This is a quick (ish) summary of the various aspects of raiding as a Hunter. I will outline talent information, gearing, gems, glyphs, pets, and anything else that merits talking about. This is NOT the place for information on instances/heroics, levelling, or PVP.
Much of the information that Hunter raiding is based on is gleamed from Shandara's DPS Spreadsheet. There are caveats to using it however, mainly that the spreadsheet only models stand-still tank and spank fights like Patchwerk. This is the only fight that any model or simulation is capable of reliably measuring; other boss fights and raid techniques are simply too complex to calculate. As such, changes to the spreadsheet may reflect in Hunter raiding standards. Talents, pets, glyphs, stats, or items may change in value, highest DPS specs will change, etc. As well, much of the data I use is from the collective effort of the Best Possible DPS thread by Midnight. Many of the spec and glyph setups I talk about here are from that thread. Lastly, all talent specs assume you are hit capped. As it is relatively easy to do and is the first priority for gearing as a raiding Hunter I will not include any specs that include Focused Aim. If you require Focused Aim to reach the hit cap, use the spreadsheet to figure out the best way to do it.
BM - Beast Mastery
MM - Marksmanship
Surv - Survival
AiS - Aimed Shot
MS - Multi-Shot
AS - Arcane Shot
SrS - Serpent Sting
SilS - Silencing Shot
SS - Steady Shot
BA - Black Arrow
ExS - Explosive Shot
RF - Rapid Fire
AP - Attack Power
ArP - Armor Penetration
Agility - Gives us AP at 1 Agi per AP and crit at 83 Agi per 1% crit. This is the "primary" stat for Hunters and the one most of our gear and class is built around. However, you will not always focus on this stat. Also gives dodge and armor but those are pointless for us.
Stamina - Same as everyone else. Gives us health. If you're Survival, this also gives you and your pet attack power at 3 stam to 1 AP.
Intellect - Gives us mana as well as "regen" through Replenishment or Rapid Recuperation. It also gives AP at a 1:1 ratio if you have the Careful Aim talent which every single Hunter raiding spec does.
Combat Rating Summary
Hit - At the top of the list for a Hunter gearing for raiding is to get hit capped, which is 263 rating or 8%. This is not to say you should sacrifice everything else to be hit capped. Talent specs with Focused Aim take some pretty big DPS hits from losing other important talents and you wouldn't want to give up an epic item with 200 AP for a blue with 50 AP and 30 hit rating. The best way to decide between gear pieces when your hit rating will change is to use the spreadsheet. As a special note, hit rating transfers to your pet but it is rounded down to the nearest whole percentage. If you have 7.99% hit rating, your pet will have 7% and will be 1% under the cap.
AP - The second most important Hunter stat in most cases. Most of your gear upgrades after a certain point will be boosting your AP more than anything else.
Crit, Haste, and ArP - While these are all good, and important, stats for Hunter DPS, they don't play as big a role as AP and hit. You shouldn't be shooting specifically for these stats as what you'll get on all the decent gear pieces will have enough.
Haste in depth - Haste affects the speed of our Auto Shots and cast time of Steady Shot. It can be nice to have enough haste to get Steady Shot to 1.5 seconds but this is only as MM or Surv. BM with 0 haste is already at the haste "soft cap", where Steady Shot is 1.5 seconds. Haste is marginally less useful for BM and soft-capped Surv/MM; it drastically goes down in DPS value after Steady Shot is 1.5 seconds as it only boosts Auto Shot. Hunter GCD is NOT affected by haste.
The order in which you fire your shots is based off priorities. This means that when X and Y shot is off cooldown and ready to be fired and your prioritiy is X-Y, you should fire X shot first and then Y shot. For most setups the basic priority is KS-various depending on the spec-SrS-SS.
SHOT ROTATION MACROS ARE DEAD. THEY ARE AWFUL AND YOUR DPS WILL SUFFER FOR USING THEM. THEY ARE A RELIC FROM BC THAT WE NO LONGER USE.
Using Cooldowns Wisely
Using cooldowns wisely can be difficult. The best way to use them will vary with spec, raid makeup, when your raid uses Bloodlust/Heroism, etc. However, there are some guidelines to follow.
-If the cooldown is shorter than the fight's duration, use it early so you can use it again near the end.
-Short cooldowns should be used as often as possible. This counts for longer cooldowns and fights as well.
-The Beast Within can be worth using at the same time as BL/Heroism if you don't have to wait too long to line them up. Use your best judgement here.
