These expert marksmen drop foes dead in their tracks with flawless shots from a bow or rifle. The art of survival is central to the isolated life of a hunter. Hunters track beasts with ease and enhance their own abilities by attuning themselves to the feral aspects of various creatures. Hunters are known for the lifelong bonds they form with animals of the wild, training great hawks, cats, bears, and many other beasts to fight alongside them.
This page is a general overview of the Hunter in the World of Wacraft. It is updated for Shadowlands and will give you an idea of what the class is about. For more specific and in-depth info, see the guides listed below, in the “other hunter guides” section.
Other Hunter Guides
The Hunter Overview
When I think of hunter, I think Beastmaster. No, not the actual talent build I mean the movie (trailer.) It’s just that instead of commanding a pair of ferrets we get our pick of a few slightly larger and more powerful specimens. This change makes the pets more useful for killing monsters and players, yes, but they lack the inherent likability of ferrets. Leaving us instead with lean, mean, destruction machines – A regrettable downgrade.
However, pets provide us with an amazing synergy between what is the greatest non-player tank and what may be the highest solo DPS class in the game. A Hunter and his pet being almost the equivalent of a priest/warrior leveling team, just packed into a single class.
With proper mastery of their capabilities Hunters become one of the most powerful classes in the game, possessing numerous abilities dedicated to keep us both alive and continually capable of retaliating in any number of PvP and PvE situations.
Being as effective as they are some might argue that Hunters have it all “too easy.” Your Hunter might have to work a bit to set herself apart from the vast flock of players more aptly named “Huntards” by the majority of players.
The good news is that if you bacome a Hunter of exceptional skills it’ll be easily visible to your team within a fight or two. This is due to difference between good and bad hunters being so dramatic as to divide them into almost entirely different classes; namely the huntards who bring ‘leet melee dps’ and those who actually take the time to lay traps and use their abilities to the max.
The “Buffs and Nerfs ” Game
Class “balance” has always been something that the WoW developers strive for, but sometimes it’s a hit and miss thing. Especially after an expansion or big patch the balance between classes, or even builds within the same class may become a little iffy.
With the 6.0 patches (Warlords) this was certainly the case. Once day class A is in god mode, the next day it’s in the dog house. For example, today, Survival might be the top DPS spec. Next week it may be different.
Mists of Pandaria continued that theme and then Bliz shook everything up with Warlords of Draenor. The great “item squish” happened, which means that a fresh level 100 won’t necessarily be able to crush characters near his level. (An experienced one, of course, will have all that nice gear.)
And Shadowlands… The first character level squish (110 to 50,) along with a major item level squish. Naturally talents and abilities are moved here and there, but the overall feel of each specialization should be about the same.
The point is that we’re not going to play a “flavor of the moment (FOTM)” game here. We’ll present info that will make you a better Hunter and we’ll leave the balance dance to Blizzard and the FOTM game to the forums.
With Cataclysm Gnomes became the only race that could not be hunters and this problem went away in BFA. Now all races can be Hunters.
The best racial choice for a Hunter is one that you enjoy playing. It doesn’t matter if one race has no special abilities if you like playing that race more than others. None of the racial abilities make that much of a difference. Your skills will far out shadow any racials.
Ok, if you’re an elite PvPer you might want to be human, at least half of the elites are. Orc if you’re Horde.
For a complete listing of all the Hunter races you can check out our Hunter Leveling Guide. Even the allied races are listed.
My recommendation for tradeskills/professions is to pick any two of the gathering skills: skinning, herbalism, or mining. This is a great way to earn a decent amount of gold throughout your career. Gather a bunch of herbs/ores/skins and send ’em off to your banker to sell. You don’t even need to have much skill to collect most of the herbs, ores, or skins, but you DO need to have enough skill to get anything other than fragments.
Generally, crafting skills should be avoided unless you have that excess cash, since those skills can be expensive to level.
In Warlords of Draenor all of the direct combat benefits of the various professions were removed. Professions are more for flavor, and gold making, rather than min/maxing. You can also assign a follower to your garrison profession buildings and that follower can provide you with some nice perks.
In Battle For Azeroth all of the skills were broken up into sub-skills, each of which could be leveled independently of the others. For example, you can learn Shadowlands Herbalism without ever learning or practicing Herbalism elsewhere.
In Shadowlands you have the usual new recipes, but no serious changes to the system.
- Leatherworking – for some decent gear, especially at high level, but it’s expensive to level. Will let you make entry level armor for raids. You can also make Drums of Fury for a Heroism type buff (25% Haste for 40 sec.) Through the Leatherworking hut in your Garrison you can make single use tents that will increase all of your stats by 10% for an hour, though not in raids or rated PvP. These tents are account bound, so you can mail them to all of your alts. They’re only useful if you’re leveling in the Warlords area. In Shadowlands you can make the base pieces for your Legendary armor.
