Updated for Mists of Pandaria Patch 5.4.8, with some Warlords of Draenor notes.
The Survival spec is in a good place in raids and PvE in patch 5.4.8., doing slightly more damage than either Beast Mastery or Marksmanship, depending on who you ask and what sims they’re running. In addition to more effective traps (which means better control,) Survival is also effective when more magic damage is required, as opposed to physical.
This Survival Hunter guide is primarily intended for Raiding (DPS) use at max level. However, the principals will still apply during the leveling process. If you’re looking for advice on leveling your Hunter, check out our Hunter Leveling Guide.
For PvP or leveling see the links just below.
If you want the same in-game step by step leveling guide that we use to get to the level cap as fast as possible, take a look at our favorite in-game leveling guide.
Other Hunter Guides:
Survival Hunter Talents
Talents are easily changed to suit particular situations. Makes sure you have a stack of Tome of the Clear Mind in your bags and then tweak talents and glyphs to suit particular encounters. Our picks for general use are checked: .
Tier 1, level 15:
Faster movement or more uses of Deterrence and Disengage. The latter is more generally useful, but your call. None have any direct effect on DPS.
- Posthaste is a maneuverability boost and is useful for getting “over there” right now.
- Narrow Escape is the weakest talent of this tier. There’s very few reasons to take this at this time (unless the tank has died and you need to escape the trash mob coming for you.)
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Chimera allows us to use two of our survivability tools more often. How often do you need to use these abilities?
Tier 2, level 30:
All crowd control (CC,) none have any direct DPS value. None will have an effect on bosses. They all have their niche uses.
- Silencing Shot gives us the best overall utility of this tier when fighting caster mobs.
- Wyvern Sting is for controlling mobs that need a quick nap, even in mid-fight. It breaks on damage and does not clear bleeds and DOTs. It is a nice “wait there for a minute” for inconveniently located adds.
- Intimidation allows the pet to stun a trash mob for three seconds, which will also interrupt casts.
Tier 3, level 45:
- Exhilaration is nice, just not quite as nice as some of the other talents in this tier. It’s better for situations where damage will come in bursts.
- Aspect of the Iron Hawk is the best bet for survivability. The damage mitigation will help more than either of the self heals.
- Spirit Bond doesn’t heal enough to be a viable choice for high damage situations, it’s more useful for leveling.
- In WoD: Aspect of the Iron Hawk becomes just Iron Hawk, losing the Attack Power boost.
Tier 4, level 60:
Dire is best for single target, Fervor and Thrill coming out ahead on A of E fights.
- Fervor is a decent DPS increase and focus gain. Nice if you can anticipate just when you will need it.
- Dire Beast is the greatest DPS increase. Recommended
- Thrill of the Hunt provides free Arcane Shots and low cost Multi Shots. The focus you save can go to your other tools.
Tier 5, level 75:
All of these are very close in DPS value.
- A Murder of Crows gives you the greatest single target DPS increase of this tier. Recommended. Note that it’s also expensive at 60 focus.
- Blink Strike allows you to quickly reposition your pet.
- Lynx Rush is primarily useful for Beast Mastery, not so hot for Survival Hunters.
- In WoD: Lynx Rush is dead, being replaced with Stampede.
Tier 6, level 90:
- Glaive Toss is the best pick overall, currently provides optimal DPS for single targets. The Daze that it applies can be occasionally useful.
- Powershot could be really good with a higher crit rating. It does knockback,which your tank might not care for.
- Barrage is good for those times when you have a lot of area effect fighting.
Tier 7, level 100:
These are the new talents that are coming in Warlords. Naturally they’re subject to change before release.
- Exotic Munitions. You can change the ammo type that you’re using and each has a different effect. Each change lasts an hour.
- Focusing Shot – allows you to carefully line up your perfect shot for 100% wpn damage and generates 50 focus. It also replaces Steady Shot and Cobra Shot.
- Lone Wolf – All of your damage is increased by 30% when you don’t have a pet active and you can provide one of several benefits to your party or raid.
Survival Hunter Pets
Any pet can be either Tenacity, Ferocity, or cunning and you can switch their specs at any time. Ferocity is generally the best choice as it provides the greatest DPS gain, but there may be situations where Tenacity or Cunning might have use.
For raid buffs and useful effects see this Pet Utility Table. The buffs will determine which pet is the best one to use in any given situation.
