Or The Perfect Zone of Ultimate Safety and You.
While out of date now, this was an insightful article explaining how the hunter was made for pulling.
With props to Brian Clevinger. Since the article is gone (archive.org cache), I'm caching it here. It was probably written some time in 2004.
There is concern among high level, or "end game" Hunters in World of Warcraft. Many of the quests available at that point are Elite quests. These are quests filled with incredibly durable enemies that require a (usually) full group that is both organized and experienced if victory is to be assured. Many players, Hunters or otherwise, are of the opinion that Hunters have no defined role in WoW. Therefore, since groups have limited space, the Hunter suffers a lack of group invites in the end game. He is seen as little more than "filler" for the last spot if no other "necessary" class can be found. This is ignorance. Hunters were meant to be pullers. A Hunter pulling properly can guarantee the safety of his teammates 100% of the time. That Hunters also have high sustained damage per second (DPS) and several options for crowd control especially useful in protecting casters is simply bonuses to an already excellent class.
First let us define a "pull." Pulling is a common strategy in MMO games. It is the practice of separating groups of enemies into manageable chunks most often consisting of one or two specific foes so that the players are not overwhelmed. There is a myth that the Warrior should pull due to "aggro management". The argument is this: Everyone's job is easier if the Warrior has all of the aggro from the moment the battle begins. The tank doesn't have to worry about getting aggro; the healer doesn't have to expend extra mana to heal a non-tank; more heals means more difficult to maintain aggro control; and should additional enemies (adds) come as a result of the pull they will all hate the tank and it is preferred that he should take the hits over anyone else because he will have far more armor than anyone else.
Indeed, this makes a fair bit of sense. Mentioning that Hunters should be pulling in instances will always meet with resistance, primarily from Warriors who will use some variation of one or more of the above as their reasoning. This idea arose, most likely, from the fact that Hunters were implemented very late in the game's beta process. Most beta players learned to do "well enough" without the Hunter's bag of pulling tricks. The most common strategy for a Warrior to pull relies on a Mage's Polymorph spell to turn additional aggressive foes into harmless sheep. This, by the way, is the first clue that Warriors should not be pulling: it takes a Warrior and a Mage and even then they can only approximate the safety afforded by a Hunter pulling. Yet even this approximate safety comes at a price. The Polymorph spell can wear off -- either through a timer or if the enemy is accidentally damaged in the chaos -- and the first thing he will do is run straight to the practically defenseless Mage. True, the Mage can fire off another Polymorph spell, but doesn't that sound like "expending extra mana" and a lack of aggro control? The very same reasons Hunters aren't supposed to pull? That's clue number two: the "problems" with Hunters pulling apply to Warriors pulling as well.
Another hint that the Warrior/Mage pull isn't all it's cracked up to be comes from another MMO, Final Fantasy XI. One of the classes, Ranger, is the default puller. If you have a Ranger in your team, there's no question about it, he is your puller. Anyone in a Ranger's group who insists that the Ranger does not pull is usually laughed at. Do you know why? The Ranger has fast, long range attacks, can track foes, and he has means to reduce his aggro. He has all the tools to find the safest way to engage an enemy, lead it back to his teammates, and transfer aggro to the tank. Gee, my Hunter has fast, long range attacks, can track foes, and has means to reduce aggro. Yet the mere suggestion that a Hunter should pull is a source of debate -- even among Hunters!
The Warrior/Mage pulling strategy, however cumbersome, was (and still is) effective enough that once the Hunter was introduced and his Talents were finally implemented, few players saw any reason to invite Hunters. "They can pull, huh?" the Warriors said. "Well so can I." Yes, if you have an attentive Mage friend who doesn't mind needlessly putting his life on the line. So the idea that Hunters aren't necessary began in beta. It began in ignorance. None of the "uber" players grew up learning how the Hunter can best be put to use to the team. These players, who "obviously" must know what they're talking about because they've been in the game so long, start mentioning, probably off-handedly, that they don't need Hunters. Then it gets parroted by guild and party mates and ends up on forums. Before you know it, it has become "fact" that Hunters should not pull. The effectiveness of this viral meme has caused many Hunters themselves to believe it.
The myth that Hunters should not pull is then perpetuated by itself. The Hunter, leveling up in an environment where the casual ignorance of others makes him lucky to get into any late game group, is unlikely to raise a fuss when his question "Should I pull?" is shot down by every other member of a group (if he even bothers to ask any more). Many Hunters are simply not given the opportunity to learn how best to put their abilities to use toward pulling for a group. So when that rare opportunity to pull happens, the Hunter -- probably mid- to high-level at this point -- has the relative experience of a level 10 - 15 player with regard to his primary role. Imagine, if you will, a Priest who hasn't learned a healing spell in 20 levels or a Warrior who only uses the Auto-Attack power. How effective would they be? That is what these other players have unknowingly turned many Hunters into. When a bad pull happens, it becomes the Hunter's fault and it reinforces the myth that Hunters should not be pullers. Thus it becomes increasingly less likely that future Hunters will be given the opportunities to learn their roles and the cycle continues. The myth becomes "true".
