Tuesday, September 29, 2009

So your hunter's finally 80, part 3

(Previously: Part 1, Part 2)
Alright, we've made it post three in a series of four! The next and last post will cover things like enchantments, gem choices and strategies, and miscellaneous tips - but first:
Marksmanship Hunter PvE Primer!
Marksmanship as a raiding spec emerged early in 3.1 due to a variety of factors. The first was that Survival took a couple nerfs to the face, so the theorycrafters started looking around for alternatives. What some of them noticed was that armor penetration had been buffed and Marks hunters did a lot of physical damage. Not only that, but the base weapon damage of items dropped in Ulduar were buffed in a patch to account for the lack of new ammo to match the new raid tier, and Marks abilities make better use of that weapon damage than do Survival abilities. Before too long, the spec that emerged was this: 7/57/7. Following is a quick rundown of some of the key talents and why they're important.
  • The talents in the Beast Mastery tree are pretty self explanatory, free haste and a free 2% extra damage.
  • The Survival talents are similar, a free 5% damage and free crit on two of the spec's more frequently used shots.
  • Improved Arcane shot and Rapid Killing are the first talents from the Marks tree that are different from talents that Survival or even BM hunters would pick up. Improved Arcane Shot makes Arcane Shot(AS) an important part of your damage, and Rapid Killing synergizes well with the Readiness talent, further down the tree.
  • Improved Stings is taken because it makes your Chimera Shots (CS), another extremely important part of your damage, hit harder.
  • Readiness is an important ability that, combined with Rapid Killing, allows Marks hunters to use Rapid Fire four times in many boss fights.
  • Barrage and Improved Barrage are both required, maxed talents. Not only do they give AiS a nice boost on their own, they also drive up your damage from:
  • Piercing Shots. This initially unprepossessing talent will actually end up being more and more important to your damage as your gear improves. By the time your armor penetration rating is climbing past 600, damage from this talent should have moved up to third on your list of damaging abilities, passed in importance only by Chimera Shot and Auto Shot.
  • Trueshot Aura is one of those talents that sort of depends. Some hunters that raid exclusively in a 25-person raid will choose not to take it because someone else is covering the buff. If you're a brand new 80 and you're running a lot of heroics, however, you should definitely take it. And even if you're, say, a raider switching classes to hunter and there's a Blood DK or Enhancement Shaman providing their equivalent buffs, I would suggest you take the talent. TSA is guaranteed 100% uptime, while Abomination's Might and Unleashed Rage both have downtime. Your fellow hunters and the melee DPS will thank you.
  • Improved Steady Shot is the tree's best "flex" talent. What I mean by this is that if you need points for another talent that's not budgeted for in the spec I linked to, take those points from ISS. Are you raiding a lot of 10-mans and feel like you could use the mana from Rapid Recuperation? Take them from ISS. Hit-starved and want to knock a couple percent off your cap with Focused Aim? ISS is where to get them.
  • Chimera Shot is, of course, the tree's primary non-automatic damaging ability. We'll cover that below.
You'll remember the "damage priority" concept from the previous post on Survival hunters. The Marksmanship priority is actually easier to manage than the Survival priority, and by the way, that's one of the reasons I find Ghostcrawler's comments about how Beast Mastery is "easier" than the other two trees a little odd. But then, down that road lies only finicky and annoying pedantic argument, so instead we'll move on with the guide. The Marksmanship damage priorities look like this:
As you can see, only one of those abilities is a DOT, and it's the easiest to manage DOT of all of them. That's pretty much the entirety of why the Marksmanship priority is easier to manage than Survival. Some may be curious about why SrS is so much further up the priority here than it is for its sister tree, and the answer is in Chimera Shot. Most of CS's damage is derived from the SrS DOT (which is part of why so many hunters swapped to Marksmanship for Ulduar, the hunter tier 8 two-piece bonus is a direct buff to CS), and a CS fired at a target that doesn't have SrS applied to it is a waste of a GCD and the CS cooldown.
The Aimed/Multi choice is the same as it was for Survival. If a Multi will hit several targets, as in phase 4 of the Mimiron encounter, you should use it. If you're doing single-target damage, Aimed is the right answer.
That's pretty much it, with the exception of one quirk: cooldown management. Now, by "cooldown," I don't mean the Chimera Shot or AiS cooldowns, but the big cooldowns. Things like Rapid Fire, Call of the Wild, AP-on-use trinkets like the Wrathstone, and how those all interact with Readiness.
To start with, I would recommend making a macro that just blew everything all at once. I'd also say you should figure out what mod works best for you to track your cooldowns, because getting the most out of them is way more important for a Marksmanship hunter than it is for Survival. In an ideal boss fight, you would be able to do something like this:
