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WoWSep 18, 2015 3:00 pm CT

Locked and Loaded: The Survival Hunter fantasy – What is it?

I was recently perusing the old Hunter talent trees and was pretty taken aback by how much flavor the specs have lost over the years. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer the modern talent system, but there was something cool about being able to spec yourself as a true Survival Hunter if desired. Talents that increased your resistance to crowd control, increased your stamina, or reduced the chance that your Feign Death would fail (yes, it didn’t always work) really played into Survival’s fantasy.

The game is different now. The player base at large would never accept a DPS spec that did less DPS in exchange for more survivability, because at that point it becomes a spec which is irrelevant for raiding and overpowered for PvP. So now I kind of understand why Blizzard is doing things such as making Survival into a melee spec and Marksmanship into a pet-less spec. Large aesthetic changes such as these are the only way to give flavor while maintaining balance. Beyond the aesthetics of switching to melee, there can be mechanical changes as well. If any spec is due for a revamp, it’s Survival because there’s hardly anything that plays into that original fantasy anymore.


Switching to melee

I always preferred the dual wield aesthetic back when I had melee weapons on my Hunter. However, I can definitely appreciate the two-handed spear style, especially after learning that Survival Hunters may be getting a grappling hook ability to pull enemies into range. Hurling a spear makes a lot more sense than tossing a hand axe in that case.

The grappling hook idea is a little similar to Death Grip, but there’s only so many ways you can do a melee gap closer ability. It’s bound to have similarities to other melee classes. I think some kind of synergy with your pet would be more fun though. I’m picturing my pet charging in and clamping down on the enemy, briefly rooting them in place so I can throw my spear and pull myself in, like a reverse grappling hook. Even though it’s not the de facto pet spec for Hunters, I hope that Blizzard doesn’t shy away from integrating the pet into Survival’s gameplay.

Pet behavior

I don’t expect basic pet behavior to change too much in Legion. After all, what’s more “Survival” than avoiding being hit entirely thanks to your pet? However, I believe the whole fantasy of fighting side-by-side in melee combat with your beast calls for something more visceral. What if your pet lost its taunting ability but instead split a portion of your incoming (direct) damage as long as it was near you? What if your pet’s hits healed you, and your hits healed your pet? At the risk of infringing on Beast Mastery’s territory, that is the fantasy I picture when I see my Hunter in the thick of things with his pet. All hell’s breaking loose around us, but we’re keeping each other alive.

I think it’s unlikely that the Lone Wolf talent will stick around now that we have a spec dedicated to that play style (Marksmanship). Pets have been such a core part of Hunters that it would be strange to relegate them to a single spec. It’s already weird to me that Marksmanship is doing it.



Survival was hit pretty hard by the Warlords ability pruning. It did retain some fun aspects, but always felt hollow to me. My biggest concern for Survival’s future rotation is that it ends up being no different from the standard Hunter formula of signature ability, Focus dump, and Focus generator. I’m not too concerned with the ranged specs keeping that foundation, but if Survival does then the change to melee is little more than aesthetic. Gameplay remains the same but at 5 yards instead of 40? No thanks.

If Focus is to remain the resource of Survival Hunters, I hope it’s handled somewhat differently. A new resource entirely would be better. I don’t want to be spamming “Cobra Strike” casts followed by “Explosive Strike” every 6 seconds. Please, Blizzard!

DoTs and magic damage?

When I think about a master of the wilds spec like Survival, I think about a combination of physical and poison damage. To me, that makes more sense than utilizing shadow magic like with Black Arrow. A case could be made for Explosive Shot and Explosive Trap since both can use conventional explosives rather than fire magic, but Black Arrow always felt out of place to me.

Poisons could be expanded by bringing back some of the old stings in different form. Scorpid Sting could work as some kind of debuff and Viper Sting could be turned into a DPS cooldown that rapidly restores your resources. Serpent Sting is pretty iconic and I wouldn’t mind seeing that stick around, except applied with your poison-tipped spear rather than an arrow.



Bonuses to traps have always been a part of the Survival spec, so I would expect that to stay. Trap Launcher will likely go away for Survival as it requires a ranged weapon, but you’ll be in melee range to drop traps anyway. Something called a Bear Trap almost made it into Warlords of Draenor as a Survival DPS cooldown. The plan was for it to be a large bleed and root, but it was removed before we ever got a chance to see it in the beta. This same Bear Trap was in the Wrath of the Lich King beta as well. Maybe Legion will finally see the release of it? Snake Trap could also be revitalized for Survival.

The beautiful thing about Ice Trap is it will have an entirely different purpose for Survival without needing any changes. Now it’ll be primarily used to keep enemies close to you rather than far away. Freezing Trap will lose some of its usefulness in terms of CC in a dungeon or raid setting, but you can’t expect a melee spec to have a reliable ranged CC anyway.

As I said in my original post about the Legion Hunter changes, I am not totally convinced that Survival will be something I gravitate towards. I still prefer the classic Hunter found in Beast Mastery, but you can bet one of my Hunter alts will be a dedicated Survival Hunter. I’ve already started to collect melee weapon transmogs!

Hunter Q&A

Balzaque commented:
I would love to have some challenge tame missions, even if not necessarily for me to acquire new pets but having a daily be to go to a zone and track a beast down and bring it back to the hunter hall.

IMO the mop hunter challenge to track pets was the best thing ever :D

I enjoyed the MoP pet tracking as well. I don’t want it for every pet, but I like how they mixed things up by having a few of them. I miss rare pets too.

Chrth asked:
Q4TLnL: What do you think will happen with Hunter talents in Legion?

Many will be revamped I think. Too many pet-related or ranged talents to work anymore. Some of the existing ones could stay, but with new options for the changed specs when appropriate. Lone Wolf is probably gone, and I hope Adaptation just becomes a baseline Beast Mastery bonus. Beast Mastery having a super pet should just be a given. I hope Exotic Munitions dies a painful death (at least its current state).

When looking at something like A Murder of Crows, does it really make sense for Survival since it’s a ranged ability? Maybe the Survival version can be Bag of Snakes instead. Also, Stampede makes little to no sense for the new Marksmanship in my opinion, so maybe Marksmanship gets something else there. We may have found another possible excuse to bring back Volley.

Catch-22 commented:
I want something more compelling to generate focus than mindlessly using a long cast time steady/cobra shot.  Maybe pull from Demon Hunters in D3 for ideas.

If staying with steady/cobra shot, make it a 1 second cast (or instant cast).  That even if the target dies before it completes (very common farming old content) you still get half focus back for trying to cast it.

I agree with you in terms of Survival needing a different method to regenerate Focus (or a new resource entirely). Repeatedly casting in melee would be awkward to say the least. It’s never particularly bothered me for the ranged specs. I think part of the problem might be how simplified things have become, so it feels like all you’re doing is regenerating Focus at times.

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