A couple of thoughts on item level

Last week, The Grumpy Elf wrote a thorough (as always) post about ilevel and how it doesn’t always translate to results, given the skill or effort of the player / the actual quality of the gear itself.

Coincidentally, this past week I got to see firsthand a couple of different examples of maxing out ilevel versus maxing out output, and it further illustrated to me, again, how the un-weighted ilevel can be deceiving.

The first came when I jumped into the second half of Mogu’shan Vaults on my druid for some healing action and ‘easy’ VP. At the time, her ilevel was sitting at 503, which is obviously a very comfortable place to be when considering how it trivializes the content I was running. I didn’t check out the other healers initially, although I did notice that one of the other druids had significantly more health than I did once the buffs were distributed.

Through the first two bosses, I noticed that I was handily at the top of the ‘current fight’ heal meter. Since a) I’m still a relatively novice healer, and b) this other druid presumably had better gear than I did, I was surprised by this. There were trash pulls where I didn’t top the meter, but I don’t generally care about trash as long as people stay alive*.

*I generally don’t care about ‘topping the heal meters’ on bosses either, other than as an acknowledgment that I’m doing some things right.

So before Will of the Emperor, I looked up this druid on the armory. He/she had an ilevel of 517, which was all I could discern before I needed to get back to healing on Emperor. Nonetheless, I was kind of baffled. I figured this druid should be crushing me on the charts.

The Will of the Emperor ended up being a tough fight. DPS was low, meaning the fight was longer. I was using my cooldowns – trink, Innervate, happy tree, etc. – as responsibly as possible, and I managed to not be in danger of bottoming out until after the third Titan Gas. At that point, Innervate was on cooldown and mana was getting low.

The reason I was low was in part because this other druid was out of mana, and had been since the second Titan Gas. I repeatedly glanced at my DBM spell CD timers and noticed that I was the only druid with Innervate on cooldown (there were three resto druids total). The healing meter showed that I was doing about 25% of the total heals, and that number was rising, as was the number of healers whose mana bars were clanking on empty. Things were getting serious. I found myself concentrating on the tanks while trying to keep a few Rejuves and Wild Growth bouncing around the raid, but time seemed to be running out. I wanted to type “DRUIDS INNERVATE YOURSELVES!” in /yell, but I didn’t feel I could risk it without a tank dropping dead. So I persevered.

We killed the boss, and in the end, I had done 28% of the healing. 517 Druid had done 14%, and everyone else fell in line  after that.

Now, again, this is not because I am some elite healer; in fact, I’m far from it (I get out-healed regularly by other druids). And I didn’t care about how I did against the priest, the paladin, or the shaman. I was interested, though, in how I did against the druids.

The third druid had very low gear. So that was that. No need to look at that any further. However, 517 interested me quite a bit.

Going back to the armory, I looked at the profile more carefully. 517 had a ton of 522 Valor gear – like, every piece you can buy. A 516 weapon. Some 502 ToT gear to fill in the gaps. At a glance, a respectable assortment.

Given the druid’s obvious mana issues, I looked at gems. Yep, Spirit in there, ok. That’s good. Correct enchants and trinkets. The druid had about as much Spirit as me.

I was still confused. Then, I looked one more time. And two things stuck out to me: a) zero tier pieces and b) ridiculous amounts of Haste.

Because I am still gearing up – I still have the LFR T14 2P (483), 476 Qin’xi trinket, 476 offhand – I’ve constructed my stats around the lowest Haste soft cap (3043 Haste). This translates to a little more than 7% Haste unbuffed.

This druid, on the other hand, had Haste maxed out. Anywhere Haste could be reforged into, Haste was reforged into. Gems were Spirit, Spirit/Haste, or Int/Haste. This druid was sitting at more than 18% Haste unbuffed, a number that I think I would have trouble reaching with my gear – if I even wanted to.

Ok, that explains some of the running out of mana. Faster expensive direct heals all over the place will eat your mana for lunch. Combine that with being lax with the Innervates and wasting heals, and that could explain spending half the fight out of mana. Additionally, having no tier equipped is probably a mistake. I have two 2p bonuses going right now, and they’re pretty damn strong. Sacrificing them for ilvl is likely only hurting this druid.

