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Studying Sockets

When armor and weapons with gem sockets were first introduced in Burning Crusade, they were an entirely new concept. For the first time, players could customize the statistical priorities of their character. Customization eventually gave rise to what we know today as theorycrafting, a study of how to best optimize the numbers that form your character’s statistics. This was further enhanced through the introduction of reforging in Cataclysm.

Gem Variety

Today, we look at some of the basic things to look for when socketing your armor with gems. There are seven types of gems in the game, six of which represent each portion of a color wheel. The final gem is called a meta gem and can only be activated if certain colored gems are already socketed in your gear. For hunters, here are the gems that are of interest (but not necessarily optimal) for hunters:

Although there are six gem colors, there are only three socket colors: red, blue, and yellow. The three secondary colors (which are combinations of the primary three) can be socketed in either of its primary color sockets. For example, a green gem can be placed in either a blue or yellow socket.

As mentioned above, there are also meta gems that can be activated if you have certain colored gems socketed in your gear. Meta gems of interest for hunters are:

Meta gems are currently only used on endgame helm armor only. There is also a final type called the prismatic socket/gem, which means that it can be matched with any color that is available except for meta.

Optimizing and Maximizing Sockets

Each piece of armor or weapon with sockets have a certain socket bonus, a certain statistical value that will be added to your gear for having the correct color gem in the socket. For most people, the obvious choice would be to gem for the socket bonus. They would choose the color appropriate gem and balance the statistics on their character. However, this method of optimizing your sockets (by obtaining the socket bonus) doesn’t necessarily maximize their usage. A hunter’s gemming priority for calls for maximum Agility, our primary statistic.

Windhome Helm

In some cases, the optimum is better than the maximum, such as the [Windhome Helm], which has a meta socket and a yellow socket. One should not use the maximum agility gem in this case because of the socket bonus. Using the agility meta gem and a red gem will give you 94 agility from gemming alone. However, if an orange gem were used, the agility bonus from gemming increases to 104. Clearly, achieving the socket bonus is very important.

Lightning-Charged Legguards

However, there are times when going for the maximum is better than achieving the optimum. When you look at the socket bonus of [Lightning-Charged Legguards], 20 additional agility is very appealing. Unfortunately, it uses two yellow sockets. If one were to use two orange gems, the total agility gained from gemming is only 60. Compare this to using two red gems, which provides a total of 80 additional agility. Achieving a socket bonus is not important in this case.

Tunic of Failed Experiments

There are also rare cases when the optimum case is also the maximum. This is true for [Voltage Source Chestguard] and [Tunic of Failed Experiments], both of which have a red and a blue socket. When using a red and a purple gem, the total agility gained from achieving the socket bonus is equivalent to using two red gems and not achieving the bonus. The upside to using the blue socket goes back to the idea of customization. By playing around with reforging and gems, you can find a hit rating that is the closest to the cap value of 961. If you are already at cap, you can use a different purple gem that provides a stamina bonus instead.

A Note on Theorycrafting

Although customization allows the hunter to freely socketed gems, most of the gems listed above will never be used by hunters because they do not provide the greatest boost in DPS. Current gemming preference indicates that crit gems are more attractive than haste gems, which in turn are more attractive than mastery gems. As such, the orange agility/crit gem is often seen on hunters.

However, one could also say that hunters are often expected to be updated on their theorycrafting, thus everyone is merely following everyone else and not actually analyzing what gems are better suited for them.


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