Marksmanship Shot Rotations

**EDIT** As of Patch 3.1, Kill Shot is now on the Global Cooldown again. It cannot be used in the macros it used to be. Also, due to Piercing Shots’ new mechanic, firing Aimed Shot before Arcane Shot in your rotation will be slightly more beneficial, especially if you have it glyphed.**END EDIT**

Of all the emails and comments I’ve received, the question I’m asked the most is this:

“What shot rotation do you use?”

Because this question seems to be so popular, I feel it needs to be addressed. Rilgon also did a post on this, and you can read it here.

Firstly, I’d like to state this : there is no longer a standard shot rotation.

*GASP* What?!

Yeah, there’s no longer a steady, permanent rotation. But why?

Remember how, back in the Burning Crusade, our Auto Shots would only fire if we weren’t firing any other shot? Well, that doesn’t happen anymore. In Wrath, as long as we are standing still, our Auto Shots will fire no matter what else we’re casting, even if we’re in the middle of a Steady Shot. This is super-cool. The reason we used to need a rotation was because we needed to leave little gaps between shots for our Auto Shot to fire through. Now that we no longer need these gaps, we don’t have to pace ourselves. We can fire shots on every global cooldown, and this is exactly what you should be doing.

So what does this mean, exactly?

Well, firstly we need to change our way of thinking. This is often the hardest thing to do. We don’t have to think in terms of Pattern anymore. There is no Steady Steady Arcane Steady Steady or anything of that square nature. Scratch it from your mind. Now we’re going to have to think in terms of Cooldowns. Most folks know the Global Cooldown (GCD); if you don’t, the Global Cooldown is 1.5 seconds in which all standard spells/shots are unavailable immediately after they are used. For instance, if you fire Chimera Shot, you can’t fire Arcane Shot for another 1.5 seconds. Some shots have cooldowns that are longer than the Global Cooldown (in fact, most shots do). Chimera has its 10 second cooldown (all long cooldowns include that 1.5 GCD within the stated length of time), Arcane has a 6 second cooldown, Aimed and Multi have a shared 10 second cooldown, and Kill Shot has a 15 second cooldown. Steady Shot, because it requires channeling to cast, simply has the GCD which is activated immediately after the shot is finally fired. This is why you are able to “spam” Steady Shot.

Nassira…for the love of all things Holy, I already know this! Move on!

Okay. Just making sure…

What we need to do as Hunters is NEVER miss a cooldown. Easy, you say? Not quite. You need to juggle five different shots, and those shots all have different cooldowns. So how do you decide which shots to fire when?

You need to set your priorities straight.

What’s our biggest damage? Before you say CHIMERA! think about how to get the most damage out of Chimera. That’s right; you need Serpent Sting active first. Therefore, your first priority should always be Serpent Sting. If Serpent Sting is not active on your target already, you need to do that first. That part is easy. Then you have to wait for the GCD. And please don’t forget that before ANY shots are fired, you need to make sure Hunter’s Mark is on your target.

As soon as that GCD is over and your shots are available again, your next priority is going to be Chimera Shot. Chimera Shot (with Serpent bonus) is your high-yield damaging shot. This means that in a shorter fight, if you use it first, you will most likely use more Chimeras overall. This is why shot priority is chosen by damage output. Once Chimera has been fired and begins its 10 second cooldown, you must wait again for the GCD, but as soon as that wait is over…

You immediately fire Arcane Shot, which is your third priority.

But wait a second…if you’re fighting more than two mobs, your third priority will be Multi-Shot, and then Arcane, and you won’t be using Aimed until you’re down to two targets. Oh gee, now it gets more confusing.  I know what you were doing while you were reading this. You were thinking, “Oh! Well, I can almost make out a pattern here and then I can just stick to that!” NO! BAD! It just won’t work that way. If you start thinking in Patterns again, you’re going to severely limit yourself. Moving on…

Assuming you have one target again, your fourth priority will be Aimed Shot. While Aimed Shot isn’t super low on damage yield, it does have a very long cooldown, and therefore should only be fired after Arcane, which has a medium damage yield and a much shorter cooldown. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if you are having Mana issues in your raids, simply don’t use Aimed Shot in your standard rotation. The time you save from being in Viper is worth more than those few extra damage points you’d gain from Aimed Shot. Only use Aimed Shot if you never dip into Viper during a fight, or if you must move and it is your only available Kiting shot. Does that make sense?

