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Scattered Shots: Getting started with the hunter class

Night elf hunter
Every Thursday, WoW Insider brings you Scattered Shots for beast mastery, marksmanship and survival hunters. This week, your host Adam Koebel, aka Bendak will be discussing how to get started with the hunter class.

Before we get into this week's column, I wanted to give a shout out to the Hunting Party Podcast. All good things must come to an end, and this Saturday, January 18 at 2 p.m. EST will be episode 200, aka the final episode. Retired hosts will be returning as well as some special guests. It should be a fine send off to this awesome hunter-specific podcast. If you miss the live show you will find it on their front page or Youtube. Now, back to your regularly scheduled huntering.

So you've finally decided to roll a hunter. Congratulations on coming to your senses and choosing the best class in WoW. Whether you are a veteran of one of the other 10 hunter-support classes, or a brand new WoW player, there are probably important questions burning in your head like which color of sporebat should you tame? Such questions will all be answered in due time, but first you should meditate on whether or not this is truly the class for you.

I think you'll have a hard time fully enjoying your hunter if the idea of hunting down and managing pets doesn't get you excited. Some players are just looking for that classic archer archetype and unfortunately WoW does not have that. There are other pet classes, but none compare to hunters. We get to choose from literally hundreds of different pets in the world (with many more added each expansion). We name them, fight with them, choose their specialization, and can collect up to 55 of them on a single hunter. We're the only class which can bring almost any buff or debuff to our groups. Oh, and we can play dead to avoid repair bills.

Hunter Character Select
Choosing a race for your hunter

Most people will tell you to choose your race based on what will give you the highest DPS, but I think you'll enjoy your character more if you pick something aesthetically pleasing to you. Beneficial racials can also come in the form of utility, such as Darkflight for Worgen which is my favorite racial ability in the game. Of course, I still miss playing as a dwarf and will almost certainly go back to one in Warlords to check out the new character models.

Do you like to transmog into big and bulky looking armor, or do you prefer the more subdued looks without flashy shoulders and particle effects? This can play a big role in your race choice. If you like the bulky armor sets you might lean towards something like a male worgen or orc. If you don't like shoulders taking up half your screen, maybe a female troll or draenei is a better choice. Another big one to consider is their shooting animations. You will be watching these a lot, so best choose one you enjoy.

If you still want to focus on the most DPS, your best bets for Alliance hunters are pandaren or worgen. For Horde, it comes down to pandaren, orc, or troll. Some racials will be changing in Warlords, such as the dwarf's Crack Shot (expertise is being removed) and should be replaced with something else equivalent.
Hunters
Choosing a spec for your hunter
  • Beast mastery hunters have a special attachment to their pets. They tend to spend hours camping the spawn locations of spirit beasts or other exotic pets which only they can tame. They usually take great care in giving their pets the perfect name, and they may continue to feed them even if it's not necessary. They like their pets big, and they like them red. In Mists of Pandaria, beast mastery hunters have become a true jack-of-all-trades spec. They can do everything well, but excel at soloing more than the other specs. About half of their damage output is delivered from the claws and jaws of their pets.
  • Survival hunters prefer to burn and poison their enemies rather than claw them to death. Their most defining mechanic is Lock and Load, which can be procced from Black Arrow or some of their traps. They can spread their venom to every target in sight with Serpent Spread and their traps have extra potency. In Mists of Pandaria, survival's weakness is PvP combat but they are excellent in almost everything else. Pets still play an important role, but will be a much smaller percentage of your overall damage output.
  • Marksmanship hunters are the snipers of the hunter world. Hitting like a speeding freight train is their specialty. The two shots exclusive to marksmanship, Chimera Shot and Aimed Shot, are both hard hitters but have a high focus cost and are a little harder to manage because of it. Marksman are strong in both PvP and PvE combat, but they have a little trouble in multi-target situations compared to the other specs. Some hunters are very loyal to the spec and swear by it anyway.
I want to PvP: Beast mastery and marksmanship are both excellent choices. Prior to 5.4, beast mastery was the most popular, but since the removal of Readiness more and more PvP hunters have embraced marksmanship.
I want to solo difficult content: Beast mastery is usually your best bet. Perks such as Beast Cleave help keep everything focused on hitting your pet, and not you.
I want to excel in dungeons and raids: Survival and beast mastery are both capable of the same damage output, so pick whatever you like best. Both specs are great at single-target and multi-target fights. Marksmanship is weaker in multi-target fights, but does just as well in single-target encounters.

The vast majority of PvE hunters run with a survival and beast mastery dual spec, and PvP hunters are most likely beast mastery and marksmanship. I personally switch back and forth between beast mastery and survival on a per fight basis in raids, and almost always use beast mastery when I'm soloing or running around on the Timeless Isle. In the end, all 3 specs are viable so I advise you to try all of them and see what you like the best.
Beast mastery spec
The basics of dealing damage

The core of the hunter priority system is to use your signature ability (BM: Kill Command, SV: Explosive Shot, MM: Chimera Shot) on cooldown without any delay. These are the main points you need to remember about focus, the hunter's resource mechanic.
  • Never have your focus capped at 100% during combat as this is a DPS loss. Use focus dumps (like Arcane Shot) to prevent this.
  • Always have enough focus available for your signature ability when it finishes cooldown. This requires some planning so you don't overspend focus.
  • Focus has a passive regeneration component, and is also regenerated with Cobra Shot or Steady Shot.
  • Always be casting something (even if it's not prioritized perfectly) on every global cooldown. This is the key to good hunter DPS.
An example of a hunter priority list for beast mastery would be the following. If the first thing on the list cannot be cast due to cooldown or lack of focus, you move onto the next item until you have something to cast.

  1. Cast Bestial Wrath and Rapid Fire
  2. Cast Kill Command on cooldown
  3. Cast Kill Shot when available
  4. Refresh Serpent Sting (this is normally only needed at the start of a fight since Cobra Shot refreshes it)
  5. Cast level 100 talent (Glaive Toss or Barrage)
  6. Cast level 75 talent if applicable
  7. Cast level 60 talent if applicable
  8. Cast Focus Fire when it reaches 5 stacks
  9. Use Arcane Shot to dump excess focus (Multi-Shot in AoE situations)
  10. Cast Cobra Shot to generate focus
Chromaggus taming
Resources for your hunter

I promise to do an updated leveling guide in the future, but for now here are some links to recent Scattered Shots articles which will give you a leg up with your new hunter:
Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. From raiding tips and hunter addons to learning the DPS value of skill, we've got you covered. If you're stuck in one of the ten support classes, why not move up to the big league and play a hunter?

Filed under: Hunter, (Hunter) Scattered Shots

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