Raiding is going to start for many players soon, if it hasn't already. Hunters, even with the major overhaul of the pet system, every single pet will not maximize your raid potential. While many hunters probably have a gorilla leftover from levelling using the new Volley, that's not really the pet you want for a high level instance. Having just hit 80, and with the call from your guild going out soon, you should probably go ahead and tame that raid pet. This article will show the main pet options and inform hunters where to get them.
While pet levelling speed has been increased by 30%, it's still a drag to grind mobs just to help fluffy out. Though if your levelling pet is going to be your raid pet and he's only a level or two behind, there's no reason to not just take him along to the raid since he'll be maxed soon enough. The entire point of a hunters pet in a raid setting, much like the hunter them self actually, is to deal DPS. So out of the three pet talent trees (Cunning, Ferocity, Tenacity), raid hunters will want to choose a pet from the Ferocity tree due to its +10% damage boost. The only time a hunter might not want a Ferocity pet is if they have the 51 point BM talent, Beast Mastery, allowing them to tame an exotic pet.
Once the "class" of pet has been chosen, Ferocity, the next most important issue is what secondary skill does the pet have. A pet with a DPS sort of skill will be the best choice. Of course every pet has some sort of "focus dump" damage dealing ability, but for a raid pet a hunter will want a pet whose secondary ability also increases DPS.
Cats are a mainstay for most hunters. They were incredibly popular in TBC because for a long time they dealt the most damage, it's as simple as that. Of course later on Ravagers and Wind Serpents became popular as well. The cats extra ability is called Rake. The maximum rank of Rake deals around 46-72 damage, with a 10 second cool down.
A Raptor’s secondary skill is called Savage Rend. It deals between 122-164 damage, with a 1 minute cool down. Compared to a cat’s rake, at first glance this looks like a lesser skill. Savage Rend is able to crit. though, providing it more damage and increasing the Raptor’s damage by 10% for 30 seconds. Using Kill Command before each Savage Rend will be the best option in order to maximize this pet’s DPS. A BM hunter that already has all of the other critical strike increasing talents will probably find more use from this pet then either MM or SV. So this may be the pet of choice for any hunter that goes deep BM but doesn't pick up exotics.
A Wolf’s secondary skill buffs their attack power and that of the raid by 10%. This ability does not stack with most other raid buffs, so taking a wolf to a 25 man raid will be pointless over a Raptor or Cat. Depending on the composition of a 10 man raid, it is possible for this to be a useful ability.
If you've taken 51 points in the Beast Mastery tree and gotten exotic pets, there is no reason you would want a normal pet for a raid. The talent itself further boosts exotic pet DPS by 10%. Even among the exotic pets there is a king for raid DPS, and that is the Devilsaur. The other two Ferocity pets just don't match up. Again, just like with the above mentioned wolves, exotic pets provide a number of extra abilities that in certain situations can be useful. Raid buffs such as lowering the targets armor. Of course because of the new buff system in place with WotLK, these abilities will probably not be needed in a 25 man environment, but for a 10 man raid it's possible that they provide a needed boost.
Devilsaur. For maximum DPS, this is what you want. Causing 91-123 damage every 10 seconds, as well as increasing its damage output by 3%, and stacking three times. This pet effectively increases its output by 9% more then any other exotic pet. There's no doubt that the 9% damage buff will stay on the pet either, because of the BM talent Longevity which lowers the cool down on pet abilities. Even if the Devilsaur misses once or twice, they won't suddenly lose their 9% buff.
The only other exotic pet that might be wanted in a 25 man raid is a Worm. A Worm’s secondary ability is Acid Spit, which besides dealing a good amount of damage (124-176 every 10 seconds) also applies an armor debuff identical to Sunder Armor. With the introduction of DKs into the tanking scene, as well as feral druids and protection paladins already there, on any boss fight where a warrior is not tanking, the Worm can provide the same Sunder Armor effect while allowing any warriors in the raid to just DPS. Depending on your guild’s raid composition, a BM hunter may be asked to specifically bring this pet.
Pet Talent Trees
At this point there are two talent points left over and a number of options. Maxing out Bloodthirsty and picking up Heart of the Phoenix could be useful. It not only saves you time when the pet dies to random cleaves on trash, but saves you a lot of DPS in the middle of a boss fight. If you're in a 10 man raid this is what you should grab. For a 25 man, most times if your pet dies then the fight was designed to kill your pet anyway. If you are a BM hunter then this is also where these last two points should go without exception. Unlike a MM or SV hunter who is okay not having a pet for a pet killer boss, the BM hunter gains a good amount of DPS just having their pet alive next to them.
Now if the hunter is BM and has the 51 point BM talent, then they gain an additional 4 talent points. The hunter should pick up Heart of the Phoenix if they haven't already, and then grab Lick your Wounds and fill out Great Stamina. If they have, then they should just max out Spiked Collar. Below are links to three sample builds for the Ferocity Tree for raiding. The first example is for a DPS build without as much survival. The second example is for more survival and less DPS. And the third example is for 51 point BM hunter who can grab both.
For now, taking a straight DPS pet for 25 man raiding is the best option. Though with the Naxxramas raids being considered introductory, a hunter maximizing their ability as was seen in mid to late TBC is not necessary yet. It may never be necessary, but either way there will be damage parses in the next few months showing one pet or another as the top DPS pet. If you don't care much about your personal DPS and neither does the rest of your guild, there's no reason not to take any pet you want... except flying pets because they tend to cloud peoples screens and piss them off... and not noisy pets because they also annoy people... and if you're doing less damage then the tank, you need to worry about something other then just your pet.