While half the blogosphere is being puzzled by the workings of a MMORPG economy, something we covered back in januari, and myself having a somewhat uneventful time on my druid in northrend I decided to jot down my thoughts on the whole 'theorycrafting as bible' thought process that seems to be commonplace these days.
Not too long ago I got a tell from someone who vehemently disagreed with my gear/my gems/my enchants and even my spec and we got into a brief discussion about theorycrafting after which I blisfully ended up on his ignore list... (which I suppose is good because I couldn't possibly explain my gem choice atm :))
But since he didn't want to hear the whole story I'll post my thoughts here instead.
Let me start by saying theorycraft is amazing: Within a matter of hours of painstaking research, arduous math, spreadsheet design and the creation of complex graphs and bar-charts you can determine exactly what your spell rotation should be, what you should gear like to optimize any aspect of your game and even allows you to compare yourself to other players trying to follow the same route.
But theorycraft always operates under the assumption that the amount of variables are limited. Theorycrafting doesn't take into account common practical occurances that happen in-game because it would make it impossible to compare a to b.
Theorycraft willfully ignores lucky streaks, ignores (de)buffs and commonplace events like moving out of a fire (or not moving out of a wreath) because they don't 'math' well... (i.e. are gruesomely hard to integrate in any kind of spreadsheet).
However the old wizard school saying applies: 1 in a million chances happen all the time.
So then, does theorycraft tell you how much defense rating you should have? Yes! It can determine to the 5th decimal place exactly how much defense rating you should have and what stats should be used to achieve said rating.
So you go out, dig yourself up some trusty defense rating gear and off you go only to be splattered the next time a silence hits you between your holy shield cycles or you take an untimely stun/fear.
One might say "hey you can't blame theorycraft for that" and you'd probably be right. But then tell me you never got flak for your gear and then tell me that people didn't point out to you that you should be using gear line-up Z to optimize your defense rating because so sayeth the theorycraft.
Theorycraft is a tool that allows you to compare 'stuff' (spell damage, mitigation, gear choices etc.) and with this tool gear lists are built.
But these gear lists don't take into account practical occurances, mentalities and playstyles of the different people. Just because your spec or gear choice proves to be less than optimal when stuffed in a spreadsheet doesn't mean they're not the optimal choice for you.
And this is the point where theorycraft fails in near catastrophic ways... just because the spreadsheet says you must do x for maximum damage doesn't mean you should throw all caution to the wind and spec/gear precisely according to the theorycraft.
If you as a person are not comfortable with a low health pool, have issues with stuns or fears then it is indeed in your best interest to make up for your personal weaknesses by speccing and gearing accordingly.
Theorycrafting can be a good starter, a primer to see what 'would' be optimal if all things were equal. In practice most things are a lot less predictable and you will have to deal with the stray mobs, tanks and healers keeling over and a ton of other events that are simply impossible to put into a spreadsheet. Not to mention simple things like personal preference.
Theorycraft will fail when applied in practice if you don't use a modicum of common sense. People that criticise your gear know nothing about your situation and will never be able to motivate their 'commentary' if you yourself have taken into account theory as well as practice.
Leave the optimal build for the optimal world, in all other cases don't rely on theorycraft alone. The only way to talk about other people's choices is by asking questions... why this piece of gear, why that talent, why this gem... if they have the answers and they make sense, who are you to criticise their choices?
And if you are being criticised for your choices... and you just can't get through to them with proper arguments then rest assured with the thought: No one ever erected a statue in honor of a critic.