Hey, do you play a Survival Hunter? Do you think you'll be able to wing it when 7.0 arrives, coasting on knowledge of how the spec has functioned in the past? Guess what. You won't.
While Combat got renamed to Outlaw, Survival is the spec that has undergone the most radical redesign of any spec in the game. Throw out absolutely everything you know about Survival in a pre-7.0 world, because this is a brave new world - one in which you have to get up close and personal.
This entry might be a bit longer, as there's a whole lot to cover. In other posts I've glossed over cooldowns and mechanics that are only slightly different, but Survival doesn't really have small changes.
Set Down Your Gun and Pick Up a Spear!:
Survival is now a melee spec. Every other major change to the spec flows from this huge change. No longer will you be standing at the periphery of fights, pewing and pewing away at a boss that is far away. Survival Hunters get in close.
When you log in after 7.0 drops, you'll get a Polearm in the mail, but this thing is only something like item level 655. I'd recommend that you get 30,000 Apexis Crystals together and get yourself a Baleful weapon and Empowered Apexis Crystal (or whatever that thing is called) so that you can have a 695 piece ready, or if you're in a regular raiding group, the next time a polearm drops, ask your guildies if you can pick it up for when the patch drops.
The rest of your gear should be fine. It's just the weapon.
The central ability to Survival is Mongoose Bite, which actually costs no Focus. The ability has three charges, with a 12 second recharge reduced by haste. When you hit Mongoose Bite, you gain a buff, increasing the damage dealt by Mongoose Bite by 50%, stacking up to a maximum of 6 times, and lasting 12 seconds. The wrinkle here is that successive Bites will not refresh the duration of the buff. So once you have that first stack, it will fall off after 12 seconds no matter how many stacks you build to.
Various passives and abilities will give you more charges of Mongoose Bite, and so maximizing the damage of the spec will largely revolve around getting as many Mongoose Bites into that 12-second window as you can. You'll also want to conserve charges when the buff runs out so that you have the full three charges to strike with next time you go into your Mongoose phase.
Your Mastery, Hunting Companion, will give your pet a chance on its attacks to give you a charge of Mongoose Bite.
Flanking Strike is sort of like Survival's version of Kill Command. You'll still have a pet with you in all situations, and using this ability will have the two of you strike the target at the same time. If the target is attacking you, your pet will do 50% more damage and 400% more threat. If the target is not, you'll do 50% extra damage. This ability also has a double chance to trigger Hunting Companion.
This is a 12-second bleed on a 10-second cooldown - this one unaffected by haste (you'll be able to see this by having a green cooldown number if it is affected.) As such, you'll simply maintain this on your target. Multi-dotting doesn't seem possible, as you'll be able to get at most a 2-second overlap.
When you have more than enough focus to use Flanking Strike on cooldown and maintain Lacerate, you can burn 25 Focus on Raptor Strike. Easy peasy.
A simple AoE attack, this costs 40 Focus and probably gets swapped in for Raptor Strike in multi-target situations.
Instead of Disengage, Harpoon will take you to the target. It's functionally almost exactly like a Warrior's Charge.
Unlike the other two traps you'll have, Explosive Trap will automatically get tossed right in front of you. It will only trigger if something walks over it, but of course if you toss it at an enemy in melee, it'll go off immediately. It has a 30 second cooldown, making it a major part of your AoE rotation.
A simple ranged attack, this is something you'll use when you can't get in range, similar to Poisoned Knife or Shuriken Toss for Rogues.
Aspect of the Eagle:
This is your major 2-min dps cooldown. It increases your crit chance by 10% and increases your chance to gain Mongoose Bite charges by 100% for 10 seconds.
Like all Hunters, Aspect of the Cheetah is a Sprint ability now and Aspect of the Turtle more or less is Deterrence, and both are available to all specs.
The Traps Are All Yours:
Having Freezing Trap and Tar Trap (which is just the old Frost Trap, slowing those it hits) may not seem like a big deal, but these are now the exclusive domain of Survival. Freezing Trap and Tar Trap can be turned into Steel Trap and Caltrops, respectively, via talents. Explosive Trap will simply be tossed forward when you hit the button, but Freezing and Tar will automatically have the functionality of "Trap Launcher," allowing you to throw them where they're needed.
I Will Survive:
It's almost a brand-new spec, and I expect that there are going to be mixed opinions. Those who loved the old Survival might want to check out Marksmanship, which gets some of its old mechanics. The good news is that if you love your Hunter but are getting tired of plinking at enemies from afar, you can switch to Survival and get a different perspective on combat.
I actually think this was a great move on Blizzard's part, not only creating a very serious distinction between the three Hunter specs, but also making another class get the option to DPS at range or in melee, which previously had been limited to only Druids and Shamans. Frankly, while I adore the 7.0 Subtlety Rogue, I think it would have been a smart move to give Rogues a ranged spec in Legion, perhaps making their artifact a Crossbow to round things out. Being an outdoorsy wilderness person doesn't mean you can only exclusively use ranged attacks, and it would seem that some assassins and spies might occasionally want to strike from a distance, perhaps in a dark alcove where they cannot be seen.
Perhaps in the next expansion, if the transition for Survival proves popular, they might consider this (though I wouldn't hold my breath, especially after the major changes to Subtlety and Outlaw.)