Sunday, January 1, 2012

Old and Busted: Haste Plateaus

The community of WoW players often seem to be to be very slow at changing attitudes. Even after the 4.3 buffs, you'll see folks saying that MM is "higher DPS" or that Survival DPS is "more forgiving." Neither of these statements is strictly true. In my gear, I sim about a thousand DPS better as Marksmanship and I just feel more comfortable with it and we have two good sources of the 10% haste buff in the raid, so I generally play MM. But most of the top parsing hunters are playing Survival right now, and I've had at least one Survival hunter beat me in LFR. I think the two specs are almost identical in damage capabilities, and your comfort with one or another spec will make more of a difference to the damage you do with it than anything else.

Further, at high gear levels (average item level climbing past 385), I think MM just gets easier and easier to play, while SV tends to get more difficult. As you get better gear as an MM hunter, you prioritize haste as a tertiary stat, and it just kind of makes everything easier. It makes it easier to keep ISS up, it makes it easier to cast AiS if you play that style, it makes it easier to keep CS exactly on cooldown, it makes it easier to squeeze one more AiS into your Rapid Fire duration, on and on.

Survival, on the other hand, gets swamped in focus and procs, making it very difficult to keep up. Whenever I play Survival, I find myself frequently capping out on focus and then a few seconds later either spending so much focus on Arcanes that I can't immediately use Explosive Shot or just pushing past the ExS cooldown by using one too many instants of one sort or another. When LnL procs you have to decide if you should wait a heartbeat between your first and second ExS, use Kill Command, or use a CoS; let's not even mention the number of times I've pushed the ArcS button right as LnL procs.

Accepted wisdom that carries numerical weight is even more difficult to change.

When Cataclysm was new and Survival was kind of king of the heap of all DPS in the game, it was pointed out that with around 20% haste including gear, Pathing, and Hunting Party, you could easily fit exactly 3 CoS inside the ExS cooldown. This came to be considered the optimal Survival DPS haste and gear point, and that accepted wisdom has never really been questioned.

It seems to me, however, that as soon as one obtains the T13 2pc bonus, that haste point becomes obsolete. Like I said above, modern SV DPS is completely frantic. At no time is there a period that allows you to calmly chain three CoS in between ExS. This just gets more pronounced as you pick up more gear such as the T13 4pc bonus, any of the haste proc trinkets, and then place yourself in a raid situation where you're getting Bloodlusted and using Rapid Fire as often as you can. If you look at your logs, you're probably spending at least 30% of the time under some sort of haste effect! What good does it do you to gear for 1.67 second CoS when you're going to be casting an array of 1-second to 1.5 seconds CoS?

No, I think it's time to retire the 20% haste point as an useful concept for end-game Survival hunters. The days of stringing three Cobras in between ExS are simply over. It's time to go back to basics, start thinking more about your priority, and do a few million damage to the target dummies. Look for patterns in your ability use, but don't be too surprised if you don't see any. Get used to doing things like ExS -> ArcS -> ArcS -> CoS -> ExS and get used to the feeling of waiting through the dead time at the end of that CoS unless you've got a haste proc up.

The same goes for MM, by the way. With T13 gear, I've started doing things I never did before this tier. I've DPS cycles that look like this:
CS -> AiS -> SS -> SS -> AiS -> SS -> CS
That orphan SS before the second CS is crazy! What is that little guy doing there? Well, he's giving me just enough focus for CS. Before 2pc, I'd've used that SS and still been starved for the focus to put CS back on cooldown. With the two piece, I can do crazy things like that shot sequence and keep glyphed CS on cooldown with 1815 haste rating. It's madness.

Haste plateaus don't exist any more. The concept is no longer of any use. Just know that the more of you have, the more focus-generating shots you can cut in favor of higher-damage focus dumps.

Or at least that's what I think!

I haven't looked at EJ in ages. Is there something there I've missed? Do you see a flaw in my reasoning? I'm eager to hear what anyone thinks!

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