When you get down to the philosophical basics, every class has the same goal in a group or raid: do as much as you can to help clear the instance and kill the bosses. This of course is where the hunter obsession with DPS comes from. Most of the time the best thing we can do to help our group down bosses is to become a radiant beacon of death, to undergo an apotheosis into a DPS god and accept the adoration of the lesser DPS classes.
But there are times when it helps our group or raid more to sacrifice some of our personal DPS for the good of the group. Whether it's kiting blood beasts or blistering zombies or shooting down orbs, we are always happy and willing to take the hit for the good of the team. We're just noble that way.
And our noble pets can help out the team too, boosting the team's DPS as well as our own. Join me after the cut as we take a look when a different pet choice might be best thing for the team as a whole, even if it means a DPS loss for us personally.
The wolf is the staple DPS pet of almost every raiding or heroic running hunter. Its Furious Howl provides a nice flat AP boost to us that matches up almost perfectly with our trinket procs. This pet ability is so incredibly good that the wolf has become the best pet across every hunter spec, and whether you're doing ICC hardmodes or running heroics, the wolf is probably the best pet to give you the highest DPS on the meters.
When your raid has every buff and debuff provided by other classes, the wolf is the best pet for the vast, vast, vast majority of all hunters out there (BM hunters at certain gear levels will prefer raptors or devilsaurs).
The wasp provides the minor armor debuff (5% armor reduction) in the form of its Sting ability, with 100% uptime. This debuff is normally provided by feral druids via Faerie Fire or warlocks via Cuse of Weakness, and the various minor armor debuffs do not stack. However, if your raid does not have the druids or locks to provide the minor armor debuff, it will always be a net gain to the group for you to bring a wasp pet instead of your wolf.
The wasp is also a ferocity pet and so is capable of outputting as much DPS as the wolf (actually a bit more with the DoT their Sting does), and the personal DPS loss to you will be minor. For example, with my mid-level gear (around ilvl 250) if I switch from a wolf to a wasp in a raid with all buffs but the minor armor debuff (thus gaining the debuff), I lose only 20 DPS from the switch. Heck, the tanks' physical damage alone will make that difference up!
If you're without the minor armor debuff, bringing the wasp is a no-brainer.
The worm provides the major armor debuff (20% armor reduction) in the form of its Acid Spit ability, also with 100% uptime. This debuff is normally provided by warriors via Sunder Armor or rogues via Expose Armor. However, the worm is a BM-only pet. Not only that, but it's a tenacity pet, and will do a lot less pet DPS than a ferocity pet would. So before we can say whether the worm is worthwhile, we have to figure out approximately how much DPS we're losing by going BM, and then how much DPS we're losing by going with a tenacity pet.
We've seen before from examination of raid parses that with the very best gear, BM is 20%+ behind MM. Additional testing showed that with mid-level gear BM is 15% or so behind. That is a big loss -- we're usually talking 1,500 DPS or more, and those tests are with a DPS pet. So we need that major armor debuff to really bring a lot of DPS to make the team gain more than your personal loss.
Because boss armor is now normalized, and because the major armor debuff is applied first, we know that the debuff is bringing the boss from 10,643 armor down to 8,514.4 armor. That drops the armor mitigation from 41.13% to 35.85% -- in other words a 5.28% change in damage reduction from armor. That means that all physical DPS in the raid against that target will basically be increased by 5.28%.
In a 25-man raid, if you don't have any rogues or warriors to apply the major armor debuff, it is definitely worth going as BM and bringing a worm to provide the raid-wide 5.28% physical DPS increase.
In a 10-man raid, it gets a lot more tricky, and really depends on how many physical DPSers you have, and what both your and their DPS is. Keep in mind that many melee classes are not doing only physical DPS -- those ret pallies and assassination rogues are doing lots of magical damage that the armor debuff isn't helping. In most 10-man raids, it's not worth going BM and bringing a worm. For most raids, the total DPS loss to you is larger than the total DPS gain. But for physical-heavy groups, it could be a net gain.
But if you're running as BM anyway, then you may as well bring the worm -- it'll almost certainly be a net DPS gain to the raid.
Once a preferred pet, most cats now sit lonely in the stables plotting world domination with their free time. The cat's Rake ability gives it a small bleed that has a 90% uptime. This is particularly cherished by assassination rogues. Their Hunger for Blood ability requires a bleed to be present on the target, and they'd rather not have to apply that bleed themselves.
Of course MM hunters will generally always have a bleed up for their little rogue buddies in the form of Piercing Shots, but SV hunters may want to consider bringing a kitty if you've got assassination rogues in your raid, but no other source of constant bleeds. You'll have to talk to the rogues in question to see if they can quantify exactly how much of a DPS gain it is for them to not have to apply the bleeds themselves -- for me, spreadsheets suggest it's about a 120 DPS loss to move to a cat instead of a wolf. So they'd better be getting a pretty nice benefit from letting your pet do the work for them.
And maybe they'll just be grateful enough to toss a Tricks of the Trade your way now and again.
Pets that Didn't Make the Cut
There are a handful of other pets that come close to filling one of these (or other) roles, but ultimately their ability was just too weak to really be worthwhile. These include:
- Raptor: Also applies a bleed effect via Savage Rend, but with a horrible uptime, making a cat a better choice.
- Sporebat: Also applies a minor armor debuff via Spore Cloud. Unfortunately this debuff is only 3% instead of 5%, doesn't have 100% uptime, applies on an area instead of a target (so if the boss moves, you lose the debuff), and it's not a ferocity pet. Just worse than the wasp in every way.
- Rhino: Applies the bleed damage increase via Stampede. This buff is normally brought by feral druids via Mangle or the non-existent arms warriors via Trauma. Unfortunately Stampede has horrible uptime (around 20%) and you have to be BM to get the rhino pet, and the rhino is a tenacity pet. Never worthwhile.
You want to be a Hunter, eh? Well then you came to the right place. You start with science, then you add some Dwarven Stout, and round it off some elf bashing. The end result is massive dps. Scattered Shots is the WoW.com column dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a Hunter. Each week Scattered Shots will cover topics to help you improve your Heroic DPS, understand the impact of Skill vs. Gear, get started with Beast Mastery 101, and even solo bosses with some Extreme Soloing.