Proving Grounds - Hunter strategy
Please refer to the enemy description post for information on the symbols used in the diagrams.
By the time I finished doing Gold and Endless Proving Grounds, I had an exact strategy of what I wanted to do on every wave. It seemed inappropriate for the Wowhead guide, mostly because assuming that one strat that worked for a hunter is applicable to all DPS specs is absurd. So I kept it generic which leaves room for a post like this, where I can be more specific for this spec. I would also like to stress that this is by no means to say that this is the definitive hunter spec that you should be using and every other spec is wrong. I am only in a position to say that this spec works, and I think that analyzing which aspects of it are useful can be of great value to others even if they choose a different approach.
http://www.wowhead.com/talent#hTH|Rfr. I went survival because I thought it was the best for handling many different mobs at once, and I liked being able to have my pet and I on different targets, with the pet on one that is more long term. The primary difficulty here is finding a target that can absorb your Black Arrow for lock and load procs without immediately killing it! There is plenty of room to do that though.
- None of these are tremendously useful, but disengage can be handy when trying to either get behind a Guardian or position an amber globule. I don't think the frequency with which you do this is high enough to warrant Crouching Tiger, Hidden Chimera, so I opted for the speed benefit of Posthaste. Narrow Escape can technically be useful on Banana-Tossers, but I think there are better uses for that. Pro-tip: you can disengage through an amber globule and not get blocked by it.
- Binding Shot and Intimidation can both be useful on Banana-Tossers. I prefer the former, since you can use it on multiple targets and drop it before a wave.
- Literally useless talent level, unfortunately, since we take no damage. Please note that this is typical - most or every spec has some talent levels that provide no or roughly no benefit.
- I went with Fervor specifically because it's controllable in a way that I find crucial for these proving grounds. I mentioned why I don't like procs above, so Thrill of the Hunt is out, but Fervor also gives more control over burst than Dire Beast. Being able to get a couple more arcane shots off right now is actually pretty huge in a way that the relatively slower Dire Beast pet attacks and focus regeneration do not compete with. It's also still very good on long term targets like the Large Illusionary Sha.
- Nothing but the Large Illusionary Sha lasts long enough for Murder of Crows or even Lynx Rush to get full benefit, so Blink Strikes is an obvious choice. The movement utility is also very handy.
- Glaive Toss is slightly more single target damage than Barrage and slightly less AoE. I tend to default to Glaive Toss unless AoE is just overwhelming, which is not the case here. It's also easier to work into any given situation due to being instant and low focus cost. For maximum use, target something farthest away and position to have it hit everything in between.
These are all terrible. I really struggled to find glyphs that are even marginally useful and this was the best I came up with
- Glyph of Pathfinding - if you need to cover some distance in cheetah, this gives more speed. I don't think I ever actually did.
- Glyph of No Escape - If you finish a wave with some time to spare, always put down all three traps. It's completely free damage. This includes Freezing Trap even if you don't really want the CC - this gives you a free LnL proc and a guaranteed crit from this glyph. Very small benefit for sure, but there aren't other options
- Glyph of Disengage - Disengage is really handy. Might as well give it a boost.
As a reminder, 1-10 repeat, and the health of every mob increases by 1% every wave. So wave 11 is the same as wave 1, except that the mobs have 10% more health. My strategy didn't change from one set of 10 waves to the next.
Start with an Explosive Trap in the center. Send your pet to the top-left Amber-Weaver and also hit it with a Black Arrow. Standing in the center, get a serpent sting on the right and back left while you stand in the center waiting for the amber globules. When they hit, aoe the Varmints and move out towards the right Amber-Weaver to kill/trap it. Then move on the back and finish off the top one if needed. Honestly this is probably way over thinking it - I typically finish this phase with 30-40 seconds left.
There are a couple options here, but I find the safest to be starting with a Freezing Trap. This may not be enough for wave 52+, but you're more or less on your own at that point anyway! Get that trap down before hand, position yourself behind the right Guardian, and put your pet on the left Guardian. Also put a Black Arrow and a serpent sting on the left Guardian. What you're trying to do is to maximize damage on non-amber'd targets without killing the Amber-Weaver yet, while you wait on the first amber globule to hit. As soon as it hits that right Guardian, blow it up and start moving behind the Mystic. Kill the Mystic and refresh dots on Amber-Weaver if needed. If you kill the Mystic really fast, you won't actually need the second amber globule, but that's fine. Around the time the Mystic dies, the left Guardian should be dead or almost dead from your pet and initial dots. A Small Illusionary Banshee will also be coming out around this time - hopefully it gets hit by an amber globule, but since everything is dead or almost dead you should have plenty of time to focus on it and finish off everything else afterwards.
