Monday, February 11, 2008

The Fallacy of Gear

Dorgol of Boulderfist posts a comment in the previous thread:

Removing attunements will HELP the guilds currently working on SSC / TK by allowing them access to T6 loot.

No, in my opinion, it won't. This is because gear is relatively unimportant in raiding in TBC. The natural progression of raiding prepares the guild gear-wise for the boss they are working on. By the time a raid reaches a given boss, the raid will have enough gear to tackle the boss. The only guilds who are undergeared for the content they are working on are Nihilium and the other Top 50 guilds. That's because they go through content at such a fast pace.

The rest of us are appropriately geared--or even overgeared--for the content we are working on. (Note that I'm talking on a raid level. It's possible to have a few new people who are individually undergeared.)

There are four elements to defeating boss fights. From most important to least important, they are:

1. Strategy
2. Execution
3. Skill
4. Gear

Gear, though necessary, is the least important of these. In my experience, every time my guild has had issues on a fight in TBC, it has been because of one of the top 3 reasons, never gear.

Unfortunately, most lower level raiders do not believe this, or at best pay lip service to it. Tobold called Gruul a gear check. Gruul is in no way, shape, or form, a gear check. The DPS requirements to kill Gruul are easily in reach of a blue-geared character who knows how to play her class.

I have been through the learning process for Gruul with two different guilds (Valarin was drafted to fill out a raid). With Coriel, our first problem was being killed by Shatters, which we fixed by using the safe spots (Strategy error). The second problem involved too low DPS, and that was fixed by focusing on hit rating and proper rotations (Skill error). With Valarin, the main issue was that healers were letting the tank die at about Growth 12 (Execution error). Note that none of these errors had anything to do with gear.

But gear is the only variable that Blizzard controls, without nerfing the fight directly. Blizzard cannot improve our strategy, execution, or skill. So they add in more gear, hoping to compensate for the lack of the other three elements.

You need to spend time on boss fights, improving your strategy, execution and skill. That will serve your guild far better than attempting to gear up for the fight. In many ways, I think that skipping Kael/Vashj for early T6 content is a distraction that will end up hurting T5 guilds, just as skipping Magtheridon for Void Reaver did.

Hard fights teach the strategy, execution, and skill required for even harder fights. Skipping a hard fight in favor of an easy fight does your guild no favors.

If you don't believe me, consider this quote from Ciderhelm's Time Management for Raiding Guilds (a superb article which completely changed a lot of my views on raiding):
What players do not understand is how real a factor time is on the guild welfare as well as their own. Spending time gearing up for new content is almost never as well spent as time actually working on that content. This is especially true in the Burning Crusade, where stat differences and gear progression between Karazhan and Black Temple is relatively small; keep in mind that Nihilum cleared through Black Temple just 3 months after raiding began. Gear is good, but it is not key. [Emphasis mine]


  1. This is the reason I read this web site. It offers remarkable insight into raiding and progression even for someone actively involved in it. Most of these are solutions we have come up with on our own over extended progress. Raiding PTR is always priority over raiding live for upgrades.

  2. Gruul is a gear check for tanks because they need to be able to survive until a very high growth, unless you have uber-DPS. No tank in pre-Kara blues is going to run in and tank Gruul.

    Gruul is a gear check for healers because they need to keep the tanks and melee alive through massive damage, both spikes (on the MT) and continuous AOE (on the melee and OT). This means having both large heals and a large mana pool and being able to keep up that healing over a significant amount of time. No healer in pre-Kara blues is going to be able to heal effectively in Gruul.

    Gruul is a gear check for the DPS because they need to take him down ASAP or he will grow too much and one-or-two-shot your tank. DPS in blue pre-Kara gear simply don't have the combined DPS for taking him down in time. What do I mean when I say "in time"? Since Gruul grows at set times and above growth 14 or so (depending on the MT gear and healers) can wipe your raid, he is effectively on an enrage timer. This means a gear check for DPS.

    Of course it's not all about gear. Execution is important too, and even a well equipped raid can experience an unlucky glitch and wipe. However it should take no more than a few tries to learn the basics of the fight. Anything more is small details and luck.

    Hit rating is a gear issue. You can call it a player issue (maybe not enough +hit gems), but the bottom line is that it is a gear issue.

    All of the above is just for the Gruul point.

