Ahh, hunters. Terror of the battlegrounds, it’s impossible to count the number of mages that have been torn to pieces by hunters over the years. Ranged physical damage, a pet, a mana drain; a class practically begging to go head to head with a caster.
— The vast majority of arena hunters are specced Marksman. It has superior burst to the other two builds, two specialty shots that are invaluable in PvP (Silencing Shot and Scatter Shot) as well as much improved Stings.
— Left alone, hunters can deal terrifying damage, very quickly, to a cloth wearing class.
— They are much more vulnerable to close in fighting than other ranged classes. A hunter cannot use his strongest ranged attacks in melee range.
— Very susceptible to pillars, more so than any other class.
— Relatively shallow mana pools.
— Freezing Trap, the hunter’s lengthy CC ability, is one of the worst in the game for PvP.
— Pets are relatively easy to kill.
— Viper Sting is a deadly mana drain ability, especially since most Hunters are specced to improve it.
Hunters and arenas do not mesh very well. Hence, the class is notoriously scarce within the walls of arena, and the ones you do meet, are either very good at what they do, or terrifyingly awful. Either way, eliminating their pet will be the quickest way to beating a hunter team.
With the pet gone, a great deal of the hunter’s prowess is removed. At that point, the hunter either needs to attempt to resurrect his pet, or they will probably lose the fight. And if they do resurrect it, the pet respawns with (relatively) low HP, it’s damage is reduced, and the hunter just blew a significant amount of mana.
Mana is an extremely serious consideration when fighting a hunter. Viper Sting can burn through your mana pool very quickly, and nearly all hunters will be gunning for you. You see, as a DPS class that depends on mana for your power, you are the best possible target for a Viper Sting.
Yes, you. Not a healer. You. Healers have more regeneration than you do, a lot more. Hence, you are the better target to try and run OOM.
Hunters themselves suffer a fair amount from mana considerations as well. They run dry very quickly, especially when pressured, and are even more useless without mana than you are. As a mage, at least you can still typically fire off a few rank 1 spells. A hunter has auto shot, and that’s really it.
All serious arena hunters carry a 1H weapon set, enchanted with Intellect, in order to combat this. This strategy combined with Aspect of the Viper gives a hunter far superior mana regeneration than you could ever hope for in an arena environment.
Oddly enough, hunters, in arenas, are built as an outlasting class. The majority of teams with a hunter that actually work well (i.e. hunter/druid, mage/hunter/priest) are teams designed to outlast by playing defensively. This is why, when fighting a hunter team, you need to come at it with nothing shy of flat out aggression.
Hunters have nearly no defense against strong burst. Feign Death… that’s it. Without their pet a hunter is, essentially, a weak warrior. Closing in to near melee range to prevent all of a hunter’s best abilities against casters is near essential to wiping them out quickly. Picture it like a warrior that you need to stay close to rather than far away.
Tip: If you are invisible at the start of a fight with a hunter, you can summon your water elemental and get it to attack the hunter. This will cause the hunter to automatically target your pet, rather than you. This can, and often will, give you enough time to get an early Shatter combo off against the hunter, especially if one of your partners jumps the hunter at close to the same time.
It is very easy to gib a hunter if you have solid burst DPS. If your team does not have a healer and you have very strong DPS (mage/rogue) go for the hunter first, it is possible to eliminate the hunter very quickly. More on this later. In any 3v3 or 2v2 with a healer (mage/druid) go for the pet first. Take it out, and things will be much easier.
Mage/Rogue versus Hunter/Druid
This is a very hard fight.Strategically, it depends on ending the fight very quickly, under 40 seconds, if possible. Open up on the hunter, hitting as hard as you can. Both the mage and the rogue need to open on the hunter. Don’t bother hunting for the druid, if you hit the hunter hard enough, the druid will have no choice but to use Nature’s Swiftness to save the hunter.
It is possible to deal enough damage to the hunter that he becomes unhealable. Burn him down hard and fast enough, keep the hunter from escaping, and there is no recovery.
If, however, the hunter manages to get away/healed, you need to switch to the druid and come crashing down as hard as you can. Get the hunter controlled, and try to keep the druid stun locked/silenced long enough to score a kill. Use all of the crowd control you have available here; polymorph, blind, cheap/kidney/expensive shot, hell, even sap if you can manage it.
