Hunters pull and use threat redirection, crowd control, and primarily ranged damage. Some hunters have pets that add to their DPS which also allow special spells such as Rebirth and Heroism, and help manage aggro. They can also track, tame, and train animals and beasts found in the wild. The well-trained pet, on countless occasions, has saved a hunter's life. They are the only class that can name, feed, and 'train' their pets to have one of three specializations: Ferocity for burst DPS, Cunning for utility, and Tenacity for tanking. This specialization can be switched at any time when not in combat or dead.
Hunters excel in outdoor survival skills, such as tracking and laying traps. They wear mail armor. They are unable to use shields or plate armor. Beast Master and Marksmanship hunters start with a gun, crossbow, or bow, depending on their race. They can use all other weapons except wands, maces, and two-handed maces. Survival hunters specifically use melee weapons and start with a polearm.
Hunters use many abilities that either deal damage or apply a status effect that costs focus to use. Food and drink does not replenish focus; instead, the only source is by using certain abilities or by having it replenish naturally over time. Most other abilities are free to use such as Mend Pet or their Trap (Survival-only) abilities. They can take on various Animal Aspects that grant special abilities, such as improved run speed or additional ranged attack power.
Hunters are stalkers in the wild, living on their knowledge of survival and skill with a bow or rifle. They are deeply in tune with nature and some of its mightiest beasts are their allies. Of Azeroth's many creatures, few can resist the hunters' call, and fewer can survive their fury. Hunters are as varied as the world's many climates, but they are universally renowned for their amazing abilities to find their prey and bring it down. They come from any race (players are restricted to playable races, see below), though certain races naturally excel at the hunter's profession. Most hunters seek to aid the balance of nature along with their druidic allies.
Hunters are skilled in stealth, slipping through the woods like a ghost. Orcs of the Horde first learned the ways of the hunter from forest trolls on Lordaeron and tauren have been masters of the hunt since the dawn of the world. Like the shaman, hunters call upon the spirits of the land, wind, and fire to aid them in their hunts and tasks. Their spells focus on the elements and the land.
The hunter is one of the oldest classes in history. They represent a deep connection between man and beast, and the hunters of Warcraft are not merely individuals who track animals and slay them for food, but custodians of balance. They understand the natural circle of life and death and the part they must play in maintaining it, not simply as researchers, but as active participants. The "Hunt" is venerated, and the prey they choose to stalk is given as much respect as the predators hunters choose to learn from and embody.
All hunters create lifelong friendships with animal companions, who are also often their best and only friends, if the stereotype of the reclusive huntsman is to be believed. Hunters come in all shapes, forms, sizes, and specialties. Hunters are a curious mix of mysticism and rough wilderness know-how. They can learn to mystically align themselves with the aspects of various animals to assist them, such as the swiftness of a cheetah. Hunters use magically empowered traps to maim and snare their prey. They have various shots imbued with magic or explosives to slow, poison, handicap, and disorient their targets. They can even hold their breath and slow their heartbeat to a highly infrequent, inconsequential tap to give their pursuers the impression they are dead.
For Beast Mastery and Marksmanship hunters, ranged fighting requires a choice between a gun, bow, or a crossbow. When starting, this will depend on your race. Dwarves, worgen, and goblins are given guns; draenei, humans, pandaren and Forsaken start with crossbows; the other races get bows. However, all hunters can still use the ranged weapons that aren't inherent to their race. In general, crossbows are relatively slow, but hit harder and are favored for increasing burst damage, while guns are relatively fast and good for steady grinding. Bows have moderate attack speed and are favored for sustained DPS. Guns can be crafted by engineers, but there are no craftable bows or crossbows, so most ranged upgrades will come from mob drops and quest rewards.
Survival hunters forgo use of a ranged weapon, choosing instead to fight toe-to-toe in melee. All such hunters start with a polearm, regardless of race.
Pets are the most important tools in the hands of a hunter. They serve as aggro-management, additional DPS, and as tanks. The pet is essential to all specs, dealing anywhere from 10% of total damage for a Marksman and Survival, to 50% for a Beast Master. Formerly, pets had anemic damage potential and weak AI that often made them more of a danger to a raid than an asset. Improved AI - pets now always attack from the back of a monster - and an innate 90% damage avoidance has mitigated this concern.
Many beast-type mobs can be tamed, and each offer a set of unique active skills (there are special abilities just for wolves, just for cats, etc).
Hunters have a pet at level one. These pets are based on the user's race (night elves get a nightsaber, tauren get a plainstrider, goblins get a crab, etc.). They are able to control the pet through various commands at level 10. Hunters can have only one active pet at a time and 5 others out of the actual game accessible in the Call Pet UI. The stable can house up to 50 additional pets.
- Note: This pertains to Survival hunters.
Hunters have five different types of traps available for use. Some traps are a type of Crowd Control; others are a source of damage, although they do not scale well to the hunter's level. Traps exist for 30 seconds, have separate 30-second cooldown categories, and a 2-second arming timer once placed. A hunter can have one trap of each category placed at one time.
