Testing a Marksman Hunter Spec in 3.0.8

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:

Tier 1

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.

Tier 2

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.

Tier 3

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.)

Tier 4

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.

Tier 5

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.)

Tier 6

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.

Tier 7

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.

Tier 8

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.

Tier 9 

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.

Tier 10

Marked for Death  (essential) strong talent.  Just remember to keep hunters mark up on all targets.

Tier 11

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:

#showtooltip Misdirection 

/focus [modifier:alt] 

/cast [target=focus,help][help][target=pet,exists,nodead] Misdirection 

/clearfocus [button:2]

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

/script UIErrorsFrame:Hide()

/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.


22 responses to “Testing a Marksman Hunter Spec in 3.0.8

  1. 263 is actually the hit cap. At 262 your pet still isn’t capped. Pets get rounded down so if your hit percentage is 7.99, your pets is only 7.00.

  2. thanks – made the change.

  3. your build is very close to nassiras (did i spell that right) spec, i guess u are trying to play it safe, also u may want to try not using aimed shot during long raid boss fights, its a big mana eater, but keep the talent point in it its great for just about everything else, mm doesent require lots of ap gear, the spec gives lots of ap, u still need some but having armor pen and haste and other things is great, u will find when u improve your gear u will have extra points to spend in places that could help u (ie barrage or efficiency) a nice thing that will improve your damage, when your gear gets better you can change your talents and get even more dps, also i am surprised u chose silencing shot, but your right it is a fun talent even if u might get a little more dps with that point in something else, and wild quiver was a good call, if u got it it would only add a few dps, and would make up around 0.5% of your dps

  4. Under aspect mastery you said ‘Giving 30% boost to Aspect of the Hawk and giving you Aspect of the Dragonhawk’, well as all us Hunters know you get Aspect of the Dragonhawk w/out that talent, (but would stll get the 30% increase!).

  5. Looks like an excellent build for 10-mans and heroics. How is your mana consumption?

  6. So I’d like to know where you got the shot detail window in WOW?

  7. @Jessica – That’s an addon called Recount. It shows the damage, DPS etc for your group (or just you). Click on the bar showing your damage, and it gives you this kind of breakdown.

  8. Please for the love of god dispose of Aimed shot and all those macros!!

    Macro’s used to be good when Steady shot was priority 1 and only, but its now lowest priority and shot rotations are necessary.

    Haste is actually important for MM/SV.
    ArP is pretty weak right now and only getting worse when they add the 10% armor buff to bosses.

    MM gets boring once you get over the novelty of Chimera shot. Great burst DPS for PvP but not great on long boss fights.

    I’ve been BM since 2.0 but now realize it was rather boring. Now as SV i’ve found focusing on shot rotations is actually fun.

    Try SV!
    You’ll still buff Physical DPS but also replenish mana =D


  9. I tested my damage out on target dummies with and without Aimed Shot – and while it does not contribute as much damage as chimera and arcane it does increase my overall dps with it included in my rotation. On a long fight however, it may be a problem due to it’s high mana cost.

    I have also tested manually weaving compared to the macro. Manually weaving is more variable, sometimes lower, occasionally slightly higher results.

    Using the Power Aura addon, I can see what the macro is doing and whether it is clipping shots. It appears to be prioritizing correctly Chimera > arcane > aimed > steady. It may delay aimed slightly, but overall seems to be working pretty well. It depends on the fight whether I use it or manually weave.

  10. Brian Williams

    Hey thanks,

    I cant wait to try this out, I have beed an MM from the start but, didn’t know how to get more DPS out of the spec I had. This will help out a lot thanks again and good hunting my friend.

  11. «3. I send my pet in with the following macro, which also applies hunters mark:


    /cast Kill Command

    /cast hunter’s mark»

    I cant use the macro with the hunters’s mark… The pet atacks but the mark wount come in
    pls mail me

  12. nvm think it was bugged cause i relog and it works fine… Nice build btw

  13. the macro a use is fairly simple

    /cast Hunter’s mark
    /cast Kill command

    seem to work fine for me

  14. The MM build is so weak at the moment the only specs you can deal 5,5k dps is SV or BM (cause of the pet buff again). For a good MM dps you need the best ingame gear at the moment but if you have that gear you dont play MM cause SV does 1k dps more with those gear. Also your spec sucks you dont need aimed shot, silence, and 3/3 improved stings are a no go. Do a SV spec when your gear is not very good. Do a BM spec when you gear is hero and 10 man raid mixed and when you got high end gear do BM or SV it will do almost the same dmg but i prefer SV right now cause you dont loose much dps when you have to move thanks to explosive shot.

  15. Suffbirne and Elisius, you are both rude assholes. I just thought I would let you know in case your parents had not told you that often enough for it to sink into your pea-brains. Your specs suck and you can both suck a big one.

  16. Thanks for putting some real time and effort into this. I’ve been playing a hunter exclusively for two years now and since the big BM nerf I’m struggling to find a build that I think is worthy of play style that can still DPS.

