The skill is more important then gear debate has been around for a while. Some people say it was started by people that had crappy gear to make themselves feel better. Some say it was started to embarrass people in end game gear that still did badly.
However it started and for whatever reason it might have behind it, there is no doubt that it is true. Skill is more important then gear.
Well, at least it was in wrath.
Not so much in Cataclysm.
Why would I say that? I am glad you asked.
Stat inflation has devalued skill to some extent. The amount of stats offered on the higher level gear is such a huge difference that gear can really compensate for skill, or at least some percentage of skill.
Back in wrath when a new raid came out I would look at the gear and decide which ones I wanted to go for first. I would see things like the chest would be a 25 DPS increase for me so it would be my first purchase. The crafted boots might be worth getting, because it was a huge 22 DPS increase.
All in all, that is why someone in lesser gear that had high skill could easily stand out. If the average piece would increase DPS by 20 DPS and there are 16 possible slot upgrades for you that would mean that you would, at best, get a 320 DPS increase from increasing from 232 to 245 for instance.
When you are talking numbers like 320 DPS it is quite easy for a skilled person in 232 gear to outperform someone that is not as skilled in 245 gear. The difference was small enough that skill could cover it, but big enough to be worth upgrading every time you had the chance.
This is also why the skill > gear argument started. People in 232 gear destroying people in 245 or even 258 gear. The people in the better gear trying to say, we are better players because we have better gear. That was easily proved wrong by them getting their asses handed to them by someone in 232 gear.
In wrath, for as much as people like to call it an easy expansion, skill mattered a hell of a lot more then it does in cataclysm. A skilled player could shine in wrath.
It is not that way any more.
The huge stat inflation on gear means huge jumps in potential when you get new gear.
For example the difference between on the 378 and 391 helm is 207 DPS. The difference between the 378 and 391 chest is 215. The difference between the 378 and 391 legs is 242. I think you get the idea, we are talking about one gear jump, in the same exact raid, could be upwards of 4K in maximum potential.
With the gear inflation, the amount of maximum potential DPS that comes with the stats on the gear is larger. Much larger.
Where in wrath a very skilled person in 219 gear could conceivably beat an average 258 geared player opposed to the fact that it is not even mathematically possible for a 359 geared player with high skill to beat and average 391 geared player. And if you look at it, I am comparing a much larger gap in wrath then in cataclysm.
In cataclysm, gear is extremely important. Gear might even be much more important then skill, at least the skill in rotation. Raid awareness skill is another story and that is not what this is about.
To put things in a flat out example.
Someone geared from Naxx 10, if they performed to 100% of their maximum potential could conceivably beat someone in ICC 25 gear that was only performing at 70% of their maximum potential.
This is comparing the start of an expansion to the end.
In cata, someone in firelands gear that performs at maximum potential would need someone in heroic firelands gear to perform at 60% of their maximum potential to beat them.
That is comparing just one raid.
In wrath, skill ruled. If you where skilled you could take some time off, come back a raid or two later, and never lose a step. You would still be valued for what you can contribute because what you could contribute would still be substantial whereas in firelands, if you are not at the top of the gear curve as soon as possible, you get left behind.
In wrath, if someone in great gear performed sub par they got noticed and they got called out for being bad. That was because someone in lesser gear could easily catch them and pass them. It is not the same way in cataclysm. You could be a great player but if an even barely average person in better gear comes along it is mathematically impossible to beat them. They would need to suck, completely and totally for someone in lesser gear to beat them.
This puts a hell of lot more weight on gear then gear should have in my opinion.
I believe that a person should be judged on their ability and not the gear they have. The stat inflation has really messed up the old skill is more important then gear adage because that is just not as true as it used to be. Now, no matter how skilled you are, without gear, you will never be able to do well as someone in better gear.
I am glad that Blizzard is planning to address that by fixing the stats on gear when MoP comes out. I am not a big fan of this gear is everything society. Sure, back in wrath it was easy to disprove the people that said gear is everything. Now, it is impossible to disprove it because as long as the person is not completely horrible, then gear is everything.
When you can perform at maximum potential and still get beat by someone that has only slightly better gear but is only doing 50% of their maximum potential, there is something wrong. Welcome to cataclysm where skill means nothing, only gear does.
Go back to wrath, go back to rewarding people with skill and not people that just happened to have better gear. I like skill ruling the game. I dislike this gear is everything grind. And I really dislike people thinking just because they have better gear they think they are better player.
I still love beating people in better gear. I still do it all the time in randoms and the rare pug. But it is no longer a matter of me being good that is beating them. It is a matter of them being really bad. If they where even half way decent, there is no mathematical way I can beat someone in all heroic gear.
I still say gear does not make the player.
It seems I am wrong in this Cataclysm world, gear does make the player.
Kind of odd that people talk about wrath as the "easy" expansion and cataclysm as the "difficult" one when in wrath skill ruled and in cataclysm gear does.
Maybe I just look at things from a different perspective. My perspective has it that wrath required a lot more skill then anything I have yet to see in cataclysm.