How to play a Hunter in WoW dungeons

by on August 25, 2011

If you’re a new WoW player how to play a hunter in WoW dungeons, take a look at our list of common hunter errors. We’ve got some easy, friendly tips to improve your play.

I keep dying!

Don’t use too much AoE.

Generally speaking, the mobs should be hitting the tank, not you. If they’re hitting you, you may have accidentally caused too much threat. Make sure not to use too many AoE abilities. In particular, don’t use Explosive Trap or Multishot if you’re likely to catch mobs that the tank does not yet have under control.

Don’t stand too close to the boss

A hunter is a ranged damage-dealer. That means that, for most fights, you should be standing some distance away from the boss, hitting him at range. If you’re too close to the boss, you’re in danger of receiving damage from the boss’s close-combat abilities.

Some bosses require you to stand close to the boss. See our quick start dungeon guides to find out when that is.

Use Feign Death

If you’re being attacked by a monster ,use Feign Death. Learning to do so before the mob manages to finish you off will vastly increase your survivability. Remember, you don’t have to ‘play dead’ for very long – even a couple of seconds can be enough to take the heat off you and back on to the tank where it belongs!

My teammates say I am a “ninja”

Don’t roll need on armor that is not suitable for hunters

Hunters start the game with the ability to wear cloth armor and leather armor, but cloth armor will be of limited use to you. You should try to wear leather armor if you possibly can. All that changes once you hit level 40, at which point you’ll gain the ability to wear mail armor. From that point on, you should be trying to replace your leather armor with mail armor as soon as you can. At maximum level you should only ever wear mail armor, not leather or cloth.

Do not roll “need” on anything other than Leather (below level 40) or Mail (above level 40)

Even if the armor is mail, it may not be intended for a hunter. If the mail armor does not have Agility on it, do not roll need on it.

If you played a hunter before the launch of Cataclysm you may be used to the idea of Intellect as a useful Hunter stat. This is no longer the case. Hunters now use Focus rather than mana, so Intellect provides no benefit to a hunter at all.

My tank is annoyed with me / other people say I am tanking

Don’t attack before the tank

The tank should start each fight, and will attack the mobs first. Don’t attack first – even if the tank is already running towards the mobs, be sure you don’t use an ability which will land before he or she gets there.

Don’t set your pet to automatically use Growl

Growl can be very useful out in the wild, where it’s just you and your pet. It can distract a mob, causing it to focus its attacks on your pet, leaving you free to attack with your ranged weapon from a safe distance. In a raid or dungeon, it’s far less useful. The party’s tank will take the role that your pet normally plays, and it’s important that you allow the tank to get control of all the mobs in the combat. If your pet is set to use Growl whenever it’s available, your pet will be fighting against the tank for the attention of the mobs.

Turn Growl’s autocast off when you enter a dungeon (you can do so by right-clicking Growl in your spellbook or on your action bars).

Don’t use distracting shot

You shouldn’t use Distracting Shot for the same reason you shouldn’t allow your pet to Growl – it will make it much harder for the tank to gain control of the mobs in the combat.

Use Misdirect and Feign Death

Using Misdirect on one of your teammates will cause all the threat from your next few actions to be assigned to your ally rather than to you. That might seem like quite a mean trick, but actually if you use Misdirect on the tank she’ll be very grateful! Tanks like gaining threat, so always Misdirect to the tank.

If you are being attacked, always use Feign Death. This will put all the aggro back on the tank.

My teammates say my damage sucks

Don’t use your melee abilities.

You shouldn’t use your close-combat abilities like Raptor Strike unless you have to. Stand away from your target and use your ranged abilities. If the target gets too close, move away and then use ranged abilities, don’t switch to melee.

Make sure you’ve spent all of your talent points

Talent Points are additional powers you get as you level up. To see them, press “N”. You should ensure that you’ve spent all the talent points you have available. If you’re stuck, you can get a good idea for where to put your talent points by reading our guides to Beastmastery, Survival and Marksmanship Hunter specs.

