Thursday, May 28, 2009

Solo Hunter Spec

It used to be that hunters were arguably the best soloing class in the game. That is still true to some extent, although Blizzard's ongoing "homogenization" of classes has rendered it less so. Many more classes and specs are now adept at soloing content but hunters still remain ahead of the pack. But that's just my humble opinion.

Hunters have a few advantages that put them above other classes in some ways. Here are a few of them:
  • hunter pets can tank from one to several mobs successfully while the hunter spanks... from a distance
  • hunters (especially when the player knows his class) seldom die
  • related to the above, hunters can generally survive even whole group wipes with judicious use of Feign Death
  • hunters can survive short melee scuffles thanks to wearing mail, as opposed to clothies
  • hunters are self-sufficient in regards to their resources: they can heal their pets with Mend Pet, they can recover their mana with Aspect of the Viper and Beastmasters speccing into Spirit Bond will slowly recover lost health while their pet is out
  • hunters' pets do very decent damage, especially when specced for it
  • hunters themselves do very nice dps, in spite of the fact that they also have a damage-dealing pet
For today, I've decided to outline the spec that my level 80 hunter uses for soloing the whole of World of Warcraft... well, whatever doesn't require PvP or raids or even 5-man dungeons. Even then, I would still use the same spec because I've been using it for a very long time and I'm comfortable with the way it works. In fact I'm not even planning to get Dual Specs on my hunter any time soon because there's no other spec that looks attractive to me.

So what is this fantastic spec that I've been blabbing about for the past 5 minutes? Beast Mastery of course. I use a 55/15/0 configuration. If you will notice, even though I'm 80, I still have 1 talent point to allocate and I simply can't make a decision in this regard.

I've always used Beast Mastery because I'm of the opinion that a hunter should have a strong pet, capable of handling powerful mobs (even elites) and that's especially true for leveling and soloing. Next I'm going to detail the talents that I picked with explanations for each choice.

Beast Mastery
Tier 1
Endurance Training 5/5 - A tanking pet needs that extra health.

Tier 2
Focused Fire 2/2 - 2% extra damage when pet is out? Meaning all the time almost? Hell yeah!
Thick Hide 3/3 - Nice boost to pet's armor. A must for a tanking pet.

Tier 3
Aspect Mastery 1/1 - For 1 point this talent is a must. One of the best bangs you can get for your buck.
Unleashed Fury 5/5 - 15% increased pet damage is a good thing.

Tier 4
Improved Mend Pet 2/2 - Essential for a solo hunter. Makes soloing certain elites possible and increases your pet's longevity. Also improves its chances to survive AOE tanking of several mobs.
Ferocity 5/5 - More crit for your pet is a good thing. Besides tanking, I like the pet to also do some damage.

Tier 5
Spirit Bond 2/2 - I used to ignore this talent previously but since it was overhauled by increasing the healing done to the pet I consider it a must. I consider the health regeneration a bonus.
Intimidation 1/1 - Essential for the Beast Mastery hunter. This is a skill that you should be using whenever it's up, in order to lower your effective threat.
Bestial Discipline 2/2 - Doubles the focus regeneration of your pet. This means your pet can use its special abilities a lot more often, which translates into higher damage. It's a must for a BM build.

Tier 6
Frenzy 5/5 - I always liked Frenzy. It makes your pet go nuts after critting. It was especially cool during the old days of 1.0 speed pets such as Broken Tooth.

Tier 7
Ferocious Inspiration 3/3 - 3% increased damage when pet crits? Bring it on! Since pets crit fairly often, I consider this talent a no-brainer.
Bestial Wrath 1/1 - Essential for the BM hunter. It's like a 50% extra damage trinket on a short cooldown. Also breaks snares on the pet. Wicked. As a bonus, your pet turns large and red for the duration.

Tier 8
Serpent's Swiftness 5/5 - Increases both your ranged attack speed and your pet's attack speed by 20%. Huge boost to overall DPS. A must for the BM hunter.

