A Hunter's Guide - Survival of the Fittest (WoW)  

Probably one of the more difficult spec's a hunter can choose, being based solely on gear and skill. However if used appropriately this can prove to be a very good build during Raids, Instances or PvP situations. Hopefully this guide will get rid of any speculations or doubts you may have had about speccing this way previously.

Contents [hide]

Table of Contents

  • The Rundown
  • Survival Specs
  • Survival Talents
  • Tactics and Strategies
  • Hunter Stats & Their Affects
  • Conclusion

The Rundown

Survival Spec is definately not for everyone. If you're after a DPS build I'd highly recommend a Beast Master Spec. If you want Silencing Shot, and a lot of Ranged Attack Power you'll want a Marksman Spec.

Now if you're looking for a a build that offers a little bit more then pure DPS, Survival might be what you're looking for. With more options for versatility this build offers the greatest Crowd Control abilities.

It should be noted that this build is very gear dependent and that it is highly suggested that you have at least 435 Agility Unbuffed, before even attempting this build. Most of our higher end gear is aimed toward BM or MM builds, but you can definately get enough agility to compensate for it.

Your goal is 25-30% Crit unbuffed. After that you can focus on more AP, Int, or Stamina. Hopefully you can reach around 300 DPS, while still maintaining your high crit %. If you can't manage to get 300 DPS, don't worry, it's just something to aim for when you receive better gear.

This build also requires a lot more attention on your part. Your DPS will come second with the Crowd Controlling builds, and using your abilities to their fullest will become one of the toughest, but most rewarding aspects of this build.

Survival Specs

There are many variations of the specs I'm about to give. A more detailed explanation will be listed below.[1]

Survival Extremist / CC God - Great for Instances or Kara

Heavy investment into the tree allowing you maximum CC with Traps, Wing-Clip, Deterrence, and Wyvern Sting. If you can't keep a group alive with this build, perhaps CC isn't for you. Again you may wish to change a few talent points around. The biggest problem with this build is that it doesn't offer Mortal Shots (Marksman Tree).

Readiness? Not Yet - Great for Instances, Kara, Raiding, or PvP

This build utilizes a lot of benefits from the Survival Tree but leaves out Readiness. The reason being so that you can invest into MM or BM at your leisure. Scatter Shot/Intimidation is definately hard to give up, and this build will allow you to keep it. You still receive the nice CC abilities, but may be a little hindered with the lack of Readiness to get out that 3rd trap in a pinch, or that 2nd Wyvern Sting.

Raiders of the Lost Arcane Shot - Solely for Raiding

As you get past Kara, you will notice that CC is limited to you popping a Deterrence in case Feign Death resists, and that Traps, Wyvern Sting, and Wing-Clip offer very little in terms of help. So this build focuses on your damage, and conserving your mana for those long drawn out fights. You may wish to take your 5 points out of Imp. Aspect of the Hawk and put them into Imp. Hunter's Mark if your raid is melee heavy, otherwise Expose Weakness does a nice job of that as well.

PvP - Battlegrounds - Good for Generic PVP and Battlegrounds

It's obvious that our traps don't last long enough for us to even warrant investing points into those talents, so they are left out completely. With the new patch coming out, our traps will have an even shorter duration during pvp situations. This build focuses purely on the hunter and surviving in pvp situations. Again your talents may vary.

PvP - Arena - Purely for Arenas

Arenas are very fast paced once the fight begins, leaving you little time to set up. For the most part people love to use LOS against us in these situations, or get up close in melee and stay there. This build is based off of various expirementation within an arena setting. It's more of a hybrid build that offers more options to get back into ranged combat, or keep others away from you. However this build is solely for Arena's and offers little in terms of Raiding, Instances, or Soloing.

If you have any builds to add, please post them below. Also if you would, please name them, or I'll come up with some corny name for it like the ones mentioned above.

Survival Talents

This section will just briefly go over the Survival Talents and if they are right for you. Think of what you do in a normal day on your hunter and decide which talents you would be better off with.