    The following is not Gruul related but more a general point: Kudos for Blizzard for realizing that if 90% of the player base have not seen content, it must mean a problem in the barriers to that content, not a problem in 90% of the players. Kudos to the 10% who have managed to see that content in spite of those barriers. Yes, you are good, and deserve something for that. But please stop with the blatant elitism and the attempts to keep that content exclusive to you. Yes you worked hard to see that content, but I don't understand why that means the rest of us shouldn't get a chance to see it too.

    And yes, Blizzard *are* in fact doing a favor to their players by giving them access to better gear. Guilds currently wiping on Kael will be able to get some T6 gear and have an easier time when they go back to try him again. This is a good thing for them and in no way hurts anyone else.

    Guild currently having a hard time on VR or below will not be affected probably by this change, since they will not be able to clear any bosses in BT/MH.

  3. SolidState, it's 600 DPS for a growth 12 kill, and 500 DPS for a growth 16 kill. That's blue-level DPS.

    As for tank damage, use techniques like Imp Lay On Hands rotations, Inspiration procs, and Ironshield potions. That will cut a lot of damage. Put up JoL for your melee and/or chain heal. (Though seriously, most DPS can heal themselves on this fight.)

    When we were learning Gruul, we were able to keep the tank up to Growth 20 with 6 or 7 healers (which precipitated the whole improving DPS thing).

    Hit rating is not a gear issue. It's a deliberate choice when gearing up. Most people choose gear with crit/AP/Spell damage over gear with Hit Rating when gearing up, and that is where it becomes an issue of Skill. How you choose to gear up requires just as much Skill as which abilities you use.

    Also, you seem to have mistaken my point. I'm fully in favour of removing attunements, as I stated in the last post, and have posted about before. I'm just saying that I don't think the new gear will end up helping the T5 guilds.

    I think a T5 guild would be better off to ignore T6 content and concentrate on Vashj/Kael. Just the same way I believe ignoring Void Reaver and focusing on Magtheridon is the better path.

  4. Also, what's the "continuous AoE on the melee and OT" on Gruul? The only people who take non-shatter damage is the MT and the OT with Hateful Strike.

    Are you talking about Void Reaver instead?

  5. Well maybe not quite "continuous AoE" but the melee group sure seems to eat up a lot of cave-ins. Add the occasional shatter damage and you get quite a lot of healing...

    "we were able to keep the tank up to Growth 20 with 6 or 7 healers" - I am impressed, our best is 16 grows and that's a tank with T4 items and around 18k life. I seriously doubt your tank was wearing pre-Kara blues, or your healers.. 4k heals don't cut it over 12 growths.

    According to wowwiki, Gruul has around 3,415,000 hitpoints. He grows every 30 seconds, which means you get to 15 growths in 30x15 = 450 seconds. So you need 3,415,000/450 = 7589, or almost 7600 DPS for entire raid. Wowwiki wrote 6666 DPS for 17 growths but I think 17 growths is too high for a casual guild. Wowwiki also estimates about 365 DPS per dps-member in the raid, I want to remind you that casters are effectively doing 0 dps for half the fight (silences, shatters, etc.) So add in the occasional dead person and the need to heal yourself (bandage, which takes time) and the need to run from cave-ins, run out to edges after a ground-slam to avoid other people, and other such dps-reducing activities, and you're easily talking 800-900 dps per dps person. That's *not* blue level DPS.

    I tried Mag once with my guild... he's still hell on wheels, even if hard-core raiders find him easy now. We still haven't taken him down. Dammit I want my "Champion of the Naruu" title... :)


  6. That was a great article that you linked to. I've tried to explain those concepts before with little success. If you raid Karazhan, Gruul, Magtheridon, SSC & Eye (in that order), then Hyjal and Black Temple are indeed impossible to reach without unhealthy time commitments.

    I'd just add that spending x% of time on progress doesn't necessarily mean that you'll have to use that time on raiding. Doing research and being prepared allows you to focus on execution during the raids, which dramatically reduces the time wasted wiping and reclearing trash.

  7. I don't think sorting strategy, execution, skill, and gear in any sort of order is making sense. Gear isn't a digital on/off switch which you either have or haven't. It is a continuous gradient, the more gear bonuses you have, the easier the encounter becomes.

