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Marksmanship Hunter DPS Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (Legion 7.1)

Last updated on Oct 07, 2016 at 22:33 by Azortharion 391 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. 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 advice 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.
  2. Cast Marked Shot Icon Marked Shot when it is available, but only if you will not be able to cast another Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot before the currently active Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable debuff expires, and still be able to land a Marked Shot before Vulnerable expires, or if Vulnerable is not present on the target already. If you are fighting multiple enemies that are about to die, you should prioritize getting Marked Shot Icon Marked Shot cast before any of them are killed off. It is extremely important to ensure that Marked Shot hits the target before Vulnerable expires.
  3. Cast  Icon Windburst on cooldown.
  4. Cast Barrage Icon Barrage on cooldown, if you have chosen this talent. Try to use it without Vulnerable active, but do not delay it too much.
  5. 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 80 focus, even if Vulnerable isn't up. If you are casting Marked Shot late in your Vulnerable debuff, you should make sure that you can fit it in before Vulnerable expires by not casting Aimed Shot too late.
  6. Cast Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shot // Sidewinders Icon Sidewinders to consume Marking Targets Icon Marking Targets procs, and when you have nothing else to do.
    • 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.

If you are using the advised talents, then in practice following this rotation will lead to you having a cyclical rotation which is based around the duration of your Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable buff (with Patient Sniper), and the cooldown of your Sidewinders Icon Sidewinders ability. The basic idea is to get as much out of the Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable windows as possible by maximizing focus spending in it, while minimizing focus spendage outside it. Your "rotation" will tend to look something like this (though keep in mind there are multiple correct ways to go about handling the rotation, as long as you do not focus cap and as long as you cast as many Aimed Shots as possible within Vulnerable and not outside it):

Sidewinders Icon SidewindersAimed Shot Icon Aimed ShotMarked Shot Icon Marked ShotAimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot until Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable expires. Then follow the rules in the rotation for when to cast Sidewinders Icon Sidewinders.

It is important not to fall for the temptation of using Sidewinders when you have no Marking Targets active, unless you are doing it to prevent it from reaching 2 charges. You do not want to have a Marking Targets Icon Marking Targets proc at a crucial moment in the fight, and then not be able to use it because Sidewinders Icon Sidewinders is on cooldown.

In essence, your rotation is to use everything available to you on cooldown, and not wasting any Marking Targets Icon Marking Targets procs by spending them as soon as you have gotten everything out of the Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable debuff it applies to the target, which increases the damage done by Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot and Marked Shot Icon Marked Shot. Note that Sidewinders Icon Sidewinders applies Vulnerable directly, without the need for Marked Shot to do it. When multiple targets are coming up, you should be prepared to save a Marking Targets proc for when it happens, so that you can apply Hunter's Mark to all targets and cast Marked Shot on them for massive damage.

2. 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. Cast Barrage Icon Barrage // A 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. Cast Sidewinders Icon Sidewinders when you get a Marking Targets Icon Marking Targets proc, or when it reaches 2 charges.

3. Multiple Target Rotation

There is no real multiple target rotation for Marksmanship Hunters. If you are using the Sidewinders Icon Sidewinders talent which is strongly recommended, you should simply continue your single-target rotation, while always trying to target the enemy that is furthest away from you (similarly to Glaive Toss and Powershot in Warlords of Draenor). If you are not using Sidewinders, you should simply replace Arcane Shot Icon Arcane Shot with Multi-Shot Icon Multi-Shot in your rotation when you are facing 2 or more targets.

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 2:30 by the  Icon Quick Shot artifact trait, and even further by the Ullr's Feather Snowshoes Icon Ullr's Feather Snowshoes legendary boots. 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%, 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. Precast  Icon Windburst 1.5 seconds before the encounter starts.
  3. Cast A Murder of Crows Icon A Murder of Crows if you have chosen this talent.
  4. Activate Trueshot Icon Trueshot.
  5. Cast Sidewinders Icon Sidewinders.
  6. Cast Barrage Icon Barrage if you have chosen this talent.
  7. Cast Marked Shot Icon Marked Shot.
  8. Cast Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot until you are below ~80 focus.
  9. Cast Sidewinders Icon Sidewinders.
  10. Cast Marked Shot Icon Marked Shot.
  11. Proceed with your normal rotation, but when Trueshot is about to expire, you should Sidewinders again early to cast a 4th Marked Shot within its duration. A 4th Marked Shot is only possible with Bloodlust up from the beginning of the fight.

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 120, 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 120 Focus (as any extra Focus you generate would then go to waste).

It is worth noting that in Marksmanship's case, the nature of your rotation will sometimes cause you to cap Focus, and sometimes this is indeed the best way to play. As always, the less Focus you waste, the better. In short, however, it is more important to not lose any casts of your spells — Marked Shot Icon Marked Shots in particular — than not capping your Focus. It helps that Focus is not very valuable to Marksmanship because it has so much of it.

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. Mastery: Sniper Training

Mastery: Sniper Training Icon Mastery: Sniper Training no longer has a movement component, as it simply buffs the damage of your abilities that cost Focus, and increases your maximum shot range.

6.4. Detailed Cooldown Usage

6.4.1. 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 5 RPPM 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, it applies a stacking debuff called Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable to the target, increasing the damage done by your Aimed Shot Icon Aimed Shot and Marked Shot Icon Marked Shot abilities by 25% per stack. It stacks up to 3 times, and lasts 30 seconds. This makes it easy to build to full power, and maintain indefinitely, though you will have to stack it up to 3 whenever you change targets.

6.4.2. 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 thrice 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.

6.4.3. 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.

6.4.4. 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 Hunter's Mark Icon Hunter's Mark is not active on any of the targets you are facing, and you do not have a Marking Targets Icon Marking Targets proc. In general, this ability should be used to offset bad luck(RNG) in multi-target situations. It should be used as often as possible, but without wasting its use (such as using it when you already have a Marking Targets Icon Marking Targets proc ready to go.

Patient Sniper Icon Patient Sniper does not change anything in the priority. It makes Vulnerable Icon Vulnerable more powerful, and removes the stacking mechanic. It also increases your maximum Focus by 30, making it 150. This improves target switching and overall damage. You should simply enjoy the improved damage, and how this talent makes the spec significantly easier to manage.

6.4.5. 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, though you may want to save it in anticipation of 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.

6.4.6. 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. 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.

Trick Shot Icon Trick Shot changes nothing in your rotation.

7. ChangeLog

  • 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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