Maths is a wonderful thing. Well, I understand that it’s a wonderful thing, I try to stay away from it as much as I can. In the context of World of Warcraft other people have done it for me. ElitistJerks used to be the place I went for a full on maths, worked out answer. The peer reviewing of complex and napkin maths at EJs made it definite answer to how and what in terms of gear and rotation in WoW. The assumed caveat at EJ’s was always ‘subject to play style’ and we all understood that. For some of us the optimum rotation just didn’t deliver the best results because our style of playing favoured something else.
Noxxic is mostly, but (significantly) not always correct. I use Noxxic for all my alts. I wouldn’t trouble it for advice for my main. If you really want to do it right then choosing a reliable source of information is essential. Check who wrote your guide and ask yourself why you should trusted them. If they are from a top raiding guild I tend to assume they got there on merit and know their stuff and learned more from being in that rarefied environment. An excellent source for quality advice is Icy Veins. If you really want to make that advice work for you you’re going to need to download SimulationCraft and get sim-ing yourself.
Why? Well this is a simple enough concept to explain. As your gear and itemisation improves so do does the relative value of one stat compared to all the others. The accepted descriptor for this relative value is stat weight…the weight one stat has compared to another. For example the weight or important you should give to say Haste over Mastery. Stat weights fluctuate with your gear…with x amount of one stat another amount of another stat has weight y. Change the amount of either stat and their relative value (weight) changes too. You will often see stat priorities listed at places like Noxxic. In the case of Destruction Warlocks the priority is listed as:
Intellect > Hit (to cap) > Mastery > Crit = Haste
What does that mean?
1) Intellect is more valuable than Hit, Hit is more Valuable than Mastery. Crit and Haste are effectively valueless.
Intellect is more valuable point for point than all other stats. Crit and Haste are less valuable point for point than Hit (before the cap), Mastery and Intellect.
Most peoples understanding of stat weights can be summed up by 1) above. They reforge all their Crit and Haste into Mastery and call this good. What does that mean in practice? Well, check your stat priority source first. It may be that it’s calculated from current tier, heroic Best in Slot (BiS) gear. If you have that gear with those exact stats then these are the relative weights you should ascribe to your stats. If you don’t have BiS your stat weights may be quite different. Using SimulationCraft to calculate your stat weights you may find the best priority at your gear level is more like:
Intellect > Hit (to cap)> Haste > Crit > Mastery
So reforging all your Crit into Mastery will reduce your overall DPS…but by how much? This is where it’s beneficial to step away from stat sriorities and look directly at the underlying weights (and using SimulationCraft will give you stat weights). I’ve Sim-ed out my ilvl 563 warlock, these are my results:
What this means is that for my warlock with this gear, Intellect, in DPS terms, is worth 1 (these number have been normalised to Intellect, which means all other stats are expressed relative to Intellect) and 1 point of Haste is worth 0.65 of every point of Intellect. This should underline what I was saying earlier: although Crit is my weakest secondary stat every point of crit is worth 0.56 as compared to 1 point of Intellect. While crit is 10% (0.1 per point) less valuable than haste it does have value and utility. In fact I can tell you it’s precise value: 1 point of crit is worth 0.56 of every point of Intellect. At 0.49 each point of mastery is worth almost exactly half of each point of Intellect. It’s worth underlining that although my weakest stat is mastery all I can really take from this is that the perfect itemisation for warlock gear (at around my item level) is Intellect (and Stamina), Haste and Crit. However, the difference in the relative value of these secondary stats is 0.16 or 16%. While not insignificant it not an enormous difference.
Now if I want to plan an upgrade path or compare the value of two particular pieces of gear I can with a degree of precision now. I can either multiply each stat by it’s weight and add these products together to get a relative gear value and repeat this calculation with the second piece: higher number: “better gear” (in pure itemisation terms). Or I can use already available tools to generate gear lists inputting my individually generated stat weights. AskMrRobot, maxDPS and LootRank can generate lists with manual entered stat weights.
Soft caps and breakpoints make the picture slightly more murky. There are certain points at which the value of stats appears to fluctuate. With hit this is easy to describe, hit has a hard cap (which is the point at which there is no mathematical possibility to miss). After 17% (minus racial and buffs) for ranged DPS and 7.5% for melee (and Hunters) every point of hit has no value. Under the hit cap you have a mathematically possible chance to miss. With some classes, e.g. Affliction Warlocks this represents no significant effect on DPS. This is because the chance of missing is so low that the number of misses (per boss encounter) is negligible as is the time required to cast a missing spell. When weighing the amount of lost DPS (of a miss) compared to the DPS increase (from getting more ticks from DoTs), spending more itemisations points in haste, for example, rather than hit, and . With most other classes a miss is a significant loss of DPS. So each point of hit has significant value below the hit cap, in my Destruction Warlock‘s case each point of hit is worth 1.03, more than, one point of Intellect, my full stat priority is:
Hit > Intellect > Spell Power > Haste > Crit > Mastery
So one piece of gear with more hit is more value than another with less intellect? No. Or technically yes, but in practice no. If the gear has 50 intellect less it will require 49 more points of hit to better itemised. This only when considering differences purely in hit and intellect, if there are different stats and or amounts then the sum becomes more complex (again). These days with gear itemisation as it is hit is not an interesting stat and we are reforging out of it constantly since it is present on almost all gear. It is almost impossible not to surpass the hit cap, and every single point of hit above the cap adds no theoretical increase in DPS. Every point above the hit cap is wasted in the sense that if it could be changed into any other stat (even our lowest, in my warlock’s example, mastery) would mean a net DPS increase.
