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!