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Marksmanship Hunter DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (Legion 7.1.5)

Last updated Yesterday at 19:35 by Azortharion 596 comments

Table of Contents

General Information

On this page, we list your Marksmanship Hunter core abilities and how they should be used together (rotation) in World of Warcraft Legion 7.1.5. 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 Author

This guide has been written by Azortharion, the main theorycrafter of the spec. He is also an accomplished player who raids in Vanguard. You can also watch his stream on Twitch.

1. Single-Target Rotation

The rotation for Marksmanship Hunters can be summarised in the following priority system, though the spec has many rotational subtleties that are difficult to convey in a simple priority system. We advise you to read on from here to fully understand the spec's mechanics.

  1. Cast A Murder of Crows Icon A Murder of Crows on cooldown. Delay it till 20% if the boss is at 25% health or below.
  2. Cast Explosive Shot Icon Explosive Shot on cooldown, remember to explode it close to your desired target. See the detailed section for more information.
  3. Cast Marked Shot Icon Marked Shot only when Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable is NOT up, or when you know that you will be unable to fit another Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot inside the current Vulnerable debuff.
  4. Cast  Icon Windburst on cooldown, but only if you cannot cast another Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot within the current Vulnerable window or if Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable is not up.
  5. Cast Piercing Shot Icon Piercing Shot on cooldown if you have chosen this talent. You should try and save Focus so that you have 100 Focus pooled up whenever you cast it. You should also position yourself so that all the targets you wish to hit are in a line in front of you.
  6. Cast Barrage Icon Barrage on cooldown only if it will hit 3 targets or more, if you have chosen this talent. You should have Focus available to cast it immediately when it becomes available for AoE situations. It is important to stress that it should not be used on single-target, ever.
  7. Cast Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot if you can cast it before Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable will expire from the target. This also functions as a Focus dump to stay off Focus cap by casting it when you reach ~95 Focus, even if Vulnerable is not up. You should always try to cast Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shots towards the end of the Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable debuff with Patient Sniper Icon Patient Sniper, as they increase in damage towards the final seconds of the debuff.
  8. Spam Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shot when you have nothing else to do. This will be your primary active source of Focus regen, and it is also the vehicle for letting you cast Marked Shot Icon Marked Shots when it procs.
    • If you are using the Sidewinders Icon Sidewinders talent, you should only cast it if Marking Targets Icon Marking Targets is active, as indicated by its button lighting up on your action bar. You should also keep it from reaching 2 charges, and you should be prepared to use it without Marking Targets active to keep this from happening. You should only let it reach 2 charges if you have Vulnerable active from another source such as Windburst, spending your Aimed Shots on that Vulnerable Window before using Sidewinders.

The rotation will, in practice, end up looking something like this.

  • In no-proc periods: Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shot until 95 Focus, then Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot to not Focus cap and repeat. If  Icon Windburst becomes available during one of these periods, use it immediately and generate focus with Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shot afterwards. Then, towards the end of the Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable window, cast the 2 Aimed Shots with roughly 4 seconds remaining on Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable.
  • When you get a proc:Marked Shot Icon Marked Shot → Keep Cast Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shot once (twice with extremely high Haste) so that there is only ~4 seconds remaining on Vulnerable → 2x Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shots.

The most important thing about the spec is focus management. You never want to cap focus, and it is always better to cast even a "bad" Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot than it is to focus cap. The other important thing is to almost completely abolish the habit of introducing or accepting downtime. The exception is when casting an additional Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shot during Vulnerable would mean that you cannot fit in another Aimed Shot.

Additionally, with the vast increase in the amount of Marking Targets Icon Marking Targets procs and thus Marked Shot Icon Marked Shots we are able to cast, the spec has nearly 100% uptime on Vulnerable. If we cast all the Marked Shot Icon Marked Shots that we are allowed, we would simply have no focus to Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot. Therefore, treat Marked Shot Icon Marked Shot and  Icon Windburst purely as abilities that keep up your Vulnerable debuff 100% of the time, and focus on getting as many powerful Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shots off within this window as possible by being aware of how many you can cast in a given Vulnerable window, and be sure to cast them as late as possible by being aware of your current Aimed Shot cast time, as well as the time remaining on Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable.

