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ICC DPS analysis by spec

I love numbers. I love facts and statistics, I love looking through them and speculating on the different possible interpretations. As we move into the end of Wrath, I thought it would be a nice time to take a look at everybody's favorite number, DPS, and see how each spec is doing in ICC.

But rather than just looking at the top DPS of each spec, I thought it would be more interesting to see where the average DPS for each spec is, across all gear levels, all skill levels -- to get a glimpse of how the average raider is doing. While we don't have access to the DPS of every raider out there, we do have something close, and that something is World of Logs.

World of Logs is a combat log analyzer that many raids use to see how to improve their performance. It provides a lot of useful information, far, far more than just DPS, and they also post the top 200 DPS results for each boss and spec. About 30,000 raid parses are uploaded to WoL every week. Miles over at World of Logs was kind enough to spend far too much time writing and running custom scripts to provide me with a massive data dump of information not publicly available that lets us get a pretty good look at where the average raider's DPS is.

Join me after the cut as we take a look at both where the average DPS of each spec is in ICC, and where the top DPS of each spec is as well.

About the data

All data is for ICC 25-man normal mode.

The data for average DPS was gathered from a sampling of about 25% of all the raid parses during the 10% raid buff period in ICC. This ensures that the raid buff was the same for all parses, and the gear levels were fairly recent. This data encompasses all gear levels, all skill levels, and includes both wipes and kills. Clearly aberrant results (like 0 DPS) were removed before calculations. There was nearly a half million lines of data that went into the averages calculations.

Some important notes about the averages:
  • This number does not in any way represent the damage that you can do, or your class can do. It's possible that certain specs reflect higher not because they're capable of more DPS, but just because they're easier to play, as one example.
  • Since this data comes from World of Logs, it is not necessarily representative of all raiders. In general we assume that the kind of raiders that upload parses to WoL are probably a bit more serious about their raiding on average, so across the board these numbers are likely to be a bit higher than average. However, since WoL does not represent a random sampling of all raiders, it is not possible to calculate a margin of error. I do think, however, that this is the more accurate possible data to which we have access, and it's probably darned close to what's going on.
  • The graphs are formatted to show the scale starting at near the lowest represented DPS, rather than at zero. This is in effect "zooming in" to get a higher fidelity view of the comparative DPS. Actual DPS numbers are included, rounded to the nearest 100 DPS.
  • Frost mages and subtlety rogues were severely under-represented in the data, to the extent that the results for these specs are unreliable. Other low-representation specs like arms warriors still had thousands of results, but frost mages had at times less than 50.
  • Death knights are not included at all in the averages. Because they can tank or DPS in any of their specs, there was no way to separate out the tank damage from the DPSer damage. This results in inaccurate numbers, for example showing blood DKs as doing less DPS than even frost mages. While the frost mages are under-represented and we don't know if the numbers are accurate, we know for a fact that the DK numbers are just plain wrong, so they're not included.
The data for the top DPS by spec was taken as the median of the top 200 results for each spec (and here we are able to safely include DKs). Taking the median lets us eliminate some of the over-inflated top results -- they guy who got 20 Tricks of the Trade in the course of one fight, for example. However these results are still showing players with fantastic gear, great skill, all raid buffs, and really good luck to boot. They are a fair representation of the potential of a spec in any given fight.

In the interest of saving space, classes are represented by their Recount colors, and specs by using their World of Logs icon. Here is a cheat-sheet for what icon goes with what spec:

[Edit: apparently I swapped a couple icons on all the graphs. Those have now all been fixed.]

Average ICC DPS by spec


This chart shows us average DPS by spec for all ICC boss fights combined. Some fights favor certain classes or certain specs, but once you combine it all this is what the distribution looks like. Assassination rogues have a clear lead -- a trend that will continue as we progress -- but interestingly if you remove them, then every class has a spec within 10% of the top DPS.

On the low end we have our four poor specs: frost mage, subtlety rogues, BM hunters, and arms warriors. They will generally hang out there on the low end throughout every data set, though arms warriors do not appear quite as bad off as the others.