Tier 9
Longevity 3/3 - Oh this is sweet. Bestial Wrath and Intimidation are on a really short timer now and your pet can use its special abilities more often. Remember that doubling of focus generation? Yep, here's where it comes into play.
The Beast Within 1/1 - Bestial Wrath for the hunter. 'Nuff said.
Cobra Strikes 3/3 - This is especially useful for Steady Shot since this is what you're using most of the time. A very solid talent.

Tier 10
Kindred Spirits 5/5 - The 20% increased pet damage is especially sweet. Practically this is a flat 20% increased damage since it's up whenever your pet's up.

Tier 11
Beast Mastery 1/1 - Some people will skip the final talent in the tree claiming it's not worth it but even if you don't use an exotic pet, the 4 extra pet skill points are worth the measly talent, IMO.

Now that we're well specced into Beast Mastery, let's move on to Marksmanship.

Tier 1
Lethal Shots 5/5 - 5% extra crit??? Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! I don't think there's a hunter build that skips this talent.

Tier 2
Careful Aim 3/3 - Excellent talent, I would say it's a must. Makes Intellect very important and hunter gear has lots of INT on it. Basically every 1 INT = 1 RAP (Ranged Attack Power).
Mortal Shots 5/5 - 30% increased damage when you crit with all your ranged abilities is really nice. Get it.

Tier 3
Go for the Throat 2/2 - Your pet gains half its focus bar whenever you crit. That's pretty sweet. Between this one and the focus-generating talents in the Beast Mastery tree, your pet should never be out of focus.

And there's 1 talent point left unspent. I'm really at a loss over what to spend it on. I was thinking maybe Aimed Shot but even though it is an instant shot, I haven't used it since they overhauled it significantly and I don't know how effective it is. Besides, the biggest problem is that I don't have any hotkeys left. That has always been a problem with hunters. So if you have a suggestion for that last point, I would be obliged.

Now if you dig a Beast Mastery build, you will probable have a different opinion on how to allocate those talents. This is my build and it has been really good for me. Of course, it is not a raiding or a PvP build but I've done a few battlegrounds before using the very same build and I guess it worked. Well, I only did those BGs for a few pieces of gear and I didn't give a damn when I got killed.

A hunter is only half the man (or woman) without his/her pet. As a pet, I'm currently using a simple Bear. The reason is twofold: bears are excellent tanks and they also have Swipe which offers a small AOE advantage. Combined with Thunderstomp, bears are perhaps the best AOE tanking pets out there. OK, Crocs aren't bad either but to me they seem annoying.

Here's how I specced my Bear tank. Link.
  • Charge 1/1 - I always loved this skill. Before pets were completely redesigned, with their own talent tree, I would pick Boars especially for this skill. It makes the pet shoot like a bullet towards its target and also makes its next hit more potent.
  • Great Stamina 3/3 - Staple tanking talent.
  • Natural Armor 2/2 - More armor for your pet makes it sturdier.
  • Spiked Collar 3/3 - 9% increased damage with all attacks and skills is awesome. This includes AOE damage.
  • Blood of the Rhino 2/2 - This is a twofer. Not only does it further increase the pet's stamina but it also increases all healing received by the pet. Yummy!
  • Pet Barding 2/2 - Further increases both the pet's mitigation and its avoidance. Good for a tanking spec.
  • Guard Dog 2/2 - Makes Growl more potent and also, very importantly, gives a measure of happines to the pet whenever it uses Growl. This is very good because now you never have to feed your pet again. Yeah, I know, animal cruelty. Deal with it, it's just pixels.
  • Thunderstomp 1/1 - The pet AOE skill. Don't leave home without it.
  • Grace of the Mantis 2/2 - Provides some mitigation but overall it seems like a so-so talent.
  • Silverback 2/2 - Pet heals itself whenever it growls. The amount isn't much but combined with Mend Pet, it will probably make a difference in tighter fights.

