hunters 102


Apparently my last rant was actually too long. It borked out and clipped the last few paragraphs on survival spec talents. So, I’m moving the entire talent section of my hunter essay into this new post.


When the game launched, the hunter talent tree was terrible. Survival was a complete waste of time, beast mastery was only vaguely tolerable for soloing, and marksmanship was nice, but not wonderful. That all changed a few patches ago, with the new (and much happier) talent tree.

Beast Mastery is now insanely good for soloing and PvP (rabid flying pet of doom == superglue mage killer). Survival is actually quite worth the trouble for endgame play, and marksmanship is still worth your time. Beast talents aren’t very useful in high level groups (where your pet is frequently obsoleted, more on that later).

I used to be marks spec with a bit of beast. I’m now survival with a bit of marks. I can’t really imagine trying to play a hunter without at least some of the marksmanship talents, even if you don’t go in for the higher level abilities.

Beast Mastery

Tier One

The tier one beast talents are both vaguely seductive, and really pretty nice when soloing at low level. More health for your pet can be a no brainer if you’re soloing and your pet is tanking for you – especially if you burn training points on giving the critter even more stam.

Improved aspect of the hawk gives you a 1-5% chance per auto shot of becoming hasted and firing at +30% speed. This is really nice for conserving mana, and if you are already relying on a fast bow to do your dirty work. Even more fun is at level 26 when you get rapid shot and remember to trigger it when your improved hawk buff procs – that turns into 8 seconds at +70% rate of fire and 7 more seconds at +40% πŸ™‚

The problem with improved hawk is that the proc only lasts for 8 seconds – and is thus only arguably useful during prolonged combat. During quick fights, it’s not likely to proc and if it does, it tends to get wasted. Tony and I did the math back when I respecced at 60 and to actually decided to drop this talent.

Let’s assume that since you care about rate of fire, you’re going to be using a fast weapon (1.8 sec cooldown after quiver and stuff).

Over the course of 5 minutes of combat, you will have time to fire off about 166 arrows. With five points spent in improved hawk, that means that your haste buff will proc every 20 shots. So, 20 normal then buff for 8 seconds. Over those 8 seconds, your rate of fire will be increased to 1.26 seconds per arrow for 6.3 arrows in that period as opposed to only 4.4.

Unfortunately, these fractions don’t seem to carry. So when the buff dies, you’re back to normal rate of fire and will have only spent 0.44 seconds recharging your bow of the 1.8 it needs before the next shot happens. The math in summary:

20 shots * 1.8 sec/shot = 36 sec
8 seconds / 1.26 sec/shot = 6 shots + 0.44 seconds toward next shot
14 shots * 1.8 sec/shot – 0.44 sec = 24.76 seconds until your speed buff is likely to re-proc

You thus are taking 36 seconds to fire off your first 20 shots and 32.76 seconds for each additional batch of 20. So, with a 1.8 second bow over 5 minutes, 5 talent points spent in improved hawk will net you a total of something like 181 arrows as opposed to 166 = 9% increase in sustained damage output.

But if you switch to a slower weapon… It is much less impressive. The same math performed with a 3.0 second delay on an end-game crossbow (after quiver):

20 shots * 3.0 sec/shot = 60 secs
8 seconds / 2.1 sec/shot = 3 shots + 1.7 seconds toward next shot
17 shots * 3.0 sec/shot – 1.7 sec = 49.3 secs until next buff
3 shots/8 secs + 17 shots/49.3 secs = 57.3 seconds for each additional 20 shots

103 shots in five minutes as opposed to 100 shots = only 3% increase in sustained dps.

This is sustained DPS. This is not counting time for arrows potentially lost from aimed shots or for running to get back into position. It is also assuming that you’re actually able to stay in combat for a very long period of time. Mobs don’t like it when you shoot them. Eventually, they’re going to try to get out of range (usually by charging into melee with you when your pet/tank loses aggro). This is even less useful in PvP, when nobody’s gonna stick around and let a hunter hammer them with arrows long enough to make the thingy matter.

In more realistic situations, you’re not firing off 20 arrows per kill and when you do proc the haste, it gains you an extra one or two arrows for the duration of the fight. One aimed shot >= two arrows. One serpent sting > one arrow.

