If you're new to the Hunter class, at first glance there doesn't seem to be much in the Beast Mastery tree that looks appealing. A lot of the talents in the tree seem to affect your pet more than you... and for the most part, this is true. BM hunters sacrifice increasing their personal DPS in order to buff their pet's. As such, pet choice matters a little more than it does for Marksman or Survival hunters. But it's not all about the pet -- there are some significant buffs to the Hunter (and the Hunter's party) further down in the tree. Read on, and take a closer look at a standard Beast Mastery build.
As I said before, since you're buffing your pet by speccing Beast Mastery, the type of pet you choose will play a heavy role in how much DPS you pump out. This column isn't really about pet selection, but I would recommend a pet with a nice selection of DPS skills (Cats, Ravagers, Raptors, and to a lesser degree Owls and Bats). Does this mean you have to run with one of these pets? No, but keep in mind that your overall DPS will suffer.
There are a couple of big reasons I like Beast Mastery. One of the reasons is the Serpent's Swiftness talent, deep in the BM tree. For 5 points, this talent increases your ranged attack speed and your pet's attack speed by 20%. It's like a permanent 20% haste, and with it, your base rate of fire will be faster than any other Hunter's. Another reason is the combination of Bestial Wrath and The Beast Within -- when you use BW, both you and your pet are immune to almost everything for 18 seconds. Snares, fears, stuns... nothing will stop you or slow you down except death. In addition, you'll also buff your pet's damage by 50%, your own damage by 10% and reduce the mana cost of all your spells by 20%. It really is an excellent talent if, like myself, you find yourself frustrated by losing control of your character (especially during PvP combat). The last reason is for the Ferocious Inspiration talent. For 3 talent points, every time your pet scores a critical hit on a target, it increases the damage you (and anyone else in your party) deals by 3%. Your pet should crit quite frequently, so this is an excellent way to buff yourself as well as your group.
The build I'm examining is 41/20/0, and centers on increasing your pet's DPS by buffing crit chance, hit chance, damage dealt, and Focus regeneration (Focus is a pet's power bar, similar to a Rogue's energy bar and is what they need to use their skills). It also picks up a few talents to buff your party, making you a welcome addition to a group.
Beast Mastery (41 points)
- Improved Aspect of the Hawk (5/5) - You'll use this Aspect for a good long time, and even into end game (though for some fights, Aspect of the Viper will be more useful). Attack speed buffs are always great.
- Endurance Training (3/5) - I'm using this as filler. It gives you and your pet a little more stamina, but you can shift these 3 points into something else in the 2nd tier if that works for you.
- Focused Fire (2/2) - Though you don't get the maximum benefit of this talent until you get Kill Command, you'll get the extra 2% damage as long as your pet is out.
- Unleashed Fury (5/5) - An extra 20% damage for your pet.
- Improved Mend Pet (2/2) - A really great talent. You'll use Mend Pet a lot as you level, so the increased mana efficiency is nice, but the real gem is being able to cleanse your pet of curses, disease, poisons or magic effects.
- Ferocity (5/5) - Increases your pet's chance to crit by 10%, and is a prerequisite for Frenzy later on.
- Intimidation (1/1) - Stuns your target for 3 seconds on your pet's next attack, and causes a high amount of threat. Great for letting your pet build threat early on, and is the only stun attack this build has access to.
- Bestial Discipline (2/2) - Increases your pet's Focus regeneration by 100%. More Focus means your pet can use their skills more often, which means more damage dealt.
- Animal Handler (2/2) - The mount speed increase is nice, but we're really taking this to increase our pet's hit chance by 4%. There's currently no gear that increases your pet's chance to hit, so for later dungeons and raids this one is important.
- Frenzy (4/5) - An 80% chance for your pet to gain a 30% attack speed buff after it lands a critical strike. If you want to up this to 100%, you can shift one point out of something else, but your pet generally crits so often I feel this is unnecessary.
- Ferocious Inspiration (3/3) - A 3% damage buff for you and your group after your pet crits.
- Bestial Wrath (1/1) - Increases your pet's damage by 50% for 18 seconds, and the only thing that will keep it from your target after that is death. Also causes you to go under the effects of The Beast Within.
- Serpent's Swiftness (5/5) - Increases your pet's attack speed and your ranged attack speed by 20%.
- The Beast Within (1/1) - When you use Bestial Wrath, you receive a 10% damage buff, experience 20% mana reduction on all your spells, and you can't be stopped unless you're killed.
Marksmanship (20 points)
- Lethal Shots (5/5) - Increases your chance to crit by 5%. Kind of a no brainer, since Go for the Throat gives your pet more Focus each time you crit.
- Improved Hunter's Mark (5/5) - Your ranged attack power bonus from Hunter's Mark now also applies to melee attack power. Great for buffing physical damage dealers in your group / raid, as well as your pet.
- Go for the Throat (2/2) - Your ranged critical strikes give your pet 50 Focus. More Focus means your pet uses more attack skills, and that means more damage done.
- Aimed Shot (1/1) - Buffed in a recent patch, this shot causes increased damage and decreases the effectiveness of heals on the target by 50% for 10 seconds.
- Rapid Killing (2/2) - Reduces the cooldown on Rapid Fire by 2 minutes, and after killing a target that grants experience or honor, gives you a 20% damage buff to your next Auto, Arcane or Aimed Shot.
- Mortal Shots (5/5) - Increases ranged weapon critical strike damage by 30%. Bigger crits are always welcome in my book.
There are a few places you can shift points around in this build depending on what your play style is. If you need more mana efficient shots, take Efficiency instead of Improved Hunter's Mark. If you just can't live without Scatter Shot, then you've got to give up The Beast Within. There are a few more utility-type talents in Beast Mastery you can switch out if you want to add some health regeneration or buff your pet's chance to dodge, but I think this is a pretty solid build. You may not have the giant crits a Marksmanship Hunter would have, or the utility of a Survival Hunter, but you'll do a surprising amount of damage when combined with your pet. The downside is that without your pet, your damage plummets, so make sure to keep your pet alive and fighting!
That wraps up this edition of Build Shop, but I'll be back again next week! What do you want to see on Build Shop? Send me an email with your questions or comments, and we'll talk shop.