BM vs MM vs SV in Patch 3.3

Posted: by Frostheim

Here at the WHU we really like graphs, even if they aren't connected to actual data (like this one) they help keep our thought processes in the right place.

Here at the WHU we really like graphs, even if they aren't connected to actual data (like this one) they help keep our thought processes in the right place.

Well, it’s a new patch and once again we need to take a look at where the different specs stand in relation to each other. The patch only brought us a couple of changes that directly affect our dps. These are:

  • Culling the Herd: this new pet talent boosts the dps of our pet and ourselves by 3% and it’s up a very high percentage of the time. Something like a 2.5% dps boost. However, since it’s a straight percentage gain and applies evenly to hunter and pet alike, this is a wash (benefits all specs evenly).
  • Glyph of Steady Shot: this glyph was bugged for MM hunters for a long time. What happened was you got the effect of the glyph automatically, even if you didn’t have the glyph. So MM hunters were in effect getting an extra glyph (as long as they weren’t using the steady glyph). Not a ton of dps, but finally fixing this bumped MM down a few notches.

Now in addition to this we also have to take into account the awesome new gear we have available. I’ve never been a big fan of theorycrafting based on best-in-slot gear (from heroic modes) since the vast, vast majority of hunters will not have access to that gear. I do however take into account gear that drops in the current progression raid on normal mode, as well as from the current emblems. Thus we’re looking at ICC normal gear and all that juicy Frost Emblem gear.

Sure it’ll take a couple of months before we have a lot of it, but we want to know what we have to look forward to. Here are the big things that I see happening on the gear front:

  • Tier 10 2-piece Set Bonus: the 2-piece bonus is most interesting to me (mostly ’cause it’s so awesome). The set bonus favors BM slightly because of the Serpent’s Swiftness talent – basically BM’s auto shots will be hitting more often and thus will trigger the proc more. This helps BM to close the gap a bit; however, it’s not a big difference. Also just as a note, this set bonus will not significantly increase the value of haste – you’d need a massive amount of haste before you saw any significant difference.
  • Massive Armor Pen Itemization: The new gear is itemized incredibly well. This means that we’re not just getting more of each stat, we’re getting more of the good stats and less of the bad. This means more red sockets, less haste, and lots more armor penetration rating. The armor pen is the big change – MM benefits more from armor pen (much more) than any other spec.

Here’s what I see happening across the specs:

Beast Mastery

BM is still behind, even with their little boost from the tier 10 set. They’re staying around 8% or so behind. I’m sorry BM, I know you guys love your spec. As an aside, I have yet to go and retest the pets, and I think I’ll wait until I get a bit more gear. In theory at some gear level other pets will overtake the wolf. The wolf’s special ability is completely static (320 ap), while the other pets have a special attack that will scale with gear increases. Eventually the wolf will be supplanted, and I think it’s likely to happen soon.


It looks like  survival will continue to be a competitive dps spec and will be favored by most casual raiders. Raiders who really work at mastering the spec (when to use traps to force lock & load procs and equally importantly, when not to – timing cooldowns as much as SV is able, etc) will see some impressive numbers.

Also, I’ve not doubt that there will continue to be fights whose mechanics favor SV, though I don’t believe we’ve seen any yet in ICC.


It’s looking like MM will be the top dps spec in ICC gear. Right now with TotC heroic gear MM clearly trumps all, and ICC will see even more MM itemization. One thing that we have to keep in mind is that the hunters pulling crazily impressive MM number are also very, very skilled. And MM has a better and more versatile box of tools to use. One of the great keys to MM dps is the timing of abilities (mainly the 4-6 rapid fires, but also the ability to roll serpent stings on multiple targets without a dps slowdown). Survival is mostly dependent on RNG for their damage boosts (black arrow and lock & load, as well as the horror of standing still for sniper training), but MM can use them at the most opportune times without much loss – and in fact usually for great gain.

