What is extreme soloing? It is soloing game content that was originally not meant to be done by one player, such as older instances and older raids. Typically, this content is challenging, otherwise it isn’t extreme. I realize that “extreme soloing” isn’t the coolest name for the activity, but it is the name already in use and I see no reason to clutter things up with new terms so long as they work.
Why would you want to solo extremely? Players sometimes want achievements or reputation or mounts or legendary weapons that are obtained from running difficult older content. However, they may also wish to solo something because it’s simply there, because it’s a challenge.
Why hunter extreme soloing? Unto ourselves we hunters can fill all the traditional roles: tank (our pet), heals (Mend Pet and Tier 5) and dps (the hunter). We are also adept at agro management and kiting, have adequate damage mitigation via our tenacity pets, have decent crowd control, and are pretty flexible when it comes to changing specs/abilities and pets depending upon the fight. However, just because we are well-suited to extreme soloing, it does not mean that it is easy. Soloing that is genuinely extreme requires preparation, dedication and creativity.
While extreme soloing we are responsible for all aspects of the fight, not just dps. This means that we have to change the way we think about preparing for fights. If we strive to min-max anything, it is not dps but rather our ability to survive until the end of the fight. That survival often entails quite a bit of work on our parts before we even step foot in an instance.
Choosing a Pet
You will want to obtain a pet that has damage mitigation talents and can hold aoe threat, and this means a level 80 tenacity pet. However, which one should you choose?
Formerly, the general-purpose tanking pet was a gorilla, and, subsequently, a turtle. However, their special abilities have been either directly or indirectly obtained by all other tenacity pets with recent changes. Thunderstomp is now a standard talent for tenacity pets and Cower now performs a function very similar to a turtle’s shell shield.
Despite this, I would still recommend a turtle. Cower and Shell Shield do not share a cooldown and so they can work in sequence to increase the uptime of damage mitigation or in synchronization to stack with each other. Because extreme soloing is more about surviving than about speed, I believe a turtle remains the single best choice for a tough soloing pet.
That said, do consider having more than one soloing pet. Call Stabled Pet enables us to switch out our pets depending upon the demands of the upcoming fight. Some hunters like Warp Stalkers for their mitigation talent. In situations where you are more concerned with AoE threat (as with pet tanking or trash massacres), you may prefer a bear or a croc. In other fights, like with the Shade of Aran boss fight, a dps pet is fine if not better. Stable diversity is therefore something to consider in addition to getting the best pet for survivability.
Here is what I use as my general extreme soloing pet build. It is aimed at keeping the pet alive while I do dps.
Keep in mind that you should be willing to vary your pet spec by instance. If it requires pet mobility, you may wish to spec into Boar’s Speed and Charge. If it is a fight where you have to hang back and mostly just heal when you can, Cobra Reflexes, Spiked Collar and Culling the Herd may be appropriate. Regardless, try to always have the core mitigation talents in the first two tiers of the tenacity tree.
Many talents are good but not optimal, like Improved Growl. While that ability, Intervene and Taunt may be good for pet tanking in group settings, your agro management abilities as a hunter (Feign Death, Misdirect) make mitigation talents more valuable. Your top priority for talent selection are those things that will keep your pet alive.
For a discussion of pet stats (and how to make your pet crit immune), see this Big Red Rhino guide.
You’ll want different talents for yourself, too. This is a spec I recommend. It emphasizes survivability, ignoring MM and and going into SV far enough to get a boost to stamina.
Note that there will be some fights that demand more in terms of doing damage than in absorbing it. These are exceptions to the rule of boosting pet survivability, but they are frequent enough to merit mention. Vexallus is a good example. For such fights, you will want to have a dps spec and gear at the ready. There will also be plenty of fights, especially when it comes to trash, where some middle ground (possibly found via combining a soloing spec and dps gear) is best. As with all else in extreme soloing, being flexible and creative is key.
The only glyph that I think is mandatory is Mending. The standard minor glyphs are also as helpful here as elsewhere. Otherwise, you should feel free to glyph according to your personal tastes. If nothing stands out, stick with dps glyphs.
Our gear choices are radically different from when we just dps. Agility is not really our top concern for stats. We first want numbers that will help our pet stay alive. Because hunters don’t have gear itemized for extreme soloing, we have to make do with what we can scrounge up.
