Scattered Shots: Hunter Theorycrafting 101

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WoW Hunter Theorycrafting
Every Thursday, WoW Insider brings you Scattered Shots for beast mastery, marksmanship and survival hunters. This week, your host Adam Koebel, aka Bendak will be discussing how to maximize your performance through theorycrafting.

Whenever someone asks me what my secret is for topping the meters, I always tell them it's because I push my buttons harder than anyone else in the raid. Most of them think I'm joking, but it's the truth. High DPS players are keyboard abusers who don't miss a single global cooldown. This is the biggest factor in your DPS, but optimization through theorycrafting still matters -- it's like icing on the cake.

If you're scared of a little math, then don't be. There are fancy tools that do everything for you now such as Zeherah's Hunter DPS Analyzer, Simulation Craft and Ask Mr. Robot. Aside from squeezing out a little bit of extra DPS, theorycrafting will help you understand your abilities and how they contribute to your DPS which is going to result in better damage in the real world.

Tools of the tradeHunter in Dragonstalker Armor
  • Zeherah's Hunter DPS Analyzer is a DPS simulation tool dedicated to hunters. We'll go into it in detail below.
  • Simulation Craft is a more accurate simulation than Zeherah's because it doesn't have the limitations of being a web-based application. This is a small Windows app that allows you to run tens of thousands of simulations to determine accurate stat scaling.
  • Ask Mr. Robot is something I'm sure even non-theorycrafters are familiar with. It helps you with your reforging, gemming, enchants and finding gear upgrades. You can customize your stat priorities if your own findings in Simulation Craft differ from their recommendation.
  • Skada Damage Meter is my favorite WoW damage meter. It allows you to save individual parses for scrutiny later and is a nice alternative to Recount.
Hunter DPS Analyzer
Using Zeherah's DPS Analyzer

Head on over to and click the "Armory Import" button on the top of the page. Fill in your information and load it up. Scroll down and click "Update DPS" to get your starting point. The "Combined DPS" value is your theoretical simulated DPS with your current gear and talent choices in a fully buffed environment. Don't be too surprised if its a number that seems a little bit high. This can only simulate a single-target "Patchwerk" fight.

Now it's time to play around and see how changing things affects your DPS. First go into the settings and change your latency to what you normally run with and adjust the fight length to your liking. I usually like to use 7 or 8 minutes instead of the default 5 minutes because you get more conservative results. You can go into the gear section and start swapping out potential upgrades to see how they affect your DPS. Don't have the new Assurance of Consequence yet and want to see how it would affect your DPS? Go plug it in and see for yourself. Just remember to compensate for any lost hit or expertise by reforging it on to other pieces to avoid skewing the results. Any time you make a change, just click the "Update DPS" button again to see the DPS adjustments.
hunter dps
One of the most common questions is when you should get rid of set bonuses. Zeherah's tool has a nifty little feature that tells you how much each set bonus is worth in raw DPS. Below your results, look in the gear bonuses table to see any active set bonuses and their DPS contributions.

In the talents section you can change your specialization and talents with a few clicks. After changing anything here be sure to go into the shot priority section and clicking "Enable Common Shot Priority" to get the new talents into the rotation. Wondering what the DPS difference between Dire Beast and Fervor is? This is the place to check. You can drag shots up and down on the priority list, and there are other settings such as when to hardcast Aimed Shot. All of these settings affect DPS and by playing with them you can start to understand how the little intricacies affect DPS output. Just remember to click "Update DPS" any time you make a change. It's better to see the gains and losses from each change by itself than inputting a dozen changes and not understanding which of those changes helped and which didn't.

Be careful. It's very easy to lose hours playing with the Hunter DPS Analyzer. Don't say I never warned you.

