Thursday, February 28, 2008

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 Shot/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.


sonvar said...

Personally I find I'm OOM too quickly if I use Aspect of the Hawk so I did not put talents point in there. AotH is only used when I'm doing PvP/Arenas for extra damage but where if that ability would proc it would not be of much benefit to me as I can't stand in one place and shoot.

I would also like to say that my hunter doesn't have much more crit then you do but I find I need two points in Bestial Discipline because with the exception of the beginning of the fight my pet rarely gets even close to a full focus bar. I don't have data to back myself up but I've spen multiple fights just watching my pets focus bar when I do my normal rotation and not once did I see him with a full bar. This was with 2/2 Bestial Discipline and 2/2 Go For the Throat. You may experience different but I feel much better with him having that.

Anonymous said...

Wow, if I were in your situation and regularly lost Hunter duels to someone I clearly outgeared I'd be picking his brain every night to better my PvP skills. You seem happy to accept it as the natural order.

I guess you and I just have different mindsets.


Anonymous said...

Pike, I'm really curious to know what Mr Green Helmet's talent build is :) If you get a chance, would you be able to email me and let me know? Cheers, Kotaro

Pike said...

Stevesy - thing is, I've picked his brain many, many times and he still beats me. =P

I've said it before and I'll say it again too: I'm not here to be the best hunter. I'm here to be the hunter who loves her class to bits and has the most fun with it. I'm not going to keep myself up at nights trying to figure out how to beat a good friend at PvP when for the most part I already feel very comfortable with my PvP skills (I mentioned he was the only one who has beaten me-- second place is a very, very good accomplishment for someone like me who has never been good at any sort of video game.)

I enjoy PvP but not as much as I enjoy PvE; I'd rather be honing my PvE skills anyway. =P

Sonvar - I wonder if perhaps our pets have different skills? In an instance my pet is using Dash at the beginning and after that it's nothing but Claw. So he doesn't need a whole lot of focus. His bar usually isn't full up either, but it's full frequently enough that he gets lots of Claws in.

lienna said...

*quick spurt with armory and calculator*

I make Tawyn's focus/global cooldown to be 27.46, enough to keep claw up consistently, now adding another rank of BD would give her 31.96, which is a n ice step if you use a windserpent, but for any pet using claw its a waste of a talent point.

seeing a full bar isn't something you want to see anyway, a full bar means your generating more focus than your pet can use which means you have too many talents in focus generation or that you need to change to a pet that uses more focus.

sonvar said...

No I'm using an Aqua kitty
It has Claw, Dash, and Growl(turned off) setup to auto. As soon as GFTT procs that added focus is gone and I've not seen much if any case where my cat has almost a full bar and then I have a crit. Maybe its just a timing thing but I know I feel better having my pet gobble up as much focus as possible. BRK's testing without having Bestial Discipline even further sells that to me. There was a drastic difference in claw damage without it.

As I said to Pike I don't see many time if at all where my pet has a full bar or gets to a half bar. Regardless of Elistist jerks info I know what I see and I still see no reason to take a point out of Bestial Discipline at least not yet.

Pike said...

Sonvar - of course, I am not at all saying a certain spec is right or wrong, which is what my post was all about =D I love when people have different specs than me for various reasons. And good choice on the pet, that's the cat I use too.

Myself, I do not want to see Claw proc'ing nonstop. It already happens a lot and I simply see better places to put that extra talent point in my personal situation. My pet gets a lot of focus somehow and I don't see myself as needing any more, which is why I choose to only go 1/2. Of course there are people who swear by 2/2 or even not taking the talent at all, and of course I respect that-- there are good reasons for everything, different pets are different, luck is different, etc.

Lienna - it's always nice to see some math sometimes, I tend to go more by what-feels-right when I play instead of theorycrafting but it's very nice to know I'm headed in the right direction!

Kotaro - Perhaps I'm just blind, but I can't find your e-mail =P

Stevesy said...

Hi Pike. I started a hunter blog of my own so that I can start posting my own thoughts and hopefully add something to this community.

I am the same Stevesy that posted the above comment.

Pike said...

Awesome Stevesy. I'll definitely look into it. =)

Althoran said...

Thanks for the post Pike. As far as blogs go....I want to put 5 out of 5 in improved Aspect of the Hare.
I think the only bummer about the talent points for Hunter's is that it is so costly ($$ to respec) to play around with them in game....Especially if you are saving up for mounts and stuff.
I like BM also though.

Anonymous said...

Pike, my email address is :P

- Kotaro

Hexapuma said...

Very good post! In my experience some people are more naturally inclined to be awesome PVP players, while others show excellence in the PVE scene. I am a strong believer that it isn't the gear that makes the PVPer but the skill. Of course great gear combined with great skill is an unbeatable combo ^^

I place myself somewhere in between... a good PVPer and a good PVEer but master of none =/

Ralowae said...

I prefer keeping my pet strong. 5/5 endurance. I will never give up my Leggings of Beast Mastery, at least not till I'm approaching level 80.
My kitty BlackTooth has tanked half of Hydromancer Thespia just last night, and we would have killed her if she hadn't killed half the party before he got her attention.
I have 2/2 in improved revive, I have found getting my pet back mid fight to be a lifesaver.
I do run 2/2 in bestial discipline, I've never had a full pet focus bar when he has something to claw.
The biggest suggestion I have is how I handled the imp mark versus efficiency question. I have the two points many put in rapid killing in efficiency. If a hunter doesn't want to give up the improved mark, this is what I suggest.
To be fair, I don't use rapid fire as much as I probably should. Is rapid fire + 2/2 rapid killing so awesome that its a must have? Or is it just a playstyle choice?

Ralowae and BlackTooth

Pike said...

Ralowae -

I don't use Rapid Fire that much in PvE but it is a big help in PvP and as I tend to both, I try to stay balanced. Furthermore, I've ran with 2 points in Efficiency before and I didn't find that it made enough of a difference for me to repeat that.

However, that is just my own opinion-- I certainly respect many spec variations!

Gretadelle said...

good post. I'm still pretty unsure about my spec. I sort of choose things that sounded good but didn't do any real math on it. I'm 41/11 so far. but glancing over my spec now I can see some things that really need to be switched.