How to play a Marksman Hunter

The Hunter is the most common class in the World of Warcraft, and for good reason. It is a solid class that puts out good damage, has a build in tank (in the form of their pet) and is fairly survivable in mail armor. Of all the different builds possible for a hunter, most hunters seem to gravitate towards a marksman build. This is likely because the tree focuses on what a Hunter is good at to begin with and makes it even better. A Marksman hunter is the master of ranged combat and capable of putting out huge amounts of damage without stepping into range to be hit back.


The marksman tree is a very effective damage tree for hunters, providing huge ranged damage output and several useful abilities. Even non-marksman hunters almost always put 20 points minimum into the marksman tree so that they gain abilities such as mortal shots. The tree offers bonuses all the way through that especially help in PvP by providing burst damage and attack power increases.

The talents that are essentially must have are:

Lethal Shots - Increases critical strike chance by up to 5%.

Mortal Shots - Increases your critical strike damage bonus by up to 30%

Aimed Shot - A shot that does additional damage and lowers healing done to that target by 50% for the next 10 seconds.

Scatter Shot - A short range shot that confuses the target for 4 seconds, a must for PvP.

Ranged weapon specialization - Increases damage done by ranged weapons by up to 5%.

Careful Aim - Increases your attack power by a percentage of your intellect.

Master Marksman - Up to a 10% bonus to your attack power.

Silencing Shot - Silences the target for 3 seconds, another must for PvP, and very useful pulling casters.

A fairly common Marksman build is the 11/41/9 build that works well in raids and arena combat.

Beast Mastery Talents - 11 point(s)

  • Endurance Training - rank 5/5
  • Focused Fire - rank 2/2
  • Thick Hide - rank 1/3
  • Improved Revive Pet - rank 2/2
  • Bestial Swiftness - rank 1/1

Marksmanship Talents - 41 point(s)

  • Improved Concussive Shot - rank 5/5
  • Lethal Shots - rank 5/5
  • Efficiency - rank 5/5
  • Aimed Shot - rank 1/1
  • Improved Stings - rank 5/5
  • Mortal Shots - rank 5/5
  • Scatter Shot - rank 1/1
  • Ranged Weapon Specialization - rank 4/5
  • Careful Aim - rank 3/3
  • Trueshot Aura - rank 1/1
  • Master Marksman - rank 5/5
  • Silencing Shot - rank 1/1

Survival Talents - 9 point(s)

  • Humanoid Slaying - rank 3/3
  • Hawk Eye - rank 3/3
  • Improved Wing Clip - rank 3/3

Read more about the different talents in the Skills and Talents List section of the hunter's guide.


Finding a pet is that fits with you is one of the most exciting challenges a hunter faces. Some prefer the quickness and high damage of cats, others may prefer a pet with prowling abilities, while others prefer a pet that tanks quite well. Whatever you choose, your pet can be one of your most valuable assets. It can hold an enemy off you, allowing you to get to safety or to ranged distance. You can use it to scout locations using the Eyes of the Beast skill. As a marksman hunter your pet is not going to be nearly as strong as a beast master hunter and the choice of one may not be as important.

Marksman hunters would be wise to choose tank type pets as DPS pets will die much more often without beast master talent buffs. At least a tank pet such as a turtle or bear will stand a chance at staying alive when being hit, compared to a cat or ravager. The only exception to this would be a PvP marksman hunter that may prefer the extra DPS in the fight, in which case the best choices would be a boar (for charges and stuns), cat, or ravager.

As always your pet is a very personal choice and part of your character, so if you like something specific choose it.

For more information on pets, see our Hunter Pet FAQ & Guide.

Basic Combat Techniques

Always remember, hunters of all specs are fully equipped with aggro-dropping or misdirecting spells. These can be powerful weapons in your arsenal. They enable you to stand back and shoot much easier. These spells include Disengage, Feign Death (FD) and of course misdirect. Feign death is your friend, remember it and use it.

The best technique for a hunter is to let someone else (ideally your pet if your solo or the tank if your grouped) take the hits while you just stand back and release deadly arrows or bullets into the target. As a marksman hunter though you put out huge burst damage, so keep it in mind and start a little later than you would normally if your FD is on cooldown.. If you are running a threat meter (such as Omen or KTM), then any time you get to 100% threat you should feign death to drop aggro. Then start DPSing again. If you are really over geared compared to your pet or the tank, then dropping a frost or freezing trap in front of you will help if you don't have FD up in time. You also have scatter shot as a last resort so that you have a few seconds to get away while your pet grabs aggro back or you have time to drop another trap. If the MOB is a caster you can also silence them to give yourself a small break from incoming damage.

How to unleash shots is critical as just sitting there firing shots will not do all that much. As a marksman hunter you have many shots at your disposal, make sure you use them. Some of the most critical ones have already been mentioned above (silence and scatter shots). Silencing shot is an excellent opening shot when dealing with casters of any kind. You can open up with this shot and lead them right into a trap, where as without it, they would stay at distance making you get close to them. Your regular shots though are going to be an aimed shot opening with follow ups of stings, arcane and steady shots.

