What is Survival?

90 Night Elf Hunter
8195
This is really long, so I’m putting the TLDR at the beginning:

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?
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90 Night Elf Hunter
8195
Well, on the talent tree summary page, a survival hunter is defined as “a rugged tracker who favors using animal venom, explosives and traps as deadly weapons.” But is that really accurate? To some degree, yes. As far as animal venom, we have things like improved serpent sting, toxicology, noxious stings, and serpent spread to make serpent sting better, plus we get wyvern sting. And these things certainly affect the way the spec plays; it’s much more important for survival hunters to have serpent sting up all the time, and it actually feels like it makes a difference. But even so, if survival is supposed to be a venom spec, you would think we would have more than one unique kind of venom that isn’t available to the other specs. Then again, to be fair, survival isn’t only about venoms. So at least the summary is correct in one regard. But what about the other parts?

Indeed, we do use explosives, but honestly, survival doesn’t really feel like an explosives spec. Admittedly, a huge portion of our damage comes from explosive shot, but aside from that, explosive trap is the only other ability we have that makes any sort of explosion. Maybe you could call immolation trap an explosive, but even if you did, survival hunters don’t use it because it shares a cooldown with black arrow. And actually, explosive trap has a similar problem; for example, during the Madness of Deathwing fight, more often than not, my fire traps are on cooldown whenever there’s anything that needs to be AoE’d to death. Granted, serpent spread deals with crowds just fine, but still, it seems strange that explosives are part of survival’s theme when we hardly use any.

And as for the “traps” part of the summary, yes, we do have talents to improve our traps, but again, we hardly use them in a PvE environment. As I just mentioned, our fire traps are rarely touched because they share a cooldown with black arrow. And even if they didn’t, they would need to do a lot more damage before anyone would actually start using them regularly. Similarly, snake trap is too weak to justify using it for a DPS boost, and the non-damage poisons don’t even work on bosses. Granted, they would work on regular mobs, but other classes have much more efficient ways of doing the same things (all traps have a 1-second arming time after they land, and if the target moves before they are armed, they will just sit there unless the tank is kind enough to move the mob back). On the other hand, freezing trap and ice trap are great for crowd control, and even if they do nothing against large bosses, they can still come in handy in fights with adds. However, every hunter uses these, not just survival hunters. The same is true even in PvP; any hunter who knows what he’s doing uses the frost traps and snake trap for crowd control, and (somewhat ironically) non-survival hunters are actually more likely to use fire traps, since they don’t have black arrow. I understand that every class has a lot of abilities that every spec uses, but if traps are supposed to be part of survival’s theme, shouldn’t our traps really stand out among other hunters’ traps?

Now I’m not saying that the summary page is wrong, but it is a bit misleading. I think the problem is that survival focuses on too many types of skills, so none of them really stand out. Just compare survival to the other specs for a moment: nearly all of a beast master’s talents enhance his pet in some way, and most of a marksman’s talents improve his ranged weapon skills, but a survivalist’s talents are some odd balance of three completely different kinds of skills. Currently there are seven talents that affect traps, five talents related to venoms, and seven talents that improve either explosive trap or explosive shot (all of these except for thrill of the hunt and explosive shot itself overlap with the trap talents). And then we have black arrow, which doesn’t fit under any of these categories.

