So, you'd like to become a Hunter? We've tried to provide a generic plan anyone can follow for the first 10 levels or so, just to get you started on the right foot. If you're looking for more of an overview of the class's abilities, see the main Hunter page. For more advanced topics, see Hunter Tactics.
For a more general overview on starting out playing WoW, see the Newbie Guide.
A Hunter's primary mode of damage is ranged, meaning that hunters favor ranged combat over melee. Hunters are the only non-caster class in the game that possess the Auto-Shot skill which allows them to continuously fire a ranged weapon. Warlocks, Priests, and Mages can auto-shoot with wands. Wands, however, do not derive stat bonuses for damage the way other ranged weapons do.
If you're considering playing a Hunter, you should ask yourself the following questions first:
- Am I willing to take responsibility for being a warning system for my party?
- Do I mind pulling enemies from afar? This is usually a hunter's key job in end-game instances.
- Will I be able to keep track of Aggro throughout a dungeon?
- Do I mind not being in the front lines of a fight?
- Am I OK with my class being avoided in instances due to its bad reputation?
- Can I manage more than one character at once? (you & your pet)
- Do I mind not being a main healing target?
These are the main things a Hunter has to deal with. Due to the complexity of managing both a pet and a talent tree, Hunters may be tricky for first time WoW players. After acquiring a pet at level 10, Hunters are one of the easiest classes to level. Having a pet to tank is like having an extra player, and this allows you to go after mobs that are several levels higher than you. Survivability skills like Feign Death and Disengage make it easy to avoid frequent deaths. Being a Hunter can be fun, and played correctly can be very beneficial to your party.
The Hunter class has the reputation of being easy to level and easy to play, but difficult to keep control of. Pets can run off and start attacking things randomly, and the Auto Shot ability means it is very easy to shoot things unintentionally, often pulling unwanted mobs. Because of this, other class types tend to look down on Hunters. In addition, the Hunter may be the class that is most affected by gear. A successful Hunter will need to upgrade their ranged weapons as often as possible, which is generally every other level. A level 20 hunter with a level 16 bow is severely undergeared. But a skillful, well-geared Hunter is more than a match for any other class.
Like all classes, the Hunter has specific roles to play in Dungeons, Battlegrounds and other Instances. If you are comfortable with these roles, then playing a Hunter can be very enjoyable and rewarding.
You may want to consider the various racial traits when choosing what race to play as. You might also consider the racial attributes. You can match your preferred playing style to a race (melee avoidance or mitigation vs. damage or combat focus), or you can choose a race based on aesthetics or the pets that are available to you at low levels. For example, bats are available to Undead and to some extent Blood Elves very early on, whereas there are almost no bats available to Alliance races. The impressively damage-producing Hyena is only available to Tauren, Trolls, and Orcs early on. By contrast, all Alliance races will get an early opportunity to tame what is arguably the most effective PvP pet in the game, the spider. (Note: Undead Hunters start with a spider as a pet.)
- Trolls are a great choice for a PvE Hunter, with Regeneration to restore health, Beast Slaying for increased damage to beasts, and Bow Specialization and Berserking to boost DPS.
- The Tauren's Warstomp is a useful way to get out of melee range in PvP.
- The Orc's extra resistance to stuns with Hardiness can be useful against Rogues and Paladins. Orcs also get a 5% damage bonus for pets with Command.
- Blood elves have Arcane Torrent, which can be used to silence casters that get too close.
- Goblins have some really nice hunter bonuses, like Rocket Jump, which is sort of a forward Disengage, a 1% increase in attack speed, and Rocket Barrage, an extra ranged offensive weapon.
- Undead (Forsaken) hunters have the ability Will of the Forsaken, which can counteract Fear and other disabling spells. Cannibalize also provides the hunter with a way to regenerate health without having to carry food.
- Night elves have the Shadowmeld ability, which is good for escaping melee in PvE, and good for surprising opposing players in PvP. Night Elves also have a dodge bonus for when melee becomes inevitable.