Your fifth and final shot is going to be Steady Shot. Steady Shot used to be “kind of a big deal”, but now instead of it being like finding a quarter on the ground, it’s like finding a penny on the ground, and generally you won’t take the effort to bend over for so little (shut up about lucky, Steady Shot isn’t lucky unless you have ISS). Think of Steady Shot as a “Filler” shot. You should only be using Steady Shot when you have ABSOLUTELY NO OTHER SHOTS AVAILABLE. Steady Shot does awful damage and takes forever to cast, therefore making it the least important shot we have. If ever you find yourself firing Steady Shot when any other shot is available, you should STOP CASTING IT and fire that other shot. If there is a very small bit of time until your next instant shot, instead of starting a brand new Steady Shot, just wait it out. This, of course, requires judgement on your part. Please be sure you don’t wait that long, or you’ll lose damage.

Kill Shot, of course, is a HUGE amount of damage. This makes it take priority over EVERYTHING else. However, because it can only be used when your target is below 20% health, you must wait to use it. As soon as it is available, STOP EVERYTHING and fire it immediately. If you fire it immediately, there is a chance that the fight will last long enough that you will be able to hit your target with Kill Shot again, giving you a huge boost in overall damage. As of now (patch 3.0.8), Kill Shot does not trigger the Global Cooldown, meaning that the split second Kill Shot is fired, you can fire another shot. Keep yourself on top of that – many people are binding their Kill Shot to all of their other shots via Macro so that it’s fired immediately. I don’t do this, as I like to keep things flexible, but if you find yourself unable to use Kill Shot quickly enough, go ahead and try the macros.

So let’s recap :

1. There is no shot rotation. There is now a shot priority.

2. The priority is as follows: Hunter’s Mark, Serpent Sting, Chimera, Arcane (or Multi for three targets), Aimed, and Steady only as filler.

3. You must be constantly firing something; if two shots cool down at the same time, fire the shot with the highest priority (this happens often between Arcane and Aimed).

4. USE YOUR BRAIN! If the fight is getting very close to its end, use the shots with the highest damage and disregard mana useage. This is why I don’t like macros – there is very little flexibility when we desperately need that flexibility. If you manually weave your shots, you can use your brain to determine exactly when you should begin unloading everything you have.

I hope this helps you to better understand the Marksmanship shot priority. I will be posting a video of a shot priority as soon as I can, hopefully this week. If you have any more questions, concerns or comments, you know where to leave them!

Happy hunting!

❤ Nass


~ by Kelly Jennelle on February 24, 2009.

35 Responses to “Marksmanship Shot Rotations”


    Seconded, thirded, fourthed, ad nauseum. The difference between a mediocre Marksman and a stellar Marksman is their ability to make snap decisions in the heat of the moment.

  2. You touched on what I find is one of the hardest (but most fun and challenging) parts of our spec and something I’m not sure can really be fully appreciated by other players. That being watching the cooldown race between Chimera (and all the other shots we handle for that matter) and the channeling time for Steady. Do I wait? Should I squeeze another Steady in before the CD is up? Oops, I guessed wrong by a quarter of a second. It’s definitely an art to be able to ride that fine line between doing nothing and doing too much! 🙂

  3. With Glyph of Chimera on its way the big debate will be the extra second given to us on it and how it impacts your rotation, factoring in lag and non haste capped steadies.

  4. Yup with you on the macros .. oh except just this:

    It puts up a hunters mark automatically when I send the pet into attack.

    Saves me from that ‘oh crap’ moment

  5. Following what Perzyx touched on, I’m curious about everyone’s take on the apparently forthcoming Glyphs. Glyphs to reduce the cooldown times of Aimed Shot and Chimera shot by 2 seconds and 1 second respectively. At first blush this seems to suggest that Steady could get nearly squeezed out of the “rotation” nearly completely, with maybe one or two fired here and there.
    Is Steady Shot’s future in a Marksman shot routine that of an endangered species?