Unlike previously, the rotation is much more dynamic now, and the focus that you have available going into a Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable window will determine how many Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shots you can fit into it. There is nothing wrong with only fitting one, as long as it finishes casting with less than 1 second remaining on Vulnerable with Patient Sniper Icon Patient Sniper specced. You should generally not cast more than 2 unless you will cap your focus otherwise, which is very common with Haste buffs like Bloodlust and Trueshot Icon Trueshot.

On top of all this, we strongly recommend using this WeakAura by Asakawa for tracking your Vulnerable. It gives you a visual overview over how many Aimed Shots you can fit into your current Vulnerable, allowing you to plan your rotation ahead of time: https://wago.io/4kR_zkMUf

2. Multiple Target Rotation

There is no real multiple target rotation for Marksmanship Hunters. On multiple targets, you should use Barrage Icon Barrage on cooldown if you have chosen the talent, and you should switch out Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shot for Multi-Shot Icon Multi-Shot on 3 targets or above. If you get a Marking Targets Icon Marking Targets proc, you should use Multi-Shot Icon Multi-Shot on just 2 targets to mark them with Hunter's Mark.

On 4 targets or above, you should prioritize spending your Marking Targets Icon Marking Targets procs immediately as you get them and casting Marked Shot Icon Marked Shot, filling in with Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot when you got no procs, but generally prioritizing getting as many Marked Shot Icon Marked Shots off as possible.

It should be noted that if you have the Magnetized Blasting Cap Launcher Icon Magnetized Blasting Cap Launcher Legendary bracers, that you should be casting Bursting Shot Icon Bursting Shot on cooldown on multiple targets whenever Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable is not up.

3. Simplified Single-Target Rotation

This rotation priority list assumes that you are using the talents that we recommend for raiding. It is a much easier, but ultimately quite a bit worse, way to think about executing the rotation. It is, however, a good starting point.

  1. Cast Marked Shot Icon Marked Shot when it is available.
  2. Cast  Icon Windburst on cooldown.
  3. CastA Murder of Crows Icon A Murder of Crows on cooldown.
  4. Cast Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot when you have enough Focus, and Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable is active.
  5. Spam Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shot.

4. Cooldown Usage

As a Marksmanship Hunter, your only DPS cooldown is Trueshot Icon Trueshot. It increases your Haste by 40% for 15 seconds, and causes Arcane Shot, Multi-Shot and Sidewinders to always apply Hunter's Mark, regardless of whether Marking Targets Icon Marking Targets is active or not. With the  Icon Rapid Killing trait, it also increases your critical strike damage (NOT chance) by 50%. It has a 3-minute cooldown which can be reduced to 2:36 by the  Icon Quick Shot artifact trait, and even further by the Ullr's Feather Snowshoes Icon Ullr's Feather Snowshoes legendary boots, the Tier 19 2-piece set bonus, and the Convergence of Fates Icon Convergence of Fates trinket from the Nighthold. You should use this as many time as possible during the encounter. Since Trueshot increases Crit damage, and the  Icon Bullseye trait increases critical strike chance under 20% boss health, you should always attempt to overlap these buffs as much as possible by having the final Trueshot ready to go when the boss is close to dying.

More details about cooldown usage, as well as information about the other talents can be found in our detailed cooldown usage section.

5. Opener Sequence

This section describes the recommended way to start the fight as a Marksmanship Hunter. It assumes you are using the recommended talents for the spec.

  1. Just before the encounter starts, use your Potion of Deadly Grace Icon Potion of Deadly Grace.
  2. Cast A Murder of Crows Icon A Murder of Crows if you have chosen this talent.
  3. Cast  Icon Windburst from as far away as possible.
  4. Activate Trueshot Icon Trueshot while  Icon Windburst is still flying.
  5. Cast Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot once.
  6. Cast Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shot once.
  7. Cast Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot 3 times..
  8. Cast Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shot once
  9. Cast Marked Shot Icon Marked Shot.
  10. Cast Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shot once.
  11. Cast Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot twice. (3 times with Bloodlust)
  12. Proceed with your normal rotation.

6. Optional Read: Mastering Your Marksmanship Hunter

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 and reacting to the encounter around you, that we present below.

6.1. 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 to be used.

