Marksmanship Hunter DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (MoP 5.4)

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Marksmanship Hunter Art Image
General Information

On this page, we list your Marksmanship Hunter core abilities and how they should be used together (rotation) in World of Warcraft MoP 5.4. We also explain when to use your various cooldowns. Then, we go deeper and present all the subtleties that you will need to know if you want to excel at playing a Marksmanship Hunter.

The other pages of our Marksmanship Hunter guide can be accessed from the table of contents on the right.

About Our Reviewer

This guide has been reviewed and approved by Roger Brown, one of the best Hunters in the World and the raid leader of Method. You can watch his stream on Twitch and follow him on Twitter.

1. Single Target Rotation↑top

The rotation for Marksmanship Hunters can easily be summarised in the following priority system. Note that, when the boss is over 80% health, the rotation is slightly different. We cover this in a subsequent section.

  1. Ensure that Hunter's Mark Icon Hunter's Mark is on the target.
  2. Apply and maintain Serpent Sting Icon Serpent Sting to the target
    • it will be refreshed by Chimera Shot Icon Chimera Shot so it only needs to be done once, normally.
  3. Cast a pair of Steady Shot Icon Steady Shots if there are less than 4 seconds on Steady Focus Icon Steady Focus.
  4. Cast Chimera Shot Icon Chimera Shot on cooldown.
  5. Cast Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot when instant cast (3 charges of Master Marksman Icon Master Marksman).
  6. Cast Kill Shot Icon Kill Shot on cooldown
    • can only be cast when the target is at or below 20% health.
  7. Cast Steady Shot Icon Steady Shot to generate focus.
  8. Cast Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot (non-instant-cast) OR cast Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shot to dump focus (see below for details).

2. Multiple Target Rotation↑top

Against 2 or 3 enemies, you should simply perform your single target rotation on one of them.

When facing 4 or more enemies, you should abandon your basic single-target rotation and use this priority list instead:

  1. Cast Steady Shot Icon Steady Shot in pairs to maintain Steady Focus Icon Steady Focus.
  2. Cast Multi-Shot Icon Multi-Shot as often as your focus allows.
  3. Cast Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot when instant cast.
  4. Cast Kill Shot Icon Kill Shot.
  5. Cast Steady Shot Icon Steady Shot whenever you have insufficient focus for Multi-Shot.

Bombardment Icon Bombardment, a Marksmanship-specific passive ability, causes your critical hits with Multi-Shot Icon Multi-Shot to grant you a 5 second buff that reduces the focus cost of Multi-Shot by 20 focus and increases Multi-Shot's damage by 60%.

3. Cooldown Usage↑top

In this section, we assume that you have taken Fervor Icon Fervor, A Murder of Crows Icon A Murder of Crows, and Glaive Toss Icon Glaive Toss from your tier 4, 5, and 6 talents, respectively. This is because we deem them to be best talents for your DPS.

In short, this is how you should make use of your DPS cooldowns.

  • Rapid Fire Icon Rapid Fire, Fervor Icon Fervor, A Murder of Crows Icon A Murder of Crows, and Stampede Icon Stampede should be used as many times as possible during the encounter.
  • Rabid Icon Rabid (an ability your pet gains if you choose the Ferocity specialisation) should be used as many times as possible during the encounter.
  • Glaive Toss Icon Glaive Toss should be used on cooldown.

More details about cooldown usage, as well as information about the other talents (that we do not deem optimal at the moment) can be found in our detailed cooldown usage section.

Note that to benefit fully from Rapid Fire when the target is over 80% health, it is advised that you alter your rotation slightly, as shown in our opening sequence section.

4. Aspects↑top

You should always have an Aspect active. As a Marksmanship Hunter, you should always be using Aspect of the Hawk Icon Aspect of the Hawk.

Aspect of the Cheetah Icon Aspect of the Cheetah and Aspect of the Pack Icon Aspect of the Pack are generally not advised during combat because of their negative dazing effect, but can be useful for speeding up your raid's running after a wipe. Note that in the case of Aspect of the Cheetah Icon Aspect of the Cheetah, you can remove the dazing penalty by using Glyph of Aspect of the Cheetah Icon Glyph of Aspect of the Cheetah.

A hunter's aspect will persist until removed by the hunter or until the hunter's death. Aspects can be changed in combat, but they cannot be changed while a cast is in progress. Aspects are on the global cooldown.

5. Optional Read: Mastering Your Marksmanship Hunter↑top

While the rotations we gave in the previous sections will yield very good results, there are many things you should be aware of, in order to play your Marksmanship Hunter to its full potential. You will need to understand several subtleties, mostly pertaining to your flexible rotation (depending on the target's health), that we present below.

5.1. Focus

Hunters and their pets use a unique resource, called focus. Focus works in much the same way as other class resources, like rage and energy, in the sense that some abilities grant focus, while others cost focus in order to be used.

A Marksmanship Hunter's focus has a maximum capacity of 100, and regenerates at an innate rate of 4 focus per second. This rate is increased by Haste Rating. In addition to this, certain abilities such as Steady Shot Icon Steady Shot (Marksmanship-only) and Cobra Shot Icon Cobra Shot (Beast Mastery and Survival-only) also grant focus.

