Guide 1: Choosing the Right Pet

I think it’s about time to do something constructive here. The question at hand is ‘Which pet should I choose?’

Well if you think about it, there’s really 2 things a pet can do. They can hold agro while you kill things, or they can kill things for you. But looking further, they’re both the same thing. If a pet isn’t keeping up with your damage, they aren’t holding agro and the mob is quickly closing. HP and armor are nice but can be augmented with Mend Pet as needed. DPS can only be improved by increasing your own attack power, but if your pet is losing agro already improving AP is counterproductive.

So let’s talk about the variables of Pet DPS: base stats and abilities. Below is a table of the pets ranked according to their DPS modifiers. Taking a pet with a modifier of 1.07 or higher is a nice start.

Family DPS Modifier
Raptor
Ravager
Cat
Bat
Owl
Spider
Wind Serpent
Nether Ray
Gorilla
Hyena
Dragonhawk
Carrion Bird
Crocolisk
Wolf
Tallstrider
Serpent
Spore Bat
Crab
Scorpid
Warp Stalker
Bear
Turtle
Boar
1.1
1.1
1.1
1.07
1.07
1.07
1.07
1.03
1.02
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
0.95
0.94
0.94
0.91
0.9
0.9

*Data from http://petopia.brashendeavors.net/html/articles/stats_families.shtml

To further maximize DPS, the largest factor is a focus dump ability. What’s a focus dump? It’s an ability that can be used as soon as there’s focus to use it. This means choosing a pet with Claw, Gore, Screech, Lightning Breath. The first 2 are basically 2 ways to do the same thing. Screech has the advantage of affecting multiple mobs which is nice, and Lightning Breath is nice for initial agro and counteracting crits with GftT. Damage isn’t the only way to generate threat tho, and players have found that boar’s charge is a great way to glue a mob to your pet. Boars already have gore as well so for soloing, they’re considered one of the best pets though I personally haven’t tried one yet.

The other issue is PvP. If your pet is not in range of your opponent, it isn’t doing anything. Luckily, some pets also get movement abilities: Dash, Dive, Charge, Warp. Dash and Dive just give a speed boost which is nice all around. Warp instantly puts your pet in attack range, but since most melee players ignore pets, the bonus to dodge is wasted. Here again, Charge is supremely useful. Not only does it put your pet at the enemy in a second, but it immobilizes which is another second you can use to get to/stay at ranged.

This grouping of abilities yields the following table. PvE focused individuals can choose anything from the top 2 cells, while PvP focused will probably be happiest with either of the left 2 cells. I would recommend a pet from the top-left cell to any player. Conveniently, all but the warp stalker are available before level 20 for lowbies, and all but the boar* are available at level 65 or higher so the grind there is minimal. (*Ravager coming in 2.2) The pets in red have the further advantage of being high DPS.

Movement & Focus Dump Focus Dump
  • boar
  • carrion bird
  • cat
  • owl
  • raptor (PTR – 2.2?)*
  • ravager
  • warp stalker
  • windserpent
  • bear
  • crab
  • raptor (current)*
  • scorpid
Movement Neither
  • bat
  • dragonhawk
  • hyena
  • nether ray
  • tallstrider
  • wolf
  • crocolisk
  • gorilla
  • serpent
  • spider
  • sporebat
  • turtle

*Raptors currently are getting dash on the PTR.

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15 Comments

  1. Goeben said,

    Excellent guide! Let me add that aspiring hunters should not be fooled by a boar’s low base DPS. With Gore and the talents Bestial Discipline and/or Go for the Throat, a boar will put out an impressive amount of DPS for a “tanking” pet. More importantly, Charge is amazing for generating threat. For a hunter leveling in the Marksman tree (and many do, unfortunately), a boar with Charge is the ONLY pet that can consistently keep agro.

    At this time, Boars are clearly the best general purpose pet. For any hunter build, a boar trained with Gore and Charge is fantastic for solo PvE, better-than-average for PvP and group PvE.

  2. Zefram said,

    Why aren’t bats in the top left again? Bats have screech, just not claw. Does screech not count as a “real” focus dump because of how little focus it uses?

    I have an Strigid Owl currently, which I stabled a boar to go get. I had tried out a carrion bird from Westfall (I’m a completionist, so I’m trying to get every rank of everything….), and I liked Screech for solo grinding — the AOE on the Screech was simply more convenient than dealing with adds myself. I’ve had my owl tank packs of 4-5 mobs before, and I had to actually use distracting shot to pull one off for trapping because of the aggro.

