I decided to whip up a little guide about the game's attributes and what a hunter should be looking for in regards to them. Yes, I'm sure this is kindergarten for most of my regular readers-- but I enjoy writing guides that might help out newer players, and I hope this guide will be of some use to somebody who maybe just started playing the game or just started playing a hunter.
The stuff in italics has been taken from WoWWiki and is occasionally cut for clarity or length.
Increases attack power with melee weapons. Hunters gain one melee attack power per point of strength.
Strength does not affect your ranged attack power. And if you are a hunter and you're melee'ing, you'd better hope I don't catch you! =P This stat can be completely 100% ignored. And if an item has strength on it, it's probably not for you. (Although of course, there are some items that are still fantastic for hunters even if they have strength. My much-loved Ice Barbed Spear comes to mind. But once you hit level 70-- if it has strength on it, it's probably not for you.)
Increases attack power with ranged weapons (not including wands) or melee weapons for certain classes. Hunters gain 1 melee attack power per point of agility. Increases armor by 2 per point. Increases chance to score a critical hit with a weapon. Increases chance to dodge attacks. This is dependent on both class and level.
Repeat after me: "I love agility." Say it over and over. It is your mantra. Perhaps not quite as much as it used to be... back in the "old days" before I started playing, one point of agility was equivalent to two RAP (Ranged Attack Power) instead of just one... but this is still by far the most important stat for a hunter. Survival hunters in particular. But all hunters should love the agi.
Here's what agility gets you:
-One point of agility will get you one attack power (there are still people who haven't played a hunter lately who think it's two attack power. I've run into those people. Sadly, they are mistaken, the times have changed.)
-If you are level 70, 40 agility will get you 1% crit.
-One point of agility will get you 2 armor points. Your pet's armor scales based on yours so this will also make your pet less squishy.
-If you are level 70, 26.5 agility will increase your chance to dodge by 1%. Now, we're no rogues; we shouldn't be taking many hits and thus dodge isn't a huge deal-- but this is definitely helpful for things like PvP. So it's a nice little bonus.
Go for agility above all other stats. If an item has +agi, +stam, +int, and possibly +attack power, and is mail (or some sort of two-handed weapon; most likely a polearm), then that is bona-fide Hunter Loot and you're allowed to ask for it. (If anyone has an issue with it, tell 'em they can take it up with yours truly!) Really your only competition will be from enhancement shammies, and c'mon... isn't there already enough shammy loot out there? =P (The Shaman Loot Drinking Game needs to be invented if it hasn't been already. Good thing I don't drink or I woulda been completely wasted months ago. Shammy gear... shammy gear... shammy gear... *twitch*) Edit: My challenge has been met! Znodis's Shaman Gear Drinking Game.
Stamina provides 10 health for each point for all Classes/Mobs/NPCs (except from the first 20 points of Stamina that provide 1 health for each point instead). It also increases health points of a player's pet for classes with pets.
Stamina is good because it lets you live longer. In PvP, Stamina is king; in PvE it's probably not as important as your "main stat" (unless you're a warlock or tank, in which case it is a main stat) but it's still very important for all classes.
If you are a hunter, your pet's stamina scales with yours so more stamina for you will also improve your pet's staying power, health-wise.
If you are gearing for PvE, it's definitely okay to forego stamina for something with agility; in fact, you should be doing that in most cases. But you don't want to neglect it entirely. A dead hunter isn't going to be doing a lot of Sustained Ranged DPS. There are things you can do to help with your stamina if you need to, for example, you can use [Nethercleft Leg Armor] instead of [Nethercobra Leg Armor] until you feel that your stamina has reached a decent level. (That's what I'm doing right now, in fact.)
Increases mana points. Each point of intellect gives 15 mana points (except from the first 20 points of Intellect that provide 1 mana for each point instead). Increases chance to score a spell critical strike. This increase varies by class and level; in general, the relationship is linear as intellect increases, with a small amount of base crit chance. The rate of increase is generally based on the amount of intellect a class is expected to have at a certain level. As of 2.4, Intellect will increase the amount of MP5 generated by Spirit.
Hunters don't cast spells (at least, not "normal" ones) so we can ignore the bit about spell crit. What's important for us is that the more mana we have, the more shots and other special things we can use before we have to use a potion and/or switch to Aspect of the Viper. Don't underestimate the value of mana and intellect. If you have ever ran out of mana in a battleground or something you'll understand how powerless it makes you feel. (For this same reason, I feel a sort of twisted pleasure in putting Viper Sting on every hunter I can find in PvP. Forgive me, my fellow hunters.) Intellect should not supplant Agility and Stamina as the stats you want to focus on but you should still definitely pay attention to it. Note: Marksman hunters will, in general, love the Int more than usual. Because they've got a lot of shots to put into their rotation.
Agility, Stamina, and Intellect are really the trinity of stats for hunters and you will learn to love them.
Increases health and mana regeneration. Spirit affects all characters' mana and hit point regeneration rates in and out of combat. Health regeneration from spirit is not active while in combat, except for trolls who gain 10% of their normal health regen in combat from the racial ability "regeneration." Mana regeneration is active in combat except for the five seconds immediately after casting a spell (the five second rule). Some class talents and spells allow some mana regeneration during this period.
Spirit is an interesting stat; it's obviously not nearly as vital as the afore-mentioned trinity, but I also don't see it as being a necessarily useless thing to have. It will decrease your downtime between fights, even if not by much, and I don't see how that's a bad thing.
That said, for the most part, this stat can be ignored if you're a hunter. If you wind up with something that has Spirit on it, then hey, it's not gonna hurt anything. But if you have a choice between Spirit and Agi/Stam/Int, well, I hope you're gonna pick the latter. (And if you have a choice between Spirit and Strength, you're gonna pick the former. *nods*)
Well, it's getting close to midnight as I write this and I've had a rather long day, so I'm going to post this and hope it doesn't have any major glaring errors. But, as always, if you do find one or otherwise want to make a comment or ask a question, please feel free to do so!