Marksmanship is not recommended in low level gear. The spec scales very well with weapon damage and armor penetration and thus tends to do stronger relative to Survival once your gear is higher level.
The most important factor in whether MM will perform more favorably than SV for you is your ranged weapon. Ranged weapons below ilevel 226 have significantly lower dps than ones at that level or above. Because of this you shouldn't consider MM until you have a weapon of that level.
Even with a strong ranged weapon you also want to take into account the strength of the rest of your gear. There isn't a magic amount of stats that makes MM better than SV but generally around 4k AP, 35% crit and 250 ArPen are good numbers to look for before you consider switching over.
Generally best results with MM will be found when your stats are high enough to justify dropping arcane shot from your shot priority. Before that MM may perform equal to SV but you will likely not see significant gains.
Keep in mind that MM tends to be harder on mana and more reliant on raid buffs/debuffs than SV, so if your raiding is primarily 10 man you may need stronger gear to see an improvement. Also keep in mind the requirements of your raid- MM can provide the 10% AP buff to your raid via Trueshot Aura (if your raid doesn't already have a Blood DK or Enhancement Shaman) but if your raid is counting on you providing replenishment via SV (1 replenishment source is recommended for 10 mans, 2 for 25 mans) then you should probably stay SV. Gearing and gemming the two specs is mostly the same, so it may make sense to dual spec and swap between MM and SV depending on your raiding situation.
You can consult a spreadsheet to get a rough idea of how close the specs are in your gear although there is a fairly large margin of error when comparing two extremely different specs. Be sure to adjust the buff settings to match what's actually available in your raid.
1.0 Spec â€“ Talents
There are several viable Marksmanship builds out there. Most of the talents are pretty static but there are a few options to choose from based on your needs, your raid environment, gear level, etc. Virtually every viable MM spec contains the same 7 points in the BM and SV trees, it's where the points go in MM that varies.
1.1 Sample Specs:
These sample specs all include Trueshot Aura but this can be moved to another talent if not needed.
- Arcane Shot - this build is suitable to lower geared MM hunters that aren't ready to drop Arcane Shot from their shot priority
- No Arcane Shot - this build is designed for someone with gear sufficient to drop Arcane Shot from the priority (the point in focused aim can be moved elsewhere if the hit isn't needed)
- Improved Hunter's Mark - this build is designed for the one hunter in a raid that provides the improved hunter's mark. Note that it isn't recommended to also take the glyph unless you have 3-4 hunters, but the talent generally is a dps gain even for a single hunter if nobody else has it
1.2 Required Talents:
Every viable MM spec should have the following talents:
- 5/5 Improved Aspect of the Hawk
- 2/2 Focused Fire
- 5/5 Lethal Shots
- 5/5 Mortal Shots
- 3/3 Careful Aim
- 1/2 Go for the Throat (1 pt is worth considerable dps, a 2nd point is only really useful if you have low crit)
- 1/1 Aimed Shot (talents in the tree make this significantly stronger than multishot for single target)
- 2/2 Rapid Killing
- 3/3 Improved Stings
- 1/1 Readiness
- 3/3 Barrage
- 2/2 Combat Experience
- 3/3 Ranged Weapon Specialization
- 3/3 Piercing Shots
- 5/5 Master Marksman
- 3/3 Wild Quiver
- 1/1 Silencing Shot (since this is off the GCD you can macro it into all shots for bonus damage)
- 5/5 Marked for Death
- 1/1 Chimera Shot
- 5/5 Improved Tracking (it is not required that your tracking type match the mob anymore, just that it be one of the supported mob types)
- 2/2 Survival Instincts (this is not technically required but generally will provide more dps than alternative talents as well as some bonus damage reduction)
1.3 Optional Talents:
There are several optional talents that can be taken depending on your needs.
