The phrase "best in slot" has taken on an almost untouchable mythos. It's not hard to see why. The experts spend a large amount of time crunching numbers and evaluating items for every spec of each class. They write software just for the purpose of telling you what items are better. When those people say that an item is the best in slot, that's the one. That is the item for the slot, and no better item exists. Anything else is just a placeholder until you get the best.
Of course, a lot depends on what other gear you are wearing. Even so, as raiders, those best-in-slot pieces are highly desirable. But what if our best in slot isn't our main armor type?
Recently my guild has gotten into what's turning out to be a hot debate.
It all started when a Paladin and Shaman both rolled on a mail belt; now this item was a best in slot piece for the Paladin but the officer automatically dismissed the Paladin's roll because "Paladin's normally wear plate and Shaman normally wear mail" and this was the only reason that the Shaman was awarded the piece over the Paladin. The pally did state before it was awarded that it was a BiS piece for him, but that fell on deaf ears.
The majority of people in the guild feel the same way I do; that a best in slot item is a best in slot item regardless of its armor class/type; however, a small group which includes officers believes and I quote exactly "I just think a lot more then throwing a "zomg BiS" out there when an item drops is needed before armor class is taken down as consideration for who gets what loot."
This has not been settled yet, but I would think if the opinion of the minority/officers won then why would any class who uses "lesser armor types" want to join a guild that would not give them their Best in Slot item should it drop based on armor type?
How do other people feel about this issue? Is best in slot > armor type or does armor type outweigh best in slot?
Players have asked me about this issue many times since Wrath launched. The homogenization of gear has created more such situations than in the past, and loot drama follows. So I'm finally dedicating a column to it, mostly so I can link it to people who ask me about it again in the future.
If I'm coming across snarky, it's because I really don't see two sides to this issue. To me, it's cut and dry: Best in slot does not trump armor type. I agree 100% with Supporter's officers. However, I am also curious if other guilds see this issue differently, and how they handle it, if so.
For this column, I'm assuming your guild uses a rolling system like Supporter's, with the officers deciding who is eligible to roll on a given piece. It's a common system, but it's also the most prone to this type of loot drama.
Here are the reasons why, in my opinion, you can't allow best in slot to trump armor type.
1. Classes limited by armor type would be at a severe disadvantage. They have a smaller pool of items to choose from. In the case of Resto shamans, they can theoretically wear leather and cloth, but those armor types aren't well itemized for their spec. Most of these items have spirit, which is virtually useless to a Resto shaman. So the pool of items for a Resto shaman is limited to spell power mail. All of a Resto shaman's best-in-slot pieces are most likely from that pool.
Holy paladins have a wider pool, since both spell power plate and spell power mail are itemized similarly. Some BIS items will be from each pool, and paladins can wear either for each slot. By giving paladins and shamans equal priority on a mail piece, your shaman might have to wait a long time before upgrading a slot that's also BIS for a paladin. If you don't give equal priority, the paladin might have to settle for a different plate upgrade, but odds are he or she will still get an upgrade from that raiding tier, even if it's not the absolute BIS. That brings me to my next point.
2. Higher armor drops would go to waste. Let's assume that the Holy paladin were allowed to roll on this BIS belt and he won it. It's BIS, so clearly that benefits the raid. However, the shaman didn't get an upgrade. Now suppose on the next boss, a plate spell power belt drops. Assuming no other Holy pallies are present (which is all too common these days), that belt is in the fast lane to Shardsville.
On the other hand, if the paladin is denied the mail belt, then the shaman gets an upgrade (that is probably BIS for the spec), and the paladin gets an upgrade from the plate belt. It might not be optimal for the paladin, but it's still better, and you've improved the raid twice instead of once. The next time the mail belt drops, if no shamans need it, it can go to the paladin and improve the raid again.
You'll always have wasted loot no matter what. Some items are just plain garbage. But you can reduce the waste, and this is one way to do it.
3. For some classes and specs, the BIS list changes frequently. I'm not even referring to adding new tiers of loot, although obviously that also affects the BIS set for your spec. I'm just talking game mechanics and class changes. For example, Patch 3.2 will be the third major patch in a row that changes item evaluations for paladins of one spec or another. And in between those major patches have been other changes that affect item weights, like the infamous Divine Storm hotfix nerf.
What is BIS today may not be BIS tomorrow. There's nothing any of us can do about that. And because of that fact, as officers, it doesn't make sense to let someone play the BIS card for special privileges.
4. Finally, the loot system would put a massive burden on the officers to know which items are BIS for every slot, for every spec in the game. Sure, we could just take everyone's word for it, but that can quickly lead down a dangerous path. Supporter's officers recognized this and acknowledged it in their response. It's just too easy for someone to make that claim for every piece they want. And unless someone else in the raid plays that spec and knows the itemization weights equally well, no one could refute the assertion. The burden would fall on the officers to know whether that person is right.
If you haven't been able to tell already, I play a paladin. Holy is not my main spec, but we've been short on healers all summer, so I've done more healing than I'd like. Personally, I'd never roll on spell power mail over a Resto shaman. And I'd never roll on DPS leather over a rogue or a druid. If I really want a nonplate piece, I can wait my turn. It's better for the raid, it's better for the officers who deal with loot, and it's better for my fellow players who need those items and can't equip every armor type like I can.
Ultimately, Blizzard could do us all a favor and make sure every spec's BIS pieces have the right armor type. I honestly don't think it would be that difficult to do so. Most specs are already there. DPS plate seems to be the most problematic area, along with Balance leather and Elemental mail. But that's only a few specs out of 27 that have a significant armor type problem. Ulduar spell power plate will be much more desirable after 3.2.
If Blizzard could get their itemization in line with armor type across the board, it would be helpful to players, guilds, and their officers, making loot decisions easier and reducing drama. I hope they're able to do so at some point. Until then, we all have to deal with the loot as it's been designed.