While working on my PvP guides, one thing I’ve been taking a hard look at is Spell Penetration. I’ve not really focused on it as a stat up until now, as I’ve been using my PvP gear to pull double-duty for me in BGs as well as dungeons. However, I’ve now amassed enough alternate pieces to be able to throw a decent PvP set together, optimized with PvP stats.
So onto the topic of Spell Penetration and Hunters…
Hunters are not casters, so wtf do we need spell pen for..?!
The reason hunters need spell penetration is because although we don’t cast spells per se, we do fire shots that do spell damage. A good portion of our DPS in PvP is supplied by way of spell damage – namely these three shots:
Because all hunters rely upon at least one of these shots, and because pretty much all of our PvP foes will have some form of resistance up, Spell Penetration is an important stat for PvP – especially in arena.
What does Spell Penetration do for hunters..?
Simply put, it increases our DPS in PvP by negating enemy resistances to our spell damage attacks. For example, a player with Mark of the Wild up will resist over 14% of your incoming spell damage. That is huge when you consider that could mean a loss of a few thousand damage per shot. For this reason, no other gear enhancement can boost your PvP DPS as much as Spell Penetration can.
How much Spell Penetration does a hunter need..?
That depends, so rather than make you drink the Kool Aid, I’ll break it down so that you may determine what sort of spell pen level best suits your needs and play style.
First off, I suggest that most all hunters who are serious about PvP should have at least 100 Spell Penetration. Here’s why… 100 Spell Penetration will cancel out Mark of the Wild / Blessing of Kings (both 97 resist), as well as all racial resists (85 resist). These are very common buffs which you’ll see in every battleground, so being able to negate them is a nice advantage.
Beyond those buffs, here are other reasons why you may want to boost your Spell Penetration over 100…
Mage Armor stacks with other resists and provides an additional 44 resistance to all schools of magic damage. Hence, a Mage with BoK on them will have a total of 141 resistance to all magic damage. Depending upon the buffs, a Mage can pack as high as 239 resistance.
Paladins can provide 195 resists to fire, frost and shadow damage by way of Resistance Aura, and Shamans can provide 195 fire, frost and nature resists with their Elemental Resistance Totem. Considering both types of buffs provide resistance to fire, it’s advisable for survival hunters to consider boosting their Spell Penetration to 200, for the boost to Explosive Shot damage. 195 fire resist will chew up 25% of your Explosive Shot damage, which is huge… especially when considering what it will do to crits.
Marksmanship hunters may want to go to 200 as an answer to the Shaman’s totem, but I’d suggest only doing so for competitive arena. Going beyond 200 is largely unnecessary, as the only advantage would be when dealing with Mages and capped resists. Unless you’re in a highly competitive arena bracket that’s chock full of Mages, then I’d avoid stacking beyond 200.
There are other resists that players may possess, but they’re pretty inconsequential when it comes to hunter PvP. A Shadow Priest’s shadow resistance really only affects Black Arrow, which only pertains to survival hunters, and is not all that important anyway, as Black Arrow isn’t relied upon for PvP DPS. A hunter can use Aspect of the Wild for nature resists, but c’mon… what hunter does that..?!
Hunter Spell Penetration needs broken down by spec…
Beast Mastery hunters should be fine with 100 Spell Penetration. This allows us to overcome Mark of the Wild and Blessing of Kings, enabling our Arcane Shots to hit at full force (apart from resilience mitigation).
Marksmanship hunters should have at least 100 Spell Penetration, but may want to go as high as 200. This amount of Spell Penetration counteracts all of the most common buffs which can nerf the damage of Arcane Shot and Chimera Shot.
Survival hunters should strongly consider going with 200 Spell Penetration. Apart from the stacking effect of Mage Armor, 200 Spell Penetration allows every juicy tick of Explosive Shot to hit with full force vs all classes.
How can a hunter add Spell Penetration to their gear..?
The best way to do this is through a combination of gem socketing, along with a cloak enchant. The Stormy Ocean Sapphire provides 50 Spell Penetration, and the scroll of Enchant Cloak – Greater Spell Piercing adds 70 Spell Penetration.
Personally, I like one 50 spell pen gem + the cloak enchant. Even though as a Beast Master I really don’t need much over 100 spell pen, the cloak enchant is a good bang for the buck in that slot, as there really aren’t any stellar cloak enchant options for hunters in Cataclsym. Also, having 120 spell pen helps a tad when dealing with Mage Armor resists. The 50 spell pen gem can go into any blue armor socket.
A few closing notes about Spell Penetration…
Update – 06/28/11: As of Patch 4.2, Spell Penetration will now apply to our traps!
Spell Penetration DOES NOT affect a hunter’s traps. Sadly, no amount of Spell Penetration is going to make it less likely that you’re trap will get resisted. However, it will work on Scare Beast. Having 100 spell pen should guarantee you sending those pesky druids running around all willy nilly for several seconds.
Spell Penetration IS NOT ADVISABLE FOR PVE DPS. This is a PvP-only stat folks — same as resilience.
If you’re using a mixed set of PvP and PvE gear for dungeons, then it’s not entirely necessary to gem for Spell Penetration yet, especially if you’re only planning on casual PvP. As much as spell pen can help you on the battlefield, it can also hamper your PvE DPS.
Does a hunter need to have Spell penetration on their gear in order to PvP..?
Not necessarily. You can still melt faces in BGs, but you’ll have to rely upon Tranquilizing Shot a lot more in order to knock off resists. While not a huge issue, it does lower burst potential by using focus and global cooldowns for shots that could have been used for damage instead, plus Tranq Shot holds no guarantees it’ll dispel the buff you want it to. You can still rock in other words… just not as hard as the hunter who’s sporting the spell pen.
If you plan on doing some arena, I’d highly advise going with at least 100-120 spell pen, regardless of your spec.
Well… hopefully I’ve helped to further demystify Spell Penetration and how it pertains to hunters.
If you still have questions… as always… post them in the comments below.
Lastly, know that I do plan to have a new PvP guide up soon. I actually have one section already written, but I feel it fits better as part 3 or 4, so as soon as I can get part 2 tackled, I’ll have it posted.
Other Helpful Hunter PvP Guides