As Survival you don’t, of course, have access to the exotic pets (and their abilities,) but various other pets do bring useful abilities to the raid, beyond their damage.
Cooldowns for pet abilities are longer than than they are in Beast Mastery and patch 5.3 doubled some pet cooldowns.
Buffs do not stack with any similar buffs your team might provide, such as Cat Mastery & Shaman Mastery. Make sure you pick your pet to get the best (most complimentary) buffage possible.
Here are some useful pet families.
- Cat – 60 second 3.5k Mastery buff.
- Wolf – 5% Crit buff to party. Again, this doesn’t stack.
- Serpent – 10% attack speed buff lasts for 2 minutes.
- Wind Serpent – Increases magic damage taken by the target by 5%, which is great if a lot of magic damage is being tossed about. Does not stack with similar effects.
- Crane – 4 second sleep, instant cast. This shares Diminishing Returns with stuns.
- Monkey – Gives a 4 second stun, but this has a cast time. It’s noises are also annoying to some.
- Moth – interrupt casting and 4 second spell lockout
- Spider – 5 second web root (30 yd range) that does not break on damage.
In Warlords the pet abilities will change. For one, all of the CC abilities will be gone. See the changes here.
Weapon: DPS > Agility >Hit and Expertise to 7.5% > Critical > Haste > Mastery
- Useless: Hit and Exp over 7.5%
- Warlords: Hit and Exp will be dead. You will have a 100% chance to hit and a 3% chance to be dodged.
Your pet inherits half of your Hit and Expertise ratings. But, your pet only needs Hit and gets Hit from your Expertise, so if you’re capped at 7.5% in each your pet will be Hit capped and you’re good.
Crit is the “go to” stat of the rest of the stats. The more the better.
Haste is a very strong stat when you hit certain breakpoints, such as getting in an extra shot or DoT tick. It’s less useful than Crit otherwise. If you want the really detailed breakdown on Haste then see this EJ page (it’s for Marksmanship, but most it also applies to Survival.)
Mastery adds to your magic damage, not to any physical damage you might do and nothing for your pet, so it’s not as strong as the others.
In Warlords there will be two new stats:
- Readiness is an ability gained at 90 and will reduce the cooldowns on various other abilities.
- Multistrike gives you a chance to gain additional free shots at greatly reduced damage.
- Make sure you have your 7.5% Hit and Exp, try to get the Hit from gear w/o reforging,
- and then reforge everything else into Crit and then Haste.
- Reforging is dead in Warlords and even the NPCs will be disappeared.
A Survival Hunter Rotation Guide
There are a bunch of changes coming in Warlords, but they won’t change your rotation much. Not unless the relative values of various abilities change. We’ll have to wait and see on that one.
Here are some of the WoD changes:
- Improved Serpent Sting and Viper Venom have been removed.
- Serpent Sting has also been removed, but it’s effect is now backed into Multi-Shot and Arcane Shot.
- Serpent Spread has been renamed Serpent Sting and remains as a passive ability for Survival Hunters. It causes Multi-Shot and Arcane Shot to also apply the Serpent Sting poison, which does instant and periodic damage.
- Kill Shot is no longer available to Survival Hunters. BM and MM can still use it.
- Hunter’s Mark will die.
- Your Lock and Load‘s effects have been incorporated into Black Arrow and have been redesigned. Lock and Load now causes the next Explosive Shot to not trigger its cooldown, but no longer causes it to be free or reset the ability’s current cooldown. This effect can stack up to 5 times.
- Black Arrow deals 60% more damage, inflicts Shadow damage every 3 seconds, and triggers Lock and Load on Multistrike hits.
Your Rotation in the Mists
Keep these up at all times:
- Aspect of the Hawk (or the talent Aspect of the Iron Hawk) should always active, save for when an encounter requires a great deal of movement in which case Aspect of the Cheetah may prove to be a superior choice.
- Keep Hunter’s Mark and Serpent Sting applied to your target at all times. Serpent Sting should be refreshed by your Cobra Shot making it unnecessary for you to re-apply it directly the majority of the time.
- Use Explosive Shot on cooldown as well as whenever Lock and Load procs granting you two shots without focus cost or cooldown.
- Cast Black Arrow on cooldown.
- Start using Kill Shot when your target reaches 20% health.
- Use Arcane Shot to expend excess focus, but never completely use up your focus as you’ll need it for the above abilities.
- Cast Cobra Shot to build focus and refresh the duration of Serpent Sting.