-Kill Command should be macro'd into your shots so it's used as often as possible.
Haste can be difficult for Hunters. Previous thought was that stacking haste buffs (Rapid Fire/BL or Heroism/haste potion) was a bad idea because any one of these brought you to the soft haste cap* where your Steady Shot is 1.5 seconds. As the Hunter GCD does NOT go down with haste, any faster and you'll only be buffing your Auto Shot. There's been some recent theorycrafting though that stacking them may be a DPS increase.
Personally the difference is close enough that I'd say to use your best judgement here. I'm not sure I'm convinced enough that I'd wait for Bloodlust on a short fight to use Rapid Fire, especially if I was having mana problems, but if it was a longer fight and I could use RF twice then I would probably try to line them up. You may want to experiment here with your own spreadsheet math or trying out different in a raid.
This is not complete yet. I've only done spreadsheet math for Survival on which potion is best to use. I need to do some research for MM and BM as well as other potions to use.
If you're not sure, use a Haste potion, or a Mana potion if you're having mana isssues.
Pets and Specs
Devilsaur - The highest DPS pet if you're BM. Others come close but Big Stompy wins out.
Wolf - Furious Howl makes this the highest DPS pet for MM or Surv. Again, others come close, but the nice buff to Furious Howl in 3.1 makes this the best option.
Cat - Slightly lower DPS than a Wolf but not by much, especially if you have Mangle or Trauma for the bleed bonus.
Raptor - Used to be the highest DPS but was replaced when Wolves were buffed. Still viable if you like raptors (as much as I loved my raptor Badoodle, he's retired to the stables now), although their Savage Rend can be a fickle mistress.
Spirit Beast - They're oh so very pretty but their DPS isn't as good as other pets. If you want to have a shiny fun pet that Moonfires, they're alright, though about 100 DPS behind Devilsaurs. Good luck getting one of these things, I never got mine after 3 weeks of constant camping.
Wasp - These are good to have if your raid lacks a minor armor debuff (Faerie Fire/Curse of Weakness). Their Sting attack hits decently too.
Worm - These are Exotic, so BM only, and if your raid lacks a major armor debuff (Sunder Armor/Expose Armor) it may be worth having if you also have a lot of physical DPS classes.
Scorpid - This used to be the highest DPS pet when Wrath first came out. USED TO. They got nerfed into oblivion. Don't even think about it.
I need to do some research into Cunning pets before I can give any recommendations. The only time you'd ever want to use one is if your raid somehow lacks every mana and regen buff and you're running Aspect of the Viper half the time.
Your main pet family choice will obviously be a Ferocity pet in almost all cases. Tenacity and Cunning pets are not made to do high DPS so their talents are fairly flexible. If you're going to use a Tenacity/Cunning pet, it's probably for a specialized fight or raid makeup, so you'll have to figure out the spec yourself to meet your needs. Ferocity has a few points you can move around here and there but is rigid for the most part.
The point in Dash could be put into Great Stamina or Natural armor if you want but Dash has saved my pet's life more than a small boost in tanking would ever have. You could also take the point from Bloodthirsty if you REALLY wanted the point but I would HIGHLY recommend against it. If your pet went yellow mid-fight, you're screwed as we can no longer feign and feed it. The point in Wild Hunt could be put into Shark Attack but WH is slightly better and gives a slight stamina boost anyway.
This has a point leftover that can really go into anything you want since nothing else gives a DPS boost (except an incredbly small one from Charge). I usually finish Bloodthirsty.
Talents To Avoid
Improved Cower - It looks nice but rarely does any good in practice. I need to confirm this but I believe pets also don't auto-cast Cower unless the mob is targetting them. Macroing it to one of your shots would also cause your pet to run right back to anything you pulled it away from.
Heart of the Pheonix/Lick Your Wounds - These are nice to have when you need them but if your pet is dead or almost dead and needs the emergency heal or rez it means you need to practice keeping your pet alive. You can compensate for your pet dying with skill and practice but that won't make up the DPS loss from taking these talents.
Bestial Wrath - The best BM glyph. The lowered cooldown on TBW makes it line up (almost) perfectly with Kill Command and it can definitely be worth delaying KC a bit to pop them both at the same time.
Explosive Shot - A very good Survival glyph though not the best. Might be expensive if the Scribes on your servers are super unlucky since this is new in 3.1.
Chimera Shot - This can be nice but can actually be a bad idea for people with low FPS or latency. The change in cooldown messes with rotations and isn't as high of a DPS boost as you'd think. It's still good though if you have a fast connection and decent computer.
