Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mage Rewards With Spirit and Patch 3.1

On a recent Naxx PUG, I spent a greed roll to collect the [Boots of Persuasion]. These seem like exactly the kind of item I usually try to avoid - technically ilvl 213, but a downgrade from the ilvl 200 [Sandals of Crimson Fury] due to wasting large amounts of item budget on spirit. So, what was I thinking?

Changing the rules on mage gear
The change to mages' Molten Armor, nerfing the base ability to allow it to scale with levels of spirit available only to raiders, still smarts. However, it appears to be a done deal, so we might as well make the best of it. Those boots are a downgrade now, but I may be able to squeeze a slight upgrade out of them when the spirit changes go live.

I've posted a few gear guides for mages since Wrath came out, and there are a number of items that are improving as a result of mages getting crit rating from spirit (currently 55% with the Molten Armor glyph, subject to further changes on the PTR). The rundown:

Rep Rewards
- The [Pigment-Stained Robes], available at level 76 and honored with the Kalu'ak, picks up almost 31 crit rating as a result of the change. As a leveling reward, this is notable because many mages may already have the 3% spell hit most specs need to cap against +2 mobs. Suddenly the spirit version is better in some cases than the 38 hit rating on the [Turtle-Minders Robe] (available from the same rep vendor).

- The [Gnomish Magician's Quill] picks up a bit over 9 crit rating, but is still a bit lackluster. Wands just don't get that many stats to work with. Then again, most players will probably complete the revered rep requirement through quests, so it is at least easy to obtain.

- Two separate glove options - the [Muddied Crimson Gloves] for revered with the Frenzyheart (gains 28 crit), and the level 80 [Sterile Flesh-Handling Gloves] for revered with Ebon Blade (22.5 crit rating), gain a bit of ground. The only catch with the Ebon Blade version is that you need to finish many of the level 80 quests in Icecrown to unlock the daily quests, and you might get better gloves via dungeons or whatnot in the mean time.

- For those siding with the Oracles over the Frenzyheart, there's the [Fishy Cinch] (28 crit rating).

- Wyrmrest offers the [Ancenstral Sinew Wristguards], which gain just shy of 15 crit rating from the spirit changes, and the number goes up to 19 if socketed with a purple gem that includes spirit. (This +4.4 applies to any such partial blue gems in your gear, which improves some already-good items like the [Sandals of Crimson Fury] that don't have spirit by default but do carry a blue gem slot.)

Emblem of Heroism Rewards
- The [Elegant Temple Gardens' Girdle] gains 23.65 crit (slightly more if you happen to be putting a yellow gem in it), but is still not recommendable over the [Plush Sash of Guzbah] under any circumstances whatsoever (not even if you don't need the hit, in which case you'd probably be wearing a different belt anyway).

- The [Ward of the Violet Citadel] remains the top choice in off-hands for mages who aren't at the hit cap, but the [Handbook of Obscure Remedies] is suddenly a competitive option for mages who don't need the hit rating, offering up 21 crit and 25 haste in exchange for 25 crit and some redundant hit rating.

- The [Encircling Burnished Gold Chains] gain just shy of 19 crit rating to sit alongside 25 hit rating, making it one of the biggest winners amongst gear mages might actually use in entry level raiding - it carries the low price tag of 25 emblems. Usual caveats about the hit cap apply, you might prefer the [Lattice Choker of Light] if you're in that boat. That said, do a price check on the BOE [Chain of Latent Energies] before you spend the badges in either case. I've been waffling on whether to purchase that one for a while now, but the price finally got driven down to a mere 700 gold by all the Naxx-farming guilds on my server, so I finally snapped one up. The chain beats both alternatives.

- The [Tattered Dreadmist Mantle] is technically a mage Heroism item with spirit, but remember that spirit won't give crit rating until you get Molten Armor at level 62. I maintain that the [Exquisite Sunderseer Mantle] from Wintergrasp is superior.

- The [Heroes' Frostfire Robe] is the other big winner, gaining 33 crit rating to go with the 51 it already has. I'm still reluctant to spend 80 emblems on a robe I could win outright off of Archavon any week now, but the spirit on the robe is much less of a handicap to its budget than it used to be.

Emblem of Valor Rewards
I haven't actually looked at mage Valor rewards before, because every single one besides the tier armor tokens and PVP gear spends a crippling amount of its budget on spirit or mana regen. What do I make of the five items with spirit now?

- The BOE [Wraps of the Astral Traveler] gain 23.65 crit rating. Compared to the [Azure Cloth Bindings] I'm wearing now, I'd be losing 26 crit rating to gain 6 spell power and 28 spell hit. Good deal if you need the hit, not so good of a deal if you don't. I can't imagine spending 60 badges on this thing, but I'll watch the AH prices to see what it actually ends up costing in gold.

- The [Disguise of Kumiho] gains 20 crit rating. Compared with my [Deathchill Cloak], I'd be gaining 6 spell power and 38 int in exchange for 22 crit and 12 haste after the patch. You recover about half of the crit due to the intellect, but that's still nearly a 4:1 trade of combat ratings for spell power. I love my spell power, but that's way past the point where I draw the line.

- The [Band of Channeled Light] is a potentially major winner. It would be displacing my [Signet of Hopeful Light], which is already an upgrade of 7 haste and 7 spell power before you account for the 17.6 spirit crit rating. (It would also come in above the potential Arena S6 honor ring or rings.) I'll still be going after my T7.5 shoulder token first, but this ring is a potentially great value at 25 emblems, especially if it becomes feasible to farm 4 per week from Wintergrasp through the new boss.