A Marksmanship Hunter's Focus has a maximum capacity of 130, and regenerates at an innate rate of 10 Focus per second. This rate is increased by Haste. In addition to this, certain abilities such as Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shot (Marksmanship-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 abilities as soon as they come off cooldown, but also to never have 130 Focus (as any extra Focus you generate would then go to waste).

6.2. 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.

Autoshot 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.

6.3. Detailed Cooldown Usage

6.3.1. Marking Targets & Hunter's Mark

Your auto shots have a chance to cause your next Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shot, Multi-Shot Icon Multi-Shot or Sidewinders Icon Sidewinders to apply Hunter's Mark Icon Hunter's Mark to all targets hit by those abilities. Hunter's Mark allows you to cast Marked Shot Icon Marked Shot, a very high-damage ability that hits all targets affected by Hunter's Mark.

The buff that causes your next Arcane Shot, Multi-Shot, or Sidewinders to apply Hunter's Mark is called Marking Targets Icon Marking Targets. You will know that it is active because those abilities will light up on your action bar, and there will be a unique graphic around your character. It has a 7.25 RPPM-based proc chance which is modified by Haste, meaning that more Haste will increase how often you get a proc.

When you use Marked Shot Icon Marked Shot or  Icon Windburst, it applies a 7-second debuff called Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable to the target, increasing the damage done by your Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot and Piercing Shot Icon Piercing Shot (talented) abilities by 100%. Maximizing the Aimed Shots that you put out while this debuff is active is the main part of the spec. With the Patient Sniper Icon Patient Sniper talent that causes Vulnerable to be more powerful towards the end of its duration, timing those Aimed Shots right is also important.

6.3.2. Trueshot

Another crucial element of maximizing yourself in raids but especially Mythic+ is understanding and applying Trueshot Icon Trueshot in the best way possible. The most important thing to remember and know about this ability is that it is a mediocre single-target cooldown, and in the grand scheme of things it does not actually do a whole lot for your single-target damage, compared to how potent it is for AoE. Its primary scaling point is multiple targets and Bullseye (and increased Crit chance in general). Your focus should generally always be to squeeze out as many as possible during the dungeon or encounter that you are doing, but if you can delay it just slightly to get it on multiple targets, you should always do so. You should also be aware of when these windows are coming up, and ideally have  Icon Windburst ready to go for an extra round of Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable uptime during Trueshot. In dungeons, try to always use it on multi-target trash and not bosses, but focus on getting out as many as possible. Do NOT save it for bosses in dungeons. If you can combine sub-20% big mobs (such as Helya in her third phase) with additional targets (like the Mariners and the Minions that spawn throughout), that is basically the dream and you should look out for moments like this all the time.

6.4. Positioning when using Sidewinders

Note that Sidewinders Icon Sidewinders is no longer the recommended talent for most situations, but this section is still relevant to those using it anyway.

Understanding and applying the positionally based mechanics of Marksmanship is essential to taking your play to the next level, both from a perspective of wanting to hit as many targets as possible, and to avoid hitting targets that you do not want to include in a dungeon pull.

The most basic and important thing to know is that Sidewinders' cone width is significantly higher overall the further you are from your current target, and that on fights like Dragons of Nightmare and Il'gynoth where there will occasionally be a lot of targets spread over a wide area, picking the furthest away and most central target is going to be key to marking as many targets as possible. You always want to be aware of your current target, and you always want to be aware of what your next target should be in case your current one dies.

On the flip side of this, if you do not wish to pull or damage additional mobs in a dungeon (such as when you are trying to avoid Bolstering a high-health mob by killing a bunch of small ones, like the Grimewalker + Shroud Hounds in the Maw of Souls), you should be close and constantly be thinking about your position.

It is important to have a good UI that makes you aware of the health of targets around you, and whether they are marked by Hunter's Mark and Vulnerable or not. There are many addons that can do this, I personally use ElvUI for my nameplates and most other elements of my UI, but KuiNamePlates and TidyPlates are good alternatives for people that do not use ElvUI.

