reviewed and accurate
Reviewed 2/2/2012
Patch 4.3.2

View other WHU WoW Cataclysm hunter guides.

Cataclysm brings us hunters tons of new gear, but also new combat ratings conversions — meaning it takes more crit rating than every to get 1% crit. The hunter crit cap has not changed from Wrath to Cataclysm, but the ability to ever hit it certainly has!

The hunter crit cap is 104.8% crit.

That’s right, our crit cap is actually more than 100%. The reason for this is that raid bosses (considered 3 levels higher than our hunters) actually have a crit suppression, due to their higher level. Thus if your character tooltip shows that you have a 99.8% chance to crit, you’ll actually crit only 95% of the time.

It is theoretically possible for a hunter to crit with every single shot, but it is impossible in practice for a hunter to hit the crit cap in Cataclysm.

There are no mechanics in the game that artificially prevent a hunter from critting with every shot; however, in practice, we are never going to be able to get enough crit rating to hit the crit cap. Our starting crit levels in Cataclysm are much lower than they were in Wrath, and even as our gear scales up and we get more and more crit rating, we still won’t hit the cap. Not only is it such a long, long way to go, but Blizzard has told us that as we hit new raid tiers we’ll need more crit rating to get the same percentage of crit (probably indicating that those higher-tier bosses will have more crit suppression).

Cataclysm Hunter Crit Buffs & Boosts

Back in Wrath hunters had a lot more ways to increase their crit chance beyond just our crit rating on gear, but most of that has been radically lowered in Cataclysm. The pruning of raid buffs means that on average full raid buffs are only bringing us around an extra 8% crit. In addition to that many of the talents that used to boost our crit chance have gone away or been reduced.

Every percent of crit helps your dps just as much

There’s an unfortunately common (and wrong) belief that crit steadily becomes less helpful at higher levels than it is at lower levels. This is untrue. Assuming the rest of your stats are the same, going from 0 to 1% crit will boost your dps by the exact same amount as going from 39% – 40% crit.

The cause of the confusion is when people start calculating percentage increase in dps, rather than the actual numerical increase in dps. For example, if every crit doubled the damage you do*, then going from 0 – 1% crit would be a 1% dps increase. So if you did 100 dps, you’ll now be doing 101 dps, on average. A 1 dps increase in this example.

But going from 1% crit to 2% crit would then bring you from 101 dps to 102 dps. The amount that your dps is increasing is exactly the same… but that’s now only a 0.99% dps increase. For reference, SV and BM mastery works in exactly the same way — each point increases your dps by the same amount, but the percentage increase gets smaller as your numbers get higher. For more discussion on the interaction of mastery and crit, see the hunter stat scaling article.

* In actuality, this isn’t exactly the case. We have a couple of abilities that only do 150% damage on crit, but then we also have our meta gem offering 3% increased critical strike damage (so 203% instead of 200% for most shots). On top of that we also have abilities that proc off of crits, most notably Sic ‘Em, that also slightly increases the benefit of crit.

Why do I keep hearing about a crit cap then?

Blame it on the melee, it’s their fault.

While hunters essentially have no crit cap and we can stack crit and stack crit until the end of days, melee classes do have a practical crit cap. Because of the priority system for attacks, classes that have to deal with dodges, parries, misses (a problem with dual wielding), and glancing blows.

We hunters have none of those problems as long as we’re attacking from behind — which of course we are (in Cataclysm our physical shots can get glancing blows if we are attacking from the front).  With all that in the mix, those rogues and DKs and warriors have an upper limit on the amount of crit that’s going to help them — and a point at which crit becomes much less desirable.

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  1. Ïba says:

    I understand this is an article only about crit but isn’t there like a soft cap? Like an actual cap where we should be stacking more of another atribute like mastery (supposing you are hit cap and haste soft capped)? Or will crit always bring more dps then mastery (for survival at least) – has I’m leaning more to after reading the post – ?

    Thanks for the info and keep up the great work & site, Frost.

  2. GTyoungblood says:

    The question I hear the most from new hunters is, “What stat is most important?” I’m playing it safe when I answer them, “Agility” I’d say. But then all too often, the next question is this, “Then should I get all the agility ‘chants and gems I can”? I try to duck the question with a modifier, that they need to make sure they get their hit rating to 8%, and try not to go over, and explain why. Hoping after that they forget the follow up question they just had.

    Assuming we are hit capped, is there a point where we hit a balance of AGI and CRIT? Do we always go for AGI in every possible way (i.e. gear stats, enchants, gems, food)? Or do we always gem for CRIT and then AGI if we want a socket bonus? Or vice-verse?

