Hunter Specs, Gems, and Enchants (Part 2: Gems)

Part 1: Specs
Part 3: Enchants

Carrying on the topic from yesterday, it’s time to talk about gems for the Hunter class. This is something that can easily be done improperly. And while it may feel like everything is fine, in reality, the wrong gems can really gimp your DPS. And that’s no good at all.

So first up, let’s discuss meta gems. If you don’t know, Meta gems currently only fit in Meta sockets (surprise!) that you will find in helms of decent quality. Meta gems have a unique effect, greater than what you find in normal gems, but in order to get this effect, each Meta gem has a certain “gem requirement” that you must reach first. Make note that when you are trying to reach these requirements, gems that are multi-colored (i.e. “This gem can fit in a Red or Yellow socket”) will count towards both of those colors. So it can be incredibly helpful most of the time, but if you happen to want to use a Meta gem that requires more of one thing than another, it can come back and bite ya.

Meta Gems
As far as Meta gems go, Hunter’s have only a few options.

1. Enigmatic Skyfire Diamond – This Meta gem provides +12 Critical Strike Rating and 5% Snare and Root Resist. At face value, this looks like a good PvP trinket. Snare and Root resist is indeed an appealing bonus, and +12 crit is nothing to scoff at. If you happen to have a talent spec that includes Surefooted, this can go a long way in helping you maintain distance on an enemy. And you can definitely see the bonus if you are a sexy green Orc with passive Stun Resistance. :)

2. Swift Skyfire Diamond – You will see this gem more common in Warrior helms than Hunters. It’s popular with folks who would prefer putting the Surefooted enchant on their boots and obtain the run speed you traditionally get from Boar’s Speed through the Meta gem effect. It requires 2 Yellow gems and 1 Red gem to actually take effect. There is a lesser version of this gem available in Terrokar Forest from your faction’s respective Spirit Shard vendor in the chance that you need a Meta gem to hold you over until you can get a better one or are waiting to drop the gold once you get a better helm.

3. Powerful Earthstorm Diamond – Not a popular choice for Hunters, but worth mentioning in the chance that you are a huge fan of stacking stamina for whatever purpose. +18 Stamina and +5% Stun Resistance. Popular for tanks and Orc Warriors when combined with the passive racial abilities again. Honestly, not much place for this Meta gem in a Hunter’s helm.

4. Relentless Earthstorm Diamond – This Meta gem provides +12 Agility and +3% Increased Critical Strike damage. What’s not to love? In reality, this really is the Hunter Meta gem of choice. It’s gives us our favorite raw stat, and increases all the damage from our critical strikes. And while 3% seems small, it is definitely something that adds up. To activate this gem, it requires that you have at least 2 Red gems, 2 Blue gems, and 2 Yellow gems. AS far as I am concerned, there is no better Meta gem in-game right now for Hunters.

OK, now that Meta gems are covered, let’s move on to regular gems. The question you have to ask yourself when choosing gems is whether or not you care about the socket bonus. Is it worth putting in a second choice gem in order to achieve it? Or will you get more benefit from ignoring and putting in your favorite gem?

For a Survival Hunter, the answer 99% of the time is “Screw the socket bonus, where my agility at?!” Pardon the bad English. If I had the foresight to do so, I would have logged out in my PvE gear to demonstrate this point. But allow me to elaborate.
See this Delicate Living Ruby? It should be in everything. 99% of the time. After all, your goal is to push that Expose Weakness to the highest limits you can achieve.

Just remember to consider that whenever you increase your Agility, not only are you increasing your Attack Power and your Critical Strike chance, you are also increasing the return on Attack Power that you will gain from Expose Weakness. Technically, for a Survival Hunter with a decent crit rate, 1 Agility actually turns into 1.25 Attack Power. 4 Agility turns into 5 Attack Power. Because by maintaining Expose Weakness, 25% of your Agility is going to be returned to you in the form of AP when EW is up. This isn’t even taking into account that you gain 15% more Agility when you spec into Lightning Reflexes.

