Practical Advice For Brand New Hunters

Note: This post is primarily directed to people who are not just new to hunters, but new to World of Warcraft as well. So if you already have fiftynine-thousand level 80s, you are free to skip this post. Or you can read and offer your own suggestions in the comments. Up to you!

There are a lot of WoW-related communities over at LiveJournal but my favorite, I think, is “WoW Noobs“, where people who are new to the game or to some aspect of it can come ask questions and receive friendly, non-judgmental advice. One of the really neat things about it is that a lot of the members are people who originally joined when they were new, themselves, and now stick around to pass on the proverbial torch. I’m one of those people; long, long ago, a BabyHunter Pike left a post there asking what the heck the meeting stone outside of Deadmines was.

I digress, though.

After all these years it appears that hunters are still the most popular class that new players pick, and it was a combination of a.) the sheer number of questions from new hunters who link their Armories on WoW Noobs and ask for help, and b.) all the hunters I’m running into in my warlock‘s random dungeons who roll need on strength gear, that inspired me to write this post. Remember, not everyone is an alt.

This is for you, new hunter! Welcome to the game! /wave

Here are some handy things to keep in mind as you travel through Azeroth (and beyond) as a hunter.

1.) Strength Is Not For You: If a gear has strength on it, you probably don’t need it. Exceptions are made if it has a ton of Agility on it, outweighing the strength. The fact, though, is that you are a ranged attacker and strength does nothing for ranged: it is a pure melee stat only! /nod

(While we are at it, Expertise is another melee stat that is not for you. Thank you to Argon in the comments for suggesting I add this!)

2.) Spell Power is Not For You: As hunters do not cast spells, spell power does nothing for you either!

3.) Agility IS for you!
: It effects your attack power, your crit, and (in a roundabout way), your pet’s attack power as well. Win-win all around!

4.) Max Out Your Talents: One thing I frequently see new players do is go through every spell in every talent tree and drop one or two points in each talent. If you are doing this, don’t feel too bad. I did it too. Yes, at some point in Tawyn’s long and sordid history, she was spec’d something like 2/5 Improved Hawk, 1/5 Endurance Training, 1/2 Improved Concussive Shot, 3/5 Lethal Shots, 2/3 Hawk Eye… yeah.

However, it is generally much better to max out those talents and to, for the most part, pick one talent tree and stick with it. Now, exceptions can be made to this “rule”, and there are some cookie cutter specs that involve not maxing out talents for various reasons. However, that’s generally not something you will have to worry about as a new player.

5.) Pet Control!: With the new LFG system, more and more people are doing dungeons at low-level, which is awesome. I recommend having your pet at least on Defensive, and if you’re really old-school and curmudgeony like I am you can even put it on Passive. Aggressive is bad.

See, if you are new not just to WoW but to MMOs in general, I can see how this could cause some confusion. It confused the heck out of me when I went into my first dungeon. I figured killing more stuff was good, so I put my pet on Aggresive. Bad idea. In a dungeon, you generally want pulls to be done methodically or at least relatively logically. Stay behind the tank and send your pet in on mobs the tank has aggro on.

While we’re on the subject, be sure to turn Growl off also! It’s your pet’s taunt and you generally don’t want things in instances attacking your pet. (There are situational emergency uses where it’s okay, but that’s more of a 300 level class and this is Hunter 101.)

6.) Massive Quantities of Sustained, Ranged DPS*: You are not a melee class. Do not do it. Leave it for your pet. You are designed to stand far away and unleash damage on things from afar.

I seem to keep running into lowbie hunters who roll Need on 2H axes loaded with Strength, and when asked why, proceed to tell me they are going to “try it out”. This always baffles me a bit. What is there to try out about it? Strength is a melee stat, and you will do much better if you just avoid melee. Trust me on this one. You are not a Rogue With a Pet. Although pretending to be one in PvP is hilarious. But that’s beside the point.

7.) Getting In Gear: Bad pun is bad. Sorreh. Aaanyway, As a hunter, you wear leather until level 40, and then you “learn” how to wear mail. This means a few different things. First of all, cloth is not for you… it doesn’t have your stats on it (minus a few hilarious “of the monkey” exceptions.) Secondly, not all leather/mail is for you. Remember, keep an eye on your stats. You are looking for Agility, Attack Power, and those sorts of things.

Thirdly, just because you’ve hit level 40, doesn’t mean you have to run out and replace all of your leather right away. Let it come to you. It will!

