Survival speccing, glyphs and rotation


Here’s my guide on Survival speccing, glyph choices and rotation for level 85. I’ll be updating it later so it remains current for upcoming patches and changes applied through hotfixes.

Version history:

  • Patch 4.2:
    • New spec: Careful Aim replaced with Sic’Em
    • More elaboration on glyph choices
  • Patch 4.1:
    • Added notes on how to AOE
  • Patch 4.0.6:
    • New spec: One With Nature instead of Bestial Discipline and Sic ‘Em.
    • Arcane Shot glyph recommended over Serpent Sting for single target dps.


My philosophy is not to exclusively maximize single target dps, I’m going for best overall specc with minimal dps sacrifices. Having said that, there is no need to sacrifice any utility for dps when speccing into Survival. All the options are pretty much clear-cut apart from a few choices that you need to make yourself which I focus on a bit below.

Talent commentary: The do’s


To get further down the talent tree you have to spend two points in situational talents that don’t increase your dps and the choices are between:

  • Hunter vs. Wild – Increases your total Stamina by 10%.
  • Survival Tactics – Reduces the chance that your trap spells will be resisted by 4%, and reduces the cooldown of your Disengage ability by 4 sec.
  • Entrapment – When your Ice Trap or Snake Trap are triggered you entrap all afflicted targets, preventing them from moving for 4 sec.
  • Point of No Escape – Increases the ranged critical strike chance of all of your attacks on targets affected by your Ice Trap and Freezing Trap by 6%.

Out of these options I pick Entrapment because of the value it adds to a raid when you need to AOE down a big pack of mobs before they reach you or something else. This will be very useful on encounters such as Beth’tilac, Magmaw and Cho’gall.

However, if your raid already has plenty of AOE and slow-down abilities and never have any problems dpsing adds down before they reach you, then maybe you don’t need this talent and should spend it on something else.

For example Hunter vs. Wild will increase you survivability in any situation (including raids) which definitely is a big plus and if you do some extreme soloing on the side then this talent is priceless to you.

Survival Tactics is pretty awesome as well, especially if you PvP on the side. With this talent and the glyph you’ll be able to Disengage every 16 seconds!

The only one of the options which I find to be less valuable than the others is Point of No Escape. Yes, it boosts your AOE damage in situations when you need to trap your targets but that’s the thing, it only boosts YOUR damage while Entrapment will give the entire raid more time to dps the adds. Clearly Entrapment is better for the raid group as a whole than this talent.

Basically you’ll have to decide yourself what is most useful for you and your raid group.

Serpent Spread

This is where Survival’s fantastic AOE damage comes from. Each of the targets you hit with Multi-Shot will get Serpent Sting applied to them and with that the instant damage from the Improved Serpent Sting talent.

You only want to spend 1 point in this talent though, two points will in most cases be a waste. Why? The 2nd rank will add 3 seconds to the duration of the applied Serpent Sting effect, it will not increase the instant damage you get from the Improved Serpent Sting talent. The first rank gives you 6 seconds of duration which is already more than enough to never have the Serpent Sting dot ever fall of your mobs because you will be casting a new Multi-Shot before those 6 seconds run out.

Talent commentary: The don’ts


This is a PvP-only ability that has little to no use even for PvPers (It has been said by Ghostcrawler himself that this ability is planned to be removed in an upcoming patch they just haven’t gotten around to it yet) and has no use at all for PvE. Stay away.

Mirrored Blades

While this is a fun ability in PvP, it has no tangible benefit in PvE.

Rapid Killing

This becomes a useful ability for Marksman because of the combo with Rapid Recuperation which is a talent that Survival hunters don’t have access to. Because of this, Rapid Killing is pointless for Survival.

Improved Steady Shot

There has been extensive testing to see if it would be worth it for Survival hunters to use two Steady Shots one after the other in their rotation so that they would see the benefits of this talent and while it is technically possible, it is incredibly difficult on the verge of impossible and not really a dps boost.


Prime Glyphs

  • Explosive Shot – Increases the critical strike chance of Explosive Shot by 6%.
  • Arcane Shot – Your Arcane Shot deals 12% more damage.
  • Kill Shot – If the damage from your Kill Shot fails to kill a target at or below 20% health, your Kill Shot’s cooldown is instantly reset. This effect has a 6 sec cooldown.
  • Serpent Sting – Increases the periodic critical strike chance of your Serpent Sting by 6%.

The Explosive Shot glyph is massively awesome, a definite must-have.

Providing that you do have the 4 piece tier 12 set bonus you will want to have the Arcane Shot glyph in all combination of set-ups. With that set bonus you will be firing lots of extra Arcane Shots. However, if you don’t have full tier 12 set then the glyph is about on par with the other options for 2nd and 3rd slot.

