Practical Huntering (as of patch 4.3)

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Norrien's picture
Joined: 2011/11/02
Practical Huntering (as of patch 4.3)

Hi! I'm a career hunter, pretty much- it's all I really raid as, aside from LFR and the occasional fill-in on my healer. There's a distinct lack of how2shootinfase in here, and I figured I'd fix that right up.

If you're wondering right now:

  • All the talent points, where do they go
  • Stat priority changed again omfg what do
  • What glyphs do I use halp
  • How do I rotation

Here is where to look: The theorycrafting on Elitist Jerks' threads can sometimes be a little brain-breaking but the spec threads will have a breakdown of all of these for you.

Why should I hunter?

In a word: Focus. Our resource system is freaking amazing. Focus is kind of like energy or rage, except instead of it constantly filling after we use abilities, we refill it ourselves. ...Okay, it does refill on its own but it's slow. We're not rogues here.

Your dps is built on a rotation of focus dumping and focus regen: use that focus on hard-hitting abilities, then use your Steady Shot or Cobra Shot to build it back up before they come off cooldown. If it gets too high, dump the excess, usually with Arcane Shot. It's a constant balance between building up the focus you need for Kill Command/Explosive Shot/Chimera Shot without building too much and having all this focus you aren't even using, or throwing in too many filler shots and then lacking the focus for your major ability.

Also, you get pets. All of the pets. You can tame so many pets and keep a whopping twenty-five at a time, five with you and twenty in your stable. is a great resource to browse if you want to know what colors pets come in and where to get them.

What spec should I be?

  • If you want a tight rotation, go Marksmanship. It brings 10% ranged attack power (20% melee) for the raid.
  • If you like dots and a more reactive rotation with procs, go Survival. It brings 10% increased attack speed for the raid (and 2% more agility for you.)
  • If you like exotic pets and BIG RED PET AMG, go Beast Mastery. It brings 3% increased damage for the raid.
  • If you just want the most utility, be whichever of those the raid needs most.

All three specs are pretty good now, which I'm super pleased with. Marks still edges the others out a bit at the normal gear level, but not by nearly so much as it used to, and all of them will do some pretty decent dps. It's no longer a matter of BM being 'kind of viable', you can easily raid as a Beast Master and do just fine. Personally, I'm Survival for Hunting Party/Beast Mastery when an exotic pet is needed. And speaking of those hunter pets...

People obviously focus a lot on what you're shooting at things and how. In Cataclysm, your pet can be just as important, and here's why: All those awesome buffs other classes can bring to the group or raid? Our pets can do a ton of them. Hunter pets are the new shaman totems in terms of buff utility, and with the right stable you can bring just about any missing buff your raid might want!

But what pet do I use?

If you're a Beast Mastery hunter, good news! You have more pet variety with your ability to tame exotic pets, and can bring some exclusive pet buffs to the raid.

  • Core Hounds bring their own Bloodlust/Time Warp (30% haste for 40 seconds) if you're missing a mage or shaman
  • Shale Spiders will do +5% stats for you if there's no druid or paladin
  • Silithids will cover your stamina buff if you have no priest or warlock

If you don't need any of those buffs, here's what to bring if you're missing:

  • 12% armor reduction (Prot Warrior, Bear Druid) - Raptor or Serpent
  • 5% crit (Fury Warrior, Ele Shaman, Sub Rogue, Feral Druid) - Wolf or Devilsaur (adds 10% healing reduction)
  • 4% physical damage taken (Arms Warrior, Combat Rogue, Frost DK) - Ravager. Worms (for BM) can do this too, but they're Tenacity pets.
  • 8% spell damage taken (Warlock, Assassination Rogue, Unholy DK, Balance Druid) - Dragonhawk or Wind Serpent
  • Strength/Agility buff (DPS Warriors, Enhancement Shaman, Death Knight) - Cat or Spirit Beast (has its own heal)
  • 30% bleed damage taken (Arms Warrior, Feral Druid, Subtlety Rogue) - Hyena. Rhinos can do it, but again, it's a Tenacity pet.
  • If all of these are covered, just bring your favorite!

Another note for Beast Masters: in AOE situations, you're going to want a Worm or a Chimera in your stable. Pull it out right before the AOE's going to be happening (you'll have plenty of time on fights like Yor'sahj), send your pet in, and then use their special ability to kill all the things. For extra omgwtfaoe when you really need it, pop Bestial Wrath. 50% reduced focus cost and 10% increased damage, plus your pet, plus explosive trap if you've got time to lay it? Death. All of it. Just remember that these are channeled abilities and do not move your pet away. Also do not forget you macroed /petattack to Serpent Sting and reapply it to the boss mid-AOE. Not that this has happened or anything.

Don't forget to use:

Aspect of the Fox. There are a lot of fights when you have to move, and dpsing on the go is hard when you're out of focus. Pop into Fox aspect and you can cast your focus-filling Steady/Cobra Shot while moving, though you do still have to be facing the mob. Strafe, or if you have to you can cheat by facing the mob, starting the cast, and then running wherever you need to go. When the cast is about to finish, jump and spin back around so you're facing it again, and the shot goes off.

This macro:

/cast [aspect:2] Aspect of the Hawk
/cast Aspect of the Fox

will pop you into Fox if you're in Hawk, and Hawk if you're aspect-less or in any other aspect. Combine it with this:

/cast !Aspect of the Hawk
/cast Explosive Shot (or Chimera Shot/any other instant shot.)

