Let’s talk about Mana. In 25 man raids, you can usually count on there being enough ambient replenishment that you never need to worry about it. In fact, survival hunters contribute quite a bit to the mana cloud with hunting party. Take one or two points in it, but never more. Since you crit like a madman, a single point will ensure 75% uptime on average, and any other points will split hairs between 96% and 100%.
In 10 man content, your composition is made or broken by whether you have enough mana regen. Blizzard has said that they designed the current end game assuming you have it. Kind of like they assume you have a tank. There may be gimmickey ways to get around this, but the lowest common denominator is going to be bringing someone who can function as a mana battery. There are a bunch of classes that can give this buff (notably paladins who I believe don’t even need to spend points on it). Since you’re respeccing survival for top DPS anyways, why not use some of the 6 floater points you have available to buy a point or two that will help the raid?
As for your personal mana pool, it’s conceivable that you might start to run low in long 25 man fights where a couple of key players died, or in a 10 man or heroics. When this happens, we’ve always relied on aspect of the viper. This aspect makes us sound much more badassed than we are. The word “viper” evokes thoughts of tattoos and organized crime in china. I would have named it “Aspect of pool side bar service” to more properly reflect the concept of slowing down for a bit to regain your mojo.
A few things about viper:
- If your mana pot is not on cooldown, use it instead.
- Often, when you run out of mana, you’ve just had an unlucky streak of replenishment picking someone else. Viper for a few seconds and switch back- you might start to regain mana faster than you can spend it.
- You want to end the fight as close to out of mana as possible to maximize your DPS time- don’t refill unless you think you’ll use all that mana. I will go in and out of viper regen several times in a fight, if only for 3-6 seconds at a time. Aspect switching is not on the global cooldown, which is why this is viable.
- You may think that popping rapid fire during viper time is smart because more shots means more mana regen, but this is generally considered a bad idea. The point of viper is allowing you to increase your final DPS, and rapid fire will generally add more final damage done if you pop it during heroism/bloodlust than if you use it to refill faster.
- The only differences in your rotation during viper regen is that you probably want to save your frost trap to force a lock and load after you switch back to aspect of the monkeyhawk*, and you don’t need to refresh your serpent sting on the target. Serpent sting costs a lot of mana and doesn’t regen very much at all, and all you lose is a fairly low chance of proccing a lock and load and 1% damage.
*Please note- when they merged aspect of the monkey with aspect of the hawk, the obvious new name would be aspect of the monkeyhawk. But no. They went and tried to make it cooler than it needed to be and figured “dragonhawk” would be better. Well, I reject your reality and substitute my own! (Credit for that line goes to mythbusters)