The hunter class is rewarding and fun to play on many different levels. Regardless of it's stigma of being "the starter class", with the proper passion and knowledge one can do amazingly good DPS and bring the hurt like no other. Like many others this class is always changing and by keeping up on those changes, one can always be counted on as a major damage dealer. Below you will find sections of information on BASE STATS, SPECS, PETS, MACROS and CONSUMABLES. Keep in mind that some of the pieces of information are simply raw suggestions and can be tailored around your play style. If you have any questions, feel free to send me a PM and I'll do my best to give you the information.
Here are the important stat conversions for a level 80 hunter.
45.9 critical strike rating = 1% critical strike chance
32.79 haste rating = 1% haste
32.79 hit rating = 1% hit chance
12.31 armor penetration rating = 1% armor ignored
1 agility = 1 attack power & .012% critical strike chance
To prioritize general hunter stats: HIT -> AGIL -> AP -> CRIT -> HASTE
You cannot DPS what you cannot hit. Hit rating is a primary DPS stat and being a hunter grants no exceptions. The end goal is an 8% increase chance to hit, or inversely an -8% chance to miss. Getting hit capped can be brutally hard when you first hit the level cap, but gradually gets easier. On a personal level I never shard replaced gear. If I receive an upgrade I may need to reallocate some stats to remain hit capped. There will be more later on regarding ways to get and stay hit capped.
AGIL VS AP+CRIT
There is discussion that there could be slight differences in itemization of stats depending on your spec. For instance, SURV hunters can feel free to max out AGIL at all costs. This is for an increase is bonus damage on Expose Weakness procs. Also there are multiple talents and glyphs that increase SURV shots by a significant amount, allowing for the loss in straight critical strike rating. For MM hunters it may be better to build AP & CRIT seperately given the relatively small amount of crit gained from agility. Agility should never be avoided for the MM hunter, but enhancements (such as gems and enchants) can be better allocated to seperately building AP and CRIT. At this time BM really can benefit from any of the stats, provided you follow the priority list accordingly.
Armor Penetration has recently recieved a buff (increased the amount of armor penetration provided by armor penetration rating by 25%) across all classes. Futhurmore, many Ulduar level hunter items feature ArP as stat itemization, much more so than before. ArP is not a terrible stat to have, but it should not be a priority for any hunter. Always remember that your ArP is calculated AFTER sunders, and this is the main reason the little amount of ArP hunter receive is not significant to focus on.
What can we say about haste? It's nice but not super important. What can haste do for us? Well the main benefit of haste is reducing the cast time on Steady Shot, which is 2 seconds. The tooltip reads 1.5 second (the same as the GCD) but there is always a hidden .5 sec cast that can be reduced creating a "softcap". After you hit that softcap to reduce Steady Shot cast time to at or below 1.5 seconds you can stop stacking haste.
TALENT TREE SPECS
Currently there are only 2 raid viable trees for hunters. BM output is so rediculously low that no serious raiding hunter would consider it. Unless you are married to it. Also with the pre-WOTLK changes in how auto shot works, shot macros are fading fast as a serious means of dealing damage. The new paradigm involves prioritizing your shots based on damage, then using the highest damage shot FIRST. For instance take MM, if Chimera Shot and Aimed Shot are both available, you would select Chimera first, then immediately use Aimed. As soon as Chimera is off cool down it should be the next shot you select. On a personal level I have one bar above the rest (and with larger buttons) that are just my shots in priority order. This way I can look at the row and see which shot to select next and which are coming off cool down soon. Another tip to increase your DPS is to make a macro that incorporates your Kill Command into your Steady Shot. This way Kill Command will be used each and every cool down passively without having to actively monitoring the cool down and select the ability.
