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FKA Friends of Elune
Gear, Stats, and You 
1st-Feb-2011 01:35 pm
Laughing, Happy, Peaceful, Smiling, Content
Before I get into the meat of this post, just letting everyone know: we now have a new comm for Avenged guild business at avengedwow, so go ahead over there and request membership!

So, some of us are new, and some of us are gearing for raids, and a lot of want to know about how stats on gear work. Furthermore, some things have changed since Cataclysm, so people getting back into the game may need to be reintroduced to stats. This post is intended to be a basic primer on that topic rather than an exhaustive discussion; for more information on how things work for your class and spec, you may want to check the Elitist Jerks forum, although keep in mind that they are heavily focused on end-game raiding and most of their advice is skewed towards that.

The first concepts to get your head around are the related ideas of item level (hereinafter "ilevel") and item budget. Each item has a "level" that defines how good it is. Back in classic, this was roughly equivalent to character level, but the designers had to create several additional levels of gear for level 60 raiders, so when we went into Burning Crusade the levels no longer matched up (and since then the disparity has only gotten larger). The level is coordinated with a "budget". That budget is then spent on stats.

You can imagine how this works in the most basic sense. Let's pretend that an ilevel of 10 means a budget of 10 points. A sword might have five strength on it and five stamina, totalling ten points. If you as the item designer want to increase the strength by one, you have to reduce the stamina by one to make it the same level of item. If you don't, it becomes an ilevel 11 item instead, which changes what people are allowed to equip it (from level 8 characters to level 9 characters, say). Now, in practice each stat is worth a different amount of budget and the budget isn't the same as the ilevel and so on. This is all done via a complicated set of formulae that nobody outside of Blizzard should bother caring about. The important thing for you to remember is that a higher ilevel item has more stat points available to it and requires a higher level to equip. That doesn't necessarily mean a higher ilevel item is better for you, though; to figure that out, we'll have to talk about the specific stats. The main implication of this system is that you shouldn't get gear with stats that are worthless to you, and you absolutely must not ask for such gear in groups when it drops if anyone else could make better use of it. An equivalent item of the same level with stats you want is always going to be better for you.

There are three of what Blizzard considers to be primary stats: strength, agility, and intellect. Each stat is tied to a particular spec and makes that spec better at what it does; in most cases, it'll be the same stat for all three specs in a class, but the situation is more complicated for hybrid classes like paladins and druids. Let's look at each one individually:

Strength is the primary stat for all warriors and death knights, and retribution and protection paladins. It has the following effects:
  • Increases the amount of damage you do with melee weapons if you are a warrior, death knight, paladin, mage, priest, warlock, or druid.
  • Increases the chance to parry (assuming you have any ability to parry at all).
  • Increases spell damage for protection and retribution paladins.

Agility is the primary stat for hunters, rogues, feral druids, and enhancement shaman. It has the following effects:
  • Increases the amount of damage you do with physical ranged weapons (i.e. not wands).
  • Increases the amount of damage you do with melee weapons if you are a rogue, hunter, shaman, or druid.
  • Increases your chance to critically hit with weapons.
  • Increases your ability to dodge attacks.

Intellect is the primary stat for mages, warlocks, priests, balance druids, holy paladins, and elemental and restoration shaman. It has the following effects:
  • Increases the amount of damage you do with spells.
  • Increases the amount of mana you have.
  • Increases your chance to critically hit with spells.

That's it for the primary stats. Now, if you see your class and spec next to the name of a stat up there, you want it. You want as much of it as you can get, all the time, and, more importantly, you do not want either of the other two. Mages should not get gear with agility. Hunters are not getting anything out of strength. Retribution paladins should not bother with intellect. The sole exception to this is that druids in bear form can make some use of strength, although equivalent gear with agility will always be better.

The way Blizzard has set these up in Cataclysm is that each piece of gear at a specific ilevel that has any amount of one of these primary stats at all will have the same amount of it. So three pieces of ilevel 20 gear that have intellect will all have exactly the same amount of intellect. This is somewhat less true at lower levels, but you'll start to notice it as you get into the higher level areas. The interesting choices you have to make, gearwise, are generally between the secondary stats.

So what are those? Glad you asked. Let's go through them one at a time.

Spell Power and Attack Power increase spell-based or weapon damage (you guess which increases which kind). You don't see these much anymore; Cataclysm mostly stamped them out, but you still have a few pieces that have them. They usually don't affect your choice of gear very much, so you can safely ignore them for the most part.

Stamina is a stat you'll also start finding in equivalent amounts on all gear as you level. The only real effect of stamina is to increase the amount of health you have, but that's fairly important. At high levels, every piece of gear you find will be dripping with stamina and the only people who will really worry about it will be tanks (who want as much of it as they can reasonably acquire), but at low levels you may find yourself making a choice between stamina and other stats. The question you want to ask yourself at that time is: how often am I dying? If you are dying a lot, more stamina is probably a good plan. If you find yourself never running out of health in the first place, you probably don't need more of it right now. That may sound a bit fuzzy, but there really aren't any hard-and-fast rules for it; it all depends on your class and play style.