Alternative: For a bit faster kill, you can position yourself to have the first amber globule hit the right Guardian (same as above) but this time be damaging the Mystic. This is a bit tougher because the range on Counter Shot prevents you from being able to stand at just the right spot for the amber globule. You should be able to counter the heal and then step back a bit to get the orb to hit. Immediately switch to the Guardian and blow it up when this happens, hopefully having a lock and load for it. It doesn't matter if the Mystic is still alive, because it won't attempt another heal for a bit. Finish it off after the first Guardian, and position to have the second amber globule hit the second Guardian.
Get all three traps and a Binding Shot down in the center. This should give you a ton of time to spam multi-shot and Glaive Toss on the clump and have the Banana-Tossers very close to dead before they even get out of the pack. After you finish them off you should have plenty of time to kill the remaining Varmint that weren't as easily targeted by Multi-Shot.
A Freezing Trap not only gives a lock and load proc, it also prevents the Guardian from putting up a shield for a bit. This is a bit obvious, but it does mean you can hit it without worrying about its facing for awhile. What we're trying to do is maximize the amount of time you are DPSing an amber globule'd mob - if a globule hits one that is almost dead, you are wasting DPS potential. What I do is Freezing Trap the left Guardian, send my pet on the top Guardian (which also has explosive and snake traps), and position myself behind the right Guardian. Dump the lock and load proc on the left Guardian and get a Black Arrow off on either that one (if facing allows) or the Amber-Weaver in the center. When the globule hits the right Guardian it should be at almost full health. Blow it up as you move behind the bottom Guardian. If you can help it, you're better off damaging the left Guardian as you wait for the amber globule to hit the bottom one. By the time the bottom Guardian dies, your pet should have killed or almost killed the top Guardian, and the left Guardian is probably at low health. A Small Illusionary Banshee is also coming out at this time - kill that first and position behind the left Guardian if its still up. You should just have a bit of clean up now.
The basic goal here is obviously to get the two non-Sha illusions dead before the Banshee comes out at 0:30, and finish that off before the 300% burn at 0:20. That said, if it takes you 30 seconds to kill the Mystic and Sha you either screwed up or your damage is too low to get very far in later waves. I normally Freezing Trap the Mystic and have a Binding Shot down on the Banana-Tosser, while I put a Black Arrow on the Sha. The reduced damage is irrelevant - I want the lock and load proc and the other adds don't last long enough. When the Banana-Tosser is at low health, I let my pet/dots finish it off and switch to the Mystic. A really good burn through these first two should see them dead with about 10 seconds until the Banshee comes out. Save a lock and load proc for the Banshee if you like, or clip it with Glaive Toss. It's just a Small illusion so it should die very quickly. Hopefully you've chipped about 10-15% off of the Sha's health without using CDs by the time it hits the burn phase. Hit Stampede and Rapid Fire and go to town. You really want to finish this a bit early if possible, so you can pre-trap in the next wave.
Have at least a Freezing Trap down on one Mystic and an explosive trap on the Varmints in the center. Get one multi-shot off on the Varmint pack to spread Serpent Sting and start working on the other Mystic - make sure you get that Counter Shot off, obviously. Burn excess focus (such as from Fervor) on the Varmints occasionally and you can finish off the first Mystic and Varmint pack at the same time. Counter Shot will not be off CD by the time the second Mystic starts its first heal, but you can interrupt it with Scatter Shot. Again, you will want to finish early to get set up for the next phase.