    I’ve spent thousands of gold swapping all my gems from AGI to CRIT and couldn’t say I’ve noticed any difference at the target dummies. Although, now that you mention Sic-Em, I realize I never considered the proc’s off CRIT, so I need to start looking a bit more closely at it.

    – GT

    • Frostheim says:

      Agility is leaps and bounds better than any other stat — even than hit rating. Figure on average 1 agility is worth at least 3 times as much as one crit/haste/mastery.

      • Unknown says:

        What about for PvP. I’m not talking 1v1 agil vs crit I mean for the polearm stats. Kiril gives 28 more agil but the cata polearm gives +324crit. What’s better to have, the polearm with a low proc and 28agil or a polearm with +324 crit (and resil but I’m not worried about resil atm)?

    • mikehunter says:

      can you at least make it clear for me please if anyone can answer for me gear wise what should i get or focus on should i focus on AGI or CRIT im lost i want do raids and stuff if that helps please let me know asap thanks

  3. Narzul says:

    “in Cataclysm our physical shots can get glancing blows if we are attacking from the front”

    Really? I remember Bliz wanted to allow dodge on ranged attacks a while back but never read about ranged glancing blows anywhere.

    • iThumbs says:

      Yea, i totaly didn’t know this.
      Is this true?

      • randle says:

        I’ll also admit that I had no idea I should be attacking from behind. Is this something we should be doing our best to accomplish at all times? Will i see a dps gain if I can attack from behind and if so is there a rough number % gain you might see. If this is true does it not sort of fall on the tank to make sure the back of the mob is facing the raid? I’m not sure off the top of my head if our tanks always do this.

    • Oricc says:

      Yeh indeed, I had absolutely no idea that was true and I’ve never ever heard you or anyone else mentions a single thing about it! This sounds like a pretty significant deal in a lot of fights if it’s true, certainly not something we can just gloss over. Did everyone know about this and are my tanks just lazy for not facing the boss away from the raid?

      Would love some clarification on this frost asap.

    • Ghedrhalla says:

      I couldn’t find the article from Frost where someone mentioned misses or glances while testing on a Dummy and Frost responded he never saw the same and it turned out to be because Frost was always testing by shooting the dummy in the back.

      I still find some shots getting blocked or partial hits when soloing MC if I attack the boss from the same side as the pet, so when possible, attack from behind to minimize any avoidance the target may get.

      As for tanks, yes they should be facing them away both so melee get better hit tables from being behind the target but also to keep frontal cleaves/breathes/cones from damaging your team. If the tank won’t turn it, disengage or otherwise shuffle your way behind the front 180% (anywhere ‘behind’ the boss) to ensure you are keeping your numbers high.

    • reececonrad says:

      For the love of God… glancing blows??!! IS IT TRUE? Granted, some of the time we could probably waste DPS trying to get behind the boss (until we can autoshot on the move!), but some fights could certainly benefit if this is true.

  4. Corwyn says:

    “But going from 1% crit to 2% crit would then bring you from 101 dps to 102 dps. The amount that your dps is increasing is exactly the same… but that’s now only a 0.99% dps increase. ”

    The problem here is a perception of the mathematics, nothing to do with crit at all. Going from 100 to 101 (of anything) is a 1% increase. Going from 100 to 102 is a 2% increase. If you start changing the base, that is where the confusion comes in. Going from 101 to 102 is 0.99%, and going from 200 to 201 is only a 0.5% increase.

    “Like an actual cap where we should be stacking more of another attribute like mastery”

    Every time you add Crit you are making all your other stats worth more Hit (below the cap) is worth twice as much if you have 100% Crit than if you have none. Same with Haste and Mastery (roughly). Theoretically, at some point you could increase some other stat to be worth more than Crit. Survival Mastery for example appears to catch up with Crit somewhere around Crit – 33% (i.e. when you have Crit around 41%, (since you start with 8% Mastery) your Crit and Mastery will be worth about the same, and should from then on be increased at about the same rate). It doesn’t look like those points are reachable in practice. And they would not be a ‘cap’ as it is usually spoken of.

    Think of this like a Multiplication table. You have two numbers X and Y, and you want to maximize X*Y, by adding 1 to either of those numbers. Which one should we add to? Let’s say we have X=6 and Y=3, X*Y=18; Adding 1 to X give 7*3=21; Adding 1 to Y gives 6*4=24. We want to increase the smaller number. When the number are equal, we start alternating between the X and Y.

