Marksmanship Hunter DPS Guide
Updated for Mists of Pandaria 5.4.8, with some Warlords of Draenor notes.
Marksmanship Hunters are less reliant on their pets than Beast Mastery hunters, but their overall damage is comparable. This page covers Marksmanship in a PvE setting.There will be a few things changing with Warlords of Draenor. Some notes will be in the guide below, but you can see our post for all of the WoD Hunter changes. There will be some pretty significant changes for Marksmanship.
For leveling or PvP see the links just below.
|This Marksmanship Hunter guide is primarily intended for PVE use (raiding, etc.) at level 90. However, the principals will still apply at lower level. If you’re looking for advice and tips on leveling you Hunter then check out our Hunter Leveling Guide.
If you want the same in-game step by step leveling guide that we use to get to level 90 as fast as possible, take a look at our favorite in-game leveling guide.
Other Hunter Guides:
Marksmanship Hunter Talents
Keep a stock of Tome of the Clear Mind is your bags and change talents and glyphs to best suit the particular situation. The better you know the fights the better you will be able to custom pick talents to suit the situation. These picks are our choices for the best general use, though some situations might call for different picks.
WoD: Some Warlords of Draenor notes are below. These will likely change between now and release, so take them with a grain of salt.
Descriptions are below the image.
Tier 1, level 15
- Posthaste is a maneuverability boost. It can be used to move quickly from place to place.
- Narrow Escape is the weakest talent of this tier. There’s very few reasons to take this at this time, unless you like kiting groups of trash.
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Chimera allows us to use two of our survivability tools more often, making it easier to maintain damage.
Tier 2, level 30
- Binding Shot – this is the only one that has any area effect use and is grate for enemies that move around alot.
- Wyvern Sting put’s ‘em to sleep for a time, but breaks on damage. Usable in combat. Something comes in that the tank doesn’t have control over, or that leaves the tank to come to you? Put it to sleep.
- Intimidation Your pet briefly stuns the opponent. One minute cooldown. Nice only if you really need a short stun instead of one of the others.
Tier 3, level 45
- Exhilaration is a decent self-heal, but not incredibly useful. It would be better in a burst damage environment (PvP.)
- Aspect of the Iron Hawk makes our best aspect even better with very respectable damage mitigation.
- WoD: Changes to Iron Hawk.
- Spirit Bond heals for too little to be of great use, but would be nice for leveling.
Tier 4, level 60
- Fervor returns focus both instantly and over time. This choice is best used for burst.
- Dire Beast is the recommend choice for this time as it provides the greatest DPS of the three talents in this tier.
- Thrill of the Hunt has a chance to give you focus free Arcane Shots or reduced cost Multi-Shot. It will let you spam Arcane Shot and get in a few more Chimera Shots.
Tier 5, level 75
- A Murder of Crows is the optimal choice, especially for single targets. Take it.
- Blink Strike just isn’t very good at this time, since you generally won’t need to reposition your pet or have it catch up to the boss.
- Lynx Rush is the best choice for Beast Mastery, but not us.
- WoD: LR is dead in WoD, it’s replaced with Stampede.
Tier 6, level 90
- Glaive Toss currently provides the greatest DPS when fighting single targets. Barrage is better for groups.
- Powershot would be better with a higher crit chance (which might happen in patch 5.4.) For now, Glaive toss is the better choice.
- Barrage is good for heavy A of E fights, for small groups or bosses go with Glaive toss.
Tier 7, level 100 (Coming with Warlords of Draenor)
As of this writing Warlords is not even in beta test, so these talents will change. Here’s how they stand now. See our notes on the level 100 talents here. As for getting to 100 Zygor’s guide will help you get there quickly and easily.
- Exotic Munitions. You can change ammo types, each change lasts an hour.
- Focusing Shot – allows you to carefully line up your perfect shot for 100% wpn damage and generates 50 focus. It also replaces Steady Shot and Cobra Shot.
- Lone Wolf – Don’t want to bother with a pet? Now you can drop it and get 30% more damage. Naturally you lose any abilities that your pet has or that depend on a pet, but 30% more damage ain’t bad.
