I was recently invited by Zuggy of Zuggaming personally, to participate in his upcoming Blog Carnival, the "Help a Noob Day". I was a little late getting the invitation due to my work commitments, but once i got it it was an opportunity I was not going to miss. So after the last few days I worked on this for your reading pleasure:
Noob Hunter Guide to Cataclysm
So you've decided, for Cataclysm you want to raid as a hunter. With Worgens and Goblins being introduced this is a very likely thing to happen. And with the hunter class being reworked from the ground up, many a player will not be so sure on what to do and how to prepare. With this I will try to provide a short general guide about everything from consumables to talent trees. So let's jump right in with a few tips on how to prepare for raiding while leveling.
2. Understanding a hunter
Before we dive into how to play a hunter we first must understand the hunter class. Hunters are a ranged class, meaning they deal damage (also known as DPS - damage per second) from a far. Hunters are the only class that have to be at a minimum range to deal damage with their ranged attacks. Now a lot of people would call hunters a "pure damage class", I'm not one of those people. When it comes to raiding and to some degree even in PvP I consider hunters a utility support class. In many raids hunters do not get brought for their DPS, but for how they can help the raid. This will be even more the case in Cataclysm, with the new changes to hunter pets, but more on that later.
A hunter's primary utility is Threat Management, meaning they have the necessary tools to manage who will have the attention (aggro) of the things you're trying to kill (mobs or bosses).
The secondary utility of hunters is crowd control. Crowd control means controlling how the mobs or the boss reacts to you or your raid. This can include interrupting their spells, removing buffs (spells cast by the mob or boss on itself that gives a positive effect), apply a debuff (spell cast by an enemy on the target that gives a negative effect), affect the targets movement capabilities, or even isolate and eliminate a mob from a fight temporarily.
When we understand the utilities and purpose of hunters in raids, we will become better players. Too often I meet players who consider hunters to be nothing more than just DPSers and they will not assist in Threat Management or Crowd control. And when you don't do what you're supposed to do, you and the people you run with will die.
3. Leveling a new raid hunter
With Cataclysm introducing Worgen and Goblins there will be a lot of new players rolling hunters, with whom they plan to raid. A lot of players will simply power-level to reach 85 and jump right in. I expect those players not to perform so well come raiding time. When leveling, one should spend time getting to know their character, his skills and his purpose.
As you level, take your time to read what your new abilities do and think about how they could be applied. Practice them when grouping with others in dungeons. You don't need a group to practice Threat management. You have your pet so misdirect to your pet, or use Distracting Shot to pull it back to yourself, just to get a feel for those abilities. Use abilities like Disengage and Deterrence to get a feel for them as well.
I would also encourage new hunters to try out the 3 different talent trees available to hunters. Although Beast mastery may be the best to level with quickly, it may not be the one that you like the most. And with Blizzard attempting to make all talent trees as equal as possible in their damage output, it won't matter which tree you choose to raid with.
4. Gems and Enchants
So you have hit 85 and are ready to jump into raids and heroics. Well before you can do that you need to fix up your gear. A hunters primary statistic is Agility. So whenever you want to choose a new piece of gear, start with Agility. Then come our secondary stats - stats that are important to us but not as important as Agility. Those would be Hit rating, Critical Strike Rating, haste rating and mastery rating.
When selecting gems and enchants for your gear keep in mind what stats you need. Although Agility is our primary stat, the first stat that should be gemmed and enchanted for will always be hit rating. The amount of hit rating you have will decide if your shots will hit or miss. There's nothing worse than your most powerful shot missing the target and that's why hit rating is always the first stat to gem or enchant for. To ensure we don't miss we will need a hit rating of 8%. In Wrath of the Lich King that translated to 263 hit rating. In Cataclysm, initial calculations made by Frostheim of WHU suggest our required hit rating will be 962.
When gemming for stats, you must also consider the gem slots you have available. Gear may come in 5 gem slots - Red, blue, yellow, uncolored or meta. Meta gem slots are only on headpieces and can only hold metagems. The colored gem slots can take any colored gem but will only contribute to an item's socket bonus if a gem of the right color is inserted. In Cataclysm hit rating gems will be blue, Agility gems will be red, Critical Strike, Haste and mastery gems will be Yellow. If you are looking to complete a Socket bonus also remember that you can use multi-colored gems (orange for red and yellow, purple for blue and red, and green for blue and yellow).
5. Talent trees
Next on our to-do list is fixing up our talents. I will not provide a one top spec, no I will simply describe how you should select the talents. Remember that in Cataclysm once you've spent a point in one tree, you must spend a total of 31 points in that tree before moving to a different tree.
