I mentioned my 687 item level, which for a raider is pretty poor, but once again that does not mean I would do poorly. Put me along side someone that just did the T2 grind, upgraded anything they could get, and purchased a few BoEs off the auction house and you will see someone with an item level over 700 but someone that is not even remotely capable of matching my hunters numbers. Why is that?I'm here to tell you that he's wrong. Now before you grab your torches and pitchforks, kindly let me explain.
Because the stats on gear matters, the bonuses on gear matters, almost just as much as hitting the right keys in the right order.
For those of you who aren't familiar with my history, I started playing WoW shortly after Vanilla launch. It was the first MMO I played and the second game I had played online (the first being Warcraft 3). I was generally quite the "n00b" at the time about, well, almost everything and I didn't seriously start raiding until Burning Crusade. Now, of course, I'm the guild/raid leader of what is currently the top two night a week Mythic guild in the US. There was an incident, however, that still sticks in my mind from those Vanilla days.
My main at the time was a 60 Night Elf rogue who had somewhat recently hit level 60. I was using a level 52ish blue dagger in my main hand and a level 55 green sword in my off-hand since I hadn't had the chance to do many max level dungeons yet. A friend on the server said his guild (which was fairly casual and had recently started raiding 20 mans) were short people for Zul'Gurub (a 20 man raid at the time) and asked if I could go. I said sure. When I got there I saw that nearly everyone was massively better geared than my poor rogue -- full level 58+ blue gear and a smattering of epics (hell, at that point I had never even gotten an epic on any character). There was even another rogue with level 60 epic daggers. To say I was a bit nervous about looking like the worst player in the history of the game would be an understatement. So what happened?
I *crushed* everyone on the damage meters for the two bosses we did (bat and snake bosses). Like, top DPS by 20% and the next highest player was my friend on a Fury Warrior. To say that everyone else was bewildered (especially that other rogue) would be another understatement. But why was I able to do that?
1, I was playing Combat Daggers (yes, Combat Daggers wanted two daggers, I was using an off-hand sword, I didn't have another dagger handy yet that was reasonable, yes it was terrible) while that other rogue was playing Seal Fate (mostly Assassination spec with some Subtlety talents). Seal Fate was insane for generating quick combo points and doing massive burst damage in PvP. It was terrible for sustained boss damage in PvE.
2, I played my spec correctly. This means I did stuff like actually use my combo points on Slice and Dice (long term attack speed increase) rather than Eviscerate (instant burst of damage -- Rupture wasn't even an option due to only having eight debuff slots on a boss back then). While that might seem like a "Duh!" thing to you now, it was not common knowledge back then at all.
3, I maintained high target uptime. That means I was careful and quick about my movement so that I could be attacking the boss as much as possible despite either myself or the boss needing to reposition at times. This is sort of similar to the ABC rule (Always Be Casting) of a ranged character if you've never experienced the joy of a melee character.
In short, having the correct spec, playing said spec correctly, and playing my character well resulted in the other rogue switching to Combat Daggers for the very next raid (where I still beat him, but by a much smaller margin).
Playing your character correctly is far, far, far more important than optimizing your gear.
But if that's true, then why do we have so many tools designed to give us stat weights? Why do we have stat rankings, gear lists, and so on?
Because those tools are meant for Mythic raiders and, to a lesser extent, Heroic raiders. Mythic raiders, generally speaking, have *already* mostly mastered their characters. There's always room for improvement, of course, but you run into significant diminishing returns. Figuring out how to go from 50% to 80% of optimal DPS is fairly easy. Learning how to go from 80% to 90% of optimal DPS is a harder. Managing to go from 90% to 95% of optimal DPS is harder still. And so on. Then, of course, you need to learn how to optimize for specific fights but that's difficult to practice outside of actually raiding.
At the point where it becomes very difficult to figure out how to squeeze out a few percent more DPS out of your rotation and you're generally comfortable with dealing with raid mechanics, *then* obsessing a bit over optimizing gear starts to make sense. Spending a few hours figuring out the best gear to grab that gives a 2% DPS boost winds up being a better choice than trying to spending that time learning how to play your character slightly better.
