Bear Bomb

The life and times of a feral druid

Gear Score

I play on Shadow Council, an RP server, so this issue has typically been far removed from my field of view.  After all, even our heavy raid guilds have a more laid back attitude than the ones you’ll find on a normal or, gods forbid, PvP server.  However, there’s recently been an upswing in the use of gear examining plugins to screen people for runs, and I feel like commenting on it.  (Imagine that. *grin*)

Gear Score: What Is It?

There are a couple of answers to that question.  There’s the concept of a gear score, with websites and AddOns that will calculate it, and there’s also the AddOn called GearScore.  We’re going to focus on the concept.

Basically, the thought runs like this:  At the high end of the game, your gear contributes a sizable majority of your character’s effectiveness in combat.  All other things being equal, a level 80 character wearing all purples is going to out perform a level 80 character of the same class and talent spec who is wearing all blues.  So, why not give a numeric value to the gear you’re wearing?  Gear score addons and websites use various methods to calculate an overall score based on your gear’s item level, stat modifiers, enchantments, etc.

What Is It Good For?

One great example of a positive use for gear scoring is the WoW Heroes site.  (You can find a link in the Character Tools sidebar.)  It examines your gear, then gives you a color-coded bar telling you roughly how challenging you’re likely to find a given raid instance, as well as which ones will have the best gear upgrades.  Age of the Phoenix uses this site sometimes when we’re planning our raids, since we’ve found that a group of people who haven’t been in a given raid before will perform quite a bit better if the instance in question is given a green or yellow coding by WoW Heroes.

The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Stupid

Prior to having gear score addons invade Shadow Council, I saw my wife’s prot-specced paladin flat-out rejected from a group due to low hit points.  Never mind that she had hell’s own defense and armor values; the fact that she “only” had 25,000 hit points unbuffed disqualified her from running with this group on their assault on Naxx-10.  Our guild had run Naxx-10 several times in the past few weeks with her character main-tanking, so she had every right to be indignant about the rejection.  She’s a much better person than I am, however, so she just shrugged and moved on to another group who was happy to find a tank.

Simple hit-point bias for tanks was only the beginning, though.  I’ve now seen several members of my guild with perfectly acceptable HP or Mana pools who have performed more than adequately on guild runs turned down for a group running the very same instance due to a low gear score.  On the surface I can understand the utility of the mod, but once you really start to think about it, there are a couple of glaring problems.

First of all, nobody can agree on how to calculate a gear score.  Ask three different websites what your gear score is, and you’ll get three different answers.  I’ve seen in-game mods give a player a rating of 4200, while WoW Heroes says that someone in the green for everything up to and including ICC-25 still hasn’t broken 3000.  A good example of this was a dungeon finder run through Drak’Tharon Keep a few weeks ago.  A mage in the group started off the instance by complaining that the main tank (me) didn’t have any bonus to defense.  To his credit, he quickly realized I was a druid and said “nevermind”, but before the first boss made a very interesting comment.  “It’s not good for party morale to ask a 3500 GS mage if he needs to wait for mana”.  Throughout the rest of the fight, he kept acting like god’s gift to mages while barely breaking 3000 DPS.  Considering that I routinely run with mages that hit the 4.5K mark, I decided to go look him up on WoW Heroes after the fight.  The score reported to me?  2100.  Only 50 points beyond my own, even though he was scoffing at everyone else’s scores throughout the dungeon.  I wish I knew what add-on he was using so I could see exactly how big of a gap it looked like to him.

Secondly, gear score isn’t an indication of your ability to play your character.  While waiting for a group to go kill the Apothecaries in SFK Sunday, I saw a bored alliance druid running around.  We passed a couple of taunts, then ended up in a duel.  He was quick, confident, and seemed to know what he was doing with his abilities.  It was a hell of a fight, but I won with about 8% of my health remaining.  We cheered each other, waved, and moved on when our respective groups arrived.  Later, while thinking about my next blog post, I decided to go check him out on WoW Heroes.  I just about dropped my teeth.  This druid was decked out in ICC drops that I’d never even heard of, much less seen, and rated nearly 800 points my superior by the website.  Using gear score logic I shouldn’t have stood a chance, yet I was the one standing at the end.

Combine these two problems, and you end up with a tool that can be useful for very specific things, but becomes totally pointless when you try to apply it in broad strokes.  If you’re running pick-up-groups through heroic 5-man instances, do yourself a favor and ignore the gear.  Sit back and have fun, and hope you’ll meet some other good players who are enjoyable to run with.  If you’re forming a group for a pre-ICC 10- or 25-man raid, it’s probably better to rely on word of mouth first, and gearscore only in the case of total unknowns.  Do what Age of the Phoenix and countless other guilds do; maintain a blacklist.  If you run with someone who isn’t worth the electrons carrying their commands to the WoW servers, mark them on the list and deny them from future runs.  At the same time, form an A-list of puggers who wow everyone so you’ve got a pool to draw from if you’re short on guild mates.  Gear score addons can never replace the first-hand knowledge of how someone plays their character.  And lastly, the one thing I’ve seen GS used for too many times; guild requirements.  For the love of Saron, folks, if you’re letting people into the guild based entirely on how well they’re geared, you’re just asking for problems in the long run.  Sure, they might be able to help with a nasty instance, but do they mesh with the other people they’ll be interacting with?  Are they going to be interested in helping the guild community, or only in going on runs to improve their own gear?  Again, things that no GS addon can answer for you.

As always, though, your mileage may vary.  In my experience, gear generally isn’t that important to how well someone does in pick-up instances.  In the rare few places where gear is a deciding factor, I’d still rather have someone in the party who I know is good at their job than a random stranger wearing armor he pried off the Lich King’s corpse.


February 10, 2010 - Posted by | Editorials


  1. This is a great post! I am a strong believer in SKILL > GEAR. Furthermore, I look at GS like a credit card. People want you to have the Gear (credit) to get in (approved) but no one wants to give you the chance to get it.

    Comment by ahealadinstear | February 10, 2010 | Reply

    • [EDIT: I’m redacting my entire comment due to the excessive redundancy I displayed. :)]

      Comment by Luxul | February 10, 2010 | Reply

  2. If that is the ingame Gearscore addon, then 3500 is nothing. My lowest offspec is at about 5200, and my mainspec is nearer 5900. I think even my level 75 alt has an ingame GS of 2000, so 3500 would be nearer to maybe Naxx10 level.

    Worrying about GS in most heroics is entirely pointless. If Yogg Saron is doable in quested blues + greens then heroics certainly are (see

    Comment by Aeiedil | February 11, 2010 | Reply

    • Just as an addition to that, the most fun instance I have had lately involved a tank with a GS of about 3000, a healer with similar, and a self-righteous DPSer that despite being geared similar to me struggled to outdps the tank. Win :) The DPSer in question was votekicked, GS to the rescue!

      Comment by Aeiedil | February 11, 2010 | Reply

      • LOL! Yep, that pretty much mirrors my experience with PUGgers who are self-important about their GS. And 5900? /boggle GS goes higher than I realized. O.o “It’s over 9000!!!” ( Yeah, annoying meme, but applicable in this case, I feel. ;) )

        Comment by Luxul | February 11, 2010

  3. Hi fellow Shadow Councilor! Alliance side, the same sort of thing happens, but I’ve noticed that most people want wow-heroes scores. I personally love wow-heroes for things like “did I remember to enchant those pants?” and figuring out what I should likely be running, but I’d never use it exclusively to form a group. Useful tool, but should never be your only one.

    Comment by Melfina the Blue | March 9, 2010 | Reply

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