Average Festergut DPS by spec


Here are the average DPS results just for Festergut. This is a very melee friendly fight. For all melee classes this fight is just a training dummy, and should treat all melee equally. Ranged have to do some moving, and are subject to the Vile Gas, which can hit them up to six or more times each fight, substantially hurting their DPS potential.

Both combat and assassination rogues show a huge, huge leap ahead of the pack on Festergut. Are they just easier to play? Perhaps they're easier to spec and gear and are thus less likely to make poor customization choices? Does their lower level gear just reward them disproportionately? Or are rogues just generally better players?

To my eye, the sad spec here are the shadow priests, who are significantly behind the curve. If you remove the darned rogues from the equation, we once again are in a position where every class has a spec that is within 10% of the top DPS... except the shadow priests.

Note that due to low frost mage and subtlety rogue representation, we had to go back to the 5% buff period of ICC in an attempt to get more results -- something that further lowers their reflected DPS slightly.

Average Rotface DPS by spec


Here is the average DPS results for Rotface. Rotface is a more ranged friendly fight. At times everyone has to run, and ranged classes at least have the option of occasionally being able to launch off some instant attacks from range, where the melee are forced to just watch the fight unfold. It's enough to finally knock the rogues out of the top slot, but just barely.

One tidbit that this fight highlights is something I find fascinating across all of the DPS average results: fire mages significantly out-perform arcane mages in every fight. This is not what we will see as we move on to the top DPS results for each spec.

Note that due to low frost mage and subtlety rogue representation, we had to go back to the 5% buff period of ICC in an attempt to get more results -- something that further lowers their reflected DPS slightly.

Top Festergut DPS by spec


Now we're starting to take a look at the top raid parses for each spec. Keep in mind that in addition to having great gear, well-optimized characters, and fantastic skills, these guys are also getting really good RNG luck. The ranged DPS, for example, are typically experiencing only one or sometimes zero Vile Gas attacks, allowing them much better DPS uptime.

Again we see the rogues up on top for what is arguably the best DPS metric fight in the endgame, but no longer by such a crazy margin. This time we don't have to even remove rogues to see that every class has a spec within 10% of the best DPS spec in the game... except shadow priests... again. Poor bastards.

Interestingly among our stalwart friends keeping each other company on the low end, arms warriors make a nice little surge ahead up at the top gear levels.

It should also be noted here that frost mages and subtlety rogues continue to have poor representation, and while this is the median of top DPS results, it's very possible that if more people played these specs we'd see slightly higher numbers from them.

Top Rotface DPS by spec


Rotface top DPS by spec. We have a more ranged friendly fight but again, these guys are experiencing good RNG. The melee tended to be the victim of just one Mutating Infection, and often none at all. Rogues managed to stay up toward the top of the meters, beaten by a small margin by arcane mages and marksman hunters.

Here we can really see the sudden reversal in the position of fire and arcane mages -- on the average parses fire was far in the lead, but on the top parses arcane clearly trumps fire. Do they require very specific gear to make it work? Or is fire just easier to play? I have to say, this question fascinates me more than any other, though there are many interesting differences between the average raiders and the best.

Also, we don't see a whole lot of evidence of the hybrid tax, especially at the top end of raiding. I feel particularly bad for the warlocks, whose top spec is beaten by multiple hybrids in the end game. However, they do much better once we're looking at the average raider, and demonology and affliction remain shockingly, amazingly similar in DPS.

But ultimately this is just data, as accurate as we're able to make it without a black ops mission to steal data from Blizzard HQ. We can say where each spec lies on average, or among the top raiders, but why they have that position is a matter of speculation, or at best deduction. The factors that go into it go far beyond just the mechanics of the game. And again, just because the top warlocks are out DPSed on Rotface by those darned hybrids -- druids and pallies and warriors and shamans and more shamans and more druids and even warlock wannabees -- doesn't mean that you can't top the charts on those fights.

So what questions does this data spark for you? What strange and unexpected things do you see in these numbers?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

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