Category Archives: talents

Real Talk. Beast Mastery in 6.2…

…is basically the same as it was before.  Let’s take a closer look.

hunter notesAspect of the Fox is gone.  I used it on occasion but usually forgot it existed.  So /shrug

Tranquilizing Shot is now on a cooldown, unless you are glyphed.  Whether you prefer to use the glyph or not probably comes down to your own personal preference and the encounter.

And that’s it!  That’s it for Beast Mastery, unless you PvP, in which case you will notice that A Murder of Crows and Barrage now do less damage to player characters.  Not very fun, no, but whatcha gonna do.  We’re hunters, so we’re just gonna keep moseying along.

Now remember, things haven’t changed for us, really, but things may have changed for other classes and specs.  Marksmanship got a buff to Aimed Shot and a lot of the other classes were tweaked, so Beast Masters may not see themselves in the same spot on Recount.  We’ll just have to see how things shuffle out.

AS AN ASIDE, I’m seeing a few theorycrafting places report that Steady Focus is now preferable over Dire Beast.  I may have to test this and then report back.  Either way it should be close, so personally I wouldn’t fault you for using either talent.

**EDIT**: I have been informed in the comments that Focus Fire appears to be bugged.  My own quick testing seems to be confirming that it’s not acting right.  So stay tuned for that and be aware!

Shaking the Ol’ Talent Tree

Hey guys, let’s go back.

wotlk talents

Let’s go back even further:

tbc talents]Let’s go waaaaaay the heck back:

vanilla talentsAhh, remember these?  Love ’em or hate ’em, the old talent trees were a true part of our Warcraft experience if you’ve been playing for any substantial length of time.

I got thinking of these thanks to a conversation I was having on Twitter.  There are a lot of memories that come with these old talent trees – both good and bad.  I remember how excited I was to make myself or my pet just that much more powerful every level.  I remember devising specific leveling specs, PvP specs, and raiding specs.

I also remember how innately “tied” to your spec these really made you feel.  One of my earlier blog posts to make a real splash in the community, written a whopping seven and a half years ago, details how the symbiotic hunter/pet nature of the BM talents was why it was my favorite spec.

These days, though, I’m BM not because I like the talents so much as because, hey, I’ve been playing it for years and years and I know how to play it, and I do pretty well with it, so why switch?  It’s not the most inspiring reason in the world, I know.

I dunno, I’m not exactly pining for the old talents or anything.  But it is kind of a fun thing to look back on.

Wanna go back in time and play around?  Have fun!

Wot I Think: The New Talent Tree

So I’m gonna steal a page from the wonderful RockPaperShotgun‘s book here and tell you, well… what I think about a certain something.  Today’s topic?  The New Talent Tree which everyone loves to hate!

You are staring into the abyss-like eyes of the worst thing to happen to videogaming since Pac-Man on the Atari 2600.

Okay, okay, let’s cut the theatrics.  I’m going to tell you what Blizz was going for with this.  What they were going for was as follows: “Oh hey, EVERYBODY who uses this spec takes this talent.  So since EVERYBODY takes it, we’ll just give it to that spec by default.”  That’s really it.  They didn’t sit around and have an evil laugh and make nefarious plans about how to homogenize the specs.  The specs are still intact; you just get the stuff you were going to get anyway without having to click on it.  That’s all.

That said, there is certainly something to be said for, well… the excitement of getting a new talent point at every level and getting to click on it.  Heck, there’s even something to be said for those old talents from back in the day that increased your crit chance by 1/2/3/4/5%.  Blizzard cut that stuff out because they thought it was boring, but those incremental number changes were exciting to me and to a lot of other people.  They made you feel like you were progressing.  Why do you think people get all excited for gear that stands a mere incremental number change above other gear?