The Valor Shoes
The last two items in our round-up are a pair of boots at 40 Emblems of Valor each, the haste-based [Slippers of the Holy Light] and the hit-based [Xintor's Expeditionary Boots]. Each item gains just over 30 crit rating from their massive chunks of spirit. It's a bit complicated to do a direct comparison with the [Sandals of Crimson Fury] since the latter item has a socket, but players may be choosing to use that socket for a blue or purple gem to feed their metagem requirement.

Let's say that you compare the Sandals and the Slippers, presuming that the sandals have been socketed for 9 spell power and 8 spirit. The slippers gain 2 spell power and about 27 crit, in exchange for 14 haste. This is generally going to be an upgrade for most mages (less so for Frost specs, who have terrible crit scaling at the moment), but not a door-buster. If you swap out that purple gem for a red one (only fair to the sandals, since the outfit with the slippers would be making up that purple gem somewhere else), the tide turns slightly - the slippers lose 8 spell power and 14 haste, in exchange for 30 crit, which is starting to fall into side-grade territory, depending on how you value your combat ratings.

As always, the hit shoes will fare substantially better if you need the hit rating, and substantially worse if you do not.

Finally, those of you with money to burn will note that the BOE [Arcanic Tramplers], which drop off of Malygos-25, also stand to gain over 30 crit rating. This will blow even the red-socketed sandals out of the water, gaining 3 spell power and 30 crit rating in exchange for only 5 haste rating, and is also the only BOE ilvl 226 item in the game at the moment, if you care for the bragging rights.

Longterm effects of spirit, or the lack thereof
While this post has covered part of the silver lining for the molten armor redesign, my point with the previous example is that spirit may now be a DPS stat, but that doesn't automatically make it a good one. The spirited Tramplers are two full tiers above the ideally-stated sandals, and only pulled out into a commanding lead after Blizzard increased the Molten Armor number in testing (it could still drop before the patch is released, though I suspect that is unlikely). The emblem of valor shoes, a single tier above the sandals, can be arguably called side-grades.

This is where Blizzard's spirit revamp for mages still falls short - items that have spirit weigh in about a tier below where they would be without it. That's fine if literally every item in the game carries spirit (as long as mages are balanced around that fact), but becomes a problem when they choose to continue to sprinkle in items that do not spend budget on spirit.

If Blizzard is not very careful with their itemization (I'm not bored enough to go through the entire Ulduar loot table, given that I'm probably not going to see the place for months, if ever), it's going to be very very easy to identify the best-in-slot mage items. Just look for the one without spirit or MP5 and you have your winner. To the extent that this means the spirit-less mage can arrange their entire gearset to gain a entire tier over their comrades, at the cost of being limited to one precise cherry picked gear set, this could end up being a very poor design call.


DeftyJames said...

GA. My mage is only level 50 so some of the issues that you raise aren't exactly relevant...yet. But one of the things that I have been trying to puzzle out is just how important haste is to mages. You talk about it a little but I don't really understand it. When I look at the numbers, I'd rather have more crit than haste. I got in a long discussion in-game with a mage who insisted that being specced frost, I have all the crit I need from talents.

I liked your discussion of the various item to look forward to end game, but I remain puzzled as to just how you determine the value of crit vs spellpower vs haste.

Green Armadillo said...

Haste is useful because it can bring down the casting time on your spells significantly. This not only improves your raw dps, it also gives you more opportunities to proc things (i.e. more total spellcasts over time), and a spell that has already gone off cannot suffer pushback if you're hit.

That said, I do think it's slightly overrated for solo content. It's not a stat you should be trying to avoid, but you will notice the effects of more frequent crits far more when solo than you will notice 0.1 seconds less spent casting. The effect is more apparent in raids, where you're going to be casting a hundred spells per fight at a target that someone else is tanking.

In terms of the raiding theorycraft numbers, the general rule of thumb is:
Hit (if not capped) > Spell Power > Haste > Crit (except for Frostfire specs)

The relative value of haste and crit, though, varies substantially with spec. You'd think that Frost mages would do well with 200% damage on crits, but none of their other abilities benefit from crits. That doesn't mean you should totally avoid crit (if for no other reason than because both haste and crit have diminishing returns), but it becomes a much lower priority.

The Theorycraft-o-matic says that a frost mage with my gear (non-raid, because that's what I was wearing when I logged) gets 0.31 DPS for a point of crit rating and 0.49 DPS for a point of haste. Meanwhile, the Frostfire spec has many additional talents that benefit from crits (the impressive 7K+ before ignite damage), and gains 0.62 DPS per point of crit rating, compared 0.58 DPS per point of haste off of the same gear. (This set is actually a bit haste-heavy, the numbers would shift slightly in haste's favor if the crit and haste ratings are closer.)

DeftyJames said...

Thanks for that reply. I guess the issue for me is that I really don't understand the logic of haste being better than crit. I keep hearing the numbers, but it seems to me that I don't really understand where the numbers are coming from. Yes, push back is a real issue but I find it unfathomable that even in a long raid the number of time where haste would make that much of a difference. Yes, I can see that there might be time where doing a spell .2 second faster might avoid a spell interruption that would otherwise happen, but I just can't imagine that push back happens so often for so long that it really makes that much of a difference.

Even if we assume that there is, all thing being equal, a .2 dps difference between haste and crit, even in a hour long fight that only manages to be 720 more damage over the course of an hour. (3600 seconds *.2). It hardly seems worth the time and trouble of obsessing about gear just for that fractional increase in damage.