An example here: Marrowgar is about to go into Bone Storm. SV’s black arrow comes available, but you know that you’ll be running around like crazy and not get the full benefit from the damage increase because you’ll be losing lots of shots (steady and auto). However, SV still has to use Black Arrow, because it would cost more dps to wait. MM in the same situation with Rapid Fire #3 can choose to wait until after bonestorm and save the rapid fire for the beginning of the next p1, when you’ll get absolute maximum use out of it. Waiting delays the next rapid fire, but it’s clearly worthwhile. Waiting for a trinket proc will not only make up for the delay, but give you a net gain due to the multiplicative advantage.

However, this doesn’t mean that you have to go out and start gemming for armor pen! It is not necessary to pursue the armor pen hard cap or soft cap to top the meters as MM. Pay attention to your EAP values as your gear improves, and only gem armor pen if armor pen actually becomes better than agility. And keep in mind that agility is even better than spreadsheets indicate, since you’ll benefit from it more on moving fights.

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  1. h4z3 says:

    I’m currently spec’d as SV, and was just wondering if I should wait to switch to MM until I get the new ICC gear. I tried MM recently and saw a decrease in my DPS, it’s probably because my Armour Pen isn’t where it should be for MM. I also like SV better and just seem to be able to manage it better(probably because it’s easier, but idk lol).

    I also don’t have the TotC gear so that might also make me lean more towards staying SV for now. Any and all ideas/help is much appreciated. Thanks.

  2. honorshammer says:

    I’m staying SV on my Hunter because I bring Replenishment to my 10 man. That buff alone is worth more than whatever DPS I’d gain by going MM.

    I find BM does well in Heroics and Soloing, where SV just has too much ramp up time. Sometimes what works best in a Raid doesn’t translate down to smaller group content.

  3. Oyless says:

    If you are SV you are gemming and enchanting for Agility mainly but in MM you will gem and enchant more heavily toward Attack Power. From what Frost is saying you won’t have to worry with Armor Pen because the gear will give you more than enough. From what I’ve seen thus far that is difinetly true! I love MM for one reason is that my normal crits, which are about every 2.5 shots, range anywhere from 3k to 8k. Extremely consistant for me.

    But until you start getting that Armor Pen gear from ICC, personnally I would say to stay with what you like. I tried SV for about 8 months and never really got comfortable with it, switched back to MM after finding this site, making some adjustments to my rotation and spec, and was impressed at my numbers and how easily I fell back into this spec. This site encourages you to put out the dps but at the same time have fun with it. So, stay SV till you get that new gear where you can do more DAMAGE with it. XD

  4. Oyless says:

    I screwed up slightly, MM rely on Agility like SV however you need to have a balance of the two. Basicly you’ll need to take time to look at the numbers what all will you lose or gain from gear when it comes to Agility over Attack Power. Which ever will give you the better DPS boost is what you need look at most.

  5. Chibs says:

    Hey people’s here at WHU,

    I am a mad theorycrafter, and have been so for a while. Putting out allot of graphs and stuff.
    Atm MM and SV are amazinly close at my gear lvl (my name links to my armory.) So it basically comes down to your own playstyle. If you like MM you’ll prolly get more out of MM and the same goes for SV.

    However we do see stuff that is itemized differently and will affect different spec.

    For example the chest from 10 man Saurfang is clearly BM>MM>SV.

    In the end of ICC (10m normal and 25 normal full clears, NOT talking about heroics here). From what the calculations show now MM will be ahead of SV by about 200 dps. Mind you I am talking about spreadsheet dps fully 25 man so the total DPS form the spreadsheet if going to be around 12k dps.

    So Basically do what you like stay hitcapped and watch those procs (which is equally important for SV and MM)

    happy hunting

  6. Frostheim says:

    Note that MM does indeed prefer agility gems as a rule.

    Chibs: I’m curious how you got your 200 dps calculation, since in practice the top geared MM are already ahead by far more than that.

  7. Anairalf says:

    “Also, I’ve not doubt that there will continue to be fights whose mechanics favor SV, though I don’t believe we’ve seen any yet in ICC.”

    I prefer to play as MM – I tend to have better numbers with it. However, I do think that the Saurfang encounter is one fight that does favor SV. Our 25 man group has the hunters place frost traps up by the feet of Saurfang so when the adds popped, they are instantly slowed while they head to us. Each add phase = 1 guaranteed lock and load. If you can guarantee a lock and load once every 45 seconds or so, SV becomes pretty attractive. My dps was much higher the second week as SV than it was the first week as MM. Sure, part of that is being more comfortable with the fight, but the rest of it is spec.

