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The Marksman Raider

Basic Rifle Marksmanship. If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, riddle them with bullets.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

Marksmanship 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

Marksmanship 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

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.

Improved Barrage

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.


9 responses

  1. Pingback: Comparing Raiding Talents « The Mystic Hunter

  2. “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?”

    To answer your last point first, the reason why MM was _the_ raiding spec pre-BC was not only was it the highest DPS of the 3 trees, but it was the _only_ tree with a raid buff. FI and EW were introduced in BC.

    BM couldn’t come close to MM because for the most part pets could not be used in raids. Pet’s didn’t scale with hunter stats at all, nor did they have cobra reflexes or avoidance. SV was SV – not so great for DPS, and remember back then traps could not be dropped in combat either. Without EW, there’s really not a reason to bring one.

    For your first comment “why are BM/SV favored in raids now?” TSA does not scale. It gives the same bonus whether you’re in greens or T6. FI and EW on the other hand scale extremely well and out perform TSA easily when you get beyond KZ.


    10 June 2008 at 10:30

  3. Nice post :)

    I was however wondering if you could show an example of a standard damage rotation for a raiding Marksman hunter.

    Cheers – The Incompetent Warrior

    10 June 2008 at 13:10

  4. This is a great post, it’s nice to be able to see a well-thought-out Marksman raiding tree.

    In my experience the reason why people don’t talk about Marksmanship and why it has changed in the expansion is because: a.) In general, Beast Mastery is going to provide consistently better damage output thanks to Serpent’s Swiftness (i.e., a Beast Master Hunter should out-DPS a Marksman Hunter if they are both similarly geared and skilled), and b.) Survival is going to get you all the CC goodies as well as an amazing buff in Expose Weakness.

    People tend to spec what does the most damage; pre-BC Marks/Surv did the most damage because BM did not have Serpent’s Swiftness and was in general a very poor tree. With the introduction of Serpent’s Swiftness people realized that the AP buffs of Marksman can typically not compete with the raw speed increase of BM. Take away pets and Marksman and BM hunters will do roughly comparable damage, throw the pets back into the picture and, well, BM is gonna come away the victor in most DPS situations.

    All that said, I still feel strongly that one should spec the way one feels is the most huntery to them. Which is why I hope WotLK brings some much-needed Marksman buffs because at this point Marksman hunters are often left out in the cold come big raids because their group buff is not as good as the other two trees and because they usually do not do as much DPS as BM. :(

    10 June 2008 at 13:51

  5. Silencing Shot doesn’t work in 99% of the situations in raids unfortunately. Most mobs are immune to Silencing effects and there is no interrupt mechanic attached to Silencing Shot unfortunately.

    And while the Barrage/Multi Shot talents are nice, they are still obtainable by Survival Hunters, who’s Expose Weakness provides a greater AP buff than Trueshot Aura with a measly 500 Agility (not considering uptime statistics).

    And Ferocious Inspiration is much more desirable as a group buff than TSA will ever be, unless they completely rework it. 3% increased for damage for all types of damage is ridiculously better than 125 AP.

    It’s great people will play how they want, but the only time a MM Hunter should ever out-DPS a BM Hunter in a raid setting is if there is a huge gear disparity or the BM Hunter is doing something very wrong.

    Take care!

    10 June 2008 at 14:10

  6. @Stuntyone – Unfortunately, I’m still too new to shot rotations to do a whole theorycrafting piece on it. As much as I’d like to try, I still have much to learn. Maybe in the future. For now, I will refer you to TKA Something’s page on shot rotations. It has a comparison between one MM rotation and a BM 1:1 rotation.

    @Pike – Now that’s something I think should be looked at. Compare damage and DPS, but separate data of the hunter from their pets. Not having your pet might be a rare situation, but an interesting comparison nonetheless.:-)

    @Drotara – I know I said that the 7/48/6 I designed was specifically for raids, but what I had in mind was for people who raid regularly and will do heroics on off days. This build may be risky for heroics because of dishing out an insane amount of damage and drawing threat, but you can’t always get everything you want (plus that’s what Feign Death is for:-P). I guess I still like having Silencing Shot available for utility purposes. Maybe I should’ve been more clear. Aside from that, you have more knowledge about the overall picture than me, so thanks for your insight!

    10 June 2008 at 15:25

  7. Pingback: Tweaking for Raiding: 7/45/9 « 35 Yards Out

  8. Nice post and well thought out. But as mentioned in previous comment some of the reasoning and theorycrafting that shows why raiders have chosen BM or SV builds over MM. But hey!! If your doing the damage and downing the bosses that’s all that matters right?

    31 July 2008 at 21:20

  9. Hey, look, it’s basically my talent tree but with a few tweaks! :P

    4 September 2008 at 09:14

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