  • Monster Slaying - Useful for pve builds, but not so much on the pvp side. A little extra damage can go a long way on those long boss fights.
  • Humanoid Slaying - Can be useful for pve or pvp, though most tend to invest into Savage Strikes.
  • Hawk Eye - Excellent for any build because it allows you to shoot from max range, 41 yards away. Which avoids many AE type affects, and allows you to fire upon an opponent quicker.
  • Savage Strikes - Good for PvP Builds where you find yourself constantly in melee. It's always nice to surprise that Rogue or Warrior with a Raptor Strike that can do 1K+ damage.
  • Entrapment - Unfortunately this talent has been "Normalized" as Blizzard would say. Meaning that when it works, it doesn't last long, and if you deal any damage to the target(s) affected, you could break it's already small duration.
  • Deflection - Can't hurt to have an extra 5% parry, since we can't boost it by any other means. Helps out a lot with Counterstrike, since you need to parry an opponent's attack in order for it to activate. Great for PVP builds.
  • Improved Wing Clip - Excellent talent, although probably more used in pvp then pve, but still useful for both aspects.
  • Clever Traps - Great for PVE, allowing you to maximize your CC with longer duration on your Freezing Traps, or offer a little extra damage for your Immolation/Explosive Traps. PVP this talent proves to be less and less useful. The extra damage or more snakes might prove to be a little helpful, but you could probably invest into something better.
  • Survivalist - Must have Talent, for any spec out of the Survival Tree.
  • Deterrence - Useful in certain situations, but for the most part, a lot of hunters forget that they have it, or feel they need to save it for a different situation. This talent often collects dust on the hotkey bar. Useful in PVP situations if you remember that you have it though.
  • Trap Mastery - Resists are our worst enemy when it comes to Freezing Traps. Our other traps aren't nearly as dependant on this talent, so if you wish to CC a lot, this talent would be for you.
  • Surefooted - Very good talent for us hunters. Might help you in a decision for gear that adds + to hit. Also good for pvp since it gives you a better chance to resist the various types of Snares that make us that more vulnerable.
  • Improved Feign Death - With the addition of Tier 4, this talent proves to be almost useless. 2 Pieces from the Tier 4 Set offer 5% less chance for Feign Death to Resist, where as you need to invest 2 points into this talent for only 4%.
  • Survivalist - Great Talent for PvP or PvE builds, definitely a must have, and only costs you 2 points.
  • Killer Instinct - Must have talent for those going into survival. Increases your crit chance by up to 3% for all attacks. Yes this includes ranged attacks as well ;) You need to max out this talent in order to get Wyvern Sting later on.
  • Counterattack - I personally liked this talent when it managed to activate, but found my parry % to be lacking without investing into Deflection. I would say this talent would be more useful with more Parry %, but otherwise it doesn't activate as often as you would like ;)
  • Resourcefulness - For those who find themselves always using traps and/or being caught in melee, this talent works wonders. Saves you 60% mana as well as reduces the trap cooldown. The faster you can get out your traps the better. More useful for PVE then PVP (Raptor Strike and Wing-Clip don't cost all that much mana anyway).
  • Lightning Reflexes - One of the sole reasons to invest into Survival. This is the backbone talent of the whole build. However it is suggested that you have around 500-600 agility unbuffed.
  • Thrill of the Hunt - One of the best talents for mana conservation. This talent gives you mana back from the "Base Cost" of the spell/ability you are using. If you invested into Efficiency (MM Tree), this proves to be even more useful. Multi-Shot takes full advantage of this ability if all 3 arrows crit.
  • Wyvern Sting - Excellent talent for CC, works great for pvp especially, but has its' uses for pve as well. Not only does it sleep your target for 12 seconds, but it puts a dot on them when they wake up, dealing extra damage. Must have talent for any survival spec.
  • Expose Weakness - Now that they've changed this talent to 100%, this proves to be a great talent to invest into for PVE aspects. Useful for PvP too but you may wish to invest into something else.
  • Master Tactician - I think most would agree that if they could pass over this talent to get to Readiness they would. Much like Concussive Barrage (MM Tree), this talent seems to go off at the most awkward times. Can prove to be useful in long boss fights, but not so much for shorter fights.
  • Readiness - Must have for the Ultimate CC Hunter. Also helpful for longer boss fights to get that extra Rapid Fire off. Used more in a PvE situation then PvP though.

Tactics and Strategies

It's not enough to have the build, you have to realize your capabilities and limitations that come with the build. Hopefully this will give you a better perspective of the pros and cons of speccing this way.


As one would assume, Survivalists should have no problem soloing. After all the talent tree is called "Survival" right? However it becomes apparent that soloing becomes more difficult as a Survival Hunter. Your pet will definitely need more time to gain aggro on your targets. Several Growls may help your pet keep it off of you when you start to crit every shot.