Make sure you have the correct glyphs

You can find Glyphs from the bottom of your Talent window (press “N” and look for the Glyphs tab at the bottom). Most glyphs are not that important, but you need to have the following Prime glyphs – fill up as many Prime Glyph slots as you currently have:

  • For Survival hunters: Glyph of Explosive Shot, Glyph of Serpent Sting, Glyph of Kill Shot
  • For Marksmanship hunters: Glyph of Steady Shot, Glyph of Kill Shot, Glyph of Arcane Shot
  • For Beastmastery hunters: Glyph of Kill Command, Glyph of Kill Shot, Glyph of Arcane Shot

You buy glyphs from the Auction House. Some may be very expensive – it’s worth saving up for them(see our guide to making gold for things on the AH) . You, or a guildmate, may be able to make the glyphs you need if you have the Inscription profession.

Make sure you’re using the right abilities

If you’re struggling to do high damage, try one of the following very simplified sequences. You should work your way down the list from the top to the bottom, using the first ability that’s available each time.

For Beastmastery hunters:

  • Start the fight by using Serpent Sting – don’t use this once the fight has started unless you’re attacking a new target!
  • Use Kill Command if it’s available.
  • Use Kill Shot if it’s available.
  • Use Cobra Shot.

For Survival hunters:

  • Start the fight by using Serpent Sting – don’t use this once the fight has started unless you’re attacking a new target!
  • Use Black Arrow if it’s available.
  • Use Explosive Shot if that’s available.
  • Use Cobra Shot.

For Marksmanship hunters:

  • Use Serpent Sting at the start of the fight.
  • Use Chimera Shot if it’s available.
  • Use Aimed Shot if it’s glowing on your bars.
  • Use Kill Shot if it’s available.
  • Use Steady Shot.

If you are not high enough level to have some of those abilities: Ignore the abilities you don’t have yet and just use the others.

These are very simplified priority systems, which won’t get the most out of your abilities but which should enable you to reach acceptable levels of damage-dealing. Once you’ve mastered the simple system, you can move on to the more complex priority systems detailed in our guides to Survival hunter stats, rotation and glyphs, Marksmanship hunter stats, rotation and glyphs and Beastmastery hunter stats, rotation and glyphs.

Make sure you’ve summoned your pet

It may sound silly, but it’s easy to forget! Although most of your damage will be done using your ranged weapon, the damage your pet can contribute is significant. Make sure you always have your pet with you, especially after a wipe. Check your pet is not set to Passive unless you’re sure you want to control it manually.

Use the correct pet

The exact type of beast that you choose as a pet won’t make a tremendous amount of difference to your damage output until you get to maximum level, but if you want to find a pet with high damage-dealing capabilities, check the pet’s family. Tenacity pets will do less damage than Ferocity or Cunning pets.

Don’t use a flying pet – your teammates will find it blocks their vision.

Use Hunter’s Mark

Remember to use Hunter’s Mark on your target. It will increase the damage you do, and will also increase ranged damage done by all of your allies against that target.

Casting Hunter’s Mark will not start combat, so you can safely cast it before the tank has started the fight.

My teammates say my gear is bad

Don’t use gear with the wrong stats

You should be wearing armor and using weapons which increase your Agility. If a piece of armor or a weapon does not have Agility on it, it is useless to you (unless it’s a trinket)

Note in particular that if you played a hunter before the launch of Cataclysm you may be used to the idea of Intellect as a useful Hunter stat. This is no longer the case. Hunters now use Focus rather than mana, so Intellect provides no benefit to a hunter at all.

My teammates keep asking me to ‘trap’

Use your trap launcher

Your teammates want you to use your trap launcher to temporarily disable one of the monsters you’re about to face. You’ll probably want to use a Freezing Trap. If you use your Trap Launcher ability before you use the Freezing Trap ability, you’ll be able to choose where the trap lands, rather than automatically laying it directly in front of you.

My teammates keep asking me to ‘dismiss’ my pet

Dismiss your pet when you need to

Occasionally, you will need to dismiss your pet. It may be because your party is intending to take a shortcut (perhaps jumping down to a lower level of the dungeon) which your pet will not be able to follow. There are also boss fights during which your pet is more of a hindrence than a help. Either way, if you’re asked to dismiss your pet, do so (right-click your pet’s unit frame and choose Dismiss). You can call the pet back later on.