    The one Gruul kill I was present at was a one-shot kill at the 9th growth. Being overgeared as you would definitely be right to say in that particular case makes the combat shorter, thus giving people less opportunity to fuck up. Being overgeared also compensates for people with sub-optimal skill not getting the very best dps or heals out of their spells. And while it doesn't help on strategy, most guilds use boss kill strategy guides posted all over the net.

    If your guild is great in execution and highly skilled, you can tackle encounters with less gear. But better gear is always going to help.

  8. @solidstate

    Please re-read the original article. The problems you are facing are already described, including ways to overcome them.

    Gruuls is nothing more than execution. Need less DPS if people are where they need to be. Getting spread out to avoid damage is plain execution. Getting out of cave-ins is the most basic element of the encounter. It doesn't matter if you have blues or T6 epics, if you do not execute these small elements correctly, you will fail.

    Same with Magtheridon. The only DPS that is a concern is getting all of the humanoids down before Magtheridon comes out. After that, its nothing more than a control fight.

  9. There are imo 3x factors in any boss fight

    Knowing the Fight
    Knowing your Class

    The first two are gained via a combination of skill + practice, while gear (the least important) doesn't necessarily require either.

    Although you could potentially say that gear takes a certain amount of skill aswell, since with gem slots and enchants etc, the itemisation of your gear (Both item choices + item enhancements) can take a bit of skill.

    Having good gear will assist people with doing some of the harder fights, however learning to play their class will assist more.

    However, back to the real topic, which is the removal of attunements. Personally I agree with Blizzard removing attunements from Hyjall / BT, and it's got nothing to do with getting gear etc.

    But rather, imo removing attunements allows anyone who has an interest in raiding and in seeing content, to see it.... If they are bad they won't down bosses, but they can see Mt Hyjall, and they can see Black Temple.

    It would afterall be a shame for people who have been raiding in BC for the past 12 months to not actually get the opportunity to see Illidan anywhere except in the introduction. This might be because they haven't had the time for a hard core raiding guild, or perhaps they don't know how to play their class well... or perhaps they know how to play their class well, but are stuck in a guild with friends who just haven't quite made that step into Hyjall / BT yet.

    Afterall, there is only a very small percentage of guilds which are into Hyjall / BT, it'd be a shame for all of the content there to be wasted like Naxx was pre BC.

    Also on a side note, I actually get quite pissed off at the amount of people who QQ about how attunements etc will be removed. A lot of the people who QQ the loudest are ones who have only recently made it into Hyjall themselves. But imo they need to remember, that Kael'Theas has already been nerfed a few times, likewise did all of their raid complete the SSC / TK attunements prior to entering these raids?

    Chances are they didn't, and so they are benefitting from the same type of nerfs which Blizz gave to content previously, nerfs which allowed their guilds to progress much quicker than they would have otherwise.

    In my opinion, unless they completed all content prior to any nerfs (Yes even the Grull nerf) or prior to attunements being removed (Yes downing mag for attune to TK) then they shouldn't complain about attunements being removed for Hyjall / BT.

    Anywho, that's just my 2c :)

  10. Tobold, what you are missing is that you can improve strategy, execution, and skill, just like you can improve gear. Practice is the key to those elements. Wipe on the boss, look at what you did wrong, try to improve or change it, and wipe on the boss again.

    But practice takes time, and if you spend that time chasing gear instead, you aren't improving your strategy, execution, or skill. And I deem that improving those elements will help a guild more in the long run.

    That's what Ciderhelm is saying: "Spending time gearing up for new content is almost never as well spent as time actually working on that content."

    And to be honest, you saw Gruul once with a guild that knew the fight. I saw the learning process (and guild first kills) for that fight with two different characters in two different guilds. I saw the mistakes that each guild made, which prevented them from beating the fight. That's why I'm confident in stating that Gruul is not a gear check. Gear was never the factor that prevented us from beating the fight.

    Gear has never been a deciding factor in any of the TBC fights that I have seen.

  11. Do you realize how difficult it is to get 25 dedicated people to pour in the time to learn to work together well?

    It hardly ever happens. Every raid i have been in has been with different members and group makeups each time. This makes it harder to compensate based on abilities.

    That is a big reason why i think gear is needed. Not everyone has the kind of time raid 8 hours a week and at 4 hour sessions.