Aspect-switching is off the global cooldown, and if you use this macro to keybind your instant shots, it will instantly pop you into Hawk to use that shot and give you the benefit of that bonus attack power for it. You'll have to switch back to Fox again if you need to keep moving, but this will save you the button-press to hop into Hawk before using a heavier-hitting shot than your focus filler.

Disengage. Possibly my favorite hunter ability, Disengage will send your happy hunter butt flying backwards in the most awesome ground-covering move. It isn't just for getting away from people in PVP, either; Disengage is the fastest way to get around when you use it right. Face the opposite direction of where you want to be, hit it, go flying back up to 13 yards. This is great for getting out of fire or just getting from Point A to Point B in style, and if you're a Marksmanship hunter your Posthaste talent gives you 30% increased movement speed after using it! Whoosh.

Raptor Strike. This is very situational, mind, but if you're not going to need one of those major glyph slots (I usually replace Glyph of Misdirection when I need to use this) pop a Glyph of Raptor Strike in there. It'll reduce your damage taken by 20% for 5 seconds after using Raptor Strike on your target, and on some fights this is pretty helpful- usually ones with stacking and heavy aoe. Some bosses have hitboxes that will let you be in melee range and keep shooting, which is where this becomes even better- otherwise you're going to have to edge into melee range to swing before you step back and keep shooting. You'll lose a GCD of dpsing, but you'll help your healers out.

Deterrence. Another situational ability that gives melee attacks, ranged attacks, and spells a 100% chance to miss you while it's active. It won't work on every boss ability, so this isn't always a get-out-of-damage-free card, but sometimes you'll be able to use this to save your butt. What it will and will not deflect varies from boss to boss, so this is one you're going to need to experiment with a bit, but if you're dying and need a little extra help to save yourself, it doesn't hurt to hit it and see if it works. If not, well, you were probably kinda screwed anyway.

Feign Death. Make friends with your Feign Death button. Love your FD button. It's less important now that tank threat has been improved, but you can still give your play-dead spell a little love on occasion, especially on adds- there are a lot of times when you'll need to burn an add fast, and if you see that your threat is creeping up a little too high while the tank builds it? Hit the floor. Shot too early? Hit the floor. Don't want to lose that pesky item durability from dying? Also hit the floor- and maybe pop Deterrence first, it can't hurt. If you have Mass Resurrection you have an even better excuse to cheat that repair bill-- I mean, you can save your raid a run back like the caring team player that you are. If you're unlikely to survive and it's just drawing out the wipe though, go ahead and bite it. Heavy aoe damage and no Deterrence? Just die, unless you're much higher in health than everyone else and will outlive them. Use your best judgment here.


I may go ahead and edit in the rotations/talent builds/shot priority later, but this feels kind of long as it is (in the editor, anyway) and those are all handily laid out in the EJ spec threads. With fancy tables of contents, even! I am not that fancy.

Gingercrab's picture
Joined: 2011/12/28

If I may - currently, with the release of Dragon Soul (moreso the progression into heroics, rather then just the normal content) - Survival has actually started to not only match Marksmanship, but in many heroic encounters it's pulling well ahead. To name one in particular, Madness of Deathwing is just a horrible experience altogether for Marksmanship hunters, whereas a Survival hunter makes it a cakewalk.

The burst DPS is nice on the slimes of Yorzajh or whatever his name is, and the frost crystals on Hagara, as well. I don't think it's fair to say 'marksman is the way to go' when it's truly a dated opinion now. :O

+2 cents.

Arhak Dawnstrider, <The Earthspear Tribe>
Apahote Ragetotem,

Norrien's picture
Joined: 2011/11/02

Yeah, I've been going Survival at a slightly higher gear level myself (tier bonus?! YES PLEASE), but in the LFR/normals that most folks are doing, Marks hunters have still been just a little ahead- I'm not on heroics yet myself, moved to more casual raiding, so kind of keeping it to that for the moment so I'm not going on about things I have no practical experience with. Really easy way for me to be even more wrong. xD

It's less 'the way to go', I should clarify, as it is that if you're maximizing the dps right MM was still edging out SV on the meters. With DS gear though, yes, Survival has really been doing well. I should edit that a little for clarity, thanks- it wasn't intended as a "go MM or go home" thing.

Horde: Norrien, Rynlan, Ceirin, Dindris, Erenar
Alliance: Jenehvive

Rethen's picture
Joined: 2011/10/30

I run survival myself, and I'm usually top DPS in heroics.  I've even found that sometimes in the raid finder, I'll outdo people in MM with 10+ ilvl higher than me, though I can't exactly say why. *shrug*  My gear's not really spectacular because my work schedule doesn't allow me to raid, but I do alright.

Also, on the topic of pets: for survival at least, the magic damage debuff from dragonhawks/wind serpents is actually very good for survival hunters, because of the way our attacks work. Most of our abilities count as magic damage (though they still pull their power from physical stats on our end, which can be confusing a little - we still don't want int gear!), so the debuff helps us tremendously.  I think as far as a straight boost to our own DPS, if we were solo or something, they're second only to cats.

[A] Rethenn, Yuros, Varenas, Tobahn, Chojo
[H] Rethen, Garmok, Dorenthal, Jom, Luekalo, Springpiston

My DeviantART~

IllunoirScribes's picture
Joined: 2011/10/30

Currently trying to balance out gear between 3 hunter specs (guildies) to see if there really IS a difference with DPS meters and who squeaks out ahead in a straight up "We're all using the same pet" race

Illu'noir Scribe Fun fact #3 - (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ I flip tables. A lot.

[H] Linthara, Faitima, [A] Liviana, Julija [N] Lymia