Pet Selection Guide by Alanonymous

A Guide to Choosing a Pet - Revised for BC

Some of you probably recall my former guide to choosing a pet. Much of the info. in it was rendered moot by the release of the Burning Crusade and the 2.0 patch. So here is the newly revised version for reference. Please let me hear back on any problems you see or errors I have made. You are also free to comment with your opinions of course.

The Alanonymous Guide to Hunter Pets

First, I’m writing this from the perspective of a hunter that has had just about every pet imaginable. Specifically, at one time or another I have had a spider, bear, boar, owl, carrion bird, wolf, cat, tallstrider, scorpid, ravager, dragonhawk, crab and even a sporebat (I admit, I’ve never had a crocolisk, gorilla or raptor). I’ve also spent a great deal of time looking at the pros and cons of various pets, both their species and individual pets within a select species. I’ve also sought out and tamed a lot of “rare” pets including Humar, Snarler, Lupos, Gorefang, Echyakee, Mazaranchee and Spiteflayer. So the following is based on that experience and research.

I. What is the Best Pet?

There is NO best pet! It is entirely situational. What is “best” for one situation may not be the best for another. You must evaluate your play style and interests to determine what will be the best for you in any given situation. You need to consider what you will be doing (PvP or PvE – solo or grouping). Finally, remember that once you tame it a “rare” or “elite” pet has no special abilities that will set it apart from its common cousins (i.e. Snarler, once tamed, is just like any other level 42 wolf whether tamed at 42 or tamed at 8 and leveled up to 42). There is 1 exception discussed later on in this guide that relates to “caster stat” pets.

II. What are the Most Important Considerations in Choosing a Pet then?

A. Useage – will the pet be for PvP or PvE?

1. PvP: With one exception, a high dps pet will generally be preferred for PvP. PvP is all about dealing out as much damage to another player as fast as you can. High dps pets like cats, ravagers and wind-serpents do exactly that. The one exception is a boar. Boars are low dps pets. However, boars have a unique family skill, “Charge,” that is exceptionally useful in PvP – particularly in WSG. For a hunter in the 10-29 brackets especially, having a boar and 5/5 in the Improved Concussive Shot talent will make you the ultimate defender of your team’s flag. No flag runner should ever escape from such a hunter. Also, in the 30+ brackets a night elf with a cat that has been taught the skill “prowl” makes a great node or flag defender since they can both be invisible and get the jump on an enemy player. See also the Misc. note regarding scorpids in Arena play as well.

2. PvE: When it comes to PvE use of a pet, you need to consider whether you are primarily engaged in PvE group work or soloing first.

i. Soloing:
Hunters are almost without question the best solo play class in the game. How well you are able to solo depends on a few things like your ability to kite and your understanding and skill in trapping. However, when it comes to choosing the pet for solo work you need to consider a few factors:

a) Aggro holding ability: When you are soloing your pet should be acting more or less like your tank is supposed to act in a group setting. The ability to hold aggro instead of having aggro revert to you is a key function, therefore, of your pet in solo settings. If your pet loses aggro the mob will charge you and generally, you want to avoid that as hunters do more damage on ranged targets than to do on melee targets. High dps pets have an edge over most low dps pets in the aggro holding department as the higher damage being dealt by the pet helps generate threat and keep the mob focused on the pet. However, pet skills also play a part. A boar’s charge ability and a bird/bat’s Screech ability are also large threat generators that will help a pet grab and hold aggro. To a smaller extent, a wolf’s Furious Howl skill also generates some threat too. Growl, a skill all pets can learn, is designed to generate aggro on the pet as well. However, growl alone can easily fail to generate enough aggro to keep a mob off a hunter; particularly if the hunter gets in some large crits with his shots. High level hunters with the misdirection skill can use it to also ensure that a mob focuses his efforts on killing the pet and not the hunter making it easy for the hunter to kill the mob with his ranged attacks.

