For every hunter scaling Icecrown Citadel and duking it out over Saurfang's corpse, there are five more slogging their way through an unending chain of heroics. Sure, those hunters in heroics don't die nearly as often or spectacularly as the raiders -- but they have to tolerate their own pain: death knight tanks and a continuing stream of healers shamefully neglecting their pets (we're still waiting for Dawn to educate priests on this vital skill).
Regardless of what content we hit, what we all have in common is the pursuit of the best gear we can get. So whether you're trying to optimize your heroic hunter or building up your gear to start dominating raids, we've got you covered today. Join me after the cut as we take a look at some of the best hunter gear available without setting foot in a raid. And you might be surprised by how quickly your hunter can become geared -- it only takes a couple of weeks to be raid ready if you're diligent and prioritizing well!
Where to get the gear
With raids out of the equation, we can get our best hunter gear from several sources, and all of them are heroics. Here's the breakdown.
- Heroic Drops When you're starting out as a fresh-faced 80, just about everything will be an upgrade for you. But when we're compiling our list of gear to go for, the only drops we're really interested in come from Trial of the Champion and the three ICC five-mans: Forge of Souls, Pit of Saron and Halls of Reflection. (Note that you'll need halfway decent gear to get into these, which you'll collect by running other heroics.)
- Emblems of Frost You will get two of these the first time you use the Dungeon Finder to do a random heroic each day. It's a long, slow grind to collect these without raiding, but they add up eventually. If at all possible, you want to try to get into PUGs for the weekly raid for five extra emblems and in Vault of Archavon for another couple of badges and a shot at some nice loot. But since this is a guide to gear without raiding, we'll assume you're not doing that.
- Emblems of Triumph This will be a big and fast source of gear. You get Emblems of Triumph for every heroic boss you kill and an extra pair for every time you do a random heroic after the first.
- Crafted You can have some gear crafted from Runed Orbs and Crusader Orbs. You can purchase Crusader Orbs with your Emblems of Triumph and Runed Orbs from Emblems of Conquest (you can trade in Triumph for Conquest). The rest of the mats are generally fairly inexpensive. You can also craft items with Primordial Saronite, purchased with Emblems of Frost or off the AH, but that gets very costly and you have better uses for your emblems (at least for the first few months). An inquiry in trade chat should locate a crafter with the right pattern pretty quickly.
- Auction House We have a few options that are BoE drops from ICC raids that we can get straight off the AH, though the ones we really care about tend to be expensive. Money bags like Basil can just buy their way into a heck of a lot of awesome gear, but most of us will be limited to just one or two key items.
Let's start by taking a look at how to prioritize our purchasable gear from emblems. We want to spend those first emblems as wisely as possible and not waste them buying items that we'll replace with heroic drops or AH purchases.
Emblem of Triumph gear
You can collect a heck of a lot of Emblems of Triumph really fast. While it might feel slow at first, they'll keep piling up long after their interest or usefulness has worn off, until you can't get rid of them fast enough. They're rather like death knights, actually.
Your very first purchase should be two pieces of your tier 9 set (these vendors are over by the Trial of the Crusader raid entrance). Our set bonuses are a big deal. Looking long term, most hunters prefer either legs and helm, or legs and gloves for your two-set pieces, though you may well end up getting the entire four-piece set (everything but the shoulders) while you collect enough Emblems of Frost to get your tier 10 set.
Once you have your two-piece set, move on to other non-set pieces. Even BM hunters who really like the four-piece set bonus like the tier 10 set more.
Emblem of Frost gear
In all honesty, you probably want just about everything you can buy with Emblems of Frost; however, it takes forever to grind up the emblems just from the daily. Top of the priority list for Emblem of Frost gear is your first two pieces of tier 10 gear (most hunters prefer shoulders and chest, or shoulders and helm). The shoulders and gloves will cost you 60 emblems each, and the helm, chest and legs will cost you 95 emblems. You do not want the legs, by the way.
Gear by slot
The way you prioritize your gear is going to depend on what content you're doing regularly, where your hit rating is and how deep your pockets are. Additionally, your spec will play into it -- what might be the most desirable non-raiding piece for MM may be a bit less desirable for SV or BM. But whatever your spec, you are likely going to want to go after one of the gear pieces on this list for each slot. [Update: Keep in mind that most hunters will want 4 set pieces, which is why non-set pieces aren't listed for most of those slots (except shoulders)].
I'm also going to include some slightly substandard pieces here and there, just in case that best piece you're seeking never drops for you or gets ninja'd by a class that really shouldn't be rolling on it (like non-hunters).
- Windrunner's Headpiece of Conquest (tier 9; 50 Emblems of Triumph)
- Ahn'kahar Bloodhunter's Headpiece (tier 10; 95 Emblems of Frost)
For our neck slot, we have the option to buy one of the BoE drops from ICC. This is very pricey, and not everyone is going to be able to afford it. It's also not your top priority for spending your gold -- that's gonna be your ranged weapon. I recommend running Pit of Saron daily in search of your next best drop.
