Pareto Efficiency and “Why can’t I hold Agro?
This is the second part of a three part essay on gear selection in the Secret World. In the last essay, I discussed the fallacy of asymmetric progression and the problems that can hinder potential of talisman in your DPS output. (Go to the First Essay in the series on gearing)
In this essay, we will look at talisman load-out configurations. How many talisman and of what kind, should you wear based on your role? In the next essay, we’ll look specifically at glyph signet choices.
One activity familiar to any student of economics is the “guns or butter” problem. In it, a nation is positioned as capable of making two goods, guns or butter, and has to decide on the allocation of resources to each. The nation could produce 100% guns and thus no butter or it could produce 100% butter and thus no guns. Or, more likely, it can produce some of each.
The logic of “how many of each” was addressed in the works of Vilfredo Pareto, providing us with the Pareto optimization curve (see link for an example).
OK, So I have Guns in TSW, but no Butter?
TSW gives us a similar two factor trade off with our talisman. Actually, its a three factor trade-off between hitpoint gear, attack power gear and heal gear, but for many builds and roles only two factors are relevant.
- For the typical tank, the trade-off is between +hitpoints (survivability) and +attack (threat generation via DPS).
- For the typical healer, the trade-off is between +heal (heal throughput) and +hitpoints (survival)
- For the typical DPS, the trade-off is between +attack and finding a way to crank +attack up to 11
Recently, theory-crafting has confirmed that there is a specific attribute allocation for talisman in TSW. In the table below I depict these weights and the resulting value for hitpoint, attack power, and heal power. These figures use QL10 Blue quality gear from the upper elite dungeons. Elites have a lower tier of gear with weapons around WP 330 and a higher tier around weapons with WP 347.
This tells us that a Q10 equipped tank could go full +hitpoint gear resulting in an additional 10,237 HP and only rely on his/her weapon for DPS. A DPS could go full ATK and pick up 2310 attack to supplement his/her weapon – leaving him/herself with 1970 hitpoints. A healer could, likewise carry 2430 +heal to augment weapon power and similarly carry only 1970 hitpoints
Show us the Curve!
While stacking to the maximum of your primary factor might seem prudent, in practice it just doesn’t work. Particularly for tanks and healers, if you don’t slot some second factor talisman, you will find yourself unable to actually fulfill your primary role. Tanks will find they can’t generate enough agro to keep pace with DPS. Healers will find the occasional blow from an add leaves them pretty dead, making healing a bit challenging.
It turns out that the trade-off in TSW produces a similar Pareto efficiency. Assuming you are wearing the best quality gear, given your QL and echelon, your two factor values look something like this for a Tank or DPS.
Now, bear in mind, this is using the upper end blue-quality Q10 talisman. Just starting elites, your numbers will be lower, but the concept of an efficient frontier remains the same. For the most part, the trade-offs start to manifest as soon as threat tables become non-trivial to manage. Bluedot did a very outstanding write-up on threat mechanics in TSW, a good read for those inclined to succeed.
Trade-offs will start sooner for some roles than for others. Tanks, operating with reasonably efficient builds, will start finding problems holding agro perhaps as early as the Ankh (QL8). By this point, DPS have exceeded the threat output by more than what you can accomplish with builds alone.
At this point, a tank will discover life gets easier by getting squishier. Take off one or more +HP talisman and swap over to +ATK. For me, it’s been my headpiece (19% of my attribute total). I run roughly 80/20 tank/dps and that works perfectly fine. I have no pattern of agro loss and our runs proceed smoothly. This has carried us cleanly through every elite dungeon as well.
Healers, similarly, will find that survival matters come into play early. As early as Darkness War (Q6), it’s not uncommon to see swarms of adds enter the battlefield (Hi2U Mayan Battle Mage) and these guys usually make a bee-line towards your healer. Heal throughput, attentive tank-agro and on-the-spot DPS add pickup usually do the deal, but having a few more hitpoints can make life a lot easier for your healer.
For DPS, this often doesn’t manifest until elites. Prior to that, simply managing threat reducers and staying out of environmental effects do the job. Additionally, prior to elites, even the occasional environmental effect tends to be non-lethal. But, with elites, you start finding that pretty much everything hits DPS for 2,000 or more damage. Just enough to one-shot an all +ATK DPS. Entering into elites, it’s advisable for DPS to move to between 3k and 4k health. Conveniently, this happens at 20%-30% +HP gear.
Common Talisman Loadouts
The two most common loads have already been introduced, the 80/20 or 70/30 build. In this format, the higher value goes to your role specific talisman (+HP for tank, +Heal for healers and +ATK for DPS) with the lower value going to your secondary factor (+ATK for tank, +HP for heal/DPS).
The logic for which to use is different for the roles. For tanks, you want to carry the least amount of HP necessary to do your job safely. Unused hitpoints are wasted DPS. If the encounter is particularly threatening, go 80/20. If not, 70/30. If you are on farm mode for a dungeon, you might find yourself going 50/50.
For healers and DPS, the converse is true. Wear as much primary factor gear as you can get away with. Dead healers don’t heal and dead DPS don’t DPS. You need enough HP to survive anticipated damage and no more. Going into elites, that’s probably 70/30, giving you 30% HP gear to get past learning mistakes (for the whole party). In an experienced group, and by that I mean a group who is experienced with each other, go for your maximum output. 100/0 for DPS is quite feasible in elite (although not in nightmare). Healers will probably never hit the 100/0 level, but 80/20 and 90/10 might be possible as runs become smoother.
Turning Percentages into Talisman Choices
80/20 – Toss on a second factor headpiece and you are golden. Alternately, two minor talisman on your second factor and the remaining gear to your primary factor works.
70/30 – Three minor talisman devoted to your second factor, the rest to your primary factor.
60/40 – A headpiece and two minors towards your second factor, everything else towards your major factor
50/50 – Your three major talisman to your second factor, everything else towards your major factor
Three Factor Talisman Loadouts
Up until now, I have focused on builds which make trade-offs between two factors (HP/ATK for tanks ATK/HP for DPS and HEAL/HP for healers). Some builds actually need all three factors to play well. In particular, the classic survival build (primarily soloing) needs a bit of all three factors to play well. However, AR build healers may find some benefit from having a little of everything too.
In these cases, you need to prioritize. What is your primary, secondary and tertiary factor. For a survival build, I would imagine it’s DPS, HP, Heal. For an AR build, it’s likely Heal, HP, DPS. I don’t have a lot of data on either of these models. While I do play survival builds when I outdoor quest, I duo with Aela, so my +heal needs are pretty low.
I would probably start a three factor model on a 50/40/10 or 50/30/20 model. You can use the gearing choices in the preceding section to get the talisman allocations to make this happen. From there, tweak as needed. Bump in 10% increments as needed, remembering that any increase in one factor has to be offset by a decrease in another. What are you willing to give up to do more?
Putting Glyphs into Talisman
I plan on spending more time on glyphs in a subsequent essay, but I think it’s worth touching on something here. I prefer to have my secondary factor gear be glyph-eligible gear.
While you may find dungeon drops for your primary factor where the other attributes are perfect for your role (+Evade or +Defense for me typically), it’s hard to find gear for your second factor with the right stats. I mean, how many non-glyph 439 ATK head pieces are out there with +Defense?
So, when you are looking for the perfect loot for your second factor, look for gear that can be glyphed. I can take a 439 ATK head piece and re-glyph it so it has the same ATK but still helps my DEF or EVA (or whatever else I need in my build).
Blue (and better) talisman and glyph kits are worth their weight in gold!