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Strats > Stats: Why Stat-Focused Setups Tend to Fail

June 13, 2018 in Uncategorized

There’s no doubt that, in high level Wizard101 PvP, your stats should be prioritized over the item cards on your gear. No PvPer who is anywhere near competency would use a piece of gear, or a pet that provided terrible stats, but gave a compelling or powerful item card. Since a Pirate101 power can only be used once per duel, it makes sense that the opposite would be true. In wiz, receiving sufficient protection is as simple as training tower shield and a few schools’ set shields. In pirate, only 2 small protection buffs are universally available, and they are only usable once in a duel. Privateers, the most defensive class, train a total of 4 at a maximum. Since pirate duels are often quite long, it’s self-evident that players would need to find more ways to obtain sufficient protection. Thus, we must use gear pieces that grant us these protection buffs. This line of thinking seems obvious to me. So why then, is there a significant contingent of players, mainly bucks and bucklers, who believe that stat gear is ideal?

To answer this question, I will be using and analyzing the setup of a particular swashbuckler PvPer named Cedric. He utilizes a predominantly stat-based setup. Even though he does have powers on many of his gear pieces, I believe he is still a useful example for why stat-based setups so frequently fail. His gear setup is as follows

  • Gladiator’s Galea
  • Royal High Admiral’s Uniform
  • Shoes of Faunus
  • Kraven Blade
  • Patch of St. Fido
  • His totem, ring, and charm are all auctionable super strike pieces that give +11 dodge each.

This gear brings Cedric to a very impressive 140-150 accuracy and 200 base dodge. He has 1 fort (2 less than most bucklers have), 1 shield, 1 revive (1 less than many bucklers have), and 3 super strikes from his gear. He has no gear that provides more assassins, hides, or poisons. This is significantly more accuracy and dodge than most melee players have, and nearly as much dodge as muskets have accuracy. What makes this setup, and the whole mindset of idealizing stat-based gear, so flawed?

1. They believe that stats will save them

The reason why stat based setups are the norm in wiz (outside of the fact that trained spells can be used multiple times in duels as opposed to once) is because the stats the people generally maximize in wiz are guaranteed to be useful and consistent. Your percent increase in damage isn’t going to suddenly fail you. Your damage resist won’t be non-functional for no apparent reason. Your pierce isn’t going to go down to 0 on a dime.

The stats that these pirate setups maximize are volatile, rng-based, and inconsistent. Your accuracy and dodge merely represent chances to land or dodge an attack. Having 75 more dodge than your opponent has accuracy only means that you are more likely to dodge an opponent’s chain hit. In addition, criticals (contrary to what some developers have once claimed) are completely unaffected by your accuracy and dodge, and there is no reliable way to block them. So, unlike with high resistance’s ability to prevent damage in wiz, you will still take damage from chain hits if rng is not in your favor. In addition, dodge does not help at all when hit with a guaranteed attack. RNG is already a fickle foe in this game. Why put even more into its hands than you have to?

One counterargument that these stat-based players turn to very often is that powers can also be fickle and rng based. After all, one is not guaranteed to pull a power when they need it. This is true. However, I’m willing to bet that the amount of times I fail to pull a heal, fort, or attack when I need it desperately is much lower than the amount of times that a stat-based player fails to dodge some chain hits or misses a long string of attacks in a row. In addition, I have control over the rng of my power setup. I can effectively discard powers, or re-order them if I see that I consistently fail to pull something. The stat-based player does not have a similar control over the rng of accuracy and dodge. They can only continue to alter their setup, giving themselves more of the stat that is failing them.

For instance, I watched Cedric fight a musketeer with overwatch 5. Cedric was in elusive, meaning his dodge was now around 250. The musket’s accuracy was around 200, so one would expect that Cedric had an ok chance to dodge. Cedric was outraged when the musket’s overwatch kept hitting him. His stats failed him. If he had run a traditional setup with more hides, he could have hidden, bypassed overwatch entirely, and had ample tries to close out the game with poisons and assassins.