The Long and Short of It (That’s What She Said): I miss the old talent trees but I’m certainly not sitting around crying as though someone just shot my dog.  And it’s definitely not the end of the world.  Also, A Murder of Crows is smurfing awesome. Do you remember the movie “We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story”, and how at the end a bunch of crows came and landed on the bad guy and then he disappeared? Yeah. That is this. Awesome.

Straight for the Jugular! Go for the Throat and Company

The discerning blog reader who has clicked around on my links and Armory profiles lately may have noticed something interesting; namely, my two level eighty hunters, while both Beast Masters, are currently sporting (slightly) different specs:



Tawyn is using a 53/11/7 build, and Lunapike a 52/12/7. It may look like a difference of one talent point on the surface, but it’s actually three. Let’s dig deeper and take a look.

Tawyn has: 3/3 Cobra Strikes, 1/2 Go for the Throat, and 0/2 Invigoration.

Lunapike has: 2/2 Invigoration, 2/2 Go for the Throat, and 0/3 Cobra Strikes.

First, we’ll take a look at Invigoration vs. Cobra Strikes.

Why the difference?

Short answer
: Lunapike just hit 80, while Tawyn has been 80 for a while and has thus amassed a relatively decent set of gear.

Long answer: Cobra Strikes is a solid DPS boost. However, Invigoration should theoretically keep you out of Viper for longer and thus could also be construed as a DPS boost. Which one you want to take is situational.

Lunapike just hit 80, as I mentioned. At the moment she is mostly doing dailies, and five-mans and heroics where Replenishment may or may not happen. She also is still mostly in leveling duds and thus has a very small mana pool.

Tawyn has a larger mana pool and is mostly in raids these days, where there’s often a lot of mana regen being thrown around.

Guess who is going to want Invigoration, and guess who’s going to want Cobra Strikes?

Both are, in my mind, acceptable, though in general, I feel a level 80 hunter is going to eventually migrate from Invigoration to Cobra Strikes. Your mileage may vary, as always, so play around with it… but I sorta think this is a common sense one. /nod

Now, let’s move on to Go for the Throat, that lovely, lovely talent that all hunters everywhere of every spec should have at least one point in, because it’s such a DPS boost.

Lunapike has this talent maxed out. Tawyn only has one point in there… the “other” point is going to max out Cobra Strikes.

Why the difference?

Short answer: Lunapike just hit 80, while Tawyn has been 80 for a while and has thus amassed a relatively decent set of gear. (Why yes, I did just copy paste this from above.)

Long answer: Go for the Throat works off of critical strikes. The more you crit, the more focus you feed to your pet. Let’s compare the critical strike chance of our two examples, unbuffed:

Here’s Tawyn:


And here’s Lunapike:


Big difference in stats, huh? Especially in crit rating! Tawyn crits almost twice as much as Lunapike!

This, my friends, is why Tawyn can get away with only one point in Go for the Throat. Because she crits enough that she only needs one point in there. Actually, even Tawyn is barely squeaking by. The online hunter spreadsheet tells me that unbuffed, I could use another point in GftT, if I had one to spare. Fully raid-buffed, though, I’m good to go, so I feel fine with not having the extra point… it’s hard enough to find places to pull talent points from as it is; there are so many goodies out there for us to nab.

But can you imagine if Lunapike, with her mere 17% crit, only had one point in Go for the Throat? If the online hunter spreadsheet could have a stroke, it would. Of this I have no doubt. All the hunter theorycrafters of yesteryear would collectively roll in their virtual graves. It’d be a disaster, I tell ya!

Conclusion? Well, when it comes to Beast Mastery, there really is no set-in-stone spec. 41/20/0 and its rigidness has been nailed tightly in its coffin for some time now and in its place we have a little bit of flexibility. Having mana issues? Invigoration is the way to go. Not so much? Go for Cobra Strikes and scoop up the extra pet crits. Below about 30%ish crit? Two points in Go for the Throat. Otherwise, you can get away with just one.

