A Hunter's Guide - The Beast Master's Perspective
This guide is primarily concerned with hunters who plan to go or respec to Beast Mastery. I won't discuss PvP in this guide, since my experience is limited to dueling tournaments. For those who are already high level and want to know how to use Beast Mastery effectively, scroll past the beginner stuff.
Hunters are excellent soloists, and one who is specced in Beast Mastery can be one of the best. You'll be able to zip through quests at an incredible speed, and many people recommend speccing Beast Mastery specifically for that purpose. Hunters do suffer from a stigma of being a "noob" class, and Beast Mastery even more so. Due to this, lack of a defined group role, and an overabundance of hunters, finding a place in a group may be difficult..
A hunter can be DPS, off-tank, puller, crowd-control, cloth-protector (or all of the above at the same time), but you will almost never see "LF Hunter" in chat. For DPS, rogues and mages are often preferred because they usually bring more damage and have other skills beneficial to a group. For tanking, warriors, shamans, and pallies come first. Most groups prefer a tank to pull, regardless of their skill. Crowd-control is usually left to the mages, rogues, priests, and druids. It's typically the tank's job to protect the cloth-wearers.
Even though a hunter can perform all these roles admirably, there exists one more obstacle: hunters are a popular class to play. If a group ever does look for a hunter, the spot is quickly filled.
Playing the hunter has a definite trade-off. It is a very fun class, and hunters are remarkable soloists, but they lack high group desirability. There's only one way to counteract this: become the best hunter you can be, fulfill as many of your roles as you can, and people will remember you over the average hunter.
Beast Mastery takes soloing to a whole new level. A hunter's DPS is made at range, and when soloing, it's the pet's job to keep your mob at range. Beast-Mastery buffs your pets health, armor, damage, and crit, meaning they can tank for much longer periods.
This is great on two fronts: first, your pet is doing very good damage itself, and second, you're doing better damage as well. Taking Beast-Mastery does limit your ranged ability a bit, but the fact that your pet should never lose aggro means that your damage remains steady. You should rarely if ever have a mob your pet is on run up to attack you.
With enough points in BM, your pet will most likely have higher armor and health than you, and you'll have much higher DPS. In many cases, your pet will actually be able to tank an elite equal to or slightly above your pet's level (if you heal). To play a Beast Master well requires good pet control. If this is not something you enjoy, then playing a Beast Master may not be for you.
The race you choose isn't overly important. Starting stats are all but irrelevant at higher levels. There are currently seven choices for a hunter: Draenei, Night Elf, and Dwarf on the Alliance; Blood Elf, Tauren, Orc, and Troll on the Horde. Some racials that are noteworthy for a hunter:
This is a somewhat important note, which is why it's up at the top. Hunters are capable of using lots of equipment. This does not mean they should use anything and everything that "upgrades" what they have. You do not need to concern yourself with melee DPS, ever. Bows/rifles are, obviously, the most important consideration. Ranged DPS is your main focal point where gear is concerned.
When getting melee weapons, you want weapons with stats that help your ranged attack. Agility is a prime example (+1 Ranged Attack per point of Agil). Attack Power, +Crit, or +Hit are also good, and become more readily available in later levels. You don't want weapons with Chance on hit: Wound target, or something along those lines, if there's equipment to be had with ranged stats on it. The same principle holds true for enchants.
The first 40 levels are a pain for armor, because you have to fight off the rogues for it if you're in a group. The primary stat for both classes is agility. Much of the time you're likely to be soloing, though. After level 40, hunters are in competition with shamans for mail armor. Since shaman armor seems to be more common, though, hunters are at a noticeable disadvantage.
Some hunters roll on leather armor after 40. The reasoning is that the stats are often better for a hunter, and the loss of armor is negligible when a hunter shouldn't be getting hit anyway. Be wary if you go that route, because you will cause bad blood with any rogues you out roll in an instance. Be sure to discuss it with the group ahead of time if you plan to roll on leather, as the last thing you want or need is to be labeled a ninja-looter (especially if you're labeled a ninja for just rolling).
