I was reading Pike’s guide to BM leveling spec and I have too much to say to just put it in a comment. Her recent post about roleplaying is another issue I’ll be commenting on, but since random people are probably more interested in leveling specs, I guess I’ll put that first. She restricted herself to BM which is fine and the common wisdom for solo specs, but I have some disagreements even there.
This is just a guide. You can do whatever the heck you want, but if you ask me what you should do well this is what I have to say. Conventional wisdom is to spec BM, but I’m the kind of guy that does things just because someone else says I shouldn’t to find out why you shouldn’t. So in this guide, I hope you find a great deal of unconventional wisdom. However, you may just find this to be incredibly ‘wrong,’ I don’t blame you. I am probably going to go in to a bit of extra reasoning behind my choices, since many will disagree without reason. At least my ‘wrongness’ will be justified.
Now, as a hunter you are actually a self contained party: tank, DPS, healer. Your pet should be tanking, you should be healing your pet as needed, and you both should be DPSing. If you are not acting like a self contained party you lose the real advantage of being a hunter. Since your pet doesn’t need to be healed much, that’s not an issue. Nor is DPS since you can pretty much mash buttons and win. You need to learn to tank. If you pet can tank, you can deal more damage. If you pet can tank, you need to heal him less. If your pet can tank, you are a hunter. There’s lots more I could say about being a hunter, but this post will focus on talents.
Does your pet have a focus dump?
Check petopia and see if your pet can learn Claw, Screech, Gore, or Lightning Breath. Those are the focus dump abilities, and there are plenty of families to choose from. If you insist on taking a pet without a focus dump, you should still be fine while leveling. Seriously, you’re good. But for raiding (maximizing DPS) it will be pretty essential to tame a second pet. If you don’t have a focus dump, I’d recommend using Pike’s guide and just going down BM. Read my comments because I disagree on a few points, but she’s pretty much right on for you, and probably more clear. If you do have a focus dump, our first stop is MM.
“But I want to be a beastmaster…”
That’s fine, but I recommend MM first even if you plan to go BM. Let’s get to it.
Points 1-5 should go to Lethal Shots. The 5% crit is one of the best talents in any of our trees. Next, take Efficiency for mana reduction. The reason is 2 fold. First, if you’re playing your hunter right, you shouldn’t be getting hit. That means the only thing you need to stop for is being low on mana. Recent changes to spirit have heightened mana problems even further. By reducing the cost of your shots you’re reducing downtime and can level faster. On the other hand is Improved Hunter’s Mark. The main advantage is it improves the AP of your pet, making it a better tank. However, consider the cost. It is 1) more expensive (no Efficiency), 2) more likely to pull agro (even with IHM, it does more for you than your pet), and 3) casting HM costs mana. If you don’t have IHM, I would say don’t use HM at all, and as you can see, I’m saying don’t take IHM. Conserve mana and you’ll never have to stop and drink.
The last 2 points is why we’re taking MM first: Go for the Throat. A focus dump only matters if you have this talent. With 2/2, each critical strike percent also increases your pet’s DPS by about 1%, and it gives the boost right when you need it: when you critically strike.
No matter where you go from here, you have a solid foundation. If you’re thinking of BM or SV, you may worry that you’re getting talents 12 levels later than if you went straight down those trees. However, I am absolutely convinced that these 12 points are as well spend here as in those later talents and it’s well worth putting them off for a bit. Don’t worry, you’ll get there eventually.
Now that you’re level 21 it’s time for a decision.
Step 2: BM or MM?
Yes there’s also SV, but the utility there is mostly useful in larger groups for end game trapping and some PvP utility. This is a solo leveling guide so pretty much SV is out.
That leaves MM or BM. Now is the time to ask yourself 2 questions:
“How am I playing?”
If you want to be dealing most of the damage and see some big numbers, you’re leaning towards MM. If you’d like damage to be more split between your pet and yourself or you just like seeing your pet improve, you’re leaning towards BM. Another consideration is PvP. If you plan on doing a lot of battlegrounds or ganking, you’re probably going to want MM.
“What’s going wrong?”
You should find one of three answers: 1) My pet loses agro, 2) My pet keeps dying (or you need to wait for it to heal up often), or 3) Nothing is wrong. If your pet is dying or losing lots of health, start down BM. If your pet is losing agro often, stay with MM. If everything seems to be going smoothly, rely on your answer to the first question.
NOTE: If you’re taking MM because of agro, you should know the reason. Currently, TSA (or any other buff to your pet’s AP) gives a huge boost to the threat generated by growl. (Threat is what allows your pet to keep agro.) This will most likely be changed in WotLK, but until then TSA is the only buff to growl that hunters can do themselves. Actually, another option is to by scrolls of strength, but then you’re spending money.
Look at your answers there and decide what’s best for you: MM or BM.
OK. So now let’s run you through the trees. Unless, I think some explanation is needed I’m just going to run down the talents.
For BM, here’s where we’re going.
22-31 Talents: Endurance Training, Thick Hide, Focused Fire
32-44/45: If your pet does not have Dash/Dive/Charge you should drop 1 point in Bestial Swiftness (you’re going to be one level off from the guide for awhile). It’s well worth it. If your pet can learn one of those skills you should have it by now. Then put 5 in Unleashed Fury, Ferocity, Intimidation, and Bestial Discipline.