But above all, remember to try things out, and see what gets you the best results. Heck, you may have the best results by dropping some of the points in Survival all together and distributing them among the talents we talked about today. Research: it does a hunter good.

And with that… hunterbots, roll out!

Good news everyone!

goodnews At some point between the last time I seriously PvP’d (’bout a year ago) and now, Bloodlust Alliance figured out how to win Alterac Valley!


…okay, so, while that is good news, it’s probably not the good news you came here to read. Fortunately, I have other good news. The latest rumblings on the PTR are the impending change to Animal Handler. This talent has changed much through the years. Initially it gave your pet some extra Hit, which was rendered obsolete with hit scaling. Then it gave your pet expertise, and that, too, is about to be made obsolete. So now what’s it gonna do? Increase your pet’s Attack Power by 5%/10%.

For the record, that is awesome. And though I have no hard numbers, if Blizz delivers that plus expands on pet scaling like they said they wanted to in time for 3.2, combined with the impending weird Kill Command reduction on Catlike Reflexes and the Wild Hunt buff… I’m guessing that Beast Mastery is pretty much “fixed”.

Gotta say I am a bit worried, though. Remember why Blizz nerfed us last time? A lot of it was because pets were doing over 50% of our damage and they said that was too much. To which I actually agree– I love having a pet doing, oh… 35, 40% of my damage, but anything over 50% makes me too uncomfortable. Anyways, Blizz nerfed the pets, while forgetting to, well, really buff the hunter to counterbalance it.

Anyways, with all these new changes I don’t see any way that a Beast Master pet won’t be back up to 50% or more of a Beast Master hunter’s total DPS, and I worry that Blizz will have their nerfbat at the ready again. But who can say, really? It’s one of those things where we’ll just have to wait and see. At least the Blues know we could use some love, and that’s always a good sign.

Improved Mend Pet vs. Spirit Bond

If you are a Beast Mastery hunter, chances are good you have at least one or two talent points floating around in one of these two talents. In fact, if you are doing a fairly common 53/x/x build, then you really only have one point to spare.

So, where do you put that one point? Some people choose Endurance Training, but for me, I prefer to keep the choice between our good friends Spirit Bond and Improved Mend Pet. Let’s take a look at what they do:

1/2 Improved Mend Pet: “Reduces the mana cost of your Mend Pet spell by 10% and gives the Mend Pet spell a 25% chance of cleansing 1 Curse, Disease, Magic or Poison effect from the pet each tick.”

The mana cost reduction is relatively minute (though I suppose it would add up if you were using it a lot), so the big benefit here is mostly the shot IMP has at cleansing things off of your pet. This can be handy when solo’ing/questing to get rid of those nasty debuffs things will occasionally chuck onto your pet, and it can also be handy in a select few raid encounters. *coughHeigancough* Final verdict: Only has a very situational use, but very helpful in said situations.

1/2 Spirit Bond: “While your pet is active, you and your pet will regenerate 1% of total health every 10 sec., and increases healing done to you and your pet by 5%.”

I’ve had people debate me on this before, but I see the regeneration part of this talent as being, well… lackluster and ignorable. =P What we like this talent for is the flat increase on healing done to you and your pet. This could help a little on pet unfriendly fights, and also on player-unfriendly fights. May or may not be enough of a healing boost to save your/your pet’s life when crap hits the fan, though. Final verdict: Goes to waste on stuff like Patchwerk, but may make the life of your healers a tiny tad easier on stuff where there’s lots of AoE damage going around. Also makes your life a tiny tad easier on pet unfriendly fights.

And the Oscar goes to… Look at your situation and decide which one you’d rather have. Currently I am using Improved Mend Pet because I find it to be invaluable on Heigan; I am in Naxx more than most other raids combined at the moment and I pride myself on being able to keep my pet alive through the encounter. If I ever move on from Naxx I may very well move the point over to Spirit Bond. Both talents have their uses and I wouldn’t knock you for using either.

