In the past I have been a Beastmaster hunter, Survival hunter, and Surv/MM hybrid for pvp, but I have never tried a deep MM build. I was a BC baby, and between BC and Wrath, MM was weaker than Beastmaster in most circumstances. Now don’t flame me for saying that. There might be lots of legitimate reasons why you personally preferred to be a Marksman, and you pay your money to have fun, so I am not telling you how to play. But there was lots of data, which showed that, for most players, BM was the higher damage build for raiding, best for leveling, and pretty much the best for BGs too. Only for arena was it sub-optimal. In raiding, one Survival hunter in your raid was a boost for the raid buff expose weakness, but you didn’t need more than one.
Now everything has changed. BM has been nerfed more than the other specs, Survival buffed up with improved Explosive shot. As yet, there seems to be no cookie cutter spec and no firm ‘best’ build or tree. One might emerge over time, but one thing is clear, the three trees are a lot closer than they once were, and each is much more viable for raiding and soloing.
So, instead of lamenting the big nerfs to BM, I decided to try out several specs and see which I liked, which suited my play-style and which provided good DPS in the groups I run with. We are not raiding that much at the moment, so most of my testing is in heroics. There are too many variables to be completely scientific about it, I will report the numbers, but I am not going to decide on one spec because it shows to produced 100DPS more than another in two different heroic runs. Anyway, enough rambling, on with the show, I picked Marksman first, partly because of the interesting BRK podcast with Nassira from Diaries of a Marksman, and partly because this was the spec I had not tried before.
My 3.0.8 heroics/10-man raiding Markman Spec here.
About the spec:
Some of the talents are essential – a couple are optional, and a couple of nice optional talents are missed. You could play around with these optional ones but stick to the core.
The Marksman talents:
Lethal Shots (essential) is a must have (in fact I would take this in pretty much any spec I built)
Focussed Aim (semi-optional) is only needed if you are not at the hit cap (263) – put as many points in this as you need to reach the hit cap. I changed my hit trinket to a haste one for this build, as well as some of my gear recently so need all 3 points again. Essential if you are not hit capped.
Don’t take Concussive shot it is a weak pvp orientated talent.
Careful Aim (essential) again for any hunter build. 100% of your intellect as AP. So if you have 450 intellect, then you get an additional 450 AP.
Improved Hunter’s Mark (optional) – you don’t get as much bang for your buck as with Careful Aim, but it is one of the three places you could choose to move those points from Focussed Aim as you get hit capped, or move other Optional points (e.g. Survival Instincts). (The other 2 places being Efficiency and Barrage.)
Mortal Shots (essential) – this used to be part of the cookie cutter build for any hunter and it still gives a lot of umph.
Go for the Throat (essential) – you pet is weaker than a BM pet, but he still does a chunk of your damage. He needs focus for his special spells, you need to take this, at least one point, and preferably two.
Improved Arcane Shot (essential) – in 3.0.8 Blizz lowered the mana cost of arcane shot to match that of steady shot. It is no longer a mana drain, does a lot of damage, and should be fired whenever it is off cooldown. Take the points.
Aimed Shot (optional but recommended) – I have this in my rotation currently. It does a lot of damage and gives you a second (with arcane) truly instant cast shot, you can use while moving. It also put a debuff on a mob, reducing the healing done to it. Not many mobs I have come across in heroics and raiding thus far need this, but you never know. Useful in pvp.
Rapid Killing (essential) – at least one point to reduce the cooldown on your rapid fire. The other proc seems to go off on mobs that would have given you experience if you weren’t 80 (e.g. mobs that are green or above to you.)
Improved Stings (essential) – you are going to be keeping Serpent Sting up most of the time and refreshing it with Chimera sting, so you want to maximize it’s damage.
Efficiency (optional) – very nice to have, especially if you find yourself running out of mana a lot. Probably less needed in 25-mans where there will be more chance of shaman and pally mana regen buffs than 5- and 10-mans.
Don’t take concussive barrage, pvp talent.
