WoW: Level 38 Hunter Respec after patch 2.0.1
This looks like a pretty good level 38 hunter build to me. It's kind of like the build I had before the patch but with the benefit of thinking of things all at once. As you're working your way up the levels in any class, the instinct is to choose the talent that gives you the most immediate benefit. Last week, for example, when my hunter hit 38 I took Bestial Swiftness and watched my owl take off and tear in to the next raptor in STV. In contrast, when the time comes to respec by choice or as a result of a patch, there's a different strategy at work. You can step back and look at what gives the most overall benefit. I think it's a good idea to respec every 15 or 20 levels at a minimum. Based on my experience you can make the greedy choices then rearrange things when better options open up. So with the latest patch, 2.0.1, I had to respec my hunter. I had to respec all my characters. So far I wrote about my level 48 Mage and Candace wrote about her level 28 Priest Spec. Today I'll reason through what I think is a good hunter talent spec at level 38 or so.

Hunter Strategy

There are plenty of good talent builds out there, the important thing in deciding between the good talents is knowing what's important to you as a player and how you play your character. I know that I play solo most of the time. Partly because I'm anti-social and partly because I just don't plan my time on WoW very much. My hunter is great for this because she's got a tank that comes with her for free. The pet I've stuck with since level 10 is an owl with a very dumb name. I like that my owl has always been able to deliver enough DPS that I don't have to worry much about pulling aggro off it. Let me rephrase that (I hate using too much jargon): As a hunter, my preferred strategy is to send my pet owl in to attack first. As the owl lands an attack, I'm preparing another attack that won't take effect until after the owl's attacked a little bit. The reason for this is that the owl will have an easier time holding the enemy's attention if it does more damage. So the owl's job is to do as much damage as possible and cause as much threat as possible (this is basically what's called "holding aggro" or tanking in WoW). So like I said, while the pet goes in for the first attack, I prepare something with a longer prep time or casting time. I might set a trap in case the enemy comes after the hunter or I might start a shot like Aimed Shot, which takes up to 3.5 seconds to cast. After I land the first shot I'll usually hit an Arcane Shot or Serpent Sting. If the enemy starts coming for the hunter then I'll use a Concussive shot to slow them down. Then the pet can sometimes catch up to the enemy and regain aggro or at least do some more damage. The facts that I start with a pet attack and that an enemy sometimes comes for the hunter both mean that I care about my pet's speed. I think the owl is one of the faster pets out there. The other important thing is that the pet be able to hold aggro (or keep the attention of all the enemies) by doing damage. The reason I love this strategy is that a pet really is like a disposable party member who does pretty much everything they're told and doesn't want anything but some of the gross meat drops. I've never lost a roll on a blue drop to OhDoubleUEll (I told you my owl had a stupid name). A tough pet also holds off the unfriendlies for longer if if the odds turn against you and you decide to high-tail it out of there (Feign Death, run, Aspect of the Cheetah once you've got a lead). When you're in the clear you can resurrect your pet and all you have to do is spend a few seconds drinking instead of running back to your corpse.

Choosing Hunter Talents

Anyhow, that's enough of my awesome strategy. I'd better get started on my build or I'll never get back to actually playing my hunter. The build I've come up with is 16 points in Beast Mastery, 13 points in Marksmanship and nothing in Survival (that's 16/13/0). The Survival tree focuses mainly on close combat. Since I don't do a lot of dungeons (really next to none), I don't do a lot of close combat. When I do, my pet can cover for me anyways. The one talent I'd like to get out of the Survival tree is Hawk Eye - 3 points give 6 yard range extension with ranged weapons.

Marksmanship Talent Tree

In the Marksmanship tree I chose the talents that I couldn't resist, I figure that if I have trouble with pulling aggro off my pet then in the upcoming levels I can sink points in to the Beast Mastery tree to improve my pet's tanking ability. On the other hand, if my pet can still tank then I'm free to take talents that improve my hunter instead of the pet. Specifically, in Marksmanship I wanted Aimed Shot and Go for the Throat, so I needed 10 points in the tree. That wasn't hard. I took rank 5 Lethal Shots and rank 5 Efficiency. Lethal Shots improves ranged attack chance to critical strike by 5%. Efficiency reduces mana costs by 10%. I rely heavily on my special shots so this helps me grind non-stop. The other thing I do for mana use is dual wield and apply Minor Mana Oil to both weapons. The ironic part is that my Hunter can apply mana oil twice and my Mage can only apply it once because hunters dual wield and mages don't. Silly, but I take full advantage. I hardly ever have to stop to drink. The other choice I had to forego was rank 5 Improved Concussive Shot. The other 3 points in Marksmanship went into the aforementioned Aimed Shot and Go for the Throat.

