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Shifting Perspectives: Why PvP gear isn't necessarily a stupid idea

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Shifting Perspectives for cat, bear, restoration and balance druids. This Tuesday, Allison is somewhat startled to discover that one of her long-held convictions is not necessarily right.

On the few occasions when I can be convinced to do a gear post for bears, I've generally shied away from including PvP gear. This is actually a complete turnaround from our situation in The Burning Crusade, when Arena gear was an absolute godsend due to the bear's desperation for critical strike reduction. The now-vanished talent Survival of the Fittest (the modern Thick Hide) gave us flat 3% crit reduction, and then we had to scrounge the last 2.6% in the interest of not being stomped into oblivion by a raid boss. Not surprisingly, most players wound up using a few pieces of PvP gear to reach the all-important crit cap, because resilience reduced your chance to be crit in PvE as well.

But ever since that changed, I soured on the use of PvP gear in PvE. Resilience is now completely wasted in PvE content, you can't reforge it, and you'll only ever get one other secondary stat on PvP pieces anyway.

"Pooh, pooh," I said.

"Threat generation," I said.

"Why would you want to gimp yourself with so much useless itemization?" I said.

"Three bags full," I said.

However, I couldn't help but notice that PvP gear was still crammed with all manner of agility goodness, and then there's the minor point that Kalon is pretty much always right. So I decided to try a little experiment to see how much the average player would be gimping himself by using a full set of PvP threads. Pay attention, children, because this is the last time for several minutes that I will be heard to utter the following words:

I was wrong.

Nibbling at resistance to PvP gear

I had an uncomfortable realization this past fall while bouncing between my real main and the version of her that exists on the PTR that -- combined with the huge threat buff in August 2011 -- eliminated any lingering resistance I had to the idea of using PvP gear in PvE.

Here's the deal: My usual go-go-raiding-booyeah-cha-ching-server-first-holla! main didn't raid on the live servers for most of 2011 for a variety of reasons, one of which I call the Year of the Hip with two grandparents, and then there was that very large tree that rudely fell on my house. Before patch 4.3 rolled around, I was getting tired of seeing her in a patchwork set of blues and epics. One day my patience finally snapped, and I dipped into my emergency stash of Wintergrasp Commendations (packrats unite!) to buy a full set of the ilevel 384 Dragonhide gear.

After doing so, I had the following epiphany while looking at her character sheet:

"Huh. Her stats really aren't that much different from the tier 12 she's got on the PTR."

Followed shortly afterwards by:

"Oh, crap."

Finding out I'm wrong about something is a special occasion I typically reserve for days that end in Y. But this is the sort of discussion that benefits from a few numbers.

Using Wowhead's very useful Item Comparison Tool, it's easy to look at gear sets and see what you're gaining (or losing) whenever you're debating potential upgrades. Obviously, it's important to compare broadly equivalent gear. There's no argument that heroic Dragon Soul drops are going to outclass the stuff you can buy with honor, but the real question is how otherwise similar drops will compare.

As I write this in January 2012, this is realistically the range of gear that any player will look at while considering upgrades:
  • Ilevel 410 Heroic raid tier/drops
  • Ilevel 403 Conquest PvP gear
  • Ilevel 397 Normal raid gear/drops and valor point vendor items
  • Ilevel 390 Honor PvP gear
  • Ilevel 384 Raid Finder tier/drops
  • Ilevel 378 Patch 4.3 5-man gear and justice point vendor items
So let's say that you're looking to get your bear equipped before you set foot in raids, or maybe you just want some nice stuff to keep your threat lead far ahead of all the obnoxious DPS death knights in 5-mans. (I really don't know what's up with frost and unholy death knights, but they're literally the only people who have a snowball's chance in hell of pulling off me.)

For the moment, we're going to try comparing the ilevel 390 PvP gear (which you can buy for honor) to the drops from the new patch 4.3 5-mans and then to drops from Raid Finder tier 13. This all falls under the classification of "stuff you can get without a raiding guild." Obviously, the numbers will change if you decide to compare conquest PvP gear or raid with your guild or whatever.

Please note that the Item Comparison tool does not calculate either the two-piece +70 agility bonus or four-piece +90 agility bonus from the Feral Dragonhide PvP set. This will become important very shortly, even if it's irrelevant for our first example. Every comparison here assumes you're gemming Delicate Inferno Rubies with two Adept or Polished Ember Topaz or to activate the meta. It also assumes you're reforging secondary stats to dodge. While this won't be universally true of all players, both comparisons here are at least playing by the same rules.

