Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hunters 101 - part II: hit, crit and AP

In the last installment I covered the concept of threat and tools a hunter can use to manage it. It is impossible to understate the importance of understanding and properly responding to threat issues that arise while in a raid.

In this installment, I am going to talk about some more concrete numbers that affect hunters, their pets and their raids.


The base chance to miss while striking a mob is 5% for 2-handed and ranged weapons and 24% for dual wielded melee weapons. This assumes that you and the mob are of equal level and that you have the maximum allowable weapon skill for your level (400 at level 80). For a boss level mob (the ones with the little skull where their level should be, technically level 83) that chance goes up to 8% for ranged and 2-handed weapons and 27% for dual-wielded weapons. That means that during a boss fight, a full 8% or more than one twelfth of your shots will miss. That is a lot of lost damage, time and mana.

There are two major ways to mitigate this. The first is through talents. Most classes, including hunters, have talents that increase their chance to hit with weapons or abilities or some or all of their spells. For hunters, Focused Aim is a three point talent in the first tier of the marksmanship tree. When maxed out, it increases the hunter's chance to hit with all weapons, shots, skills and abilities by 3%. That cuts down the miss chance on bosses by more than a third and can significantly increase your DPS.

The second way to mitigate the base miss chance is by stacking +hit rating on your gear. Hit rating is not the same as hit percentage though the two are directly related. At level 80, every 32.79 hit rating you have on your gear will increase your overall chance to hit by 1%. Since our goal should be to not miss at all, we need to have a total of 263 hit rating to mitigate all 8% of the miss chance on bosses. If we use this in conjunction with three points in Focused Aim we only need a total hit rating of 164 to never miss.

But what about Fluffy? A hunter's pet doesn't wear any gear. Since a good portion of a hunter's DPS comes from his pet, it behooves the hunter to make sure that his pet does not miss much either. Fortunately, a hunter's pet gets a portion of the stats from his master's gear: the more stamina the hunter has, the hardier the pet, the more attack power, the harder he hits. Pets also get 100% of the hit percentage of the hunter, with a couple of caveats: it is always rounded down. So if you have stacked your hit rating and managed to get your hit percentage up to 7.97%, Fluffy's hit percentage is 7%. So she still has a full 1% miss chance, even though yours is only 0.03%. Here is another caveat: your pet ONLY gets your hit rating. Talents like Focused Aim do not translate to your pet and there are no talents in the beast mastery tree or in any of the pet talent trees that increase your pets chance to hit, so your only recourse (if you want Fluffy to hit that boss every single time) is to stack hit rating up to the magical 263 mark.

The term "hit cap" is bandied about a fair bit. If you have read and understood everything in this post so far, you already know what it is. The hit cap varies depending on what talents they have and what other buffs they are receiving from their race and their raids (draenei have an aura that increases hit chance by 1%, shamans have totems that increase hit chance, etc). At it's most basic, the hit cap is the amount of hit rating after which it is wasted. I.e. if you have 280 hit rating on your gear, 17 points of that offer you absolutely nothing. So while it is important to get your hit as close as possible to the hit cap, it is actually detrimental to exceed it by too much since you are forsaking other stats that may help you in other ways.


Every time you make a physical attack with either a melee or ranged weapon there is a base chance of 5% that it will result in a critical strike, commonly referred to as a "crit". Crits deal double physical damage.

So crits are a good thing, right? You betcha! We all love seeing those massive numbers scroll across our screens. Four things affect the chance we have to get a critical strike. First is the difference between the attack rating of the attacker and the defense rating of the defender. For PvE, this isn't very complicated: your weapon skill is probably 400 and, if the defender is also level 80, his defense is also 400. So it cancels out. Of course, boss level mobs are considered level 83, so their defense is 415. When attacking a boss, your crit chance will be lower by 0.2% per point of difference or 3%.

The second thing that affects critical strike chance is agility. This one is pretty straight forward: as a hunter, for every 83.3 points of agility you have, you increase your chance to crit by 1%.

Next we have critical strike rating. At level 80, every 45.91 critical strike rating increases your chance to crit by 1%.

Lastly, talents. There are a slew of talents that increase your pets or your own chance to critically hit. Lethal shots, Ferocity, Master Marksman and others increase your overall chance to crit. Equally importantly, there are talents that proc (proc is an abbreviation that harkens back to the MUD days that refers to a weapon or item activating with the "Chance on Hit" or "Chance on Use" effect) from crits. For example, Cobra Strikes increase your pet's damage in response to your own crits.

When considering all these options together you can see how important critical strikes are as a part of your DPS arsenal. So what is more important? +crit or +hit? That question is a little more tricky. You cannot stack +hit ad infinitum without crippling yourself. On the other hand, if you focus exclusively on +crit, you will be missing so much, your DPS will suffer considerably. My suggestion would be to gear up to 164 hit rating and put 3/3 in Focused Aim. As you become better geared, keep increasing your hit rating to 263, and gradually remove the points from Focused Aim, moving them to Lethal shots.


Your base dps (before haste or crits or special attacks) comes from your base weapon damage, its speed and your attack power. Every 14 points of attack power increase your dps by 1. Most special attacks like arcane shot, serpent sting and others are modified by your attack power. So the higher your attack power, the higher damage your shots and other special attacks do.

Unlike hit and crit, there is no maximum your attack power can reach and no diminishing returns from increasing it. Other than pure attack power modifiers on gear, your ranged attack power is modified by your agility (1 agility = 1 attack power). There are also a number of abilities and talents that increase attack power: Hunter's mark and careful aim for example.

In the next installment, I will cover Haste and probably delve into some of the nuances of shot rotations.

As always, please leave me a note if you found this post interesting or helpful and especially if you find anything inaccurate and/or blatantly wrong. I try to be as informed as possible, but hunters are not my forte and I have been known to make mistakes.


Thomas said...

Thanks for the post. Being a newly 80's hunter and seeing so much gear around, it's hard to tell which is best to invest those hard-to-get honor points and wg marks.

Lorangriel said...

Thanks for visiting. Hope you enjoy the content.

Keep in mind when you spend your honor and WG marks that this column and the others in the series are meant to cater primarily to PvE hunters and do not help as much for PvP.