A Sunnier Musing: Stat Apathy

Some may wonder why I no longer have stat priorities in my guides. When I released the new Legion class guides, I instead opted to link to other guides for that information. (Excluding the brief period where each stat priority was that picture in the header.) The short explanation is this: in Warlords I got overwhelmed by all the stat priority questions from random people, to the point where I now cringe whenever any stat topic comes up. Getting asked the same question a million times by a million strangers expecting a million different answers wore me down. In an effort to avoid a similar situation in Legion, I’m delegating.

But there’s a longer answer, having to do with how I find stat priorities in modern WoW boring (and I’m okay with that).

Stats don’t motivate me.

It would be pretty easy for me to quote stat priorities instead of linking to them. It’s just a list, and that would definitely be a better user experience. But then I’d have to update it, and probably still answer questions about it.

I just can’t summon the motivation to commit to that. My blog here is entirely motivated by selfish reasons like that because it wouldn’t exist if I didn’t do all of it for myself. There’s no creative way to display a numbered list, and little subjectivity or explanation. Even if there is explanation required, that just leads to more confusion.

I can already predict that someone will respond to this post with some variant of “but looking up stat priorities takes skill!” (because I get some variant of that comment on half my posts, even if it’s completely irrelevant to whatever the topic was), and I do consider research to be a valuable skill in WoW. I write guides with the expectation that someone will want to do research on those topics, right?

There’s a difference between the skill it takes to implement a researched stat priority compared to say, a researched raid strategy. The former is googled and then done, I enchant my stuff, pick my gems, and buy some food and I’ve implemented it. Congratulations to me! Depending on the spec, there might be some complications like haste plateaus or caps, which adds a brief flash of evaluation and decisions, before returning to the long road of monotony.

For something like an active mitigation rotation or a boss strategy, there’s no instant implementation. I probably have to modify that strategy to match my own team, because each group will have slightly different compositions and frustrations. I have to follow those steps repeatedly, hoping to achieve perfection over and over again. I can progressively get better at timing, or pooling resources, or whatever is required to implement it. I can improve on the researched information. With things like tanking strategies, I can follow and learn in a subjective way dependent on my own gameplay. But I can’t do that with stats, and that bores me.

Stats are a tiny optimization gain compared to things I care more about.

If you want success in this game, playing better will deliver far more results than gearing better, especially on the scale of choosing between secondary stats. I can prepare my active mitigation for a big attack and increase my chances to survive by 25%, or I can trade a less-than-optimal 830 item for a very optimal 825 item, and increase my chances to survive by 0.25%. At a certain level of play, squeezing every tiny amount of optimization is what you have to do. But for me and the vast majority of players, focusing on improving play will achieve better results. I just don’t find that type of optimization fun, though it’s fine for others that do.

It’s rare that I actually choose gear based on stat priority.

And that leads me to the bigger design goal, that stats haven’t been very important since the big revamp in Warlords. Without reforging, the only places where a choice regarding stat priority are these:

  1. Enchants
  2. Gems
  3. Consumables
  4. Deciding between two items of similar item level.
  5. Passing an item to a teammate if they want those stats much more than I do.

We have it stuck in our head that it goes further than that, and maybe in the fantasy land of Best-In-Slot, it does, but reality is much messier than only equipping the items that are best for you.

Say I’m starting dungeons. The gear that drops is probably a higher item level than my questing greens, so it’s an upgrade. It doesn’t matter if it’s replacing a 745 item with my #1 stat with a 800 item with my #3 stat, because that 800 item is still better. And if it’s not a clear winner, then it’s close enough of a race that I’m not going to get much of any benefit from agonizing over that decision.

Say I’m entering a raid fresh after its release. I know you want the tier set, so getting those pieces is a priority. I’ve got three out of four tier pieces, and the legs drop and it could be mine! It’s got my less-desirable stats on it, but the item level and four piece bonus probably trump that. Or if it a full tier set isn’t a clear winner, I still want it because it’s exciting and will change my play. Maybe in this case the helm that would have been a better for completing the tier bonus drops off the final boss, which I probably won’t see for 6 weeks. An upgrade now is more important, so I take it. Then I progress further into the raid. As in HFC, there are a couple of levels of bosses that drop increasing item levels of loot. A pair of bracers drop from something three quarters of the way through the raid, and they’re not the best, but it’s a big item level upgrade over the bracers I got from the first boss, so of course I take it. Stat priorities barely factor into these decisions at all, besides the listed reasons above.

Stats are opaque.

Stats are complicated. They are mathy and it takes a lot of work to suss out their priorities. One of the biggest places new players mess up is stats, and I have a hunch that that’s the reason why Blizz revamped the stat system in the first place. It’s why they’re trying to make most secondary stats close in value, or less in value compared to primaries. I remember my first raid I equipped intellect leather because it had more armor than my agility piece, and I thought that’s all that mattered for a tank. The fact that this assumption of a brand new mmo player was not actually that far off the mark because druid scaling in The Burning Crusade was bizarre just further proves how incomprehensible secondary stats are to beginners.

And since we’re talking about me and my feelings, sussing out priorities from those stats isn’t interesting to me. I’m glad it’s interesting to some people, but we really just need a few of those special people in a whole community. Everyone else can copy their results.

People act weird around stat priorities.

Before my Warlords burnout, and likely a contributing cause of it, I had multiple suggested stat priorities for brewmasters. I had a mastery one, for damage smoothing, and a crit one, for damage reduction, and a haste one, for playability. The haste one wasn’t optimal, but it made playing the class at a lower level of gear much more approachable, so I listed it and suggested it to many people starting dungeons. I took it down after a few months because I got pressure about listing a non-optimal stat priority in my guide. That meant my guide was wrong!

People tend to use stat priorities in a tribal manner. You can identify as a mastery brewmaster, and therefore all haste brewmasters are bad. Bad players and bad people. Wow this terrible person on the forums has a haste enchant and is complaining about dying, that’s clearly their issue (no way could it be incorrect play). I get why, it’s easier to judge people based on objective things like stats than it is to look at logs and figure out they’re not hitting Keg Smash enough, and it’s human nature to judge. I just want no part of it.

On a high level, I still enjoy customizing stat priorities for myself. I want to still encourage other people to do that. But I don’t know where the right place for that is, because my experience has told me over and over again that describing that in a “Stat Priority” guide isn’t effective.

I don’t hate stats.

This is fine, by the way. I enjoyed the stat priority world in Mists, where reforging existed and I was lucky enough to play a class with multiple priorities. But I also enjoy not having to consult Ask Mr Robot every time something drops to determine whether it is really an upgrade. Stats used to be a customization tool, now they’re a flavor tool. More customization can be found in talents and elsewhere, and I consider that a win. Talents are a clearer avenue for customization, and beginners will be less likely to trip over talents than they would over secondary stats, since once you learn a class it’s fairly easy to understand talents on a surface level, while it’s not so easy to find the numerical stat priority on your own.

That isn’t to say that stats should go away, or that I’m trying to make a bigger statement than “Sunnier is bored by stats.” They’re flavor and min-maxing, and those are fine. If it happens that whatever spec I play has a subjective choice between stats, I might be interested again, at least enough to change my enchants, but it will never reach the true passion and subjectivity that I loved in Mists. Apathy is the most accurate description of my feelings toward them, I just don’t really care one way or another.

So that’s the long reason. I don’t enjoy writing about stat priorities because they’re opaque, minor, and rarely subjective, nor do I enjoy the questions I get about them. So for my own sanity I chose not to write about them.