- Dwarves have Gun Specialization, which grants a damage bonus with guns.
- Draenei have Heroic Presence, which also extends to their pet. Gift of the Naaru can be used to heal pets as well as on the hunter himself or even other players.
- Humans have very little racial bonuses that pertain to being hunters. Every Man for Himself can be useful for getting out of stuns and other disabling spells that is useful largely for PvP. There is also a small Spirit bonus, which affects health regeneration, but not Focus.
- Worgen can make good hunters. They have an escape ability Darkflight that is useful for avoiding melee. There is also a critical strike bonus that is applied to both melee and ranged. There is also a 15+ bonus to skinning and almost instant skinning speed. Because the Skinning/Leatherworking combination is a popular profession choice for hunters, this can come in handy.
The easiest way to progress through the early levels is to simply complete all of the quests you can find. Not only will you breeze through the first 5 to 10 levels, but you'll get useful gear and precious money. Money is particularly important so you can purchase your skills, spells and/or abilities as appropriate for one's class. Obviously money is also important for purchasing personal items such as potions, jewelery, food, armor, weapons, etc.
You should spend levels 1-5 near your starting town. Most everything needed at these early levels can be obtained there from one or the other vendor. Likewise, any inventory loot you've gathered hunting can be sold to these same vendors. Also, this is where you're going to begin questing and figure out the most efficient ways to go about this most important of tasks.
Make sure you get all the abilities and spells you can from your trainer. Between level 5 and 6 you'll find yourself heading off to your second town and a new trainer who can teach you upgraded versions of your skills and abilities. At the second town, repeat the process—do each and every quest you can find. It's important to keep up with your abilities and your gear. Now is also an appropriate time to start training in your chosen professions.
It is especially important for a Hunter to complete all the quests available because of the cash that is needed at level 10 to learn all of the Pet-related abilities. There are at least 7 abilities that become available from Hunter trainers at level 10, and each of them costs money to learn. The Hunter will need to have more cash than other classes at this level just to keep up.
Begin each fight at maximum range and start with your ranged attack. Your character will automatically attack until the target is too close. At roughly that point, you will enter automatic melee combat. For orcs, this would be a good opportunity to buff your melee attack with your Blood Fury racial ability. Trolls can use their Berserking ability to attack a bit faster. Many times, however, your pet will be dealing more damage than you are, so the mob will stop to defend itself from your pet. Having a pet tank for you is one of your best strategies throughout the game. To maintain this, don't use Arcane Shot right away, but let your pet attack and hold the target's focus before you let loose.
It is a good idea to practice kiting from early in the game, if you intend to PvP at all seriously (it is also useful for PvE, allowing a great deal more DPS and survivability). The basic idea is to get someone to follow you while you deal damage. Hunters were made for kiting. There are a couple of ways to go about this.
- Tell your pet to attack, get the mob's attention, and then put your pet on Passive so it will run back to you. The mob will follow. Halfway back, put your pet back on attack. Then backpedal to the edge of your range, and repeat.
- Using , you can slow down the mob as it heads for you. You can fire this off as many times as you like to keep its movement slow and allow your pet to build aggro.
You can also practice the strafe kite. You can run away from the target at a slight angle and shoot backwards by strafe-running in the opposite direction, because your ranged attack will work 180 degrees in front of you. Because you can run as fast the mob like this, they don't catch up to you. Try it out at this low level so you can get used to it now because it will be a nifty way to out-maneuver melee-class players in PvP later on. Be aware that, unlike PvP players, mobs will chase you for only so far and then give up and run back to their original position. While they're running back, they will be immune to attack, and will instantly heal themselves so you'll have to start over.
