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Marksmanship represents the hunter's emphasis on ranged weaponry, which is the cornerstone of the class. Even for hunters that do not use marksmanship as their primary talent tree, it is quite likely that they spend some points into marksmanship anyway, since the tree symbolizes the DPS power of the class even if it isn't necessarily the strongest DPS tree.
Marksmanship is presently regarded as the premier PvP spec, since it gives the hunter the highest personal (non-pet) DPS and two critical interruption abilities. It is also being murmured in some circles that with the way growl actually functions, that marksmanship might actually be a better spec for leveling because the pet generates a higher amount of threat, however this is mostly true at higher levels where the hunter has a noticeable amount of attack power from their equipment.
Many of the more effective marksmanship talents have very simple, brief descriptions that mask their power a bit.
|Go For the Throat||Your ranged auto-shot critical hits cause your pet to generate 5/10 Focus.||2|
|Efficiency||Reduces the focus cost of your Arcane Shot by 1/2/3, and your Explosive Shot and Chimera Shot by 2/4/6.||3|
|Rapid Killing||After killing an opponent that yields experience or honor, your next Aimed Shot, Steady Shot or Cobra Shot causes 10/20% additional damage. Lasts 20 sec.||2|
|(Requires 5 points spent in Marksmanship)|
|Sic 'Em||When you critically hit with your Arcane Shot, Aimed Shot or Explosive Shot the focus cost of your Pet's next basic attack is reduced by 50/100% for 12 sec.||2|
|Improved Steady Shot||When you Steady Shot twice in a row, your ranged attack speed will be increased by 5/10/15% for 8 sec.||3|
|Careful Aim||Increases the critical strike chance of your Steady Shot, Cobra Shot and Aimed Shot by 30/60% on targets who are above 80% health.||2|
|(Requires 10 points spent in Marksmanship)|
|Silencing Shot||A shot that silences the target and interrupts spellcasting for 3 sec.||1|
|Concussive Barrage||Your successful Chimera Shot and Multi-Shot attacks have a 50/100% chance to daze the target for 4 sec.||2|
|Piercing Shots||Your critical Aimed, Steady and Chimera Shots cause the target to bleed for 10/20/30% of the damage dealt over 8 sec.||3|
|(Requires 15 points spent in Marksmanship)|
|Bombardment||When you critically hit with your Multi-Shot your next Multi-Shot's focus cost will be reduced by 25/50%.||2|
|Trueshot Aura||Increases the attack power of party and raid members within 100 yards by 10%.||1|
|Resistance is Futile||When your marked target attempts to run, flee or move, you have a 4/8% chance to cause your next Kill Command on the marked target within 8 sec to refund the focus cost.||2|
|(Requires 20 points spent in Marksmanship)|
|Rapid Recuperation||You gain 6/12 focus every 3 sec while under the effect of Rapid Fire, and you gain 25/50 focus instantly when you gain Rapid Killing.||2|
|Master Marksman||You have a 20/40/60% chance when you Steady Shot to gain the Master Marksman effect, lasting 30 sec. After reaching 5 stacks, your next Aimed Shot's cast time and focus cost are reduced by 100% for 10 sec.||3|
|Readiness||When activated, this ability immediately finishes the cooldown on your other Hunter abilities.||1|
|(Requires 25 points spent in Marksmanship)|
|Posthaste||Reduces the cooldown of your Rapid Fire by 1/2 min, and your movement speed is increased by 15/30% for 4 sec after you use Disengage.||2|
|Marked For Death||Your Arcane Shot and Chimera Shot have a 50/100% chance to automatically apply the Marked for Death effect. Marked for Death is the same as Hunter's Mark, but undispellable, does not restrict stealth or invisibility and lasts 15 sec.||2|
|(Requires 30 points spent in Marksmanship)|
|Chimera Shot||An instant shot that causes ranged weapon damage plus RAP*0.288+973, refreshing the duration of your Serpent Sting and healing you for 5% of your total health.||1|
How do I play a Marksman?
All hunters play more or less the same during a group or raid, with the exception of the shot rotations used by Beast Mastery. Marksmen have an increased emphasis on their own personal damage, and will often be placed in a physical DPS group to maximize Trueshot Aura. The most noticeable aspect of marksmanship as a playstyle is the increased dependence on mana. Using a 1:1.5 rotation, but only having Efficiency for mana conservation, the marksmanship hunter will look for intellect and mana regen on their gear to an extent, and probably carry more mana potions and mana oils. During PvP, the emphasis is on controlling the field, and a marksman will likely be using Viper Sting to drain the opposition's mana, as well as Scatter Shot and Silencing Shot to help control casters while frost trapping approaching melee as best as they are able to.
How can you say Beast Mastery is better for PvE than Marksmanship?
Beast Mastery does a lot more damage with their pet. Marksmanship does a little more damage with their hunter. The end result is that the total damage is more from the beast master. The difference in hunter DPS is smaller than it was perhaps designed to be due to the mechanics of steady shot, which forces hunters into cycling their abilities into certain shot rotations, and the narrow spectrum of ranged weapon speeds found in Burning Crusade. If Blizzard were to create a decent weapon with a speed faster than 2.6 to counteract the side benefits of Serpent's Swiftness, this very well might not be the case.
Why isn't in the sample builds? How come you used instead?
There is a decent amount of flexibility in each build. Also, there are certain talents that are good for PvP, good for PvE, or good for both. These builds take more of a central point of view, but including Improved Concussive Shot in your PvP build or Surefooted in your PvE build, for example, are legitimate choices. There isn't one pure cookie cutter spec.
What gear do I look for as a marksman?
All hunters generally look for the same gear, with slightly different attributes they emphasize a little more. Marksmanship hunters are perhaps the only hunters that actively want intellect on their equipment, since if they have Careful Aim, the attack power benefit is almost half of what it is for agility, and it supports their ailing mana pool. They will want sources of attack power, to be sure, but because their attack power will already be high, a decent emphasis on crit rate is also important.
Why do marksmanship hunters have stronger growls?
This has to do with the way growl works. Contrary to what Blizzard has said about the mechanics of growl, growl creates a certain amount of threat and gets a bonus based on the attack power of the hunter and the pet once they pass a certain point. Because a marksmanship hunter has naturally higher attack power, they have a greater amount of bonus, plus their pets have even more attack power because of Trueshot Aura.
This should come as a relief to marksmanship hunters, since they do more damage with their bow or gun. The spec this really hurts is survival, since they do not receive much benefit from the attack power bonus, crit very frequently, and do not have enhanced pets like beast mastery.