With my focus on incentives and upgrades, you might think that someone like myself would be relatively good at evaluating the quality of an item, and determining whether it represents an upgrade for my character. How else would I be able to make my cost/benefit decisions?
So imagine my surprise when it turns out that I picked up a major upgrade during my weekend Naxx PUG without even realizing that I had done so!
Revisiting the hit rating dance
I've posted before on the complexity of reaching but not exceeding WoW's hit cap. Despite all that analysis, I took a good look at the [Spire of Sunset] that Thaddius dropped and quickly decided that it was not a viable upgrade over my old combo of the [Flameheart Spell Scalpel and the [Ward of the Violet Citadel]. The staff was epic and shiny, but it spent a large chunk of its budget on mana/5s, and it did not have hit rating. I don't really need mana regen, and I do need hit rating, so that seemed like a bad deal. Focusing in on the DPS stats, the trade was:
[Flameheart Spell Scalpel + [Ward of the Violet Citadel] -> [Spire of Sunset]
+99 Haste, +46 Spell Power, -50 Crit, -72 Hit
It was late at night, so I wasn't really thinking about the hit rating sidegrades sitting in my bank.
[Belt of Dark Mending] -> [Girdle of Bane]
+48 hit, -55 Haste
(Note: the Girdle will gain some crit rating if the molten armor changes go live, making this a slightly better swap)
[Sandals of Crimson Fury] -> [Titan-forged Slippers of Dominance]
+44 Hit, -51 Haste, -18 Spell Power
(Note: The sandals are socketed with a red/blue spell power/stamina gem, while the slippers are socketed with a yellow/blue hit rating/stamina piece. I needed a partially-blue gem to maintain the bonus for my metagem, and decided that the foot slot was a good place to put it due to the socket bonus on the sandals.)
I'd previously dismissed using either item, as both give up more haste than they gain back in hit rating, where my other PVP sidegrades trade in haste rating at a 1:1 ratio for hit. To make matters worse, the Slippers lose spell power, and it rarely makes sense to give up spell power for similar amounts of anything. But what happens when I combine these two seemingly useless items with that staff I dismissed as a raid item?
Running Total For Above Swaps:
+28 Spell Power, -7 Haste, -50 crit, +20 hit
Looks a lot closer now, right? Only problem is, I was previously at 367 hit rating, and the cap is 368 (you only get a fractional benefit from the last point). So that +20 hit is actually a +0.5 hit, at which point I'm giving up a lot of haste and crit in exchange for a medium sized chunk of spell power. So, a downgrade and another pair of downgrades add up to remain a downgrade.... unless I can get rid of some of that excess hit rating.
See, it turns out that I have my [Water-Drenched Robe] socketed with two of the 16 hit rating [Rigid Autumn's Glow]. What if I tweak that?
2x[Rigid Autumn's Glow]->[Shining Forest Emerald]+[Runed Scarlet Ruby]+6 hit rating (bonus for using correct colored gems in the sockets)
-18 Hit, +19 Spell Power (also a free +8 spirit, potentially good for 2-3 crit rating next patch)
Note: Why the red and green gem, you might ask? The purple/orange combo, [Purified Twilight Opal] + [Veiled Monarch Topaz] yields one fewer spell power. I would technically come out neutral if I put the green and the orange in the robe and a red in the slippers (breaking its socket bonus, but it's only resilience), which would no longer need to carry a green gem since I would have one in the robe. I disfavor this option because I would like to replace the robe some day, after which I might end up putting a new green back into the slippers.
Now let's add in this minor gem adjustment with the three downgrades.
Total for the above, including resocketing the robe:
+47 Spell Power, -7 Haste, -50 crit, +2 hit
(Plus an amount of crit to be determined later because the swap adds 46 spirit to my gear.)
Suddenly, I'm trading crit rating at just about 1:1 for spell power. Suddenly, that item that I didn't think could be used in raids is a full-time upgrade that happens to come with a stack of mana regen as a complete bonus.
1 need, 1 greed, and a bunch of confusion
None of the above would really matter, except that I didn't call "need" on this item. I might not even have been willing to use my "greed" roll, had it not been for the fact that only two bosses remained in the dungeon (and none of their loot was likely to fall to "greed" status). Fortunately, staves have a bad reputation these days, and spirit appears to be more popular than mana regen, so it fell into my lap uncontested on a greed roll.
Obviously, I can't be sure whether the other folks in the raid who passed entirely on the item have a similar set of the banked spell hit sidegrades that I needed to make this complex swap work. I would be kicking myself this morning if I'd let the staff get away, except that I probably wouldn't even have KNOWN what I missed, as I wouldn't have done the above math if I hadn't been looking for a way to make the swap work.
So, why am I talking about this? You'd think that someone who spends all this time thinking about stuff like this would LIKE it when all of their competitors potentially failed to recognize an upgrade and passed on it. The reason is that Heroic Naxx has a 228 BOP item loot table, 95 of which are usable by mages (though some of those are melee weapons or jewelry). There is no way that even I have time to individually examine 60ish items to see if some combination of them plus something in my bank results in an upgrade. Evaluating those items will get even more complicated now that we have to consider that a portion of spirit is a DPS stat (whose value depends on whether you have a glyph, which is only worth having if you have enough spirit - a vicious cycle if ever there was one).
There is a value to having what gear players choose to wear make a difference. Still, I'm not sure that we haven't gone sufficiently in the direction of too many stats that it's no longer worth it.