Last week, Fouton from Icy Veins asked me whether I had tried to determine an “ilvl value” for the tier 16 4-piece set bonus. Stated another way, the problem he was trying to solve was twofold:
- Is it worth using lower-ilvl tier pieces instead of non-set pieces just for the 4-set bonus?
- If so, how much lower? Is it worth using LFR tier instead of heroic warforged non-set?
Unfortunately, I didn’t have an answer for him. I knew the 4-piece was powerful, of course. There was no question that using tier pieces over warforged loot from the same difficulty level was a survivability gain. But I had never really looked into whether it would make sense to use much lower-ilvl tier instead of warforged gear.
I was unconsciously assuming that if you had access to warforged loot from e.g. heroic, then you also had access to off-set gear from that same difficulty mode, so the most you would care about is a 6-ilvl difference. But especially for guilds progressing through normal, or guilds at the mercy of the personal loot system of LFR/Flex modes, that’s not necessarily a good assumption. Surely there are cases where a player has an LFR tier chest or helm and warforged normal-mode off-set from a different boss, and wants to know what to wear?
So I threw together a few quick profiles in Simulationcraft to test this.
As a control group, we’ll just use the T16 normal-mode protection paladin profile. This uses four pieces of normal-mode T16 (head, shoulders, chest, and gloves) with non-warforged Legplates of Unthinking Strife as the one off-set piece. Note that none of the gear in this profile has valor upgrades applied. The stat breakdown is given below:
The rest of the setup is pretty much what you’d expect. Talents are Eternal Flame, Unbreakable Spirit, Divine Purpose, and Light’s Hammer, glyphs are Focused Shield, Alabaster Shield, and Divine Protection.
I then worked up four different variant gear sets to compare. The first is a set where we downgrade two of our tier pieces to LFR level. We choose the chest and the shoulders for this, since the tier helm and gloves both have haste on them. Since both chest and shoulders are expertise/mastery pieces with expertise reforged into haste, we lose a chunk of those secondary stats as well as some strength, stamina, and armor.
Since we don’t really want to deal with the hassle of reforging each gear set to cap expertise, we cheat a little bit by adding a shirt to the gear set that will put us over the cap. While this adds a little ambiguity to our results, it should be a larger boon to the non-set arrangements than the tier sets.
After doing all of that, our second gear set looks like this:
For the next set, we replace the chest and shoulders with normal-mode off-set pieces. In each case we’ve gone for maximizing haste, so we’ve chosen Chestplate of Congealed Corrosion and Darkfallen Shoulderplates. In both cases we’ve used the warforged (ilvl 559) version and applied two valor upgrades for a net ilvl of 567. Since we’re using a hacked shirt with 2500 expertise on it, we’ve chosen not to reforge the shoulders and have used a crit->mastery reforge on the chest. This gives us the maximum bang for our buck since none of that extra itemization has to go into expertise.
The stats for that gear set look like this (note that “Diff” is still in reference to T16N):
In our final two gear sets, we go to the other extreme: what if we force the player to use four or all five LFR tier pieces, including the severely sub-optimal dodge/mastery legs? We’ll be kind and reforge the dodge on those legs to haste, and continue to compensate for expertise and hit caps by using a fake shirt.
We take all six of these gear sets and run them through a 50k-iteration simulation against the T16N25 TMI boss. Anything not explicitly mentioned is identical to the defaults in the T16N profile.
Here’s what we get out the other side:
And summarizing the important bits in table format:
It should be immediately apparent from the table that the T16N gear set performs the best for survivability. It has the lowest TMI by a large margin and the highest SotR uptime.
Using normal warforged off-set pieces (T16N-WF) may be a gain of 2376 haste, but you actually lose about 9% SotR uptime, which means losing the 4-piece is costing you over 10% SotR uptime all by itself. And of course, smoothness (as measured by TMI) suffers greatly; the TMI is about 20 times higher, which means the spikes are roughly 27% larger on average.
