Many classses were using pvp at the start of the expansion to obtain gear that was superior in pve to anything that dropped in heroic 5mans. Blizzard responded to that drift toward pvp gear by nerfing 4-piece pvp set bonuses across the board. Yet, this did not bring an end to the well-reasoned use of pvp gear in pve settings by hunters. Even now sets of Vicious gear outperform heroic dungeon gear and pvp weapons similarly come out ahead of ilvl 346 pve weapons. So, how do you know if pvp gear is good for you? How do you get it?
Why Vicious Gear?
A recent Hunting Party Podcast (#76) called them welfare epics, purple gear that is disproportionately easy to obtain relative to its ilvl. The reasoning for this appellation is that you can earn 1,343 Conquest Points, the currency for buying this gear, every week by winning only five arena matches or three rated BGs. Hitting this currency cap every week fairly easy to do. The process is not free of frustration or defeat or even humiliation, but it is easy in the sense that all it really requires is time and a friend (or friends). Even if you are not that great at pvp, the placement engine will eventually start putting you up against teams that are even worse than yours. That is our first answer to “why Vicious gear?”: it’s simple to obtain.
The second reason is that it can be better than ilvl 346 blues. There are two situations where this is clearly the case: set bonuses and ranged weapons. A Vicious piece by itself can be on par with a heroic blue for pve. What can set Vicious gear ahead is the agility gained from the two and four piece pvp set bonuses (70 and 90 agility, respectively). Agi is so good that the bonuses plus the native itemization on the pvp gear more than make up for the loss of some secondary stat itemization to resilience. If you (like so many other hunters) are stuck with blue shoulders and a blue helm, it would indeed be an upgrade of a couple hundred dps to obtain Vicious gear in those slots. I can’t say the same for the honor-bought Bloodthirsty gear for those slots, incidentally; it does not appear to be an upgrade over dungeon blues despite the two piece bonus.
The other circumstance of Vicious gear superiority concerns ranged weapons. Ranged weapon damage is so powerful a stat that an ilvl 359 pvp weapon easily and clearly beats an ivl 346 blue, despite the resilience. It is also the case that the pvp gun is going to be better for a dwarf than an ilvl 359 bow or crossbow owing to the dwarven racial bonus to guns; likewise for trolls and their bonus with bows. PVP weapons cost enough that it can take three weeks to farm enough points for them, but, speaking as a person who plays a dwarf hunter, I think it’s worth it.
You don’t have to take my word for all this, though. You can test all of this out at femaledwarf.com. Just make sure to maintain your hit rating as you switch between pve and pvp pieces.
So How Does One Obtain Vicious Gear?
As mentioned above, Vicious pvp gear is purchased with Conquest Points which in turn are rewards from winning arena matches or rated battlegrounds (in 4.1 you will also be able to obtain Conquest Points on a one for one exchange basis with Valor Points). Hunters suffer from a bit of tension when it comes to choosing among these venues. The smaller the team size, the more hunters tend to struggle, while the larger the team size is, the better we tend to do. Our average prowess scales inversely with how easy the team is to put together. Why this is the case is a subject best left for another post (or, better yet, an actual pvp blogger). I can say with some confidence, though, that hunters can do alright in 2s, providing that they make use of their full tookit.
Regardless of which size team (2, 3, 5, 10) you go with, make sure that you are with like-minded people. Optimal team compositions (comps) are not crucial for farming points, but sharing expectations with your teammates can still be. If all you want are your weekly points, make sure that your teammates are alright with quitting for the week after five wins (or that you are okay with playing beyond five wins). If you don’t have friends who are interested in PVPing with you, finding team members via your server’s usual channels (trade chat, lfg chat) works fine too.
The procedure for setting up an arena team is simple. You open the PVP window, select the Arena Teams tab, left click on the flag corresponding to the team size you want and start setting up your team name and pendant. That done, you can add members in the same tab. To join the queue for arenas, invite your team into a group with you and, under the Conquest tab, select Join Battle.
Rated BGs are even simpler in procedure. Form a raid group of the appropriate size for the week (it will say under PVP > Conquest > Rated Battleground) and click Join Battle. Of course, logistically, getting nine other people together for a rated BG is a bit tougher than one other person for a 2s match.
Once you are in the door and in an arena or a rated BG, what do you do? I’m hardly an expert when it comes to this, and so rather than give you crudely-formed and scattered bits of information I think I should direct you to people who know what they’re talking about. For questions about specs, comps, tactics, pets, stats, etc., please consult these resources.