Hunters are known for their pets, their long-range, sustained DPS, and their traps.
The three trees of a Hunter are all viable for a hunter to choose for leveling, player versus player combat, or end game raids or instances. The three trees all have options to offer for utility, open DPS, and survivability.
All hunter specs are viable for leveling, although most hunters choose Beast Mastery. Considered to be the fastest leveling build, as uptime is limited only by the health of your high-armor pet. The choice of pet for your spec is also very important, as Beast Mastery talents better equip a tanking pet.
A helpful leveling macro for this build is:
#showtooltip /castsequence reset=combat/10/modifier Serpent Sting, Arcane Shot, Concussive Shot, Steady Shot, Steady Shot, Arcane shot, Steady Shot, Steady Shot
This is a macro that can be continuously used over and over and is good as soon as you get steady shot.
Example Beast Mastery Leveling Spec
- A recommendation for how the talents might be placed as you level up:
- [Spirit Bond] will greatly reduce downtime, as well as [Endurance], [Thick Hide] and [Improved Mend Pet] for pet survivability. As your pet will also do a large amount of damage and you are very vulnerable without him, you may choose to put points in [Improved Revive Pet].
There are many pets with different strengths. There are 3 sorts of pets: Ferocity (aggressive), Tenacity (defensive) and Cunning (a mix, mostly used in PvP). Here are some pet talent builds that can be used in PvP.
Beast Mastery offers decent DPS in the game for hunters in the raiding environment, but is substantially behind Marksmanship and Survival.
- This build requires Glyph of Steady Shot. (Paledine (US) Dragonblight)
A PvP spec that's focused on your pet and survival.
A PvP spec that will make sure you get high DPS and survival with your pet.
Disadvantages of Beast Mastery
A large part of the Hunter's damage is imbued in the pet, who must be alive in order to use Bestial Wrath/Beast Within. This is frequently seen as a fatal flaw to the build. This is especially the case in arenas, where your pet will often be the main target of the opponent. Seeing as it scales only very little with your armor and stamina, it makes an easy target which severely cripples a BM hunter. In raids, the hunter alone should have no trouble keeping their pet alive with [Mend Pet] and careful control of the pet's actions (treat your pet as a player, if you wouldn't draw aggro from the Main Tank, neither should it). Should the pet die, the Beast Master can recover quickly and cheaply with [Improved Revive Pet]. Nevertheless, Beast Mastery play-style requires a significant amount of diligence in managing the pet's actions and threats on top of managing threats to the hunter.
The strength of this tree lies in burst damage. Your shots are far slower than that of the BM hunter, but you hit quite a bit harder. This tree is also the land of PVP talents. Marksmanship builds tend to be roughly equivalent in overall damage output to Survival builds at lower gear levels. At higher gear levels, marksmanship pulls ahead of survival by a large margin. In terms of mana efficiency however, marksmanship falls behind survival, but in most cases, this isn't a big concern.
This Spec is a high damage Marksman PvE spec that focuses on physical damage. This spec also takes 1/3 [Focused Aim], so the hit cap becomes 7% without a Draenei, as opposed to 8%. This spec is reliant on Armor Penetration, and will only overtake a Survival build at higher levels of gear where ArP becomes rather prevalent. For this same reason, [Arcane Shot] is dropped from the rotation, in favor of another [Steady Shot], which grants more damage at these levels of Armor Pen. This spec benefits greatly from an ArP proc trinket.
The amount of Steadys also has a bearing on the Glyph choice. [Glyph of Serpent Sting] is only in the lineup for its increase in damage to Chimera Shot, but both [Glyph of Steady Shot] and [Glyph of the Hawk] are directly useful for the face that each rotation will have 3-4 Steadys fired.
The mechanics for this spec are something like this: Open with a [Serpent Sting], tied to a [Silencing Shot], followed by a Chimera Shot, and an [Aimed Shot]. From here, just repeat [Steady Shot] until Chimera and Aimed are back up again, and use Silencing whenever it is off cooldown, as it has no GCD. Once you have used enough mana that the gain from [Rapid Recuperation] will not be wasted, use [Rapid Fire] and [Readiness] for 30 seconds of very high damage. Used early enough, this should be up twice on a decently long fight.
Even with 2/2 [Rapid Recuperation], this spec is still rather more mana inefficient than a Survival build, and the benefit of both [Replenishment] and Judgment of Wisdom will be very clearly felt.
This Spec is a PvP viable high damage Marksman PvE spec. This spec takes 1/1 [Scatter Shot], for increased survivability. this is not a recomended spec and it will be hard to equal damage on other Marksman hunters. For this spec to be on the same ground you will need to have very good gear, gem and enchant to be hit capped, and is posted as a viable spec for those who dont take dual spec and wish to raid and do some pvp as well.
