Hail, adventurer! After downloading World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, it seems you’ve decided to explore Azeroth with a fierce companion by your side and a quiver full of lethal arrows. But it looks like you’re dealing with a bit of an issue right now: a cascade of golden light flashes over your character, bestowing level 10 upon you, and now there’s a little popup telling you to choose a specialization. Beast Mastery (BM for short) seems fun enough, but now there’s a whole talent tree network to explore? You just wanted to shoot arrows and tame falcons – what does any of this nonsense mean?

Worry not, friend. I’ve got just the knowledge you’re looking for! As a BM Hunter main since Cataclysm, I’ve had a couple of years to refine my craft into what it is today: an Ahead of the Curve heroic raider setup. I certainly didn’t start that way, however. Let’s talk about specializations (abbreviated to specs) real quick.

You’ve got three to choose from:

  • Beast Mastery: A ranged hunter with a focus on taming a menagerie of exotic animals primed for lethal teamwork.
  • Survival: A melee hunter bonded with a single pet, using a grappling hook, bombs, and sharpened steel for cooperative attacks.
  • Marksman: A ranged hunter, most commonly without a pet, focused on long cast time shots to deal intense burst damage.

Each spec has earned its spot in end game content and it’s most important that you play what you enjoy. If having multiple pets, fast cooldowns, and quick gameplay isn’t exactly what you’re looking for – that’s fine! But to those who find an endless barrage of fangs, claws, and arrows exciting, let’s dive right into it!

What To Focus On

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It’s a daunting task to learn a new spec from the ground up. Never fear – let’s start with some of the more basic tidbits first.

Rotation

BM’s rotation is incredibly beginner friendly with the potential for large amounts of damage once mastered. Here are some things to keep in mind during combat:

  • Keep Barbed Shot and Kill Command on cooldown. To maximize damage output, you’ll want as many of these casts as possible throughout the course of the fight.
  • Barbed Shot, while applying a powerful bleed DoT effect, is your focus regenerator outside of your base focus regen. That’s another reason to keep it on cooldown.
  • Bestial Wrath, which comes from your BM talent tree, is your longest burst cooldown – use it each time it comes back up. This sounds counterintuitive; wouldn’t I want to save a burst for a specific window? BM has such low cooldowns that waiting for a burst window would mean losing overall DPS. In certain fights, you might want to align your Bestial Wrath with boss abilities (Iridikron in Dawn of the Infinites for example), but generally waiting around with your burst means missing out.
    • A later talent will decrease Bestial Wrath‘s cooldown by 12 seconds every time Barbed Shot is cast.
  • Cobra Shot is your focus burner. It should only be used to fill in the gaps between cooldowns.

In time, you’ll receive on-use trinkets or items with effects that might alter your gameplay. These tips aren’t completely set-in-stone; make them work for your gear and set-up.

Stat Priority

BM Hunters want to focus on getting gear with the following stats (listed in order of importance):

  • Crit/Haste
  • Mastery (Increases your pet damage)
  • Vers

Generally, you’ll want most of your gear to have Crit and Haste. Haste will increase how quickly your focus returns and how fast you can cast abilities. Crit will increase the magnitude of your attacks. The two combined allow for almost guaranteed crit procs to deal large amounts of damage during quickly recovered burst windows. Mastery is a welcomed replacement for either stat if you can’t get a perfect crit/haste piece. A flat bonus to pet damage is always welcomed, especially with the talent builds showcased later on.

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Try to get gems/enchants/consumables (potions, flasks, food, etc.) with these stat priorities in mind. If you think your haste is a little low, a quick enchant can always help balance the numbers.

Pets: What You Need to Know

Here’s the reason you decided to play a BM Hunter! Pets are a unique way to customize your character while providing minor changes to your gameplay. Some pets are a testament to a dedicated player while others are simply powerful because of their abilities. Regardless of the reason why you choose a pet, it’s a good idea to understand a little about how they work.