Serpent Sting - While a global Hunter glyph I'm listing this here for Marksmanship. Many people don't understand this but the increased duration on Serpent Sting means it does more damage total and proportionately increases Chimera Shot's damage. This question is asked at least once a week on these forums, don't be like those people and ask it again. This glyph is pretty much essential for MM DPS.
Kill Shot - This is a very decent glyph but is actually better if your raid has lower overall DPS because a boss will stay in Kill Shot range longer. It's also good for fights with lots of adds you can KS. If your raid is still progressing and hasn't gotten a lot of fights past 20% though it's not a good idea since you'd never make much use of it.
Aspect of the Hawk - This was one of the best glyphs before but is now overshadowed by new glyphs and better specs. The only spec that uses it much is BM, where it's the best glyph, but Surv and MM don't use it anymore (Surv doesn't even spec into Imp AotH anymore unless your raid has plenty of people giving Replenishment).
Steady Shot - A very solid glyph though oddly boosts our crappiest shot. This is included in almost every top DPS setup.
Hunter's Mark - This should really only be used if your raid has maybe 3 or more Hunters, including yourself, who don't already have the glyph. If so this is a very good choice for raid DPS at the sacrifice of personal DPS.
Trueshot Aura - This glyph could theoretically be good but it doesn't work properly. Abomination's Might from Blood DKs or Unleashed Rage from Enhance Shaman both overwrite Trueshot Aura and thus nullify the glyph. It's possible to macro into your shots a script to cancel those buffs so your TSA goes back up but it's not known yet if that actually causes the glyph to take effect again fast enough to be usable.
What To Avoid Like The Plague
Arcane Shot, Aspect of the Viper, Deterrence, Disengage, Explosive Trap, Freezing Trap, Frost Trap, Immolation Trap, Mending, Multi-Shot, Rapid Fire, Scatter Shot, Snake Trap, Beast, Volley, Wyvern Sting. These are all either useless in PVE or have such a small boost as to be a waste of Inscription mats. Aspect of the Viper glyph MAY be worth using if you're having massive mana issues and you're in Viper a lot. That's a huge may though and there are other things you can do to fix mana problems.
We have a pretty crappy selection of minors. The only ones you should ever use in PVE are Feign Death, Mend Pet, and Revive Pet. The other three are awful.
Talent Trees and Specs
BM started in Wrath as the highest DPS spec with some very specific talent setups and using a Scorpid pet. both the spec and the pet were severely nerfed. BM is currently the lowest DPS spec, lagging about 12-15% behind Marksmanship or Survival. However, with Ferocious Inspiration, it can still be worth speccing into this tree if your raid lacks a Ret Paladin with the appropriate talents to grant the raid this buff.
Very little flexibility with this spec. In fact, there are only two "movable" talents that don't sacrifice DPS. The point in Endurance Training can be put into Thick Hide, though there's not much point, and the point in Improved Mend Pet can be put into Spirit Bond to give a slight bit of health regeneration and healing boost. If you're not very good at getting your pet out of AOE damage, the point might be better spend in Improved Mend Pet. I prefer Spirit Bond to help out my healers.
If your raid needs some sort of Mortal Strike effect, or you dislike MS's hidden cast time that keeps you from moving while using it, you can pull the points from Improved Tracking to max out Mortal Shots and pick up Aimed Shot. You also get two points left over. You can put them back into Improved Tracking for the damage, max Invigoration if you're having mana issues (which is helped a bit by using Aimed Shot instead of Multi as Aimed is slightly cheaper), or finish out Improved Mend Pet or Spirit Bond.
Talents To Avoid
Improved Hunter's Mark - This is better left for the MM Hunters if you have enough Hunters in the raid to warrant it. You simply don't have the points for it.
Improved Arcane Shot - While it's a big part of BM shot priority now, this talent isn't good enough to bother with.
Rapid Killing - RF is an extremely low boost to Hunter DPS, especially BM hunters who are already at the soft haste cap.
KS/MS or AiS/AS/SrS/SS
MM has been a bit mediocre until 3.1. Now it's the highest DPS spec at a high enough gear level. Its main utility is Trueshot Aura, though the highest DPS spec doesn't take it, for when your Blood DKs or your Enh Shaman don't show up (*cough Tardan cough*).