    More on topic, Nass suggests to stop casting Steady if another shot comes up. There’s a handy macro I use on my Shaman for Earth Shock, it puts /stopcasting before casting the spell so as to cut off any thing else and get the Shock cast. Would putting a /stopcasting before your Arcane, Aimed, Multi, Chimera etc be an idea to immediately interrupt a Steady Shot winding up? Or would /stopcasting really mess with Autoshot?
    I realise that yes it’s best to just perfect one’s timing but we all know things can get a bit hairy and timing tends to break down.

  6. I believe that would stop your Auto Shot, and that would be bad. However, I haven’t tried it.

    I’ll be focusing on the new glyphs when it’s closer to implementation. Right now, things are fun to play with but nothing is very secure, and I don’t want to get my hopes up/get overly frustrated about something that hasn’t even been okay’ed yet.

    Maybe I’m alone in that thought.

  7. Ok, just tested it out and yeah, it’s bad. Lost about 300dps doing that, it’s better just to be off a second or two on a shot cast than to try and interrupt via a /stopcasting command tagged to each shot.

    As for glyphs, yeah, I agree, we’re awfully far off from live and things change a lot, but speculation is always fun nevertheless.
    I’m actually more interested in what people are experiencing with the new Piercing Shots.

  8. Yes, I’m very very excited by Piercing Shots. Maybe too excited…

  9. Oooh…I like the sounds of that Nass.

    Anyways my take on interupting casts to choose a higher valued cast is that it is better to not micro manage your rotation that much. If you are paying so much attention to the fraction of a second coming up on one shot opposed to the other, then you are thinking too much on that, and not on the rest of the fight. Right now especially when people are striving for achievements like the Immortal, it is much better to get a overall feel for your rotation and pay more attn to your surroundings.

    In all, I think if you start to cast Steady… let it finish then move on to your next shot. I hate to use the “I do just fine” statement since I always believe in improvement and maximizing output, but in this case I will occassionally choose a lower damaging shot because I missed one coming off of CD, and still maintain much higher than average Hunter DPS while not making mistakes. I think that when you think too much on your rotation, you actually lose DPS by hesitating and those little tiny split seconds of hesitation cause more loss in DPS than occasionally choosing the wrong shot. It’s kind of like Player Induced Lag.

  10. Oooh…I like the sounds of that Nass.

    Anyways my take on interupting casts to choose a higher valued cast is that it is better to not micro manage your rotation that much. If you are paying so much attention to the fraction of a second coming up on one shot opposed to the other, then you are thinking too much on that, and not on the rest of the fight. Right now especially when people are striving for achievements like the Immortal, it is much better to get a overall feel for your rotation and pay more attn to your surroundings.

    In all, I think if you start to cast Steady… let it finish then move on to your next shot. I hate to use the “I do just fine” statement since I always believe in improvement and maximizing output, but in this case I will occassionally choose a lower damaging shot because I missed one coming off of CD, and still maintain much higher than average Hunter DPS while not making mistakes. I think that when you think too much on your rotation, you actually lose DPS by hesitating and those little tiny split seconds of hesitation cause more loss in DPS than occasionally choosing the wrong shot. It’s kind of like Player Induced Lag.

  11. Yes…as stated, use your brain. If you can’t handle a perfect rotation and still continue your other duties throughout a fight, then you need to practice and hone your skills.

  12. The bleeds for MM are pretty awesome. Overall it looks like MM may come out on top. I know it is really early and a lot can change (lot of the SV stuff seems either very glitchy, slapped together at the last minute or just NYI) but the with the limited amount of data I could gather from target dummy tests MM is definitely looking like it could be the better spec. I will note that I only tried SV and MM as those are the two trees that are interesting me the most. BM I intend to test later but it just seems boring now, not that steady spam was every really exciting when I was BM.

    I will note as well this was with what apparently is a really bad rotation with no arcane shot lol. I obviously have some research to do on MM talents and rotations to get a better picture of what the tree can really do. (This article will help on one part of that anyway). But I am looking forward to any changes to the old build or just what you think the best 3.1 MM talent tree should contain.

