Hunter Specs, Gems, and Enchants (Part 1: Specs)

Part 2: Gems
Part 3: Enchants

My posts lately have been lacking in substance, so I decided it was time to write up a post about different Hunter specs, gem selections, and enchants for gear. I am not going to talk about which talent spec is better, as I will leave that to your preference, but I will talk about various talents in each tree. I won’t break down every talent, but mainly touch on the most important ones. I am going to break this down into 3 sections. The first post will be about talent specs, followed by gem selections, and then enchant selections.

So first up on today’s agenda, talent specs.

Beast Mastery

There are a lot of great talents in the Beast Mastery tree, and is incredibly popular for leveling and raid DPS. However the reason it’s popular in those situations is for two very different reasons. Putting your talents into Beast Mastery as you are leveling is effective because it puts a lot of emphasis on your pet. It turns them into a killing machine. And coupled with Mend Pet, it can prevent you from taking damage, thus reducing downtime. By a lot.

The reason Beast Mastery is the premiere raid DPS spec is due, almost solely, to Serpent’s Swiftness. But we’ll talk specifically about it in a minute.

Raiding DPS – This spec is the ideal for raiding. There are a number of reasons for it. One of the most common mistakes I see Hunters make is taking Spirit Bond. 2% health regeneration every 10 seconds is easy for people to think is decent, but what you give up for DPS purposes is huge. It is arguable that it is useful for leveling, so I will leave that up to you. But what you have to give up, in this case it is Bestial Discipline, will cause a huge drop in your DPS. When you have a DPS pet such as a cat, ravager, or wind serpent that have a “focus dump” ability, the extra focus they gain can turn into a large chunk of DPS.

Another misunderstood talent is Animal Handler. The movement speed is not the important part of this talent, but the increase chance to hit for your pets. It’s no secret that having a capped hit rating (142 for Hunters without Surefooted, 95 with it) can make or break your DPS. But what about our beloved pets? They still suffer from miss rates and we have no other way to increase their chance to hit. In fact, some people change the build I linked, by taking one point out of Frenzy so they can get both points in Animal Handler. Because if your pet is missing that much less, they will crit more, which in turn will keep Frenzy active as much as having 5 points in it.

Serpent’s Swiftness is the bread and butter of the Beast Mastery DPS spec. It single-handedly makes this tree viable. If you read my Shot Rotations guide, you will know that BM Hunters use a 1:1 shot rotation. This meaning that for every Auto Shot you fire, you fire a single Steady Shot. Although some people are using slower bows and trying rotation that looks like this Auto -> Steady -> Steady -> Auto. Regardless of what you find working, 20% haste, coupled with the mana efficiency of only using Steady Shot, you will find that it is the most mana efficient build as well.


Marksmanship is an interesting tree. At face value you would assume that it would be ideal for raiding, but as we discussed, Serpent’s Swiftness causes the Beast Mastery tree to claim that title. In fact, Marksmanship has become the Arena tree. Sure, you can still do PvE DPS with a MM build, but all things being equal, it will be out-performed by BM. And anytime you see anyone say that BM is the PvP tree, you can immediately discredit their argument as they obviously aren’t informed about what they are talking about. Sure, blowing the Beast Within while playing in battlegrounds can be a ball of wreckage, but in competitive Arena, MM is the way to go.

Marksmanship Arena – So what makes MM so viable in the Arena? It is, a lot of Hunters say unfortunately, solely due to Viper Sting and the talent Improved Stings. Coupled with Scorpid Poison, it protects our Viper Sting, making us viable in high-rated drain team combinations. Scorpid Poison decreases the chance that a poison-removing ability will actually hit Viper Sting, hoping that it will allow it to last its full duration. Tied with an increased chance for our poisons to resist being removed, it helps us to make sure that we drain as much mana from our target as possible.

Scatter Shot is considered the lifeblood of PvP talent specs. It so necessary that many believe it should be trainable, akin to Mage’s Iceblock. I don’t think it’s necessary to point out the usefulness of having Silencing Shot. And any Hunter build that wants to do ANY DPS should have Mortal Shots. Hands down, no questions asked. It’s not debatable.

Alternatively, this (or close variations of it) are popular for 5v5 teams and those who wish to go MM for PvE DPS.


Survival. So many Hunters openly admit they want to try Survival. But some don’t want to give up BM for DPS or the 11/41/9 build for Arena. Plus, to be effective Survival, there are some gear requirements you should meet first. If you plan on being a Survival DPS Hunter in a raid, be sure there isn’t one already. Expose Weakness, the talent that makes Survival desirable in raids, has a threshold where it becomes better than Ferocious Inspiration, but the effect doesn’t stack, so the Hunter with more Agility will always overwrite the Expose Weakness from the other Hunter. The bottom line is that before you spec Survival, you should have 600 Agility BEFORE you get Lightning Reflexes. With this number, the bonus from Expose Weakness in combination with your critical strike rate, will surpass Trueshot Aura and Ferocious Inspiration for your personal DPS.

The overall benefit that Expose Weakness brings is also dependent on how much physical DPS is in your group. The most Warriors, Rogues, Hunter, Enhancement Shaman, Ret Paladins that you have, the larger DPS increase your raid is going to see.

The topic between Readiness and Scatter Shot is an often debated one. Some Hunters swear by Readiness while some wouldn’t give up Scatter Shot. But the real problem lies not within Readiness, but the talent it is attached to. Master Tactician is a sub-par talent. It’s effect is greatly diminished as your crit rate grows. On paper you would think it’s great. But the difference between 20 and 30% critical strike chance and 50 to 60% is vastly different. Once you hit the 40%+ mark, the bonus is less noticeable. Plus with its low proc rate and short duration, it’s mediocre at best, especially with the frequency of fights that require movement.

Survival Raid DPS (or something similar) is a popular spec. In this build some points can moved around, such as points being put into Barrage instead of Improved Arcane Shot. That decision is based on your mana efficiency and whether or not you have a Shaman or Shadow Priest in your group to help save your mana pool, as Multi Shot costs a lot more mana than Arcane Shot does.

My spec is different, as I opted to maintain PvP viability while taking crucial raid talents. In this case I took Wyvern Sting and Scatter Shot, as well as more points into Survivalist to pad my health.

So let’s wrap this up a bit with a few general rules of thumb to consider when choosing a spec:

1. Hunters at level 70 shouldn’t have Spirit Bond. It’s not worth the 2 points.
2. Animal Handler is overlooked, and is a great talent to increase your DPS.
3. Bestial Discipline when combined with Go for the Throat is HUGE for pets with damaging abilities that have no cooldowns.
4. Due to the weirdness of Entrapment, having 1 point in the talent is sufficient, freeing up 2 more for something else.
5. Surefooted lowers the hit rating you need to reach the hit cap to 95, as opposed to 142.
6. Master Tactician looks good on paper, but becomes less and less effective as your critical strike chance rises.
7. It’s generally accepted that if you take the role of your raid’s Survival Hunter, you will also take Improved Hunter’s Mark. This isn’t a rule however, and taking Efficiency is perfectly OK too. It really depends on what kind of longevity you are looking to sacrifice for raid buffs.
8. Before taking Lightning Reflexes and Expose Weakness, you should have 600 unbuffed Agility.
9. Everyone should have Mortal Shots.

About Drotara

Drotara (or BehemothDan) considers himself a geek on many levels. A web developer and programmer by trade, he has no shortage of geeky hobbies. When not fulfilling husband and daddy duties, he enjoys WoW, the WoW TCG, Magic: The Gathering, and great board games with friends and family.