And that's it for my hunter and pet specs. As for my rotation, I'm happy with the following:
  1. Hunter's Mark
  2. Arcane Shot
  3. Steady Shot
  4. Steady Shot
  5. Arcane Shot
  6. repeat
  7. optionally cast Mend Pet if needed
If there's a tougher mob, I weave Serpent Sting after Arcane Shot.
For multiple mobs I use Multishot and then Volley.

And there you have it. I'm completely happy with my talent allocation and my pet and I don't see myself making any changes unless Blizzard decides to make significant changes to the talent trees (again). There remains that small issue with ammo, but I hope they will end up converting ammo to an equipped item.

Also be sure to check my other articles in this series for Solo Hunters:
Solo Hunter Glyphs
Solo Hunter Gear


Joe said...

awesome stuff! I've got a lvl 10 hunter, and still havn't really looked into playing with it much, i may change that :D I do like your spec breakdown, i just wish there were proper breakdowns like this for all specs and classes. Life would be so much easier :D

Skaut said...

I have a level 80, level 71 and level 48 hunter. All of them usually use Boars, I just love them!
I had Aimed Shot before the last talent reset, but dropped it when we got the points back. I believe it shares a cooldown with Arcane Shot, it was annoying to use Aimed and not then have Arcane available. I think I put my extra points in Pathfinding. A little extra mount speed is nice when you are just running around by yourself.
I almost always start out with Serpent Sting after Hunter's Mark. Adds a little extra DoT damage which is nice. Helps kill runners when you have a group(I was fighting Gnolls in Feralas yesterday, ugh).
As for glyphs, I use Bestial Wrath, Mending and Serpent Sting for majors and Mend Pet for minor(the other minors aren't that exciting).
My 71 hunter trios with my husband and daughter's hunter(3 Dwarf hunters, all with boars, we are a sight to see-people are always asking if we are boxing!).
And 2 more levels until my baby hunter gets Steady Shot! It's so annoying to keep hitting that keybind and forget that I don't have that shot yet!

Skaut said...

Oh and I was wondering how you get the Wowhead mouseovers to work on your blog? I can't get them to work on mine. Is there something special you have to sign up for? Thanks! :)

TB said...

Thanks a ton for this post! I started an Alliance Hunter, my first Ally character ever a week or so ago. So far I'm having a blast. I bookmarked this post for quick reference. The first 10 levels solo without the pet were nerve-racking but I picked up my bear and it's been smooth sailing ever since. I hit level 14 this morning. I've gone through the dwarf starting quests and what I could solo in Loch Modan and then headed down to Westfall. I've been using the following rotation which seems to work well at my level but any suggestions are of course welcome:
1. Hunter's Mark
2. Arcane Shot
3. Serpent Shot
4. Arcane Shot when it's up and serpent shot if it needs re-applied before the mob is dead.

I actually felt a little guilty that I've only logged on my Druid once in the last week. I spent so much time levelling him up and now he's just up there drumming his fingers with Thorim in Storm Peaks. I did forget about him for a few minutes when I successfully took down Hogger on my first try :) I was never able to solo elites that easily on my druid. Granted it could be done (easier than some other classes I know) but it often took some clever shifting in order to drop heals when health got low. My pet, "Smokey" the bear is like having your own little bear-form druid tanking for you.

I think that's enough for today. Have a great weekend!

Darth Solo said...

Hey guys sorry for not replying quickly... I was away from the computer. So...

@Joe I will be posting soloing specs for 2-3 more classes that I really enjoy: Death Knight, Paladin and Warlock. These days you can level to 80 using any spec of your choosing but, of course, I'll post the ones that I use and that I find most fun.

@Scout those are good ideas. I'm not very sure about Serpent Sting since I don't use it in every fight. Fights with normal mobs are over before I can use it, but for elites and tougher mobs I always throw it in after Arcane Shot.