    Some fun times ahead. 🙂

  13. Now I’ve read reports that suggest the Bleed damage from the new Piercing Shots is laughable at best and only amounting to a very, very small amount of damage, as in so small it’s not worth the talent points.

    The comments that I can easily find right now are:
    “Piercing Shots appear to do way way too little damage and does not work like Deep Wounds, but rather refresh every time a crit is scored, regardless of power of shot.”


    “I can tell you that it is also bugged right now, with bleeds of 15 and 1 from Chimera, which can’t ever be reached with 30% however you ever do it. So something is decidedly wrong.”
    (courtesy Felandra at the BRK forums)

    However I fully expect that by the time 3.1 launches the talent will be completely redesigned and so something utterly different.

  14. I will agree that it is a little buggy atm.

    For instance if your target has only 1 health, as many of the target dummies do, the maximum that the bleed will tick for is 1. Don’t know if this is normal of all bleeds but it caused a bunch of confusion for me at first.

    What I hope the talent gets changed to is one of two things. The first thing would be to add arcane shot in place of steady. Since steady crits will be the lowest damaging crit we have it is super annoying to have it replace any other shot’s bleed. Let’s just take a look at a few numbers:

    AVG Crit damage (taken from a random MM hunter in a 25 man raid)
    Steady: 3200
    Arcane: 5000
    Aimed: 5000
    Chimera: 7000

    It is obvious to see that where we really run into problems is with steady shot crits.

    So let’s take a look at the numbers. Steady will give us only about 1k worth of bleed damage or 125 dps. I am assuming the bleeds tick every second as that is what they appeared to be doing when I was testing them. Arcane and Aimed hit for nearly the same given the appropriate buffs/debuffs and will give about 1500 bleed damage or 190 dps. Finally Chimera will give about 2100 bleed damage for about 260 dps.

    Now if steady was removed and arcane put in its place the bleed would float between 190-260ish dps on average, which to me doesn’t seem to me to be too bad.

    The other option for the bleed really would be to make it work the serpent sting. If a more powerful bleed was active, a lesser powerful bleed could not overwrite it. This of course would be a better option in terms of overall dps as it would guarantee that the strongest bleed would be ticking at all times possible. Would this option end up being to powerful when we consider things like mangle or trauma into the mix I don’t know. Just think about getting a 9-10k chimera shot then having that bleed tick with mangle up. We are looking at a dps increase for the duration of that bleed of about 500. Overall I would think with this option and mangle in the raid that this talent would be about 300-500 dps on average that would scale very well.

    Probably screwed up my math a lot in there but I am still super excited about this talent.

  15. I don’t even spec into Aimed Shot. I used the point in Improved Barrage instead. Rather than use aimed regularly in my rotation I actually use multi shot even on single targets. A multi with barrage and improved barrage crits often and for heavier damage than steady. I’m still pulling in good numbers without aimed in my rotation at all.

    I’ll be testing out piercing shots once I get recount running on my ptr client. I can pass along the results. ❤

  16. The only issue with that, Jug, is that there are more ways to make Aimed more damaging/useful than there are to make Multi more damaging/useful, and when properly talented/glyphed, Aimed will do considerably more damage on a single target than Multi will, not to mention it will cost less mana. Multi will do more than Steady, yes, but by not having Aimed you will end up gimping yourself more than you realize.

  17. It’s because of Marked for Death & Imp Steady Shot that Aimed > Multi. Plus Aimed is another instant which helps on movement fights. The 1 point for Aimed WILL NOT be better spent elsewhere. See the Marksman forums on EJ for posts by Whitefyst.