There is one game-related option available to all classes that most benefits the Hunter. This is the click-to-move option available in the Options panel, under the "Mouse" menu item. Click-to-Move allows you to right-click on a spot of terrain, and your character will immediately start moving towards that spot. You can also right-click on a target, and you will start running towards and battling that target. Only for the Hunter class does this work differently. When the Hunter right-clicks on a target to click-to-move, you will run towards the target, but the Auto-Shot is triggered when the target becomes in range of your ranged weapon, meaning that you will being firing arrows from 40 yds away automatically. This comes in extremely handy when you also have to control your pet.
At level 3, you can learn Steady Shot, which is important because it returns more focus to you. This will be more relevant when you learn to control your pet later on. For right now, it's a good focus-friendly DPS strike while your pet is tanking. This is not a shot you want to use while being charged.
At level 4, you learn to track beasts. This is an invaluable survival tool for either steering clear of baddies or finding a quest target, and therefore the best path to that target, in a sea of mobs.
Continue to hone your kiting technique. You may find that it can be more efficient to shoot one mob, which causes your pet to attack it, and then let that fight continue while you shoot at another mob. At this level, it's very difficult for you to die by fighting one mob at a time, and you can probably kill many of them off with just your weak melee power. Not that this is a good idea everywhere, but you don't have to keep attacking one mob at a time when you have so many ways to finish off a lot of them.
At level 5, if you're serious about getting a profession, this is the time to start it. Especially in the case of gathering professions, the lower-level zones have all the materials you will need to get started. This is important for skilling up in the profession, because later zones won't have materials you will be able to gather unless your skill is high enough.
Level 8 is where the fun truly begins. is the Hunter's friend. Unless you have a pet who can initially immobilize a target, this should always be your opening shot. This is the key shot for kiting. And, beautifully, it costs no focus. This shot, combined with strafe-running can be maddening to your opponent. You also get the passive ability , which can help for when melee is inevitable.
Concussive shot is also handy for mobs that try to run away when they have low health.
Hit & Run can be extremely important at these levels since a lot of mobs (particularly in the sEversong Woods) can slice and dice a young hunter, especially one who doesn't have the support of a guild or a rich alt. Concussive shot makes Hit & Run easier because it allows you to keep the enemy within range without having to run all that far.
Level 10 is where the Hunter truly becomes a unique class. Seven abilities are available all at once, six of which have to do with controlling your pet. You have the cash for all of these, right?
But if you don't have the cash for all of them, you can skip Beast Lore and Dismiss Pet for now, neither of which is vital. Tame Beast is also optional if you are really short on cash. Do NOT skip Serpent Sting. This a key Damage over Time shot that is brutal on opponents. Also do not skip Kill Command.
Basic Pet Handling
From maximum range, command your pet to attack. Let it get in a few hits before starting your volley. The longer you let your pet attack, the less likely you will pull aggro when you start. At later levels you will get the ability to heal your pet to make it last longer as a tank.
If you shoot first, open with Concussive Shot, and then Serpent Sting, and then repeat Arcane Shot as it become available from cooldown and focus regeneration.
If you send your pet in first, always try to keep at least half your focus available for Kill Command, which causes your pet to deal a high-damage blow. A good pet tanking strategy is to start with Serpent Sting, then Kill Command, and then Steady Shot until you have enough focus to generate another Kill Command (after its cooldown).
Both and have auto-cast turned on by default, Growl will allow your pet to hold your enemy while you use your ranged attack from a distance. You can use to lower the damage your pet takes for a few seconds.
A tip on Pet abilities. Pet icons that are active (dancing borders), will be automatically cast by the pet at a time of its choosing. You can change this behavior by right-clicking on that icon, which will make it completely under your control. This is extremely useful for cat-type pets with the Prowl ability. If you let the cat self-cast this ability, it will cast it whenever possible, meaning that it will always be invisible and slow unless it is attacking. This can get annoying because it can't keep up with you as you're running. By de-activating Prowl, you can control when it becomes invisible and slow and when it becomes visible and runs at your speed.