- 1/1 Aspect Mastery - this is generally not recommendeded as it costs 3 extra points in the BM tree to reach (none of which provide a damage benefit) and only provides an additional 90 AP
- 1-3/3 Focused Aim - using this talent to hit cap instead of getting hit on gear/gems when possible is generally recommended, as the talents you give up to get it are usually not high dps. Keep in mind that if you only need a small amount of hit you may be better off regemming, but if you can make use of most of the hit from the talent points invested it's generally worthwhile
- 1-3/3 Improved Hunter's Mark - if no other hunters in your raid are providing it, this talent is generally worth it even if you're the only hunter present, and certainly if there are at least 2 since the other talents you give up for it aren't worth significant dps. Usually if you invest in this it's best to get all 3 points. Note that an improved mark can be overwritten by an unimproved one so make sure the other hunters know not to overwrite yours
- 1-3/3 Improved Arcane Shot - this should only be taken if your gear is too weak to drop Arcane Shot from your shot priority
- 1/5 Efficiency - generally it isn't recommended to invest in this talent as the mana reduction is not enough to make a difference in most cases. However if you're in a situation where you have a spare talent point (usually due to a non-arcane shot spec that isn't taking improved hunter's mark or focused aim) it may be a useful alternative, especially if you primarily raid in low mana situations
- 1/1 Trueshot Aura - only take this if you don't have reliable coverage for the 10% AP buff (also provided by Blood DKs and Enhancement Shamans) from another source in your raids
- 1-3/3 Improved Barrage - this is a decent dps talent but is not worth a ton of dps, so it's a suitable scavenge point for other optional talents if needed
- 1-2/2 Rapid Recuperation - whether this talent is of use to you will depend on your raid mana situation, generally in a raid environment you won't get rapid killing much but you should be using your rapid fire several times per fight
- 1-3/3 Improved Steady Shot - this is a decent dps talent but is not worth a ton of dps, so it's a suitable scavenge point for other optional talents if needed
The following major glyphs are required:
This leaves one of the following major glyphs for the 3rd slot:
- Glyph of Kill Shot
- Glyph of the Hawk
- Glyph of Trueshot Aura - only useful if you have the talent
- Glyph of Chimera Shot - only recommended with low latency
- Glyph of Aimed Shot - only recommended with low latency and your aimed shot is doing more damage than your chimera shot
- Glyph of Hunter's Mark - not recommended unless you have 3-4 hunters present regularly in your raids and you're also talenting for Improved Hunter's Mark
Which 3rd glyph is best for your purposes may depend on the fight type, spec and gear so you should consult a spreadsheet and take into account which fights your guild is having the most trouble with. Kill shot in particular is of more use on fights where the bulk of the challenge is in the last portion of the fight, such as Putricide and Sindragosa.
None of the minor glyphs provide any real damage benefit, but these are the potentially useful ones:
- Glyph of Feign Death (Allows more frequent threatdumps)
- Glyph of Mend Pet (Allows the pet to gain happiness in combat)
- Glyph of Revive Pet (Allows a faster pet rez during pushback spells)
- Glyph of the Pack (increases range on aspect of the pack, allows for faster raid runbacks after wipes and useful on a few fights like heroic Beasts)
3.0 Shot Priority
The first question for an MM hunter is whether to use Arcane Shot. This is a question best answered by a spreadsheet, but generally you will want to ask yourself this question at around 350-400 ArPen (the breakpoint is generally a factor of ArPen, crit and weapon dps). Usually this is the point at which your Steady Shot will do more damage per GCD than Arcane Shot once the bonuses from Piercing Shots and Improved Steady Shot are factored in. Once you drop Arcane Shot from your priority you will still use it, but only when moving and a higher priority shot is not available. This does also provide an additional benefit, since it means that usually when you have to move there will at least be one instant shot available to you.
MM hunters generally use a shot priority, not a rotation. This means that you don't use your shots in a consistent order, but rather you always use the highest priority shot that is currently available.
You should macro Silencing Shot and Kill Command into all your shots, then use the following priority:
- Serpent Sting (usually you will only need to cast this once)
- Kill Shot (when available)
- Chimera Shot
- Aimed Shot
- Arcane Shot (remove if your gear is good enough)
- Steady Shot
Note: if you have extremely high ArPen, it may be worth moving Aimed Shot ahead of Chimera in priority. Kill Shot's ideal priority relative to Chimera and Aimed Shot may also vary depending on gear.
There is no value in delaying a Chimera Shot past the cooldown as the amount of chimera-serpent damage dealt is based on the total amount a full serpent sting would do and has no relationship to the current sting duration.
In order to maximize dps in movement fights be sure to stutter your movement periodically while relocating to allow your autoshot to go off (in addition to using whatever instant shots are available). You can use any mod with an autoshot timer to detect the best timing for this.
3.1 Refreshing Serpent Sting
Serpent sting retains the % damage bonuses (as well as crit for those using 2pc T9) from whenever it is first applied and does not automatically update these to current values when refreshed with Chimera Shot. This means that if you have significant temporary damage bonuses applied it may be worthwhile to lock them into your serpent sting by manually refreshing it while those bonuses are up. However keep in mind that whenever you do this you're sacrificing a GCD for this purpose that could be spent on another shot, so you should only do it if you expect the sting to last a significant period of time (at least 2 minutes). If you have the 2pc T9 bonus you may want to also use a Potion of Wild Magic before refreshing the sting to further increase the crit applied to your sting.