- Main article: Hunter races
The hunter class can be chosen by any playable race:
- Draenei: heals 20% of the caster's health over 10 seconds, giving draenei hunters a healing ability. Extremely useful for high level PvP and PvE. can help hunters perform better.
- Dwarves: removes poison, disease, curse, magic, and bleed effects, and decreases damage taken by a short period of time. Both of these can be very useful in PvE and PvP fights.
- Humans: Humans gain the "racial PvP trinket" – – effectively freeing up a trinket slot which hunters might find more useful.
- Night elves: adds an extra layer of survivability to night elf hunters. provides an interesting element to night elves, allowing them to stealth to avoid mob detection (more useful for solo play), or to get out of combat when about to die. Pairing this with a combat pet that can also stealth makes for a deadly combination. In PvP settings Shadowmeld can be devastating, for the night elf hunter can operate as a rogue, attacking from a stealthed position! An additional bonus to Shadowmeld is the ability to temporarily drop threat in combat.
- Worgen: The worgen's is very useful in chasing down a fleeing opponent in PvP, to kite, and for just saving time moving when you cannot use a mount. The additional is a nice addition, as well as the small buff to .
- Neutral races (before faction choice)
- Pandaren: The pandaren allows them to gain a larger benefit from well fed buffs. These versatile marksmen also take . To add to their deadly hunter abilities, they also have a for when enemies get too close for comfort.
- Blood elves: silences any spell caster within range. When enemies are not within range, it also serves as an additional way to regain focus.
- Forsaken: The increased is always useful, as is , which can rapidly increase your health, thereby saving your healer's mana. is one of the best racials in game, and can be the difference between life and death in both PvP and PvE settings; it removes charm, fear, and sleep effects. Forsaken also have a passive that strips health from the enemy.
- Goblins: They use their rockets to not only , but also to fire off a into the faces of their enemies. And when they need to repair their equipment, they always get the . Their ability increases attack speed, helpful for any hunter.
- Tauren: is very important in providing an early stun to young hunters, especially useful against melee attackers that refuse to stay at range. provides tauren with extra health, meaning tauren hunters can have the highest possible HP of any hunter. The additional is always a plus.
- Trolls: increases attack speed by 20% for 10 seconds, useful for all hunters. in combat can help keep you alive during PvP fights or boss battles, and the increased healing can reduce down time for soloing players. reduces the duration of movement impairing effects by 15%. gives a small boost against beasts.
- Stat priority
- Critical Strike
|Aspect of the Wild||26|
|Bestial Wrath (2)||54|
|Mastery: Master of Beasts||78|
*Only if the Disengage talent is chosen at level 45.
- Stat priority
- Critical Strike
|Mastery: Sniper Training||78|
*Only if the Disengage talent is chosen at 45.
- Stat priority
- Critical Strike / Versatility
|Aspect of the Eagle||40|
|Aspect of the Eagle (2)||54|
|Mastery: Hunting Companion||78|
|Flanking Strike (2)||78|
- Note: Players technically start in Beast Mastery spec; if a player chooses another specialization at level 10, the following are removed: Cobra Shot and Concussive Shot (removed for Survival only).
|Call Pet||Starts with|
|Cobra Shot||Starts with|
|Mend Pet||Starts with|
|Revive Pet||Starts with|
|Aspect of the Cheetah||22|
|Aspect of the Turtle||70|
|Level||Abilities (choose one)|
|15|| Big Game Hunter
| Way of the Cobra
| Dire Stable|
Way of the Mok'Nathal
Lock and Load
A Murder of Crows
| Dire Frenzy
| Chimaera Shot|
|60|| One with the Pack
| Bestial Fury
| Blink Strikes|
|75|| Binding Shot
| Wyvern Sting
|90|| A Murder of Crows
| Killer Cobra
| Aspect of the Beast|
|Glyph of Arachnophobia||Beast Mastery|
|Glyph of Lesser Proportion||All|
|Glyph of Nesingwary's Nemeses||Beast Mastery|
|Glyph of Stellar Flare||All|
|Glyph of the Bullseye||Marksmanship|
|Glyph of the Dire Stable||Beast Mastery|
|Glyph of the Goblin Anti-Grav Flare||All|
|Glyph of the Headhunter||Survival|
|Glyph of the Hook||Survival|
|Glyph of the Skullseye||Marksmanship|
|Glyph of the Trident||Survival|
|8||The Beast Within, T.N.T., Hunting Pack|
|10||Go for the Throat, Trueshot Mastery, Sticky Tar|
|25||Separation Anxiety, Scatter Shot, Mending Bandage|
|28||Dire Beast: Hawk, Spray and Pray, Diamond Ice|
|43||Wild Protector, Freezing Arrow, Master's Call|
|46||Dire Beast: Basilisk, Sniper Shot, Tracker's Net|
- and are logical choices for any mail armor wearing class (or leather armor wearing as well). This allows crafting decent armor as one levels and various augments.
