Over the past couple of months, Marksmanship has steadily gained traction as the go-to Hunter specialisation for the WOW Legion end-game, although it's fair to say it can prove challenging to grasp for the beginner. With this Marksmanship Hunter guide, we’ll help you understand the principles of playing the role properly, and show you an approach that works well for both levelling up and tackling end-game content.
For a very long time, the several Hunter specialisations were actually very similar, and choosing between them was mostly a matter of selecting which handful of key abilities you preferred over the others - or just going with your preferred, thematic playstyle.
Blizzard made changing this up a priority when designing the latest World of Warcraft expansion, however, and as such the Marksmanship specialisation has experienced a complete makeover. The spec is now centered around the concept and fantasy of the sniper, and focuses on timing and sure shots over a rapid-fire barrage of shots (although, ironically, they still have access to the Barrage ability, and it works quite well in the rotation, as we will see below).
While technically the Marksmanship Hunter can still be accompanied by a pet, their powerful Lone Wolf first-tier talent strongly encourages the player to forego thir familiar entirely, a point further emphasised by a total lack of abilities that interact with the pet. This is in stark opposition to the Survival and Beast Mastery Hunter specialisations, where several abilities require a pet to be present and in range.
In this Marksmanship Hunter guide, we will present you with a great talent build for levelling up and running end-game content, as well as indicate ways in which you can tweak it for specific situations. We'll then move on to an explanation of Marksmanship’s unique combat mechanics, and give you a clear rotation to follow.
In future iterations of the guide, expect a run-through of your Artifact Weapon’s upgrade process, as well as a section to help you choose the best gear based on your preferred stats.
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Marksmanship Hunter talent build
This talent choice is perfect for both raiding and dungeon end-game content, and is also quite powerful for levelling - with a little tweaking here and there. We have noted optional choices when we feel they are relevant.
|Level||Talent Option||Reason for Choice|
|15||Lone Wolf - Increases your damage by 18%, but you can no longer use Call Pet.||Your pet simply isn’t a big part of your damage output, and as a Marksmanship Hunter you have little reason to keep it around. Still, if you just enjoy having a pet, you can pick Steady Focus instead - just expect a slight damage output penalty.|
|30||Lock and Load - Your ranged auto attacks have an 8% chance to trigger Lock and Load, causing your next two Aimed Shots to cost no Focus and be instant.||Admittedly, the chance to trigger this buff is very small, but the overall damage gain is still considerable - just be ready to interrupt the normal flow of your rotation as soon as it triggers. If you have trouble being attacked while questing / levelling without a pet to defend you, take Black Arrow instead.|
|45||Posthaste - Disengage also frees you from all movement impairing effects and increases your movement speed by 60% for 5 seconds.||A solid choice for most situations. In fights where you don’t expect to be movement-impaired, you can and should start treating Disengage as a movement speed boosting spell for better mobility.|
|60||Patient Sniper - Gain the patience of a veteran sniper, increasing your maximum focus by 30. Also causes Vulnerable to increase your Marked Shot and Aimed Shot damage by 150%, but will only last 6 seconds and no longer stack.||This talent significantly influences the flow of our suggested rotation, and is widely considered to be the one that provides the biggest damage output.|
|75||Binding Shot - Fires a magical projectile, tethering the enemy and any other enemies within 5 yards for 10 sec, stunning them for 5 sec if they move more than 5 yards from the arrow.||This is quite situational and mostly usable to delay enemies from reaching you while questing, but it can also prove useful as an interrupt when running dungeons, as enemies caught at the edge of the affected area will be instantly interrupted by the stun.|
|90||Barrage - Rapidly fires a spray of shots for 3 sec, dealing high Physical damage to the target, and moderate Physical damage to each other enemy in front of you. Usable while moving.||While it takes a bit of skill and practice to fit this into your rotation, the damage output is well worth it. Note also that it is one of the best options you have while moving. In pure single-target fights, you might want to switch it for Murder of Crows.|
|100||Sidewinders - Launches Sidewinders that travel towards the target, weaving back and forth and dealing Nature damage to each target they hit. Cannot hit the same target twice. Applies Vulnerable to all targets hit. This replaces both Arcane Shot and Multishot.||Not only does this provide the biggest damage output, it also merges two key rotation spells into one, simplifying it a bit so that you can focus on the most important factor: timing and debuff uptime.|
Marksmanship Hunter Rotations and cooldowns
Playing Marksmanship revolves round the Hunter’s Mark / Vulnerability mechanics. Your auto-attack has a chance to make your next Arcane Shot / Multi-Shot / Sidewinders apply Hunter’s Mark, which in turn allows you to use Marked Shot. Marked Shot, in turn, applies Vulnerable in addition to its damage, increasing the damage dealt by further Marked Shot casts and Aimed Shot.
Your objective here should be to cycle between these abilities in a way that prolongs the Vulnerable window for as long as possible, while maximising Focus spend and damage dealt for the duration.
As a Marksmanship Hunter, the player is supremely dependant on keeping watch over these debuffs and their duration, and as such it is important to have an interface properly tuned to deal with this.
While there is a healthy selection of helpful addons, we prefer to stick with the default World of Warcraft UI for such a core function. This means activating enemy nameplates (by pressing “V” ingame, by default), as both the Hunter’s Mark and Vulnerability debuffs will conveniently show up over them. If they are too small for you, you can enlarge them via the “Names” section of the “Interface” settings menu.
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This is the rotation you should use to maximize your damage output. Do not feel like you need to be continuously pressing buttons here, as there will be downtime during the rotation. You can and should use these short respites to think about what ability to use next, or to reposition your character to a more advantageous location.
Your most important task: cast Marked Shot just before the Vulnerable debuff expires, in order to extend it. This takes priority over everything.
This rotation is the same regardless of the number of targets you need to deal with.
|Action||Condition / Further Instructions|
|1||Barrage||If target is not Vulnerable.|
|2||Marked Shot||If target is not Vulnerable, or Vulnerable is close to expiring (less than 2.5 seconds left).|
|3||Aimed Shot||If target is Vulnerable with over 2.5 seconds left and you have at least 80 Focus (so you can follow up with Marked Shot if need be).|
|4||Windburst (acquired from Artifact Weapon at lvl 100)||If target is not Vulnerable.|
|5||Sidewinders||If at 2 charges or target is not Vulnerable and target has no Hunter’s Mark. Often, this will be your opening shot, or immediately follow your opening Barrage.|
|6||Aimed Shot||To use up Focus if nearing the cap. Avoid doing so if Barrage is close (less that 5 seconds) to becoming available, as the Focus is best spent on that instead.|
|7||Repeat from Step 1.|
Most Marksmanship Hunter cooldowns are either utility or defensive cooldowns, and are pretty self-explanatory.
Trueshot is the exception here, however. It basically supercharges your rotation by making Sidewinders apply Hunter’s Mark, therefore activating Marked Shot.
This effectively removes random chance from the equation and gives you 15 seconds to perform your optimal rotation as described above, ideally fitting in as many Aimed Shot and Marked Shot as possible.
When to activate it? In general, you should use it on pull and as many times as you can during any given fight. Save it, however, if you know an encounter will have an increased damage window, or at a time where adds must be quickly dispatched.
This concludes the first version of our Marksmanship Hunter guide! Soon, we’ll include an Artifact upgrade section and a priority list for the primary stats you should look for in your gear.
Did you find this guide useful? Would you like to see anything else added to it? Please visit the comments section below and let us know!