Hunter 101: Marksmanship Rotation

This is part three of a three-part guide.

[Part 1: SV guide] [Part 2: BM guide]

Marksmanship Shot Priority

  • Kill Shot
  • Chimera Shot
  • Aimed Shot! proc
  • Arcane Shot / Aimed Shot (when under dynamic haste buffs)
  • Serpent Sting
  • Steady Shot (always in pairs)

Marksmanship is the most complicated spec of the three specs because the entire rotation revolves around your Steady Shot cast time and obtaining haste plateaus. This is also the most complicated spec because if you mess up your rotation and miss a shot, it takes several rotations to get back on track and your DPS tends to tank with anything less than a tight, clean rotation. ALSO: MM has three different rotations based on the boss’s health and/or dynamic haste buffs such as Bloodlust/Heroism.

The most important things to remember with MM:

  • you MUST keep Improved Steady Shot up at ALL times
  • you CANNOT delay your Chimera Shot, plan ahead to have enough focus
  • if you get an Aimed Shot! proc, use it immediately

Rotation #1: 100%-90% aka The Careful Aim Phase

During the first 10% of the fight, you benefit from Careful Aim which basically allows you to reach crit cap and all of your shots are going to crit. During this phase, if you’re not popping lust/hero right away, you’ll use your Rapid Fire/Call of the Wild macro and your rotation will consist of hard-casting Aimed Shot, Steady back to full, then hard-cast Aimed Shots again. Once your Rapid Fire wears off, you’ll want to Readiness and pop it again immediately.

Pet twisting works especially well with MM because you benefit from Call of the Wild every single time you use Rapid Fire, which is twice as often as other Hunter specs. The Posthaste talent brings the CD of your Rapid Fire down to 3 minutes, but CotW is still a 5 min CD, so having multiple pets to swap back and forth between gives you CotW every time you use RF.

Obviously you’ll start with a Serpent Sting and personal choice says whether or not to use Chimera to reapply the sting. I choose not to, as CA phase rarely lasts long enough to do anything except spam the hell out of Aimed Shot as many times as I can.

Rotation #2: 90%-20% aka Standard MM Rotation

For most of the fight, you’ll be executing the standard MM rotation:

Serpent Sting, Chimera, Steadyx2, focus dump, Steadyx2, Chimera. 

This rotation changes depending on your haste and the amount of movement you do during a boss fight. The more haste you have, the more shots you’ll be able to fit between Chimeras because your cast times will be lower on those Steadies, therefore allowing more instants between Steadies/Chimeras.

I’m not going to post haste plateaus here, there are plenty of resources for that. I find trying to fit your rotation into a cookie cutter build from some website to be counterproductive, as your haste needs can vary by several hundred rating depending on your latency, personal reaction time, etc. The best way to determine your “correct” rotation is to sit on a target dummy for half an hour (yes, I am serious, 30 minutes) and bang it out.

My personal preference for an optimal MM rotation is 1.6 second Steady cast outside of ISS/RF/other haste buffs. I have not played MM outside of PvP since T12 because MM is not optimal for any fight in Dragon Soul, so this does not take in to account T13 set bonuses.

Arcane vs. Aimed focus dump

The great debate, especially towards the end of Firelands, was whether Aimed or Arcane Shot was best for dumping focus with MM. The answer is both are situationally optimal.

Aimed Shot is good when you have a lot of haste from gear alone OR when you are under dynamic haste buffs. If your Aimed Shot cast time is 1.1 sec or less, it is better to use Aimed Shot than Arcane Shot. The benefit to using it is it deals the most damage in a single global. The drawback is it has a cast time, so it is not good on heavy movement fights and the cast times vary wildly due to changing haste buffs from trinket/gear procs, so you might start to cast it only to find that the cast time is too long and you’re going to lose DPS as a result.

If you know with 100% certainty that you will not have to move during the cast and it will be less than 1.1 seconds to cast it, use Aimed Shot. Knowing a fight well and thinking ahead on fights benefits you greatly here because you can use Disengage and smart positioning to maximize your time to be flat-footed.

Arcane Shot is good for heavy movement fights or when you are not under haste buffs and your Aimed will take too long to cast. You will deal more damage while moving using two instants for Arcane as you would have hard-casting a long Aimed Shot.

Rotation #3: 20% and below, aka Execute Range

This rotation is similar to the standard rotation, but Kill Shot becomes your top priority and you will use this shot the second it comes off cooldown, no matter what. Kill Shot takes precedence over Aimed Shot! procs, Chimera Shot, anything. If you take points in Termination then you’ll be generating focus even faster, so you will need to cast less Steady Shots to cap focus. If you find that you’re focus starved in the last moments of a fight, this is a great talent for you. If you’re constantly capping out, use these points elsewhere. I suspect with T13 set bonuses, this talent is completely worthless for MM.

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