    There are just far too many variables in everyones lives to successfully develop that synergy.

    I say make raids harder smaller but require more coordination.

  12. There's a slight bit of gear check involved in any boss fight, but it's not nearly as big of a thing to consider as strategy, skill, and execution. For instance, see TK-GTFO instace. Gear helps some with enrage timers, but for the most part, it's about knowing where to go and when, and maximizing your output while you're able to stand and do your thing.

    Yeah, you can get better gear and increase your output, but you get a far better increase if you have the skill and knowledge to maximize your output for any set of gear.

  13. It's a bit better to think of it in terms of:

    DPS Check
    Tank Survivability Check
    Sustainable Healing Check

    And -NOT- a 'gear-check'. Each of those things is affected by gear, but is affected much more by execution, and by gem/enchant choices, and consumable use.

    Gruul isn't really a 'gear-check' for DPS. It's a DPS check. Certainly, better gear helps a player generate more DPS/Health/Healing (assuming they are making good gear choices) but better skill and execution will help much more than a couple of gear upgrades.

    What kind of gear do you think Nihilum had when they killed Gruul?
    The point of the article is that skill > gear, something I'd agree with.

  14. The only fight that I can think of offhand that was a gear check (though not the "gear" you guys are talking about) is Naj'entus. The fight requires everyone in the raid to have at least 9k (preferably 10k) health buffed and yet still maintain respectable DPS numbers to beat the enrage timer. It is also a major gear check for healers to see if they have the raw burst throughput combined with the longevity required.

    Other than that though, you're entirely correct. Gear can make encounters easier, but it is not the end-all be-all. No matter how well you gear an encounter you will still wipe if one person dies on Archimonde.

  15. The strategy-execution-skill-gear ranking would tend to be backed up by this:

    Release-to-Illidan-down in 52 days, with many people reportedly still in T3.

  16. I believe that player gearing falls under the strategy and skill headings you described in the post. There are alot of fresh 70s trying to get into Kara and Gruul's without properly itemized gear. You can get pretty far with crafted and correctly itemized gear which is what I'm sure that Chinese Guild had.

  17. If you aren't part of the cutting edge raids that clear new instances while they are still up on the PTR (practically), then:

    1) Strategy - people have trailblazed it for you, writeups, vids, mods. There are many different ways and approaches as well, there's bound to be one that fits similar to your raid's makeup/class balance.

    2) Execution - this is the real core of raiding to me. Clear the trash quick, have max time to experience the boss fight as many times as needed to figure out exactly how the script goes down.

    3) Skill - once again, people (not neccessarily the top raiding guilds, sometimes just really good theorycrafters) have done a large part of this for you. Specs, rotations, spreadsheets on practically everything like enchants/sockets/consumables, this ability vs that ability. The other part of skill is left up to you personally---how well you can incoporate points 1, 2, 3 and 4 on a given night of raiding.

    4) Gear - as some others have mentioned, you either heal for X amount or you don't, regen for X amount or don't, blodge/dodge/parry for X amount or don't. Gear gives you a bit of room for points 1, 2 and 3. Overgear an encounter and you can make so many mistakes or play under100% and still come out on top. From a broad "its the principles of the matter" point of view, this may seem terrible---but Blizzard is smarter than you (and makes more money that way), they realized that not everyone can play at this expected level all the time. I know sometimes I have a shitty day at work or other issues stressing the hell out of me---I'm thankful for little "breaks" in the raid game (either by overgearing or boss nerfs) where I can perform slightly less but save myself alot of mental stress.


    So, in summary, if you are not part of the cutting edge (who, face it, will continue conquering content regardless of how you may think Strategy/Execution/Skill/Gear should be sorted/focused on), it's more like:

    1) Execution
    2) Gear
    3) Skill
    4) Strategy

  18. My only thought about this is there are certain barriers that can't be overcome just via Strategy, Execution, or Skill. These are specifically related to playing as a tank. I haven't raided as a healer, but I have raided as a tank and a DPSer, and of the two the tank is the more gear-reliant role. I've seen tanks with an understanding of the fight and the skill to beat it lose due to just not being geared up enough.

    Now I've only really started paying attention to this recently since I'm now a raid leader, and the MT of my guild. We've only done 10-mans so maybe gear is more important there than it is in 25-mans. Could explain it since there's a smaller margin for error and less ability to bring an extra healer if needed.

