"I would love a hunter kindergarten entry on playing a BM hunter pre-Steady Shot, if you have time. Or on hunter roles in lower-level instances — I don't see much about that out there, either." - Ideale
Well, I sorta covered the pre-Steady-Shot thing in an earlier post, so let's talk about instances. There you are heading into Deadmines or Wailing Caverns for your very first time as a hunter. What are you going to be doing? Well, first of all, let's talk about what you are NOT going to be doing:
If somebody asks you to trap something for longer than about ten seconds tell them you can't. Unless you are a Survival hunter, chain-trapping does not exist until level 60 when you get Freezing Trap Rank 3. Period. There is no shame in telling your group that you won't have the mob trapped very long and it's really not worth it. It's not your fault your traps suck right now.
That said, do keep an eye out for situations where you might have to emergency trap something, such a loose mob running towards the healer.
Alright, so we aren't doing CC, then what are we doing? We are doing lots of DPS, and learning to control your pet.
Before you go into the instance portal, there are two very important things you have to make sure of: Firstly, that your pet is set to passive (and only passive), and secondly, that Growl is turned off. Having your pet set to passive is going to ensure that he only does what you tell him to and no more, and it is extremely important because it allows you complete control of your pet so he doesn't run off into the middle of nowhere anytime somebody looks at you funny.
If you are not used to having him on Passive, it might take a little while to get used to it. You may not like it at first. You will be having to use your Pet Attack button/key more than have and you might feel like your pet is wasting some time running back to you all the time. But... although I used to be of the school of thought that it was okay to have him set to Defensive for leveling/grinding-- to be honest, I can't stand that anymore. You get to a point where if your pet is out of control and doing things you didn't tell him to, it feels very awkward and unpleasant. You and your pet are One and he needs to be responsive to you and attack only the mobs you tell him to, and Passive is the only mode that allows that. Part of being a hunter is that mental calculation and planning when things go wrong. If your pet is attacking a mob that isn't part of your mental plan-- which he will do if he is on Defensive-- it can really mess you up. So while I am a very big advocate of "Passive-always-no-matter-what", if you like Defensive, then just remember to switch to Passive for an instance. =P
Growl you want to turn off so he isn't competing with the tank for threat. ...you do have a tank, right? ("No, this is Deadmines/WC/whatever.") ... ...well, pretend you have a tank. He's not going to want some random hunter's pet stealing aggro from him all the time. You can turn it off by right-clicking on the icon for it.
So Pet = Passive, and Growl = Off. You are now good to go.
You're inside the instance. Now what? What do you attack? Well I, myself, like to have a Tank Assist macro for use in here. It's a simple macro that says /assist tank's name and it's nice to have something like that keybound or put somewhere easily accessible if you are a clicker. Basically what it is going to do is target the tank's target so you know what you should be attacking. All the DPS should always be focused on the tank's target unless told otherwise. Now sometimes your group will use raid symbols to further establish targets-- as a general rule, you kill Skull first and X second, etc.-- but the tank assist macro will make absolute sure you are attacking the right thing, especially in tricky pulls.
A word of caution with the tank assist macro though-- just because the tank is looking at something across the room, does not mean you have to attack it. That would be very bad. It's better to wait until you actually see the tank's target's health dropping or you see Sunders on it before you do anything, just to be sure.
And what do you do?
Send your pet in and start shootin'. It's as simple as that. For higher level instances you'll want to start up your shot rotation; for lower level ones you probably want to do basically what you've been doing while leveling-- open with a Serpent Sting* and then a mix of Autos/Arcanes. Do not use Multi-Shot unless there is just one mob left. Aside from breaking CC, it also might pull extra mobs towards you, which is not good.
* You may opt instead to use Scorpid Sting, which means the tank will not get hit as much which means the healer will not have to heal as much and may help things out in the long run. But use your judgment and decide if the group needs more DPS or not. In a group where the tank is ten levels higher than all the DPS it's probably better to use Serpent Sting.
For the most part, if the tank is tanking something, then you should always be attacking something. I would say there is an exception if you are deeply focused on crowd control but you shouldn't be in a lowbie instance. There is an old tanky adage: "My comrades are my weapons and I am their shield." You're not being a very good weapon if you're not shooting stuff and not having your pet rip something apart. =P
You do not want to attack something so much, though, that your tank loses aggro on it. Because that's just messy. Having a threat meter such as Omen, KTM, or Diamond installed will help a lot here; you will be able to watch your threat and get warnings if you approach the tank's threat level. (A threat meter is also nice for hunter solo'ing so you know when you are about to pull from your pet). If you don't have a threat meter, then play it safe, give the tank a few seconds to establish aggro on on something before attacking, and pop your Feign Death (if you are a high enough level to have it) if you have been pewpewing for a while.
You may at some point be asked to pull; what that means is basically to shoot a mob and deliver it to the tank. At level 70 you've got Misdirection to make this nice and easy, pre-level 70 you'll be best off standing as close to the tank as you can while still being able to pull, using a low ranking Arcane Shot, stopping your attack, and letting the tank pick up on it.
Hmm. Long blog post is long. So, we'll wrap this one up. I think I've pretty much covered everything about the basics of an instance. Basically, so long as you have your pet and your threat management under control and you're providing DPS, you are well on your way to being a sought-after hunter in later instances. Just make sure you've packed enough food for your pet and some water for you.
And say hi to Mr. Smite for me, wouldya? We're old buddies.
(Oh, and: /wave to all my friends and guildies who just recently discovered this site!)