This is the first post in a series on our primary DPS stats – which are Hit Rating, Spellpower, Haste Rating, Critical Strike Rating and Intellect. Yes, they’re all yellow stats except Spellpower. No, I’m not dealing with them in that order. Yes, Zing already talked about all this in a much more concise post. Let’s move on…
Let’s talk about haste! I think across all the forums I read, haste is the number one topic of questions or the number one subject of well-intentioned misinformation in answers (I think number two is Chain Lightning use – something I also want to revisit soon). It’s a stat that confuses and alarms some and that others just can’t get enough of. The major issues that confuse people relate to how haste affects our rotation, the existence of otherwise of a “haste cap”, and the relative value of haste compared to other stats.
That’s a lot of ground to cover in a single post, so this will focus on the idea of “haste caps” and the concept of stat relativity. While I’ll touch briefly on the effect of haste on our spell “rotation”, it’s not really the focus of this post and will probably be dealt with in more detail in the future as I continue the series on our primary stats.
So let’s get started!
Is there a haste cap?
Simple answer: No.
Actual answer: Well… Yes, sort of.
There is basically no achievable point at which haste becomes a junk stat for Elemental, and similarly there is no real disruption in this basic stat value priority:
Hit > Spellpower > Haste > Crit > Intellect
If you’re looking for a simple answer, that’s it. Spellpower is better than haste and haste is better than crit. Nothing that follows will change the reliability of this basic rule.
The “soft cap”
Sometimes you’ll hear other players referring to the haste “soft cap”. Oftentimes folks actually mean different things by this. Here are some of the definitions I’ve heard:
- The point where Chain Lightning and Lava Burst hit 1 second cast times (50% haste)
- The point where Lightning Bolt hits 1 second cast under Heroism/Bloodlust (53.9% haste)
- The point where Lightning Bolt hits 1 second cast under normal conditions (100% haste)
- The point where you can fit precisely X number of Lightning Bolts between Lava Burst cooldowns, where X is an arbitrary number between 4 and 6
Let’s be clear about something: the last one there is utter nonsense. I know I badly need to update the article in question, but I’ve talked about it before in the Waiting for Lava Burst post and since seen it proven over and over again: trying to fit a specific number of Lightning Bolts between Lava Burst casts by gearing to a specific haste level is always always always a BAD idea, and likewise fitting an “extra” LB between LvBs compared to what you were doing before is actually a pretty smooth DPS increase.
What about the second definition? The trouble with this is that Bloodlust only lasts 40 seconds (and if were the one casting it, 39 seconds!) and you will spend the vast majority of your time not Bloodlusted. This is obviously true if you consider trash fights (which are not irrelevant), but it’s also true if you consider boss encounters. The following chart is a simple visual representation of the portion of time spent under haste conditions in a 5 minute boss fight:
It’s easy to see just how much of a fight is not affected by any extra haste, so I think we can safely discard definition number 2.
Definition numbers 1 and 3 are actually basically the same idea but put differently. The reason that the cast times of spells is “capped” is not because the spells stop casting any faster – they don’t – but because the Global Cooldown is limited to a minimum of 1 second. That means that any spell you cast, whether it’s instant or has a cast time, will prevent you from casting any more spells for 1 second at least.
When you reach 50% haste, both Chain Lightning and Lava Burst take 1.00 seconds to cast:
1.5 [base cast time in seconds] / 1.5 [150% cast speed] = 1.00 [final cast time]
Thus beyond 50% haste, while the spells will continue to cast quicker, you still won’t actually be able to cast any more spells until the Global Cooldown (GCD) finishes! Their effective cast time beyond 50% haste is 1.00 seconds.
This chart, based on Binkenstein’s old TTT article, shows how much of our time is spent casting Lava Burst or Flame Shock (which always has an effective cast time equal to the GCD) in a normal “rotation” compared to Lightning Bolt (which does not hit the GCD cap until 100% haste):
Again, we can clearly see that we spend the vast majority of our time casting a spell which isn’t limited by the Global Cooldown hard cap. Additionally it’s worth pointing out that even when they’re limited by the GCD in terms of effective cast time, Chain Lightning and Lava Burst continue to benefit slightly from haste because their cooldowns start sooner if they cast quicker!
Some people consider the point at which Lightning Bolt hits this GCD cap – which is 100% total haste – a “hard cap“.
2.0 [base cast time of LB] / 1.0 [desired cast time - the GCD cap] = 2.00 [200% cast speed, which is equal to 100% haste from rating, buffs etc.]
Though Flame Shock continues scaling with haste beyond this point I’m prepared to accept this definition, and thus I’ll adopt the 50% haste value as the “soft cap“.
Haste ratings for caps
There’s a great table in the Elemental TTT listing what haste ratings correspond to the haste soft cap of 50% under various conditions. ZAP! also tells you exactly how much haste rating will give you a desired haste percentage on its Calculators tab – you can set it to 50% and then look along the table to find what combination of effects you’re interested in. But here are some quick figures for reference.