PvP set vs. 5-man gear

How does the PvP set stack up against 5-man gear? No contest -- the PvP gear wins. No amount of secondary stat goodness is going to compete with the agility, stamina, and armor you'll get from the ilevel 390 honor gear. If you're planning on tanking Dragon Soul through the Raid Finder or just screwing around in 5-mans, this is a very dependable set.

Gems have a negligible effect on this particular comparison due to the same eight sockets and uninspiring bonuses. If you reforge on every piece, the 5-man gear will give you slightly more dodge, but that'll be overridden by the dodge you'll get off the agility from the PvP set. I haven't bothered adding enchants because they'd be the same either way.

PvP set vs. Raid Finder tier 13

This is where things get a little murkier, largely because even the Raid Finder version of tier 13 will give you access to three additional sockets (red ones!) and significantly better socket bonuses than you'll get off the ilevel 390 PvP set. At first glance, it looks like the PvP gear gets thrashed by the Raid Finder set, and to a certain extent, that's actually true. No matter what you reforge, the PvE set will always trounce it for threat generation. This is a near-universal rule while comparing PvP and PvE gear, though it's much less of a concern since the August 2011 threat coefficient increase.

But, but, but! Remember how I said that the Item Comparison tool doesn't calculate the PvP set bonuses, which give you an additional 160 agility? Once you toss that into the numbers above, the PvP set still comes out ahead with respect to the bear tank's three most important stats: armor, agility, and stamina. That's pretty much what you'd expect while comparing ilevel 390 to ilevel 384 gear, but the difference is relatively slim.

Or to put it another way, the Raid Finder set needed three extra sockets and two +30 agility socket bonuses to get close to the honor PvP set's primary stats. Naturally, that difference increases if you bank valor to convert to conquest points and then buy the conquest PvP gear.

So if I've already got one of the PvP sets, I shouldn't bother getting tier 13 through the Raid Finder? Er, not exactly. Any theorycrafter will tell you that set bonuses are the real attraction of tier pieces, and both of the tier 13 set bonuses are excellent. If you're planning on tanking for a normal or heroic raid, I'd dump the PvP set and get tier, even if it's the Raid Finder version. If you're not planning on tanking raids, it's kind of a toss-up. However, the important point for anyone looking to tank more difficult content is that PvP gear will allow you to get the primary stats you need.

What do you lose with PvP gear?

This is probably obvious from the pictures and links above, but no matter which tier of PvP gear you buy, you'll always lose some secondary stats (most notably mastery). More to the point, you're losing the opportunity to reforge one while keeping the other intact. PvP gear is always itemized with resilience + something else, and because you can't reforge resilience, you always have to reforge that "something else" instead of having a choice.

Is there anything else to recommend the PvP sets?

  • The 15% movement speed bonus for bears, cats, and Travel Form outdoors is a lot more addictive than you'd think. It's not a substitute for the Assassin's Step or Earthen Vitality enchants because there are still a lot of indoor raid encounters and dungeons to which it doesn't apply, but once you've had a 124% speed bear, it's like you can't go back.
  • The cheap Skull Bash from the gloves (only 5 rage with the discount) is really nice, especially after shifting when you're not sitting on a lot of rage.
  • Not looking like a Crayola box puked all over you (I will grant this is a less compelling argument in the age of transmogrification).
  • If you divide your time equally between Battlegrounds and 5-mans, it's awfully convenient not having to switch gear.

So what do I say to players who bad-mouth me for using PvP gear to tank?

"Screw you."

Be nice, Allie.

Oh, fine. How about, "This is actually best-in-slot before raids due to the bear's reliance on primary stats for both survivability and threat generation. Additionally, it's better than Raid Finder tier unless the situational benefits of the tier bonuses are taken into account blah blah."

If in doubt, bore people into submission.

So if PvP gear is so good, why are players so negative about seeing it on a tank?

Well, they're not exactly wrong. There is a legitimate bias against the use of PvP gear by tanks, mostly because PvP pieces for our plate brethren don't work as well as they do for bears. (I'm writing this article shortly after healing a largely PvP-geared warrior through the Dungeon Finder, who -- predictably enough -- was a mana sinkhole. Not fun.) Warriors, paladins, and death knights are all a lot more dependent on their secondary stats than we are, so there's a much bigger survivability penalty for them in PvP gear.

That doesn't mean that a plate tank with a few pieces of PvP gear is a bad tank; they're just as susceptible as we are to getting screwed by loot RNG. It just means that a PvP-geared bear will, on average, be a lot easier to heal than a PvP-geared warrior, paladin, or death knight.

Shifting Perspectives helps you gear your bear druid, breaks down the facts about haste for trees, and then digs into the restoration mastery. You might also enjoy our look at the disappearance of the bear.

Filed under: Druid, Analysis / Opinion, (Druid) Shifting Perspectives

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