Speaking of which, I’d like to talk about black arrow for a bit. Nothing illustrates the inconsistency of the survival tree quite like black arrow. Just look at the facts: it is a magical “arrow” (it can be fired from guns just as well as bows and crossbows, mind you) which deals shadow damage over time, but it shares a cooldown with our fire traps, despite that fact that it is not a trap and does not deal fire damage. It is enhanced by the T.N.T., trap mastery, and toxicology talents, but it is classified as a magic effect as far as dispels are concerned. At this point I must ask: what is black arrow supposed to be? A trap? Some sort of venom? An explosive? It clearly isn’t any of these. So the next question becomes: why is it a part of the survival tree? Is there something I’m missing? How exactly does shadow magic fit in with survival? If anyone can explain that to me, I’d really like to know.
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90 Night Elf Hunter
8195
Anyway, while we’re on the topic of magic, there’s just one other point I’d like to bring up now: mastery. The current mastery for survival is essence of the viper, which increases all magical damage we deal by 8 percent, plus an additional percent per point of mastery. Not only is that pretty boring, but it also makes no sense for a hunter. Be honest, if you read that without any sort of context, would you think it was a hunter thing, or would you assume it was something for a caster class? I realize that it applies to venoms, explosives, and traps as well, but first of all, none of those things should be considered magical, and second, mastery is supposed to be one of those iconic things that really represents what the spec is all about, and it fails in that regard. Again, I think the problem is that survival tries to focus on too many things; our mastery could have been something that improves just one of the three types of skills, but instead it just lumps them all into the same category, so none of them shine any brighter than the others.

At this point it should be pretty clear that something needs to change. Either survival needs to be redefined again, or the whole spec needs to be dramatically altered. Or both, which would be my personal choice. So what do I propose as a solution? Well, first of all, we need to define what exactly a survival hunter should be. In my mind, a survival hunter is a brilliant tactician and a master of the wild: the kind of hunter who could bring down massive beasts using nothing but pointy rocks and traps fashioned from vines and sticks. He does not solve every problem with brute force (or magic, for crying out loud). He is creative and resourceful, taking anything from his environment and turning it into something he can use. Bows and guns are luxuries for a survival hunter; he still uses them, but his real strength lies in his traps and other tools assembled from various natural materials. He also has a deep knowledge of plant life and can use medicinal herbs to heal himself when the need arises. In other words, he is somewhere between a druid and a rogue: in tune with nature, but also cunning and deadly.

Now this is just my personal concept of a survival hunter. It may not be exactly what Blizzard had in mind when they created the spec, and they may decide to use something completely different, but as long as we have a concept that makes sense, I’ll be happy. However, it’s also important that the talents mainly focus on just one type of skill; not three that are constantly fighting for the spotlight, but one. And if it’s going to be anything, I think it should be traps. Of the three current skill types, traps seem to fit best with the concept I just described. Again, don’t get me wrong, I love explosive shot just as much as the next guy, but if survival is your primary concern, does it really make sense to be using explosives?

I suppose you could argue that venoms do sort of fit in with the concept above, but you could just as easily argue that venoms should be part of beast mastery’s theme, since the venoms come from beasts (I assume that’s why widow venom is under the beast mastery section of the spellbook.) And actually, venoms used to be a small part of the marksmanship theme. Serpent sting was originally listed as a marksmanship ability, and the marksmanship tree had talents to improve our stings (back when every hunter had at least three different stings). Honestly, venoms don’t fit perfectly with any of the specs right now, and I’m not going to fight for a fourth spec when the ones we have now aren’t as good as they could be.
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90 Night Elf Hunter
8195
Anyway, the main problem with having a trap-based spec is that traps were really meant to shine in PvP, and it would be difficult to make them viable in PvE as well. One option would be to go back to having survival as a dedicated PvP spec, but that’s not a very good option, since it would prevent players from choosing the spec that they want to use. Most people would just use survival for PvP and probably marksmanship for PvE. And that’s no fun for those of us who like to raid as survival.

Another option would be to turn survival into a melee-range spec (note that I’m not saying this should happen; only that it’s a possibility). If we were always in melee range, we wouldn’t have to worry about traps missing so often due to the delay of trap launcher. And with the removal of the minimum range, there’s no real reason why we couldn’t just stand in melee range and shoot our enemies in the face while laying traps at their feet. But of course, this almost definitely isn’t going to happen. Hunters were meant to be a ranged class, and Blizzard has been making that more and more true over the years; we’ve lost most of our melee abilities and talents, and soon we won’t even have melee weapons. And a melee spec that doesn’t use a melee weapon would probably feel really weird. Personally, I don’t even want survival to be a melee spec myself; I really only mentioned this because it seems like one of the more obvious solutions, and some one probably would have suggested it anyway.

