Critical strike rating is one of two stats on our gear that increase our chance to get a critical strike. The other is intellect, but that converts through to crit chance at a much lower rate. At level 80, it takes 45.91 critical strike rating to get 1% extra chance to crit, but it takes 166.67 intellect for the same effect. The other effects of the intellect stat will be explored in a future post.
So for elemental shamans, a critical strike itself is:
- A chance for any spell you cast to cause extra damage. For a properly geared and talented elemental shaman, most critical strikes deal 109% more damage than a normal hit.
- A chance for your next two spells to do 10% extra damage (whether they crit or not), through the Elemental Focus/Elemental Oath mechanics.
- A chance for your next two spells to cost 40% less mana (whether they crit or not), again through the Clearcasting buff from Elemental Focus.
- A chance for any spell cast by your totems (Searing, Magma, Fire Elemental) to do extra damage.
Unlike spellpower and haste which always have exactly the same effect on every spell, crit is random – you might crit or you might not. Crit rating increases the likelihood that you will randomly crit.
Critical strike rating, however, does not affect:
- The critical strike chance of our Fire Elemental Totem.
- The critical strike chance of a Lava Burst cast when Flame Shock is on the target – that has a 100% chance to crit no matter how much crit chance we have.
- The extra damage done by our critical strikes, which is affected only by talents and the Chaotic Skyflare Diamond meta gem.
Critical strike damage
OK, some brief technical stuff about how crits work. The basic spell critical strike does 50% more damage than a normal hit. Chaotic Skyflares multiply that base extra damage by 3%, and then our Elemental Fury talent increases that figure by 100% for a total of 109% extra damage. This extra damage applies to all our fire, frost and nature damage spells – which is basically everything in our spellbook! – as well as to our Searing and Magma totems. We also get an extra 24% boost to the critical strike damage of Lava Burst through the Lava Flows talent, which adds on top of the Elemental Fury multiplier for a total figure of 122.08%.
The Fire Elemental gets nothing from any of this – his critical strikes do the baseline damage only (which is 100% extra for his melee attacks and 50% extra for his spell attacks).
Non-gear crit chance
Elemental shamans in a well-balanced raid get a whole load of extra critical strike chance from talents, buffs and debuffs beyond the intellect and crit rating we have on our gear. In addition to the base 2.2% chance to crit at level 80, we get:
- 2% from Glyph of Flametongue Weapon (if we use it)
- 5% from the Thundering Strikes enhancement talent
- 5% from the Call of Thunder talent, affecting Lightning spells only
- 5% from our Elemental Oath talent, which also buffs the entire raid
- 3% from our Totem of Wrath debuff, which can also be supplied by others.
- 3% if a friendly arcane-(sub)specced mage casts Focus Magic on us
- 5% from the various talented abilities mages and warlocks can bring: Improved Scorch, Winter’s Chill, or Improved Shadow Bolt.
- 1-2% from intellect added from Blessing of Kings, Mark of the Wild and Arcane Intellect.
That all adds up to a total of around 32% for our Lightning spells and 27% for everything else – before we have any critical strike rating at all.
What this means is that even in relatively poor gear, critical strikes are still a hugely important part of elemental’s damage – which in turn is why Chaotic Skyflare diamonds are the only meta gem we should ever use.
There are two basic points I want to make here which I’ll sum up before I explain a bit:
- Critical strikes are very important to elemental shamans;
- Critical strike rating is not a stat worth gemming for.
Do those seem contradictory?
As I explored ages ago in my crit vs haste post, critical strike rating doesn’t scale so well as hit rating, spellpower or haste rating for elemental shamans. This is because of the combined effect of the excellent scaling of those stats along with our large amount of base crit, the guaranteed crit of Lava Burst, the lack of Fire Elemental crit scaling and the rate at which crit rating converts to crit chance. Which is deeply ironic considering how awesome critical strikes are for us and how much we rely on them.
What this means is that critical strike rating is our tertiary stat: our primary stat is Spellpower which is always the best one to stack (remembering that spellpower is cheaper on the itembudget than haste); our secondary stat is Haste, which is often valuable enough to justify using hybrid Reckless gems in yellow slows; and above both of these stats, it’s vitally important to be at or very near to the hit cap – so gemming for hit rating (via Veiled gems if possible due to the better IBP distribution over using Runeds with Rigids) is sometimes very useful.
So if there’s a yellow socket, we want to put a Spellpower/Haste gem in it because haste is, like crit, also a yellow stat and is almost always worth more DPS per point than crit, or a Spellpower/Hit gem for the same reason.
However, critical strike is still a fantastic stat for elemental shamans that causes us to do a lot of extra damage, so we certainly shouldn’t resent having it on our gear or shy away from gear with crit on it. Gear with all three stats – spellpower, haste and crit – is pretty much our holy grail. The difficulty comes about when we have to choose between gear with, say, haste or gear with crit. It’s even more difficult if the choice is between, say, a piece with crit and hit and another piece with haste and mp5, because then we have to ask some questions – can I use the extra hit? how much more DPS is a point of haste than a point of crit? how much extra spellpower does the crit piece need to balance out the loss of haste? and so on.
These are questions that DEP is designed to answer, and is the reason for the “Compare Things Thingy” on the Calculators page of the ZAP! spreadsheet. For example, an elemental shaman I raid with was using Midnight Sun – an ilevel 251 dagger with haste and mp5 – when Valius, Gavel of the Lightbringer dropped from the Lich King on normal. Valius is an ilevel 258 mace with crit and mp5. So neither weapon is ideal for elemental, but which is better?
Well, assuming we’ve already entered our stats into the spreadsheet and set up raid buffs, glyphs, gear bonuses etc, we can go to the Calculators page and plug in the stats we want to compare.
In my stats, crit rating is worth about 70% the DPS of a point of haste rating, so there’s not quite enough crit to offset the haste (it’d need around 66 crit rating for that), but it also has a massive 44 extra spellpower which is more than enough to push it above the ilevel 251 dagger. So for me personally, you can see that Valius comes out as higher DEP and thus better to use.
Now, haste rating is a bit of a finicky stat and some people are comfortable with different amounts of it – a sort of “meta” concern which means that in some cases it is justifiable to do mathematically suboptimal things with haste like turning down a haste trinket because your lag is so high that you feel you can’t benefit from it. But whereas I am prepared to accept arguments for doing odd things with haste, there’s no argument for doing odd things with crit. It’s an entirely passive stat that scales very smoothly and predictably without any dramatic effect on how we play. The only reasonable argument I ever heard for stacking crit was for the mana efficiency it granted through Clearcasting, but I’ve never heard of a level 80 elemental shaman in anything beyond quest greens having mana trouble in a raid. I’ll talk some more about regen stats in the next post in the series, which should deal with intellect, mp5 and spirit.
Crit is a great stat and definitely something we like to have, but it’s not quite as good as spellpower or haste and pretty much not worth gemming for.