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  1. #1

    Bounty Hunter - Merc dps guide (Arsenal Spec)

    I've been working on a guide on our guild forums for PvE dps as an Arsenal spec Mercenary Bounty Hunter and reached the point where I figured I would share it on here, as it might help people.

    Things to note:
    - This is a PvE DPS guide (not PvP, but the build does pretty well at pvp anyway).
    - Sustained dps is different to blowing away a handful of standard/weak mobs when doing missions.

    Talent Build

    This is always one of the first things everyone wants to know. What talents should I take? Well, there's not really much of a choice available.

    Bodyguard = healer
    Pyrotech = PvP dps (lower sustained dps, more burst and utility)
    Arsenal = PvE dps (highest sustained dps and what this guide is about)

    I play as Arsenal spec, which is what this guide is all about.



    Filler Talents

    The build above is pretty much set in stone, other than a few filler talents noted below. you can change these around if you like:

    Power Barrier - defensive talent that may well save your ass in fights. I think it has the edge over Integrated Systems, but you can swap them if you like.

    Jet Escape - I've taken this because I like to PvP here and there, so a reduction in cooldown on Determination is handy. Feel free to substitute for elsewhere in the tree.

    Pinning Fire - mostly a PvP talent, but could be useful in PvE when you need to slow a target for some reason. Feel free to replace with another talent.

    Surgical Precision System - I put this in because sometimes you NEED to throw a heal when under fire. Can be the difference between success and death. Bounty Hunters don't DO losing.

    An Explanation of Key Talents

    You could just take my word that you need all of the other talents to be awesome, but I'll give you some reasons why, so you can pass on the advice to fellow Bounty Hunters and help them dominate dps as well. Many of the talents you'll take are fairly explanatory, such as +3% accuracy, +6% crit, +X% damage to ability Y. I won't go into these, they should be fairly obvious.

    Tracer Missile - this is your primary single-target ability and the one that does most damage to initiate with. It also debuffs your target up to -20% armour. Other classes can also place this debuff. They don't stack. This ability replaces Power Shot.

    Light 'Em Up - debuffs your target quicker, means more damage sooner.

    Terminal Velocity - with a decent crit value, this really kicks in and is what allows you to keep nuking your target hard without pausing.

    Barrage - the +25% damage from this makes Unload worth using over tracer missile. See the section below about ability priority.

    Heatseeker Missiles - instant cast attack for decent damage.

    Stats Value & Priority (gear & mod choices)

    AIM
    This is without doubt your number 1 stat. If there is ever the choice between Aim and another stat, you take Aim.
    Aim gives you:
    - Ranged Damage bonus.
    - Ranged Damage crit % chance.
    - Tech Damage bonus.
    - Tech crit % chance.
    - Healing Power (heals CAN be handy at times - though this is clearly not a priority)

    POWER
    Power adds to the damage of your attacks in much the same way as Aim does, but doesn't increase the crit % chance.

    CRIT
    Your chance to cause a critical hit, which will inflict at least 50% more damage (and trigger various abilities).
    As a base, you have a 5% chance of any attack scoring a critical hit.
    You want to get your crit % to a decent level, to ensure Terminal Velocity procs fairly often.

    SURGE
    This increases the amount of damage done by your crits.
    As a base, a critical hit does an additional 50% damage. ie. an attack that would normally do 1,000 damage will instead do 1,500 on a critical hit.
    I've not done the maths yet on how well surge works, but given we want a decent crit %, we should score fairly frequent critical hits with all of our abilities and thus having those crits hit harder can't be a bad thing.

    ACCURACY
    This is your chance to hit your target. Regardless of how much damage your attacks do, you need them to actually hit your target.
    You have a base accuracy with Rapid Shots of 90% and accuracy of 100% with your special attacks. Your offhand blaster has a penalty.
    Increasing your Accuracy over 100% will subtract from the target's defense. There's no real way to know how much defense mobs or bosses have at this time though, so it's difficult to say how good this stat is in PvE.