Pets gain a percentage of some of the hunter's stats. These are Armor, Stamina, Resists, and Ranged Attack Power. This is one other reason not to use leather armor, since it would reduce your pet's armor class.
This is also the reason why Beast Masters will typically have lower crit rates than other hunters. Our pets don't gain a percentage of Agi (though they do gain some of the RAP from it) or of crit%. The most efficient way to boost both your damage and your pet's is to gather AP-heavy gear, and try to fill in crit% on the side.
About melee as a hunter. Hunter abilities are all centered around the ability to deal damage from a distance. Hunters don't have the armor of warriors, or the high evasion abilities of a rogue. They don't have instant damage attacks, or any good stat debuffs.
A hunter's melee abilities are almost all reactionary: when you parry, when you dodge, when someone gets too close. The ones that have status affects universally are made to help you get back out of melee range. Beyond those, hunters' traps (Frost and Freeze), Feign Death, Concussive Shot, and the pet are all developed around the need to keep enemies at range or get out of their melee range. Damage is the last concern when you're in melee range.
What's the best pet? For any pet-related information, I would strongly recommend visiting Good Intentions and Petopia. Much of the information here, and more, can be found on these sites.
At level 10, a hunter needs to return to their home area to get their taming quests. The quests are simple, self-explanatory. One thing: be sure to do the next quest right away. Once you learn how to tame a pet, you need to do another quest to learn how to train a pet. If you don't do that, you cannot feed your pet, and it will run away.
To reiterate: There are two quests at level 10 and you must do them both or your pet will run away.
You cannot tame a pet that is a higher level than you. Pets level up faster than their owners, but they do not gain exp if they are the hunter's level. This is so that a pet will never be higher level than the hunter.
Pets vary into four basic types: high hp, high armor, high damage and "all-around" (also referred to as utility). Scorpids and Turtles are some high armor pets, while Bears, Gorillas, and Tallstriders have high health. Either type is good for tanking. High damage pets include Cats, Wind Serpents and Ravagers. For pets that are decent across the board, Boars, Carrion Birds, and Wolves are the way to go.
When you first tame a pet, it will be at Loyalty level one and very Unhappy. Happiness affects your pet's damage (and if they're Unhappy long enough they will run away). You can feed your pet to raise their Happiness – wait until your pet finishes eating before giving them a second piece of food, or the first piece will be wasted. You can open your character panel, click the pet tab, and hold your cursor over the green icon to see what your particular pet eats.
With the release of the new glyph system, you can also glyph your character with Glyph of Mend Pet which will also raise your pet's happiness every time you hit your mend pet spell. Very handy should your pet get killed, as you can feed him and use this while you heal him up to ramp up that loyalty loss from the death.
At Unhappy (red), your pet only does 75% damage. At Content (yellow), they do 100%. When they're Happy (green), they do 125% damage. As long as your pet is either content or happy, he gains Loyalty. Your Loyalty can go up to level six (Best Friend), which is necessary for getting the most training points. The number of training points you have is equal to (Loyalty Level - 1) * (Pet Level) -- meaning the max you can ever have is 5 training points per level. However, the new Beastmastery specs also allow 4 additional training points when training into "Exotic Pets" (last tier) are chosen. Very handy little perk for straight BM players.
What's the best pet? There is no "best pet," but there may be a best pet for you. What pet is best for you depends on a lot of things. Do you like looks? Damage? Speed? Would you like a pet that can sneak up on your enemies, or one that gets in their face? The best advice I can give you is to experiment with lots of pets, and stick with the one you like best.
For many abilities you will have to stable your main pet, and tame other pets to learn new skills. For example, you could tame different spiders until you found one with Bite, tell it to attack until you get a message saying you learned it, then teach Bite to your Wolf. All Passive pet abilities and Growl are bought from Pet Trainers. Pet Trainers can untrain your pet, for a small fee, but in order to train your pet you must use the Beast Training ability under General Skills tab. A pet can not learn more than 4 active abilities, but is otherwise limited only by its beast type and training points.
