Hunter Leveling Guide
The BasicsHunters in World of Warcraft are somewhat paradoxical: they seem easy enough to play that a monkey can do it, yet they are complex enough to keep even the most experienced players on their toes. The multitude of specs you can choose from is confusing and I guess they aren’t the easiest class to play if you’re a beginner, mainly because you have to focus on your own character’s damage as well as what your pet is doing (that is, if you decide to use a pet and I recommend you do, for any leveling spec you choose). Controlling your pet will need a bit of getting used to, but thankfully Blizzard made it a lot easier than it was in the beginning – just keep your pet on defensive mode, so you don’t end up having him running around and aggroing mobs you’re not ready to tackle.
In any case, if you want to zoom through the levels, you’ll have to focus on several key aspects of playing a hunter:
- Your own DPS and build
- Your pet’s DPS and build
- Learning how to manage your mana for efficient leveling (too much downtime = not efficient)
- Setting up traps correctly
- Kiting (the process of having a mob running around chasing you, without hitting you, while you kill him slowly from long range)
These are the 4 basics of playing a hunter. A seasoned hunter might say kiting is situational and isn’t really needed as a tactic for leveling, but on the other hand, anyone that ever leveled a hunter might remember how many times that situation occurred during their play time. Regardless if it’s an elite monster that you want to solo without the hassle of looking for a group, an extra mob you accidentally pull or an enemy player trying to gank you, knowing how to kite things around will prove to be an awesome advantage. So learn how to do it properly!
Ironically, the early levels will be the most annoying part of leveling a hunter. That is because you’ll be missing your most important tool of destruction and crowd control, your pet. So take the first 10 levels to familiarize yourself with the ranged damage aspect of being a hunter – learn how to pull mobs correctly from afar, learn how to handle your initial skills and auto-shoot and make sure you get those pet-related quests ASAP!
It doesn’t really matter what pet you take, but again, until you get to higher levels that actually require some strategy and tactical use of your pet, try to familiarize yourself with both a DPS and a tank pet. I for one found myself a lot more comfortable than with a raw DPS pet, but others will, I’m sure, disagree and go for the latter.
In any case, you’ll be getting your first talent points and I suggest starting to build up in the Beast Mastery tree and try not to be too tempted to spend points in early Marksmanship or Survival talents – they are quite juicy and well worth spending points on (especially Lethal Shots in Marksmanship or Hawk Eye in Survival), but they’ll be A LOT more effective later on as your stats and range weapon damage increase. You’re better off shooting for Unleashed Fury in Beast Mastery and Pathfinding – this last talent was always useful, but now that you can get a riding mount as early as level 20, it’s a crucial time-saver in the long run. So get it without a shred of regret that you’re passing increased crit chance or weapon range for the moment.
As a beastmaster your pet will play an immensely important role in your leveling, so make sure you don’t miss out on talents like Ferocity, Frenzy or Bestial Discipline, even if they don’t seem they’re helping a great deal at the moment. You’ll soon be getting Bestial Wrath, which is literally a game changer – it’s both an “oh noes” panic button for when you’re getting ganked as well as a huge boost of damage when going for those tough elite mobs or rare bosses in your travels. Once you get Bestial Wrath it might be a good idea to switch to a DPS pet and start grinding like crazy.
Yep, there, I said it, the forbidden word: grinding. What is usually considered an utterly boring activity for many other classes is actually a fun and efficient way of leveling for hunters. The reasons are not hard to guess: a decently specced and geared hunter will have no trouble going through multiple mobs like a knife through warm butter and the downtime is minimal. A common tactic is to have your pet pulling a mob or two, even when you drink, so with a hunter you never actually feel like you’re downtiming.
Take notice however that hunters will get a major overhaul come Cataclysm and they will suffer one of the biggest class changes by having their mana replaced with focus. From a leveling perspective it seems to reduce the DPS outbursts you can pull off with the current mana-hunters, but it will give a steadier (albeit slower) grinding experience. We’ll just have to wait and see I guess.
Outland is such a damn breeze for hunters it’s hilarious. The way The Burning Crusade areas are designed, with easy circulation, lots of mobs bunched up in areas of interest and the multitude of quests you can take on equals a crazy combination of speed leveling that you couldn’t really do in the Vanilla areas (save a few Searing Gorges or Tanarises). The tactics are simple: go for the higher-level Beast Master talents, like Kindred Spirits or Beast Mastery, send your pet to collect several mobs and AOE the hell out of them. An AOE tank in the early areas of Outland might be useful to help you speed-grind, but I doubt it’s a necessity – you should be skilled enough to kill groups of mobs by now without the need of extra crowd control.
One of the traps many players fall in at this point is trying to finish all quests, simply because they’re in the same area as other, easily reachable ones. If you’re a quest freak that’s no problem, take your time and complete them, but if you’re in a hurry to level up I suggest you cherry pick the quests that also offer grinding opportunities and try to avoid long chains that have you travelling all over the map for single quests. I know it’s tempting to go for that chain quest that gives you some blue bow with improved stats over the one you have, but keep in mind that the goal is to reach level 68 as soon as possible and head on right to Northrend where even the most basic quests will reward you with loot better than what you can get in Outland (for example, even a Sunwell Plateau geared character will find himself replacing items by the time he reaches Dragonblight in Northrend).
One of the major questions you’ll have is whether or not you should rush to Northrend at level 68, or wait until level 70 so you can have a smoother experience gain when you get there. If you would be playing a holy priest or resto druid, I would suggest you stay put and finish the latter regions in Outland, but as a hunter there’s really no point in doing so. A level 68 Beastmaster hunter can take on almost anything that the Borean Tundra or Howling Fjord throws at him.
If you haven’t already by this point, you can start placing talents in Marksmanship. Basically, you get a green light for the other trees one you have 51-53 points in Beast Mastery and have the final talent of the tree. Marksmanship choices are pretty easy from here on: Lethal Shots, Mortal Shots, Go for the Throat and when you have 3 spare points, do get the extra weapon range from Survival’s Hawk Eye. That might mean however that you will have to abstain from going all the way in Beast Mastery, where 55 talents will buy you all the useful talents. You can lose Ferocious Inspiration, especially if you solo a lot and invest those points in extra range that will help you kite and kill better. Personal call, really.
In any case, the usual path for leveling in Northrend is Borean Tundra/Howling Fjord (both 68-72) -> Dragonblight (71-74) -> Grizzly Hills (73-75) -> Zul-Drak/Sholazar Basin (75-78) -> Storm Peaks (77-79) and finally Icecrown (78-80). You may want to skip some of these depending on your rested level, or even on your profession (for example, as a herbalist I would always choose Sholazar over Zul-Drak, whereas if I were a miner I would never miss out on those juicy titan veins in Storm Peaks). You’ll also want to decide whether the geography of the next area is suitable for you: Howling Fjord and Storm Peaks can be incredibly frustrating on a riding mount, but if you have a higher level character that can send you the Bind-on-Account flying tome, they’ll be a breeze. As a hunter, I would suggest Borean and Sholazar as your main targets, they both offer tight clusters of quests that can be combined with grinding and both feature a lot of “kill x mobs” types of quests which seem to be tailored on the efficiency of a hunter.
I hope you found this hunter leveling guide useful and perhaps if you’re reading this before having played one, it also made you curious as to why they’re considered one of the best solo and grinding classes in the game. Regardless of your motives for starting a hunter, I can assure you it will be a swift, fun experience that can hardly be matched with any other class in the game (maybe the overpowered retri paladin of TBC was somewhat similar ;) ).