The Hunter has been given a plethora of abilities that make him best suited to pulling. Indeed, I will show that with a Hunter pulling in the worst case scenario (short of the actual player himself dying at the keyboard with auto-run activated) brings with it zero risk to the party. Adds can be reduced or negated altogether through the use of the Hunter's skills. In other words, 100% of "bad pulls" will result in either zero deaths or (rarely) the death of only the Hunter. The risk is the Hunter's alone. Just as any Warrior worth his armor rating would gladly die so that the damage dealers can live long enough to take down an enemy in the heat of battle, any Hunter worth his rifle (or wussy bow) would gladly die so that the party may survive a bad pull long before it ever becomes their problem.
Don't believe that a Hunter has the tools to guarantee the safety of the party during all pulls 100% of the time? It's probably because you've been pulling incorrectly for your entire WoW career. Let's start with a typical pre-pull scenario common to any instance.
All party members can clearly see the two primary targets and no one doubts that aggravating one will annoy the other equally. Everyone can see the three enemies beyond them with the one walking around (minor risk) but with some good timing by the puller he can be sure that the first two foes are pulled while the walker is at a maximum distance from them just to be safe. The group has been sitting here for a few seconds, perhaps refreshing buffs and discussing which foe will receive the Polymorph, and you've seen no evidence of a patrol wandering around, so you're pretty sure there won't be any extra adds in the middle of your fight -- we'll assume this group has a Hunter and he can confirm that there is no patrol thanks to his tracking abilities.
Whether the Warrior or the Hunter is about to pull, that's a fairly typical set up right?
If you said yes, then good, you've just proven my point. You've been pulling incorrectly all along. Forcing a Hunter to pull for a group in the above scenario cripples him immeasurably. It effectively removes from the game his every tool for pulling. Since our Warrior friends have no tools for pulling and do it all the time (which is why they do it using inferior tactics), perhaps they do not understand the severity of this statement. Let me translate it for them. Forcing a Hunter to pull in the above scenario is the equivalent of forcing a Warrior to fight without the use of weapons. Under the above conditions, the Hunter is no more able to provide safety for the group than the Warrior. That the vast majority of players insist on pulling like this serves only to reinforce the myth that Hunters cannot pull. All of their abilities designed for pulling are "useless" like this. What use would you expect to get from these abilities when you engage in pulling as if you did not possess them?
Luckily, it's a very simple matter to learn how to let the Hunter pull properly. Below is the same generic instance situation but with revised positioning to let the Hunter maximize safety for the entire group.
I didn't go too fast for you, did I?
The Hunter can clearly see the two primary targets and he does not doubt that aggravating one will annoy the other equally. He can see the three enemies beyond them with the one walking around (minor risk) but with good timing he can be sure that the first two foes are pulled while the walker is at a maximum distance from them just to be safe. He's been standing there for a few seconds mulling over his options and keeping an eye on his mini-map for patrols (and, as above, there are none). He can also see the position of his teammates and knows that the path back to them is clear because of his tracking abilities. He communicates to the team how the battle will start, how many foes will be incoming, and which one to attack (most often signaled with the unmistakable Hunter's Mark ability). The Hunter then tags an enemy and returns to his group inside the Perfect Zone of Ultimate Safety whereupon everyone wails on the foes until they are defeated.
Under normal circumstances, i.e. the number of enemies actually pulled is the number intended by the puller, neither scenario out performs the other. The Mage is still going to use Polymorph on the extra enemy, it doesn't matter who pulls or from what distance. In fact, our old friend, The Two Main Arguments Against Hunters Pulling: lack of aggro control and extra mana use, come into play in both. I will debunk those below.
For now, let us concentrate on the worst case scenario for Situations A and B. Instead of pulling the initial two enemies, due to some freak occurence, all five are pulled. In Situation B, only the Hunter is at risk. He can clearly notice all enemies following him within a second of taking his initial shot. He can Feign Death and have the enemies go right back where they were so he can try again. No one dies. Ah, but I said this was a worst case scenario, did I not? Fine. The Hunter can activate Feign Death, but it fails. What then? Well, he dies while the team -- the precious casters -- are untouched and out of harm's way because they are in the Ultimate Zone of Perfect Safety.
In Situation A, whether the Hunter or the Warrior pulls, everyone is going to die except probably the Hunter who is ironically made safer by the chaos. With multiple targets buzzing around and teammates desperately attacking anything they can in a (hopeless) bid to get out alive, it is more likely that the Hunter will only have one or two targets on him. So if an early Feign Death fails, he will have just enough time to attempt it again, thus saving his life while his teammates drop like flies because only the Hunter is equipped with abilities to survive catastrophically bad pulls.
