Wrath is coming to an end, the hunter class is getting reworked, it is the perfect time to talk about how to be good hunter. It is a common idea to think greatness should be judged by DPS meters, but unfortunately the majority of players judge a players skill in exactly that way. There is much more to be being a hunter than just Pew Pew.
So what makes a good hunter? In a raid it is determined by what happens behind the scenes, that often is not picked up by the naked eye, that truly determines the skill of a hunter. Situational Awareness, Class Knowledge and an understanding of fight mechanics can turn any average hunter into a truly great one.
This is probably the most important role a hunter plays, a role he only shares effectively with rogues. For every fight a hunter should know how the mechanics of the fight will affect threat management. As a hunter you should know if adds will spawn that need to be misdirected to a tank or off-tank. You need to know when to use feign death because of a Boss Threat-drop. But the one skill that is most underused by hunters, in terms of Threat management, is knowing when to taunt. A hunter with great awareness will use Distracting Shot to taunt a mob that's going to attack a healer. He will also taunt a mob or boss to allow the bear tank to Battle-Res someone. He will taunt things of tanks, to let tanks lose debuffs. Distracting Shot is one of the most useful skills available to hunters, but it is important to understand that it is a taunt, and needs to be treated as such i.e. be at range and Feign Death before the mob gets to you.
In today's World of Warcraft crowd control is often limited to the idea of eliminating a mob from the battle. But, if you look at the words, it is the "control" of mobs, and that includes anything that makes a fight easier to control. This should include things like Tranquilizing Shot, the most effective way to remove enrage effects of mobs or bosses.
This also includes Silencing Shot, an interrupt that silences the target for 3 seconds. Today's hunters have it macroed into every shot as it also does damage and is off the global cooldown, but the good hunters also have a action bar where it is unmacroed to allow for use when needed (which is more often than people think).
And what about traps? People often forget about traps. They are not as good as other forms of slows and stops from other classes, but with the arrival of Cataclysm and Trap launcher, hunters will now be able to trap at range, allowing them to be effective at controlling Mind-controlled targets and loose mobs.
Situational Awareness and being proactive
Being aware of your surroundings and what's happening in a fight is key to being a good hunter. It is easy to top a dps meter, but what good is that, if you wiped because a loose mob killed the healers. Or the tank died to an enraged mob. Or the hunter pulled threat because they were to focused on winning the dps race. When a situation turns bad it's not always the fault of the person who caused it, but also of those who did nothing about it. Be proactive, look for ways to ensure victory for you raid, without needing to be told. Know what abilities you have and use them to your advantage. Don't have the attitude of waiting for someone else to do it.
When a bad situation occurs, a fast reaction is important. This will never happen if one is using the mouse to click your spells. Learn to key-bind and practice it on the training dummies. This will not just improve your reaction time, but also increase your dps.
Using the keyboard to move by itself is old and cumbersome. Use the mouse to turn and don't ever walk backwards. Use disengage to gain distance or simply turn and run and Jump shot (Whilst running away jump, quickly turn sideways using your mouse, shoot and turn back in one fluid motion) to keep dps up.
Assist your raid members with movement. On some boss fights (i.e Sindragosa's Blistering Cold) you can switch to Aspect of the Pack to increase their speed. Just remember to switch back to Aspect of the Dragonhawk.
One Acronym: CRAP
Everyone likes acronyms, and when it comes to improving your play as a hunter I can't think of a better one than CRAP - Communicate, research, awareness, Proactively.
Communication is key on any raid. it can be in the form of macros that announce your misdirection targets. Or announce things yourself in raids to make people aware of what you are doing. Taunting of a bear tank so he can b-res is pointless if he doesn't know you are doing it.
Research will help improve any class, not just hunters. Research boss fights and mechanics, study your abilities and think how they could be applied to benefit you. And scour the web for other people's ideas.
Awareness during a fight can make all the difference between success and defeat. Do not just focus on yourself, see the broader picture. Notice the loose mob running around, notice the add that just spawned, notice the healer that just died, notice the voidzone under your feet.
Proactively use you abilities. Don't wait for someone else to do it. The fault lies not with the cause, but with the one who did nothing about it.
I am sure there are other ideas out there on how to improve a hunter's game. Feel free to leave your ideas in the comments below.
keep on hunting,