b) dps ability vs. tanking ability: As a general rule, there is an inverse relationship between dps and tanking ability. The higher the pet’s natural dps, the lower his “surviveability” and tanking ability. Turtles are the ultimate survivors, but their dps is exceptionally low. Boars make really good tanks, and while better than a turtle’s, their dps is not exactly through the roof either. On the other hand, a ravager has the highest dps of any pet in the game, but suffers from a health deficiency that significantly impacts its ability to withstand the same kind of damage that a boar or turtle can withstand. The goal of using a tank pet is to have a pet that can maintain aggro and stay alive long enough that you can down the mob via your dps. The goal of using a dps pet when soloing is to have a pet that does more to boost the damage the mob suffers so he goes down faster and before your pet dies. Middle-of-the-road pets seek to establish a balance between tanking ability and dps. For example, a wolf can take a beating that would kill a ravager, but he’ll still die before the boar. On the other hand, he’ll do more damage than the boar, but not as much as the ravager. For many hunters, a middle-of-the-road pet is a good choice for soloing. However, it is not always the right choice, what is the “right” choice depends on your style and other skills and talents and abilities. A Marksmanship hunter, for example, is probably better served in solo work by a tank or middle-of-the road pet that will stay alive longer and ensure the hunter can pew-pew down the mob while a Beast Master hunter will probably want a dps pet or middle-of-the-road pet since his talents help make up the deficiency in the dps pet’s surviveability and also help boost either pet’s damage output significantly so the mob goes down faster.

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ii. Group PvE:

a) Group dynamics: When you are in groups the dynamic of the group and the group’s makeup will be a major factor in the decision as to whether you want a high dps pet or a tank pet or middle of the road pet. Your expected role in the group is probably the biggest consideration; are you to be off tanking or providing the majority of the CC? Then probably a tank or at least middle-of-the-road pet that can grab aggro and take a bit of a beating before he dies is going to be a good choice. Such a pet will be better able to handle his job of keeping a mob occupied and off other party members. On the other hand, is your main job to assist the tank and the group by being a dps dealer and killing things fast with lots of quickly dealt damage? If so, a dps pet is likely a better choice. You’ll have growl and other aggro. generating skills turned off or their use at least manually controlled so your pet is less likely to become the focus of a mob and die and it can deal a steady stream of damage and help take down targets quickly. Is your role kind of mixed; some CC and some damage and assistance to the tank and the groups overall dps? Then possibly a middle of the road pet will be better since it will balance the off tanking ability of a true “tank” pet and the dps ability of a pure “dps” pet.

b) Pet Abilities: In a group setting the family abilities like charge, screech, etc. can have a major impact on the group’s abilities in an encounter. As you consider your role in the group, you should consider how your pet’s abilities and your talents can help. Some of the most important pet skills for group PvE include:
i. Screech: An AoE aggro grabber and debuff to mobs (-210 AP at max rank). Helps makes mobs less likely to kill the group or your tank. Available on dps pets (owls & bats) and middle-of-the-road carrion birds. Downside is that it can grab aggro. away from the tank and big flappy wings of flying pets don’t always work well in a dungeon setting.
ii Furious Howl: Boosts the dps of the group’s ranged and/or melee attacks; only available on wolf/worg middle-of-the-road pets. Down side is the range is pretty limited and it won’t affect spells, only physical attacks also the cool down of 10 seconds is rather long.
iii. Intimidation: A talent in the Beast Mastery tree that stuns a target for 3 sec. and generates a large amount of aggro. There isn’t much better when it comes to having your pet save the priest than popping intimidate and having the mob hitting your priest stunned for 3 sec. and then focusing his attacks on the pet. Downside is that it is an aggro grabber and can ensure that your pet dies in the encounter since the mob starts to attack it also the cool down is a few minutes so it is usually only useful once in an encounter.
iv. Charge: Immobilizes (but not stuns) a target for 1 sec. Also gets your pet to the target fast and generates some aggro; only available on boars (a tanking pet) Also a good skill for saving clothies from certain death, but has the same downside as intimidate. In a group where the hunter’s pet is expected to be a significant off tank, a BM hunter with a boar should be able to handle the job very effectively.

