Gear Score vs. Skill

Night Elf HunterNames have been obliterated to protect the innocent. The subject we’re about to tackle is fraught with misconceptions, half-formed opinion and occasionally a self-satisfied, self-serving attitude that’s both completely unjustified and (in the worst cases) completely silly.

We’re talking gear score vs. skill. Here’s the typical trade post: “LFM 25 ONY MUST HAS MIN 2500 GEAR SCORE OR DON’T PST KTHXBAI”. Practitioners of the gear score philosophy know only numbers, and believe that given enough gear, any scrub can handle any sort of content. Much to the chagrin of the evident multitude of acolytes to this laughingly false idea, they’re wrong, and I’m going to use a couple of methods to illustrate this fact.

What we can learn from the NFL Draft.

I may lose some of you here, so I’ll keep this brief, but I’ve learned that using multiple types of examples to illustrate a point can be helpful.

Let’s quickly discuss 3 quarterbacks: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Ryan Leaf. You most likely have heard of the first 2, even if you’re not a big football fan, the last guy, maybe not so much.

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are two of the better (if not the best) quarterbacks in the game today. Peyton Manning was drafted #1 in his draft class, no one else was picked ahead of him, he had the highest “gear score”. Tom Brady was picked #199 in his draft class, so 198 guys were picked ahead of him, his “gear score” was terribad. Ryan Leaf was picked #2, right after Peyton Manning, same draft class, they went 1 and 2. Ryan had an unbelievable gear score, and was almost picked ahead of Peyton.

Here’s where I make my (now lengthier than I would have liked) point: Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are two of the best, Ryan Leaf is out of football fighting addiction to painkillers, has been indicted for burglary and is basically of very little use to anyone. These guys were picked based strictly on their “gear score” coming out of college, and it shows that just because it looks like you have all the tools on paper, real world application of said tools can be a little more difficult to pull off.

Gear Score vs Skill

Okay, let’s move on quickly, that may have been a stretch for some of you, but think of it as broadening your horizons a bit, it builds character.

Let’s discuss an example from the last VoA 25 I PuG’d.

So, Koralon, he of the big damage #’s cuz unless he gets nasty and plants a bonfire under your butt, you can pretty much just stand there and pew pew. I’ve included some screenshots of the #’s I’ll be discussing for this fight, but given that I have no idea how to embed them into an article, I’m going to discuss this as if you can’t see them. If Garwulf can figure out some way to include them, great, you’ll see proof of what I’m talking about.

See the screenshots here:
Hunter A (Tamarlane), Hunter B (overachiever), Hunter C (Capt of the USS Failboat)

We’ll be discussing the tale of 3 hunters, their gear score, and their DPS on Koralon. I’ll discuss what I personally did in this fight, however I can’t speak for either of their actions beyond what the #’s show, as I don’t know either of them personally and didn’t discuss any of this with them.

Gear Score vs Skill

Hunter C also volleyed for 12 ticks, God knows why on a single target boss.

None of the hunters had a Flask of Endless Rage active, and speaking for myself (hunter A), I did use a Potion of Speed after Heroism wore off, tho I didn’t pre-pot. All 3 hunters were SV obviously, and all 3 had wolves as pets. Looking at the results of the fight, I can only assume hunter C was punching himself in the face every few seconds, but again, this remains only a possibility as (yes, I fail, I realize this) I didn’t ask.

When I looked up the gear score of the other hunters I was surprised, but not shocked. I expected hunter B to have a little better gear than he did, and hunter C to show a much lower gear score and an arrest warrant for violating some farm animal or other direct relation while simultaneously eating paste and sniffing glue.

My argument is simple. Skill is greater than gear score, and these #’s clearly show why. Hunter C could have BiS for every piece of gear he has, and he’s still going to finish third in this “competition”, every time.