Certain soft caps and breakpoints exist for several classes in terms of other secondary stats, haste for example. Let’s look at my warlock again. At certain levels of haste certain DoTs tick faster and at certain higher levels tick and extra time. So the amount of DPS per cast time and duration of that damage over time spell increase: more DPS more quickly. This can translate into a not insignificant gain. What are these breakpoints…I have no idea so I need the benefit of someone else’s maths to calculate them. At 4, 247 haste Immolate gains an extra tick for Destro Warlocks. So is haste worth more at 4, 246 than it is at 4,248? No. “This means that whole “efficiency” argument (that works for the healers) isn’t justifiable for DPS casters, as we’d expect to see frequent large drops in the value of haste if this were the case. In other words: adding additional haste past a breakpoint keeps increasing your DPS by a fairly normal value…In short, if you’re really close to a breakpoint you can try to get past it, but otherwise ignore them. You should also treat very small differences between stat weights as being no difference at all.” (Binkenstein, Totemspot. Emphasis my own).
So, looking at my lil’ destro ‘lock again our stat priority is more likely better expressed in the form:
Intellect > Hit (to the cap) > Haste = Crit = Mastery
More intellect is more, which usually means that higher ilvl wins regardless of itemisation. Cap hit as a priority, then reforge out it like it has gone out of fashion. If you’re close to a theoretical haste breakpoint reforge up to it. Otherwise reforging into haste or crit will yield a negligible return, a trivial increase (hundreds of DPS in an expansion where a shaman can crit for almost 2 million DPS).
Still not convinced? Well, we can actually put numbers to this SimulationCraft also calculates DPS scale factors: the dps increase per unit stat. Intellect translates to 6.21 DPS and hit 6.37 DPS (right up to 5,100 hit rating at level 90). Haste, crit and mastery are worth 4.02, 3.49 and 3.03 DPS respectively. So when reforging my Venruki’s Venerable Sash I ‘lose’ 478 mastery, or 1448 DPS, and gain 478 haste, or 1922 DPS. A net DPS gain of, er…475-ish. Multiplied across 16 slots we’re talking about a DPS difference of around the 8000 figure. or, for my warlock averaging around 230,000 DPS (according to SimulationCraft), of about, ahem…3.5%. However, all gear is not the same. Some gear will already have the “perfect itemisation” of hit/haste or haste/crit leaving no viable reforge. Some will have mastery (our example lowest value stat) with either crit or haste and reforging to haste will yield extra DPS. If you’ve itemised carefully and had a choice of good drops chances are a large proportion of you gear is hit and your best secondary stat (in our working example haste), or your best and next best secondary stat (haste and crit in our example). So the reforging potential of your gear will most likely be less than 3.5% of your DPS.
It can be no coincidence that the very people with the most investment of time and effort in Warcraft are the raiders. The people whose commitment drives them to learn and apply the optimal rotations and maximise their potential for DPS (HPS and TPS) in terms of encounters and fight phases. These people also spend the most time theorycrafting and min- max-ing their itemisation to squeeze the best possible results from their character and character’s gear. So does all the reforging and the tyranny of MrRobot et al genuinely add up to a significant increase in encounter DPS (HPS or TPS) or do we see the improvements in play that all this commitment demonstrates?
Reforging is soon to be withdrawn from the game and I for one will not miss it. It was a bad introduction into a game whose community so rigidly thought within the fixed limits of right and wrong for the most optimal talent builds (hence the Blizzard revamp of talents). A community so inflexible and lacking in understanding it couldn’t correctly accommodate differences in play styles leading to differences in personally optimal rotations and builds. If you are not doing it the the way the theorycrafter’s have calculated to be able to deliver the most potential DPS you are doing it wrong. This in itself is poor theorycrafting.
All the tiny optimisation tweaks of reforging deliver no significant DPS gains. What they do demonstrate is someone who has correctly interpreted the current theorycrafting and will likely deliver reasonable to good levels of DPS in practice, simply because they have invested enough effort in the game to at least use tools like MrRobot. With the shift in orthodoxy from “cookie-cutter” Talent Build rigidity to itemisation and reforge tyranny in the community AskMrRobot has been used and misused more and more frequently until Blizzard have decided to jettison reforging and it’s perceived necessity altogether.
In summary my argument is very simple. AskMrRobot will not deliver significant increases in DPS. It can be useful to cap hit effectively and push to close haste breakpoints. It is now no longer an indicator that someone knows anything about their character, or even how secondary stats work, or how to interpret priorities and weights. The following exchange between a mage and myself, recently, encapsulates the situation perfectly.