This is one of the most complicated, so I hope you're ready. I prefer to pre trap the Banana-Tosser so I have the freedom to position the amber globules for a bit. Put your pet and a Black Arrow on the top left Guardian while you position on top of the bottom right Guardian. Get a few shots in the center Guardian or just dump serpent stings on the Guardians and Amber-Weavers until you can trap that first Guardian on the bottom right. It's a bit tricky since you will have two amber globules heading towards you. Use the globule from the top right to trap the bottom right Guardian, then wrap around (disengage is nice) to get the bottom left amber globule to trap the Amber-Weaver that shot it - do this while blowing up the bottom right Guardian. You are mostly just trapping that bottom left Amber-Weaver to have some movement time here. The top right Amber-Weaver will be launching his second globule at this time, which you will want to hit the center Guardian. Blow that up, then move next to the Banana-Tosser. Let the next globule hit the Banana-Tosser and kill that - while you are waiting for that to hit, kill one of the Amber-Weavers or any lingering Guardians. Kill the last Amber-Weaver. Remember that you can disengage with Posthaste to cover a lot of ground quickly, which is very useful for making tight turns with the globules.
I waffled between using my first berserker buff on this phase and the previous one, but ultimately found this one to be a bit more stressful in very late iterations. Wave 7 is really about proper amber globule management and you shouldn't need another buff if you do that right until wave 57+. So, grab the buff, put your pet on something, put a Black Arrow on the target you expect to stay up the longest, dump Explosive Shot as it comes up, Glaive Toss all three, and keep a serpent sting on everything. And obviously interrupt the heal when it comes (you will probably have to deal with one more later, but Scatter Shot is fine). When the first Banshee comes out, you should have the Slayers and Mystic close to death. By the time the second Banshee comes out, everything else should be dead or very close. These Large Illusionary Banshees have a lot of health and you really don't have a lot of leniency to pick off other mobs if you get an unlucky crit-less string on one of them.
Either trap the Banana-Tosser and kill it later, or try to kill it very quickly. Your first significant moves are going to be putting your pet and Black Arrow on one Slayer and getting a globule on (and killing) the other, then moving to the Guardian. The Banshee comes out at the halfway mark so you really want those two dead or almost dead, with the pet getting the other Slayer very low as well.
There's no trick to this other than saving your second berserker buff for the final 20 seconds. Do as much damage as you can in the first 40 seconds while still making sure you have Explosive Shot, Glaive Toss, Rapid Fire, and Stampede off CD by the end of those first 40 seconds.
It is important to remember that the structure of Proving Grounds does not lend itself to what is theoretically the best DPS on a Patchwerk-style fight, or really anything we've faced in raids (a couple bosses come close - maybe M'uru and Yogg - but group play alone makes a huge difference). It's really a serious of small DPS checks that have no room for failure, no assistance from other classes that allow you to try to optimize what you are strong at, and multiple targets.
Before we move on to talents/glyph choices and then each wave, I want to re-emphasize the importance of analyzing your talent choices and playstyle in a way that probably hasn't been stressed for you before. I think a lot of people are going to come into these having done well in normal and heroic raids and be frustrated if they don't immediately clear Golds at least. I also think those people are completely capable of doing well here, but it's not immediately obvious that the rules have completely changed on them - hopefully they can adapt to them without quitting in frustration.
DPS have learned that a low health mob will probably die to DoTs, but here you would really have to know the strength of your DoTs - no one else is going to finish it off for you, so you have to be sure you've got enough up there to finish off that mob. On the other hand, if you have strong enough DoTs applied to a mob to finish it, and direct damage you apply on top of that is wasted. In a raid this wouldn't really show up (it would matter but would be drowned out and hard to find) and may in fact just inflate your damage meters. But here, that's damage that is literally wasted - you could have been applying it to another mob instead.
Another thing to consider is the variance of your procs and hit/crit. Given a large enough sample size (a boss, in a 5+ minute fight), the random probability of events will be smoothed out so that you effectively do not have to worry about it. You might get a lucky string of crits or (the opposite), or have a drought of Echo of Elements procs (or the opposite), but at the end of the day probability wins. But in PGs those things do matter because the time frame is much shorter. It's not just the 1 minute window for an Endless wave, it's also the duration of a banshee, or the amber globule debuff, or the Guardian's facing duration, or getting a Banana-Tosser burned down quickly, or damaging a mob from full to dead before the Mystic's heal gets off without having to actually interrupt it. This means procs are a big deal and without something to supplement a lack of them in a pinch, or planning for a worst case scenario, it may be worth finding other options.