Sunday, February 20, 2011

[4.0.6] The Fallout of Simplification

Cataclysm Simplifies Things

With Cataclysm came a dramatic simplification of gear choices.  With less secondary stats to juggle and dramatic jumps in the benefits from higher Item Level (IL), gear choices generally boil down:
  1. Get the highest item level
  2. Worry about secondary stats
Whereas previously, it was much blurrier and an item many levels below the current content might be the best in slot (BIS) due to superior itemization.

While I was personally did not have much of a problem with this, I did not consider that it was a huge loss for the theory crafters out there.  Prior to Cataclysm, a lower level item was often better due to optimal itemization of attributes.  Now, much more so than before, you just grab the higher IL loot and go.

The Item Level Hammer

Along with this and the reduction in the number of secondary attributes, came a simplification of the math behind itemization of gear.  I'll be honest, the simplification of the math did not upset me that much, but then again, I did not invest significant time into crafting the formulae.  If I had, I would probably be quite upset at the ongoing simplification.

I'll admit that there is a bittersweet moment when I get gear with sub-par stats but end up using it because it is a higher item level and is so far and away better in raw stats that the secondary stats are practically irrelevant.  On the plus side, that simplifies identifying your optimal gear, but it also creates a schism.

You see, back in WotLK, and before, there were some items of sub-par item level that were still fine choices for raiding, because the leap in stats was not so great; a poorly itemized higher item level piece of gear may simply be comparable, not superior.  This sort of forces you more into the grind.  You have to grind out the highest item level ASAP, then start grinding for the many pieces with optimal itemization of stats.

For the gearheads that really enjoyed figuring out which items gave the best bang for the buck, the lower item level bits that were equal to or superior to the higher item level bits were like their pot of gold, a reward for their keen attention and a badge of honor that conveyed their deep knowledge of the gear.

So, those camps have both seen some luster wear.  The benefit, of course, is that probably many more have seen a quality of life improvement in the reduction of the entry level knowledge and intuition needed to make good gear choices.

Itemizing Skindancer

So, as an illustration of this, when I started raiding, I chose to depart from the optimal choices spelled out by the Bear Theorycrafters.  Rather than Dodge > Mastery, I chose Mastery > Dodge.  This affected my gem choices and reforging, and I even went so far as to use the Agility Arcanum, Shoulder Inscription, food, and Flask buffs.

Now, let's be clear, this was not a crazy departure, like declaring that I would stack Haste (currently our worst secondary stat).  My rationale for favoring Mastery was sound.  I preferred the mitigation of Savage Defense to the Avoidance of Dodge.  I had become disenchanted with piling on Dodge back in WotLK.

And let's be clear, I was giving up a few percent decrease in Dodge for a few percent increase in damage absorbed by Savage Defense.

Finally, I really liked it because Mastery is actually beneficial if I switch to Cat, unlike Dodge.

I did fine.  And not just, "we can get by" fine, but "no complaints at all from the healers" fine.

Recently, I decided to go through the exercise and conformed to everything the Bear Thread in the Wow Forums prescribed.  I applied the Stamina Arcanum and changed my gems and reforging to favor Dodge over Mastery.  The spreadsheet said I should be ~11% more hardy.  That sure sounds like a lot.  No one seems to have noticed yet...I still can't bring myself to drop Agi food and flask buffs though.  Giving up Agility for Stamina is going to be a hard sell unless it is clear I have too little Stamina.

My main point is that I diverged from optimal itemization (per Theorycrafting) and there was no significant issue in my ability to Tank, whereas in the past, such changes would be felt much more keenly.  I recall when I finally caved into the Effective Health model in WotLK and my Healers noticed a stark difference and I had at least one whispering me about the positive impact they saw almost every raid night for weeks.

Mastery to Dodge change?  Not a peep.  Even when I asked if there was a noticeable difference, nope.

The point was to illustrate a case in which Cataclysm mechanics appear to be less sensitive to gear optimization, which of course reduces the need/value of serious Theorycrafting.

My Take

I guess it serves the greater good, in a sense.  If you don't need a spreadsheet to figure out what gear to take, then I guess that will let you focus on the game a bit more or perhaps have more free time outside of the game (which you can then kill blogging about it).

I feel for the folks that lost something that was fun for them, but honestly I would love to see their math skills be put to something more beneficial.  Maybe we will get lucky and one of them will figure out how to save our rapidly diminishing fisheries...

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