So, the only reason to actually rely on improved aspect of the hawk to actually increase your DPS is if you’re expecting to spend a lot of time in long battles where you’re not planning on using any mana… ie, a poorly organized raid or something. Shrug.

My recommendation with improved hawk is that it can be quite worth it for soloing with a tank pet or if you consistently run out of mana. It could even be worth cherry picking with one talent point if you are using a very fast bow and have nowhere else to put it for the 1% chance per shot of getting the haste buff πŸ˜‰

Tier Two

If you’re spending points in beast mastery, tier two is nice. Improved monkey means +5% dodge potentially means -5% physical damage taken if you’re remembering to use monkey in stead of hawk when you’re getting hit.

A +30% pet AC bonus is potentially incredible – and again, can be made even more brutal by training your critter for even more armour. If you’re burning talents to create the ultimate pet tank, then you probably want to grab all 3 points in thick hide as well as both points in improved rez. Normally, revive pet takes 10 seconds to cast, costs something like half of your max mana, and brings teh critter back with 15% hp. Two talents in improved revive = 4 second casting time, only 30% or so of your mana to cast, and a revived pet with 45% hp. This makes it potentially useful during combat, as opposed to an after battle only sort of thing.

Improved eyes… boggle. Burning two talent points to let you run your pet around for 2 minutes (as opposed to one minute) is kind of beyond me. I guess if you have a cat (which critters can stealth) and really really really want to use it to scout, a lot, it might be worth it? But in all reality, if you’re scouting with your pet, you can just blow through crowds of mobs and keep running – the pet will unspawn if it’s far enough away from you when the spell expires. And any decently fast pet is going to be able to make some good distance in one minute πŸ˜‰ Sitting around, vulnerable, for two whole minutes in an area dangerous enough that you’re using your pet to scout… yeah.

Tier Three

Tier three offers one of the must-have sort of talents for all beast type hunters. Namely, unleashed fury. +20% pet damage output. When you’re using a dps pet effectively, it will typically account for 25% or more of your total damage production. Using this as a conservative estimate means that your total damage output is consistently increased by 5%.

Combine unleashed fury with bestial swiftness and a fast pet with dash/dive, and you’re on your way to chewing through mages like candy. Note that the swiftness buff only gives your pet the +30% movement rate while outdoors, and most instances are indoor. This is definately a PvP sort of talent and isn’t all that useful if you’re killing mobs (dash/dive are generally more than enough of a boost for your pet to catch up with a runner or something).

Pathfinding is… meh. Two talents to bump your travel aspects from a +30% speed buff to +36%? Shrug. This one’s kind of a rip-off. Druid travel form is 40%, releases them from rooting effects, and doesn’t stun them when they get hit (in exchange for being fairly expensive to cast and having to wait until level 30 for the spell). Shamans also get +40% speed in their travel form that also doesn’t stun them like our aspects do (only vaguely more expensive than ours and has the downside of only working outside – which is where you spend most of your travel time). Yeah.

Our aspect is kind of cruddy. Its only benefit is that like all of our aspects it is exceptionally inexpensive to cast, and it is instant cast. It’s slow, and isn’t useful in combat except with some careful planning (wing clip, get well out of melee range, then pack to increase distance, aspect back to hawk, concuss, resume shooting, etc… sort of deal).

The only real use I can conceive of for this talent is if the preceeding example is your standard mode of operation. Because the only other scenareo I can come up with that would motivate somebody to spend talents on this is if for some reason they’re always using pack to travel with a bunch of slow allies for some reason (aspect of the pack comes at 40 – when people just buy +60% travel speed mounts anyways).

Tier Four

Well, if you’re using your pet to inflict PvP damage, you probably want the +15% crit chance that ferocity gives – and are going to pick it up anyways since it’s a pre-req for the tier six beast talent.

Improved mend pet is kind of neat. It effectively renders your pet immune to most debuffing effects if you’re healing them often, or at least means you can cleanse them between fights. My recommendation if you pick up this talent is that you allocate two action bar slots to mend – one at your maximum current skill rank for healing hp, and one at rank one (only 50 mana – mend 7 costs 480 to cast) specifically to make use of this talent.