  8. Bloodbàne says:

    What pet are you thinking will move past the wolf Frost? I have a cat in my stable but I also have Gondria, Loque, and the hyrda-crokalisk (sp) that you used to be able to tame from the Oracle dailies. And my cat is the ghost sabre that I have had since like level 25 (I am Horde) so he isn’t going anywhere. And I don’t really want to drop the spirit beasts (but also really want to tame Skoll and Acturis). WTB more stable slots. Frost, use your power and sway in the hunter community and convince Blizz for more stable slots!

    Back to the subject at hand…I would imagine that both MM and SV are going to be close enough in DPS that it will depend more on the player’s style rather then the highest potential spec. that will give more dps. I have a bit of the a.d.d. when I am pew pewing and like to move around and it seems that blizz is making more fights that involve more moving, so I want to stay away from the SV spec to avoid sniper training. That being said, some people have laser beam focus and can stand still the entire time and no when to move and when not to move and be able to play SV better. I actually like this by the way. I like that you can have a good discussion on which our specs is best and depending on your argument, you could be right. Sure, BM is lacking right now but it is better then in BC when it was BM or GTFO.

    MM may have the highest potential damage but if you like playing SV better, i get the feel that the actual difference in damage will be small enough that you can justify (if your whole point is it top dps meters) playing in that spec.

  9. Frostheim says:

    Mmmm…. in general I disapprove of placing the frost traps at Saurfang’s feet only because of how much you could screw the raid if you get blood nova while you’re next to the melee group. Placing it 12 yards away from the melee and pulling the blood beast through it is totally fine, of course.

    Also keep in mind the real benefit of forcing the lock & load like that is killing the blood beasts faster – which with L&L SV absolutely can. You aren’t really getting much net dps increase unless you’re able to drop the frost trap without moving much to get there. The danger of trap dancing is always what dps you lose as you get into position to place your trap (typically you would just disengage out).

    But again, standing within blood nova range of the melee cluster is a bad, bad idea on Saurfang.

  10. Arthemystia says:

    Thanks for the update. As always, my spec is determined more by our guild’s needs than my bloodlust for the absolutely highest numbers. Our other two raiding hunters remain (mostly) SV, though one likes to switch to MM on a few fights. This is fine by me, but I’m locked into MM barring some sort of massive change.

    Speaking of nerfed numbers for the raid, kiting the adds in the Saurfang encounter is a blast. Having mastered jump shot, I not only don’t mind that duty but prefer it.

  11. Tlord says:

    On The Topic Of Saurfang And Raid DPS Meters,

    Saurfang: A Hunter’s job in this fight, I agree, is one of the more entertaining fights fora hunter and I am glad they finally gave us a big roll in a Raid Boss fight. I Am SV and have been for many months now and in the Saurfang my engineering enhancement on my boots lets me charge up to place the trap and of course Disengage out. This combo lets me not lose my sniper training assuming it has recently proc’d. I have a MM Hunter also in the 25m ICC that is doing the same and i can tell is dropping much of his DPS by doing so. IMO This fight favours SV adding in the L&L for the trap being triggered.

  12. Tlord says:

    As far as Raiding DPS Meters goes:

    As i mentioned above I raid with another hunter that is MM. On almost every raid boss we are next and next and I find the theocrafters charts and graphs to be kind of a mute point as, although hunter is not a very difficult class to play (I’m sorry, I’m sure thats sacrilege to say on this site), I find it to be Skill>Gear>Spec. Speced MM has never been the reason another Hunter has topped me in DPS. Either they have far better gear or clearly are much better at timing procs with skills/ certain shots at certain points in a bosses mechanics “rotation” shall i call it. All in all i have yet to find a true reason to change over to MM when there are so many other factors to take into account. It all just comes down to personal choice wether a spreadsheet says “THIS SPEC…” or “THAT SPEC…”.