Bonus History Lesson:

Check out the final Beast Mastery talent back in World of Warcraft Beta:


Survival’s final talent back then…? We shall not speak of it… >.>

The Future

Edit: Good news for my non-BM hunter friends, it appears WoWHead was wrong and it has now been fixed… all hunters can get the “final tier” talents now.

WoWHead has the WotLK pet talents up.

See all those lovely talents along the bottom there?

Can’t get ’em unless you’ve got 51 points in Beast Mastery.

I think spec’ing anything OTHER than BM in the expansion would drive my OCD-ness up the wall. “You mean I can’t get those bottom talents for Tux? *claws at desk*”

But on the other hand, I keep looking at the WotLK hunter talent tree and thinking about all the new hybrid possibilities now. I’m talkin’ about the potential to have Serpent’s Swiftness and the Super Trap talents from Survival. Or heck, Serpent’s Swiftness and Trueshot Aura in an unholy union. Or Expose Weakness, Trueshot Aura, Ranged Weapon Specialization, Improved Barrage, and some points in Master Marksman.

Of course, the big question is whether these potential hybrid builds will ever outclass the new talents. But I find it so very, very interesting to think about…

Anyways! I’m sure many of you are sick of hearing about WotLK, and I do find all the news kind of overwhelming myself. So! I will go back to concentrating on playing my current characters and writing about them (as best as I can anyway; I’ve been thinking about the ramifications of having a bunch of out-dated guides on my blog… the good news, though, is that there will always be new hunters who always need Hunter Kindergarten posts. At least, I hope so, between all the Death Knights.)

Talent Show

My experience with other classes is certainly not extensive enough to be able to say this with complete surety, but it seems to me that hunters, more so than other classes, are very spec-specific. Think of your average Joe R. Hunter (where R stands for “raiding”) and think of his probable talent spec. 41/20/0, 0/41/20, 0/20/41, 0/31/30. Maybe a coupla 40/21/0 and 0/21/40 thrown in for Scatter Shot and good measure.

Now, this definitely isn’t to say that there aren’t other good specs out there (in fact, I’ll address that at the end of my post) but this seems to be what you will see, most of the time. It just seems like that typical end-game hunter strategy is to grab those 20 key points in the Marks tree and then spread from there. I think, however, that what you do with your other 41 points (or even those “key 20 Marks points”) can really vary depending on personal preference and what you want.

Here, I’ll use my own current spec as an example:

Let me talk about what I’ve picked and why I’ve picked them, and why my overall talent spec is largely personal preference… and probably different from your personal preference.


Pretty standard cookie-cutter 41/20/0 build at first glance. Typically considered by most to currently be the highest DPS hunter spec in the game, although there are a lot of disputes about whether or not this is actually true, especially when really, really nicely-geared Marks or Survival hunters are involved.

I personally chose Beast Mastery because I find it appealing from an emotional and aesthetic standpoint (geeky, no?); the DPS bonus is some very tasty icing on the cake though.

Beast Mastery:

5/5 Improved Aspect of the Hawk: Has a chance to increase your ranged attack speed by 15% for 12 seconds. This is awesome. It’s like squeezing bonus ranks out of Serpent’s Swiftness. Obviously this is proc-dependent so it’s not always reliable, and if you prefer to run around with, say, Aspect of the Viper up, then this might not be such a good choice for you. But overall I see this as a must-have for me. (Little secret: I am madly in love with the little WHOOSH noise that it makes when it procs and the little picture that pops above your head. That’s another big reason I always take this talent.) Warning: there is the possibility that it will mess up your shot rotation, but I’ve never had an issue with this.

2/5 Endurance Training: Yeah it’s maybe a little silly to have these two points here, but I still do a lot of grinding and stuff– with DPS pets, no less– so they can use all the staying power that they can get. Note: In my little opinion, 5/5 in this talent is pretty much mandatory for leveling. All my leveling hunters get 5/5 Endurance Training; they can respec later.

