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Scattered Shots: Survival and haste for hunters

Brian Wood

Every Monday and Thursday, WoW Insider brings you Scattered Shots for beast mastery, marksmanship and survival hunters. Frostheim of Warcraft Hunters Union uses logic and science (mixed with a few mugs of dwarven stout) to look deep into the hunter class. Mail your hunter questions to Frostheim.

Today, we're going to talk about one of the most difficult stats to pin down with the needles of math: haste. Nowadays, haste does all sorts of different little things for hunters, and even in our best mathematical models, its behavior is tricksy and elusive, making big leaps up and down the stat weighting seemingly on a whim. Haste is like wizards or cats: subtle, and quick to anger.

Are there really all kinds of haste plateaus, where just adding 2 haste increases your DPS by large amounts? But then adding another 2 haste actually drops your DPS? Well, no, there aren't. When you see that kind of behavior on the spreadsheets, it's an artifact of the modeling process and not something that you'll actually see in game.

Join me after the cut for a rundown of what haste is actually doing for you and why significant haste plateaus aren't currently attainable. Since survival is currently so far ahead of the other specs that it can actually see its backside (and a fine view that is), we'll talk about haste specifically in the scope of the SV spec.

What haste does

Haste is like some kind of mad gnomish engineer, tinkering with a zillion things at once but doing it in a very small way. Here's what haste does:

  • increases your rate of Auto Shot fire
  • decreases the cast time of your Steady Shot or Cobra Shot (and Aimed Shot too, technically)
  • increases your base focus regen
  • increases your pet's attack speed
  • increases your pet's base focus regen
Now, that's a lot of benefit from just one stat! But here's the thing: It does each of these things by a teensy-tiny amount. The most obvious effect of haste is the lowering of the cast time of our 2-second cast Steady Shot and Cobra Shot; the rest of it all adds up, certainly, but even with all that going on, haste is one of the worst two hunter stats for every hunter spec.

The reasons that haste isn't as good as it could be are many. Any time we're moving, we lose our Auto Shots and all of haste's benefit to our Auto Shot (and stutter stepping is harder than ever); our base focus regen is so low -- around 4 focus per second -- that the impact of a few hundred haste is virtually undetectable; and finally, our signature shots are so awesome that we have only a small window of time between signature shots for other shots, and it's essentially impossible right now to get enough haste to increase the number of shots we can fire between signature shots.

The SV rotation and plateaus

There was a lot of theory when we first heard about our new systems that with certain magical amounts of haste, we'd hit awesome plateaus at which the extra haste would let us change our rotations. In practice, however, there is only one attainable haste plateau.

Survival has the totally awesome Explosive Shot. This shot rocks. We want to hit it every single cooldown, because pressing our Explosive Shot button will get us more DPS than any other button we have. We want to be sure we always have enough focus for it, and we do not want to delay pushing that button if we can help it.

Explosive Shot has a 6-second cooldown, and when we fire it, the shot triggers our 1-second global cooldown. This means that we have 5 seconds to fill with other shots in between Explosive Shots. Normally, this means we'll fire three Cobra Shots, but on occasion, it will be two cobra and a Black Arrow, and even more seldom, it will be two cobra and an Arcane Shot. But the vast majority of the time, we're firing three cobra shots.

Cobra Shot has a base cast time of 2 seconds. Survival hunters will always have the 10% attack speed buff from Hunting Party and another 3% attack speed increase from the Pathing talent. This means that the base cast time of Cobra Shot before haste is 1.765 seconds. Firing three in a row, as we normally do, takes us 5.295 seconds in a best-case scenario -- but we only have 5 seconds to work with! That means that we're actually pushing our Explosive Shot back a little bit with every rotation.

So the first plateau that SV can reach is getting Cobra Shot cast time down to 1.66 seconds, so that we can actually fire our Explosive Shot on cooldown. To do that, we need just 6.325% haste from our gear -- something that is so easy we'll probably beat that without even trying. But if you're below that, it's definitely worth reforging into some haste to hit that plateau.

The other SV haste plateaus

But now what happens with our haste beyond that 6.325%? Let's say we're stacking haste and we get up to 18% haste. Now our Cobra Shot cast time is 1.495 seconds (we still have the 10% buff and 3% from Pathing). Firing three Cobra Shots now takes us 4.485 seconds. We have an extra half of a second ... but there's really nothing we can do in that time. If we try to fit any other shot in there, we'll be pushing back our big, damage-dealing Explosive Shot.

There are two other theoretical SV haste plateaus beyond the 6.325% that we basically get by default.

The first enables us to cast four Cobra Shots in between each Explosive Shot. To do that, we'd need to bring our Cobra Shot cast time down to 1.25 seconds, which would take a whopping 41.2% haste -- something we're not able to attain outside of a Rapid Fire or Ancient Hysteria cooldown.

The other would be to reach the point where we can cast three Cobra Shots and one instant shot in between Explosive Shots. Since the instant shot would only have the 1-second global cooldown, this gives us a bit more room. In this instance, we need our Cobra Shot to have a 1.33-second cast time. Alas, this still requires 32.4% haste from gear ... something that is still not attainable.

It's worth noting here that one way to bridge part of this haste gap is to go for the Improved Steady Shot talent and use two Steady Shots and one Cobra Shot in each rotation to maintain the buff. This is a bad idea. Steady Shot does significantly less damage than Cobra Shot (since it's mitigated by armor and Cobra Shot is not), on top of the fact that the SV mastery boosts Cobra Shot damage but not Steady Shot.

What it means

SV gains the largest benefit from haste going from 0% up to 6.325% -- during that period, haste is actually enabling SV to cast Explosive Shot a tiny bit more rapidly. After 6.325% haste, the reduction in Cobra Shot cast time doesn't give you any practical DPS gain. You're still increasing your rate of Auto Shot fire and your focus regen, and your pet still benefits; haste is still helping you, but it's no longer affecting your rotation.

The SV rotation only actually changes with extremely high levels of haste -- a minimum of 32.4%, and right now there's no practical way to make this happen. During Rapid Fire or Ancient Hysteria, we'll see our rotations change so that we can fire four shots in between Explosive Shots, but other than that, it's just the three.

Why haste may get better and better

But who knows what will happen with new tiers of raid content? It's entirely possible that haste will get better and better each tier, until it's the best secondary hunter stat.

We've been told that the combat rating of things like hit and crit will change with new tiers of raid content. In other words, it will take more crit rating to get 1% crit in the next tier of content than it does now. This kind of "crit suppression" is already on raid bosses, by the way -- but now it will scale with each tier of content and affect hit as well. But so far, this is something akin to a buff on the boss itself -- not something on you. It's entirely possible that haste will not be affected by this scaling. Combine that with the possibility that our itemization goes up in decent-sized jumps -- possibly making one of those big haste plateaus attainable with a bunch of work -- and it's possible that we'll close out Cataclysm with haste as the best secondary hunter stat and crit as the worst!

Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter in Cataclysm. From leveling your hunter to optimizing for heroics to gearing up with pre-heroic loot and pre-raid loot, we've got you covered.

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