Hunter Guides updated on the WHU

warcraft hunters union

I have to apologize for the lack of posts here this month. Hopefully the all of the other amazing hunter blogs out there have kept you sated with hunter reading. I've been working on getting things ready for 6.1, which launched yesterday to give us some substantial changes to hunters.

The great news is, before considering the tier 17 set bonuses, all three hunter specs are dead even for single target DPS.  In AoE there's some slights parity, with MM falling a bit behind, but in general, this is the closest we've ever seen the hunter specs.

With the tier bonuses, however, we have a new raiding champion spec in Beast Mastery, which will be providing the greatest Single Target and AoE DPS.  I can't say I'm super excited about having spent the last couple months trying to get as much Multistrike gear as possible, only to have to start switching it out. And after a whole expansion where BM was on top in MoP, I was enjoying playing SV and MM a lot more. I suppose I should be glad that all of the hunter specs are at least viable, though, so I'll try not to complain about BM too much.

My guides (which is what I've been spending most of my time researching) are now updated for each spec, over at the Warcraft Hunters Union.


Beast Mastery
Beast Mastery received the most attention in 6.1, with Focus Fire's buff, so consequently, it's the most changed of guides, but MM is a little bit different now, too.  For any other particulars your curious about, check out all the WHU hunter guides here.

Marksmanship Tier 17 Set Bonuses

Marksmanship Hunters

The following is all information I covered before here, back in the Warlords of Draenor Beta, when tier 17 set bonuses were finalized. I've seen the subject come up again on the battle.net forums, and the MMO-Champion hunter forums, so I thought it might be worth going over again, as many of us are getting our 2 or 4 piece set bonuses in the live game. 

For Marksmanship Hunters, Blizzard did a great job of finding set bonuses that worked really well with how the spec is played. To be clear, in case you forgot about the perk, that's a total of 28 focus returned for each AiS crit. That means when TotH is proc'ed and Aimed Shot crits, you'll end up with more focus than you had when you started casting (cost -30, returns +28, passive regen about +7). Assuming we're crit capped during Careful Aim (it's worth noting the AiS crit cap during Careful Aim will be going up to 53% when 6.1 drops, which will also increase the overall value of crit during the rest of the fight), this gives MM even better opening and on-demand, single-target burst.

Unfortunately, the  MM 2-piece set bonus (much like SV's) will have absolutely no benefit to MM's abysmal AoE (BM's is the only 2-piece bonus that will affect AoE). The 4-piece, however, will at least have some effect on AoE:

This isn't going to be a game changer for MM, but it does mean that we'll be seeing a little bit more damage out of our Multi-Shots and Barrage.  In Heavy AoE situatioins, with TotH and Bombardment, we should be able to get some considerable Multi-Shot spam, and start to get a bit more damage out of it. This has the downside of still being very RNG intensive, and you will lack a lot of control, since you won't be able to make the damage go to a specific target, but will instead get randomly more damage to random targets.

Unfortunately, the nature of both the set bonuses means you'll need to be hitting an even greater number of targets before Multi-Shot starts to do more damage than Aimed Shot.

In single-target situations, the MM 4-piece set bonus is much more clear cut, of course, and it really doesn't have any effect on our rotation.  There may be a slight addendum that it will be even more important to make sure you can spam Aimed Shots the entire way through Rapid Fire (you do not want to be using Steady Shots/Focusing Shots), but you should be doing that anyway, so it's hardly a change, just more important to do it right.  

Overall, the MM tier bonuses are pretty fun. There's something really satisfying about seeing those ridiculously large crits, especially with Lone Wolf.  Since the devs have decided that MM will be a slow, casting type spec, getting to see unreasonably large crits is the only solace we get.

Tier 17 Set Bonuses for Beast Mastery

Beast Mastery Hunters
The following is all information I covered before here, back in the Warlords of Draenor Beta, when tier 17 set bonuses were finalized. I've seen the subject come up again on the battle.net forums, and the MMO-Champion hunter forums, so I thought it might be worth going over again, as many of us are getting our 2 or 4 piece set bonuses in the live game. 

