Swimming in the Deep End

Let me begin by saying I’m not trying to be mean spirited here. I understand that not everyone min/maxes, not everyone plans their gear, reads forums, blogs, etc., and that not everyone is willing to make changes to gear, talents, and gems every time they upgrade a piece of gear. I get that.

Here’s the thing though, I want to gem for Armor Pen, and I want to go with four pieces of T10. Unfortunately, despite the fact that all I need from ICC (25) are a ring, tier tokens, and stuff from the Lich King himself, making the move to Armor Pen is still a dps loss (at the very least it’s not enough of a gain to warrant the trade offs).

Still though going Marks and gemming ArP is the hip trend and all the “cool” kids are doing it. It’s swimming in the deep end of the pool. Every time I see a hunter in full T10 (even if it’s all item level 251) and gemming ArP, I wonder if I’m doing the right thing by waiting.

Let’s take a look at one such hunter who has taken that very plunge and is swimming with all the big kids while I wade in the shallow end.

Let’s start with the gear. All of the gems are +20 ArP except for the meta, Nightmare Tear, and one Deadly Ametrine (+10 agi / +10 crit). Everything is properly enchanted except for the legs which appear to be missing an enchant (not recommended). Also the neck piece is from heroic TotC (10) and not regular TotC (10).

Okay now lets take a look at the spreadsheet dps for Marksman.

Well the first thing that stands out is that this hunter way below the hit cap. I tend to over emphasize the hit cap. I’m more comfortable being nine points over the cap than I am one point under it. Let’s review his talents.

This is a reasonable spec, however given the lack of hit I’m going to adjust it and put some points into Focused Aim. Here is my revised spec.

So what I did was,
  1. Put three points in Focused Aim.
  2. Removed a point from True Shot Aura.
  3. Removed a point from Hunter’s Mark.
  4. Removed 2 points from Improved Steady Shot.

I decided to be a little selfish here so I based this on our 25-man raid comp and the fact that we have three MM hunters, two of whom have TSA (I don’t want him eating into my dps by too much 😛 ). Let’s add the leg enchant and crunch the numbers again.

Just to recap, we adjusted the talents to get more hit and added a leg enchant and voila! At this point all of the gems are still ArP. Let’s see what happens when we change to agility gems.

Okay, +50 isn’t a lot, but it’s not zero either, and keep in mind that this hunter isn’t a one-trick pony and sometimes runs as Survival (I know this because he logged out as Survival). Okay, let’s see how this all impacts his Survival spec.

Here are the spreadsheet number for his current setup.

This is based on the following spec.

Again, this is a reasonable spec, but remember with the MM spec and zero points in Focused Aim he was 106 points below the hit cap. Here there is one point in Focused Aim, but that’s still too low. I’m going to revise the spec as follows.

I chose to remove two points in Hunting Party and dump them into Focused Aim. Remember that gear and talents need to accommodate two specs, not one. Now that the spec is revised, I’ll stick the enchants on the legs and crunch the numbers again.

Alright, that’s a good start, but since this is Survival and those Armor Pen. gems don’t do a whole lot of good, let’s see what happens when I add some agility gems. Again, since this has to work with the MM spec I’m going to gem the same for both.

So by gemming for agility, enchanting all of the gear, and reaching the hit cap, the MM dps went up by 342.23 and SV dps went up by 382.15. Now most of the MM increase came from reaching the hit cap and adjusting talents. The ArP gems really weren’t the killer here. I could get into a discussion about the merits T9/T10, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.

Armor Pen can be very powerful, but it’s not something you should just rush into. You need to evaluate if the timing is right based on your gear. When folks say you need a passive ArP number of 700, or once you can reach 900 ArP with gems you can switch, those are not hard and fast rules. They’re merely thresholds where it might be a dps increase for you.

You also have to balance ArP with all of the stats. Hit rating should never be ignored. You also need to understand that Armor Pen. is a real commitment, and that you’re locking yourself into a spec and play style. It just doesn’t work for SV.

Swimming in the deep end of the pool is great, but if you’re not a good swimmer you might find yourself drowning in your decisions. Armor Pen can be tricky, but luckily there are some great tools out there to help you out.

Good Hunting!


  1. Excellent post. I worry about this myself, since I'm an MM ArP. "tweener" kind of like yourself. But I too dislike the bandwagon ArP. frenzy, since it's not for everyone and I HAVE seen it lose dps for people.