But how many players are at that level? Only a few percent overall (mostly Mythic raiders and the "upper" Heroic raiders). Yes, you have the occasional player who's amazing but "retired" and raiding Normals with friends...but that's really a Mythic/Heroic raider in a Normal guild. So what about Grumpy? Well, let's assume for the sake of argument that Grumpy knows how to play his class perfectly and instead focus on his raid group -- Grumpy leads a group trying to work on Normals.
What do we know about said raid group? I'll quote some of the statements he's made in the last few days about it (all are taken from here):
We wiped a few times, all to stupid stuff that is completely avoidable. I was the middle of the chain, the mage I was attached to came to me, the other person did not. Even after yelling his name on voice chat to come to me. Guess who that other person was? You got it, him.Is this a group that needs to be worrying about perfect stat weights? No. Gaining a few percent more HPS/DPS is not going to help them. Despite what Grumpy said, 1% more is not 1% better -- if you're wiping to Doom Wells/Shared Fate on Gorefiend that early in the fight then 1% more DPS, 5% more DPS, and 20% more DPS all have the same effect: none.
He dropped doom right on melee 2 times. He did not run to the person he was chained to three times. He did not switch off the boss when I said multiple times adds were top priority. If there was a mechanic in this fight, he was messing it up. About the only thing good I can say was that at least he was consistent, but when that consistent is consistently bad, that is a problem.
Lets put it this way to show you what some of these people do that I deal with.
When explaining that fight I put a square marker for where to stand when phase 2 comes. Someone screws up and stands in melee and drops doom right on that marker. Phase 2 comes, I say on vent, stand to the left of the marker (because the doom is there of course right. Common sense to any raider that has ever raided if you ask me) but what does half the raid do. They F'N stand on the marker and die in the doom. When I say something on vent after the answers I get. But you told us to stand on blue in phase two. aaaahhhhhhhhhh
Sorry for ranting, and no I am not making that up, it happened, it really happened.
I will not move the marker. I am trying to train these people to be better raiders, doing that teaches them nothing. If they can not adjust on the fly and understand simple theory such as "markers are not absolutes" and be able to adjust they have no reason even stepping into a raid.
I need to teach these people. I will be raiding with them every week. I can not just always move the marker. That makes for piss poor raiders that do not know how to do anything but follow orders. They do not understand the mechanic on their own, they do not become capable of making snap decisions and they will never learn how to listen to changes on the fly from the raid leader.
I have the permanent rune now, so I do not worry about it and I suggest to all my raiders that they should get it too. It is only 5K and you never need to buy one again. Sell the ones you get and you will make more than the 5K you spent on it back. Casual or not, there is no excuse for not being the best you can.
As for my guild. DPS is never an issue. Mechanics are. It takes them a bit longer than I would like to pick up mechanics than I would like it too. 1% more however is 1% better. The faster the boss goes down the fewer chances their are to mess up mechanics.
And let's look at another statement in that block of quotes: "Casual or not, there is no excuse for not being the best you can." Yes, yes there is. Time is an obvious one -- I'm sure most people remember the horror of MoP dailies and rep gated valor items from multiple factions. Overload is another one -- pretend you're a newer player trying to get into normal mode and figure this whole raiding this out. You're given one of two "checklists":
1. Get Augment Runes from the AH for now, work on getting the permanent Augment Rune from Tanaan rep.
2. Watch boss videos/guides for the first four bosses in HFC.
3. Figure out what your ideal stat priority so you can evaluate which pieces of your current gear are weakest.
4. Buy/craft some 715 items for those weakest slots.
5. Gem/enchant your gear with your best stats.
6. Figure out what your best stat is and get 125 stat food of that type, since feasts aren't optimal.
7. Research your set bonuses so you know which tier pieces you want and whether it's worth using some lower ilvl pieces.
8. Practice your skills in Proving Grounds.
9. Show up to raid and do your best.
1. Watch boss videos/guides for the first four bosses in HFC.
2. Gem/enchant your gear.
3. Practice your skills in Proving Grounds.
4. Show up to raid and do your best
In a perfect world, is someone who does all of Checklist A better off? Sure. But ask yourself this: what is the actual *practical* difference between the two in terms of end result? I'll give you a hint: it's very small and insignificant for the vast, vast majority of Normal raiders. And Checklist B is a lot more likely to actually get done for said players while Checklist A is likely to overwhelm/discourage them.