    The higher damage output of an Owl (or Bat) can compensate for the lack of a decent damage dealing skill, and the attack power reduction of screech compensates somewhat for the lack of higher armor/health on owls. With the Stamina/Armor skills, it’s not a huge difference anyway. I’m also BM specced, so really, most pet differences are negligible once you get deep into that tree.

    Once I get that fungus generating item from Sporeggar, I’ll probably switch over to a Bat for good. Free food in perpetuity for my pet = useful.

    I agree that Boars are awesome pre-30/31 (when you get Dash/Dive), and post-48 (once you can get decent ranks of Charge and Gore), but those 18 levels in between they’re kind of lacking skills. At least for people like me with OCD that need their pets to have every skill they can possibly have…

  3. Znodis said,

    I have an owl and will definitely pay more attention to screech to see if it’s actually a focus dump. What I noticed when I first started using it, was that it only went off every 4 seconds to renew the debuff. I never tried to spam it more often manually.

    I should also clarify that focus dumps are less of an issue before gaining the talents ‘Beastial Discipline’ and/or ‘Go for the Throat.’ They are still very useful for gaining initial agro.

  4. Zefram said,

    It definately goes off more than once every four seconds for me.

    I leave Dive, Growl and Screech on (if the AoE is going to cause problems, I turn Screech off and Claw on). It basically Screeches constantly, much more than every four seconds (one of the reasons it’s such a good aggro ability is that, like Demo Shout for warriors, the application of it causes aggro above and beyond the damage even if the debuff is already on the mob.)

    My current spec doesn’t have GffT at the moment, but he can definately eat through the focus from BD with just Growl and Screech.

  5. Nanoha said,

    I was wondering about the skill Lightning breath.

    I’ve noticed that on my windserpent lightning breath and bite do roughly the same damage on a lightly armored opponent, but that against plate users, Lightning breath hit alot harder than bite.

    I was wondering is this because lightning is a “spell like ability” that ignores armor, while bite is a “physical attack” ?

  6. Znodis said,

    Lightning Breath is considered a magic attack and ignores armor. It also scales with your RAP in the form of + Magic Damage and can crit. It used to be so powerful that they had to nerf the heck out of it. Not only all of THAT, but it’s also 0 sec. cooldown (ie: focus dump). The only real problem is the 50 focus it costs to cast which can possibly slow grinding down.

    The bursty damage does make it nice for arenas.

    Claw and gore are a bit more consistent but there’s a reason Windserpents are in my recommended box.

  7. Xorne said,

    Seconding (or thirding) the Owl/Bat. Growl+Screech is massive aggro. Matter of fact, I was with two other hunters this morning doing Varedis Must Be Stopped (we were DPSing down the guys before Varedis) and my owl was holding aggro over a beast masters boar (without Beast Within) when we sent them in together.

    Boars are great, but Screech is in my opinion the most powerful solo ability there is. It’s an AOE Focus dump. What more do you need for aggro? :D

  8. Fatboy said,

    Charge has a few quirks which I will cover shortly, but properly managed will generate more threat than any other skill. The stun at the end of the charge generates about 4k threat from a lvl 70 boar. Even an MM hunter will find it difficult to overtake a start like that. I often want to seperate a mob from a pack – pull him out with a low level sting so as not to aggro the other mobs, hit with arcane shot and then send in the pig – charge picks up the aggro and we kill the mob quickly. It’s also great when a clothie gets into trouble – the pig can almost always get aggro from the mob attacking and give time for the cloth wearer to decamp.

    As I said before – charge has a quirk which means you should not have it on auto in instances.

    When charge is available, a boar will charge any mob which is on its threat list (if it is in range of course). So you may see something like this

    You are assigned to off tank one of the mobs in a pull, the main tank will handle 2 more. The pull starts, boar charges his mob at the appropriate moment and the main tank picks up his targets. During the next few minutes, one of the main tank targets gets onto the boar’s threat list. Charge cooldown is up, charge is on auto and the 2nd mob on his threat list is in charge range – so the boar charges!!