8.) About those shot rotations…: Sometimes I see low level hunters frantically concerned with shot rotations. Some of these hunters don’t even have Steady Shot yet. Here’s the deal: Until you get all of your shots (or at least Steady Shot), shot priorities isn’t something you have to worry about very much. Keep Serpent Sting up, use Arcane/Aimed when they’re not on cooldown, and you’re good to go. It is mostly a “learn as you go” thing, so don’t worry about it too much when you’re still knee-high to a grasshopper. And frankly, it’s a lot more intuitive these days than it was pre-WotLK, so learn it you will!

9.) Pick the Talent Tree You Want: I frequently see two different variants here: hunters who level up as some raiding spec they found on Elitist Jerks, and hunters who level up as Beast Mastery because it’s “the leveling tree”. I’m here to tell you: you can do those things if you want, but you don’t have to. It’s not going to kill you/ruin your WoW career if you don’t do SFK or Wailing Caverns as the level 22 variation of cookie-cutter Survival. And on the flip side of the coin, leveling as Marksmanship/Survival is nearly as easy as leveling as Beast Mastery. And it’s even easier now that you can basically level exclusively through LFG. Trust me. I say this as someone who has ten thousand hunters and has leveled them pretty much every way imaginable. Don’t stress about it too much. Try out what looks fun to you!

10.) There Are Jerks In This Game. Just as there are pretty much everywhere. You’re going to wind up in the group with the guy who is decked in heirlooms and spends the entire instance run talking about his five-million gearscore whatever. You’re going to wind up in the group with the person who tells you rather unkindly that you’re “doing it wrong” (though half the time, they’re doing it wrong themselves, as well.) It’s gonna happen. But you know what? It’s okay. Because you’ll also randomly end up in awesome groups with great people who are willing to help you out. Just have fun!

WELL, this post feels somewhat sloppy and half-completed to me, but honestly I think the best thing to do is get it out there and have you wonderful readers fill in the holes in the comments, since I know I left a lot of things out. A wise man once said “Release early, release often”, after all. And I think you guys would have a lot to contribute to this topic. What’s your advice to new hunters/new WoW’ers?

* Keeping the legend alive with this phrase, fo’shizzle.

54 thoughts on “Practical Advice For Brand New Hunters”

  1. Another useless stat for hunters is Expertise. I think it is good to mention that because it is not at all obvious what it even is. I mean, it doesn’t SOUND like a useless stat for all but melee.

  2. I wish Blizzard would put this post to the loading screen of the hunters I meet in lvl 80 HCs.

    One more thing you should put to the list: “hunters have pets. These are actually good things. Get one!”. This tip came from a lvl 80 experience. No kidding.

  3. Excellent starter guide. It’s rare to see something targeted at people who are probably firing off their first google search of “wow hunter”, and this is an excellent way to raise a new generation properly.

    Also, any reference to Eric S. Raymond or the illustrious DP ‘BRK’ Howell is an A+ Great Job in my book.

  4. Learn to use Mouselook and learn how to strafe-kite.

    I suggest rolling a brand new Hunter and learning how to Strafe-Kite in the Starting area where you have no Pet to keep the Mobs off you. Of course it’s easier now because the starting areas have no Red Mobs to proximity aggro onto you.

    But definitely learn how to shoot on the run so you can still lay down MQSRDPS during Boss fights that require you to move around a lot.

  5. Great post for starting hunters. I’m leveling a 30 something mage and have been encountering a lot of clueless hunters in my LFG dungeons. I think this article pretty much says it all.

    The biggest offenders are melee hunters, and you really can’t blame them. For the first 10 levels, the most important and impressionable levels, hunters are without a pet and this is where the habit is born.


    Hunters don’t realize that their pet is their tank. Its job is to hold aggro of an enemy while they shoot it to bits from afar. At level 10 I think, as part of the getting a pet questline, there should also be a quest where a hunter and his/her pet have to kill 30 mobs in a row without the hunter taking or dishing out any melee damage, otherwise they fail the quest. Might be tedious but it’s a good start for hunters to graduate from the academy of huntardedness.

    Finally, to all young hunters, participate in dungeons early and often. I emphasize EARLY. Solo play is completely different than group play. Learn both before you get stuck in a rut. And remember, even though your pet is your tank in solo play, in a dungeon you have a dedicated tank so your pet no longer needs to act as your pet.

  6. On the matter of pet selection, don’t stress about it, pick one you like, you can always stable him/her and get something else later on.

