The survival spec for hunters is too poorly defined, and parts of it really don’t make sense (particularly black arrow and essence of the viper). Survival is currently supposed to be about “animal venom, explosives and traps,” but since it focuses on three completely different sets of skills, none of them really stand out, and the whole spec seems rather ambiguous. I think we need to focus on just one of these skill sets instead, and my personal choice would be traps. I realize that a lot of people would be pretty upset about losing things like explosive shot and black arrow, but in the end, those things don’t really fit with survival. In my opinion, a survival hunter should be more of a nature-themed hunter who makes traps and other tools out of various things from his environment. If you want to see the reasoning behind all of this, please read the full post below. I would strongly recommend doing so if you have the time; after all, you can’t say whether a solution is good or bad if you don’t fully understand the problem.
Now, on to the real post:
Survival has always been a rather loosely defined specialization. In vanilla WoW, it had a lot of talents for improving traps, melee skills, and other crowd control abilities. A lot of hunters who were new to the game believed survival was supposed to be a melee spec, but in reality, it was never a good idea to stay in melee range; survival hunters only fared better than others when melee combat couldn’t be avoided (which made sense, given the name of the spec). In other words, survival was a PvP spec.
In The Burning Crusade, we got some really interesting talents like thrill of the hunt, expose weakness, master tactician, and readiness, which helped a bit in PvE. We kept most of the melee- and trap-related talents, but we also had some focus on getting lots of critical hits and being rewarded every time we did, and that gave the tree quite a different feel from the vanilla version.
In Wrath of the Lich King, readiness was moved to the marksmanship tree. (Incidentally, survival is the only spec that has ever had its final tier talent moved to a different talent tree.) However, we still had talents to improve melee, traps, and critical hit rating, plus we gained things like sniper training, noxious stings, and hunting party. It was also in WotLK that we got black arrow and explosive shot, the signature shots of the tree today. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved these additions when they first came out, but I feel like at this point, the survival tree sort of lost track of what it was supposed to be.
And what about now? Most of the melee talents were removed from the survival tree in Cataclysm, and about halfway through the expansion, deterrence was changed so that it causes us to dodge instead of parry, making counterattack virtually useless. Mongoose bite was also removed in Cataclysm, so the icon for the survival tab in the spellbook had to be changed. (The icons for the other trees were changed as well, but I’m sure they would still be the same now if not for the removal of mongoose bite.) The survival tree has also lost a lot of the critical-hit-themed talents (my critical hit chance is now down to 30-something percent in survival, whereas it was over 50 percent at the end of WotLK, and it went over 60 with master tactician). All that being said, it’s pretty clear that survival isn’t what is used to be. So the question now is: what exactly is it supposed to be?