Scattered Shots
The Red Pill: Simulation Craft

Simulation Craft works a bit differently than Zeherah's tool. Instead of averaging out shots and procs to come up with a final DPS number, it does an actual moment by moment fight simulation thousands of times to garner the most accurate results possible. I still prefer Zeherah's tool for checking out new gear or swapping talents due to its ease of use, but one thing Simulation Craft does better is computing stat valuations (scale factors).

Once you download and run Simulation Craft, you can import your character from the Armory by finding its Armory page inside the app. There are some settings you will want to change in the options tab. First, under "Globals" change the number of iterations to at least 10,000. The more iterations, the more accurate the results, but it can take several minutes to calculate once you move up to 25,000 or 50,000 iterations. In the "Scaling" tab check agility, crit, haste, and mastery.

Once everything is set, go back to the Simulate tab and start the simulation. Be prepared to wait a few minutes. Once it's complete, a tab will open up with the results page showing your simulated DPS and a bunch of other data, including scale factors for your primary and secondary stats if you chose that option.

Scattered Shots
The first thing you'll notice how much more valuable agility is over secondary stats. This is why, with few exceptions, you should always use red gems unless the socket bonus is agility. The second thing you might notice is that mastery can be a lot more valuable than expected. It might even be in first or second place among the secondary stats for your personal simulation. Does this mean you should change your reforge priority? Not necessarily.

The reason mastery can have a high value, especially for beast mastery, is because all of the crit and haste you've been stacking is making it valuable. If you stack mastery its value tends to drop due to the lost crit and haste. The only way to find out is to sim it yourself. If you're currently stacking crit, and see that haste is coming out ahead, you should definitely try reforging into it and see how the numbers change. I'm pretty confident mastery will never be the top stat in Mists, but it's quite possible that with some gear combinations you will be better off with a crit > mastery > haste reforge.

Simulation craft is a very extensive program and if you're interested in creating your own profiles or exploring the more advanced aspects of it, you have some reading to do. If you want to stick with the standard crit > haste > mastery priority, I don't think you need to bother with it unless you're a true numbers junkie. Zeherah's tool is so much easier to use and is tailored to hunters, whereas Simulation Craft is built with all classes in mind.

It's saying I should be doing 200k but I'm only doing 100k

These simulations assume perfect play and sometimes RNG has an impact. What about buffs and debuffs? By default the simulations have all of them enabled. You should disable the ones you aren't using in your real world comparison. In a fully buffed raid setting, if your numbers on a fight such as Iron Juggernaut are consistently 15%+ below what the simulation tells you then it's time to examine your shot priorities.
hunter target dummy
The most common problem I see with hunters having DPS issues is they don't use their signature ability often enough, or they stay focus capped for extended periods of time because they're not utilizing every global cooldown. Let's take beast mastery as an example. Next time you finish a boss fight, look at your shot breakdown in your damage meter and count your total number of Kill Commands. Now look at how long the fight took in seconds, and divide that by 6 (Kill Command's cooldown). In a perfect world, that is how many Kill Commands you should have used. Any time I see a hunter struggling with their DPS, that is the first place I look, and in most cases they are using less than half of the Kill Commands (or Explosive or Chimera Shots) that they could have used.

No one is ever going to get it perfect. Things happen -- interrupts, soaking a mine, popping Deterrence, Kill Shots, switching to AoE damage -- but on a single-target fight you should be aiming to get your signature ability to 80% efficiency. This means in a 5 minute fight where you'd have 50 possible Kill Commands, ideally you should have used it 40 times.

The secret to big numbers is minimizing downtime. Even if you aren't casting the highest priority shot at the right time, as long as you're casting something and not wasting that global cooldown you will generally be in good shape.

Hopefully you now have a basic understanding of the tools available to you as a hunter. I've really only scratched the surface. Theorycrafting can never replace skill, but I still find it essential for understanding all the nuances of the hunter class.
Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. From raiding tips and taming rare pets to learning the DPS value of skill, we've got you covered. If you're stuck in one of the nine support classes, why not move up to the big league and play a hunter?
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