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The Hunter's Guide to Being Useful
Written by Gedrah, 60 Orc Hunter of Stormscale (PvP\US)
Greetings! I have written this guide to provide my fellow Hunters with a resource from which to learn how better to play their class in 5-man group and raid situations. Very few people learn the subtleties of assisting a group without painful experimentation, often involving embarassing and spectacular failures. Herein, I hope to eliminate some of this process and give out a long list of tips to help you be the skilled, low-maintenance DPS machine you were built to be.
In the past, a lot of people have mocked the Hunter class and generally viewed them as useless, having no role and offering nothing to a group that other classes don't offer, only better. This is quite untrue, and in my 100+ days /played on this character, I and my Hunter brethren have come up with a lot of useful and interesting tricks! A skilled Hunter is a powerful asset in nearly any group or raid.
In content patch 1.7, the Hunter class underwent many significant changes which allow them to specialize in various directions to offer even more utility or DPS. Since a Hunter now differs hugely from his brethren depending on his talent choices, this guide will often fork in three directions on each subject, offering a Beastmaster's, Marksman's, and Survivalist's perspective on the issue.
Lastly, be aware that this guide is UNDER CONSTRUCTION at all times!
I. What can I do?
A simple question. If a group leader asked you what you'd bring to his group, how would you answer? These are some of the key features of your class and some of the clever tricks you can use to benefit your group.
* You deal excellent, easily-sustained ranged DPS. All of your ranged attack abilities have 36 yards of range (Or 41 yards of range with at least 13 points in the Marksmanship tree) which often enables you to avoid nasty AOE attacks and gives you a great view of the battle, allowing you to see what's going on. What's more, your attacks are never dodged, blocked, parried, or resisted, and they infrequently miss. This gives you very consistent and reliable DPS.
* You have the best de-aggro abilities in the game, which can guarantee that you will not steal aggro from a tank. Feign Death, with a 30 second cooldown, allows you to drop 100% of your aggro as if you'd died. If feign death is resisted and you take aggro, you can use Disengage, a melee range skill similar to the Rogue's Feint, which reduces your aggro with a targeted enemy. If all else fails, you can use your pet (With Beastmastery talents like Intimidation) to take the mob's attention off you until a tank can deal with it.
* Your primary CC skill, Freezing Trap, can have a great effect on battles. It affects any type of mob that is not immune to CC, and lasts 20 seconds (Or 26 seconds with 2 points in the Clever Traps Survival talent). This trap must be placed while you are out of combat, but you can use Feign Death to get out of combat during a fight to drop another Freezing Trap, and then use a skill such as Distracting Shot to pull a mob into it. Since patch 1.6, Hunter traps can be resisted, so always have a backup plan in case your trap fails (You can reduce the failure rate of your traps by 10% with 2 points in the Trap Mastery Survival talent).
* Hunters can give themselves excellent awareness of their surroundings. Using your Tracking abilities, you can monitor the pathing of patrols, determine the size of groups of enemies, or look for rare spawns and other named NPCs. Using Eagle Eyes (which only works in the outdoors) you can send your view ahead to find a good path to your objective or spy on things that can't be seen with tracking abilities. Using Eyes of the Beast, you can send your pet ahead to scout for you. Even if your pet aggros mobs, those mobs will not attack you as long as your pet is killed or desummoned without bringing the mobs back to you. This gives you a zero-risk scouting unit that can go places you dare not. Lastly, using Flare and Track Hidden, you can detect stealthed or invisible enemies before they ambush your group. If stealthed enemies are nearby, flare ahead of you before moving on!
* Your Debuff, Scorpid Sting, reduces a mob's damage output, critical strike rate, armor, and dodge rate. Use it! Tanks will take less damage and enemies will take more damage. Since multiple Scorpid Stings on one mob will not stack, if there are multiple Hunters in a group, designate one to use Scorpid Sting and the rest are free to use other stings.
