It is actually fitting, in retrospect, that this should be the first issue I deal with in this blog. For those who do not know, melee combat is actually part of the heritage of a Survival Hunter. During the closed beta of World of Warcraft, before the public release of the game, I have heard tell that Survival was "the melee tree," for the Hunter class, and was restructured just prior to release.
Also, be warned. This is going to be a long post.
However, I will begin by stating that I have a confession to make. Father, forgive me, for I have sinned.
I'm going to tell you one of my darkest, dirtiest secrets, here.
I used to be a melee hunter.
In fact, I was a melee hunter for most of my hunting career up to this point; I only really entered rehabilitation at about level 62 or so.
Oh, I wasn't completely melee. Sometimes I'd even feign on gaining aggro, to hand it back to my boar, in order to continue shooting. However, there were also times where, with a pair of fast daggers, I'd feel an irresistable urge to become a hybrid Rogue, and would begin attacking mobs in that manner.
Although BRK has written himself about this topic, having been Survival spec since level 10, I feel that for me, it is a lot closer to home, since as I noted above, there was at least one point in WoW prehistory where in an official sense, Survival melee was considered a forgiveable practice. Thus, the issue of Hunter melee is primarily a monkey on Survival's back, and it's appropriate that a Survival Hunter attempt to slay it.
In addition, although attempts beyond number have been made to flog it to death, the issue of Hunter melee viability is an exceedingly stubborn undead equine which steadfastly refuses to stay buried, and repeatedly rises on the Hunter forum periodically, to the great distress of the forum's denizens. Given this, I am going here to discharge several shells from my own shotgun into the corpse, in the hopes that I can at least persuade it to remain dormant for an extended period, if not permanently.
So, given the current state of the game, just why is Hunter melee such a bad idea, anyway?
The whole problem with this question is that, at certain points in the game anyway, Hunter melee can seem as though it isn't a bad idea. One of the main reasons for this is because, in a number of the early instances, the mobs are sufficiently weak where even a Hunter of the same level can engage primarily in melee and have a fairly good chance of surviving the experience, particularly if a capable healer is present.
It's also highly seductive. Trap augmented, dual wield melee is a fast paced playstyle that can be highly enjoyable, and can also give the Hunter an illusionary sense of being extremely powerful, because said Hunter won't be looking at how much damage the rest of their group are actually doing, or how in many cases other group members are getting virtually none of the healer's attention, because the healer is having to spend all of his time keeping the Hunter alive.
Thirdly, in the early game at least, it can seem necessary. There is currently, and has for some time now, been a tank shortage in World of Warcraft. Often four people are able to get together for an instance quite capably, but can be kept waiting for hours because of the lack of a Warrior. An impetuous young Hunter might notice how high his Stamina is in comparison to his peers in the group, as well as that of his pet, and think to himself that he can compensate for the lack of a Warrior, and serve as a tank instead. Again, with a sufficiently capable healer and DPS backup, in the early game it's even possible. I myself main tanked Zul'Farrak at level 52, and the Sunken Temple (including the avatar of Hakkar and the attendant trash) at 60.
This might sound like what I'm really saying is that Hunter melee is viable. It isn't. Let me put it this way.
Although I don't know what the Survival tree looked like during the closed beta, I suspect that the transition for it from a melee to a ranged tree had to be made rather quickly. Possibly because it had to be made so quickly, the metamorphosis didn't entirely take, and rather than an entirely ranged tree being the result, what we instead ended up with is the ranged/melee equivalent of a platypus or a Mexican walking fish. In other words, when you look at such talents as Savage Strikes, Deflection, Deterrence, and Improved Wing Clip, you'd initially be justified in assuming that Survival was still the "melee tree." However, when you go further down you get Thrill of the Hunt, which gives back part of the mana cost of ranged critical mana shots, and Expose Weakness and Master Tactician, both of which activate from ranged critical hits.
What does this mean? It means that Survival is not, in fact, a melee tree, but rather that the talents in the first two levels make it initially appear to be one. Deterrence is probably the most striking example. By increasing Dodge and Parry chance by 25%, this might initially look like a talent intended for melee use. However, look closer. Deterrence increases dodge and parry by 25%, yes...but for 10 seconds.
A walking fish can temporarily leave the water, and even appear to walk along the ground in a clumsy way while it is out of the water. However, eventually it must return to the water, or it will die. It is exactly the same with Survival. Using it, you can engage in melee, however clumsily, poorly, and very temporarily. If you do not return to the water, (range) which is your primary habitat, you will die.
I used to rail against the people in the forum condemning Hunter melee myself, but on entering Outland, I very quickly learned why it was condemned. After level 60, for the most part a melee Hunter is quite simply a dead Hunter; and as much fun as having the illusion of being Godlike in the Sunken Temple might have been, dying as much as I did in Outland before I learned my lesson (and especially the accompanying repair bill) most certainly wasn't.
Even if you go Survival, use your bow. (or gun) That's what it's there for. If you get aggro from your pet, or an additional mob, feign death, and then jump back. You'll do more damage, the mob will die more quickly, and you're far less likely to die in the process.