Pets have specs just like you do, though they can’t be changed like yours can. They’re broken down into three very basic types.

  • Ferocity. Think of these as your go-to damage dealer pets. Their passive grants you 10% Leech, a stat that lets you heal for a percentage of the damage you deal. Each Ferocity pet comes with a spec-wide ability: Primal Rage. This ability acts as a Bloodlust for your group.
  • Tenacity. This is your classic “Tank Pet”. Their passive grants both you and your pets 5% increased health. Their ability, Fortitude of the Bear, grants you an additional 20% health on use. You are healed for the boosted amount of health when used. This only lasts for 10 seconds though.
  • Cunning. These pets will end up being helpful due to their movement speed increase – a boost of 8% – and their CC-breaking ability, Master’s Call, which can be used on a friendly target.

Each pet family comes with family-specific abilities, making some pets innately stronger than others. Spirit Beasts are going to be a strong choice for raid content, as their family ability is focused on healing a friendly target over time. Pets from within the Clefthoof family are great choices when considering open world or mythic+ content. Clefthoofs have increased healing and 10% additional armor as well as a “cheat death” ability once they go beneath 40% health.

For the most part, pets are purely cosmetic. There are only slight differences that elevate certain pet families over others. I recommend keeping one of each pet spec on hand so you’ve always got options no matter the kind of content you decide to do.

Pro tip: If you’re looking for a cool new pet, check out my article on Unique Hunter Pets and How to Obtain Them. Then come right back so we can discuss the most important aspect of playing a Hunter: Talents!

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PvE Talent Builds

So now that we’ve covered the basics of playing a BM Hunter, let’s dive into the nitty gritty talent tree. Dragonflight brought with it a revamp of the talent system – a welcome change to many players from expansions past. The old system was simplified for the new player experience but it constricted each spec into a certain style of gameplay. With this new system, you’re free to choose what you want to build based on the scenario or your preference. That said, it is a lot to look at initially. Let’s break it down into what’s best for popular content.

AoE-Focused Talents

These are going to end up being your multi-target raid fight and mythic+ talents. I also tend to use these talents as my default while doing world content. An example of a raid boss that would be good to use these talents on would be The Primal Council in Vault of the Incarnates. Add heavy fights like the final phase of Echo of Neltharion in Aberrus, the Shadowed Crucible are another great place to use these talents. Here’s what you’ll want your trees to look like:

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Your Hunter points are focused on several notable abilities surrounding added utility, such as Survival of the Fittest, Camouflage, Intimidation, Binding Shot, Tar Trap, Counter Shot, and Tranquilizing Shot.

  • Survival of the Fittest reduces damage taken by both you and your pets – 20% for 6 seconds. This is the only light damage reduction Hunters get – the only other damage reduction is Aspect of the Turtle which has a long cooldown.
  • Camouflage allows the Hunter to stealth while out of combat for 1 minute. You and your pets will heal 2% of your max health every 1 second. Any damage will break your stealth, as well as any damaging abilities you cast. Good for people who struggle with accidentally pulling mobs, like me.
    • If you’re better about avoiding mobs, feel free to place this talent point into Rejuvenating Winds instead. That’ll give you a health buff and a healing buff for your Exhilaration.
  • Intimidation is a strong 5-second stun on your target. It has a 1-minute cooldown.
  • Binding Shot is another stun but with requirements. You shoot an arrow on the ground causing any enemies within 5 yards to be stunned if they’re moved from within the radius. Nothing will happen to enemies that remain within the 5 yards for the entire 10-second duration.
  • Tar Trap is a trap that when stepped on, creates an 8-yard radius of tar for 30 seconds. Enemies within the tar are slowed for 50% of their movement speed. The trap remains in the world for 1 minute or until activated.
  • Counter Shot is a strong silence on a long cooldown. If successfully shot into a cast, the caster is interrupted and can’t cast any spell from that school for 3 seconds.
  • Tranquilizing Shot removes 1 buff from an enemy. If there’s a buff to be removed from a target, it’ll be highlighted in a bright white border. Any buff not highlighted isn’t considered removable.