|Growl||8||All||Taunt the target, increasing the likelihood the creature will focus attacks on you.||Main aggro-management tool.|
|Cower||7||All||Cower, causing no damage but lowering your threat, making the enemy less likely to attack you.||Second aggro-management tool.|
|Bite||9||Bats, Bears, Boars, Carrion Birds, Cats, Crocolisks, Dragonhawks, Gorillas, Hyenas, Nether Rays, Raptors, Ravagers, Serpents, Spiders, Tallstriders, Turtles, Warp Stalkers, Windserpents, Wolves||Bite the enemy, causing x to y damage.||Does more damage than claw, but 10 second cooldown. Better for Focus management.|
|Claw||9||Bears, Carrion Birds, Cats, Crabs, Owls, Raptors, Scorpids, Warp Stalkers||Claw the enemy, causing x to y damage.||Less damage than bite, but no cooldown. Uses lots of Focus on auto-cast, Bestial Discipline recommended.|
|Dash||3||Tallstrider, Cat, Wolf, Hyena, Boar||Increases movement speed by x for 15 seconds.||Very useful. Same effect as Dive.|
|Dive||3||Owl, Bat, Carrion Bird, Dragonhawk, Nether Ray, Wind Serpent||Increases movement speed by x for 15 seconds.||Very useful. Same effect as Dash.|
|Charge||6||Boar||Charges an enemy, immobilizes it for 1 sec, and adds x attack power to your next attack.||Similar to a Warrior's charge, but doesn't stun (immobilizes).|
|Fire Breath||2||Dragonhawk||Targets in a cone in front of the caster take fire damage over 2 seconds.||Damage scales with pet level.|
|Furious Howl||4||Wolf||Party members within range receive an extra x to y damage to their next attack. Lasts 10 seconds.||Great group buff. Usable in the background even in places where you need to hold pet back.|
|Gore||9||Boar, Ravager||Gores the enemy, causing x to y damage. This attack has a 50% chance to inflict double damage.||Consumes Focus like Claw, and does less base damage. However, with the 50% chance for double damage, this ability outpaces Claw (the attack can still crit on top of dealing double damage).|
|Lightning Breath||6||Wind Serpent||Breathes lightning, instantly dealing x to y Nature damage to a single target.||Bypasses armor, good damage but empties Focus bar quickly. Scales with RAP, making it potentially the most damaging ability with high gear. The only real damage-dealing ability that can be used from mid-range.|
|Poison Spit||3||Serpents||Spits poison at an enemy, dealing x damage over 8 seconds.||DoTs complicate crowd-control, but it's ranged and scales slightly with RAP.|
|Prowl||3||Cats||Stealths pet, reducing movement speed to x% of normal. The first attack breaking stealth does y% of normal damage.||Great for ambushing or scouting with Eyes of the Beast.|
|Scorpid Poison||5||Scorpids||x Nature damage over 8 seconds. Stacks up to 5 times.||Excellent damage when stacked, but DoTs complicate crowd control. Scales slightly with RAP and contributes to a Scorpid being one of the potentially highest damage pets.|
|Screech||5||Bat, Owl, Carrion Bird||Blasts single enemy for x to y damage and lowers the attack power of enemies in range by z. Effect lasts 4 seconds.||Acts something like an area-Growl.|
|Shell Shield||1||Turtle||Hide in your shell, reducing all damage taken by 50%, but increases time between your pet's attacks by 43%. Lasts 12 sec. (Cooldown: 3 minutes).||Might keep your pet alive, but not great for tanking. Since pet's attack speed is reduced it pulls less aggro.|
|Thunderstomp||3||Gorillas||Shakes the ground with thundering force, doing x to y Nature damage to all enemies within 8 yards. (Cooldown: 1 minute).||Causes high threat, bypasses physical armor... but high focus cost and 1 minute cooldown. May scale with RAP but cooldown mitigates the effectiveness.|
|Warp||1||Warp Stalker||Teleports to an enemy up to 30 yards away and gives the pet a 50% chance to avoid the next melee attack. Lasts 4 sec.||Similar to Charge and Dash, another method of closing distance. Requires a little extra time for the pet to gain aggro, however.|
|Avoidance||2||All||Increases your pet's chance to avoid area of effect attacks by an additional x%.||Minor training cost and goes up to 50%. Highly recommended in endgame.|
|Cobra Reflexes||1||All||Increases pet's attack speed by 30% but damage done is reduced.||Very large return for a minor training cost. This ability nets between 11% and 14% dps increase.|
|Great Stamina||11||All||Increases Stamina||Takes a lot of training points, but adds up to 640 hp.|
|Natural Armor||11||All||Increases Armor Takes a lot of training points, but less than Stamina. Adds up to 1600 armor.|
|Resistance||5||All||Increases resistance||Can train each resist separately, up to 140.|
There are many many posts on many sites about the "best" or "most effective" BM spec but for many beastmasters, the 53/11/7 spec is the spec of choice in some variation.
