. Not a big buff. Just a little one to get it closer.
My results in the real world line up with what I see in the sims. If you want a good place to test this stuff out, I recommend hopping into LFR. Unlike previous LFRs, you don’t have to worry about wipe fests. Just have fun testing out the specs and talents you want on live target dummies!
I personally am running a BM and SV dual spec for the time being. I’m not sure how much I’ll actually use SV, but I will endeavor to use it on a couple of fights at least. BM is still my preferred choice.
TLDR: Just play what you want.