Any pet can be either Tenacity, Ferocity, or cunning and you can switch their specs at any time. Ferocity is generally the best choice as it provides the greatest DPS gain, but there may be situations where Tenacity or Cunning might have use.
For raid buffs and useful effects see this Pet Utility Table. Pick your pet so that the abilities it brings to the table complement those of the group. Its buffs/debuffs won’t stack with those of your team so choose wisely.
There will be various changes to pet abilities in WoD, and that level 100 talent will give you a change to operate without a pet. See here for the pet changes.
A few glyphs will die in Warlords, and a few others will be learned automatically as you level, just like talents and abilities. At the moment those glyphs are: Glyph of Liberation, Glyph of Pathfinding, Glyph of Mending, Glyph of Chimera Shot, Glyph of Black Ice, and Glyph of Misdirection.
- Glyph of Animal Bond boosts the healing your and your pet receive by 10%.
- Glyph of Liberation- A small heal (every 30 seconds) improves survivability.
- Glyph of Aimed Shot – Allows movement while firing this shot.
- Glyph of Chimera Shot – As above, it adds a bit to your healing, improving survivability.
- Glyph of Deterrence – Improves Deterrence’s damage reduction.
- Glyph of Mending – Keep your pet up and fighting.
- Glyph of Mirrored Blades – If you have incoming spell damage.
- Glyph of Slolace – Freezing Trap and Scatter Shot remove all DoTs from the target.
These are mostly cosmetic, but the first three do have some practical use. There are no changes for WoD.
- Glyph of Revive Pet – makes reviving your pet easier when things get iffy. Not as important as it is for Beast Mastery, but it’s still nice to have that pet up and biting away.
- Glyph of Aspect of the Cheetah – Useful if you find being dazed to be annoying.
- Glyph of Aspect of the Pack – Helps your raid to keep up with you.
- Glyph of Fetch
- Glyph of Lesser Proportion
Marksmanship Hunter Stat Priorities
Your Stats, in order of priority:
- Agility > Hit and Expertise to 7.5% each > Critical > Haste > Mastery
Hit and Expertise: Missing is bad, so don’t do it. Your misses will add up to a larger DPS loss than added lesser stats will recover, so make sure you have the caps for both of these.
Your pet inherits 50% of your hit and expertise, but only needs hit. So if you cap your Hit and Expertise than your pet will be Hit capped and all will be good. Note that the Dwarf and Troll racials add to your Expertise, none of the melee expertise racials are relevant.
While it’s better to be slightly over than under the caps, excess Hit and Expertise are not useful.
- Hit and Expertise are both going away in Warlords. You will have a 100% chance to hit and a 3% chance to be dodged.
Crit is well loved by all Hunters, especially MM. Get more.
Haste: is great at certain break points, weak when not at these points. If any additional unit of Haste gives you an additional shot or DoT tick or some other benefit then it’s highly recommended. If you can’t hit that breakpoint then you should get Crit instead. Here’s an in-depth discussion on how Haste works for MM Hunters and those breakpoints. Also note that as you get items that proc agility or useful abilities (trinkets, meta gem, legendary cloak, etc.) that Haste becomes more valuable as it gives these items more uptime.
Mastery is not as useful as the other stats at this time.
- Your Mastery will change in WoD to Sniper Training.
New stats for WoD:
- Readiness reduces the cooldowns on various abilities.
- Multistrike gives you a chance for extra, weaker, strikes.
- Make sure you have your Hit and Expertise, you should be able to get all of both through your gear as the item level gets higher. You can gem for any points that you still need.
- Reforge everything else to Crit, then to Haste.
- Reforging is dead in Warlords of Draenor.
In-Depth Rotation Guide for Marksmanship
Warlords of Draenor will change your rotation somewhat. Here are the changes relevant to this section:
- Arcane shot is now MM and S only, you no longer have access to it.
- Hunter’s Mark is dead.
