Friday, December 5, 2008

The Effect of Gem Inflation on Socketed Items

Which of the following cloth belts would you rather have?

Belt 1: 42 Stamina, 30 Intellect, 49 Spell Power
Belt 2: 9 Stamina, 39 Intellect, 50 Spell Power, 7 Mana Regen/5 seconds

Don't get me wrong, stamina is a useful stat, since a dead mage deals no damage. Then again, so is mana regeneration, and that's actually a decent chunk of mana regen on top of minor upgrades on the other two stats. For most cloth casters, I'd call belt number 2 the clear winner.

The catch? Belt number 1 is the [Path Cutter's Cord], an ilvl 154 green quest reward from a level 74 quest in the Grizzly Hills. Belt number 2? That's the ilvl 138 [Gholamcloth Wrap], socketed with the lowest quality, cheapest Northrend gems (a [Runed Bloodstone] and a [Glowing Shadow Crystal] - note that you could trade in the 9 stamina for 6 spirit or 2 mana/5 for swapping to a different purple gem, or you could ignore the socket bonus and gain an extra 3 spell power for using two bloodstones) from a level 71 quest in the Howling Fjord.

Gem Inflation and Northrend Items
Those of you who ever considered epic quality gems may have noticed that the Bloodstone is good for 14 damage, which is two MORE damage than the epic quality [Runed Crimson Spinel] that represented the top of the line a month ago. This is not an accident - Blizzard did not want players to feel obliged to farm Karazhan for badges to buy gems, so they just wiped the gem slate clean by making even the weakest level 80 cut better than the best level 70. Enchantments went through a similar process.

The difference with gems, however, is that not every item has sockets. Blizzard clearly has some value they're assigning in the item budget for giving an item a socket compared to some other stat (say, more spell power). Additionally, items that spend almost all of their budgets on a large value of a single statistic receive a penalty for doing so, while adding a socket does NOT seem to add such a penalty, even though players can and will ignore the suggested colors to stack the stat of their choice. (I only socketed my hypothetical case with a red and a purple because the socket bonus was for spell damage.) The result is the example I gave above - a substantially lower level item with sockets is better than a higher level item that does not have sockets.

Obviously, it's not breaking news that some quest rewards are better than others. Also, Blizzard claims to have made a conscious decision to avoid sockets in leveling items, since players will be replacing them over time. Still, I can't help but wonder whether they fully anticipated the effects of making socketed gems more powerful. People coveted items they could fill with red gems in TBC as well, but more powerful gems may exacerbate the problem. As it is, it looks like an item with more sockets will be better than a nominally more powerful item with fewer sockets for what - I'm guessing - may be longer than Blizzard has in mind.

Changing the profession landscape?
It will also be interesting, or perhaps alarming, to see what this change does to jewelcrafting. I previously discussed Wrath's changes to BoP profession perks. With an increased focus on sockets, the jewelcrafter-only gems may increase in value simply because everyone has some blue/yellow socket they're rather not have to fill with a purple/orange gem.

Case in point, the Mage forum at has a pair of threads going on in which disgruntled tailors are pondering the benefits of dropping tailoring. As a mage with tailoring, I have to admit that I'm at least considering Jewelcrafting (once I get my alts high enough to do my mining for me, I'm neither dropping enchanting nor buying literally all the minerals I'd need off the AH), and the need to fill sockets weighs heavily in that decision.


Anonymous said...

It's really nice for my warrior who is a JC. Was geared in T5/badge/S2 gear since I stopped playing mid S3 before recently re-subbing for WoTLK.

More than half of my gear had 2+ gem sockets and after filling them with the new green gems I make myself I've only upgraded 3 items (1 weapon, 1 ring, and neck) at 76.
The ring and neck were only side grades but going Titan's Grip changed my stat focus slightly to more hit and expertise.

I've been looking ahead and sadly I don't think I'll see any real upgrades to my only decent TBC gear till I hit 80 and start doing normal 5 mans or possilby even Heroics. This is mostly due to all of my gear having at least one socket and the gem inflation. Other than the stam levels increasing noticeably over TBC levels this has made WoTLK gear seem quite lackluster thus far.

Anonymous said...

I bought all the ore needed (except 2 spare stacks of iron I had lying about) to drop engineering and level JC about 10 days ago. Cost to get to 350 was 1200 gold. Not bad at all considering, and I think without a doubt worth it for the +27 strengthx3 I get to put into blue sockets =)

Green Armadillo said...

@ Anon #1:
Well, I'm not sure if you are "supposed" to be replacing the gear you started with earlier than 76 anyway (I entered TBC with T2 stuff and didn't replace the last of it until late in Blade's Edge), but the gems - combined with the lack of sockets on the leveling stuff - certainly help its longevity. We might not have seen all the raid content at 80 fall so fast had Sunwell gear with updated gems/enchants not been viable for a competent raid.

@ Anon #2:
Well, that's good to know. I'm almost certainly going to level mining on my Death Knight (I was originally going to make the DK the Jewelcutter, but it actually doesn't make sense to do that on an alt because so many cuts are rep-based), so that part will cost me less. I'm definitely going to consider it once I'm done with leveling and setting my alts up with appropriate bags etc.

Herc said...

Currently BS/Mining on my warrior. I'm loving the extra sockets that I can put on my gloves and bracers.

I just wished the gems counted for the Meta gem requirements ... that would be have been awesome.

Now Instead of putting +16str I'm having to put blue gems in it to activated the meta gem >_<

I'm really tempted to try out JC not because of the gems but for the amount of money it brings. Blue gems are selling like crazy these days I dunno how long will this keep up but with S5 right around the corner .... I dunno

Maybe someday I'll do it on my alt when I get the chance.