Before we conclude, let's take a look at some actual numbers about the difference that ideal vs non-ideal stats makes. I'm going to look at Shadow Priests for two main reasons:
1. I play a Shadow Priest and have handy lists of gear available with stat weights/values.
2. Auspicious Spirits has some crazy secondary stat weights with Crit being worth more than Intellect and Mastery being less than half the value of Crit. In other words, it is arguably the spec (or at least one of the top 2-3 specs) where stat weights matter *most.* 90% of specs or whatever are going to see a much *smaller* difference than what we find here.
So what we're going to do is pick out our ideal Mythic items from BRF and then pick out our least ideal items from BRF and see how much the best set possible versus the worst set possible changes our DPS. They're all 700 ilvl (which is why we're doing BRF) and I'm going to ignore set bonuses for the moment (since in theory people would have four set either way and this way we can skew the results even MORE). I'm also just truncating (rounding down, basically) the decimals for the sake of time -- also note that since we have sixteen slots that this means the maximum possible impact is a whole 16 int when we're dealing with thousands of int.
Also, I apologize in advance for any initial errors, intentionally trying to find the worst option possible from a particular tier at a certain ilvl is frustrating/annoying.
Helm: Tier, 725.
Neck: Flamebender, 357.
Shoulders: Kromog, 547.
Back: Gruul, 359.
Chest: H&F, 718.
Bracers: Thogar, 398.
Hands: Tier, 479.
Belt: Iron Maidens, 509.
Legs: Flamebender, 679.
Boots: Beastlord, 511.
Ring 1: 715 Legendary, 472.
Ring 2: Beastlord, 378.
Trinket 1: Oregorger, 810.
Trinket 2: Blackhand, 736.
Main Hand: Blackhand, 2328.
Total: 10,006 intellect (or the equivalence, rather).
Helm: Blackhand, 606.
Neck: Gruul, 335.
Shoulders: H&F, 476.
Back: Kromog, 340.
Chest: Thogar, 641.
Bracers: Blast Furnace, 391.
Hands: Kromog, 421.
Belt: Beastlord, 451.
Legs: Tier, 606.
Boots: Trash drop, 451.
Ring 1: 715 Legendary, 472.
Ring 2: Iron Maidens, 340.
Trinket 1: Blackhand, 736.
Trinket 2: Beastlord, 716.
Main Hand: Flamebender, 1909.
Off-Hand: Thogar, 316.
Yeah. So even with intentionally picking a spec with insanely skewed stat weights, intentionally ignoring tier (which is both a normalizing factor between the sets and an overall boost in power to both which decreases the percent difference), and intentionally/deliberately picking the absolute worst and absolute best sets possible to compare...we got less than an 8% difference.
90%+ of specs, even using this deliberately awful comparison, would probably see more like a 4-5% difference worst case. And a person just randomly picking gear without regards to stats would see more like a 2-3% difference. Maybe less.
Optimizing gear matters far, far less than most people think.
There is one last thing I want to point out/acknowledge. A lot of Normal raiders may not be willing to improve -- they simply don't care enough to fix basic "rotation" problems or talent choices. And for those people perhaps trying to optimize gear is the only way to get *any* improvement of their output, even if it's only 2-3%. But, of course, Normal raids are not tuned to the point where that 2-3% even matters -- sheer ilvl increase over the course of a tier is going to result in a much larger improvement and the vast, vast majority of wipes are solely going to be due to massive screw-ups of mechanics.
This leads to perhaps a paradoxical conclusion: the people who are capable of realizing how small of a difference gear optimization makes are also the only people for who the gear optimization even matters.
Further reading: Talarian has an excellent post as well on the general topic of ilvl and (Warforged) upgrades as well as a second post particularly concerning sockets on items.