The following are % damage multiplier buffs that should be taken into consideration when deciding if it's a good time to refresh serpent sting (although generally you'll be most concerned with the ones that provide larger bouses): Tricks of the Trade, Exploit Weakness (2PT10 buff), Ferocious Inspiration/Arcane Empowerment/Sanctified Retribution, Culling the Herd (pets), Essence of the Blood Queen
You should always check Shandara's spreadsheet or the Hunter DPS Analyzer to judge the relative importance of a given stat for a hunter with your gear and spec. Generally MM hunters will aim for as much gear with ArPen/crit as possible while maintaining the hit cap.
The following gives a general idea of the value of stats for the MM spec:
Hit capping is highly recommended however hit above the cap gives you no benefit. The hit cap for a hunter is 8% (263 hit rating), minus any talents you may have invested in Focused Aim, and you can subtract another 1% from heroic presence if you are regularly in a party with a Draenei. Note that pets do not get the full expertise value from focused aim and get none from heroic presence, but generally this shouldn't impact your decision as to how to achieve your hit cap. Generally it's best to use focused aim for as much hit as possible over gemming unless you only need a small amount of hit. Pet hit will also round down, so being just slightly below the cap is usually worse than being slightly above.
Agility is one of the strongest stats for MM, although it doesn't get as many multipliers as it does for SV specs (only the 4% bonus from the Combat Expertise talent) so it doesn't tower over other stats in value. Until you have very high ArPen it is recommended that agility be the primary stat gemmed for MM hunters. Since agility's value isn't hugely above other stats it is often worth gemming agil/crit in yellow sockets as most yellow bonuses are worth picking up.
4.3 Armor Penetration
Most of the damage in an MM spec is affected by ArPen. The only shots that aren't affected are Chimera Shot, Serpent sting and Arcane shot (which generally gets dropped from the priority at higher gear levels). Armor Penetration scales exponentially and becomes more valuable the more of it you have until the cap (1400).
Stacking Armor Penetration is not required for MM however once you get to about 800 ArPen on your gear prior to gemming it may be worth considering if it's worth gemming it to get as close as possible to the hard cap. Keep in mind that on movement fights or fights with non-debuffed adds, ArPen loses some value, so don't rush getting to the point that you gem it and sacrifice other important stats in the process.
If you are using a trinket which procs ArPen it is generally recommended that you don't gem for the soft cap (which is 1400 - the trinket proc amount) although if you're close a few gems to reach it may be advisable, check the spreadsheet to be sure but keep in mind on movement fights ArPen will be slightly overvalued. Also if you are significantly over the soft cap with a trinket proc it may not be worth using the trinket anymore, check the spreadsheet for that as well.
Note that % based armor reduction debuffs (Sunder Armor and Faerie Fire) are applied before your gear ArPen takes effect, and that even at the ArPen cap there will still be some armor on the target due to the cap on how much ArPen can affect your target, so those buffs provide a damage benefit even when you are at the ArPen cap and do not reduce the amount of ArPen required to cap.
Crit is generally a very solid stat for MM. It is especially valuable in increasing the proc rate of your Piercing Shots, which become extremely powerful at higher gear levels. You don't need to gem for it but as the best of the yellow stats available to MM (once hit capped) you may find it useful to gem agil/crit in yellow sockets to pick up most socket bonuses. Generally you don't need to be concerned about capping out on crit as MM (you need 104.8% crit before you max out on a boss).
4.5 Attack Power
Very solid stat for MM but not valued more highly than agility. You should get enough of this from gear and should never need to gem for it.
Haste is considered to be a poor stat for all hunter specs. The only shots affected by haste are autoshot and steady shot, and as MM you take Improved Aspect of the Hawk which means your Steady Shot speed will be capped whenever it procs. Additionally since all the shots affected by haste are adversely affected by movement, the value of haste will be decreased beyond what is predicted by the spreadsheet. Some haste on gear doesn't hurt but don't value it highly compared to other stats and never gem it.
It is not recommended that you gem intellect, however you do get 1 AP for intellect with the Careful Aim talent in addition to the mana provided, so generally gear with int will be more attractive than gear without. Occasionally there are leather items well enough itemized to make them worth wearing over mail but if you are usually in a low mana regen environment you may want to avoid these. You get a 4% bonus to your Intellect from the Combat Experience talent.
