Every week, Shifting Perspectives explores issues affecting druids and those who group with them. This week, we are proud to welcome a new generation of bears.
I've been getting an extraordinary number of requests to update our older posts on how to spec and gear a fresh bear, cat and tree at 80. At this point in Wrath, the information should stay fairly accurate through the end of the expansion, and I agree that this would be a great time to do it. For the next few weeks, we'll examine how to get a new feral or restoration druid into fighting shape.
When we first started out, I split gear into categories like best drop, best reputation piece, best quest piece, etc., and I don't think it's necessary to do that anymore. It's so much easier to get high-quality gear by running dungeons or hunting around for some crafted drops or PvP pieces. In particular, it needs to be said that a lot of really good bear pieces can be had from PvP. If you've got a pile of Stone Keeper's Shards lying around (and many players do at this point), buy Wintergrasp Commendations with them when your faction has Wintergrasp, convert them to honor on your druid, and voila -- you've got currency for some ridiculously good pieces.
A few notes before we start:
- I'm assuming you don't have access to ICC-10 or -25, at least not on a regular basis. For all I know, maybe you play on a realm where bored players are pugging heroic Lich King-25, but that's not the situation most bears new to 80 will be in. When it comes to pugging raids, tanks tend to be subjected to more scrutiny than other players, and it's my assumption that you are interested in gearing a bear in order to tank rather than looking for pieces relevant to content you're already doing.
- I'm assuming you probably have access to Onyxia, Vault of Archavon and (maybe) some ToC. Most servers have PUGs running this content fairly regularly (if not, start one!). Trial of the Crusader is a sticky wicket, but after waffling over my "Must not assume they're raiding! Must not assume they're raiding!" rule, I've compromised and listed the ilevel 245, tier 9 pieces available if you get your hands on a Trophy of the Crusade. With many players upgrading to tier 10 right now, there is much less competition for these.
- I'm not assuming you're an arena star: Everyone can get Relentless and Furious gear these days with a little elbow grease, but Wrathful set pieces still require an arena rating to get, so screw that.
- This is not a comprehensive list. There are a lot of PvP pieces here, but I've listed only the Furious or above pieces. I think it's a waste of time to grind honor toward anything below that. I've also eliminated most of the pieces we've previously covered in our February 2009 guide to bear gear. You may want to take a look at that if you're still leveling your bear (it'll give you some tips on good reputation pieces and quest rewards), but otherwise I consider much of the information obsolete ("I never look back, darling; it distracts from the now." -- Edna Mode).
- I am a huge cheapskate. I've pointed out alternatives to the more expensive choices where possible. The only exception to this is the weapon slot, which is problematic if you don't or can't raid. If you're going to drop money anywhere, make it here and/or the boot and chest slots.
- For anyone without a very good Emblem of Frost income who wants to prioritize the order in which they get their pieces, I would buy the cloak first (you won't replace it until well into Cataclysm), then the idol, and then the gloves, legs, helm and shoulders. If you're running Vault of Archavon every week, you may want to buy the head and shoulders first, as Toravon has a chance to drop the gloves and legs.
As with just about any tier of content you could name, non-set pieces may be better than their tier-set counterparts on an individual basis. A lot of the attraction of a tier piece lies in how good the corresponding set bonuses are. Tier 10 bonuses for bears are very, very good; the four-piece is essentially an additional Barkskin every minute, and the two-piece is a meaty damage boost to both single-target and AoE threat. I highly recommend getting the four-piece when you can and using an Ikfirus's Sack of Wonder for the chest.
By contrast, tier 9 is take-it-or-leave-it territory, especially if you only have access to the ilevel 232 version. The four-piece bonus to Barkskin is nice if you find yourself tanking for any PUG raids at all, but that's really about it. Don't bother gearing around retaining it.
No matter what you do, if you have any combination of the following, you should consider yourself well geared.
To be frank, there aren't a lot of outstanding options in this slot outside of raids. Fortunately, every option allows you to socket a meta gem, and the top six options are relatively close to each other.