Tier Five

Ahh, spirit bond. This is another must-have talent. For two points, it gives both you and your pet 2% hp regen ticks every 10 seconds. This healing continues during combat, so is very nice – especially if you’ve already buffed your pet’s max hp up, and can give you sort of the troll effect of reduced downtime for healing between fights.

Figure the average level 60 hunter probably has around 4000 hp. This turns into an 8 hp per second regen effect. That’s not shabby – it’s the kind of effect people buy epic trinkets and stuff for.

Intimidate is just plain mean. One minute cooldown, 130 mana, long range. Three second stun attack that works like an improved taunt for your pet as long as it’s actually able to hit your victim in melee – which any decent beast spec hunter’s pet would.

This is another mage killer. Three seconds = aimed shot casting time. Aim, send in pet to maul him a bit while aimed cools down, intimidate and aim again. Even if your shots don’t crit (which they probably won’t since you’re beast spec), this is enough damage to put more than a little fear into the heart of your average cloth-wearing finger wiggler.

The other tier five beast talent is bestial discipline, which translates into +20% pet focus regen, which translates into 20% more special attacks from your magekilling little friend.

Tier Six

There is only one ability at tier six in the beast mastery tree. And if you’ve made it this far, you’ve been drooling over it. Five points in frenzy gives your pet an improved hawk style attack speed buff whenever it scores a crit.

Now… I’ve never played with this talent, but the math kind of speaks for itself – especially if you’re PvP and are interested in disrupting spellcasters. More damage, more speed, and you’ve already bought +15% to crit chance per attack… and probably +20% focus regen for more frequent claw attacks with which to crit as well…

Tier Seven

Bestial wrath is the final nail in the proverbial coffin of any caster you come up against from here on out. It requires intimidate, but you already have that. The spell has a two minute cooldown and costs about 200 mana. In return it gives your pet +50% damage output and makes them immune to all forms of crowd control effects for a whopping 15 seconds.


Ok, unlike the previous talent branch which is 90% PvP oriented, marksmanship is kind of 50/50 PvP/PvE. It contains several talents without which no hunter is really worthy of the name. Several must-have abilities, regardless of the rest of your spec.

Tier One

And, just to make it difficult, since they know that everyone needs later talents, they wave some very confusing talents at you on tier one of the marks tree.

Improved concussive shot bothers me. I tried it for a few months. I don’t like it. Other people seem to swear by it. At least, most marksmanship spec hunters I’ve seen have it. Basically what it does is cost 5 talents to give you a 1 in 5 chance of stunning your target for 3 seconds when you concuss them.

Now, at 8% of your max mana per use, concussive shot is expensive. It is also slow, with a 12 second cooldown. This means that it is generally only usable once or perhaps twice per fight. So… assuming I am in a fight that lasts more than 12 seconds (which means I’ve fired off two aimed shots and still not killed my target), I could have a 40% chance of proccing a 3 second stun on my enemy in exchange for 16% of my mana. Not worth the trouble, if you ask me. Having this talent promotes firing off concussive shots and blowing mana in the vain hope that it’ll proc.

Improved concuss promises an average of one proc worth 3 seconds of stun per minute spent spamming the spell. That’s in exchange for five talent points and upwards of 40% of your mana.

It has been suggested to pick up just one rank in improved concuss, for the 5% chance of proc. This is almost worse than encouraging the waste of mana. This means that for every twenty times you fire off the shot – fully expecting that it will only slow your target down – it in stead roots the critter for a few seconds. This can be incredibly jarring and can totally throw off your groove if you use a complex kiting pattern.

On the other hand, the other tier one talent, efficiency, is totally worth the trouble, yet I’ve seen several people fail to pick it up. Five points to reduce the mana cost of every ranged attack you have by 10%. Sure, on a single shot-by-shot comparrison, this doesn’t make much of a difference. Supposing I only have 3000 mana, aimed shot 6 costs 310 points. With efficiency, the cost is only reduced to 279. Meh, that one shot’s savings wasn’t worth five talent points. But what this talent does earn you is reduced downtime over the course of your entire career.