Readiness (essential) – ooh I love readiness! a reset on all your cooldowns every 3mins for just 1 point, what’s not to like? Double rapid fires, double kill shots, an emergency Freeze Trap when your first one gets resisted. Pop that point!
Barrage (optional) – this is one of the places I would have liked to put some extra points. Volley used to be a joke pre-WOTLK, it was then overpowered pre-3.0.8. It has been nerfed back, but is still a good aoe for trash. Would be nice to buff it back up a bit. Also, note the increased damage done by Aimed Shot if you are using it in your rotation. I think this is where my Focussed Aim points will go when I can pull them out (if I choose MM.)
Combat Experience (recommended) overall increase of 8% in ranged AP (if you have Careful Aim), as well as some crit and mana.
Ranged weapon specialization (recommended) 5% damage increase.
Piercing Shots sounded tempting but experience MM hunters like Nassira don’t recommend it, so I resisted.
True shot aura (Did you even need to think about it? Of course it’s essential, your not an MM hunter without it.)
Improved Barrage quite a weak and more pvp orientated talent and not really recommended.
Master marksman (essential) – more crit and reduction in the mana cost of Steady Shot. SS might have been nerfed big time, but it is still one of your main shots.
Rapid Recuperation (recommended) – when you really need to bring down a mob, at the end of a long boss fight, you pop rapid fire, now you have more mana to play with kill shot and other shots are much more mana efficient.
Wild quiver (weak optional) I have heard and read that this one is underwhelming, there are stronger points around it so I have skipped it. Up to you if you choose to take it, but remember the essentials.
Silencing Shot (optional) – a lot of raiders won’t take it. A lot of bosses are immune to silence. However, I have always wanted this one for BGs and for trapping casters. I still use my Freeze Traps a lot in heroics and even in our Naxx forays. I am known for being able to trap well. But trapping casters is always a problem, silencing them to make them run towards you makes it much easier.
Improved Steady Shot (essential) actually it improves your other shots not your steady shot, but you have to be firing steady shot in front of them to get the effect to proc.
Marked for Death (essential) strong talent. Just remember to keep hunters mark up on all targets.
Chimera shot (essential) unlike the BM 51 point talent, this is a very strong talent, you wouldn’t go deep marksman without taking it.
Over in the BM tree
Improved Aspect of the Hawk is a strong talent for MM and Surv builds as it gives you bursts of much needed haste.
1/5 in Endurance training is a filler talent, but the best place to put it.
Focussed Fire gives you a straight 2% damage increase, as long as your pet is alive, while also making his crits under kill command more frequent.
Improved Revive Pet is a very useful talent to have for raiding. Perhaps more so for a BM than MM hunter, because of the huge chunk of your damage you lose if you pet goes down, but still useful for MM.
Aspect Mastery – this is why we are dipping into the tree. An incredibly strong talent. Giving 30% boost to Aspect of the Hawk and giving you Aspect of the Dragonhawk.
Unleashed Fury (optional) - I chose to take Improved Tracking and Survival Instincts over in the Surv tree. However, another option would be, not to dip inot the Survival tree but to take 5/5 in Unleashed Fury instead and then drop the 2 spare points into optional talents such as Barrage in the MM tree. This might give slightly higher DPS, and I am tempted to try it if I settle on MM.
Shot rotation/play-style and macros
A typical long tank and spank boss fight might go something like this.
1. I start by misdirecting onto my tank (who is my focus target) with the following macro:
/cast [target=focus,help][help][target=pet,exists,nodead] Misdirection
2. I then hit Serpent Sting, Aimed Shot and Arcane shot, to get the sting up there and the misdirected threat onto the tank.
3. I send my pet in with the following macro, which also applies hunters mark:
/cast Kill Command
/cast hunter’s mark
4. I then use the following shots:
- Arcane and Aimed shots whenever they are off cooldown.
- Chimera Shot when it is off cooldown to refresh Serpent Sting.