(2) Set: Kill Command has a chance to reset the cooldown of Bestial Wrath.
(4) Set: While Bestial Wrath is active, one additional pet is summoned to fight with you. 

Intricacies of the 2 set:

I'm not sure if someone has datamined (or actually done the work testing) the PPM or RPPM rate for the 2 piece set bonus, but most BM hunters are averaging Bestial Wraths once every 40 - 50 seconds with the 2 piece. With the very best RNG, a few hunters have parses with up to 30% up time on Bestial Wrath (which is about 2 casts per minute).

However, as with all things RNG, sometimes you may go through the entire cd of BW without getting a reset, and sometimes it may reset on the first Kill Command you cast after popping BW. This is going to make Beast Mastery just about as reliant on RNG as Survival has been in 5.4, especially once we get to the Focus Fire buff of 6.1; however, there are a few things we can do to manage some of those quick resets, and make sure we're prepared to get the most DPS out of them.

The first question that was brought up to me, is should we use the second BW immediately, before the first is over.  I imagine the line of thinking here is something like: if we wait until the end of of BW, then we might miss a reset, because BW will be off CD already.  So let's take a look at how that would compare.

If our goal is to always have BW on cd when we hit KC, we can accomplish that by simply macroing it into KC.  That way, if it resets on one KC, we'll use it fractions of a second before the next KC, allowing it to be on cd again, before the next KC.  So it might look like this:

0 sec - Cast Bestial Wrath
0 sec - Kill Command - resets BW
6 sec - Cast Bestial Wrath
6 sec - Kill Command - doesn't reset BW
12 sec - Kill Command - doesn't reset BW
16 sec - Bestial wrath ends.

In this situation, where we received one BW reset right after casting BW, we would have been better off waiting until the end of BW to cast the second, since that would have given us 20 seconds worth of BW, and here we only got 16 seconds.  What about if it resets twice in a row? That would look like this:

0 sec - Cast Bestial Wrath
0 sec - Kill Command - resets BW
6 sec - Bestial Wrath
6 sec - Kill Command - resets BW
12 sec - Cast Bestial Wrath
12 sec - Kill Command - doesn't reset BW
18 sec - Kill Command - doesn't reset BW
22 sec - Bestial Wrath ends

Here we actually did get an extra 2 seconds (we would have only had 20 seconds, again, had we waited until BW were finished to re-cast it).   If we continue to play this little game, and look at all the various options on which KCs reset BW, you'll find most of the time, you're going to get 4 or 8 extra seconds of BW by holding off on casting it until the BW that's currently up is over.  But, there certainly are some situations where that's not the case, and you'll gain 2 or 4 seconds of BW by always assuring BW is on CD before casting a KC.  The vast majority of the time, you won't have to deal with this issue at all, and it's incredibly unlikely that you'll end up with 3 resets in a row.  In general, it'll be best to hold off on casting BW until the previous BW is over.

On the rare chance we do get multiple Bestial Wraths in a row, we have a new set of problems. The traditional advice for dealing with BW, is you should pool focus leading up to when BW comes off cd, so when you cast BW, all you have to do is hit KC and AS (and Kill Shot, if it's that time in the fight).  This is still just as true in WoD as it's been in MoP (with exceptions for barrage and Glaive Toss). Using BW while you're low on focus, means you're buffing cobra shot (or focusing shot, if you swing that way), which just, well, isn't what you want to use your buff for.

What I found produced the best results, was holding my second BW even longer, hitting a couple of Cobra Shots (and, if applicable, focus fire), then popping my second Bestial Wrath.  This allowed me to really get the most out of the Bestial Wraths.  Furthermore, if you hit BW a second time right after the first one ends (and you started the first one right before hitting a Kill Command), you'll only just barely have time to get a second Kill Command into the second BW.  If you end up running low on focus, and need to use Cobra Shot, you may push the second Kill Command out of the BW buff.  The benefit of using a couple Cobra Shots before reapplying BW, is you will then be reapplying it right before your Kill Command, insuring you'll most definitely get two into both Bestial Wraths.