2/2 Focused Fire: 20% Kill Command crit is amazing. That’s really all I have to say about that.

2/3 Thick Hide
: See my comments for Endurance Training. Again, I would recommend a full 3/3 for leveling BM hunters.

5/5 Unleashed Fury
: Increases your pet’s damage output, pretty straightforward.

2/2 Improved Mend Pet
: A lot of people I know do not put points in this and I have to admit it sort of baffles me. I don’t think I could live without this talent. This is one of the things that got me to respec from Marks in the first place. Picture this: You’re attacking something and your pet gets Faerie Fire or some other debuff that completely demolishes their armor/stamina/attack power/whatever. Whatcha gonna do about it? …Improved Mend Pet, that’s what! Oh, and the mana cost reduction is fantastic too.

5/5 Ferocity: Increases your pet’s crit. More pet crits = More Ferocious Inspiration for you (er, for me, anyway). This one’s a given.

: This is the “Who comes to the rescue when the tank falls down” talent, to quote a line from Hootie the Strigid Screecher. Is your pet a replacement for the main tank? Oh, heck no. But if the boss a five-man is getting to end of his rope, something happens to the tank, and it’s your pet or the healer– this is when your pet comes to the rescue. Usually the healer realizes that your pet is the new tank and will plant enough heals on him to, if things go well, finish off the fight. Locke has successfully tanked both the last boss in Hellfire Ramparts and the last boss in Escape from Durnholde Keep in this fashion. Oh, and this talent is of course the gateway for some awesome talents down the road.

1/2 Bestial Discipline: One of my big personal goals is to have Ferocious Inspiration up 100% of the time. One of the ways I achieve this is to dump a bunch of focus onto my pet, so he has more chances to use Claw, which will hopefully crit. At this point in time, my crit is high enough that when I’m completely buffed and ready-to-roll, I can usually keep Locke or Tux full of focus with Go for the Throat, but there are always those long “droughts” where you won’t crit for a while and 1/2 Bestial Discipline helps act as a safety buffer. Note: I would seriously consider going 2/2 here if I were using a Windserpent or something, because of Lightning Breath (costing more focus than Claw).

2/2 Animal Handler: This isn’t quite so important pre-level-70, but basically this is your only way to increase your pet’s chance to hit, which is going to be very needed in harder instances and raids. More hits = more chances to crit = more guaranteed Ferocious Inspiration.

4/5 Frenzy: Makes your pet attack faster. Again, more hits = more chances to crit = more guaranteed Ferocious Inspiration. You may have noticed I only have four points in this talent. A lot of hunters do that. I’m not one who’s much for math or theorycrafting myself, but I do recall reading somewhere that 4/5 Frenzy is just as good as 5/5 Frenzy and in my experience that seems to hold out to be true. I love having an extra point to play with, so 4/5 it is.

3/3 Ferocious Inspiration
: This is one of my very favorite talents and I put a lot of hard work into spec’ing myself and my pet so that this is up near-continuously. This increases the attack power of everyone in your party by 3%, and this works on melee, ranged, and magical attacks. 3% may not seem like a lot, but it adds up. And I just love the idea of it.

Bestial Wrath: This is a given; who doesn’t want to watch that big red pet doing almost as much DPS as you while being immune to most everything?

5/5 Serpent’s Swiftness: I think this is possibly the talent that makes BM the powerhouse spec that it is. This is what defines the BM shot rotation (Steady S

hot/Auto Shot/Kill Command) and allows us to out-DPS a lot of Marksman hunters who are hitting harder, but slower. So… yeah. This is a given.

The Beast Within: Some people prefer Scatter Shot; myself, I like having what is almost the equivalent to a “second PvP trinket”. This is the Warlock-buster. Oh, and the Warrior’s hamstring/Rogue’s poison/etc.-buster. =P


For the most part, you will see these 20 points on pretty much every end-game hunter. There is one debate though, that I will get to in a second:

5/5 Lethal Shots
: Crit is good.

