Each week, Daniel Howell contributes BigRedKitty, a column with strategies, tips and tricks for and about the hunter class sprinkled with a healthy dose of completely improper, sometimes libelous, personal commentary.
"Dear BigRedKitty, My guild says I'm an OK hunter and that makes me happy, but I want to improve. What are the most important things I should be doing in order to be a better hunter for my guild? Thanks, Hossenpheffer."
Verily, this imaginary reader may not have the Answers but he does have the correct Question. A hunter is most deadly to his enemies when properly employed, yet just as deadly to his friends when honked-up. Thus, we shall give thee our Ten Commandments of Hunterdom to aid thee in thy quest to improve thyself.
The accumulation of phat-loot is not an Answer; purples are gained as a result of pursuing the Answer. Any schmoo can AFK in a battleground enough times to get epic PvP gear or Auto Shot themselves into rewards. A Good Hunter is identified by the praise of his cohorts, not the color of the loot on his back. What we want is for you to become better at your class, help your guild and become uber in all that you do.
Here's how one does that. So sayeth BRK, so let it be done.
Hunterdom Commandment #1: Thou Shalt Employ Thy Pet
"Where's your shield?"
"I don't like shields."
"You're a protection-spec warrior and you don't like shields?"
"When I take damage I generate rage. Why would I want to block?"
"Can we have a mana totem, please?"
"I don't drop totems, I just like to dual-wield."
"You're a Shaman."
"Yes, I dual wield."
"You're a Shaman, we'd like a mana totem."
"I told you, I don't drop totems. They consume too much mana."
"Where's your pet?"
"I don't use him. He takes to much time to micromanage and he dies all the time."
"You're a hunter. Your pet can do over 100DPS and will survive if you take care of him during the fight."
"I told you, it's too much work for too little payback. I'm a 0/52/9 Marksman hunter so I do all my damage with my bow anyway."
All conversations are equally bizarre but you've heard the last one before, haven't you. You or someone you know has run across this guy in a battleground or a pickup group. Elune help you but maybe he's even in your guild.
The Best Pet argument is never-ending and that's fine. If you want to run with a pink flamingo or a sporebat, more power too you. But not employing your pet is the single greatest crime against Hunterdom one can commit. We totally understand people wanting to stand at range, never get hit and do lots of damage. These people are called Mages. You are not one. You rolled a hunter, either intentionally or not. Hunters who don't employ their pets are not-so-affectionately referred to as Mail Wearing Mages in the BRK Universe. If you want to play a vending machine, go roll one. If you wish to be a squishy, be our guest. Yes our armor looks much better than the dresses the guys on that side of the DPS-aisle are forced to wear, but with our getup comes the responsibility to at least learn to how to press CTRL-1 and CTRL-2. Use your pet or turn in your Hunter License.
Hunterdom Commandment #2: Thou Shalt Not Choose a Wrong Spec
There are three talent trees and all of them are viable. There are basically limitless combinations of spending your sixty-one talent points and much research and discussion has gone into determining the best specs. We like to advocate that there are three categories of hunter talent builds: Proven, Different, and Wrong.
What is a Proven talent build? These are combinations that have been put through the wringer by the Most Experienced Hunters and have been shown mathematically and empirically how they are effective and efficiently maximize a hunter's strengths. 41/20/0, 0/41/20, 0/20/41 and 0/30/31 are examples of Proven talent builds. Notice that specific Beastmaster, Marksman, Survivalist and even Hybrid builds are Proven. You can make your hunter into any of these cookie-cutter builds and be assured that you're not going to be diminished due to a mistake in spec.
A Different talent build is one that is not Proven but can be argued that it is effective in specific situations. 41/3/17 is a Different build that grants the Beastmaster hunter his tremendously powerful pet, the benefits of Serpent's Swiftness, yet gives him the trapping abilities that are so helpful in heroic instances. Yes this hunter's total damage is going to suffer, but he is willing to make that sacrifice and aid his guild by being able to easily trap multiple mobs and keep them trapped for longer periods. When polled, most hunters will say that a better spec for this situation would be any of the Proven specs - except for the 41/20/0 - and they would be right. But if you really love your buffed pet and find it the most enjoyable way to play, than a 41/3/17 will do the job and make you happy. It's Different and it's OK.
Wrong talent builds are those that defy any logical explanation as to why they were constructed. 20/20/21 is an example of a Wrong build, but a Wrong build need not be so obvious as this. Any Beastmaster build with more than 7 talent points but fewer than 40 is Wrong. The whole point of going Beastmaster is to get Serpent's Swiftness and a Beastmaster build without it is Wrong. 20/0/41 is Wrong. 20/41/0 is Wrong. There are too many examples of Wrong builds to list, of course, so we shall refer back to the Different rules. If you can give empirical evidence as to why your build is effective in a given situation then you may use it with our blessings. Of course, it's your money; you can do what you want. But remember when you ask on the Forums for opinions on your 15/30/16 build... well, don't say we didn't warn you.
