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Scattered Shots: Pets for leveling from 80 to 85

Every Monday and Thursday, WoW Insider brings you Scattered Shots for beast mastery, marksmanship and survival hunters. Each week, Frostheim of Warcraft Hunters Union uses logic and science (mixed with a few mugs of dwarven stout) to look deep into the hunter class. Mail your hunter questions to Frostheim.

On Thursday, we talked about the optimum hunter spec for leveling 80 to 85 in Cataclysm. But no discussion of hunter optimization is entirely complete without also talking about those beloved boon companions that join us in leaving a swath of death and destruction in our wakes.

As always, hunters got the soloing and leveling gig easy. It is not hard for us to level, and it doesn't require crazy optimization. You can absolutely use whatever pet you want to to level. If you love your pink tallstrider with all your heart and can't bear to be parted from him, then that's fine. It won't hurt you that much. Though, in the words of BRK, "I would do anything for love, but I won't sporebat ... no, I won't sporebat."

Join me after the cut as we look at leveling pets, pet specs for leveling, and what kind of pet roster you want to have on hand for those 5-mans.

Leveling pets

When you begin leveling up from 80, your pet probably won't even have time to reach most of the mobs before they die. You'll be unleashing a hail of lead that will kill any quest mobs in only a couple of shots. At best, your pet can hope to get a single bite in before the mob goes down.

With enemies going down that quickly, your best bet is likely going to be a cat pet for the Roar of Courage agility buff. (This is also provided by the Spirit Beast, though if you're leveling as BM, stuff won't die quite so fast -- you'll have to wait for your pet to reach the target for much of your DPS to take effect and spend too much time regenning focus.)

However, the mobs in Cataclysm scale in difficulty very fast, and by the time you're fighting level 84 and 85 mobs, they'll be very tough indeed -- especially since your crit, haste, and mastery percentages will be so much lower by then due to combat rating scaling.

At that point, not only will your pet need to do some tanking, but the mobs will be dishing out a surprising amount of damage. You'll very likely want to have a tenacity pet on hand specced with defensive talents to handle your tanking. There's no longer much difference in pet toughness between specs, which means your MM or SV tenacity pet will be able to take damage just as well as a BM pet could.

My recommendation is to level at least two pets with you as your hunter levels. Keep a ferocity pet with a buff (not debuff) that you particularly like with DPS talents, and a tenacity pet with defensive talents. Pets level incredibly quickly these days, and it should be no problem keeping two (or three, or four) pets at max level with you.

I prefer the bear for my tenacity pet because of the Demoralizing Roar ability to further reduce the damage taken. The ability likely won't be available for every mob, but you should get benefit from it on every other pull. Note that the worm is not a bad tank pet for BM hunters, but you cannot use its Burrow Attack ability while tanking. In beta (unlike live), the worm is no longer on the aggro table as soon as it burrows; thus, anything that it was tanking will immediately run to you. As long as you don't have the worm burrow when it's supposed to be tanking, it'll do about as well as any other tenacity pet.

Pet talent specs

Choosing talents for your leveling pets is a pretty straightforward proposition. For our ferocity pet, you want to start off at level 80 with this build:

Once you hit level 84 and get your new pet talent, you probably want to put it into a rank of Shark Attack. For a tenacity pet designed to tank those hard-hitting, higher-level mobs, you want to go with this build:

You could have gone down to get the first rank of Silverback, and the self-heal is definitely nice. However, I much prefer to toss the talent point into Charge and Boar's Speed to minimize the amount of time that you're waiting for your pet to get to its target. Our ferocity pet accomplishes closing with the short cooldown and decent duration of the Dash ability, but for tenacity, I prefer to double up on the closing talents.

It's worth noting that the armor talents and the crit immunity are the bit mitigation talents. Great Resistance is not remotely worth it; the vast majority of the damage you pet will be taking is going to be physical damage.

5-man pet roster

If you plan on doing a lot of 5-man for your leveling, you'll want to be sure you have a good roster of 5-man pets. While you need a good dozen pets to cover every raid buff, there are far fewer that really matter for 5-mans. The reason for this is that most of our pet abilities function as debuffs.

The debuffs provided by pets typically have a long duration coupled with a long cooldown. In a boss fight, they can keep that debuff on the target indefinitely, but in 5-mans, your targets are rarely going to be alive that long. So your pet will apply the debuff to the first target, which then dies 8 seconds later, and you switch targets -- but it's going to be another 20 seconds before your pets debuff is available again.

So for most 5-man situations, you'll want to use pets that provide buffs to the group, rather than debuffs to specific targets. This shortens your list considerably, especially if you're not running as BM.
  • Cat/Spirit Beast strength/agility buff
  • Wolf/Devilsaur 5% crit buff
  • Silithid health buff
  • Corehound burst haste buff
  • Shale Spider 5% stats buff (not available until higher levels)
If you're pretty sure that your group is going to have these covered, you could consider bringing the bear for the 10 percent reduced physical damage taken for your tank. The cooldown is a fairly short 15 seconds, and it affects an entire group. The Ravager/Worm 4 percent physical damage taken debuff also has a fairly short cooldown and you can probably hope to get the debuff on perhaps every other mob. The only other short-duration pet debuff is the bleed debuff, and most mobs in 5-mans don't stay alive long enough to take much damage from Piercing Shots, the only hunter bleed effect.

It's probably also worth noting, while on the topic of pet debuffs, that the 8 percent increased spell damage taken provided by dragonhawks and wind serpents does indeed increase the damage done by our magical shots.

Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. Our Scattered Shots Resource Guide takes aim at everything from improving your heroic DPS, understanding the impact of skill vs. gear, and getting started with Beast Mastery 101 and Marksman 101.

Filed under: Hunter, (Hunter) Scattered Shots

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