SV Hunter Shot Priority Rotation

Posted: by Delirium

reviewed and accurate
Reviewed 5/01/2015
Patch 6.1

View other WHU WoW hunter guides. Updated for patch 6.1.

This guide will cover the optimal Survival hunter shot rotation for level 100 in Warlords of Draenor. We’ll cover both single-target raid dps and AoE / 5-mans.

Hunters no longer have any kind of fixed rotation like we did in the days of yore, instead we fire our shots in a priority system, making decisions as we play about whether to save up focus for the SV signature shot, or to burn focus before it caps out, and working in a host of shots all on different cooldowns.

SV Hunter Single Target Shot Priority

The important parts of the SV single target rotation is keeping your DoTs ticking as much as possible, this includes Black Arrow, Serpent Sting (which is now applied and refreshed through the use of Arcane Shot), and, oddly enough, Explosive Trap.

Note that during Lock & Load procs, you should spam Explosive Shot — there is no longer any need to wait between shots and your Explosive Shot will still do the full damage (the damage of the ticks increases as you apply new Explosive Shots).

SV Hunter AoE Rotation

The best hunter AoE rotation naturally assumes that you’re taking the best SV AoE talents (Barrage, Thrill of the Hunt). However it’s not uncommon for SV hunters optimized for single target damage to still need to deal out the AoE, and in that case you’ll just drop or substitute a few shots from your AoE rotation.

The key to the awesome SV AoE is the power of Serpent Sting, which now combines the old mechanics: Improved Serpent Sting and Serpent Spread. Every mob you hit with your Multi-Shot will have Serpent Sting applied to them, and those Serpent Stings will cause additional instant damage when it hits, making the SV Multi-Shot hit far harder than any other spec.

The SV Cleave (2 targets, or 3-4 targets with a main focused target) priority rotation is:

The SV AoE (6 – 8 targets) priority rotation is:

The SV Large AoE (9 or more targets) priority rotation is:

For Multi-target fights, start by pre-casting an Explosive Trap then firing one Multi-Shot before/on the pull. You want to get those Serpent Stings and Explosive Trap DoT ticks going as soon as you can.  For more specifics on the AoE priorities, see my in depth analysis here.

Facebook Twitter Snailmail
  1. Beergasm says:

    Good stuff, thanks for all the guides Frost.

  2. Nazrean says:

    Just curious of everyones opinion on using glaive toss in single target situations. I see most hunters doing it, however is it really worth the GCD if it is only hitting one target?

    • Frostheim says:

      Glaive Toss does about the same single-target damage as Arcane Shot for SV, but costs less focus. Thus you want to use it even if it’s only hitting one target.

      • Bramman says:

        Glaive toss hits twice, each for more damage than an arcane shot so it’s more than double the damage of arcane shot. It’s definitely worth using even for single target.

        For me at ilevel 499 with only self buffs:
        Arcane Shot hits for around 30k (non crit)
        Glaive Toss hits for around 80k (non crit) 40k for each glaive you see flying
        Explosive Shot is around 60k (non crit) 3 ticks of 20k

      • Bramman says:

        Oops I didn’t account for procs with those numbers… after taking off my proc gear and re-testing… Each glaive does a bit less than a single arcane shot… maybe 15% less? So it’s still more damage to hit glaive toss than arcane, even on single target.

  3. Rymoe says:

    Thanks Frost, helpful guides, as always; somewhere to point hunters too (the none paying of dues type) when they need help, cheers.

  4. Rymoe says:

    @Nazrean, I see glaive toss used a lot on single targets in LFR and my thoughts would be people not caring about dps that much or worrying if the boss is going to die or not (they will), so it’s just them being lazy and not swapping out talent points when the trash is done with. I expect all good hunters swap their talents when raiding normal or heroic content with guildies.

  5. grelner says:

    From the priority listing given by Frostheim, Glaive Toss appears to be ranked higher than Arcane shot and should therefore be given preference? My thought was that even against single targets it provides more damage at less focus cost? What i would like to know however is how and when is the best time to stop spamming muti-shot/cobra and using Explosive Shot procs and, as mentioned, kill shots to burn down the remaining adds?..

    • Frostheim says:

      In terms of when to use Lock & Load procs and Kill Shots, it really depends on how many targets you have up, and how much health they have. Against only 3 targets I use the Explosive Shot procs, but more than that and you’re usually better off continuing your multi-shot rotation. As for Kill Shot, again with few enough targets it’s worth it if you think they’ll actually be there when the shot arrive.

  6. grelner says:

    Just a thought, but, given the SV AoE rotation you give Frost, should we actually bother using Glaive Toss, or just save up another 5 focus and continue using Multi-Shot? Surely with it’s 15 sec CD it should need to hit harder than Multi-Shot to even be mentioned in an AoE priority list?

    • Frostheim says:

      Glaive Toss does indeed hit harder than Multi-Shot/Imp Serpent Sting. It all comes down to how many of the targets you’re able to hit with the Glaive Toss.

  7. Dracodraco says:

    Your priority is wrong.
    In this log:
    I have 132 initial ticks of explosive shot, for 1.6M dmg, for ~121K dmg per shot/GBC.
    I have 14 Killshots for an average of ~141K damage. This may be slightly skewed due to RNG with crits (realisticly I should get 5, not 6 crits with my crit rating), but then you have to remember that Kill Shot is cost-free, whereas explosive shot is not.
    Conclusion? Kill shot takes priority over explosive shot.

