Just to be clear, I am gonna discuss some gear options you might have at 80 for your hunter, but strictly from the perspective of the solo player and more specifically, from my perspective. I'm also discussing gear for 80 only because as a rule I don't purchase anything other than greens while I level, except ranged weapons (usually blue) and the occasional bargain blue non-weapon. I suggest you do the same. There's no point in spending hundreds of gold in costly upgrades while leveling, just to have them replaced 3 levels later with a green.
As a solo player you will be able to get good quality gear (blue and purple) from 4 main sources:
- BOE dungeon/raid drops from the AH
- crafted BOE items or crafted BOP items provided you can craft them yourself
- items from quests; blue items are usually from group quests
- items sold by various factions based on reputation
So when's the right price to buy such an item? I'm having the same dilemma myself. For example I'm watching a very nice hunter belt that drops in Naxxramas called Torn Web Wrapping. It has some very sweet stats with the exact combination I'm looking for. It would be a nice upgrade to the blue belt I'm using. Unfortunately, this epic belt is selling for around 3000 gold on my server. I have enough gold to afford it easily but I am also willing to wait because I'm not playing my hunter very hard these days. So I figured I'll wait until it drops to 2000 gold. When will that happen? No idea.
Enough splitting of hairs though. Let me get down to the actual items themselves. What follows is a bunch of items that I have obtained strictly in a solo setting. Since they are relatively easy to acquire, I will offer them as suggestions for your own set of gear. Also, please note that I am sporting this gear as a Beast Master Hunter. The list is not complete because I still need to replace some stuff. Also, I'm sure some of you will find better items out there. I'm simply offering this list as a starting point. Here we go...
Ranged Weapon - Nesingwary 4000. Here's where some of you might have a problem. You might prefer a bow or a crossbow. Unfortunately there aren't any bows/crossbows that can be obtained easily at this level for a player who doesn't raid or PvP. So we are left with the Nesingwary which is just dandy for me. As a dwarf hunter, I've always wielded a gun. Even if I had the opportunity to equip a much better bow, I've always stuck to my gun. A dwarf with a bow seems just... wrong. So as far as I'm concerned, the Nesingwary is the only way to go. On top of that, it's cheap to get the mats and have it crafted. These days you can even find it in the AH for as low as 500 gold.
Ranged Weapon Enchant - Hearseeker Scope. For my max-level guns I always like to add a crit scope. As we level, out effective crit percentage continues to drop for the same crit rating so I find that in non-raid gear, my crit is a bit on the low side. Thus, I ignore the other types of scope because it's easier to get extra DPS or haste from other stats.
Melee Weapon - Silvery Sylvan Stave. This stave is what I'm sporting right now. It's probably one of the best and easiest to get epics in the game and it has some awesome stats. It is obtained from the Argent Tournament after you become Champion and costs a measly 25 Champion's Seals. If you still have a long way to go before you can get this stave, a very good alternative is the Icier Barbed Spear. This spear can be obtained as a reward from the Amphitheater of Anguish chain in Zul'Drak. Once you find a group (and it's easy to find a group for this chain) it is easy to beat all the bosses. As a bonus, you will make 100G from all the quest rewards.
Melee Weapon Enchant - Greater Savagery. This is my personal choice. 85 AP is nothing to sneeze at and it's a very cheap enchantment to get.
Head - Toothslice Helm. This helm is easily obtained from the Oracles in Sholazar Basin. Revered reputation is trivial to get. Personally I haven't found any other helm that's easier to get.
Head Enchant - Arcanum of Torment from Knights of the Ebon Blade reputation in Icecrown. Fortunately you only need to be Revered with them to get access to this item. It's easy to become Revered: just do all the quests in Icecrown.
Shoulders - Spaulders of Grounded Lightning. These are sold by the Kirin Tor faction in Dalaran. It's easy to be Honored with these guys at 80. If you're still not Honored when you hit 80, do some cooking and fishing dailies.
Shoulder Enchant - For Scribes, the one and only option is: Master's Inscription of the Axe. For non-Scribes, unfortunately you'll have to grind some reputation with the Sons of Hodir in Storm Peaks but it's not that hard to reach Exalted with them. You just have to finish all the quests in Storm Peaks (99% of them are solo-able) and then do a few dailies. More dailies open up as you gain reputation with them but I suggest you go the quick route if you have some money saved up and simply buy their love by turning in Relics of Ulduar. I simply bought a ton of those from the AH, whenever they dropped below 1G a piece. At Honored with these guys you can purchase Lesser Inscription of the Axe. I suggest you wait until you're exalted, for Greater Inscription of the Axe.
