I started the Ability Spotlight series to shed light on commonly misunderstood hunter tools. I imagined writing about abilities that are underused but useful, abilities that improve huntering at the margins. However, as the hunter recruits to my guild and the hunter forums have shown me, even signature abilities can be persistently misunderstood. That is why we turn to Explosive Shot (ES) this week, an ability at the core of the SV rotation but also at the center of a lot of misinformation and uncertainty.
The Tooltip and What It Doesn’t Say
Explosive Shot Level 85
50 Focus 40 yd range
Instant 6 sec cooldown
Requires Ranged Weapon
You fire an explosive charge into the enemy target, dealing RAP*0.232+386 Fire damage. The charge will blast the target every second for an additional 2 sec.
- Using ES on cooldown is a central part of the SV rotation and so reducing its cost, boosting its damage and managing Haste are consequently all important.
- ES’s cooldown is reset by Lock and Load and none of the ESs that are fired during Lock and Load will trigger the cooldown, allowing a third ES to be fired directly after the two free ESs.
- Explosive Shot deals three tics of damage every second over a two second period. The first tic occurs upon application and the other two after second-long intervals (tic-second-tic-second-tic). This damage format means that ES is technically a dot and is counted as such by the game.
- Like our other dots, each ES tic has an individual chance to crit. Therefore, each tic also has an individual chance to proc Sic ‘Em! The Sic ‘Em! buff is applied or refreshed with each ES crit, and so you can potentially proc Sic ‘Em! three times with one ES (regardless of whether your pet gets to use all three or not).
- Again like other dots, Explosive Shot can be clipped (that is, its tics can be overwritten and wasted) if another Explosive Shot from the same hunter is applied before the preceding ES’s tics have all fired. This is only a concern during Lock and Load when it it possible to shoot more than one ES within a two-second period.
- ES does damage based on ranged attack power (noted as RAP in the ability tooltip above). Weapon damage is not a component of the damage it deals, which partly explains why SV has historically been better for hunters at relatively lower weapon item levels and why specs whose shots do scale of weapon damage tend to outperform SV at higher weapon item levels.
- The damage that ES deals is fire damage. This means that it does not benefit from armor reductions like Sunder Armor or boosts to physical damage like the Ravager debuff. Conversely, it does benefit from Spell Penetration in pvp and from effects that boost magic damage, including SV’s Mastery stat and the Dragonhawk/Wind Serpent debuffs.
- Do not use ES’s dealing magic damage to conclude that it is a spell. It is not a spell and it does not benefit from spellpower, spell crit, spell hit, etc. It is still a hunter shot in all the usual respects (hit chance, ranged damage buffs, etc.) except that its damage type is Fire and the damage occurs over time.
Lock and Load
Lock and Load (LnL) is a persistent source of confusion for hunters. There are all sorts of wrong-headed methods for dealing with it: “fire all the ESs as fast as you can so that you delay your normal rotation as little as possible” “fire an ES, then an AS, then the second ES so you don’t cut off the first ES” “fire one ES, wait three seconds, fire the second, wait three seconds, fire the third” and so on. Ignore all of that.
The first thing to remember is that ES is a dot and so if you fire another ES right after the first one, you’re wasting part of that first ES. For the same reason that you wouldn’t fire two Serpent Stings in a row on the same target, you don’t want overlap one ES with another. And the consequences are more dire for clipping ES, since losing a tic is about the same as losing a whole Arcane Shot. There is an easy way to avoid clipping, stay busy and maximize dps all at the same time: fire other shots in between ESs during LnL. This lets the three possible ESs each run their full course and adds in extra shots for even more dps.
Unfortunately, using Arcane Shot while the LnL buff is active will actually use up one of the LnL charges, so we have to pick a different ability (like Cobra Shot (CoS)) to use between the first two ESs. After we’ve fired those two and the buff is used up, though, we’re free to use Arcane Shot before the third so long as we’re not so low on Focus that it’d prevent us from firing the third ES or a BA that will shortly be off cooldown. It’s also worth noting that CoS benefits from Careful Aim while AS does not, so it does not hurt to fire a CoS instead of a AS if the boss is still over 80% health even if you’re high on Focus.
Let’s put all that into simpler terms. If you’re low on Focus or the boss is over 80% health, use your LnL buff like this:
ES > CoS > ES > CoS > ES
If you’re nearing 100 Focus and the boss is under 80% health, use your LnL buff like this:
ES > CoS > ES > AS > ES
If you have doubts about possible clipping with these sequences, just shoot at a test dummy until you get a LnL, go through the sequence, and then stop dps and look at the Self option under the Combat Log tab of your default chat frame. Using a LnL as recommended above results in three tics per ES plus shots in between with no time or dps wasted.
For further affirmation of the above, let’s take a look at femaledwarf results for various possible rotations. The following tests use my gear and spec and the default FD settings excepting those changes noted in the row titles and that full raid buffs and debuffs are enabled.
|Use AS During LnL Buff and During CA||23,439|
|Use AS During CA but Not LnL Buff||23,753|
|Use AS During LnL Buff but Not CA||23,605|
These results confirm the claims above. The dps gains number in the hundreds, not the thousands, but it’s still nothing to sneeze at.
Using Explosive Shot Well
- ES does damage over time and so anything that causes ES to fall off before a normal expiration diminishes its worth to dps. This includes not only clipping during Lock and Load but also firing ES at a target near death.
- Remember that Ice and Freezing Traps can proc LnL immediately and that Explosive Trap can proc it at a faster rate, particularly when applied to multiple targets. Since LnL is a big dps boost, keeping these proc methods in mind can help for situations where a fast burn is needed. Note, however, that only one Explosive Trap dot can be active on a target at a time. If another hunter already has theirs going, Explosive Trap is actually a bad way for you to proc LnL.
- Kripparrian argues that if LnL procs in an AoE fight and you’re fighting six or fewer targets, you should use the free Explosive Shots. If you’re fighting more than six targets, you should continue Multi-Shot spam and ignore the free ESs.
- If you’re fighting more than one target, an effective way to use LnL is to fire one ES at your primary target, the second right away at a second target, and the third either at the primary target or a third target. It is alright and even preferable to send that third ES to the primary target since (1) the first ES will have expired on it by the time the third hits and (2) you are more likely to have Serpent Sting and thus the 10% damage boost from Noxious Stings running on the primary target.
- ES dealing magic damage becomes problematic in situations where encounter mechanics reduce the effectiveness of magic damage. If future raid tiers include such mechanics and they signficantly reduce magic damage done, switching to Kill Command (or just switching to BM or MM altogether) may be a better option than firing a crippled ES.
previous Ability Spotlight topics: