The Hunter in Cataclysm: Marksmanship

Courtesy Blizzard

Last week I kicked off an examination of the talent builds for the Hunter class in World of Warcraft since the class changed radically. I started out with Survival, my primary tree for most of the last expansion. This week we turn our aim to Marksmanship. This talent tree has also been re-balanced to have tools for both raiders and gladiators willing to invest in it.


The Marksmanship Tree

It’s signature ability, Aimed Shot, delivers powerful damage to a single target at a high cost of Focus and a casting time. At first, it might seem like too much risk for too little reward, as standing around dumping Focus into a single attack might be inconvenient in certain situations, but the tree has a lot of ways to make it worthwhile. Artisan Quiver increases the damage of our auto-attacks and ties nicely into the Mastery buff of Wild Quiver, which procs an additional ranged shot based on RNG, increased by Mastery of course.

Go For The Throat
Every time your auto-attack crits, your pet gains Focus. The more Focus your pet has, the more often they can smack your target around. This means greater overall DPS. In the end, this is a great talent to pick up for just about any build, even if you’re only investing 1 point in it. Combined with Bestial Discipline, your pet will be contributing a lot more to your damage with this talent, making it a great place to plunk a floating point for Beast Masters.

Hunters are all about Focus management now that they have the mechanic. This talent makes that management a bit easier as it reduces Focus costs for some of our tools – our Arcane, Explosve and Chimera Shots. If you find yourself struggling with Focus in other trees, a point or two of this might help but you’re probably better off spending your “floaters” elsewhere. As for Marksmanship, grab this. Even though we only use Arcane Shot occasionally, reducing its cost along with Chimera Shot will mean more of those shots more often.

Rapid Killing
I’ve always been a bit lukewarm about this talent. Sure, additional damage is great, but this talent makes the damage buff a bit situational. For levelling and dealing with multiple groups, say for example the oncoming zerg rush in a battleground, this might be more useful in replenishing our Focus when paired with Rapid Recuperation later on. Even in those cases, one point in Rapid Killing should be enough, but I can’t recommend it for a raiding build.

Sic ‘Em!
Investing 2 points in Go For The Throat gives access to this talent. When you critically hit with Arcane, Aimed or Explosive shot, your pet gets a free basic attack at 2 points in Sic ‘Em! A crit from us plus a free attack from our pet yeiled a mess of damage. Raiders should definitely grab this. PvPers may benefit from it as well, but there are other talents down the tree for which you may want to save a few points.

Improved Steady Shot
This talent changes the way Hunters use Steady Shot. In addition to replenishing Focus, casting Steady Shot twice in a row now grants a buff to our attack speed. By the time you finish that second cast, you should have enough Focus for something more interesting and there will be auto-shots in-between for sure. Pretty much a must-have for any Marks build.

Careful Aim
All of our cast-time shots gain an increased critical strike chance with this talent. There’s great synergy here with a lot of talents, like Sic ‘Em! and Piercing Shots. Definitely worth the investment as we head down the tree.

Silencing Shot
Hunters hungry for an interrupt should snatch this as soon as it’s available. For no Focus and a 20-second cooldown, this shot silences the target for 3 seconds and interrupts their spellcasting. It’s a PvP no-brainer. Raiding Hunters may also want to snag it, if they’re going up against bosses who need to have their abilities interrupted. Most raids will have at least a few other classes with interrupting abilities, like a Rogue’s Kick or a Death Knight’s Strangulate, but if you know your party’s lacking the interrupts, a point spent here will increase your utility.

Concussive Barrage
Dazing isn’t really a big deal in raids. Sure, it’ll slow down some of the damage the tank is taking, but most bosses are immune to daze effects and trash is going to die so fast it won’t be an issue. Now, other players? They HATE being dazed. This is a great PvP talent. Not only can it slow down a zerg rush, it can mess up a single player for 4 seconds allowing a team mate to set them up for a deadly combo. It makes a Hunter in a 2v2 arena team a one-stop shop for crowd control. Silence one enemy with Silencing Shot, daze the other with Chimera Shot. Gladiators, grab this one.

Piercing Shots
Remember how increasing our crit chances with Careful Aim was supposed to pay off later? Here’s a good example. Unlike daze effects, bosses are not often immune to bleeding. The more points you put in this talent, the more the enemy bleeds. This is a good talent for any Marksmanship build.

Since Multi-Shot is our most efficient way of contributing to quick trash pulls, we’ll want to use it often before we reach the boss. A couple points in Bombardment ensures we’ll be Multi-Shotting more often meaning trash will drop more quickly. It also means more damage dealt to groups of enemy players. A solid utility talent.

Trueshot Aura
A straightahead buff to attack power. A noteworthy change since Patch 4.0.1 is that this will get overwritten by several other buffs. If a Paladin is in your party and you’re bringing Trueshot Aura, ask them to bless the raid with Kings instead of Might. An Enhancement Shaman’s Unleashed Rage and a Blood Death Knight’s Abomination’s Might will also overwrite this, but you can’t exactly ask them to switch it off. Still, it’s definitely worth having.