    We all have our favorites, my favorites change depending on what kind of hunter I am (racial that is.) My Dwarf likes crocs, raptors, and cats. my elf likes cats, owls, and turtles. My spacegoat likes moths, cats, and ravagers. (notice I include cats on all three, prowl + Eyes of the beast FTW for scouting.

    Statistically wolves are the current… leader of the pack. /cough but, pick whatever suits your style and run with it. I would highly recommend having more than one pet for different situations. (one for solo leveling that is tankish, and one for instances that is dpsish)

    On Tradeskills, again, there are statistical pros/cons to each one compared to the others. Pick what suits you. My two main hunters are vastly different, one is a miner/engineer (for da ammo), the other is a skinner/dragonscale leatherworker. Both have obvious bonuses to being a hunter. ammo or armor
    But, if you wanted say a extra healing OS button, herbalism’s lifeblood is handy. If you wanted to squeeze in an extra gem here and there, blacksmiths can add extra sockets, and also make mail armors.
    Jewelers can make useful trinkets early on that are bop only.
    Alchemists can make useful potions/elixirs/flasks
    A good combination that is pure profit is skinning and either mining or herbs (unless you like changing your tracking around constantly)

    seriously guys, it’s all up to you how you want to play.

  7. I’d recommend a good gorilla or bear for leveling up, but a nice dps pet such as a wolf or cat is nice to have in dungeons.

    Man pets are so easy now. It used to be a huge pain in the ass having to tame different pets to learn their skills.

  8. And if I may double post, don’t forget to do the odd PVP battleground to further refine your hunter skills. PVE, PVP and dungeons are all different and doing all 3 while you level not only breaks up the repetitiveness of grinding out levels, but it will make you a better hunter by the time you’re 80 and gearing up for heroics and raids.

  9. ‘A wise man once said “Release early, release often”, after all.’

    Don’t release early, you might miss the loot! 😉

  10. I have a few 80s and this post was still for me!

    I keep trying to level hunters and getting confused and abandoning them, only to start over later on… so here’s what gets me I think… they’re the only physical ranged damage in the game. I understand melee (don’t enjoy it, but at least understand it), I understand healing, I understand ranged spell dps… hunters = mystery.

  11. I know a hunter who’s nearly hit endgame and desperately needs to be linked to this. I am a complete WoW newbie, so I’m sure I’m not some ultra hunter goddess or anything and don’t have a ton of right to judge, but this guildie, bless their heart, is a BM hunter for leveling’s sake who refuses to summon their pet in parties. That’s right, you heard me. Petless BM.

    Applause for the post, and HELP.

  12. All good advice!
    If they’re brand new to WoW though, we should probably explain what the term “aggro” means.

  13. @Kyria: Really? Petless BM??? The mind boggles… I might be mistaken, but I don’t think the pet sucks THAT much XP from you as you level. Yes, your XP is shared between party members, and yes that includes your pet, but it’s a pretty negligible amount that you miss out on, as far as I’m aware. Besides, as fast as the pets level themselves these days, you’d be better off leveling your pet as you go, unless you plan on getting all new ones when you hit 80. But that’s just my opinion.

    Also, AGI contributes to your Armor. Again, this shouldn’t be an issue most of the time, since the idea is to stay out of melee, but if you’re doing PvP, every little bit you can do to be less squishy helps.

    ~Jajiko & Kali, Sentinels server

  14. I just ran Ragefire with a new, fresh-faced Belf hunter who kept pulling aggro from my Undead warrior tank. I couldn’t figure out why at first until I realized he was simply using all the shots he had…including Distracting Shot. ;( WHY Blizzard gives this to hunters at level 12 baffles me…it’s like they are TRYING to teach new hunters all the wrong things!

  15. @Iceveiled: In fact Blizzards needs to do something about it but I doubt they will do. There are several quests in the game where a hunter/warlock has to fight without his pet (even the epic lvl60 hunter-bow-quest).

    @Rhii: put enough ArP on a hunter and it feels like magical dps ^^ (in fact we have some shoots that are not physical damage, for instance explosive shot)

    @Kattrinsaa: I wouldn’t bother with any profession (besides farm-professions) until 70+. It is time-consuming/gold-wasting to level a profession before that because you hardly have any advantages. Yes maybe you can build something that you can use – but you will throw it away the next day/week because you outleveled it. Go with skinning/herbalism or skinning/mining, don’t go herbalism/mining as a hunter – its already bothersome to switch between track beast/humanoids/… and herbalism OR mining.
    My prefered end-game-professions would be engineer (parachute-cloak AND rocket-boots AND rocketlauncher AND belt and they made them viable again) and either enchanting or jewelcrafting.
    Regarding pets: unless you are BM they are there to take the hits, not to contribute that much to your damage (they do damage and every bit counts in raiding environment but I’m talking about the leveling game here). In early questing you have many runner-mobs (means they run when low on health) and then pull other mobs. I highly advise to pick a tenacity pet with charge or a cunning pet with a disable (pin,net,..) exactly for this.

