5v5 has always been the hunter’s strongest bracket. We’ve never had enough support abilities to really shine in 3v3, and always lacked the burst to dominate 2v2, but in 5v5 playing a hunter feels just right. I really live for the moments when my 5v5 gets to queue. If you are lucky enough to find 4 (or 5, or 6, or 7, because people tend to quit before a season ends…) dedicated people to play 5s with, I guarantee it will be the most fun you ever have. How do you do your job, though? After some preliminaries, that will be the question I address today.
To really enjoy 5s, you need to run with a balanced set up. What does that mean? It means you should probably stick to a setup with 3 dps and 2 healers. Damage in WotLK is easy to come by, so running with 4 dps is redundant these days. 2 dps teams aren’t viable, in my opinion, for the simple reason that you won’t find 3 good healers willing to run a comp like that. WotLK has given every class a viable dps offspec, something that wasn’t true in BC, so there are simply fewer healers running around. That theory may be totally wrong, but the fact is that in over 500 games of 5v5 this season I haven’t run into a single triple healer team.
That said, what kind of classes do you need? A disc priest is a must. Pain suppression and dispels are too important. Alongside a priest, however, you can run any kind of healer you want (except another priest). I’ve seen high rated teams that ran with a resto druid as a second healer, and I myself have played with a second shaman and a second paladin healer on my own charter this season, so I know those are viable. Whatever his spec, you should have a paladin as well. Beyond that, I would take advantage of the best players you can find of any class/spec (except shadow priest or feral druid, as both of these are locked down too easily in a 5v5 setting).
I’ll talk more about comps in my next post. For right now I want to discuss what the hunter’s job is in 5s. The task, when typed out like this, seems pretty simple: Keep aimed shot up, do as much sustained dps as you can, land your interrupts and CC when they’re most needed, and don’t get gibbed. 5v5 in reality is so hectic that it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and forget to do your job. Doing sustained dps is important, but you can’t lose sight of your other responsibilities, which are equally important. If you’re doing everything right (meaning paying attention to your focus target, to your teammates health bars, and to your pet’s location/HP at all times) you shouldn’t even have enough attention left over to see what kind of damage you’re actually doing. After a long night of 5s when my team has done well, I honestly struggle to remember what kind of numbers I was getting with explosive shot/aimed shot. I’d like to be able to then compare my performance with other nights and other hunters, but I frequently can’t remember a single number. This is good, because it means you were keeping track of all the other, more important stuff.
While you may not be able to enjoy the huge numbers you’re undoubtedly getting with full buffs against debuffed targets, it doesn’t mean that 5v5 isn’t rewarding. Chaining a wyvern sting after a scatter shot the second your focus target comes out of a fear is even more rewarding than kill shotting a mage for 11k, trust me. Topping the damage meter at the end of a game is great, but doing that while using roar of sacrifice on the cooldown, feigning out of polymorphs, and keeping all your traps down is even better. I would always advocate for survival spec in 5s, unless your team has no CS or spell lock (i.e. no mage or lock), in which case you should be marks. MM does take more of your attention away from your other tasks because the damage rotation is more demanding and you have two sets of cooldowns to manage (not to mention the reduced mana efficiency), but the spec is certainly viable. Survival will do the most overall damage, however, which is important for those fights which drag out until the healers run out of mana, and has a simpler rotation, which means it won’t distract you quite so much from your non-damage duties.
Coordination in 5v5 is huge. Hunters don’t have enough reliable CC that they can keep someone locked out for a long period of time. What hunters do have, however, is shorter duration CC that makes a great filler while the CCed target is on diminishing returns from something like polymorph or fear. You need to work with your teammates to make sure a dangerous caster like an elemental shaman, warlock, or mage is locked out for as much as possible. Vent shouldn’t be raucous, but there should always be at least 2 people talking at once, and you will have to learn to process the information streaming through your headset.
The most important thing that needs to be done over vent is the calling of targets. People often criticize 5v5 as a zerg fest, but really you can’t just pick one target and train it from start to finish, unless you are playing in the 1400 bracket. In 5v5 you want to take the path of least resistance when it comes to dps. Being ready to switch targets at a moment’s notice is crucial. Spending any amount of time, even a few seconds, dpsing a target that’s shield walled, pain suppressed, or BoPed can cost you a match. 5v5 isn’t a zerg fest, but it is fast paced and games can be lost or won at the drop of a hat. Having a competent player who can call targets is important (a hunter can do this), but having reliable teammates who can also pay attention to opponents who have exposed themselves, or lost the protection of a major buff like divine shield, is even more important. What must be avoided is 3 people all calling different targets. When emotions run high this can happen, even to experienced teams like my own, and it is a disaster. You can’t always prevent this, but as your team members build trust between eachother, you will find a flow that works and it will become less of a problem. Being patient and willing to stick it out is key. The actual target being called isn’t even that important; the most important thing is that everyone is on the same page, and everyone is dpsing the same target (unless splitting dps is your goal, something with which my team has only rarely had success).
Your healers, likewise, need to be focused and coordinated. Overlapping a pain suppression and a bop would be a disaster. The healers should always know who is going to blow their major defensive cooldown first, and should always be announcing when they’re drinking or dpsing or whatever they’re doing that isn’t healing. This kind of stuff sounds obvious but games really hinge on minor things like this. Just yesterday my team was queuing 5s and our holy paladin went down to 1%. He managed to escape behind a pillar, but we were unable to get any pressure out on the opposing team until someone realized the other team’s holy paladin had already DSed (and that it had faded). We immediately switched to him and were able to kill him. I later talked to the priest on that team, who told us that he’d had no idea his friend had already used DS, and this minor communication glitch cost them the game.
Somewhat harder to coordinate is when your paladin or priest should pop that cooldown prematurely, in order to save someone’s life from unhealable burst damage. This type of action can’t really be planned out. It is an instinctual thing but when facing an uncommon comp like 4 dps or something, you should talk to your healers about not waiting to pop a big defensive cooldown. Any kind of delay can be devastating.
I’ve gotten rather far afield at this point, so I’ll end by recapping what a hunter can do to carry his weight. Keeping aimed shot up at all times is key. Doing as much damage as you can while keeping your utility spells like traps, scatter shot, and wyvern sting on cooldown is key. Micro-managing your pet is key, especially now that roar of sacrifice is potent enough that it can stop an assist train in its tracks, if used a timely manner. Knowing when the elemental shaman is casting flame shock on you is important because then you know there’s a lot of incoming damage with your name on it. Sometimes you may not have the elemental shaman on focus, however. What to do? Well, after awhile you will get an instinct about these kinds of things. Staying near a pillar can save you from an elemental shaman, but hiding behind one with a warrior on you can be dangerous if your healers don’t know where you are. Communication is key. Situational awareness is key. And practice makes perfect. Good luck, folks!