Other highlights from the main Hunter tree include Kill Command, Kill Shot, Death Chakram, Alpha Predator, Master Marksman, and Serrated Shots. These talents are focused on dealing damage.

  • Kill Command is part of your core rotation. It’s definitely required for maximized DPS output.
  • Kill Shot works as an execute ability. This ability can only be used when a target reaches 20% health.
  • Death Chakram causes a bouncing blade to dance between several targets in a small area. It deals damage while applying a debuff that forces all affected targets to take 10% more damage from you and your pets.
  • Alpha Predator is a passive that grants 15% more damage to Kill Command and gives it 2 charges. More Kill Commands equals more DPS output.
  • Master Marksman is a passive which allows an additional 15% of your crit damage to be dealt as a bleed over time.
  • Serrated Shots is a passive that gives your Cobra Shot and Bleed effects an extra 10% damage. The effect is increased to 20% extra damage on targets below 30% health.

The rest of the talents fall into passive buffs to gameplay. These aren’t as important to understand because they’re mostly flat increases to damage or quality of life changes. Let’s take a moment to talk about your BM-specific talents.

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  • Cobra Shot is your focus burner. Casting Cobra Shot reduces the cooldown of Kill Command by 1 second.
  • Multi-Shot hits multiple targets close to one another, causing your beasts to gain the buff Beastial Cleave.
    • Beast Cleave causes massive amounts of AoE damage. You always want this active in AoE settings. It’s important to remember to refresh it as it ends after 6 seconds.
  • Bestial Wrath is your increased damage burst window. Barbed Shot reduces its cooldown by 12 seconds per cast.
  • Barbed Shot causes the target to bleed while giving focus back to you and your pets. Your pets also deal an increased 30% damage for 8 seconds after the cast.
  • Thrill of the Hunt stacks 3 times and increases your crit chance by 3% for each stack. Stacks only last 8 seconds.
  • Animal Companion gives you a second pet that also reacts to Kill Command. The trade-off is that it decreases your pet damage by 35% and you can’t use any of the second pet’s family/spec abilities. The loss of damage is more than made up for by other talents in the trees.
  • Wailing Arrow has a 2-second cast time – the only cast in your kit – and silences enemies in a radius of 8 yards from your target. It also deals shadow damage over time to all enemies hit.
  • Scent of Blood causes you to instantly regain both charges of your Barbed Shot after you use Bestial Wrath.
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The other talents within the BM tree are ability buffs or damage buffs. You’re welcome to read through them to gain a better understanding of each talent but it’s not necessary for gameplay.

Single Target Talents

Just as the name suggests, this talent tree is dedicated to dealing focused damage to a single target. An example of a fight this would be great for is Rashok in Aberrus, the Shadowed Crucible. This wouldn’t normally be a mythic+ build due to its aggressively honed-in nature.

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The only changes you’re going to see are from the BM side of the talent tree. Everything in your baseline Hunter tree is going to remain the same. Multi-Shot, Beast Cleave, Kill Cleave, Wailing Arrow, and Brutal Companion are all removed. Instead, you’ll want to place your points into Dire Beast, Dire Frenzy, Dire Pack, and Bloodshed. All of these changes can be simply explained as allowing for more damage to go to your focused target with the addition of a new summonable beast from Dire Beast. Bloodshed is a new ability that causes your pet to shred into your target, applying an aggressive bleed and a debuff that causes the target to take an additional 15% damage from you and your pets.

So… Now What?

That’s it! You’re all set to take on the expansive world of Azeroth in WoW Dragonflight! I recommend finding a nice training dummy to spar with, shuffle abilities around your action bars to find the layout that works best for you and tame a pet that you think looks amazing. Then you’re off to complete world quests, upgrade gear, level professions, defeat great foes, or – the true end game – complete collections!

Happy hunting, Huntmaster!

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