Delaying Lock and Load
I received a question about Lock and Load recently, where a hunter had been told, when using Lock and Load with Patient Sniper, that they should hold their two instant cast Aimed Shots for the last two GCDs of Vulnerable, which they were a bit confused about and were hoping for some clarification. The only clarification I have to give on that is... don't.
The best case scenario, by holding Aimed Shot until the end of Vulnerable, you get one Aimed Shot with 150% buff, and one with 160% buff. If you use Lock and Load on the first two free GCDs after casting Marked Shot, you'll get a 110% buff on one, and a 120% (or maybe 130%, if you have very low haste), which is less, sure, but after, you've still got plenty of time to cast another Aimed Shot for 150% or 160% damage (if you have >21.43% Haste and are casting your Marked Shots with >60 focus, you can even squeeze in two more Aimed Shots after the lock and load Aimed Shots).
A 60% buff?
I'm concerned that there might be a mistaken idea in the hunter community right now that views the difference between a regular vulnerable Aimed Shot and an end-of-Patient-Sniper-Vunlerable Aimed Shot as vastly different, when an Aimed Shot in the very last second of Patient Sniper actually only does 30% more damage than an Aimed Shot in Vulnerable without Patient Sniper.
The confusion may lie in the wording of the debuffs. If you hover your mouse over the debuff of Vulnerable with Patient Sniper, between 0 and 1 seconds, it says it does 100% increased damage, and between 6 and 7 seconds it says 160% increased damage. However, what that looks like is:
0-1 sec Patient Sniper:
6-7 sec Patient Sniper:
Other than the Vulnerable buffs, that is: a 14.5% buff from Windflight Arrows (assuming a level 54 weapon); an 18% buff from Lone wolf; a 12% buff from the Wind Arrows trait; 297% weapon damage with normalized AP (which is actually in a game a 275% weapon damage coefficient with an 8% buff in the form of a spec-wide aura); the buffs from Versatility and Mastery (treating "m" and "v" percentages as decimals); and finally the damage reduction due to a raid boss's armor.
For those following along, the only difference is the "2*" and "2.6*" at the beginning, and of course 2.6 is 30% more than 2, not 60% more. This is still a significant buff, and we should aim for getting as many Aimed Shots toward the end of Vulnerable as possible, just not if it means getting less total Aimed Shots in Vulnerable.
A Time to Delay Lock and Load
That isn't to say there isn't any time to delay Aimed Shots when lock and load is proc'ed. During Vulnerable, there are some odd Haste Points where you'll want to squeeze in an Arcane Shot or two right after casting Marked Shot or Windburst. This happens when you have greater than 14.28% Haste, and less than 21.43% Haste. The reason is, you don't have enough haste to squeeze in a fourth Aimed Shot, making 3 the most you can possibly do, so you want to stack those as close to the end of vulnerable as possible.
The second occasion that it's worth delaying Lock and Load (which I'm sure is obvious to most any hunter) is if Vulnerable is not up. In that case, the Aimed Shots without Vulnerable are worth only half as much as they would be during Vulnerable, and if you took patient sniper, they're worth even less than half.
Because I haven't done any probabilities on here in a while:There is a very, very small chance that you might ever go greater than 15 seconds (the duration of the Lock and Load buff) without getting a chance to apply Vulnerable. with 0% haste, that's a 3.754% chance iff you proc LnL immediately following the end of a Vulnerable debuff that was caused by Windburst, and otherwise you performed your rotation optimally (not cutting off vulnerable).
That would mean your last marking targets was 8 seconds before your Windburst, which provides you an additional 7 seconds of Vulnerable (plus the 1.5 second cast time of Windburst). At that point, we will have cast 5 auto-shots, each having a 25% chance to proc Marking Targets, and one more auto-shot right after vulnerable ends that also has a 25% chance to proc MT. There's a 17.798% chance we get that far without proc'ing Marking Targets: .1779785=(1-.25)^6. However, that's when bad luck protection kicks in, so the next auto-shot has a 43.75% chance to proc MT, and the one after that has a 62.5% chance. If we make it that far without proc'ing MT, we'll have waited long enough to cast another Windburst, so we don't have to worry about proc'ing Marking Targets again. So at worst, we have a 3.75% chance to not proc MT for that entire duration, which is: .037542=(1-.25)^6*(1-.4375)*(1-.625).
A Chance of Wasting Lock and Load ProcsLock and Load has a plain 8% chance to proc on every Auto-shot (no fancy PPM or RPPM mechanics), which is fairly low, but every once in a while, you do get a glorious double, or even triple procs, right in a row. While those moments can feel fairly awesome, they are rare enough that they won't affect whether or not we choose to delay using Lock and Load Aimed Shots.
There's only a 0.64% chance that we'll get two Lock and Load procs on subsequent Auto-shots. Say we got a proc while Marking Targets wasn't up and Windburst was on Cooldown for at least another 6 seconds. You choose not to wait and cast your Aimed Shots immediately and just luck out, LnL procs again and you fire those off. You've done (without considering crits, which would average out to the same in any case) 4 times the base Aimed Shot damage for 0 focus cost. If instead, you delay using Aimed Shot until you can get Vulnerable up, you only get two focus-free Aimed Shots, but those, even without Patient Sniper will do double the damage, letting you break even. If you do have Patient Sniper up, you're now ahead in damage by delaying, because each will do more than double the base damage.
The only way you could do more damage by using it immediately, is if not only do you luck out and succeed on that 0.64% chance to get two LnLs in a row, but you also get a Marking Targets proc before after the first two Aimed Shots, and then get Vulnerable up before casting the last two Aimed Shots. Though again, this is so unlikely a scenario, the vast majority of the time it's best to just wait and cast your Aimed Shots with Vulnerable.
Using Marked Shot Early for Lock and LoadA general rule for MM Hunters is not to cast Marked Shot if you don't have at the very least 67 Focus (assuming haste isn't high enough for 3 Aimed Shots within Vulnerable). This lets your focus use during Vulnerable look something like this:
|Marked Shot Cost||-25||42|
|Regen during Marked||15||57|
|Arcane Shot Cost||8||65|
|Regen during Arcane||15||80|
|Aimed Shot Cost||-50||30|
|Regen during Aimed||20||50|
|Aimed Shot Cost||-50||0|
|Regen during Aimed||20||20|
You can continue use that basic pattern between 0% and 16.667% Haste. At greater than 16.667% haste, with no human delay or lag, the second aimed shot will begin to cast before the 6 second mark, causing it to hit in the +150% range, rather than +160% range.
Anyhow, the 67 starting focus can be lowered to 37 Focus if you proc Lock and Load when Marking Targets is proc'ed.
If Lock and Load procs while vulnerable isn't up, save it until Vulnerable is up. If Lock and Load is proc'ed while Vulnerable is up, only delay its use if doing so will not result in a lower number of total Aimed Shots cast during Vulnerable.