Friday, July 18, 2008

Hunter 101 - A primer

Note: Sorry if this one seems a little long. I play my hunter as my main now, and I'm pretty darned familiar with the ins and outs.

Hunter Role

The hunter’s role is easy. You only need look to BRK’s website to know that our number one role as a Hunter is providing Massive Quantities of Sustained Ranged Damage Per Second. We have other skills, discussed in other categories below, that we are expected to know and use appropriately. But at the core, if a hunter isn’t providing lots and lots of DPS, we’re not doing our jobs.

Luckily, the hunter is a “pure DPS” class. There is no spec that we can choose that doesn’t have at its core the requirement to kill things. It makes our jobs easy.
Possible Hunter Trees
The hunter has three trees available. Of these, one is mainly focused on the use of his or her pet, another is focused on pumping up the hunters ranged damage, and the last is about the hunter’s survivability and melee abilities. While all hunters will use skills from all trees, a hunter that focuses in a tree will be better at those abilities than a hunter who did not.

Hunter Defining Skills
Other than providing damage output, there are a few other things that are class defining. First and foremost, of course, is our pet. We are one of the two classes that have a constant companion in the form of a pet. Since you must control yourself and your pet (at least past level 10), a hunter can be more challenging to play than some of the other pure DPS classes.

Hunters also make good “pullers.” That is, with our extreme range we can often get the attention of mobs “down field” and relocate them to where our party wants to fight them. Picking a fight on your terms instead of the enemy’s terms can often be the difference between a won and a lost fight.

Hunters have at their disposal several tracking abilities that make them invaluable in finding mobs of certain types. Beasts, Giants, Undead, Dragonkin, Humanoids, Hidden, and Demons can all be tracked. While some other classes can track one or a few of each of these, only Hunters can track them all.

Hunters also have the ability to change their aspect to improve dodge, improve ranged attack power, move faster (both singly and for the party), prevent nature damage and regenerate our own mana. The kings of different stances and forms are druids, but hunters are holding their own here.

Hunters have one of the best threat reducers in the game in the form of Feign Death. Of all the threat reductions in the game, this is the most permanent reduction ability with the shortest time.

Finally, we have access to traps that can slow, incapacitate, or do damage. No other class can currently do anything of the sort.

What makes you a good Hunter
Hunters who never pull threat from the tank (whether this is another player or your pet) are some of the best hunters in the game. Two ways to avoid ever using your melee abilities are: modulating your damage output and using feign death. Feign Death completely removes the Hunter from the threat table and is essentially a “do-over” for generated threat.

Hunters should no need much attention from the healer. The only incoming damage should be from area attacks because good hunters can get out of the fight. Since hunters can heal their own pets, unless the circumstances are dire, the pets also shouldn’t need much attention from healers either.

Finally, hunters should be able to trap any mob he or she is asked to. Granted some enemies will be harder to maneuver into a waiting trap. Without being deeply specced into Markmanship, it’ll be challenging to get a spell casting enemy into a trap. But taking advantage of terrain and line of sight can generally accomplish this. A hunter must also never (ever) break his or her own trap. The two most likely causes of breaking your own trap are to have used Serpent Sting (a poison damage over time) on it or to continue attacking (either melee or ranged) after the enemy is safely encased in ice.

Little-Used Hunter Skills that you must master
Excellent hunters can also only fight on their own terms (at least against the AI). Being able to kite enemies and only engage them on your terms is the hallmark of a truly awesome hunter. Once, certain end-game bosses relied on a hunter to kite as the most accepted strategy.

Hunter Skills You Should Always Use
A previously unmentioned skill is the ability to Hunter’s Mark a target. This allows the hunter to keep track of marked mobs on the minimap as well as increasing the ranged (and with talents melee) damage done to the marked mob. You should always mark your target to increase the damage done to it.

Stings, finally, are another Hunter skill that can have many different effects, depending entirely upon what the Hunter desires. Draining life, mana, or the ability of an enemy to hit are all exceedingly useful hunter skills that the good hunter has mastered.

Emergency Hunter Skills
There are a number of emergency skills hunters can use. However, many of those skills are buried deep within the various talent trees. Bestial Wrath and Intimidation are skills in the Beast Mastery tree that can make the hunter and his or her pet immune to fear and deal more damage. There is also the ability to stun in that tree. The Marksmanship tree has gems such as a temporary stun and the ability to interrupt spell casting. The Survival tree offers abilities such as putting an enemy to sleep, refreshing all your skill cool-downs, or increasing the hunter’s chance to dodge and parry.

Advanced Hunter Skills
If you can have two (or even three) enemies encased in blocks of ice at once you are the king of chain trapping. As a brief primer on how to do this, you must place a trap and let the trap cool-down expire. Since the trap lasts for one minute and the cool-down is only thirty seconds, a trap can still be live after the cool-down is finished. Pull the first mob into the waiting trap and as soon as that trap is activated, place another trap. Hopefully, you can direct another mob into the trap you just placed. At this point any enemies not controlled must be killed quickly because the first enemy trapped will only stay in ice for a short time.

Even before having access to Misdirection at level 70, a hunter can still pull to the tank. Shooting an enemy and then running to the tank and feigning death will effectively put the enemies into combat with the tank. The tank must use some sort of area threat generation (thunder stomp, consecrate, etc.) to hold them all in place, however.

Stereotypes with Which Hunters Live
The usual insult hurled our way is that of being the “huntard.” The hunter is one of the easiest character classes to advance to the maximum level without ever grouping up with other players. When we have reached a level where we must group to progress, quite often we have developed too many bad habits by relying only on ourselves for 70 (or more) levels.

To help fight the huntard stereotype, ensure that you can perform your primary job without causing an undue burden on your other party members. Arrive at your mission with plenty of ammunition, consumables and a happy pet.

For as long as WoW has gone on, there is a joke about a piece of loot being a “Hunter Weapon” (or chest piece, belt, boots, what have you). To fight this stereotype, you should know the top three or four stats you need. Also, be aware that equipment that “increases damage and healing caused by magical spells and affects” is of nearly no use to you. At the very least, you should rather want agility, attack power, or critical strike rating.

Profession Considerations for Hunters
Nearly any profession can work for a hunter. Leatherworking can produce both leather and mail armor, this is a popular choice. Leatherworking also allows the creation of armor kits which can increase armor on four locations. At high skill levels, these armor kits can increase elemental resistances, increase mana regeneration and even attack power.

Engineering is often chosen because apart from water and repairs, the single biggest expense for a hunter can be ammunition for a gun. Engineers (who generally also take mining) can make bullets throughout the leveling process and arrows at end-game. Engineering can also allow use of goblin jumper cables after a hunter feigns out of a group wipe. This gives the hunter the chance to save everyone else (or even one person if the resurrection specialist has died).

Alchemy (and its companion herbalism) is also a popular choice for any character.

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