To further expound, consider the guilds that run into Ulduar for the achievements like Herald of the Titans, which is downing Algalon while wearing nothing better than what’s available out of 10 Ulduar. That’s not a bunch of people being carried by gear, that’s skill, and that trumps all. Obviously someone with a ridiculous level of gear has the POTENTIAL to do more than someone that maxes out their limited gear, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they can, or will.

On a side but very related note: How do you maximize your DPS, regardless of spec?

You maximize the use of your global cooldowns, and while doing so, using the cooldowns that will grant you the most damage for that cooldown at that given moment. Hunter C clearly thinks GCD’s are something to be wasted, and that’s why his DPS is crap. Hunters A and B are very close in their cooldown use, they both used 112 GCD’s on their main shots (BA and SerpSting were pretty close as well, I think) while Hunter 3 used 57 or so of his, depending on how many times he volleyed. So basically half the # of GCD’s used. Wow.

I hope this is interesting and helpful to you. I find it useful to review my #’s after a boss fight if I have the time, to sort of stay on top of where I’m at with my rotation, figure how I might improve things, etc. In doing so this time, these #’s were just too compelling to ignore.


30 thoughts on “Gear Score vs. Skill”

  1. Great article. I have two questions for you. (1) What add-on are you using in the screenshots? (2) I have a lvl 80, and I am working on gear but everyone says my gearscore is really low and same with dps…I am Capillary on Korgath (US) server and I was wondering if you could check me out on armory and give ms some advice on my specs/build. It’s frustrating when people tell you that you need to be better-but never give specific advice on how to achieve the betterness. Thank you very much-have a wonderful day.

  2. Hey man, I dont want to sound dumb here, but I dont understand something. What exactly is using your cooldowns? You mean like stacking cds? I also notice you said using global cooldowns, I am lost. Sorry, this is my first 80, and I am really trying to understand these things. My dps is not what it should be.

    • Hi Grolnar,

      The term using your cooldowns typically means using your cooldowns wisely, so as to maximize their effects and benefits. Stacking them, as you’d mentioned, is precisely this. By using specific cooldowns together, you can benefit more from the duration of the effect than if they were to be used separately.

      Like… say for example… Rapid Fire is off cooldown, yet you have a few buffs that are not active – e.g., Culling the Herd & a trinket effect. It would be wise to delay the use of Rapid Fire a few more seconds in order to wait for those buffs to activate. By doing that, you increase your damage considerably during the duration RF is up.

      Some effects increase damage by a percentage, some by flat attack power, some provide crit, a debuff, etc… You get a symbiotic effect when you combine two or more of these things, rather than using them separately.

      The global cooldown is the 1.5 second timer that activates in between spells. Once you cast a shot or use a spell that’s on the global cooldown, you must wait 1.5 seconds before using another spell, shot, etc… Selecting the most advantageous and highest priority skill each time that timer expires is the key to doing respectable DPS. Every time the GCD is over, you have to make a decision on which ability to use next – the better your decision making is, the more damage you’ll do. 😉

      …and don’t worry… you don’t sound dumb at all. The only dumb thing would be not to ask the question at all.

      I hope my answer helped somewhat to explain things. If you have any other questions, just fire away.

      • Thanks for the response, it is indeed helpful. It’s nice to find a helpful person for a change, instead of someone who just talks crap and calls you a huntard, lol. says I should be doing around 4.3k dps in SV and 4.6k dps in MM, but I rarely hit these numbers. When I was just under a 5k gs I did 5k dps on Toravon in VoA, but since breaking the 5k gs barrier I havent been able to even get close. If you would be kind enough to take the time to look me up on, or on the armory, and share your thoughts on my setup I would greatly appreciate it. I am sure there is something I could be doing better with my current gear setup. Grolnar, server – Haomarush.

        • Grolnar,

          Your build looks good apart from one minor thing… your over hit-capped, yet you have 1/3 Focused Aim. You’d actually be a tiny bit better off with that point in IHM.