  13. Frostheim says:

    I totally agree that skill will always trump gear and spec; however, when comparing gear or specs we assume that the hunter is willing and capable of becoming skilled at the spec :)

    Tlord: Nitro Boosts are awesome, but note they have a 3 min cooldown, which means you can only use them about every 3rd spawn – and the danger of hugging the melee cluster remains. Overall, however, I think that SV will do more damage to blood beasts and MM will do more damage to the boss, so it depends on where your raid has issues which spec will be more beneficial. I consider it a spec wash.

  14. Dave says:

    I found in the spreadsheet currently with my gear SV is only behind MM when using 1/18/52 by about 120 dps. Then again this spec will OOM a lot faster than 1/15/55.

    All SV hunters at this point should be swapping their Explosive Glyph for Steady and putting one point in IAotH (from Resourcefulness) and by doing so bridges the gap a lot more to MM. Now when playing your standard SV builds to a standard MM, SV will lag behind a bit, but not enough to get you kicked from a raid or anything. Blizz seems to be sticking with their bring the player not the class theory.

    Also SV will benefit from Arm Pen more as we go into ICC with IAotH and Steady glyph. Remember autoshot and steady shot is still a big part of SV damage….

  15. Tlord says:

    Dear Frost, Merry Xmas ;-P

    To the point… The beasts drop quickly and The MM hunter and I are assigned to 2 each (mage on other)…I down the beasts faster and therefore on the boss faster. assuming ..15sec? to down beasts, 30 seconds of boss time. 20sec on beasts? 25sec on boss? (MM). In the end it may come out as a wash but if that MM hunter has to start running from the beast he cant kill fast enough with his disengage down from putting down the trap then he is at a far greater disadvantage. I have a feeling there may be a hole in what I am laying out here but it seems to cover the fight and that SV should be the better of the 2 here.

  16. Frostheim says:

    First of all, again, I do not recommend laying the trap near the melee cluster. I just lay my trap at my feet and pull the beast to me. Then you can disengage away from there (depending on your strat – our group does it a bit differently) and enjoy full dps time without pumping up saurfang.

    In general you’ll have more than just one dpser on the beasts, so it’s not just about your dps, but yes, again, sv will do more dps on the beasts as long as they’re going down fast. MM will do more dps (damage per second) on the boss, especially with their ability to time all those rapid fires on the boss phase. In the end it’s pretty much a wash and there’s no strong spec preference on the fight.

  17. Tlord says:

    I am sorry. I did leaves holes in my statement. When running up i dont not put them at the melee cluster ( either way they are standing at the top of the steps as the tank is at the bottom, boss on the steps). Now, the way the raid conducts the fight will directly effect the DPS of the hunter now that you mention what you have. My raid group only have the 2 of us on 2 beasts and mage on 5th as i stated before, leaving on other DPS on boss which shortens the fight, in turn reducing marks put out, (lol) in turn greatly increasing chance of downing the boss even with mistakes (people within 12y of eachother). NOW, that being said, my spec has the benefit of 3min CD on Rapid Fire (Ssukkaa, armory me). That negates the rapid fire and again MM has more time on the Beasts, therefore less time on boss, where a hunters “Stand and deliver” tacticals of DPS shine.

  18. Frostheim says:

    Note that MM has the 3 min cooldown and readiness to reset it instantly. Assuming your sv spec has the 3 min cooldown, then MM will only have twice as many rapid fires :)

    As long as you aren’t going within 12 yards of the melee, I’m fine with laying the trap wherever!

  19. Tlord says:

    And with that I think we have come to agree to disagree. This all makes me think Mr. MM is doing something wrong in this fight becuase i have been out DPS’n/Dmg overall’n him in the 2 clears we have done…along with the wipes to figure out how to best do it with the group given haha. Thanks for the conversation and I have one remaining question. As far as my spec goes with the Rapid Killing and being Readiness incapable… Imp Stings would be better coupled with the T9 set bonus that ive been clinging onto for dear life?

  20. Fradin says:

    I must be missing something as i have not seen a tier 10 vendor anywhere only the frost emblem vendors with no tier set bonuses. As for the fights i don;t have any experience with these yet as we are going in on the weekend if all goes well.
    PS wheres the tier 10 vendor ? or i can look it up

  21. Frostheim says:

    You’ll find the T10 set vendors inside ICC

  22. Fradin says:

    Thanks Frost i must be having a blonde day !!! no offence ladies , i have’nt raided there yet but got it booked for this weekend, only done the 5 man pugs and of course your ported in and out so i have not got to see inside the starting area .