* Compared to a caster, you and your pet are very durable. Often a healer in your group will take aggro from one or more mobs with heals. In these situations, they will not survive long. You can save them, however! Using your abilities cleverly, you can take aggro from the casters or otherwise stop the mobs from killing them. It's almost always better for you to die than your group's healers. You can use distracting shot to take a mob's attention and then try to tank it or kite it around until a real tank is able to deal with it. You can feign death and place a freezing trap to incapacitate the mob. You can use your pet to take aggro from the mob and tank it while you use Mend Pet to heal it. Be creative! If the Healers survive, the chances that your group will survive are greatly increased.
* Wing Clip and Concussive Shot provide you a great means of slowing down fleeing mobs. If you know a mob will run at low health, run up and Wing Clip it before it does. If a mob starts fleeing before you can do this, use Concussive shot. It only lasts a few seconds, but that buys others time to catch up to it. Beastmasters can use Intimidation to stun the mob for a few seconds, and Marksmen can use Scatter Shot to do the same.
* When your group must fight numerous enemies, you can use Explosive Trap and Volley to damage them all at once. Normally a Mage or Warlock will do the majority of the area of effect damage in a group, but that doesn't mean your help won't be appreciated. Stay out of combat until the caster starts to AoE, then drop an explosive trap right in the middle of the group of mobs you're fighting. Afterward, back off and use Volley on them. Sometimes your Mage might prefer that you drop a Frost Trap to slow the mobs down so he can AoE kite them. If you have the Survival talent Entrapment, this can be a very effective tactic.
* Organization and communication turn a bad group into a good one. Hunter's Mark can greatly assist with communication. Before a pull, use Hunter's Mark to designate the first enemy you want your group to kill, while everyone uses crowd control abilities on the remaining enemies. As your group kills enemies, use Hunter's Mark to designate each mob you want killed in turn. This will greatly reduce the number of CCs broken early and help keep everyone on the same mob, ensuring that the battle is won quickly.
* If you are the main puller for your group, you have the ability to completely abort a bad pull with no casualties. Create a macro which yells out "BAD PULL! ABORT!" and then triggers your Feign Death ability. If you accidentally pull more mobs than your group can handle, you can use this macro to let your group know to stay away from you. That way, even if your Feign Death fails, you'll be the only person that dies. In order for such an abort to succeed, you must make sure your group leaves space between themselves, you, and the mobs you're about to pull. If you don't mind sacrificing your pet often, you can ensure safety even for yourself by using your pet to pull. As of patch 1.7, Hunters and their pets do not share aggro, so if you send your pet to attack an enemy but you do not attack it yourself, those mobs will not come after you when your pet dies or is despawned.
* Feign Death offers you more than a chance to lay traps and shed aggro. You can use it to leave combat during a fight and eat, drink, or resurrect people using Goblin Jumper Cables. A potential wipe can be averted through use of this tactic, and as such, Hunter Engineers are highly valuable in instance groups. On the subject of eating and drinking: Some people will consider it selfish of you to eat or drink while they are still fighting, and in some cases, it's not worth cancelling Auto-Shot to regain mana. Use this technique wisely and try to understand other players' jealousy :)
* Scare Beast is a very powerful and resilient crowd control ability. It allows you to fear a Beast class mob for up to 20 seconds, and usually takes a considerable amount of damage to break. Mobs feared by this ability tend to run very far away from you, so make sure if you choose to use it that there are no other enemies nearby which might be alerted by the fleeing beast. Try hitting the mob with Wing Clip just before or just after you use Scare Beast to reduce the distance it will flee while feared.
* With the ultimate Survival talent, Wyvern Sting, you can cement your role as the main puller in a group. It puts a mob to sleep for 12 seconds, and when the mob wakes up, it suffers a strong DOT. Like traps, you must be out of combat to use Wyvern Sting. A great way to use this ability is to sting the first mob that you intend your group to kill, have the group CC the remaining mobs, and kill the Wyvern Stinged mob when it wakes up. With Wyvern Sting and Clever Traps, you can crowd control two mobs in one pull, making it much easier to sort out CC in large pulls.
