Take a journey forward through time with me here. Not by much, just by a couple weeks. At long last, you’re level 85. You’ve quested through the seas, the earth, the sands, and the skies. You’ve conquered a few dungeons along the way, and have a decent collection of nice equipment and trophies to show for it. The next sight on your horizon is raids. What should you do to ensure that you’re as prepared as possible? What sorts of resources are available to you to get prepared for the challenges you’ll face? The easy-mode days of Wrath farming are now over (for now); tanks who have done their homework will once again be set apart from those who seem to have merely clicked the “Protection” button on their talent sheet by accident. You want to press forward into the new raid dungeons as a shining example of preparation and steadfast fearlessness — act the part. Ideally, you should aim to be in full 346-level blue gear before stepping into raids, with a few scattered pieces of 359-level epics from crafting or faction rewards. This guide’s intention is to help get you there.
During the natural course of questing in the new Cataclysm zones, you will discover new factions and begin earning reputation with each of them. By the time you reach level 85, you will probably be at least Honored with all of the factions, and potentially even reach Revered with one or two. Once you reach level 85, it may be worth turning your attention to maxing out your faction reputations as soon as possible — doing so will enable you to purchase the following pieces of gear for little more than a song.
Guardians of Hyjal Exalted: [Wrap of the Great Turtle] (359 Back)
Therazane Revered: [Felsen’s Ring of Resolve] (346 Finger)
Ramkahen Revered: [Red Rock Band] (346 Finger)
Ramkahen Exalted: [Sandguard Bracers] (359 Wrist)
Dragonmaw/Wildhammer Revered: [Grinning Fang Helm]/[Crown of Wings] (346 Head)
Dragonmaw/Wildhammer Exalted: [Boots of Sullen Rock]/[Gryphon Rider’s Boots] (359 Feet)
Most of the epic gear on this list requires one or more Chaos Orbs to create, which at the current time are bind-on-pickup drops from Heroic dungeon end-bosses (think Primal Nether and Frozen Orbs, before they were made tradeable). This will mean that the crafter (if you’re enlisting the services of another crafter to make them for you) will have to supply their own orbs, which will significantly drive up the prices for these items for the first few months (and especially the opening weeks) of the expansion. If you want to buy many of the epic-level pieces in this list, be prepared to pay a lot of gold to do so if you cannot craft them yourself.
Neck: [Elementium Guardian] (Jewelcrafting)
Cloak: [Twilight Dragonscale Cloak] (Leatherworking)
Chest: [Hardened Elementium Hauberk] (Blacksmithing)
Waist: [Hardened Elementium Girdle] (Blacksmithing)
Finger: [Elementium Mobius Band] (Jewelcrafting)
Shield: [Elementium Earthguard] (Blacksmithing)
BoP Alchemy: [Lifebound Alchemist Stone] (359 Trinket)
BoP Engineering: [Reinforced Bio-Optic Killshades] (359 Head)
BoP Jewelcrafting: [Figurine – Earthen Guardian] (346 Trinket)
BoP Jewelcrafting: [Figurine – King of Boars] (346 Trinket)
Justice Point Gear
Depending on how much preparation you’ve done ahead of time, you may or may not be sitting on a cache of Justice Points when you reach level 85 (the cap at level 80 is 4000, so that’s the most you can realistically expect to bring forward into Cataclysm). If you happen to be sitting on some points, you’ll be able to pick up a piece or two right off the bat. If not, you’ll be able to earn Justice Points fairly quickly through Heroic dungeons. In either case, here are the pieces that you’ll want to be aware of. As always, your choices here should be dependent on what pieces of your gear set most need to be replaced. In most cases, your lowest-level gear should be replaced first, unless you can easily get a replacement piece elsewhere, such as via crafting or reputation rewards. You’ll get the most value out of your Justice Points by using them last, to fill in the gaps in your gear set once you’ve gotten whatever reputation and crafted gear you can.
All Justice Point gear is item level 346, which is equivalent to Heroic dungeon drops.
Head: [Helm of the Proud] (2200 JP)
Neck: [The Lustrous Eye] (1250 JP)
Shoulders [Avoidance]: [Sunburnt Pauldrons] (1650 JP)
Shoulders [Threat]: [Pauldrons of the High Requiem] (1650 JP)
Chest: [Chestplate of the Steadfast] (2200 JP)
Hands: [Numbing Handguards] (1650 JP)
Waist: [Girdle of the Mountains] (1650 JP)
Legs: [Greaves of Splendor] (2200 JP)
Shield: [Shield of the Four Grey Towers] (950 JP)
Once you’ve got a set of mostly 346/359 gear put together, kit it out with some blue-quality gems and the best enchants you can afford (see the “Gem & Enchant Guide” link in the sidebar for specifics on those), and you should be ready to tackle anything that Nefarian, Cho’gall, or Al’Akir can throw at you! Good luck!
