A closer look at survival hunters in Warlords of Draenor

Update 8/22: This article is still mostly accurate but is slightly depreciated. It will give you a good overview of the  overall changes but you may want to view more recent posts under the Survival tag for more info and recent opinions.

If you missed it yesterday, Blizzard released the first version of patch notes for the Warlords of Draenor alpha. I’ve summed up all the relevant hunter info in this post if you want to catch up.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be looking at some of the individual changes in separate posts such as this one — my opinions on them, and what I think they mean for hunters.  Today I’m going to start with the survival spec changes as there seems to be a lot of discussion and concern over the removal of Kill Shot from survival’s toolkit. The news isn’t all bad though. Survival may actually live up to its namesake now.

Serpent Sting

First up is the changes to Serpent Sting. In Warlords, survival will be the only spec who retains this DoT. The major change here is it is no longer applied manually or refreshed with Cobra Shot. It is instead auto-applied to your target with Arcane Shot or Multi-Shot, much like Serpent Spread is now. You’ll always have a DoT ticking on your targets, regardless if it’s a single or multi-target fight.

My thoughts on this are that it’s no big deal really. In most fights we only cast Serpent Sting once anyway, so it’s not like they are removing much complexity. If you want to multidot, simply cast Arcane Shot on the other target (or Multi-Shot if it’s within 8 yards). I think keeping it survival only gives the spec some good flavor.

Changes to Lock and Load

The Lock and Load passive has been changed a little bit. There is still a 20% chance per tick to trigger it, but there is no longer an internal cooldown, which means you could get another LnL proc 3 seconds after the last one. Unfortunately, it does not stack beyond 2 charges, so you’ll want to use up those charges as soon as possible.

The other change is that you will have 1 guaranteed LnL proc per cast of Black Arrow.

No more Kill Shot

This is the controversial change. Only beast mastery and marksmanship will keep Kill Shot. It looks like survival will not have an execute. A lot of people seem to be upset by this one, but don’t forget that survival will make up that execute damage in other ways. It means survival will likely do slightly more damage outside the execute phase compared to the other specs.

You may not kill things in the final 20% as fast as beast mastery, but you will likely get your target to 20% faster than beast mastery could. Also don’t forget survival will be the only spec with a powerful DoT constantly rolling on their target.

That being said, I do enjoy the execute mechanic. I was kind of hoping Blizzard would give each spec their own method of executing. Here are a couple of ideas (these are not patch notes, just me thinking out loud)…

  • Marksmanship: Kill Shot still feels good for marksmanship.
  • Beast Mastery: The Taste of Blood — Every time you cast Kill Command on target below 20% health, the damage of your next Kill Command on that target is increased by 20% for 8 seconds, stacking up to 5 times.
  • Survival: Imminent Doom — Black Arrow and Serpent Sting ticks have a 100% chance to crit on targets below 20%.

We will have to trust Blizzard will compensate survival in other areas. Oh, and these patch notes are nowhere near final.

Bear Trap (removed)

Bear Trap will be a survival-exclusive DPS cooldown which causes a very large bleed and roots the target. Its cooldown will effectively be reduced to around 2 minutes when you factor in the Draenor perks. Many hunters are worried about having an important cooldown restricted by trap mechanics. For example, say there are adds crowded around a boss — how do you guarantee that the Bear Trap will put the bleed on the boss and not an add? When if the boss moves away right as you launch it? “Hey, tank… mind moving the boss over to the left 5 yards so I don’t waste my cooldown”

We’ll have to wait until beta to see how it plays out.

More self-healing

Survivalist is a new survival-only passive abilitiy which heals you for 15% of your max health over 10 sec when you make a killing blow. This is to compensate for the newly added heal from Kill Shot (which survival doesn’t have)

A Closer Look at Survival Perks

You will receive one of these perks every level as you make your way to 100. What perk you receive is totally random, so you may get your favorite one first or last. It should add a little bit of excitement each time you ding. What will you get next?

Enhanced Camouflage: You heal 3% of your maximum health every second while Camouflage is active.

All 3 hunter specs share this perk. It adds some much needed utility and usefulness to Camouflage. Keep in mind that Camo only lasts for 6 seconds when you cast it in combat (and it will automatically stop you from shooting). Where it REALLY gets impressive for survival is this next perk.

Empowered Explosive Shot: Increases the duration of Explosive Shot by 1 sec.

This is more interesting than just “20% more damage” but it’s basically the same thing. All of your Explosive Shots will have an extra tick. The more DoTs rolling on my target, the better. I like the sound of this.

Enhanced Traps: Reduces the cooldown of all traps by 50%.

Traps are getting changed a bit in Warlords. They no longer have an arming time (just the travel time with Trap Launcher). Explosive Trap also applies a DoT to all of the targets in range when it explodes. You no longer have to worry about the tank dragging the mobs out of the AoE zone. This means survival will probably be using this trap a whole lot more in AoE (don’t forget Trap Mastery).

The CC benefits in PvP are obvious. Survival is looking more and more like a great PvP spec in Warlords. The only thing missing is raw burst, but I guess it would be overpowered if they had everything.

Enhanced Entrapment: The root effect of Entrapment now requires an additional 100% damage to break.

