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
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.
Endurance Training 5/5 - A tanking pet needs that extra health.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lethal Shots 5/5 - 5% extra crit??? Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! I don't think there's a hunter build that skips this talent.
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.
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:
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