  17. HI thanks for this site and the mm build, it seems pretty good.

    My guild earlier tonight asked me to respec mm for Plague wing and sartharion (sounds like safron to me – last dragon boss in naxx – MAJOR pain), I used the “Best MM DPS build” from the Elitist Jerks Hunter’s forum, and got mixed results (for some reason i sucked bigtime in H nexus!), i just found your page and respecced, on the heroic dummy, sofar dps is decent, but I wont know till I try it in a raid or actual heroic… still working on gear and 1 level to go on my raptor… I actually understood this build and hope it works for me…

  18. yo man good build lol i got a mm hunter twink lvl 29 i pretty much am unstopable in bg and i am runing off ur same build just the lower lvl version and the rude sv hunters if they where my lvl can take it up wit my boomkin never lost to a bm or sv hunter yet mm is differ story =/ silence and aim’d make life hard for a druid lol but yes great spec and great info u get a A+ =)

  19. Some thoughts worth mentioning…
    As MM in Alduar, your there for your TrueShotAura +10%AP across raid to players in range.
    Can you name another buff that can be directly link to 10% of the entire raid DPS.
    Before you list stuff…lol, consider this: TrueShot is a buff – not a proc of some special spell that only fires every now and then or when someone Crits or *Chance hits.
    If your vanity wants you to be at the top of the DPS meter go BM or SurV, Ulduar has a lot of moving around, BM does a crazy amount of DPS due to the pets 1500+dps, MM needs to stand still to get your Steady Shots up.
    OK now…from posts above…
    Silencing Shot is free dps -its not on global cool down, you can slip it into the rotation and not notice it (also works while in movement) worth the 1 point.
    Aimed shot is an extra shot when your in movement with decent dps return, also worth the 1 point in talent.
    Improved stings, 3/3 IS worth getting considering your Chimera Shot not only re-applies the Sting but Chim as an added extra also damages the target as a direct percentage of the Sting apllied!
    Improved Barrage 0/3 and 0/3.
    Your there to kill bosses not trash, you want to Spec your Points to focus your fire on ONE target.
    There are plenty of others in the raid to do the AoE – (that said) Volley is still very nice dps stock standard.
    Diversity in a raid is needed to perform at the highest levels in this game. MM has a spot in raiding along side either/both BM and SurV.
    ie. you dont take 6 pally healers into the raid do you. You need the different buffs each class and build supplies.
    As for the Agi and AP debate, there is little in it for the MM spec – but my experience shows an improvement in overall dps by changing all my enchants/gems where available from Agi to AP.
    Stacked Agi. Stacked AP.
    Agi…….1173 Agi…..1034
    Crit… 29.23 Crit….29.18
    AP……3507 AP……3954
    I did this from reading a lot of forums, all suggested AP gave more dps to MM.
    BM = AP
    MM = AP (My opinion)
    SurV = Agi
    I have also where possible, steered clear of +Armor Pen, this is a very weak stat for hunters and all forums agree and suggest its not worth it point for point when your gear could have +AP +CRIT +HASTE instead.
    As MM you should find yourself in the top 10 if not top 5 on a 25man raid. BM will always beat you aswell as those pesky Rogues.
    Good luck and happy hunting.

  20. +Armor Pen, MaxDPS.com is giving it a huge rating.
    Im not sold on it yet, saving the money for the stack ArmorPen to test it.
    Any thoughts on ArmorPen anyone?

  21. A couple notes from a hunter who’s played marksman since launch of game.

    1. as mm steady shot goes down the priority list, it’s only a filler so it does not prevent you from moving at all. It’s bm’s bread and butter but mm’s last on the list. After many hours of testing I found that the glyph of steady and the points spent were better spent elsewhere. (look up evasive on sen’jin realm).

    2. ALWAYS apply (or re-apply) your serpent sting when your AP is at it’s highest. Example: you use call of the wild, an on use AP trinket and furious owl from a wolf (which are top pet right now) your AP is suddenly jacked up by a good 2000+ for a couple seconds. Apply serpent sting immediately your chimera will benefit from it while the AP increase is up since serpent sting is a formula that looks like this : RAP * 0.2 + 1210. so if your ranged attack power is higher your chimera will also for the duration. You used to be able to keep that sting up at that magnitude as long as you refreshed chimera but they nerfed it, you can however at least benefit from procs if you pay close attention by applying the sting again when you see your ap get higher and chimera right after.

    3. as of last patch, armor penetration has the best scaling in game right now, it scales exponentially and pound for pound is the best all around stat after hit (for raiding). a little armor pen is not great but the more you get the better it scales. look on elitistjerks.com for more info

    4. aimed shot should be part of your rotation, once you get 4 pieces of tier 7, the mana is not much of an issue doesn’t take much time in viper to get back up with the 4 piece set bonus.

    5. get a wolf

  22. really good advice i love your page.
    it seems like a decent build although i had tried all 3 specs marks seems to put out the least at least when i used to play. but maybe it made a come bakc
    i will try it out and will respond one day after i do. following your guidelines and maybe changeing it a little too =D you know? =D well happy hunting.