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Scattered Shots: The misunderstood hunter abilities

Brian Wood

Welcome to Scattered Shots, written by Frostheim of Warcraft Hunters Union and the Hunting Party Podcast. Each week Frostheim uses logic and science mixed with a few mugs of Dwarven Stout to look deep into the Hunter class.

We hunters are a misunderstood class in so many ways. Other classes don't understand how our bond with our pets reaches beyond logic and min-maxing. They don't understand that though our class is insanely easy to solo and level with, we are one of the most difficult ranged DPS classes to play well in raids. They don't understand that we're just, well, cooler than them.

But we're not here today to discuss the mental failings of other classes. We are here to discuss some of the hunter abilities most commonly misunderstood by hunters themselves. Sometimes the problem is the convoluted WoW tooltips that seem deliberately designed to confuse readers. Sometimes our abilities have interesting mechanics that aren't reflected in the tooltips at all, and of course sometimes people just plain misread abilities.

Join me after the cut as we take a look at the three abilities most commonly misunderstood by hunters and explain how they really work. Not a week goes by that I don't get at least one email or comment about every one of these abilities.

Noxious Stings

The confusion with Noxious Stings over in the Survival talent tree lies in the fact that it has two unrelated effects, and many hunters mistakenly believe the two effects are the same. Here's what the tooltip says:
If Wyvern Sting is dispelled, the dispeller is also afflicted by Wyvern Sting lasting 50% of the duration remaining, and increases all damage done by you on targets afflicted by your Serpent Sting by 3%.
From a raid DPS perspective, we don't care about Wyvern Sting at all. We're shooting the boss, and as raid CC goes, Wyvern Sting is a horrible one. The important thing to note is the second effect of this talent, which has nothing to do with Wyvern Sting.

Ignore everything before the "and" in the tooltip. Everything after that conjunction is a separate ability. As long as we have Serpent Sting on our target, all damage we do is increased by 3% (with all three ranks of the talent). You don't ever need to fire Wyvern Sting to benefit from that effect. You only need Serpent Sting on your target -- which we're keeping up anyway -- and all the rest of your damage is boosted by 3%. That's why every SV hunter has that talent!

Aimed Shot

Without question Aimed Shot is a purely confusing tooltip. It's the kind of instruction manual you would expect from, say, a race of people that irradiated their entire homeland, forcing them to freeload off a great and overly kind nation. The misunderstanding of Aimed Shot is also one of the most fervently argued. Here's what the tooltip says:
An aimed shot that increases ranged damage by 408 and reduces healing done to that target by 50%. Lasts 10 sec.
Once again we have an ability with two separate effects. What trips most hunters up -- and understandably, I think -- is the wording of the damage increase. Many hunters read this to mean that Aimed Shot will increase the damage of all their ranged attacks by 408 for the entire 10 seconds of the debuff. It does not!

The damage increase only refers to the single Aimed Shot damage itself, and nothing else. In other words it's firing a shot that does normal damage plus 408. The 10 seconds refers only to the healing debuff and nothing else. This is easy enough to test, it just takes a lot of time and ammo. Sit at a target dummy with no one else there and fire 1,000 auto shots (with no proc gear on). Note the average hit and crit damage. Now do the same thing but keep Aimed Shot up the entire time. You'll see no statistically significant change in your average shot damage.

Aimed Shot is still a great shot for all specs, and an essential one for MM. It's an instant shot that can be cast on the move, and it's boosted by many other talents, including Sniper Training, Piercing Shots, and Marked for Death among them. But Aimed Shot is not increasing the damage of your other shots.

Chimera Shot

The MM Chimera Shot is a shot that is both misunderstood, and has a hidden little gem that can boost your dps if you're aware of it. In other words, there are two bits to this shot that are misunderstood. Here's what the tooltip says:
You deal 125% weapon damage, refreshing the current Sting on your target and triggering an effect:

Serpent Sting - Instantly deals 40% of the damage done by your Serpent Sting.
I'm leaving out the rest of the tooltip here and focusing on the Serpent Sting portion, which is where all the confusion comes in to play.