  18. Fo shizzle. Where you been at, Perz?

  19. Eh real life has got me locked down. Between work, and friends making me go out more I mostly only have time to raid now, but very little time to post often on the blog. Hmmm, maybe I should partner with you and just be a contributer, instead of having a seperate blog… what do you think? Let’s meet for dinner to discuss 🙂

  20. Almost clever enough…


  21. How about I not be clever. How about I just be a man. And you be a woman, and stop resisting your love for me.

  22. *rolls eyes*

  23. I wanted to clarify the statement that “There is no shot rotation. There is now a shot priority.” Over a sufficient period of time, combined with static cooldowns, shot prioritization degrades into a shot rotation. The Chimera/Arcane/Aimed/Steady structure Nassira defined earlier will create a two-cycle Chimera rotation that looks like the following:

    Chimera – Arcane – Aimed – Steady – Steady – Arcane –
    Chimera – Steady – Aimed – Arcane – Steady – Steady –

    This rotation is stable with just quiver haste, but is highly susceptible to latency (you are fitting 3 specials in between Arcanes, meaning literally any amount of latency is pushing back your rotation). The reason I am making the distinction between shot rotation and shot priority is that in many cases it is still beneficial to use a castsequence macro for generic encounters where you aren’t switching targets too much. The main enemy for MM hunter DPS is latency pushing back your cooldowns, against which the easiest counter is to bind a castsequence macro to your mouse wheel to minimize input time. While the above rotation is a bit hairy and borderline impractical, I would suggest an adjusted rotation that does not cast Arcane on cooldown, and looks like this:

    Chimera – Arcane – Aimed – Steady – Steady – Steady –

    Despite the fact that you are pushing back Arcane by at least 3s, this rotation is much more forgiving on your latency (you have 1s of buffer at the haste soft-cap or 0.28s of buffer with just quiver haste). Additionally, all of your ISS procs are going to Chimera, which is a nice perk. From my observations this is the easiest rotation to manage while still being able to perform strong DPS.

    Every hunter has his/her own preferred playstyle, and while there is definitely value in the flexibility of not being bound to a set shot rotation, there is still room for the macro spammers (although it is obviously not a requirement like the 1.5:1 rotation macros were in TBC).

  24. @Morakha You make a good point in that patterns will eventually repeat themselves. However, with a rotation being so much longer and involved (and far less easy to memorize), the more chance you have throughout that rotation for your surroundings/sitation in the game to change, therefore throwing off the efficiency of the rotation.

    If a hunter does feel that he requires macros to make life easier, it can be done as you say. However, I still maintain that it will severely gimp their chances at maximum DPS, and I do not recommend it.

    Thanks for such a well-written description and for bringing up a little-known point. =)

  25. I completely agree with you that shot selection has become more complex for MM hunters and that external factors have a greater influence on how one is able to successfully implement any kind of rotation; however, I would argue that macro spammers need as much “intuition” now as those players that cast shots individually on cooldowns.

    What I normally do is bind three separate castsequence macros to the mouse wheel (these are modified by pressing either Ctrl or Shift while scrolling). Each rotation serves a different purpose and I can switch on the fly based on what I am seeing around me. Often times it is not prudent to use Chimera or Aimed because of their longer cooldowns (such as when there are a lot of small mobs around), in which case I would switch to a simple Arcane/Steady rotation that would save the heavy hitting shots for the targets that really require them.

    In the end, using a lot of these castsequence macros becomes very experience-intensive, much as casting each shot by itself is. Where the macro spamming distinguishes itself though, are those times where you need to go all out and not think about anything else (and lets be honest, there are a lot of boss fights that are just that).

    I love that there is more variety and complexity with MM mechanics now and I can’t just roll my face on one macro the whole time – I need to roll my face on three macros now. 🙂

  26. I would be interested to see some WWS parses from you Morakha. Although I think manually firing your shots will yield reasonably higher dps, after moving to a high pop server and seeing first hand how bad lag can be (sometimes it can take less time for a steady to fire than an instant), I am curious what you are pulling with it. Also if you could post your actual macros that you use.