    @Pike: great post. You wouldn’t believe that just yesterday I got engaged by another hunter who replaced all his +20agi-gems (delicate cardinal ruby) with +10all-stats-gems (nightmare tear) because it showed more AP on his character-screen (tho I think about doing that on my PvP-gear).

  16. Not sure if this would be considered 101 or 202 level advice (or if it’s been said before, since I’m trying to get to bed soonish), but one thing I’m noticing while pugging on my 80s is Hunters not Feigning Death.

    As a BC raider, this makes me twitch.

    All through Burning Crusade, I was told two things:

    “If you don’t have Omen, don’t watch your Aggro, and don’t IMMEDIATELY Feign Death when you pull off the tank, we will give you Blessing of Salvation instead of Blessing of Might/Kings.” (Ie, you get the Buff of You Fail instead of the Buff of Pwn Moar.)

    “If the tank dies, it’s the healer’s fault. If the healer dies, it’s the tank’s fault. If the DPS dies, it’s their own d@mn fault.”

    So my advice is: get Omen as soon as you get your pet and start practicing aggro management. Set it to warn you at 90 or 100% threat (since you don’t pull until 130% threat) and when Omen starts screaming, just auto shot. When you get Feign Death, start pushing your pet’s threat and abusing FD.

    If you hone your reflexes on mashing that FD button early in your Huntery life, your tanks and healers will love you and you will die far less often. Or maybe I’m just the only Tankadin that refuses to taunt off the Hunters that don’t use FD. <.<

  17. Excellent post! I laughed, I cried, I cringed in horror empathizing with your low-level dungeon runs…etc. 😛

    The one thing you might want to add is a few words about pets. How Tenacity pets + thunderstomp are the absolute best for holding aoe aggro off you, but also mention how it’s possible to level 10-80 without touching a tenacity pet! (To that extent, since I know I did it from 60-80 forever ago, you might want to throw out there that Furious Howl is not so amazing that new hunters should eschew preference for a minor dps increase while leveling! xD)

  18. Weeee – thank you Pike – I am actually, secretly, a noob hunter. Or rather huntard. I am trying to be better at it but there’s something about the class that brings out the worst in me. Maybe it’s the lack of healing spells, I don’t know… 😉

  19. MQoSRDPS!
    I got a little misty there. Fo’shizzle.

    The best advice I have is just to read and learn about the class you’re playing. The way I see it, if someone is here reading this, they’re already on the road to success. I would imagine that there are plenty of people who are new to the game that don’t realize what a wealth of information is available out here. I know I certainly didn’t back when I was a young night elf! *shakes cane*

  20. There are lvl 80 Hunter noobs out there. I was in a 25man Marrowgar last week when another hunter with about the same gear as me whispered after a wipe “is there some sort of special order that I should be firing my shots?” I was gobsmacked !!!

  21. Me too, Asara. Me too.

    Read party chat. Yes, it’s hard to keep track of everything on the screen, but your group is trying to communicate with you. Please pay attention. Lots of experienced people in your group will have helpful suggestions that will be great to learn, but only if you’re paying attention.

    Traps, traps, traps. Don’t use freezing trap in an instance unless you know how to pull and trap, which most new hunters don’t. Explosive or fire traps are fine on trash, I suppose, but really MQoSRDPS means standing back and shooting stuff until it’s dead. If you’re running in and dropping a trap, your not shooting stuff.

    Shields. Don’t. Ever. Roll. On. Shields.

    Loot screen in groups: Need button is on top, Greed is on the bottom. Press Need on gear that has agility or AP. On everything else, press greed.

    All of these came from one SFK run on my fully heirloomed druid tank. The run was great, but the first hunter rolled need on everything, including a blue shield the pally wanted. And he wouldn’t trade it. Kept dropping freeze trap in the middle of the trash pull. Jumped off the rampart/balcony back into the courtyard, and wasted time soloing a couple mobs we had skipped, while we all waited up top. After several party chat requests, and a number of whispers from me with very tactful suggestions, I initiated the very first Party Kick I’ve ever done. Was just too much.

