Survival is the spec of choice these days thanks to the buffs it received in 4.3 and 4.3.2. This means that the spec is receiving closer scrutiny than it has in the past. The consensus build appears to involve SV taking three points in One With Nature, two points in Sic ‘Em! and none in Careful Aim. However, often left out of talent discussions is how this build’s optimality is conditional upon pet talents.
Edit: Post updated to include Frenzy builds. Thanks to Harvoc for the suggestion.
Because (1) Sic ‘Em! is a discretionary talent for SV and (2) Sic ‘Em! interacts in an interesting way with the pet talent Wild Hunt, we need to look at player talents in conjunction with pet talents to determine the best SV talent distribution. Throughout the post below I will be using this femaledwarf profile, which largely uses the default settings for SV except that Arcane Shot is disabled during CA phases and shot interleaving is sometimes enabled for the 3/2/0 builds. The gear level is around 395, includes 4p-t13, and generally follows a Crit>Haste>Mastery priority. The relative benefits of Haste and Mastery for SV are on my to-do list to investigate, and preliminary investigations suggest slight gains for me were I to prefer Mastery in reforging. It is also worth keeping in mind that the levels of both crit and Arcane Shot usage obtainable with raid gear may result in different findings than those obtainable with just dungeon gear; they both result in more Sic ‘Em! procs and increase the value of having two rather than one point in Wild Hunt. If you are still in dungeon gear, you may find that having only one point in Wild Hunt is best.
The table below looks at the various combinations of SV’s discretionary player talents of One With Nature (OWN), Sic ‘Em! (SE), Frenzy, Bestial Discipline and Careful Aim (CA) with distributions of ferocity pet talents, Shark Attack (SA) and Wild Hunt (WH). The column and row-spanning cells in italics indicate how to read the talent distributions in bold. For example, 3/0/2 means three talents in OWN, none in SE and two in CA. I also look at Frenzy builds (as per Harvoc’s suggestion in the comments below), which take three points in Frenzy in the BM tree but take no points in Efficiency in the MM tree.
This table shows that it really does matter how we distribute our pet talents, and that we really should not talk about player talents without at least mentioning pet talents. The top two builds are the Sic ‘Em! and Frenzy builds with 2 and 1 points in Wild Hunt, respectively. Before we make a final conclusion, though, let’s also look at cunning pets.
The table below reflects distributions of the discretionary player talents with a Cunning pet. Since there is only one Cunning build for PVE, we only have six cells of results.
The DPS from the top 3/2/0 builds very slightly edges out the Frenzy builds on average across pets. My final recommendation, then, is for raiding hunters to take a 3/2/0 + 2/2 WH build.
It is worth noting that both the 3/2/0 and Frenzy builds assume high Hawk and pet uptime. The key difference amounts to the Efficiency talent. By not taking it, Frenzy builds increase the typical cost of Arcane Shots and Explosive Shots, slightly altering the SV rotation. I suspect that the only reason that a Frenzy build is this good is the current Focus surplus. Not taking Efficiency also means that Frenzy builds should avoid interleaving shots into a LnL sequence.