So how could traps possibly be viable at range? Trap launcher was a great idea, but it’s just not reliable enough to be part of the shot rotation without something to make it better. The simplest thing to do would be to just turn all of our traps into shots, but then they wouldn’t really be traps, and survival still wouldn’t feel unique. So we need a way to make sure that our traps don’t miss even if the enemy moves. Perhaps it would be best to make it so that the cooldown for a trap only starts if an enemy steps on it, so if it missed, you could just fire another one without having to wait. But even then, if you had really bad luck, you would end up losing a ton of DPS firing trap after trap unsuccessfully. We need something more reliable than that.

One idea that I had would be to make traps into lines instead of points. For example, you would have to fire two shots, but they could be connected by some sort of tripwire, so the trap would cover a much larger area, and it would be easier to catch a moving target in it. As long as the global cooldown was fairly short, I think this would be pretty fun, and it would definitely give survival a unique feel. Or if that’s too complicated, maybe instead you could just have the tripwire tethered to yourself, so that when you move, the line between the trap and yourself would follow you, and you could force your enemies into it.

This is just a suggestion, and I’m sure Blizzard could come up with something better if they tried; there are probably dozens of interesting ways to implement traps. But at the very least, survival shouldn’t be what it is today. Essence of the viper definitely needs to change, and I think it would be best if black arrow were just removed. Magic just isn’t what survival is about. And actually, the same is true for any hunter. On that note, I’d like to see arcane shot changed to some sort of physical damage shot that serves the same purpose, and the traps we have now should be altered a bit so that they don’t seem so magical (but they would still have similar effects). For example, immolation trap could be replaced with some sort of non-elemental trap that applies a bleed effect instead of a burn. It’s probably too late for anything like this to happen before Mists of Pandaria comes out, but I would be remiss if I just sat back and said nothing. Survival has been nonsensical for far too long, and it’s about time some one changed that.

Thank you for taking the time to read all of this. Let me know what you think.
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Wow.
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1 Troll Warrior
0
is anyone going to read that...
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90 Night Elf Hunter
5165
05/05/2012 10:00 PMPosted by Illidanisful
is anyone going to read that...

I sure as heck isn't.
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85 Worgen Hunter
8770
While I do see your point (and I appreciate the enormous amount of thought, time, and effort that you put into it), I like the way survival plays right now. On the other hand, I love the idea of the survival hunter being somewhere between a druid and a rogue. A cunning master of the wilds who can take anything in the wild and make a deadly weapon out of it. I'm not sure how that would translate into gameplay. You suggested traps and the main problem I see with that is that traps are so darn CLUNKY right now. In addition, as you mentioned, the fact that BA and Ex trap share a CD strongly discourages survival hunters from using their traps as Ex trap (or immo trap to a lesser extent) are the only traps currently that do anything approaching a decent amount of damage. So unless traps are drastically changed, I'm not sure that traps are the way to go for the idea, but I do love it.

The way I see it, the marksmanship hunter is like an elite sniper, a master of the gun and bow who can pick off targets at great distances with pinpoint accuracy, the survival hunter is a cunning master of the wilds, able to adapt, survive, and use any tools at hand to defeat the foe, and the beast mastery hunter is a tamer of beasts, someone who has a special bond with the beasts of the wild and can bond with them in such a way that they are like two halves of the same person.

Very intriguing post, and I thank you for posting it, even if others might not appreciate it.
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85 Night Elf Hunter
4165
05/05/2012 09:16 PMPosted by Zyphax
Anyway, while we’re on the topic of magic, there’s just one other point I’d like to bring up now: mastery. The current mastery for survival is essence of the viper, which increases all magical damage we deal by 8 percent, plus an additional percent per point of mastery. Not only is that pretty boring, but it also makes no sense for a hunter. Be honest, if you read that without any sort of context, would you think it was a hunter thing, or would you assume it was something for a caster class? I realize that it applies to venoms, explosives, and traps as well, but first of all, none of those things should be considered magical, and second, mastery is supposed to be one of those iconic things that really represents what the spec is all about, and it fails in that regard. Again, I think the problem is that survival tries to focus on too many things; our mastery could have been something that improves just one of the three types of skills, but instead it just lumps them all into the same category, so none of them shine any brighter than the others.