In our previous installment, I showed you a list of all of the notable Paladin tank gear available in dungeons, and via dungeon quests in roughly the first half of your journey from 80-85 — namely, the Blackrock Caverns, Stonecore, and Vortex Pinnacle instances. (There may possibly be some gear pieces available in Throne of the Tides as well, but as of the time of that post’s writing, Wowhead’s database listed no such items.) In this post, I intend to finish what I started, and list the items available from the latter half of the normal mode dungeons, mostly in the 84-85 region. Let’s get to the topic at hand!
[Umbriss Band] – Finger, ilvl 333, Grim Batol
From the first boss of Grim Batol, General Umbriss, comes this nice ring. The hefty chunk of Mastery is the standout stat on this ring.
[Throngus’s Finger] – Trinket, ilvl 333, Grim Batol
All avoidance, all the time, with static Parry and a proc that triggers on a successful parry. With Parry being a significantly better avoidance stat in Cataclysm, this one isn’t too shabby. This drops from (rather obviously) Forgemaster Throngus in Grim Batol.
[Mace of Transformed Bone] – Mace, ilvl 333, Grim Batol
Another solid tanking weapon, if you haven’t had luck finding any others.
[Earthshape Pauldrons] – Shoulder, ilvl 333, Grim Batol
These shoulders carry a nice bit of Mastery, along with Dodge. Dropped by the second boss of Grim Batol, Drahga Shadowburner.
[Shroud of Dark Memories] – Back, ilvl 333, Grim Batol (BoE)
This nice cloak is a BoE zone drop in Grim Batol. Sports both avoidance (Dodge) and threat (Expertise).
[Breastplate of the Witness] – Chest, ilvl 333, Grim Batol (Quest)
This chestpiece is a reward from the quest Closing a Dark Chapter, obtainable inside the instance from Baleflame. The quest asks you to kill the final boss of Grim Batol.
[Sand Dune Belt] – Waist, ilvl 333, Lost City of the Tol’vir
Quite a nice amount of Expertise — our best threat stat — without sacrificing avoidance or Stamina. Quite well-rounded.
[Ring of Three Lights] – Finger, ilvl 333, Lost City of the Tol’vir
Another ring with Mastery on it. Would be easily paired with the Umbriss Band if you’re trying to maximize your block chance.
[Impetuous Query] – Trinket, ilvl 333, Lost City of the Tol’vir (BoE)
Lost City’s BoE tanking item is this interesting trinket, with a large pile of Mastery, and a Parry use effect with a 1-minute cooldown. Lots to love about this trinket.
[Sun Strike] – Sword, ilvl 333, Halls of Origination
Another pretty standard tanking weapon — good 2.60 speed, Hit, and Mastery. Not much to say here, but certainly a solid weapon. Mastery is always good to have.
[Darkhowl Amulet] – Neck, ilvl 333, Halls of Origination
An avoidance-heavy necklace, but with a little bit of Expertise to supplement it.
[Helm of Setesh] – Head, ilvl 333, Halls of Origination
This is an excellent helm. Sporting a meta socket, dodge, and expertise. Drop a purple gem into the red gem socket to pick up the beautiful +45 Stamina socket bonus.
[Fingers of Light] – Hands, ilvl 333, Halls of Origination
More mastery! These gloves sport Parry rating and high Stamina as well, making them attractive to plate tanks of all types.
[Bulwark of the Primordial Mound] – Shield, ilvl 333, Halls of Origination
As shields seem to be few and far between in terms of dungeon rewards (world quest rewards notwithstanding), this may be something to watch out for. This shield appears to be obtainable from both Ammunae and Earthrager Ptah in Halls of Origination.
[Armguards of Unearthly Light] – Wrist, ilvl 333, Halls of Origination
The most notable stat here is probably the Hit rating — useful to hang onto if you later find yourself short of the hit cap.
[Ramkahen Front Boots] – Feet, ilvl 333, Halls of Origination (Quest)
These boots are obtained from the quest The Source of Their Power, which, like the Vortex Pinnacle dungeon quests, are offered inside the instance entrance, so they’re impossible to miss. Clear Halls of Origination once to claim these boots as your own.
[Alpha Bracers] – Wrist, ilvl 333, Halls of Origination
What’s that? Two sets of bracers from the same instance? Well, these ones aren’t specifically tank bracers — you won’t find any Dodge or Parry here, for example. What you will find is Hit and Mastery, both very solid Tankadin stats as far as we’re concerned. Drop a Mastery(/Stamina) gem in the yellow socket to make this an ideal high-Mastery piece.
[Temple Band] – Finger, ilvl 333, Halls of Origination (BoE)
A BoE drop from Halls of Origination. With a good amount of Stamina, Dodge, and Mastery, this is a very well-balanced survivability ring. Keep an eye out for it on the auction house if you don’t get lucky with drops.
Sometime soon, I’ll finish up this series with a list of pre-raiding gear, including notable heroic drops, reputation rewards, and crafted gear, to help get you ready for level 85 raiding. Until then!
