UI and Sound | Combat | Controls | Gear | Addons and Macros

Getting awesome loot is one of the most fun things in WoW, but many people put emphasis on the wrong things when it comes to gearing up and getting upgrades.  Here, I’ll outline a few traps and pitfalls players frequently fall into.

Item Level is a big deal.  Only trinket slots and in very rare cases, set bonuses, aren’t completely ruled by Item Level.

Secondary stats don’t matter much.

Every spec has its own secondary stat priority, with something being favored and something being viewed as weak.  Secondary stats are the only area where you have any real freedom to make choices, and because of that, they get a lot of attention from players.  The reality, though, is that the range in value of secondary stats isn’t very big for most specs (Warriors and Fire Mages excluded), and overall volume of stats nearly always means more than which stats are present on a piece of gear.

Because of this, the value of an armor piece is almost entirely determined by its item level.  A 566 Hit/Crit piece will be an upgrade over a 553 Haste/Mastery piece 95% of the time as a damage dealer, regardless of which spec you’re playing, because the gain in your primary stat and the volume of secondary stats will outweigh a more favorable selection of stats.

Stamina matters more than you think.

Raiding during progression puts a significant emphasis on survival.  While difficult to quantify, this means that stamina found on gear is important and should never be ignored.

Stamina is directly tied to a piece of gear’s item level.  Because of this, you should always err on the side of using a higher item level piece even if you’re not sure it’s an upgrade over what you’re using.

Spell Power and Weapon Damage are a really big deal.

The important parts of a weapon are the damage per second for melee and hunters, and Spell Power for casters and healers.  These stats are tied directly to a weapon’s item level with no variance.  20% or more of a character’s throughput potential comes from the spell power or damage of a weapon.  Because of this, a weapon’s other stats mean relatively little.

  • Agility-based melee will often find Strength weapons of a higher item level to be better than what they are using.  A 535 Strength weapon will often outperform a 522 Agility weapon.
  • Mages and Warlocks will nearly always find Spirit weapons of a higher item level to be better than what they are using.  A 496 Spirit weapon will outperform a 483 without Spirit.

I don’t suggest taking these weapons from the classes and roles they are intended for, but they are very often a lot better than what you have, so don’t let them go to waste without looking into it.


These are the simulated results of a normal-SoO-geared Windwalker upgrading from Normal Hellscream’s Cleaver (561 agility weapon) to Heroic Hellscream’s Doomblade (574 strength weapon) in the main hand with a bunch of wasted expertise.


UI and Sound | Combat | Controls | Gear | Addons and Macros



3 responses to “Gear

  1. Secondaries matter. Depending on your class, they are as good as main stats. Swapping gear solely on the basis of ilevel is foolish and can cause you to regem/forge/enchant all of your gear – for a dps loss, due to wrecking hit or expertise.
    Stamina matters less than you think. The difference between a bare LFR chest and HWF+2 chest is 15k health – that MAY give you another tick of damage until you die, but when dying from stuff with 50k+ overkill it won’t matter. Not to mention that you need to be in a really bad spot when you could replace a LFR piece with HWF, any better item diminishs the difference by quite a margin.
    Weapon damage matters, especially for monks, but even then it comes down to a 7.5k increase in the perfect scenario, a single slip-up (or most encounters by design) ruin that instantly.

    • Yeah, you missed the point.

      Secondaries are valuable, but which secondaries a piece has doesn’t matter much at all due to reforging. Stat values are close enough for most specs that having more of your worse stat makes the item’s value about primary and stamina.

      Stamina is a very underrated stat. During raid progression, players die frequently and hit very low health amounts frequently. Sure, one piece won’t save you from a 50k overkill, but on average, there is a very tangible correlation between deaths during progression and average item level. This effective health of DPS is the very reason Shadow and Balance lost their passive 15% damage reduction.

    • Just to clarify, after running several sims for Retribution (random example), a 13 item level increase on a piece of gear is roughly DPS neutral if going from perfect itemization (haste/mastery) to horrible itemization (crit/hit) where 100% of the hit is wasted. 100% wasted hit/exp is a pretty uncommon scenario, but it does happen on occasion. Even when it does happen, though, an upgrade in another slot often results in the first one becoming an upgrade due to making room for that wasted stat.

      And you’re still gaining health, which is significant, even if it’s DPS neutral.

      For most specs, stat weights are close enough for my item level increase rule to be true for just about everyone. The exception are the two Warrior DPS specs and Fire Mages due to an abnormally high reliance on Crit (as I noted in the guide). For the rest of us, especially dual wield specs, item level is everything.

      With changes in WoD, namely the removal of Hit and Expertise, wasted stats will no longer exist, so scenarios where item level doesn’t determine item value will be basically nonexistent. It will only continue to exist where Timeless Isle style items only have one secondary stat compared to the normal 2.

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