    An Important Note on Alacrity and why you don't want it

    What does alacrity do?

    "Reduces the time needed to activate or channel abilities, so they can be executed more quickly."

    So this applies to both Tracer Missile and Unload, two of your primary dps abilities, so it would seem alacrity is good for Mercenaries, as it allows them to damage their target quicker, right?

    Wrong.

    edit: perhaps the most important argument against alacrity for a merc is that it does NOT reduce the global cooldown of 1.5 seconds. This means that, whilst it reduces the time taken to fire a Tracer Missile, you are still limited to a maximum of 1 ability every 1.5 seconds, so ONLY Unload gains ANY realistic benefit.

    Heat build-up is the single biggest limitation on Merc dps. If you're reading this, I am assuming you have a Merc and are familiar with what happens when your heat bar fills up - you end up standing there just hitting your default attack. That's because heat management is a vital part of playing the Merc effectively (again, see below).

    You will already be using Rapid Shot a fair amount, rather than Tracer Missile, to keep heat down to a manageable level. Itemising alacrity, would mean you are able to use more abilities in a given space of time, so giving you better "burst" but overall, heat will still limit the amount of abilities you can use.

    Also, If you take a careful look at Terminal Velocity, you'll see that it can only activate once every 3 seconds at most. However, Tracer Missile has a 1.5 second activation time, making two of them back-to-back exactly 3 seconds. Even with the ability queue system in place, you can maybe add a few milliseconds gap between them.

    If you gain ANY alacrity at all, then you'll bring a double activation of Tracer Missile under 3 seconds and start to lose out on the important proc from Terminal Velocity.

    * As a note, at max level, it may be possible to gain enough alacrity to bring it down to close to 1 second per activation, which may be worthwhile, but even then, there's still the issue of heat build-up from an additional acivation of the ability.

    * Further note, see my additional post further down this thread on the maths behind alacrity itemisation

    OK, enough background, how do I do this awesome DPS?

    First, let's take a look at the abilities we have at our disposal and an analysis of their damage compared to heat and time.

    Note that this is currently using the damage values from my lvl 50 character. I've got a mixture of well-modded orange gear and pvp epics.

    Ability analysis, in order of damage-per-second (max nuke)


    Ability analysis, in order of damage-per-heat (efficiency)


    The rotation I use on a boss, or other tough target, is reasonably simple. I start off with Tracer Missile x3 (puts a full 5 stacks of Heat Signature on target).

    From that point, I follow the priority order:

    Fusion Missile > Unload > Heatseeker Missiles > Rail Shot > Tracer Missile > (Missile Blast) > Rapid Shots


    • Fusion Missile - solid damage + a DoT. Especially good against heavily armoured targets.
    • Heatseeker Missiles - not only a solid damage ability, but can be used when moving.
    • Rail Shot - instant activation, so can be used when moving.
    • Unload - the torhead tooltips display too low a damage value. Use it.
    • Tracer Missile - your default attack when the ones above aren't available.
    • Missile Blast - usable when moving. Don't ever use when standing still.
    • Rapid Shots - use for heat management purposes only (see below).

    Notes:
    • For an Arsenal merc, some people say that Power Shot is OBSOLETE and you should NEVER use it. As my spreadsheet shows, this isn't quite true, but it's in practice, there's enough abilities to try to remember, so you're better off just sticking with using tracer missile as your filler attack. Edit - Power Shot cannot proc Terminal Velocity either, which makes it very much inferior to Tracer Missile - thanks Ighox
    • Fusion Missile does AoE damage, so be careful of any targets that you don't want to do damage to. Also half of it's damage is a DoT.
    • Missile Blast is on there as it is an instant and can therefore be used when moving. If the fight means you need to run for some reason and you are on low heat, you are better off using Missile Blast than Rapid Shots.

    Heat Management

    You see those 4 little arrows to the right of your heat bar? That shows how quickly your heat bar is cooling down. You want to keep that on 4 arrows, or at worst 3 arrows. The higher your heat rises, the less arrows you have and the slower your heat dissipates.

