Thursday, July 29, 2010

Its not about teh sword, part II

We recently lost a player in our guild due to the concept that there is no gear check for our raids.  Now my guild leader has shouted from the rooftops that gear shouldn't be a deciding factor in our raids.  He's completely right about that. There is a mage on our server with a 6k gear score that can't find his ass with a map and a flashlight.  The guild  Undergeared  is running ICC in blues.  How is this at all possible?  Can something besides gear really matter?  Fire and brimstone coming down from the sky! Rivers and seas boiling!  Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!

Most every time that someone is out dps'd by someone in the same class the response is, "But they have better gear!"  When was the last time you heard "oh they must be a better player"?   Lets face it we all think we're highly skilled players. No one likes to admit that maybe we could stand to learn a few things or fix a few things. We're uber damnit!

The Unimportance of Gear
How much better does dps get with each full tier of upgrades?  The easiest way to answer this is to use  Zeherah's DPS analyzer This is not about predicting actual dps numbers its just about analysis.  Where it says that an upgrade will give you a 20% increase, you'll usually see that 20% increase.

DPS by item level (Raid buffed)

Item Level  DPS
  Blues     6,013
  213   6,813
  226   8,334
  245   9,268
  264 10,869

This shows us that going from the worst level 80 gear to the best level 80 gear is not going to double your dps.  Each full tier of gear is giving around a 12% - 20% upgrade. This means that if you're doing 6k dps in mostly ilvl 245 gear, you can expect to do around 7k in mostly ilvl 264 gear.

Now something to remember, the better your skill is, the more dps you'll get out of your gear. Two hunters will not necessarily see the same dps increase from getting Deathbringer's Will. The better player will get substantially more out of the same gear.

Everything in WoW is an extreme  You're either a skilled hunter or a useless huntard.   There is a middle ground, the line that separates the two; competence. I think most people, hunters and non hunters alike, confuse hunter competence with hunter skill.

The majority of hunters are competent.  They have a good build, good glyphs, the right epic gems & enchants, a good pet with a good spec, and know their shot priority. They have some basic macros and understand the mechanics of the game.

In other words these hunters spend a couple hours on the web, find a reliable source of hunter information, read and understand it, and then copied all that information onto their character.  They can probably pull  about 6-7k dps in the 25 man ICC Lower Spire bosses.  Upgrading gear a full tier will net the competent hunter about 900ish dps.

All of this does not make a skilled hunter, just a competent one.

Everybody got to elevate from the norm
There are no stand still and shoot fights in ICC, or in RS.  There are very few fights where you shoot at only one boss.  For the competent hunter moving around and target swapping will lower their hunter's dps, especially with Marks.   Movement should never interrupt the timing of your shots -- every 1.5 seconds another should be going off.

Here are the key skills that separate a skilled hunter from a competent one:

Jump-Shot: The quintessential hunter skill that lets us shoot any instant shot on the move, regardless of our orientation.  Jump shot lets you hit things in front of you, beside you or behind you.

Disengage: This is an under utilized hunter ability in raids. Disengage lets you cover a good distance fast, and you can shoot while disengaging. With a bit of practice, you can Disengage in the direction you're running with a jump-disengage. It's harder to learn but well worth the effort.

Shoot and Scoot: This has been a movement trick of hunters since vanilla. The concept is when you're moving you stop for a fraction of a second any time your auto shot is available so that you don't lose auto shots while moving. I use an add-on to track the auto-shot timer, some people can use the sound of their weapons. 

Understanding Boss Fights: One of the most important aspects, along side movement management.  Most boss fight elements are predictable and can be planned for, and understanding and thinking about how to maximize abilities on a boss fight is key to maximizing dps. This includes knowing the best time to burn cooldowns, knowing what abilities not to waste on adds, having shots ready on stand-by, and maximizing multi-target dps.

A skilled hunter is intimately familiar with the hunter class and has practiced skills like jump-shot, shoot & scoot, and disengage as well as truly studied the boss fights with an eye to dps optimization.  They are probably pulling 8k+ on ICC Lower Spire bosses in the same gear as a competent hunter. Upgrading their gear a full tier will net a gain of about 1,200 dps.   More than that of the simply competent hunter.

Which am I?  I'll toot my horn, I am an above average hunter.  I think I could work harder to be better.  There is one hunter in my guild who is far better than I am (his name rhymes with Worfin).    His skill is not held back by his gear.  He doesn't play much these days and that's a pity because he makes me work harder at being better.  I have a sneaking suspicion that I do the same for him

Skill vs. Gear
Gear is simply a measure of dps potential while skill is the ability to reach that potential.  In a world of mediocrity we associate poor performance with a failing of gear, rather than a failing of ability.  You can do ToC in all blues.  You can beat Festergut's dps check in Ulduar gear. Skill is more important than gear.  Concentration, situational awareness, and the condition of your lucky raid underoos will contribute more to your overall dps than a few pieces of upgraded gear.

So if you are having trouble killing Rotgut or Helion look in the mirror.  Its about you and your skills, its not about your epix.

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