Stats to look for
- Attack Power In the itemization budget, you get 2 AP or 1 of something else. AP is good for SV hunters and is the only DPS stat that transfers (in part) to our pet.
- Hit Rating You want to reach the hit cap above all else. It will increase your chance to hit and your pet's chance to hit, and decrease your pet's chance to be dodged or parried. At level 80, the raid hit cap is 8% (263 hit rating), and the heroic hit cap is 6% (197 hit rating). The Focused Aim talent is an excellent way help you reach the hit cap.
- Agility Each point of agility gives you 1 AP and a little bit of crit. Agility is the key stat that helps SV hunters more than any other stat other than hit rating.
- Crit Rating More crits means more Expose Weakness, more giant numbers and a higher position on the meters. Crit rating is excellent, though not as good as Agility for SV hunters.
- Intelligence Intelligence increases your mana pool, your rate of mana regen with buffs like Replenishment, and gives you attack power to boot with the Careful Aim talent. Generally, int isn't something that we go out of our way to look for, but there's just naturally enough on our gear to keep us going.
- Armor Penetration Rating A somewhat complicated stat that is worse for SV than for any other hunter spec. It's better than haste, but you'll prefer agility and crit rating over ArP.
- Haste Rating This will slightly increase the rate of fire of your Auto Shots and slightly lower your Steady Shot cast time (though be aware there is a Haste Soft Cap). It will help your DPS, but generally less than any of the above stats.
- Stamina SV is the only hunter spec that can turn that stamina into DPS. With the Hunter vs. Wild talent, every point of stamina nets you one-third of an attack power. This makes stamina the worst DPS stat for us; however, at least we get DPS from it. BM and MM do not.
Stats to avoid
Many hunters make the mistake of grabbing rogue gear with high agility but other stats that don't help us at all. The following stats won't help your hunter.
- Strength Only good for melee (and you should never be meleeing).
- Expertise Only good for melee -- reduces chance to be parried or dodged, and our shots can't be parried or dodged anyway. Our pet gets expertise through our hit rating.
- MP5 A horrible stat for us. Hunters have much better ways of regenning our mana.
- Spirit Not a hunter stat.
The wolf remains the best DPS pet choice for SV hunters, by a good margin. We have some words of encouragement that come Cataclysm we'll see a greater choice in pets, but for the time being, the wolf is the way to go.
You probably want a pet talent build like this: SV Ferocity Pet Talent Build. Most of your pet abilities can just be on auto cast (but not growl if you're in a group!). Call of the Wild is the one pet talent you definitely want to control manually, and some hunters (myself included) prefer to manually time Furious Howl with trinket procs.
Gemming your SV hunter is pretty easy, and requires you to wrap your head around one simple concept: socket bonuses are not always worth it. Always think of your socket bonus like an elf -- fancy looking and probably a dirty hippie and useful in some situations, but certainly not something you'd ever go out of your way to hang out with.
- Meta Gem: Relentless Earthsiege Diamond.
- Red Socket: Delicate Cardinal Ruby.
- Yellow Socket: Delicate Cardinal Ruby unless the socket bonus is extra agility, then go for Deadly Ametrine.
- Blue Socket: use Nightmare Tear for your first blue socket, and use Delicate Cardinal Ruby in the rest.
You have several good options for glyphs, and we're going to look at the top five choices. [Update: added Serpent Sting, the missing fifth glyph.]
- Glyph of Explosive Shot Boosting the crit of Explosive Shot is fantastic, especially at lower gear levels. The benefit of this glyph does diminish a bit compared to others as you get to high gear levels.
- Glyph of Steady Shot This flat 10% bonus to Steady Shot damage is well worth it.
- Glyph of the Hawk This glyph is only worth it if you take the Improved Aspect of the Hawk talent. However, if you do so this can be a very nice DPS boost for you. Keep in mind, as always, that you lose the haste benefit when moving, so you'll want to manage your movement well to make sure those auto-shots still fire.
- Glyph of Kill Shot Keep in mind that the benefits of this glyph are highly variable. For heroics it's basically worthless. For raids it depends on how long your raid spends in Kill Shot range (which is usually much less than 20% of the fight). I often only get one extra Kill Shot out of the glyph; however, it can be exceptionally useful in progression fights where your DPSers are dropping like flies at the end of the fight. If you're using a spreadsheet to evaluate glyphs, be sure to set reasonable settings for flight duration and Kill Shot range, as the default does not model a realistic fight.
- Glyph of Serpent Sting A perennial favorite, by lengthening the duration of Serpent Sting this glyph effectively lets you cast an extra Steady Shot instead of refreshing Serpent Sting. Again, best used in raids and not for heroics.
Enchants for endgame
- Head: Arcanum of Torment
- Shoulders: Greater Inscription of the Axe
- Back: Major Agility
- Chest: Powerful Stats
- Wrists: Greater Assault
- Hands: Major Agility or Precision
- Belt: Eternal Belt Buckle
- Legs: Icescale Leg Armor
- Feet: Superior Agility or Icewalker
- Ranged: Heartseeker Scope
- Melee 1h: Superior Potency or Accuracy
- Melee 2h: Massacre
If you are completely new to the hunter class and not yet 80, it may be worth your while to check out the Scattered Shots Resource Guide for links to all the key hunter skills, including leveling guides. BM is generally a stronger spec for leveling, though once you hit 80 either MM or SV will provide more DPS. If you're primarily a heroic running hunter and don't hit the raids, you might want to peruse the Heroic DPS Guide.
You want to be a hunter, eh? 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. See the Scattered Shots Resource Guide for a full listing of vital and entertaining hunter guides, including how to 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.