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A set bonus in World of Warcraft is basically anything on your gear that requires you to wear a certain combination of gear and or gems to activate a special ability on your gear. These bonuses basically are like having an extra enchant and or trinket on your person.
But as awesome as these bonuses are, sometimes it's time to break them. Knowing when to do this is one of the beginning steps towards learning how to min max your gear.
Gear Set Bonus.
This is where by wearing 2 to upwards of six-eight pieces of a named set gain the player a bunch of passive bonuses to their stats. This in mostly seen in dungeon sets and class tier sets. Every two or three items causes a bonus to activate that tends to be on part with a trinket or new enchant.
Socketing gems into your gear alone improves upon the gear you have on. Like an enchant, socketing in a gem that adds extra intellect or attack power and so on to an empty socket adds on automatically to your base stats. But many items individually add on additionally more stats increases when certain combinations of gems are used.
Placing say two orange intellect/critical strike gems into two available red sockets activate a piece of gear's set bonus as opposed to placing in two purple intellect and health pool increasing gems. Yes you get the same amount of intellect from the gems but the bonus is lost.
To keep it or to break it?
Is that set bonus better than the upgrade you would receive from a new item? Is that arrangement of gems enough to activate that meta gem? Is socketing those gems to activate the bonus on that article of gear worthwhile, or would simply placing what you need gain as much a increase in stats?
For example. That outfit has a red and blue socket. It has a bonus of +10 hit rating. Red and orange gems can fit into the first and blue and purple the second to keep the bonus. But what if you already have more than enough hit rating? Is that bonus really worth gunning for?
Breaking a gear set bonus is always nerve wracking, but always compare what a new piece of gear brings to the table. That bonus won't last forever as new gear is acquired. Going through each piece gem by gem can also be time consuming but worth it.
Or what if the socket colors themselves are not the ones you would want? Say that same item had a set bonus of +10 intellect and had two yellow sockets instead. Right now you are trying to up your intellect but yellow gems do not give you this stat flat out. Orange gems do but only give like +20 intellect and another stat in combination.
If you followed the set bonus on the item you would gain +30 intellect. But if you decided to just place in two +40 intellect red gems you gain by ignoring said bonus an extra +10 to your intellect stat.