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!

Reversing the tide of a reversal of the tide (whimsical replacement-mage saga)

Yeah, sometimes my titles aren’t the best. I don’t even know what that one means – the first part, anyway.

For those who may remember (read this if you don’t), I started a new mage a while back. The express purpose of this mage was to replace a max-level mage that I already have, with maxed primary crafting professions and decent (I did fine in Raid Finder) gear.

Now, as I pointed out in that post, this is something that probably sounds crazy. I have a mage. He works fine. He’s not a main. He makes me tons of gold. So, just leave him alone, right?

Well, I decided to replace him because he was a human male and because I wasn’t crazy about his name. And since money is tight, I have a hard time using cash to change all of that.

(This mage still exists, by the way, for now. I’ll likely keep him until Mists of Pandaria is underway, and then let him go when he stops being useful.)

In the meantime, I started this new night elf mage, with exactly the same professions, so that he will become a “2.0 version” of the current one, with no drop-off in production, so to speak. However, things came to a halt with him when my iMac decided to succumb to its terminal illness.*

*The technical name for the iMac’s terminal illness is something like “Apple develops shit (the iMac) that costs more than a certified pre-owned car, with inferior parts, and looks great or new-fangled or something, but its designs are fatally flawed and they run way too hot and so on, so their shelf life can be shorter than you expect.” Or something to that effect.

The death of my iMac combined with my girlfriend’s heavy Diablo III play meant that I’ve been offline much more than usual, since hers is the only working PC in the family at the moment. As such, I eventually sort of resigned myself that I was going to $#*t-can the idea of replacing Theophilos, as my new mage still had all of Outland, Northrend and Cataclysm to complete, as well as maxing out Jewelcrafting and Tailoring, before MoP dropped.

However, over the past week-plus, I dove back into play with him (he was 60). I quested. I ran several dungeons (all Wrath, so far). I worked on professions. I changed him from Frost to Fire for all leveling, since I just like playing Fire anyway.

As of today, he’s halfway through to 82. His Tailoring is at 505 (yay!). That’s the good news. His JC is at 412 (ehhh…), which is indicative of the fact that JC is probably one of the more difficult crafting profs to level without spending an iMac’s worth of gold on mats.

At this rate, I should be finished leveling him – depending on how much time I get to play him – within the next seven days. The profs are going to be fine, I think. At the very latest, they should be ready to go (maxed) by the time MoP drops, so I will be able to switch seamlessly from the old mage to the new one at that point.

So… let me briefly elaborate on why I made the decision to replace Theophilos:

I was using MogIt to look at cloth combos for transmog, and… seriously… human males look so awful in cloth gear. Most gear, actually, but really, I just can’t stand it. So I made a nelf. I like how he looks. And I’m excited to put together some looks for him once that becomes something I care about again (aka after I finish mogging my hunter and warrior, at least).

OK, I should have said “prioritize,” not “care about.”

So yeah, new race, new name, same class, same profs. “Money” (because I’m totally dropping some chunks of gold while leveling this one’s profs) well spent? Absolutely.

It’s in-game gold. Meaningless currency. Fun money. It means I don’t have to spend U.S. currency to have the mage I want. And I’m enjoying the leveling experience. Win-win.

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

Blog Azeroth Shared Topic: Custom-Fit Professions

 Aka “I’m doing it wrong!” At least, by this topic’s premise. :)

This week’s Shared Topic at Blog Azeroth is from Effraeti, who asks:

Professions are fun for some and a necessary evil for others.

Some of us have farming professions. Some of us have crafting professions. Some of us have a little bit of everything! Professions are leveled because they fit our style of play, help us in raiding, allow us to outfit our alts, and make us money.

What professions do you have on your main? Do his/her professions fit their personality? Why did you choose them? If you chose professions based on your character and not on gaming needs, would that change some of their professions they use?

(This can include the secondary professions of archaeology, fishing, cooking, and first aid too!)

I have eight toons that are level 85. I won’t be talking about all of them, but several will come into the discussion, even though this BAST specifically asks for mains. Since I like to run my mouth (so to speak), I’ll take that liberty here – I just can’t help myself.

Mushan – hunter (main) – Leatherworking, Blacksmithing

Mushan is a max level LW/BS, and each secondary profession is also maxed with the exception of Archaeology, which I’ve only ever touched on my druid (who is max level in all of her profs).

The Blacksmithing portion of that line was something that came along later – in other words, he didn’t start off as a LW/BS. Rather, he was what I believe a hunter will generally be, and that is a Skinner and Leatherworker who is also skilled in Fishing (and should also be skilled in outdoor Cooking, although that distinction is not necessarily available to us in WoW).