My teammates keep saying ‘aspect’

Don’t use Aspect of the Pack

It’s great to be able to help your teammates out with your Aspect of the Pack ability, but if you forget to turn it off again before the fighting starts you’re going to be in trouble! Anybody who is hit in combat while Aspect of the Pack is affecting her will be stunned and unable to do anything for a few precious seconds. Turn it off!

If you enjoyed this article, check out our other posts from these categories: Archives

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

ingen2 September 24, 2011 at 11:38 pm

at the “My teammates say my damage sucks” it might be worth mentioning that you should ALWAYS be casting something. if you don’t have any instants to cast, use cobra/steady shot. this seems to be one of the most common mistakes hunters do.


Hugh Hancock September 26, 2011 at 10:45 am

@ingen2 – Absolutely – very good point!


Joy April 20, 2012 at 10:51 pm

All Good points,

A few more I’d like to add to the list that I’ve noticed.
I started WoW as a hunter during wrath as BM, (primarily for the exotic pets) despite every bit of info anywhere stating it to be the worst spec

So naturally my tips are geared towards bm hunters..

PETS are the number 1 reason hunter’s get grief.
control your pets, keep them on passive if you need to, set your macros to include /petattack so you’re pet is always attacking the same thing as you

misdirecting to the tank is important as mentioned
I personally set the tank as focus and have a macro bound to “G” that will misdirect to my focus, or if focus is dead, my pet.

Help the tank make pulls by misdirecting then multishot as soon as they attack.

pet selection as mentioned is very important.
Here is a quick breakdown:
#1 leveling DPS: any cat
#2 any wolf (if you’re with another hunter, 1 cat and 1 wolf, buffs don’t stack)

ONLY tank pet you should ever use:
any turtle

pvp is a bit more situational, but the easy answer:
any spider

when/if you’re a beastmaster 69+
the pet selection changes
spirit beasts= (cat + 30 sec cd HoT)
core hound (time warp effect + slow enemy casting speed) useful in absence of mage)
Devilsaur= (wolf + -25% healing for target)

silithid= (spider + stam buff)
chimera= aoe + 5s slow w/ 10s cd

spirit beast is the best choice all-around.. gives your hunter a self heal.
I set up a macro to heal focus (tank) and mod to heal self.

ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS have out a pet, turn off growl.
if you pull aggro somehow, misdirect>disengage>deterrence>feign
(hitting growl once might be enough in some situations)
(save feign for last, bc if you have aggro, chance are tank isn’t doing great, you might have to feign for your life very soon)

pugging 101
start with cat, tank has trouble with aggro or group wipes etc… pull out turtle.. tank may hate you.. but the turtle will keep the group alive.. I’ve personally tanked dungeons like this before, it’s slower, but it works.

shot rotations (BM)
serpent sting>bestial wrath (+ any/all cds)>kill shot>kill command>arcane shot>cobra shot
(serpent sting should never fall off bc of cobra shot

i generally save fervor for during or right before BW
multishot can take the place of arcane with multiple enemies (in which case I’d drop serpent sting also)
in cases of larger groups 5+ explosive trap>multishot + all cds as available

stats wise
(stamina is nice but never gem or enchant for it, unless maybe you’re going for an EPIC solo turtle tank run)

basically haste is nice, but crit is more beneficial, don’t reforge all haste to crit… but maybe some..
the mastery stat is a waste, also reforge excess hit accordingly..

staff v dual wield
stat stick are better. + allow for agi enchantment, only go for dual wield if you by RNG get two 1h with appropriate stats that are higher ilvl than current stick, and only til you get an equal ilvl stick

enchant your bow/gun (generally very cheap)

macros for traps can make it easier, i have it set to where traplauncher/trap means hitting 1 button twice then choosing where to send it..

distracting shot IS useful.. but only in particular situations..
ex: tank is about to die.. Dshot & kite mob to you long enough for healer to get tank healed up.

I know this is long, hope it helps somebody, Happy Hunting ;)


Rangdul October 17, 2012 at 4:04 am

You must know by now that the all the glyphs you suggest are no longer available in game….yes? I believe some changes in the suggestions needs to be made….



Hugh Hancock October 18, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Ah – this guide hasn’t been updated to MoP yet. Check our main hunter guides for more up-to-date info.


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