For this post I plan to look at a sample progression of gear for a ranged DPS class (Mage) following the ideas I put forward in the previous introduction to scaling. I want to focus on the improvement across the tier 7 –> 8 boundary taking the following as our effective pieces of gear.

Tier 7 BiS: Gown of the Spell Weaver (official ilevel 213, calculated ilevel 212.1509)

Tier 8 BiS?: Conqueror's Kirin Tor Tunic (official ilevel 226, calculated ilevel 228.3120)

Ok, lets take the existing Tier 7 best in slot item as being a good example of gearing for a mage (it looks good to me, intelligence, stamina, crit, hit and spellpower, no wasted sub-optimal stats on it). From this we create our mythical Tier 8 gear using the new required third combat rating ‘spell penetration’.

The objective of altering the progression is to produce multiple tiers of gear which are appropriately and perfectly provisioned without falling into the “+2 to each stat” problem noticed by Ghostcrawler and others. The solution as I see it is to force the introduction of stat diversity onto gear which will make more effective use of the ilevels available to a piece of gear due to the nature of the ilevel formula.

Moving on with the example progression.

Tier 7 best in slot chest piece:

Gown of the Spell-Weaver
Binds when picked up

Slot: Chest (213)
Type: Cloth, 308 Armor

+85 Stamina
+70 Intellect

Yellow Socket
Socket Bonus: +3 Critical Strike Rating

Durability 100 / 100
Requires Level 80

Equip: Improves hit rating by 72 (2.74% @ L80).
Equip: Improves critical strike rating by 50 (1.09% @ L80).
Equip: Increases spell power by 110.

Mythical Tier 8 best in slot chest piece:

Mythical Gown
Binds when picked up

Slot: Chest (226)
Type: Cloth, 314 Armor

+75 Stamina
+80 Intellect

Yellow Socket 
Red Socket
Socket Bonus: +6 Critical Strike Rating

Durability 100 / 100
Requires Level 80

Equip: Improves hit rating by 60.
Equip: Improves critical strike rating by 55.
Equip: Improves spell penetration rating by 50 
Equip: Increases spell power by 120.

Looking at this item it improves intellect slightly at the cost of stamina, and drops hit rating for a significant increase in spell penetration (0 –> 50 rating) and a slight increase in spell power. Comparing this upgrade to the Tier 8.5 chest:

Tier 8.5 chest Gown of the Spell Weaver

11 Int
50 Spi
6 Armor
32 Crit
22 Spell Power
1 Sockets

10 Sta
72 Hit

Mythical Gown Gown of the Spell Weaver
10 Int
6 Armor
5 Crit rating
60 SPen rating
10 Spell Power
1 Socket
10 Sta
12 Hit Rating


The second looks like box looks like a much better trade in my eyes, it focuses on the same strengths as the original best in slot item and reduces the hit rating slightly to account for increased hit on other items due to inflating ilevels. The gear becomes much more flexible by gaining a third rating on the gear (forcing it to spend points more effectively).

This can be carried out for any piece of gear, adding a third tier and the fourth and final combat rating to the piece we can simply add:

Mythical Gown Tier 9 Mythical Gown
5 Sta
10 Int
6 Armor
25 4th Combat rating
20 Spell Power
1 Socket
No losses

Or removing the third socket we can increase the fourth combat rating to 55-60 within budget.

Each tier and piece of gear is now clearly differentiated through the provision of these multiple combat ratings and the gear improvements are provided through additional stats as well as improved efficiency. A level 83 item will not be as efficient as these tiered end game epics due to the massive number of ratings on each comparing with perhaps one or two on a standard piece of gear. The only issue comes in with the fourth raiding tier which does not add a fifth rating but instead follows the “+2” pattern, however I would like to think that in this case the gear will be optimised better than others with the knowledge that the hit and penetration caps have been reached leading to a spell power / crit focus for this late game gear.