Enchant: Arcanum of the Stalwart Protector (requires Argent Crusade revered)
Meta Gem: Austere Earthsiege Diamond
- Lasherweave Headguard: Available for 95 Emblems of Frost.
- Relentless Gladiator's Dragonhide Helm: Available for 95 Emblems of Frost or 13,200 honor and 770 arena points.
- Runetotem's Headguard of Triumph/Malfurion's Headguard of Triumph: The ilevel 245, tier 9 head available for 75 Emblems of Triumph and 1 Trophy of the Crusade.
- Stormrage Coverlet: Dropped by Onyxia-25.
- Hood of Lethal Intent/Mask of Lethal Intent: The ilevel 245 non-set melee leather helm available for 75 Emblems of Triumph.
- Furious Gladiator's Dragonhide Helm: Available for 75 Emblems of Triumph or 54,500 honor.
- Malfurion's Headguard of Triumph (Alliance)/Runetotem's Headguard of Triumph (Horde): The ilevel 232, tier 9 helm available for 50 Emblems of Triumph.
- Stormrage Helm: Dropped by Onyxia-10.
- Frayed Scoundrel's Cap: Dropped by Devourer of Souls in heroic Forge of Souls.
- Mask of Distant Memory: Dropped by the Black Knight in heroic Trial of the Champion.
I was surprised to discover just how empty this slot still is; all of the really worthwhile stuff comes from raid. Actually, for the top pick, that's still kinda true.
- Wodin's Lucky Necklace: A BoE drop from ICC-25, but availability varies by realm. A raiding guild that's been in ICC for a while is probably sick of seeing these things drop, so just shop around.
- Eskhandar's Links: Dropped by Onyxia-25. Both this and the 10-man version have some nice +expertise, which can be tough for bears to get.
- Eskhandar's Choker: Dropped by Onyxia-10.
- Shard of the Crystal Forest: Available for 19 Emblems of Conquest.
- Titanium Earthguard Chain: Jewelcrafting BoE.
- Sparkling Onyxia Tooth Pendant: Available from the questline started by the Head of Onyxia drop from (where else?) Onyxia.
Assuming you can get an Ikfirus' Sack of Wonder (see below), you'll want to buy the tier shoulders eventually in the interests of rocking four-piece tier 10. However, until that point, the Titan-Forged shoulders are an excellent choice.
Enchant: You have a few different options here. The classic tanking choice would be Greater Inscription of the Pinnacle from Sons of Hodir exalted (or, if you're a scribe, Master's Inscription of the Pinnacle), but if you prefer more health, you can use Greater Inscription of the Gladiator (available for 10,000 honor).
If you want to go for a more offensively-oriented enchant, use Greater Inscription of the Axe from Sons of Hodir exalted (or Master's Inscription of the Axe for scribes).
- Titan-Forged Spaulders of Triumph: Available for 40 Wintergrasp Marks of Honor. A really impressive piece, and pretty close to the ToGC-25 heroic tier shoulders, and even the ICC-10H shoulders.
- Relentless Gladiator's Dragonhide Spaulders: Available for 60 Emblems of Frost or 10,550 honor and 600 arena points.
- Lasherweave Shoulderpads: Available for 60 Emblems of Frost.
- Duskstalker Pauldrons (Alliance)/Duskstalker Shoulderpads (Horde): The ilevel 245, non-set melee leather shoulders available for 45 Emblems of Triumph.
- Malfurion's Shoulderpads of Triumph (Alliance)/Runetotem's Shoulderpads of Triumph (Horde): The ilevel 245, tier 9 shoulders available for 45 Emblems of Triumph and 1 Trophy of the Crusade.
- Furious Gladiator's Dragonhide Spaulders: Available for 50 Emblems of Triumph or 34,700 honor.
- Malfurion's Shoulderpads of Conquest (Alliance)/Runetotem's Shoulderpads of Conquest (Horde): The ilevel 232, tier 9 shoulders available for 30 Emblems of Triumph.
- Spaulders of Black Betrayal: Dropped by Falric in heroic Halls of Reflection.