Friday, April 23, 2010

Where itemization and retz don't agree.

This week we finally managed to kill Sindragosa. After 10 or so hours of wiping, more dumbass positioning mistakes (yours truly most certainly not excluded) than I've seen since Netherspite and more than one rather unsubtle ragequit, she finally knelt down to a hilariously messy attempt which I believe our maintank still have a heart attack in progress from. We're 11/12 now - only big man left.

When it came to rolling the loot, I won a pair of new bracers, the last piece of the pre-hardmode gearpuzzle for me. As you will notice, these bracers are indeed leather - as are my belt and crafted 264-boots. My rings are agility-based, even the Ashen Verdict one, my neck is the BoE 264-piece with agility on it and my cloak is the agility-back from Lord Marrowgar. In fact, apart from my 4-piece T10, only my weapon and chest are strength-based plate items.

The sum of these parts amount to a grand total of around 5500 attack power, 49,98% melee crit chance, 33 expertise, 0,00% armor penetration, and my 3,50 speed weapon swings on 3,10 (with absolutely no buffs). I've previously ranted that ArP only affects around 35-40% of my total damage, and with that frame of mind, I'm quite pleased with my reaching 0,00% (even if replacing those 7 expertise over the cap with ArP would probably be a slight DPS-increase). My point to all this?

I'm a paladin. Paladins traditionally wear plate. But looking at the Icecrown loot tables, the strength- and plate loot is stuffed to the brim with ArP, hit and expertise. I can only think of two plate pieces in the instance that does not have either of these stats on it - the bracers from Dreamwalker, and the chestpiece I'm currently using (for the record, the cloak from Gunship and neck from BQL, while not technically plate, is strenght loot with neither of the aforementioned stats as well).

The problem, however, is not the plate having these stats in itself. The problem is that plate loot traditionally have more item points invested in stamina and armor on top of their offensive stats. Furthermore, they have only two green stats. And with itemlevels as high as we're having in ICC, that means each item will have a huge chunk of whatever stat goes on it. In short, if I were to wear plate only, I'd be overcapped to the point of ridicule on hit and expertise, I'd have enough ArP to be comparable to Death Knights, and I'd probably hover around 40% crit raid-buffed.

Instead, I use leather loot, with less stamina than agility of the base stats, and three (rather than two) green stats. The amount of the itembudget that goes into a leather DPS item is a lot more focused around your offensive capabilities than your chances of survival - a paradox, really, as plate classes traditionally survive more damage than leather and mail classes in the first place. Of course there are leather items with hit, expertise and ArP on them, I even use a fair few to balance out my stats. But with the item level budget divided the way it is, these stats are far less dominating, making balancing them a much, much more tolerable job.

The result more or less speaks for itself. 49,98% unbuffed crit is a figure you shouldn't be able to reach as retz. In places like VoA25 and either ToC instance, I regularly out-DPS other paladins of similar gearlevel if they are pure-plate, more often than not, I destroy them - even if their white damage is higher average than mine from all that ArP. I could of course be bold and attribute this to my absolute awesomeness of skill, but realistically, the difference lie in the gear, and the balance therein.

I truly hope this is something that will get fixed in Cataclysm, even if I'm not around to see it. The first few signals are good - ArP being removed as a stat, and the new Mastery concept - but I suspect there's still some way to go. Item budgets will continue to increase, and the caps will necessarily have to be of such a nature that they are possible to reach in pre-raid gear. And as soon as the caps are filled, you need to balance the rest of the stats, making the cap loot on higher end gear less valuable - and thus replaceable by more or less anything with an offensive stat, if it's even a minor DPS upgrade. Because and upgrade is, after all, always an upgrade. If Mastery is to become so imporatant that you'll prefer to go over caps for it, I fear we'll fast spiral into another Sunwell/Icecrown-esque debuff that nerfs it at certain levels of mastery, simply because that for a stat to be THAT good, it will need to be massively powerful.

I sincerely hope Blizzard has a plan for this, and that they have learned their lesson on loot from WotLK. I remain sceptical, but we shall see. Until then, I'll take my leather kinky and black, please.

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