2. They do not understand the concept of the resource war

As I mentioned before, every power can only be used once in a single duel. This means that every single power is a valuable resource, and ensuring that you have more resources available than your opponent by the end game is essential to winning. A stat-based setup will always have few resources than its normal counterparts (Cedric’s set has 2 fewer forts and 2+ fewer heals than a normal buckler setup has). My theory is that the people who run these setups have this train of thought:

  • It takes ____ rounds to kill my opponent with my gear set
  • I have enough protection to last me that amount of rounds
  • Thus, I have enough protection to win matches
  • It takes ____ guaranteed hits to kill my opponent, assuming I get a few chain hits here and there
  • I have this amount of hits
  • Thus, I have enough hits to win matches

However, this logic is assuming a best case scenario. Their line of thinking fails to address what happens when their opponent is able to survive through their guaranteed hits and stall out their protection. If the opponent can do this, they will be left with additional guaranteed hits and protection, while the stat-based player will be nearly empty-handed.  A normal setup will generally have more protection and hits than necessary for fighting the average player. That last fort or assassin may only be used against the most skilled players, but that is no reason to not have it around. A stat-based setup is, at the start of the match, behind in the resource war, as it has fewer powers than its normal counterparts. This means that exceptionally skilled dueling, luck, or some combination of the two is necessary to compensate for this advantage.

3. They fail to recognize their extreme weakness in the late game, focusing only on early game dominance

The final problem with a state based setup is that its users generally only notice the short-term and early-game advantages it has. They can’t recognize that it forces them to play in a predictable way and that if an opponent survives to the late game, their win rate will plummet to near 0. The player that uses a swashbuckler setup with 200 base dodge may think that “Oh, I can dodge all of my opponent’s companion’s chains. I’ll also dodge their chains and land my own chains on them and because I’ll be doing more damage than I’m taking I will win.” Sure, these high dodge setups will win exchanges early on and will likely be able to single-handedly take out 2-3 opposing companions, but what happens in the late game? Their chains will start missing since their opponent is in elusive. Their more limited heals and protection buffs are gone. They’re a sitting duck.

Back to Cedric. I’ve fought him many times in ranked, and I willingly admit I have lost a couple of them. However, these losses have always occurred because of great rng in the early game for him. Every time the match went to the late game, I won. Here’s a general template of what happens in the match:

  • Both players fog and buff
  • He normally fogs first, so I am able to get a hit coming out of fog, while he generally is not. I eliminate 1-2 of his companions
  • He is able to kill 1-2 of my units because of his chains or do decent damage to my pirate.
  • Now we reach the mid-game. At this point I generally have 2 forts, 3 heals, 3 hides, 2-3 poisons, and 2-3 of my assassins remaining. Cedric has 1 fort (both shields are already used), 1 heal (rouse), 1-2 poisons, 1-2 hides, and a handful of hits remaining.
  • If I have companions left, he is able to chain them down rapidly. If he has only melee companions left, I ignore them, since he has no way to buff them, so I will easily chain them down later on. At this point it may seem like he is “winning.” He certainly may think so. He has companions alive and is probably at more health than me. However, I am dominating the resource war. Now, all I have to do is, at a minimum, match him power for power and I will eventually win, as I will have attacks, shields, and heals after he runs out
  • He runs out of attacks and shields. I don’t. I deal the finishing blow to his unprotected pirate.

Although Cedric was able to come out on top in the early game, I was able to effectively manage my powers, and slowly but surely turn the tables on him, eventually winning soundly in the late game. I expect these trends to continue. If he wins, it will be in the early game, because his setup’s proclivity for swingy rng-based plays worked out in his favor. When I win, it’s because I was able to survive to the late game after running him out of resources.

Now none of this means that maximizing your stats to the extent that you can isn’t important. It absolutely is. You always should strive to keep your stats as high as possible. However, this should be done within the constraint of the powers you want, rather than finding good powers that fit into the constraint of having high stats.

I hope this column sheds some insight into why stat based setups are generally much less effective than setups that focus on properly managing powers and resources. As always, if you disagree, or have questions, feel free to let me know.

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