    You need to keep a careful eye on your heat bar as the proc from Terminal Velocity is a random chance, so sometimes you can nuke like crazy and other times you need to be more careful.

    As a general guide, whenever your heat exceeds 30, at the point where you want to activate your next ability, use Rapid Shots instead of the ability you would normally use within your priority order.

    There is perhaps one exception to this. If the stack of 5 Heat Signature is about to expire from your target, you should throw another Tracer Missile to prevent the debuff expiring.

    According to the in-game tooltip, your heat dissipation per second is:

    0 - 40 : 5 heat per second
    40 - 60 : 3 heat per second
    60 - 80 : 3 heat per second
    80 - 100 : 2 heat per second

    Yup, that's correct. At this time, the 40-60 and 60-80 categories are both 3 per second.

    Don't go over 40 heat!!!

    If you do need to nuke really hard for a short duration, don't despair, you have Vent Heat for exactly that reason. Don't be afraid to use it!


    WTF? Where is Death from Above you noob?

    Ah the awesome Death from Above.

    With a cooldown of 60 seconds, it can't really be placed within a rotation or priority order for dps. This ability is awesome for boss fights that have spawning adds, along with your other AoE abilities (something the Bounty Hunter excels at).

    As for using it on a single target, you can see from my spreadsheet it's not your best option for single target dps.
    Last edited by Amethyst; 2012-01-01 at 07:41 PM. Reason: Updated section on alacrity

  2. #2
    Great guide, and since I already am the best I only got one thing to add;

    Notes:
    For an Arsenal merc, some people say that Power Shot is OBSOLETE and you should NEVER use it. As my spreadsheet shows, this isn't quite true, but it's in practice, there's enough abilities to try to remember, so you're better off just sticking with using tracer missile as your filler attack.
    The reason most people say Power Shot is obsolete, is because it doesn't proc Tracer Lock or Terminal Velocity, Tracer Missile does.
    (At least I assume that's why people say it because it's why I haven't used it since like level 30.)

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Ighox View Post
    Great guide, and since I already am the best I only got one thing to add;


    The reason most people say Power Shot is obsolete, is because it doesn't proc Tracer Lock or Terminal Velocity, Tracer Missile does.
    (At least I assume that's why people say it because it's why I haven't used it since like level 30.)
    Very true. Something I knew, but forgot to put in the guide. Thanks.

  4. #4
    Stood in the Fire Gladiator2009's Avatar
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    Nice guide with some good information.

    It sort of comes off like a high school football coach though, and made me not want to read any of it.

  5. #5
    I'm not convinced with your Alacrity argument.

    The chance of double critting Tracer's is pretty low (TV only works with Tracer and Unload). I mean even with high crit in WoW a mage can sometimes struggle to get Hot Streaks. How much crit are you going to be packing? Just a 0.1 sec increase in activation time is almost 90 more DPS per Tracer (and it also effects every other abilities) if we use your numbers. So how much DPS loss if that 8 heat on the rare chance of a double crit?

  6. #6
    Right now I have 40% crit, with buffs, so terminal Velocity really makes a difference and I see it proc twice in a row pretty often.

    TV works with Tracer Missile, Unload, Heatseeker Missile, so most of your attacks.

    It might turn out that enough alacrity to bring abilities down close to the 1s mark is worthwhile, but I can see heat build-up becoming an issue.

    There's no doubt that alacrity increases your burst dps, but the heat gain means it's not sustainable and overall a dps loss over a duration of a boss fight. review the section on heat management. Even with zero alacrity, you can't spam your abilities all fight, you need to space them here and there with Rapid Shots. Using alacrity to speed up those attacks isn't going to prevent that still being true. You can only dissipate X amount of heat per minute.
    Last edited by Amethyst; 2012-01-01 at 01:40 AM. Reason: added to post

  7. #7
    Awesome guide, thanks!

