(Apologies for the late posting of Scattered Shots. Next week we'll be back on our Thursday schedule.)

Last week I covered crowd control using traps. This week, filling in for David, I'll discuss the options available to hunters for weapon choice: ranged and melee alike. Hunters have a wide variety of weapons we can train, but our main concern is usually going to be ranged weapons: the bow, crossbow, and gun. Secondary to the ranged weapon of course is what we carry at our sides. Hunters can train in every weapon style except for maces (one and two hand) and wands. It's not technically a weapon, but for the sake of this discussion it's important to note that hunters cannot train in the use of shields. What this means is that there's a lot of weapons we can use, while not all of them are weapons that we should.

Adding to the decision is the fact that we hunters can learn to dual wield one handed weapons at level twenty. With one weapon, you tend to get more punch close up, but with two weapons you might lose some damage in melee, but gain an extra weapon's worth of stat bonuses, enchantments, and other augmentations. Each weapon you have equipped contributes its individual bonuses, if any, so it's a good idea to weigh the options, even for melee weapons which you might hardly ever use.

Earlier in the column, I recommended a low level hunter train in a two handed weapon early, since the first ten levels involve a greater percentage of melee combat, prior to getting a pet to handle your aggro. I'll talk about where to train what weapons, what augmentations you can add to weapons, and which ranged weapons are the best, after the jump!

Ranged Weapons
There are three kinds of ranged weapons we can learn: Bows, Guns, and Crossbows. Hunters begin the game proficient in one style of ranged weapon and one style of melee weapon, but this is not the limit of what we can learn. We can learn to use Thrown weapons, but don't make the mistake of thinking our ranged attacks can be used with them. None of our shots (including autoshot) work with Thrown weapons. A hunter with training in Thrown weapons is a very bored hunter indeed. As for Ranged weapons, I always recommend that a hunter who wants to stay on top of her game train as soon as feasible in all three ranged weapon styles.

Discussion goes back and forth as to which type of ranged weapon is "best" for a hunter, and many various points are raised. The scarcity of mid-level rare crossbows can bother some crossbow users, while the easy availability of Engineer crafted guns appeals to many rifleman. Archers pretty much smirk at the whole debate, since bows seem to fall from the sky, beating both guns and crossbows in many high end cases. Adding to this is the availability and power of ammunition. Here again Engineers make strong points for guns, in that crafted ammunition is often cheaper and more powerful than vendor-purchased.

All argument on the topic is solved, however, by training in all three, and keeping your rating reasonably high in all three as well. There may be long periods when nothing surpasses the bow you're using. Even so, you never know when some fancy gun will drop in your first Outland instance, knocking the Azerothian bow right out of your hands. May as well be able to use it right away, I always say.

As for where to learn these weapons, it might require some travel, especially for a low level hunter. Those of you interested in broadening your aim, as it were, you may be glad you did.

  • Alliance Trainers
Ilyenia Moonfire teaches bowmanship, in Darnassus, the elven capital. Buliwyf Stonehand and Bixi Wobblebonk teach guns as well as crossbows in Ironforge, the city of the dwarves. Woo Ping and Handiir also teach Crossbows, in the human capital of Stormwind, and the Draenei ship Exodar, respectively.

  • Horde Trainers
Bows can be learned from Hanashi and Sayoc in the Orc city of Orgrimmar, as well as Duelist Larenis in Eversong Woods near the Blood Elven capital Silvermoon or Ileda in the city itself. Guns can be learned from Ansekhwa in the Tauren city of Thunder Bluff, and crossbows can be learned from Archibald in the Forsaken capital of Undercity.

To find a weapon master in any city, once inside the city speak to a guard. They can tell you where the weapon master is, as well as mark your map to guide you. While you're at it, city guards can also point you to many other points of interest within the city.

Bear in mind that while Bows and Crossbows both use arrows, which go in quivers, Guns will use bullets which are stored in Ammo Bags. If you switch between the two ammunition types, remember you'll also need to switch not only your ammunition but also the container you keep it in. Some hunters might find it worthwhile to use a spare bank bag slot for ammo, and merely swap out full sacks of ammunition as they switch weapon styles.

Melee Weapons
There's not much more to hunters than point and shoot, some would have you believe. But there is much more. Starting with our "sidearms," the melee weapons we carry. As I mentioned above, we can learn to dual wield one handed weapons at level twenty. Similar to the debate over which ranged weapon is best, hunters often debate whether dual wielding or a single two hander is preferable. There's hardly ever a concrete answer, with the variety of weapons, enchantments, augmentations, and gems out there. Trial and error, or some protracted mathematics, can help make the decision. As with ranged weapons, though, I always recommend training in everything you can. Better to be able to use a weapon you'd like, than to have a weapon and be unable to use it when you find it.

  • Considerations
Every weapon can be enchanted with one enchantment. The enchantment's bonus applies so long as the weapon is equipped. Weapons can also have other augmentations such as oil to recharge mana attached to them. This is the sort of thing weighed between dual wielding and two-handed wielding. Is it better to have one weapon enchanted to add thirty-five agility, or two enchanted to add twenty each? The answer in that case depends largely on the individual weapon bonuses, which might make the two hander more advantageous overall, despite the double enchantment's five point advantage over the two handed enchantment.

There are also oils that can be applied to weapons to further benefit you while they are wielded. Consider Superior Mana Oil, the most potent of several mana oils available. Applying this to a weapon will restore fourteen mana to the wielder every five seconds. So here, having two weapons, each with the oil applied, might be beneficial. Many hunters have several sets of weapons they might use, depending on the situation. Sometimes, depending on what your goal is, different combinations might make more sense.

Don't be Greedy
There's a drawback to being able to learn all these different weapon skills. We find ourselves able to use practically anything, and the temptation exists to therefore try to grab anything we see. Bear in mind that the ability to wield a weapon is not a mandate to obtain every one of such weapon. Hunters have a bad reputation in some corners for being greedy for that exact reason. To paraphrase a long debate, "150/350 Staves and Mend Pet do not mean you need the Apostle of Argus. When in a group, it's a good idea to roll Need only on an item which actually benefits you directly, or will soon. Consider whenever in a group what other classes might benefit more from weapons, even fancy ones. Spell power, Block, Healing, these are all things Hunters have little use for. Consider this when deciding what weapon to practice with, and all hunters will thank you. When practicing up with a new weapon, it's always a good idea to level it with either crummy vendor weapons or things you found drop on your own. No one wants to take a healing staff from a priest because they "feel like leveling Staves." Making Priests angry is never a wise move.

Clearing the Chamber
As gamers, one of our primary goals is to make integers associated with our name increase in value. Be it reputation, weapon skill, level, gold, profession rating, or honor, we're almost always chasing the Larger Number. As hunters, we have a lot of versatility as to what we're wielding and what benefits we're chasing with that gear configuration. I encourage any hunter with ten silver to spare to stop by a local weapon master and learn a new weapon. You might never wield a one handed sword with a fist weapon in your off hand, but if you happen to find them, wouldn't you rather be able to?

This article was originally published on WoW Insider.

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