Section I: What a Hunter is and what it is not.A Hunter is foremost a solo artist, especially at lower levels. Now there's quite a bit of debate as to who "the grand ole daddy of solo'ing" is (Hunter Vs. Warlock), but setting that topic aside it's safe to say that a Hunter is a well designed class for solo'ing. So if you're looking for a class which fits well in groups and does exceptionally well flying solo when the need arises, a Hunter is a prime choice for you.
There are two aspects of which a Hunter is centered around: His pets and his rifle. Sure, a Hunter can go melee but to be quite honest, it's not his forte. A Hunter's melee abilities are far below that of his counterparts (Warriors, Paladins and Rogues) and you should leave the melee'ing to those who excel in that area. You, as a Hunter, melee only when the absolute need arises (i.e. your pet drops aggro). That's not to say that a Hunter CANNOT melee. Far from it. It's just not what his build is intended for. When the chips are down and your back is against the wall, don't worry. You'll do fine. But overall you're better off letting your pet do it's job and you do yours; setting your opponent ablaze from a distance.
Section II: RacesNext to your selection of Talents, what race you choose is going to be your single most important choice when it comes to your Hunter build. No one race is better than another. Each has it's own pro's and con's and as such you should choose a race which will fit more to your playing preference and cosmetic choice (the way you want your hunter to look). As a Hunter you have five choices to choose from. From the Alliance you have Dwarves and Night Elves. For the Horde you have Trolls, Orc's and Tauren. I think it's important to note at this point that later on down the road (i.e. in the end game) there is very little difference between any of the five. Your major pro's and con's are going to stem from your talent choices and the gear that you have on your character. But in the beginning game race does play a role. As you begin to get into the higher echelon of levels, you'll see what I mean. = )
Out of the two choices which you have for the Alliance there is one major difference. Dwarves start out with a much higher amount of hit points and Elves start out with a much higher percentage of dodge (that's in addition to the +1% they get as a racial benefit). What does that mean That means that dwarves can take more of a beating, which is nice since you don't actually get your pet until level 10, and Elves get hit less often then dwarves do. In the end it all evens out, but that is pretty much the only major difference between the two. Which would you prefer Double the amount of HP or double the amount of Dodge percentage
Setting that difference aside Dwarves have a racialy innate talent with Guns (+5 bonus) which pretty much makes them one level higher then other hunters in respect to their skill with their ranged weaponry. Once again, in the lower levels (prior to 30) this is going to give you a slight advantage. But in the longrun it really won't make much difference when you hit the endgame. Elves on the other hand, even though they lack this inherent bonus get a nifty little trick which is unavailable to dwarves and which I find quite invaluable given the right situation... stealth. Elves can stealth, albeit a stationary stealth. Meaning they can't move at all. BUT this ability is quite nice if you're going AFK for a few moments and don't feel like getting ganked by a passing mob or Horde opponent. Or if you're setting yourself up into a nice sniping position. Stationary stealth is the best sort of camoflage you need to prevent from being noticed from a distance. Now this stealt! h pales in comparison to that of a rogue, pretty much anyone who passes within melee range of you will discover you sitting there all by your lonesome. But, considering its a free ability... you can't really complain.
On the flipside Dwarves have a nice tracking ability which allows them to spot treasure chests on their overhead minimap. Not in itself a very Hunter oriented ability but it's just a nice little bonus. But Dwarves also recieve a stoneform ability which gives them some nice immunities at the cost of speed. A nice little ability to have when put in a bind. For instance if your pet drops aggro and you're stuck melee'ing the beast. But those are the differences between the two. You also have their resistance bonuses. Elves get a +10 nature resistance while Dwarves get a +10 frost resistance. Basically Elves are better off against Druids and Dwarves are better off against frost spec'd mages. That's pretty much what it boils down to.
Now with the Horde you have a bit more of choice. Statistically Orc's and Tauren start out with a little bit more hitpoints then a Troll does. However the Troll has more of a dodge bonus then his counterparts. See my previous comments for the Alliance for a reminder of the pro's and con's of this aspect.
