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Scattered Shots: 4.0.1 hunter builds and rotations

Brian Wood

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Scattered Shots for beast mastery, marksmanship and survival hunters. Each week, Frostheim (of Hunters Union and the Hunting Party Podcast) uses logic and science (mixed with a few mugs of dwarven stout) to look deep into the hunter class. Mail your hunter questions to Frostheim.

Patch 4.0.1 is finally here, and we're ready to rock out on live with focus. Today, we're going to get into the specifics of 4.0.1 talent builds and rotations. I'm assuming you've already read the hunter 4.0.1 prep guide, which covers gems, gear and various other specifics of the patch. And to answer yet again the question I'm continuously asked: Agility gems are your gem of choice.

Before we get into the builds and rotations, though, it's worth noting a couple of interesting measurements in the live build. The hit rating conversion appears to have changed and you're now hit-capped (8 percent still) at just 246 hit rating. Guns got their DPS boosted more than bows and crossbows (expect a fix on that). Base focus regen, as closely as I can measure, appears to be 4.08 focus per second.

Also, sadly, hunter DPS appears to have actually gone down with the patch -- and significantly so. This isn't an across-the-board thing, either -- other classes have had their DPS jump up. This patch has our new abilities balanced around level 85, so level 80 balance isn't a big concern; however, this is certainly bad news for people still working on progression. Sorry guys.

With that out of the way, join me after the cut for talent builds for all three hunter specs.

Focusing on raid builds

Every time we talk about ideal hunter builds, we're talking about raid builds, and that's what we're talking about here. Don't worry, we'll get to some leveling advice shortly before Cataclysm releases.

In a raid build, we're specifically focusing on boss DPS. We don't care at all about trash -- trash is not a problem, it's going to go down, and we don't optimize our characters for trash. And we're going to be monumentally worse at trash than we were before. The new Multi-Shot AoE is nowhere remotely near as good as even a monstrously nerfed Volley. Trash is just no longer something we do well.

Beast Mastery talents and rotation

I recommend the following 31/2/3 build for 4.0.1 BM hunters.

The BM rotation, like all focus-based hunter rotations, is a priority-based rotation. Normally, our priority looks like this:
  • Put up Hunter's Mark and Serpent Sting.
  • Focus Fire (not on the GCD) whenever your pet is at full Frenzy stacks. The UI will flash you a visual reminder and light up your Focus Fire button to let you know when it's time.
  • Kill Command whenever available -- you will need to make sure you always have enough focus to hit Kill Command whenever it's off cooldown.
  • Refresh Serpent Sting whenever it drops.
  • Arcane Shot to dump focus.
  • Steady Shot to regen focus.
Since BM doesn't yet have access to Cobra Shot at level 80, we're going to have to refresh Serpent Sting a lot. This is fine, as BM has the best focus regen of all the specs, and we're taking Improved Serpent Sting to at least get some damage out of those applications.

During Bestial Wrath, you will hit only Kill Command and Arcane Shot. With the huge focus discount of Beast Within, you will not run out of focus throughout the entire duration, making it a huge DPS burst. Generally speaking, you don't want to hit Focus Fire during big red pet, since you'd rather your pet had the Frenzy stacks to get faster attacks while under the bonus damage effects. You'll also want to use Fervor as often as possible -- this is basically getting you a bunch more Arcane Shots. It's also very useful during heavy movement phases.

Marksmanship talents and rotation

I recommend the following 2/31/3 build for 4.0.1 MM hunters.

It's worth mentioning here that while Careful Aim is a phenomenal talent, we aren't actually getting the full benefit of the second rank due to our high crit chances at level 80. Adding 60% is actually taking us over the crit cap; however, we get enough benefit to make it worthwhile. I also took Silencing Shot (which no longer does damage) because hunters are an interrupt class. I know far too many hunters like to shunt interrupt duty off onto other classes, but it's part of our contribution to the raid.

The MM rotation, like all focus-based hunter rotations, is a priority-based rotation. Normally, our priority looks like this:
  • Put up Hunter's Mark and Serpent Sting.
  • Fire Chimera Shot whenever available -- you will need to make sure you always have enough focus to hit Chimera Shot when it's off cooldown. This will keep your Serpent Sting refreshed.
  • Fire Aimed Shot when the Master Marksman proc comes up.
  • Fire Arcane Shot as a focus dump.
  • Use Steady Shot to regen focus, and always try to fire your Steady Shots in pairs to maintain your Improved Steady Shot buff.
The tricky part of the MM rotation is really keeping optimal uptime of your Improved Steady Shot buff. To do this, you really need to be aware of the state of your focus and your Chimera Shot cooldown. You want the buff to be up as much as possible. Thus, it's generally better to fire two steadies and an arcane or two, then two more steadies, than it is to fire four steadies all in a row.

Your Aimed Shot proc is probably going to have the most flexibility in your priority rotation. If you fire a Steady Shot and Aimed Shot procs, you'll want to fire that second steady before aimed, so as to keep your buff rolling. Also, you always want to avoid capping out on focus, so if your Aimed Shot procs when you're near full focus, it's probably best to fire off a quick Arcane Shot first to bleed the focus down before firing the free Aimed Shot. Similarly, Chimera Shot's damage is low enough that you're really just using it to keep up Serpent Sting -- so waiting a shot or two after it becomes available is fine, as long as you're in time to refresh serpent.

As always, you'll want to make full use of your Rapid Fire. Since there is a focus regen element to Rapid Fire for MM, we usually want to hit it while we're low on focus. As always, you want to hit Rapid Fire when you have as many procs and other cooldowns going on as well.

Survival talents and rotation

I recommend the following 0/5/31 build for 4.0.1 SV hunters.

The SM rotation, like all focus-based hunter rotations, is a priority-based rotation. Normally our priority looks like this:
  • Put up Hunter's Mark and Serpent Sting.
  • Refresh Serpent Sting as needed.
  • Fire Black Arrow.
  • Fire Explosive Shot whenever available -- you will need to try your best to have enough focus to hit Explosive Shot when it's off cooldown.
  • Use Arcane Shot to bleed off excess focus. (This will almost never be needed.)
  • Use Steady Shot to regen focus.
Without Cobra Shot, SV hunters can get a little focus-starved trying to refresh Serpent Sting all the time. Rest assured that SV does not have that problem once you get Cobra Shot. Because of this, you may sometimes need to delay Explosive Shot for one extra Steady Shot to have enough focus to manage Black Arrow and Serpent Sting. With the Improved Serpent Sting talent Serpent Sting actually does more damage total than Explosive Shot, so it's worth delaying Explosive Shot.

Currently, the difference between an Arcane Shot SV rotation and an Explosive Shot rotation is unfortunately small. Explosive Shot is better DPS than Arcane Shot, but Arcane Shot is better DPF (damage per focus). Thus, you could use a build that ignores Explosive Shot except during Lock and Load procs and just fires a ton of Arcane Shots. Right now, all of my testing and number crunching shows that using Explosive Shot is actually better DPS -- just not by a large margin.

During Lock and Load procs, Explosive Shot will have its cooldown instantly reset, so you can fire it at once. You will want to weave another shot in between Explosive Shots -- this is a perfect time to refresh your Serpent Sting, or you can use Steady Shot. Keep in mind that our global cooldown is now only 1 second; thus, we have a bit more time to work with between Explosive Shots than we used to.

Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. Our Scattered Shots Resource Guide takes aim at everything from improving your heroic DPS, understanding the impact of skill vs. gear, and getting started with Beast Mastery 101 and Marksman 101.

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