Here I'll record my experience levelling as a hunter from level 1 to 20, talking about skills and specs and anything else that may be useful to know. The High Elf starting experience is a little different from normal but once you complete the introduction the levelling should be similar between races.
|Level 1 High Elf Hunter|
Here's our brand new hunter and some basic information about her:
- Hunters wear medium armour
- Primary stat is Agility
- The main weapon is a bow, but also dual-wield one-handed melee weapons such as daggers, swords, or axes.
- Starting abilities are: Quick Shot (a ranged attack that generates focus), Penetrating Shot (a ranged attack that costs focus and bypasses enemy mitigations) and Blindside (a melee attack followed by a close-range ranged attack).
Focus is a key resource used by hunters. You build it up and then spend it on powerful attacks. At higher levels you will gain abilities that let you build it up quickly before or during battle. You could also gain bonus focus or reduce focus costs when using certain skills.
The high elf is initially scaled up to level 110 in the introduction in stats but not skills, and starts with a bow and a pair of daggers (one of the daggers is in your bags). When you return to Elrond's House, you are returned to level 1 stats. You receive a gift from Elrond which contains your old armour from the Second Age, some armour dyes, a housing decoration (a Radiant Basin), some basic food and some healing potions. You also gain the Milestone skill, automatically set to Celondim in Ered Luin, and the novice passive skill.
|Arrival in Celondim, Ered Luin|
The high elf is boosted to level 5 on arrival in Celondim. You also gain several skills:
- Set Trap: place a trap at your feet that will deal damage and root enemies in place for 30 seconds, giving you time to get away.
- Stance - Strength: this stance can be toggled on or off and increases your damage and critical chance. It also gives Quick Shot a slowing effect.
- Barbed Arrow: a ranged attack that generates focus, causes a bleeding effect (damage over time) and slows enemies.
At level 6 you can choose a specialisation. Here are the different specialisations you can choose:
- Blue = Huntsman - you can shoot while moving; you also gain Barrage (a ranged shot that costs focus and deals more damage each time it is used) and Scourging Blow (a melee attack that deals more damage if the enemy is bleeding from Barbed Arrow).
- Red = Bowmaster - you can attack faster and have greater range; you also gain Pinning Shot which roots an enemy in place for 5 seconds.
- Yellow = Trapper of Foes - you have many crowd control options and can cast traps while moving; you also gain Lingering Wound (an instant ranged attack that causes a bleed effect and stacks up to 4 times) and Decoy (an object that causes enemies to attack it instead of you).
I've played all the specs on various hunters and they're all good, with different playstyles. Blue offers great mobility and sustained damage, Red needs to stand still to shoot but has high burst damage, and Yellow has lots of crowd control and defensive buffs.
At level 7 you get your first trait point to spend in your chosen specialisation. You get additional trait points every odd level from now on, as well as from some quests and deeds.
At level 8 you gain the Focus skill which lets you fill up your Focus before combat so you can start with some strong attacks.
At level 10 you gain a couple of skills: Swift Bow, which generates 2 focus and hits hard, but has a long cast time (can be a useful opening skill, if the enemy doesn't know you're winding up a big shot), and Passage of Nature, which lets you track beasts (good for finding rare mobs or quest objectives). You are also now eligible to take part in Epic Battles such as Retaking Pelargir, but although you get scaled to level 100, without all the equipment slots filled and with limited abilities you will be very vulnerable, so it may not be a very successful or satisfactory experience.
You get a great skill at level 12: Find the Path. This is a toggled ability that gives you and your nearby fellowship members a run-speed buff when out of combat. You probably want this on all the time, so when you log in, change specs or get defeated you may need to turn it on again.
At level 14 you can Purge Poison (as well as wounds, disease and fear debuffs) from yourself.
By the time you get to level 15 you've probably got several quests sending you to Bree and Bree-land. At level 15 you get a quest in the mail suggesting you should visit a hunter trainer. The hunter trainer urges you to seek out Gytha Lainey at Adso's Camp in Bree-land who needs you to track down a wolf in the Old Forest.
|Track down and defeat Yellowfang in the Old Forest|
On completing the quest, you receive a furry helmet and the title "Swift Arrow".