B. Damage Dealing ability

Pets, as noted in the foregoing, get divided into 3 groups, dps pets with higher base damage, middle-of-the-road pets with “average” damage and tank pets with below “average damage dealing abilities. Which way you need to go with your pet will depend on the factors noted above. But as you evaluate your pet’s damage dealing abilities, you need to consider a few factors that affect a pet’s ability to pump out the damage.

1. Prowl: Prowl is an ability learnable by cats that will increase the base damage they do on their first strike. Since cats are high dps pets, the initial strike out of prowl will be about as big a burst of damage as any pet can give. In PvP where burst damage is king, prowl is very useful as a result. The downside is the significant slowing of your pet's movement speed while prowled.

2. Ferocious Inspiration: A talent deep in the BM tree, FI will boost the damage your pet (and other party members, including caster spells) does. Very useful skill for any pet to up their damage.

3. Cobra Reflexes: Available at the pet trainers at a cost of 15 Training Points and teachable to any pet at level 30; Cobra Reflexes will boost the attack speed of your pet by 30%. The amount of damage per hit by your pet is slightly reduced, but the overall dps of your pet is increased by ~10 – 12%. On the downside, because there is a slight reduction in damage pet hit, the damage from a “Kill Command” is also reduced somewhat (not enough to offset the overall dps gain though).

4. Improved Hunter’s Mark: A talent near the top of the Marksmanship tree, Improved Hunter’s mark will serve to boost the melee damage done to a marked target by your pet (and others) by a decent, though not huge, amount.

5. Gore: A skill learnable by ravagers and boars, gore allows for the occasional “double damage” burst from a pet’s hit on a target. On ravagers in particular it makes for a great dps booster for your pet allowing the ravager to pump out serious dps in an encounter. However, on a boar, it is also exceptionally useful in that it will bump a boar’s dps and make the traditionally low dps boar into a pet approximating a middle-of-the-road pet in his damage dealing abilities.

6. Lightning Breath: Only learned by wind serpents, LB is an important damage dealer because it is ranged (20 yards) and also it is not mitigated by the mob’s armor so in pumps out consistent damage over time making wind serpents a great dps pet. Also, because it is ranged, it can be used in encounters with mobs that have large AoE or Cleave abilities that would otherwise kill a pet.

7. Furious Howl: A nice skill for wolves/worgs that will boost the melee and ranged attack (but not spell) damage of those within 15 yards of the wolf. Very good when the pet is assisting a tank or off tank since the damage done to the targets is upped. Also good in encounters where a pet can’t melee since he can sit by the hunter’s side and cast FH and boost the hunter’s damage from his ranged attacks.

8. Frenzy: Another BM talent, when this procs your pet’s attack speed and dps also go up. When coupled with Cobra Reflexes and the BM hunter talent “Serpent Swiftness” the hunter will have a pet with a 0.99 Attack speed and a major dps boost in the middle of things.

9. AoE & DoT family skills: Scorpid Poison, Poison spit and Flame Breath are other pet damage effects worthy of note due to their potential downside. Their damage dealing ability is decent, however, the two poisons are DoT’s that will break CC on a mob and can be an issue and Flame Breath is has a cone AoE that can also serve to break CC if not paid attention too. These are not bad skills, but because of their CC comprising ability, hunters using scorpids, serpents and dragonhawks need to pay more attention to what their pet is attacking and what the CC targets are.