@Scout regarding the Wowhead addon thingy, try this:
- in your Blogger account go to Layout > Edit HTML
- right below the "head" tag insert the Wowhead code. For some reason it won't allow me to post html tags here but you can go here to grab the code:
- save
- it should work now

@TB man, I wouldn't be able to start a new hunter from scratch. I can't imagine life without AotV. Actually I remember some of the... horror: my mana would run out every 2 mobs and I had to sit and drink.
Anyways, I don't remember life at your level but can you do without Serpent Sting for normal mobs? You would save some mana this way...
Try to buy (or craft if applicable) armor and weapons with lots of AGI on it but only buy stuff that's priced decently. You should find lots of stuff for less than 5G a piece. That will help you a lot.
Nice weekend to you too and I'm off now to level my pally!

Shawn said...

Another good post, Darth. I've got a 62 Tauren hunter and a 25 NE hunter. I'm going BM and MMS accordingly. I'm a fan of trying a new spec everytime I reroll the same class. BM sure was a hell of a lot easier. My BM hunter was the one I picked when I wanted to zoom my way to level 55 to open up my DK slot on my server.
I mostly agree with your talent choices, but I've left out the ones I'm not too sure about, Spirit Bond and Cobra Strikes. 2% of regen didn't seem like good use of 2 points to me, but the increased healing on the pet is nice to have. Two crits from the pet didn't seem like much of a point either, but I'm in agreement with everything else! I like your spec for your bear, as well. I wish I could allocate more points to get that wild hunt ability, but so be it.
Also for whomever posted about Aimed shot, it shares a cooldown with Multishot, which can really be annoying.
As for your last point, I'd suggest throwing it in the Survival tree, get 3 extra yards of range on your ranged attacks. Distance is always handy!

Darth Solo said...

Thanks Shawn!

Don't underestimate Cobra Strikes. It procs very often and your pet's damage is pretty high also. When it procs, its next 2 abilities crit, which is very sweet, especially when fighting multiple mobs and the Thunderstomp crits.

I wouldn't have taken the old version Spirit Bond but the new one also increases healing done TO THE PET. For me, that's very important. It makes solo-ing tough mobs that much easier.

Greasewood said...

Hey Darth. This is my first time reading your blog, and I'm really happy that Wow Insider linked to it. My main is a Hunter (Orc). While I don't solely play solo, as I do raids and PvP, but I'm dual specced with a hunter soloing build. I love going through old instances that I didn't get the chance to play through when I was leveling.

On your pet spec, I'd like to recommend Wild Hunt. It has several effects. Not only does it increase your pets health and damage, which can be great, it increases the benefit of both Spirit Bond and Silverback, which can be a godsend.

@Shawn Aimed Shot actually shares a cooldown with Multi Shot, not Arcane Shot. Also, the crits from Cobra Strikes will proc Ferocious Inspiration, increasing all of your damage for 10 seconds.

Anonymous said...

I dumped the extra talent point into Hunter's Mark for the extra 10% AP...may not be much but with the glyph it certainly can't hurt! (Though it was a toss-up between putting the one point into IAotH for the haste buff, which seems to proc alot...)

Darth Solo said...

@Greasewood thanks! I have to admit I'm a bit surprised (and happy) that dedicated an entire article to my series of articles. As soon as I get back from work I'll take a look at Wild Hunt.

@Anonymous that's actually not a bad choice. Since I use Hunter's Mark every time, without exception, it shouldn't be a wasted point.

Tsani said...

I've got pretty much the same basic talent spec, but in playing around with some points found out I only needed 3/5 in Frenzy. It still procs like mad and once my pet is in frenzy she won't get out until the fight is over (solo, team or raid).

Aimed Shot is pretty much useless for BM hunters, or as a MM friend told me "take it if you like spending half your time in Viper and you forgot where that steady button went to, otherwise just stick the points into something that makes your pet even more OP than mine. ;p "

Anonymous said...

A lot of hunters put points into Improved Tracking.

Anonymous said...