  23. Silveran says:

    Out of curiosity, wouldn’t BM benefit somewhat more than MM or SV from culling the herd? With abilities like Ferocity and Cobra Strikes, BM should see even higher uptime on the new ability. Not that it makes much difference but it should be there.

  24. Frostheim says:

    Excellent point, yes, BM will see a slighly better CotH uptime — figure up to another 0.5% boost.

  25. Koonazz says:

    I switched my wolf to a wasp over the weekend. My dps seems to have gone up overall, plus the nerf to the targets armor is nice.

  26. Wraith says:

    im doing something way wrong and need help to get my Hit rating down asked alot of ppl they think i need to change my chants what do you think

  27. Tlord says:


    Seems to just be the gear that you have. Alot of the ICC gear now also seems to have alot of Hit Rating on it aswell :(. I know how you feel, it bothers me to have an excess of hit but again it appears to just be the gear you have, no chants and no enchants will save you from the hit you have amassed there (from what i can see). Don’t worry about choosing gear with lesser stats just for a lack of Hit Rating on it, its bothers, i know, but at the moment i am sitting around 10.5% and you just gotta ride it out til you can get upgrades or if you can purchase equal ilvl gear with emblems or $ with no hit and more AP ArP Crit then you’ll be sailing. Not a big deal.

  28. Bloodbàne says:

    Koonazz – a Wasp you say? The armor debuff is nice if no one can sunder or farie fire (those still overwrite it right?) and would help with an Armor Pen set I am sure.

  29. Zylkan says:

    I could use some help here… I’ve always been MM. Changed to SV for the last 5 months or so and now I’d like to go back and re-try MM, my all time favorite. However, I’ve read somethings that make me wonder about TrueShotAura and Improved Mark. Most say that in raid environment, don’t waste a point in TSA due to Shamans and DKs procs. And I once read that Improved Mark is surely not a great improvement in dps (I’m the only hunter in my guild, even in 25).
    Could you please comment on this? I really don’t know what to do, and to test at the dummies without TSA I cannot compare MM against SV…
    Thank you

  30. Frostheim says:

    All hunter specs have a raid buff to offer (Ferocious Inspiration, TSA, and replenishment) and I strongly recommend that hunters always take their raid buff. Part of paying yer dues is to bring that raid buff in case the other class doesn’t show.

    For a more selfish reason – if you have TSA you will *know* that it will always be active, and you’ll always be within range of it.

    If you’re the only hunter, don’t take Hunter’s Mark.

  31. Leisant says:

    I bring a survival set for ICC, even though my best gear and dps is MM. My survival set has improved traps and point of no escape, along with the glyph of frost trap, because I am on frost trapping and murdurig Saurfang’s mana fiends. I would honestly say that Surv is the way to go for Saurfang, high burst, traps, etc. (LnL is sooo much fun on 2 targets… no waiting or weaving!). Kill shot and explosive shot glyphs are super fun too for those adds.

  32. Malgior says:

    First off, thank you Frostheim for providing this wonderful blog. I am finally settled into a somewhat permanent MM 7/57/7 build, but I have one questionable talent point that I could possibly move around. It is currently in Improved Hunters Mark, but I am not sure if that is the best place for it. I could switch out a 3 10agi/10hit gems for 3 10agi/10crit gems, and move the point into focused aim, or I could move the point over to Improved Arcane. Am I missing something, or are these the only options I have. Here is my armory:

  33. Grimgold of Silver Hand says:

    Greetings, I’m a long time lurker and first time poster, and wanted to thank you for the wonderful blog. Getting to my question, is Zeherah’s Hunter DPS analyzer reliable? I assumed it was based off of the Speadsheet from EJ but I’m starting to have some doubts, because the page says survival is better damage at my gear level. This is a little bit confusing as I’m in mostly ToC25 gear and your comments lead me to believe that Marks should be clearly better, or at least not 300 and change dps behind survival. I guess I’ll have to download Excell (bleh) and check the EJ spreadsheet.