50% with full raid buffs: 1269 haste rating
50% with only Wrath of Air: 1406 haste rating
Remember that these are just for information – there isn’t any real consequence for going over the soft cap, as we’ll see below. Additionally the hard cap is really out of reach for normal players, even with full raid buffs:
100% with full raid buffs: 2785 haste rating
But you might scrape against it with Heroism if you’ve got high haste gear:
100% with Heroism/Bloodlust and full buffs: 1386 haste rating
If you twin Heroism with Elemental Mastery you’ll hit 100% haste even at very low gear levels:
100% with Heroism, Elemental Mastery and full buffs: 778 haste rating
The “soft cap” and stat values
Using entry level tier 10 stats in ZAP!, stat equivalency points (EP) look like this using a relatively low haste value:
Crit rating: 1.4
Haste rating: 2.0
Now let’s push the haste up to 50.01% and check again:
Crit rating: 1.4
Haste rating: 1.8
Haste’s value has decreased by about 10%, but it’s still better than critical strike rating and worse than spellpower.
What about the effect on our overall DPS of exceeding this “soft cap”? Here’s another graph, also used in the TTT, showing how even with entry-level stats our DPS continues to scale with haste way above the 50% “soft cap”:
|Bottom line: The so-called 50% “soft cap” has no immediate effect on our stat priority and is not something to be avoided.
The 100% “hard cap” is undesirable but it’s also unreachable under normal conditions! Making sure to use Elemental Mastery and Heroism/Bloodlust separately will mean that most shamans only scrape against the hard cap for 40 seconds of any given fight, and thus maximise the value of both temporary haste effects.
(and exceptions to “The Rule”)
As you can clearly see from the EP values above, the value of our stats depends on how much of the others we have. Think of it like this: the harder our spells are hitting – which is determined by our critical strike chance, our spellpower and raid buffs/debuffs – the more valuable it will be to cast them faster (which is caused by haste). And the more spells we are casting in any given timeframe, the more valuable it will be if they hit harder (which is caused by spellpower/crit).
This means that the basic rule – while generally reliable – is not hard and fast and does have minor exceptions.
If you have a lot of haste but not much spellpower or crit, you may well find that haste works out as less valuable for you than critical strike rating for precisely this reason – haste just isn’t very valuable if it’s all you have. Likewise if you have a lot of spellpower and crit but not much haste, the value of haste can skyrocket even above that of spellpower.
We generally don’t see these sorts of situations for people who are “normally” geared, and gemming Runed/Reckless, because the itemisation team does a reasonably good job of balancing the stats that are available to us. However some players who manage to, say, get a pair of phat haste trinkets, a haste/mp5 weapon, a haste/mp5 shield, haste/spirit rings et cetera end up finding themselves with masses of haste and not much “punch” to their hasted spells. Likewise others who’ve had to settle for crit/hit gear (for example) and can’t get their hands on any haste trinkets may find that their spells are simply casting too slowly to get the full benefit from their overall power.
This was generally more of a risk during Trial of the Crusader than it is now, but I hope it explains why sometimes you will see genuine exceptions to the Hit -> Spellpower -> Haste -> Crit rule. Most times you find yourself in an exception situation it’s a very temporary confluence of gear and circumstances which will change as you get upgrades which balance your stats out.
This is also the reason why, as haste values get higher and higher, the value for haste rating and crit rating converge and eventually – and I really do mean eventually – crit can become a superior stat. This doesn’t tend to happen until above 70% total haste, which is at least 1876 haste rating. Considering that our BiS 25-man heroic gear list has only 1446 haste, it doesn’t seem like this should really be a concern!
So let’s review all the stuff above:
- At 50% total haste, Chain Lightning, Lava Burst and our instant cast spells reach their minimum effective cast time. This doesn’t have any serious effect on either our DPS or our stat priorities.
- At 100% total haste, the only spell which keeps effectively scaling with haste is Flame Shock’s damage over time component – but this is unreachable under normal conditions and isn’t really a problem if we encounter it for 40 seconds of Bloodlust.
- More haste always equals more DPS. Always. However…
- Gearing for specific haste values equals less DPS than following normal gearing priorities. This is true for most situations, and those for which it isn’t true are generally so narrow and specific as to not actually exist in reality.
- Point-for-point, haste is always worse than spellpower but better than crit rating. However…
- As with every rule, there are exceptions to the above – which can only be determined through theorycraft and are so temporary and specific that they should generally not result in regemming (but may be an indicator that you should go for a more balanced set of gear).
So I hope that clarifies the whole issue of “haste caps” and how the value of haste both changes and stays the same. The comments would be an appropriate place for questions, answers, disagreements, observations, corrections and photoshopped pictures of Will Smith.