I’ve received a lot of questions and comments about secondary stats lately, and I thought it might be worth clearing some stuff up. Here’s a sample of the kinds of questions our weights are raising:
- Why is mastery the worst hunter stat for all specs? [it's not]
- I thought mastery was supposed to be the best stat for all classes? [It's not]
- How can mastery be bad for BM? [It's not] It boosts our biggest damage!
- How can mastery be bad for SV? [It's not] since it boosts all of our damage!
A lot of these questions aren’t so much about what weights are so much as why they are the way they are. BM hunters in particular seem to be struggling with the concept that boosting their pet damage isn’t as good as other stats.
I think there are two main things contributing to the confusion, so let’s start there.
You have to keep in mind that when we talk about stat weights and reforging, we’re talking in qualitative terms. You have to understand that there’s a difference between “better and worse” and “good and bad.”
Let’s say I give you $100 just for being a dues paying hunter. That’s good, right? You’re happy. But what if I gave you $120 instead? That’s even better! But that doesn’t mean that me giving you $100 is bad — it’s just not as good.
Same thing with our secondary stats.
Just because crit is better than mastery doesn’t mean that mastery is bad. Just because mastery is the worst stat for your spec doesn’t mean it’s a bad stat. This is a very important distinction! Especially now when the two bottom stats for a spec are often very close to each other in value.
Part of this good or bad thinking may be left over from Wrath era haste — haste wasn’t just the worst hunter stat, it was worst by leaps and bounds. We got used to thinking of haste as barely better that nothing at all (and, I should note, this was sloppy thinking, but very prevalent).
So again, just because a stat is worst than another stat doesn’t mean it’s a bad stat. That’s like saying agility is a bad stat because it’s worse than ranged dps. Agility is a great stat! So is mastery, and haste, and crit. They all increase our dps — just some of them are better. If the stats aren’t all perfectly balanced, one of them has to be on the bottom.
Another contributing issue, particularly on the BM side, is pet scaling. Again I suspect this is Wrath-era thinking leaking into our new Cataclysm class design. Our pets now scale with all of our dps stats — and you cannot ignore the benefit of pet dps even in MM and SV specs. They contribute a lot of dps, even though BM pets contribute more.
This means that when we evaluate stats, we have to evaluate their effect on pet dps as well as hunter dps. I think a lot of hunters are used to assuming that all stats but AP affect only us, and not the pet.
I’m not going to go through every single explanation of why one stat is better than another for every spec — stat weights are calculated either based on exhaustive testing under very controlled circumstances or logical use of spreadsheets like Zeherah’s DPS Analyzer or, ideally, both. There’s a lot of tiny things that go into stat weights. Just about every single thing you do to optimize your hunter, in fact.
BM mastery is a frequently-asked one though, and many BM hunters email me to point out that they get a ton of dps from their pets, so increasing their pet damage should clearly be huge. And you know what, it is! Just not as huge as other stats.
BM mastery vs crit
Let’s take BM mastery vs crit, since that’s an easy one to explain and the most commonly-asked one I get. Your typical BM hunter gets maybe around 45% of their dps from their pet — that’s including Kill Command, by the way. There is of course a decent amount of variability to that, but 45% is a good median.
Now 1 mastery (not mastery rating, but 1 mastery) increases our pet’s dps by 1.7%, and that also boosts Kill Command damage. Since pets + KC contribute around 45% of our dps, 1 mastery is increasing our overall dps by 0.765%
For most of our shots 1% crit (well, from 0 to 1%) is a 1% dps gain, since we use the 200% physical damage multiplier. This is complicated a bit by our meta gem boosting crit damage, and the fact that we still have a couple shots like Serpent Sting using the 150% spell damage crit multiplier — but in general nowadays 1% crit is a bit more than a 1% damage increase — compared to the 0.765% of 1 mastery.
So 1% crit is a much larger dps gain than 1 mastery, and since they both use the same combat rating conversion 1 crit rating is equivalently better than 1 mastery rating.
Now let’s look at mastery for survival hunters.
SV mastery vs crit
For SV one point of mastery increases all their magical damage by 1%. That is the vast majority of their damage, certainly, but not all of it. That doesn’t affect auto shots, kill shots, or pet dps.
On the other hand 1% crit for SV increases the crit chance of all SV magical shots and auto shot and kill shot and – this is important — increases their pet’s crit chance. So 1 mastery is giving us less than a 1% dps gain, since it’s only 1% to our magical damage, white crit is giving us over 1% dps gain since it’s affecting everything, including our pet.
Since it takes the same rating to get 1 mastery or 1% crit, this makes crit a clear winner for SV, even before considering the benefit of talents like Sic ‘Em and Toxicology the further increase the benefit of crit.
Mastery is still good, and can still be used to balance dps
But just because crit is better than mastery, doesn’t make mastery bad. Mastery is still increasing your dps, and doing it by a substantial amount. Yes, if we have the choice we’ll reforge as much of our mastery as we can into crit. Heck, depending on your spec you might even wish all of your gear had only crit, hit and haste on it (certainly not for MM though).
But even if you somehow managed to have zero mastery on your gear, you’d still have 8 mastery, since that’s the baseline that you start with. Thus Blizzard can still tweak the balance of your class by tweaking mastery numbers (as well as tweaking specialization numbers).