One of the most frequent gearing questions comes along with links to two pieces of gear. “Which do I use?”
In most cases, the item level of one piece will be higher than this other. Normally, that makes this choice pretty easy. If they are an equal item level, however, the answer becomes “yes.” In other words, you’d use both pieces — just at different points in time.
What do our stats do?
First, let’s add a bit of contextual to each secondary stat. They’ve certainly come a long ways since Brewmasters were released.
Versatility decreases your damage taken, while also increasing your damage done. This happens as a ratio, in which the damage reduction is half of the damage done. 1% of increased damage from versatility decreases your damage taken by 5%. This likely does not seem to translate well, because of how small these percentages appear and the fact that most people view versatility as a “bad” stat. However, this is a reduction of all damage taken. In a tier with mostly magic damage, this translates to .5% less magic damage taken, in addition to .5% less physical damage taken. Further, versatility ends up being static — both the damage boost and reduction are static rather than proc-based such as critical strike.
Critical Strike not only grants a chance to do more damage, but also more healing. With Celestial Fortune, more critical strike means a higher chance for more healing both from external sources (yes, it works with your healers!) as well as from your personal heals (namely, Gift of the Ox). While Brewmasters are not as reliant upon self-healing as some other tank classes, this does translate well in conjunction to… well… staying alive.
Haste has previously only granted increased energy regeneration, but in Legion, this also now acts as a CDR (cooldown reduction) effect. More haste not only means more tiger palms from the increased energy, but also a much lower cooldown on abilities such as Keg Smash. This leads to more brew generation (thus, more purifies and an easier time keeping Ironskin Brew) up, in addition to a smoother gameplay.
Mastery increases our attack power, and also gives a chance to grant the Elusive Brawler effect. The short of this means that the more mastery you have, the higher chance you have to dodge an attack. Note that most spells are not flagged as dodgeable, but almost all melee attacks are dodgable. This means that mastery has virtually no effect on fights that are mostly or completely magic damage, but despite the RNG nature of dodge, becomes useful in physical fights.
Simply put, none of the secondaries have actual caps on their usefulness. However, some stats can often become “less useful” than others at a higher rate.
Haste comes as a prime example of this. Historically, every class has had a “haste cap.” This doesn’t necessarily exist in the classic definition for Brewmaster; however, Haste after around 15% often becomes relatively useless for most players. Don’t use this as a law; there are several factors that affect haste. Hitting energy cap often can mean you’re carrying too much haste, for example. In the end, this becomes a “to taste” stat – carry enough haste that you can fill your GCDs, but not so much that you’re sacrificing other stats.
Mastery hits a somewhat similar-ish situation. While mastery remains useful for damage in a linear sense, mitigatively we can hit a usefulness “soft cap” somewhat early for specific situations. Because you can’t double-dodge an attack in Legion, in most single-target situations other secondary stats become more useful. Most people can dodge as many as 80% of Kil’jaeden’s attacks at around 35% or less mastery illustrates this point. This is further devalued by Breath of Fire and Blackout Strike giving “free” Elusive Brawler stacks.
Thus, for mitigation, stacking more of one stat than another can be detrimental. In Tomb of Sargeras, Brewmasters can easily hit these “soft caps” very early on. However, try to not pass up on too many item level upgrades just because they don’t have the secondary stats you want; item level still usually outweighs secondaries.
A word on buff food
One of the easiest ways to swing a particular stat comes through using buff food. In 7.2.5, feasts became the primary go-to because they offered primary stats: strength, intellect, agility, and stamina. If your group happens to use feasts, you should change to Windwalker and get your food buff because the 500 or 1000 (for Pandaren) agility still outweighs your other stats for raw damage (and to a lesser extent, survival through self-healing).
If you wish to go more for mitigation, then agility can still be a good gain (especially if you are Pandaren). However, for many magic fights, Brewmasters will often use Versatility food. Mastery food can be useful for fights heavy in physical damage, but the soft cap for Mastery’s usefulness soft cap is low enough that in these situations, you can simply use versatility or agility instead.
Let’s talk item level
Brewmasters have things pretty easy. Generally speaking, secondary stats are close enough that item level rarely matters. However, speaking from the perspective of a progression Brewmaster, small item level deltas between two pieces mean that they’re actually virtually equal in my mind.
So if I have a pair of boots that are crit/mastery itemized. These are item level 890. I have another pair of boots that are haste/versatility that happen to be 900 item level. The 10 item level difference does not actually create that large of a delta between the two; if I want to build a set around mastery, then I will still likely use the 890 boots. On the other hand, let’s say the haste/versatility boots were lower item level than the crit/mastery boots. In this situation, haste/versatility boots are 890, and the crit/mastery boots are 900. In this case, I’m about to fight a boss that happens to be mostly magic damage. I’ll likely want to use the 890 haste/versatility boots, because mastery won’t help me mitigate the damage from this boss.
Further, certain item slots have lower budgets than other slots, thus going up or down in item level creates far less of an impact. I chose boots in this case because it’s a slot I commonly trade out to optimize my stats. A 10 item level difference for my boots or belt likely won’t make much of a difference. However, for other slots, such as your pants or your chest, that can make a larger difference. The general rule of thumb, however, is that you’ll usually want to equip the higher item level piece, but as long as items are within 15 item levels of one another, you won’t notice as much difference. However, 15 and above, the differences in stats become too apparent to sacrifice the item levels.
What situations might I use different stats? How much of each stat do I want?
The discussion on item level came before this discussion because it allowed me to illustrate the choice between stacking more mastery, or stacking more crit.
Generally, you’ll want a bit of each stat. In BrewingScribe’s Wowhead guide, he states a very generalized priority:
Haste (for sufficient brews) > Versatility > Mastery > Haste (to about 33%) >= Critical strike > Haste (above 33%)
This is not a bad rule of thumb, but it doesn’t hit every situation (he still gets props, so don’t take that as a negative slight against his guide – this is just a more in-depth discussion 😉 )
For one, you’ll find that haste to 33% may leave you with energy cap more often than necessary. It also devalues crit, when there are many situations in which you’d want crit. And it doesn’t really discuss doing damage (which yes, as tanks, we still want to do damage!).
Versatility in particular does happen to be very good in nearly every situation. Mastery does, too, but greatly loses value in magic fights. Further, most people won’t want too high of haste. Thus, let’s take a situation where I’m heading toward Mythic Star Augur, a fight with nearly 100% magic damage. My stat priority looks a bit more like:
Haste (to about 14%) > Versatility > Critical Strike > Mastery >= Haste
In a situation where most of the damage you’re taken happens to be magic, you’ll want more critical strike for its healing component and more versatility for the magic dampening. However, you won’t want to completely remove your mastery – you still want to be able to do damage to hold threat (and help kill the boss)!
On the other hand, consider a fight with high bursts of damage, such as Spellblade Alluriel. Most of Spellblade’s damage also happens to be physical. My priority would look something like this:
Haste (to about 14%) > Versatility > Mastery >= Crit > Haste (after 19%)
All of my stats in this situation are helpful. I can’t dodge Spellblade’s hardest hitter (Annihilate), but I can use Crit to receive more healing for these bursts, more haste for more purifies, and more mastery to try and dodge the spare melee attack that might actually kill me.
Finally, what if I want to do more damage and I don’t care about mitigation? We have some priority for that as well:
Haste (to about 14%) >= Versatility >= Mastery >= Crit > Haste (after 19%)
In other words, just equip your highest item level pieces.
However, you can see more of a trend here. For magic fights, I want more versatility and critical strike. For physical fights, mastery and versatility are still great, but don’t neglect your critical strike and your haste