At level 15 you also gain some passive abilities, namely that you can now wield clubs, hammers and maces, and you can also use Hand-wrought Traps (except these weaponsmith recipes and items are obsolete and no longer in the game).
I had been levelling as Yellow, but I switched to Red. At the Brigand's Watch camp in Bree-land, it seemed almost unfair that I could stand there, fill up my focus bar and then one-shot three of the brigands as fast as I could cast Penetrating Shot three times. They didn't even have time to warn their friends standing right next to them.
The Precision stance becomes available at level 16. With this stance toggled on, you gain some focus every 5 seconds, a brief finesse buff upon activation and Quick Shot has an increased critical strike chance.
At level 18 you get an AOE melee attack, Low Cut, which also slows enemies. I still had quests to do in Vale of Andrath and Adso's Camp, but I decided to head to the Barrow-downs because the rewards are better and I knew I would reach level 20 quickly there.
Usually there are racial deeds to be completed before gaining racial trait skills, but at level 19 I automatically got the High Elf skill Wrath of the Firstborn which, when slotted, gives you and your fellowship a 5% damage boost for 10 seconds on a 10 minute cooldown.
At level 20 you gain several skills which aid survival. Cry of the Hunter dazes and slows nearby mobs and gives you a morale "bubble" which absorbs damage and a speed boost to help you get away. You also get Desperate Flight which lets you travel instantly to the nearest rally point, on a 30 minute cooldown. Then there are also some new passive abilities: you can use Fire-oil when causes some of your shots to do extra fire damage to mobs. Fire-oil can be made by scholars or bought from Hunter Trainers. You can also use spears now.
|Great view of Bree from the Dead-man's Perch|
Here's how my hunter looks at level 20 now:
|Level 20 High Elf Hunter (with invisible skirmish armour)|
I then went to the training dummies in the Training Hall in Bree and found several other people using the dummies so I did the skirmish training and Siege of Gondamon instead. It was quite easy picking enemies off as they approached, but when I was casting Focus before the next wave of mobs arrived, the channelling would get interrupted if my skirmish soldier started combat.
I returned to the Training Hall and tested each spec's unbuffed DPS over 3 minutes (or until power runs out), and took a screenshot at the end to eliminate the effects of DoTs that kept going after I stopped attacking. For virtues, I had one tier of Compassion and three tiers of Charity active. With my 7 trait points, I focused on damage-boosting traits where possible.
Here are my DPS results (collected with CombatAnalysis plugin):
|Trapper of Foes|
|Time||3 m 0.3 s||3 m 0.8 s||3 m 0.4 s|
|Critical Strikes (%)||41 (24.7%)||40 (21.4%)||27 (16.1%)|
For the test, I started in Strength Stance, filled the Focus bar, cast 3 Penetrating Shots and then went into building up focus with 3 Quick Shots then spending it on Penetrating Shot (or Barrage). A very simple rotation, but in normal combat you should consider all your skills and which is most useful for the situation.
I was surprised that I was able to keep fighting for the full 3 minutes without power issues (10-30% power remaining at the end), as many of the other classes run out sooner.
I also tried using Barbed Arrow every 10 seconds in the rotation to keep up the damage over time debuff, but DPS ended up being about 17% lower in Red spec, possibly because it has a longer cast time and deals less damage up front. Even in Yellow spec which has bonuses to damage over time early in the trait tree, it was still a DPS loss to use Barbed Arrow or Lingering Wound. This may change at higher levels (for example, with full traits and legendary item legacies, Barbed Arrow may do more damage than Quick Shot or Swift Bow).
For the Blue spec, I tried both Penetrating Shot and Barrage as the focus spender skill and the average DPS was very close (199.1 for Penetrating Shot, 202.2 for Barrage). Average hit damage were similar, but Barrage had much higher maximum hit damage. Barrage used slightly more power than Penetrating Shot but after 3 minutes, with Penetrating Shot there was still 29.9% power left and with Barrage there was still 24.9% power left.
Hunters have a lot of utility from early in the game - speed buffs, slows, purges, defensive bubbles, crowd control, mob tracking. Plus, the simple rotation but lots of options and having both ranged and melee abilities - hunters can deal with almost anything. They are very easy to level.