Most of the abilities in the hunter rotation cost focus to use, and some talents decrease the focus costs, or offer other ways to gain additional focus.

Hunter pet focus works similarly, and is of no concern to you as you cannot do anything to modify it, nor will you be casting pet abilities manually.

As a general rule, you should always have enough focus to cast your shots as soon as they come off cooldown, but also to never have 100 focus (as any extra focus you generate would then go to waste).

5.2. Auto-shots and Special Shots

Hunters do the majority of their damage through the use of shots. The rest of the damage is made up of pet damage and DoT damage.

Auto Shot Icon Auto Shot is the default Hunter attack, which works similarly to melee classes' auto attacks or "white swings". It is affected by your Ranged Attack Speed, and it continues to work while moving.

The other hunter shots are of all varieties: instant cast or with a cast time, costing focus or granting focus, and some are utility shots which cost no focus and deal no damage.

One of the most important aspects of doing competitive Hunter DPS is to make sure your shots are always used without delay.

5.3. Key Concepts

In order to fully understand the rotation listed above, there are a few key concepts need to be properly explained.

5.3.1. Steady Focus

Casting two Steady Shot Icon Steady Shots in a row (meaning, without any other damaging shots in between) provides you with a 20-second buff, called Steady Focus Icon Steady Focus. This buff increases your ranged attack speed by 15%, and causes your Steady Shot to generate an additional 3 focus per cast. It is an absolutely essential component of competitive Marksmanship DPS.

There is no situation where keeping this buff up is not a top priority, so whenever casting Steady Shot in pairs is mentioned in the sections below, know that it is for this reason.

5.3.2. Master Marksman Procs

Thanks to the Master Marksman Icon Master Marksman talent, each Steady Shot Icon Steady Shot has a 50% chance to grant a charge of Master Marksman. Once you have gained 3 charges, your next Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot cast within 10 seconds will become instant cast and cost no focus. As a general rule, instant cast Aimed Shots have a high priority.

5.3.3. Serpent Sting and Chimera Shot

As mentioned in the ability section above, casting Chimera Shot Icon Chimera Shot on a target affected by Serpent Sting Icon Serpent Sting will refresh the duration of Serpent Sting. Because of this, you will generally only find yourself needing to apply Serpent Sting to the target once, at the start of the fight.

As the cooldown on Chimera Shot is 9 seconds, refreshing Serpent Sting is generally not an issue, as in most cases Chimera Shot will be used on cooldown, as detailed in the sections below. If, for whatever reason, your Serpent Sting wears off of the target, it should be reapplied, assuming that the target will live for at least 12 seconds.

5.4. Focus Dump of Choice

When performing your rotation, you will be confronted with a choice regarding what spell to use your excess focus (your focus that is not spent on Chimera Shot Icon Chimera Shot) on. The choice is between Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot and Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shot.

Currently, Aimed Shot is more or less the best choice in all situations, although it is very close (possibly equal) to Arcane Shot most of the time. If you are under the effects of significant haste buffs like Rapid Fire Icon Rapid Fire or Heroism Icon Heroism/Bloodlust Icon Bloodlust/Time Warp Icon Time Warp, Aimed Shot becomes considerably better.

If you want to cast two Steady Shot Icon Steady Shots for the Steady Focus Icon Steady Focus buff, you can use Arcane Shot as a focus dump to ensure that you do not cap your focus.

5.5. Detailed Cooldown Usage

5.5.1. Rapid Fire and Rotation Above 80% Health

Rapid Fire Icon Rapid Fire should be used as many times as possible during the encounter. It is not recommended to stack this cooldown with Heroism Icon Heroism/Bloodlust Icon Bloodlust/Time Warp Icon Time Warp. It is, however, advised to stack it with any other procs, on-use trinkets, potions, and fight mechanics that cause you to deal increased damage.

More importantly, you should make sure to use Rapid Fire Icon Rapid Fire at the start of the encounter, while the boss' health is above 80% health. The increased casting speed gained from Rapid Fire, coupled with your Careful Aim Icon Careful Aim talent, leads to you using Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot instead of Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shot to dump your focus. For an example of how this works out in practice, read our opening sequence section.

Note that if you have the 2-Part Tier 16 Set Bonus, you should use Rapid Fire as often as possible, and not attempt to delay it in order to stack it with anything else.

5.5.2. Rabid

Rabid Icon Rabid increases your pet's attack speed by 70% for 20 seconds, with a 90-second cooldown. You should use this ability as many times as possible during the encounter.

There are no cooldowns for you to stack this with that would increase its benefit, so try to use it as many times as possible during the fight. Additionally, if you can time it so that it is up at the same time as procs that increase your pet's DPS (such as increases to your own Critical Strike Rating, Mastery Rating etc.), this is recommended.

