The term Hunter Weapon is often used as a joke. Before Patch 4.0.1, itemization for hunters was more complicated than for other classes. This led to the seeming over-exuberance of some of its adherents to claim that nearly any weapon that seemed remotely useful to a hunter was a "hunter weapon". This quickly escalated to calling any weapon or even non-weapons "hunter weapon" as sarcasm. With the changes to the class in Patch 5.0.4, hunters are no longer able to equip a melee weapon in addition to their ranged weapon, removing the need for conflict over melee weapons.
Several factors made weapons harder to choose for hunters:
- Hunters used mana, and the pre-Cataclysm talent allowed them to gain attack power from Intellect. Spirit and MP5 also had some value to hunters.
- Some hunters wanted tank gear for soloing. Because no tank class wears mail armor at high levels, weapons were among the few tank items hunters could equip.
- Melee weapon speed was more important for rogues and feral druids than in Cataclysm, since fewer talent proc rates were normalized.
- Until Patch 3.0.2, dealt damage based on the hunter's melee weapon damage.
- A huntard might make the mistake of fighting in melee regularly and seeking strength as a result.
The value of stat bonuses for hunters
Currently, hunters benefit from the following stats:
- Ranged weapon damage (but not melee weapon damage)
- Agility: Provides attack power and crit chance.
- The following combat ratings: critical strike, haste and mastery. Changes made for Cataclysm, particularly the shift to the focus system and haste rating's effect on both focus regeneration and focus generation from Steady Shot and Cobra Shot, have effectively eliminated haste's Wrath-era capping issues.
- Resilience rating (PvP only)
Hunters benefit most from the following bonuses:
- Hit rating: decreases your chance to miss, up to 142 hit rating, when you will not benefit from additional hit rating anymore. With regards to overall damage, the effects are very similar to crit rating, until you reach the hit cap. Talents, weapon bonuses and breed effects can lower the hit rating needed to stop missing. Below the hit cap, this is one of the most valuable stats, however after being capped, additional hit rating is nearly worthless.
- Agility. Each point of Agility gives 1 Ranged AP.
- At level 60: ~33 Agility gives 1% crit (14 crit rating)
- At level 60: 20 Agility gives about 1% dodge (12 dodge rating)
- At level 70: 40 Agility gives 1% crit (22 crit rating), and 1.6% dodge
- Agility also increases your armor rating slightly.
- Attack Power: 14 AP gives 1 base DPS. Many shots benefit from it as well. 22% of the hunter's Attack Power is added to the pet's Attack Power and spell damage.
- Crit rating: increases your chance to critically strike, therefore increasing your overall damage. The value of crit% scales with your base damage. There are also several talents and abilities that benefit from this.
- Haste rating: Not that useful because hunters are cooldown-limited, but provides some DPS increase.
- Stamina: each point of Stamina increases total hit points by 10 (10.5 to Tauren or hunters with the talent). Since about 35% of your Stamina go over to your pet, this also benefits your pet's survivability. The talent allows Survival hunter to gain attack power equal to up to 30% of their stamina. Stamina is more useful in PvP and solo levelling.
Haste rating would also increase your damage up to a certain point, as increased haste means that you will attack more often per second, causing more overall damage. However, bonuses to haste rating are very rare on items that would otherwise be useful to hunters. Also, it is counterproductive if your base attack speed becomes too high, because it makes it impossible to run effective shot rotations (involving ). This is especially true for hunters, because their talent provides 20% bonus to attack speed already.
The end of hunter weapons
With Patch 5.0.4, ranged weapons no longer have their own weapon slots, and all guns and bows count as two-handed weapons. This means that hunters no longer have any need at all for weapons other than their gun or bow. To compensate for the loss of the hunter's previous stat sticks, ranged weapons have had their stats buffed considerably.
The return of hunter weapons
With the Legion expansion survival hunters will use melee to deal damage, marking the return of "hunter weapons".