Spirit raises your rate of mana regeneration when you are not in combat. Yes, this is every bit as boring and useless as it sounds. The only people who care about this stat are healers; that is to say holy and discipline priests, restoration shaman, holy paladins, and restoration druids. Those classes have abilities that make spirit regenerate mana during combat as well, which makes it a much more useful (near-mandatory) stat for them. If you are a healer, you have to apply the same test I just meted out for stamina: how often are you running out of mana? If it happens constantly, more spirit will help you. If you never run out of mana, you probably don't need more spirit yet. Keep in mind that this too can depend on your playstyle; it's easy to become spendthrift with your healing spells and blow all your mana in the space of a few seconds. It takes a bit of practice to differentiate between "running out of mana because I don't have enough spirit" and "running out of mana because I always heal everything by spamming holy nova". So, in summary: if you're a healer, get a lot of this stat. Otherwise, avoid the hell out of it.

The remainder of the stats are actually rendered as "ratings". The effectiveness of each of these stats is dependent on your character's level: at level 30, the crit rating gives you a certain percentage chance to critically strike, say, but at level 40 the exact same amount of rating gives you a smaller chance. In general, this is to keep the value of those stats in line with the other stats - 100 intellect is worth less at level 40 than level 30, so why shouldn't 100 crit rating be?

Hit rating and expertise rating are similar enough that I'm going to discuss them at the same time. Hit rating increases your chance of hitting a monster. This is important because, as you might guess, missing them doesn't damage them. Luckily, the new UI has made this one simple for everyone except dual-wielding melee classes: hover your cursor over your hit rating and see what percentages it tells you. If you are levelling, and you have enough to hit things your own level 100% of the time, you have enough hit rating and you don't need more. If you are doing regular dungeons, you want to have enough to always hit things one level higher than you, and if you're doing heroic dungeons, you want enough to always hit things two levels higher than you. If you're raiding, you want... wait, take a guess. Yes, three levels higher. Expertise decreases the monsters' chance to dodge, parry, or block you. Ranged attacks can't be dodged, parried, or blocked, so if you are a ranged class you can ignore the rest of this paragraph entirely. In general, expertise works the same way as hit; while soloing, you can basically ignore expertise except to say "hey, some expertise!" - you will never hit any meaningful cap from your levelling gear. If you are max level or close to it, and looking to run dungeons, check the WoWPedia article on Expertise for specific cap numbers. Once you have hit a cap in either hit or expertise, more of it does you no good and you shouldn't bother picking it up.

Now, for melee dual-wielders, it's a bit trickier. All your special attacks use the same system I've just described above, but your basic melee attacks take a penalty to accuracy because you're dual-wielding. In order to make 100% of those hit on a raid boss at level 85, you would need 3243 hit rating. Let me give you a hint: nobody is going to get that much hit rating. Once you've gotten past the cap for special attacks, more hit will make a melee dual-wielder do a bit more damage, and shouldn't be turned down, but you should probably prioritize other stats instead.

And, all of that being said: if you are a healer, hit and expertise are both 100% useless. Don't equip gear with them unless you have no other options. Even while soloing, you probably will pick up a talent that turns spirit into hit, so just get the gear with spirit instead and ignore hit completely.

Haste rating increases how quickly you can take actions. For spellcasters, this decreases the amount of time it takes to cast a spell. For melee characters, it increases the speed with which you auto-attack. For non-mana-users (death knights, rogues, etc.) it also increases the rate you get your resource back, so that rogues can use special attacks more frequently, for instance. For all classes, it decreases the global cooldown - the global cooldown is the thing that blocks all ability use after you use most abilities for 1.5 seconds. If you get sufficient haste, you can lower that to 1 second, but no lower. The way haste affects things is a bit unclear sometimes: if you look at the percentage, the affected actions have their speed increased by that amount. So, for instance, a 100% value in haste would mean you can do things twice as fast, or do two things in the time you could do one. 50% haste would mean you could do 1.5 things in the time it used to take you to do one. And so on.

The considerations with haste are as follows:

If you're a spellcaster, it increases your damage or healing overall by the percentage, no questions asked. 100% haste means 100% more damage and 100% more healing. The problem is that it also increases the rate at which you burn your mana, so if you had 100% haste you would probably blow through all your mana very, very rapidly. For that reason, you want to balance haste against other stats (specifically hit, crit, and mastery) which increase your effectiveness without costing you more mana.

For classes with heal- or damage-over-time spells, there is a bit of a weird interaction. The spell will say something like "does 150 damage every 2 seconds for 8 seconds"; a tick is 2 seconds and 8 seconds is the overall duration. Haste decreases the time until the next tick and decreases the overall duration. So if you had 10% haste, you'd see that same spell doing 150 damage more often and ending sooner. This continues until you have enough haste to fit a whole extra every-2-second tick into the original 8-second duration, at which point the spell jumps back up to an 8-second duration and adds the extra tick instead. So if you had 100% haste in this situation, the same spell would do 150 damage every 1 second for 8 seconds. This makes it very hard to tell when haste is most useful to increase for classes with a lot of these spells; if you can get up to the next point at which you get an extra tick, haste is very valuable, otherwise, not as much. Take a look around on the Internet (or in the Elistist jerks forum) to see what points those occur at for your specific arrangement, or experiment!