* If you are properly Beastmastery specced with a resilient pet such as a Crab, Bear, or Turtle, your pet can very much survive tanking even powerful mobs. It will never tank raid bosses, but it makes a very capable offtank. Learn talents such as Thick Hide, Endurance Training, and Improved Mend Pet. Train your pet with abilities like Natural Armor, Great Stamina, and various resistance boosts. A Hunter Pet can easily end up with 5000 Health and 6000 Armor, and he has his own dedicated healer... You!
II. What Shouldn't I Do?
It sounds like a simple question, but with the diverse things a Hunter can do, there are a great many things he can do wrong.
* If you are serving as the main puller--That is, the first person to get mobs' attention and bring them to your group--Do not use abilities like Aimed Shot or Multi Shot to pull. Your goal is simply to aggro the mobs and bring them to your tank so he can take control of them. Using high-damage abilities to do this makes the tank's job harder. Pull with a low-rank Arcane Shot or a simple Auto-Shot.
* Do not fire Multi Shot near crowd controlled mobs. Multi Shot doesn't care what it hits--Sheep, neutral mobs, critters, distant roaming patrollers. With experience, you'll get a feel for how Multi Shot selects additional targets. In the meantime, be very careful with it. When in doubt, stick to single target attacks. A CC broken early is a headache for your group and could even cause a wipe. Hunters are smooth criminals and shouldn't make that type of mistake!
* Do not Feign Death without first thinking "If I completely lose my aggro, who will take it?" The mobs that are attacking you when you Feign Death might immediately go after a Healer, and that is bad. You can tank much longer than they can, so always consider the consequences before you feign. It might be better to run toward a tank and ask him for help with the mob instead of feigning death. Alternatively, you can kite the mob around the room using Wing Clip until someone else is able to deal with it. Use discretion!
* Don't forget to buy a full bag of ammo, repair your equipment, and buy pet food before going leaving town. ALWAYS. You never know what you might end up doing when you step onto the Wind Rider. If you find yourself low on supplies in the middle of an instance, you could become useless and the group leader might kick you. Next time, he'll just invite a mage. They can conjure their own "ammo". Always strive to make your class look good by being prepared.
* Do not fire your DoT, Serpent Sting, until you're sure the mob you're attacking is not going to be crowd controlled. Serpent Sting will break CCs each time it ticks. I have a hard time grouping with affliction-specced warlocks because they always love to spam DoTs on the first thing they see, which is usually the mob I am trying to lure into a Freezing Trap. Again, communicate. If you do accidentally use Serpent Sting on a mob that should be CCed, you can overwrite it with Scorpid Sting, which will not break CC abilities.
* DO NOT lose control of your pet. Perhaps the greatest source of peoples' trepidation about inviting Hunters to their groups is past experiences they had in which a Hunter's pet wiped them. Regardless of your talent choices, you are a master of wild beasts! Always know where your pet is. Always know what he's attacking and what he's going to attack when his current target dies. Always keep a firm leash on him and make sure you don't let him go anywhere that he'll aggro mobs you don't want to aggro. ALWAYS leave your pet on Passive mode in instances. If he is on Defensive mode, he will often react to things you don't want him to. Aggressive mode is right out of the question! Manually choose your pet's target and hit Ctrl-1 to make him attack. Pets also travel using the same system as NPCs, meaning that if you jump off a cliff, your pet may not. He could aggro a lot of mobs by taking the long way. If you have any doubt that your pet will follow you as you want him to, you can despawn him or use Eyes of the Beast to manually make him jump off a cliff ahead of you. If your pet ever does get away from you and aggro mobs, do whatever you can to make him stay away from you. You might be able to stay out of combat and let your pet die rather than train half an instance to you.