          Your pet build looks perfect.

          As far as your gear’s concerned…

          Don’t gem for straight crit. Your yellow slots should contain agil/crit gems (Deadly Ametrine). Agility is a much better stat because it gives you some crit and attack power, plus it scales with buffs and talents.

          For max DPS, it’s best to ignore all of the blue gem slots and just stick reds in there. example:

          blue socket w/ 4 agility socket bonus, socketed w/ Shifting Dreadstone = 14 agility

          that same socket with a Delicate Cardinal crammed into it = 20 agility

          Whether or not you want to ignore the socket bonuses is up to you. Some hunters prefer not to, and like the idea of having a little extra survivability.

          Personally, I gem for the socket bonuses because I use different pieces of my PvE gear when I PvP, in which case I like maximizing my stats – especially as they pertain to survivability. Also, I’m a SV hunter, which means I don’t get penalized as much for socketing blues. SV hunters get 10stam/10agil/5 attack power from blue gems. 😀

          The Nightmare Tear should be reserved for your highest socket bonus blue slot item, which in your case is your pants (+8 agility). If you decide to ignore the blue socket bonuses in favor of more DPS, then you should socket the Nightmare Tear into your leggings.

          So that’s about it for gems… now it’s onto enchants…

          You should have 50ap on your bracers and 110ap on your 2h. You may want to wait for an upgrade on the 2h however, as you’re toting an ilvl200 atm. Once you get ahold of a 232+ 2h, throw massacre on it. If you get a 219 in the meantime, then just stick 85ap on it. 85ap is still better than 26 agility.

          The biggest problem I see with your gear is your trinket setup. That setup’s not good for anything – whether it be raiding or PvP. Both of those trinkets share the same cooldown, so right off the bat you’re getting only 3/4 benefit from them. Furthermore, you’re way over hit-capped for PvP, which renders one of them totally useless in PvP. In PvE the on-use effect has minimal benefit, so there you’re only getting 2 out of the 4 benefits as well.

          If you’re using either one for PvP, then it should be the crit one, along with the Medallion of the Horde. You may be doing that already, and if so, good job. 🙂

          For PvE, I’d suggest running H Forge of Souls for the Needle Encrusted Scorpion. If you have the badges, Mark of Supremacy would actually be a good option for you for the second trinket. It has the exact same amount of hit as your Battlemaster trinket, but it would also give you the juicy 20 second 1024ap buff every 2 mins.

          Anyhow… those are a few things to consider.

          Hope it’s helpful. 🙂

          • Thank you sir, this info is most helpful. I am new to the MM spec. BM was my primary until I hit 80, then I took on SV as my dual spec. I love SV, I just wanted to see what MM was about, so I ditched BM for it. I like it, and once I get better gear and can make full use of MM I am sure I will like it even more.

            I will try moving the point from Focused Aim to IHM. I was a bit torn on where that point should have gone myself.

            The pet build should look good, I got it from this site. 🙂

            As far as the gems go, I was really clueless. I just gemmed the best I could find of each color in the matching slot. And I know what effect Blessing of Kings and the +10 stats to chest had on my dps and overall survivability, so I figured +6 more couldnt hurt. Thanks for pointing out that ap is better than that and the agi. I figured the more agi the better. And the staff….I cant count the number of times I have ran H ToC trying to get a Marrowstrike drop! I’ve not even seen it drop, much less had a chance to actually get it. Maybe one day….Same with H PoS, wouldnt mind at least getting the Felglacier Bolter to replace the True Aim Rifle with, never seen it drop either..I have bad luck it seems. Maybe I’ll have better luck with the Needle Encrusted Scorpion!

            Hopefully I’ll be able to take all the great info you have given me, put it to good use, and come back with great results. Thanks again.

          • Just an FYI: I took the changes you suggested and plugged them into, and it gave almost a 400dps increase! Cant wait to actually try it out.