Everything you shoot at is going to run out of hit points sooner or later. When they get close to Kill Shot range, Termination gives you additional Focus from your Steady & Cobra shots to speed the process along. Worth the investment no matter what the build.

Resistance is Futile
Unfortunately, this talent does not give your Hunter cybernetics or introduce you to Seven of Nine. Instead, it gives you the chance to have a free Kill Command whenever your target tries to run, flee or even move. Its benefit to PvP builds should warrant no explanation, while raiders may find it useful in certain situations if they have floating points they do not wish to invest elsewhere.

Rapid Recuperation
This is an interesting talent that shows its worth when other talents and abilities are used. It’s great for levelling as getting Focus when you gain Rapid Killing means you can blast mobs more often. For raiding and PvP, the use or Rapid Fire means we not only shoot more quickly but get Focus back every 3 seconds while we have that buff. Provided you pick up Readiness – and why wouldn’t you? – this means you can hit Rapid Fire, hit Readiness when it expires and then hit it again. This means we sustain high DPS longer in raids, and unload our utility & crowd control shots in PvP much to the chagrin of our opponents. Smart hunters will find lots of uses for this talent’s permutations, so grab it.

Master Marksman
This talent is the definition of synergy. Every time you Steady Shot – which, given previous talents, increases your ranged attack speed, replenishes Focus and crits more often – you have the chance to gain the Master Marksman effect. Gain it 5 times, you get a free and instant Aimed Shot. This talent also unlocks two more talents further down the tree, making it easily worth the 3 point investment.

If you’ve been in a raid before, you’ve heard the raid leader call for everyone to “pop cooldowns.” Readiness allows you to pop your cooldowns TWICE. Now, this means we can hit Rapid Fire, Chimera Shot, all of our other big damage dealers, and then after Rapid Fire fades and we’ve done a little Steady Shotting to replenish some Focus, we hit Readiness to do the same dance again. And in PvP, popping Deterrence means that your foes are just waiting for the chance to actually hit you and buys you time to escape. Follow it with Readiness and another Deterrence, and they may ignore you entirely out of sheer annoyance, opening up all sorts of opportunities for you to ruin their day. And it’s one point. Only one! Grab it.

Remember what I said about popping Rapid Fire more often? Posthaste makes it even more viable to do so. Also, you move faster after you Disengage, meaning you can open up even more distance between yourself and whatever mob or player wants to bite or smash your face off. Definitely worth its 2 points.

Marked for Death
Surprisingly, we have a talent on the second-last tier that is not a must-have. Marked for Death has the chance to apply a debuff like Hunter’s Mark that does NOT stack with Hunter’s Mark but isn’t dispellable. Huh. During a long boss battle where we’re not switching targets, there’s no need to hit this when we should be opening with Hunter’s Mark anyway. However, when we engage multiple targets we can hit an off-target with Hunter’s Mark while our primary target gets Marked for Death. Most Marksmanship builds, I think, can get by with 1 point in this talent.

Chimera Shot
This shot does a lot of things all at once, hence the name. Direct damage, refreshing Serpent Sting, even granting us a heal. Not to mention applying Marked for Death, inflicting a bleed and possibly dazing the target. Pop your point in here and start assigning your floaters. Oh, and don’t let the cooldown put you off of it. Between the glyph for the ability, your other shots and Readiness, you’ll have plenty of chances to make your enemies suffer with Chimera Shot.

And now, the prerequisite pontification:

Aspect of the Fox

Here is an interesting specimen. There are a lot of fights & situations where staying mobile is preferable to standing still. This is true for boss fights as well as PvP. Two of the key abilities Hunters do and will be using, Steady Shot and Cobra Shot, have casting times that are interrupted when we move. Aspect of the Fox changes that. By sacrificing the boosted attack power we get from Aspect of the Hawk, we gain the ability to shoot on the move. What’s odd about Aspect of the Fox is that it comes very late in our leveling process. PvP may seem like a struggle to some before this ability shows up at level 83. Also, some configurations and keybinds may make strafing and shooting difficult for players, at least for those who haven’t mastered moving with the mouse. I get the feeling this will be one of those “Your mileage may vary” abilities.

Next: Beast Mastery and Camouflage.

1 Comment

  1. Just one thing to add: Glyph of Misdirection is a must-have for any Marksmanship levelling from the 70’s bracket to 85. Marks threat is through the roof, and without all the pet bonus abilities from Beast Mastery, your tank pet holding threat can be a PITA.

    But with the glyph, the cooldown on your Misdirection is instantly reset if you cast it on your pet. Meaning you can spam the bejesus out of it, and transfer all your ranged threat to your tank pet without breaking a sweat.

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