- Serpent Sting if for any reason it was not refreshed by Chimera (e.g. I was incapacitated by the boss) – Steady Shot glyph and Chimera Shot damage mean this is essential.
- Steady shot in between cooldowns.
- Reapply Hunter’s Mark in fights longer than 2mins (remember Marked for Death).
- Recast Kill Command every minute for pet.
- Let the pet autocast rabid and call of the wild (even as a BM I was not sure if I should be controlling these or not to max damage; I suspect this would lead to more targeted use of them, but them being less often used, so I let him autocast).
- Use rapid fire and trinkets whenever they are off cooldown and try and time a rapid fire/trinket use to when the boss is at able 25% health, then pop readiness and use another before he is dead. (I guess I might be able to use readiness at the beginning and end of longer fights, but I usually save it till the end unless I know in advance how long the fight will take).
- Use kill shot every time it is available, readiness allowing an extra one.
- I will also be watching my aggro using Omen, and pop more misdirections onto the tank throughout the fight, plus a feign death if needed to dump aggro after a big crit.
- Need to watch pets health and even maybe through in a mend pet if he’s suffering, I will recall him to my side sometimes to heal up rather than letting in carry on dying under aoe damage, before sending him back into the fight.
To make it simpler I have been trying out the following macro:
/console Sound_EnableSFX 0
/cast kill shot
/cast kill command
/castsequence , steady shot
/castsequence chimera shot, arcane shot, aimed shot
/console Sound_EnableSFX 1
It will weave Steady, chimera, arcane and aimed shots, casting kill shot and kill command as priorities when they are available. It seems to work very well. However, I am not sure whether it gets the priority right, or whether it clips shots at all. Sometimes I find myself on the beginning of a Steady and I see Kill Shot has just become available, so I move to cancel the start of the steady and manually cast the kill shot. You have to start off with a Serpent Sting and then watch the buff careful to ensure it has got refreshed every time by Chimera shot. If you don’t have lag and aren’t incapacitated it does refresh, otherwise you need to weave one in again.
My gear is not optimized for a marksman build. I have chosen Armor Penetration whenever I could over haste. I don’t have particularly high intellect, and I have shoved +32 attack power gems in every socket I can find. I am not going to re-enchant and re-socket while testing, but if I stuck to the MM build, I would want some more haste and intellect on my gear.
I took the build for a test drive on target dummies, while soloing, and to heroic Utgarde Keep, Utgarde Pinnacle, Violet Hold, and Culling of Straholme.
First of all, I have to say how much I liked the build. It seemed to suit my play style, allowing some macroing, and some manual weaving of shots. Instant shots for when a lot of movement was required, readiness to throw in some big damage or help with trapping, and silencing shot for pulling those pesky casters. I enjoyed the big crits, over 11,000 on some Kill Shots, and my damage looked pretty good. Compared to beastmaster, I missed the stun of Intimidation, and of course my Bestial Wrath, but BM hunters don’t really have a lot of tricks and gimmicky shots to miss. Soloing did not seem a problem, my bear and gorilla and even cat held aggro well most of the time, and if I did pull a couple of major crits and pull the mob, it was virtually dead by the time it reached me so I just sliced its head off with my sword.
Mostly my damage seemed just about 2,000DPS. Sometimes it hit around 2,200DPS. With my gear and previous BM build, I was seeing damage of similar figures with a top end in 5-mans of 2,400DPS (and 2,800DPS in 10-mans). My cat, Gilgalad, seemed to contribute around 300DPS to my 1,700 – about 15% of our total DPS. As a BM hunter he had been 35-40% of our total DPS before the patch.
I recorded some of the recount info as screenshots, but I just want to post this one, so that you can see the breakdown of the main shots, and the high crits you can get with the build:
I have to say I really liked MM. It seemed to suit my play-style, I was glad my pet didn’t feel totally useless, and I felt with more practice and some tweaks to my equipment and gems, I could squeeze more damage out of it.
Any comments from serious and experienced MM hunters on how I could improve my chosen spec or shot rotations would be much appreciated.
Next up is a survival build.