  27. Yes, please! I’d also like to see. Maybe I’ll try them out and see what Wrath macros can do.

  28. Here’s the main macro that’s used most of the time:

    #showtooltip Chimera Shot
    /cast Kill Shot
    /castsequence reset=3/target Chimera Shot, Arcane Shot, Aimed Shot, Steady Shot, Steady Shot, Steady Shot
    /castrandom [target=pettarget, exists] Kill Command, Rabid
    /script UIErrorsFrame:Clear()

    It’s fairly straightforward in what it does: cycles through the castsequence shot rotation and casts Kill Shot, Kill Command, and Rabid when they are available. By itself, it’s a pretty common macro; in order to modify your rotations with the Ctrl or Shift keys, you need to use a separate macro that looks like this:

    #showtooltip Chimera Shot
    /click [modifier:shift] MultiBarLeftButton2; [modifier:ctrl] MultiBarLeftButton3; MultiBarLeftButton1

    This is the macro that you are actually going to bind to whatever key (or mouse wheel) you want. What it does is simulate a mouse click on the specified buttons (in my case those are the first three buttons on the bottom left actionbar in the default interface). Place the first macro into the first button slot on that actionbar and you are effectively casting a macro within a macro. The next step is to write two more shot rotation macros that will be placed in slots 2 and 3 on the bottom left actionbar. You can also use plain spells if you don’t want to have another macro. The two macros that I use in those slots are:

    #showtooltip Multi-Shot
    /cast Kill Shot
    /castsequence reset=3/target Multi-Shot, Steady Shot, Steady Shot, Steady Shot, Chimera Shot, Arcane Shot
    /castrandom [target=pettarget, exists] Kill Command, Rabid
    /script UIErrorsFrame:Clear()

    #showtooltip Arcane Shot
    /cast Kill Shot
    /castsequence reset=3/target Arcane Shot, Steady Shot, Steady Shot
    /castrandom [target=pettarget, exists] Kill Command, Rabid
    /script UIErrorsFrame:Clear()

    The Multi-Shot rotation simply replaces Aimed with Multi if the situation calls for it and has a different starting point (Multi rather than Chimera). Normally I will switch to this macro right before Aimed in the original rotation, thereby giving me the dual function of sustaining the correct rotation while also allowing me to have quick access to Multi if I am in dire need of it.

    The final Arcane rotation is really just used for smaller targets that are about to die against which a Serpent Sting is a bad idea; subsequently, without Serpent, Arcane > Chimera for practical purposes.

    The last thing I would suggest is making a reset macro that will restart the rotation in case something happened and want it to start over prematurely. This looks like:

    /target **Insert Char Name Here**

    Naturally, it helps immensely to have cooldown tracking addons that will show you when you need to kill the sequence if Chimera is up already.

    Hmm, looking over all this I’m realizing how complicated it is :(. If you guys want to just play around with it I would suggest just using the first macro all the way at the top. It will give you a good idea as to how your DPS will compare against manually firing individual shots.

  29. Doesn’t a cast sequence macro somewhat bind you to being stationary however? I find the greatest strength of the Marksman spec is mobility coupled with a strong damage output. You can move and shoot and still maintain decent DPS. Of course one does more if you stay in one spot but with Marks you don’t sacrifice a whole lot by firing on the go.
    Wouldn’t a cast sequence macro plug things up should mobility be required?

  30. Thanks for that post. I was a die-hard BM all through TBC and have just returned to WoW after a long, long absence. Once my guildies help me get geared up to raiding level and 3.1 hits I’m thinking I may go MM, your post might have convinced me to make the switch 🙂

  31. Thank you so much for all of the detail all of you went into re shot rotation. I am 52 years old and have a great deal of trouble keeping up with this game. I will concentrate on learning manual rotation, but am glad to have a few macros keyed for times when my mind goes blank. Really having trouble getting my dps anywhere near any of the other hunters in raid.

  32. You’re very welcome! And if there’s anything else I can do to help, please feel free to email me. You’ll hear back from me on Tuesday (I’m going on vacation) at the latest. Have fun hunting! ❤ Nass

  33. This is probably why I like Marks spec so much, fire whatever is ready and steady as filler. It’s how I like to play! Woot!

  34. Excitement ftw. =)

  35. Simply wish to say your article is as astounding. The clarity in your post is simply excellent and i could assume you are an expert on this subject. Fine along with your permission allow me to grab your RSS feed to keep updated with approaching post. Thanks a million and please continue the enjoyable work.

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