I think that sometimes we may take what we know about a subject for granted and assume everyone knows it. That's one of the reasons why I've been somewhat reluctant to post "hunter kindergarten" guides in the past... because I often fear it's stuff everybody already knows.
But just now, while playing a lowbie hordie, I heard the following two things said by two different level 70 hunters:
"BM hunters don't need agility, they need attack power."
"The best shot rotation for 41/20/0 Beast Mastery uses Aimed Shots and Arcane Shots, and Steady Shot but only against dazed targets because it does more damage against dazed targets."
Sorry Barrens hunters, but it's back to school for you guys. Let's go over some stuff real quick here: and I know I don't have the math to back it up, but I do have some personal experiences.
Attack Power vs. Agility:
Attack power isn't bad per se, but here's the thing, if you are gearing for Attack Power over agility, then you are basically giving up crit in favor of a little extra damage per shot.
Whether or not AP helps your "pure DPS" more than crit does is somewhat debatable and is largely dependent on gear, according to Cheeky, a hunter that I have a lot of respect for.
But let's go beyond "pure DPS" and think about what happens when you crit as a typical Beast Mastery hunter. You get to use Kill Command. More DPS. Your pet has a very good chance of crit'ing with Kill Command. More DPS. This procs Ferocious Inspiration. More DPS. Also when you crit, your pet gets a bunch of focus via Go for the Throat. This lets your pet use his focus dump moves (more DPS), which also have a good shot at crit'ing (more DPS) and procing Frenzy (more DPS) and Ferocious Inspiration (more DPS). Now I haven't done any math or anything but I'm having a hard time believing that some extra attack power is going to overcome all the benefits of crits. I myself would much rather see a big crit number on my Armory page than a big AP number.
Now the key is balance, you don't want to stack crit chance and let your AP suffer or vice versa. That's why agility is so good, because it contributes to both. Not to mention when a paladin gives you Blessing of Kings, it is going to scale based on your agility and not on flat AP or crit increases.
And that is why, in Pike's opinion, Agility > Attack Power.
My fellow hunters, do not underestimate the importance of using a good shot rotation if you want to do lots of DPS. If you are a Beast Master hunter you do not need to be using Arcane Shots (unless you have a slower weapon and can thread one in there) and you should never be using Aimed Shots. I have done heroics with hunters who have a nice solid spec, are very well-geared, and yet do very little DPS compared to me, and the reason is because they are simply spamming whatever shots they can when the cooldown is up. You need to learn how to time your shots. I know it seems kind of counterintuitive at first to simply not use certain shots when they're sitting right there in front of you, ready to be fired. But ya gotta trust me on this one. Grab a nice weapon like Wolfslayer Sniper Rifle, start weaving in Steady Shots between your Auto Shots, and hang on and enjoy the ride. The results will amaze you.
My damage meter told me I was hitting over 1100 DPS during my last Kara run; I don't want to quote that just yet because it seems a little high to me and my damage meter has been sorta glitchy lately anyway. But I know I am doing close to 1000 under optimal circumstances and the reason is because of my shot rotation.
As for Steady Shot: apparently it really does do more damage against dazed targets (I... feel kinda silly for not knowing this before >.> I guess you can learn stuff in Barrens Chat.) but that doesn't mean you should be saving it and only using it against dazed targets. It is the most mana-efficient special shot that you have and you should make the most of it.
Well, that wraps up today's little review. In closing, I just want to mention how much I dislike lag. Because it throws off my groove.
This little guide was hastily written up before running to work, so as always, lemme know if I made a mistake or left somethin' out.