    Result, charge gets aggro on the 2nd mob — the boar rushes back to his original target with the 2nd mob in hot pursuit – often results in the boar going down and 2 mobs on the loose. So keep charge on manual in circumstances like this and you have a great tool for managing difficult situations.

    cheers

    Fatboy

  9. Thundur said,

    I recently rolled a hunter level 45. I have 2 pets a ghost saber and a dragonhawk. I find that the dragonhawk is way way superior at holding aggro on the mobs and multi mobs than my cat, both have all skills for their levels.
    My question is why are dragonhawks so frowned upon as pets? And does anyone have any comparisons with other aoe type pets to compair?

  10. Znodis said,

    The main reason is that until you get to outland, all dragon hawks have caster stats ( info here: http://petopia.brashendeavors.net/html/articles/stats_casters.shtml ). Basically, caster pets have lower strength, armor, and stamina (which you want), but higher int and spirit (which do nothing). At lower levels it doesn’t matter too much but the differences become larger as you go. I recommend taming a new one when you get to 67. You’ll want to anyway for firebreath rank 2.

    If you’re looking for an AoE pet, I recommend owls, bats and carrion birds using the screech ability.

    As an aside, I just recently got my second pet to 70, a crab. When comparing him to my raptor, stamina and armor are fairly close, and DPS drops from 129 to 111. Is 18 DPS alot? Yeah… but it’s not that bad. It doesn’t render him useless. The moral is play the way to want. If you want to min/max, there are better pets. If you want to just enjoy the game, you’re not gimping yourself playing with any pet you like.

  11. Goeben said,

    “When comparing him to my raptor, stamina and armor are fairly close…”

    Could you elaborate, please? How close is close? Do they have different ranks of Natural Armor and/or Stamina trained? Different loyalty levels?

    I’m just curious to what extent the crab’s armor bonus is effectively negated by other factors.

    Don’t forget that your crab has Claw. With Beastial Discipline and/or Go for the Throat to feed it focus, your crab may do more of its DPS with claw than with its base attack. Yes, it still will be a lot less DPS than a raptor with claw, but much more than a pet without a focus dump, e.g. wolf, turtle, spider.

  12. Znodis said,

    Took me a bit to remember to compare my pets in game. I respecced BM and got a few upgrades to gear after my previous post, which is why the DPS numbers are different. Both have Cobra Reflexes, and Natural armor 10

    Raptor
    DPS 160.3
    HP 5821
    Armor 12367, 53.95% damage reduction

    Crab
    DPS 138.4
    HP 5882
    armor 13167, 55.50% damage reduction

    Trade 1.5% damage reduction and 60 HP for 22DPS? Yes please.

  13. Goeben said,

    Thanks for the data, that’s very helpful. It really highlights that from a mathematical perspective, base DPS and a focus dump are the critical elements that differentiate pets; the stamina and armor modifiers are almost negligible.

    I generally run with both Bestial Discipline and Go for the Throat, so I’m pretty much locked into pets with focus dumps. Ever since crabs received the claw ability, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of having a one for a pet, but I’ve never taken the time to level one up. I notice that the preliminary info on WotLK suggests that there will be level 70ish crabs in the new content. I may pick one up then.

    I hope they also come up with new pet skills. It sure would be nice if the pets in your lower-right box got a little love.

  14. Nimno said,

    “For a hunter leveling in the Marksman tree (and many do, unfortunately), a boar with Charge is the ONLY pet that can consistently keep agro.”
    I find this statement indicative of the major flaw with hunters post BC… the BM spec has been recommended for everything from raiding to PvP, and is well over due for a serious nerfing, imo.
    As to the boar comment; if you can’t learn to FD or take your dps down a notch, then you will have problems no matter what spec or pet you choose. I’ve had a great deal of luck with many different pets, but stick with cats for their utility and versatility. And, as a mark hunter, i have learned that my pet will die, and have become rather self-sufficient and more confident in my decision to stay Mark, as a result of this. After a raid boss annihilates your pet, you are the only thing that is left, it is at those moments that BM hunters should, and do (but not enough) suffer.

  15. Paytonater said,

    To my knowledge scorpids, although having lower base dps can do decent damage with scorpid poison (unless of course your foe has good nature resistance : P ). Ive been leveling BM spec and have found that my scorpid did better damage than most pets and had no trouble holding aggro. Combine that with high ap and i definately recomend a scorpid for leveling at least. Higher dps pets are much nicer for raids and in most pvp situations (note that scorpid poison is nice for interupting spells).

    Oh and mad props on this guide. Very Informative.

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