Hunter PvP Basics: PvP Targeting

To target enemies in PvP, you basically have three options…

  • The Mouse – This is the most efficient way to target enemy players, but it can be cumbersome at times – especially if you’re constantly using your mouse for movement, as I do. Obviously, if you use your keyboard to move, then mouse-targeting won’t be as much of an issue. However, using anything but the mouse to steer your character is very ill-advised, especially for a hunter. Hunters need to be able to turn and move quickly, and execute jump-shots — you just can’t operate your hunter properly if you’re using your keyboard to turn and move.
  • The Tab Key – Tab can be OK for targeting enemies, but if you have to spend too much time cycling through player pets, totems, etc… then this can be a real problem.
  • Macros – Next to mouse targeting, macros are the most effective for targeting enemy players. The only problem… macros are only so smart. You can write them to target specific players, but they can only do so much. For example, you can’t program a macro to target only healers, or those that are the lowest on health. Macros are pretty limited in terms of target selection, but they can allow for the fastest targeting and target switch commands.

The following article is designed to help hunters improve their targeting efficiency in PvP, by offering a few examples on how you can make your targeting a little smoother and easier.

First, let’s take a look at an addon that can help you out with mouse targeting…

Tidy Plates for Mouse Targeting

Tidy Plates is an amazing addon for PvP. It’s something I’d played with in the past, but only recently have I decided to give it a permanent place in my UI.

Tidy Plates is essentially a beefed up version of the default Blizzard nameplates (floating health bars). What makes it such a nice addon for PvP, is that it also shows your enemies’ class icons. Tidy Plates are really configurable, so you can make them larger or smaller, change the opacity, show cast bars, set certain combat rules, you name it…

I have mine set up to be pretty low-profile — as all I really want to see are the class icons and health bars.

Here’s an example of what Tidy Plates look like in action (click the image to embiggen)…

Tidy Plates

As you can see, the class icons make it very easy to target a specific player. Sometimes mouse-targeting players can be a pain when player pets, terrain, or other obstacles are in the way, but not with Tidy Plates. For example, just click on the furry paw and you’ve just targeted yourself a Druid!

Tip: As a mouse-mover, another thing I use a lot when targeting is autorun. If I’m chasing down a flag carrier and I want to stop their healer, but they’re out of tab-target range, I’ll hit my autorun key (Z is what I use) and stay in pursuit, then clicking on the healer to Concussive Shot them.

Tab Targeting

Tab is what most players use as a way to target their nearest enemy. While this can be an alright way to target at times, it can also be a huge hindrance if relied upon. Tab defaults to your closest enemy, then cycles through the remaining targets when pressed repeatedly. If you have to cycle through a half-dozen players before you get to the healer, then you’re wasting a ton of time.

Furthermore, if you’re using the default (targetenemy) Tab configuration, then you’ll have to cycle through NPCs as well (e.g., pets, totems, Treants, Spirit Wolves, etc…).

One way to make your Tab key more efficient for PvP is to reassign it to: Target Nearest Enemy Player, rather than Target Nearest Enemy. To do this, just open up your Game Menu and go to the Keybindings interface. Here you’ll find a few different options for assigning different targeting methods to keybindings.

Tab Target Keybindings

I keep my Tab key set to the default, but the screenshot above shows the different targeting options available.

By reassigning your Tab key to only target the ‘Nearest Enemy Player’, your Tab key will now ignore player pets, totems, etc… and only lock onto ‘enemy players’. While this is great for PvP… once you’re out of the BG or arena, your tab key will cease to target NPCs altogether.

To get around having to reassign your Tab key when switching back and forth between PvP and PvE, there are a couple of addons, such as ReTabBinder, which will do this for you. I haven’t tried any such addon, but apparently they’re supposed to auto-switch your Tab keybind depending upon your PvP status. So… if you’re flagged, then Tab goes to: Target Nearest Enemy Player, but if you’re not flagged, then it switches back to: Target Nearest Enemy. Obviously, this can be a problem when questing or farming in world PvP zones, but it’s a solution.

Macros for Targeting

You know me… I just loves me some macros. 🙂 Macros are great because you can not only target a player with lightning quick efficiency, but you can also start unloading on them immediately.