- Serpent Sting is now Survival only, but your level 100 Exotic Ammo talent can duplicate the effect.
- The level 100 talent Focusing Shot, if you take it, will replace your Chimera Shot and your Steady Shot.
- Stampede will become a level 75 talent.
- More MM changes
Stuff to Keep Up:
- You should always have Aspect of the Hawk active unless the fight is movement heavy in which case use Aspect of the Fox.
- First priority is applying and maintaining Hunter’s Mark on your target. Mark is applied along with various attacks, such as Arcane Shot, though you can apply Mark manually at a much greater range.
- Next, apply Serpent Sting, which will be refreshed by Chimera Shot rather than through repeated use.
If the target is above 90% health use Aimed Shot as your primary damaging ability due to the Careful Aim passive which increases the critical strike chance of Aimed Shot and Steady Shot by 75% on targets above 90% health.
- Maintain the Steady Focus effect at all times by casting a pair of Steady Shots whenever the buff is about to wear off.
- Steady Shot has a 50% chance of generating a stack of Master Marksman. Once this buff reaches 3 stacks it makes your next Aimed Shot within 10 seconds cost no focus and have no cast time. Make certain to use Aimed Shot whenever 3 stacks of Master Marksman build up.
- Use Chimera Shot on cooldown.
- Begin using Kill Shot when the target reaches 20% health.
- Use either Aimed Shot or Arcane Shot to expend excess focus. All of your Tier 4 talents will generate additional focus.
- Use Steady Shot to gain focus.
When facing small groups simply continue to use your single target rotation, otherwise if facing a group of 4 or more targets begin using Multi-Shot whenever possible while continuing to maintain the Steady Focus buff and use Aimed Shot it’s instant cast. Multi-Shot triggers the Bombardment effect when it critically strikes, increasing Multi-Shot damage by 30% and reducing the focus cost by 20 for 5 seconds, allowing you to more effectively spam the ability.
Rabid, Rapid Fire, Dire Beast and Stampede should be used on cooldown for maximum effect. Use Readiness immediately after using Rapid Fire and A Murder of Crows to refresh their cooldowns allowing you to cast them again.
Unless a socket bonus offers an Agility bonus it’s more effective to gem for pure agility. Try to get your Hit and Expertise through gear and reforging, but you can gem/enchant for it if you have to.
If you’re going to match sockets to get the bonuses then use the bybrid Agility gems. Orange in the yellow sockets and purple in the blues. Other gems are shown in case you are real close to some breakpoint. If you’re a bit short on gold to pay for all your stuff check out our guide.
Matching sockets is only recommended if the socket bonus if for Agility, otherwise just gem Agility and forget the bonus. That said, skipping the bonus is only a small DPS add.
If you’re going to match sockets:
- Meta: If you can get it then the Capacitive Diamond is, by far, the bext choice. Otherwise grab the Agile gem.
- Red sockets: Delicate Primordial Ruby
- Yellow: Deadly Vermilion Onyx or Delicate Primordial Ruby if the socket is not an Agility bonus.
- Blue: Glinting Imperial Amethys or Accurate Imperial Amethys if you need the expertise, or Delicate Primordial Ruby if the socket is not an Agility bonus.
- Belt buckle or Blacksmithing slot: Delicate Primordial Ruby
|Various Gems for Hunters|
|Meta||Capacitive Primal Diamond: +324 Critical Strike, and chance on melee or ranged hit to gain Capacitance. Requires the legendary quest line.
Agile Primal Diamond: 216 Agil & 3% Increased Crit Effect
|Red||Delicate Primordial Ruby: 160 Agility|
|Yellow||Quick Sun’s Radiance: 320 Haste
Fractured Sun’s Radiance: 320 Mastery
Smooth Sun’s Radiance: 320 Crit
|Orange||Deadly Vermilion Onyx: 80 Agility, 160 Crit
Adept Vermilion Onyx: 80 Agility, 160 Mastery
Crafty Vermilion Onyx: 160 Expertise, 160 Crit
|Purple||Glinting Imperial Amethyst: 80 Ag, 160 Hit
Accurate Imperial Amethyst: 160 Expertise, 160 Hit
|Prismatic||Delicate Primordial Ruby: 160 Agility|
|Cogwheel||Smooth Tinker’s Gear: 600 Crit – requires an engie helm, such as this.
