About this series: so I kept finding myself giving the same old tips over and over to new members incoming to my raid or Mythic+ teams in World of Warcraft, all to do with getting the best gear or which class specialization (spec) to choose for endgame content. I finally figured I might as well just compile all that advice here on my blog, if only to reduce my workload down to just throwing them a link instead of giving a dissertation every single time someone asks me in Discord!
So behold: Yotingo’s quick and dirty guide for getting into the PvE (Player vs. Environment) scene in World of Warcraft. This installment covers some of the specifics of choosing gear. If you find yourself under-performing, there is a good chance that your gear is bad, so here are some ways to narrow in on the issue and fix it!
Play What You Like! (Because It Needs to Be Said Twice)
A note on min-maxing, or what is otherwise known as stressing out over the littlest differences in your character’s gear or spec. And that is…IT DOESN’T MATTER. Unless you are pushing Mythic keys above a +10 difficulty, or hitting up Mythic level raids or the last bosses on Heroic difficulty, it’s not really going to matter what spec or class you play, what trinkets or Azerite you use (so long as they’re the right role), or whether your talent build and rotation is spot-on. What is more necessary is that you enjoy what you’re playing: that you have a toolkit that feels good to you, challenging but not too challenging, and that it (if you’re into the roleplay immersion aspect) matches your fantasy of who your character is. So, my first piece of advice is: ignore the trolls and the elitists and the theory-crafters, and just play what you like.
That said, if you care about being the best, or you are just flopping all over your face and feeling frustrated, I will be giving tips throughout this series on resources you can use to improve your gameplay. I believe in figuring stuff out on one’s own instead of adhering to the latest guides and metas, so these tips will be more along the lines of offering you options and outlining some common issues people have when they under-perform for you to check out, rather than telling you exactly what to do. That’s because I believe in play-what-you-like, because any spec is viable, though some may need a lot more elbow grease than others to be optimal.
The first thing you should know about gear is secondary stats. Everyone knows about the primary stats–Strength, Agility, and Intelligence–and everyone knows (or should know) that primary stats are based on your class and role, and never shall they change! Since about the Warlords of Draenor era, all gear automatically flips to the primary stat that is best for your character, and so you can effectively ignore it.
Secondary stats are different. There are four of them: Haste, Critical Strike, Versatility, and Mastery, the last of which does something different depending on your class and spec. Unlike primary stats, secondary stats will never change or “flip” on gear when you change specs, and in Battle for Azeroth, they are one of the most important things to look at on a piece of gear when deciding which item is best for you. For rings, they are also the ONLY thing you look at, as in Battle for Azeroth, rings no longer give you primary stat bonuses.
Aaaaaand okay, okay, I should add one caveat about primary stats: your primary stat can weave in and out of your secondary stats in terms of being the best stat to stack up on out of all of them. Some classes practically ignore the primary stat because it doesn’t do much for their damage, while other classes can practically ignore the secondary stats and just build up the primary. When looking into which stats you should be focusing on in gear upgrades, keep this in mind! A higher primary stat is only gained through higher iLevel gear, whereas secondary stats you do a lot more mix and matching up and down the iLevel scale.
So how do you tell which stat is best for you? Unfortunately, it changes based on which spec and even what talent build and iLevel you’re at. Sound like a headache? Oh yes, it is. This is one reason I tell people not to sweat the min-maxing stuff…
Quick and Dirty: Icy Veins Stat Priority
The quick and dirty way of figuring this out is looking at an Icy Veins guide. Linked here is the stat priority for Feral Druids (my current main spec for Yotingo); you can find a guide for each class and spec on this website. I’m not fully aware of the entirety of their process, but these priorities are determined by simulations and testing done by the Icy Veins writers and are a pretty good ballpark for what secondary stats you want to give priority to. The method of picking gear is then simple: look for things that have the first two stats, and discard anything else, unless that item is something like a 10+ (for armor), 15+ (for rings) or even 20+ (for socketed items) iLevel upgrade for you. Your mileage may vary here as some stat priorites don’t have a clear “winner”, and you’ll only know for sure if you do what is called simming on the piece. More on that later.
