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Scattered Shots: Beast mastery hunter 101

Brian Wood

Every Monday and Thursday, WoW Insider brings you Scattered Shots for beast mastery, marksmanship and survival hunters. Each week, Frostheim of Warcraft Hunters Union 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.

Over and above everything else, hunters are known as the pet class. No one loves their pets the way hunters do, no one has the pet selection that we do, and no one's pets bring as much to the raid as our pets do. Other classes have tried to emulate the bond between hunter and pet, starting with the warlocks -- who, between their goth makeup and Twilight posters, have completely failed to grasp the true meaning of a lifelong companion. Mages, death knights, shaman -- they've all tried to be more like us hunters, and they have all failed.

Of all hunter specs, beast mastery hunters are closest to their pets, and in Cataclysm, they even rely on their pet to deliver the signature shot of their rotation. They are rewarded for this trust with an even wider selection of pets and raid buffs, making them irresistible to the opposite sex -- or indeed, any sex.

Join me after the cut for another massive collection of hunter information as we take a look at the Cataclysm BM hunter and cover the BM raid spec, glyphs, rotation, gems, and stats.

BM talent spec

Like all Cataclysm hunters, the newly shortened talent tree for BM offers fewer selections, making it much harder to make poor talent choices. Once we hit the bottom of the BM tree, we're going to want to move over to the MM tree to pick up the very desirable pet DPS talents hidden there.

I'm a fan of Spirit Bond for our extra talent points needed to get down the tree, because it helps to lighten the load on our healers by just a little bit; however, you can absolutely feel free to put those talents anywhere you want. It does turn out that Careful Aim is a better DPS gain for BM than Pathing, however, so we only managed the one rank in the Pathing talent.

It's probably worth mentioning that the theoretical BM build of putting talents into Improved Steady Shot and trying to weave Cobra Shots and Steady Shots together turns out not to be a good choice for BM. Not only does Steady Shot do less damage than Cobra Shot, but the rotation becomes incredibly complex, and it's impossible to keep full uptime on the imp steady buff.

BM glyphs

As always, our prime glyphs are our really good DPS options, though BM also gets a DPS gain through its major glyph, Glyph of Bestial Wrath. For most of the BM major and all the minor glyphs, however, there is no clear DPS gain option, and you can really take whatever glyphs suit your playstyle the best. There are several utility options that are beneficial, so for those slots, choose the ones you think will work for you the best.

Prime glyphs
Glyph of Serpent Sting and Glyph of Kill Shot are both good glyphs, and the DPS gain of the two are very similar for BM hunters -- in fact, they're close enough that which is better depends on your exact gear setup. When two glyphs are that close, it really becomes a matter of preference, so use the one you like best. If you really want to get down to the nitty-gritty, you'll probably net a bit more DPS from the Glyph of Serpent Sting; its benefits are more consistent than the Kill Shot glyph.

Major glyphs
Minor glyphs

Choose whatever minor glyphs you like the best. I'm personally fond of the Glyph of Mend Pet and Glyph of Feign Death. Mend Pet in particular is a lovely quality of life improvement, and with it, you'll no longer have to carry pet food around.

BM rotation

Like all hunter specs in Cataclysm, BM's rotation is priority-based. You want to use whatever shot is available and is highest on the priority list, while at the same time making sure to save up enough focus so that you can always hit Kill Command as soon as it's available.

You will of course want to be in Aspect of the Hawk and put up Hunter's Mark and Serpent Sting. You should only need to apply Serpent Sting once; thereafter, Cobra Shot will refresh it indefinitely.
You'll only want to hit Focus Fire when your pet has 5 stacks of Frenzy, and the game will warn you when this happens (see the hunter spell alerts guide). Focus Fire is not on the global cooldown, so it costs you no time to hit. Kill Command is your primary "signature" shot that you want to be sure to hit on cooldown; however, be aware that it will only work if your pet is within range of the target.

Of course, the other big part of the BM rotation are the BM cooldowns, Bestial Wrath and Fervor.

You'll want to use Bestial Wrath early and often -- just make sure your pet is at the target first. In general, you want to make sure you're fairly high on focus before hitting big red pet so you don't have to waste any time with Cobra Shot. The big advantage of Bestial Wrath is the focus cost reduction of your shots. As long as you're fairly high on focus, you should be able to get two Kill Commands and five to six Arcane Shots all in a row -- which is a massive amount of burst DPS.

As soon as Bestial Wrath ends, don't forget to immediately Cobra Shot to keep your Serpent Sting from falling off. You'll also want to use Fervor as often as possible. Basically, what this cooldown is doing is giving you a couple of extra Arcane Shots. In some boss fights, it could be a good idea to save this for times where you know you're going to be focus-starved (like heavy movement phases), but by default, you just want to use it every chance you can to burn a chunk of Arcane Shots in a row.

BM gems

Like all hunter specs, agility is your best stat -- even better than hit. Because of this, you do not want to gem for hit (except the Glinting Demonseye to satisfy your meta requirement). Instead, you'll want to reforge for hit and gem for agility as much as you can. Here's the breakdown:
Note that we were told that our meta requirement was reverting to the old requirement of one of each color, rather than more blues than reds. These recommendations are based on that promised change.

BM stat weights

One of the subtle yet huge changes made to the hunter class in Cataclysm is that our pets now inherit all of our DPS stats, at least in part. This makes some substantial changes to the way that we calculate our stat weights. As always, your stat weights will change not just with your spec but with every single change you make to your gear. I'm going to provide some general qualitative BM stat weights as a guideline to point you in the right direction.

BM stat weights, from highest to lowest:
  • ranged DPS
  • agility
  • hit rating
  • crit rating
  • haste rating
  • mastery
It's important to note that just because mastery is last doesn't mean it's a bad stat. It's just not as good as others. For a fuller explanation of why stat weights are the way they are, you can read this discussion of secondary hunter stats and weights.

Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter in Cataclysm. From leveling your hunter to optimizing for heroics to gearing up with pre-heroic loot and pre-raid loot, we've got you covered.

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