I agree with this post in entirety... but this particular paragraph brought an interesting post to mind from Blizz. They said when Cata was released that they didnt want hunters to feel like a caster class, which is why they took away Volley... because only casters should have channeling 'spells'. Yet give the Mastery of SV to improve magical damage? o.O
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90 Night Elf Hunter
8195
05/06/2012 08:25 AMPosted by Silentârrøw
This is basicly all you are going to get for all the time and effort and ideas you put into your post unfortunatly. I have made posts just like you did and i got the same rsponse, sorry, but aside from me, im not sure if blizz, or anyone else, cares


Don't be so sure that posts like this are a complete waste. After all, if I recall correctly, your post was one of the ones that inspired me to write all of this. When you throw a rock in the water, you never know where the ripples will go. So throw the biggest freaking rock you can find and hope it gets the job done. My hope is that people who see this will start thinking the same way and ask for change. And if enough people do that, eventually Blizzard will listen.

On the other hand, I love the idea of the survival hunter being somewhere between a druid and a rogue. A cunning master of the wilds who can take anything in the wild and make a deadly weapon out of it. I'm not sure how that would translate into gameplay.


Obviously we would need a lot of new abilities. For example, we could use primitive rock launchers made from hollowed-out branches, and thorn vines as whips (this would probably be more of a defensive skill to be used when enemies get too close). I know it would take a lot of work to implement anything like this, but I'd love it if different hunter specs actually had a lot of unique abilities that aren't available to the other specs. Currently, no matter which spec you use, when you change specs, you will switch out at most five abilities. The rest of your actions bars will be exactly the same between specs. It would be nice if hunters were more like magi, where each spec uses a completely different set of skills most of the time.

05/06/2012 10:16 AMPosted by Kierann
So unless traps are drastically changed, I'm not sure that traps are the way to go for the idea


That was kind of what I was going for: we need a different implementation of traps if they're ever going to be really viable. I'm sure it won't happen for a long time if it ever does, but hey, just look at what they're doing with warlocks. If they can change one class that dramatically, who's to say they won't do it for other classes?
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90 Orc Hunter
5265
the Unibomber

crazy misanthrope hermit who lives in the mountains and builds bombs and eat roots and squirrels
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85 Human Death Knight
8600
05/05/2012 10:00 PMPosted by Illidanisful
is anyone going to read that...


I did, and he actually makes a lot of good points there... Survival is my preference for my hunter (with BM for soloing a lot of instances), and I can agree with some of what he has stated here. I think the problem is, survival was a very melee heavy spec initially, (probably akin to enhance in some ways), and with the changes to hunters, survival lost a lot.

Great post, very long, but a lot of good points. Maybe survival might feel different soon if Blizz listens to people...
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100 Night Elf Hunter
12420
One of the problems I see is survival doesnt seem to pack the punch it used to. Ill go toe to toe with survival hunters as bm and win usually. 25% more AP + kill command ( which can be babied with glyphs and talents ) > better than survival summaries. Quite honestly thats not fair to the survival hunter.

When it had the 50%-60% crit ability THEN i was scared of them. I agree with the traps portion. People should be "scared" to step in a survival hunter's traps, just like they avoid MY pet at all costs if they can. Ive had players attempt to zerg my pet in pvp just to stop me from chomping on them with it, even vets. Survival should be more of a spec where it can control an area and have the traps do like 5k crits if you step in them on (0 resilience) and be able to lay traps every 12 - 10 secs.

Make it the SURVIVAL spec. This is the spec when you want to pve and pvp and stay alive longer. Make melee not such an issue ( well thats comin in mop but for all hunters ), have easier times with stuns, incaps, roots, disengages, etc.
Edited by Raygar on 5/15/2012 6:00 AM PDT
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65 Night Elf Hunter
1725
05/05/2012 10:00 PMPosted by Illidanisful
is anyone going to read that...


...I did... :D

Zyphax, excellent post.