5.5.3. Stampede

Stampede Icon Stampede's 5-minute cooldown means that it will most likely only be used twice during the vast majority of encounters. Your only concern is to make sure that it is cast as many times as possible during the fight. If there are moments when the boss takes increased damage, or when burst damage is important to your raid's strategy, you should save Stampede for such a time.

Note that Rapid Fire Icon Rapid Fire does not affect your Stampede, since it does not give you Haste, but rather Ranged Haste (which does not affect the attack speed of the beasts).

It is recommended to use your second Agility potion together with Stampede.

5.5.4. Tier 4 Talents

Dire Beast Icon Dire Beast usage is very simple. It should be used on cooldown.

Fervor Icon Fervor should also be used on cooldown, with the mention that you should only use it when neither you, nor your pet, are at or above 50 Focus.

Thrill of the Hunt Icon Thrill of the Hunt will sometimes provide you with a focus cost reduction for your next 3 Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shots or Multi-Shot Icon Multi-Shots. You will simply benefit from this reduction passively, although you do have to be careful not to reach maximum focus.

5.5.5. Tier 5 Talents

A Murder of Crows Icon A Murder of Crows should be used as many times as possible during the fight. There is no benefit in stacking this ability with anything else.

Lynx Rush Icon Lynx Rush should simply be used on cooldown.

Blink Strikes Icon Blink Strikes is a passive ability, so it requires no explanations.

5.5.6. Tier 6 Talents

Glaive Toss Icon Glaive Toss should be used on cooldown. In case there are additional targets in the fight, you should position yourself in such a way that the glaives hit the other targets too.

Powershot Icon Powershot should be used on cooldown.

Barrage Icon Barrage should be used on cooldown.

In the case of Powershot, you should follow the same positional recommendation that we issued with regards to Glaive Toss.

It is interesting to note that you can change where Barrage is directed by turning your character while channeling the spell. This allows you to hit more targets than those you were initially facing.

5.6. Opening Sequence

We will provide you with an example of an opening sequence that maximises the gains from your cooldowns and abilities:

  1. Make sure that Hunter's Mark Icon Hunter's Mark is applied to the target.
  2. Pre-cast Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot (2 seconds before the pull).
  3. Cast Chimera Shot Icon Chimera Shot.
  4. Cast Stampede Icon Stampede.
  5. Cast Fervor Icon Fervor and A Murder of Crows Icon A Murder of Crows.
  6. Cast Glaive Toss Icon Glaive Toss.
  7. Cast Serpent Sting Icon Serpent Sting.

This rotation will continue until the boss' health drops below 80% health. The important difference from the standard rotation (to which you will revert when the boss drops below 80% health) is that you will use Aimed Shot instead of Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shot to dump focus.

Naturally, whenever we suggest the use of an ability that comes from a talent, it assumes you have taken that talent. In most cases, these are also currently the best talents.

The influence of your opening rotation on your overall DPS is generally quite small, so do not spend too much time stressing over it.

5.7. Multiple Target Priority Subtleties

When facing fewer than 4 enemies, you will do better DPS by executing a single target priority on the mobs, and you should do so. You can alternate between the targets your are attacking, in case they need to die at the same time.

When facing 4 or more enemies, you should use the rotation presented at the beginning of the article for multiple-target DPS.

If the enemies are going to remain in the same general area, and are going to be alive for a sufficient amount of time (10 or more seconds), you can place an Explosive Trap Icon Explosive Trap as well.

Burst AoE DPS can be achieved by using Rapid Fire Icon Rapid Fire. Doing this will allow you to use considerably more Multi-Shot Icon Multi-Shots and will drastically reduce the amount of Steady Shot Icon Steady Shots you get to cast.

  • 02 Mar. 2014: Made several updates, especially regarding cooldown usage and the opening rotation.
  • 19 Nov. 2013: Updated opening rotation, and added a mention that Rapid Fire Icon Rapid Fire should be used on cooldown with the 2-Part Tier 16 Set Bonus.
  • 10 Sep. 2013: Patch 5.4 update.
    • Removed all mentions of Readiness, since this ability has been removed from the game.
    • Removed all mentions of the usefulness of stacking Rapid Fire Icon Rapid Fire with Stampede Icon Stampede. Stampede beasts now no longer perform basic attacks, so there is no benefit from Rapid Fire anymore.
    • Updated the Opening Sequence to account for Readiness being gone.
  • 20 May 2013: Patch 5.3 update: mentioned that Blink Strikes Icon Blink Strikes is now passive and does not require any kind of management; updated the description of Bombardment Icon Bombardment to state that it now increases the damage of Multi-Shot Icon Multi-Shot by 60%, up from 30%.
  • 20 Apr. 2013: Made several important updates.
    • Emphasised the fact that Stampede Icon Stampede should be stacked with Rapid Fire Icon Rapid Fire.
    • Improved the Focus Dump section (Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shot is standard, and Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot is to be used under large haste buffs).
    • Improved the Careful Aim phase section.
    • Added emphasis on focus management and using your shots without delay.
    • Added a mention that you can change the facing of your character while Barrage Icon Barrage is being channeled, which affects where you are shooting.
    • Revamped the Opening Sequence section.