To produce good damage output with a hunter in a raid requires more than simply putting on the best gear available, selecting appropriate talents, and attacking whenever there is a target available. It does require all that. Unfortunately, it also requires an understanding of a ridiculously complicated interaction of shot mechanics and timing constraints. The selection of shots to use, the order of those shots, and the timing—down to tenths of a second—of those shots greatly influences your total damage output.
In other words, your damage output is influenced by how fast you fire your shots. A shot rotation is a technique to maximize the number of shots you fire in a given amount of time.
This complexity is almost certainly not an intentional feature of the game. It is something discovered by exhaustive testing and analysis by hardcore raiders intent on optimizing their damage output. To make it worse, Blizzard periodically changes the mechanics. To mix metaphors horribly, this upsets the apple cart and sends all the raiding hunters back to the drawing board.
That is the bad news. The good news is that, for Beast Mastery hunters, the decision-making can be condensed down to a fairly simple macro that you can simply mash quickly and repeatedly during combat.
The damage output is a result of the interaction between weapon speed, haste, cast time, skill cooldowns, the global cooldown, clipping, dead time, latency, and weaving. This article explains all of those things, lists how they interact with the different skills, and then explains some macros that work for Beast Mastery hunters. It explains how to test different rotations. Finally, it gives links to more in-depth articles about shot rotations.
This section just defines a lot of terms used in discussing hunter shot rotations.
- Weapon Speed
- Weapon speed is simply the period between regular shots of your ranged weapon. It is reduced by haste.
- Haste is an increase in the rate at which you shoot. It increases your rate of fire with Auto Shot, and reduces the cast time of Auto Shot, Multishot, Aimed Shot, and Steady Shot. It does not reduce skill cooldowns or the global cooldown. New Karazhan hunters get haste from the quiver bonus, the Serpent's Swiftness talent, Rapid Fire, certain trinkets, and possibly Berserking, the troll racial ability.
- Cast Time
- Cast time is simply the amount of time required to cast a spell. Spells with cast times cannot be cast while moving. Aimed Shot, Steady Shot, and Volley have cast bars that show you the cast time. Auto Shot and Multi Shot have very short, "hidden" cast times, even thought they do not show a cast bar. Stings, Arcane Shot, Silencing Shot, and Scatter shot are instant-cast; they do not have a cast time, and can be used while moving. Cast time is generally reduced by haste.
- Skill Cooldowns
- Skill cooldowns are simply the time after which you cast a spell during which you cannot cast the same spell again. For shot rotations, the important cooldowns are for Arcane Shot, Multishot, and Kill Command.
- Global Cooldown
- The global cooldown is the time after you cast a spell during which you cannot cast any spells at all. The exceptions are Auto Shot and Kill Command. They do not trigger the global cooldown and can be cast any time they are ready and you are not casting another spell.
- Clipping is a delay in firing of an Auto Shot, due to interference from another skill. It is a somewhat obscure, complex concept that ends up being quite important. You cannot fire an Auto Shot while you are in the middle of firing another shot with a cast time. So, if Auto Shot will be ready in 0.4 seconds, but you cast a Steady Shot which will take 1.5 seconds, the Auto Shot will be clipped by 1.1 seconds. Since Auto Shot is such an important part of hunter damage, clipping it is usually (but not always) a bad idea.
- Note that Auto Shot has a 0.5 second cast time. In earlier versions of the game, you could clip it by starting to cast a different spell during that cast time. As of version 2.3.3, this does not happen. If you attempt to cast a different spell while already casting Auto Shot, the Auto Shot will fire anyway, then the new skill spell will go off.
- Dead Time
- Dead time is simply time when you are not casting or shooting anything, but are instead waiting for the global cooldown, Auto Shot cooldown, or other spell cooldown to complete. Obviously, dead time reduces damage output, and is best avoided. Unfortunately, casting a spell to avoid dead time may result in clipping an Auto Shot, either immediately or as a delayed result of triggering the global cooldown. Finding the perfect shot rotation involves maintaining a harmony of shot speed, spell cooldowns, and the global cooldown that finds the perfect balance that minimizes the combined effects of clipping and dead time.
- Latency is the amount of time it takes from when you press a button on your keyboard until the command from that keypress reaches the Blizzard server. Ping time is the round-trip latency, and is shown by pointing at a little green, yellow, or red bar on the bottom right of your screen. Ping time is typically 60 milliseconds to 700 milliseconds, depending on network performance and geographical location.
- Latency has a complex, somewhat unclear effect on the rate at which you can fire special shots. As of version 2.3, the game is more forgiving of latency. You can attempt to cast a spell before its cooldown or the global cooldown are ready. If the cooldown finishes before the command to cast the spell reaches the game server, you will actually cast it instead of getting an error message.
- Weaving is simply the casting of spells between Auto Shots. The woven spells are typically Steady Shot, Multishot, and Arcane Shot. Weaving can be done by macros. Manual weaving is simply casting those spells without using a shot rotation macro.