Now on the upside Troll's have a higher regeneration rate then his counterparts which helps with having slightly less hitpoints. But on the downside Troll's have a bonus (+5) to thrown weaponry. Which is, for lack of a better word, absolutely useless to a Hunter. If you're using thrown weaponry as oppossed to your rifle/bow/crossbow then you're doing something wrong with your Hunter. However, Trolls get two other abilities which are very nice. A +5% damage bonus against beasts (which you will be fighting primarily) and an instant cast rage which you can use when your backed into a corner. Both are very handy to have.
Tauren seem to be the popular choice for Hunters on the Horde side. Why I'm not to sure but that's what I see running around all the time. Tauren, like Night Elves, recieve a +10 resist bonus to Nature spells as well as a really nice racial trait: War Stomp. Basically it stuns up to five creatures within your area. Nice to have if your pet drops aggro. They also get a +15 bonus to Herbalism but that's not really pertinent to Hunters. If you want to be an apothacary, that's fine, but we're not discussing that in this guide.
Finally you have Orc's which, is my primary choice for Horde Hunters. Orcs, other then having the second highest HP rating, recieve a +5 racial bonus to Axes, his pet's melee damage is increased by +5% which is really nice, a +25% resistance to knockout and stuns which is really REALLY nice and an instant cast fury which ups his strength by 25%.
Now like I said before each race has it's pro's and con's but ultimately there is no single "best" race of which to choose from. Each has it's perks and it's ultimately up to you to decide how you want to play your hunter. No one race is better then the others and it's not really possible to "gimp" yourself in this regard. So choose carefully and enjoy your choice.
Section III: LevelingIn this section I'm going to describe a couple of different things. First off, I'm going to describe the starting locations of which you'll have to choose to hunt at the lower levels. Secondly I'm going to describe to you the general hunting strategy of which the Hunter employs during these levels. So let's start this off...
First let's start with the Horde. When it comes to the Horde I've noticed very little difference in questing really - well with the starting locations that is. Whether you start off in the Orc/Troll starting area or the Tauren starting area there's not much difference. I have noticed that between the two you'll be running a little bit further with Taurens then you will be with Orc's/Trolls and their starting location. But you'll have a larger stock of beasts with in the Tauren location. So if you were to look at it from a purely statistical perspective the Orc/Troll starting area is a much more efficient area in which to level. But not so much as to really get upset over. You're looking at maybe an hour, at most, of extra time you'll have to spend doing Tauren quests then you would with Orc/Troll. I have noticed that most Tauren end up running over to the Orc areas in order to hunt/gather but that's your choice. Personally I believe that those few are missing out on a lot of very interesting Tauren quests, which give the race its singular feel. Especially the "Earthmother" quests which I absolutely loved.
But leaving that aside, you're really not going to notice a difference unlike with the Alliance, which I confess has a much bigger difference. Night Elves have been pretty much gimped in this area. Not so much with quests and quest rewards, but with the amount of travel which you have to conduct with their quests. You're going to find yourself running ALL OVER the island getting your quests accomplished, and quite honestly, it's really annoying. This is why you'll notice a lot of NE's spending their time trying to get to the Dwarflands in order to level. When you look at it purely statistically, Dwarves got the meat and potatoes of the deal when it comes to their first 10 levels. Small zone, simple quests, quick leveling. I've leveled dwarven Hunters in about 1/2 the time it took me to level my two Night Elf Hunters based purely on the amount of travel time you have to conduct. However, if you do this you'll be missing out on quite a bit of backdrop storyline to the Night Elves. Again, it's up to you. But as you start making alternate characters to play you'll notice the difference, and you'll begin migrating your NE alts to either human or dwarven lands to level for those first 10-15 levels.
The down side to this As a Hunter you'll inevitably have to return to your homeland in order to do the quest to attain your pet. To circumvent the amount of travel you'll have to conduct in this instance you can do one of two things: Rest in an inn within the dwarven lands so that you can use your Hearthstone to return promptly from the NE lands so that you won't have ride a griffon the entire way back OR do not rest in an inn within the dwarven lands and use your hearthstone once you reach level 10 and it will bring you straight back to your starting location. And then take the griffons back to the dwarven lands. I know this sounds like alot of effort but it sounds worse than it really is and once again it's COMPLETELY up to you. I personally enjoy the extra travel time because even with the extra time it takes to travel back and forth you'll still level in a fraction of the time that it takes you to do so in NE lands. Once again, that's completely up to you. If you do choose to go to the dwarven lands in order to level I highly suggest that you hit up every griffon location on your way there. I'll describe this treck in the final section of this guide. So if this interests you refer to Section 7.
