The Raiding Hunter: Survival

Attention: This guide is quite old as you may have noticed by the screenshots. I may possibly update it for Warlords of Draenor, but in the meantime, it is here for the sake of nostalgia, or for those of you running older versions of WoW.

In my opinion, Survival is the best all-around choice for a raiding build. It’s a spec you can use for optimum DPS all the way from heroic 5 mans, on into ICC 25 man.

The spec is outstanding early on, as it is very forgiving in terms of gear and ranged weapon damage. A Survival Hunter’s DPS is fed mainly by stats, with agility being the primary fuel.

The upside to raiding as a Survival Hunter:

  • Mana efficiency – Survival is the most mana efficient of the three hunter specs, plus it also brings Replenishment to your raid.
  • Less reliant upon gear and weapon damage – The bulk of Survival’s DPS is modified by agility-based attack power, rather than weapon damage.
  • More forgiving during higher movement encounters – This spec relies more upon instant cast abilities, so movement is less of a problem.

The downside to raiding as a Survival Hunter:

  • Less DPS than MM at the higher gear levels – With skill and gear being equal… at the higher levels, Marksmanship has an edge over Survival, provided the Hunter has a decent amount of Armor Penetration.

Survival DPS Builds

The following are Survival Hunter DPS builds that I suggest:

Standard Survival Hunter Raiding Build

Survival Hunter DPS Build

Glyphs: Explosive Shot, Kill Shot and Serpent Sting

This is an excellent build for fresh level 80s. My only suggested change would be to move points from Lethal Shots into Focused Aim as needed, provided you are not hit capped.

Survival Build with the 2 pc Tier 9 Set Bonus

Survival Hunter DPS Build with 2 PC T9

Glyphs: Explosive Shot, Kill Shot and Serpent Sting

For hunters that have collected 2 pieces of Tier 9, I strongly recommend going with this spec. The primary difference with this build is that it contains 3/3 Improved Stings. This is an important supplemental talent for the T9 2pc bonus.

My Survival Raiding Build

Survival Hunter End-Game Build

Glyphs: Kill Shot, Serpent Sting and Steady Shot

This build works well for geared hunters with a very high crit rating (60%+ unbuffed). At this level, two points in Exposed Weakness are no longer needed, nor is the Glyph of Explosive Shot. Exposed Weakness may be reduced with 1 talent point, and the Glyph of Steady Shot can replace the Glyph of Explosive Shot.

For hunters looking at this build who are under hit cap, I advise borrowing points from Hunting Party and placing them into Focused Aim as needed.

Survival Shot Priority

The standard Survival shot priority looks like this:

  1. Kill Shot
  2. Explosive Shot
  3. Black Arrow
  4. Serpent Sting
  5. Aimed Shot
  6. Steady Shot

With 2 pieces of Tier 9, it changes to this:

  1. Kill Shot
  2. Explosive Shot
  3. Serpent Sting
  4. Black Arrow
  5. Aimed Shot
  6. Steady Shot

It’s not a huge difference over the standard priority, but Serpent Sting bumps up a notch over Black Arrow due to the buff it receives from the set bonus.

For pulls, I recommend this:

  1. Hunter’s Mark
  2. Misdirection (on tank…der)
  3. Kill Command
  4. Explosive Shot
  5. Black Arrow
  6. Aimed Shot
  7. Serpent Sting
  8. Explosive Shot

What this does is bump your Aimed Shot up a peg over Serpent Sting so that you get maximum threat displacement during your 4 second window. After the initial pull, resume the regular priority.

Lock and Load

Lock and Load is a proc that causes your next two Explosive Shots to have no cooldown and cost zero mana. This provides an incredible amount of burst damage, but it’s very important to know how to manage this proc.

Explosive Shot has three components that do damage – the initial hit, and the two subsequent ticks that occur one second apart. Because the DoT occurs at one second intervals, this means the shot requires 2 full seconds to realize its full damage.

Here’s the tricky part…

Since the cooldown is eliminated on a Lock and Load proc, one may think the best way to handle the proc would be to fire the Explosive Shots back-to-back. This is incorrect. The reason being, if you fire them in rapid succession, the subsequent shot(s) will overwrite the final tick of the previous one.

How to combat this..?

