Enumerating Hunter Auras
When Cataclysm streamlined the hunter talent trees, the signature talent of each tree was reintroduced as a passive raid buff. Beast Mastery hunters sport the very appealing Ferocious Inspiration, which actually has not changed much since Burning Crusade. Trueshot Aura, the signature aura of Marksmanship hunters, has actually been around just as long but has gone a number of transformative changes over time. Meanwhile, Hunting Party is the newest of the three buffs, having replaced the older Survival aura Expose Weakness.
Let’s take a closer look at all three and their history. We’ll also do a numerical comparison to see which aura has the biggest effect on a hunter’s damage.
The Beast Mastery aura is perhaps the easiest to understand of the three buffs provided by hunters. Ferocious Inspiration provides an overall 3 percent increase in raid damage. It is perhaps the aura that can be most easily observed. For example, if there are two damage reports from the same encounter, one with the buff and the other without, the report including Ferocious Inspiration will see 3 percent increased damage by the entire raid.
One reason this aura is so appealing is because it affects melee and ranged damage dealers, as well as casters. It even extends to pets. Its limitless potential made it the best hunter buff in Burning Crusade, on top of an already strong Beast Mastery tree. This is also probably the reason the aura has not really changed in function since then.
Trueshot Aura, which has been a previous subject of my research, was a complicated talent prior to Cataclysm. It went through an identity crisis when hunters began abandoning its use in Burning Crusade because it provided a flat attack power bonus. This meant that high-end hunters did not receive a scaling bonus whether they were raiding Karazhan or Sunwell Plateau. Moreover, it only affected one party, as opposed to the entire raid, so Marksmanship hunters were always grouped with physical damage dealers. When it was redesigned in Wrath of the Lich King to provide a 10 percent attack power bonus to the entire raid, it became a very powerful talent, regardless of the fact that it only affected physical damage dealers.
Because hunters continue to receive weapon and armor upgrades at level cap, their agility (and thus, attack power) continues to increase. Suddenly, the bonus provided by Trueshot Aura continues to increase as upgrades are obtained. It is also interesting to note that Trueshot Aura is one talent tier lower than the other hunter aura talents. This means you can obtain it at level 39, a full 10 levels earlier than the others.
As the newest aura on the block, Hunting Party increases melee and ranged attack speed by 10 percent. This aura replaces Survival’s signature Expose Weakness talent that was the subject of much debate throughout Burning Crusade and Wrath. For example, take a trip down memory lane and read Mirshalak’s comparison of Trueshot Aura and Expose Weakness at the advent of 3.0.
But even with the change, Hunting Party possibly remains as the most complex aura for a hunter because haste mechanics is still difficult to calculate and translate to DPS. Even after reading Frostheim’s thoughts on haste design, you could still not understand how haste works. Perhaps it will be another topic for future research.
The primary objective of this study is to understand the extent of each aura’s affect on a hunter’s overall damage, which could give an indication of how to pick the best buff and talent tree scenario for raid encounters. Our study began with importing my current gear and weapon setup into Zeherah’s Hunter DPS Analyzer. To avoid too many sample variations, we used the three talent trees recommended by Frostheim, the standard rotation already used by Zeherah’s analyzer, and a cat as the default pet.
The results are tabulated below. Italicized values are the DPS output for the hunter with his or her own aura that is included in the tree of choice. The other values in each column indicate the change in DPS as each of the two other auras (or both auras) is added to the default aura.
|Ferocious Inspiration||Trueshot Aura||Hunting Party||Cumulative|
|Beast Mastery||16,315.72||17,597.96 (+7.9%)||17,282.98 (+5.9%)||18,640.16 (+14.2%)|
|Marksmanship||16,856.83 (+3.0%)||16,365.85||17,325.27 (+5.9%)||17,845.03 (+9.0%)|
|Survival||16,598.39 (+3.0%)||17,359.02 (+7.7%)||16,114.95||17,879.79 (+11.0%)|
First of all, this data is concrete proof that, in a perfect environment with 100 percent damage uptime by the hunter and pet, Beast Mastery is the middle ground of the three talent trees in terms of damage output when each tree is tested individually. This is reflected in the current 4.0.6 data from SimulationCraft. However, things take a turn when only hunter buffs are in effect.
We can derive from this data an equivalent comparison of the three aura buffs. Once again, it is obvious the Ferocious Inspiration provides a 3 percent damage increase. This data, however, converts Trueshot Aura’s 10 percent attack power buff into a 7.7–7.9 percent damage increase. Hunting Party’s buff is converted to a 5.9 percent damage increase. The resulting DPS from a cumulative of the three buffs is simple mathematics. Because Trueshot Aura and Hunting Party buffs have more multiplicative power, Beast Mastery benefits the most when all three buffs are stacked. Conversely, Marksmanship benefits the least from the small multiplicative value of Ferocious Inspiration and Hunting Party combined.
This data has a scaling implication. Remember that as we gain upgrades at level cap, agility continues to increase as our primary statistic. As a result, attack power continues to increase. Regardless of how much our attack power increases, however, Ferocious Inspiration continues to provide additional 3 percent damage. This is a linear increase, compared to Trueshot Aura’s exponential increase. With better upgrades, it is likely that the additional 10 percent attack power will provide greater incremental DPS increases, increasing Trueshot Aura’s multiplicative power.
You will see the shift in damage ranking in raid groups with many hunters, such as the case in my weekly classic raids. Suddenly, Beast Mastery hunters start to rise to the top of the charts. In groups with multiple hunters, the issue of synergy will then appear, such as optimizing and maximizing buffs with different pets, etc. That is, however, a topic for another day.