Now once you've reached level 10 you'll need to seek out the Hunter trainer in or near your starting location so that you can begin your most important of quests. Your pet quest. I'm not going into detail regarding this quest because quite frankly, it's pretty self explanatory. I will say that once you complete this quest you'll need to pay attention to the quest givers closing statements so that you can go onto the second part of your pet quest which you will need to complete in order to gain the ability to train, feed and ressurect your pet. This is important, make sure you pay attention so that you'll know who to speak with once your finished. Many a times you'll see players asking why they can't feed their pet in the General chat when, if they paid attention, they would know exactly what to do.
The most important thing to note up to level 10 is that you have only one aspect of which to choose from "Aspect of the Monkey." This aspect gives you a +8% bonus to your dodge rating. You can have only one aspect up at any one point in time so it goes without saying, that since you have only this aspect, for the first 10 levels you should have this active at all times. Now once you hit level 10 and then 20 you'll recieve your next aspects: Aspect of the Hawk (lvl 10) and Aspect of the Cheetah (lvl 20). Hawk gives you a bonus to your ranged attack and Cheetah gives you a runspeed increase which is useful for travelling.
Primarily you're going to be switching back and forth between Hawk and Monkey so it's a good idea to have these two on your primary quick bar so that you can switch back and forth easily. For instance when your pet drops aggro you'll be able to easily swap back to Monkey in order to go toe to toe with your opponent and then when moving on to your next kill you switch back to Hawk without any messing around. You're going to be using these two so much that it's a bad idea NOT to have them on your primary quickbar for easy access.
After your aspects your going to notice that the majority of your abilities falls unto your rifle/bow. You are after all a ranged combatant! Prior to 10 you're going to notice that your most important shot is going to be Serpent Sting. You're going to want to get this off first because it's a DoT (Damage Over Time), which means that after you shoot the bugger and it runs up to you to go toe to toe it's still being damaged while you're meleeing your opponent. Once you get ahold of Concussive Shot, which is a snare ( a spell which slows the movement of your opponent), you'll be starting off with that shot. Concussive, then hit 'em with your Serpent Sting so that while he's slowly coming after you you'll be able to get a couple more shots off before you have to go melee with your opponent. Now as soon as you get Hunter's Mark (ranged damage buff at level 6) it'll be important to be using that on each and every opponent you go after. So it should look somethinglike this:
Open with Hunters Mark. Tag your opponent with Concussive and a quickly follow up with Sting and then Arcane Shot (level 4 instant damage cast). By the time your opponent reaches you he should be half dead. Good enough for you to deal with him easily.
Now when it comes to level 10... that's when the fun starts. Now you have yourself a tank, your pet. That's to say a guy to go head to head with your opponent while you pelt away with your rifle. Once it get's to this point this is how your opening combat should look:
Open with Hunters Mark. Send in your pet to attack. Let your pet hit your opponent at least once, then launch in with your usual attacks. Now for your first few levels with your pet (10-13) don't be surprised if your pet doesn't manage to hold aggro for you the whole time. As you get higher you'll notice that your opponents will rarely go after you instead of your pet. Now there are a few more things to note in regards to pets but we'll get to that in a later section. Now all the way up to level 18 this is pretty much how your opening combat is going to look. It's quick, effective, and very safe for you. Once you hit 18 that's when you get to throw some interesting things into the mix. Namely traps.
Traps are truly wonderful things. High damage DoT's which will decimate your enemies. However, as useful as they are you'll notice that the best use for them is not when you're solo'ing. Staying to your normal routine is best for solo'ing. But their best use is when you're the "puller" of a group. Which will also be discussed in a later section. Dont' worry, we're getting there = ).
Section IV: PetsNext to your Bow/Rifle the primary aspect of a Hunter is his pets. Your pet is your best friend. He's the one that keeps you out of harms way and as such it'll do you good to know everything there is to know when it comes to your pet.