The nature and drawback of constantly repositioning around the mobs in an encounter is that it increases movement a lot. Think of Barrage casts that you make as small "breaks" in your rotation that you can use to understand the terrain and decide what to do next. Many fights have positions that are objectively better nearly all the time - Odyn being a good example, where you can stand around the circles in the ground where adds are taken and "rotate" around it depending on what you are cleaving towards (with Odyn being naturally cleaved by you putting it in the path of your Sidewinders) The entrance rune works especially well for this, because from there you can usually cleave Odyn + a phase 2-miniboss as well as 1 or more Runebearers all at the same time. The downside is that you will have to dodge a lot more spears, so exercise caution when picking these "chokepoint" positions.

6.5. Bullseye

 Icon Bullseye is the 16th trait on your artifact weapon path. Whenever your target is below 20% health, it causes your damaging abilities (as well as "ticks" of Volley Icon Volley, ticks of A Murder of Crows Icon A Murder of Crows (16 total), and the 16 hits of Barrage Icon Barrage) to give you a stack of 1% crit chance, stacking up to a maximum of 30 stacks. This has incredible synergy with Trueshot Icon Trueshot in particular, which increases your critical strike bonus damage by 50%, and like discussed earlier, it should always be a priority (second to multiple targets) to use Trueshot when the boss is at low health, and you have a lot of Bullseye stacks. Because of Barrage Icon Barrage being able to give you 16 stacks in a matter of 2.5 seconds or so, and A Murder of Crows Icon A Murder of Crows also giving you 1 stack per second of ticking, you should look for opportunities to delay those abilities slightly in order to build stacks very quickly towards the end of a boss fight (because the boss fight is coming close to an end, it means you are not very likely to lose a cast of these abilities). This allows you to reach 30 stacks quickly, which is the ideal time for a Trueshot. Sometimes, you can target enemies that are not the boss before the boss even reaches 20%, and use them to build your Bullseye stacks prematurely. In other words, try and go for the highest possible general uptime of Bullseye by switching targets appropriately, and especially picking off sub-20% health targets to cast Barrage on.

6.5.1. Tier 1 Talents

If you have taken Lone Wolf Icon Lone Wolf, then this requires no management whatsoever, and you will simply enjoy the increased damage that you do.

If you take Steady Focus Icon Steady Focus, you should always try to use Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shot twice in a row to keep up the buff you gain from Steady Focus. Sidewinders Icon Sidewinders applies the buff with only one cast.

Careful Aim Icon Careful Aim changes nothing in your rotation or playstyle.

6.5.2. Tier 2 Talents

If you have chosen Lock and Load Icon Lock and Load, nothing changes in your rotation, though you should try and spend the procs while Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable is active, and as quickly as possible.

Black Arrow Icon Black Arrow should simply be used on cooldown.

True Aim Icon True Aim changes nothing in your rotation, though it is an incentive to not change targets very often.

6.5.3. Tier 4 Talents

Explosive Shot Icon Explosive Shot should be used on cooldown. When you first press this ability, it will fire a rocket from your character in a straight line in front of you. When you press the button again, the rocket explodes and deals high AoE damage based on distance to the target. The easiest way to maximize this ability is to stand right on top of the target you want to hit, and rapidly tap it twice. If this is not possible, you should do your best to explode the rocket when it is as close to the targets as possible.

Sentinel Icon Sentinel should be used on cooldown when there are multiple targets active, and when you do not already have Hunter's Mark on them.

Patient Sniper Icon Patient Sniper causes Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable to be more powerful towards the end of its duration. In essence, this means that if know that you will only get 2 Aimed Shots off within a specific Vulnerable window, you should cast those two towards the end of the debuff, rather than casting them as soon as possible. The last second of Vulnerable is where Aimed Shot is most powerful. The same goes if you can only cast one - you should cast it with 2 seconds left of Vulnerable rather than as soon as you can.

6.5.4. Tier 6 Talents

A Murder of Crows Icon A Murder of Crows should be used as many times as possible during the fight. The cooldown of this ability will reset if its target dies before the debuff expires (15 seconds). You should try and take advantage of this effect as much as possible (but without delaying A Murder of Crows needlessly much). Remember that it is not worth it to benefit from this effect by casting A Murder of Crows on targets that will die in a second or two.

Barrage Icon Barrage should simply be used on cooldown, but only if there is more than 1 target up, and it should be saved for heavy multi-target situations in the fight.