You need to score a kill very swiftly here, or you will not be able to.
Feel free to use Ice Block to escape from either Freezing Traps or Viper Sting, especially Viper Sting. Every tick of mana lost to it is a tick you will probably never see again. With this team, you really don’t have the option to attempt to reset the fight in an effort to get a drink.
Mage/Moonkin versus Hunter/Druid
Almost the exact same fight, except that this composition leans in favour of the mage/druid team. The hunters pet is the kill first target, take it down just like anything else (shatter, starfire…) Hunter pets die incredibly fast, due to a total lack of resilience. Even if the other druid uses NS to try and save the pet… it’s a goner.
While you’re gunning for the pet, keep the hunter polymorphed as much as possible. Counterspell any heals the druid tries to cast in a last ditch effort to save the pet. Once the pet is down, the hunter becomes the next kill target. Keep the druid controlled as much as possible (cyclone, silence, polymorph trading/hibernate) while burning the hunter down as fast as you can.
The druid needs to be on top of poison abolishing here. Viper Sting must be dispelled as soon as possible, to prevent as much mana loss as you can. If a drink becomes necessary, for either of you, the other needs to attempt to keep the hunter/druid occupied while you drink.
Again, Ice Block can be used as a delay tactic, there is little other point to it in this match up. Bear in mind that a lot of hunters will try to protect their Viper Sting, typically by silencing the druid immediately after they launched the sting. Prepare for this, and Ice Block if necessary (i.e. if the opposing druid seems to be following up with a cyclone).
If, for any reason, the hunter manages to resurrect his pet, it becomes the primary kill target again.
Playing With Hunters
Hunters and mages have an oddly powerful synergy in the form of kiting. With the combination of polymorph, scatter shot/silencing (if specced for it), traps/frost nova, counterspell, and general kiting skill can keep most classes locked down for a long time, and melee classes permanently out of the fight.
Mages and hunters is a combination that requires a lot of patience to pull off. These two work best together as an outlast partnership, with the capability of massive burst damage, similar to mage/druid. Please bear in mind that a 2v2 team of mage/hunter is, really, a bad idea. Mage/hunter work well together, but on a larger scale team, such as 3v3 or 5v5.
For instance… Mage/Hunter/Priest, or possibly druid.
This is, falt out, an outlast arena team. There really isn’t too much of a difference between druid and priest on this style of team. The priest can provide extra mana burning (but really, should be concentrating far more on dispels/heals), whereas a druid provides… well, druid stuff (abolish poison, unstoppable kiting, extra burst, extra CC, invincibility).
Mage/Hunter/Priest versus Warrior/Rogue/Druid
This is a difficult fight, especially on the Blade’s Edge arena. The druid is the drain target (for what it’s worth) with both the warrior and the rogue being equally qualified for the kill target.
Tip: All arena matches as Mage/Hunter/Priest should begin intensely defense oriented. Pick a spot, and set up camp. Don’t go to them; let them come to you. This plays into the hunter’s strengths (traps, flare, pets with X-ray vision).
As the warrior will most likely be the only one visible, apply just enough pressure to force the druid and rogue into the open, then go for a kill on whoever seems most convenient. The warrior is easy to control, yes, but hitting the druid with silencing shot, counterspell, fear, and scattershot can buy enough time to wipe out the warrior. More often than not, however, the rogue is the best kill target.
Both the hunter and the mage need to hit hard once everyone is in the open, to try and get Nature’s Swiftness used as soon as possible.
Get the warrior locked down. Then, put as much damage as you can into the rogue while putting a lot of pressure on the druid itself. Aim to get NS and trinkets blown very early, so they have nothing left later in the fight. Sting on the druid, burns, fear, various silences, even polymorph swaps, if you can.
Note: A polymorph swap is when the mage uses polymorph on the druid, just to force the druid to shapeshift to escape. The mage spends a GCD to spend one of the druids, so the druid isn’t casting heal spells.
Deal enough damage, and it simply will not be possible for the druid to recover that health. With a hunter on the team, it should be extremely difficult for the rogue to get away into stealth, and if he does, only temporarily. Keep the rogue from getting away, and you win.
Once again, I fully expect strategical discussion to continue in the comments. Got other strategies? Specific comps (compositions, also known as combos)? Questions? Glaring errors? Comment!
Again, if something is integral and has been missed, it will be added in here somewhere.