Beast Mastery Talent Tree

The Beast Mastery tree is the one that helps a hunter's pet be a better tank. This really kicks in around the middle of the tree however, with Unleashed Fury and Ferocity. I could have made it down to put 5 points in each of these, but, as I described above, I decided to build them up gradually over the next few levels. I guess I like to be able to kill things with my hunter and not only the pet. To start with, I took Improved Aspect of the Hawk. I had this in my previous build and it sometimes came in handy. Unfortunately it's more likely to proc right as your opponent is already almost dead or is running in for you. That's simply because there's a percentage chance that it comes up (procs) after each shot you take. By the time you've taken enough shots for it to proc, the battle is well under way. I only put 2 points in it this time, I needed that so I could get deeper into the tree. In the first level of tree I found Endurance Training to be more useful so I put 5 points in there for 10% more health for my pet and 5% more health for the hunter. Thick Hide for 3 points also helped to increase my pet's durability - owls have a low armor rating by default. Bestial Swiftness increases my owl's outdoor travel speed by 30% to help it stay on top of enemies. This works well with concussive shot - then the NPC has a hard time getting away from your pet if their attention switches to the hunter or another party member. Finally, I did end up finding 5 points to max out Unleashed Fury for a 20% damage bonus for my pets. I had previously left 3 of those points in Improved Aspect of the Hawk, but I think the damage bonus is far more useful. Alternatively I could've gone for Hawk Eye in Survival. I think when I get to a high enough level I'm going to end up splitting some more of my points for Marksmanship. Bestial Wrath looks great and so does The Beast Within, but it takes a lot of points in less-impressive talents to get to them while you pass on abilities like Concussive Barrage (3 points for a 6% chance to daze for 4 seconds with Auto Shot) and Scatter Shot.
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Good post...i\'m also a solo hunter and i want to respec my char. This was helpful. I am a noob, but i\'m learning...lvl45 last night, w00t!

Yeah, I think it's pretty insightful. I'm a new hunter as well. I have a lvl 34 on one server and I'm just starting a new hunter on Silvermoon. It's interesting to read this because so many people have told me that BM the whole way is the only way to level a hunter, but I'm finding on my lvl 34 that I'm pulling aggro, esp when pulling groups, simply because the fights are lasting too long (healing my pet causes twice the threat my attacks are it seems). I run out of mana after every encounter, and that's really buggin me.
What about the talents in Survival that increase damage against beasts and humanoids? Would you consider putting points there for leveling?
Also, I have never really understood how to properly talent my pet. I have a cat and they've got two attacks, a growl, and one has prowl coz it's a PvP server. But other than that I've got the armor and stamina talent and that's it. Not sure what to do about the resistances. Any advice on what talents are best for leveling?

To be honest I find I've never needed mend pet often. Maybe it's because my hunter's also an engineer so I use other tactics in long-running fights (like a target dummy or a bomb with aoe stun). It could also be that I just run when things turn against me and leave the pet behind. Oh and of course now hunters can drop traps in combat so you can drop a freezing trap to aid in escape or an explosive trap to try to finish the fight.

As for the Survival tree, I stay away from bonuses that are limited to certain mobs. This is especially true when there are talents available that will improve your pet without those limits. Make sure you're keeping up on feeding your pet and training (at least until the system is revised for Lich King).

Here's my current hunter build at level 46. Things have changed a little since I wrote this post. I play this character mostly along with my girlfriend's shadow priest. I also got a cat for a pet. The cat still holds aggro most of the time. Here's a similar build for a level 34 hunter that's only in the Beast Mastery tree. One important thing here is Intimidation which is a spell the hunter casts to cause your pet to generate threat. That should help out in your situation.

Happy leveling, hth

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Great post. I'm relatively new (4 weeks) and have a lvl 32 orc/rogue... and am looking to start on my second character; I'm venturing this is probably a mistake since I should focus my time on my current character, but... Anyhow, this is very useful info. Thanks.