* Do not steal aggro from a tank. You have the least excuse out of any class to fail at controlling your aggro. Wait for your tank to land at least 1 Sunder Armor on a mob before you start attacking, or else at least start off slowly with only Auto-Shot. As the tank establishes aggro, you can begin using Arcane Shot, Multi Shot, and Serpent Sting to do more damage. If you take aggro, you can use Disengage to reduce your aggro. Often the best course of action, especially in Raid encounters, is to use Feign Death as often as possible during the fight to ensure that your aggro level never gets high enough to take a mob's attention.
* For all of our sakes, please do not roll against Rogues, Warriors, or Paladins on melee weapons unless they have stats which benefit your ranged attacks. +x Agility, +x% Chance to Crit, +x Attack Power, +x Ranged Attack Power, +x Stamina, +x Intellect. These make good Hunter weapons. Yes, you will need to melee sometimes, but a weapon which is purely for melee without any stats benefiting your class is probably better off in the hands of a melee class. This a controversial subject and my statement here is more of a suggestion designed to help Hunters avoid generating animosity by rolling on less-than-ideal weapons that are of much greater benefit to melee classes. I'm nobody's master, just an old Hunter that's seen a lot of painful arguments. If the Dwarven Hand Cannon (http://www.thottbot.com/?i=17204) dropped, you sure wouldn't want to get outrolled by a Rogue or Warrior, because they would fire it once in a blue moon and it provides no stats that benefit them in melee. Extend them the same courtesy and don't roll on pure melee weapons. :)
III. Things to Watch Out For:
Not necessarily Dos or Don'ts, but things you should know:
* You need 8 clear yards between yourself and your target in order to use your ranged attacks. Stairways, narrow hallways, and obstacles are your worst enemies. If you're pulling, you can relocate most battles to anywhere you want. Always pull the mobs to a place which gives you plenty of room to fight and manuever. Communicate with your group and make sure they know that your ranged attacks don't work on mobs that are close to you, and to keep the battle a short distance away from you. As always, control your aggro or else mobs will come toward you, forcing you to stop firing and move.
* Viper Sting sounds great in theory, but many instance mobs have so much mana that you can't possibly drain it all. Experiment to find out which mobs these are. You're often better off using Serpent Sting or Scorpid Sting to help the mob die faster instead of trying to drain its mana.
* In the past, I advised Hunters not to expect Healers to pay attention to their pets. This was back when Hunter Pets had marginal DPS and survivability, and the lack of a pet display on the UI made it difficult to monitor them. Now, however, Hunter Pets can deal incredible damage and tank very effectively if their masters set them up correctly. The default UI allows you to display party members' pets' health. If you are Beastmastery specced, you should indeed ask that the group's healers treat your pet as a member of the group and heal them. Repay them by using your pet to save their lives if they take aggro via healing. Don't forget to ask for buffs for your pet, as well!
* Make sure your group knows to treat you like a caster. While you are still an effective damage dealer without mana, you cannot use skills without it. Get a mage to give you water and Arcane Intellect. Make sure healers remove mana-draining debuffs from you. It's easy for them to think of you as being in the same crowd as Warriors and Rogues, but you're not!
* If a mob engages you during a battle and you can survive tanking it for a while, shoot at another mob instead of trying to run from it. You'll waste a lot of time and DPS trying to run from a mob so you can continue shooting it. Often it's better to just pick another target. Once the other target is killed, your group will turn their attention to the mob hitting you, and you can back off to fire at it.
* Use the Marksmanship talent, Scatter Shot, to interrupt caster mobs' spells or to stop an enemy from hitting your healers for a moment while you send your pet to peel it off of them. Many mobs that are immune to slowing effects are still vulnerable to Scatter Shot. As such, you can use Aspect of the Cheetah and Scatter Shot to kite these mobs. A good example of this is the dragonkin in the Razorgore encounter of Blackwing Lair.
* Tab targeting is an excellent UI function, but use it wisely. Make absolutely sure that the mob you're about to shoot is the one you mean to shoot. It's easy to accidentally target distant, non-engaged mobs using tab and wipe your group by aggroing them. It's wise to turn off Auto-Shot before changing targets with tab until you're comfortable enough with your class to effectively target without mistargeting.