For Hunters who are not Survival, you should always choose Agility over Attack Power when choosing gems. The exceptions are when you need to meet socket bonuses. The benefit you get from Agility outweighs the fact that most gems will have double the amount of AP that Agility gems have.

For example, let’s look at the Delicate Living Ruby again. Comparing it to the Bright Living Ruby. This gives you 8 more AP than the Delicate Living Ruby does. But the Delicate also will increase your critical strike chance, which in turn will increase your DPS more than 8 AP. Increasing your crit as a BM Hunter will trigger Go for the Throat as well as take advantage of Mortal Shots. And if you followed the talent guide I laid out, every spec should have Mortal Shots.

Another important topic when choosing gem is to consider what your hit rating currently is at. I have said it a few times, but it is worth repeating. When fighting a level 72 mob, the hit rating cap is 142. If you have the Surefooted talent, this cap is 95. Many people say that they survive just fine in heroics without reaching the hit cap, and this is true for the most part. These are one of the places where you make strides to reach it. But if you are frequenting Karazhan or Zul’Aman, the hit cap is a necessity. If you aren’t at the hit cap for Kara, you will usually pick up gear here to get you to it, such as the Violet Signet, which at Exalted, adds 25 Hit Rating, which is a HUGE jump. If you are beyond those instances, well . . . let’s say you shouldn’t be if you have not capped your hit. The miss percentage really will take a toll on your DPS.

Luckily, if you are having trouble finding or obtaining the gear with the necessary +hit, gems can be a filler for you until you can swap them out. The Rigid Dawnstone will easily propel you to the hit cap if you socket a few of these. The goal is to get as close to the hit rating as possible. Having excess +hit over the cap does not provide any benefit at all. Similar how tanks gear up in an attempt to become immune to crits. Once they hit that cap, choosing other stats, such as stamina becomes priority.

If you find yourself needing to socket for +hit, be careful in the slots that you choose. This could be an excellent opportunity to pick-up a socket bonus, but at the same time can break a Meta gem.

I also highly discourage anyone from ever gemming for Mp5. “Mana Per 5 Seconds” comes at a high stat allocation cost. Which means in order to put it on a gem, the return is very small to keep the gem from going over the alloted “stat points” the item can have.

I always encourage everyone to gem for raw stats. Remember that when you are in a group, Blessing of Kings will increase all your raw stats by 10%. If you gem for Mp5, or AP you will not get the full effect from this Blessings. This provides a even further advantage for those who choose raw stats over AP. Obviously casters will want spell damage or healing, but since we are neither, the point is moot. :)

As an example, I would like to point out the gems that I currently have socketed in my Season 1 shoulders. I am not happy with my gemming choice. +4 Critical Strike Rating and +6 Stamina is fine, since I put it in to achieve the socket bonus, however the +10 AP and +4 Hit Rating gem I do not like. It is an epic gem from a heroic instance, but that doesn’t make it superior to my other options. If you read my talent spec post, you will know that with the Surefooted talent, my hit rating cap for PvE purposes is 95. In my PvE gear, I sit just around 112, far over what I need. If I wasn’t desperately trying to get the shoulders off of Nalorakk, I would spent the 50-75g (depending on the day) to replace that gem with a +8 Agility gem. And in a perfect world, I would be able to get Season 3 shoulders. Since my shoulders currently are being used for PvP, I felt the socket bonus was worth getting, as every ounce of Resilience I can squeeze out is beneficial to me.

So let’s do a recap of what we covered.

1. Relentless Earthstorm Diamond is the Meta gem of choice in almost all situations. The raw stats and increased critical strike damage is excellent. But you can swap this for another gem that you feel would suit your needs and situations.
2. When able, attempt to socket for raw stats as opposed to Attack Power. The benefit you receive is larger, especially when you consider talents like Expose Weakness, Lightning Reflexes, and Blessing of Kings.
3. Don’t gem with Mp5. As a BM raiding Hunter, mana efficiency is the least of your concerns. Survival Hunters will have Thrill of the Hunt and will still need to make liberal use of Mana Potions and Oil.

As always, if you have any comments, concerns, or corrections, feel free to leave a comment.

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.