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!
So, if my paladin’s been on the shelf for the better part of a year, how will I be spending my time between now and Cataclysm? In the few weeks that I’ve been back, I’ve already replaced a fair amount of my gear with 251/264 Justice Points items. I’ve also picked up a few lucky drops in raids as well. I’m still sporting a couple pieces of Ulduar25/ToC25 gear here and there, but it’s only a couple of slots at this point, so I’m not all that concerned about it. I might hit up the Elemental Invasion bosses to try to score some 251 bracers to replace my [Mimiron’s Inferno Couplings], but as I said, I’m not too concerned about it.
Raid-wise, I’ve been hitting up the bosses I’ve missed since I left — we’ve been working on H ICC 10, with only Putricide and Sindragosa left standing (I don’t think we’re realistically planning on devoting serious time into H LK attempts this close to Cataclysm). We also knocked out Ruby Sanctum just so a couple of us stragglers could see the content, despite laggy conditions. We made a run at H ToC, which was a cakewalk at our gear level, but wiped to Anub at 5% because we were, for all intents and purposes, 8-manning it (with no Bloodlust to boot). Maybe we’ll go back in and finish him off sometime, or maybe not.
Now that I’ve decided to make my Paladin my permanent main-main from here on out, I’ve also been putting in some time to catch him up to my Mage achievements-wise. I’m trudging through all of the Crusaders’ Coliseum daily achievements, as well as some of the other more random achievements that I need to do again. Although I was making a solid run at Insane in the Membrane on my Mage, there’s no way I’m starting that over on my Paladin — even with the removal of Shen’dralar rep. I just don’t care enough about that title anymore to do that all again. The only other big thing that I want to “re-acquire” on my Paladin is the Time-Lost Proto Drake mount, which I have on my Rogue and love dearly. I really hope to get the TLPD on my Paladin before Cataclysm hits, and then am planning to obtain the Cataclysm equivalent (the Phosphorescent Stone Drake) as quickly as possible. I don’t know what it is, but something about those ultra-rare drakes that require days or weeks of camping just for that one moment of truth, and then being able to ride the drake as a trophy just really excites me.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I’m planning to race-change to a Tauren once the option becomes available. I really can’t stand Blood Elves, and only chose one out of necessity. And everyone knows how good tank gear looks on Tauren. :)
In terms of actual productive preparations for Cataclysm, here’s what’s in my current plans:
- Being at the Justice Points cap of 4000. This is 4000 less Justice Points I’ll have to grind out at level 85, and will equal roughly two free pieces of level 346 (heroic-level) blue gear.
- Having as many daily quests as possible to turn in as soon as the level cap is raised. I’m not making a run at Realm First anything (I have to work the next morning, anyway), but I still want to speed along my leveling process as much as possible, since I’m making it my goal to be the guild’s most reliable and best-geared/prepared tank in early Cataclysm. I want to be level 85, full blues with a few purples (crafted epics and reputation rewards), with the best stats I can manage a week before our first scheduled raid night. I want to return to my role as the shining example of what a tank can be, as I have been before. And leveling quickly so I can begin devoting time to raising my reputations and getting materials together for crafted gear is an excellent first step down that path. Having a full stable of quests (daily or otherwise) ready to turn in once Cataclysm launches will, I hear, get me a good 20-25% of the way towards level 81 in a matter of minutes. I’ll take that. Collecting many daily quests in a single area (such as the Coliseum dailies) will make the turn-in process as fast as possible.
- Watching dungeon and encounter videos. I want to know at least the basics for each dungeon, heroic, and (eventually) raid encounter in Cataclysm. When I step into a heroic at level 85, when nobody’s familiar with the places, I want to be able to properly call sheep targets, explain boss fights, and pull trash correctly. Watching the myriad of videos that are now available on the internet is an easy way to prepare myself with that knowledge.
- Being current on theorycraft. This not only includes knowing how to spec and glyph smart, but also includes which gem and enchant choices to shoot for so as to best maximize my survivability for what will undoubtedly be some very rough first attempts on bosses like Cho’gall and Al’Akir. If we have problems getting a fight down, I don’t want the problem to be me. That much, at least, is within my power.
- Stockpiling as much gold as I can manage. I’m not at all one of those people that’s usually drowning in gold (I typically have 1000-2000 to my name at any given time), but I’m trying to make a concerted effort to retain as much gold as I can for when the expansion hits. Gems and enchants will be expensive, it should go without saying, so if you want to outfit yourself with the best, you’d better be prepared to pay for it. Remember when Abyss Crystals were actually quite expensive and you had to sell your left leg for an enchant like 63 Spellpower or Berserking? Get ready for those days to return. Luckily, the Coliseum dailies that I’m working on for other reasons has been helping to pad my bank account a little bit, at least by my standards.
What about you, dear readers? Do you have any plans to prepare for Cataclsym? Or are you just planning to “wing it”? (Avenging Wrath? Ha, ha, get it? Ha? No? Sigh.)