How to choose Gear without a lot of Math

blackboard-equationA huge amount of the final stage of Warcraft is progression at end game. You can do dailies, or RP to your hearts content, but most players are trying to get the even diminishing returns that comes with improving their gear.

Knowing what gear you should be aiming for is critical; which requires understanding of stats and a bit of math.

Percentages of Ratings, tweaks in dps stats, and all sorts of figures and interrelated numbers that make the small but noticeable difference. Some awesome bloggers, forums, and webpages publish “Best in Slot” or “new to 80s” gear lists. Others even tell you where to find the upgrades. This is golden advice and very often easy to follow.

However if you want to verify an item, dig for what more subtle upgrades you need next, or even just qualify that what you have is reasonable; you’ll need a personal-gear-advice-slave, or some skill with a gear website.

Q. But what if you want to do it yourself, but fear the math?

A. Well you can read on to find out how I do a series of simple steps to create lists of items that are desirable. Teach a man to fish….etc. However the best results are gained if you embrace a little theory, and start crunching.

Warning: This is a long article.

Firstly I have to say that learning to do gear checking and the math is highly valuable to your performance. If you’re new to this aspect of World of Warcraft it really is worth spending time and brain power. Think of it as an investment in the time you’ll be playing from this point forward in the game.

Its also plain to me in retrospect that a little knowledge is a very enabling thing when it comes to your enjoyment. Personally I get a kick out of doing well in the game, and some of my recent improvements have only been really possible because of understanding the basics of how the combat system works.

On the flip side its also not too hard to learn the basics of the theory because you do not need to learn everything. Just pick up the stats and terms needed for your class role.

Step One – Determine the key attributes for your Class and Role

Different roles need different stats on their gear which is pretty obvious. Reading widely (WoW Wiki, Class Forums, EJ forums) will let you know what are the key stats for your class and build. Don’t worry too much about what order they are prioritised in after the first few, as the first two to three stats are probably the critical ones to begin with, and most gear you’ll be interested in will generally hint at the others anyway.

Also most roles have similar stat requirements.ย  So if you’re reading that Agility is good for Crit for a Feral Druid, it stands to reason that it is also good for a Rogue; as they use very similar mechanics (ie. melee dps using combo point attacks). However there are differences between all the melee dps classes, like Strength is great for Death Knights and Warriors, but not as important as Agility for Feral-melee-dps Druids and Rogues. Agility is damn handy for Warriors and Death Knights as a secondary stat.

Here is a quick but incomplete breakdown of stats by class. This is not absolute, and might be incorrect or change order for specific circumstances, some builds, or even due to me getting this wrong. Re-check your class yourself please! If you want a detailed website, that has good examples of what I mean then check out the Templates page on Loot Rank.

What you’ll also find is that many items will have some of a stat and none of another, and in combination you’ll need to decide what to pick. This is where it becomes tricky. But don’t be disheartened, as most items that are useful will hint at those stats anyway. eg. You’ll note from reading about Agility that it adds AP for Rogues and Druids, as 1 Agi = 2 AP. For DKs 1 Str = 2 AP. You’ll find that the two handed sword with nice dps stats is probably OK for most 2H weapon users. The cross over between roles in classes is very intentional, and saves the game from having a lot of gear which is only useful to a single class role combination.

Quick tip: Keep gear when you replace it, even if it looks average compared to the new item. You never know when you might want the item back. I trashed a quest reward ring while leveling that had a huge amount of Hit Rating on it, and then found later due to other upgrades that I needed more Hit Rating again. Alas it was too late. Keep the old gear until you’re sure its superfluous.

It may also be handy for an alternate spec, or be used for building sets for specific fights.

For Death Knights the stats you need are:

  • Hit, till youโ€™re at the Melee Hit Cap
  • Expertise, till the Expertise Cap
  • Strength
  • Agility
  • Crit Rating
  • Attack Power
  • Armour Penentration

Step Two – Figure out what your Threshold values are

This basically means figure out what your minimum stats are to do the job right. i.e. Hit Rating is key for a dps class, but different Classes and builds have different needs. The WoWWiki page about each stat and score are awesome for this.

