In the quest for theorycrafting the best-in-slot items for his mage, BSN user thendcomes came up with a handy spreadsheet to calculate the changes in spell damage based on stat and equipment bonuses while factoring in other variables like element-specific bonuses.
You can download a copy of the spreadsheet here. The spreadsheet purportedly does not work in Open Office, so if you don't have MS Excel, the natural alternative seems to be uploading the document back up to your own Google Docs account. I find it a bit obtuse, even with instructions, but I don't usually use spreadsheet calculators laid out in this fashion. Nevertheless, it's still a great tool for perfectionists to answer fundamental questions like:
What are the most important stats to focus on for damage dealing?
What I found is that crit chance and crit damage are the best ways to increase your overall damage output late game. Unlike individual +element%, they increase damage from all sources. Focusing on one element at the expense of other elements is punishing because of the diminished returns you see when increasing elements that already have a large bonus. Furthermore, there are not enough spells of any one element to spam where you could exclusively boost one element at the expense of the others. On the other hand, some spells are simply more useful and/or powerful than others, and thus specifically pumping those elements may confer a viable benefit.
What is the best equipment to use for that purpose?
- For spell damage: The best staff in the game from around level 24 onward is a tie between Malcolm's Honor and The Hawke's Key buffed with crit damage. Hawke's Key beats Malcolm's Honor handily while autoattacking, so it has the edge overall. As you decrease in the level, these two staves get relatively weaker and the other static level uniques get stronger. Around level 23, they become around equal to The Final Thought with a RoD, at 22 equal to The Final Thought with a PLR, and at 19 to the Torch of Falon'din with a RoD & PLR.
- For staff DPS: The best staff is the one that your enemy is weak against. The best staves are:
- Fire - Torch of Falon'din (RoD & PLR or RoS)
- Cold - Cold-Blooded
- Electricity - Eye of the Storm (PLR), 2nd place The Hawke's Key
- Nature - The Final Thought (RoD or PLR)
- Spirit - Malcolm's Honor
Of these staves, the Torch of Falon'din comes away with the best auto attack DPS on the strength of the big +fire% modifier you can accumulate with all your skills and gear.
End game Armor
The best and second best pieces for DPS in the end game may surpise you.
- Chest - The best is the 140g Robes of Unblemished Cleanliness in Act 3. However, the free Stalker's Boar Hides in Act 1 is only ~15% worse on fire/cold/elec/nature, and 5% better on Spirit/Physical damage!
- Boots - Zoey's Battered Horde Kickers found in Act 2 during Fool's Gold for free
- Gloves - Bloody Butcher's Gloves, found in Act 1 during Sharp Little Pinpricks for free
- Helm - Apostate's Mask at level 17. Before 17, or without the Mage pack, Cap of the Antivan Kings in Act 1 for 6g
- Belt - Seven Deadly Cinch in Act 3 for 24g. The best until then is Bloodstained Girdle, found in Firele's floor in Legacy. Without Legacy, Enchanted Silverite Belt is best through Act 1, then Belt of Primevals in Act 2.
- Amulet - Four Fingered Eddy's Lucky Talisman in Act 3 for 108g. Smite found for free in Legacy will likely outperform it in spirit damage, and electricity damage less likely. Without Legacy, the free Dura's Blue Flame is likely to be best from Act 1.
- Ring - The Graven Circle in Vinmark Chasm in Legacy is potentially the best. Puzzle Ring of the Black Fox in Act 2 for 88g is likely the best until you're geared up. Without Legacy, Etched Ring of the Twins in Act 2 for 84g is next best. The more +fire and +elec you have, the less potent Ring of the Ferryman becomes. It is useful until you have RoUC and the passive talents.