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. This build and glyph setup, while being the highest DPS MM setup possible, has some very specific caveats. It requires a very high level of gear, as in Ulduar 25 and 10 man hard mode best in slot gear in almost every slot including one of two specific trinkets (Grim Toll or Mjolnir Runestone). Using this build, you would also gem for Armor Penetration. Finally you would drop Arcane Shot from your rotation. The logic behind all this is that you're boosting your physical damage as much as possible and getting huge Piercing Shots ticks rolling. If you don't meet these steep requirements, use the advice below.
This is a basic starter build for MM. If you can't or don't want to use the highest DPS build above because of its requirements, you can use this and expand. Other talents of particular interest are Focused Fire, Improved Hunter's Mark if nobody else in your raid has it, Trueshot Aura if your raid needs it, Improved Barrage, Rapid Recuperation, Improved Steady Shot, Improved Tracking, and Survival Instincts. Which you take will depend on your raid makeup. You may be wondering though why both this build and the one above take Silencing Shot. This is explained below.
Talents To Avoid
Efficiency - Too many points for too small a bonus. Not worth even one or two points.
If using the Armor Penetration spec and setup: SrS/CS/KS/AiS//SilS/SS
If using a standard spec: SrS/CS/KS/AiS/AS/SilS/SS
Special note about using Silencing Shot. Macro it into your other shots. Because SilS is not on the GCD, you can do this and fire it every time it's up without losing a GCD. It seems a bit weird to use it but it gives about 70-80 DPS which is pretty damn good for a single talent point and a little extra mana. It may screw up some interrupt-sensitive fights, however, especially if your raid is running rotations for them, so you may want to be ready to ditch the macros so you can manually weave it or leave interrupting to the melee.
Surv never saw much action until Wrath. Until very high gear levels, it's the highest DPS spec you can get, but with Lock and Load's very small proc chance, your DPS can fluctuate rather wildly from one fight to another. You also get a bit of utility with Replenishment.
This spec assumes you have enough crit to maintain Expose Weakness with only two points. This isn't terribly difficult to do unless you're in greens but might be worth thinking about It also doesn't take Hunting Party and loses out on some mana efficiency, so if your raid needs someone to provide Replenishment or you're running OOM frequently, you'll need to use one of the specs below.
This takes 2/3 Hunting Party which is enough for 95%+ uptime for pretty much any gear level above instance blues with Survival's huge crit rates. The agility bonus from it is almost ignorable though so don't take it into account if you feel you need 3/3. This also takes Aimed Shot for the Mortal Strike effect and ease of movement. If you think you absolutely need 3/3 Hunting Party, you can take a point from Noxious Stings.
Talents To Avoid
Point of No Escape - Because bossea are now immune to the ice traps this is useless.
KS/ES/BA/SrS/MS or AiS/SS
How To Weave Lock And Load
This gets its own section because of how important it is. When Lock and Load procs, do NOT do the following:
1: Spam Explosive
2: Use Arcane Shot
3: Fire another Explosive fast enough that you clip the DoT ticks.
3: Ignore it and let it run out (duh)
The best way to do it is to wait until .5 seconds after the GCD is up and fire the next Explosive Shot. You don't want to wait longer than this or you waste time. Also remember the .5 seconds does NOT CHANGE no matter the distance between you and the mob. That confused the hell out of me at first. Do some napkin math if you don't believe me. Regardless, doing this can be difficult, especially if you're lagging or your FPS is low. You can make it easier by macroing in the following to your Explosive Shot and if you use the Quartz addon.
/qt ExplosiveTimer 2
If these don't work for you or are too difficult, the best thing to do is to use Explosive and then another shot, depending on what's up and your priority, then Explosive. For example, if you have both Explosive and Aimed up and LNL procs, you would do this:
Explosive-Aimed-Explosive-Steady-Explosive-continue rotation as normal
The DPS isn't as high but it's drastically easier to do.
Questions and Answers
Q: How do I gem?
A: Your first concern with anything is to be hit-capped. You should probably use Focused Aim to reach the hit cap as you're better off using that instead of gemming and enchanting for hit rating. If that's not enough you can use some Rigid Autumn's Glows to reach it. If even that's not enough, well....something is very wrong and you probably have like 15 hit rating through gear. Other than that, BM hunters use as many AP gems as possible. MM uses Agi gems at higher gear levels but if you're in blues and low level Naxx gear you can use AP gems. Survival gems for Agi. As for which gems specifically to use, particularly in yellow or blue slots, use the spreadsheet to figure out what gems work best. It can depend on your gear level and which raid buffs you'd have. There has also been some theorycrafting lately that MM with high levels of gear should gem for Armor Penetration. There's a lot of math and some specific requirements for this so you should do your own research into it.