Aimed shots are great as opening shots and then very quickly lose its shine due to casting time. It's easy to justify the long cast time when you are not in combat, however it is an eternity once in combat and should generally be skipped unless you are in PvP where the healing debuff will come into play. After the initial aimed shot, you can move on to keeping up a sting of your choice, either viper (against mana users) or serpent (for extra damage). Keep the sting applied and then use a fairly standard shot rotation of auto - steady - arcane - auto - steady, adding in Multi Shot when there is no CC targets nearby and as your cooldown permits. If the MOB every gets pulled towards you, either FD or use scatter shot to give the tank a chance to pick them back up.

Once shot that is generally ignored, but shouldn't be is distracting shot. In PvE when your group healer or cloth wearer is being attacked you can quickly save the party by firing off a distracting shot to pull the MOB to you, or better yet into a trap, than leave it on your squishy cloth wearing friend.

In PvE your shot rotation or priority changes drastically. Now you really need to mix in viper sting to drain mana on casters, concussion shot to stun players briefly, arcane shot to remove buffs and properly timed aimed shots to reduce healing done to the target. Marksman hunters also gain the amazing scatter and silencing shots and these should be used whenever you can. In short, in PvP combat it is not nearly so much about a rotation as about the right shot at the right time, and learning what to do takes a lot of time.


As a marksman hunter you really need to learn to trap. You put out huge damage and it tends to be in big spikes. You will draw aggro accidentally at times and therefore it is critical to always have a trap of some sort out and ready to go. Trapping in general is described in our Hunter guide and won't be gone into in detail here. Just be aware of it and keep a trap ready.

A focus macro is handy when in combat so that you don't need to manually switch between targets to hit and re-trap the target. Check out all the macros in their own section below.


As opposed to a beast master hunter where agility is your prime concern, attack power (AP) and intellect (to gain more attack power through the careful aim ability) is key. Agility is also nice as it increases your attack power, your critical strike chance, and your armor. Stamina is also useful, as it increases your health, and your stamina increases your pet's stamina as well. Other stats that will help any hunter are +critical strike rating and +to hit.

While stats will vary from player to player due to individual preferences, the following is a minimum that I would aim for before attempting to help with either heroics or the early bosses (pre Curator) in Karazhan.

Stat Heroic / Karazhan Min. Value (Unbuffed)
Health 7,000
Mana 6,000
Attack Power 1600

Critical Strike Chance

To Hit 100

I have compiled a suggested gear list of items available pre-Heroic to get you close to those numbers. There are several pieces that are better, that could be added but are very difficult to get or create, but this list will get you ready for heroics and / or Karazhan and you can then fine tune with other gear to get raid ready.

An excellent option once attuned to heroics is to collect the badges that drop from heroic bosses and the heroic daily quest to turn in for the amazing badge reward items. Several of the reward items are some of the best per slot items you can get short of the very hardest Burning Crusade raids.

A second great option for hunters is the battleground PvP epics. While they focus a bit more on stamina and survivability, many will be upgrades from the green and blue items you are likely to have and all are very easy to obtain through a few days of grinding honor.

Heroic Gear Prep List

Level 70 Pre-Heroic / Raid Gear Wish List
Slot Name Drop Location
  • Beast Lord Helm
  • Stalker's Helmet of Second Site
  • The Calculator in Mechanar
  • Quest chain in Shadowmoon Valley
  • Necklace of the Deep
  • Jagged Bark Pendant
  • Crafted by Jewel Crafters
  • Warp Splinter in Botanica
  • Beast Lord Mantle
  • Towering Mantle of the Hunt
  • Warlord Kalithresh in Steamvaults
  • Commander Sorannis in Botanica
  • Beast Lord Cuirass
  • Laughing Skull Battle-Harness
  • Warp Splinter in Botanica
  • Temporus In Black Morass
  • Blessed Scale Girdle
  • Revered Reputation with the Sha'tar
  • Cloak of Impulsiveness
  • Cloak of Malice
  • Lieutenant Drake in Old Hillsbrad
  • Grand Warlock Nethekurse Shattered Halls
  • Auchenai Bracers
  • Quest Reward
  • Beast Lord Handguards
  • Gauntlets of Desolation
  • Warchief Kargath Bladefist in the Shattered Halls
  • Warchief Kargath Bladefist in the Shattered Halls
Finger 1
  • Naliko's Revenge
  • Quest Reward
Finger 2
  • Band of Anguish
  • Quest Reward
  • Beast Lord Leggings
  • Greaves of Desolation
  • Warlord Kalithresh in Steamvaults
  • Talon King Ikiss in Sethekk Halls
  • Outland Striders
  • Zereketh the Unbound in Arcatraz
Trinket 1
  • Abacus of Violent Odds
  • Pathaleon the Calculator in Mechanar
Trinket 2
  • Hourglass of the Unraveller
  • Temporus in the Black Morass
  • Hellforged Halberd
  • Revered Reputation with Honor Hold
Ranged Weapon
  • Crystalline Crossbow
  • Exalted reputation with Ogri'la

Gems and Enchants

Gems and enchants will play an important part in getting you to the numbers you need be at to be of meaningful help in heroics.