Upgrading those off-set pieces to heroic warforged (T16N-HWF) pieces cuts your losses somewhat, but still gives significantly worse results than the control set. It’s not a large increase in haste or SotR uptime over the normal warforged configuration, but the extra stamina drops the TMI to around 1700, still about 18% larger spikes than T16N.
The T16N-LFR gear set, on the other hand, outperforms both of the off-set configurations. The TMI is only about 4 times worse than T16N, corresponding to a 13% increase in spike size, but the SotR uptime isn’t that much lower. So there’s no question that using 2 pieces of LFR tier (chest and shoulders) to get the 4-piece bonus gives superior survivability to using two well-itemized heroic warforged items in those slots to get extra haste.
If you instead force the use of four or five LFR tier pieces, the situation gets worse. That’s a significant loss of haste and stamina, so the TMI is predictably much higher. 4LFR is roughly equivalent to the T16N-HWF set in TMI, making up for the significant stamina reduction with the higher SotR uptime of the 4-piece bonus. It’s solidly ahead of the T16-WF gear set in both categories.
5LFR is still better than the WF set that uses normal-mode warforged off-set, both in terms of TMI and SotR uptime. 5LFR gives higher SotR uptime than the HWF set, but it trails in TMI thanks to the extra stamina and secondary stats (~5k haste) of the heroic warforged gear. That said, I don’t think this situation will be very common – players that have access to heroic warforged off-set should rarely need to resort to LFR pieces to complete their tier set.
There are two other things I want to point out about this data. Note that the higher-ilvl sets also convey slightly higher DPS, which is something to consider. The difference isn’t large (less than 3%), but on a serious DPS check that might be worthwhile.
Also note that all of these results assume you’re using Eternal Flame and Divine Purpose. If you’re talenting Sacred Shield, then you can still game this effect with free Word of Glory casts to fish for more Divine Purpose procs, but the benefit will be reduced somewhat. And of course, if you’re not using Divine Purpose then the 4-piece bonus won’t help your SotR uptime at all, though it will still make you more survivable by virtue of removing the opportunity cost of having to heal yourself with Word of Glory.
I’m hesitant to assign an equivalent ilvl value to the 4-piece bonus for a few reasons. The first of which is something most people don’t think about: not all ilvls are created equal. The head, chest, and leg slots give you more stats per ilvl than the shoulder and glove slots do, so the exact ilvl value will depend on the particular slots in which you’re making the sacrifice. In addition, it will depend a bit on which off-set gear you have; we’ve only looked at two specific choices (shoulders/chest), so we’d get a different answer if we considered the head, glove, or leg slots.
However, it’s clear that under the right conditions the tier bonus is stronger than trading up 52 ilvls in two slots (the difference between T16N-LFR and T16N-HWF). We also know that it’s roughly equivalent to trading up 52 ilvls in shoulder/chest and gaining 25 ilvls in head/gloves (though in this case, with equivalent tier rather than off-set).
Beyond that we’d have to guess a little, or run more sims where we compare the tier sets to other sets that use only off-set pieces of much higher quality. That introduces the benefit of the 2-piece bonus as well, though that’s probably a relatively small effect. It’s clear that four heroic warforged off-set pieces would beat out four or more LFR tier pieces based on the data we already have. It seems unlikely that a set with four heroic warforged off-set would be able to compete with the T16N set though.
The take-home message here is that the 4-piece can be really, really strong if used properly, and it’s worth resisting the temptation of even significantly-higher-ilvl gear to keep it. In all but the most extreme cases, such as trading multiple LFR tier pieces for multiple heroic warforged off-set pieces, keeping the 4-piece is going to be the better call.
Again, that comes with some caveats: it assumes you’re talenting Eternal Flame and Divine Purpose. If you swap from Divine Purpose to Holy Avenger for an encounter, then the benefit is reduced (though not eliminated – it still makes EF easier to maintain); if you don’t use either DP or EF, then the benefit is smaller still, and depends on how often and effectively you use WoG as an emergency heal.