Explaining Best in Slot vs Best DPS

One of the trouble spots I have noticed when making a best in slot list is that the piece of gear that yields the most DPS isn’t always best in slot, at least according to how we used to calculate gear.

There are several sites out there that list gear in terms of highest DPS, but be leery, because if you gather the highest pieces of gear, then you may find yourself short on some very important stats.

The Mastery Factor

Mastery is on a ton of gear, and it’s really hard to avoid it.  Mastery increases the chance that Hand of Light will proc, which essentially gives us an instant 3 Holy Power at no cost, usually used for Templar’s Verdict.  This is very difficult to calculate as a flat DPS number increase, because of the random factors involved.

Now, my math is not even close to the level of guys like Redcape and Exemplar over on Elitist Jerks, and Rawr is also one of those tools from above that I rely heavily upon…so, I am researching as much as I can to see how accurate we can be in therms of guessing DPS with gear with Mastery on it.

What I know so far is that Mastery functions similarly to crit, in that it increases a percentage to get a higher damaging attack.  While crit affects all of our melee abilities (and on a different table spells, too), it’s going to take a different calculation to apply the effect of Mastery, and assume you are using it for Templar’s Verdict, Inquisition, Zealotry or all of the above.

Mastery Affecting DPS “Rating” of Gear

When I am comparing two pieces of gear, most situations have identical or similar strength and stamina.  So, to determine which gear is the better choice, I have to look at the secondary stats.  Quite often, Mastery is throwing me for a loop, and pieces of gear that have crit and expertise are coming up as more raw DPS than hit and mastery.

Now, the problem with that is hit is our first stat priority, so that is the gear I would want to take , even though my DPS calculation have the crit and expertise winning out on damage output.

Here is an example:

  1. [Bracers of Cooled Anger] (H)
  2. [Alpha Bracers] (H)

Alpha bracers have a smaller amount of Strength, but have hit rating and a gem slot.  Cooled Anger has more strength, but also has crit and expertise, which both weigh much heavier than the mastery on Alpha.  In this instance, I’m still going to say take the Alpha Bracers and slap a Bold gem in the gem slot, even though Cooled Anger still comes out as more DPS.


This is why Mastery is causing me such a headache.  Until Blizzard gives our Mastery a boost in importance, deciding what is Best in Slot versus Best DPS is not always going to result in the same piece of gear.

The lists you find here and on other sites are going to differ from one another, and I suggest you take them as guides to use as you build your DPS sets.  Figure out which pieces work best for your gear combinations, and as we get further into Cataclysm, hopefully I can come back to you saying, YES, THIS IS DEFINITELY THE BEST GEAR FOR RETS!


  1. Khor says:

    If you guys have any input, as always, I am all ears. I’m definitely not perfect, so there is always a chance I missed something. Open discussions always help everyone involved!

  2. KG says:

    Thanks for this site. You do great work.

  3. Iopin says:

    Cheers for the update Khor, i’ve noticed hand of light procs alot more since hitting 85 and i’ve only got 13%

  4. Bastiatt says:

    Hey Khor,

    (Grats on dinging 85 btw!)

    I was browsing item options over at http://www.maxdps.com to look at some of the drop options that Cata has to offer now that I have my own Ret Pally at 85.

    However, aside from swooning over Sapphirium Battleplate, I noticed that their MaxDPS recommendation for EVERY SINGLE ITEM with a gem slot is a Precise Carnelian, not Bold. And even when you select “rare gems” vs “uncommon gems” they just switch to Precise Inferno Rubies, not Bold.

    So are we really stacking Expertise on our gear and not strength? Playing RetPally and not choosing Strength for everything feels weird….

    Thought maybe you had some mathematical insight to justify this or maybe its just a glitch in their algorithm?

  5. Khor says:

    That’s exactly the problem (ahem site) I was referring to. Their calculations are not quite where they need to be, and you see them giving some very heavy weight to expertise. Also, they ARE matching gem slots, which isn’t always the best case for us. It depends on socket bonus (yes, some are +30 strength, so matching bonus is okay), and every player will differ.