Your build will also help dictate what values are needed, so take note of any bonuses you might have. An example of this is Death Knights need a massive amount of Hit Rating when wielding two weapons, when compared to wielding a two-hander.

Now as I’m a Death Knight, I’ll list values for a level 80 who is Raiding. The scores needed for heroics are slightly lower, and certainly a lot lower if you’re not at 80.

1) Hit Rating – 262.32 for Two Handers. This is because the base miss chance is 8%, and to reduce this miss chance downward you need 32.79 rating per 1%. This does not include abilities from your Race (such as Draenei 1% hit) or any abilities from your Spec (such as Virulence in the Unholy tree, which can grant up to 3% hit).

So if you were a Draenei Unholy Death Knight you’d only need 4% Miss Reduction, or Hit Rating of 131.16. Now also remember that the Character Screen includes all active specs, racials, temporary buffs, and bonuses in what it shows you. This is so that you can switch gear and see your final stats easily. If the Hit Rating screen tells you that you are at 262, then you’re right on the money.

Hit Rating also does not have a lot of use for most classes once you are beyond the “hit cap“. This means that for most classes, if you have over 262.32 Hit Rating then you are better off changing gear, enchants, or gems to remove some of it, and grab some of the other stats below.

An aside: Its a strange thing that Unholy Death Knights are one class that normally would be considered a Melee dps class, so the 8% Hit Rating Cap applies, but so to does the higher Spell Hit Cap of 446. But an Unholy DK who prioritises Spell Hit over the other stats below is being silly in my humble opinion.

So aim for a rating of 262 to 263 and you’ll be fine.

2) Expertise – The cap for dps is 6.5% or 26 expertise (214 expertise rating). This is again based upon the fact that bosses have a base chance to dodge attacks, even from behind, and 26 Expertise will counter the 6.5% chance.

Expertise is an odd stat, as there is a basic improvement as you add each fully % reduction, and no point in having any Expertise until you get Hit Capped. Its also just like Hit where points above 214 Expertise Rating are almost always wasted.

An exception: might be a boss that has abilities that lower Hit, increase Dodge, etc, or some other affect. Then two things are worth considering. Firstly that it might be handy to have a set of gear for this if you can spare the loot, and secondly most of the boss mechanics will be designed so that you really don’t need a special set of gear for trick fights. Get it if you can, but don’t stress too much. Just like Frost Resist Gear in Saph in Naxx – its handy, sometimes critical while you’re gearing up, but the fight can be done without it.

So get yourself to the Expertise Cap, and enjoy it.

3) As much as possible in this order: Strength, Agility, Crit Rating, Attack Power, and Armour Penetration.

Of course change this to suit your class, but as a basic guide grabbing these stats will have you seeing reasonable overall stats. A Death Knight gems for Strength first, and each class will have their own first choice.

Also remember these are choices and they have relative values. There is a thing called Attack Power Equivalency (APE), where the stats above are balanced against each other. Its a tad more detail that I want to cover here, but it is valuable. So if you think this is all a bit basic, but have never heard of this, go Google and read.

Special socket note: You’ll need to watch the bonuses from sockets to make sure you get anything worth while, but also remember that you should ignore socket bonuses that are not useful. Most of the time this dump stat will be Stamina for DKs. As dps you’ll have plenty as it is, so ignore it. The only reason to get a socket bonus that might not be valuable is when that facilitates a Meta gem requirements.

Step Three – Pick one item in your current gear

Lets assume that you’ve been luck enough to grab Cryptfiend’s Bite from Naxx. Its a really good weapon, but is out classed by some other Naxx gear, and certainly inferior to the Ulduar gear.