So, say you’re like me, and you want to take a balanced approach to your progression from level 80 to 85. You’d like to level as Prot, solo quest a bit, run some dungeons here and there, perhaps do a little bit of crafting, and otherwise experience all there is to experience as you go along. In your travels, you’re likely to come across a large handful of gear upgrades from quests rather naturally, but do you know all the dungeon loot tables? What about those dungeon quests that you always seem to only learn about after you’ve already completed the dungeon? I’ve constructed a list of many of the standout tank pieces that you can expect to obtain from either dungeon quests or dungeon drops in roughly the first half or so of your journey to level 85, so you can identify the “key” pieces that you may want to be certain not to miss during your adventures.
Keep in mind that while all of these items can be obtained by level 82, I can’t guarantee that they’ll be easy to obtain, especially the Vortex Pinnacle loot. You may need to level a bit more for some of these if your group is having trouble surviving the dungeons.
[Raz’s Breastplate] – Chest, ilvl 279, Blackrock Caverns
This nice-quality chestpiece comes from “Ascendant Lord Incendius,” a quest to kill the final boss of the new Blackrock Caverns instance, a level 80-82 dungeon. Wowhead doesn’t yet seem to indicate where this quest begins, but that information should be added as we get closer to release and their database becomes more complete. By doing one run through this dungeon, you are guaranteed a nice 279-level chestpiece, which should do you quite well until you pick up something better a few levels later.
[Shield of the Iron Maiden] – Shield, ilvl 279, Blackrock Caverns
This shield is a drop from Rom’ogg Bonecrusher, the first boss of Blackrock Caverns. While likely not a huge upgrade for anyone coming from Wrath (especially with the 270 PvP shield being only 70 honor points), it’s a solid piece regardless. Mastery rating is always nice to have, too.
[Beauty’s Plate] – Chest, ilvl 279, Blackrock Caverns
While the previously-mentioned Raz’s Breastplate is guaranteed for you upon a successful Blackrock Caverns clear, an alternative exists in Beauty’s Plate, a drop from Beauty (duh) in the same dungeon. This one has heaps of Parry and Mastery on it, which makes this a very solid survivability piece.
[Stalagmite Dragon] – Relic, ilvl 316, Stonecore
This relic is a drop from the boss Slabhide in Stonecore, the dungeon within Deepholm. Seeing as relics are relatively few and far between, tanking relics especially, this may be one that you don’t want to miss.
[Phosphorescent Ring] – Finger, ilvl 316, Stonecore
This ring also comes from Stonecore, this time from the boss Corborus. With a load of Stamina, Parry, and Expertise on it, this looks to have a good balance between survivability and threat stats.
[Magnetite Mirror] – Trinket, ilvl 316, Stonecore
This thing sports a whopping 215 Expertise rating, and will quite likely be a very solid threat trinket. The Strength Use effect won’t do too much for us as Strength isn’t as good as it used to be, but it’ll still up our threat by a not-insignificant amount. You may have to fight with your melee DPS over this one, though.
[Leaden Despair] – Trinket, ilvl 316, Stonecore
This is another one of those really nice survivability trinkets in the vein of the Commendation of Kael’thas or The Black Heart, with loads of Stamina and an automatic survivability proc that gives you a boost of armor when you need it. Definitely will be one worth picking up.
[Elementium Fang] – Sword, ilvl 316, Stonecore
I love the model for this thing. Great stats (avoidance and Mastery) in addition to a nice 2.60 speed make this a definite candidate for a solid tanking weapon. Between this and the above items, I can see myself running Stonecore several times to try to pick up all of the great drops that seem to come from there.
[Darksky Treads] – Feet, ilvl 316, Vortex Pinnacle (BoE)
On the down side, these are Bind on Equip, so you may have angry group members that want an equal shot at these so they can sell them. On the up side, these are Bind on Equip. Even if you can’t get them as a drop, you can plan on buying these on the Auction House if you so choose.
[Headcover of Fog] – Head, ilvl 316, Vortex Pinnacle
This helm is a drop from Grand Vizier Ertan, a boss in Vortex Pinnacle. It’s got quite a load of Hit on it, but seeing how a lot of our other pieces from this gear level don’t seem to have much Hit on them, it may be very nice to have. Lots of Parry and Stamina round out this piece.
[Band of the Dead End] – Finger, ilvl 316, Vortex Pinnacle
This ring comes from a quest to kill one of the bosses of Vortex Pinnacle, Grand Vizier Ertan. Luckily, the quest is issued right inside the instance entrance (think Utgarde Keep), so it’s all but impossible to miss this one.
[Greaves of Orsis] – Legs, ilvl 316, Vortex Pinnacle
These legplates come from a quest to kill the final boss of Vortex Pinnacle, Asaad. Just as with the above ring, you obtain this quest inside the instance entrance, so you should have no problem finding this one.
Check back later for a follow-up article!