- Barbed Ymirheim Choker (Forgemaster Garfrost in Pit of Saron heroic)
- Broach of Wailing Night (19 Emblems of Conquest; not as nice as the choker)
- Wodin's Lucky Necklace (buy on the AH)
- Epaulets of the Devourer (45 Emblems of Triumph)
- Ahn'kahar Bloodhunter's Shoulders (tier 10; 60 Emblems of Frost)
- Accursed Crawling Cape (Devourer of Souls in Forge of Souls normal)
- Recovered Scarlet Onslaught Cape (50 Emblems of Frost)
- Windrunner's Tunic of Conquest (50 Emblems of Triumph)
- Ahn'kahar Bloodhunter's Tunic (95 Emblems of Frost)
- Crusader's Dragonscale Breastplate (crafted)
- Longstrider's Vest (95 Emblems of Frost)
We have several wrist options, and the crafted Crusader's Dragonscale Bracers are our best bet. But if you're holding off because you're short on cash and saving your emblems, we have two other drops from heroic to choose from, depending on whether you want the hit rating or not.
- Essence of Suffering (Devourer of Souls in Forge of Souls heroic)
- Crusader's Dragonscale Bracers (crafted with Crusader Orbs)
- Gondria's Spectral Bracers (Scourgelord Tyrannus in Pit of Saron normal)
- Windrunner's Handguards of Conquest (30 Emblems of Triumph)
- Ahn'kahar Bloodhunter's Handguards (60 Emblems of Frost)
- Hoarfrost Gauntlets (Captain's Chest in Halls of Reflection heroic)
- Gloves of the Dark Exile (The Black Knight in Trial of the Champion heroic)
- Logsplitters (60 Emblems of Frost)
- Belt of Rotted Fingernails (Scourgelord Tyrannus in Pit of Saron heroic)
- Belt of Dragons (crafted; a bit low-level, though)
- Band of the Night Raven (60 Emblems of Frost)
- Windrunner Legguards of Conquest (50 Emblems of Triumph)
- Leggings of the Tireless Sentry (39 Emblems of Conquest)
- Spiked Toestompers (Falric in Halls of Reflection Heroic)
- Boots of Living Scale (crafted, but low-level)
- Rock-Steady Treads (crafted with Primordial Saronite -- which means it's expensive!)
- Dexterous Brightstone Ring (35 Emblems of Triumph)
- Band of Stained Souls (Scourgelord Tyrannus in Pit of Saron heroic)
Non-raiding hunters don't have access to the awesome hunter trinkets but still have a pretty good selection. Mark of Supremacy is fantastic if you are actually going to use all that hit rating; if not, this trinket is an automatic pass. If you have a choice, you want to get your hit elsewhere (gear, gems, talents) rather than burning your trinket slot on it.
Both Banner of Victory and Needle-Encrusted Scorpion are much stronger for MM hunters nearing the ArP soft cap and BM hunters will a decent amount of ArP (400 or so). Short of that, the Herkuml War Token is actually likely to be your best trinket, despite all that haste. However, you have much better places to spend your Emblems of Frost, and I recommend making the trinket the last thing you spend your emblems on.
- Mark of Supremacy (50 Emblems of Triumph; only worth it if you need the hit rating)
- Banner of Victory (Confessor Paletress in Trial of the Champion normal)
- Needle-Encrusted Scorpion (Devourer of Souls from Forge of Souls heroic)
- Darkmoon Card: Greatness (buy it on the AH)
- Herkuml War Token (60 Emblems of Frost)
[Update] Added Quel'delar to the list -- this is very expensive to buy on the AH, but if you're very lucky you'll get a Battered Hilt drop from one of the ICC heroics... and will actually win the roll.
- Orca-Hunter's Harpoon (Marwyn from Halls of Reflection heroic)
- Quel'delar, Ferocity of the Scorned (Buy from AH or get the rare Battered Hilt drop from ICC heroics)
Despite being a tank gun, Rowan's Rifle is actually the best ranged weapon you're going to get outside of a raid. The reason is simple: ranged DPS is the single most important hunter stat for our DPS. One ranged DPS is a bigger deal than even 1 hit rating. Rowan's has nearly 68 more ranged DPS than the next closest ranged weapon available outside of raids. With so few tanking classes able to use guns, this rifle is surprisingly affordable on the AH. Best of all, it's a gun! So while you may get mocked for carrying a tank weapon, it's a lot better than carrying an elf weapon and being mistaken for a tree-humpin' hippie. If you're only going to spend gold on one item, make it this gun.
Do you know of other awesome gear available without raiding that I missed? That BoE or crafted item that's actually better than anything on this list? Drop a note in the comments and help us keep this list updated for all the new hunters out there.
You want to be a hunter, eh? Well then, you came to the right place. You start with science, then you add some Dwarven Stout and round it off some elf bashing. The end result is massive DPS. Scattered Shots is the WoW.com column dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. Each week, Scattered Shots will cover topics to help you improve your heroic DPS, understand the impact of skill vs. gear, get started with Beast Mastery 101 and Marksman 101 and even solo bosses with some extreme soloing.