Back - I just bought Ice Striker's Cloak for 200 gold on the Auction House. It's a very decent price considering that Wowhead lists it at 500 gold average. UPDATE: OK, I was hasty... a day later (Saturday) this cloak dropped in price to 150 gold. Even though it's a doh! moment for me, the point I'm trying to make is that it's extremely cheap to get a good quality epic for this slot.
Back Enchant - Major Agility. It's a bit more costly than Superior Agility but in this case I think it's worth it. Instead of finding an enchanter try searching for the scroll on the AH. I bought one for only 75 gold which is significantly cheaper than the cost of the mats.
Chest - Razorstrike Breastplate. This is perhaps the easiest to get and cheapest option for a chestpiece that you can find starting with level 78. It has very nice stats and is created from Leatherworking. You can either supply the mats + small tip to a leatherworker or perhaps even better, watch for a cheaply priced one on the AH. Very frequently these will sell for less than the price of mats so you stand a high chance of getting a good bargain on it.
Chest Enchant - Super Stats (+8 to all stats). You could also go for the +10 to stats Powerful Stats enchant but it's not worth the premium IMO, unless you're a raider and you're applying it to a really high level chest piece.
Wrist - One option would be Eaglebane Bracers that can be cheaply bought from the AH. Their stats are OK - ish. I'm currently researching more expensive options. Some of these are:
Giantmaim Bracers created through Leatherworking and not very expensive to make/buy. Unfortunately they have Armor Penetration instead of Crit and (call me stupid but...) I hate that stat. Don't understand it and don't wanna use it.
Slime Stream Bands which drop in Naxx and have some sweet stats on them, plus a socket. Currently waiting for them to drop at or below 2000 gold.
Armguard of the Tower Archer which can be bought from the Auction House for more decent prices, since it's an item that can be purchased by players with extra Emblems of Valor from Dalaran.
Bracers of Smothering Inferno which drop in Ulduar and have the best stats of the bunch but are a bit on the expensive side.
Here's a nice comparison between these options. Bear in mind that I've only listed those that you can buy. You might be able to get some nice bracers from quests but I haven't found any so far. I still have Icecrown to quest through though.
Wrist Enchant - Striking is the best bang for the buck. Definitely go for this if you're on a limited budged. If money is of little concern, get Greater Assault. If you are a Leatherworker, your best and only option by far is Fur Lining - Attack Power.
Hand - My suggestion is to watch the AH for Rusted-Link Spiked Gauntlets that drop in Naxx and have some very sweet stats on them, including a red socket. I found these gloves for 350-ish gold, which I think is a very good price. I gemmed them with a Delicate Scarlet Ruby for +16 AGI. In retrospect I guess I should have used a Bright Scarlet Ruby. However, there are many options as far as gems are concerned and you should pick the ones that give you the stats that you need most.
Hand Enchant - There are several options here.
Greater Blasting - expensive and the tiny bit of crit is not worth it, IMO.
Crusher - gives some nice AP but again, I think it's too expensive to be worth it.
Major Agility - this is the one I opted for. The mats are very affordable and even though it gives a tiny bit less AP compared to Crusher, it will also get you some crit, armor and dodge.
Precision - If your Hit Rating is really suffering, get this one but for a non-raiding hunter, Hit Rating has a low priority to me. I've never needed to reach the hit cap in a solo setting. So what if I occasionally miss 1 or 2 shots? The highest level creatures I'm fighting are only level 80s so Hit is not very important to me.
Greater Assault - I'm tied between this and Major Agility but if you can't afford it, Greater Assault is a good alternative to Crusher.
Waist - Thanks to the Sons of Hodir, I replaced the green belt that I was wearing with Giant Ring Belt. You just need to be honored with these guys but if you're going for the shoulder enchants (and I suggest you do), this belt is trivial to get. I like that it has all the stats a solo hunter needs and in generous quantities.
Torn Web Wrapping is the belt that I'm watching for in the AH and waiting for it to drop to around 2000. This is a nice BOE belt that drops in Naxx and it should be everything you need until the next expansion.
Waist Enchant - We all know there are no belt enchants per se, but of course you can fit your belt with an Eternal Belt Buckle that allows you to stick a gem in there. I haven't got one myself yet perhaps because I'm waiting for a better belt but I would probably use a Bright Scarlet Ruby.