          • Got most of my gems changed, and worked on stacking my cds a bit tonight, and there has been a very noticeable difference in my dps. Got que into Heroic AN tonight and had over a 1.5k dps jump over my usual on the first boss! Awesome. I don’t feel like such a huntard anymore, thank you.

  3. I always thought GEAR was the pure reason someone did lots of DPS. i have like 8 ToGC of gear a 2 ulduar 10 and 1 ulduar 25. and a few badges stuff..
    I did ICC with 3 other hunters with one of them had 6ICC 10 man gear, and like 3 ICC25. and a bunch of cool stuff. And i outdps him and the rest which have similar ICC gear im lacking. my gearscore 5100, theirs 5500+

    SKill wins.

  4. I just downloaded gearscore, simply to compare the #’s, and gearscore #’s are much higher than wow armory #’s. That being said I need some advice on trinkets. I currently have the hit rating and attack power trinket that is purchased from emplems of triumph, which i don’t like because of the 2 min. cooldown as opposed to previous trinkets that proc on crit. However the t9 sets provide very little hit rating which lead to the use of the current trinket. I do still use the coaster tho, but am finding myself eyeballing the hit+haste trinket from emblems of triumph. I guess i would really just like some opinions on the best trinket combinations for MM hunters excluding the new ICC raid content. I currently find myself spending entirely to much time thinking about what to equip instead of dropping bombs on mobs, which is what i want to be doing. Any and all responses will be appreciated, ty

    • I’m not sure which trinkets you have available to you in your current inventory, as you’ve only mentioned Mark of Supremacy and Corems Coaster, but I can tell you that the hit/haste trinket is not a good trinket for hunters.

      My suggestion would be for you to run Heroic Forge of Souls as much as you can in attempt to get the Needle Encrusted Scorpion, which has crit/armor pen.

      Other than that, Darkmoon Card: Greatness is still very good, Death’s Choice/Verdict is awesome, out of 25 ToC. There are more I’m sure I’m not thinking of, but any of those would be a big upgrade over either of the trinkets you’re using now.

  5. are you guys mixing wow-heroes numbers with gearscore (the addon) numbers? 4k gearscore is not hard to get, and is about equal to 2k-ish wow-heroes rating. I have 4680 GS and 2510 Wow-heroes score for example, and that’s with a couple ilvl 245’s, lots of 226’s etc.

  6. (High Gear Score + Skill) > (Low Gear Score + Skill) > (High Gear Score + 0 Skill) > (Low Gear Score + 0 Skill)

    Gear score is not useless, it is there to make sure you don’t end up with the bottom of the pile in a PUG. Sadly, you may miss out on the second tier using gearscore; that is the true issue. For this we have wowarmory screenscrapers, which take achievements and therefore – at least hopefully – some modicum of skill into account.

  7. The problem with GS now is anyone can faceroll heroics for a few weeks, have a really high GS but not know WTH they are doing. My GS is something like 2486 and I can faceroll 5-7K DPS in my sleep.

  8. Haha, great football example!

    I do rely on GS though. Not to the point of “OMG5kGS FOR 10ONY,” just enough to know if the person is a fresh 80, still clad in greens and blues, hoping to get into my ToC run. It is a rough estimation of a person’s potential DPS, but it’s become something more powerful and relied upon than I think it should be.

  9. I really don’t understand people blaming the addon for all their troubles. Gearscore is a great tool to roughly estimate people potential, and is quite handy for pugs. The real problem is that some people take it too seriously, thinking that if a person is like 100gs lower he can’t possibly be good for that instance. But seriously, if one has 4k gs, he most likely won’t outdps a person with 5k gs. At least that’s the most common outcome. And it is also not that rare for -really- undergeared people trying to pug latest instances, in wich case they are just a vagon and must be dropped for sake of your success.

  10. This is great info! Its really annoying getting crap from people about my gear who i have only just met in a PUG. Maybe they should wait and see how i perform first?!