Hard mode gear is not a tier advanced from the equivalent tier level gear, and as such follows the “+2” model but again as with the fourth tier gear improvement spends the budget on non-required ratings such as crit and spell power. This gives meaningful divisions within hard mode vs tier+1 gear, the hard mode gear will be harder hitting, the tier+1 gear will be less hard hitting but more likely to hit the higher level bosses of that tier. This gives an interesting option to mix and match gear where needed and indeed the best in slot option may be a mixture of previous tier hard mode gear (which we want to encourage guilds to go back and see even if they are progressing the next tier), and the current tier gear. This can be enforced by the provision of trinkets and accessories providing very large volumes of the required combat ratings for each tier allowing flexibility.

I think that is enough of a rough overview of how I see gear progression based on these ratings. There can of course be alterations and the value of each rating can be adjusted to fit viably within the ilevels available. The gear does seem slightly more interesting than a simple “+2” version while still allowing near perfectly optimised gear at each tier meaning fewer outcries of “our gear is intentionally bad”.

(Ilevels calculated using my hacked together matlab file)

I have noticed a recent trend amongst posts by Ghostcrawler and others to note that gear must be badly itemised early in an expansion to allow a suitable gearing curve and progression of gear without simple “Tier 5 of Tier 4+2”. There are three major problems with Lich King in this regard.

1: Itemisation has changed (for example ilevel related armour has been lowered)
2: Each instance to date is similarly designed
3: There are no differences in tier requirements

Point one is largely irrelevant, the itemisation formulas are easy to change to meet the requirements of the instance. The issue of this however comes in for both tanking and PvP (as armour is useful in both) where tiers are now defined largely by those small stat differences rather than assisted by the inherent armour differences.

Point two is important, tier 4 was the first real tanking gear of TBC designed to enable the tanking of relatively hard hitting bosses in Tempest Keep and the Serpent Shrine Cavern. Its focus was on basic flexibility and a good base of abilities.Tier 5 was designed for the latter parts of these instances, mixing higher avoidance with the requirements for the trash of Mount Hyjal and Black Temple. Finally tier 6 was designed for sheer avoidance, enabling tanks to survive the hard hitting bosses of late tier 6 and Sunwell where two hits back to back could be lethal (and crushing blows guaranteed that a third back to back hit would ensure a Warrior tank’s death from the inevitable unlucky crush – which with 65% avoidance, 20% block it was almost guaranteed to be a crush).

Point three though is where I want to focus on, instance design drives itemisation and alas the instance design is “harder, faster, stronger” (aka Daft Punk mode). The issues is that this means proper itemisation results in tiers being the famed “+2 stamina”. This drives the idea that different tiers should require different statistics for full effectiveness, meaning that tier 10 is designed for those challenges while tier 9 is workable, but far from the most effective. This leads to my real thoughts.

Building Wrath of the Lich King to Scale

I will take caster DPS as the ideal example, taking the projected Lich King development:

Tier 7: Naxxramas 25, Eye of Eternity 25, Wyrmwrest (T7) 25, Vault of Archavon (T7) 25
Tier 8: Ulduar 25, Vault of Archavon (T8) 25
Tier 9: Argent Cathedral 25 (?), Vault of Archavon (T9) 25?
Tier 10: Icecrown Citadel (25), Vault of Archavon (T10) 25?

So there are roughly four tiers of content projected at the moment, meaning everything pre-tier 10 is either sub-optimised, has to represent an x+2 item, or must be irreplaceable in a similar way to the Dragon Spine Trophy. This is a bad plan in general because players know what well optimised gear looks like and understand it. Instead I suggest moving to a different system. If we presume that bosses can be different levels, then we can have:

Tier 7: Level 83 Bosses. (ilevel 213+13 hard)
Tier 8: Level 84 Bosses. (Ilevel 226+13 hard)
Tier 9: Level 85 Bosses. (ilevel 239+13 hard)
Tier 10: Level 86 Bosses. (ilevel 252+13 hard)
Tier 10 Hard: Level 87 Bosses. (ilevel 265)

Loot is now automatically scaled, and hardmodes are automatically harder than their normal counterparts by being effectively a tier ahead of the gear design of the current instance. This then allows different stats to have an effect.