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.

Volley Icon Volley should simply be enabled before you start the fight and largely forgotten about. When dealing with multiple targets, you should try and be auto-attacking the one closest to the middle to get the most benefit out of Volley's AoE damage. Volley should be activated at all times, even on single target.

6.5.5. Tier 7 Talents

If you have chosen Sidewinders Icon Sidewinders, this will replace Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shot and Multi-Shot Icon Multi-Shot completely. It introduces downtime to the rotation that you would otherwise have spent casting Arcane- or Multi-Shot. You should generally not cast Sidewinders unless Marking Targets Icon Marking Targets is up so that it may activate Hunter's Mark Icon Hunter's Mark, or it reaches 2 charges (meaning you would waste charges by keeping it off cooldown).

Sidewinders also activates Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable directly. If you are not using Patient Sniper Icon Patient Sniper (which we recommend using), this is just a nice bonus. For Patient Sniper users, it changes the rotation fundamentally. Your goal is always to maximize the benefit you get out of casting as many Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shots during it as possible. So after casting Sidewinders, your next goal is generally to get as many Aimed Shots into that Vulnerable window as possible (almost always 2), before you Marked Shot to refresh or "extend" the Vulnerable debuff. This will cause a lot of downtime, because you will be waiting for Focus to generate to allow you to cast Aimed Shot altogether, but it is the best way to play the spec.

If you have chosen Piercing Shot Icon Piercing Shot, you should use this ability on cooldown when Vulnerable is up. It deals more damage based on how much Focus you have when you use it. 100 Focus means it will spend 100 Focus, and deal 100% of its maximum damage. Using it at 50 Focus means it will spend 50 Focus, and deal 50% of its maximum damage and so on. In multi-target situations, you should try to aim at the target that is furthest away from you, so that Piercing Shot hits all targets in its path similarly to Glaive Toss and Powershot in Warlords of Draenor. You should also try and use it with at least 100 Focus whenever possible.

Trick Shot Icon Trick Shot changes nothing in your rotation.

7. ChangeLog

  • 20 Jan. 2017: Added some small rotational tidbits, added really nice Vulnerable WeakAura.
  • 14 Jan. 2017: Updated multi-target rotation.
  • 11 Jan. 2017: Settle for 2 Aimed Shots during standard Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable windows. Change opener.
  • 10 Jan. 2017: Updated to reflect changes made from PTR to patch release.
  • 09 Jan. 2017: Updated for Patch 7.1.5
  • 10 Dec. 2016: Added rotational example video.
  • 08 Dec. 2016: Expanded on the "advanced" stuff and new opener.
  • 27 Nov. 2016: Rotational updates.
  • 02 Nov. 2016: Slight opener change.
  • 25 Oct. 2016: Updated the Vulnerable paragraph following the changes in Patch 7.1.
  • 08 Oct. 2016: Updated the opener.
  • 06 Oct. 2016: Added rotational tidbits and fixed some ordering in the simplified rotation.
  • 05 Oct. 2016: Changed Windburst's priority to be higher than Aim-Vuln.
  • 03 Oct. 2016: Updated the opener.
  • 02 Oct. 2016: Added Murder of Crows at the top of the rotation priority.
  • 12 Sep. 2016: Even more rotational clarifications.
  • 11 Sep. 2016: Rotational clarifications and new additions.
  • 10 Sep. 2016: Vastly simplified Windburst usage since thinking about it too hard is not really going to be noticeably beneficial.
  • 04 Sep. 2016: Clarified Volley explanations to make it more explicit that it is to be used at all times, even on a single target.
  • 29 Aug. 2016: Updated for Legion's launch.
  • 11 Aug. 2016: Improved opening rotation.
  • 23 Jul. 2016: Removed talents from rotation to simplify it a bit and avoid confusion.
  • 21 Jul. 2016: Added paragraph explaining the cyclical nature of Patient Sniper + Sidewinders usage.
  • 20 Jul. 2016: More rotation tweaks.
  • 20 Jul. 2016: Added simplified rotation and tweaked rotation a bit.
  • 19 Jul. 2016: Added opener.
  • 18 Jul. 2016: Updated for the Legion pre-patch.
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