Starting with the easier topic of gems. In general you should be putting +attack power gems into everything you can. Anything that has a socket bonus that is helpful, can have a mix of Agility, To Hit, To Crit and Intellect.

Now onto the more difficult topic of enchants on your gear. Proper enchants can add a ton of stats to your already good gear.

Gear Enchants
Slot Bonus Notes / Source (if not from an enchanter)
Head +34 Attack Power, +16 To Hit (Glyph of Ferocity) Revered Reputation with Cenarion Expedition
Shoulders Aldor or Scryer Inscriptions Exalted with Aldor or Scryer
Chest +6 All Stats May sub with mana or health if you want
Back +12 Agility  
Wrists +24 Attack Power Can get +6 mana per 5 seconds if you need mana regen
Hands +26 Agility May sub with +15 Agility
Legs +50 Attack Power, +12 Critical Strike Chance (Nethercobra leg armor) Can go for the cobrahide version as its cheaper
Feet +12 Agility May sub for +10 hit if you need more hit instead of agility
Weapon +70 Attack Power

May sub with +35 Agility

Ranged Weapon

+28 Critical Strike Chance (Stabilized Eternium Scope)



There are several consumables that you should while going into any instance, and especially heroics or raids. They are:

Ammo - Kind of obvious, but nothing is more annoying than a hunter that runs out of ammo mid instance. Fill your bag before you join any group.

Sporeling Snack - Raises your pets stamina and spirit by 20 for 30 minutes.

Superior Mana Oil - Grants +20 mana per 5 seconds for 1 hour, this lets you keep up damage longer in fights.

Warp Burgers - Grants +20 Agility and Spirit for 30 minutes.

Spicy Hot Talbuk - Grants +20 Hit Rating for 30 minutes. Use this if you are low on hit rating as it will add allot more damage than agility.

Onslaught Elixir - Increases your attack power by 60 for 1 hour.

Elixir of Greater Agility - Increases Agility by 25 for 1 hour. Use only if you can't find onslaught or its too expensive.

Elixir of Mageblood - Increases your mana regeneration by 16 mana per 5 seconds for 1 hour.

Super Mana and Healing Potions - Bring at least 10 of each, just in case...


There are several very common macros that every Hunter should use (assuming they haven't started already) to simplify their life. The most common are:

Focus Macro

Due to everything going on and having to switch targets often, it is very handy to have a set focus macro.You can either use this to either set focus on the enemy and switch back to them, or focus on the tank and assist them. Also, you should have the reverse macro so that you can pick up that target at any time.

/focus target

/target focus

Assist Focus

If you use your focus macro to set your focus on the tank or the groups main assist you can then use the following macro to switch targets to your focus and then assist them and attack their target.

/target focus
/assist target
/cast auto shot

Distract and Trap

If you use your focus macro to set your focus on the target you want to keep trapped you can use this macro. Just place your trap first and then use your macro, you'll switch over, attack them pulling them into your trap, then switch back.

/target focus
/cast distracting shot

Shot CC

If you use your focus macro to set your focus on the target you want to keep trapped as above you can also use this macro to use other forms of CC. This is especially useful in PvP where you may want to be burning down a mage while using scatter shot and silence against a priest. Just use this macro to switch over, using your soft CC and then switch back to your original target and keep going.

/target focus
/castsequence reset=5 scatter shot, silencing shot

Mark and Attack

This simple macro can be made to replace your hunter's mark button so that you can mark and attack all at once.

/cast Hunter’s Mark

Things to Avoid

All specs of hunters should be careful with their pets. A pet on aggressive (and sometimes even on defensive) will wipe a group quicker than you can shout "INCOMING!" When in a tight area (such as found in dungeons), it is best to have your pet on passive, so that you can send the pet to attack only what you tell it to.

Be careful when using the Multi-shot and Volley abilities. These can cause damage to multiple targets and can draw aggro from more than one enemy. This can easily cause you to die quite quickly as the one you are targeting stays where it is, while his buddies come and beat you senseless.

For general Hunter questions, check out our Hunter's Guide.!

Questions? Comments? Email me ([email protected]) or post in our hunter forums!

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our World of Warcraft Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

Byron 1
Byron has been playing and writing about World of Warcraft for the past ten years. He also plays pretty much ever other Blizzard game, currently focusing on Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, while still finding time to jump into Diablo III with his son.


Related Content

54 professions square
Patch 5.4 Profession Changes