Shot Rotation Priority Kill Shot->Chimera Shot->Aimed / Multi Shot->Arcane Shot->Steady Shot
Something to note about this build, it is very reliant on gear. Unless you have the AP (+5000), Crit (+35%), and Hit (8%) unbuffed this build is less than ideal. The idea of this spec is to provide consistant DPS through bleeds, stings, and high power shots. While MM has been known as a very bursty damage dealing spec in the past, compared to modern SURV specs, MM has a more consistant tone. None the less, this spec has done very well for me. Make sure to sting the target with serpent first and Chimera will refresh the sting. If for some reason it falls off, make sure to reapply before continuing the rotation. For AOE mob packs, use Multi-shot and Volley while MS is on cool down. These are both talented with this spec and will do serious dps. Also there is no push back on volley which is useful with the current contents liberal application of raid damage. This spec will have damage issues against any mob immune to stings. A large portion of MM damage is from periodic SrS damage as well as the damage increase for Chimera Shot. Luckily, MM hunters still have talented Aimed and Arcane Shot to deal damage. Also, sting immune targets are not frequent in the current content. Also this spec is not mana friendly either and you may have to spend some time in AOT Viper to regen mana. Just make sure SrS does not fall off.
Shot Rotation Priority Kill Shot->Black Arrow->Explosive Shot->Aimed Shot->Serpent Sting->Steady Shot
This is currently the hot spec. The talents contained within can output amazingly good dps for even moderately geared hunters. As the gear improves, the spec gets better and better. First and foremost, this talent build makes use of serveral important talents that work together to create deadly synergy. The first relationship to note is between Explosive Shot + Lock and Load. When LnL procs you essentially will get 3 ExS in a row (ExS continues to cool down while proc'ed, giving you 2 for free and the last one will be a regular ExS). Given the major damage abilities of ExS, this insane proc can instantly destroy the DPS charts. How do we get LnL to proc? Well when capped, we have a 100% chance when we trap and a 10% when periodic damage is dealt with Black Arrow. For a raid setting the main proc will be from Black Arrow. This puts Black Arrow high on the priority list (not to mention the serious DOT) and it should be used on every cool down. The second relationship is between Expose Weakness and Master Tactician. Any ranged shot has the 10% chance to proc an extra 10% crit. Given the speed of our shots, Master Tact has a very high uptime value. This in turn means more crits, which in turn will proc Expose Weakness - basically you get 25% of your agility as bonus AP. For the average raid buffed hunter, having something like 1300 agility is not uncommon, yielding an additional 325 AP. Simply devistating. The only potentially troublesome situation would be against fire immune targets. The current raid content does not feature that so SURV is more than viable.
So let's face it, our pets are a key ingredient to being a hunter. In more recent times the pure damage output has been reduced but that should not mean we disregard our furry/scaly/glowie friends. Here are a couple pets and specs in order of dps ability and popularity. As a rule of thumb, Tenacity (leveling / off tanking) and Cunning (pvp) pets can not match Ferocity pets on pure output and should be avoided in a raid setting.
The wolf used to be the very worse choice for a raid pet given that it's group buff Furious Howl, was always being overwritten by any other AP buff. With the recent changes, the buff is now exclusive between the hunter and pet but is not overwritten by other raid buffs. Essentially the buff cycle is 40 seconds, granting 320 AP for 20 seconds, then cooling down for an additional 20. For the time your pet is alive, you have an extra 320 AP 50% of the time. Enter wolf supremacy. Plus you can have that cool glowie tattoo'd wolf from Zul'Drak. I always wanted one of dem.
The cat has been the long supreme choice and still remains viable today. It's combination of bleed damage and fast as lightning attacks make it solid for early heroics and 10 mans, until you get a chance to level your wolf. Please note, heroics are a great way to level your selected pet, so given the chance you may want to jut find that wolf and run with him.
Raptors have been recently making the rounds with serveral world first guilds. I can only speculate this has to do with Savage Rend, which causes damage upfront, then a small portion of bleed damage. If it crits, the raptors damage output is increased by 10% for 30 seconds. I would assume that this may be more benefitial for BM hunters and given the lack of a viable BM spec, raptors fall on the charts for popularity.