45-46: You’re either 1 or 2 points shy from ferocity. So drop the 1 or 2 in Imp. Mend Pet until it lights up. Less mana used, less downtime. Also even a single point here gets you the debuff removal. Some like Imp. Revive Pet so they can Revive during a fight, but IMO, if you play well enough to Revive in a fight, you’d play even better if you just kept your pet alive. Outside of a combat situation, I don’t think Imp. Revive helps that much.
47-56: Put 4 points in Frenzy, you don’t need the 5th. Putting 1 in Animal Handler, 1 in Bestial Wrath, and then the 2nd in Animal Handler. Hit is huge for your pet generating a steady stream of threat. The next 3 go in Catlike Reflexes. That’s 9% Dodge people. Huge for keeping your pet alive and makes him viable as a tank even against higher level mobs/elites. It also means fewer mend pets while soloing for even more mana conservation.
Why not Ferocious Inspiration? This talent has several flaws for leveling. First, it’s a greater increase for you than your pet meaning that when it’s up you’re much more likely to pull agro. Second, you need to get it up each and every fight. For very long fights like bosses in raids, once it goes up it basically stays up. Great. However for soloing, you have a new target every 15s with a gap of non-combat in-between. So, you need to reestablish FI every fight unless you’re chain pulling and further there’s no way to improve pet crit beyond what you’ve already done. That means it’s really only going to be up 50% of the time you’re actually fighting while soloing.
Is it better if you run instances? You’re doing 5-mans. That means you have one person doing no DPS (healer), and one person doing gimped DPS (the tank), leaving you and 2 others. Sure your group will love you, but unless you’re doing groups 75% of the time or more, your points are better spent in CR. Not to mention CR is also useful in grouping situations making your pet a viable Off-Tank or emergency tank if the main one dies at 5%. Just make sure your healer knows.
57-62: No question. Serpent’s Swiftness and The Beast Within.
63-70: You won’t be able to get to the good trapping stuff in SV, but the Slaying Talents are decent, and so is Hawkeye if you’re into that. I’d recommend going further down MM. Take aimed shot, but NEVER USE IT. It’s useless as an opener since that’s when you want your pet establishing agro, and useless during combat as you’ll do better damage learning your auto, steady, arcane rotation. It’s utility comes from using with misdirection at level 70 or for the healing reduction in PvP. Nothing solo or leveling about it. The reason you’re taking it is because Mortal Shots is really, really great. The next two points in Rapid Killing. This is another front loading talent, but more manageable than aimed shot, just watch for crits and scale back when you see them. Now drop the last 5 in Mortal Shots.
Well actually more likely 4. At 70, you’re probably going to want to respec to something more group friendly, as that’s where you need to impress people. Better gear should make up for the loss of some of the soloing talents.
For MM, here’s where we’ve got much more choice but this is where I’d go.
My spec of choice is the BM hybrid which, as someone put it, is MM for BMs. That’s going to be the one I describe, but you can choose any of the 4 level 70 builds and do fine. Starting again from 21.
22 – 29: Drop 2 points in Improved Arcane Shot. Each point here is basically a 4% increase in Arcane Shot’s DPS and since that’s going to be the basis of your shot rotation until 62, these are point’s well spent. We’ll finish it off later, but the next point goes in Aimed Shot. If you read the BM section you’ll recognize the following copy-paste: NEVER USE IT. It’s useless as an opener since that’s when you want your pet establishing agro, and useless during combat as you’ll do better damage learning your auto, steady, arcane rotation. It’s utility comes from using with misdirection at level 70 or for the healing reduction in PvP. Nothing solo or leveling about it. The reason you’re taking it is because Mortal Shots is really, really great. Of course that means the next 5 should go in Mortal Shots.
30-34: The next point goes in Scatter Shot, but since Barrage and Concussive Barrage are sub-par it’s time to go back and drop 3 more points in Improved Arcane to finish it off. The best bang for your 1 point buck now is Rapid Killing.
35-40: Ranged Weapon Specialization is now lit, so 5 points there, and that brings us to our jewel, TSA, which is the whole point in going down MM as a soloist.
About this time is when you may start really encountering problems with your pet’s agro. With TSA on both your pet and yourself, you not only get a nice DPS boost, but growl gets a big boost to the threat it generates. From here you can do almost anything you want, but I’m going to go back to BM to bring up my pet’s damage and tanking ability. Going 30 into SV gives great synergy with Lightning Reflexes and gives you 3% more hit and 3% more crit plus all those trapping toys. Going further down MM further improves your personal DPS, but lessens the impact of the other 2 trees.
Back to BM for 41- 65. Just follow the BM guide for 22-46.
66-67: I think 2 points for 4% hit is really great for tanking, and will make more of a difference than Frenzy. You may disagree, but then this is my guide. Go write your own.
68-70: These can go to Frenzy, before you respec.
Should Blizzard ‘forget’ to change the way growl scales with pet AP, this point will be where I start my climb from 70-80. Well, unless there’s something totally awesome as a 61 point talent in some tree, but I’m not holding my breath since Readiness and Silencing Shot were the ‘ultimates’ last time. I have a sinking feeling that new talents are going to focus on arenas…