2-Piece w/ Barrage

Because Barrage has that super high focus cost, it can be a bit difficult to use without delaying your Kill Command. You can basically negate that problem by casting it during BW, bringing the focus cost down to a much more managable 30 focus.  What I've found gets the most out of my BWs, is hitting my normal Kill Command and Arcane spam, and then on the very last GCD of BW.  This gives you the low Focus cost on Barrage, but doesn't risk that you'll use up too much Focus during BW, and potentially lose time to having to cast cobra shots.

Focus Fire Glory

While I'm not excited about the RNG issues with Focus Fire, I do enjoy managing two major CDs.  In MoP, Focus Fire was more of a Focus Regen CD, that you really just use during the dull points when you're going to cast a few Cobra Shots. Now, however, it has become a monster DPS CD.  Starting in 6.1 that awesomeness will be amplified even more, as the 5% AP buff per Frenzy stack consumed is being increased to 8% per stack consumed.

Without the 2-piece bonus, the best way I've found to use Focus Fire, is make sure you want to hold your frenzy stacks so you have five, 10 seconds before BW comes off cd.  If you can use it 10 seconds before BW, then you'll have 10 seconds of increased focus regen, and 10 seconds for your pet to build back up a few stacks of frenzy, in addition to having the AP buff all the way through Bestial Wrath. With decent RNG, you'll have enough Frenzy stacks to use it again after BW, too. For more on why this is the case, click here.

With the 2 piece set bonus, there's really no way to plan out your Focus Fire uses, since you, for the most part, have no idea when you're going to be getting your next Bestial Wrath, so you'll basically just want to cast it any time you get 5 stacks of frenzy, to ensure the most possible up-time. If you get a couple Bestial Wrath resets in a row, or if it resets while you have 5 stacks, it is going to be worth while to delay BW by a GCD to cast FF first, and possibly to cast a Cobra Shot or two, as I mentioned above.


There's really not much going on with our 4-piece.  It doesn't affect your rotation really.  One consideration might be that because it will lose up-time when it bugs out, you'll want to switch targets before casting BW, but that's something we all should have been doing anyway.  Back in the beta, Bendak over at Eyes of the Beast found the summoned pet wasn't doing any basic attacks, it was only doing melees. Which means we're not going to see much DPS out of it; it's a fairly lack-luster bonus, even if it is cool to see a second pet up there.  With the huge rotational change in the 2-piece bonus, I think we'll be ok without getting much out of the 4-piece, though.

T17 Survival Set Bonuses

Survival Hunters
The following is all information I covered before here, back in the Warlords of Draenor Beta, when tier 17 set bonuses were finalized.  I've seen the subject come up again on the battle.net forums, and the MMO-Champion hunter forums, so I thought it might be worth going over again, as many of us are getting our 2 or 4 piece set bonuses in the live game.  For those still not wanting to jump on the Survival bandwagon, I'll be covering the other two spec's set bonuses in my next two posts.

If you haven't had a chance to play with the Survival set bonuses yet, this one is surprisingly fun. Though not quite as powerful as BM's or MM's 2-piece, it provides an opportunity for planning out a little bit of burst damage.  

However, a question that's coming up repeatedly, is whether or not to delay Black Arrow until right after Explosive Shot goes on CD.   When measured by Damage per Cast, and Damage per Focus, Black Arrow is at the top of our priority list, aside from Stampede or a Murder of Crows.  So the first problem we'll be running into if we're delaying BA until right after ES, is over the course of a longer fight, we'll actually be lowering the number of BAs we can cast.  So what we would need to see is if there's any way to make up for that lost damage through somehow increasing the number of Explosive Shots.  

