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Scattered Shots: Hunter mailbag Q&A

Brian Wood

Every 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.

One of the great things about hunters is that we are not content to just sit on our backsides and fall behind on the game like those bear druids do. Nor are we like warlocks who pretend to know every detail of the game while actually just tossing their keyboards on the ground and pretending it's DDR.

As a group, hunters are always striving to improve, to learn more, and to be better. And to do that we ask questions. A lot of questions.

Today we'll be dipping into the Scattered Shots mailbag and pulling out some of the most commonly asked questions of the last month. If a dozen or more hunters were curious enough to email about it, odds are good that there are many hundreds more who are just too busy trying to tame feral druids to send in the email (and keep at it -- our persistence will pay off).

Which spec gives the highest DPS now?

Right now, all three hunters specs are in a fantastic place. Each spec brings a raid buff: 3% damage from BM, 10% AP from MM, and 10% melee/ranged attack speed from SV. If your raid is missing one of those buffs, then bringing that buff is going to help your raid the most, even if that spec does slightly lower DPS.

MM is currently doing the most DPS for single-target fights where there isn't an insane amount of movement. In particular, MM hunters do very well if they can mostly stand still during the first 20% of the fight, when they're in Careful Aim range and MM does a very disproportionate amount of their DPS.

SV remains the king of the AoE fights -- if it's important for your raid group to get packs of adds down fast, then SV is the spec that will help you the most. If those adds are just an annoyance that get nuked within 2 seconds, then you might be helping your raid more by focusing on a single-target spec.

BM remains a bit behind on DPS on overall parses; however, many top hunters have reported seeing some stellar results from BM specs, especially on heavy movement fights. Obviously you do not want to bring BM to fights with an air phase (since your pet can't attack, thus you can't use Kill Command).

In other words, for the first time ever, there isn't one spec that is always the right one to bring to every raid and every fight! Bring the spec that's right for your team, for the content you'll be facing. Or heck, just bring the one you enjoy the most!

Why is it that when I use FemaleDwarf and I increase my haste by 50, my DPS goes down?

This has to do with the way that Zeherah's DPS Analyzer handles haste. At certain haste thresholds, the simulation adds a shot to the rotation. Of course, nowadays hunter rotations are not the static things that they used to be, and no, you DPS won't really go down when you add haste! Increasing a hunter stat will always yield a DPS increase.

There just isn't a really good way to mathematically model the effect of haste that yields an exact DPS per point of haste. This behavior is why Zeherah put a little note under the haste stat weight.

If you want to see exactly what FemaleDwarf is doing that causes those odd DPS shifts, you can click the "Display debug data" checkbox in the settings tab. Then you can see exactly what the model is doing with your shots.

If you don't want that much detail, you can still just manually tweak your haste up and down by just a few points. You can enter these numbers (positive or negative) at the bottom of the Gear tab. By testing at a bunch of different haste levels, you can get a somewhat better idea of how much your haste is really helping you.

Personally, I don't think any of the simulations currently do a really fantastic job of modeling haste -- especially the way haste works differently at different points in our rotation and different haste plateaus. Perhaps the problem just comes down to the difference between a computer and a person (we're a bit slower), or perhaps it's just the intrinsic complexities of our ever-evolving haste mechanics. I do think that FemaleDwarf remains one of the best tools for measuring spec and gear changes, and it'll certainly get you very close, but I think for some stats and some talents, you still gotta use your noggin.

Did Darkmoon Card: Hurricane change in the last patch? Is it BiS now?

Yes indeed, Darkmoon Card: Hurricane improved eleventy hundred percent. Specifically, it now functions off the physical hit chance rather than the spell hit chance, so its effect isn't missing all the time. In addition, it now uses the physical crit multiplier (200%) rather than the spell crit multiplier (150%).

This does indeed put DMC: Hurricane on the BiS list for normal-mode trinkets for SV and MM hunters. BM hunters, alas, get a bit less benefit from it, since their mastery doesn't boost the effect. SV's mastery increases the damage, and MM's mastery increases the proc chance, since with Wild Quiver, MM fires significantly more shots and DMC: Hurricane has no internal cooldown on the proc.

