Quick Notes on Using the Wrong Gems

This was prompted by two recent conversations I had–first, the one surrounding this tweet, and second, someone telling me about a guildmate of theirs complaining about a different guildmate who was using bad gems for their class.

So, the odd thing about someone using completely wrong gems (or some comparable character setup choice) is that it doesn’t matter, on its face.  Gems (especially now) are such a tiny fraction of your overall character strength, and the difference between two secondary stats is such a small fraction of that, that you’re pretty hard-pressed to conclude that someone using the wrong gems has any effect on anything whatsoever.  Maybe in some unusually strong cases, that 1 person out of the 20 in your raid will have a 1% shortfall in their output?  Even that much is probably rather rare.

Basically, if you imagine that you couldn’t inspect people’s character sheets or stats directly, I’d posit that there’s no experiment you could conduct that would reveal to you whether the people in the raid had optimal gems or slightly suboptimal gems.

So why do they matter?  I’ve always only thought there was one reason, and this is including all the way back when I was in a very serious high-level guild and would review applicants.  It’s a way of showing that you’ve researched your class.  That is something you want to know about an applicant or raid member, and is kind of hard to find out directly.

It’s a little tricky because they don’t necessarily need to be able to know the theorycraft rationale for why that stat is preferred.  Just like the gems themselves aren’t the actual point of interest, being able to do/understand a lot of math isn’t the right criterion either.  It’s entirely possible for someone to understand the spellcasting decisions, which is the actual important issue, without articulating the theory.  But I think what it comes down is, there’s really no way to develop an good practical understanding of the class that won’t, somewhere along the way, involve the information about what stats are best.

Practically speaking, the only way to get solid information on the best play of a class is by reading resources written by others who used some kind of mathematical tool.  And those always include information on stats (conceivably they might not include that topic, but that would be rather odd).  The only exception is if you’re the person making the tool, in which case you of course can work out the stats for yourself as well.  If you’ve gotten all of your class understanding from sources (including “play experience alone”) that don’t contain stat information, then you must not have looked at things which are rigorous.  And that actually is something worth selecting for in applicants and guildmates.

So gems turn out to be good signal.  It’s not very discriminating, sure.  Someone might be using the right ones just by some whim, or by following their Attunement (which is often right), or from seeing other players do it.  But I’m of course not saying you should conclude that anyone with the right gems will be a great person to play with (wouldn’t be nice if that worked).  I am saying that using wrong ones all but rules out that the person has used any meaningful resources in learning to play their class.  And that is very likely to have more than a 1% effect on their performance.

6 thoughts on “Quick Notes on Using the Wrong Gems

  1. Excellent post, Hamlet. I completely agree on the basis that while a 0.5~1% increase from gems isn’t necessarily important (usually), it definitely says a lot about the person involved.

    In fact, recently my guild tried to help improve a member using solid resources, and theory, and we were told that they have been using those stats since vanilla and weren’t going to change because it “works well enough” for them. Which was in fact true, as their DPS was average. It’s interesting how stats/gems/enchants can identify a player who is just going through the motions regardless of skill level vs. a player who puts forth the effort (and in-game resources in some cases like weapin enchants) to not only min/max their class, but also to improve.

  2. I think the very small differences come with a fight like Mythic Butcher (and to some extent Mythic Tectus)

    If you don’t have the extra .6% for such a short fight it matters. Especially when you’re on the cusp of killing the boss through his enrage.

    But again, as you mentioned, that is usually not the case and in all other cases won’t matter.

    • Lack of execution will always have a bigger impact than selecting the right gems. This is even more true in the encounters you mentioned.

      But back to topic. I would strongly advise not to judge people by looking at their gems. Always to talk with them what their reasoning is. It is always possible that they will come up with some valid explanation. AskMrRobot, SimC and guides/theorycrafting is no holy cow to follow blindly.

      • Yes, I think anyone who can give any explanation of why they’re choosing a certain stat, that reflects a proper understanding of the class, would be totally acceptable.

        • I’m not sure I’d go that far, Hamlet (for reference, GM of a two night guild that’s been in the top few two night guilds in the US since Firelands — currently top Alliance and I think like 4ish overall?). I completely agree that for most players the difference between secondary stats is irrelevant compared to how they play. Even if you have four sockets and then factor in enchants, I think that’s like 450 secondary stats total…so even if your best stat is 0.6 of your primary and worst is 0.4 of your primary that’s a 90 primary stat difference max. Which is 36% of a good flask. Not a big deal.

          But…these things can add up. If you’re losing 2% DPS due to the wrong secondaries, 5% DPS from a wrong talent, 4% DPS from not understanding something about their rotation…well, that starts to really add up (before we get into actual execution errors). I suppose the question becomes “What does a proper understanding mean?”

          Consider a Shadow Priest (which I play):

          What does a proper understanding of the difference between Clarity of Power and Auspicious Spirits entail?

          Does a proper understanding of CoP include knowing the concept of DoTweave? Does it include knowing exactly how to DoTweave?

          And that’s not even getting into other factors like Insanity vs Surge of Darkness or Twist of Fate vs Shadowy Insight.

          And it’s extremely rare to find one of these without the other. If you know the better talent of CoP/AS and know how not to just DoTweave but to do it properly, then you’ll also know the best secondary stats. They’re all tied to the same research (and keeping current on your class/spec).

          I mean, I hate CoP and wish I could use AS but my damage would be significantly slower even executing AS perfectly.

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