  19. From my personal experience in Bt/Hyjal I can say that

    A) The strats you read on bosskillers generally suck. Its not enough to read a strat for most of these fights; strats won't teach you how to kill your constructs on Gorfiend or how to do the Bloodboil dance.
    B) The fights are much more dynamic in T6 than in the earlier instances. There is only one true tank'n'spank in T6 content that you can simply zerg down (Winterchill). Every other fight requires people to go beyond the theory and move and operate as a cohesive unit.

    No matter how well geared you are, if you have someone who can't click tears fast enough or avoid Doomfires you will wipe on Archimonde. If you have one person who can't control his ghost on Gorfiend you will get constructs in the raid and wipe. No matter how much gear you have a Blizzard from Council will 2-shot you and make the fight that much harder for everyone else. That is just a couple examples of how unforgiving these bosses are at this level. All of this is skill that can not be made up for by gear.

    In lower tier raids you can zerg your way through most fights by simply being geared enough, but like I said the Tier 6 instances basically change the game entirely. You can't compare the two (which is one reason I'm not a fan of lifting the atunements).

  20. I was surprised to see my name at the top of this article...

    I have to say, though, that I agree with the article. In general Strat / Execution / Skill / Gear is a good way of looking at things.

    But, as others have posted, the gear DOES help. A guild that can clear up to Vashj or Kael should be able to take out the first 3 bosses in MH.

    If that guild kills these bosses regularly for a month or so, they will have better gear for their healers, their tanks, and their DPS. Now they can heal longer, survive more, and hit harder than they could before.

    Kael's adds go down faster. Even if it's only 10 seconds faster, that's 10 seconds of free mana for your healers / casters.

    I DON'T think opening up MH / BT will grant free kills on Vashj / Kael, but it's hard to deny that the better gear will allow more people to actually GET the kill.

  21. Do you have MSN or AIM?

  22. I do, but my email address is on the sidebar (, and that's the best way to contact me.

    I'd rather not post a synchronous contact method in public.

  23. megan, you are confusing what is difficult with what is important. Yes, it's a lot easier for the non-top 50 guilds to get strategies or proper ability rotations, but it doesn't change how important having those elements are.

    And even with strats, there are usually several different variants, and using the correct one for your guild is important. To go back to Gruul, Coriel's guild uses the "safe spots" strategy to deal with Shatter, while Valarin's guild just takes the Slam and spreads out.

    Making sure you have those elements down may be an easy task, but it is more important than going for extra gear. And honestly, not a lot of low-level guilds do that. I wrote a whole series of posts on T4-level DPS.

    dorgol, the issue is that the time you spend on T6 bosses, is time you are not spending on Kael. So you'll get some gear, but that won't reduce your learning time for Kael by a great deal.

    And I think that without the lessons you learn from Kael/Vashj, beating the T6 bosses is going to take longer than it should.

  24. I understand; I sent my contact information to you.

    As for the issue of Gear, it helps progression as it adds a margin of error for everyone. Tanks with better gear need less heals, and can survive if healers are dying to environmental damage. The same can be said for DPS, if someone dies due to either random circumstances or lack of skill, the raid can still finish the encounter before enrage timers.

  25. Im all for removing the attunement process for BT and Hyjal, but not for the reasons that most raiders are.

    You see, in the WoW that I play, people who have a hard time clearing Karazhan or downing The Lurker Below dont have a chance in BT or Hyjal. The removal of attunements is merely giving these raids another place to wipe at.

    The only thing that can be gained from removing these attunements is it allows raiders who have the skill, just not the attunement, to attempt these bosses.

  26. Lightshield,

    I was thinking the same exact thing. People don't care that they don't make it past the first boss in BT as much as knowing that they stepped in and "had a chance" at it. So maybe people will not ever make it past the first trash at the current difficulty level, at least they felt they had a shot at it. And yes, a better place to wipe counts as well.

    If Blizz does tune down BT/MH because of people having trouble, I'll be up for that too. At this point, all the hard core raiders had a chance to experience the content and beat it. Now it can be time for the people who do not have time to raid more than 2 nights a week to experience the content that they want.

    And yes, I realize this post belongs probably more in the earlier thread, but I was responding to the last poster.