We're only interested in the tier 9 and tier 10 sets. Anything older isn't worthwhile for hunters. We don't even care about the tier 9 4-piece bonus (not even if you're BM). The only other older set that we'd ever want to hang onto is the tier 5 2-piece (from BC
raids) for extreme soloing situations (it lets us automatically heal our pets for 15% of the damage we do).
Before we get into the spec by spec details, lets hit a quick review of our tier 9 and 10 sets.
Tier 9: Windrunner
There are three versions of the hunter tier 9 set:
They all share the same set bonuses, but the higher level versions have better stats. With tier 9 what we really care about is the truly awesome 2-piece set bonus, that lets our Serpent Sting ticks become crits. This is an incredibly strong set bonus. We have close to 100% uptime of Serpent Sting across all specs, and letting this DoT crit more than doubles the effectiveness of Serpent Sting.
Tier 10: Ahn'kahar Blood Hunter
There are three versions of the tier 10 set as well. Unlike the tier 9 set, to get the tier 10 set you must purchase the starting pieces with Emblems of Frost, and then upgrade them with tokens that drop in ICC 25.
We've discussed the tier 10 set bonuses
before, so we'll just do a quick review. The 2-piece bonus is phenomenal. Though it slightly favors BM and MM, it's great for all specs. The 4-piece bonus is also good; however, it is not as good as the tier 9 2-piece bonus.
This is where the decisions start to get difficult. We like the tier 9 2-piece bonus better -- it's giving us more DPS -- but we know that the tier 10 pieces are going to have much more stats on them. So we're having to make a call as to when the superior stats are better than the superior set bonus.
Choosing Your Set Pieces
First of all, keep in mind that exactly when to use what gear is never the same for everyone. It doesn't just depend on your spec, but also on what other gear you currently have. Your playstyle also comes into it -- in particular the tier 9 bonus is stronger for hunters who are good at maintaining their Serpent Sting on multiple targets, and other bonuses vary depending on how good you are at movement management. The decision is made more difficult by the fact that we have three versions of each tier of gear.
All of this is by way of saying that these recommendations aren't always going to be right for everyone. For the sake of simplicity, I'm assuming that you have access to the ilvl 245 (25-man) version of the tier 9 set.
All three of the set bonuses we're talking about are very good. You absolutely want to have four pieces of set gear. Do not just get the tier 10 2-piece and non-set for everything else. You want the set bonuses, it's only a question of which set bonuses you want most.
The set situation is simplest for BM hunters. BM gets the least benefit from the tier 9 set with their weaker Serpent Sting and they particularly like the tier 10 set bonuses, as they both help both their pet as well as hunter.
BM hunters want to pursue 4-piece tier 10, and getting to the 2-piece should be the first use of their Emblems of Frost.
SV hunters like all the set bonuses, and the breakdown really depends on what level of set gear you have access to and your playstyle. SV hunters can really go either way when we're talking about comparing the ilvl 245 tier 9 vs. the ilvl 251 tier 10. At ilvl 264 tier 10, the tier 10 4-piece is definitely the way to go.
For some fights one way will be better, for other fights the other route will yield more DPS. And some fights it'll be a toss up.
MM hunters have the strongest Serpent Sting with both the best uptime and the ability to preserve percentage damage and crit increases on their Serpent Stings indefinitely. However MM hunters have two different playstyles and the set decisions are different for each.
ArP MM hunters who are pursuing the ArP hard cap (1,400 ArP rating) will want to go for the tier 10 4-piece bonus. In the pursuit of all that ArP they pass by a bunch of AP and crit that could have benefited their Serpent Sting, making the tier 9 bonus a bit less desirable. Tier 10 is also more generous with the ArP rating.
Standard agility MM hunters (who still may have a good chunk of ArP, but just aren't near the hard cap and aren't yet gemming ArP) like the tier 9 set bonus more and will want to keep their tier 9 set bonuses longer. They definitely want to keep their tier 9 bonus at least until you have all of the ilvl 264 versions of tier 10, and may want to wait for some of the ilvl 277 version.
Even if the MM hunter only has access to the ilvl 232 tier 9, they probably still want to hold out for the ilvl 264 tier 10.
- All Hunters: Get four set pieces. The set bonuses are worth going for.
- BM: Go for 4-piece tier 10.
- SV: Set bonuses are very close and can go either 2-piece tier 9 & 10, or full 4-piece tier 10.
- MM ArP: If near the hard cap, go for 4-piece tier 10.
- MM agility: Keep your 2-piece tier 9 until you have at least ilvl 264 tier 10 for the 4-piece.
You want to be a Hunter, eh? Well then you came to the right place. You start with science, then you add some Dwarven Stout, and round it off some elf bashing. The end result is massive dps. Scattered Shots is the WoW.com column dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a Hunter. Each week Scattered Shots will cover topics to help you improve your Heroic DPS, understand the impact of Skill vs. Gear, get started with Beast Mastery 101, and even solo bosses with some Extreme Soloing.