On soloing and grouping
The primary thing you must learn is that your role is not that of a melee specialist. Hunters are lousy at melee, even when spec'ed heavily in Survival Hunter Talents. If melee is really what you're after, best choose a Warrior type so you can go mano a mano with all comers. However, entirely avoiding melee isn't always possible. A good Hunter knows when to use melee skills and when to get back into range as soon as possible. The melee ability Wing Clip, for example, is similar to Concussive Shot, and can help your party in the right situation.
Be as alert as possible to the area of operations you find yourself in at any given moment. In the military, this state of alertness is referred to as "situational awareness". Stop every so often and flip through various camera settings to examine things from all angles (having both sides and a rear view key bound for easy reference might be an idea to help). Terrain looks totally different from the opposite direction if one needs to escape a fight gone bad and beat a hasty retreat. In addition, try pulling the camera out as far as it will go. This allows for both positive situational awareness of terrain, beasts, and humanoid mobs in the immediate vicinity, and for what your pet is doing. It is unnervingly easy for your pet to get out of visual range.
Set your traps judiciously. Trap drops have cooldowns per class, so be aware of the appropriate trap in a situation. Try to watch a target for a minute to get an idea of its route and then drop an immolation trap in the path. When it hits it, nail it with concussive shot and serpent sting. Send your pet before you shoot and then switch over to scorpid sting to protect your pet. Don't forget to pop the Kill Command whenever possible.
It is always better to run away and live to fight another day than it is to go toe-to-toe with a mob that you have no chance of besting. Try always to have a pre-plotted escape route that is relatively free of aggro — one never knows when during the course of any given fight a mob might suddenly spawn nearby and become an add. Plan on having an escape route and you'll stay alive much longer.
Once you reach higher levels if you start getting beaten down don't forget about disengage, feign death, and your frost traps; i.e., you're losing and getting close to dying — either disengage or FD, drop a frost trap, turn on Aspect of the Cheetah/Pack, and then bolt. Alternatively you can place a cold trap behind you that you can pull the mob over to slow them while you run away. It also doesn't hurt to have plenty of health potions on hand.
See also: Hunter Tactics
The Hunter's goal is to stay away from the mob and shoot at it from range. When you team up with other players this becomes more difficult. When the mob decides to attack other party members it will get within your minimum range if you're standing next to the rest of the party. For that reason, it's best to stay away from other party members during combat. That way, if the mob attacks them or rushes toward them, you can still continue to fire at range.
Also, let party members know that they should never run toward you because that will also bring the mob within your minimum range. Make it clear to other group members that you're going to be slightly away from them during combat to maintain effective maximum range. Another thing to watch out for is other party members pulling the mob. Often it's best to use the Hunter or the Hunter's pet to pull.
Keep your pet in check. You do not want your pet to pull any aggro it doesn't absolutely need to. In general, it's best to set your pet on Defend, and to de-activate your pet's Growl ability to avoid this. Your group should already have a tank, it won't have the resources to support your pet as one.
For more in-depth information, see: Hunter Tactics
For my take on things, the most useful Professions for a Hunter are Engineering or Leatherworking. Certainly one may pursue any of the other professions available. These two, however, benefit the Hunter most in my opinion.
- Engineering requires supplies gathered by a miner. So, it just makes sense for a Hunter who wishes to go into Engineering to also take up Mining. Engineering allows Hunters to make their own bombs, scopes, rifles, etc. Another advantage to having Engineering is being able to make and . Because the hunter has the skill Feign Death, it can be very useful in a situation where your group wipes and there is no soulstone on the main healer. The hunter can simply feign death (if he is far away enough from aggro), get back up, and revive a healer so that they can revive the rest of the group.
- Skinning allows one to obtain the raw materials needed to pursue the Leatherworking Profession. This allows a Hunter to make the leather armor a Hunter wears until at least level 40, and mail armor beyond level 40 when Hunters become eligible to train in wearing Mail Armor.