Aimed Shot is considered by many to be a must-have ability for every hunter. This is not so. While it is certain that many will not agree with this reasoning, I feel the need to put this out there. I must state, however, that this is my own opinion and you are welcome to agree or disagree with it.
Aimed Shot has no synergy with a Beast Mastery build.
It's hard to get past seeing the big numbers on screen. It seems good, it feels good. However, Aimed Shot draws a lot of aggro that you don't need to pull. The one time most hunters can tell you not to use Aimed Shot is as an opener... the only time you'll ever get good damage from it as a Beast Master is as an opener.
Gear-wise, Beast Masters tend to have lower crit-rates than other hunters. The talent trees buff a lot of the base damage and Auto-Shot DPS in Beast Mastery. Beast Masters need less and even shun downtime.
The first reason that Aimed Shot works against a BM build is that it draws aggro to the hunter - and one of the key focus points of this build is keeping aggro on the pet. Next is that in order to get the full benefit of Aimed Shot and Auto-Shot, you need an attack speed greater than 3.0. However, this invalidates one of BM's key damage talents -- Serpent's Swiftness. Beast Mastery promotes quick shots, but Aimed Shot functions best with slow ones. Since Beast Masters lack some of the better ranged damage buffs, the loss of Auto-Shot DPS is much more noticeable. Aimed Shot is a big mana investment on the hopes of a crit to make it pay off. The odds are against getting a crit and more so as a Beast Master. So the hunter would almost always being wasting mana on a shot that has less than 25% crit. One way to look at it is having a 75% chance not to crit, at a base cost of 370 mana.
The cast-time on Aimed Shot is also a hindrance, even if you think you can use it as an opener. As a Beast Master, you can swiftly go from kill to kill to kill without hesitation. With Aimed Shot, you'd need to kill, pause, kill, pause. The damage gained doesn't truly make up for the time that could have already been used. Some cite that it is useful when combined with The Beast Within. In order to do that, though, you have to sacrifice three seconds of TBW (one-sixth) to get one shot that does 10% extra damage.
Aimed Shot makes it far easier to pull aggro from your pet, works against many of the damage abilities from Beast Mastery, and even mires your grinding capability. It gives little benefit with this talent spec, and in some cases can hurt your gameplay. The usefulness is mostly limited to PvP openers. I do not recommend this talent for a Beast Master.
Your pet will attack anything in range. You should save this for very limited situations, when the mobs are coming to you and there's nothing nearby that you don't want the pet to attack. A good safety precaution is to always set your pet to Stay when you put it on Aggressive (that way you cannot forget to change stance before moving on).
Your pet will attack anything that hits it, or anything that hits you. Good stance for lower levels and for soloing. Not recommended for instances.
Your pet will not do anything that you don't specifically command it to. This is the stance your pet should be in most end-game. Your pet should always be in Passive in instances and raids. This way your pet will not run off and aggro random mobs to cause a wipe.
Your pet's group role changes with the situation. When everything is smooth, your pet should be focused completely on damage. Turn Growl off auto-cast, send pet in to attack. When possible, you and your pet should be attacking the tank's main target. In these situations, keep an eye to the rogues for hints on when to pull your pet back.
If the tank is not holding aggro well, turn Growl on auto-cast (possibly turning off attack abilities), send pet to aggro the loose mobs that are threatening the rest of the party. If a mob is on a mage or priest, use Intimidate, no questions asked. Regular Growl is typically not enough to pull aggro off of them. If the tank is holding aggro well, but taking too much damage, turn Growl on auto-cast and pull one mob's aggro onto your pet (possibly with Intimidate).