I tried all the Hunter Specs at one point or another, and Beast Mastery is my favorite,
Marksmanship would be next...and Survival...it's just wrong in so many ways.
(I really like the concept though).
However overall, something just does not feel right, at all, with all the SPECs.

The following is my humble opinion and suggestions:

*SURVIVAL* should be about using TRAPS as their main weapon....exclusively.
NO other Spec can use TRAPS.
Their TRAPS should have larger AOEs, Durations, Damage, ect. than the current ones,
AND have AOE Stuns and Target Movement Slows.
(Root TRAP for example, like the Druids entangle spell).
Maybe have one with a healing ability, or Disorientate.

Secondary weapon would be: FIST WEAPONS, DAGGERS and ONE-HANDED AXES...
They can DUAL WIELD at higher levels.
They can use Poisons.

They Cannot use PETS. (TRAPS are their "PETS").

TRAP LAUNCHER is only usable by them.
DISENGAGE is only usable by them.
FEIGN DEATH is only usable by them.
CAMOFLAGUE is only usable by them, or if the other Specs have it,
let SURVIVAL have CAMOFLAGUE at an early level.
They have the "Carrion Eater" PET Ability.
(You don't HAVE to eat Humanoids, you could choose to only eat Beasts for example).

*BEAST MASTERY* should be about using PETS as their main weapon....exclusively.
NO other Spec can use PETS.

Secondary weapon would be BOWS and GUNS.

SPIRIT BOND should be only usable by them.
EYES OF THE BEAST should return and only be usable by them.

To compensate for losing TRAPS, let their PETs have TRAP-like Attacks:
(Not as powerful as the SURVIVAL TRAPS).
(Freeze, Explode, Stun, Target Movement Slow for example).
These would allow a much more BEAST MASTER feel to the Spec.
"Keep your enemies close, but your PET closer".
I'd luv to see a new PET Attack: "Toss" where the PET grabs hold of the Target
and throws them, say, 30 yards away from the Hunter for example.
Something like this would be used when enemies are closing within Melee range to them.
(This would take the place of "DISENGAGE").

*MARKSMANSHIP* should be about using BOWS and GUNS as their main weapons.
They should do more Damage, maybe even have longer Range than the other Specs.

They cannot use PETs.

STEADYSHOT should only be usable by them, or if the other Specs have it,
let MARKSMANSHIP's be an automatic CRIT or something.
SCATTERSHOT should only be usable by them.
Let them have more AOE Ranged Attacks, especially Stuns and Target Movement Slows to
compensate for the loss of TRAPS.

Remember! We are losing our minimum range DeadZone in MOP,
and will be able to use our Bows and Guns in Melee range.

PLZ...these are just some humble suggestions, used to illustrate
some possiblities of how our Hunter Specs could be more...unique.

The big flaw atm is all our Specs share too many things in common...TRAPS
in particular.

I fear MOP will only make things even more generic feeling,
especially with the new "meaningful" choices of the Talent Bushes.

If they could maybe use these suggestions along with those Bushes,
I think it would be going in the right direction.
It would certainly make our Specs feel and play much more like their namesakes.

...I can always hope...

...of course, reality setting in makes the idea of BEAST MASTERY exclusive PETs
something that would never happen.
What would happen to all those SURVIVAL and MARKSMANSHIP Hunters with their PETs?
...unfortunately, exactly. :(
Not gonna happen.
Edited by Tehkay on 5/16/2012 6:12 AM PDT
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69 Human Hunter
3955
Tehkay, you have some good ideas, except for the no pets thing for anyone except for Beast Mastery. If you take pets away from Survival and Marksmanship Hunters, then they are no longer Hunters. In Warcraft lore, Hunters always have a pet to accompany them, and that's really what makes them Hunters.

Yes, the Hunter trees need some re-working, but I wouldn't want to be screwed out of using my pets unless I spec Beast Mastery.

All this will be completely different when MoP hits though.
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85 Orc Hunter
RoE
5055
Tehkay, why do you eyes of the beast back? There was a reason why it was removed...lol
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