I got a PM from someone looking to improve their hunter and my response turned into a mini guide, so I figured I would just post it on the forums for anyone who finds the information useful.
I am happy to help. I LOVE the hunter class and really the only reason I quit playing mine is my wife got her hunter to 70 and I didn't want to compete with her in raids! (Don't get me wrong, I love playing my shaman too.)
I tell 90% of the hunters that ask me about specs to go Beastmaster 41/20/0
. The main reasons are it is easier to play, it does more damage for MOST hunters and it is usually a bigger boost in damage for the rest of the party or raid. The exceptions on damage are for survivalist hunters- when they have insane gear they will out perform a beastmaster hunter, but I wouldn't worry about that until much later.
There are a few key things you can learn and get by in groups without being considered a noob or huntard. Then there are a few things that are a little more advanced - if you can get these things down you will stick out as a good hunter and really excel in groups. The basics you want to have down as soon as possible are shot rotations, proper traps, and pet control. If you do those three things you will be able to passively "do you job" in groups without sticking out as a bad apple.
Shot Rotation -
A lot of hunters just hit arcane shot, steady shot, stings, aimed shot, ect. as they cooldown. Don't worry, I used to do it and many many hunters don't have the first clue about a shot rotation. Your shot rotation is how you maximize your dps (damage per second). If you have a proper shot rotation you won't have to worry about your damage. I'll get into gear later, but just using a proper shot rotation and spec I was out dpsing some 70 rogues and hunters when my hunter was 67-68. As a beastmaster, you have the simplest shot rotation in the game - auto shot, steady shot. The goal of your rotation is to avoid clipping your auto shots. Sounds more complicated than it is.
Here is a simple explanation: If you stand and just auto shot a mob you will shoot 1 arrow every so many seconds. If you use a shot that takes time to cast, like aimed shot or steady shot, your auto shot will not fire until you are done shooting your aimed/steady shot. The majority of your damage comes from your autoshots, so you don't want to interrupt them - you want to slip in your shots between your auto shots.
This will make a lot more sense if you do this exercise in game: Find a mob and let your pet get aggro. Just auto shot and pay attention to how long it takes from one shot to the next. Once you get the basic rhythm of your auto shot start shooting a arcane shot between them. This is very easy because it is an instant cast. Then start trying to get a steady shot between the auto shots instead of arcane shots. If you cast a steady shot right as your auto shot fires it should fit perfectly between your autoshots. This is what is called a 1:1 rotation. 1 steady shot, 1 auto shot. over and over. (Marksmen have to work arcane shots and multi shots into the rotation and it gets a lot more complicated)
Also… never use your melee weapon. Ever. Ever. Not even when you are solo. Your pet is there to tank, let him get aggro and let him tank. You can pull off your pet pretty easy, but slow down – you will kill the mob faster if you slow down your ranged dps instead of pulling and trying to melee it down. If you melee mobs, it is called being a Munter (melee hunter) and is just another term for huntard or noob. (the one exception is when fighting another hunter in pvp- but that’s a story for another day – if you want some pvp stuff let me know)
/castsequence !Auto Shot, Steady Shot
/castrandom [target=pettarget,exists] Kill Command
/console Sound_EnableSFX 1
This macro does your shot rotation for you and hits kill command when it is up, but I would learn how to do it manually first, then if you want just use the macro as an easy button. One thing I do want to add here is a note about Fein death. I don’t know what type of damage you did before, but with a proper shot rotation you will start having to worry about your threat. Feign Death is not a way to exit combat to prevent dieing on a wipe, it is a way to drop your threat and never ever pull off a tank. (If it is up when you are about to wipe, go for it : ). I plan on my feign death being resisted. When I am about half way to catching the tank on threat I FD and then hit it just about every time it is on cooldown. If one gets resisted I might have to slow down a bit on damage, but I don’t have to stop completely or worry about instantly pulling because I waited till the last second to FD. If you ever hear a hunter say “Feign death was resisted” as an excuse to why they died – they waited way to long to use it. Once you get pretty good gear this changes a bit because it is possible to catch the tank before FD cools down, but again- don’t worry about that for now- just cross that bridge when you come to it.
On to trapping:
There are 2 traps you will primarily use in groups. Freezing trap and explosive trap. Explosive is optional. Freezing trap is a great for of crowd control. You can CC just about anything unless it is frost immune or totally cc immune. I will go into chain trapping later, but as a basic - you want to lay your trap and pull your assigned mob into it at the start of a fight. This is pretty simple, but one pointer I would give is once you have the mob running at you target the mob you are going to kill. This will keep you from accidentally letting an auto shot break your own trap. Most of the time blue square is used to mark freezing trap. (blue square…ice block…get it? lol) You can use explosive trap if you are AOE killing 4+ mobs at once. You will usually lay an explosive trap, walk back a bit and volley the mobs. Just make sure your tank has aggro on all the mobs.