This is the reason why we have talents for Traps, Wing-Clip, Wyvern Sting, etc. To help us better handle our aggro when Feign Death is on cool down, or gets resisted. Hopefully these talents will allow you to get back into ranged combat just long enough for your pet to gain aggro back. If for nothing else, you become really familiar with kiting.

Misdirection will definitely help out while soloing. Toss it on your pet, and it should help your pet keep aggro for a little longer. Try to save your best damaging skills when you use it, i.e. Aimed Shot, Multi-Shot, Arcane Shot, or Steady Shot (depending on the target).

As with any build, always be aware of your surroundings, but more so, be aware of your cool downs. It's always a good idea to keep a Freezing Trap up in a clustered area or where you know certain mobs tend to path. Always stand 5-10 feet away from your trap in case you pull aggro from your pet though. You may not want your current target to get trapped if you're expecting another to add.

Instances and Karazhan

This is where we Survival Hunters really start to shine. Crowd Control takes precedence here and you must explain to your group what it is you plan to do. The #1 reason for deaths in a group is Miscommunication. The #2 Reason is lack of CC. Having your targets marked is a must. Explain to the group that you can trap 2 easily, or that you will only be trapping 1 and you can keep it trapped for as long as they need. If you plan to triple trap make sure everyone is on the same page, and to not touch the 3 you plan on trapping.

If you plan to kite, make sure there's plenty of room. If Improved Wing-Clip goes off while you're trying to switch directions, please make sure it's not near another party member. Having it go off at the wrong location can easily get your healer killed.

As soon as your cool down comes up, lay another Freezing Trap. You can never be to prepared, especially with Pug's who just love to pull when no one is ready. Thankfully our traps aren't too mana costly, and you should be able to always keep one out just in case something goes wrong.

On the same note, try to make it apparent to your group that they shouldn't pull if you are waiting on a cool down. There's nothing wrong with waiting for an extra 20 seconds if it will help save your group in the long run. Preparation and Patience are key in a group situation.


When it comes to raiding, we want to maximize our DPS with as little threat as possible. Which is why I suggest a build like the "Raiders of the Lost Arcane Shot" from above. Your Crowd Control abilities will become useless here, as you can't trap anything, nor could you really kite anything. Readiness may be more useful if you need another Misdirect right away, or if you want to pump out another Rapid Fire.

Your hit % is very important in a Raiding situation. If you can't hit your target, then you obviously aren't dealing any damage, and your DPS goes down considerably. Remember that the "Displayed DPS" is based on the fact that all of your shots hit your target. I believe it was posted that 8-8.5% is the max you need a hunter and their ranged weapon. Surefooted gives you an extra 3% allowing you to sacrifice a few +Hit items you may have for something that would benefit you more.

Group placement is also very important during a Raid. We can be in any group and still add additional damage to any melee or ranged attackers with our Expose Weakness. An Enhancement Shaman with Improved Totems will be your best friend here, and if all possible, ask to be grouped with them for their agility totems. With lightning Reflexes and their Improved Agility Totem you can receive an additional 101 agility just from their totem alone.

Last but not least, Mana Conservation in anyway possible will help out tremendously. Efficiency & Thrill of the Hunt work great together, because Thrill of the Hunt gives you back 45% of your mana from the base mana cost of the ability. So to put that into perspective let's say that Aimed Shot costs you 200 mana normally. The Efficiency Talent lowers this by 10%, so now it only costs 180 mana. When you crit with Aimed Shot, it still only cost you 180 Mana, but you receive 45% mana back from the base mana cost (200). Giving you back 90 Mana (Half of the cost). Within 2 crits you've received enough mana back to shoot off another Aimed Shot. You now get a buy 2 get 1 free deal.


I come from a PvP Server, and rather then explain about Survival Hunters vs. (insert Class Here), I'll just roughly go through the basics. Obviously some of these tactics will apply to all hunters, but it's based off of a Survival Mindset.

Traps are definitely the most controversial topic for PvP situations. Which one should we use? In which situation? What happens when your target is dotted? Obviously we have multiple traps for different situations.

  • Freezing Trap is great for that single target CC you need, to get back to Ranged Combat. However people around you will obviously want to break your traps. Used better in a 1 vs 1 situation, but if you're with a group of friends, or your guild, hopefully you have devised your own strategies.
  • Immolation Trap can prove to be useful for that additional damage you need, and with the talents invested, it can do almost 1K damage alone. Entrapment can also trigger off of this trap, but it can be easily dispelled.
  • Explosive Trap is great for those trying to take over a base in Arathi Basin. Lay one down and watch the fireworks. The dot won't keep them from capping it though, so you have to make sure to constantly pelt them after it goes off.
  • Frost Trap is better used for clumps of groups that you just don't want moving to much. Entrapment can prove to be very annoying to the other group here, but again it's usefulness is soon realized when it doesn't go off nearly as often as you'd like.

