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Scattered Shots: Hunter reforging priorities

Brian Wood

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

One of the most common questions asked by hunter is, "How should I reforge my gear?" Reforging is an elusive mystery, and if you listen to a lot of forum comments, you could quickly believe that reforging is the secret key to real ultimate DPS -- if you're not topping the charts, just reforge better to get those last few thousand DPS going your way. On top of that, we have tons of reforging tools available online, often offering contradictory reforging advice.

Happily, reforging is not nearly as complicated as it seems. Today we're going to go over reforging advice for your BM, MM, and SV hunters. I'm going to be giving you my thoughts and research conclusions but also the point of view of some other top theorycrafters. We recently did a Hunting Party Podcast all about stats and theorycrafting with Zeherah from Female Dwarf and Revulva from Ask Mr. Robot. Sadly, unforeseen technical difficulties prevented us from recording the show (we turned on the recording for the sound check, then hit record when it was time to go live, accidentally turning it off -- oops), but the gist of their advice will be included here.

Join me after the cut for everything you really need to know about reforging hunter gear.

Reforging Priority 1: Hit capping

The very first thing you want to consider for reforging is reaching the hit cap. It is better to reforge to the hit cap than to gem for the hit cap, since in the gem slots we could be getting agility, which helps us far more than any secondary stat. The only time you ever want hit rating on a gem is if it's worthwhile to use a purple gem in a blue slot (meaning the socket bonus is worth it -- usually an agility socket bonus).

Raiders need to reach 8% hit chance to be hit-capped against a raid boss, or 961 hit rating. Until we reach that point, hit rating will help us more than any other secondary stat -- and after we reach that point, hit rating is entirely worthless to us.

It's worth noting that the 8% hit cap applies only to raid bosses. If you only run heroics, your hit cap is 6%, which only requires 721 hit rating. For PVP, you'll probably want to pursue a 5% hit chance (601 hit rating), though various player abilities can still cause your to miss from time to time.

Online reforging tools are most useful for reaching the hit cap in the most efficient way possible.

Reforging Priority 2: Crit or haste

There's a lot of discussion about whether crit or haste is the best stat to pursue for reforging and even more discussion about when you want to chase one over the other. Here's the dirty truth: It doesn't really matter.

The one thing that all theorycrafters agree on is that the difference in DPS benefit from crit or haste is tiny. I mean, really small. Smaller than the effects of RNG (randomness) on your DPS. You are not going to see thousands of DPS difference from any kind of reforging between haste and crit. Not a thousand. Not 800. Maybe, maybe you might see a theoretical few hundred DPS.

Of all the specs, MM has the most interesting relationship with haste, with the most permutations of the base rotation. It can be argued that you need to reach some certain amount of haste as MM to really get going, but models suggest that with current gear, you'll be there anyway. If you want to pursue an Aimed Shot hardcast rotation, then stacking haste may benefit you more, but the difference doesn't appear to be that huge.

Ask Mr. Robot uses Simulationcraft and FemaleDwarf along with real (and different) gear sets to model stat weights. It has determined that always reforging for haste is the best route to go with only tiny, small exceptions. I've found in my math that you generally want to reforge based on your position in the haste plateaus. If you're past a soft plateau and before a hard plateau, reforge mastery into haste. Otherwise, reforge it into crit. More on the complexities of haste plateaus can be found here.

But again, Mr. Robot, Zeherah, and I all say that the difference is incredibly small. Really, if you have any significant preference, go that way. You won't notice the difference.

Sorry mastery, we get rid of you

For all hunter specs, mastery is the lowest priority stat. Reforge out of mastery whenever you can.

I know that a lot of hunters don't like this advice, and it strikes them as somehow counterintuitive -- particularly BM and SV hunters.The BM hunters say, "But mastery increases my pet's DPS, and I get a ton of my DPS from my pet!" The SV hunters say, "But mastery increases all my magical damage, and almost all of my damage is magical."

These are true statements, certainly. Mastery absolutely increases your damage. Mastery is good. The other secondary stats are better, is all. Take a look at crit, for example:

As BM, you can expect to get somewhere around 45-50% of your damage from your pet. Your mastery boosts that damage by 1.7% per point. On the other hand, your crit boosts that damage by about 1% per 1% crit, as well as all of the damage of your shots, as well as comboing with abilities like Killing Streak. It's just better. Every model agrees here.

As SV, your mastery boosts all your magical damage by 1% per point of mastery. This includes every shot except for Auto-Shot and Kill Shot. Crit, on the other hand, increases that damage by about 1% on average for every 1% of crit, plus your Auto-Shot and Kill Shot, plus all your pet attacks, and plus comboing with crit-based talents like Toxicology. Crit's just better. Every model agrees.

It's also worth noting that crit does not have diminishing returns, in the sense that every 1% crit will continue to net you the same amount of DPS, though the percentage gain decreases as your crit increases. But of course, mastery works exactly the same way. And we have no realistic chance of ever hitting the hunter crit cap.

That said, the difference between mastery and crit or haste is still not very large. One of the big changes with our stats in Cataclysm is the huge boost that agility got in DPS contribution. The effect of inflating agility so much means that the difference between the secondary stats is relatively smaller. And in a way, this is a good thing; this helps to make higher ilevel gear almost always superior to the lower ilevel gear, even if it doesn't have the secondary stats that we value most -- because the value of and difference between secondary stats is minimal in comparison to the mighty agility.

The reforging recap

If you want to optimize your reforging, first reforge mastery away to reach the hit cap, and dip into crit or haste if you have to. An online tool like Ask Mr. Robot is very useful in determining the optimal way to just hit that 961 hit cap.

Once you're at the cap, reforge any mastery left over into either haste or crit. Take your pick on which you want. If you're convinced one is better, then go for it. If you're hardcasting Aimed Shot, go for haste. If you're not or are BM or SV, then you really won't see the difference.

If you need those last few thousand DPS to top the meters, I'm sorry, but reforging is not going to get you there. As we discussed in the DPS value of skill, missing just a single shot or two in your rotation will cost your more DPS than your reforging between crit or haste.

When reforging you can listen to Mr. Robot, listen to me, or listen to FemaleDwarf; whichever way you go, you'll be doing just fine.

Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. From leveling your hunter and choosing the best patch 4.2 gear to learning the DPS value of skill, we've got you covered. If you're stuck in one of the nine support classes, why not move up to the big league and play a hunter?

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