Way back when I was BM spec (like... last week), I had very little need to track cooldowns and buffs. Serpent sting was put back up as needed and my shot rotation was pretty simple. Now, as SV spec, that has all changed. It is critically important to hit an explosive shot every time the cool down is up. Aimed shot is used to replace a steady shot when its cool down expires, since it hits so much harder. Then, when Lock and Load procs, I need to carefully time my explosive shots so I don't clip one of the ticks. It's all mind boggling, I tell ya'!
So, as is usually the case when I find the game is presenting me with challenges, I went looking for an add-on to help me out. What I found was something called "Power Auras". Now, I would never have thought to look to auras as a hunter add-on, but this little jewel can track a lot of things and give you subtle hints as to what's up. This is done by displaying a configurable "aura" around/above/below your toon.
First on the agenda, I wanted to know when the debuff from Serpent Sting expired. The Noxious Stings talent provides a 3% boost to my damage output, so I don't want that falling off. Not to mention I wanna' get those Lock and Load procs! Power Auras can track when a debuff is not active on the target and this is how I set that one up. Just type /powa to get the configuration screen:
Now, whenever I am in combat and I don't have a serpent sting up, I will see two green horns displayed on either side of me. Toss up a new serpent sting and the horns disappear! Make sure you use the "casted by me" checkbox here, or other hunter's in the group will make your aura disappear. You need to have YOUR sting active to get the benefits from it!
Next up, I certainly want to know when explosive shot is ready. Power Auras can track when an ability is ready. So I set up another aura like this:
This will display the explosive shot icon over my head each time the cooldown expires. One note - if you want to use the icon display like this (use own texture checkbox), then you have to have that spell/ability on your action bars.
Now, since I don't want to divert my attention from all the onscreen action, I also would like to have Power Auras tell me when aimed shot was ready. This was done just like the explosive shot:
Woot! A great big, blue knife over my head and I know that aimed shot is ready to rock!
But the biggest challenge for SV is when Lock and Load procs.
With no cooldown, it's all too easy to clip the second tick of explosive shot, significantly reducing your dps. You gotta' be patient! The Lock and Load buff lasts 10 seconds, so you have time to choose your shots, just not much time. Here's the Power Aura I set up for Lock and Load:
Looky there... a great big, red skull and crossbones, along with a timer (using the timer tab), appears over my head while Lock and Load is active. Can't really miss that! I even used the sound tab to cause a sound to play with each proc, just in case I've gone blind.
But, remember what I said about being patient? Now that I know when Lock and Load is active, explosive shot will have no cool down. But... I don't want to spam it. That damage over time (dot) component is pretty significant and I don't want to keep refreshing it before it's done it's job. One more aura should do the trick.
Now a big, red "BUFF" shows up while explosive shot is ticking down. While I'm under Lock and Load, I don't want to refresh explosive shot until the "BUFF" disappears.
I would really like to configure an aura to tell me when to use Tranq Shot, but haven't quite figured that one out yet. I'm sure it's do-able though. I just need to figure out what buff(s) to look for on the target!