Strength stance seems to be the best in general, but learn when to use Precision or Endurance (becomes available later) stances.
Be careful not to break crowd control by using AOE abilities like Rain of Thorns (becomes available later). Also be careful not to pull threat off the tank when in a group situation, although it may be helpful to pull threat off the healer.
Blue - Huntsman: With good mobility and good damage, this spec is popular in instances and groups, but also very suitable for soloing - for tough mobs, you can kite them if necessary. Overall, I think this is the best general-purpose spec for hunters and if you're not sure which spec to use, try Blue.
Red - Bowmaster: I see this spec as a marksman - carefully positioned, they are deadly at picking off targets from afar suddenly. For soloing or PvMP, they don't have as many escape options as Blue or Yellow, so positioning and assessing the situation ("Can I deal with this quickly?" Yes - give it everything, No - flee and fight them later under more favourable circumstances) are important. Overall, I think this spec may be situational or suit a specific play style.
Yellow - Trapper of Foes: This reminds me of the engineer class in Guild Wars 2 or the engineering profession in World of Warcraft - they've got a gadget for everything. It's a fun change in play style and still very effective as you use traps, tripwires, explosions, decoys and more to destroy your enemies. With some planning, you can create quite a minefield that will lock down a number of mobs so you can pick them off, but if something goes wrong, you get some defensive bonuses to help you survive their fury. Overall, I think this spec is better for solo play, PvMP or maybe group questing in landscape areas than instances.
- Agility - your main stat that increases damage
- Critical Strike - increases damage
- Mitigations and Resistances - reduces damage taken
- Morale and Vitality - bigger health pool increases survival
These stats should help make the levelling process a bit easier in the beginning. Look for medium armour or jewellery with agility and critical rating, morale or vitality. If a piece of gear has Fate on it, it will also increase your critical strike chance. The best place to get Mitigations and Resistances at low levels is probably from virtues.
For ranged weapons, you can use bows or crossbows, but bows tend to have more offensive stats and crossbows tend to be more defensive (better for tanking classes like guardians). For melee weapons, consider the stats and DPS, then what racial bonuses you get from using a specific weapon type (e.g. Men and Elves get a bonus with swords, while Dwarves get a bonus with axes).
Here are some virtues that may be helpful for hunters and how to get them by level 20:
(physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, resistance)
|Complete 75 quests in The Shire||Life of a Bounder (Final)(The Shire)|
(agility, tactical mitigation, in-combat morale regeneration)
|Explore all the farms in The Shire||Farms of the Shire|
(physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, non-combat power regeneration)
|Complete 15 quests in The Shire|
Complete 20 quests in Ered Luin
|Life of a Bounder|
Defender of Ered Luin (Ered Luin)
(physical mitigation, resistance, non-combat power regeneration)
|Complete 10 quests in Ered Luin|
Complete 30 quests in Ered Luin
Complete 30 quests in Bree-land
|Ally of Ered Luin|
Hero of Ered Luin
Bree-land Adventurer (Advanced)(Bree-land)
(agility, morale, in-combat morale regeneration)
|Defeat 60 slugs in The Shire|
Defeat 90 wolves in Ered Luin
Defeat 90 barghests in Bree-land
|Slug Slayer (Advanced)|
Spider-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)
(physical mitigation, morale, armour)
|Defeat 90 goblins in Ered Luin|
Defeat 90 spiders in Ered Luin
Defeat 90 Barrow-spiders in Bree-land
|Goblin-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)|
Spider-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)
(tactical mitigation, resistance, vitality)
|Defeat 60 spiders in The Shire|
Defeat 90 spiders in Bree-land
|Spider-slayer (Advanced)(The Shire)|
Pros of the Hunter Class
- Good single-target damage
- Utility includes tracking mobs, speed buffs, fast travel
- Variety of playstyles
- Good survivability (mobility, crowd control, self-healing, stealth, threat-dumps)
Cons of the Hunter Class
- Limited defensive abilities
I hope this has been helpful. Feel free to leave any questions or advice for new hunters in the comments below.
Coming soon in the Introducing X Class series: the Lore-master.