5/5 Improved Hunter’s Mark: This is where there’s a divide. A lot of hunters– most, I think– would rather have 5/5 Efficiency. Myself– I’m an Improved Hunter’s Mark fan. What it does is buff the melee attack power of everyone who is attacking whatever you’ve marked, whether they’re in your party or not. This buffs your pet and it buffs anybody who uses melee attacks. I have always been one who enjoys helping out the party as much as I can, and being able to provide a 110-attack-power-bonus to people is almost like having my own little Trueshot Aura. Also, I have never been in a situation thus far where I’ve wished I’d taken Efficiency instead. I know, I know, a lot of you are probably saying “Just wait until you start raiding!” And I understand that, and if the need arises to take Efficiency instead, then I will. But at this point I haven’t needed it. I would rather be buffing the attack power of my pet and the tank and the rogues and other hunter’s pets and the feral druids, than giving myself a few extra Steady Shots before I have to pot. But that’s just me. =P

2/2 Go for the Throat: This generates a lot of focus for your pet and in my mind is a must-have talent.

Aimed Shot
: I really only use this against healers in PvP (paladins mostly), but it’s the prerequisite for another awesome talent.

Rapid Killing: The best place to toss those two extra points you need in this talent tier; it gives you a little boost if you are killing things quickly and shaves some time off of the gigantic Rapid Fire cooldown.

5/5 Mortal Shots
: Increases the damage that your crits do. <3 big crits.

Well, there you go. That is why Pike specs the way she does. It’s not a perfect spec. But it meeds my own personal needs, and that is what talent specs are supposed to do– fit an individual’s needs. This is why I don’t think there is “one spec to rule them all”, and this is why I make an effort not to judge somebody based on their Armory profile.

Lemme tell you a story quick, and then I’ll let you go, since this post is long enough already!

One of my friends has a level 70 hunter alt. Because this hunter is an alt, he’s not all that geared. He has a level 64 green helmet of the Bandit; he has Valanos’ Longbow without the scope and overall he’s just in quest gear. He has a solid but not exactly cookie-cutter BM spec.

Guess what happens when he, I, and another hunter in Season 1 PvP gear all go into battlegrounds? Guess who, without fail, tops the damage done and the killing blows and the honorable kills at the end?

I’ll give you a hint. It’s not me. And it’s not Season-1-gear-hunter either.

It’s Mr. Green Helmet.

He is the only hunter I have played against so far who can beat me in a 1-on-1 hunter duel up to about five levels higher than me (that is to say, other hunters who attack me on my RP-PvP server hordie, cannot beat me unless they have over five levels on me.)

The last time we dueled it was in the Stranglethorn Arena to make things dramatic, and we had a little guildie audience too. There I was, completely decked out in blues and purples and with everything enchanted to the brim. Savagery on my Sonic Spear and +10 damage on my Gladiator’s Heavy Crossbow. And there he was in quest blues and greens.

He won.

He had about 100 hit points left when I fell. He told me afterwards that if I’d used Serpent Sting, I would’ve won. And he’s right. But the fact is that I failed to use Serpent Sting and thus he won fair and square.

I haven’t a clue how he does it. Somehow he manages to work magic in PvP. He’s told me he feels much the same way about me in PvE, he says he doesn’t think he could ever pull off what I do in instances. This is very flattering, but it still completely blows my mind that he’s working his magic in quest greens.

The hunter I have the most respect for isn’t some T6 hunter with Illidan on farm. The hunter I have the most respect for isn’t in complete season 3 arena armor with some incredible rating. No, the hunter I have the most respect for is wearing a green helmet of the Bandit and only has one point in Frenzy.

Armory profiles aren’t everything. Gear isn’t always everything. Spec isn’t always everything. You spec the way that is best for you, because you know your playstyle the best. The results may surprise you.