Legs - I'm curently (still) using Greaves of Sanctified Dissolution which is a reward from the quest Ursoc, the Bear God in Grizzly Hills. If you haven't done this quest yet and you're sporting lesser pants, I suggest you do it. This quest is the culmination to a very nice chain, filled with lore. Although the quest is considered a group quest, it can be soloed easily as a hunter because you enlist the help of a bear NPC that can act as several types of class and I usually pick a healer.
Giantmaim Legguards are a cheap epic option but I'm staying away from them thanks to that Armor Penetration stat.
Darkcore Leggings drop in Ulduar and currently seem to be the most powerful BOE legs that you can find. The price though is prohibitive.
In addition, there are probably a few other options obtained through questing or reputation vendors but I don't have enough experience to give any advice in that matter.
Leg Enchant - There are only 2-3 options worth considering here.
Nerubian Leg Reinforcements is the single best leg enchant you can have, provided you are a Leatherworker.
Icescale Leg Armor is the best choice if you're not a leatherworker and provided you find some really nice legs to stick it on.
Nerubian Leg Armor is the most common option and the one I use currently. It's cheap to buy or craft and definitely worth every penny.
Feet - Boots of the Terrestrial Guardian are the ones I'm using right now. They can be found really cheap in the AH so if you're still sporting greens, I'd suggest you look for these. The only other boots that I can find are from a Leatherworking recipe that drops in Ulduar and the mats alone should make them prohibitively expensive. They are: Boots of Living Scale.
Feet Enchant - I currently opted for Assault which gives 24 AP. That's not the best enchant but it's the cheapest. There are 3 other options worth considering:
Icewalker if you need a little bit of hit and crit rating. It's not a lot so I usually skip this enchant. Like I said earlier, I'm not really concerned about my hit rating since the highest mobs I'm fighting are only 80.
Superior Agility - I would skip this as a Beast Master Hunter. While AGI will give you a bit of AP and crit and dodge and armor, you'd be better off with the next one which is...
Greater Assault is the one I would get if I had lost of cash. Wait, I do have enough cash so I will probably get it at some point but I'm in no hurry since it only gives me an extra +8 AP compared to what I have right now.
Neck - Choker of the Betrayer is what I use for now but it's not the best thing out there, by far. It is relatively easy to get and you don't need a group to finish the long chain of quests from Zul'Drak which culminates in Betrayal. The only other viable alternative seems to be Titanium Impact Choker which can be crafted relatively cheaply but I haven't bothered with that one either.
Rings - Since I'm a bit crazy in the noggin' I'm wearing an Inscribed Band of the Kirin Tor and a Band of the Kirin Tor. Expensive you say? At a total over 15K gold, it's definitely not cheap. I thought that by getting these 2 I would have access to 2 different portals to Dalaran. Alas, the ring portals are on the same cooldown. Since I didn't find anything on the web regarding this, it was an expensive experiment but in the end the stats on the rings are very good. The only other ring that I would consider is Surge Needle Ring but I've never seen it on my AH.
Ring Enchant - You can only have a ring enchant if you're an enchanter but there's really only 1 enchant for you in this case: Assault. End of story.
Trinkets - Unfortunately there isn't much advice I can give you here. I'm wearing 2 fairly common trinkets obtained from quests: Medallion of Heroism and Automated Weapon Coater. I'm holding on to these primarily due to the crit. I'm considering replacing them with some of the following, especially the first 2 which are much cheaper options:
Darkmoon Card: Death is not too expensive to obtain, especially considering that I can craft my own Darkmoon cards with my scribe.
Oracle Talisman of Ablution also gives some nice crit and also restores 5% of maximum mana which is really nice if you have 2 of these equipped. Unfortunately I'm not exalted with these guys and I still have a ways to go until I will be.
Darkmoon Card: Greatness is the most expensive alternative and I'm not sure it's worth the premium. I'm gonna skip it for the time being.
This concludes my guide to solo hunter gear. Please remember that these are just my suggestions and most of it is gear that I'm currently wearing. I am very happy with my damage currently but I do intend to make small improvements to my gear going forward. I am sure that you will find gear that I have omitted here or that is better suited to you or your style of play. You will certainly find some cheaper alternatives but the bottom line is that everything I've listed here can be obtained without having to step in PvP or a single instance, dungeon or raid.
I really appreciate that Blizzard has provided enough and varied gear for people to enjoy World of Warcraft on their own and I can bear witness that the game begins at 80 for solo players also, not just for hardcore raiders or PvP-ers.
Also be sure to check my other articles in this series for Solo Hunters:
Solo Hunter Spec
Solo Hunter Glyphs