Digging Deeper: Hard and Soft Caps
The deeper into gearing and theory-crafting you go though, the more complicated picking secondary stats get. I will now introduce to you the concept of soft caps and hard caps. A soft cap is the rating at which your benefit gained from that stat “plateaus”, while a hard cap is the rating where you stop getting any benefit at all. (As far as I know, hard caps haven’t been a thing since we’ve had a hit rating back before Warlords of Draenor, or outside of specific trinket and Azerite combinations.) Though you sometimes will find guides that specify these caps for an individual spec, I’ve yet to find a nice compiled guide of them all, and so my advice is to hop into the class Discord servers and ask away in there. There are a LOT of things these communities know, so this is a good place for any question about your class; I include it specifically for the caps as there are no other easy way I’ve found of learning those, while most of the other topics can be found in ways where you don’t have to deal with…you know, real people. Eww, people…
For the Professionals: Simming and Stat Weights
Finally, the most accurate method, and the one serious players use, is what is known as simming. This is short for the process of running your character through a simulator to get some raw numbers and data comparisons. Unfortunately, this method only really applies to Damage (DPS) roles, as the sim to test healing and tanking capability hasn’t yet been created. For healers and tanks, I’m afraid I’ll have to refer you to the above methodologies for determining your secondary stats.
There are two kinds of simming to try here. One is just simming yourself for a baseline, then simming yourself with the potential piece of gear equipped to see if it’s better. I’m aware of two different websites that offer this service: Ask Mr. Robot and Raidbots. (As far as I can tell, though the two may have different methodologies, they both come up with accurate sims. Most of my raid group prefer Raidbots due to it having add-ons for Discord and ingame use; I like looking at Ask Mr. Robot as it has some nifty stat weight graphs, though the site is less often updated.) While simming, the website pulls information about your character from Blizzard’s Armory–which updates whenever you log out that character–then runs it through a bunch of mock combat tests with a built-in rotation, against a boss set-up of your choice. For raiding (and probably Arenas), you will want to pick the Single Target boss set-up, while for Mythic dungeons (and probably Rated Battlegrounds) you will want the Cleave or Area-of-Effect (AOE) boss set-ups. If the simulator allows for it, you will also probably want to include the Light Movement option for the most accurate read, as I can’t think of a single boss these days that is a “tank-and-spank”, where you just stand there and hit it without having to dodge mechanics.
For most players, you will need a difference of 500 DPS or more between your old gear and your new gear to really see a difference in your gameplay; beyond that, it’s usually a better idea to use the higher iLevel (hence higher Stamina, hence higher survivability) if the difference in DPS is any less than that.
By the way, this method of simming works for all kinds of gear specifics: Azerite traits and essences, trinkets, weapons …the whole nine yards!
The second method of simming I’ll go into is something only applicable to secondary stats, and it is known as stat weights. For most players, this method is just if you like getting into the numerical theory of it all, though is also useful if Icy Veins is telling you most of your stats have equal priority, like Shadow Priest, and you just gotta know.
Stat weights can be confusing. There are a few classes and specs that only want to stack one stat for best performance (I’m told Beast Master Hunter is one of these), but in general, stat weights are a calculation trying to get at the idea that secondary stats work in harmony with each other. You raise one, and in doing so, you may increase the effectiveness of another, but only up to a certain point and in certain combinations, and how the heck do you tell?!
Both Raidbots and Ask Mr. Robot can calculate for stat weights, though I find Raidbots’ functionality is a little less buried in its UI. (Bloodmallet also has generalized stat weight graphs; if this one looks a hopeless mess to you, remember you can rotate by holding and dragging your mouse. Mind you that Bloodmallet wouldn’t be taking into consideration other gear modifiers like your Azerite traits, while the sims do.) After running the sim, you will find spat out at you a bunch of numbers. In the most basic terms, each of these numbers is telling you that for one unit of secondary stat rating, you get that much DPS out of the bargain. In other words, it tells you how much each secondary stat is responsible for how much of your DPS.