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Amethyst View Post
    Right now I have 40% crit, with buffs, so terminal Velocity really makes a difference and I see it proc twice in a row pretty often.

    TV works with Tracer Missile, Unload, Heatseeker Missile, so most of your attacks.

    It might turn out that enough alacrity to bring abilities down close to the 1s mark is worthwhile, but I can see heat build-up becoming an issue.

    There's no doubt that alacrity increases your burst dps, but the heat gain means it's not sustainable and overall a dps loss over a duration of a boss fight. review the section on heat management. Even with zero alacrity, you can't spam your abilities all fight, you need to space them here and there with Rapid Shots. Using alacrity to speed up those attacks isn't going to prevent that still being true. You can only dissipate X amount of heat per minute.
    If I cast all my stuff faster but can only cast X amount per minute, then I fill the spare GCD's with Rapid Shots. You can even argue that these extra Rapid Shots may even make up the lost damage for missed TV procs.

    I just dislike the way you dismiss Alacrity so absolutely like it's been tried and tested through hard evidence. It would seem really bad design if one stat ruined a class to be honest.

  9. #9
    With regards hard evidence, the reason I took the time to write up a section on it is because I am talking from practical experience.

    I gained a couple of decent items with alacrity on them and suddenly discovered I was having some real issues with overheating, starting about 20s into a fight.

    I re-modded the items to remove the alacrity and the problem went away.

    It may well be possible that for a high enough value of alacrity that it all works out as an overall increase, but as it is I remain unconvinced, both from a basic maths point of view and from practical play experience at level 50.

    If we take a 60 second period and fill it as follows (making a couple of assumptions about the number of procs of talents):

    4x rail shot (32 heat)
    4x heatseeker missile (64 heat)
    2x fusion missile (66 heat)
    6x unload (96 heat)
    18x tracer missile (288 heat)

    Total = 546 heat.

    During that time we dissipate at optimum, 5 heat per second. That's 5 x 60 = 300 heat dissipated.

    With 40% crit, Terminal Velocity will, on average, proc a total of 12 times, for another 96 heat dissipated, making a total of 396 dissipated.

    That's nowhere near the 546 theoretical heat we built, meaning we'd need to drop roughly 150 heat worth of tracers to stay viable. At 16 heat a time, that's roughly 9 tracer missiles replaced with rapid shots instead.

    To reduce the cast/channel times of the abiltities above enough to fit in an extra GCD (1.5s), would be roughly 5% alacrity (about half of the abilities we're using in the above 60s are instant, so alacrity does nothing for them).

    The problem is, we're already dropping 9 tracer missiles during that 60s, due to heat build up, so the extra 1.5 will only be a Rapid Shots. Rapid shots does about 774 damage on my character, which means that 5% alacrity has given us roughly a 1% increase in dps.

    You don't have to be a genius to see that, even if we totally ignore the mechanics of terminal velocity, 5% alacrity giving 1% dps increase is bad, compared to say itemising 5% crit, which would give around 3% dps increase.

  10. #10
    The Patient Cynon's Avatar
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    Sticky please?


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  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Ighox View Post
    The reason most people say Power Shot is obsolete, is because it doesn't proc Tracer Lock or Terminal Velocity, Tracer Missile does.
    (At least I assume that's why people say it because it's why I haven't used it since like level 30.)
    Power Shot can also miss, due to it using your off-hand blaster, even with 100% tech/main hand accuracy.


    I'd written my own Arsenal guide, but yours was far more detailed, so I removed in favor of bringing attention here. I would like to add a few things previously unmentioned.

    Ability Combinations:
    Thermal Sensor Override + Power Surge + Fusion Missile. Great for lighting up a group of bunched up Republic scum in a warzone while on the move, with no heat cost and no cast time.
    Thermal Sensor Override + Power Surge + Rapid Scan. An instant, no-heat heal can save your life or that of a group mate's.
    Thermal Sensor Override + Power Surge + Fusion Missile + Explosive Dart + Rail Shot. For 24 heat, you've just delivered a potential of nearly 4561 damage to your main target, and up to 3236 to 3 nearby enemies. C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!