Easy… Just cram one of the following shots in between:

  • Black Arrow
  • Serpent Sting (if needed)
  • Aimed Shot

If none of those are off cooldown and/or Serpent Sting need not be re-applied, then just simply wait a half second. It is very important for the shot to expend its final tick in order to get the most from the ability. Also, it’s not advisable to cast a Steady Shot in between Explosive Shots during a Lock and Load proc, because it delays the rotation. Explosive Shot is very powerful, where as Steady Shot is a very weenie-ish shot for SV Hunters. You don’t want to hold your Explosive Shots up by having them wait for your Steady Shot to cast.

I wrote an extensive article on this subject a few months back. In the article I recommend simply waiting .5 seconds in between each Explosive Shot, rather than casting another shot. To be honest, I think that method is ideal. However, the reason I recommend the aforementioned method is because it is foolproof.

Regardless of how you handle it, the DPS outcome is really, really close. My suggestion would be to do some testing of your own to see which method produces the best results for you.

Survival Hunter Raiding Pet


Wolf Raiding BuildThe wolf is the best choice for a raiding pet due to the Furious Howl ability. If your raid doesn’t have a Sunder or Faerie Fire available, then you could be a nice guy and bring a Wasp for its Sting ability. You’ll lose some personal DPS over using a wolf, but it will benefit the raid more. You know.. the greater good. 😉 Either way, both pet builds will look like this…

Wolf Raiding Build


These are how the primary DPS stats rank for Survival Hunters…

  1. Agility
  2. Attack Power
  3. Crit
  4. Armor Penetration
  5. Haste

Survival Hunters want agility, and lots of it. Once the hit capped has been reached either via gear, talents, or a combination of both, agility is the stat Survival Hunters should be most concerned with.

It is strongly advised to always gem and enchant for agility over raw attack power wherever possible.


  • Red sockets – Delicate Cardinal Ruby (no exceptions)
  • Yellow Sockets – Deadly Ametrine, or if hit rating is needed: Rigid King’s Amber or Glinting Ametrine
  • Blue Sockets – Nightmare Tear in the best available blue socket bonus. Delicate Cardinal Ruby in the remaining blue sockets.
    • Since Survival receives an attack power buff based upon the amount of stamina the hunter has, in some cases using a Shifting Dreadstone in a blue socket is a decent option. If the socket bonus is in the neighborhood of 8 agility, 12 attack power, or greater… I’d go with the Shifting Dreadstone to acquire the bonus. 15 stamina translates to roughly 5 attack power, which can make going for a blue socket bonus a worthwhile option. Also, more health is never a bad thing. 🙂

Enchants and Item Enhancements

24 thoughts on “The Raiding Hunter: Survival”

  1. Hi. As an SV hunter for the 18 months I’ve been playing, I find this stuff extremely useful, especially as I’m a casual player and prefer to PUG instead of being tied to guild raid times. My only trouble now is pugging ICC, but that’s another story… I’m pretty well geared and every tip I can get is gold, so thanks. Thanks also for not having a comments section that only says “OMG u r liek sooo lame”. It’s refreshing to read discussions rather than schoolboy insults. Keep up the good work, and I look forward to anything you might have on Mastery, gemming and stat manupulation in general. I *will not* be a huntard!

    • I appreciate the kind words Kelkon.

      I intend on updating my guides to reflect the changes, but for now, know that Mastery is the stat you want to go for after hit and agility. Hit is your most important stat until you’re capped (246, i.e., 8%), then it’s agility, then Mastery. Since Mastery is only available right now via reforging, I would advise reforging any crit or haste you have in favor of Mastery.

    • Probably. But… I might wait a bit. Depends upon how much time I have really. Raiding guides are only going to be relevant for another 5 weeks or so, and even then, will require updating as new patches get applied.

      If I get some time, I’ll post an interim mini-guide, but I may just wait until the dust is settled and we’re all hitting the 85 content.

  2. This website and guide are amazing, thank you for the effort. My hunter is currently lvl 70, and will be 80 in not too long. Is there any benefit to changing my build to Survival now, or should I wait until 80. Thanks for any info.

  3. Hi there congratulations on your site and thank you for all the help it provides.
    I usually use an Arcane Shot in between the 2 Explosive shots when LnL procs.
    Is there any recommendation against that?

    thanks in advance

  4. Gary,
    Any wolf will do, they all give the same buff, I personally like the look of the wolves in Hellfire Ramparts. I like the look of this wolf because when i mount up it looks like i have jumped on my pet.

