Welcome, friends, to Hunter Kindergarten! Today’s topic: Aspect of the Viper.
First a little history lesson for your newer hunter types: You used to learn Aspect of the Viper at level 64, and it was a passive mana-regen that didn’t reduce your damage the way it does now– well, other than the fact that if you were in AotV, you certainly weren’t getting the RAP bonus from Aspect of the Hawk. Despite this, there were a lot of fights in Burning Crusade that were pretty mana-intensive and you’d see a lot of endgame hunters running around in AotV 99% of the time. Me? I was always a purist so I only used it in emergencies; staying in Hawk and living on mana pots, Elixirs of Major Mageblood and Mana Oil (RIP, my beloved Mana Oil *sniff*). But the point remains that Blizzard realized that hunters were pretty mana-inefficient, spending all their time in AotV, and missing out on the yummy RAP bonus from Hawk.
Enter Wrath of the Lich King and we have an all new Aspect of the Viper, and what’s more, we can learn it at Level 20:
^ Pike’s fourth hunter to hit the big two-oh. Back in the day Aspect of the Cheetah was the big thing you learned at 20, now I’m much more excited about Viper. Cause hunter gear with Intellect on it sorta doesn’t exist in the old world. /cough
So what’s the new Aspect of the Viper do? Simple. It slices the damage you deal roughly in half but gives you mana back at a pretty solid rate. Some of this mana you gain passively, but a lot of it you gain back per shot… as in, every time you shoot something, with either Auto Shot or a special shot, you get mana back. The damage penalty does not apply to your pet, but it does apply to things like Serpent Sting that you apply while under the effects of AotV.
When to use it:
-When you’re out of mana/nearly out of mana. This one’s a given. Happens a lot when you’re out leveling or solo’ing (no downtime!) or sometimes mid-fights in instances/raids with little or no mana replenishment from other classes/specs. Not a lot you can do about it in that case!
-Between pulls. Say you’re in a five-man. You pop into Hawk/Dragonhawk, do a pull, and oh look, you’re almost out of mana! Hop into Viper. Right as the next pull starts, go back into Dragonhawk. Now sometimes if you’re in a really good group the tank is just gonna be chain-pulling stuff left and right and you’ll still find yourself having to either stop and drink, or Viper during the fight, but overall I’ve still found Viper-between-pulls to be a good strategy and a very good habit to get into.
-When you’re briefly out-of-the-fight. When Gothik ports to the other side of the gate, Viper until he comes back. When you get the Grobbulus debuff and you have to run to the wall and you’re much too far away to do any shooting, Viper until you can get back (alternative strategy on this fight for Beast Masters in particular: if you’re pretty full on mana when this happens, use Aspect of the Beast instead, to maximize pet damage while you’re away.) When you’ve killed all the adds and are sitting around waiting for Noth to port back, use Viper. …yeah so those were all Naxx examples, but you get the picture. >.> Ah, here’s a non-Naxx one: In Utgarde Keep when the final boss dies for the first time before whats-her-name comes down and pulls an arise-my-champion on him, yeah, use Viper.
When not to use it:
-When you’re full on mana. This is a given, you don’t want that damage reduction to be on you. I know it’s easy to forget about it (I forgot alllll the time the first couple of weeks of 3.0.2) but once you’ve been playing with it for a while you start to remember it. There are addons out there that you can search for that will help remind you too.
-When you really really need to kill something fast. I’ve been in fights (usually five/ten-mans where there are less people to pick up the slack) where the DPS is really important and the Viper damage reduction gets really noticeable. In that case, if you run out of mana, it might be a good idea to use a mana pot rather than Viper. Remember now that you can only use one mana pot per fight so time it wisely. (Have I mentioned lately that I love being an Alchemist?)
There are a few things that can improve the performance you squeeze out of Aspect of the Viper. There is a talent in the Beast Master tree, Aspect Mastery, that reduces the damage penalty by 10%. This talent is a given for Beast Masters and several Marksman hunters choose to take it too. There is also a glyph, Glyph of Aspect of the Viper, that increases the amount of mana gained on attack by 10%. Finally, the four-piece hunter tier 7 set bonus will increase your ranged attack speed by 20% while you are in Viper. I can imagine all of these little bonuses combined would be quite delicious (although I no longer use the Viper glyph, myself).
In conclusion, Aspect of the Viper has definitely become an important part of playing a hunter. It’s something you’ll be juggling frequently with Hawk/Dragonhawk and it’s good to practice using it and learn when best to use it. I also really like the imagery; I visualize a viper storing up energy before it strikes at its prey. Fun times.
As always, if I made some horrible mistake or you have further ideas/thoughts on Aspect of the Viper, lemme know! I don’t work today so I’ll be sitting around in LFG looking for Heroics or OS25 I’m sure (so did I mention that I can totally survive Sarth now? Wash can too! More on that later, perhaps!)