Hunter Class Overview

Last updated on May 08, 2024 at 00:00 by Impakt

Hunters are master marksmen and, with the help of a fierce animal companion, can deal damage from range without ever letting their target get close. With special tracking abilities, traps, and a wide range of utility spells, Hunters are a great choice for anyone looking for a strong solo class with incredible ranged damage and unique utility.


Introduction to Hunter

Hunter Class Crest Cataclysm Guide HunterHunter is one of the few pure DPS classes in World of Warcraft, where you will be playing as a ranged DPS. In Cataclysm, Hunter operates on a new, unique resource system called Focus. While previously Mana-based, Hunters now have a Focus Bar that starts at 100 and constantly regenerates over time, similar to a Rogue's Energy Bar. Your basic rotation will revolve around spending Focus on powerful attacks while using filler attacks such as Steady Shot Icon Steady Shot to regenerate Focus. Additionally, you'll have the option to specialize in enhancing your pet's power, dealing devastating ranged physical attacks, or a magic damage based playstyle with DoTs and traps.


Hunter Specializations

Hunter Hunter is able to choose from three specializations: Beast Mastery, Marksmanship, and Survival.

  • Beast Mastery Beast Mastery — Beast Mastery is the pet-based specialization of Hunters where you will focus on greatly enhancing your pet's effectiveness over your own. As a pure DPS class, the damage output of a spec will greatly influence its popularity. Unfortunately, Beast Mastery is the worst of the three specs in terms of damage output, and therefore is the least popular from a purely numerical standpoint. However, Beast Mastery offers a deep class fantasy and pet-based gameplay that many players look for. Additionally, Beast Mastery has some of the strongest soloing potential in the game thanks to your pet's tanking abilities, almost rivaling a full tank player in some scenarios with the right talents. Pet micromanagement offers quite a bit of room for skill expression, making Hunters one of the best classes in PvP this expansion with the power from pet swapping through the addition of being able to call multiple pets directly from your stable. Beast Mastery also brings the 3% raid damage buff from Ferocious Inspiration Icon Ferocious Inspiration.
  • Marksmanship Marksmanship — Marksmanship is a pure ranged DPS spec built around dealing devastating physical attacks from afar. This is the second most popular and second strongest Hunter specialization throughout the expansion, ultimately dealing less damage that Survival, especially early on with low gear levels. Marksmanship does have the ability Readiness Icon Readiness however, which has some incredibly possibilities that make it the strongest PvP specialization for Hunters, and one of the strongest in the game. Marksmanship has one of the strongest micro-burst combos thanks to its slew of cooldown-based shots, making it a solid damage dealer in PvE and strong burst class for PvP. Additionally, Marksmanship brings the Trueshot Aura Icon Trueshot Aura attack power buff.
  • Survival Survival — Survival is the strongest and most popular of the Hunter specializations, offering extremely reliable damage from the start in Cataclysm. Survival offers a magic damage based playstyle, revolving around DoTs such as Black Arrow Icon Black Arrow, Explosive Shot Icon Explosive Shot, and Serpent Sting Icon Serpent Sting. Additionally, Survival has some of the best AoE damage in the game both for burst and sustained damage due to Serpent Spread Icon Serpent Spread and Explosive Trap Icon Explosive Trap. This huge AoE potential is really what sets it ahead of Marksmanship and Beast Mastery, although Survival still is quite strong in single target as well throughout the expansion. Survival also brings the Hunting Party Icon Hunting Party attack speed buff.

What Specialization Should I Play?

Each HunterHunter specialization plays differently and will offer different strengths depending on what you want to accomplish in game. If you are primarily interested in raiding and doing the most damage possible, Survival is going to be your best option as it does the most damage and is far ahead of both other specs in terms of AoE potential. For soloing and open world content, Beast Mastery might be your choice given how powerful your pet can be at tanking and helping you take down elite enemies while solo. For PvP, Marksmanship is the strongest option due to its burst potential and control that it brings. Ultimately all 3 specs are viable in all content, but as a pure-DPS class, the most popular specialization is almost always the one that ends up doing the most damage. In this case, Survival will be the most popular PvE spec, while Marksmanship will be the most popular PvP spec.


Beast Mastery

Beast MasteryBeast Mastery is the pet-based specialization for Hunters and is centered around empowering your pet. While all Hunters can use pets, Beast Mastery has the Beast Mastery Icon Beast Mastery talent, which enables them to tame and use exotic pets, such as Spirit Beasts, giving you more options to choose from. Different pets bring different buffs, making Hunters one of the only classes that can often fill a missing raid buff. Beast Mastery utilizes attacks such as Kill Command Icon Kill Command to make their pets deal damage, meaning most of your damage will be coming from your pet rather than yourself. This play style heavily rewards those who have great micromanagement of your pet, as you'll want to ensure it's always positioned correctly and hitting the right targets.



MarksmanshipMarksmanship is the second strongest of the Hunter specializations, offering a cooldown-based play style where you're damage rotation revolves around managing your focus to prepare for your powerful shots once they're off cooldown. This involves a combination of resource management and timing, which offers an exceptionally high skill ceiling, particularly in PvP. With the addition of control spells such as Scatter Shot Icon Scatter Shot and Silencing Shot Icon Silencing Shot, you also will have more utility options at your disposal. Marksmanship also brings Trueshot Aura Icon Trueshot Aura to groups, which is an incredibly powerful attack power buff. While their sustained damage is a bit lacking in PvE, Marksmanship offers great burst damage and solid utility, making it a still competitive choice. Additionally, Marksmanship scales quite well, especially with weapon damage. This will make it much better later on in future patches.