When facing smaller groups use…
- Explosive Trap instead of Black Arrow only if you can hit multiple targets at once with Explosive Trap.
- Switch to using Multi-Shot instead of Arcane Shot as your focus dump.
- Cast Explosive Shot on multiple targets whenever Lock and Load procs to maximize DPS.
If you’re dealing with 4 or more targets use…
- Multi-Shot as your primary damaging attack in addition to using Explosive Trap.
- Cobra Shot remains your choice for Focus regen and
- Kill Shot should be used when a target drops to 20% or below health.
Your DPS cooldowns Dire Beast, A Murder of Crows, Rapid Fire, Rabid and Stampede should be used on cooldown. There seems to be very little difference in priority between them, so use them as they pop up.
Gems for the Survival Hunter
In Mists of Pandaria Agility is definitely your best stat, but gems with secondary stats have twice the value of agility gems, 320 Haste Vs 160 Agility, for example. This means that socket matching will be worthwhile in some cases, particularly if the slot has a big agility bonus, say 60+ agility per slot.
Use this tool if you want to really maximize your gem usage. It will factor in race, all your gear, various other stuff, and help min-max for your particular situation. Really quick and dirty answer? Just gem for Agility in all slots.
Less quick and dirty answer? Use the hybrid Agility gems to match socket bonuses (if the bonus is lots of Agility.)
- Meta socket: If you can get the Capacitive Primal Diamond then go for it. Otherwise the Agile Primal Diamond will do until you can get the other.
- Red: Delicate Primordial Ruby
- Yellow: Deadly Vermilion Onyx
- Blue: Glinting Imperial Amethyst
- Belt buckle and Blacksmithing sockets: Delicate Primordial Ruby
Note that if the socket bonus is something other than Ag or Crit you’re probably better off just dropping a Delicate Primordial Ruby into those yellow and blue sockets.
Short on gold? Most of the enchants below have similar enchants available, of lesser value, for less cash. We’ve linked to a couple of these. Check with the rep vendor or the Auction House for others. If you want to buy the best enchants, fund all of your alts, donate to the guild, etc., but don’t have the cash, then see what the Zygor Gold Addon can do about about improving your situation.
|Meta||Capacitive Primal Diamond: +324 Critical Strike, and chance on melee or ranged hit to gain Capacitance. Requires the legendary quest line.
Agile Primal Diamond: 216 Agil & 3% Increased Crit Effect
|Red||Delicate Primordial Ruby: 160 Agility
Precise Primordial Ruby: 320 Expertise
|Yellow||Smooth Sun’s Radiance: 320 Crit|
|Blue||Rigid River’s Heart: +320 Hit|
|Orange||Deadly Vermilion Onyx: 80 Agility, 160 Crit
Crafty Vermilion Onyx: 160 Expertise, 160 Crit
Deft Vermilion Onyx: 80 Agility, 160 Haste
|Purple||Glinting Imperial Amethyst: 80 Ag, 160 Hit
Accurate Imperial Amethyst: 160 Expertise, 160 Hit
|Prismatic||Delicate Primordial Ruby: 160 Agility|
|Cogwheel||Smooth Tinker’s Gear: 600 Crit – requires an engie helm, such as this.
Precise Tinker’s Gear: 600 Expertise
Quick Tinker’s Gear: 600 Haste
Survival Hunter Enchants
Helm enchants are gone in Mists of Pandaria, shoulder enchants all come from the Inscription profession.
A cloak enchant will add Hit and the glove enchant will add Expertise, if you need to top those off.
|Ranged Weapon||Lord Blastington’s Scope of Doom: Sometimes add 1,800 Ag for 10 seconds.|
|Shoulders||Secret Tiger Claw Inscription +520 Ag, 100 Crit, requires Inscription 575
Greater Tiger Claw Inscription: +200 Agility, +100 Crit
|Cloak||Swordguard Embroidery: Sometimes pops 4k AP for 15 sec. Requires Tailoring.
Enchant Cloak – Accuracy: +180 Hit rating
Enchant Cloak – Superior Critical Strike: +180 Crit rating
|Chest||Enchant Chest – Glorious Stats: +80 to all Stats|
|Bracers||Fur Lining, Agility: +500 Agility, requires Leatherworking.
