Once you begin leveling your hunter beyond the starting zone, you’re quickly going to have to start making decisions about gear — which gear to take and which gear to sell to the vendor or on the Auction House. One of the sad truths of the World of Warcraft is the vast majority of gear the drops anywhere is total garbage. We have a name for this kind of junk gear: not hunter gear.
Precise state weights and balance is a concern for the endgame only. When you’re leveling, you mostly just want to pay attention to what is a hunter stat and clump a few of them into more important vs. less important. In all honestly, as long as a new piece of gear is a higher ilvl and has hunter stats on it, it’s probably an upgrade.
The following stats are beneficial for hunters and this is the kind of things you want to look for on your gear:
- Hit rating
- Crit rating
- Haste rating
- Mastery rating (eventually, when you’re higher level — I’m mostly including this just to keep people from commenting that I left it out, and inserting this parenthetical to keep people from commenting that it’s not available at low levels. Once you become a well-read WoW blogger you find that a shocking percentage of your words are written just to prevent nitpickers from picking nits.)
- Ranged Weapon DPS: this is the dps number on your gun, bow, or crossbow
Equally important is knowing what stats are not hunter stats. If you see the following stats on an item, it’s probably a strong indication that the item is not great for hunters. Do not equip items with any of these stats, otherwise people will make fun of you. They will call you a noob and a huntard, and possibly even suggest that your sphincter burns with acid that hurts their man parts.
Those stats are all entirely useless to hunters. There are a couple of other stats that technically help us, but we don’t really care about that much. The actual Armor of your gear is something we hunters don’t care much about, since if we’re getting hit that means we’re doing our job wrong (or, perhaps, our pet is doing his job wrong). The only real benefit of armor is that our pets inherit a percentage of our armor. Similarly we don’t care a whole lot about stamina — all things being equal more stamina is better since the more stamina we have, the more our pets have (they get a percentage of our stamina as well) — but it’s not something we really optimize for. Go for the most damage and let the stamina work itself out.
Finally, we don’t care at all about the dps of melee weapons — swords and axes, polearms and staves. We are sophisticated and technologically advanced. Millenia ago the hunters of WoW danced around the Monolith and evolved, and we no longer hit things with sticks. The dps of a melee weapon only helps when you hit things with a stick, and so it doesn’t help us.
The Best Stats
The number one best stat when you’re leveling is hit rating. Collect all of the hit rating that you can. In fact, when you’re leveling hit rating helps you even more than it does in the end game. This is because hit rating does all sorts of fantastic things: it increases the chance that we’ll hit our target, it increases the chance that our pet will hit, and it makes it so our pet is less likely to be dodged or parried.
At the end game we don’t have to worry about the pet getting dodged or parried, because it attacks from behind while another player is busy tanking. But when leveling our pet is tanking for us, and the raw dps increase from our pet not being dodged or parried is pretty huge indeed. Furthermore it also increases the amount of threat our pet generates, which is also good news.
On top of that, it’s always possible that we’ll be fighting things of a higher level than us, sometimes much higher, and hit rating is vital in those situations. There is no “goal” you’re trying to reach with hit rating while you’re leveling. More hit rating is always better, and every time you gain a new level it will take yet more hit rating to maintain the same percentage increase in hit chance.
The top 3 stats, in order, for a level hunter are:
- Hit rating
- Ranged weapon dps
After that don’t worry a lot about the haste or crit, or mastery when you get there. Just focus on continually increasing the hit rating and agility, and always take the ranged weapon that has the highest ranged dps, and you’re gear will get you where you need to go.
Leather vs. Mail
When we start out as wee hunters we can only use cloth and leather armor. You want to use leather, by the way.
But when we reach level 40 we suddenly get access to mail armor. The great advantage of mail is that it gives us more armor… which we’ve already noted we don’t really care about. We do, however, get an agility bonus (5%) if every piece of gear we have is mail (meaning your head, shoulders, chest, wrist, hand, waist, legs, and boots) so we definitely want all mail eventually. However, it’s not very important to rush out and replace the mail right away. Just wait until you find a mail piece that has better hit rating/agility or other stats and replace it then. No rush.
Okay, that is the rundown of hunter stats. Again, the balance and priorities all change once you hit the level cap and we care a lot more about details and minutiae then, but while you’re leveling you get to work in broad strokes as you blaze your way through the game leaving the support classes in your dust.