Fractured Tinker’s Gear: 600 Mastery
Quick Tinker’s Gear: 600 Haste
Marksmanship Hunter Enchantments for PvE
Helm enchants are gone in Mists of Pandaria, shoulder enchants all come from the Inscription profession. While you can wield melee weapons there is no point to enchanting them since you will never actually use them.
Short on gold? If you want to buy the best enchants and gems, fund all of your alts, donate to the guild, etc., but don’t have the cash, then see what the Tycoon Addon can do about about improving your situation.
|Ranged Weapon||Lord Blastington’s Scope of Doom: Sometimes add 1,800 Ag for 10 seconds.|
|Shoulders||Secret Tiger Claw Inscription +520 Ag, 100 Crit, requires Inscription 575
Greater Tiger Claw Inscription: +200 Agility, +100 Crit
|Cloak||Swordguard Embroidery: Sometimes pops 4k AP for 15 sec. Requires Tailoring.
Enchant Cloak – Superior Critical Strike: +180 Crit rating
|Chest||Enchant Chest – Glorious Stats: +80 to all Stats|
|Bracers||Fur Lining, Agility: +500 Agility, requires Leatherworking.
Enchant Bracer – Greater Agility: +180 Agility
Socket Bracer: Self only, Blacksmithing, pop in a nice Agility gem.
|Gloves||Enchant Gloves – Greater Haste: +170 Haste
Socket Gloves – Self only, Blacksmithing, pop in a nice gem.
|Belt||Living Steel Belt Buckle: put a nice gem into this slot.|
|Leggings||Shadowleather Leg Armor: +285 Agility & 165 Crit rating|
|Boots||Enchant Boots – Blurred Speed: 140 Agility and Slight run speed increase.|
|Rings||Enchant Ring – Greater Agility: +160 Agility, Requires Enchanting 550|
Comsumables. Mmmmm, potions. Yummy.
Note that Pandarens get twice the food buff. All food buffs last one hour. Any Agility bonuses also add to the food and chemical bonuses. Alchemists will get about 30% more in stats and an extra hour in duration from flasks and elixirs.
Food buffs go away when killed, flasks do not. Your agility flask is better than any pair of elixirs.
- Flask of Spring Blossoms: 1,000 Ag for one hour
- Virmen’s Bite: 4k Ag for 25 seconds. If you pop one immediately before combat you will be able to pop another during combat.
- Master Healing Potion: Heals 120k HP
- Runescroll of Fortitude III: 8% increased Stamina to your entire group.
Professions for MM Hunters
In Warlords: All combat bonuses will be removed from professions, they’ll be for flavor and gold making only.
In Mists: All of the professions provide some benefit for any class/spec, though clearly some are better than others. Even the gathering professions have some value, though you might be better served by using those to build a larger gold stash.
Most of the professions add an average of about 320 Agility. Since gems with secondary stats are twice the value of those with primary stats (320 Haste Vs 160 Agility, for example.) Engineering has a very nice Ag cooldown (glove enchant) and Blacksmithing provides you with a bit more flexibility for gem slotting even though Agility is currently, by far, the best stat. That may not be that case later on.
Herbalism has a nice Haste cooldown
Jewelcrafting provides only 320 in any stat over non JC gems.