The mechanics for this spec are the same as the spec above.
This spec is primarily a utility role, and requires you to have ~5% hit rating, while adding nice burst DPS. Its main focus, is to survive to get back to range against almost any class, and keep them there. Allowing you to scatter shot melee classes that get close to lay down a Frost Trap, which will in-turn grant you 3 Arcane Shots, and root them for 4 seconds. Starting off against melee classes with a Scorpid+Chimera combo to disarm them of their ability to damage you and DKs to heal themselves, switching it back up with Serpent Sting after. I also took into consideration the Disarm Mechanics that most PvP builds overlook, seeing as Mages, Priests, Rogues, and Warriors, are all capable of disarming you of your ranged weapon and added Deflection to reduce the effect by 50% with out the use of an enchant. For the most part this build will burn through any caster class, save Disco Priests, with Serpent, Aimed, Arcane, Chimera+Silence, Readiness, Chimera+Silence, Aimed, Arcane, Kill Shot. Provided you are able to deal 3k Aimed Crits, and 5k Chimera Crits, and 2.5k Chimera-Serpent crits, the overall damage if you crit every shot would be approx 31k in about 12 seconds, as Silence Shot does not suffer a GCD, and not counting Auto/Wild Quiver hits. Keep in mind you have readiness at your disposal, that means, 2x FD, Disengage, Silence, Deterrence, Traps, Scatter Shot, and Rapid Fire (which I barely use in a PvP situation other than BGs and 5v5). No mana saving here, as in PvP you either kill or die first.
Of the three Talent trees available to Hunters, Survival currently remains the tree with the highest sustained dps output in a PvE context. Patch notes can be found at Patch_3.1.0 for specific details on changes
Making your Survival Build
First and foremost there is no such thing as the SV hunter build. Although you might have read or heard the first sentence before let's take a few lines to look into why there is no such thing as the ideal SV hunter build because this might help you in creating your own talent build.
First of all it depends on what you want to do with your SV hunter, if you have a desire to mainly PvP this has different implications for your build than if you prefer to PvE. And even if you prefer to PvP there are significant differences between Battlegrounds and Arenas. On the other hand, being a good Raider requires a different build than instancing HC's or soloing your way through Icecrown. This being said, the following deals with PvE often from a raider's perspective.
Another important reason why there is no such thing as the ideal SV Hunter Build is because it depends on the gear you have managed to acquire or rather on the stats you have. For example if you have 750 Agility vs. having 1700 Agility, a 1% increase of your Agility from [Hunting Party] will have strongly differing effects. If your Agility is low you might very well be better off spending your talent point elsewhere.
The same goes for being Hit capped. Being hit capped is very important if you like raiding and reasonably important if you spend lots of time in Heroic Dungeons. Hunters are hit capped at a hit rating of 263 or a hit percentage of 8%. Being hit capped basically means that your attacks won't miss in boss encounters, which is important as 8% miss chance translates into 8% dps loss. The talent [Focused Aim] give you a 1/2/3% increase in your hit percentage (Which now applies to your pet as well), you should strive to get your full 263 hit rating (8%) from your gear, gems, enchants and food because this leaves you free to spend talent points elsewhere than in [Focused Aim].
You can go even further in making decisions on your build: in raid encounters, for example, you may consider Pet Survivability or the amount of movement that a boss encounter requires and favor different builds on the outcome of such considerations.
Ultimately, while there are several more common builds for survival hunters, the decision is left to you to determine what works best for you. Many hunters will use a specific build because of its personal use, or what it could bring to the raid - for example, more points in Hunting Party so that your healers can regenerate a bit more mana. Play around with your specs, and see what works best while keeping in mind that your job is to help kill bosses faster. Never be afraid to ask another hunter what his spec and shot rotation are, if you're not good at figuring things out. Most of us - your fellow hunters - are willing to advise you on how to spec properly based on your goals. We may even take you to the training dummies to see what you're doing and offer help that way.
1. [Explosive Shot] - This is the 51-point talent for the Survival tree. [Lock and Load], [T.N.T.] and other talents help boost the potency of this particular shot, making it the bread & butter shot for most Survival hunters.
2. [Improved Tracking] - This is commonly agreed to be the best point to start your SV hunter talent build, it is strongly suggested to spend your first 5 points here. It yields a simple 5% overall damage increase, just don't forget to turn your tracking on!
3. [Survival Instincts] is another clear choice. While the damage reduction is a nice bonus for soloing as well as helping reduce the burden on healers in groups, the real prize here is the 4% critical strike increase for your [Steady Shot] & [Explosive Shot].
4. [Trap Mastery] - You need to spend another 3 points to get to the next tier on the talent tree, but this probably is your best bet due to a direct damage boost and extended trap durations. That being said there are situations in raids where a little extra range could be very useful, but we'll discuss the situational merits of [Hawk Eye] later on.