It is not recommended that you go out of your way to get additional stamina on your gear or gem for it. One Nightmare's Tear is enough to meet your meta requirements and you should never need to gem additional blue gems.
4.9 Ranged Weapon DPS
Most of your damage in MM will scale with weapon dps so it will play a large factor in your dps (often more than the stats on the weapon). When comparing ranged weapons with different damage be sure to consult a spreadsheet as the dps on the weapon may outweigh inferior stats in some cases. Weapon speed generally plays less of a factor than dps as steady shot is normalized. However since most of the other MM shots are not normalized, slower weapons will still be slightly better assuming equal dps. This is compensated for a bit with the 2pc T10 bonus as the proc rate of it and Improved Aspect of the Hawk are increased by faster autoshots.
4.10 Set Bonuses
The 2pc T9, 2pc T10 and 4pc T10 bonuses are all worth significant dps. Generally all MM gear setups should strive to use either the combination of 2pc T9 + 2pc T10, or 4pc T10. Which is a better fit for you will depend primarily on the item level of the T9 and T10 pieces you have available to you. The 2pc T9 bonus is stronger than the 4pc T10 (especially due to the ability to maintain the crit bonus on serpent stings with chimera shot), however as ArPen gets higher (especially when becomes time to gem for it) the dps value of serpent sting starts to wane relative to other shots so 4pc T10 becomes more attractive. Additionally the higher ilevel of the T10 gear will eventually outweigh the dps gap between the two bonuses.
Generally the strongest pieces in the T9 set are the helm and the legs, and the strongest pieces in the T10 set are the shoulders and chest, so this is usually what to aim for when going for 2pc T9 + 2pc T10. The weakest piece in the T10 set is the pants, so usually when going for 4pc T10 this is the slot that is filled with an offset piece.
The wolf is the recommended raid pet for MM hunters due to the solid dps and the Furious Howl buff which scales very well with gear.
If you are in a raid without a reliable source of Faerie Fire you may want to consider a wasp as an alternative as they provide the same buff.
Recommended Ferocity Pet Spec (note that the point in dash and bloodthirsty can be moved as needed, the other points are all recommended dps talents).
You can consult a spreadsheet to estimate the actual dps gain from any profession by testing out the profession benefits provided. Note that since agility (and with better gear ArPen) is stronger for MM than other stats, the professions which allow you to choose the stat of your choice give you the best benefit.
- Jewelcrafting: 3 improved gems for a potential 42 Agil or ArPen gain
- Blacksmithing: 2 additional gem sockets for a potential 40 Agil or ArPen gain
- Alchemy: 80 AP bonus to flasks
- Enchanting: 2 40 AP enchants to ring for a potential 80 AP gain
- Engineering: choice of haste or damage glove enchant, option of a 24 Crit boot enchant (compared to 16 Agil or 12 Hit/12 Crit from enchanters), 1 Agil gain on cloak enchant, other useful toys
- Inscription: improved shoulder enchant for an 80 AP gain
- Leatherworking: improved bracer enchant for an 80 AP gain
- Skinning: 40 Crit rating
- Tailoring: swordguard embroidery cloak enchant procs for 400 AP for 15 sec
- Mining: 60 Stamina (no dps gain)
- Herbalism: no dps gain bonuses
- Helm: Arcanum of Torment (Knights of Ebon Blade rep)
- Shoulder: Greater Inscription of the Axe (Sons of Hodir rep or if you're a scribe you can use the improved shoulder enchant)
- Cloak: Enchant Cloak - Major Agility (22 Agil from enchanters, or flexweave underlay if you're an engineer)
- Chest: Enchant Chest - Powerful Stats (10 Stats from enchanters)
- Bracers: Enchant Bracers - Greater Assault (50 AP, or leatherworkers can use their improved bracer enchant, blacksmiths can also add an extra socket)
- Gloves: Enchant Gloves - Major Agility (20 Agil) or Enchant Gloves - Precision (20 Hit) if you're low on hit (from an enchanter, engineers can use the rocket or haste enchant, blacksmiths can also add an extra socket)
- Belt: Eternal Belt Buckle (add an extra socket created by BS, engineers can also use a frag belt enchant to throw bombs)
- Pants: Icescale Leg Armor (75 AP/22 crit created by LW, LW get a cheaper version)
- Boots: Enchant Boots - Superior Agility (16 Agil) or Enchant Boots - Icewalker (12 Hit/12 Crit) if you need the hit (from enchanters, engineers also can use the 24 crit rocket boots). If you want a run speed buff you can use Enchant Boots - Cat's Swiftness (6 Agil + runspeed) or Enchant Boots - Tuskarr's Vitality (15 Stam + runspeed)
- 2H Weapon: Enchant 2H Weapon - Massacre (110 AP) or Enchant Weapon - Accuracy (25 Hit/Crit) if you need hit (from enchanters)
- 1H Weapon: Enchant Weapon - Accuracy (25 Hit/Crit), Enchant Weapon - Superior Potency (65 AP) if you don't need hit (from enchanters)
- Ranged Weapon: Heartseeker Scope (40 Crit, crafted by engineers)
Consult the itemization section above to determine whether Agil or ArPen should be your preferred red stat.
