Updated Mon, Apr 04, 2011 by gunky
An elf hunter - sleeves would only get in the way of his sheer awesomeness.
The Hunter is the ranged DPS king of the Lord of the Rings Online. In a group, that's more or less the Hunter's sole job. They are a fast-playing class - they run fast, they hit big numbers which bring enemies down fast, and they have the ability to quickly guide their groups anywhere in Middle-Earth.
In solo play, the Hunter is a versatile beast, capable of decimating his opponents quickly, one at a time, while keeping other threats at bay with traps and other forms of crowd-control. In group play, the Hunter is the single-target "nuker" of choice, standing at the back of the group and ripping through enemies from behind a wall of iron and flesh. In PvMP, the Hunter's stealth and crowd-control play a larger role, keeping dangerous enemies at a safe distance and otherwise hampered.
The Hunter class is available to every race. At lower levels, race plays a more significant role in the overall effectiveness of the class. Elves can earn a 2% bonus to bow damage through racial traits, and this combined with their racial +15 to Agility makes them a natural choice for Hunter at low levels. However, at the highest levels, no single race has a distinct advantage over any other.
A Hunter's primary focus is his ability to deal ranged damage. This is the Hunter's focus all through the build, from start to finish.
Start with a good bow (or crossbow). This is a largely gear-based class, and the ranged weapon is the most important piece of gear in the Hunter's arsenal. At low levels, crafted bows and quest rewards will be sufficient. From level 45 onward, the Hunter will want a solid Legendary Item with legacies that fit his particular playing style.
When the weapon situation is handled, the Hunter will want to boost his Agility. Agility affects all things ranged - ranged offense, ranged defense, ranged critical chance. Armor and jewelery with Agility modifiers are a good place to start. Slotting Virtues that boost Agility (Determination, Mercy) are also a must. Another thing to look for, particularly on jewelery, is Ranged Crit and Ranged Offense modifiers - these pieces are meant for Hunters more than any other class, and will make your attacks hit harder.
Hunters tend to be fragile in melee combat, particularly when faced with multiple opponents. Hunters are limited to Medium armor, and many of their powerful attacks have inductions that can be set back or interrupted during melee combat. Having a high Agility helps - Evade is based off of this attribute. Another attribute the Hunter will want to focus on is Vitality. Vitality is the base for Morale, so having a higher Vitality score means having more Morale, which allows you to last longer in fights.
Melee combat is essentially a secondary concern for Hunters. Though Hunters can wield two weapons at once, their melee attacks are generally weaker than those of melee-based classes. Melee weapons should typically be selected for their ability modifiers and legacies rather than their DPS. High DPS on a melee weapon certainly doesn't hurt, but it should not come at the cost of precious Agility or Vitality.
Power consumption is often an issue for Hunters, particularly when traited for the high-DPS Bow-master trait line and using Strength stance. Many Hunters find that increasing their Will and Fate scores will help improve this issue, but very often, gear that increases Will and Fate comes at the cost of Agility or Vitality.
The Hunter is one of the most popular classes in the game, and for several good reasons. For starters, they are one of the easiest classes to pick up and learn right from the gate. They hit big damage numbers very early on, and they don't have to run right up into melee range to do it. They play "faster" than the other classes - just about everything about the Hunter emphasizes speed and urgency - and this makes them more exhilarating than lumbering meat shields or tactical-based glass cannons. At later levels, with their ability to snap to anywhere in Middle-Earth in an instant and kill formidable creatures with a single arrow, they seem almost ethereal. In short, they're just plain fun.