Snake Traps are better used against casters without AE. Mages can easily use an Arcane Explosion, Warlocks have their Ring of Fire (I forget the name), and Paladins have their annoying ability as well. Shadow Priests, Shamans, and Druids are more vulnerable to our snakes then most classes. And if you have an elemental shaman who just loves to cast out Chain Lightning, your snakes can prove to be useful decoys that will get hit by the remaining 2 lightning bolts.

  • Wyvern Sting is great for a pvp situation, but again the problem is getting people not to break it early. While in an arena setting, this talent can prove to be very useful by rendering the healer unable to cast. Allowing you and your group to focus on a single target and get it down as quickly as possible. The extra dot added on after is just some extra damage they'll eventually have to heal anyway.
  • Improved Wing Clip, Deterrence, and Counterattack will definitely be lifesavers against melee. Make a macro for Wing-Clip, Raptor Strike, and Counter-Attack and just spam it when you're stuck against a Warrior, Rogue, or Enhancement Shaman. Our worst enemy is a snare obviously, but anyway you can keep them from getting closer will definitely put the odds in your favor.

Hunter Stats & Their Affects

As a Survival Spec hunter, Agility should be our #1 priority, but it's always nice to know what each stat gives us in terms of usefulness.

Stat Breakdown

Str: Direct Relation to your Melee Attack Power. The more Strength you have, the more Melee attack power you have. 1 Strength = 1 Melee Attack Power

Agi: Affects your Ranged Attack Power, Dodge, Crit, and Armor. The #1 Stat to focus on as a Survival Hunter.

  • 1 Agility = 1 Ranged Attack Power (RAP)
  • 40 Agility = 1% Crit (at level 70)
  • 25 Agility = 1% Dodge (at 70)
  • 1 Agility = 2 Armor
  • 1 Agility = 1 Melee Attack Power (MAP)

Sta: Direct Relation to your Hit-Points. Basically the more stamina you have, the more hit-points you will have. 1 Stamina = 10 Health

Int: Affects how much mana you have, as well as your chance to crit with spells. 1 Int = 15 Mana

'''Spi: Affects your regeneration rate of HP and Mana. I believe this feature for hunter's may be a little out of sorts. As a hunter myself I have noticed my regen rate for mana stays constant as long as I'm not casting out a shot, such as multi-shot, arcane, etc. However if I'm just constantly firing arrows, my mana increases as it normally would out of combat. ((Spirit/5) +15) = mana regen from Spirit every two seconds (At 60)

AP: Not to be confused with MAP or RAP. This stat gives a bonus to both. If a piece of armor has +30 Attack Power on it, it will apply to both MAP and RAP.

MAP: Only effects your melee damage, as well as your pets damage. The more you have, the more is spilled over into your own pets stats, increasing its' damage.

RAP: This would be the other most important stat to a hunter. If agility were first, this would definately be a close 2nd. It directly affects how much damage you can do with your ranged weapon.

  • 14 RAP = 1 DPS

Crit/Hit Rating: Since all items now have a "Crit/Hit Rating #" this will help you determine just exactly how much it equals at level 70.

  • 22.3 Crit Rating = 1% Crit
  • 15.9 Hit Rating = 1% Hit

Resilience: Reduces the chance that a critical hit will be scored upon you, and also reduces the amount of damage you take from a critical strike.

  • 39.5 Resilience = -1% Crit chance upon you
  • # Resilience = -1% Crit Damage upon you (unknown at this time)


Obviously there is more to add, and probably more to edit as will become apparent by the many posts I'm sure this will generate. Hopefully this just stands as a small guide for those looking into being a Survival Hunter. It's more of a generalized guide then anything, and everything here should definitely not be be perceived as how you should play your hunter, or what tactics work best for you. Everybody plays differently, and there is no 1 standard for everyone.


  1. ^ Please take note that none of these are written in stone, they are only given as EXAMPLES to help you decide where you want to spend your points. In no way should anyone conceive this to be the way YOU should personally play your hunter.

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This page last modified 2008-06-27 14:15:10.