So what's the deal? What am I doing differently?
In essence, I'm playing this true to what I love. Rather than struggle with SV, I've fallen back into the warm and familiar embrace of Beast Mastery, and as a result, I'm getting numbers that are at least satisfactory enough for me to be happy.
Now, I will say up front that I have conducted objective tests on this, and SV is still a higher damage bringer than BM, but the margin is slim. I could widen that margin quite a bit by regemming and so forth, as right now I am emphasizing RAP, as is right for a BM hunter. Survival depends more on Agility to give its numbers a boost. So let's get that out of the way right now: I am not claiming that BM is better than SV. I'm saying it is better for me.
This is where that "being true to yourself" part comes in.
I started out as an MM hunter, and Fai for a while was SV (pre WotLK). But when BM became a viable build in BC, and I gave it a try, I knew I had something special. I'm comfortable here. I know the nuances, the tricks, how to move around and keep it delivering, how to get more from my pet than just have it chewing on the boss' ass, and so forth. It all just clicks in a way that neither of the other specs did.
SV and MM may give higher numbers, but only if played right. I can technically play both "right", but it's always been a struggle to stay in the groove with those two builds. They feel haphazard, strung together out of odd parts that don't quite fit together well, but at a distance give the illusion of being integral.
The other thing that I think affects this is my playstyle. I can be a little more mobile as BM, it seems, without losing as much output as I would with MM or SV (I know, that makes absolutely no sense at all considering that the three big guns for SV are insta-shots). The rotations are longer and more involved, for example. After each move, there's always a brief period where you have to evaluate whether your stings need refreshed, and so on. There's more of that going on with SV and MM than there is with BM.
Yes, I am saying that BM's rotation is simpler. Only an idiot would say otherwise. But that does bring some advantages with it other than appealing to the Alfred E. Neuman crowd, as someone has hinted without coming right out and saying it. Simplicity has its benefits, and I don't care if someone feels the need to look down on me for liking it. Complexity isn't better unless it brings solid benefits. I think the benefits are somewhat less than are hinted at, though the numbers won't back me up on it.
A long time ago I mentioned our MM part-time raider's propensity for pulling aggro at the drop of a hat, his ineffective trapping technique, and so forth. Well, this isn't BC anymore, and trapping is something that's fallen by the wayside, but the kernal of the statement remains true; a good BM hunter brings more to the table than just damage. Damage without pulling aggro, for example. The ability to peel the beast off the boss and onto something chewing the healer's face, without stopping DPS. The ability to break things up a little with one or two well-placed traps (Did you know that if you MD on the tank, and then put an explosive trap at his feet, that the trap damage all MDs to him? True story!).
So, the bottom line for this long and windy spiel is that sometimes, you gotta say screw the stats, I'm going with what fits me best. For, while there may be a 20% gap between SV and BM damage statistically, that will never be the case, once again, for me.
I think that's true of many people for many specs. Maybe you've always fancied Affliction as the most fun spec for your warlock. Maybe you prefer Frost for the mage, and always have. If the gap isn't that huge, and your raid isn't marginal, what's the harm? So it takes just a little longer to down the boss ... but the boss, it is downed.
The consequences of this choice are immediately obvious to me. I had a blast, a really good time bounding around with the stompasaurus, following my heart. No, not so much as to want to change my mind on raiding - that's gone too sour for me - but if I were called, at least I'd be more enthusiastic (Yeah, there's some behind the scenes politics I'm not talking about here. It just is, and that's that, and blogging it just isn't appropriate.).
Trinkets! One thing I am sorely lacking is trinkets! I am toting a blue and a green around, and I haven't replaced them in forever because there are no trinkets out there with RAP. I was very excited when I saw that Scattered Shots was covering this topic, but then I was sad when I saw the conclusion that there just wasn't anything up there with RAP. But at least now I know that I should give up on that and find some suitable compromise.
Last night, I obtained my first real holiday achievement; Call me Elder Grimm if you must, for that title is mine. I was hoping to complete the Love is in the Air achivement, as well, but I encountered a problem with the rocket achievement that required me to retry it four times before I got it. That was sixty tokens out the window, which set me back on the other components. Well, maybe next year.