- Skinning – to make money and support your leatherworking skill.
- Mining and Herbalism are great cash grinding skills.
- Inscription You can make some money with it, but it takes some work. If you just want your glyphs, on most servers, it’s cheaper to buy them all than to level this profession. You can make items for casters and some trinkets, as well as items to upgrade those items.
- Cooking is useful as many of the foods you create will have interesting buffs, as well as allowing you to regain health and mana. You can also buy real world WoW Cookbooks, on Amazon, or Wrath of the Kitchen King.
- Alchemy has lots of useful potions and you can make yourself a pretty nice trinket.
- Jewelcrafting will let you make fine jewelry and gams to drop into gear slots.
- Blacksmithing doesn’t have any items that are directly useful to you, though your garrison follower can give you two nice buffs:
- Enchanting will let you make illusionary enchants, though your follower. These let you change the look of your other enchants.
- Engineering has a number of engie toys that are useful. Your Garrison follower will sell you, cheaply, some useful stuff. One of these is Walter, a repair bot and personal bank. You can also make rockets, a stealth device, and a shield.
- Tailoring: Also nothing much here for you, directly, though you can make bandages, vanity items, bags, and some other stuff.
- Need to get more gold? Check out Zygor.
Hunter Abilities, Pets, and Leveling
Hunter abilities are distributed about 2/3’s into our own powers and such with the remaining 1/3 being the slew of pet specific talents such as mend pet, revive, etc. This number of pet abilities increases should you specialize into Beast Mastery.
Properly using a Hunter, of course, depends on the efficient usage of our pet, whether that be for tanking, as beast mastery, additional DPS as marksman, or simply a distraction, as Survival in PvP.
Cataclysm made the whole taming and training system somewhat easier and added the ability to have several pets on call and store many more in the stables.
In Mists of Pandaria pets became even easier. There is no pet maintenance of any kind. Feeding your pet heals it, but that’s about all.
In Warlords there are some changes to pet abilities, such as crowd control being removed. See this post for details.
In Shadowlands you get a lot more pets to pick from and a larger stable.
The Hunter’s Pets
In Mists of Pandaria and beyond…
- Pets automatically get their abilities, there are no more talents to learn.
- Pets immediately become your level when you tame them.
- No happiness or loyalty to worry about, no talents to buy or train.
- Each pet can pick from one of the three specs: Ferocity, Tenacity, and Cunning. They will automatically learn that set of abilities when they “learn” that spec, just like you do. The pet tab is next to your own “talents” tab.
- The spec abilities are in addition to the regular pet abilities, such as Growl.
- You can swap pet builds whenever you want to. Ferocity to Tenacity to Cunning when you need it, then back again. At will.
Pets have three overall “builds/specs.”
- Ferocity is for DPS pets. They can tank a couple of mobs just fine, but their main job is damage. Generally, in raids, your pet will be Ferocity. As you go up in levels they don’t hold aggro as well as they do at earlier levels, but your skills should be such that this won’t matter. Much.
- Tenacity is the build that your tanking pets will have. These pets will keep the attentions of several mobs, and survive, while you burn them down. A few Hunters even tank dungeons with these pets and then make the boss into a pet, such as with King Dred.
- Cunning pets have certain special abilities that are useful in particular situations.
Petopia has lots of info on Hunter pets.
Different pets require different foods. Some want veggies, some want meat, and you get to provide the food. (Sorry, but other players don’t count as “meat.”) You’ll have to either kill stuff, go fishing, or buy the food from the various vendors (such as fruit or meat sellers.) Higher level foods heal your pet for more than lower level foods.
Note that all that the food does is heal your pet, out of combat. It does nothing else. Food used to do more, but that’s all gone now.
Other Pet notes:
- Pets inherit 100% of the Hunter’s hit, haste, and crit, and scale considerably from AP. All 3 pet types inherit the same AP scaling, so differences in DPS come from the pet’s basic abilities and their talents.
- Pets inherit nothing from your Strength
Hunter Specs, Abilities, Talents.
When done right, Hunter Leveling can be compared to the pleasure of slowly sipping down a nice glass of (insert cold beverage of choice here) on a hot summer day, pleasurable and luxuriously easy – Just the way I like it to be when I level.
Thankfully, all three styles of Hunter builds are viable for leveling, catering to those who prefer to snipe from a long range or sick enraged cats on people. Not to mention the smaller, yet equally capable crowd, that likes the tactical challenge of survival from start to the level cap.
For info more specific to leveling check out our Hunter Leveling Guide for information, talent builds, and lots more stuff. If you need a step-by-step guide to go from 1 to the level cap (or starting from any level) then check out our recommended leveling guide, below.