Shot timing Edit
The different shots all have different timings. The following table summarizes the timing of shots and skills used to do damage in combat. See the Combat section of this guide for more details about the skills. Also note that the cast time of all the spells, including Auto Shot and Multishot, are reduced by haste.
|Skill||Cast Time||Cooldown||Global Cooldown|
|Auto Shot||0.5 sec||Weapon Speed||No|
|Steady Shot||1.5 sec||None||Yes|
|Multishot||0.5 sec||10.0 sec||Yes|
|Arcane Shot||Instant||6.0 sec||Yes|
|Kill Command||Instant||5.0 sec||No|
|Aimed Shot||2.5 sec||6.0 sec||Yes|
- Auto Shot
- Auto Shot does good damage, costs zero mana, and does not interact with the global cooldown. The only cost is a single bullet or arrow. A good shot rotation typically fires Auto Shot as much as possible. The catch is that you cannot fire it while moving or while casting another spell.
- Steady Shot
- Steady Shot also does good damage and has a low mana cost. However, it has a cast time and uses the global cooldown. Most shot rotations involve firing a Steady Shot as soon as each Auto Shot goes off.
- Multishot has the best damage output of anything you can put in a shot rotation, even if you hit only a single target. It is even better if you hit multiple targets. However, the cost is high. It has a spell cooldown and triggers the global cooldown, plus it uses a lot of mana. Typical uses are to replace a Steady Shot with a Multishot for burst damage, or when there are multiple targets.
- Arcane Shot
- Arcane Shot does good damage, especially against targets with high armor. It can fired while moving, and also dispels a beneficial magical effect from the target. Although it is instant-cast, triggers the global cooldown. It is used in some shot rotations for the damage when mana conservation is not an issue.
- Kill Command
- While not a shot, it is significant contributor to your damage output. It does not trigger the global cooldown and has no cast time, so it does not interfere with your other shots. Cast it every time it is available.
- Aimed Shot
- This shot resets the timer on your Auto Shot. So, while this attack does more damage on a single target than anything else in your repertoire, it actually reduces your damage output over time. Do not use it in a shot rotation. Use it only to give Misdirection an extra boost, or to reduce the healing effects on the target.
Beast mastery rotations Edit
Marksmanship and Survival hunters who want to maximize their damage output need to understand the gory details of this whole mess and put together a shot rotation that takes all the timing into account and places Steady Shots, Multishots, and Arcane Shots in exactly the right place in the sequence to minimize clipping and dead time. Then they have to craft a macro to do this or delicately weave all those shots manually.
Beast Master hunters, mercifully, are spared all of that. With the Serpent's Swiftness talent, there simply is not much room to weave anything but Steady Shot. So, here is what they need to do to maximize their damage output:
First, pick a weapon with a speed as close to 2.7 as possible. This speed allows a rotation that eliminates both clipping and dead time almost completely.
Then, fire a Steady Shot after each Auto Shot.
That's it. That is the whole secret to why Beast Mastery is so good. This is called a 1:1 Auto-Steady shot rotation. It offers great damage output for minimal mana cost. The 2.7 shot speed is so good at eliminating clipping and dead time that the from Karazhan offers better damage output than weapons with different speeds from 25-man raids. Here is the fragment of the macro that enforces this shot rotation:
/castsequence Steady Shot, !Auto Shot /castrandom [target=pettarget, exists] Kill Command
See the System Configuration section for the complete macro. Once you have your macro configured, you simply select a target and hit the macro as fast as you can.
Another shot rotation involves firing Steady Shot as fast as possible, purposely clipping Auto Shots. This rotation offers slightly higher damage output at a considerably higher mana burn rate. It tends to work better for weapons slower than 2.7. Here is the macro fragment for that rotation:
/cast !Auto Shot /castrandom [target=pettarget, exists] Kill Command /cast Steady Shot
The above macro typically fires three Steady Shots for each Auto Shot. Depending on weapon speed, it can also fire two Steady Shots per Auto Shot. With enough haste, and a fast enough weapon speed, it fires one Steady Shot per Auto Shot.
A final rotation involves weaving in Arcane Shot whenever it is up. It increases the damage output of some hunters, but has an even higher mana burn rate. Again, it works better for weapons that are slower than 2.7.
/castsequence Steady Shot, !Auto Shot /castrandom Arcane Shot /castrandom [target=pettarget, exists] Kill Command
Testing shot rotations Edit
All of this discussion of shot rotations will help you set things up. However, you cannot really know which macro is best for you until you actually test them all. Fortunately, there is an easy way to do this.
Just set up your macros, go to in Netherstorm, put away your pet, bring up your favorite damage meter, and open fire. Dr. Boom has very high health and does not move, so you can shoot him for a long time. Do that.
Try all the different macros. Experiment with variations on them (like moving the Kill Command around or using /cast instead of /castrandom). Try different weapons. Note how long it takes you to go out of mana. Determine which one is best for you.
See the links below for more detail.