    Now I will use this argument against people who pre-judge my abilities and use this article as a source.


  11. I saw a raid recruitment once, and no word on a lie, it said”

    “LFM Ulduar 25, must have gear score over 4000, you WILL be checked before invite”

    Pretty much everyone in /2 ten proceeded to /lol themselves to death as the guy just couldn’t understand. I also did the weekly raid the other night killing Patchwork and the tank was adamant everyone had to stand in the slime and the healers keep everyone below 50% HP, and proclaimed that “I didn’t get ‘the undying’ title by listening to noobs like you”

  12. gearscore is a handy indication of a weither a person is geared enough for that encounter sure a person in greens could probably put out good numbers dosent matter what gear you have if u are dead dead dps = no dps
    I find the people that complain the most about gearscore are the ones who are undergeared now with fake achievements etc will give you a fair indication better than gearscore you cant blame people not wanting to waste there weekly raid save and risk being saved to the first boss

  13. I do agree that gearscore > skill, but when you are putting together a pug, what else do you have to go off of? Gearscore is a measure of POTENTIAL dps. Should you bring a person in greens and blues because he just might be pro? Or should you go with the guy in full ToC25 gear? Eitehr way, you don’t know the pug, so all you can go off of is their gearscore.

    The best hunter in the world couldn’t do 8k dps in greens and blues.

    • This is the typical argument you’ll see from the gear score advocates. I respond thusly: It depends. If you’re pugging a 25 ToGC or 10/25 ICC then yea, the guy in the greens and blues shouldn’t even be considered. Someone in greens and blues is a fresh 80, most likely, and the only stuff the guy in the 25 ToC gear should be interested in is the tougher end game content. I find it hard to believe that you’re only options for the last spot in your raid are a 25 ToC geared fella and a fresh 80, however. It’s not a great example. If you’re not pugging end game content, and the guy in greens and blues wants in on a Naxx run and the guy in the 25 ToC gear does as well, for me it’d come down to attitude of the players. If the guy in the ToC gear is a jackass and the guy in greens and blues exhibits a modicum of intelligence and awareness, I’ll probably take the scrub, hoping that as he gets geared up he’ll remember me and come to more of my raids.

  14. Good subject to post about. Ironically, I have a far lower gearscore than other hunters in my guild and yet I consistantly do at least 1k dps more than said hunters. Much of it is due to the tips and tricks I read up on from various sites such as this one. Hopefully people will realise that gearscore is only a piece of the pie. /salute

  15. I’m all against Gear Score myself. I’ve ran with some really good people in raids with low gear score’s, me being one sometimes, and had little to no problems. It hurts those who who can and know how to play. Not sure what the verdict is yet on such add-ons put on the ‘blacklist’ but I hope Blizzard does away with it. I just had to comment on how Tamarlane went about describing Gear Score vs. Skill. Was funny as hell and then I got to the pictures 😀 ROFLMAO Thanks for the post.

  16. anyone who goes off gear score is a idiot imo …. skill > gear my guild does alt runs for certain raids where we have some who cant come on main raid … and ofc the alts dont reach the main players gear …. but when you have a un enchanted un gemmed greenie/blue mage out dps people in epic … ok so ill admit totc 10 is a faceroll raid ive even gone there once or twice now in vainty gear and not been bottom in dps and people who use that gearscore addon or even both with wow heroes … just stop … please im lucky my realm isnt that stupid anymore you get the odd few but tbh they are normally the ones you know leech off you
    tbh the whole logic on gear now is stupid in the expansion isnt agi ap mp5 sp etc getting removed off gear or something stupid like that? so really why both and this thing only counts for pve what about the pvp’er who raid in pvp specc and gear? i use to do it on my ex boyfriends rogue and i was top dps …
    if you want better dps work on your gems enchanting even if you have to change your profs just for that extra 100 or something


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