If you have nothing better, don’t feel bad about sticking with your raid gear. It has high stamina and armor in addition to dps stats. Also, consider holding onto pieces of old raid gear that have multiple gem slots (like a Crusader’s Dragonscale Breastplate). Such items can be packed with stam gems, making them good for both your dps and your pet’s health.
PVP gear is an obvious choice for soloing. It is high on stamina and armor. It also provides resilience, which when transferred to our pets helps to make them un-critable. If you don’t like arenas or grinding battlegrounds, completing the set of Wintergrasp zone quests every few days or every week is an efficient way of obtaining honor and some non-set pvp gear from WG marks.
Icy Scale Gear
Icy Scale pieces are heavy on frost resist, but they’re also heavy on stamina and gem slots. They can serve well as starter gear for boosting your pet’s health. However, keep in mind that you are losing dps stats by wearing them and that your current raiding/pvp gear may have actually have more stamina than even stam-gemmed icy scale gear.
Tier 5 2-Piece Set Bonus
Tier 5 (15% of damage done is translated into pet heals) gets its own section for consideration because it does not merely improve pet survivability, it also enables taking a dramatically different approach to soloing.
Normally, hunter healing and pet mitigation become relatively fixed once you glyph, spec and gear (including resil. gear to def cap) in the right ways. This leads to a situation where the only ways to continue improving pet survivability are to stack more stamina or kill things faster. These approaches have high opportunity costs in the sense that pursuing one causes you to lose out on the other.
Tier 5 changes this because it allows you to pursue dps and pet survivability together. I’ve found that I can achieve amazing results by sticking with my raid gear and spec while wearing two pieces of tier 5. After all, if I’m pulling let’s say 6k dps on a boss, that’s 900 healing per second on my pet. This healing benefits from pet talents that increase healing received by 40% (making it 1260 hps). If you add mend pet on top of this, that’s a LOT of healing. This constitutes a radical departure from typical soloing. Instead of stacking traditional survivability stats at the expense of dps, the hunter actually wants to stack dps because higher dps leads to both faster kills and more healing.
Yet, there is a huge caveat to this use of Tier 5. It does not work if you are not doing damage. This means that your pet has to meet some minimum level of survivability determined by the periods of the fight during which you are not doing dps. If these periods are long and/or frequent, you may wish to lean less on the Tier 5 bonus and more on typical extreme soloing gear and spec priorities. It also makes for another reason to have a turtle: Shell Shield can do a lot to keep your pet alive during, say, those opening moments of a fight where you are gathering up mobs or getting into position rather than dpsing.
There is a second, similar caveat in the sense that by relying on high dps and tier 5, you allow little room for error or unexpected events. In lacking mitigation gained from a soloing BM spec and enough stamina to soak blows, your pet will often be so close to death that one hiccup or CC on you can make a wipe.
Set Bonuses Other Than Tier-5
- Tier 7: You will see some hunters equipping two pieces of tier 7 because it increases the pet’s damage and therefore its threat. This is perhaps more useful for pet tanking than extreme soloing as threat is not our top concern while soloing. Nevertheless, it helps, particularly in fights where the pet has to do most of the damage.
- Giantstalker Armor: Yes, tier 1 armor. Its three piece bonus is useful for situations where you cannot be anywhere near the boss for long but you still have to keep mend pet up. It is also another multiplicative boost to mend pet, which is nice. This set bonus won’t always be worth having compared to other gear options due to its low levels of armor and stamina.
- Trappings of the Unseen Path: The rationale for the Tier 7 bonus applies here too. In fights where your pet is doing most of the damage and can survive without maximum stamina and armor, you may want to boost pet damage with this item set. Outside of such situations, I would not say that this set bonus is worthwhile due to the cost it imposes on tanking stats.
Trinkets and Jewelry
In these slots we can wear tanking gear. There are many pieces of jewelry and trinkets that have high stamina or hp5. I will not try to list them but I will say that you should always ask your tanks if it’s okay to roll on these tanking pieces because they need them more than you. Also, continue to consider pvp gear here. It is very high on stamina and some of the trinkets can have useful effects. Even the basic pvp trinket effect of breaking forms of crowd control can be very useful in some fights.
Generally you want to gem stamina on gear you have set aside for soloing. +24stam gems are easy to come by if you lack the cash to deck yourself out in +30stam epic gems. Note that because we only transfer some basic stats to our pets that it does not good to gem defense, parry or dodge.