5. [Survivalist] - More hit points for soloing and group work is always nice, but the real DPS aspect of this talent comes into play when combined with [Hunter vs. Wild]. Talent points are well spent here.
6. [T.N.T.]- The damage increase to your [Explosive Shot] can make this 3 talent points well spent. However, if you find yourself in need of reaching the Hit cap, sacrificing the needed points to here may be an option cost of reduced damage for [Explosive Shot]
7. [Lock and Load] - While it may seem impractical considering the discrepancy between the proc chance of traps compared with actual damage, this talent does serve its purpose. That extra arrow/bullet and lack of a cooldown could mean the difference between winning and wiping.
8. [Hunter vs. Wild] - Attack power increases with stamina. Hard to pass this one up.
9. [Killer Instinct] - Another clear choice, gives you 3% extra critical chance.
10. Lightning Reflexes (hunter talent) - Gaining 15% extra agility is not to be missed.
11. [Expose Weakness] - If you have a solid critical chance, you should only need to spend 2 out of 3 talent points to keep this up most of the time.
12. [Master Tactician] - Increases your crit % significantly, especially over extended fights. Spending 5 talent points here is a pretty safe bet.
13. Sniper Training - 15% crit increase on your [Kill Shot] ability, plus a nice damage boost for the core Survival shots while standing still.
14. [Black Arrow] - Gives a 6% damage boost and a Shadow DoT while active and can proc [Lock and Load]. Pretty much mandatory in a raiding situation.
If you followed these suggestions you now have 43 or 44 talent points spent in the SV tree (holding off on [Explosive Shot] for the moment), depending on what you did with [T.N.T.] and assuming you put 2 in [Expose Weakness].
MM Talents you want
Before we continue with the more debatable talent points, we will first jump to the Marksmen tree to pick up some useful talents there.
1. [Lethal Shots] - Very safe place to drop another 5 talent points to gain 5% crit chance
2. [Mortal Shots] - Significant damage increase to your critical shots, also makes Aimed Shot an option for later on. Another good choice to drop 5 points.
3. [Careful Aim] - causes one Intellect to give you one AP, remember to take this into account when deciding between pieces of gear (same goes for Stamina in a lesser extent from [Hunter vs. Wild]. Safe choice for another 3 talent points.
4. [Focused Aim] - If you cannot make the hit cap by any other means but do want to perform well in raids, this talent is a must have. Use as many as you need to make the hit cap for raiding purposes. Once again the hit cap is 8% or 263 hit rating. This talent stacks with your pet's hit rating.
5. [Go for the Throat] - Critical Strikes cause your pet to generate more focus depending on points spent, which means a dps increase. One point spent should be sufficient, but play around with it and see which works better.
Situational/Debatable SV Talent Points
We now jump back to the survival tree, starting at the top to discuss the merits of some more debatable or situational talent points.
1. [Hawk Eye] - This talent no longer gives you the buff from Sniper Training and therefore its value has decreased a lot. This being said there are situations that would favor that little bit of extra range. In a PvP environment or on a PvP server being able to hit them before they can hit you can make a large difference. In a soloing environment getting that mob down before he gets to you can be very useful (you should not have this issue if you picked the right pet and pet talent points). In a raiding environment it can be useful if you have to spend much of the fight on significant distance of the boss or if the boss does a lot of moving around (Heigan the Unclean, for example). Also if you are kiting this should make your job a bit easier, since retaking aggro for the mob that got away or the one that slipped through will be significantly easier.
2. [Scatter Shot] - Scatter Shot isn't as useful as some other talents in a raiding environment, as most mobs and ALL bosses are immune. Scatter Shot is generally more useful as a boost in a BM leveling spec, or as part of your MM PvP spec. However, some raiding occasions might arise where Scatter Shot is actually useful and efficient, but these are few and far between.
3. [Resourcefulness] - Reduce the CD and mana cost of your Traps and [Black Arrow], there seems to be a lot of debate if this is your best choice in a raid context. That being said this will increase the up-time of your [Black Arrow] and with that the 6% damage buff included, next to this [Black Arrow] is the source of [Lock and Load] procs which are a nice thing to have. Probably worth having in a raid context especially if you don't require the points elsewhere. As for a soloing PvE view, well its main point is to increase damage done, if you would like some extra damage vs. other utilities this is an option.
4. [Wyvern Sting] - In a soloing PvE context this one definitely has its merits since it allows you to temporarily and effectively take a mob out of combat from range for a longer duration and more accurately than [Freezing Arrow]. It is also very useful if you make your home in a PvP realm since it gives you another option if the opposing player avoids or breaks your trap. From a raiding perspective its utility is lessened, even though it is a valid option for crowd control and non-boss kiting situations. The main reason however to take this is that it give you access to [Noxious Stings] which will give you a 1/2/3% damage boost if your [Serpent Sting] is active on the target which does stack with the damage boost from [Black Arrow].