    • Slipstream says:

      Corwyn, I am not sure I agree with your statement that Mastery catches up to Crit after a certain percentage. Crit affects not only all our shots, but also our pet and procs talents. Mastery only affects our shots that have magical damage, and does not affect our pet at all. Haste only affects our auto shots and cobra shot and pet auto attacks. So 1% of crit actually has a greater than 1% dps affect, whereas 1% Mastery is about 0.7% dps and 1% Haste about 0.3% dps. I do not see any possible way that Mastery can catch up to Crit. I will reforge my gear to keep haste around a 1.67s cobra shot cast time, and reforge all other haste and mastery into either hit or crit depending on my hit%.

      • Corwyn says:

        You can see my math at:

        The basic idea is that stat values aren’t static. Every point you put into Crit (for example) increases the value of the others. But if you ONLY put points in Crit, the value of (additional points in) Crit DOES NOT change. Therefore it is only a matter of WHEN, not IF Mastery will overtake Crit. According to that simplified math (ignoring crit procs) this occurs when Crit = Mastery + (1-E)/E where E is the percentage of survival’s damage which is magical.

        Let’s say you do 10,000 DPS. 179 Crit Rating will increase it to 10,100. 358 Crit will increase it to 10,200, and so on.
        Increases your mastery by 179 Mastery Rating, at 10,000 DPS is 70 DPS.
        Clearly, you should stack Crit.
        Now 3 months later, you have stacked Crit to 50%, DPS is now 15k. Addition Crit will still gain you DPS at 179 Crit Rating = 100 DPS (see Frostheim above).
        Mastery will gain DPS at 179 Mastery Rating = 0.7% * 15k = 105 DPS.
        Oops, now you should get Mastery (actually Mastery AND Crit)

      • Frostheim says:

        What Corwyn said : ) Basically there’s a symbiotic relationship between crit and mastery, and at a certain magical ratio, they’re worth the same. Above or below that ratio, one or the other is better.

        But in practice with the gear we have available it looks like we’ll be stacking crit for a while.

  5. Cale says:

    Great points Frostheim. It will be interesting to see where haste ends up with hunters, should Blizz decide to have BA/SrS benefit significantly from the stat. Right not after hitting the first softcap value, haste just seems bleh. Let’s not even get started with our mastery stat :(

  6. Kalven and Hobs says:

    tl;dr, stack crit

  7. Valacia says:

    To be honest, I haven’t even looked at the stats on my hunter’s sheet since I hit 85 now that she is my relaxation toon that I play to screw off and just have fun with. What kind of crit levels are you seeing right now in raid gear? I was expecting to have significantly low crit, but my bear is sitting around 43% fully raid buffed (when pulverizing) and I have pretty much everyone in my guild jealous it seems.

  8. Focault says:

    I think stacking crit over mastery, after hitcap and haste threshold are reached, is already too simplistic an approach. It’s not that it isn’t generally correct it’s just saying tldr stack crit is living in the paper doll world and not the actual raid environment. Just using my Tuesday raid, and remember this is in a 10man non-optimized group. I had about 8/18 epics at the time and one piece of T11, so no serpent sting crit bonus and here are how the numbers played out for the shots impacted by mastery. We did 4/4 BoT normal and 5/6 BWD normal for reference. Mastery is at 15.05%
    Explosive Shot: 1101/2725 = 40.4% crit, delta is 25.35%
    Cobra Shot: 901/1913 = 47.1%, delta is 32.05%
    Serpent Sting1: 950/1962 = 48.4%, delta is 35.35%
    Serpent Sting2: 337/683 = 49.3%, delta is 34.25% (most likely SS applied by MS)
    Black Arrow: 346/1105 = 31.3%, delta is 16.25% (annnnnd who doesn’t think Black Arrow sucks?)

    If the general accepted delta is currently 33% you can see that the day isn’t too far off from reaching the tipping point as this doesn’t include the 5% crit buff to serpent sting from 2pc T11 and is still with about 8 pieces of 346 heroic gear, non-optimal raid stacking, and zero pieces of gear over ilevel 359. The patch will change it some with the agi nerf but we’ll have the better meta also. I’ll run a more complete analysis on the next run we have after the patch but I think that once you account for everything that is actually taking place in the raid you’ll find that even at the end of the 1st tier of content it might not be an automatic decision to reforge out of mastery on every piece of new gear.

    • Corwyn says:

      The delta is (1-E)/E where E is the _observed_ percentage of damage done by elemental damage shots. You can check your combat logs and determine it for yourself.

