Understanding Stat Weights

One of my biggest frustrations lately (#firstworldproblems) has been seeing how people talk about and refer to stat weights. While I imagine most of you who read this blog are already aware of what stat weights really mean, and how they should be used, there may be some who stumble upon TotW who haven't done much theorycrafting, or are new to the class. So here, as plain as I can, I'd like to explain exactly what stat weights mean.

Type A:  Greater than or Equal to

One of the more common (and simpler) methods of conveying a stat priority, is through the use of  > and =.  This might look like:

This "stat priority" can be used in a couple of different ways: the first is as a direct guideline for choosing gear, i.e. choose the piece that has stats of greater priority; the second is as more of a holistic way of looking at all your gear, and total stats, i.e. I should have more total of this stat than this other stat, etc..

Both of these methods have some value, but I would argue that the second is much more important. The reason being, the value of each stat varies depending on how much of the other stats you have.  E.g., back at the beginning of this expansion, when everyone was playing Marksmanship, a lot of Simulations (we'll get into the role they play in stat evaluations later) were showing Multistrike as more valuable than Crit. By just thinking about crit, it was obvious that, in a vacuum, any individual point of crit would be more valuable than any individual point of multistrike; however, because our gear had so much crit on it and, as hunters, we start with a higher base crit, it inflated the value of multistrike to the point where each point of multistrike gave us a greater DPS increase than each point of Crit.  This didn't mean, however, that we needed to have more multistrike than crit, just that with high amounts of Crit, we needed to get at least some multistrike.  

To understand why that happens, we need to have a basic understanding of how each stat works.  For more particulars, you can find other articles here with the "thrill of the spreadsheet" tag (like this piece on multistrike), but for our purposes here, all we need to understand is that each stat increases our DPS by some ratio of "Stats to DPS increase".  The next part we need to understand is just a basic principle of arithmetic:  "x*x > (x-1)*(x+1)".  For example, 5*5=25, while 6*4=24.  As all of our stats multiply the damage done by our abilities, they will produce the highest possible result when there is some sort of balance between all of them.

And that is, essentially, why "Stat Priorities" need to be considered holistically, as a guide for all of your gear, not as a guide for any individual piece of gear.

Type B: Numerical Stat Values

The second type of Stat Weights you'll see when perusing guides is numerical stat weights.  They look something like this:

Agi 1, Mult 0.59, Vers 0.35, Crit 0.35, Mast 0.27, Haste 0.19

These numbers are a normalized representations of your average DPS gain per point of each stat. Since that's kind of gibberish, let me explain it another way.

A popular WoW fight simulation tool, called SimC, has a function built into it which creates new simulations of fights adding a different stat to each one, and then averaging how much each stat increases your DPS.  The vast majority of people, when reporting "stat weights" or "stat scaling" are getting the numbers from this tool.  However, there are several other ways to get the same results. For hunters, a popular online spreadsheet app is WoW hunter tools, which has it's only stat scaling function.  Or, if you have your own spreadsheet, you can easily run the same calculations using an averaging system.

The point of all of that is, you add on of each stat, and watch how it affects your DPS.  For example, with my current gear, I average about 5.6 more DPS for each point of Agility I add, or I average about 3.3 more DPS for each point of Multistrike I add.  So if I can do 30,000 dps against the Butcher, if I add one point of Agility, I should be able to (on average) do 30,005.6 dps.  To then get the numbers you see above, I can divide each of my results by the highest (agility), which gives me the "Normalized" results.

There are, however, a couple of problems with this.  The first problem is, these numbers aren't balancing stats. What I mean is, in game, you have to choose between secondary stats.  You don't just get more of one,  getting more of one means you get less of another.  For example, I currently have all Multistrike enchants on my gear.  If I want to get more crit (I don't, but just for example), I can't just get more Crit, I'd have to take off a Multistrike enchant, and replace it with a Crit enchant.

The second problem is while these numbers may be good and fairly accurate, that's only true for the exact gear I'm wearing right now.  With someone else's gear, the numbers will change, sometimes drastically.

And that is probably the biggest mistake someone can make when looking at stat scaling.  There's a popular hunter guide over at MMOChampion, where a good hunter has gone through the work of simulating a lot of different variables, and come up with a good, ideal stat weight for all three specs of hunters.  This is of course a great benefit to the community.  However, people often quote these numbers as though they're gospel, and apply in every situation. If you have the exact same gear (or even pretty close to the same gear) as he used to make the simulations, then the numbers will work great for you.  But if you have different trinkets, or a lot of different gear, then the stat weights for your gear will be fairly different.

Redefining Best-in-Slot

A great hunter theorycrafter, Esoth, recently (well, sort of) sent out a tweet that I really appreciated:

Looking for Best-in-slot gear is fine in the interim time between raids, even good, as it will make you better prepared for the next tier. However, if your goal is to kill as many raid bosses as possible, as quickly as possible, then you should be looking for the best combination of gear that can be found from the bosses you've already killed.

This is true of stat weights also.  Your best-in-slot gear may have certain, easily definable stat weights, but that doesn't mean that you should use that as your guide while you're gearing up. Instead, you want to look for the stat combinations that will provide the most DPS out of the gear you currently have.

When it comes down to it, the only way to get accurate stat weights is to sim yourself.  If that's more work than you want to do, or doesn't sound fine, you will, in the vast majority of situations, be fine using one of the stat priority systems, like those found in the MMO-C guide, or on sites like Icy Veins, or the Warcraft Hunters Union.  It is crucial to remember, though, that the specific numbers are not applicable in every situation, they should only serve as a general guide for how to go about gearing.

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