  1. Use your "blow everything" macro within the first fifteen seconds of the encounter, ideally after you've fired your first Chimera, Aimed, and Arcane shots, then immediately use Readiness.
  2. Once your first Rapid Fire has worn off, immediately use it again. Your goal here is to get everything on cooldown as soon as possible.
  3. In three minutes, use your macro and then immediately use Readiness again.
  4. Once your second Rapid Fire has worn off, use it again, for a total of four Rapid Fires over the course of an average-length boss fight.
The idea here should be pretty apparent. You're trying to get the most value possible out of the first Readiness (cutting three shot cooldowns short) and maximizing your chance to get another two Rapid Fires later in the boss fight. The obvious danger is that dumping all your cooldowns so early makes it very easy to pull off the tank, so don't be shy with that early Feign Death. The earlier you get everything on cooldown, the earlier it can all come off of cooldown and let you use it again. This is especially important because a Marksmanship hunter's top damaging ability is Auto Shot, the only thing we've got that receives almost unlimited benefit from haste.
The only real wrinkle in this scheme is the existence of Bloodlust. The only thing better than stacking a bunch of AP effects on top of Rapid Fire is stacking the same effects on top of Rapid Fire and a 'lust. Sadly, the timing of the Bloodlust is outside of your control, and in most cases, it's not going to be worth losing two entire Rapid Fires for the sake of having one really, really good 'lust. However, if the Bloodlust is called sometime in the middle, and you've got, for example, an AP trinket but nothing else available, by all means! Use the trinket with the Bloodlust! Just don't delay your very first Rapid Fire/Readiness sequence while you're waiting for it to be called.
Marksmanship pet and gem/enchantment considerations are identical to those for Survival, so scroll down a post if you skipped that part last week. Well, identical with one exception, and that exception has created enough confusion everywhere to warrant its own little section. So!
Armor Penetration and the Marksmanship Hunter!
Shortly after the release of Patch 3.1, some bright theorycrafter noticed a few things:
  1. There was a lot of armor penetration rating on the mail that dropped in Ulduar
  2. Hunter ranged weapon damage had gone way, way up to make up for the loss of higher damage ammunition
  3. Marksmanship hunters did a lot more physical damage than Survival hunters and,
  4. Their damaging abilities incorporated base weapon damage while Explosive Shot incorporated only Ranged AP
  5. Finally, the 10-man hard mode version of the Thorim encounter had a chance to drop a trinket called the Mjolnir Runestone
The conclusion that this person reached was that, with enough Ulduar gear, you could drop some agility gems for armor penetration gems such that the Runestone's proc would bring you to 100% armor penetration. With this level of gear you could drop Arcane Shot from your priority and use the three talent points thus saved on something else, like Improved Hunter's Mark. The theory was borne out, with top Marks hunters posting numbers like 8-9,000 DPS on stand-still fights like Ignis.
Suddenly there was mass confusion. Hunters at all gear levels and specs had heard that somewhere, the hunters in the top progression guilds in the world were gemming exclusively for armor penetration and began to wonder if they should too. When was the tipping point? Should they respec? Did they need a better weapon, or something more? So on and so forth, and to this day, it's not extremely well understood. To make things worse, they nerfed armor penetration rating by 12% in patch 3.2, so all of the already-posted numbers were no longer valid. So here's what you need to know:
  1. You need 1380 armor penetration rating total to reach 100% penetration. This includes gear, trinket procs, gems, enchantments, buff foods, and elixirs.
  2. This means that if you've got a Runestone, you would want your armor penetration rating before the trinket's proc to total 714.
  3. If you don't have a Runestone, you'll be better off gemming straight agility until you reach a very high armor penetration rating from gear. I would suggest the ability to reach a threshold of 80%, or 1103 rating. Which is to say that the earliest I would even try switching to armor penetration gems is if I reached the point where rating gained from gear, gems, enchants, buff food, and elixir totaled 1103 rating.
  4. Once you reach the point where you're within reach of 90% or more armor penetration, you should absolutely respec and regem.
And that's it, really. It's not actually too confusing, it's just that it's a little harder to find the exact numbers than it is to find the numbers for, say, hit rating. Speaking of, however, hit rating will be one of the subjects I cover in part 4 of this series. I'm going to go over enchantments, sockets, metagem requirements and hitcap, and everything else that goes in to maximizing your performance in a raid. I'll also share a couple tips in the form of macros and UI tweaks that have been really helpful for me, and that will wrap up the series. I know, I know: I'm ignoring the poor Beast Mastery hunters. I'm sorry! I just haven't raided as BM since the Burning Crusade and I'm just not up to date on them. Still, maybe researching and posting about them can be a project for the future!

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