5. [Noxious Stings] - Gives you a 1/2/3% damage boost while your [Serpent Sting] is active on the target.
6. [Thrill of the Hunt] - This refunds 40% of your mana spend on shots that crit - as a SV hunter, you crit a lot. If you have mana issues this is a very valid choice. That being said most people that solo have the time to take a drink and in 25man raids that are well organized mana issues should be sparse except for long fights or if a lot of raid members have a tendency to die. However, in Dungeons or 10man raids you will encounter a lot more OOM situations, so if you spend a lot of time there it might be a wise choice. An important aspect however is that it gives you access to [Hunting Party], which is usually a requirement of a proper end-game raiding hunter.
7. [Hunting Party] - gives a 1/2/3% increase in your Agility and occasionally puts the [Replenishment] buff on your party/raid members. The buff might be helpful while instancing although it doesn't stack with the same buff from Ret Paladins and Shadow priest so communicate with these raid members about what would be optimum.
8. [Point of No Escape] - Has no value in a raid context since it doesn't work on Bosses. If you often use your traps and like engaging large groups of mobs this will work nicely with [Trap Mastery].
Situational/Debatable BM/MM Talent Points for a SV Build
If you followed the suggestions made throughout this article (the SV part) you now have spend at least 51 talent points in the SV tree and at least 14 points in the MM tree. It means you also have weighed some of the pros and cons of some SV talent points for your own special needs. At this point you will then have a maximum of 6 talent points left. Following we will discuss some of your option in the BM/MM trees to spend these talent points, don't forget to include the talents dealt with in the Situational/Debatable SV Talent Points part in your decision-making process for these last few points.
[Improved Aspect of the Hawk]- Increases ranged attack speed, which leads to a dps boost. There is some debate as to how significant this damage boost is compared to others that can be gained through talent points. If you have a low haste rating it probably is a valid choice (Soft haste cap used to be 528 I believe, not sure what it is now, fact check anybody please). Anyhow leaving extreme fine-tuning for what it is for a moment, this is probably a reasonably good choice although spending 5 points here probably is a bit to much, a few should suffice. (You might consider using the Glyph of the Hawk to get more out of this talent.)
[Endurance Training] - A health boost for you and your pet, doesnt have much merit in an instancing context, however in a soloing PvE or a PvP context it can be a big "staying alive" bonus.
[Focused Fire] - Overall damage boost of 1% if your pet is active, it is somewhat unlikely that you'll get this far in to the BM talent tree especially if your game is raiding. Still it is a valid damage boost if you can live with the tradeoffs. Keep in mind though that many reports are coming in that pet survivability is a complete nightmare in Ulduar ergo if you go there you might want to minimize the dps coming from your pet and maximize your own. If your game is soloing there are some viable builds that will get you here, nothing wrong with it if you are looking for another damage boost. If you prefer to improve your survival chances a bit more you might want to go for:
[Thick Hide] - has its validity in PvE soloing or PvP situations. It simply increases the amount of damage you can take.
[Improved Revive Pet] - If you have trouble keeping your pet alive a point here maybe very nice to have. No matter what build you have a chunk of your dps is in your pet, if it's down then so is your dps. If pet survivability is a real issue, having a point here may significantly increase your pet uptime for an acceptable cost.
[Improved Concussive Shot] - Has some utility in a soloing PvE context especially on a PvP Server. Probably has more use in a PvP environment. You might find this a useful talent for you specifically, although chances are that for a PvE SV Hunter, these points might be better spent elsewhere.
[Improved Hunter's Mark] - You are soloing in a PvE context, your attack power is absolute crap, maybe because your still lvl 20 or something in that case this is a valid choice. The only other reason to have this is that you have a Hybrid Raid Support build, like the one way below in this article, or if your a MM hunter and want to help out some more.
[Aimed Shot] - Lots of debate on this being a good choice or not. Aimed Shot used to be the Hunter's coup-de-grace on most mobs, however this was after a significant cast time. Now, it is an instant cast and the debuff functions much the same way as a Warrior's Mortal Strike, but the damage has been lessened to the point of being virtually no different than a non-crit Steady Shot. If you are in a situation where a healing debuff is necessary this shot is a good choice, but it is advised that you look into the areas you'll be raiding before you choose this shot.
[Rapid Killing] - Decreases the cooldown of Rapid Fire by a minute per rank, up to two. Also increase the damage done by Aimed Shot, Arcane Shot, and Chimera Shot when used after you kill a mob which would generally grant you XP or Honor. Kind of useless in a full SV spec, but still comes in handy from time to time.
Efficiency - Reduces the mana cost of all your shots and stings, a valid choice if you have mana issues.