This spares the tank some beating, and the healer some mana (and aggro). If you choose not to step in, chances are the extra healing will pull aggro onto the priest and you'll have to send pet to protect him or her anyway.
When there's a ranged mob attacking the group, but other mobs that haven't aggro'd near it, keep your pet back, everyone pelt the mob with ranged attacks. This is the place where Passive is necessary. If the tank charges in and aggros everything, then it's ok to send your pet. The group will let a tank slide on that, but if you send the pet in first, they won't be as forgiving.
When you're pulling, put your pet on Stay and leave it with the group. If you're pulling one or a few mobs, keep it on Passive, but if you're pulling a ton of weaker mobs, set it to Aggressive (be sensible about where you use Aggressive, and never do it without your pet on Stay).
A big problem to look out for is jumping off ledges in a group. Not always, but too often, your pet will run around rather than jumping with you. To be 100% sure, dismiss your pet before a jump or use Eyes of the Beast to drop your pet down and click Stay. Other possibilities include telling your pet to Stay a ways back – he will auto-disappear when you get far enough away and you can call him back with no loss of happiness – or if it's a cat, Prowl before jumping and let it walk around. You take a risk with the other two, so try to only Dismiss the pet or walk it around with Eyes of the Beast.
Area-effect spells are often the most troublesome things for pets in endgame instances. Be sure to put some applicable resists on your pet when possible (ie, Fire and Shadow resist for MC). Also, when your pet is at a quarter of its health, click the follow button and pull him away from the fight. Higher health is more important for AoEs than higher armor. Avoidance increases your pet's ability to dodge AoEs by 50% -- this is a must-train ability if you plan to use your pet in high-end raids. Your pet doesn't have to be AoE fodder if you're prepared.
For cleaves, which are not subject to resists, you will usually want to position your pet behind the enemy. Eyes of the Beast can help with this.
If your pet is going to tank, it's probably a good idea to give them extra armor or health. Depending on how much damage is heading at the mob, you may need to turn off other abilities so that the pet is only using Growl. Scorpid Sting helps against hard-hitting melee mobs, but still watch your pet's health. Start Mend Pet at the start of the fight and try to keep it active at all times. Never expect a priest to heal your pet; some of them will, just don't enter any group expecting them to. Just keep the pet healed and tanking is a cinch.
Which pet you use for tanking isn't as important as what talents you have and what abilities are trained. Pets with tank stats will require less healing, but pets that deal more damage can generate more aggro. It's up to you which you prefer.
Here's what you're probably interested in: how to get the most damage out of your pet. As soon as you start combat, send your pet at the target, followed by an arrow (a Sting of some kind). Activate Bestial Wrath if you have it (it's on a two-minute cooldown, no need to be thrifty with it), deal ranged DPS as usual. When the mob is just about to die, select a new target if there is one, start shooting, then as soon as your pet finishes the first one send him after the second one. Unless they're immune it's probably a good idea to use Serpent Sting on the first mob before you switch targets. Activate Kill Command whenever possible.
You're probably thinking, well that was simple. It is. The hard part is commanding your pet effectively, not squeezing the most damage out of it. You need to be relentless, yet controlled. Can't send your pet after the wrong mob, don't want to pull aggro to yourself before your pet attacks. Activate Bestial Wrath whenever possible (two-minute cooldown, it'll be back in one or two more pulls). As long as there's enough mobs or a strong enough one for your pet to fight 18 seconds then you haven't wasted Bestial Wrath.
Not all of these are strictly Beast Mastery tips and tricks. Some little things that are either fun or useful.
Here's a small collection of macros you may find useful (BM or not). For a more in-depth look, you might try RPZip's or Dasraserei's Macro Guides.
Here are some macros you can use with your pet:
To start with, basic pet commands and stances:
In order to cast more specific pet abilities, just type /cast Name (for example, /cast Prowl).
/target pet - Targets your pet. Be sure to use "pet" not your pet's name.
