The full Tier 9 previews are finally out, courtesy of MMO Champion. Whatever your opinions are on faction-specific armor - there are arguments to be made for and against it - it's reasonable to say that some of the sets look pretty darned good. It's the first time we're seeing faction-specific armor sets in a long time, so we'll actually get to do something we can't do with old armor sets - we'll pit the Horde and Alliance against each other in an armor face-off!
In our Tier 9 Mighty Battle, we'll pit one faction's version of the Tier 9 armor against the other and judge them based on the following criteria:
- Thematic integrity to class - We'll look at how well Blizzard's armor design represents the class. The best kind of class armor should be recognizable as a perfect representation of that class. For example, the Warlock's Tier 5, the Corruptor Raiment, or the Paladin's Tier 2, the Judgement set, both look unmistakably diabolical and righteous, respectively.
- Thematic integrity to faction - Because these are the first faction-specific PvE sets, we'll also examine how well the armor sets embody each faction and their archetypal - or stereotypical - representation.
- Overall design - Of course, aside from looking true to the class and faction, an armor set can just be plain badass. Everybody wants to look good, right?
- Tiebreaker, how each armor class stacks up - Since we're scoring ten classes, we'll avoid a tie by scoring the armor sets based on their armor type, too. Because the armor sets share models across armor class, we'll award points to each faction based which side has better designs overall. Kind of like an electoral college, but without the chads.
Gallery: Tier 9 Mighty Battle
Round 1: Class
Let's start with the Alliance version, and we can see that the overall look isn't very dark. For one thing, the glow on the shoulders and head are bright white, the equivalent of xenon headlamps in Azeroth. The trim of the armor seems to be bone, such as the edges of the shoulders, the helm, and parts of the chest and legs. There's an evil-looking skull with horns in the center, which is a plus. The overall color is slate blue with polished bone and leather.
The Horde version is actually reminiscent of the Vengeful Gladiator's Battlegear, which is a blue recolor of the Warrior Tier 6 Onslaught armor set. That's not so bad, considering they're both plate, but it loses a few points in terms of creativity, although spikes are always good. Skulls on chest, helm, gloves, and legs give the armor an overall sinister feel. The glow effect on the shoulders are fog-like, rather than fog lamp-like like the Alliance version.
Verdict: I'm giving a slight edge to the Horde version here, if only because it's darker in tone overall. The color is a deeper blue and there are more skulls. The problem with the Alliance version is that there are just too many bright spots on the armor that take away from the grim feel of the Death Knight class.
Round 2: Faction
At a glance, the Tier 9 Alliance Death Knight armor set looks very much like an Alliance set. It uses blue, which is the Alliance color, as well as polished bone trim and brown leather. From a distance, the bone and leather look like the silver and gold that adorns the Alliance crest. Despite the skulls and evil grins, this is an Alliance set through and through.
On the other hand, the Horde set doesn't look very Horde-like at all. It looks very much like a Death Knight set, but doesn't evoke the raw and gritty feel of the Horde. The closest it comes to that are the fur trims, for a somewhat tribal feel, but overall it seems to fail as a Horde set.
Verdict: The Alliance version wins this skirmish hands down.
Round 3: Overall Look
This boils down to a matter of taste, and it's the tiebreaker because while the Alliance set looks like an Alliance armor set, the Horde version evokes a stronger Death Knight vibe. This is a tough call, but I'm going to have to give a very slight edge to the Horde version. The triple headlamp look and silvery blades make the Alliance set feel a bit too virtuous for Death Knights. Even though these are faction-specific armor sets, faithfulness to the class is more important to me.
Verdict: The Horde escapes this match-up by a ghoul's hair.
Winner: Horde 2-1
Round 1: Class
Again, we'll start off with the Alliance. With one look, you can tell this is a Druid outfit. Not just any Druid outfit, but a Night Elf one. We finally move away from the flowers and trees element, although we retain some feel of nature with the wooden components of the armor, such as the avian head epaulets and chest piece. The feather trim and Elune-style glows complete the look.
The Horde version moves away from wood but embraces leather much better than any Druid set before it. The large stitches are a wonderful detail, and it feels almost as Tauren as the Alliance version feels Night Elvish. It's leather and fur, coupled with runes and a decidedly solar glow. It feels warm, solid, and very primal.
Verdict: These are both great sets, but I'll have to go with the Alliance version here. As leather-like as the Horde Druid set is, it doesn't evoke enough Druidic elements... there isn't enough to indicate a love of nature, and the blatant leather stitching might even anger overzealous members of D.E.H.T.A. On the other hand, the Alliance set looks like a Druid's set, period. I just hope it did away with the Rogue-ish shoulder pockets.
Round 2: Faction
It's a Night Elf outfit. I mean, one look at it and it just screams Night Elf. The teals, olive greens, ornate filigree finish, feather trims, and amethyst glows all echo the landscape of Teldrassil. It's unmistakably Night Elf, and by extension, Alliance. The face mask is odd, but at least it seems rather Druid of the Talon-y.
The Horde version isn't quite as Tauren as its counterpart is Night Elf, as it doesn't carry the Thunder Bluff vibe so much. The runes aren't as familiar as the filigree, although it benefits from detail that hint at the Horde symbol. The turquoise glows are definitely out of Thunder Bluff, but it only barely hearkens to it.
Verdict: Despite the Horde symbol elements, the Alliance version wins this particular tussle by a small margin. It's an excellent racial armor almost as much as the Zul'aman sets were Troll-inspired. It's not strictly Alliance, but it feels very close to it.
Round 3: Overall Look
This isn't nearly as close a match as I expected, as the Alliance armor set simply looks more elegant than its Horde counterpart. The Alliance Druid Tier 9 set looks very unique and actually badass. It's a refreshing change of pace from previous Druid sets, and the attention to detail is impeccable. The Horde set isn't bad at all, it's simply not as nice as the Alliance version.
Verdict: The Alliance out-style the Horde in this area, sweeping all three rounds!
Winner: Alliance 3-0
CURRENT TALLY: 1 Horde vs. 1 Alliance
In tomorrow's Mighty Battle, we'll pit the Alliance and Horde versions of the Hunter and Mage sets against each other. Who delivers the killing blow? Who walks away bruised and battered? Stay tuned tomorrow! In the meantime, check out the Tier 9 armor sets as collated by MMO Champion in our convenient gallery.
UPDATE: Because you asked for it, we'll throw in a poll to spice things up! We'll match the results of the poll against our own results and see who wins the final tussle!
Patch 3.2 will bring about a new 5, 10, and 25 man instance to WoW, and usher in a new 40-man battleground called the Isle of Conquest. WoW.com will have you covered every step of the way, from extensive PTR coverage through the official live release. Check out WoW.com's Guide to Patch 3.2 for all the latest!