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WoWAug 26, 2016 3:00 pm CT

Locked and Loaded: The best Hunter Artifact weapon build paths

Hunter Artifact weapon

It’s going to take a long time to fully unlock the Artifact traits of your chosen Artifact weapon, and even longer if you decide to level up more than one weapon at the same time. Just how long will depend on how you play, but you’re looking at several months at a minimum.

With that kind of time investment, it’s worth planning out your trait unlock path ahead of time. Yes, it’s possible to respec your Artifact, but I would advise against this since it costs as much as whatever your next trait would cost. So if you were 20 traits in and decided to respec, it would cost you nearly 40k Artifact Power to do so, which would potentially put you back a week or more in Artifact progression.

That being said, you will unlock everything eventually, so if you’re not a serious raider, there’s nothing wrong with unlocking everything in whatever order you want. However, if you’re looking to maximize DPS as early as possible, there are specific paths for each Hunter Artifact weapon you should follow. These unlock paths were determined by looking at the contribution each trait made to overall DPS, plus using Simulation Craft to verify and test out various trait combinations.


Titanstrike (Beast Mastery)

  1. Beast Master
  2. Focus of the Titans
  3. Mimiron’s Shell
  4. Jaws of Thunder
  5. Master of Beasts
  6. Furious Swipes
  7. Unleash the Beast
  8. Surge of the Stormgod
  9. Pathfinder
  10. Pack Leader
  11. Wilderness Expert
  12. Titan’s Thunder
  13. Spitting Cobras
  14. Spirit Bond
  15. Hunter’s Advantage
  16. Natural Reflexes

The most important thing is to unlock the three golden traits as soon as possible, and taking this path gets this done the fastest. Despite not being optimal, you may want to pick up Spirit Bond earlier than the list says. It’s really nice to have that constant source of maintenance healing.  Perhaps a good time to grab it is right after unlocking Titan’s Thunder, before you put any points into Spitting Cobras. Once you’re all done, you can start putting points into Spiritbound, which will slowly increase the damage of all your pets. This final trait is expensive. You could unlock all of the golden traits on the other two weapons plus have Artifact Power to spare rather than just putting one point here. If you’re going to focus all of your efforts on Beast Mastery, it’s worth the investment.

Hati, the wolf summoned by Titanstrike, will essentially copy whatever your main pet does. It will attack the same target, it will stop attacking if your main pet does, and it will be healed by Mend Pet. If Hati dies, he will respawn automatically after a 30-second cooldown. If you use Play Dead, Hati will also feign death with your pet. When you unlock Master of Beasts, Hati will Kill Command whenever your main pet does (though not for full damage), and will copy all of your main pet’s Beast Cleaves. For all intents and purposes, you have two full time pets.

While the other two Artifact weapons have “hidden” effects, unfortunately Titanstrike does not. However, you do get a quest to obtain the Essence Swapper once you reach level 110. This allows you to transform Hati into any pet you own, and he will stay in that form until you use the item to change him to another form.


Thas’dorah (Marksmanship)

  1. Wind Arrows
  2. Called Shot
  3. Mark of the Windrunner
  4. Deadly Aim
  5. Gust of Wind
  6. Rapid Killing
  7. Marked for Death
  8. Bullseye
  9. Windrunner’s Guidance
  10. Legacy of the Windrunners
  11. Precision
  12. Call of the Hunter
  13. Quick Shot
  14. Critical Focus
  15. Healing Shell
  16. Survival of the Fittest

Marksmanship is able to unlock more of their Artifact’s potential earlier than the other specs, which will have it at an advantage for early raiding. If you want, you could go for Legacy of the Windrunners after taking Rapid Killing, then go for Bullseye after that. There’s some freedom here since you will probably have both of them before Emerald Nightmare opens up. Once you’re all done, you can start putting points into Windflight Arrows, which will slowly increase all of your damage. Once again, this final trait is expensive, but worth the investment if you’re focusing solely on Marksmanship.

Thas’dorah has a hidden effect that will make Beast Mastery and Survival Hunters quite jealous. Whenever you’re out of combat, Windrunning activates, increasing movement speed by 5% every 5 seconds, maxing out at 25%. It’s essentially the old version of Aspect of the Cheetah, but turned on permanently when out of combat. The downside is it only works in the Broken Isles.


Talonclaw (Survival)

  1. Iron Talons
  2. Hellcarver
  3. Raptor’s Cry
  4. Explosive Force
  5. Aspect of the Skylord
  6. Hunter’s Guile
  7. Lacerating Talons
  8. Eagle’s Bite
  9. Fluffy, Go
  10. Embrace of the Aspects
  11. Bird of Prey
  12. Talon Strike
  13. Sharpened Fang
  14. My Beloved Monster
  15. Terms of Engagement
  16. Hunter’s Bounty

Survival has a similar unlock speed to Beast Mastery when it comes to getting the three golden traits. Despite not being optimal, you may want to pick up Terms of Engagement earlier than suggested just for the quality of life improvement it provides out in the world. Once you’re all done, you can start putting points into Voice of the Wild Gods, which will slowly increase all of your damage. Again, that final trait is expensive, but worth it if you’re focusing solely on Survival.

Talonclaw has two hidden bonuses that are active in the Broken Isles. The first is Call to the Eagles, which summons an eagle pet to fight for you for 10 sec whenever your health drops below 40%. It can only happen every 3 minutes. The second bonus turns you into an eagle spirit whenever you’re dead, allowing you to fly back to your corpse.


Artifact Power and Knowledge

Your main source of Artifact Power will be through leveling, dungeons, and world quests. You can essentially farm it as there’s no true limit to how much you can acquire in a day or week. Every heroic dungeon is going to give you some, and there will always be new world quests popping up with Artifact Power reward throughout the day.

The most important thing is to stay on top of your Artifact Knowledge work orders. These are unlocked at level 110 in Trueshot Lodge after completing a quest. These cost 500 Order Resources and take five days to research. You should always have at least one researching. Once complete, they give you a permanent bonus to all Artifact Power gains on that character. For example, the first knowledge level increases it by 25%, the second by 50%, the third by 90%, and so on. It maxes out at level 25, which is a whopping 24,900% increase in Artifact Power gained. Artifact Knowledge applies to all three weapons, which makes catching up on the others a lot easier down the road.


What spec should I play?

Someone always asks, so I’ll leave a few words about this question. I assume you’ve been playing in 7.0 and have decided what you like best. Play that! Once Artifacts are leveled up, all three specs are competitive with each other. If you’re still not sure and are absolutely determined to play “the best” in PVE, then it’s probably Marksmanship (with Sidewinders and Patient Sniper).

The reason for this is that you unlock more of Thas’dorah’s potential earlier than Titanstrike, which will be helpful for early progression in Emerald Nightmare. Mechanically, it’s nicer because you can do respectable cleave damage without sacrificing single target damage. Beast Mastery has superior AoE for clumped up targets, but you have to sacrifice single target DPS to do it, and it’ll be quite a while before all three golden traits are unlocked for it to reach its true potential.

Whatever you decide, it’s probably best to focus on one Artifact until you have a few levels of Artifact Knowledge researched. This will make getting the first one or two golden traits in your second/third Artifact a lot easier.

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