    My question is, when/how do you use your Power Surge and Thermal Sensor Override on a boss encounter?
    Formerly known here as Nakaya_Kilrogg.
    I don't play Nak anymore, I'm not on Kilrogg, and
    I haven't played WoW seriously since the end of LK.

  12. #12
    Kinda wish you guys would put Trooper skill names too with these, as it's just a mirror. Too lazy to figure out all the equivalents myself
    My Cracked articles, writing blog, and Twitter.

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  13. #13
    How much hunters u want in the came? Maybe 50... lol

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Nakaya_Kilrogg View Post
    My question is, when/how do you use your Power Surge and Thermal Sensor Override on a boss encounter
    As and when I need them really, rather than laying out a specific strategy. I generally:
    - Save Thermal Sensor override for Fusion Missile, as it's the highest heat attack we use.
    - Save Power Surge for when I need to run from some patch of fire on the floor.

  15. #15
    Mechagnome Synbaby's Avatar
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    Awesome guide!!! Been looking around for more info for my BH
    What doesn't destroy us, only makes us stranger

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Synbaby View Post
    Awesome guide!!! Been looking around for more info for my BH
    Glad you like it!

    If anyone has any questions or suggestions about Merc dps, please post. I'll help where I can and I'm interested if anyone has any different ideas!

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Amethyst View Post
    Glad you like it!

    If anyone has any questions or suggestions about Merc dps, please post. I'll help where I can and I'm interested if anyone has any different ideas!
    I kept to the rules of never firing a Heatseeker Missile without 5 full stacks of Heat Signature on a target (unless they were low and I was on the move) and never using Rail Shot without 5 stacks of Target Lock. I'm curious how the basic rotation below would add up next to yours.

    Tracer Missile x3 > Unload > Heatseeker Missiles > Tracer Missile x2 > Rail Shot.

    It doesn't seem like you build up the five stacks of Target Lock even once. The bonus is counted on your chart, but Target Lock only builds after 5 Tracer Missiles (not the same as Heat Signature), and is consumed when you use Rail Shot, requiring another 5 Tracers before you have all the stacks of Target Lock built up again.
    Formerly known here as Nakaya_Kilrogg.
    I don't play Nak anymore, I'm not on Kilrogg, and
    I haven't played WoW seriously since the end of LK.

  18. #18
    With regards heatseeker, I usually open with 3x Tracer Missile and ought to amend this guide tbh.

    Hmmm, I've not really talked about Tracer Lock, but that's a good point. Usually, I'll be on 4 stacks when I use railshot during a fight.

    I'll take a look at the numbers and see - when I am not playing, I'm busy doing dailies atm
    Last edited by Amethyst; 2012-01-01 at 06:16 PM.

  19. #19
    Good work, there are too many people who don´t understand how this class works. But I don´t understand your priority. Fusion missle is crap single target (at least without the not-heat-cooldown). Also your dmg / heat table shows that Rail Shot is a lot better than heatseaker missiles.

    And I have a hint for Thermal Sensor Override: Use it with a cast (eg Fusion Missile or Tracer Missile) and INSTANTLY a channeled or instant cast (Unload, Rail Shot, Heatseaker Missiles). BOTH will be for free!

  20. #20
    I've basically been using that simple rotation in PvE and PvP since level 40, and I just shred everything I come up against. Now and then I have to throw a Rapid Shots at the end, but I also use Thermal Sensor Override for the first Heatseeker Missiles and whenever it's on cooldown for a long battle. I sometimes let my heat build for more damage when I have a Vent ready to go, using it proactively, rather than re-actively.
    Formerly known here as Nakaya_Kilrogg.
    I don't play Nak anymore, I'm not on Kilrogg, and
    I haven't played WoW seriously since the end of LK.

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