In general it’s then best to aim for getting more of those secondary stats that are weighted higher, but again, stat weights can change when you reach certain soft caps (such as 25% Mastery for Feral Druid) and at different iLevels, as they depend on how different class abilities scale as the numbers from your gear get bigger. Hence, you’ll want to be running a stat weight sim every major gear upgrade to see if you need to change which secondary stat you seek out in new gear.
Personally, that’s just a bit too involved for me, and I just go by Icy Veins, or the pure simming comparison of old gear vs. new, but if you were ever interested in the numbers or what people mean when they say stat weights, well, there you go!
Azerite, Trinkets, and Essences, Oh My!
There are three other main contributors to your performance that come from your gear, and they are luckily all a lot simpler than secondary stats. These are the Azerite traits that you pick for your head, shoulder, and chest armor pieces, your trinkets, and (with Patch 8.2.5) the Essences you pick for your Heart of Azeroth necklace.
Quick and Dirty: Bloodmallet DPS Comparison
For all of these, I will float to you again the use of the site Bloodmallet. This is a powerful tool and relatively simple to use.
First, click your class and spec. Then, click on the gear modifier of interest (trinkets, essences, or Azerite aka Azerite traits). You will then get options for different ways of analyzing the DPS these things do. (Unfortunately, again, Bloodmallet only looks at DPS. For healing and tanking, you’re better off referring to your class Discord, Icy Veins, or Raider.IO, which is below.) Next, pick whether you are more interested in damage on single targets (“Patchwerk”) or damage on multiple targets (“HecticAddCleave”); in most cases, Patchwerk applies best to raid bosses while HecticAddCleave applies best to Mythic dungeons. Then, simply look at the top two to three on the bar graph and use some combination of those…or find the highest one on the list you do have if not those.
Be warned however: Bloodmallet auto-chooses talent builds and a bunch of other things in their tests, so these DPS estimates may be higher or lower for your personal set-up. Sometimes a certain trait will need a new rotation to make best use of it as well, and that is where an in-depth class guide like Icy Veins can be helpful. I’ll be going into further detail on talent builds and rotations in a later guide.
Digging Deeper: Raider.IO’s Most Popular
Though Bloodmallet does have some limited function for determining traits and trinkets that make for the best combinations, it’s by no means definitive. For this, I like to rely on what is tried and true among the playerbase. Outside of asking your class Discord, you can also make use of Raider.IO. Though this site is infamous for elitism in LFG groups, it also has some useful tools for the ordinary player.
One of those tools is that it lists each class and spec by whichever characters, across servers, have the best PvE score, which is further determined by how many timely high keys your character has done. (How they calculate top raids appears to be different, so I’ll just put in the reminder here that the top gear for Mythic dungeons is not necessarily the same as for raids, so use this tool with that in mind.) It’s no coincidence that many of the highest scoring players all have the same Azerite traits, talents, essences, and so on. To determine what you should aim for, simply go take a look at the top ten for your class and spec and use what they use.
Though I list this as a Digging Deeper, since personally I find Raider.IO much harder to navigate than Bloodmallet, it is probably best to consider it as less accurate than Bloodmallet outside of looking at gear combinations. This is because players tend to favor one “meta” for each PvE season even when there may be multiple ones that are equally viable. You can’t go wrong copying the top players, but there are also probably many other ways you could “go right”.
For the Professionals: Simming
As with secondary stats, the only way you’re going to get the most accurate and applicable gauge on what gear is better for your DPS is by simming, one piece of gear and one combination at a time.
TL;DR: If in Doubt, Sim It
And that’s really all that can be said about the specifics of gearing, if you needed a TL;DR. There are a lot of tools and resources out there that can give you at-a-glance facts and general guidelines, but simming is king of them all.
…if you’re DPS. If you’re heals or tank…well. That’ll require more digging as there aren’t sims for those, and you’re instead best off relying on class guides like Icy Veins or advice from your class’ Discord server.
So good luck gearing, and have fun!