  5. I have a few questions about the hunter pet. I have the black elete lion that I got from the barrons at lvl 24 and he has served me well. Is there an elete wolf, or a particular wolf that you would suggest i get. I just reached lvl55 solo-ing and don’t have any gear to speak of. I have never been in the battle grounds, and I have not used any of my stat points yet. I guess I can be concidered a noob being that i’ve only been playing for a year.What is the best way for me to get awsome gear for my hunter so that I can someday participate in raids. Someone told me that I need to go to the battle grounds to get good gear. Thanks for your help

  6. Gar I have question about ur recommended shot rotation. Are u assuming single target?
    If we have multiple targets we should still be using Multi and Volley correct?
    Also, if I am primarily leveling thru the df would this be good build?
    I was thinking about not putting any points in the Wyvern talents since this is not in ur shot rotation and only a single target ability.
    Love your site!

    • Blastr, we only take Wyvern Sting in order to get the next tier’s ability, Noxious Stings, which effectively increases all our damage by 3%. Absolutely use whatever abilities are meritted by the situation, if 2-3 mobs replace Aimed Shot with Multi in your rotation. For larger AE pulls an Explosive Trap/Volley combo can be especially deadly.

      If you really want to hit some impressive numbers on AE pulls, drop an Explosive Trap, the macro Rapid Fire and Call of the Wild to a Volley button. Other classes will be hard pressed to keep up with you. 🙂

    • Solaryn’s provided a great answer for most of your question(s).

      If you are mainly leveling through the dungeon finder, I think the first build listed would be great for that. Since you’re not really worried about aggro, I’d go with SV, as it’ll definitely provide the best DPS while you’re dungeoning.

        • Glyphs are stackable, so that could be kind of fun if you can get a line on the cheap enough. Just keep a couple stacks in the bags and swap before boss pulls.

          I tried the Explosive Shot glyph out on one run, just for kicks. It works great for trash, but I was losing some ground for boss fights by not having a single target glyph slotted (I think Serpent Sting was the one I dropped at the time).

          If you had a few in the bags and remembered to swap, that would make for some ‘uge overall numbers. I may have to try that one of these nights. 😉

  7. I have to respectfully disagree with you on the LnL priorities. Personally, I’d have to say slipping in either Serpent Sting or Black Arrow in between Explosive Shots would be a foolish loss of potential dps. My rational for this is pretty much just some simple math.
    To simply reapply an Explosive, you need to delay 0.5 seconds, if you instead use a GCD ability you’re delaying it 1.5 seconds. Put simply you’re replacing 1 tick of Explosive Shot with another ability. So that extra 1 second needs to do more than 2/3 of the damage of one explosive tick, or else you may as well consider it a downgrade.

    Using my latest ICC run data we see my average ES crit tick is about 7500, Aimed is 9200, Serpent 1000, BA 1600, Steady 6700. So at the 2/3 rate, 5k is the number to beat for any filler shot. Aimed obviously creams that, so if it’s up without the slightest doubt, it’s getting slapped in there. BA and Serpent fail miserably, at best you’ll get 1.5-2 ticks benefit from using it during LnL, at worst slightly less than 1 full tick. Let’s assume best possible benefits though for argument’s sake. For Serp 2k, BA, 3k, pretty sad. However, with the additional effect of the dmg increase, you’re looking at about 2700 dmg from BA assuming it was used on the first LnL proc from the extra ES ticks. This causes a slight problem however. LnL has a 22 second cooldown, so using BA in between LnL procs you’ve nerfed its potential LnL generation to a measly 2 ticks. We could work out the math, but on average it’s going to hurt a lot. Serpent just gets a plain old fail, wait till after LnL to reapply.

    Steady Shot interestingly enough retains a slight amount of potential. IF your Steady Shot is reduced to less than a 1.5 second cast time through Rapid Fire, Heroism/Bloodlust or a trinket/engineering gloves, absolutely use it as a filler shot. If however it’s over 1.5 seconds, it becomes more and more a gray area. My base cast time for Steady is 1.65 seconds. You can work the math and modify its effective dps like this: (Steadydmg)x1.5/(Steadycasttime). For mine it would be 6700×1.5/1.65 = 6090. Still a net dps gain, even if only a slight one. A far better choice than Serpent, and a slightly better choice than BA unless you’re a gamblin man and can bank on 2 ticks of BA and an ES getting you another LnL later on.

