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WoWMar 22, 2015 2:00 pm CT

Encrypted Text: Do secondary stats really matter?

Ruffy vs. the Stat Sheet

They’re some of the most common questions I see rogue players ask: After agility, which stats matter most? How should I gem and enchant?

I always feel a little squishy in my tummy about answering questions like these in the straightforward way I know the person wants: By providing a laundry list of secondary stats in order of their value. The fact is, despite what a number of guide-oriented websites might have you believe, stat values often aren’t so cut-and-dry. (Combat rogues, for instance, seem to value haste above all else — but when you’re fighting multiple targets with Blade Flurry on, multistrike pulls ahead. Meanwhile, for assassination rogues, critical strike, mastery and multistrike are all nearly identical in value.)

But that’s only part of what makes me squeamish about rattling off a bunch of stats in order of their importance. The bigger reason is that doing so plays into the illusion too many of us hold that “stacking” as much of their best secondary stat as possible is one of the most important things they can do to increase their damage.

Lemme be clear: Optimizing your gear matters, absolutely. It just tends to matter a heck of a lot less than you might think.


Augh, the Numbers, They Burn!

When we discuss stat values for rogues, these are the secondary stats we’re talking about:

  • critical strike
  • haste
  • mastery
  • multistrike
  • versatility

Most of the gear a rogue gets at Level 100 has two of these stats on them. Each one of them is a good stat to have: They each increase the amount of damage we do in some way. But WoW’s designers engineer every spec within the rogue class in a way that tries to ensure that different specs prefer different secondary stats.

However, don’t mistake that preference for a requirement. Your DPS won’t fall apart by stacking the “wrong” stat. In fact, in most cases, it will cost you very little.

Case in point: Check out this mind-numbing chart I created looking at rogues in PvE.

rogue gear optimization sample comparison

That honking mess of rows, columns and digits is an attempt to look at several different options for how we might gem and enchant our rogues. I looked at a sample set of gear with an average item level of 630 (that’s heroic dungeon gear), and another sample set of gear with an average item level of 680 (that’s heroic-level raid gear, including the full bonus you get from having at least four pieces of “tier” armor). I focused mainly on assassination rogues, but did some spot-checking of the other two specs as well. I didn’t try to be exhaustive; I just wanted to get a decent sampling.

For each gear set, I used ShadowCraft, the most super-bestest gear optimization site in rogue history, to look at how much stronger we get when we add the “right” gems and enchants vs. the “wrong” ones.

Here are three of the most important lessons I learned from this experiment.

Lesson #1: There’s a small difference between stacking the “best” stat and stacking the “worst” stat. For rogues in typical gear (i.e., only a couple of gem slots), stacking the best stat over the worst stat gave them just a 3% to 4% edge — that amounts to a difference of roughly 800 DPS at most if your average item level is 630. In other words, 21,000 DPS becomes 21,800 DPS. (At iLevel 680, it’s more like a difference of around 1,300 DPS.) This was true for assassination, combat and subtlety using my sample rogue.

If you think that’s still huge, consider this: If your attention slips and you die in fire partway through a five-minute raid fight, and it takes 15 seconds to get resurrected, you’ve lost well over 5% of your DPS. Just allowing Slice and Dice to fall off for several seconds — or accidentally moving out of melee range of your target — will shave a few percent off your DPS.

I’m not trying to say that secondary stats don’t matter. But plenty of other things that you also have complete control over — like being alert and attentive, and executing your DPS rotation properly — are far more important to how you perform on damage meters, and on the value you have to your raid group, than the stats you prioritize on your gear.


Lesson #2: When it comes to gems/enchants, anything is better than nothing. If a dungeon-geared assassination rogue walks into a raid with zero gems or enchants, she is going to deal roughly 5% less damage than a dungeon-geared assassination rogue who for some reason used the cheapest gems/enchants with the worst possible rogue stat on them — but who put at least made sure a gem/enchant was in every slot available on their gear.

What if you know the right stat to stack, but you’re short on gold and resources? If that dungeon-geared rogue uses cheaper alternatives — Breath of Mastery on her rings instead of Gift of Mastery, for instance, or a Mastery Taladite instead of a Greater Mastery Taladite in a gem slot — she will sacrifice an almost-unnoticeable 1% of her DPS to the rogue who spent thousands of gold more to get the best enhancements the game has to offer.

If you’re fighting tooth and nail for a raid spot and you’re already squeezing out every last drop of your DPS by playing your rogue as perfectly as it can be played, that 1% might matter. Ditto if you’re playing with a highly competitive raid group and you’re wiping on a boss with just a fraction of a fraction of its health remaining.

But for most of us? We’ll be more than fine going the cheap route, and just making sure we’ve got some kind of enhancement on our gear.

Lesson #3: The most important items to enchant are your weapons. If you’re going to splurge on any of your enchants, make it your stabby poison sticks. Mark of the Shattered Hand is the only inexpensive option we’ve got, and at lower gear levels — basically up until you start accumulating a lot of heroic-mode Highmaul gear (or normal-mode Blackrock Foundry gear) — it’s as good as the other weapon enchants, if not better. Putting Shattered Hand on both of your weapons will increase your DPS by roughly 3% all by itself.

Even once you get into higher gear levels and Shattered Hand falls behind other options (generally, Mark of the Thunderlord for assassination; Mark of Warsong for combat; and Mark of the Frostwolf for subtlety), it still doesn’t fall behind so dramatically that it somehow becomes useless — and having even the cheapest enchant will always be far, far better than having no enchant at all. (Of course, if you’re decked out in mythic-level raid gear, it’s unlikely you’re springing for cheap anything. It’s also pretty unlikely you’re even reading this column, come to think of it.)


Prioritizing Stat Priority

One of the tough things about writing a column for the general rogue-playing population is that precious few questions have straightforward answers. I just painted a lot of broad strokes that I feel are going to hold true for the vast majority of people running end-game PvE with their rogues today — but that still means there will be rogue players out there for whom secondary stats will be a big deal.

Similarly, no matter how much numerical evidence I try to provide that backs up my argument, there will be plenty of people who strongly feel it’s critical to gem and enchant to the nines. I’ve seen plenty of folks argue that if we have complete control over our gear enhancements, why would we not want to do everything in our power to make them the best enhancements gold can buy? Doesn’t our raid group deserve that?

Maybe it does. But maybe my raid group also deserves to have me not obsess over the secondary stats on my gear to the extent that I get burned out from all of the time and gold I have to spend repeatedly polishing it all to a perfect numerical gleam. Numbers aren’t everything, even when killing dragons.

Reforging was removed from WoW in part so that players didn’t have to feel that they were forced to spend time obsessing over stat optimization instead of playing the game we love. If, for you, part of that love for WoW involves diving deeply into the math and uber-optimizing your gear, then you should follow that passion, and I’ll respect you for it. Just remember that what makes you happy isn’t necessarily what makes others happy — and it may not be what makes their guilds or raid groups happy, either.

How do you feel about rogues and secondary stats? Do you wish they mattered more than they do now — or do you think they still matter too much? Join me in the comments and let’s talk it over! (Politely, of course.)

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