The first and foremost thing you should know is that no pets are better than eachother! This is EXTREMELY important to know, because the forums and general chats constantly get swamped with this question. No pet is better than another. Some pet's have slightly more armor. Others have slightly more damage to deal, others have little special abilities that they have which can "proc" but, all in all, pet's are pretty much the same. The ONLY REAL DIFFERENCE is how they look. That's it. Pick a pet which suits your taste or roleplaying aspect of your character and stick with it.
I'm not going to hit on taming because if, after doing your pet quests, you still don't know how to tame... you need to switch classes. Right now. Don't wait. Get another class; something that doesn't require a lot of brainpower. Like a Warrior or something. However, if you paid attention and know how taming works, then please read on.
Let's get this right out of the way because they're the two most commonly asked questions I see. 1.) In order to name your pet you right click it's icon, which is located at the top left hand corner of the screen, right under yours. Then select "name". This is a one time deal. Once you name it, that' it, your done. You can't rename him. 2.) You do the same thing in order to "abandon" your pet as well. Right click his icon and click "abandon". Be warned, this is also a one time deal. When you abandon your pet, that's it, he's gone forever. You'll be doing alot of this to learn your pet skills, which will be described below.
Now, the most important thing to know about your pet is it's Loyalty and Happines level. Loyalty has six different levels that I know of. The longer your pet stays happy the faster his loyalty will grow. Level six takes the longest to attain. Keep your pet happy and his loyalty will grow. Now the effects of loyalty is a bit ambiguous at this point. No one really knows what the actual value of loyalty is. All we do know is that if your pet's loyalty is at it's lowest and it's happiness is at it's lowest your pet will leave you. I'm not too sure if, as your pet gains levels in loyalty, it can actually loose those levels. I've never let his happiness stay so low to actually find out but I would imagine that this is how it works. There might be something to do with damage and armor when it comes to loyalty as well but of this I'm not too sure either. And, of course, that with each successive level of loyalty that you gain with your pet he gains skill points.
Now happiness is a bit more defined. There are three levels of happiness. Unhappy, Content, and Happy. If his happiness level is at Unhappy your pet will only do 75% of possible damage. It will do 100% at content and 125% at happy. So of course you want to keep your pet "happy" at all times. In order to increase happiness you have to feed your pet. Now in order to find out what kind of food your pet eats you have to go into your character screen. Hit the small button which looks like your characters head. This is usually located in the bottom center of your screen. Once there click on the Pet tab. You'll see a picture of your pet as well as his experience bar and his statistics. Now in the upper left hand corner you'll see a little smiley face (or sad face). This is the gauge of his happiness. Hover your cursor over this guage and it will tell you what your pets diet is. That's to say what he needs to eat.
You can find this gauge also next to your pets HP bar on the main screen in the upper left hand corner but only in his statistics window will it tell you what its diet is.
It's always important to know what it is that your pet requires to eat because you'll be picking up meats and what not off of the creatures which you hunt. Such as boar meat off of boars. If your pet eats meat, simply drop the boar meat right on top of your pet and he will feed. If you have a stack of food don't worry, he'll only eat one item at a time; not the whole stack. It's important to know that the higher your pet get's in level the higher "level" food it will take to make him happy. So if you have a stack of boar meat in your pack which you looted off of level 14 boars you're going to notice that it takes alot more of that food to make your pet happy when it's level 20. This is why Cooking is an awesome thing to have as a Hunter. Cooked food is better for your pet then uncooked raw food. ! And will keep your pet happier longer. The higher level cooked food you have the longer your pet will stay happy.
It's a good thing to know that everytime your pet dies he will default to "Content". If he dies while Content he will default to "Unhappy". So it's a good thing to keep your pet happy at all times. Because of this you'll find yourself hunting beasts more often than you'll find yourself hunting humanoid monsters. Beasts drop meat and what not while humanoids will only drop cooked food occasionally (some more often than others). And it's better to get free food then it is to pay for it at an inn. Of course, if you hunt humanoids, you'll be getting money whereas beasts don't usually drop money and that money you can put towards buying food. Yes, it's a chore keeping your pet happy but as you level up you'll notice that it's really not that bad.