- and can be useful for hunters who need quick potion heals and various buffs from elixirs and flasks. These professions are also good all around for making money and supplying guild runs.
- is good for non-combat health regeneration and provides good buff foods.
- is good for for in-combat health regeneration and low downtime regeneration.
- is good for leveling cooking and for feeding pets that eat fish or can generally eat meat that includes fish.
- Engineering is good for kiting with parachutes, engineering can be useful for hunters who want to master the art of kiting.
A hunter's primary responsibility in nearly all raid encounters is to sustainably generate high DPS. They should know when to use Feign Death to get rid of aggro before they gain more aggro than the raid's primary tank and then continue dealing damage.
Hunters will almost never be asked to trap during raids, but might be asked during 5-man groups and heroics. Trapping is a form of Crowd Control. This is typically done by laying down a Freezing Trap before the pull, then using Distracting Shot to steal aggro after the tank pulls, thus making the mob run at and into the Freezing Trap. Hitting the mob with a Concussive Shot as it comes to the trap is a good way to buy cooldown time, making it easier to re-trap. The generally accepted raid symbol for this is a blue square, although it is very important to confirm this beforehand. The tank or off-tank will usually be responsible for taking aggro off of the hunter when the group is ready to deal with the mob. A skilled hunter of any spec should be able to keep at least one target controlled indefinitely.
It is possible to lay a trap before the pull, wait 30 seconds for the cooldown, trap a mob, and then move away a small distance and lay another trap. Whenever the first trap's effect wears off, the mob will usually run to the hunter and right into the other trap. This is called chain-trapping a mob.
In some cases a hunter will be asked to kite one or more creatures that either cannot or should not be killed during a specific encounter, allowing the rest of the raid to focus on other needs in order defeat the objective. Kiting is a skill that is best accomplished by hunters because of their Aspect of the Cheetah, pets, and armor rating; it requires a lot of practice. While kiting, the target is shot with instant and slowing abilities while the hunter uses speed boosts to stay ahead of it. Kiting for most hunters is the hardest skill to learn, yet is considered by many to be the most important.
This section concerns content exclusive to Legion.
Survival specialization returned to using melee-only weapons and also has a Harpoon ability akin to . Survival are also the only hunters able to utilize traps, but an announcement at BlizzCon 2016 indicated this speciality would again be returned to the entire class.
Gnomes finally are able to play Hunter in Legion. Not only that, there is a new Pet family called Mechanical. Mechanical pet can be "fed" Engineering supplies such as Handful of Copper Bolts. Gnomes and Goblins can naturally tame Mechanical pets but other races must learn how to tame Mechanical pets through an Engineering-made item. 
- The "OMG HUNTER LOOT" / "That's a hunter weapon!" jokes exist for a reason. Don't forget you share your gear class with many other classes. It's very unlikely you're the only person who needs any given drop.
- While the hunter is an easy class to play at a superficial level, it can be a highly challenging class to play well. People will consistently tell you that damage is the only reason for a hunter's existence; in raids, and possibly in soloing, that might be true, but in five-man instances and battleground pvp in particular it isn't. You can use traps as a form of crowd control, and you need to monitor your pet to ensure that it does not cause problems.
- In most MMORPGs, the hunter or ranger class variant is usually recognized as the ideal ranged puller in a group, and this was indeed the case in the early years of World of Warcraft. With the inclusion of additional abilities for tanking classes, ranged pulling is generally not considered a hunter's responsibility anymore, to the point where hunters in groups will actually be expressly forbidden from doing so. This is true despite the fact that, as with other games, in WoW Blizzard has equipped the hunter with numerous unique abilities (Disengage, Feign Death, Tracking) to assist them in the accomplishment of that task. The advent of Misdirection has changed this a bit, with tanks often requesting that a hunter "MD that mob to me."
- In combat, hunters have the ability to quickly remove all threat they have generated on a target via Feign Death.
- Pets in instances should be controlled carefully and watched closely; one wrong click can very well get you, the party, or even raid killed. You should set your pet on passive or defensive mode, and disable autocast for Growl and any other AoE abilities to be sure.
- As for pure PvP play the hunter is a great class to roll. The hunter pet should be on passive most of the time, if not all, in order to track and control its cooldowns. The hunter's role no matter what it does is damage and when fully PvP geared the hunter does a lot of it. With high damage and numerous crowd control moves the hunter excels when played correctly. Some of the things that beginner level PvP players should work on are strafing (running sideways) and stray from backstepping, Macroing some of the hunter abilities, and also staying out of the main fight at a decent range for escape.
- Main article: Changes by Patch
- Patch 7.0.3 (19-Jul-2016): Hunters and Shaman can now equip Mail armor from level 1 (down from level 40).; Survival use melee weapons instead of ranged weapons and are the only Hunters that make use of traps.
- / Patch 4.0.1 (12-Oct-2010): Hunters now have a Focus bar instead of the Mana bar.
- Patch 1.6.0 (12-Jul-2005): Fixed race condition allowing hunters to control a charmed unit and a pet at the same time.
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