The Marksman Raider
Someone came onto my blog with the search engine phrase “marksman hunter raid spec”. Honestly, I can’t say I have the perfect spec for a marksman raider. I’m not sure why so much attention is paid to raiding as a Beast Master or a Survivalist. I rarely see anyone talk about Marksmanship. From what I’ve been told, it used to be the golden tree for raiding pre-BC. What changed? I don’t know. Marksmanship is now used more commonly in PvP than anything else. The hunters in my guild are split evenly between Beast Mastery and Marksmanship, and our top raid hunter is a Marksman. Unfortunately, there are no Survivalists.
In my opinion, the Marksmanship tree requires a great deal of attention because many of the talents there are necessary to sustain our reputation for high damage and big numbers on scrolling combat text. If you take away from tree, you’ll compromise a marksman’s ability to substitute DPS with damage.
So the question is, what’s important in the Marksmanship build for raiders?
Let’s take a look at my current spec first as a baseline: 7/42/12
As I’ve stated in a short summary before, this build focuses on some things that would make it easier to casually raid while still doing quests and going into heroics.
Note that we’ve put points into Marksmanship just barely enough to get Silencing Shot. This ability is just too valuable to pass on. Want to interrupt a fear? Check. Want to stop an AoE cast? Check. Want to stop a heal? Check.
While we could take more talents in the tree, there are other talents that I think took higher priority when dealing with solo grinding and going into instances.
In the Beast Mastery tree, there is one important talent we can use. Focused Fire increases the damage done by me. Although this is counterintuitive to the hunter’s synergy with our pet, remember that Marksmanship is essentially making yourself a “tank” by dealing more direct damage while your pet is the equivalent of a DPS.
We went so deep into the Survival tree to get the Clever Traps talent. The increase in trap duration by 30% and the cooldown reduction set bonus of the Beast Lord Armor is something you can’t take lightly. It makes chain trapping so much easier and comes in handy when things went ugly in Heroics.
Now that we’ve seen a Marksmanship build that’s useful for Heroics in Outland, let’s take a look at something that can be used in 10-man and 25-man raids: 7/48/6
As you can tell, we’re keeping the talents in the Beast Mastery tree because Focused Fire is too useful to pass on. With the correct resistances, your pet will live through boss fights and can provide you that extra boost in damage. For example, my cat had level 2 arcane and fire resistances for Karazhan and only died once (during Netherspite, where Shadow damage is taken).
You’ll notice we’ve taken away 6 points from the Survival tree. Clever Traps is no longer needed because chain trapping in raids is hardly necessary (with perhaps the exception of Moroes, but practice can also make that more manageable). We also no longer need Monster Slaying because most mobs in raids were humanoids, not beasts, giants, or dragonkin.
Now we come to the core of the build, the Marksmanship tree itself.
- Lethal Shots will increase your chances of striking critically. There’s no reason to choose Improved Concussive Shot over this in a raid. Mortal Shots will also increase the damage dealt by those critical strikes.
- Efficiency in mana is important in long boss fights. The longer you can keep your mana pool up, the more special shots you can use.
- Aimed Shot, although used in a limited fashion, can be useful in generating aggro on the tank when combined with Misdirection. The new healing debuff may or may not be useful.
- Improved Arcane Shot will let you use this shot more often since you’ve also put 5 points into Efficiency. Another useful effect of the ability is the ability to dispel a magic effect. If we can use this shot more often, we could technically remove a magic effect from your target mob that makes that mob stronger every 5 seconds.
- Scatter Shot is necessary to obtain the gold prize of the Marksmanship tree: Trueshot Aura. This is a party buff that provides 125 AP at Rank 4. Since it’s now a true “aura”, this buff will last until cancelled instead of being placed on a timer. When a marksman hunter is placed in the same party as a beast master and the main tanks, Ferocious Inspiration will greatly increase the AP buff and increase damage.
- Ranged Weapon Specialization and Master Marksman are talents that are basically essential for a marksman hunter. Increased attack power and increased damage is the core of marksmanship.
- Combat Experience will increase your Agility and Intellect. Because our aim is to increase white damage, we might be more inclined to choose AP gems over Agility. If we choose this option, this talent will be useful in making up some of that lost Agility. More Intellect also means more mana and means more special shots when used with Efficiency.
- From the increase in Intellect in the previous talent, Careful Aim will increase your attack power. We won’t pass on a talent that gives us more damage.
But even if you’re a marksman, you can’t ignore your pet as a damage-dealer. So what can we do for our trusty sidekick?
Go for the Throat is a 2-point talent that will be useful in what’s called a “focus dump”. Petopia defines this as “a skill with no cooldown timer”. If we are using a pet with these skills (e.g. Claw, Gore), this talent is very useful because there is no cooldown timer. Every time our ranged attack makes a critical strike, we gain extra focus that will allow our pet to use a focus dump skill more often, and thus produce more damage.
Improved Hunter’s Mark also adds a slight increase in our pet’s (and any other melee class’) attack power on the target mob. We would like to max this talent (per your request, Lienna), but we don’t have enough points.:(
That leaves some of the underrated talents in the Marksmanship tree.
Multi Shot is notorious for its use by hunters who barely know how to play their class. Breaking sheeps, saps, and traps (hey, that rolls off the tongue nicely) has sadly given this ability a bad reputation when being used. But when used in a raid, this ability beats anything else in a shot rotation in the damage it deals and its chances for a critical strike. Barrage and Improved Barrage contribute to making this ability essential.
This is the kind of talent that marksman hunters like. Pure white damage with big numbers. This is Multi Shot at its best. We shy away from Improved Barrage in our Outland build because we limit the use of this ability in instances in favor of crowd control. It would be a waste of three points that can be used elsewhere. Still, do not use this ability recklessly.
Marksmanship is not about DPS. It’s about damage. Be careful though not to pull aggro from your main tank. This is not hard to do if you’re sporting high damage numbers. We recommend Omen as a threat meter.
So now that I’ve given my own analysis, I’ll state again that I’m far from being an authoritative voice among hunters, let alone Marksmanship hunters. But thanks to whoever came into this blog with the search phrase above. It inspired me to write this post. I hope you and others will find this useful and inspire you to explore other viable specs as well.