10. Charge: the Boar skill charge is not only a great PvP ability and aggro grabber, it should be noted that it will also boost the boars AP for his first attack after the charge and that can result in a nice burst of damage or large crit. If BM hunter then that means frenzy procs immediately which is nice.
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C. Looks
Don’t overlook the appearance and animations of your pet. If you don’t like the way your pet appears, you are more likely to end up dumping it or failing to use it and keep its level up. I, for example, hate the look of worgs (you know, wolves with the 2 giant fangs) and their idle animations; they just stand there with their mouth half open and their tails maybe wagging a bit. On the other hand, “lean” wolves scratch and sniff like dogs and occasionally sit down and raise their heads and howl. I’ve had several worgs, but I always ditched them in favor of a “real” wolf. Head on over to http://petopia.brashendeavors.net to view the different pets you can obtain to see which ones you like the look of.

D. Caster Stats
Some Wind Serpents, Warp Stalkers and Dragon Hawks have what are known as “caster stats.” Pets with “caster stats” have less armor and/or health than their non-caster brethren. Using the Petopia site you can determine what pets have “caster stats.” You should avoid them.

E. Attack Speed
Once a major issue in pet choice, this is no longer a significant issue. All pets have a base 2.0 attack speed. Cobra Reflexes, if trained, will drop this to 1.54. If you are a Beast Master Hunter with 5/5 in Serpent Swiftness it will drop further to ~1.3 and when Frenzy procs. it will drop to ~0.99.

F. Eating Habits
Different pets eat different foods. You may want to take into account how easy/hard it will be to get food for your pet as you decide what you want. Boars & Bears are the easiest to feed since they eat most anything. Bats eat only fungus & fruit and can be a pain to keep fed. Meat and fish eating pets are relatively easy to feed since you just kill or fish and feed what you get.

III. That’s all well and good, but what pets have you chosen as best for you and why?

I have three pets currently, A dps pet, Humar the “rare” spawn black lion from the Barrens, a middle-of-the-road pet, a Vilebranch Raiding wolf, the black wolf from the top of the temple of Jin’thalor in the Hinterlands and an Avain Warhawk (technically a dps pet and actually an owl, not a hawk) from Sekketh Halls. I chose these for my pets for the following reasons:

1. Looks: I wanted a wolf as my pet since the first day I rolled my hunter. I didn’t care about anything much more than the fact I liked the way the wolf looked and in my day as a paper based RPG’r playing Dungeons and Dragons, I always played a character with a pet wolf. The first time I saw the black wolf the hunter trainer in Darnasus has I decided that was the kind of wolf I wanted. I had to wait to level 42 though to get one (the rare wolf Snarler). When I hit 50 I traded him for the Vilebranch Raiding wolf I currently have and plan to keep. As for Humar, he is the only black cat in the game and he matched the wolf I planned on getting (I got Humar at level 23) so he was a natural choice for looks. Plus, he just happened to be around when I cruised by the area, I didn’t have to camp for him at all. The owl, on the other hand, is bright red and blue, which is unusual for an owl. All other owls are various shades of brown, gray or white. I felt a bright red & blue owl was unusual and I’ve only ever seen 1 other hunter with the owl I have.

2. Useage: I do a little PvP work in BG’s, not a lot, but some and as a Night Elf a high dps pet with prowl to go with my shadowmeld make a great combo so a cat is a natural choice and Humar fits the bill. I do a fair number of 5 mans and some raiding and group a lot and have found that my play style benefits most from a wolf in those situations and I like furious howl as an ability. I also like to solo a lot and for solo work I have found that the screech debuf from my owl along with a scorpid sting shot from me do a lot to reduce the ability of a mob to damage me or my pet. Plus Screech is a great aggro holder and with the higher than average dps of an owl we can take down mobs pretty quickly when I solo. If I were a Marks or Survival spec’d hunter I’d probably trade the owl for a carrion bird since it has a little better armor/health than an owl. However since I’m a BM spec’d hunter I can make up for the loss in health and armor suffered by the owl a bit better and boost the owl’s dps a fair amount.

