Hunter Dex build—some thoughts, experiments and data-based observations (TLDR at the bottom)
I’ve been seeing some forum chatter lately about Dexterity being an important stat for a hunter. One prominent server personality (whom, it should be noted, does not play a hunter) even went as far as to say that Dex is a hunter’s most important stat and that hunters should be auto-attacking for their damage most of the time (thereby making a fast-shooting dex build the best build). I found this shocking as my experiences with Dexterity have not shown anything like this. Keep in mind, I've actually spent a hefty amount of money to change my talents and stats and play around with different builds and my initial observations about Dex led me to believe that it’s the most inferior of the 4 stats.
But, what if I didn’t look closely enough? What if I didn’t seal my gear right to make a Dex build work? What if my preferred PVE grinding talent spec wasn’t the most ideal spec for a Dex build?
Since I won two full respec flowers (the ones that do talents AND abilities) in the Community Spotlight feature I figured I’d try to seriously explore the value of Dex for Hunters. Presented here are my findings and observations. If anyone has anything to add then please do! The goal here is for the Hunter community (and maybe everyone else too) to reach a better understanding about what Dex does for us, how useful it is (or can be) and what's the best way to use Dex to reach our goals as a hunter.
Keep in mind, right now, most people are just trying to level. Every guide I write, every post I make, is meant to help Hunters become better at PVE Grinding. My tests, my thoughts, my observations---all are taken from the perspective of "how does this work (or not work) in terms of Hunter PVE Grinding?".
I'm not here to discuss end game builds. That's all Theorycrafting at this point unless anyone knows a level 60 hunter with all the right "on proc" seals and "on proc" cards plus the Efreet mount (more on this below). I'm here to talk how do we, as hunters, use Dex to help us get to level 60 faster. The short answer is: We don't. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
For Talents, I basically kept my PVE Grinding talent setup that I outlined in my other guide. It does have a couple “% chance to proc” abilities in it and so it should, in theory, provide good talents to go with a fast shooting dex build. Besides, no matter what stat build you go with, if you're not using the buffed up Dummy o' Doom then you're not reaching your grind potential.
A Basic PVE Grinding Stat Setup
My Stats prior to the Dex build at level 43 were as follows (4 main stats are without gear buffs, all others are including gear buffs):
Accuracy 80 Attack 312
Dexterity 4 Attack Speed 117%
Stamina 55 Hit 146
Luck 33 Crit Chance 33.3
Health 8654 Energy 227
As you can see I favored hitting power and survivability/energy pool with these stat distributions. Also, note the Attack power of 312—I took that number while mounted and I didn’t realize that since hunters can’t attack with their weapon while mounted that number doesn’t reflect your weapon contribution to attack power. My attack power went up to 510 or so once I got rid of my mount.
Note the relatively large health and energy pools. While solo grinding and in the few times I got into PVP in the tower these were amazing to have. I could outlast most mobs beating on me, even at level 43 fighting level 46-47 mobs, long enough to cycle another trap drop, another burr drop, cast wound dressing, etc—long enough to do all kinds of survival actions. I also have the power pool to support several rounds of my preferred single-target rotation and to summon multiple bombs/potions as I earn the Focus.
With a stat spread like this I was able to effectively grind and hold my own in PVP when needed. I did shoot relatively slow (generally 1 shot per second), and I didn’t rely on Beastly Fury at all. In fact I only used Beastly Fury when I needed to regen energy quickly and didn’t have any luck getting an energy or restoration potion to drop (Beastly Fury+Unloading talent+trapped target with a lot of HP=Energy recharged).
A Basic Dex-focused Setup
My stats with my Dex build in place (note that I leveled and had 4 extra points to use):
Accuracy 73 Attack 291 (taken on mount for proper comparison)
Dexterity 62 Attack Speed 146%
Stamina 15 Hit 149
Luck 26 Crit Chance 32.7%
Health 6098 Energy 165
This build relies on fast auto attacks that will crit constantly due to having Beastly Fury up anytime it’s off cooldown. With Beastly Fury engaged my crit chance goes to 62.7% and my attack speed goes to 177%--nearly 2 shots per second! Even without Beastly Fury up my auto attack is essentially 3 attacks every 2 seconds as opposed to most people’s 2 attacks every 2 seconds—noticeably faster than what I was doing with the other stat distribution.
I won’t lie—it’s like being a walking machine gun when you pop Beastly Fury with this much base dex already in place. The low energy pool isn’t a huge deal since 1) you don’t really use your single-target shots much and 2) you auto-attack and regen power so much (Unloading talent) that you replenish what energy you do use quickly. You shoot very, VERY fast and hit decently hard (provided you’ve stacked some +crit damage on your gear). You fire nearly 2 shots per second and are almost assured that at least one of those two shots will crit. In 2 seconds you’ve hit the mob 4 times and had (statistically speaking) at least 2 of those shots crit! It’s impressive---on paper.
