So you think you want to play a hunter, do you...?
Are you willing to accept the fact that you are going to be playing the most played class in the game and as such you will have to work hard to distinguish yourself if you want to stand out and prove yourself?
Are you willing to accept the fact that there are a lot of people who have given hunters a bad name and as such you will often find yourself in the position of being the WoW-equivalent of the kid who was picked last in gym class?: "Hey, there's a hunter in LFG." "..." "Yeah, we'll find someone else."
Are you willing to accept the fact that a lot of people are going to assume you don't know how to do your job(s)? Most people assume that mages know how to polymorph and rogues know how to sap. Yet in my experience... most people assume that I do not know how to trap, at least not properly. You have to show that you can.
Are you willing to accept the fact that a lot of people out there think that you are an overpowered and/or easy-mode class, and are you okay with being ribbed for it?
And despite the fact that you are often viewed as the easy-mode class, do you realize that you are going to have to do an incredible amount of micromanagement? Precisely timing your shot rotations. Controlling your pet. Keeping your pet alive. Chain-trapping. Kiting. Watching yours and the party's aggro. Doing massive amounts of DPS. All at the same time. Hunters are deep. Deeper than a lot of people will ever give you credit for. Are you prepared to find your own pride in your class because many other people will not give you the luxury of telling you themselves?
Are you prepared to give up a bag slot for a quiver or ammo pouch? Prepared to spend extra time going out and taming new pets so you can keep your pet skills up? Prepared to forego rested experience in favor of leveling up with your pets if you want to level up two at a time?
And perhaps most importantly, are you prepared to have an absolute blast?
If so, read on...
The Birth of a Hunter:
So there you are, at the character selection screen. Maybe you've already got faction picked out, maybe you don't. What race is best for your newfound hunterness? Well before I go any further, I want to say that honestly I think you should pick the race you think you'll most enjoy playing. Racials can be handy but in the long run the difference they make is usually not particularly huge. But here are the racials...
Draenei: Draenei hunters get Heroic Presence, which increases their chance to hit and also their pet's chance to hit by 1%. That might not seem like much, but it is actually going to be quite handy later on when you're trying to reach the hit cap, and of course, this is basically the only way except through the Animal Handler talent that you can increase your pet's chance to hit. Draenei also get Gift of the Naaru, meaning they can heal themselves or their pet in a tricky situation (I imagine a Mend Pet + Gift of the Naaru combo is very useful in emergencies). An overall solid race choice in my opinion.
Dwarves: Gun Specialization gives Dwarves an extra 1% crit when using a gun. This is quite handy, but on the other hand, if you wind up running into a really nice bow or crossbow that you'd rather use, then this racial becomes a moot point. Stoneform is going to come in super handy in PvP because it will remove a rogue's poisons, a warrior's bleed effects, and a hunter's stings. It also works in some PvE situations (for example, Moroes' garrote, or annoyingly long-lasting diseases). Again, a solid choice.
Night Elves: The "Night Elf Huntard" stereotype alone is enough to drive many long-time WoWers away from this option, and to be honest they're not missing much: while the Shadowmeld/Stealthed-cat combo is fun and can be quite effective, I myself have never found much of a need to teach a cat Prowl and I imagine most hunters would be in a similar situation. You also get a slight dodge increase (reasonably helpful in PvP), oh, and you can brag about getting back to your corpse faster when you die. *cough* Myself, I do have to say that I like night elves, because they have silly ears, and because I like proving people wrong when they assume that I am "just another night elf huntard". (In PvP too; nothin' makes the hordies mad like losing to a night elf hunter.) But they are probably the weakest choice for an Alliance hunter in terms of racials.
Blood Elves: These guys have Arcane Torrent and Mana Tap which can be pretty decent against casters or when you're low on mana. Really that's all you've got to help you out though, in terms of racials, and these spells depend on you being close to your target which you probably won't be most of the time. Blood elves do also get slight magic resistance which they can share with their pet, though.
Orcs: Orcs have a reputation of being the best choice for a hunter, period, which is why you see so many orc hunters running around (I do, anyway), and that reputation is well-deserved. Blood Fury is going to provide a very nice Attack Power buff (282 AP at level 70) which your pet will also glean some benefit from, Command is going to increase your pet's damage by 5%, and Hardiness gives you an extra 15% resistance to stun effects (super nice in PvP). You really can't go wrong with orcs.
Tauren: Tauren get a health boost
Trolls: A solid choice for a horde hunter (though probably still second to orcs); trolls get Bow Specialization so they get an extra 1% crit with bows, as well as the ability to slightly increase attack speed (Berserk) and a beastslaying bonus which is useful for soloing or certain instances like Underbog. Again though, remember that if you wind up using a really nice gun or crossbow then your Bow Specialization becomes useless.
Once again, overall, I think that if one feels drawn to a certain race because of their backstory or the way they look, then by all means, play that race, even if the racials aren't the best. My own current three highest level hunters are a night elf, a tauren, and a blood elf, and if you asked me, I'd say those are the three "weakest" races in terms of hunter racials. And yet I adore playing those characters because I have stories for them. Don't be afraid to play whatever race you want.
Well, that sums up our first segment of "So You Want to Play a Hunter?". I imagine this will be a very long-running series because I have a lot to cover, and a lot of you guys left TONS of comments in my "Request for Comments" post, which shows me there is more of a demand for this type of thing than I initially thought. Got questions/comments? *points at Comment Box* fire away!