Focus and the BM Hunter

One of the more common concerns BM Hunters raise is regarding Focus management. Often, this is couched in terms of being Focus ‘starved’ (not enough focus) or Focus ‘capped’ (too much focus). The goal of this post is to define the goal of Focus management and detail what is optimal. Additionally, I will discuss general strategies for adjusting focus management.

First, what is focus management? Basically it is the idea that, through a variety of means, a BM Hunter manipulates the amount of focus available such that they always, or as often as is possible, have sufficient focus to use the highest priority ability available or, if all abilities are on cool-down, to use our focus dump (Cobra Shot) if focus is sufficiently high to prevent loss of DPS.

Let’s look at the goals of Optimal Focus Management:

1 - Always have sufficient focus to use the next available priority ability (Kill Command, AMOC, Volley, Cobra Shot, Multi-Shot, etc.)

2 - Have sufficent focus during Bestial Wrath burst phase to use as many abilities as possible.

3 - Ensure that ability use is not limited by low focus (starved).

4 - Ensure that abilities are used when focus is at maximum (capped).

Looking at those goals, it is important to make some additional clarifications. We need to know that there are going to be times that we are starved on focus and there are going to be times that we are capped. The goal isn’t to prevent these from happening. Rather, the goal is to minimize starvation and capping, while ensuring that BW burst phases remain as optimal as possible. Another important point is that we shouldn’t get too hung up on on focus in a vacuum. Instead, we want to optimize our focus use for the purpose of increasing and maximizing DPS.

If you are focus capped occassionally, yet your DPS is very high, this isn’t a problem. Similarly, if you are often focus starved, but your DPS is very high, this isn’t a problem either. While it would be ‘best’ to never be starved and never be capped, the utlimate goal is improving DPS.

So how can be better manage focus? In several ways:

1 - Haste - Haste increases the rate that focus regenerates naturally.
2 - Talents - Certain talents improve the overll focus regeneration rate. (Dire Stable, One with the Pack, Stomp, Dire Frenzy)
3 - Gear - Certain gear can lower the focus cost of abilities or provide other synergy that improves focus regeneration.
4 - Macro - A well-crafted macro can more effectively utilize focus througout the entire rotation. This includes the burst phase and the non-burst phase.

If you have too much focus, or at least it appears that you are not using focus effectively, there are several things you can do. You can use WOTC instead of DS as a talent. This increases damage of Cobra Shot and reduces the focus regeneration from Dire Beast (or Dire Frenzy). You might choose to NOT use the legendary belt. This would have the effect of increasing the cost of abilities during Bestial Wrath burst phases. You would have to experiment to determine the actual results from these changes both in focus management, but more importantly, your DPS. After all, it makes no sense to ‘optimize’ focus if your DPS goes down as a result.

Similarly, if you don’t seem to have enough focus, you can make similar changes in the opposite direction. USe DIre Stable instead of WOTC. Use the Legendary Belt.

Many people want a macro that optimizes focus use. This is possible in a limited way, but it is often impractible. When using a Killer Cobra build, the goal is optimizing BW burst phases, and this is accomplished by using less focus during the non-burst phases to ensure that focus is high when BW is activated. Cobra shot is chained to Kill Command to maintain an approxiamte 1:1 ratio for those abilities. Increasing the number of Cobra Shots is a very poor solution.

Using an AOTB build is much trickier. Since Cobra Shot is NOT chained to Kill Command (generally), it becomes harder to weave it into the macro in such a way as to prevent Cobra Shot from constantly keeping you focus starved or from CS being used so infrequently that your focus is capped and DPS is poor.

Simply adding a:

/cast Cobra Shot

line is impractible because the only way to limit the use of Cobra in that way is to create many lines in the macro and place Cobra Shot at the end of a long priority list so it gets used less frequently.

The solution I use in my macros is to create an artifical limiter on Cobra Shot. By adding lines in this way:

/castsequence Kill Command, Dire Beast, Cobra Shot
/castsequence Kill Command, Dire Beast, Cobra Shot, Cobra Shot
/castsequence Kill Command, Dire Beast, Cobra Shot, Cobra Shot, Cobra Shot

It creates a situation in which Cobra Shot will maintain (usually) a greater than 2:1 ratio for Kill Command and Cobra Shot, but less than 3:1. To increase the number of Cobra Shots being used, I could add an additional line with 4 Cobra Shots, but in my testing, this never seems vaiable. Most of the time, removing the line with 3 Cobra Shots in it is necessary to prevent the hunter from being focus starved, depending on gear and talents.

With a high Haste rating, using the legendary belt and using Dire Stable a 3:1 Cobra Shot:Kill Command ratio might work.

To be perfectly honest, I find that using Killer Cobra instead of Aspect of The Beast simply provides better DPS.

In any case, adjusting focus management is simply a matter of trying different gear/talent/macro options and determining which provides the best DPS overall. From my perspective, it is not possible for me to create a macro that is ‘perfect’ for everyone, given the incredibly wide range of players and play styles out there.