So now you've got a pet. Excellent! Now you get to learn about what I have long called Hunter 101: Send your pet in, let it establish aggro, and attack from a distance.
You guys have no idea how many hunters I've seen who will pull aggro from their pet early on and proceed to melee the mob down. Usually they're Marksmanship spec'd too, which is possibly the most irrational thing I've ever heard. "I'm going to spec to buff my Ranged Attack Power and then melee stuff!" /facepalm
Here's the thing: can you melee stuff? Yeah, if you want. But do you do more damage and kill things quicker if you're at range and shooting? Yep!
First thing's first: make sure your pet knows Growl. All pets can learn Growl first thing, without any training points. Open your spellbook, and in the General tab (for some reason) is Beast Training. You can open that up to get to your pet's training screen, where you can teach your pet Growl. Growl is sort of like a Taunt, but while it does not force something to attack your pet, it does cause a fair amount of threat. Now make sure Growl is "on" and has the little glowing box around it on your pet bar.
NOW you can practice Hunter 101! Hunter's Mark something, send your pet in on it*, let it plant a growl or two, and then start shooting. Open with a Serpent Sting and then mostly Auto Shot. You can toss an Arcane Shot in if you want. Your mob should be down pretty quickly, though.
"Pike, that's the easiest thing I've heard in the game. I could be AFK most of the time and still level a hunter."
Theoretically, yes you can, and that's why hunters get bashed all the time and why I still have to put up with people asking me why I'm making a help blog for hunters because clearly a help blog for hunters needs to consist of only one sentence. The thing you have to remember, and which you will hopefully see as true as I continue this series of posts, is that most of these people never played a hunter past the early levels and thus never got to the point where hunters begin to get deeper and more difficult. Heck, I personally have encountered many people who have a level 70 hunter (and are skilled at it) and a level 70 [other class], who have confided to me that they feel their hunter is deeper and takes more skill to play correctly, regardless of what their other class was.
This goes back to part one, you have to remember that you will get bashed and you will be underestimated and it will look like you are doing nothing in an instance (I've actually noticed that lately; hunters tend to simply look like they have it easy just by standing back and shooting; this probably adds to the reputation as well.) You have to be okay with that and find your own pride in your class.
...anyways, forgive my, erm, tangent *cough*
The point is that Hunter 101 is pretty straightforward, which is why it mystifies me that so many hunters do not know it yet! Here is the basic thing you want to remember: keep yourself at range.
Now, while we're here, another thing you may or may not want to change is your pet's "stance". It's on the pet bar, and your pet will be set to Defensive by default (it looks like a shield). Myself and many other hunters will immediately set their pet to Passive (it looks like a baby seal). Defensive means that your pet will automatically attack things that are attacking you, and Passive means that he does nothing without you telling him first.
Now, I have seen people make arguments that Defensive is better for leveling/solo'ing, and I can understand where they're coming from, but my Always-Passive argument stems from the fact that I believe hunter and pet are One and they can only accomplish being One like this if you have complete control over your pet. On top of that, I strongly feel that an important aspect of being a hunter is being able to plan ahead and calculate things out precisely: "I'm going to chain trap this mob and Wing-Clip/Kite this other mob and my pet will focus on this other mob. I want to take out the mob I am kiting second." But if your pet is on Defensive, he is quite likely to ignore your plans and lunge for your chain-trapped mob who is on his merry way to your next trap.
See? Out of your control. You are not One because he is not doing what you want. This is why my pets across all my hunters are Forever-Passive (I make an exception for running lowbies through instances, in which case I stick my pet on Defensive and run through shooting everything while he cleans up behind me).
Now am I going to knock you for having your pet on Defensive while leveling/soloing? Well no, I do feel strongly that the other way is better and more huntery, but there are certainly good arguments for it. I will knock you for having your pet on anything but Passive in an instance/raid, but that's another story!
So you've got Growl trained, and you've thought about it and set your pet to the Stance that you want. Oh, and check the little icon next to your pet. Is it green? That means he's happy and will do the most damage. Keep him fed to keep that icon green! (Petopia will tell you what pet likes what foods.)
Go ye forth, young hunter, and level!
You are level 10, you will now have both Track Humanoids and Track Beasts; use whichever you need for whatever you are doing. You have Aspect of the Hawk which is going to be your primary Aspect from here on out and you should be using it most of the time.
At level 12, you learn Mend Pet, which is very important! You may want to keybind it to something easy to hit, I know I have. This is where you will learn to keep an eye on your pet's health. You know how when you're driving you'll glance at the rear-view mirror every so often just to take stock of your surroudings? Same with your hunter and your pet; you will learn to glance at your pet's health every so often, gauge how much damage he is taking or is liable to take, and use Mend Pet accordingly.
You also learn Wing Clip and Distracting Shot at level 12. Distracting Shot you won't use very much in the lower levels, but Wing Clip is your friend. It is really the only thing you should be using if something is in melee range. The point of Wing Clip isn't to do damage; it's to slow the enemy down so you can get back into range. You will learn to love it throughout the duration of your hunter career.
And it's usually at this point that I figure one of my new hunters has all the tools they need to be a reasonably efficient hunter. You have Arcane Shot and Concussive Shot for kiting; you have a pet for tanking and Mend Pet to keep him alive, and you have Wing Clip if a mob gets too close. Now obviously you don't have everything important yet, you don't have Feign Death or Steady Shot, but I still see level 12 as being one of your first big milestones.
And so, that's where I'm going to end today's episode of SYWtPaH. Your homework: practice Hunter 101 and look into getting a Threat Meter so you can learn to watch your threat in relation to your pet's-- you want your pet's threat to be higher than yours, so he can tank for you. KTM was the big one back in the day, though it seems to now be defunct-- Omen is the current threat meter of choice but a lot of people I know swear by the up-and-coming Diamond which doesn't require other people to have a threat meter installed for them to show up. Either of those latter two will work fine for you, though, as a new hunter who is solo'ing and learning about pet threat.
...wow, there really is a lot of stuff to cover about hunters. Case in point: We're at Part 5 and level 12. Now I'm pretty sure things are going to speed up as we continue on and need to hit less of the basics, but still, this is a bigger project than I even anticipated. I hope that you are enjoying it and learning from it and as always let me know if you have questions or need something clarified.
* Awesome Macro of Epic Win:
/cast Hunter's Mark
It does both at once, and I don't go anywhere without it.