Friday, December 10, 2010

Newbie Hunter Guide, Cataclysm Style

This expansion has brought more hunter races to the table.  Many people are rolling new hunters to take advantage of the new combos.  I've been getting quite a few questions about specs and leveling and glyphs so I figured now was as good a time as any to go down the list of things any new hunter will need.

The First Ten
You start off life with a pet and some weapons, each determined by your race.  Don't get too excited about the pet, it’s more of a helper than a real partner.  You have no control over it; it will hit what you hit period.  Please learn now that fluffy has an aggro range like nothing you've seen before so pull safely until you are used to it.  The starter pet should never be confused for a tank since it will not generate any threat until after you've started to attack.  All you can do in these first few levels is get max distance and burn the mobs as fast as possible.  Pull with Steady Shot and follow that up with Arcane Shot.  You should be able to eek out 2 or 3 Arcane Shots before the mob is dead.  Honestly if it’s not dead before it reaches you then you are not at max distance or you've pulled something far too high level to be efficient.

Leveling Specs & Glyphs
At level ten you get to start building your leveling spec.  I really, really hate answering "Cheres what do you recommend I spec my hunter to level".  Most hunter specs are personality driven (for good and for bad) and you really have to try them out and get a feel for what kind of hunter you are.

Here's the short answer.  Beast Mastery is the fastest, easiest leveling spec by miles.  Here is a lovely Spec/Glyph link for you to use.

7uyI will be honest, I have always disliked the BM spec.  It just does not suit my play style or my personality.  Next in ease would be a Survival Spec.  This will give you really nice hunter generated DPS is still a nice learning curve spec.   I spent a good deal of my hunter life as a Survival spec.  I was Survival in vanilla when everyone was Marks.  I think it has a good deal of fun in it and a nice survivability rate.

I went to MM full time in WOLTK and have never looked back.  I love how it plays, it just suits me better.  I have started an Undead Hunter (dontcha wish your hunter was hot like me) and I'm taking her down the Marks tree.  I wouldn't use her spec, I've since changed my mind about how it should look, but I am here to tell you that it is highly viable to level, and level well, with a MM spec

Your New Best Friend
Oh how we hunters love our pets!  They are our defenders, our partners, our companions.  They are the wind beneath our wings.

Rule #1 with a pet is feed it often.  The happier it is the more damage it does.  You can check what foods your pet eats on its paper doll or go to Petopia.  Some pets are very picky eaters so keep that in mind when you go out to tame a new buddy. 

Your pet will have one dps ability, one threat generator and one detaunt.  When it gets high enough level it will also get a new special ability specific to its family.  In general, you just want to your pet's dps abilities on auto-cast.  Use growl (threat) when you solo and cower (detaunt) when you're in a group.

Your pet has three behaviors that affect how it attacks:
  • Passive Your pet will not attack anything under any circumstances. If you click on passive while your pet is attacking, it will stop attacking until it gets new orders from you.
  • Defensive Your pet will attack anything that you're attacking and will attack anything that damages you or the pet.
  • Aggressive Your pet will attack anything that gets near it. Just like a mob, it now has an aggro radius.  

I play with my pet on passive and send it individually to the mobs I am attacking.  I have a pet attack macro bound to my mouse button so it takes no real effort.  To me defensive makes a bad tab target situation worse.  Aggressive will very nicely and efficiently pull a zone, or a dungeon.  Whether you both survive the pull is another matter.

One important note on pets:  You will not get xp, rep or loot for anything your pet kills entirely on its own.  

Pet Tanking
Your pet is your tank. Get used to that concept. When you're fighting, let your pet attack the target first! You will always want to lead off with Kill Command, which along with your pet's auto-cast Growl will help your pet establish firm aggro right off the bat. Thereafter, you assume your DPS and healing roles. Keep Mend Pet up while your fighting (it doesn't cost you anything), and take down your target with a mixture of Arcane Shot and Steady Shot.

Quest mobs rarely stay alive long enough for Serpent Sting to be worth your while; likewise, you don't want to blow the large focus cost of Kill Command on something that's almost dead -- save that focus for the next mob in line. If you're fighting an elite or a mob many levels higher than you, then Serpent Sting and reusing Kill Command are well worth your while.

Pet Threat
Your pet is your tank.  Your pet is your tank.  Your pet is your tank.  Therefore treat it as you would treat a player tank.  No wait, treat it nicer than that.  
Your pet generates threat three ways: using Growl, which generates a set amount of threat; using Kill Command; and by the normal damage that the pet causes. Your pet's Growl is not a taunt.  Pet growl is not a taunt.  Once more with feeling.  Hunter pet growl is not a taunt.

One of the keys to making sure your pet generates as much threat is possible is for you to be hit-capped. Yes, even while leveling, this is important.  Your pet inherits your hit rating and through that hit rating it generates its own expertise rating.  If you're at the hit cap for the mobs you're fighting, then your pet will not miss or bee dodged or parried.  That can increase your pet's damage while tanking by 20% and as we just learned that increases our pet's threat by 20%

Just a suggestion from long term experience.  If you are attempting a difficult mob, let the pet get off two growls and throw a kill command before you start to dps.  Extra insurance never hurts.

What's the Best Pet
When it comes to leveling, you can really use any pet that you want.  Since your relationship with your pet is so important, thought should go into things like, looks, animations and sounds.   Wolves stop, scratch and howl.  Cats stretch and roar.  Worgs run funny.  Warp stalkers are just, well, annoying.

All pets fall into one of three talent tree types.  
  • Cunning pets talents and skills focus on utility and mobility making them exceptional PvP pets.  But they're also a nice balance of dps and tanking which makes them lovely solo pets.
  • Ferocity pets talents and skills focus on increasing both pet and hunter DPS.   They're highly popular raiding pets but handled properly can be very good solo pets.  
  • Tenacity pets talents and skills focus on tanking.  Tenacity pets have tanked 10 man ICC bosses.  They are outstanding solo play companions

Do I need Haste?
Keep it simple for now.  Agility, hit rating, stamina, attack power.  Everything you are killing now should be dying in less than a minute so avoid haste.  It just doesn't give you enough punch to give up another stat.

Follow me!
Real hunters are a scary bunch.  We want to kill more, kill faster, kill harder.  Where's the challenge, how far can I kite this mob.  How many corpse runs till I can solo this raid dungeon...
We have the ability to handle big groups, slow things down, stop them and when things go horribly wrong, to fall down and play dead like a girl.

Push your hunter, I promise its fun!  Kiting mobs is a blast.   Before Blizzard decided our fun could be far too destructive hunters would compete to see who could kite boss mobs the longest.  When an Alterac Valley match would take two days, I'd kite Korrak the Bloodrager around into enemy territory and feign death as soon as enemy mages started to AE. 

Take the time to kick the tires and open it up on the highway.  The hunter class will never disappoint.  Have fun!

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