Spell hit rating
Ok here's the story: this rating determines your chance to hit the thing you're shooting your magical balls of fire at. Your chance to hit with a spell (or the chance your target won't resist your spell) is a base percentage determined by your level and your target's level. At level 70, against a level 70 mob, a Mage has a 96% chance to hit with every spell they cast. Against a Burning Crusade raid boss (level 73), that same level 70 Mage has only an 83% chance to hit. That's horrible. That means that of every 5 spells you cast against Gruul, on average one will be resisted.
Think about that. I hate crunching numbers, as I may have insinuated previously, but I had to see the numerical impact of this. Here's my grossly over-simplified math: say you're averaging 2k damage with your Fireballs. Barring crits, 5 casts will inflict 10,000 points of damage...or would have if one of those casts hadn't missed entirely. To make up for this loss of 2k points of damage, you'd have to add an extra 500 or so spell damage through gear/enchants/gems/talents. That's a lot of spell damage.
Adding 12.6 spell hit rating gives you 1% better chance to hit. the cap for your chance to hit with spells is 99%. There will always be that 1% chance to miss, no matter how much spell hit rating you stack. To cap out your chance to hit against the highest level enemies in the game currently (level 73), you will need a spell hit rating of 202 at level 70. Once you reach that rating, any additional spell hit will essentially be wasted. Now...I don't know about you, but 202 spell hit rating looks a lot better than stacking an additional 500 or so spell damage. You hit that cap, and that means that on average only one out of every one-hundred spells you hurl at Brutallus will be resisted. Only 1% of your spell damage or spell crit will be wasted.
Now, to be fair, in PvP this gets a bit muddled. Just about every class has talents or spells or abilities that increase their resistances or decrease your chance to hit them with spells, which may explain how that Rogue resisted four spells in a row from me the other night in Arena. He had like 10 hp left, too...stupid Cheat Death. Only lasts 3 seconds, my butt. Anyway, this stat is far more clear-cut in PvE encounters, where resistances are static. Increasing spell hit rating helps in both aspects of the game, but moreso in PvE. If you are a raiding Mage, you need to start stacking it, and if that means you have to sacrifice a bit of spell damage in your itemization, so be it. You don't do any damage when you miss.
You have a lot of options now to increase this rating. Here are a few:
You have a few options here, especially since the patch. You can find a very comprehensive list of what was available before on this WoWWiki page. Cloak of the Betrayed and Gloves of Arcane Acuity both drop off of bosses in normal Magisters' Terrace. Legwraps of Sweltering Flame, Boots of Incantations, Shroud of the Lore'nial and Fused Nethergon Band will all be available as soon as your realm gets its new badge vendor in phase 3 for 100, 75, 100, and 60 Badges of Justice, respectively.
Get yourself a Great Dawnstone, a Great Golden Draenite, a Veiled Flame Spessarite, or a Veiled Noble Topaz from your friendly neighborhood Jewelcrafter. Vivid Chrysoprase, Lambent Chrysoprase, and Shining Fire Opal are all heroic drops, and as of 2.4 are no longer unique, so you can now equip more than one of them. As of the patch, the recipe for Great Lionseye is available from the Shattered Sun Offensive reputation vendor instead of just as a drop in Black Temple, so you might see more of these on the auction house than you used to.
If you're a Fire or Frost Mage, you want to put 3 points into Elemental Precision. If you happen to be one of the rare and wonderful Arcane Mages out there, spend 5 points on Arcane Focus on your way to all your other glorious talents. Arcane Subtlety reduces your opponents' resistances to all of your spells, so it effectively increases your spell hit as well.
Get in a party with one, or check to make sure you are one yourself. Inspiring Presence raises everybody in the party's chance to hit with spells by a flat 1%.
Spell haste rating
Now, this one's not quite as black and white. To put it as simply as I can, 15.7 points of spell haste rating gives you a 1% bonus to your casting speed, and as of patch 2.4, it also gives you a 1% reduction in the time your global cooldown takes between spellcasts. If your Frostbolt takes 2.5 seconds to cast now, 1 point of spell haste rating reduces your cast time by 0.00159 seconds. In order to reduce your cast time to 2 seconds on that same Frostbolt, you'd have to stack about 314 points of spell haste rating.