Better safe than sorry. I am really big on keeping your pet on passive at all times. I never want my pet doing anything I didn’t tell it to do. I bind ` (tilde) for my pet attack. You can also set up a macro for hunters mark/pet attack –
/cast Hunter’s Mark
,but you can’t put up hunters mark before a pull if you use the macro lol. The great thing about the macro is in combat, when you switch targets, all you have to do is hit “1” and your pet will switch to your target and you will have hunters mark up. Then if you can just spam 2 for your shot rotation macro. It makes it super simple. (assuming 1 and 2 are where you have bound the macros of course)
One thing you need to get used to is hitting the “pet follow” button. This will call your pet back to you if he is about to do something bad like pull something he isn’t supposed to. You won’t have to hit it very often, but when you do- it will have to be very very fast, so know where it is and be ready to click it automatically when needed. One annoying thing your pet will do is if you tell it to attack a mob and change it to attack a different mob, it will run after the first mob as soon as the 2nd mob dies – even if it never entered combat with the first mob. So if you switch targets in the middle of a pull, make sure you call your pet back if you don’t want him running after the original target.
During combat take it nice and easy –don’t get overwhelmed. Your job is to attack the tanks target and not pull aggro. When it comes time to switch target, make sure you do not target a sheep or other CCed mob. Let the tank break CC. Hunters have a bad reputation for breaking traps. It is very easy to do on a hunter. Don’t ever use TAB to target mobs. If you tab target a sheep or a mob in a group you haven’t pulled you might hit your pet attack button on instinct and even if you manage to resist doing that your auto shot will be more than enough to get you in trouble. Click your tank and then click his target (or press “F” to assist him). Take it slow, your tank can use that extra few seconds to set aggro.
Use a DPS pet – cats are my favorite. Learn all about pets here.
Train avoidance, cobra reflexes and max claw for a cat. Other pets will have other dmg moves instead of claw, but make sure you have the max rank. Claw’s max rank is 9. If you don’t have this and don’t know how to get it let me know and I will help you out on pets. I respect my pet for solo or instances. Max armor for solo, max hp for instances with some resistance depending on the instance I am going to. If you just stick with max avoidance, cobra reflexes, max claw (or other dmg move), max armor and as high of stamina you can afford as your last stat all the time you’ll be fine.
Gear: You want to try to cap your hit at 136. It is not something you have to do ASAP, but you should work toward this. Getting some leather rogue gear helps a lot because they need a lot more hit than hunters do. Don’t every worry about wearing leather- you shouldn’t be getting hit even when you are solo, so your damage mediation isn’t important. Aside from that it is generally safe to socket for agility, but we are pretty fortunate that we aren’t hard pressed to focus on any one stat. If you need to meet a meta slot requirement – getting some AP or Crit over agi isn’t going to kill you.
Order of stats you want to focus on is Hit until you cap it, agility, then ap/crit rating. I get asked a lot of questions like “what is better- Xagil or Xap and crit?” Honestly – it doesn’t really matter very much. The only way to know dead on what is better is with a lot of complicated math and if you end up taking the weaker of the two options, it isn’t going to be a dramatic loss. As long as you don’t go after strength or anything like that and stay focused on the stats I listed above, you will be fine. As an example – 35 agility is a better enchant, but savagery is cheaper and you will be fine using it. If you get to the point that you are raiding and trying to push every bit of dps you can – that is when you start splitting hair and using hunter spreadsheets to compare stats and gear. It takes time and effort and isn’t worth it unless you are raiding hardcore. Again – something we can come back to if needed at a later date.
Use Misdirect at the start of boss fights onto your tank and that about covers the basics. I usually follow misdirect with a aimed shot, steady shot, arcane shot, then go back to my 1:1 rotation. If you can do this you will get very few complaints and will be asked back into groups.
Some advanced things that will put you above average is chain trapping and kiting. Chain trapping is learning how to keep a mob in freezing trap for 3 or 4 full traps. You just lay a trap, let it cooldown, then pull a mob into it – instantly lay a 2nd trap – when the 1st trap breaks and the mob runs into the 2nd trap, you lay a 3rd and then the 4th trap should cooldown about the time the 3rd traps breaks allowing you keep a mob trapped for quite a long time (and that’s without any talents to improve traps.) It sounds confusing when typed out, but I can show you how to do it easy enough. (BRK Chain Trapping Tutorial
Kiting is also a lot easy to show than explain. You basically run from a mob and keep doing damage to it without letting it every catch you. There are a ton of tricks and tactics to this and I am more than happy to take you out to nagrand and show you more than you could ever need about kiting. Heck, we may try to get an elite mob in to the center of shatt or something : )
I really like BigRedKitty.net
. You can learn a lot just reading his past "how to" and "training" posts. He has some nice videos too.