Here’s a little ditty I wrote up this week, which I’ve had great success with. It’s an updated version of my anti-Rogue macro, which I use to pop Rogues and Feral Druids out of stealth.

/cast Hunter's Mark

Here’s a breakdown of the macro:

/cleartarget – Ensures that regardless of who I may have targeted, it’s going to target the nearest enemy player.
/targetenemyplayer – Targets the nearest enemy player.
/petattack – Tells my pet to ATTACK!!!
/cast Hunter’s Mark – Throws Hunter’s Mark up on the stealthed target.
/startattack – Puts me in combat immediately, unloading ammo into my enemy if they’re in front of me.
/petassist – Puts my pet into the assist stance.

Basically, with one mouse press I’ll have popped a stealthy out, thrown a Hunter’s Mark on them, and my pet and I will be giving them the business while they’re thinking, “wtf just happened…?”

Tip: Be sure to always have Track Hidden active while PvPing. As soon as you hear the whirr of a stealthed mob nearby, start spamming the above macro.

In addition to using it on stealthed mobs, it can also be a great opener for all types of players. It gets your HM up, sends your pet in and starts you attacking.

What’s even more badass… this macro will work just fine for PvE as well. I use this macro in BGs and I use it when out doing dailies or farming leather. It makes the targeting process very efficient.

Update: This macro still works great when used against enemy players, but it will no longer work for targeting NPCs as of Patch 4.3

In addition to /targetenemyplayer, there are a couple of other target types you can specify in a macro…

/target Focus

This is very handy for quick target switching – which is what you need to be able to do in arena.

Example: the gates come up and you see you’re fighting a DPS/Healer comp… you immediately set the healer as your Focus Target (I have set focus bound to my F key), start unloading on the DPS, then when the healer is about to cast a big heal, or CC you or your teammate, you hit a macro like this:

/target Focus
/cast Scatter Shot

/target Focus
/cast Silencing Shot

/target Focus
/cast Wyvern Sting

As long as the healer is in your line-of-sight and in range, you can CC or silence them at a moment’s notice.


Assist is more of a PvE command, but you can use it in BGs or arena to make sure you’re pressuring the same target as your main assist (DPS’er).

You could set your assist as your focus, then set up a macro like this:

/assist Focus

Be careful using a macro like this, as it can can cause issues if your assist (DPS teammate) breaks off to CC a player – only to find that you’re breaking the CC by attacking their target.

Some other handy macro commands are:


This enables you to instantly clear your focus target so that you can assign a new one.

/target [@mouseover]

Adding this to a macro allows you to cast harmful or helpful spells on enemy players or teammates.


Wyvern Sting Macro

#showtooltip Wyvern Sting

/cast [modifier:shift,@focus][@mouseover, harm][harm] Wyvern Sting

This macro will cast Wyvern Sting on either your focus target, mouse-over target, or current target if no other targets are defined. You can set up a similar macro for other such shots, e.g., Scatter, Silencing, Tranquilizing, etc…

…Or if you want to set up a targeting macro for a helpful spell, you could create one like this:

Master’s Call Macro

/cast [@mouseover,help][@player] Master’s Call

This macro will cast Master’s Call on a friendly mouseover target, or on yourself if you have no mouseover target selected.

Alrighty folks… well this about covers what I wanted to discuss concerning the topic of hunter targeting in PvP. For more PvP macro ideas, you can refer to this article: Hunter Macros for PvP.

For more huntery PvP goodness, you can also check out the following…

…And of course, my Beastly Ass Beast Mastery Ass Kicking Build of Death.

14 thoughts on “Hunter PvP Basics: PvP Targeting”

  1. I was wondering if you ever considered changing the structure
    of your blog? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or 2 pictures.

    Maybe you could space it out better?

  2. Ok, I’m probably gonna show my noob status with this question, but I keep seeing it mentioned about moving with the mouse, yet macros have the mouseover option in them. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I use my mouse to move, the pointer disappears….so how can I use the mouse to move and still keep the pointer to use mouseover features?

  3. *2×3 block of keys = Insert/Home/PageUp/Del/End/PageDown — think because I used angled brackets that info got auto-deleted from the post above.