IV. Wait a minute, what about special abilities, aren’t they important?

Yes, pet abilities need to be considered. IMO they should be broken down primarily along lines of PvE and PvP usefulness. However, think about how you play and what each ability does to decide which ability works for you in which situation.

A. PvP:
The best abilities for PvP play are probably Screech, Dash, Dive, Charge and for Night Elfs only, Prowl. Screech serves as a AoE debuff of the enemy in BG which is always useful. Charge gets your boar in there really fast and roots the enemy for 1 second. Dash, Dive and Charge can also be used to chase down runners (The guy with the flag will never escape a boar if you do it right). Night Elfs on Defense can prowl a cat and shadowmeld and catch enemy players by surprise very effectively. Thunderstomp (the special skill of Gorillas) also has some use in PvP due to its AoE damage and stun effect. And Lightning breath, (the wind serpent skill) since it is ranged, is an ok ability as well doing a decent amount of damage from range and not mitigated by armor. Warp is also a pretty decent ability for getting your pet on another player fast and Gore is a nice DPS booster.

B. PvE:
The above abilities are good for PvE for the same reason they are good for PvP. However, in PvE Furious Howl (the wolf/worg skill) becomes an important ability too because it will boost the damage of everyone in a group – running 5 mans it is a wonderful addition to that first attack on a mob. Scorpid poison and poison spit are also useful, especially in doing solo work, but remember as a DoT ability they will break a freeze trap. I have yet to find a real use for Cower in anything though I know some hunters who keep their pet trained in it so their pet can effectively dump unwanted agro. In solo work you usually want your pet to hold agro. In a 5 man run, if all is going well, your tank produces more threat than you pet and will hold agro no matter what your pet does so cower doesn’t have much use. Thunderstomp and Screech are probably the best abilities to use if you want your pet to grab and hold agro (growl and Furious Howl and being BM spec’d also work well in this regard, but screech in particular is an agro magnet). Lightning breath is useful since it is ranged like you and you can keep your pet away from being hit by a mob. Shell shield is what makes turtles the hardest pet in the game to kill. They will take a licking and keep on ticking. When it comes to PvE you should consider what it is you will want your pet to do as you decide which pet you should have and what skills you need in a pet. A bird with screech is an excellent choice for solo work since it will grab and hold agro. well and has a decently high dps. The same could be said of a Boar as well, a bit less dps than the bird, but charge will generate a large amount of aggro right off the bat. On the other hand, for raids and 5 mans, a wolf with furious howl is possibly a better choice since it will boost the melee dps of party members and/or your personal dps.

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C. Special note on Claw and Bite:
Many pets can learn both claw and bite. However, it is important to note that Claw uses a lot of your pets focus and if both of them are on autocast, your cat, raptor, whatever, will do bite and a claw on its first hit, but may never bite again because bite is on a 10 second timer and claw is only 1 second. The Marksman talent, “Go for the Throat” is important in this regard since it causes an instant regeneration of focus when you get in a critical hit. BM hunters can also use the talent “Bestial Discipline” to help ensure their pet always has enough focus to use his abilities to the max. If you do not have GftT and/or Bestial Discipline, you should expect focus to become an issue if you have a pet with a focus eating ability like claw, lightning breath or gore though.

V. Hey, yeah, I forgot about my talent build, how does it affect things?

Up until you can acquire Frenzy, the Beastmastery tree serves mainly to enhance your pet’s surviveability in a fight (increased armor & stamina), ease your mana drain (improved revive/mend pet) and improve your ranged and dodge skills (Improved Aspect of the Hawk & Monkey) and give a small boost to your pet’s dps. Frenzy increases your pet’s attack speed and dps, Intimdate grabs agro. and stuns your target and Bestial Wrath ups your pet’s damage significantly. I don’t want to debate various talent builds here, you have to decide how much or little you want to use/rely on your pet as you play. I will say I’m using a 41/20/0 build. I view my pet as another weapon in my arsenal that serves me better if his surviveability and damage possibilities are maxed out. All spec’s, BM, MM and SV are viable currently though and as you choose your pet, you just need to take into account how your spec. and play style will affect your pet and how you plan on using it.