SurvivalSurvival is a magic damage-focused specialization that utilizes traps and damage over time shots to deal the majority of its damage. Survival's rotation is generally easier than a spec like Marksmanship, where you mainly need to focus on maintaining Serpent Sting Icon Serpent Sting, Black Arrow Icon Black Arrow, and using Explosive Shot Icon Explosive Shot on cooldown. The depth in your rotation will mostly come from balancing AoE with single target while also ensuring the maximum effectiveness of Explosive Shot Icon Explosive Shot. Lock and Load Icon Lock and Load specifically offers a huge damage variance with its procs, as this gives you free uses of Explosive Shot, allowing for big burst potential. The combination of exceptional AoE, sustained damage, and cooldown management of Explosive Shot makes for an incredibly ranged DPS class that offers amazing damage potential at all stages of the expansion.


How Viable is Hunter in Cataclysm?

Hunter Class Art HunterHunter is extremely viable and highly sought-after; You will rarely if ever see a raid without at least one Hunter due to their incredible damage and versatile utility. Every Hunter specialization brings a powerful raid buff, but Hunters have the unique ability to choose a second raid buff to bring depending on the pet they use. This allows a Hunter to fill in gaps in their raid's buffs or debuffs. Survival specifically is one of the strongest damage dealers in the game early on, and brings some of the best AoE in the game throughout the expansion. Marksmanship is also a S-tier PvP spec with one of the highest skill ceilings in the game if you're looking for a spec that allows for infinite skill expression. Hunters are a strong ranged damage dealer with incredibly utility, buffs, and strong damage output that will make them valuable in any activity.


Races For Hunter

HunterHunter is able to be almost every single race across Horde and Alliance, with the single exception of Gnomes. Below is the complete list of possible races.

For Horde, the best option will be Orc or Troll. For Alliance, Worgen or Draenei are the best.


Horde Races

  • Tauren Tauren is slightly more durable than most races thanks to Endurance Icon Endurance, which increases your base health by 5%. War Stomp Icon War Stomp is a utility spell that stuns up to five enemies for two seconds. Tauren are also slightly more resistant to Nature damage thanks to their higher natural Nature Resistance stat.
  • Goblin Goblin offers increased Attack Speed from Time is Money Icon Time is Money. Rocket Jump Icon Rocket Jump is effectively another version of Disengage Icon Disengage, but is not quite as valuable since Hunters already have solid mobility.
  • Blood Elf Blood Elf does not offer a ton of benefits, but does have a slightly higher Arcane Resistance as well as the ability to interrupt and silence nearby enemies with their Arcane Torrent Icon Arcane Torrent ability. Arcane Torrent also generates a small amount of Focus.
  • Orc Orc is the best race for DPS due to its Blood Fury Icon Blood Fury and Command Icon Command racials. Blood Fury is an exceptional DPS cooldown, while Command Icon Command is just a great boost to pet damage.
  • Troll Troll is a strong second choice to Orc due to the increased Attack Speed from Berserking Icon Berserking. Troll generally performs worse than Orc, but the difference is close if you're not Beast Mastery.
  • Undead Undead is similar to Blood Elf and quite weak as a Hunter. They are naturally more resistant to incoming Shadow damage and are able to remove Charm, Fear and Sleep effect thanks to their Will of the Forsaken Icon Will of the Forsaken ability.

Alliance Races

  • Worgens Worgen is the best race for for DPS as Alliance due to Viciousness Icon Viciousness. Worgen also offers Darkflight Icon Darkflight which offers a burst of movement speed. Even with Hunter's exceptional mobility, this is a strong utility spell on top of a great DPS racial.
  • Human Human is a rather weak option since Hunters do not get the expertise benefit of Mace Specialization Icon Mace Specialization and Sword Specialization Icon Sword Specialization. Human does have the ability to instantly remove all crowd controlling abilities in the form of Will to Survive Icon Will to Survive which can be extremely powerful in very specific encounters, but is still a weaker option overall.
  • Dwarf Dwarf is a decent durable race due to Stoneform Icon Stoneform. Stoneform is a tank cooldown that reduces incoming damage by 10% for eight seconds and removes all Poison, Disease and Bleed effects. This is only going to be good in PvP, making them a weak choice for raiding.
  • Night Elf Night Elf is rather weak for Hunter, really only offering Quickness Icon Quickness which reduces the chance of being hit by 2% from Melee and Ranged attacks. Night Elf is also naturally more resistant to Nature damage.
  • Draenei Draenei is the next best option after Worgen thanks to Heroic Presence Icon Heroic Presence. They also is another give you the ability to self heal with Gift of the Naaru Icon Gift of the Naaru that heals the target for 20% of their total health over 15 seconds. This specifically is quite valuable to Hunters who have no other self healing options.

Gearing and Stats

HunterHunter can wear all armor types except Plate, but you should only be wearing Mail. Mail Specialization Icon Mail Specialization is far too valuable to not benefit from.

HunterHunter is able to equip most weapon types, but the best ranged weapon type will come down to the weapon damage and item level for the most part. For melee weapons, the best options will entirely come down to what provides the most stats; generally a combination of Agility, Crit, Mastery, and Haste. For all Hunter specializations, you'll want to take the highest DPS ranged weapon possible, and then follow your stat priority for every other piece of gear.

Your stat priority as Beast MasteryBeast Mastery should be as follows: Agility > Hit > Crit > Mastery > Haste > Stamina.

Your stat priority as MarksmanshipMarksmanship should be as follows: Agility > Hit > Crit > Haste > Mastery > Stamina.

Your stat priority as SurvivalSurvival should be as follows: Agility > Hit > Crit > Haste > Mastery > Stamina.


Hunter Addons and Macros

Addons and Macros can greatly improve your quality of life throughout your time in Azeroth. Listed below are some of our recommendations on Addons and Macros to help get the most out of your time playing the game.



  • 08 May 2024: Page added.
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