Scattered Shots is your weekly guide to improving your Hunter skills, brought to you by Jessica "Lassirra" Klein of The Hunter's Mark, covering a variety of Huntery topics. Today, we'll be talking about how to effectively swap between aspects to improve your performance.
Pike from Aspect of the Hare published a post recently, "Aspect of the Viper and You", in which she describes what Aspect of the Viper is and when to use it. For raiding and leveling Hunters alike, Aspect of the Viper is a powerful tool to reduce downtime when mana is running low. Stopping to drink or popping mana potions is almost obsolete thanks to this great aspect, and Pike's article goes a long way in teaching newbies and veterans alike when it's time to put that aspect to use. Today, I'd like to take that idea further and discuss more ways to help put Aspect of the Viper to work for you.
For raiding Hunters, it's extremely easy to switch to Aspect of the Viper during a fight to regen mana and then forget to swap back to Aspect of the Dragonhawk once your mana bar is full again. I know in the past I've had less than stellar numbers on the meters simply because I forgot to switch aspects! Sure, swapping aspects should be a no-brainer, but simple mistakes are easy to make when you're dodging slimes, fire and big ol' dragons. For that reason, I started using ViperNotify. This add-on is very simple and light weight. All it does is notify you via pretty blue alert text that appears on your screen (similar to a raid alert) that your mana bar is full but Aspect of the Viper is still active. It also plays a quick little ding sound (which is, amazingly, not the slightest bit annoying) to catch your attention in case you missed the warning text. There are, of course, several other mods that behave similarly, but ViperNotify is the one I use. This one simple add-on makes it much easier to ensure the best possible performance from your two primary aspects.
In addition to this add-on, I also use an aspect swapping macro to help manage my two primary aspects while conserving action bar space for other important abilities. Here's the macro I use:
/castsequence !Aspect of the Dragonhawk, !Aspect of the Viper
All this macro does is swap to one or the other of the two aspects depending on which aspect you currently have active, and displays the icon of the aspect it will switch to when you hit the macro. For Hunters of lower levels that don't have Aspect of the Dragonhawk yet, you can simply substitute in Aspect of the Hawk in its plce. (For PvP Hunters that don't have Aspect of the Dragonhawk yet, this same macro can easily be used to swap between Aspect of the Hawk and Aspect of the Monkey.)
Now that we've streamlined the process of switching between aspects, let's talk about when to do the switching. Simply waiting until your mana bar is all but empty is certainly one way to go about it, and it does work, but with a little planning you can maximize the effectiveness of the switch to help your performance. One thing I would suggest is swapping to Viper when your major cooldowns are almost up so you can be sure you'll have plenty of mana available to use them again as soon as they're up; this maximizes your burst damage and ensures that you won't run out of mana while you've still got buffs cooking.
Another great time to swap into Viper is when there's a lull in a fight's action. The air phase of the Malygos fight, during lava waves on Sartharion, during the safety dance on Heigan, or during polarity shifts on Thaddius are all great examples. Any time you're moving or unable to fire shots is a great time to swap into Viper. With the exception of Patchwerk, standing still for long stretches is a luxury we can seldom afford so there are always plenty of opportunities to make fight mechanics work in your favor. Using damage downtime effectively is an important habit to get into and will make aspect swapping that much more efficient.
Managing your mana regen effectively with Aspect of the Viper will mean more overall damage output and will eliminate the need for costly mana potions. Don't forget, the four-piece Tier 7 bonus can also help your damage output during regen mode if you're still struggling. The four-piece bonus increases your ranged attack speed by 20% while Aspect of the Viper is active, giving you more damage and potentially faster regen depending on your spec and shot rotation. There are always little tips and tricks that will help increase your performance, and effectively utilizing aspect swapping is just one more way you can get the most out of your character.