Q: Why does everyone use Serpent Sting glyph for MM omg Chimera resets the timer so it's useless omg omg
A: It adds to Chimera - Serpent's damage.
Q: What about Glyph of Blah Blah?
A: If I didn't mention it, it's not especially good for that spec or the others are just too valuable to replace. If you're dead set on seeing what others are like, try plugging them into the spreadsheet. Some of them may be better but it largely depends on gear and exact spec.
Q: How much is X stat worth?
A: Use the spreadsheet to get stat values. A stat value chart is not possible without modelling your gear and spec.
Q: Should I use a gun or crossbow or bow?
A: Weapon type does NOT MATTER. Stats and DPS do. Unless you're a whore for looking good like me and are willing to drop a bit of DPS to have a ranged weapon that doesn't look like an ass on the end of a rifle stock. If you have a racial bonus, use the spreadsheet to see if it's worth it.
Q: What about weapon speed?
A: That doesn't matter either. It may if you're MM since Chimera is partially based on weapon damage, in which case just use the spreadsheet.
Q: Does Survival use Arcane Shot?
A: NO. No. No no no no. No. Take it the hell off your bar if you're Surv.
Q: I've seen some high end Hunters with spell penetration gems and a cloak enchant. WTF is up with that?
A: In PVP, a lot of classes give some fire resist. Explosive Shot is vulnerable to resistances like this. Many PVP Hunters will gem and enchant for 75 Spell Penetration or so to bypass this and increase their PVP damage by a hefty amount. Unless you're cheap with gems (seriously, Sky Sapphires are like 15g), you can do this with two Stormy Sky Sapphires and a cloak enchant.
Q: Does MM do this too?
A: Don't ask me, my only PVPing in season 6 is a 2v2 team that's done 10 games and has a 188 rating.
Q: So which is the highest DPS spec REALLY?
A: Surv and MM are almost equal for most gear levels. MM is a little behind at lower gear levels but pulls ahead slightly (50-100 DPS or so) when you're in Ulduar 25 best in sloto gear. BM is the worst off and is behind MM and Surv by almost a thousand DPS in almost every case. If you want to be difficult about it, from the time you enter Naxx 10 to Ulduar 25, highest DPS is Surv. Once you start getting some best in slot pieces, it's MM.
Shot rotation macros are dead.
Lock and Load does not proc off Serpent Sting anymore.
Scorpids are terrible now.
Shot rotation macros are still dead.
Trap dancing is dead.
Shot rotation macros are really really dead. They're not coming back. Don't use them or everyone here will find you and stomp on your crotch until you delete it and learn to fire shots manually.
Survival doesn't use Immolation Trap yet or ever as far as we know. Back on the 3.1 PTR there was going to be some sort of Trap Launcher for Survival and we'd use Immolation at the start of a fight and Explosive would refresh it through another talent. It was never implemented and only existed as a tooltip and a talent that didn't do anything. That's either been scrapped though or pushed back for later because it didn't make it into 3.1.
Please send me a PM if you think I left anything out or got something wrong.
If the fight is short than, lets say 5:30 minutes (so you can only use rapidfire once), its actually better to stack Rapidfire with Bloodlust (and ofc your other trinkets/ap procs). If the fight takes longer than that and you know that your raid is blowing bloodlust at the end, it might be wise to start the first rapidfire early and stack the second one with bloodlust.
Do you have any math/calculations for your Wild Magic > Haste Potion theory? From what I have been reading on the forums most Hunters are using Haste Potions...
Maybe you should clarify the meaning of "shot macros" are bad. It's not necessarily a bad idea to macro special abilities like kill command oder pyro rocket to your shots...
Since you listed Careful Aim in your stat overview, you might wanna add the Hunter vs. Wild Stamina buff also
iirc, all instant shots that are based on weapon damage use a 2.7 wspd as a normalized factor.
This is true, but a slow weapon has a higher damage range than a fast one, thus giving more dps to shots that take into account weapon damage. Example: Skyforge Crossbow vs. Furious Gladiator's Repeater. In a nutshell what is normalized is only the Attack Power contribution for each shot damage calculation.
I´d like to put this statement into perspective. In fact there are certain fights like Ignis or the Iron Council where trap dancing is still justified. In general - if the fight forces or at least allows you to stay very close to your target traps are still a viable alternative to BA (especially if we´re talking about more than one mob and explosive trap). Check the The Survival Hunter in WotLK page 108 for the corresponding discussion.
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