The low health pool, however, was problematic. This build is missing roughly 2.5k health compared to the other one since I chose to sacrifice mostly stamina for dex over accuracy/luck. That’s significant. When level 46+ mobs hit you for nearly ¼ of your health pool you will miss 2.5k health. If you’re REALLY good a kiting (hard to do in this game as you can’t really use skills on the move and it’s point+click movement) or know that you’re only going to start an attack when your dummy, trap and burr are all off cooldown then you’ll be ok. You do not have any room for mistakes here. You get an unexpected add and you’re screwed. If someone your guild is at war with shows up mid-fight with a mob then you’re done—you don’t have the ability to outlast anymore.
How the two builds performed
Keep in mind the end goal here: Fast and efficient PVE grinding so you can get to level 60 as fast as possible.
For testing purposes I chose the drowned zombies (in Croatnik or whatever that zone is called). They are level 43 and, at the start of the test, so was I. Plus, you sometimes encounter level 46 giant frogs there, which gives you a more challenging target to shoot at it.
With my usual grind spec (the first one) I was, of course, very successful. Keep in mind I have good gear but there’s not a lot of room to customize level 40-ish gear with cards and whatnot since they usually lack slots. So basically you’re stuck with the same base gear stats that every other hunter in the 40’s is using plus whatever luck you can get with seals.
With my single target rotation I could kill a zombie in 3-4 hits, depending on if I got a crit or two. I could easily tank 3 zombies at a time with Wound Dressing up and simply shoot/bomb them down one at a time. Of course, I could still use the standard “round em up and let your dummy o’ doom kill 15 mobs at once” method of leveling that I described in my other guide. With a high health pool, a high energy pool and decently high attack power I could tank/kill mobs effectively and almost never die to unexpected adds. This means smooth, efficient, constant flow of xp—which is what level grinding is all about!
The Dex build was not quite so effective. Shooting fast was fun and very satisfying (again, feeling like a machine gun is awesome!). When Beastly Fury was up arrows flew from my bow like I was Hawkeye and mobs fell in 4-5 hits (which seems like a lot but 4-5 hits came quickly under Beastly Fury). Even when Beastly Fury was on cool down I still shot noticeably faster and killed most fairly quickly (5-6 hits or so).
The problem was that the normal, single target rotation I used with the other build (which had ZERO added dex from me) seems just as fast, if not faster, at killing mobs as the build where I pumped 58 points into Dex. Plus, the higher energy and health pools in the first stat distribution are sorely missed when you don’t have them. The reason is this: when you’re out grinding you’re in an environment that you don’t really control. You shoot a mob and you’re working on it and along comes 3 other mobs that you didn’t expect. What now?
With the dex build you die, that’s what. The with high-stam build you tank them, pop your survival skills and end up with 4 dead mobs and a living hunter. The lack of stamina in the dex build REALLY hurts you. And even if you took points of out luck and accuracy and put them into stamina you’re still gimping yourself. You’ll hit for less, you’ll crit less, and you still won’t be as effective at PVE as the guy who ignores Dex.
Conclusions (and TLDR):
The Dex build will likely shine at level 60 with 20+ mil invested in end game gear. When you have all the “chance to proc” cards and all the “chance to proc” seals on your gear then a high dex build centered around only auto attacking will wreck things, no doubt. When you get the efreet mount you will undoubtedly want this build. Plus, if you’re in a group and the only thing you have to worry about is being a “glass cannon” then the Dex build is most likely going to be the best “Glass Cannon” build for a hunter. So, end game PVE (boss raids) and PVP (group pvp, castle sieges, etc) when the hunter is not alone and is just expected to be the best DPS he/she can be—Dex build all the way!
For leveling or solo play—avoid a high dex build at all cost. In fact, you can effectively COMPLETELY IGNORE Dex while leveling up and spend your points in Stam/Accuracy/Luck—3 stats which are way better for leveling than Dex will ever, ever be. Remember, none of our skills have cast times. Dex only helps your auto attack. That’s it. Nothing else. Can you start to see why it’s not a good stat for leveling? This stat needs major cards, seals and, really, the efreet mount to shine like it’s meant to shine for hunters. If you don’t have all of that then putting points into Dex is a waste.
What you have to sacrifice (specifically Stamina) to get high enough dex to see noticeable benefits isn’t worth it if you’re still leveling. Even with all the best gear (I have spent millions on my gear at level 44 now—so I probably have some of the best gear/seals you can get for this level) it just isn’t worth it. To be completely honest--I'm not even sure a Dex build will beat a high Accuracy/Stam/Luck build at endgame. Sure, it has the chance to shine but i'd imagine other builds (imaging throwing all that dex into Luck instead---50%+ crit rate stacking gear with +crit damage seals/cards?) could shine just as much at end game. Time will tell!