Hello, just a thought for your last point or 2 as I understand the 5th rank of Frenzy and the second rank of Go For the Throat are overkill (provide no or very little increase) for their respective benefits.
I'd suggest Animal Handler or possibly Catlike Reflexes. Expertise for your pet is just as, if not more, useful as Hit is. It reduces enemy avoidance, increasing dps and threat. And Dodge is just nice for survival vs. elites and dungeon mobs.
I could be wrong, but I believe my reasoning is sound. Good luck finding a spot for those last point(s).

Darth Solo said...

You guys might be right regarding Frenzy. I've never thought about it. I won't put points in Improved Tracking however because I never use mob tracking since I have herbalism and mining on my hunter and I always switch between those 2.

Chaaron said...

Hello Darth,
It's my first time reading your blog and you've got a ton of great info, thank you for sharing.
How would you spec a cat pet if you were going to play solo? I looked at your spec for your bear and it makes a lot of sense. I'm hoping you'll offer your opinion with cat specs.

Darth Solo said...

@Chaaron hi and thanks for the appreciation. Cats are very good DPS pets so I would go with one if all I cared about was DPS. I haven't played with a cat in a very long time, certainly not after they introduced pet skills.

As a Beast Master, I would imagine a Devilsaur produces more DPS than a cat. I can't be 100% certain on that but if I remember correctly, Blizzard's intention was to offer exotic pets and extra 5% DPS compared to regular pets.

If I had to spec a pet, I would spec it for pure DPS and I would spec it something like this:

The only thing I'm not sure about is that point in Dash. Charge provides a bigger benefit. So it's up to you where you would put that point. Either in Stamina or Armor. Oh and that's a Beast Master spec, with the additional skill points.

trigger said...

I just tried speccing as far into this build as possible (im at lvl 71) and I've already seen an increase and dps and survivability, but one thing I've also seen is that my Gorilla is almost always at 80-100% focus. I don't think this build needs go for the throat. I'm not sure where exactly I would put the 3 points, maybe mix things around to try and go 51/20 and get 5 points in Efficiency, or just dump the 3 points into Improved Hunter's Mark. Either way, in GftT the points are most likely just being wasted.

Darth Solo said...

@trigger you might be right. Focus generation is better than the old days. I just wanted to make sure the pet never ran out of it but I'm sure this build could be improved on.

Anonymous said...

I cannot wait to see your Warlock Solo spec or Paladin one for that matter. Thank you for the great info, it helps alot.

Darth Solo said...

Protection Paladin spec is the next one in the pipeline. Unfortunately 3.2 is gonna change a few things about Prot Pallys and I'm not sure if I should just showcase my current spec or just wait for the patch and respec. Besides, I'm not 100% about my current spec, though it works for me.

Darth Solo said...

Oh, Affliction Warlock spec will also arrive at some point, though my lock is only 71. I've played as Affliction since level 10 and I love it for solo-ing.

Unknown said...

My 80 hunter have similar BM spec, my 40 hunter is markmanship (Twink ideas with that, going to park it at 49 for some time). I love the pve strength in BM doing boss kills my pala couldnt. I use a wolf from Hellfire Ramparts as a pet since level 70, mainly for the speed and aggro holding. I can shoot, pet there before bullet, awesome.

Darth Solo said...

What spec is your Paladin? I would imagine a Prot spec should be able to survive more stuff than a BM hunter. My Prot Pally feels like a tank. Wait, he is a tank!

Anonymous said...

I liked this blog very much gave me alot of info to be a solo hunter. Thank you

Anonymous said...

Really great guide! Thank you! Every BM Hunter who wants to tank elites and heroic instances, should follow this, with a gear based in Agility, Stamina and Attack Power

Have nice heroics solos. ;)

Anonymous said...

How long until an update with the current changes? :P

Darth Solo said...

Oh jeez, to be honest I'm kind of stumped by the new talents. I was considering going Marksmanship but the rotation seems complicated. I haven't played with my new hunter yet.