The only places you’re going to be spending mana other than shots are in switching aspects (fairly trivial costs), spamming raptor strike (all of 16 mana per second), and in laying traps (which usually happens during downtime anyways).

Given the choice of the two talents, I’ll let you guess which one I have.

Tier Two

Lethal shots is a must-have talent for any hunter. 5 points for +5% chance to crit with all aimed attacks.

On the other hand, improved mark is kind of a waste. Lots of people seem to pick it up. But when you consider that 5 talent points earns you a +15% bonus to the attack power your mark gives… that only adds up to an increase of 16 attack power at level 58 when your mark is normally giving ‘only’ 110 attack. That’s an increase of 1.15 dps in exchange for 5 talent points IFF you’re level 58+, otherwise, it’s not even worth that much.

Tier Three

Aimed shot. Buy it now. 6 second cooldown, 3 second cast time. Does insane damage, and when it crits, it can outperform a rogue’s ambush. If you only dig into marksmanship for aimed shot, your trip will have been worth it.

But, as long as you’re on tier three, you really should spend 3 more talents to pick up the extra 6 yards of range that hawk eye gives you.

The other tier three talent is improved arcane shot. For five points, this reduces the cooldown on your arcane shot from 6 seconds to 5 seconds. What they don’t seem to tell you is that arcane shot is on the same timer as aimed shot. So… if you have the talent points to burn, that’s an 8-9% speed increase in your aimed shot barrage πŸ˜‰

Tier Four

Mortal shots increases your damage output with ranged crits by 30%, and since you’ve already gotten +5% chance to crit to begin with, this really starts to add up. The talent applies to all ranged attacks – including your aimed shot. This is totally worth it if you’re digging this deep into marksmanship.

Improved serpent on the other hand is another kind of wasteful talent, at least at low levels. At level 60, serpent sting does 555 damage over 15 seconds (37 dps). Five ranks in this talent means +10% damage for a total of 40.7 dps from your sting. So, 5 talent points for 3.7 dps increase? Shrug, your call. I dropped this when I left my marks spec, but had it for most of my player’s career.

Tier Five

Scatter shot is the hunter’s only ability that functions inside of the dead zone. It’s a short range attack that confuses your target for 4 seconds. Fairly inexpensive, 30 second cooldown, shootable while running, it is dead useful. But, it also has one major gotcha.

Any damage caused will remove the effect. This renders the ability all but useless as temporary crowd control while in groups and makes it rather difficult while soloing – since both your pet and your dots like to break the effect as soon as it begins.

Generally, if you’re in a situation where you’re gonna be using scatter shot, you are also entirely probably in a situation where you don’t have the enemy dotted, so that’s not usually a concern. The pet however… that stupid little monkey. Or cat. Or whatever. Your pet is going to keep mauling the enemy unless you call them off or something.

Back when I had scatter shot, I had a macro that put my pet back into follow mode before firing off scatter. It seemed to work fairly well. Of course, this also interfered when my pet was dealing with one mob and I tried to scatter an add that got too close… shrug.

Improved scorpid is utterly useless. At level 52, rank 4 of scorp does -68 str/agi to your enemy. In and of itself, that’s already a seriously useful debuff when you consider that the str/agi reduction really equates to -136 attack power = -9.7 dps. To spend 5 talent points in order to temporarily reduce your enemy’s stamina by 6 points… is kind of dumb.

One point of stam = 10 points of max hp. So… 5 talent points for what is potentially a 60 damage attack that could very likely fade away in 20 seconds… yeah.

Barrage is nice. +15% to your two area attacks, multi-shot and volley. Now, volley itself isn’t all that great as far as AoE’s go. It does 80 dps for 6 seconds and has a stinking minute cooldown. Three points in barrage bumps your area dps up by 12, which is useful.

Where I really enjoy the talent is with its increase to multi-shot damage. At level 60, multi-shot replaces one normal attack with one that does +150 damage to up to 3 targets. So, even if you’re only hitting one target with it, multi is a great attack to spam. Suppose you’re hitting for 300 damage with your normal arrows. Your multi-shot is going to do 450, which is increased to 517.5 πŸ˜‰ With a 10 sec cooldown on the attack, that means an increase of 6.75 dps.