So first decide which tree you want to raid with. if you listened to my earlier advice for leveling, you will have tried all three and know which one you like the most. Once you have decided on you tree start spending points. When building a raid spec we want to build a spec that increases our DPS, so look at the talents available and choose the talents that will do just that. Anything that increases damage, critical strike rating, hit rating, attack power, attack speed, reduces focus cost, or provides a stat raid buff will effectively increase your DPS. Once you've selected all DPS increasing talents on a tier and you can't go on, look for your raid utility talents. Find anything that helps your crowd controlling or threat managing abilities and spend just enough points to go to the next tier, then revert back to selecting DPS talents.
Doing it this way may not be the best talent tree available for raids, but it will get you as a player thinking about your own character and make you familiar with your own talents. Don't forget to equip any new skills on your action bar.
6. Shot Rotation
In the past hunters have never had shot rotation as such, no they were more shot priorities. This means shots were ranked in priority and when they became off cooldown you simply hit the shot that has highest priority. With hunters switching from mana to focus this system will change a bit. At this point in time with shots still being modified, we can only speculate on what our rotations will be. The only thing that is for sure, all our specs will still be maintaining Serpent Sting making it the most likely opener for all specs.
I suspect that once all Shots have been decided upon, each spec will have one or two shots that will be considered our DPS focus dumps (i.e. spend focus to do damage), we will then use Steady Shot and Cobra shot to refill our Focus bar and then go back to our focus dumps - rinse and repeat. Depending on the boss fight, however we may need to ensure to keep a certain amount of focus available for any of our uitlity abilities should they be required.
7. Pet Selection
The pet is a vital part of a hunter's arsenal and a major contributor to our DPS in raids. And with the new pet changes they will also be a major contributor to raid buffs.
Pets are separated into three categories: Ferocity, Tenacity and Cunning. The best way to distinguish between the 3 is this to consider ferocity pets are raid pets, tenacity pets are your questing tank pets, and cunning pets are your PvP pets. In Cataclysm many of our pets will now provide major raids buffs, meaning that the best pet to provide will depend on what buffs are missing. Therefore it would be wise for any hunter to go out and tame one of each of the pets that provide a major raid buff, and keep the 5 most commonly used in the active tab of your stable.
Because some pets are only available to Beastmaster specced hunters, i would also recommend that every hunter that isn't a main spec Beastmaster, be a Beastmaster second spec, as to have access to these BM specific pets when required.
8. Primary Professions
Every hunter should have 2 professions that complement the hunter. The only professions that I feel have e beneficial impact on hunters are Skinning, leatherworking, engineering, Blacksmithing, jewelcrafting and Alchemy.
Skinning provides materials for leatherworkers. For a hunter, besides providing materials if he's a leatherworker as well, it will also provide a critical strike rating increase.
Leatherworking will provide the hunter with the means to create his own armor and certain types of enchants, usually in the form of leg armor enchants and leatherworking specific enchants.
Engineering will provide the hunter with the means to create his own headpiece, certain types of engineering specific enchants, and, new to Cataclysm, engineering specific gem slots and gems. it will also provide the hunter with the means to create his own ranged weapon.
Blacksmithing allows a hunter to create his own melee weapon as well as certain Blacksmithing specific enchants.
Jewelcrafting will allow the hunter to cut his own gems, including better Jewelcrafting specific gems, as well as creating his own jewellery gear, such as rings and neckpieces.
Alchemy will allow the hunter create his own trinket and his own Flasks, potions and elixirs he may use in raids.
Overall I suggest to pick whichever profession you want although I would suggest jewelcrafting, leatherworking and engineering to be better choices than Skinning, blacksmithing and Alchemy from a raiding aspect, as they can provide items that will increase your DPS a lot more than the last 3 professions.
9. Raid Consumables
When raiding a hunter should always come prepared with consumables. Consumables are items that will be "consumed" by the hunter and provide buffs that will wear off over time or upon death. These items include food, potions and flasks or elixirs.
The same rule applies for consumables as it did for gems and enchants. Agility is better than the rest. Because of the temporary nature of food and flask buffs I would not use hit rating food or elixirs unless it was the only way to hit the cap. Only then would Hit rating food or flasks become better than Agility food or flasks.
Besides health potions a hunter should also bring a short-term buff potion. These potions will activate a buff that lasts for 25 seconds and can only be used once in a fight. With Cataclysm, that will be the Potion of Tol'vir, which will increase Agility by 1250 for 25 sec. The time when best to use it will depend on the boss-fight itself.
So there you have it. With this guide I hope I have been able to educate any new hunters on what being a hunter is all about and given some insight on how to prepare for raiding in Cataclysm. Remember that this is a short general guide. For an in-depth guide I could have written a book :). I hope you've enjoyed reading this, as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Best of luck to all hunters new and old in Cataclysm.
Keep on hunting,