- Meta: Relentless Earthsiege Diamond (requires 1 gem of each color to activate)
- Red Sockets: Agility (delicate) or ArPen (fractured) if hit capped, Agil/Hit if not (glinting)
- Yellow Sockets: If below hit cap use Agil/Hit or Hit (rigid) to cap. If capped use Agil/Crit (deadly) unless the socket bonus is not worth getting (consult the spreadsheet, it usually will be worth it unless you're stacking ArPen) in which case use your preferred red gem
- Blue Sockets: Use a Nightmare Tear in your best blue socket bonus (if you have none you can put it in a yellow or red socket). Ignore all other blue socket bonuses and gem your preferred red gem (or hit if needed). On rare occasions it may be worth using an ArPen/Stam gem (puissant) instead of the tear if you're extremely close to capping ArPen and have a yellow gem already in your gear.
- Flask of Endless Rage (180 AP) is preferred, although in some cases it may be preferable to use an elixir combination of Elixir of Mighty Agility (45 Agil) or Elixir of Armor Piercing (45 ArPen) combined with Elixir of Mighty Thoughts (45 Int)
- Blackened Dragonfin (40 Agil/Stam) or Hearty Rhino (40 ArPen/Stam) is usually a noticable dps gain although on less challenging content using a fish feast will still be good and cheaper
- Spiced Mammoth Treats (30 Str/Stam for your pet) is recommended for maximum dps but Kibler's Bits (20 Str/Stam for your pet) is a suitable alternative for less challenging content
- Potion of Speed (500 Haste for 15 sec) is preferred for maximum dps but Potion of Wild Magic (200 Crit for 15 sec) may be preferable in some circumstances, especially when using 2pc T9 and refreshing a serpent sting manually
10.0 Cooldown Management
MM hunters have 3 damage cooldowns- Call of the Wild has a 5 minute cooldown. Rapid Fire and Readiness have 3 minute cooldowns. Generally the best strategy is to use Rapid Fire, followed by Readiness and then another Rapid Fire early in the fight (usually when all your trinkets first proc). By using them early you should have them up again later in the fight so you can use them again. Be sure to wait to use Readiness till after you use your Rapid Fire so you can get another Rapid Fire and when possible try to coordinate with trinket procs. Readiness will also reset cooldowns on Chimera, Aimed and Kill Shot, so using it right after those are put on cooldown is typically ideal to maximize dps.
When to use Call of the Wild is dependent on the fight and your situation. On most fights you will want to use it when you use your other cooldowns at the start of the fight, so it may be up again late in the fight. However if you know it will only be available once and heroism/bloodlust is saved till the end of the fight you may want to try to combine it with that and a later set of rapid fires.
If you have any activated trinkets or racial bonuses try to stack them when possible with your other cooldowns for maximum benefit.
You will generally get slightly more benefit from stacking haste bonuses than by separating them because they have a multiplicative effect and generally you gain more from the additional autoshots than you lose by having a longer period of time with steady shot at or below the GCD.
You can also use a dps potion in conjunction with your other cooldowns for an additional dps boost. If you use a potion immediately before entering combat (known as pre-potting) you can gain the benefit from it and still have another available during the fight when the cooldown expires.
11.0 Useful Mods
- Power Auras (can be configured to give graphical effects on various events including L&L procs)
- NeedToKnow (tracks timers on buffs and debuffs)
- TellMeWhen (gives notification of various events)
- ForteXorcist (timers on debuffs/cooldowns)
- SexyCooldown (timers on debuffs/cooldowns, including internal item cooldowns)
- Satrina Buff Frame (configurable buff/debuff frame replacement)
12.0 Other MM Resources
- Salanei's MM PvE Raiding Guide (official WoW forums)
- Strunz's Hunter Guide Part 1: Marksman (Ensidia)
- Scattered Shots: Marksman 101 (WoW.com)