|Tailoring||Cloak enchant sometimes adds 4k Attack Power for 15 seconds.|
|Leatherworking||Bracer enchant adds 500 Ag.|
|Jewelcrafting||Make nicer gems for your own use.|
|Enchanting||Enchant both rings, for a total +320 Ag gain.|
|Inscription||Shoulder enchant adds 520 Ag and 100 crit.|
|Alchemy||More effect from your own potions. Adds 320 Ag and an extra hour to your main flask.|
|Engineering||has lots of interesting toys, some of which have situational use, and Synapse Springs, which increases Ag by 1940 for a short time. If you take this use a macro to activate it along with other short term buffs.|
|Blacksmithing||gives two extra gems slots. Since gems with secondary stats have twice the value of gems with primary stats Blacksmithing might be a very valuable profession. For example, you’ll be able to socket the two gems for 640 Haste instead of 320 Ag.|
|Skinning||provides 480 crit rating|
|Herbalism||Small heal and 2880 Haste for 20 seconds plus you’ll find spirits.|
MM Hunter Races
With Catalclysm everyone but Gnomes were allowed into the Hunter crowd. Probably because they’re too busy repairing their city or they’re too short to use a bow (how about a Gnomish X4500GT Zarkomatic blaster rifle?)
In Mists of Pandaria Pandarens can become Hunters. but Gnomes are still out.
In WoD there are no changes to who can be a hunter, but the racials will change. All abilities dealing with hit or expertise, for example, are gone. See our post on the Warlords race changes.
Most of the races bring something to the table for MM Hunters, but Orcs and Trolls are “the best” from a DPS viewpoint.
- Alliance Damage: Draenei (hit rating,) Worgen (Crit chance & sprint,) Dwarf (ranged expertise.)
- Horde Damage: Orc (Blood Fury) and +5% pet damage ; Troll gets Berserking and ranged expertise. Goblins get a Haste effect and Rocket Jump (a useful escape ability.) Undead drain life and heal.
Pandarens (Mists of Pandaria) can be either Alliance or Horde, they choose when they leave their starting area.
- They can put enemies to sleep with a touch of the paw, but you don’t want to be in melee range so this isn’t that much use to you.
- Increased benefits from food buffs will be quite nice while raiding, but will be less than the value of one gem.
- Take less falling damage from being “bouncy.”
- Double duration for rest XP makes leveling faster.
- Skilled at cooking.
- WoD: No changes
Draenei – Small DPS Gain from +Hit.
- A small HoT, Gift of the Naaru, will help with survivability.
- +1% hit, a useful self-only ability for raiding hunters as every point of hit rating counts once you hit the endgame raids.
- In WoD: The hit is dead, the heal is haster (5 seconds time, from 15,) and your Ag is higher.
Night Elves - No DPS gain
- Shadowmeld drops aggro in PvE encounters, but it’s redundant with your Feign Death ability. It does not add to your Camouflage ability.
- Night Elf hunters also gain the benefit of a 2% dodge chance increase, another bonus to stack with Aspect of the Monkey when forced into melee. This willonly rarely be of any use to you in PvE.
- In WoD: 2% faster movement and Touch of Elune is a new passive ability which increases Haste by 1% at night, and Critical Strike chance by 1% during the day.
Dwarves – Small DPS gain from +Expertise
- The stone form ability is rather nice, washing away bleeds and reducing damage taken by 10%, and the latter part of that will find occasional PvE use.
- Dwarves get expertise with ranged weapons, which is useful.
- Dwarves are good with Archeology.
- In WoD: Ranged expertise is dead and stoneform erases more effects,
Human – No DPS abilities
- They have nothing that’s specifically useful, though their escape ability is quite nice for PvP and occasionally of use in PvE.
- Their diplomacy ability will help with the rep gains with the many factions of Azeroth and beyond.
- Their expertise with melee weapons is of no use to you.
- In WoD: the expertise is dead and The Human Spirit is now useful as it boosts two secondary stats instead of just spirit.
Worgen – Extra Crit is nice, as is Sprint (DarkFlight) , making them the best Alliance DPS.
- They have a general 1% increased chance to crit, which is a good stat for you, and
- Worgen can “periodically move more quickly,” which definitely has it’s uses.
- Their increased skinning skill and speed is a nice convenience, but of no special value to Hunters.
- WoD: No changes
Blood Elves – No DPS abilities,
Of the horde races we’ll begin with the Blood Elves, a rather “meh…” race, as far as Hunters are concerned.
