Last week, I complained that I was still DPSing in ZA shoulders. This week, Cho'gall finally dropped the tier 11 shoulder token. I got one day's worth of use out of it. And then Majordomo Staghelm dropped the tier 12 shoulder token. The lesson? Complain about drop rates when writing columns. You know what else doesn't drop enough? Everything I want, that's what.
As you might expect, my recent fortune in terms of new gear (I also got a nice new hat) got me thinking about how to best gem, enchant and reforge my gear in order to make maximum use out of it all. This is nothing new to this expansion, of course, but the cumulative effect of the variety of options we now have to customize our gear means it can all be somewhat complex to get everything lined up the way we want it.
This is where various gear optimization tools come into play. Much as we used to use (and still do use) spreadsheets to tell us which pieces of gear will provide maximum benefit, we now use gear optimizers to tell us what to do to our gear once we have it -- what gems should we use, which socket bonuses are worth gemming away from our usual and which ones aren't, what enchants in which slots will help us get maximum effect.
Sure, you can do this all manually, but with some statistics having hard caps and others having soft caps, and each piece of new gear changing each stat's amounts, it can be pretty daunting. Whether you're raiding in the Firelands or just beginning to get gear that can even take a reforge, it's worth taking a look at a few resources.
At the six-month mark for Cataclysm, I said that reforging is one of the most significant changes the game has ever seen. I may have undersold how profound the effect of reforging is. Forget that it allows you to tinker around with the stats of a piece of tanking gear to make it marginally better as a DPS piece to replace the blues you have now, or vice versa. That's nice -- but reforging is capable of far, far more.
Reforging allows you to tailor your entire gear set to a particular end. If your current gear is too high in hit and low in mastery for your arms spec, you can spend a few minutes at the reforger and shed that hit for mastery, or vice versa, depending on what stat your current spec favors. It allows a tank to reforge as much hit and expertise off of his tanking gear for avoidance and mitigation stats as he might desire.
Reforging continues the progression of customization options first seen with gear enchants and made more explicit in the jewelcrafting profession and socketed gear. Now, a player can aim for synergy across the board, aiming for stat caps and reducing stats that won't contribute to performance in his chosen role. Arms warriors, for instance, want a lot less hit than either fury spec. A prot warrior and a DPS warrior might both want a hit/mastery piece, but the tank is far more likely to reforge off that hit. A crit/mastery belt with a blue socket and a ton of stamina might be better for a tank than it first appears, and so on.
However, making the calculations needed to know how to reforge or otherwise optimize every single piece of gear, especially as you get new pieces of gear that change the overall values, can be trying. Effectively, reforging has a cumulative effect. It's not just what you do with this piece of gear, but with every piece. What a gear optimizer does is help you figure out what you want to do to keep your gear balanced. Let's look at some options now.
Rawr is the most robust tool of the ones I'm going to mention here. Rawr exists as an addon hosted by Curse (found here), but the addon really only exists to help export data to the program itself and display information in game. The program Rawr does a great deal more than that. Rawr allows you to test what your theoretical DPS will be in a combat situation based on your input stats and what abilities you'll use. It even takes buffs into account. Gear optimization is offered by Rawr, as well. Rawr is very customizable, and you can use it to suggest ways to best gem, enchant and reforge a piece of gear for tanking, DPS, PVP or what have you.
While Rawr is a very strong program for working on one's DPS gear, it does require some learning to get the best use out of it; it's definitely harder to use out of the box than some other options. While I wouldn't feel comfortable not mentioning it in a post about gear optimization, I also wouldn't feel comfortable suggesting it for beginners, either. Rawr has the most to offer you in terms of knowing just how to reforge, enchant and gem your gear to get the most out of exactly what you want to do, but it also asks for you to really become proficient in its use. I'd definitely recommend you give Rawr a shot. Especially with the in-game addon, it can export a great deal of information and help you work out exactly what you want to do.
Mat McCurley wrote up Reforgenator back in January. While it certainly lacks the pure power and flexibility of Rawr, Reforgenator does what the name implies and does it well: It tells you how to reforge your gear via an in-game addon. You don't need to go to a site, quit and re-enter the game, or otherwise do anything but load up an addon in game to get the information.
Reforgenator really shines when you want to know immediately what to reforge a new piece of gear to do. It won't tell you what the best enchants or gems are, and it won't make reforging suggestions to fall in line with gem and enchant suggestions (since it doesn't make those), but I find it very useful when I just pick up a new piece of gear and I want reforging suggestions on my way to a raid or instance. It can be configured to make suggestions for various specs and can be told to ignore already reforged gear or to make suggestions for that, too. Furthermore, Reforgenator can be asked to make suggestions based on if you'll be running raids or 5-man dungeons, which is a nice piece of flexibility.
Reforgenator does what it sets out to do, but it really serves more as a quick-and-dirty guide to getting an item reforged. Since it lacks advice for or a means to take gems and enchants into account, it can't truly maximize your overall gear and certainly is not intended to have the range of functionality that Rawr offers.
Our final contender is somewhere in between Rawr and Reforgenator in terms of inclusiveness, features and ease of use. AMR is a web-based or app-based (iPod and Android) platform for evaluating the entirety of your gear. It handles gems, enchants and reforging. While AMR lacks Rawr's exquisite depth and breadth of fuctionality (you can't sim on it, for one thing) and it requires your armory to be up to date (meaning that, unlike with Reforgenator, you often will have to log in and out and may have to wait for the armory to catch up), it does a good job of providing a lot of detail without overloading you with it.
AMR can be set to include or exclude reputation gear, will suggest best in slot based on the level of content you're in. It can be set to ignore or include heroic quality gear from each tier and handles best-in-slot gear listings for every warrior spec. You can even tell it to excluse expensive enchants if you're just gearing up in heroics. For that matter, it can even exclude items with random enchants like the ones Al'Akir drops, if you don't like the idea of farming for gear that may or may not be good for you.
It compares favorably to Rawr, considering the level of detail Rawr is capable of presenting. I'd send the average warrior just starting to think about optimization to AMR first and have them play around with Rawr as they grew more conversant.
Which does what you want?
There is no doubt that all three of these tools have their uses. I use AMR between raids to tweak my gear options, Reforgenator in game when new loot drops or I buy a new vendor piece on my way somewhere, and I check each against Rawr when I have time to sit down and run through every permutation. I'd say Rawr is definitely the most thorough option, but AMR does a great job of giving you information without feeling like too much.
There are other resources, of course, like MaxDPS.com or Landsoul's excellent spreadsheets. But for pure gear optimization, the three presented here should cover pretty much any warrior, between the pre-raid tank just gearing up in heroics to the TG fury starting heroic Firelands. I'd be happy to discuss others, of course, and would love it if you guys would suggest new addons, sites, and options I missed this time out.
At the center of the fury of battle stand the warriors: protection, arms and fury. Check out more strategies and tips especially for warriors, including Cataclysm 101 for DPS warriors, a guide to new reputation gear for warriors, and a look back at six years of warrior trends.