Enchant Bracer – Greater Agility: +180 Agility
Socket Bracer: Self only, Blacksmithing, pop in a nice Agility gem.
|Gloves||Enchant Gloves – Superior Expertise: 170 Expertise
Enchant Gloves – Greater Haste: +170 Haste
Socket Gloves – Self only, Blacksmithing, pop in a nice gem.
|Belt||Living Steel Belt Buckle: put a nice gem into this slot.|
|Leggings||Shadowleather Leg Armor: +285 Agility & 165 Crit rating|
|Boots||Enchant Boots – Blurred Speed: 140 Agility and Slight run speed increase.|
|Rings||Enchant Ring – Greater Agility: +160 Agility, Requires Enchanting 550|
Professions for Hunters
In Warlordsall of the combat bonuses from all of the professions will be removed. The professions will be for fun and/or gold making.
All of the professions provide some benefit for any class/spec, though clearly some are better than others. Even the gathering professions have some value, though you might be better served by using those to build a larger gold stash.
Most of the professions add an average of about 320 Agility. Since gems with secondary stats are twice the value of those with primary stats (320 Haste Vs 160 Agility, for example) Blacksmithing might be the most valuable profession if you’re just looking for the buffs or gemming versatility since you can add the 640 in stats vs 320 Agility.
Jewelcrafting provides only 320 in any stat over non JC gems.
Engineering has a big Agility cooldown and Herbalism has a very nice Haste cooldown.
Which profs are “the best?” Engineering for the cooldown and the various useful toys. Blacksmithing for the extra gem sockets, but since you’ll just drop Ag gems into those it’s no better than the other profs.
Snacks and Consumables
Pandarens get doubled food buffs.
- Sea Mist Rice Noodles: 300 Ag for an hour
- Valley Stir Fry: 275 Ag
- Flask of Spring Blossoms: 1,000 Ag for one hour
- Virmen’s Bite: 4k Ag for 25 seconds
- Master Healing Potion: Heals 60k HP
Since Catalclysm everyone but Gnomes were allowed into the Hunter crowd. Probably because they’re too busy repairing their city or they’re too short to use a bow (how about a Gnomish X4500GT Zarkomatic blaster rifle?)
In Mists of Pandaria even Pandarens can become Hunters, but not Gnomes.
- Hit and Expertise are gone, and so are any racials than have anything to do with those two stats.
- There are other racial changes, see them all on our race changes in WoD post.
If you’re looking towards the end game the Orcs and Trolls are arguably the best Hunter races, with Worgen and Draenei on the Alliance side. They aren’t wildly better, but if you want every little bit of uberness…
- Alliance Damage: Draenei (hit rating,) Worgen (Crit chance & sprint,) Dwarf (ranged expertise.)
- Horde Damage: Orc (Blood Fury) and +5% pet damage ; Troll gets Berserking and Bow crit. Goblins get a Haste effect and Rocket Jump (a useful escape ability.) Undead drain life and heal.
Pandarens (Mists of Pandaria) can be either Alliance or Horde, they choose when they leave their starting area.
- They can put enemies to sleep with a touch of the paw, but youi don’t want to be in melee range.
- Increased benefits from food buffs will be quite nice while raiding.
- Take less falling damage from being “bouncy.”
- Double Rest XP (from Inns) makes for faster leveling.
- Skilled at cooking.
- WoD: no changes
- A decent DPS gain: +1% hit is nice for any Hunter and your pet get’s half of that.
- A small HoT, Gift of the Naaru, will help with survivability.
- WoD: The Hit racial is dead, instead you Ag will be increased. If Ag turns out to be as valuable in WoD as it is in Mists then this might turn out to be the best racial.
- A DPS gain is their 1% increased chance to crit, which is a good stat for you, and ….
- Worgen can “periodically move more quickly,” which definitely has it’s uses.
- Their increased skinning skill and speed is a nice convenience, but of no special value to Hunters.
- WoD: no changes
- A DPS gain: Dwarves get expertise with ranged weapons which is useful.
- The stone form ability is rather nice, washing away bleeds and reducing damage taken by 10%, and the latter part of that will find occasional PvE use.
- Dwarves are good with Archeology.
- WoD: Ranged expertise is dead, StoneForm is improved.
- No DPS abilities.
- Shadowmeld drops aggro in PvE encounters, but it’s redundant with your Feign Death ability. It does not add to your Camouflage ability.
- Night Elf hunters also gain the benefit of a 2% dodge chance increase, another bonus to stack with Aspect of the Monkey when forced into melee. This willonly rarely be of any use to you in PvE.