    Second hunter zoned in, promptly zoned out by accident, and then didn’t know how to requeue thru Find Group tool. We got him back in after a couple suggestions. He had his pet on defensive (good) but growl on (bad), but fixed that too. And rolled Need on everything, too. However, unlike the previous hunter, he read party chat. By the end of the run, we had him cranking out dps, controlling his pet, and discovering the diff between need/greed. Also was able to trade cloth gear and spellpower cloak to the casters.

  22. My wife has just started levelling a hunter while we’ve got her pet under control and her dps at a good level she keeps going OOM what feels very quickly when we run dungeons with the LFG, is there a recommended “rotation” for trash pulls at lower levels? For informational purposes she’s a lvl 23 b-elf hunter who is specc’ed marksman so far.

  23. @ Orvillius – Low level hunters are, unfortunately, mana hogs in my experience. Best you can do is just use Viper when you have to!

  24. @Orvillius – Until she gets more mana conservation skills, sounds like she is going to need to do some Aspect hopping into Viper every now and then. I too am MM and rotation is not important at this level, just priorities really. Opening with Hunters Mark, Sending pet in, Serpent Sting, Aimed Shot, Arcane Shot, then just Auto Shot till either Aimed or Arcane is up again. Don’t redo Serpent till it is has almost run out or run out. This is what I have been doing. I am far from expert as my Hunter is only level 31. But this seems to be the most manageable and smooth.

  25. @ Tamarind, we have awesome healing spells… mend pet, and feign death! One works like you expect it to (heals x amount over y time). The other is kind of like a priest shield, protecting us from possible incoming damage. lol

    And @ Orvillius, at 25 she’ll be able to reach Efficiency in the MM tree. This will help a little with the mana usage at a lower level. It might also help to glyph Arcane shot as well, since that will reduce the mana usage of one of the most fired shots while leveling. Other than that, welcome to MM, it eats mana in giant gobs. Get used to dipping into Viper as soon as a mob is killed.

    Thanks for the post Pike, I miss that fast talking ole dwarf and his conversations from the Purple Parlor.

  26. I still remember my first run through DM in vanilla wow, I rolled need on emberstone staff because I saw its physical dps was higher and I’d read that intellect was a good hunter stat.

    I had a resto druid get very cross with me. The great thing is one of the other players in the run was my in the small levelling guild I was in at the time. who I later ended up in another guild with in wrath. My face was pretty red when he recounted the incident.

    I’ve managed to get my girlfriend to roll a hunter now as well. She’s discounted everything I’ve said and opted for the prettiest pet. The elitist in me was screaming 😀

    My own advice for hunters at low level? You more or less can’t do anything wrong so relax and enjoy the ride. Also get a pet attack/recall toggle button keybound and get used to using it.

  27. I would even mention the basic mechanics of Hunter fighting, as I have certainly seen low level hunters not following the basic tenets. This probably has a lot to do with what others have mentioned regarding the first ten levels, and their non-petness…silly.

    But anyhow, even the super basic stuff might be helpful to brand new players who are just questing. Send your pet in first! Let them chew on a bad guys face for a bit! Then start shooting!

    The important distinction being that when a brand newbie goes into their first instance, the other player everyone is calling the “tank” does that job instead, so follow the same rule.

  28. I came across a spell power hunter and tried to help her in a random dungeon group on my rogue, tried to help her and all I got was a big fat “F U”..

    Moral of the story not everyone likes to be helped. <.<

    On a side note, I really wish people would stop queuing up as Tanks/Healers while they're dps "just becasue its faster then just queuing up as DPS"

  29. @Kitsuno I tank quite often and I have yet to ever see someone queued for something they had no business at. I have met people who shouldn’t be in an ICC heroic when they are but that is just because Blizz”s gearcheck is too lenient

  30. I have a BM hunter up to level 40. I enjoy playing this but am weary about getting into bg/pvp stuff. I can picture myself being stuck in melee situations during the entire battle. What is the best strategy for hunters in bg?…

  31. When I read through the list – I recognize all the things I’ve done myself. The propensity to melee – the cat on aggressive the first time I went to SM…and the whole…well – ‘can’t play my way out of a wet paper bag’ problem that I’ve struggled with since 2005.


    The difference I had was a friend who spent *hours* teaching me what to do – and when. I remember sometimes being a little irritated at him, but in retrospect those in game lessons have done more to keep me out of trouble than anything else inside or outside of the game.

  32. @Ken, I suggest using a pet with some form of snare in pvp. Probably a hyena for ease of use, spider or similar if you bind its special to a macro. That plus the wingclip disengage combo will get you away from most melee.

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