After feeding your pet, the next important thing to know is how to train him. This is where it get's a little tricky. The first thing you should do when you get your pet is save up 5 silver and head straight to a Stablemaster. You can find these guys in almost every town and city. Once you find a stable master buy yourself a slot in the stable and put your pet in that stable so you can go tame yourself other pets. The reasoning behind this is because the only way to train your pet in other abilities is to learn them from other creatures. For instance, most coyote's and wolfs have either Bite 1 or Bite 2. In order for you to teach either of these abilities to your pet you must first learn them yourself. And the only way to learn them is to tame a creature (in this case a coyote or wolf) and go hunting for a little bit with him. After a few kills you'll get a message saying that you have learned "Bite 1". Once you learn this you can abandon the coyote/wolf and go retrieve your pet and teach it to him.
In order to teach your pet you have to click on the train icon in your spell book. It's not hard to find so go ahead and get to it. To find out what skills a creature which you have tamed has, go to the pet tab which I described earlier. You'll be referring to this screen alot when you're taming creatures trying to find different abilities to teach your pet. So remember how to find it. Only some creatures can learn some abilities. For instance, a Strigid Screecher (owl in NE lands) can't learn Bite but it can learn Claw and a wolf can't learn Claw but it can learn Bite so on and so forth. The most important of all abilities which you can teach your pet is Growl. This ability basically keeps aggro on your pet and off of you. You automatically know Growl I but to learn subsequent Growls (i.e. II III IV and so on) you visit a pet trainer which can be found in every major city and some towns. You won't be able to learn your next growl until level 20 so I wouldn't sweat! it until then. But make sure your pet learns Growl I as soon as possible because it's the single most important ability you can teach your pet.
In order for your pet to learn new skills he must have skill points. You gain these as your pet increases in level and in loyalty. You can see his current skill point total in the pet statistics screen that I described earlier.
It is important to know that you can only tame Beasts. You can't tame Humanoids and you can't tame Critters, dissapointing I know. I always wanted me a high level rabbit.
Another important thing to know about your pet is how to get him off of a creature. Sometimes you'll send your pet attacking the wrong creature at the wrong time and you want him to return before he starts attacking or perhaps just to pull him off of a creature that someone else hit first etc. etc. In order to do this all you have to hit is the button that looks like a white baby seal. This is the "passive" button. When you hit this your pet will come running back to you right away and will not attack anything, not even if being attacked. Next to the passive button are two other stance buttons: Aggressive and Defensive. Aggresive means that he will attack anything that moves. Defensive means he will only attack what you tell him to attack or he'll attack whatever hits you or he'll attack whatever hits him. The attack button overrides all of the stances however. If you have him set to defensive or passive or even aggressive he'll attack only what you tell him to most of the time. So you don't need to worry about him switching targets midway in battle. Your pet is pretty obedient and intelligent.
Section V: TalentsThis I'm going to have to say is going to be your biggest choice that you will make in regards to your character build. Unfortunately this is going to be the shortest section as well because quite frankly there is just too much to annotate here. To put it simply you have three main choices: Beastmastery, Marksmanship and Survival. Pick one and make it your focus.
If you want to focus on your pet then you'll want to invest alot of points into Beastmastery. If you want to focus mostly on your rifle/bow then you're going to want to invest most of your points into Marksmanship and if you want to work on your melee abilities then you're going to work on Survival. Personally, I see survival as the least important of the three. Mostly because, if you have to rely heavily on your melee abilities... you're doing something wrong. That's not to say it's a bad choice, I just don't see much use in it personally.
All of that aside you might want to invest points into Improved Aspect of the Hawk (Beastmastery) and Improved Hunters Mark (Marksmanship). These are the staple of your most important weapons (rifle/bow) and you're going to want to get these sooner or later. I personally focus on Beastmastery early on in order to get Bestial Swiftness as soon as possible. Only because this is probably the most important ability your pet will need when it comes to PvP. If you plan on PvP'ing that is. I would recommend maxing out Improved Aspect of the Hawk, then Bestial Discipline and then get Bestial Swiftness. You're going to want more focus for your pet so he can keep growling to keep aggro and you're going to want to have a higher power ranking for your rifle and this path get's that for you quickly. Afterwards I recommend to work on Efficiency (Marksmanship) and then get to work on your Improved Hunters Mark so that you can get the highest power output for! your rifle/bow.
