Thursday, April 29, 2010

Raiding 101: ZOMG Phat Lewt!

So you're fighting a new boss in ICC and wipe after wipe after wipe things seem to be getting nowhere. Then, from out of nowhere the fight comes together in a beautiful crescendo of fire avoidance, positioning and target priority... and with a thud the boss' grill hits the floor.

Congratulations, now it's time to loot! But does the boss drop anything you want? If he drops something you can use, will you need any other gear pieces to fit it into your set? Are there other players who will also be interested in this hypothetical item?

If you don't know the answers to these questions when the loot windows pop up, you probably should.

Best in Slot (BiS)

There is a lot of talk amongst the WoW community of items that are called best in slot. While it is typically beneficial for players to find a list of their BiS gear, what's BiS for one player may not be for another. This can be true even when comparing players of an identical class and spec in some situations.

True, there is a ceiling where items can be considered BiS for the entirety of a particular class and spec, but when you're talking about an individual person you have to be a little more flexible in your definition of BiS.

For the purposes of this blog entry, what we'll consider BiS is defined by the following parameters:
  • Class and Spec
  • Statistic Hard and Soft Caps
  • Guild Progressions Level
Class, spec and stat caps should be pretty self explanatory if you're at a raiding level already. Casters take caster gear, plate wearers strength gear, tanks defense and avoidance gear, etc.

Balancing stat caps properly while inflating other non-cappable stats to the maximum achievable should be the goal in assembling a BiS list. For those with multiple stats to cap it can be even more important to plan ahead to avoid situations where you pick up an spectacular piece of gear only to lug it around in your bags until you can make up the lost defense or expertise.

Here is a list of cappable stats and their caps:
Because the stats you need to cap these statistics are spread out over your gear set it's important to develop a full list of your BiS gear with properly balanced stat caps so that when an item drops you instantly know if it will be an upgrade for you over the long term.

This is important to the overall health of the raid because of how loot is dispersed to the raid. For instance, if a spellcasting neck drops and a caster with loot priority in the guild decides it's an upgrade over what they currently have they may take it. But in the grand scheme of things if there is a better item out there for that person that drops the next raid week that first item is going to be turned into a shard or vendored instead of being put to use by another raider.

Guild Progression Level

This is the factor that makes cookie cutter BiS lists less than optimal for those who are not yet fully progressed through a raid zone, or guilds who only run 10 main instances (although the 10-man 25-man distinction will vanish come Cataclysm).

The research necessary may seem daunting at first... I know I don't want to sift through all those wowhead pages! However, the folks over at have this nifty page that will show you an overview of gear from all of ICC that's easily referenced.

To assist in the compilation of a BiS list I recommend a spreadsheet. You can use the Microsoft Office suite if you have it available, but for broke folks like myself there are free alternatives, the easiest of which to set up is google docs. If you'd prefer software for your computer over a spreadsheet embedded in the browser Open Office is a free office suite that's compatible with Microsoft Office.

Setting up... The List!

Set up columns for slot name, item type (this will help later in organizing items), item name, each of your class and spec specific stats and each color of gem. You can see my full example spreadsheet here.

Under the slot name column you'll need 16 row names: Head, Neck, Shoulders, Back, Chest, Wrist, Gloves, Waist, Legs, Feet, Ring, Ring2, Trinket, Trinket2, Main-Hand, Off-Hand.

just below the Off-Hand row, beneath each stat column heading set the box to add up the sum of all the rows above it. to do this, click in the box and type the following (assuming the first column is column D): =sum(D2:D17)

For each column adjust the letter of what you type to the column you're typing in, so for instance, type the following into the box beneath the item rows for column J: =sum(J2:J16)

Once that's all done you're ready to start importing items. When I did my BiS list I simply imported every item off the 10-man heroic list and 25-man normal list because those are the items I would potentially have access to at my guild's current progression level. Use the Item Type column to list what kind of item it is, that was you can simply move this item's boxes up and line them up with the appropriate row.
Trinkets can be a difficult prospect for someone in a guild not fully progressed through 25 man content because often community discussion focuses solely on the best available from 25 man content. Thumbing through threads in your class forum on can often shed some light on which trinkets are best for your situation.

Once you're all done and satisfied with your list you can be prepared for loot drops during a raid. With this information at hand you can identify whether a particular item is going to be very useful or simply a short term upgrade. This is especially true for classes with multiple caps to juggle like tanks as it can be helpful to hang onto a wide array of gear in case you need to make up for lost stats when you pick up an exceptional new upgrade that, as a side effect, drops you below the expertise, or worse yet... defense cap.

There's nothing wrong with taking an intermediary item if it's better than what you have, but for those pieces that are not in your BiS list consider passing to another player, especially one who is under geared. After all, items do more good for your raid as a whole on another player than they do collecting dust in your bank.