- Their big ability is Arcane Torrent, which can be used as an AoE silence/interruption when forced into melee range with caster classes. Ideally Hunters want to avoid “melee range” like the plague. While it will restore a small amount of focus you will need to be in a really long fight to get even one more shot because of it.
- Blood elves are good with Enchanting.
- In WoD: Belves will get Arcane Acuity, which is a new racial passive ability that increases Critical Strike chance by 1%.
Tauren – No DPS abilities, though the bigger health pool helps at times (and also results in bigger Chimera Shot heals.)
- Tauren are yet another generally viable Hunter race, gaining a 5% bonus to health that is occasionally useful.
- You’ll also gain the benefit of Warstomp, an AoE stun that may allow you to gain range from the opposition.
- Good with Herbalism, which provides a nice little heal and a Haste effect.
- WoD: The Tauren health bonus will scale better with level.
Trolls are arguably the best of all the races for Hunters, with Berserking, +Expertise, and damage Vs beasts.
- Trolls possess the Berserking racial, a potent increase for burst DPS.
- Trolls get Ranged weapon expertise, which is pretty nice for Hunters.
- Trolls also get +5% damage bonus Vs. beasts. Some of the trash mobs found in PvE content count as beasts, so this will be occasionally useful.
- A somewhat more situational ability is the reduced duration Trolls get from movement reducing effects.
- In WoD: Ranged expertise is gone, berskerking is nerfed to 15% Haste, and Beast Slaying no longer increases damage to beasts. Instead it grants extra XP.
Orcs, are also a contender for the #1 Hunter choice from a DPS perspective. with Blood Fury and pet damage.
- They get the benefit of Blood Fury, a great burst DPS increaser,
- as well as 2% more pet damage via Command,
- and a 15% resistance to all stuns with Hardiness, useful in PvP situations and helpful in rare PvE content.
- In WoD: Bloody Fury is nerfed to a 10% increase, Hardiness is nerfed to 10% stun decrease, and Command only adds 1% damage.
Undead – their new racial gives them some added DPS.
- Naturally the Undead start with a giant spider as a pet.
- They have no special Hunter abilities, but their “Will of the Forsaken” can wipe off sleeps, charms, etc., a nice ability to have, especially in PvP.
- Being able to eat the brains of those you kill frees up a blag slot (which would otherwise carry food.)
- Undead can drain life from opponents and be healed for the same amount. This is a passive effect and happens occasionally with your damaging attacks. It will add a small amount to your DPS totals.
- In WoD the Will of the Forsaken cooldown is increased to 3 min. An old ability, Underwater Breathing, returns and is improved.
Goblin – A small DPS increase
- Rocket Jump has definite uses at times, especially as “gain range” ability when Disengage is on cooldown.
- An increase to Haste is just Ok and
- An increase in Alchemy skill, along with a greater effect from your own healing potions, is also nice.
- Goblins also receive vendor discounts and can summon a personal bank.
- In WoD the Gobs get no real changes.
The Fast MM Hunter Leveling Guide
WoW’s in game quest helper is a nifty gadget, showing you where to go and giving you some idea of what to do. What it doesn’t show you is the most efficient path to take among all the bazillion quests and it misses a lot in the “where to go and what to do” department.
Zygor’s guide misses nothing and shows you the best path to take, whether Horde or Alliance, at all times, and eliminates all doubt and confusion. You will never again have any doubts about the best path to follow to get to the level cap ASAP.
Zygor’s has gemmed for Int and, as a result, it doesn’t matter if you stop your questing to gain a few levels in PvP or the dungeons, you’re brand new to the game or you’re decked head to toe in heirlooms. Come back to the quests and Zygor will figure out where you should be, based on your new level, and update the guide accordingly. It’ll even let you zap your obsolete quests.
You’re not even locked into any particular build for best results. Zygor’s guide has a talent advisor which will recommend talents for either Marksman, Beastmastery, or Survival, depending on what you like. About the only way to get to 90 (or level 100) faster is to buy a character off of ebay, but that will get you banned and Zygor’s won’t.
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