For melee classes, haste is now pretty good. Since it increases your resource regeneration, you will actually be able to attack more often. Use the same logic I've used for spirit and health above - if you find yourself swimming in energy and never have to wait to use an attack, you probably aren't going to get much out of more haste, but if you're always out when you want it, you might.

Crit rating increases the chance you will score a critical hit. A critical hit for a melee class means you get double damage; this is also true for all spell classes except healer hybrids (who have to pick up a talent to do that in their damage-dealing trees, so that healers don't get 200% spell crits). Healer crits heal for 150% of what they otherwise would. Crit, in theory, is increasing your damage by its percentage, but in practice having slow ability use times means you will have trouble getting them in before the thing you're fighting. In general, keeping them balanced seems to be a goosd approach. For healers, crit increases your healing without using more mana, but its unpredictability tends to make it less useful than haste or spirit.

Mastery rating probably needs a post of its own. You will only see this on Cataclysm gear; it has a different effect for every single spec in the game. For some specs, it's awesome, but for most it is not yet as good as crit or haste. In general, you consider mastery, crit, and haste to be roughly on the same level, although te details do tend to favor one or another for specific specs.

Dodge rating, block rating, and parry rating are stats that tanks use to reduce incoming damage. Dodge can be used by any class (and everyone, tank or not, will have a little). If you dodge an attack, it does no damage. Parry can be used by warriors, death knights, paladins, rogues, hunters, and enhancement shaman. Parries are exactly like dodges right now - parrying an attack means it does no damage. Blocks can only be used by warriors, paladins, and shaman who have shields equipped. A block decreases damage by 30% (or sometimes 60% for warriors with a specific ability).

In general, you should only look for these stats if you are a tank (Protection Warrior, Protection Paladin, Blood Death Knight, or bear-formed Feral Druid). If you are not a tank, ignore these stats entirely. If you are, higher stamina is generally favored over them, but other things being equal they are more useful than damage-dealing stats for tanks. Even then, druids and death knights can't use block and druids have no use for parry either.

And that's all I have time and energy for right now. Questions? Comments?
2nd-Feb-2011 03:53 am (UTC)
In end-game content you should always enchant everything; Doing so is basically equivalent to wearing 1.5 extra pieces of gear. No one enchant is breaking things, but the cumulative effect is tremendous. In the meantime, enchant any gear that is over about ilevel 330, although you don't necessarily need to use the /best/ enchant. I will be happy to help yuo figure out what should go where one-on-one, although in general the "best" thing is obvious. (Except for feet. The best thing there is run speed so you can get out of shit faster.)

Gems/sockets. Pretty much the same question really, with one addition. Is a socketed item with a gem stronger than an unsocketed one, or just more flexible? Let's say, for sake of argument, I have two items, both of ilevel 330, and one of them comes with a socket and one doesn't. If I compare the unsocketed item to the socketed one with no gem in it, will the unsocketed one be stronger with the socketed one only becoming as good when I put a gem in it? Or will the socketed one be equal even with no gem and then become better with a gem? (Providing that the gem is of a comparable level to the item.)

You can get cut gems from jewelcrafters, or via the Auction House. The items themselves seem to be assuming in their budget that you have a green-quality stone of about the right ilevel in them, which means if you put a blue- or purple-quality stone in that item will be stronger than an equivalent ilevel piece with no sockets. Furthermore, the ilevel calculations do not include the stat bonus for matching sockets, so if you can sensibly match sockets without gimping the stats, you will win by using socketed items even if you use green-quality gems. (Some things have a socket bonus that is useless to you, like ten spirit or similar, and it's hard to win on those.) Right now there aren't purple-quality stones yet; those will come in at the first content patch of the expansion, but you can definitely get blue-quality ones.

Phat lutes. My string instrument appears to be oversized and I... wait, no, that's not it. Oh right, loots. Ahem. Once I hit 85, where will item upgrades come from? I'm presuming I'll want to be looking at running dungeons, getting faction rewards, and doing high level tailoring things? Will I want to start planning stuff, like "I should run this dungeon when I can because I want this drop" or will stuff just come along as I play no matter what I do?

You will want to do all of those things, yes.

If you run heroic dungeons, you will get improved loot, but it's an iterative process. Eventually you will have all the loot from heroic deadmines that's useful to your class and there will no longer be a reason to run it. The exception is the random dungeon - if you run one random dungeon or random heroic per day, you get points you can turn it at a vendor for high-ilevel gear. So running the random is often useful to you unless you have filled every slot that you have available.

So, really, it starts off with "I can go anywhere and get upgrades" and starts requiring more and more planning as you start getting new pieces. Eventually the only way to get upgrades is to raid or wait for the next content expansion (at which point more gear becomes accessible to people doing heroics, and new five-man dungeons get released).

I probably have other questions too, but those are the only ones I can think of for now.

When you think of them, ask away!
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