Of course, the real reason to pick up barrage isn’t its dps increase. The talent is a pre-req for the tier seven marksmanship talent.

Tier Six

If you’ve come this far, you’re gonna spend the 5 points in ranged weapon spec to increase your overall damage output by five more percent.

Tier Seven

Trueshot aura is the ability I drooled over from levels 10 until I picked it up at level 41. I later learned that it wasn’t entirely drool-worthy. It’s nice. Not wonderful. Not amazing. But nice. At level 60, it gives +100 attack power (melee and ranged) to all party members (and pets) close to the hunter. In a full group of physical damage dealers, that’s pretty nice. 7.1 dps for everyone involved.

The big downside to the ability is that you have to constantly re-cast it. Unlike your aspects, it only has a 30 minute duration. And it it’s expensive. 525 mana to renew at max level.


When the game first launched, survival was primarily for them dolts as wanted to try to play melee hunters. This has since changed quite happily, and there are several talents in the branch which improve your ranged combat capabilities in a major way – specifically by bumping up your traps and crit%.

Tier One

This is an interesting tier one in that it is possible to spend 11 points here in stead of 10 as is normal. Deflection is a no-brainer, and every hunter with the points to spare should pick it up. +5% to parry is just one more layer of defense, and being a tier one talent makes it exceptionally convenient to grab if you don’t want to dig any deeper into survival.

The humanoid and monster slaying talents each bump your damage and crit damage versus the appropriate critter types by 1% (that’s a plus for base damage and an additional plus for crit). Monsters are beasts, giants, and dragons according to this talent, making elementals, demons, undead, and silithids the only things unaffected by these two talents.

PvP spec hunters should strongly consider humanoid slaying. It means the difference between aimed shots that hit mages for 1800 damage and aimed shots that hit them for 1900. Monster slaying is nice for soloing/grinding. Trolls with monster slaying will be doing +8% base damage to beasts before the extra crit damage gets applied πŸ˜‰

Tier Two

Tier two of survival is a bit problematic. Savage strikes costs two points to increase the crit chance of your raptor and mongoose strikes by 20%… So, while that is nice if you’re spending a lot of time in melee, it doesn’t help your ranged combat abilities any, so I can’t recommend it.

Improved wing clip is interesting, and is a good tier two choice, especially if you’re not planning on going any deeper. Five talent points buys your wing clip attack a 20% chance of rooting your enemy for 5 seconds. This is in addition to the attack’s snare effect that will continue for a little bit after the root effect fades.

Wing clip is cheap – at level 60 it costs only 80 mana – is instant cast and has no cooldown timer. So you can spam it quite happily for a few seconds in order to guarantee a rooting effect before you run away.

I actually use wing clip for training weapon skills, especially with two-handers.

Entrapment is like the wing clip rooting effect only applied to your traps, with a 1% higher chance of success per talent point spent. I am actually using this talent right now, because it works miracles with your frost trap.

The chance of rooting seems to be triggered every time a mob steps into the ice patch. This means that if your frost trap hits four mobs, you’re almost guaranteed to proc the effect. I use this any time the party is heading into an AoE encounter.

Tier Three

Trap efficiency bumps the damage on your fire traps by 30% and the duration on your ice traps by 30%. This is amazing. At level 60, your freezing trap is a 20 second crowd control effect. This talent bumps that up to 26 seconds.

For comparrison. Level 60 polymorph has a 50 second effect that only works on humanoids and beasts, heals the victim, and leaves them liable to wander into an AoE storm or something (in addition to drawing much hate toward your mage). Level 48 sap only works on humanoids, can only be used out of combat, and lasts for 45 seconds. Level 60 shackles have a 50 second duration, but only work on undead, and level 48 banish lasts 30 seconds and only works on elementals and demons.

So, frost trap has half the duration of the big crowd control abilities, and isn’t targetted like them. It also requires you to be out of combat to use – which isn’t a big deal if you remember how to use your feign button. Frost trap’s big win is that it potentially works on just about everything. If a mob is immune to frost trap, it is likely immune to other forms of crowd control already.

Survivalist is nice. It means +10% max hp. For cows… that’s really happy.

