Wrath of the Lich King, in all its splendor, has served to make gear significantly more complicated with the abundance of combat ratings and the different ways statistics affect certain classes. Here to bring some order to the chaos is the intelligent casual, Xicon.
Welcome to the first of my posts about gearing your fresh 80. The early weeks of this blog will be littered with posts similar to these, but eventually they will level out and become relevant to current Azeroth. But for now, I give you these.
Gear can look overwhelming when you first see it. That shiny new Tier 8.5 epic piece you saw when you went to the Dalaran blacksmith? The model looks cool, but what’s with all these numbers? And this (0/5)? [/] Blue Socket? What is all this crap? For the answers, look no further than this post. Well, further past the break, but you get the point.
The first thing you need to understand about gear is item level. Every item in the game has an item level, usually referred to as iLevel. This number (now visible in-game through an interface option) determines quite a lot about the item. The higher the iLevel, the better it is (usually).
iLevel can also give an indicator of where items drop. Superior (blue) items of iLevel 200 drop from Heroic Dungeon bosses, while Epic (purple) items of iLevel 200 drop from either 10-man raids (Obsidian Sanctum and Naxxramas) as well as the final boss of a Heroic Dungeon. Items of iLevel 213 (all of them are Epic) drop from 25-man raids (Naxx and OS) and 10-man Eye of Eternity. As the raids get more difficult, the item levels get higher.
Tied directly into this concept is the idea of an item “budget”. This is not shown to players and is determined by its quality (Superior, Epic, Legendary) and its iLevel. The item budget determines what stats can be placed on the item and in what quantities. Think of it as a currency, and each point of <stat> costs a certain amount. This keeps items of similar level balanced.
With that said, we can now divide the two types of things you will see on items: stats and ratings. Stats (also known as Attributes) are the “white text” on the item – +52 Stamina and +54 Intellect on Val’anyr. These stats are the bread and butter of your character. Each stat does different things for each class. To find out what each stat does for your class (at baseline: certain talents can add special functionality to these stats), simply mouse over it on your Character Sheet. It will provide several lines of information:
- The stat and how much your character has
- The way it affects your character, each one on separate lines
Most commonly, the stats increase your ratings as well as your health (Stamina) and mana (Intellect). Stamina is a unique stat in that it serves only to increase the health of your character, and this remains constant for all 10 classes.
Ratings are the other side of the of the coin. Ratings are the “green text” on the item, always prefaced by the “Equip:” designation. There are a variety of ratings, which I will list below. Unlike attributes, ratings always perform the exact same function despite your class.
- Attack Power – Increases your physical damage.*
- Spell Power – Increases your spell damage.
- Critical Strike Rating – Increase your critical strike chance (expressed as a percentage).
- Hit Rating – Increase your chance to hit the target. (see below)
- Armor Penetration Rating – Allows your attacks to ignore a certain percentage of the target’s armor.
- Spell Penetration Rating – Allows your attacks to ignore a certain percentage of the target’s spell resistance.
- Haste Rating – Increases the speed at which your character attacks (melee) and casts.
- Defense Rating – Increases your Defense skill.
*Attack power, in the case of Paladins and Death Knights, also applies to offensive spells such as Howling Blast and Exorcism.
Now, while certain ratings will be better for some classes than other ratings, two ratings that are always beneficial are critical strike and hit. (Note: Hit is NOT required for healers. Heals don’t miss.) Hit is the MOST important rating once you hit 80. Your first goal in selecting to gear is to reach a number called “the hit cap”. This number (which varies from class to class) is the number at which it becomes impossible to miss a level 83 creature (boss mobs are always considered 3 levels above your character). For certain classes, such as Rogues, this number is so incredibly high that they have to gear for a “soft hit cap” for it to be feasible. A soft cap is just as effective as a hard cap.
Maintaining and reaching the hit cap will be covered in a later post (with helpful links to guide you per class). Once you have reached it, you can search for ratings that help your class more directly (most gear has a critical strike component already). A helpful list is below.
- Melee DPS – Armor Penetration Rating, Attack Power
- Casting DPS – Spell Power, Haste Rating
- Healers – Haste Rating, Spell Power
- Tanks – Defense Rating*
*For Tanks, the “Defense cap” is far more important than the hit cap – it is the point at which they cannot be critically hit by boss mobs. Again, more information on that in a coming article.