Which would you prefer as a Warrior, Mage, Priest, Shaman, Druid, Warlock, or Rogue? Hm? I know the Hunter's answer is Situation B and I suspect yours is as well.
The advantage of Situation A, or so the more stubborn Warriors will tell us, is that the extra aggro is placed upon their shoulders and that is preferable. They don't seem to consider the aggro and mana loss generated by Polymorph to count. I suppose this is because a Priest can always raise a fallen teammate after the battle and it's the Priest who allegedly bears the added risk of extra aggro when a Hunter pulls.
In Situation B, the aggro is placed upon the shoulders of the Hunter. Perhaps that is why Blizzard wisely provided the Hunter with three independent and redundant systems for negating his aggro and then applied an emergency failsafe in case the player experienced an incredible stroke of bad luck. Here they are in no particular order.
Aggro Countermeasure #1: The Pet. Every pet learns a very effective taunt. Every Hunter learns early on when attempting to lose aggro that his pet is his best friend. Even after gaining the maximum amount of aggro possible -- a critical hit with Aimed Shot (four to six times normal damage) followed by critical Auto Shot (double to triple damage) as well as a Concussive Shot (no damage, but extra aggro generating) -- this ability will take the enemy off of the Hunter within two taunts. Since no Hunter who is trying to pull as few foes as possible as quickly possible as painlessly as possible for a group in an elite dungeon is ever going to use Aimed Shot followed by Concussive shot, the pet should get aggro from the Hunter to itself with a single taunt. The pet is a more preferable target than the Hunter (though less desirable than the Warrior) because it has equal to double the Armor of its Hunter, effectively has "free" HP that puts no one at risk, and has its own ability to reduce aggro, Cower, though in most cases simply turning off the Pet's taunt is sufficient. As the Warrior has been pounding the foe this whole time, he is next in line.
Aggro Countermeasure #2: Disengage. This ability significantly reduces a target enemy's aggro toward a Hunter and causes the foe to immediately target someone else. If the Warrior has hit the monster, he's got aggro.
Aggro Countermeasure #3: Feign Death. This ability negates all aggro against the Hunter from all foes. If the Warrior has hit the enemy, he has aggro.
Now, true, a Pet's taunt, Disengage, and Feign Death can all be resisted. But the likelihood that all three will be resisted in a row is mathematically insignificant. And here's the kicker. The Hunter doesn't even need one of these to work. Using these abilities is basically a courtesy to Warriors to make their job that much easier. And to that end only one of the three abilities has to work and they all have very short timers anyway.
Still, Blizzard gave Hunters a last ditch failsafe: Leather and (eventually) Mail armor. At no point will this allow us to tank for extended periods of time, but it does give us enough defense to take a few hits without much risk or needing a series of Priest-endangering heals while the Warrior gets aggro.
The idea that Hunters pulling leads to a complete break down in aggro control is a myth. With a Hunter's aggro reducing and negating abilities and smart "low aggro" pulling techniques, a Warrior has to do little more than hit his Auto-Attack button to get an enemy's attention. Since aggro control is not a real problem, Priests do not have to continually heal a less armored teammate, so they do not waste their mana or generate extra aggro to themselves, so the Warrior's job is not made more difficult by letting the Hunter pull.
In short, when a Hunter is pulling properly with his teammates in the Perfect Zone of Ultimate Safety, the number of bad pulls is reduced. When bad pulls do occur, only the Hunter is at risk and this is preferred to all other bad pull scenarios because only the Hunter is equipped with the abilities to survive them. The safety of the team is guaranteed for 100% of all pulls -- good, bad, or Biblical. It's called The Perfect Zone of Ultimate Safety for a reason. Downtime is reduced over all and being "wiped" is a thing of the past.
Warriors, I value your addition to a team dynamic. But I don't try to play the main tank, so I'd appreciate it if you'd stop trying to play the main puller. There are situations where setting up the Ultimate Zone of Perfect Safety will be impossible. In those situations, good sir, please pull to your heart's content. But when you are given the choice between potentially unsafe pulls and guaranteed safe pulls with the only difference between them being that you stand in a slightly different position, I cannot understand why so many of you insist on engaging in the former.
Hunters, don't be afraid of communicating with your teams. You are going to meet some stubborn players who will treat you as a second class addition to their team. They're going to act like you should be thankful that they let you join because you "don't offer anything". You can offer them what no other class can: The Ultimate Zone of Perfect Safety. If you can convince your team to let you pull just a couple times while they wait at a minimum safe distance, you will show them that Hunters are the way and the light of pulling. If a Hunter pulls properly, there is absolutely no reason to ever have a bad pull that will endanger the lives of your teammates.