  34. Frostheim says:

    As far as I know the spreadsheet is pretty accurate. Keep in mind that the spreadsheets are particularly bad at determining the best spec (and sometimes bad at certain talents too). Spreadsheets use averaging for cooldown and procs — so they assume you always get full benefit and that you don’t stack them. This favors SV and punishes MM from what realistically happens in a raid environment.

  35. xWarrior says:

    I have found an error on the spreadsheet that I can’t seem to resolve. Some whatever reason, it is giving me one extra% of hit than what I actually have. I am a horde player and the heroic presence buff is automatically turned off on the spreadsheet. If anyone knows what is contributing to this, I would greatly appreciate your assistance. Thanks.

  36. Hotsh says:

    Hey, I’ve been doing 25 mans for the past long while with NO mana problems at all. I switch to 10 mans and I’m running oom and my dps is lowering rediculously. I do about 6-7k in 25icc and I was only doing 4-4.5 in 10icc. If anyone can help me figure out how to fix my mana problems, or let me know if they have the same problem, let me know! I just want to know if I’m doing something wrong. My toon is Hotsh on Aerie Peak

  37. Trevor says:

    I would love to know why no matter what I do I cannot get any decent dps from my BM or MM spec. With my new MM spec …. I am currently at 240 hit rating 100 str, 1,114 agil, 1,320 stam, 546 int, damage 1437 – 1665 ranged speed 2.26 though my gun is 2.80 power 4,446 with a crit chance ranged of 32.47% … 256 haste with my gear I have a + 354 armor pen. My tree points are 13 in BM, 51 in MM and 7 survival. I cannot usually get above 2k dps. I did notice this spec eats up my mana to fast and gotta keep switching aspect of dragonhawk for Aspect of the VIper to get my mana back and losing yet even more dps .. grrr. Please help someone … I’m tired of having really sucky dps look me up on armory if you want Chaossparkle – Feathermoon – Alliance Please for the love of god get me some good dps. My Bm spec str 100, agil 1093, stam 1320, int 537, damage 1528- 1771 speed down to 1.88 ( gun speed rating 2.80) power 4402 hit rating 240 crit chance 29.22% armor pen 354, haste 256. Tree 51 bm 20 mm 0 surv.

  38. Cameron McManus says:

    It is a MUST to obtain at least 800 armor pen with gear alone (including weapon/ trickets/etc.) Meaning no gems for the most part before even thinking about going MM. Surv blows MM out of the water until you hit that 800 armer pen limit. Yes, this means good icc gear and the willingness to read up and study your class. I have heard alot though once you get that 800 you gem out armor pen because it will now benefit you more than agility. I currently am SV and have been for a while now. Being SV the 4 piece t10 set is a must. Even if it means a gs loss you get a dps increase, so its worth it. Having won no tokens yet still with 251 t10 i’m competing with mage and shaman who are around 6k gs and have 3 pieces of t10 sact. SO wrapping things up, i strongly suggest going sv till you hit that 800 armor pen no gems, practing up on your ratation, and staying hit capped.

    Thanks for reading,

  39. Frostheim says:

    @Cameron Not entirely true. The biggest gear factor in MM vs SV is the dps of your ranged weapon. Once you have access to an ilvl 264 ranged and have decent gear, MM usually overtakes SV regardless of armor pen rating.

    The problem is MM takes a lot more forethought to play properly. You have to use at least 4 rapid fires per fight, and stack your cooldowns together.

    But a well-played MM will outdps a well played SV with very attainable gear these days. In fact, this includes gear you can collect without ever setting foot into a raid. This is why the top-geared MM were the highest dps in Ulduar days. We can now get better than Ulduar gear just from running heroics and scanning the AH : )

  40. Hwarfdunter says:

    i currently have a 264 bow. zod’s reaping longbow i believe its called. (lady death 25m) and iv switched to mm and ended up switching back due to a dps loss

  41. GrumpyWowGuy says:

    @ honorshammer

    Thank you Thank you !Thank you!!!!!!

    As a healer in 3.3 10 man H ICC, thank you for staying Survival to keep replenishment!!!