Hunterdom Commandment #3: Thou Shalt Not Break Crowd Control
There is no class more adept at breaking sheep, shackles, traps and sleeps than Hunters. We are the unchallenged kings and queens of this travesty of party dynamics because it is so easy for us to accomplish. We fire from range and have the ability to hit any target within thirty-six yards completely by accident. BRK himself has broken more sheep than he cares to remember. Moreover, we have the horrible habit of announcing to everybody when we do it. There's just some genetic disorder in our hunter-brains that causes us to blast into Vent,
"For cryin' out loud! We just broke it again! It's gotta be an instance bug or a deviation from the mechanics of our shot capabilities or a freak of computer-nature or the gods are conspiring against us or SOMETHING because we really don't suck this badly!"
The first codicil to the Hunterdom Commandment #3 is, of course, should you break crowd control keep your flippin' mouth shut and deal with it. But back to the commandment itself.
There are two major causes of breaking crowd control: Multi Shot and Tab Targeting. There are several mathematical rules governing the behavior of Multi Shot. Once one learns how to get the crowd controlled mob out of the area-of-effect of Multi Shot, one can fire it with impunity. But until one knows the rules and has practiced sufficiently, one should just refrain from using it at all in crowd-controlled environments. There is no Hunter Stigma of Shame for just saying "No Multi Shot" when appropriate.
Tab Targeting while Auto Shot is engaged is responsible for breaking more hunter's traps than every AoE explosion and tank AoE aggro attack multiplied by 10,000. There is no worse feeling than successfully trapping your mob, backing away, tab-targeting to the closest mob -- your trap -- and having Auto Shot go off. Turning off Auto Shot while pulling is both critical and easily accomplished with a very simple macro:
/cast Distracting Shot
The first line pulls your mob, the second cancels your Auto Shot. Use this or some other macro to pull instead of relying upon your memory to manually deactivate Auto Shot. You don't see mages breaking their own sheep, do you? We're begging you here, knock that stuff off.
Hunterdom Commandment #4: Thou Shalt Learn and Love Aggro
Your tank is there for a purpose. That purpose is to hold the mob so you can kill it. If you take his aggro, you're not going to be able to kill the mob. It's that simple. With our class's aggro-manipulating capabilities we should never be in a position of interrupting the DPS-Tank-Heal triumvirate. But we do, don't we. There are skills and tools we can easily master in order to prevent looking like a crit-happy squishy.
Feign Death. There are hunters who refuse to use it and we know they drive everybody crazy.
Misdirection. Every hunter can learn it but not all realize that.
Disengage. Severely underpowered but it's still available and effective.
A Threat Meter. An absolutely essential addon to measure your threat against the tank's, but very infrequently used properly by the party/raid leader so it must not be trusted completely. Experience with a threat meter is essential to using it effectively.
Distracting Shot. Instant shot, loads of threat, does zero damage, rarely used. Used in conjunction with Misdirection it is tremendous.
Arcane Shot Rank 1. Instant shot, just a touch of threat, almost zero damage, rarely used, wonderful for hunter-tank Feign Death pulls against taunt-resistant mobs.
Every hunter can do damage but not all know how to do damage properly. Learn your aggro management skills. So sayeth BRK, so let it be done.
Hunterdom Commandment #5: Thou Shalt Learn Basic Hunter Mathematical Relationships
The minutia of hunter mechanics is fun to some, a tremendous bore to others. However we should all understand the basics of how our class operates.
Strength contributes to Attack Power but not Ranged Attack Power. Agility contributes to Ranged Attack Power. The difference is perhaps subtle but tremendously important.
Agility is a means to an end, not an end itself. Agility contributes to RAP, armor, crit and dodge. It is these stats that are used in the mathematics of combat, not agility.
Nothing contributes to +Hit except +Hit. +Hit is important as you fight mobs who are higher level than you. +Hit can be more important than +Crit as misses against bosses can become so frequent as to severely affect your damage totals. There is a point-of-no-return for +Hit as it becomes ineffective above +8.6%. Discussion of how weapon skill affects your +Hit and the interplay between your weapon skill rating, +Hit and the mob's defense rating is probably more math than most people are interested in learning, so we won't cover that in our Commandment. Being able to recite, "+Hit helps me against high-level bosses," is covered, though, and will definitely be on the test.
Hunter stats buff pet stats. A hunter's armor buffs his pet's armor. A hunter's ranged attack power contributes to his pet's Spell Damage bonus. A hunter's stamina contributes to his pet's stamina. A hunter's magical resistances buff his pet's magical resistances. Hunters and their pets enjoy a symbiotic relationship and all hunters need to be aware of this, even those who refuse to abide by Commandment #1.
Hunters who refuse to use their pets really frost our biscuits. Heretics of WoW, they shall be named. So sayeth BRK, so let it be done.
Tune in next week for Commandments #6-10!
Daniel Howell continues his quest to enlighten and entertain while demanding obedience as the hunter-pet duo extraordinaire known to lore as BigRedKitty. More of his theorycrafting and slanderous belittling of the lesser classes can be found at bigredkitty.blogspot.com.