BM doesn't have either of those advantages, and the effect won't proc off Kill Command (it also won't proc off Explosive Shot, which is considered a DoT). However, it's still an excellent trinket.

What is the best pet?

The sporebat.

Gah! When I'm attacking a mob and it dies, my Auto Shot immediately fires picks a random target and fires, pulling groups of mobs. Is this a bug?

I've covered this a few times before, but this question keeps coming up and keeps coming up. Here's what's happening:

If you're spamming your buttons when a mob dies, you end up hitting your shot button again after the mob dies. Your target is dead, and you're telling the game to shoot, so it tries to be helpful and picks a new target for you. Now even if you don't hit another button, your Auto Shot will fire at that new target. Furthermore, if you're in the middle of a Cobra Shot or Steady Shot cast and the mob dies, the game will also often pick a new target to launch that shot off.

The game used to have an option to turn off this behavior, and sadly, Blizzard removed it and we've seen no blue responses to the many complaints about this issue.

There are two ways to mitigate this problem significantly but no way to remove it entirely.

The first is to go to your Interface > Combat Options and check the box that reads Turn Off Auto Attack. This will turn off your Auto Shot any time you switch targets. For most hunters, this is sufficient -- though if you hit that shot button twice after the mob dies, that second button press will fire your shot and turn on your Auto Shot.

The other option is to put a macro into all of your shots like this:

/cast [nodead,harm] Chimera Shot

This should prevent you from automatically targeting mobs -- but again, if you're midway through a Cobra/Steady cast, many hunters report that the game will still acquire a target for you (though I haven't seen that behavior myself).

When I first summon my pet, it has only a few thousand health and takes several seconds before it jumps up to the right health. Didn't they fix that bug?

This is a known issue, and we can hope that Blizzard gets to it soon. What's happening is that when your pet is first summoned, it has only its base health and none of the health that it inherits from you. It takes a few seconds for the game to calculate what its health should be.

Now, this is much better than how things were in the beta -- which is the part that did get fixed. Used to be, you summoned your pet and it had its 6-7k health, and then after a few seconds, its max health went up to full but its current health didn't change, and you had to heal it all the way from 7k to 100k. So Blizzard did fix part of the bug ... or rather, made the bug less horrible. No word on when it'll actually be fixed all the way. We can hope for 4.1.

Should I be hardcasting aimed shot as my focus dump now?

Maybe. Sometimes. Oh, and by "hardcast," we're referring to casting the 2.9-second version of the shot, not the free instant proc.

Here's the gist of it: Aimed Shot will do more damage and more DPS than two Arcane Shots. It's a good deal. But there's a "but."

If you have to interrupt your Aimed Shot cast -- say, because a giant pit of fire just opened up beneath your feet -- you suddenly lost all that benefit and any amount that you delayed your Auto Shot (for reference: Auto Shot will not fire during Aimed Shot, and the Auto Shot timer resets after Aimed Shot is cast; however, if you interrupt Aimed Shot, Auto Shot will then fire on schedule). Aimed Shot hardcast is the one shot that we cannot cast on the move.

Basically, during Careful Aim range, you want to fire as many Aimed Shots as humanly possible. The beneifts of Aimed Shot are enormous during that time, and you'll be in Rapid Fire for a disproportionate amount of that time.

Outside of Careful Aim, however -- the other 80% of the fight -- Aimed Shot is still better, but only just a little better. If you have to interrupt just a few Aimed Shot casts during the course of the fight, suddenly you're worse off than if you were just using Arcane Shot the entire time (and enjoying the increased number of auto-shots and Wild Quiver procs that come with that rotation).

Most of the time, most hunters will benefit from using Arcane Shot as their focus dump outside of Careful Aim range. If you are totally certain you aren't going to have to move -- and I mean certain -- then use Aimed Shot in place of two Arcanes.

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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