For your meta gem, you might be tempted to use an Invigorating Earthsiege Diamond. However, though some heals are better than none, the healing you get from this gem seems to be rather low. Instead, I’d recommend something like an Effulgent Skyflare Diamond. It adds stamina and it saves you a bit of spell damage, which is more often than not the type of damage you will take.
Enchant with stamina where you can, otherwise go with dps enchants or resistance enchants. Here is a list of permanent item enhancements that provide stamina. Note the head enchants available from Northrend dungeon factions that offer stamina and a resistance to a particular school. You might also look at the Enchantments list compiled over at Big Red Rhino.
Health potions are, in my experience, the most useful to have and the most often used in extreme soloing. One of the great limitations to hunter soloing is our inability to heal ourselves effectively. Health potions are one of the few ways that we can compensate for this.
Flasks are useful for the same reasons in extreme soloing as they are in raiding: they provide a buff and they persist through death. You might think that Flask of Stoneblood would be great for buffing pet health, but remember that pets benefit from our stamina, not so much our health points. Consider Endless Rage for extra dps or a Lesser Flask of Resistance for mitigation. Another option would be some combination of guardian and battle elixirs. Elixir of Mighty Fortitude and Guru’s Elixir do not persist through death, but they provide stats you are interested in.
Heavy Frostweave Bandages are good to have on hand. As stated above, we lack strong means of regenerating our own health, meaning that we have to be ready to use whatever we can, including bandages.
As with other demanding activities in WoW, food buffs can provide an extra edge. For the hunter, consider the usual Blackened Dragonfin and for the pet, check out Spiced Mammoth Treats. For most soloing, I don’t think food buffs have worth proportional to their cost. But for those fights where you have to push every limit, food buffs are worth having.
Proxy Raid Buffs
Blizzard recently introduced Drum Kings, Drum Wild and Fort Scrolls. When used they affect the hunter and the pet, making them essential and powerful for soloing. They appear last in this list, but I rank them as the most important consumables.
Extreme soloing does take a measure of dedication. It can require the patience to wipe over and over again without any chance of a rez. It can require ignoring the fact that these fights were never meant to be fought alone. It takes money and time. It can demand setting aside one of your specs (or, as some people do, re-speccing every time you solo). It can take significant investments before you even set foot in the instance, in the form of gear attainment and fight studying.
All that said, for the right sort of gamer it can be as satisfying as other parts of WoW. What’s not to like about striding into the cave alone and emerging victorious, a dragon slayer? You and your pet get to stand your ground against armies and ancient war machines. You get to explore the lore-ridden corners of the world, to stand in awe as Ragnaros surges up from the earth in flames, to laugh at Kael’Thas’s death scream, to uncover what C’Thun has wrought below the sands. There’s also plenty of bling and achievements to be had.
Because extreme soloing involves stepping out of your usual role and doing things alone that were meant to be done by groups, you often have to think outside the box. The typical hunter dps box is not that big, so thinking outside of it is not hard, but a measure of creativity is required nonetheless. Just as in current PVE content, not every old fight is a tank and spank. You and your pet have to move, you have to kite, you have to use line of sight. You have to use the environment to your advantage, acting in vertical and not just horizontal space, taking the short path while the mobs take the long one. You have to realize the potential of things that are seemingly useless, like the fact that your pet despawns if you get too far away. You have to consider your whole arsenal of abilities, not just those things that do damage (extreme soloing is one of those endeavors where having that diversity in our spellbook and talent trees comes in handy). To gain an appreciation for the sheer creativity that can be employed in soloing, check out the Hunter vs. World series (keep in mind that Hunter vs. World occurred before WotLK).
It is worth remembering that some things unfortunately will always be beyond soloing. For instance, no one will ever solo SSC because of the way the second phase of the final boss works. The key is knowing which things are impossible and which are improbable. Those improbable situations are the forefront of extreme soloing progression.
So you’re prepared, you’re dedicated and you’re thinking creatively. What’s your first instance? I would point you toward BC 5mans. They offer a good spread in terms of difficulty, ranging from places to get initial practice like Hellfire Ramparts to places that pose genuine difficulties even for experienced soloers like Heroic Magister’s Terrace. They also offer decent money to make it worth your while with single npcs in BC heroics typically dropping 70s each. Once you think you’re ready, you can move on to the forefront of extreme soloing progression: old raids and Northrend 5mans. To get a sense of the instances hunters have already solo’d, check out Haiatu’s youtube channel and the Elitist Jerk’s thread on the topic of hunter soloing.