  2. Excellent post and there is someone I will be sending this way to read it. They were asking about ArP and could use some researched and well presented info such as this.

  3. Ok, just saying…last night (3/23) locs and Shaman got buffed somehow cause they blew by me. Me…SV hunter 5916 GS Agi gemmed. 4pc T10 (2 t10/2 T10.5) Now, the only thing I see in here are the trinkets…if you seriously wanted to research this…replace the 264 badge trinket with the Scorpion. This is relativily easy to get since you can run the heroic instance everyday and not one shot a week.
    You are absolutly correct…its all based on your gear…which is why I am bouncing on the diving board and getting ready to jump (and spend gold on new gems) but ONLY when I get the Deathbringer's Will and Scorpion Needle.

    Great post BTW…the "theory" from person to person is different and I really wanted to make the jump if it will increase my DPS, cause I am disliking a shaman beating me…since he's annoying cocky about it.

    80th season hunter

  4. Good post. Silly ArP hunters.

    Four things worth mentioning in the SV / MM discussion.

    1) The absolute numbers aren't achievable on the bosses. So all the numbers are lower. This squeezes the deltas smaller as well.

    2) Proper watching of the auto-shot timer, minimizing movement, watching DoT, having enough instant casts… all help on high movement bosses. But they all bork the numbers.

    3) Bosses with a lot of adds favors instant burst SV.

    4) We were short a Ret pally and had our first 25man replenishment dearth on Friday. Thank goodness for SV and spriests.

  5. Great article! I enjoyed it very much. Too many Hunters running around focusing on ArPen when their gear does not support it. I am really glad that it's going away in the expansion.

  6. @Jonker – regarding the NES, just keep in mind that the proc rate is very low. We had a hunter using one in a recent Festergut (25) kill. The fight lasted 4:56, and he got a total of four procs. That's 40 sec. of uptime and 4:16 of being way under the ArP cap.

    @Kheldul – I think you make a great point on #2, if you're not careful about movement you can really hurt your dps. We spent last night learning Putricide (25). Tons of running around which I've not yet optimized.

  7. I'd be curious to see what your analysis of going back to T9 shows on this particular Hunter's setup, as well.

    (For clarity: T9 245 helm and pants, T10 251/264 chest and shoulders.)

  8. @Rilgon – I considered doing that because I'm almost certain that it's the way to go. In fact, I'm currently running with the T9 245 Head/Legs and the T10 251 Chest/Shoulders.

    I have the T10 251 head and T10 264 Gloves (got 'em last night) and Leggings of Northern Lights sitting in the bank right now.

    I'm wearing the Nerub Stalker's Cord but I'm thinking about getting the Band of Night Raven belt and wearing that until I can upgrade the T10 to 264 and maybe get the ring from Valithria. That's the plan for now.

    I love the T9/T10. My Serpent Sting crits were averaging 2,752 last night on Rotface. And I'm pretty certain I didn't have the best Serpent Sting buff for that fight.

  9. @Darkbrew you don't mention what Glyphs are in use, but for the sake of argument I'll assume they match up with mine (SerpSt,Steady,Kill)

    I'm kinda bored, so, I went through and compared JUST the MM spec. Given the above, switching to 245 T9 Head+Legs and changing nothing else, assuming optimal raid buffs, gives the following:
    10983 DPS, 58.73% straight ArPen, as is (obviously, there's a glyph difference between my assumptions and the reality)
    10988 DPS, 65.73% straight ArPen 2pc/2pc

    Further changing gemming to be Agi/Crit + ArPen
    11000 DPS, 54.44% ArPen as is with Agi/Crit + ArPen
    11021 DPS, 58.58% ArPen 2pc/2pc with Agi/Crit + ArPen

    My quick checks of gemming Agi/Crit + Agi all led to comparable numbers (within 3-4 DPS)

    Clearly, going to 2pc/2pc AND regemming to get some Crit back is the way to go.

  10. @ Fluffy

    Isnt the patch in 3.3.3 going to make the 2p T9 / 2p T10 obsolete because they are putting something in that is equal to the t9 2p bonus? I havent read any pre-notes yet, just heard in vent some chat.

  11. […] in point: Darkbrew wrote an excellent article about trying this before you are […]

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