After I had been 85 for a while, I leveled my mage, paladin, and then my warrior to 85. The warrior is a Blacksmith and Miner, and was my first toon to reach 525 with those professions. I tend to be someone who knows the merits of each profession for the most part, but I hadn’t necessarily made the jump to ‘min-maxing’ with professions on any one character before Cataclysm. While I certainly made sure the professions themselves were maxed on my most-played toons, and I applied their benefits properly (extra +Agi to wrists for LWs, for instance), every single character had a gathering profession, which made them all fairly self-reliant.

I made Mushan a LW, even though my druid is a LW as well, for a few reasons: 1) I’m one of the three people total who actually enjoy Leatherworking (which many people view as the worst prof); 2) I feel hunters naturally gravitate toward leatherworking as a skill that complements their main job (hunting and killing prey, and then putting every part of the animal to good use); and 3) I already understood the aforementioned benefits of being a LW from a +Agi perspective.

However, after I leveled Blacksmithing on Droignon, something happened that is completely typical of me: I fell in love with the extra sockets.


I’ve always loved sockets. So much fun to be able to add whatever you want to your gear! Of course, I’ve seen people do stupid stuff with their sockets (like the max-level hunter on my server who has had a Misty Chrysoprase (+5 Crit, +4 Spirit) in one of his/her yellow sockets since 4.1, at least). And of course, for min-max purposes, there are restrictions on what you should prioritize (like Agility for hunters). Still, there’s something about socketing a gem that pleases me a little too much.

Anyway, after re-awakening to the joy of even more sockets on my warrior, I decided that I needed those sockets on my hunter.


So my hunter is a Blacksmith now instead of a Skinner. And he has +100 Agility from that now, instead of the +80 Crit or whatever you get from Skinning. And I’m very, very happy with the way all those sockets look on his armory.

I know, crazy, right?

Silly, at least.

But it also means more DPS, and I love that. Even if the fact that my hunter is a Blacksmith doesn’t make as much sense as being a Skinner – although, to be fair, a smithing-hunter is not necessarily outside the realm of possibility, when one thinks about it.

Being a BS on my hunter is one of the few things that I don’t necessarily love about my hunter from a fantasy standpoint. But I do love those extra sockets, so I’m generally glad I changed it. I don’t know how I’ll feel about that when I have to level both crafting professions up to 600, without the benefits of self-gathering, but I suppose I’ll live – and I’ll like all the extra Agility in MoP!

Anacrusa – druid (main alt) – Leatherworking, Skinning

Anacrusa was my first 70, my first 80, my first 85. But she wasn’t my first 60. That was a hunter by the name of Bloodheim, which I abandoned before Wrath came out and deleted in 2009 at the tender age of 63. At this point, I generally sucked at everything in the game, and the hunter was no exception. I hated mana as a hunter resource, hated managing it, and just didn’t enjoy the toon after a while. I eventually got used to mana when I made Mushan, but I really enjoyed the switch to focus, and have never looked back.

Anyway, Bloodheim was a LW/SK. And when I gave him up for the druid back in mid-07, I chose to make Anacrusa a LW/SK also, since I could make some of my own gear, and since I enjoy LW, as I said before. But I don’t really feel that it fits best with my character from a fantasy or story standpoint.

If my druid fit my idea of what a druid is, she would be an Herbalist first. She would plant, nurse, and harvest herbs as part of the nature concept that is a large part of druidism. I wasn’t thinking about that when I made her, though, so now she’s a bloodthirsty killer who wields skinning knife with her bloody paw.

She would also be a healer (if I were actually good at that), and she would likely be…

I don’t know that I feel that Alchemy is necessarily a great fit for any class that isn’t a warlock, priest, mage or, maybe, death knight, but I can’t think of another profession that is really better. Maybe Inscription, which is tame – you write magical glyphs and tomes and so on. Eh. But yeah, while I think that Alchemy is a great fit story-wise for mages and warlocks in particular, it can be argued that it can be an acceptable fit for classes that can heal, so from that perspective, my druid – were I to make her again – might be an Alchemist/Herbalist. However, like I said, she is a bloodthirsty killer who uses her kills to make stuff out of.

Ah well. I enjoy it, and it’s made me a lot of gold. I enjoy skinning, too. It’s nice to be able to feel like I’m using everything I take off the beasts (and yetis) that I kill.

Droignon – warrior (alt) – Blacksmithing, Mining

Yeah. This one is – while not perfect – very nice both from the standpoint that he’s a tank (extra Stam, etc.) and because he can make his own gear and weapons and harvest his own materials. Additionally, he’s a big strong warrior, so he can carry all of those rocks around with him, no problem. Love it.

Theophilos – mage (alt) – Tailoring, Jewelcrafting

If I go with what I said earlier, I would say that Theophilos should be two of the following: Enchanter, Alchemist, Scribe, Jewelcrafter, Tailor, and maybe Herbalist – in order from most fitting to least.