Is a good all around spec to use for these pets. There are talents to increase your damage output, crit, and AOE damage recieved. You may also notice I have not talented into Call of the Wild. If you have a cat or raptor you may want to talent into that, trading off Heart of the Phoenix. I would much rather prefer having the ability to recover my pet fast in the event where things goes bad, allowing him to keep up his furious howl buff. Call is very clumsy to use as well; unless you leave it on autocast (not recommended), to use the item you have to mash the spell until your pet responds. All the while you are not doing your rotation and losing DPS. You could work that into an IWIN macro, but given it's issue from above and the fact that its on a 5 min cooldown makes it less useful in a macro as well and even more less useful to me personally. I also heavily recommend Bloodthirsty. The healing aspect is a nice bonus but not having to carry food to increase your pets happiness (and damage output) is essential.
I'll be keeping the series short as the majority of hunter macro is non-essential for most hunters. However these provide a great way to incorporate functionality of certain skills, as well has provide ease of use aspects to our lives as hunters. All these are tested on live servers and currently are working.
Since the majority of hunters no longer use macro for a shot rotation, Kill Command can get overlooked (it used to be worked into the shot macro). In that spirit we can incorporate Kill Command into our Steady Shot. This will unsure Kill Command is used at every opportunity. I even give it the same icon as SS as to not confuse myself.
/cast [target=pettarget,exists] Kill Command
/cast Steady Shot
Pet Overheal Protection
Mend Pet is spammable, which does a couple of things. Increase your pet happiness if glyphed and drain your mana. This macro will effectively "gray out" the macro while mend is ticking, then become active again when mend no longer ticks.
/castsequence reset=15 Mend Pet, null
This will stop casting a shot, turn off auto shot, recall your pet, and clear your target. Basically it halts all actions.
Of course, just modify this to include what you have to use. This may include / exclude racials, trinkets, cooldowns.
/cast Talent 1
/cast Talent 2
/cast Racial Ability
This will cast Master's Call on yourself. I use this mainly in PVP, or in situations where I need to have my pet get out of harms way IMMEDIATELY. For example, to have your pet avoid Sarths Flame walls, just be in range and use this macro. He will sprint back to you and stop, safe and sound (hopefully).
#showtooltip Master's Call
/cast [target=player] Master's Call
Master's Tank Call
This macro will free the tank from any movement imparing debuffs and keep him immune for a short time. Since your pet should be near the melee, he will be in range of the tank at most times. This is also contingent on your focus target being set on the tank that you want to free. I use this in combination with my Misdirection macro (also reliant on a focus target) so it works well.
/cast [target=focus] Master's Call
This will simply cast Misdirection on your focus target (ie the tank). If there is no focus target set, your MD will be cast on your pet. It also makes sure you are running AOT Dragonhawk, the most threaty of all the aspects.
/cast [target=focus,exists,nodead] Misdirection; [target=pet,exists,nodead] Misdirection
/cast !Aspect of the Dragonhawk
This is probably the easiest of all things you can do as a hunter to increase your output. This entails using flasks and food to increase stats for you and your pet. I'll list them in order of priority. Keep in mind that the cheapest was to maintain a alchemy buff is to use a flask. While they may seem more expensive upfront, they persist through death and provide a much better buff. If you must use Elixirs, make sure to have a guardian and battle elixir ready.
HUNTER - ALCHEMY BUFF
Flask of Endless Rage
Flask of Relentless Assault
Elixir of Accuracy - if not hit capped.
Elixir of Mighty Agility
Elixir of Mighty Fortitude - To be paired with a Battle Elixir.
HUNTER - FOOD BUFF
Fish Feast - If you are talented into Careful Aim we also gain AP from STAM, giving us a total of 120 AP, and 40 STAM overall.
Great Feast - We gain overall 90 AP and 30 STAM.
Dalaran Clam Chowder if there are not feasts available.
Blackened Dragonfin - We gain overall 80 AP and 40 STAM.
Snapper Extreme - Use this if you are not hit capped.
PET - FOOD BUFF
Spiced Mammoth Treats - If you can get em, use em. Better yet, go level cooking so you can make them yourself.