Hit rating is the default tool to tweak, and will plateau towards a limit such that it is not much harder to hit a level 87 tier 10 boss than it is to hit a level 83 boss, this means that hit acts as the basic stat for gear to have, the early tiers can be choked full of this easily without allowing the simple replacement of hit later on as items acquire too much of it.

Bosses then have spell resistance (countered by spell penetration), rising from level 84 (so tier 8 bosses would start to become harder to actually hurt requiring the stacking of penetration as well as hit). This scales linearly with level requiring you to increase the stat at each stage in a similar way to the DPS requirement on a tier.

As a third stat (and adding as many as you like per planned expansion, but reasonably I would stick at 3 + fight specific requirements) I would see bosses gaining something akin to resilience requiring “Spell Knowledge” to defeat this mechanic. Again this can grow like the hit rating curve making it a very desirable stat into tier 10 and especially hard modes.

So What Changed?

Gear is now optimised with the following stats:

Tier 7: Intelligence, Hit Rating (Spell), Critical Strike Rating (Spell), Spell Power, Regen Stat (Spirit, MP5), Stamina.

Tier 8: Tier 7 + Spell Penetration.

Tier 9: Tier 8 + Spell Knowledge.

Tier 10: Tier 9 + 2 / different optimisation driven by spell knowledge.

The gear is now scaling better (more stats = more effective ilevels of worth per item due to the ilevel formula), and gear is optimised on a per tier basis. The trinkets at each tier offering +Hit, +Spell Penetration etc are optimised for the tier they are presented on, and can be used to fill gaps in later optimisation in a non-required way (Tier 7 gear + Tier 8 penetration trinket = ok Tier 9 gear). This then has the added benefit of not requiring such an increase in effective DPS across tier levels (13 million damage in 6 minutes for Patchwerk, 24 million for XT-002 in 6 minutes) as the bosses themselves are simply not efficiently taken down in incorrect gear.

The future?

This process can be easily complimented by good instance design, while TBC was not the best example of the process we can see for example Zul’aman forcing tank swapping and non-standard healing (heavy bleed bosses, burst spreadable across multiple tanks), active motion from the DPS, and effective use of bandages and other tools to meet the requirement of moving healers. Simply upping tank damage taken or raid damage reaches a fundamental limit (as seen on Muru where guilds took 5 healers due to the DPS requirement, not because 5 healers was a good choice), we need innovative ways to challenge the players which means movement, avoidable damage, strict resource usage and eventual deaths.

This system is applicable to all future tiers as the system is based on boss to player level difference. So when Tier 11 comes out it will be a replica situation to Tier 7, simply arranged gear with few stats, while Tier 14 will have more complex gear that makes more effective use of its ilevel without simply being presented as tier 11+6.

So ends another guild chapter in my WoW history.

I really should stop doing this, but I disagreed with the GM and he decided that it was an unforgivable insult and so after a long speech (thankfully delivered while I was in the Vault of Emalon so I didn't actually read it till later) I was /gkicked.

I can't say its honestly a bad thing, I believe in doing what is necessary for the raid however I do not believe in forcing people to do what is unnecessary. If the situation warrants it then you do everything you can, otherwise doing so is 99% pointless. Yes, a huge disagreement over a flask of stoneblood.

In a raid where the top dps is hitting 3.8k, and the next 3.2k with a projected kill of about 15-18 minutes and 7 healers (2 MT, 1 OT, 1 Slag, 3 Raid) it should really not be necessary for an OT to stack health like no tomorrow due to the very limited damage the fight projects onto them (its a similar situation to XT where the OTs flasking actually makes them harder to heal). Now I had freed up an extra dps as I can shatter the constructs on my own, and was keeping ahead of the add spawns with the shattering, yet 1.3k health would have apparently saved me from 9s without a heal (9s x 3kdps from scorch = 27k + 20k explosion = 47k, I don't have 47k buffed even in stam gear with flasks and dual stam trinkets :)). Surprisingly the GMs comment of heal yourself worked better, surviving two explosions through self healing.

I don't blame the GM, I just disagree with him. M&S this may make me, or just plain annoying but that is the way I am.

Anyway, since I am raiding less I have more time. Blog ahoy with the thoughts I have been having but not written up.