But like I said before, there is no wrong way to go in this respect, if you know what it is you want. However, I wouldn't recommend just randomly driving points wherever nor would I recommend spreading your points out. Find what you want, and focus in on it. It's better to be exceptionally good in one area then average in several different areas. If you make a mistake, don't worry about it. You can visit your local trainer and have him reset your talent points for you, for a price of course.
Section VI: Your role in a party/PvPParty Role
This is a very important thing to know, mostly because when playing a Hunter, you tend to solo most of the time and then when you hit up groups you often find yourself wondering, "ok... now what " To put it simply, your role is that of the "puller." Meaning you are the one that "pulls" the target to the group. Sure, other people can play this role but you, as a Hunter, play this role better than others for one simple reason: Traps. We touched on this a little bit earlier and now we're going to clarify.
This is how it works. Your party waits in a predesignated "safe area". You then head out, find a target and Mark it (hunters mark). Put down your trap right in front of you and fire a shot at your intended target (preferably a DoT). Wait for him to get to you about half way and start walking backwards allowing him to follow you into the Trap that you placed. Once the trap is set that's when you send your pet in to grab aggro and the other "Tanks" of the group (the guys that are meant to take damage) jump in and start pounding on him. Once aggro is pulled off of you, then you start chiming in with your rifle. Do NOT shoot before hand otherwise you'll never get the aggro off of you. Once the kill is done, repeat the process. If the guy your attacking is especially tough you might want to hold your pet back and wait for the tanks to pull aggro first so that your pet doesn't constantly die. It's important to make sure your pet "Stays" with the group and is ! set to "Docile" so that he doesn't start charging ahead preventing your trap from going off. You'll see what I mean if it ever happens to you. It's not fun!
When it comes to PvP, things get a bit more complicated. Hunters aren't built very well for PvP solo'ing. We may be the kings of Solo but we aren't for PvP. If you're going up against a mage, you'll win more often than not. Reason being is that the mage has to worry about both you AND your pet. Not only that but with the combined incomming damage of both you and your pet it takes a mage much longer to get a spell off then normal. So you're going to win quite a bit when it comes to mages. But the problem is, in PvP, you don't always get what you want. Your going to find yourself finding quite a bit of truth in Murphy's Law. Which states, "What can go wrong, WILL go wrong." For instance, Warriors don't need to worry about your pet. To a well suited Warrior your pet is nothing more then an annoyance. So what he's going to do is Charge your butt and take you down as quick as possible to get this filthy little bug off of its tail. Soon as you go down, your pet "despawns" so your going to notice that most people aren't going to worry about your pet. They're going to worry about YOU.
Now if someone is going to try to duke it out with you ranged style (like a mage), then you're going to win. But most people know better then to do that. They're going to get up close so you can't use your rifle/bow and bring it home via melee. Something you're not as good at as others. But when you're in a party well things are quite different. Toss your pet on the mage to try to keep interrupting his casting, Hunters Mark the first Rogue you see (so that everyone knows where he's at) and start plinking away at whatever moves. In a party, you're pretty versatile and valuable. Especially with your tracking abilities. In short, if you're going to PvP make sure you do it in a party atmosphere. If not, then make sure you're very careful of what fights you pick and try to keep as much distance between you and your opponent as possible, because when it get's close to home, you're nowhere near as good as you could be.
Section VII: Closing statement & tipsTip 1.) Leatherworking and Skinning are the best suited professions for a Hunter. For one, you are going to be hunting beasts more than anything else so you'll not only get the benefit of food for your pet but also the benefit of leather for your tradeskill, and because your armor is Leather (until level 40 when you finally get Mail) you're going to be saving a ton of cash on the most expensive money sink for players: Armor. You'll be making armor for yourself at a FRACTION of the cost it would take to buy it from other players or vendors AND you'll be able to turn a profit by selling what you do make to other classes via the Auction House (located at all major cities). I can't express how much money you'll be saving yourself if you go this route. And that aside, it's just fun. In my opinion anyways.
Tip 2.) If it comes down to armor or melee weapons vs. a better rifle/bow Go for the rifle/bow. Every single time. You're not going to get hit as often as the tanking classes and you certainly won't be using your melee weapons as often as your ranged weapon so make sure you invest in a new rifle/bow before going out and getting yourself one piece of armor or a new sword/dagger/axe.
Tip 3.) Always keep some form of tracking up at all times. Whether it be beasts while hunting, U