This solidifies survival as the trap experts. If you’re unfamiliar with Entrapment, it roots afflicted targets for 4 sec. It does break once a certain amount of damage is done, but now you can deal quite a bit more before it does.


Looking past the Kill Shot thing, I must say I am really liking a lot of these changes. Blizzard said they wanted to give survival its own identity, and I think they’re headed in the right direction. Survival hunters are truly survivalists now.

I am concerned survival doesn’t seem to have any on-demand burst capabilities yet. You can’t guarantee yourself a LnL proc, and you don’t have Rapid Fire anymore either. It’s OK for a spec to be more about RNG and damage over time, but for those boss phases where you need to pour in as much damage as you can in a short period of time, it seems like survival may fall short. Most hunters on the beta seem to think survival is just missing something.

What do you think of these changes? I’ll probably be taking a look at Marksmanship for the next post.

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15 thoughts on “A closer look at survival hunters in Warlords of Draenor”

  1. The way you laid it all out here it sounds better than how I read it. I’ve been a survival hunter since Wrath (when I first started participating in endgame content) and I like having our own identity. I’m sad that we are losing hunter’s mark though: I know that with the ability baked in it doesn’t have an advantage to having it separate, but it’s such an iconic hunter ability and I will be sad to not have it anymore :(.

    1. I try to look at the positive and avoid knee jerk reactions when I can. That being said, I know not everyone is as receptive to change as I am! I really hope that Hunter’s Mark stays in Minor Glyph form just for the visual… it’s something I’ll be mentioning from time to time, so hopefully they take notice.

      1. Same here regarding Hunter’s Mark. Most of the other changes I am looking forward to trying. But I tend to use Hunter’s Mark to keep track of all kinds of stuff, it’s the most iconic ability for me personally.

        Aside from that, I’m really curious how pets are going to work. I feel like a lot of the cc and buff/debuff changes really take away a lot of options. I’m only basing that feeling on a knee jerk reaction however.

  2. I agree with Zarabethe – your layout of this is much nicer than sifting through the vomitous mass of information. I wish Blizz hadn’t done it they way they did. Maybe have a big release of the “intention” sections – but then do a post a day per class, to focus on the implementation of the intentions as it applies to that class/spec. Looking forward to the pet details followup mentioned on twitter…

  3. I think SV will be in a good spot. It will be the DoT spec and tthe change to Explosive Trap looks interesting, but it doesn’t really make sense to still call it a trap. They should just rename it to Explosive Grenade and make it ranged only.

    Camo seems a bit OP atm for SV depending on it’s duration if you cast it just before a pull.

    I don’t think snake trap has been mentioned but I’m assuming it will be removed as well.

  4. SV is so much better now; smoother DoT gaemplay, (though we’ll need to know what’s Black Arrow’s cooldown now), better traps (they didn’t specify which ones are staying, by the way), Camouflage’s boost, a.s.o.

    I don’t think the removal of Kill Shot is that big of a deal for SV, since the spec is always on doing a stable DPS, which isn’t the case with an “Execute” type of ability like KS was. However, that leaves SV without a single baseline DPS burst (hopefully the level 60 talent tier will make up for that).

    My big issue here is the focus generation; even with a dobuled Viper Venom, I don’t think SV will get as good as MM now, thanks to the likes of its cheaper shots and its 120 focus ressource; hence my suggestion : should Cobra Shot be cast more frequently ? How about a faster cast-time ? Or shouldn’t there be no cast-time at all for it ? That’s bugging me the most right now.

    Anyhow, really looking foreward to it; perhaps SV will get back to PVP now X) (the persistant roots + glyphed Camouflage + glyphed Explosive Trap + traps’ CD reduction = very versatile hunter).

  5. SV raiding is certainly what I’m the most excited about. And that Camo, oh my. That will give soloing as SV a huge push. I’m still unsure about the traps. It seems like this must be a PvP sort of change, as it would be a lot of GCDs for PvE, which is somewhat strange when coupled with shared DR. Still, I’d love to see SV viable in PvP.

    Also, great execute mechanic ideas.

  6. It just seems that we’ll be keeping viper venom up, and doing pretty much everything else the same. Suits me. I didn’t see if we keep the 3 focus regen from having serpent sting up still. If we do then we may be “swimming” in focus.

  7. I’m mostly focused on the Marksmanship change, but if Glyphed Camo allows Survival Hunters to move around, shooting, while camo’ed, well, that’s damned tempting for some of us …

  8. I for one really like the lack of an execute for Survival. Survivalists shouldn’t need to bother with a “finishing move,” they let their prey run and wait for the poisons to do their job. Patience and a steady stream of damage works really well into SV’s aesthetic.

  9. How does Improved Camouflage work if you camo before a fight? Will it last the full minute or stop six seconds after the fight starts? I assume the latter, but unless I’m mistaken, as of right now entering combat doesn’t break camo if cast beforehand.

  10. PVE, SV will be as good, if not better, than it is right now. Trading KS for a 30% heal is a solid trade especially considering the healing changes. Imp Camo + revised GotN = 50% health in 6s. Boo ya.

    PVP, SV will be as bad as it is right now. No LnL procs from traps, no KS, our only burst tied to a focus-expensive, dispellable dot…well, at least we might live long enough for our teammates to reinforce the node.

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