The Kill Shot glyph provides the highest theoretical single target dps and should in most cases be chosen for 3rd slot. However, Survival is mostly noted for it’s ability to provide massive AOE and therefor we are usually put in the position to deal that massive AOE damage on encounters (such as Rhyolith, Beth’tilac, Magmaw, Cho’gall) and if you want to maximize your AOE damage, you will want the Serpent Sting glyph for that 3rd slot.

Major Glyphs

  • Disengage – Decreases the cooldown of Disengage by 5 sec.
  • Trap Launcher – Reduces the focus cost of Trap Launcher by 10.
  • Misdirection – When you use Misdirection to your pet, the cooldown on your Misdirection is reset.
  • Mending – Increases the healing done by your Mend Pet ability by an additional 60%.

The first two provides possible dps boosts and should be used if you actually use those abilities (which you should in most raids). When you’re not raiding you might find the last two very useful, especially the Misdirection glyph.

The Misdirection glyph is essential for soloing and can actually be a good idea to use in dungeons just so you can misdirect your threat on every pull (not to the tank mind you, but away from yourself – you might wanna bring a tenacity pet when doing this).

Minor Glyphs

  • Feign Death – Reduces the cooldown of your Feign Death spell by 5 sec.
  • Revive Pet – Reduces the pushback suffered from damaging attacks while casting Revive Pet by 100%.
  • Aspect of the Pack – Increases the range of your Aspect of the Pack ability by 15 yards.

Not much to say here, since there isn’t much to chose from. All of these only provides a minor potential benefit, which most of the time you could have been without.

If you’re looking to replace any one of them for the terribly underwhelming Lesser Proportions glyph, then switch out Aspect of the Pack since it won’t provide any potential benefit during an encounter. It’s only really useful for shortening corpse runs after wipes.


Compared to Marksman, Survival has a relatively simple rotation with one complication; Lock and Load proccs, which you need to react to when it pops up.

Starting an encounter

  • Apply Hunter’s Mark before the encounter starts and load up a Misdirect on the main tank
  • Open up with:
    1. Serpent Sting.
    2. Rapid Fire in combination with Call of the Wild and any other stacking cooldowns (not haste cooldowns).

Shot priority

  1. Cooldowns such as Rapid Fire and Call of the Wild.
  2. Explosive Shot as soon as it comes off cooldown.
  3. Black Arrow as soon as it comes off cooldown.
  4. Kill Shot, when available.
  5. Cobra Shot when none of the above are off cooldown or when you need focus.
  6. Bleeding off excess focus with Arcane Shot when you have enough focus (98+) to fire off both Explosive Shot and Black Arrow.

Lock and Load

When Lock and Load proccs you gain the ability to fire off two free Explosive Shots and then a third one with cost. Here’s the tricky bit, Explosive Shot deals most of it’s damage from the dot it leaves and if you fire two or more Explosive Shots right after each other the dot will just be overwritten by the next one, effectively reducing your dps.

So what you want to do is cast Explosive Shot then something else before your next Explosive Shot to avoid overwriting the dot. Here’s how you generally should handle Lock and Load procs:

  1. Explosive Shot
  2. Cobra Shot
  3. Explosive Shot
  4. Cobra Shot or Arcane Shot if capped on focus
  5. Explosive Shot

It’s important to not make your first “in-between” shot Arcane Shot because that actually takes off a charge of the Lock and Load procc, effectively taking away one of your free Explosive Shots.

One final note here on Lock and Load, when you get this procc during the last 20% of the boss’s health you will have Kill Shot available too. During this time it gets possible to fire Explosive Shot -> Kill Shot -> Explosive Shot -> Kill Shot -> Explosive Shot instead.


When AOEing as a Survival hunter only really have two abilities that are relevant:

  • Explosive Trap – Lay down a trap using Trap Launcher on top of the mobs just before you move into your rotation.
  • Multi-Shot – Your bread and butter AOE ability. Spam it as much as you can. Not only will this deal the damage specified in the Multi-Shot tooltip but it will also add a Serpent Sting dot on every target hit and deal some instant damage up front via the Serpent Spread talent.

Maximizing your AOE dps as a Survival hunter is about pacing yourself. If you have 1/2 points spent in the Serpent Spread talent then you will leave a 6 second dot on every target hit by Multi-Shot. As long as you always fire Multi-Shots within 6 seconds of each other then your dot will never fall off. If you simply fire as many Multi-Shots as you can and regen with some Cobra Shots in-between the Multi-Shots, you won’t have any problems.



About Gavendo

I write a World of Warcraft blog called "Rapid Fire" on the topics; hunters, pets and achievement hunting.
This entry was posted in General, Guides, Hunter and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Survival speccing, glyphs and rotation

  1. Zinn says:

    Perfect, I’m just about to level my little hunter and wasn’t really sure how to spec her. Seems I wasn’t all off, but I didn’t think about that second point into Serpents Spread being a waste. Thanks for the info!

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