- WoD: 2% greater movement speed. Touch of Elune adds 1% Crit by day and Haste by night.
- They have nothing that’s specifically useful for DPS, though their escape ability is quite nice for PvP and occasionally of use in PvE.
- Their diplomacy ability will help with the rep gains with the many factions of Azeroth and beyond.
- Their expertise with melee weapons is of no use to you.
- Increased Spirit is not useful.
- WoD: The Human Spirit becomes useful, as it now raises two of your secondary stats (the two that are highest.)
Trolls are possibly the best of all the races for Hunters.
- Trolls possess the Berserking racial, a potent DPS increase for those burst phases. Stick it into a macro.
- Trolls get Ranged weapon expertise, which is pretty nice for you.
- Trolls also get +5% damage bonus Vs. beasts. Some of the trash mobs found in PvE content count as beasts, so this will be occasionally useful.
- A somewhat more situational ability is the reduced duration Trolls get from movement reducing effects.
- WoD: Ranged Expertise is dead, Berserking is nerfed, beast slaying is nerfed (no damage bonus, you’ll get an XP bonus instead.)
Orcs, on the other hand gain, are also a contender for “best Hunter race.”
- They get the benefit of Blood Fury, a great burst DPS increaser,
- as well as 5% more pet damage via Command,
- and a 15% resistance to all stuns with Hardiness, useful in PvP situations and helpful in rare PvE content.
- WoD: Blood Fury and Hardiness are both nerfed.
- Undead can drain life from opponents and be healed for the same amount. This is a passive effect and happens occasionally with your damaging attacks. it will add a bit to your DPS numbers.
- “Will of the Forsaken” can wipe off sleeps, charms, etc., a nice ability to have, especially in PvP and occasionally in PvE.
- Being able to eat the brains of those you kill frees up a blag slot (which would otherwise carry food.)
- WoD: And old ability, Underwater Breathing, returns and is improved.
- Rocket Jump has definite uses at times, especially as “gain range” ability when Disengage is on cooldown.
- An increase to Haste is just Ok and
- An increase in Alchemy skill, along with a greater effect from your own healing potions, is also nice.
- Goblins also receive vendor discounts and can summon a personal bank.
- WoD: no real changes.
- The Blood Elves are a a rather “meh…” race, as far as Hunters are concerned. Their big ability is Arcane Torrent, which can be used as an AoE silence/interruption when forced into melee range with caster classes. Paladins and Death Knights, for example. Ideally Hunters want to avoid “melee range” like the plague.
- Blood elves are good with Enchanting.
- WoD: Belves will have an added 1% Crit.
- Tauren are another generally viable Hunter race, gaining a 5% bonus to health that is occasionally useful, though it doesn’t scale well at high levels.
- You’ll also gain the benefit of Warstomp, an AoE stun that may allow you to gain range from the opposition.
- Herbalism provides a nice little heal and a Haste effect, both of which are nice for Hunters and the Tauren’s increased Herbalism skill will get you into that heal just that much faster.
- WoD: No real changes.
Survival Hunter Videos
A slightly crazed Hunter DPSing in dungeons. Lots of chat and some good tips.
A”How to” for Survival rotation with some discussion. Less crazed than the previous video. 😉
In this one the author covers talents, glyphs, gems & enchants, and rotations.
The Fast Hunter Leveling Guide
Once upon a time, while leveling, you had to look up quest details on some website. Now you have a guide like Dugi’s which sits in-game, in a small window, and shows you step-by-step where to go, what to do, and a number of details to make it even easier.
WoW’s in-game quest helper is great for showing where the quests are, but it doesn’t show you the best order in which to do them and it doesn’t show you which ones are best and which should be skipped. Dugi’s does.
Want to get a level, or several levels, in the dungeons or in PvP? No problem. Dugi’s will remember where you left off and then it will figure out where you should be at your new level and pick up from there.
Brand new to WoW? Decked head to toe in Heirlooms? Mixing up questing with PvP and/or dungeons? No problem, Dugi has your back all the way from level 1 to the level cap, or whichever level you start from.
Why a guide when you can just buy a high level character for $60 from Bliz? Save money, for one. For another there’s the extra gold, rep, learning your character, etc. And you still have to hit those last ten levels.
Dugi’s in-game guide is always quickly updated for all patches and expansions, even Shadowlands, so it’s never obsolete. Grab yours here and get leveled fast.
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