    Use MaxDPS with caution. You can get an idea of which pieces are strong, but even I am telling you my own lists shouldn’t be relied upon 100% just yet. Until we come back and say, this is how important mastery is, and this is how important the other stats are, and this is how you want to gem, we’re more or less going to have to follow old priorities.

  6. Darkvish says:

    Welcome to the hardest class to play in Cataclysm… The Retribution Paladin :)

  7. Alexcalibur says:

    Hey Khor, two quick questions .. How come you don’t have the Oversized Oblique Ogre Obliterator?.. or has it just not shown up on your profile yet. Is it worth it? . .. Also, what’s your take on the all the Redsteel gear. For not a lot of gold I could get a full set.. I’m trying to be patient but I’m getting sick of my low damage.

  8. Naididae says:

    As a simple rule, being Strength much much higher than all other secondary stats (even hit and expertise under cap): if it has more strength it’s better.

    The secondary stats you can just work out on reforging (as usual get to hit cap, exp cap then go for crit [crit is valued higher than haste now that we should be using CS - filler - filler]).

    Now, if 2 items have the same amount of STR but one has, let’s say, crit and haste and the other one has crit and mastery, opt for the one WITHOUT mastery.

  9. Anthony says:


    On my server, that very set you mentioned, is bringing me in TONS of gold these days. So either people are not being patient, or it is worth it.

    I myself have not really got into dungeons at the moment, or even worried about gearing. Im taking this expansion a little bit different. There is high demand in gear and mats, so me being a BS/Miner Im going to be playing the AH game for a few weeks.

  10. Alexcalibur says:

    thanks for your reply Anthony, I just got the helm .. I saw it for 75g and thought what the heck. It was going for 500+ last night! .. I switched from mining to JC in WotLK. .. I’m not sure how I’m going to skill up JC and engineering now tho. I should have had switched back and had it ready for cataclysm… I didn’t because I became obsessed with hitting every node. It took forever to get anywhere.

  11. Gigi says:

    I find that I see no difference when I have a mastery item equipped or not. It’s seems I get the same amount of HoL either way. But since I don’t count or anything this could all be perception.

  12. Letcheoff says:

    Please read this small part of a blog from the worldofwarcraft.com page. Title “Primary vs. Secondary Stats or: What Happened to All the Agi/Spirit Gear?”

    There are some exceptions. Hit and expertise have real caps so it’s intended that they are very good up until their caps. It’s a longer discussion than I can fit in this blog, but we like how cappable stats affect the gearing decision — the puzzle of which gems to use or how to reforge is often played because you want to hit that hit number without going over. Likewise, Spirit is the kind of stat that healers will only need “enough” of, and once they feel comfortable with their mana regen, additional Spirit will be less attractive than other secondary stats. (This sort of thing also depends a lot on the encounter mind you.) Mastery is a new stat for us, and while it’s working great for some talent specs, we’ll almost certainly have to tweak it for others in a future patch (Unholy and Retribution come to mind, because their masteries currently affect sources of damage that just aren’t large enough to be competitive).

    If you notice on the last part it states “Unholy and Retribution come to mind, because their masteries currently affect sources of damage that just aren’t large enough to be competitive”

    So the reason you can figure out “Mastery” is because for a ret pally it has not even been tweaked yet, so I would not try to focus on that stat at the moment.

  13. Qordis says:

    Is it just me, or is anyone else having issues dropping their 2pc T10? A 5% bonus to ALL damage seems to good to let go. Right now I’m still wearing my 264 T10 shoulders and 277 T10 legs, and if I swap lvl 85 pieces in for them, the extra str doesn’t make my overall dmg number go up more than it is with the 2pc T10 equipped.

    Am I just looking at incorrectly?

  14. Jonas says:

    Currently taking the whirlwind course on Ret Pally as I’ve only been playin’ for a few months. Thrilled about the upcoming improvements to Mastery. So far, I’ve been doting on it as when I have it up to 15% or so, it procs OFTEN and makes for delicious fights. Just got Alpha Bracers tonight and popped a mastery gem in there as well. I’m enjoying mastery and would like it to be a top pick for my items w/crit or haste playin’ secondary stats. It’s just more exciting…unless it doesn’t proc at all – then things get scary sometimes.

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