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Scattered Shots: Everything you need to know to top the charts in Dragon Soul

Brian Wood

Every Thursday, WoW Insider brings you Scattered Shots for beast mastery, marksmanship and survival hunters. 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.

There are a lot of reasons hunters want to top the DPS charts: because the view is better from up there, because we're a DPS class and it's our job, because it makes killing bosses easier, or just because it makes your man parts appear larger.

We talk a lot here on Scattered Shots about optimizing your hunter and keeping track of the little changes that happen with every patch and hotfix, but after a while all those little changes add up into a very different optimization picture. Today, we're going to do a quick review of exactly what is the optimal way spec and play your hunter right now. We're getting a handful of minor buffs and changes in 4.3.2, and this optimization review will take those into account.

These 10 tips are the quick and dirty answers to the current state of hunter optimization. Bookmark this page and pass it along to that guy with a hunter alt as a one-stop shop for what he should be doing right now. As always, things change with gear and group composition, and there are often choices that are almost as good, but this rundown will get you where you need to go: the top of the charts.

Top 10 tips for topping the charts

1. Spec If your only motivation is going as much DPS as hunterly possible, then SV is the current spec of choice. Recent buffs (and 4.3.2 buffs) put the SV hunter on top, along with the tier 13 set bonuses that favor the SV hunter over MM.

If you want to play MM and know it well, then it is very close to SV in single-target DPS. If you want to play BM, you can do that too, but you will do noticeably less damage than SV does. SV does great DPS on both single and AoE but suffers from lower survivability (ironically) and poorer burst DPS for burn phases.

2. Talents Your standard cookie-cutter SV spec is 3/7/31. This will optimize your damage in raiding environments, and there isn't a whole lot of variation on this build. The Survival Tactics points can go anywhere you'd like, and you could choose Bestial Discipline over Sic 'Em, but you aren't really drowning in choices.

3. Rotation Like all hunter specs, SV has a priority-based rotation. You want to start the fight in Aspect of the Hawk, with Hunter's Mark and Serpent Sting on the boss. Your priority is then:

  1. Explosive Shot
  2. Black Arrow
  3. Arcane Shot
  4. Cobra Shot
Make sure you're always saving enough focus to fire Explosive Shot on cooldown and saving focus for the sneakily expensive Black Arrow. Arcane Shot is your focus dump, and Cobra Shot is your focus replenisher; always be sure that you are not sitting at full focus. The big adjustment in SV's rotation happens when Lock & Load procs. When that happens, you want to fire your shots in this order:
  1. Explosive Shot
  2. Arcane Shot or 1.1 second pause
  3. Explosive Shot
  4. Cobra Shot or Arcane Shot
  5. Explosive Shot
The idea here is to fire your three Explosive Shots as close together as possible without risking the DoT component's being overwritten. There is some in-depth reasoning behind the 1.1-second pause theory, but we don't need to go into that here. This is what you need to know:

Don't fire Explosive Shots back to back. Either pause a bit, or put another shot in there. The DPS difference between the two methods is negligible. Interweave Arcane Shot if you're in danger of capping on focus and Cobra Shot if you need more focus.

4. Glyphs In the current endgame, SV has two must-have prime glyphs and a choice on the third. Every well-geared SV raider should have the Glyph of Explosive Shot and the Glyph of Arcane Shot. Your third prime glyph slot is a choice between Glyph of Serpent Sting and Glyph of Kill Shot.

Kill Shot will net you more DPS on single-target fights on average and is best if you need to burn at the end of the fight. Serpent Sting will net you more damage on fights with an AoE component.

5. Gems Most of your gems are probably going to be rares, but if you've got the budget for epics, then go for it. An epic instead of a rare will make a minuscule difference that you won't ever see; all epics instead of rares will make a visible difference to your DPS.

As in most things, hunters prefer agility gems wherever we can. Your meta gem should be the Agile Shadowspirit Diamond. You want pure agility gems (Delicate Inferno Ruby or the epic equivalent) for red slots and blue slots. Yellow slots should use the agility/crit gems. Usually, your chestpiece is the only time it's worth using a blue gem for the socket bonus (in which case you want the hit/agility purple gem).

By this point in the game, at the last raid tier, socket bonuses are almost always worth pursuing.

6. Enchants Enchant priorities haven't changed substantially for hunters during Cataclysm, with our favorite being anything that can give us agility, which is worth about three times as much as any other secondary stat. Never enchant for hit if you have the option of enchanting for agility instead. Scattered Shots has a list of the top hunter enchants.

7. Pet As a hunter, you want to use either a ferocity pet or a cunning pet. Whichever pet brings the raid buff that your raid needs most is the ideal pet. All ferocity pets do the same DPS; the only difference is the raid buff they bring. Cunning pets do only slightly less damage than ferocity pets. If you need the raid buff that a cunning pet brings, it's well worth your while to bring that pet.

If your raid already has every raid buff, then bring the ferocity pet that you like best.

8. Pet spec Our pets have to spend their talents optimally, just as we do. Look over the cookie-cutter ferocity pet spec. If you're using a cunning pet, try a solid cunning pet talent build.

9. Gear In Cataclysm, choosing gear is easier than ever. Do not get too obsessed with gear or agonize over your choices too much; it's all pretty easy. Here are the Dragon Soul hunter gear tips that will generally steer you pretty close to optimal.
  • Use hunter gear (mail armor, agility stats, etc.).
  • The higher ilevel gear is almost always better than the lower.
  • You want your four-piece tier 13 set.
  • Use a two-handed weapon.
  • The Wrath of Unchaining trinket is the best, and Vial of Shadows is a strong second (it was recently buffed for hunters).
  • Use the heroic Dreadfire Drape cloak and not the Batwing one.

10. Reforging Hunters' top stat is ranged weapon DPS, and our next is agility. Compared to those two, the secondary stats are actually shocking close to each other in value. Again, don't obsess too much over your reforging -- tweaking here and there is not going to make a big difference.

Here are the hunter reforging tips for SV in Dragon Soul:
  • Reforge to reach the hit cap.
  • After reaching the hit cap, reforge into crit whenever you can.
  • If you have two pieces of tier 13, reforge haste into mastery if you can't reforge into crit.

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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