Hard Cap vs. Soft Cap
When we talk about stats that have caps, we often hear the terms "hard cap" and "soft cap."
A stat is considered at its hard cap when it ceases to help us at all. Any more of the stat does nothing at all for our DPS. You're filling a glass with water, and the top of the glass is the hard cap. You can keep pouring water in it, but it won't help anymore. The glass is full, it can't get fuller.
When we refer to the soft cap of a stat we're talking about the point where a stat suddenly becomes much less useful. We're still getting a benefit from the stat -- it's still increasing our DPS -- but not nearly as much as it did before the soft cap. Frequently this is because the stat helps us in a couple of different ways, and one of those ways becomes capped. Hit RatingHit hard cap: 8%, or 263 hit rating*
32.79 hit rating = 1% hit
Hit rating is often lauded as the stat that is the single largest contributor to our DPS (though technically that would be the DPS on our ranged weapon) and hit is certainly a critical stat for hunters. Any time we attack, there is a small chance that our attack will miss. This chance is based on the level of our opponent. Hit rating helps us to reduce the chance that we'll miss.
Eventually, with enough hit rating, we don't miss at all, ever. That point is the hit cap. Since we can't hit any more often than "always" any extra hit rating doesn't do anything for us at all. It doesn't hurt us, technically, but it doesn't help at all and we'd rather that extra hit was another stat that would benefit us.
Hunters have several ways of reaching the hit cap, including hit rating from gear and gems, the Focused Aim
talent, and the Dreanei racial bonus. So for example if we have one point in Focused Aim, we now only need another 7% hit, or 230 hit rating.Is it important?
Heck yes. Every hunter's first goal should be to reach the hit cap. You should always take the gear that is the biggest upgrade, but if you're below the hit cap gemming hit will be a better use of your gems slots than any other kind of gem.
* 8% is the hit cap for a raid boss. A heroic boss has a hit cap of 6%, and a level 80 has a hit cap of 5% (though players may have other ways of increasing your chance to miss them, depending on the class). For exact hit rating amounts based on talents, see the WHU hunter hit cap guide
.Crit RatingCrit hard cap: 104.8%
Crit soft cap: Varies45.91 crit rating = 1% crit
We hunters love to crit, and we crit more often than most classes out there, with base unbuffed crit chances going up to and over 60%. Because we have a reduced chance to crit mobs with a higher level than us, our crit chance against raid bosses is actually 104.8%. That's our hard cap, and we are never in danger of hitting that.
However, we also have talents and glyphs that increase the crit chance of specific shots. In addition to that we have raid buffs, which can give us as much as another 14% crit. SV hunters have Master Tactician
giving them an extra 10% crit, Glyph of Explosive Shot
giving 4% crit to Explosive Shot, and Sniper Training
giving 15% crit to Kill Shot. MM has Improved Barrage
boosting Aimed Shot and Muli-Shot crit by 12% and Glyph of Trueshot Aura
boosts Aimed Shot crit chance by 10%.
The result is that some shots become soft capped, and that exact number depends on your raid buffs. Assuming an extra 14% crit from raid buffs (this is the high end) our crit soft caps would look something like this:
Is it Important?
- Kill Shot (SV): 65.8% with 3/3 Sniper Training and Master Tactician procs.
- Explosive Shot (SV): 72.8% with Glyph of Explosive Shot, Survival Instincts, and master Tactician procs.
- Aimed Shot (MM): 68.8% with Glyph of Trueshot Aura and Improved Barrage.
- Most Other Shots: 90.8% if you have full raid buffs and a high agility. Survival Instincts will lower that by 4% for Steady Shot and Arcane Shot.
Not really. Most of the crit soft caps are still sufficiently high that very few hunters will ever be in danger of hitting them unless they're doing something suboptimal like stacking crit rating. The closest realistic danger is a SV hunter getting Kill Shot capped -- but even then you aren't losing much by going over the cap. Every other shot will still benefit from increased crit rating.Haste RatingHaste soft cap: 523 haste rating for MM and SV -- 0 haste rating for BM32.79 haste rating = 1% haste
Where hit rating is one of the most important hunter stats, haste rating is one of the least important -- but make no mistake, every point of haste rating is still improving our DPS. Haste increases the rate of our auto shots, and decreases the cast time of our other shots, most importantly, Steady Shot
. However, haste does not decrease our global cooldown at all. No matter what we do, we always have a global cooldown of 1.5 seconds.
So we consider the haste soft cap to be the point where it reduces our Steady Shot cast time down from 2 seconds to 1.5 seconds. If we get more haste, it will keep making our Steady Shot cast time shorter, but it doesn't really do us any good to have a 1 second Steady Shot cast time when we have to wait 1.5 seconds no matter what.
However, even after we hit the haste soft cap, more haste is still going to help us. Our auto shots will still be going off faster, even when we stop getting any benefit from our Steady Shot.
BM hunters get 20% haste automatically with the Serpent's Swiftness
talent, and are at the haste soft cap already without needing any haste rating from gear at all.Is it important?
Not at all. Haste is not something that we hunters want to go out of our way to stack. Reaching the haste soft cap is not important. Like all stats, you should take gear with haste when it's an upgrade, but it's not important like reaching the hit cap.Armor Penetration RatingArP hard cap: 1,400 ArP rating
ArP soft cap: Varies
14 ArP rating = "up to" 1% ArP
ArP is one of the most confusing stats out there, so much so in fact that Blizzard had to come out and explain to the theorycrafters exactly how it worked. It's a strange stat: the more ArP we have, the better each point of ArP rating is for us. However, once we reach 1,400 ArP we are at the "up to 100%" point, and we become hard capped, which is possible with very specific gear choices. You're only considered hard capped if you always
have 1,400 ArP. If you get some of it from a proc, then it's not always there and you are not hard capped. Note that technically even when you're ArP hard capped, you still won't be getting rid of 100% of your opponent's armor (that's what that sneaky "up to" means) -- like I said, it's a strange stat and there's a reason it's going away in Cataclysm
It is also possible to soft cap ArP. This happens when we have a trinket with an ArP proc, such as Mjolnir Runestone
or Needle-Encrusted Scorpion
. When our ArP rating plus the ArP proc adds up to 1,400, we're at the soft cap. Getting more ArP will still help us; however, it won't help at all when our trinket procs, since we're already capped out with the proc.Is it important?
It depends. It depends on your spec and one what you want to do with your spec. SV will typically not go out of their way to stack ArP, while both MM and BM want to chase after the ArP hard cap. However, MM can also ignore both the ArP hard cap and soft cap and still do excellently in raid DPS. The very best raid DPS is achieved by MM at or near the ArP hard cap. But again, like all stats, take the gear that is the biggest upgrade for you -- don't take much worse gear just to increase your ArP rating.
You want to be a Hunter, eh? Well then you came to the right place. You start with science, then you add some Dwarven Stout, and round it off some elf bashing. The end result is massive dps. Scattered Shots is the WoW.com column dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a Hunter. Each week Scattered Shots will cover topics to help you improve your Heroic DPS, understand the impact of Skill vs. Gear, get started with Beast Mastery 101, and even solo bosses with some Extreme Soloing.