Hunter Abilities and Talents
Each Hunter specialization (spec) will get various abilities that none of the others get, such as Marksmanship’s Aimed Shot. These are in addition to the regular abilities that are shared by all Hunters. And then there are the talents.
In Shadowlands, with the Level Squish, you get your talents at 15, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, and 50.
Marksmanship Hunter Leveling
Marksmanship leveling follows the much loved style of nuking the opposition from orbit (or at least a fairly large distance,) as it’s really the only way to be sure of victory. To make things even better, you’ll likely kill your target before it even reaches you, making it fairly easy to continually pull mobs without a single second of downtime. Aimed Shot + Careful Aim is a brutal opener.
So, if that’s not enough to convince you, Marksman is both entertaining and easy. Try it if the image of a lone-gunman suits your playstyle. Of course, that kind of ranged damage will make you a valuable team member, as well.
Note that you can take the Lone Wolf talent, which allows you to run without pets and do even more damage than before.
For more , see our:
- Marksman Hunter DPS page for Raids, instances, and dungeons, including your rotations, useful tips, gems, enchants, and more.
- Marksmanship PvP page for mowing down those players who chose the wrong faction. 😉
- Also see our Hunter Leveling Guide for lots of leveling info.
Beast Mastery Hunter Leveling
Despite all praises I may have for Marksman as a method of leveling, Beast Mastery somehow manages to surpass even this, setting a new bar for soloing capabilities only matched by a very few.
The majority of Beast Mastery’s overwhelming leveling speed comes from the fact that many Beast Mastery abilities not only improve the pet, but the Hunter himself (to a lesser extent.) More pet damage equals more Hunter damage, not equaling the level of marksmanship necessarily, but still more than enough to make you a solid killing machine.
Finally the pet’s tanking ability becomes almost unstoppable with bestial wrath and intimidation, allowing you to run from fight to fight, even with elites, without ever taking a scratch and wasting barely ten seconds healing the pet from any damage taken. Having the pet as your tank eliminates the potential for mistakes and helps to make the pair of you into a very efficient team.
See our Beast Mastery PvE page for using BM in instances and raids, including full rotations, gems, enchants, etc., and our Hunter Leveling Guides for more on leveling BM. If you looking to kill other players there’s the BM PvP page.
Click Here and get leveled to the The Cap, Fast
Survival Hunter Leveling
Survival, unlike marksmanship or beast mastery, seems more apt for providing a fun distraction from the usual grind of leveling while still maintaining speeds generally unreachable by any aside from Rogues or Fury Warriors.
The concept of spending more time on the tactical approach to combat via traps, as opposed to a run n’ gun style of play, appeals to both myself and many others, despite its relative slowness compared to the other styles of hunter leveling.
Stay out of melee – While Hunters can dish out enough melee damage to function for leveling it doesn’t work so well for PvP. Any other melee class will lock you up and shut you down. Use your abilities to get out of melee ASAP and get back to your strength, ranged devastation.
This means you should also be aware of certain “get back here!” abilities, such as the Death Knight’s Death grip or Warrior’s Charge. Save things like your Disengage till after the Death Knight “Death Grips” you.
Hunters can be very effective at PvP, but like any other class they have to play to their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. Hone the skills that keep the opposition controlled and away from you. Learn the skills that apply the highest burst damage for those times when you can just blast away.
Your damage is fine, your control is fine, your ability to escape is fine. Your #1 question is how well you can stay out of melee and the #2 question is how well you can keep casters interrupted and/or silenced or otherwise out of your hair.
While your pet will be completely unable to tank another player it can be a very valuable DPS addition. It can also initiate an attack, allowing you to get several shots in before the other player finds and targets you. Some pets, such as those with large wing spans, can obscure the vision of the other player. Other pets have special abilities which can also be useful. Monkeys (rude manners) and Spiders (webs) come to mind. Those special abilities are the reasons you’ll see so many of those pets in PvP.
Traps laid down in bottleneck areas, such as the tunnels in Warsong Gulch, or the entries to either base in Atarac Valley, or right next to (or on top of) a flag can be very valuable. Crowd Control abilities can be every bit as useful as raw damage.
Arena – There are plenty of Hunters in the top arena rankings, especially in 3s.
Gear, Stats, and Numbers
The value of your stats will depend on your spec, your exact build, and your gear to some extent. More detail will appear on our leveling and other pages.
Also note that Shadowlands has implemented a diminishing returns system for stats. Basically, for example: after reaching 30% received from gear of any secondary stat, it takes increasingly more rating to increase another % of that stat from your gear.
This means that if you have, just as an example, 40% haste before the change was implemented, with it you’ll only have 39% haste. At very high levels of a stat the diminishment hits 50%.
This does not apply to buffs, such as Heroism.
- Agility -Your #1 stat. Adds to your ranged DPS, your crit chance, and your dodge. Agi is, by far, your most important stat for damage (DPS) regardless of which spec you play.