    It’s also worth noting that NO other ability is stronger than Serpent sting for DPS purposes – putting up a sting on a target that does not already have one yeilds almost 200K damage for 1 second/15 focus spent.

    • Dracodraco says:

      That’s obviously 16M, not 1.6M, sorry. God damn decimal points.

    • Frostheim says:

      You’re absolutely right, Kill Shot should be at ahead of Explosive. Serpent Sting is in fact up at the very top, before the rotation even begins, and will always be up, refreshed with Cobra Shot.

  8. nightgerbil says:

    Frost, sometimes I get an LnL right after I hit explosive arrow. I still have the dot ticking on the target and I put 2 more exy arrows into it. I understand that my 9 ticks now are rolled into 8 “super” ticks, but I have exy arrow OFF Cd now. Should I fire it off for 12 ticks? will that roll? or hold it until the 8 ticks clear then fire?.

  9. Flyer says:

    Improved Serpent Sting Questions.

    I have noticed that high dps hunters usually always have Improved Serpent Sting as one of their top 3 dps shots on recount meters. Low dps hunters almost never have any improved serpent sting in their top 3.

    I was under the impression that Improved Serpent Sting is a passive ability. But obviously, there is some way to maximize it.

    How does it work? What can i do to use it more?

    Some say it procs with Multi-Shot. Since Multi-Shot fires Serpent Sting as well, should I just use Mult-Shot?, regardless of number of targets?

    Many thanks for your thoughts.


    • Frostheim says:

      What you’re seeing is hunters who applied Multi-Shot many times in AoE fights. Imp Serpent Sting will never be at the top of meters in single-target fights.

  10. Delirium says:

    I’m a pretty new player (started in Cata), so this may be addressed somewhere else on the site, or somewhere else on the internet, but I have a questions about decision making and modifying shot priority during fights, particularly regarding dots when switching targets.

    One example I have is with primordius in ToT. In this fight I’m switching back and forth between killing adds and dpsing the boss (depending on whether or not I’m mutated, and whether or not my tank tells me to kill adds in the kiting path). I’m never quite sure when it’s appropriate to throw up a serpent’s sting for a small, short lived add. Or, if I’m not mutated, is it best to put Black Arrow on the boss anyway, since the adds won’t live long enough to get all of it’s use, even thought it’s potentially “wasted” (to some extent) because it won’t be buffed?

    I recall very similar decisions to make with garalon/garalon’s legs. If a leg spawns, I run over and start dpsing, if my BA comes off cool down when the leg still has ~50% health, would the 100% buff of putting it on the leg make up for it not hitting all of it’s ticks, or would it be best to throw it up on the main body so I can get LnL, then switch back to the leg for that buff.

    Anyhow, I don’t mean to ask specific questions about those encounters, i’m just looking for help on learning to make those decisions in the middle of a fight. I often see written that a hunter will always be better than a macro because s/he can make in-fight decisions, so I suppose I want to make sure i can think better than a macro…

    • Frostheim says:

      Well, if you’re aoeing adds, Multi-Shot will apply Serpent Sting for you. For single-target adds, generally you want the DoT to be up for at least half it’s duration to be worthwhile.

      I prefer to leave Black Arrow on the boss — as you note, it can proc Explosive Shots and the dps on the boss is almost always good.

      Another fun situation is dpsing multiple high-strength adds that both need to go down. I like to roll serpent stings on both targets by dpsing the primary target, but occasionally switching to the alternate target for a single Cobra Shot to extend Serpent Sting (and of course positioning yourself so that your Glaive Toss will hit both).

      Same thing with aoeing adds while a boss is up — I use my Cobra Shots on the boss (not the adds) to keep serpent sting on the boss and just use my aoe abilities on the adds (explosive trap, multi-shot, barrage, etc).

  11. Khaotiic says:

    Hi, so I recently changed to SV. I was just curious, do you spam Cobra shot to get back to 100 focus or do you just use it enough to have enough focus to cast ES/Glaive toss/AS?

  12. Ashtar says:

    I quit playing at cata release and just started up again… are we sure serpent spread still applies? Unless I manually apply to each target, I don’t see a ticker on them showing any dot I’ve applied. I know it isn’t passive, but is it spec specific? I only ask bc my dps is 20k less than a few other sv that are geared, gemmed and chanted just as I am. I don’t expect to be the best, I’m 40k off of that.

  13. Fluke says:

    Just wondering how often you guys find yourself inserting cobra shots to regen focus during boss fights.

    I was pleased to see the common sense I applied to shot rotation matches the shot priority listed for single target SV.

    The problem I pretty much always find, however, is by the time murder of crows falls into the rotation, focus is pretty much spent so 2 cobras are needed. Is this normal or am I missing something?

    The second question I have is more a curiousity. I switched back to Alliance (so I can raid with old friends) and found my DPS fell pretty dramatically – about 5% maybe more. Is it just me, or do the race bonuses for playing an orc seem somewhat unbalanced? Is there an equivalent race on the Alliance side? Thanks in advance for any thoughts you guys have.