  9. Detsit says:

    Hello everyone.
    I have a hard time to write and read English, so have some patience with me.
    I’ve used these pages a lot and have put my hunter up after many of the tips that are here. But are my Stats ok .. ??
    SV Hunter. Stats. AP-11987, Haste-24, 61%, hit-8, 08% crit-21, 54%, mastery -14.23


  10. Arv says:

    Hi folks,

    Survival hunter here. I’ve just read this post and am pretty sure that unless I missed it, no one has mentioned the very important fact that HASTE affects the rate at which our focus (and our pet’s?) regenerates. I’m hit-capped and tend to gem and enchant agility when I can; in addition, I love stuff like crit and mastery. It’s all good stuff. But HASTE might well be one of our *most* important stats, and not just — not even mainly — for faster cobra shots. ‘Ever noticed how many more Explosive Shots you can get in during Rapid Fire or Heroism? That’s primarily due to faster focus regen directly because of the haste increase. Not to mention quicker auto shots (try equipping a piece of gear and looking at your character sheet to see how it affects the frequency of your gun’s / bow’s auto shots… it’s a very tiny increase, but it all adds up). So, haste will up our dps HUGELY. I am too lazy to do a ton of number crunching, but as I’ve been messing around on my hunter, my gut is telling me that haste is the second-most-important stat after agility for my particular playstyle; basically I rip through my focus whenever I have it to spend. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE big numbers, and crit DOES improve dps, and so is very very important. But in terms of over all dps increase, 1% haste might out-do 1% crit for my playstyle :-)

    • Umm.. says:

      Your playstyle is incorrect then if 1% haste is somehow giving you more DPS than 1% crit. There is haste caps, and between those caps haste becomes almost useless. As of right now, crit is the best secondary stat once you are hit capped.

  11. Arv says:

    ok, just read my own post, and i thought i’d clarify something b4 someone goes nitpicking :-) I said:

    “basically I rip through my focus whenever I have it to spend”

    That’s an over-simplification. I definitely get as much dmg as i can out of my focus, but sometimes I will get in another cobra shot as fast as I can rather than hit arcane shot while I’m waiting that second or so for Explosive Shot to come off cooldown so that I have enough focus to use it. And yes I’ll insert the very occasional arcane shot when that’s the idea move. But you know what I mean :-) As with all dps classes/specs, survival huntering is more of a think-on-the-move game than a hard-wired formula or “rotation”.

  12. Arv says:

    Focault, you said:

    “Black Arrow: 346/1105 = 31.3%, delta is 16.25% (annnnnd who doesn’t think Black Arrow sucks?)”

    …yes, I agree that Black Arrow’s dmg is low, but on boss fights I get a good amount of dps out of it in the form of Lock n’ Load procs. Free explosive shots = yummy :-) So I ain’t complainin’ ~

  13. gnavolun says:

    so i have a question.

    Would a higher hit rating increase the chance classes with dodge rating will be hit, even if the stats in the character info tool say there is 0% miss chance for lvl85?
    wondering if i need to reforge anything for my toon.

  14. Deer Hunter says:

    What is the pvp cap for white damage as a hunter?

  15. Palistov says:

    Hey Frostheim I have a thought regarding the value of crit. I’m thinking that there might be ‘crit plateaus’. I was talking with another hunter regarding the value of crit and this thought happened across me. Correct me if I’m wrong, but let’s take this situation:

    I main Survival, so we’ll think about it from that perspective. If I do (on average) 5 counts of damage per second of combat (dots ticking, pet doing damage, auto shot hitting, etc) then my DPS will increase in plateaus of 20%, 40%, 60%, etc.

    My reasoning is that, on average, I will reliably get an extra crit every second based on the fact that I attack 5 times for second. This, if I’m thinking correctly, will be a significant DPS increase as it gives you an extra crit every second, instead of an extra X amount of crits across a Y minute-long fight. Does this thought process apply at all or is it all craziness :P

    This new term I’m applying: damage count per second, is VERY variable and changes, especially since survival has two dots and lock and load procs spike your damage count per second as well as your flat DPS. This is also not accounting from periods of high damage like (for those who spec it) CA range, heroism, pot use, etc.

    Please respond; I’m new to theorycrafting and I’m just tryin to stretch me legs here :)

    • Josh says:

      I took 9 red gems all with 40 agility and replaced them with ones that were 1/2 Agility & 1/2 Critical, my crit went from 27.3% (aprox) to 30%, my total overall damage went up approximately 25% on mobs (my multi-shot damage jumped huge!) But with less attack power (from reduced agility) single target bosses damage was mostly unchanged.

      Worth noting, the first few gems seemed to increase my crit % way more than the last couple. From this experiment I suspect anything more than a 35% crit (gained though reforging, enchants, or gemming) will start eating up other stats like attack power (agility too low), and reduced haste (slowing attacks and regen).

  16. Horris-stormrage says:

    i was heavy haste went heavy crit did not change dps enough to mention

  17. herbface says:

    same as dude above