- Haste – The affects both the speed of your shots, cooldown timers, and focus regeneration.
- Mastery – this stat is trainable at level 10. Its value will vary with your build and gear. Typically this is a weaker stat for Hunters.
- Versatility adds to your attack power, your healing, and, at 1/2 value, your damage reduction.
- Critical Hit will do 200% damage and 150% damage in PvP.
- Stamina – Keeps you alive. You need more for PvP than either Raiding or Leveling. If you’re low level then we suggest piling on the Stam as it makes survival easier.
In Mists of Pandaria Focus became the “resource” that Hunters (and their pets) use for all of their attacks. It works very much like a Rogue’s Energy and it makes resource management something to keep an eye on. Almost every attack you make, that isn’t an “auto-attack,” will require X amount of focus. Various talents will either restore Focus or increase its regeneration speed, for both you and your pet.
Still leveling? Get Heirlooms. You can buy most of your heirlooms with gold. These items level with you and are comparable to very good gar at any given level. The do cost gold to buy and to improve. If you’re just starting out then don’t worry about them, but when you get some gold in hand, give them a look.
Figure 5-700 gold for the basic items and 13k or so to max them out.
Capped out? Time to work on the dungeon/raiding gear, and whatever special items are available in the current expansion. For Shadowlands it’s the Legendary Items.
(need more gold? Check this out.)
- You wear mail armor primarily, though you can also wear cloth or leather armor. At level 27 you will get a bonus if you have mail armor in all appropriate slots.
- Upgrade your weapons first.
- As of Warlords and later you can use any ranged weapon and most melee weapons, but you cannot equip them at the same time. Your bow/gun has zero minimum range, so skip the melee weapons, unless you’re Survival. You will have to do a weapon swap to change from ranged to melee weapons and back again, so you will not be able to benefit from the stats on your melee weapons while using your bow. (You used to be able to equip both and gain the extra stats.)
Is it all too easy? Probably, if you constantly have the best gear. Of course, that’ll also mean that you’ll level that much faster as you mow down the opposition and be more competitive in dungeons, raids, and PvP.
Want more of a challenge?
- Easy mode: Get the best gear you can, all the way. Heirlooms are great.
- Moderate: Nothing better than quest/dungeon gear. Use only what you find. Dungeon gear is ok, Auction House gear is not. No heirlooms.
- Harder: Nothing better than quest rewards. No blue or purple items.
- Naked?? Once upon a time a Naked Troll leveled to 60 with no gear, other than his weapon. Naturally he was a Hunter.
- Now do any of the above with War Mode on.
- Insane: Naked, with War Mode on.
- Practice your rotations on a practice dummy, using a DPS meter like Recount. Make sure you maintain your routine for at least a few minutes on the dummy. This averages out the high and low spikes in your damage and gives you a better number. The more disciplined and automatic your routine is, the higher your DPS will be. See our Hunter DPS pages for rotation details (Marks, BM, Survival.)
- If you’re PvPing then you should mix in any abilities that might help even though they don’t increase damage, such as Concussive shot. Crowd Control will be a huge help in slaying the opposition.
- If you’re clicking your buttons, rather than using hotkeys, you’re at a disadvantage. Learn to use hotkeys. Assign only a couple at first and expand them as you get better.
This video is really old (before Cataclysm,) but covers trapping basics nicely. Mentally add your Trap Launcher ability to what’s shown here and you’ll be good.
This next video is oriented towards Arena PVP and is quite a bit more advanced. It’s a Skill-Capped video and they have a lot more Hunter PvP videos and guides. This is a Battle for Azeroth video, but is still good.
For Even Faster Hunter Leveling…
With all the leveling changes introduced with the various expansions questing has become about as fast as dungeon or PvP leveling. Just follow the quests and you’ll level just fine.
How to go a lot faster? Grab Zygor’s guide. It literally points the way, every step of the way, all the way. You’ll never again have any doubts about where to go or what to do.
You’ll never again have to check some website for tips and you might even never have to look at your quest log. Just follow the arrow and the steps and boom, boom, boom, you’re there.
Whether you’re brand new to WoW or are decked head to toe in Heirlooms, Zygor has your back and will get you to the the level cap faster than anything else.
Even if you’ve done it all before you’ll still find yourself leveling even faster than before. Plus, Zygor’s comes with a whole bunch of other goodies. Click here to learn more!
Like this page? How about recommending it?
Where to go next?
- Hunter leveling – Hunters are fast and easy to level and our leveling page with give you all the help you need.
- Playing the Best Mastery spec? Then see our Beast Mastery DPS page for raids and dungeons and such or the Beast Mastery PvP page if hunting down other players is your thing.
- Survival DPS for the raids.
- Marksmanship DPS for raiding and dungeons and if you’ll going after players, then our Marksmanship PvP page.