magespecs
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Warning
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Kavan pointed out a serious problem with the results. When set to a non-mage race (I used Night Elf, to avoid any racial bonuses affecting the results), Rawr has no base stats to use, so all the base stats are 0, rather than whatever a level 70 character would start with. This is why Arcane did so horribly. I'm currently re-running the results using Blood Elves (since their racial ability is not modeled by Rawr, and kinda sucks for mages anyway), but this is gonna take a long time... not the month it took the first time, since I don't have to start from scratch, but probably at least a week.
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Bolded entries have been re-calculated already. Non-bolded stats are using the incorrect data.
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Overview
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This spreadsheet was imported from Excel, so obviously some formatting was lost. In particular, the cell backgrounds, which were a dynamic conditional format in Excel, were manually added by me in the Google version.
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The first tab, Shadowpriest, shows the maximum DPS achieved by the various talent specs at each gearing level. I cleared Rawr's item cache, and repopulated it with equipment capped at the given iLevel. Then I asked Rawr to optimize the equipment for the best gear it could, given the spec and available gear.
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Other than iLevel, there are a few other differences between the gearing. iLevel 114 (pre-Kara) sockets only green quality gems, and only the basic global buffs are applied; a player at that level is most likely doing 5 man content. iLevel 125 (Kara gear) sockets only blue quality gems, and most global buffs are applied. iLevel 135 gear and above sockets purple quality gems, and all global buffs are applied. Only one group-specific buff (paladin auras, Draenai auras, Totems, etc) is ever included: Heroism. This helps eliminate discussion of group makeup on the Mage's DPS.
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Obviously, the most important tab is the Shadowpriest tab. That shows the DPS of the various specs with different levels of equipment, assuming you have a Shadowpriest with you. This is the tab where where I ran a full Optimize for every single value on the list (often several) except for the very last one (164 + all buffs).
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Then I took every one of those builds, no change in equipment, and saw how well they did without a shadowpriest. That's on the NoShadowpriest tab.
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Finally, I took all of those builds (with Shadowpriests), and ran them through different fight lengths (with no change in equipment). That's all the Time tabs, one tab for each level of equipment. This shows the burst damage capability of a build, as well as how mana-efficient it can be for long endurance fights.
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Highlighting
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The highlighted boxes on each table are in the top 10% of damage for the given row, using the 0/0/0 talentspec as the baseline.
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For example, on the Shadowpriest tab, at the 125 iLevel gearing, the highest DPS spec is 18/0/51 with 1420.72dps. 0/0/0 clocks in with 587.71dps. 1420.72 - 587.71 = 833.01 dps from the highest to the lowest. So the top 10% of the specs are within 83.30dps from the top spec... or anything over 1337.42dps. That is what is highlighted in red.
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Results
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Frost builds did surprisingly well. Though some Fire builds were able to beat Frost at the very end gearing (this is the best possible gear in the game, assuming you have anything you want out of Sunwell, badge gear, etc), Frost was in the lead by a tiny margin the entire way up. The advantage of Frost is even more evident when you look at different fight lengths... short fights really favor Frost, where it can pop out two Elementals; long fights favor Frost because it has better mana efficiency. I expected Frost to win at low gearing levels (in fact, proving that was why I started this project) but I did not expect it to do so well at the end.
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Arcane did surprisingly poorly. In fact, I was so convinced that something must be wrong with the optimizer that I worked on the 164 gearing manually, trying to find a set of gear that got Arcane to do better... I was able to beat the optimizer, but unable to get Arcane even close to Fire or Frost. This contradicts conventional wisdom that at very high gearing, Arcane's large mana pool enables it to shine. Even in very short fights Arcane is unable to beat Fire or Frost. This either indicates that Arcane proponents are wrong, or perhaps that Rawr is not modeling Arcane rotations well.
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Fire did about what I expected... not so well early on, but a strong finish. No real surprises there. It's worthwhile to point out that Fire gains a larger benefit from Shaman totems than any other spec... Fire noticably pulls ahead in peak theoretical DPS when put in a group with a Shadowpriest, Moonkin, and two Shamans in order to get every possible buff in the game (note the last row on the Shadowpriest tab).
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Further Improvements
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In the Elitist Jerks thread, I posted all the files used to construct this data, including the slightly modified version of Rawr (I added two mage specs to the drop-down list, Fire/Meditation and Frost/Meditation). Please feel free to take those files and find better optimized sets of gear for a given spec and gearing, and I will update this spreadsheet with the best results. Make sure you use the same version of Rawr (only available in that thread), unless you feel like re-doing ALL of the DPS numbers in a more recent version of Rawr. Also make sure you use the included itemCache files... don't accidentally include higher iLevel gear on a lower-iLevel character.
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If you do post a better DPS number for a given spec and iLevel, you need to provide the character file that created it. Attach it to the post or something. I will not update DPS numbers unless I can verify that the gear is of the proper level, the talents match the listed specs, and the fight and buff options were not altered.
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Discussion
Charts
Shadowpriest
NoShadowpriest
Time114
Time125
Time135
Time146
Time164