In reality, he’s a JC because I wanted to have a JC among my stable of toons. He’s a Tailor because that’s an easy connection to make. But if I had to choose again, and didn’t need any professions for practical purposes, for story purposes I’d make him an Enchanter/Tailor, weaving spells into cloth and vellum to make magical items for himself and others.

But it’s not a toon I’m as dedicated to, in general, as I am to the first three on this list. So practical wins out.

Abenadari – paladin (alt) – Alchemy, Herbalism

So here we are, with my paladin, who I actually created before my druid, doing the jobs that I currently envision would be most appropriate for my druid. I wouldn’t think that a paladin, beacon of light that one is, would be getting all down with nature and chemicals. If I were to choose again, I would probably make her some kind of combination of Scribe, Blacksmith, Enchanter.

But she’s my max level Alchemist, and because of that she still exists. I don’t feel like leveling Alchemy again. If I do level another Alchemist, she may go, because I don’t love playing paladins, but I don’t anticipate that happening in the foreseeable future. Besides, I would have a tough time deleting her anyway, for Transmute cooldown reasons.


At any rate, that’s probably too much info about some of the characters I play the most, their professions, why I chose them, and how well I think their professions fit with the characters themselves.

Above all, I have professions because I use them, and sometimes they fit better with the toons than others. Between my eight 85s, I have every profession covered except for Engineering and Enchanting (and my girlfriend is an Enchanter, so that’s effectively covered, too). I’ll likely get to those eventually. I have some toons – like my other hunter Ghilleadh – who are simply gatherers, because that is easy and profitable, and I have less problems with resources than I used to simply because I play those toons and gather as I go.

The only toon where I have redundant crafting professions is Mushan – since I already have a LW and a BS, seperately – and that’s because he’s also the only toon that I’ve chosen professions for based primarily on min-maxing and DPS.

But yes, if I went into the game fresh, with the knowledge I have now, I might choose my profession-toon alignment differently, because I become immersed in my characters to varying levels, and professions are certainly a part of that.

Thanks for the great Shared Topic, Effraeti!

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

How will stat priorities change in Mists of Pandaria?

From the latest bit of datamining on wowdb.com, we get to see some of the Jewelcrafting gems that are likely to be in the game when Mists of Pandaria launches.  I was very interested to see the proportionality between primary and secondary stats on these new gems.

In their current incarnations, with the exception of Stamina, primary and secondary stats are proportional on gems of equal rarity.  For instance, using the Cataclysm blue-quality gems, a Delicate Inferno Ruby has +40 Agility, and a Smooth Amberjewel has +40 Critical Strike Rating.  For DPS specs, this makes gems with secondary stats – in whole or in part – inferior to red gems, since reds give us the greatest benefit by far.  There are exceptions, of course, particularly when there is a favorable socket bonus (+30 Agility, for instance) rewarding us for choosing, say, an orange gem such as a Deadly Ember Topaz (+20 Agility, +20 Crit Rating).

Looking to the near future, the amount of secondary stats could possibly be increasing by 50% on gems in MoP – which puts secondary stats in line with Stamina in that regard – as evidenced by these examples:

(Red Gem)

(Yellow Gem)

Here, the difference is apparent: yellow (550) Jewelcrafting gems will have 160 more (+50%) of their stats than will their red counterparts.

What I could extrapolate from this is that the proportionality will follow for blue-quality gems as well, but that doesn’t seem to be the case just yet.  Professions are not finished yet, and wowdb.com has what looks like an incomplete list of gems with disturbingly inharmonious values.

So I won’t do that.

However, IF this proportionality comes to pass for gems, it could serve to alter the way we think about both gemming and stat priorities in MoP.

Currently, for hunters, Agility is king on non-ranged-weapon gear.  From personal experience, I know that this is the same for cat druids, while Strength is king for plate DPS, as is Intellect for Balance druids and other casters.  This situation has had an affect on multiple areas of the game, from gemming, enchanting and gear choices to the Auction House, where red gems have routinely sold for much more gold than other colors throughout the expansion.

What if Blizzard is changing that?  If stat values remain relatively the same but our gemming options change, we may have to look closer at the values – both performance- and gold-wise – of gems as we make choices about how to gem our gear.  We don’t have a concrete gear list yet, so we don’t know what socket bonuses will look like.  But as things stand today, that MoP orange gem looks a lot more attractive, relative to a red gem, than today’s orange gems do.*

*And I’m not just talking about how much larger the stats are than the Cataclysm ones – that’s always a given.

Additionally, I wonder if there is going to be much of a difference in how stats are prioritized for various specs.  If we see anything that tightens the gap between primary and secondary stat values, a change to gems such as the one we see on the JC-only gems above could give players a little more choice when it comes to decking out their gear, in addition to fixing the lopsidedness of the gem market.

I’m not saying this will happen – we have to wait and see – but seeing these JC gems certainly got me thinking.

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