The first mistake often made comes from how the Serpent Sting portion of Chimera Shot damage is calculated. The damage is based off the total possible damage of your Serpent Sting over the entire duration of the Serpent Sting. It doesn't matter how much time has passed on the Serpent Sting DOT, or how much time is left. The damage is always based on the entire possible damage of Serpent Sting.

This is why the Glyph of Serpent Sting is so fantastic for MM hunters. Sure you'll never have Serpent Sting run out, but by extending the maximum duration, we're increasing the total damage that Serpent Sting would do, which increases the Serpent Sting portion of our Chimera Shot damage. Similarly the tier 9 set bonus has no impact on Chimera Shot. Chimera Shot calculates based on the damage of Serpent Sting without crits, though of course Chimera Shot itself can crit.

The second element of Chimera Shot can only be discovered through testing -- there's nothing on the tooltip to suggest how it really works. Here we're looking at exactly how Chimera Shot refreshes Serpent Sting when you get attack power buffs (usually through procs) and percentage damage buffs or debuffs. Strangely, AP and percentage damage buffs work differently.

Chimera Shot recalculates the Serpent Sting damage based on AP every time it's cast. Thus if you have Serpent Sting up and you get a Ashen Band of Unmatched Vengeance proc for 480 extra AP, the next time you cast Chimera Shot it will recalculate your Serpent Sting damage and it'll be higher because of the extra AP. When the proc goes away, the next Chimera Shot it will again recalculate your Serpent Sting based on your current AP and your damage will adjust back down.

However, Chimera Shot refreshes any percentage damage modifiers you have. In other words, it remembers what they were when Serpent Sting was first cast and keeps them. This means that if you cast Serpent Sting while in Aspect of the Viper, your Serpent Sting will be at -50% damage. If you then switch to Aspect of the Dragonhawk and cast Chimera Shot, your Serpent Sting will still be at -50% damage. Chimera Shot refreshes and remembers any percentage damage modifier from when Serpent Sting was first cast! Likewise if you start in Dragonhawk and then switch to Viper, Chimera Shot will refresh Serpent Sting without the -50% modifier.

This has some fabulous ramifications that MM hunters can take advantage of to boost their raid DPS.

Any time you get a percentage damage buff, you can re-cast Serpent Sting to take advantage of it (because percentage damage modifiers are only applied when Sperent Sting itself is cast). Thereafter you can keep that buff to your Serpent Sting for the rest of the fight by refreshing it with your Chimera Shot. Every percentage damage modifier should work the same way, and the main ones that you're likely to see a lot are the rogue's Tricks of the Trade, your pet's Culling the Herd, and our tier 10 set bonus.

Now it's not always worth your while to reapply Serpent Sting. You are wasting a global cooldown to do so, so you want to be sure you're doing it on a target that's going to be up for a good long while. In general Culling the Herd alone isn't worth reapplying your Serpent Sting. However you absolutely want to do it when your tier 10 set bonus procs, and just wait for a time when Culling the Herd is also up. If you're lucky you can talk a rogue into using Tricks of the Trade on you at the same time. Also, be sure that you're reapplying your Serpent Sting during the Steady Shot portion of your rotation. No reason to bump your good shots.

Are There Others?

These three abilities are the ones that I see misunderstood most often, and no matter how many times I try to stomp them out, the questions and arguments keep coming back up. In this way they are much like rogues, a class we just can't seem to exterminate completely.

Are there other abilities that you see commonly misunderstood within the hunter community? Not ones that hunters just don't know how or when to use properly, but abilities that people think do something other than what they do? What kind of misunderstandings have you seen?

You want to be a Hunter, eh? Well then you came to the right place. You start with science, then you add some Dwarven Stout, and round it off some elf bashing. The end result is massive dps. Scattered Shots is the column dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a Hunter. Each week Scattered Shots will cover topics to help you Fix Your DPS, Choosing the Right Spec, Gear Selection, Macros and Pet Selection, Pet Specs and Management.

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