Breaking free of the Arcane Shot-spam habit

This was totally a posed shot, not actual target dummy practice.

An anecdote by an average hunter trying to improve…

As previous posts have mentioned, I’ve enjoyed traipsing around Pandaria on my hunter. With all of our fun abilities, damage and tank included, and so on, a hunter is basically the perfect questing machine.

Hunter is also the class that I play best – unquestionably; by a long shot. However, I don’t even come close to being among the best hunters out there. I’m just a guy who plays a hunter “pretty ok” when it comes down to it.

As such, while preparing for this past weekend’s raiding activities, I decided that I wanted to do some research into the Survival rotation (priority system). I looked at some guides, and realized that I’d come into the expansion woefully unprepared, compared with how I approached Cataclysm.

The repercussions of Tier 13

Tier 13 set bonuses were pretty great, and made for a wild ride for certain classes – hunters included – when it came to dealing damage. With the 2-piece bonus granting double focus from Steady Shot and Cobra Shot, and the 4-piece bonus giving a chance to proc 30% Haste with Arcane Shot usage, my approach to Survival DPS was altered. Parts of the rotation sped up a bit. More focus from Cobra Shot could mean less Cobra Shots, and/or more Arcane Shots. And Arcane Shot was something we wanted to use as much as possible until we got the Haste proc, which dramatically reduced the cast time of our Cobra Shots; etc. In all, I found that playing SV in 4.3 amounted to a more chaotic and exciting experience.

However, I also fell into a habit of spamming Arcane Shot when I had the opportunity, until I got the Haste proc, and then spamming it again to dump focus from time to time. I didn’t prioritize it over abilities like Explosive Shot, but I certainly spewed out a lot of AS’s during that time period.

Mists of Pandaria

A couple of things have bugged me about hunters in MoP. First of all, according to various reports around and about, hunter single target damage is fair-to-middlin’. Secondly, Beast Mastery is the spec with the highest damage potential, if only by a small margin over SV. I haven’t done much research into either, because I can’t really change the first issue if it’s true, and I won’t play BM unless my raid leader makes me, which he won’t do unless both MM and SV are completely scraping the bottom of the DPS pool.

What I can do is work on closing that significant gap between the hunter I was last week and the one I want to become – a more proficient one (yes, I know that’s vague, and I’m sorry…). With that in mind, I set out on Saturday to rework how I approach things, from the rotation I use at the pull to my management of cooldowns and focus, to how I work the priority system.

Tier 13 still haunts me

One of my tasks was to rework my opening sequence. In all honestly, I had to throw away most of what I had been doing and relearn my damage from the pull. Spending some time at the dummy, as well as going over it in my head when I wasn’t at the computer, helped me get it down pat, for the most part.

The other tasks were cooldown management and my usage of focus dumps – Arcane Shot in particular.

The second part has proved to be the trickiest (although they all work together in the overall picture, of course). While I spent a good portion of the last tier leaning heavily on my AS button, I developed a nasty addiction to using Arcane Shot whenever I could. This was not necessarily the best thing back then from time to time, because there were times when I’d ride Arcane Shot until the gas tank was empty, get no Haste proc anyway, and have to roll up a nice boring regular-length Cobra Shot to regen focus while Explosive Shot sat there, off cooldown, ready and waiting for me to use it. This was a DPS loss, because I wasn’t managing my focus properly in those instances by leaving some focus available for that immediate Explosive Shot. However, for the level at which we were raiding, it usually wasn’t something that happened enough to make the difference between a kill or a wipe.

Now, as our guild is finally stepping into Mogu’shan Vaults, I’m interested in stepping my performance up a notch.

Arcane Shot no longer procs Haste because I’m no longer wearing any of that old gear – but I still find myself going back to that button to bleed focus when I don’t have focus that needs to be bled.

Breaking this habit is proving to be difficult for me.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time practicing a more judicious approach to Arcane Shot use. I want to ensure that my Explosive Shot is fire-able as soon as it comes off cooldown. Same with Black Arrow, and Glaive Toss, and so on. To have enough focus, but not waste it – that is my challenge.

During some of my more frustrating moments on Saturday, I contemplated removing it from my interface completely for a few practice runs. However, I decided against it, because I do need to use it when the time is right. It’s going to take practice, determination, and willpower to ween myself off that stupid Arcane Shot button.

On the bright side, during my sessions at the target dummy on Saturday and Sunday, I saw marked progress over time in both my execution of the SV priority system (less delays for specialty shots due to focus-starving-Arcane Shot-spam) and the results (progressively higher DPS over many attempts, as a result of tightening things up all around).


This isn’t over. I have a feeling that the evolution of my damage execution will be ongoing. The opening sequence… let’s just say that I was doing it almost completely wrong. And over-bleeding focus is a habit that I have to break. Additionally, I need to get into the flow of fights, and not lose awareness of what’s going on around me while also giving my raid team the best damage contribution I can give.

Along those lines, I wasn’t happy with my damage during our attempts at Stone Guard.

Damage from our final and best Stone Guard attempt, 11/11/2012.

Don’t get me wrong, I was topping the meter, but I don’t believe for a second that I was close to my potential, performance-wise. I certainly wasn’t crushing it. While there are two players in particular who are more skilled than I am at dealing damage on my team, they don’t have close to the gear that I do at the moment, so it was difficult to gauge how I was doing against other classes. By the time we called it for the week, I decided that if we had all gone in there with the same ilevel, at least one of the warriors would have trounced me.

So there’s a lot to work on. The road to self-betterment is looking like it will be a long one. Then again, it’s good to have the personal challenge, and if nothing else, I will surely improve through my efforts.

– – –

This is not a guide, and so I have not included what I’m using for a priority system or opening sequence when the info is readily available at Elitist Jerks, Icy Veins, and other fine resources. I just wanted to share some of the challenges I’m facing as I attempt to improve my game.

– – –

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


2 Comments on “Breaking free of the Arcane Shot-spam habit”

  1. Prinnie Dood says:

    The Rumor Mill has it that Blizzard is nerfing Beast Mastery come 5.1, so no one will want you to use that spec thereafter. :D

    I secretly wish they had called it something else, since we work with more than beasts. Animal mastery? Pet Collector? I dunno, but I can’t and won’t use the term “BM,” because Beast Mastery is not what pops to my mind. :P

    • Mushan says:

      Yeah… re: the terminology, I’ve gotten over the whole BM abbreviation, after a while. I think singing / listening to “The Hunter Song” helped with that!

      I don’t want Beast Mastery to get nerfed, even though I won’t play it when it’s better. I just hope SV gets a bit of a nudge, if you know what I mean. :)

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