Again, I'll post the disclaimer that we're dealing with dumbed-down Christian Belt math here, but here's the bottom line with this stat. Each 1% of spell haste you gain lets you cast 1 more Frostbolt for every 100 Frostbolts you cast. Every 1 point of spell haste rating you stack gives you a constant increase of 0.063694267% to your DPS, according to WoWWiki. How does this stat compare to adding raw spell damage or spell crit? It's hard to really say, but on paper it doesn't look too favorable.
Here's the thing, though: spell haste rating doesn't just speed up casting times. It makes your channelled spells like Arcane Missiles take less time to cast, it makes instant cast, no cooldown spells like Arcane Explosion castable with less time in-between (because the global cooldown is shorter), and there is now no discernable cap to it. Before the patch 2.4 changes, you could only shorten your spells to the point where they overlapped with the global cooldown, which is 1.5 seconds with no spell haste at all. Now that global cooldown can be shortened to a minimum of 1 second.
So what does all this mean? All of these numbers do very little of any tangible value for me. Looking at them makes my head hurt, and makes me throw up in my mouth a little, but I don't equate them into anything of worth. The way my brain works, I need to know what that new piece of gear is doing for me in terms that I understand without having to break out an abacus and a slide-rule. Here's a way of looking at it that works for me:
If Vexallus drops that Band of Arcane Alacrity for me, it gives me 18 spell haste rating. That gives me the following: my Fireball spell takes about 2.47 seconds to cast, down from 2.5 seconds. For every 87 Arcane Explosions I spam, I get one extra cast. My global cooldown is now down to a whopping 1.47 seconds. My raw DPS is up a grand total of 1.146496806%.
I'll have to see how this rating affects me in practice before I really jump on the spell haste bandwagon, but the idea of my spells casting faster makes me happy, regardless of the numbers. The best part of spell haste? It doesn't help with most DoT spells at all. That's right, screw you Warlocks! Cough...sorry...had a moment there.
So if you decide you want this stat, where do you get it?
A really good list of the pre-patch stuff can be found on this page, again courtesy of WoWWiki. After the patch, you can get some new gear, of course. The aforementioned Band of Arcane Alacrity, and Bindings of Raging Fire are boss drops in Magisters' Terrace. The Jaded Crystal Dagger drops off of Selin Fireheart in heroic mode. The Sunfire Robe and Sunfire Handwraps come from new tailoring recipes that drop off the raid trash in Sunwell Plateau.
If you have a burning desire to use a Mystical Skyfire Diamond as your meta gem, you have a small chance to increase your spell haste slightly. New in the patch are a few spell haste gem cuts, as our own Alex Ziebart reported last month.
Troll Shaman Leatherworkers who are nearly dead
Trolls have a racial ability called Berserking that increases their casting time by up to 30%, and is most effective the more badly injured they are. That's equivalent to a lot of spell haste. Also, Shamans can cast Bloodlust / Heroism which increases everyone in the party's casting speed by 30% and is completely awesome. If you happen to be or group with a Leatherworker, you can con them into making a nice set of Drums of Battle and dropping them for you.
The jury's still out for me on spell haste, as far as it being a more effective stat for Mages than spell crit or spell damage, but I don't think anybody can argue that isn't nice to have. Faster casting is always going to be a good thing. Spell hit rating is a no-brainer. At end-game, you need it, and you need to be approaching the cap of 202.
If you want to explore the theorycrafting side of things and flex your math muscles, there's a wealth of statistical information at these two WoWWiki pages: spell hit rating, and spell haste rating. There is a ton of invaluable wisdom here at WoWInsider as well, from Alex Ziebart's brilliant take on how it will affect Shadow Priests to Marcie Knox's wonderful exploration of what the spell haste changes will do to raid healing. Take a look if you want more, and I know you do. Or maybe you don't? You'll tell me in the comments, I suspect, as well as tell me all the ways in which I'm wrong. That's why I love you guys. You keep me humble, and make me feel like a retard, and frankly I wouldn't change it for the world.
Every week Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of Mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Check out our recent look at the new patch 2.4 Mage gear, or our slanderous, vindictive look at the Mage/Warlock rivalry. If you're sick and tired of all this Mage-talk, there's a veritable treasure trove of guides and tips related to all of the other aspects of WoW over in the WoW Insider Directory. Until next week, keep the Mage-train a-rollin'.