* It's almost always better to pull groups of mobs away from their spawn area, into a cleared room where there is no danger of aggroing additional mobs. This sometimes causes extra danger due to respawning patrols, but usually it's a good strategy. Other classes may not understand how you're operating at first. Be patient with them, convince them to stop crowding you at the edge of the aggro radius of whatever group you're pulling. The concept of "Stay back and I will pull to you" is foreign to many Warriors who are used to body pulling (Walking up to the mobs to aggro them). Make a macro which says "Move Up" and train your group not to advance in the dungeon until you use it. That way, you can control when your group will move to a new room much more easily.
* In order to pull ranged attacking mobs out of their spawn area, you must use a "Blind Pull". Fire at the group, and then immediately move behind some obstruction. When ranged attackers cannot see you to attack you, they will stop and run toward you until they can. Lure them to where you want them! The same functionality can be obtained when fighting certain caster mobs by using a spell interrupt ability on their ranged spell, but this is unnecessary with a Blind Pull. Make sure that during a Blind Pull, your group knows not to attack the enemies until they are where you want them, or the Blind Pull will fail.
* Many Warriors insist on being the group's main puller so they can open with Charge to build initial rage for tanking abilities. Remind them that if you are the main puller, he can still use Charge when the mobs reach the spot to which you are trying to pull them. Alternatively, he can use Bloodrage to build intital rage instead.
* Groups will expect you to be low-maintenance DPS. If you use your abilities correctly, you will not get hit very much at all compared to other classes. If you are taking a lot of damage, there is a large chance that you are playing your class incorrectly. Don't be a mana sponge to your healers! Figure out how to stay in the distance, killing enemies while they are powerless to damage you!
IV. Choosing Gear
Hunters, like Druids, Paladins, and Shamans, are a hybrid class. As such, it can be difficult for them to choose gear at times. Unlike Rogues and Mages, who can focus exclusively on 2 of the 5 primary stats, Hunters have at least some need of almost all of them. Here I'll briefly discuss how each stat affects you and what you should look for in items.
Strength: Your least useful stat. You can be sure that an item which provides little other than strength is a bad Hunter item. For each point of strength, you gain 1 melee attack power and nothing else!
Agility: Your most useful stat. Items with high agility are the staple of your equipment. Each point of agility gives you 1 melee attack power, 2 ranged attack power, 2 armor, and a marginal amount of crit and dodge. If you have the Survival talent, Lightning Reflexes, each point of agility counts as 1.15 points.
Stamina: A basic stat useful to every class. More stamina equals more HP. Don't sacrifice *too* much agility for stamina, but make sure you have enough to survive the inevitable melee encounters you'll face. Each point of stamina gives you 10 HP.
Intellect: Yeap, you're a caster! Like it or not, almost all your abilities use mana. Each point of intellect gives you 15 mana and nothing else. In the past, we thought that Intellect affected the critical strike chance of certain Hunter abilities, but this has been disproven.
Spirit: Spirit, simply put, raises your mana and health regeneration rate. Unless you're a troll, spirit won't help you regenerate health when you're in combat. I'm not a math genius, so I'm not sure exactly how much mana regeneration 1 point of spirit provides! Take it if you can get it, but don't go out of your way to gain spirit.
Crits: Increasing your chance to crit by 1% requires about 53 agility. As such, items which flatly increase your chance to crit are very valuable to you. Strike a good balance between attack power and % chance to crit. More attack power means bigger crits, which help you kill things quickly.
Now that you know how the most common stats benefit you, you can start selecting gear for various purposes.
PvP: In PvP, you're going to take a beating no matter what you do. Your gear should provide a lot of Stamina, followed by Agility and then focus effects like +Crit, +Parry, and +Dodge. Extra mana helps you sustain battles longer, so go for +22 Intellect enchants on your weapons if you can afford them. A 'glass cannon' (Something which causes a lot of damage but is easily destroyed) does not fare well in most PvP.