The trouble with that is, we're going to see a second Lock and Load before the end of the Black Arrow, as that was a mechanic they added when they took away LnL's ability to be proc'ed by traps. So before we look at anything, we know we're going to reset the CD on ES twice in the next 20 seconds.  As with all things RNG, there isn't going to be one right answer, 100% of the time.  Instead we'll just have to going with what has the higher percent chance of happening.

In the case of the BA forced LnL, the only time we'll have a higher chance of getting more Explosive Shots from delaying BA is when BA and ES come off cooldown at the exact same time.  That is to say, if both Explosive Shot and Black Arrow are available, we'll want to use Explosive Shot first.  If Black Arrow is available but Explosive Shot is still on CD, then we'll want to use Black Arrow then the three Explosive Shots from LnL.

For those not convinced, the best way I can think of to explain it is this: for every 24 seconds of Black Arrow, you're going to get 8 Explosive Shots (there are extreme counter-examples, where really bad or really good RNG could give you more, by way of an extra LnL proc, or less, if your second LnL overlaps your first; but both of those situations are rare enough that there's no sense in planning for them): three immediately following BA, three from your second LnL proc, and 2 from ES coming off CD.  It doesn't matter when during the 24 seconds the second LnL happens, there will be 8 total ES.  Because that's the case, delaying Black Arrow doesn't actually gain you more Explosive Shots, it just delays when the next cycle of 8 will begin.


Opening with the 2-set

Other than our base rotation, the area this really affects is your opener.  Just like we used to pre-cast Ice Trap, the 2-piece gives us a chance to force proc LnL on our opener, while all of our trinkets and pre-pot are up.  At early x-pace haste levels, this does mean we'll have a fairly limited options on the opener, because we'll be out of focus fairly quickly. My favorite opener looked like this:  

-1 - Pre-pot
-1 - Arcane Shot (must be exactly 40 yards from target)
Pull - aMoC (or stampede post-6.1)
+1 - Explosive Shot
+2 - Black Arrow
+3 - Explosive Shot
+4 - Explosive Shot
+5 - Explosive Shot
+6 - Focusing Shot

This opener leaves us with almost 0 focus left after that last Explosive Shot, and we're actually almost out of focus when we cast Black Arrow.  Depending on our gear's haste rating, we might have to wait a small fraction of a second before casting the last Explosive Shot.  

Another option I considered, was if we pre-cast GT at -2 seconds, to begin. The trouble is, we would run out of focus before getting off all of our explosive shots if we used GT and Arcane at the beginning, so instead we'd have to push back our first Arcane until after the last ES. If we did that, we could either use arcane shot at the +6 sec mark, or a couple seconds later after casting a Focusing Shot, depending on whether TotH proc'ed or not.   However, in this situation, we'd be delaying losing at least three ticks of Serpent Sting, and the damage from an Arcane Shot and 3 ticks of SS is about 33% more than just a Glaive Toss.  

Regardless of the specific opener you choose, the point of all that is, while having a guaranteed LnL proc in the pull might not be as impressive as two back-to-back Bestial Wraths, or that 45% increased crit damage at the end of Rapid Fire, it's still a significant boost to DPS, if you play it right.  

Out of four 17 - 20 minute training dummy kills, the least I ever had this buff up was 90%.  On the other three fights, it's up-time was >99%, which at this point we're assuming is the intended mechanic of bonus.  The only effect it's going to have on players is making Multistrike a bit more valuable as a stat on gear.  Because the primary value of Multistrike for SV hunters is not in it's damage, but in proc'ing additional Serpent Sting ticks, this isn't going to affect our rotation at all, and will likely have very little affect on our gearing choices, either. 

While the SV set bonuses don't appear to be as big of a boost to our DPS as the other two specs' bonuses (both of the other specs' bonuses rely on augmenting a major cooldown, which SV is still lacking), SV still looks like it will be in the lead for single target damage, and will definitely be viable for most multi-target fights.