- Herbs are required for Alchemy, so as with the above professions, it makes sense to be both. Herbalism provides Lifeblood, an invaluable heal over time spell. Herbalism can also be a decent source of income while still at lower levels. The more you use this skill, the "better" or more rare the herbs are that you can acquire, as well as upgrading ranks of Lifeblood.
- Alchemy is a great way to help buff your abilities, and supplement your armor. There are many potions that can be made; some buff your ability stats, regeneration rates, and armor. As most hunters know, we are not the best at melee, and when caught in a bind (i.e. moving back into another mob while trying to move out of the "dead zone" of your ranged attack), you can use any extra help you can get. Potions also sell quite well at Auction Houses.
- Jewelcrafting provides the hunter with extra bonus stats to agility and stamina through rings, necklaces, trinkets and other items. It also provides the Hunter with a class of bonus healing "statues", which can be deployed when melee becomes unavoidable.
- About Gathering Professions
- Unlike other classes, the Hunter has the ability to Track various mobs on the minimap, including beasts. Prior to the release of Patch 4.0.1, the Hunter had to choose which type to track, because only one tracked type was available at one time. Now the Hunter has the ability to track everything all at once. While this is a dramatic improvement, it can often be difficult to distinguish between the little yellow dots that are non-aggressive mobs (often beasts) and the identical little yellow dots that are a gathering resource (herbs/ore). For this reason, it is much easier for the Hunter to gather skins than other resources.
- If you are more focused on acquiring as much gold as possible while leveling, gathering professions should be your focus. These will provide you with gold needed for various things, like flying and mounts. A production profession like Leatherworking, for example, may provide armor early on, but as you gain levels, the rewards you get from questing and/or dungeon drops will begin to be higher in quality; not only that, the materials required will change and become more expensive/rare as you level the profession higher. The real gold from production professions comes from maximum level crafting by supplying certain classes with early armor for raiding and/or heroic level dungeons. Get to know your servers economy, as well as what each profession actually involves before picking a production profession.
- This profession allows the Hunter to cook food that provides health benefits and stamina boosts.
- Pets no longer require feeding, so Fishing is not as useful as it used to be for the Hunter. It can provide some small benefits, however, especially when fishing for loot or getting ingredients for cooking.
- Every class can really use First Aid. You cannot apply First Aid whilst being hit, but you can apply it to yourself while your pet is engaged. This is also great fixer-upper after combat and, in conjunction with potions or foodstuffs, can really make a difference in healing, saving your healer's mana resource. First Aid can also be used on your pet.
Hunters are very pet and gear-dependent. Try to ensure your pet is always healed and ready for action. Also, always use the best armor and weapons available for your level (and budget!) - use Wowhead to search for weapons/armor that you might want to aspire to. Once found, either locate the mob(s) that drop the item, or find one at one of the auction houses that you can afford and meet level requirements.
If you have an option between upgrading your gun/bow, or upgrading your melee weapon, always take your gun/bow. It's the one you should be using far more often. But don't ignore your melee weapon completely. Although melee weapons for Hunters are used primarily for the stats they give you, you should make sure it's at least within several levels of you so it can be used with some effect when you need it.
When choosing between similar armor items, the ranged hunter should always favor Agility and Stamina bonuses over Strength. This is because the former stats are more effective for the hunter than the latter. Do not forget completely about Spirit, as this affects health regeneration. Intellect does nothing for the Hunter and neither do Spell-type stats (with the notable exception of Haste, because it affects casting time of some shots, and for some peculiar reason it boosts Focus regeneration). Because hunters don't use mana, the abilities they have aren't considered spells. At level 40, the ability to wear Mail armor can be purchased, but it is not wise to dump all of your nice Leather armor with high Agility bonus simply for the extra armor.
Make sure you keep your armor and weapons repaired at all times, as you'll be taking a lot of hits, regardless that Hunters really aren't melee characters. The better equipment you possess, and the better repair you keep it in, the better the chances you walk away from a given fight alive!