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Scattered Shots: Dancing for DPS

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.

Arguably the greatest strength of the hunter class is our ability to DPS on the move. This has always been a strength of our class, but never so great as it is now in Cataclysm. When the support classes are scrambling for all they're worth to avoid void zones and toss their damage to the side in the eternal dance of clumping up and spreading out, we hunters steadily continue our rotations, with the ability to output nearly our full DPS while moving.

From time to time after a particularly movement-heavy boss fight, you may hear other classes complaining about your ability to produce double their damage output. Just remind them that as long as they're applying their applicable raid buffs or debuffs, then they're fulfilling their role as a support class. The support and praise of the hunter should be enough for them and their little support class existence.

Patch 4.0.6 changes to auto shot has removed stutter-stepping from our movement skills. Our Auto Shots now fire on the move without any help from us. But Cataclysm did introduce a new hunter movement skill: the aspect dance. Join me after the cut for a discussion of this new movement skill, when you should use it, and why you should care so much.

The goal

Our goal on a fight is to contribute as much as we can to defeating the boss. This boils down primarily to three things: following fight-specific mechanics (clumping, kiting, etc.), taking as little damage as possible, and doing as much DPS as possible.

We DPSers have the interesting conundrum in which those first two -- the skills of every raider -- are priority No. 1. But at the same time, we need to output high DPS. That's also priority No. 1. It does us no good to top the charts if we're eating void zones and sucking the healers dry of mana; likewise, it does us no good to run around from place to place and only ouput 4k DPS. In either of those scenarios, we lose the fight -- to healers unable to keep up, or to enrage timers.

So our goal in the fight becomes to maintain our optimal DPS priority shot rotation at all times, whether standing still or taking a few steps out of a void zone or running across the room while kiting dragon fire. We have to move, but that movement doesn't have to interrupt our rotation.

The aspect dance

We normally like to be in Aspect of the Hawk because it gives us an additional 637 attack power, which means we do more damage. We like Aspect of the Fox because we can cast our Steady Shot or Cobra Shot while moving. Happily, we don't have to choose one or the other. If you're standing still, you want to be in hawk, and if you're moving, you want to be in Fox.

And let me stress here when you want to be in Fox: Any time you are moving during the Steady/Cobra portion of your rotation, you should be in Fox. If you are just strafing for 2 seconds to hop out of a void zone, you should switch over to Fox and get your filler shot off during those 2 seconds.

Switching aspects does not trigger the global cooldown -- it does not cost you any time. Note, however, that you cannot switch aspects while you're in the middle of casting, and the aspects have a 1-second cooldown -- so while they have no GCD, you have to wait a second before switching back.

There are a lot of different macro options for managing your aspect dancing, and which macro you use (or whether you use a macro at all) will depend on your playstyle. Use what works for you; there is no right answer. Here's the macro I like best:

/cast [aspect:2] Aspect of the Hawk
/cast Aspect of the Fox
This is a nice, simple, one-button aspect dancing macro. If you're not in Hawk, it will put you in Aspect of the Hawk. If you are in Hawk, it will switch you over to Aspect of the Fox.

Again, if you're moving during during the filler shot portion of your rotation, you should be in Aspect of the Fox. You can even cast during Disengage while in Fox.

Why dance?

Let's get into why we want to switch to Fox any time we're moving during our filler shot -- and for that, we'll use some simple math to illustrate what's going on.

When I plug my character into Female Dwarf, I can see that attack power is giving me approximately 0.936 DPS. That means that being in Aspect of the Hawk is, on average, boosting my damage by about 596 DPS. So in theory, that's how much DPS I'm losing when I switch to Fox. (I'm not really losing that much, because I'll switch back to Hawk for any instant shots.)

So using those numbers, let's look at a couple of SV rotations. On average over 12 seconds, I'll fire six Cobra Shots and two Explosive Shots. If I'm in Fox and I don't even swap back to Hawk for those explosives, then in theory I'll lose about 7,152 damage during those 12 seconds, due to the loss of AotH attack power.

On the other hand, let's say I was in Aspect of the Hawk, but I had to run out of a void zone during the filler phase of my rotation, and I lose a Cobra Shot. That one Cobra Shot alone, according to Female Dwarf, is an average of 12,751 damage that I just lose by not firing it.

Ultimately, when we look at the big picture, the loss of a single filler shot has a massive impact on our DPS, far larger than the loss of the AotH AP -- massively larger, especially since if you are skilled at your aspect dance, the only time you'll be in Fox is when you'd be missing shots anyway.

But at the same time, we can also see that AotH is also significantly contributing to our DPS. We want to be in Hawk every chance we can to maximize our DPS output -- just not if being in Hawk is going to mean we miss a shot.

When in doubt, stay in Fox

While we always want to maximize our DPS, the loss of missing an entire shot is so large that if you're in doubt, just stay in Fox. If you're just learning a movement fight, or it's a heavy movement phase and you don't have a way to predict when you'll need to move, just camp out in Aspect of the Fox. Losing or interrupting just a few filler shot casts can very quickly cancel any benefit from AotH.

While you really want to reach a point where you're dancing in and out, don't feel like a noob for staying in Fox when you aren't sure. Even Kruf, hunter from top guild <Paragon>, said on the Hunting Party Podcast that he frequently just stays in Aspect of the Fox for new fights while learning. As he says, until he knows when he's going to need to move, he does better DPS while learning by staying in Fox and never losing shots in his rotation.

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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