I’m far from a great healer, but I doubled the heals of a druid 14 ilvls above me on Will of the Emperor. Judging by this druid’s setup, it looked like the player was going for the absolute best ilevel that one could attain without being a raider. And if that’s your aim, you want the Valor legs, chest, gloves and Shado-pan Assault Exalted shoulders, I suppose. However, ilevel isn’t helping this person like it seems it should, although using Innervate on cooldown certainly could…

I’m not looking down at this other druid. I just found it interesting that there were such opposite disparities regarding ilvl and results. I’ll say more about that at the bottom of the post.

The second example came on my hunter this past weekend. Going into the weekend, my ilvl was 527.30 (according to WoW Progress).

On Saturday, we cleared the first six bosses – the extent of our previous raiding success. On Sunday, we worked through Durumu, one-shotted Primordius, and managed to down Dark Animus after several attempts.

The key for me was that I picked up the tier legs off Ji-kun on Saturday. This set off a late-night gear-swapping, gem swapping, reforging extravaganza as I moved from having the T15 2p (522 gloves, 502 chest) to the 4p (522 gloves and legs, 502 chest and shoulders). In the course of this, I dropped my Thunderforged legs and my 522 shoulders, which had both been upgraded, for lower ilevel tier gear, while also swapping out my necklace and cloak (which I seem to do almost every week or so, depending on what stats I need).

In the end, after picking up Durumu’s belt (Thunderforged) on Sunday, I managed to drop almost all of my excess Hit and Expertise. I picked up the 4p bonus and some gem sockets. And my SimDPS (new feature at WoW Progress) improved by about 7600 points.

And my ilvl dropped 1.17 points to 526.13. Which isn’t much – and it doesn’t really matter – but it still feels a little ‘aw shucks…’

For perspective, over the course of two days I dropped from the 15th to the 22nd ‘best geared’ hunter, by ilevel, on my server. Normally, I would be somewhat chagrined about this. But my gear is, without question, better than it was at this point last week.

Grumpy Elf’s post makes some great points about the fallacy of ilevel. Particularly interesting to me is the idea that not all pieces of the same ilevel have the same output value, and in some cases the disparity is remarkable**. This is certainly not new news, but the fact that this still exists suggests that there is still a ton of progress yet to be made regarding how much information most raiders need to research outside the game. I like math, but I’m not motivated enough to do all of the math required to figure out if getting a 4p bonus by ‘downgrading’ my ilevel on two pieces is better than going for the bigger number. I can certainly just assume that pieces with bonuses are generally better, but without looking at guides, Mr. Robot, and so on, I can’t be certain.

**Also of interest is the idea that a 522 weapon is the same ilvl as a 522 ring or neck. Obviously, the difference in true value is quite stark, particularly for DPS and healers.

I wonder if we will ever see a better in-game ranking system for gear than ilevel. My guess is that we probably won’t. And in the end, I personally have nothing against looking outside the game for information on tweaking my toon’s gear – in fact, it’s a fun component of this hobby for me. But it’s safe to say that a large number of players don’t do that, or don’t even know that they can. (Perhaps that’s the case with the druid that I described above.)

I suppose we’ll see, as changes in future expansions are unveiled…

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!

2 Comments on “A couple of thoughts on item level”

  1. […] Mushan, Etc.: A couple of thoughts on item level […]

  2. Andrew Farrell says:

    This is certainly not new news, but the fact that this still exists suggests that there is still a ton of progress yet to be made regarding how much information most raiders need to research outside the game.

    The thing is though, that most raiders don’t need to know that. Most raider are only just 9/12 in ToT normal, most raiders, even now, haven’t killed Empress Shek’zeer in normal. The highest two percentages for MoP Heroics on WoWProgress.com are 33% for H Stone Guard and 32% for H Jin’rokh – most raiders aren’t remotely near the position where an extra 5% damage would be much use to them. Having a rule of thumb along the lines of “Stack Int, avoid Spirit (unless it’s secretly hit), all the other stats are roughly as good” is exactly as much information as most raiders need.

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