Typical hunter specs
NEW! This page has been updated for the 3.0 and 3.0.8 patches!
This list of typical hunter specs for World of Warcraft should help you get started in picking a spec. If you already have a spec you like, you may find these differ. There's no one right choice. Also see Typical hunter pets.
Beast Mastery (BM) has pretty much always been the leveling spec for hunters. In solo play, it delivers strong tanking ability from your pet and plenty of tools that you'll need to farm and quest.
There are three primary focuses of this tree:
- Fast attack speed
- Keeping your pet alive
- Increased pet damage
To that end, here are some basic specs:
- Through level 14
- Through level 19
- Through level 26
- Through level 30
- Through level 40
- Through level 60
- Through level 70
- Full level 80 build
This progression trades off getting the 51-point BM talent early for the all-important Go for the Throat. This talent from the MM tree, works with the BM tree to increase your pet's focus based on your increased damage from critical strikes. When instancing, this can be a real boon, as other players will increase your critical strike chance, and you want all of the synergy you can get. However, for soloing, this means that every time you crit, your pet gets that extra focus it needs to growl and keep the mob from jumping on you for all that extra threat you just generated!
Using a boar or other tanking pet with charge helps to solidify BM's position as the premier leveling tree.
 A build which trades pet tanking ability for utilities such as longer range and faster shots.
The newly improved Aimed Shot is a must-have for PvP, which makes BM less ideal for PvP than it used to be, but it's still a strong contender, and arguably still the king, due to Bestial Wrath, which is one of the most feared PvP abilities.
Level 70 PVE
As you gear up, and your attack power gets higher, crit rating begins to be the primary focus of hunter progression. To make crit-stacking more effective, it's essential to take the crit-related talents from the MM tree.
Marksmanship (MM) used to be the primary dps tree. It now shares that role with BM. However, MM is still a strong tree, and because it has some of the core talents that all hunters really need, starting with MM can give you more flexibility in customizing your talent tree later.
MM can be a hard spec to level with, but once you develop the right skills, it can result in much better dps on many short fights (this is because BM dps ultimately relies on an ability which is on a 2 minute cooldown timer - TBW).
- Through level 14 - Notice that this is a BM talent. At the very lowest levels, your pet is an extreme asset. Use it. These points can be re-allocated later.
- Through level 26 - Now you're starting down the MM track. GFTT is a key talent because, as a marksman, you won't get increased focus regen for your pet. If you want it to hold agro with Growl, you will need this.
- Through level 53 - At some point between 26 and 45, you can re-spec to drop the BM talent that you took, now that you have the dps to overcome your pet's weaknesses. Notice the use of Improved Stings. This used to be a throw-away talent, but now opening with Aimed Shot and Viper Sting is a must on any fight that will last long enough for at least 2-3 more Arcane Shots. Combine this with Glyph of Arcane Shot and Glyph of Serpent Sting as early as possible!
- Through level 70 - It used to be that taking more than 51 points in MM was a waste. This is no longer the case, and there are hard choices to be made. Drop Rapid Recuperation and Rapid Killing if you find you need Efficiency for more mana.
 PVP Marksmen are dangerous to run into, and their bag of tricks is large. Typically this is another MM/SV hybrid, and the build I link to, here, is based on the synergy between MM and SV in terms of Lock and Load and Chimera Shot.
Level 70 PVE
 Probably the strongest PVE abilities that an MM hunter has beyond dps is the ability to use INT gear for dps. There are a ton of trade-offs in MM, and you could have gone for Chimera or Rapid Shots in this build just as easily. It used to be that MM hunters would never take Improved Aspect of the Hawk. This isn't really true anymore, now that autoshot isn't clipped by other shots.
The Survivalist (SV) hunter is all about agility and stamina. They are oftne considered to be the PvP-tuned tree, though Beast Within often gives and edge to the BM hunter. Their other value is in raiding, where Expose Weakness and Point of No Escape are a pretty huge boost to the raid's dps while Hunting Party gives everyone mana. This is simply not a strong leveling spec, but once a hunter achieves at least 700 (preferably 800) AGI, this tree starts to become more attractive, especially for raiding.
 Here, the focus is on CC, infinite mana and the fact that PvP gear is heavy on STA. Typically Survival in PvP is about tricks that allow control over the playing field. In a very small or very large combat, these tricks can be highly effective including using concussive shot to slow an enemy and then placing a frost trap in their way. A melee class will almost always die before they can get to you in this way, though Death Knights are your bane!
Level 80 raiding
 This build attempts to maximize the return for the entire raid on critical hits. AGI and raw crit are the primary stats of such a build, and with at least 800 AGI, this build is a prime candidate for end-game raiding.