Deterrance is an interesting one. I’m using it right now. It gives you a 10 second buff of +25% to dodge and parry on a 5 minute cooldown. Add deflection and improved monkey to this and you have 38% to dodge and 30% to parry before stats and equipment come into the picture. That’s a pretty decent amount of damage reduction in hairy situations.

The big problem with deterrance is that you can’t just hit it every time you wind up in melee, because the 10 second duration divided by the 300 second cooldown leaves you potentially wishing you had saved it. It is also dangerous when PvPing against warriors – you dodge a warrior and he uses overpower on you (an unavoidable attack for +damage).

Deterrance is also the pre-req for the tier five activated ability, for whatever that’s worth.

Tier Four

Surefooted gives you +3% to hit and +15% to resist roots and snares. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to give you a chance to resist the daze effect that cheetah and pack will hit you with. It also doesn’t help against polymorph or stun type effects. So shrug. But +3% to hit is +3% to hit, and the movement impairment resistance buff is probably pretty cool in addition to the one orcs already get.

Trap mastery makes your traps 10% harder to resist. Not that critters resist traps very much, but I like to think that it helps the entrapment effect proc more often, so I’m using it right now.

The other tier four talent is improved feign, which makes your feign dead ability 4% less likely to fail. This really matters when feigning stuff higher level than yourself. If you’re only fighting mobs your own size, it shouldn’t matter much since they rarely resist the ability.

But… if feign fails, you die. So it’s up to you πŸ˜‰

Tier Five

Ok. Another must-have ability on tier five in killer instinct. +3% to crit with anything, even swords if you are so inclined.

The other tier five ability is counterattack, an ability that activates off of a successful parry (with mongoose activating off of dodge). Like mongoose, counter doesn’t do much damage. Unlike mongoose, however, counter is unavoidable and procs a 5 second root effect.

I don’t use counter because I’m avoiding melee if at all possible. But more realistically, I’m not using it because I don’t have room on my action bar for it. My 1-3 keys are mongoose, raptor, wing clip respectively. 4 is whatever shot I’m using most frequently, 5-7 are stings.

Even if I did move things around to make room for counter, it’s an ability that doesn’t activate all that often that is now taking up action bar space, and I become in constant risk of wasting it by missing the parry message and forgetting to activate it when the time comes. It is this reasoning that’s been tempting me to actually remove mongoose from my action bar and put an interesting macro on the 1 key. Haven’t done it yet, but I am sorely tempted.

Tier Six

Ok. Tier six is the pinnacle of coolness in the survival tree. This is why you specced survival, after all. Lightning reflexes gives you +15% to your agility. At level 60, suppose you have 300 agility. This talent bumps that up by an additiona 45 points.

45 points of agility means 6.4 more base dps, 90 more points of AC, 1.7% to dodge, and 0.8% to crit. Of course, if your agility is higher… the bonus is even happier.

Tier Seven

The tier seven ability is really pretty useful, howbeit difficult to master. Wyvern sting is a 12 second sleep attack that can only be used outside of combat. When your enemy wakes up, they receive a bigger dot than serpent sting (at level 60 this is 600/12 secs as opposed to serpent for 555/15 or even improved serpent at 610/15). Like most other cc powers, wyvern’s sleep is interrupted by damage dealt.

Wyvern is on a two minute cooldown, so you can’t realistically expect to use it every single fight, much less more than once in a single fight (by feigning). The dot is also sometimes problematic. If you are using wyvern to extend the duration of your crowd control from a freezing trap, you’ll need to remember to hit your target with scorp before they hit the trap – or the dot will turn your potential 38 second field of containment into a 13 second one.

Of course, lay trap, wyvern, wait 12 secs, scorp, untarget so you don’t break the ice with auto-shot, feign, lay another trap means you can keep something out of combat for 64 seconds. So, while much more complicated than repeatedly sheeping something, this is potentially a lot more entertaining πŸ˜‰

Especially if you realize that feign is only on a 30 second cooldown, so if you’re quick about it, you can probably throw a few more frost traps into the cycle once it’s started, and if you keep it up for very long, wyvern -will- get a chance to recharge.

This can be very mean in PvP if you want to play with your food, especially if stalling for reinforcements πŸ˜›

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