/target pettarget - Targets your pet's target.
To feed your pet quickly (even while moving):
/cast Feed Pet
/use Roasted Quail - Just use the name of your pet's most common food. If you run out of that food, it'll bring up a targeting cursor to select another type of food.
To activate ranged trinkets along with a shot:
/use Uniting Charm
/cast Arcane Shot - It will try to activate the trinket every time you use the shot, helping ensure that you get the most benefit out of your trinket. It normally doesn't activate the global cooldown.
Vicious Wrath (see Tips and Tricks):
/cast Bestial Wrath
/use Devilsaur Tooth - The Devilsaur Tooth does activate the global cooldown, so you'll want to click this macro twice, ensuring that your pet always enters Bestial Wrath with Frenzy active.
/cast Kill Command
/target focus - This will use Kill Command whether your pet is attacking a different target or not.
/cast [nopet,nomodifier:shift] Call Pet; [target=pet,exists,nodead,nomodifier:shift] Mend Pet; Revive Pet - This will call your pet if it's gone, heal the pet if it's alive, and revive the pet if it dies. If the corpse isn't in sight, you can hold shift to cast Revive Pet.
Note: Some of these numbers change with level. Level 70 is assumed here.
40 Agility = 1% crit
21 Agility = 1% dodge
1 Agility = 1 Ranged Attack Power
1 Agility = 1 Melee Attack Power
1 Agility = 2 Armor
22 Crit Rating = 1% Crit
15.75 Hit Rating = 1% Hit
1 Intelligence = 15 Mana
1 Intelligence = 0.25 Mana per 5 seconds w/ Aspect of the Viper
1 Intelligence = 0.45 Attack Power w/ Careful Aim
1 point = +0.04% Crit
1 point = +0.04% Hit
1 point = -0.04% to be dodged, blocked, or parried by your opponent.
Ranged Attack Power / 14
Added Shot Damage
700 / 14 = 50
13 Ammo DPS + 50 RAP DPS = 63 DPS
63 DPS * 3.0 Speed = 189 Added Damage
Weapon Damage + Added Damage + Rank Bonus
Added Damage = 189
75 Wep Damage (Average) + 600 Rank Bonus + 189 = 864 (1728 Crit : 1987 Crit w/ Mortal Shots)
|Levels 1-59||Your Armor / (Your Armor + ((Attacker Level * 85) + 400))|
|Levels 60-69||Your Armor / (Your Armor + ((Attacker Level * 467.5) - 22167.5))|
|Level 70||Your Armor / (Your Armor + 10557.5)|
(Ranged Attack Power * 0.15) + Rank Bonus
Ex. Rank 9 Arcane Shot with 1000 Ranged Attack Power
(1000 * 0.15) + 273
150 + 273 = 423
(Ranged Attack Power * 0.2) + (Weapon Damage / 2.8) + Rank Bonus + Dazed Bonus
Ex. Rank 1 Steady Shot with 1000 Ranged Attack Power, 3.0 Speed Gun 50-100 damage, 25 average DPS
(1000 * 0.2) + (25 * 2.8) + 150 (+ 175 if Target is Dazed)
200 + 70 + 150 (+ 175 if Target is Dazed)
420 (595 if Target is Dazed)
Damage Increase from Cobra Reflexes
Note: These numbers are tentative.
Speed Increase = 30%
Damage Decrease = ~12.5%
DPS Increase = ~11.5-14%
Damage Increase from Bestial Wrath
Let P be base pet damage.
P * (0.5 * 18/120) = 0.075*P
If you use BW non-stop, your pet is gaining 7.5% overall damage. The number can actually be a little higher, since you don't always fight for 1 min 42 seconds in between BW uses.
Damage Increase from The Beast Within
Let P be base pet damage. Let H be base hunter damage.
P * (0.5 * 18/120) = 0.075*P
H * (0.1 * 18/120) = 0.015*H
If you use BW non-stop, your pet is gaining 7.5% overall damage while you are gaining 1.5% overall damage. The number can actually be a little higher, since you don't always fight for 1 min 42 seconds in between BW uses.