Solo PvE: Focus on a balance of agility and stamina as normal. Marksmen, and especially Survivalists with Lightning Reflexes, should focus heavily on agility to boost their damage output. Beastmasters rely on their pets very heavily. As such, they will need more mana than other Hunters to sustain their pets with Mend Pet. A little spirit to help you regenerate mana between fights is also helpful. As a general rule, the more damage you can deal without expending mana, the faster you can grind.
Raid PvE: Have enough mana to use your damage abilities and utility skills and enough health to survive errant damage effects, but focus on raising your attack power and then your critical hit rate. Your goal is to deal as much damage as humanly possible while not taking aggro or getting damaged. If you're doing this correctly, you won't need as much health as you do when PvPing against people who see Hunters as an easy mark. If you're a Beastmaster, chances are you'll need to spend a lot of time and mana keeping your pet healed against deadly AoE effects. As such, Beastmastery is not the most efficient raiding build.
Melee Weapons: Arguments over which melee weapons a Hunter should and should not roll on rage non-stop. Hunters do need to melee sometimes, but they should avoid it when possible. As such, you should choose weapons which have stats that benefit your ranged attack power and crit chance, or else they are useless when you're doing what you do best: Shooting things!
Examples of good Hunter melee weapons:
Barbarous Blade: http://www.thottbot.com/?i=35869 -- +Crit and +AP affect ranged attacks. DPS is also decent for use as an actual melee weapon.
Dal'rend Swords: http://www.thottbot.com/?i=18260 , http://www.thottbot.com/?i=23785 -- Many people will tell you these are not Hunter weapons, but in truth, they are great for Hunters. 1% crit and a set bonus of +50 AP on a dual-wield set, which enables you to use two +15 Agility enchants (Adding another 60 AP and .56% crit) The armor and defense skill are also not without merit.
Typhoon: http://www.thottbot.com/?i=35900 -- Agility, Stamina, excellent damage. Also note that this is not an ideal Warrior weapon because of its high speed relative to weapons like the Arcanite Reaper, which squeeze more damage out of Warrior abilities like Mortal Strike.
Examples of bad Hunter melee weapons:
Blackhand Doomsaw: http://www.thottbot.com/?i=20827 -- Provides absolutely no benefit to your ranged attacks. Unless you melee disproportionately often, this weapon is wasted on you, and if you take it from a melee class, it may damage your reputation.
Gatorbite Axe: http://www.thottbot.com/?i=39657 -- Same as above. This weapon is useless except to people who melee as their primary means of damage output.
Barman Shanker: http://www.thottbot.com/?i=14900 -- If you roll against a Rogue on this weapon, he may have a heart attack and die. Its slow speed makes it excellent for use with Rogue abilities, but in your hands, it is just another trash weapon that won't do you much good.
Ranged Weapons: Generally speaking, you want the highest-DPS ranged weapon you can find. If you are comparing two ranged weapons with similar DPS, choose one that has a slower attack speed. Not only does this reduce the amount of ammo you'll use, it also raises the damage you'll cause with Multi Shot and Aimed Shot. This is less of a concern for Hunters than it is for Rogues and Warriors, but slow ranged weapons are still better. You may prefer a fast weapon for PvP, as it will interrupt casters more often, but this is a matter of preference.
V. In Closing...
The Hunter class is extremely versatile. You can see the whole battle whereas melee classes only tend to see what's immediately nearby them. Your abilities can do a lot of clever things to help prevent tragedy and you can control yourself better than anyone else. Use these facts to your advantage at all times. Don't be clumsy. Our class suffers a long history of bad reputation, and it's all of our jobs to fix it by amazing other players with our usefulness. Just as I share herein what I have learned, so should you share with others what you have learned! Post your new techniques here, or roll a character on Stormscale and send me an ingame mail--It won't take you long to earn 30 copper. :)
Once again, this guide is always UNDER CONSTRUCTION, so check back from time to time for new additions.
*Edit: Update #7 9\19\05 10:00PM PST
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