    Granted again in a high movement fight Steady is totally out of the question, just use Aimed if up and delay the 0.5 for the other.

    Using this knowledge will let you get over 10k on Sindragosa while the MM hunter scratches his head unable to figure out how you’re 2k over him =D

    • Hi Solaryn,

      Taken from the above guide:

      “I wrote an extensive article on this subject a few months back. In the article I recommend simply waiting .5 seconds in between each Explosive Shot, rather than casting another shot. To be honest, I think that method is ideal. However, the reason I recommend the aforementioned method is because it is foolproof.

      Regardless of how you handle it, the DPS outcome is really, really close. My suggestion would be to do some testing of your own to see which method produces the best results for you.”

      I’ve read many conflicting arguments about which is the best way to handle L ‘n’ L. I’ve found the delay method to work best for me, but others claim you should use any shot but Steady, with math to prove it.

      I simply endorse the listed method, because it eliminates the mistake of overwriting the final ES tick.

      I’m more concerned with helping those struggling hunters looking t up their DPS, rather than helping top DPSers such as yourself. That is why I list an ideal (for me anyway) method and a safe method. Players can see what works best for them.

      I definitely thank you for your input, and I’m glad to see you’re still out there repping the Survival spec.

      • I know Gar, it’s just I get tired of the reinforced stereotype of Steady Shot as the SV “crap shot”. It’s not always inaccurate mind you, but when one reaches a certain level of gear/stats it can be quite effective, especially as a LnL filler shot. Math shows its value actually much higher than BA or Serp, still don’t know where the misconception came from. Probably from older gear profiles and people just never re-evaluated it.

        Frankly my stats are far from ideal to run with a Steady filler and it’s still a decent dps upper. With only 169 haste and 486 arpen, my Steady Shots are far from epic. However, I do have a decent bow with Zod’s upping the base dmg for Steady. I strongly recommend any SV hunter with Zod’s+ to take another look at Steady as LnL filler, you might be surprised. I’m betting a lot of you have me beat on arpen and haste as well.

        • This comment was really interesting. I’m a SV hunter too, progressing on the last hardmode bosses were every bit of damage is important. And since I’m the only hunter of the guild with heroic weapons, despite being in a “lower” spec, I need to get the most out of that gear. I’m concerned with being the only Survival hunter of the guild, and really want to give the most for my character.

          I used to fire Serpent or BA when L&L procced and I had no other instant shot available, but after reading this, I’ll reconsider my priorities. The part about how you must not fire black arrow when L&L is on cd was really insightful. Especially since I chose to take Awk eye over Trap Mastery, BA is really only a way for me to trigger L&L and I should remember that.

          Thanks again. The guide is really nice. I tweaked my build a bit recently to get my improved range with Awk eye, and had some problems with hit rating so I had to take a point from Expose weakness and put it in Focus aim. I’m glad I made the right choice. I noticed that during fight, I happen to be crit capped. That worries my and I need to change my ES glyph. So yes, very useful post thank so much !

  8. Thanks for the guide! I’ve been wanting to switch back and play a little of the survival spec recently, but am wary of potential dps losses.

    The gear I have never seems to fit guides like this, at least on other sites. I’d like to think I have “high level” stuff, but just 586 passive ArPen. And thats with DBW. I don’t have the gear to take MM to its potential, but SV shows 1500 less dps on the spreadsheet.

    So, I’m going to bring your advice with me to 25ICC tonight and see how it goes… I always like playing survival better anyway!

  9. Once again, you post something that’s extraordinarily useful for me! 😀 I’ve been MM since BC, and was MM while leveling; I’ve never tried out Survival. I’ve been wanting to give it a shot, but I had no idea how to move talent points around to get some in focused aim, as I don’t have another set of gear and don’t want to regem to get hit. Your explanation of the build with the T9 2 piece bonus is also a huge help. Fortunately I haven’t hit the point where I’m geming for ArPen!

    Having a recommended rotation in there is perfect, too! I wouldn’t really have any clue where to start.

    I was also under the impression that you had to do something weird with traps, but I thought that might be out of date…I guess it is! 🙂

    I know what I’m going to be doing after work!


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