For the particular item note its bonuses:

  • +51 Agi
  • +108 Stam
  • +58 Crit rating
  • +77 Haste rating
  • +200 Attack Power

Pop open WoW Head, search for your weapon, and then hit the Compare button in the top middle-right. This will plug the item into a compare screen, which we’ll use later.

Step Four – Do a basic search, scan the results

Select Database > Item > Weapon


So many items, which are good? Certainly not all of them.

Step Five – Get creative with Filters

Try these settings in the filter, then hit Apply Filter.

  • Put Level min: 213
  • Quality: epic
  • Slot: Two hand
  • Usable by: Death Knight

Your results will now be much more useful. Showing a much smaller list of items that are actually useful, should be around 32 or so.


Step Six – Further Tune the Search

Then use the optional extra filters to further tune your results. Handy extra filters are:

  • Any of your priority Stats from the early steps
  • The source of the item.
  • Excluding a source, like selecting that you do not want items from PvP.


Note: Be realistic about what gear iLevel you have access to. Heroic runs offer higher gear, but you may not have access to them in your guild runs. Limiting the search to between 213 and 219 will show you the 10 man hear that is most obtainable.

Step Seven – Compare and Contrast

When you think you have one that is a choice item, select it and click compare, and it will load it into the same compare screen where you loaded in the weapon you’re using now. You can add many items, and let WoW Head do the had work in math comparison.

wowhead-compareStep Eight – Bookmark for Later

You can bookmark each search, to come back later for review or send to others

Its as easy as that. You can repeat for each Gear location on your character, tuning the results for more AP, better Hit Rating or whatever. Its all in there.

12 thoughts on “How to choose Gear without a lot of Math

  1. Thankyou! Bit rushed at the end, but felt that the main two points were covered, and the guts of how to are really things you have to do.

    A key goal I should have made clear too is to keep the searches broad and narrow them using your filters, rather than trying to find the best item straight away.

  2. Hey Andrew, you’re missing mages from your list entirely… ๐Ÿ˜› Do you hate us?

    Seriously, I am approaching 80 with my mage and I’m a first-timer so I’m looking for resources. I was excited when I found this post, because it seems like it’s hard to find things until you know where to look. Lots of good general rules, here, I think it will be helpful. Thanks!

  3. I like Mages, and even have one around level 40. But I couldn’t speak at all to what stats they need or the priority for them with any authority.

    My guess would be Hit until Spell Hit Capped (17% or something), Spell-Power, Int, Spirit, Crit Rating, and maybe MP5 if the item has it but not as a priority. Kind of like my Shadow Priest?

    I also suspect that the way to itemise a Mage changes when you have different builds too.

  4. I know probably less about it than you do… but from what I’ve read (about arcane specifically), I think crit and haste both rank above spirit, and I’ve never seen anyone recommending mp5 for mages (although I don’t know why, I personally am constantly drained :P).

    But I don’t know, I might be reading old stuff too. It’s so hard to find the right information sometimes. I think someone should make a blog post specifically for “Gearing up Rhii at level 80″… sadly, I think I’m going to have to do it myself.

  5. Pingback: The Silver Hand: Paladin Community Round-Up (July 3rd) | Antherwina's Corner

  6. From what I have read Spirit is next to useless for mages, except for Arcane builds.

    And 1 agi = 2 AP for you melee DPS types? I’m pretty sure for hunter’s it’s only a 1:1 thing ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I could be wrong though and haven’t checked before making this comment heh but I seem to recall the change happening at the beginning of BC and much QQ being had.

    Kudos on writing a great article on a subject that is of benefit to all of us who like to progress our characters through improved gear.

    I’ve recently been researching how to make the most of my priest as both holy and shadow spec and my method is to research stat weightings via places like EJ and bloggers for that class and then plug those weightings into loot rank, set some criteria for the loot and see what comes out.

  7. @ Jezrael
    I’ve been just collecting some data at WoWwiki and just want to tell you, that according to their data, hunters get 1AP for every 1strength or 1agility.

    You might want to check out their site if you need some more stats

    @OP Great post ๐Ÿ™‚

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