  4. I copied 3 of your macros today to help in BG’s/Arena and really liked the thread. For those 10% of the population of lefties, I made a decision to make my backspace key my /targetenemyplayer button a long time ago and it has worked out well.

    I use the 2×3 block of keys etc. for my 6 main shots which I select right handedly while mousing lefty (just bought a 5 button left-handed mouse too which I wish I had done years ago!) F12 and F11 are an easy index finger reach from there. And I found a keyboard re-mapper called SharpKeys (messes with your registry, so make sure you know what you’re doing) so I can actually use the PrtScr and Scroll Lock buttons as key binds (also, since I reassigned the value of these keys to “Q” and “W” I no longer freeze my computer for a second when I accidently hit “screen shot” since it is now disabled!) This gives me 11 buttons I can keybind for right-handed combat while selecting targets and moving left-handedly.

    And for what it’s worth, I learned to play a hunter when I joined WoW in BC, back when BM was seriously OP, and getting in the middle of a melee fight wasn’t as painful. So I also trained my melee skills via a keybind using the num-pad. I only use the top of my num pad (Numlock, Asterisk, minus key) and the “+” key, since hitting numlock turns some of the keypad numbers into arrow keys)(disabling numlock would make them viable though), thus giving me a position for right handed control of my melee combat.

    Make sure you’ve got your disengage over there too, and you just jump back, leaving your eyes on the screen as you move your hand 3″ to the right, where you’re back on your 11 buttons of ranged attack options.

  5. Ok, i need some help…i want to make macro that target nearest enemy player (like when i press Tab key)and instantly cast hunter’s mark on him and send pet to attack. i tried to write it like this but it dont work and i dunno why.

    /cast Hunter’s Mark

  6. The macro to attack stealth targets is not working or maybe im doing it worng, it does everything except cast the hunter’s mark…

    • @Zkorpyon: Did you cut and paste the macro from the Web page into the macro editor? I did this and noticed that the macro wasn’t casting Hunter’s Mark. After typing it in by hand, I found that it worked. Anyway, I hope this helps.

  7. This is the first Hunter blog entry I’ve bookmarked since the Pet Flowchart thread (I’m aware of its drawbacks) in the Petopia forums was posted late last year, this is that good.

    Tidyplates kinda looks like cheating, though.

    • Glad you like this article Boz. 🙂 Your opinion is always respected and appreciated.

      I feel like targeting is a key fundamental that a lot of players may take for granted. It’s something that used to cause me frustration at times, especially when faced with all of the chaos that can go on in BGs or arena. After spending a bunch of time this past Monday – rewriting some old macros, I figured a comprehensive post on the art of targeting would be of some help to others.

      As for Tidy Plates… eh, it offers its advantages, but it’s kinda like Gladius in that you almost have to use it if your plan is to be competitive. Just ask the other 350K+ plus people that have downloaded it. 😉

    • I wouldn’t say Tidy Plates is cheating.

      All the information it displays is available through the standard Blizzard UI, albeit often in a different format. For example, the Blizzard UI has an option to show class colors on enemy nameplates — there’s no option to show icons instead, but it’s still the same information. With Tidy Plates you can customize that information to be displayed how you can best interpret and use it (and not bother you with the stuff you don’t care about).

  8. Hi Gar,

    A great guide on targeting, as we have all come to expect. I learned the auto-run idea; I’ll incorporate then as soon as I log in next!

    I have been using your suggested targeting macro for some time, and my lower level characters also use the absorb-damage trinkets from theArathi Basin quartermaster to help ward off that first attack.

    When I was still relatively new to WoW I made the big decision to swap my Jump and Next Target keybinds, so I now have the spacebar as my Next Target key; it’s damn hard to miss in the thick of the action and jump shots can still be made with the Tab key easily. If others were doing what I was doin, and missing or looking for the Tab key, this may help.

    Trawling through Curse one day, I found a terrific addon called SmartTargeting. Whenever I go into a battleground or arena, the addon swaps the keybinds for TargetEnemy and TargetEnemyPlayer. Effectively this means whenever I hit my trusty spacebar in a battleground or arena, I’m targeting the nearest enemy player, not their pet. At the end of the bg or arena, the addon swaps the keybinds back to what you’d expect in PvE. It’s a BIG help!



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