VI. Can I get more info.?

Sure, the 3 main web sites I rely on for pet information are:

1. http://www.goodintentionsguild.info/hunters.html

2. http://petopia.brashendeavors.net/

3. http://www.tkasomething.com/

VII. Ok, thanks, I have a little better understanding, but I still want to know what you think are “uber” pets.

Ok, keeping all of the above in mind, IMO the following are the “best” pets to have and use. I’m basing these recommendations on useage, skills and specs. What looks good is a matter of personal opinion that changes from person to person and what I like based on looks is beside the point. If you use this list to choose a pet from, then get the pet in the family that you like the look of best. Use Petopia to see what they look like. Note also, this is just my opinion for the tops each category. There is plenty of “wiggle room” and justification for other pets in all situations.

PvE: Solo work:
1. Boar: Great all around tank, charge will grab aggro. well and with growl and gore you’ll probably be able to hold it ok. A BM hunter can also use intimidate to help hold aggro and at higher levels, all hunters can use misdirection.
2. Carrion Bird: Screech is a great aggro holder and as a middle-of-the-road pet with decent damage and surviveability carrion birds make great solo pets.
3. Owl/bat: I’d use an owl or bat over a Carrion Bird only if I were a BM hunter since they are technically a dps pet with lower surviveability. A BM hunter can counter this in ways a MM or SV hunter can’t.

PvE: Group work:
1. Wolf: Good surviveability, decent dps and Furious Howl is a nice buff to the group’s damage output.
2. Carrion bird/owl/bat: The screech debuff to the AP of attacking mobs can be very useful in a group setting too making mobs do less damage to party members.
3. Ravager/cat/raptor: Their high dps make these good group pets for use in taking down mobs fast. In large raids, a wind serpent is also useful for the ranged attack he does with Lightning breath.
4. Boar/bear: primarily for use as an off tank for a group.

PvP: BG use:
1. Boar: stop the flag carrier and others with charge.
2. Cat: For Nelf’s only – prowl and Shadowmeld are hard to beat when it comes to getting the jump on someone.
3. Ravager/owl/bat: High dps pets and with a bird or bat, flappy wings in the enemy’s face.

PvP: World use
1. Cat for Nelfs: Surprise Ganking ftw. 
2. Ravager/owl/bat for BM hunters – higher dps and surviveability issue is reduced
3. Carrion bird, wolf or boar for non-BM hunters when pet dps isn’t an issue but yours and/or surviving is.

VIII. Misc. Notes

1. Lightning Breath is a great dps pet skill and very useful in raids. However, Wind Serpent AI has a bit of a bug in it that will cause a Wind Serpent to fly to range to cast LB and then fly back to the target to physically attack it. This can be countered with a macro (and should be).

2. Pet special skills can be macro'ed and included in an attack macro. I'm not a macro guru, but if you want to macro a skill you are able to do so and many hunters do. Just play around with various macros to see how to fit in a pet skill/attack with your shot rotation and preferred method of doing things.

3. Quick PvP note: Serpent's & Scorpid's poison DoT attacks will prevent a rogue from stealthing which can be a useful thing in a PvP encounter. Also, Scorp poison stacks and with your viper sting shot it can force a pally in PvP to waste all his mana "cleansing" himself. For this reason scorps are often prefered pets in the Arena in particular, but this use of a scorpid is also viable in other PvP venues.

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Tzia chirps in: Again, I did not write this or the other guide I have posted on this blog, but have posted with the full permission of Alanonymous.

And if anyone knows how to get this blog to only display the first paragraph or so? TELL ME!

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