I think gear is only good for one thing: getting you to the next boss kill.
Which is a bit problematic right now. There isn’t really any new boss kills on the horizon at this moment in time. So far my mish mash set is serving me well and its gotten me nearly all the way through the heroic modes in Icecrown Citadel. In fact the 30% bonus from Strength of Wrynn is probably contributing a hell of a lot more to my damage output than any gear upgrade could.
Should I even bother trying to finish out my Best in Slot set? If I end up finishing my gear set at the end of Icecrown Citadel… has it all just been a waste of time?
After Icecrown Citadel we can look forward to the next World of Warcraft expansion: Cataclysm AKA five extra levels and a gear reset. Perhaps I need to look at my gear from another perspective: it’s going to form my 80 -> 85 leveling set. And maybe, if I’m lucky, it might help me step into the level 85 heroics… and raids?
If Cataclysm follows the Wrath of the Lich King model I will be raiding Tier 11 wearing my Tier 10 gear. That could really be sweet and give me a step up into the early raid zones in the new expansion.
But that’s a big “if”.
In the Burning Crusade Blizzard introduced a hard gear reset. Level 60 raiders walking into Hellfire Peninsula handed over their beloved, hard won epics for Outlands greens with better stats. How that must have hurt. Even now, most players race straight to Hellfire once they reach level 58 instead of waiting until level 60. The experience gains from quests is just better and the gear (from easy quests) is too good to pass up.
Furthermore, it’s almost a necessity. You need that clown set (you know what I’m talking about) to survive against the beasts in Hellfire Peninsula and Zangamarsh. Those hellboars are mean. And they’re everywhere.
Things at the start of Wrath of the Lich King were a little less devastating to level 70 raiders. You could expect to vendor you entry level Karazhan epics by about level 75: half way through the Wrath of the Lich King leveling process. And the very, very best level 70 epics could hold their own against the level 80 entry level epics, as long as you didn’t care too much about being low on Stamina.
I’m fairly confident that the server first level 80 Naxxramas kills were completed by raiders still wearing their Sunwell raiding gear. So there was definitely some gear overlap there. And it must have made life a bit easier for the most successful raiders of the Burning Crusade to get a step up into Wrath of the Lich King raiding content the moment they hit level 80.
Most importantly, it didn’t trivialize the rewards they had earned from killing the toughest bosses in Outlands and the Isle of Quel’Danas.
I expect that the early zones in Cataclysm will be designed to bring new players leveling straight through (imagine Storm Peaks at level 78 and then straight into a level 80-81 zone built for Cataclysm) up to speed. There’s a giant item level gap between level 78-80 quest rewards – around ilevel 187 – and the highest raid gear currently available – about ilevel 277.
I think that Blizzard will want level 85 entry raids to require more than ilevel 277 gear. They say that they intend for players to spend time working through the level 85 dungeons on normal mode. I presume this is for gear, otherwise, why would you bother? And then working through the same dungeons on heroic mode for yet more gear. And then, only then, walking into a raid.
In Wrath of the Lich King the most geared players from the previous expansion could ignore all the dungeon content and step right into raiding. I think Blizzard will try and push everyone, absolutely everyone, to spend time with the dungeon content first. Thus extending the life of both the dungeon and raid content before we see “this is too easy, this is boring” posts on the forums.
I’m not sure what the average level 80 player is wearing in terms of item level but I’d guess it’s about ilevel245-251. My Shaman, Xata, is on 4949 GearScore (deemed “FAIL” – how is this even possible while wearing the Tabard of the Scarlet Crusade?!) which, if I’m reading the site correctly, is 316 points below the average. That means that your average GearScore is 5265. I’m not sure if that’s the average on my server, or on all US servers or for all level 80s or what.
Xata is wearing mostly ilevel 200-232 with the rare 264 Emblem item thrown in. I’ve raided with her now and then but most of her gear was acquired through the use of the Dungeon Finder. That’s the standard game experience these days right?
I also don’t expect Blizzard to play favourites with the minority of players wearing 277+ gear. So I think it’s fair to say that someone in 277 gear isn’t going to be able to side step the Cataclysm heroics entirely. Dungeons, perhaps, but not the heroics.
This is what I’m guessing we’ll see for Cataclysm:
- Zone 81 greens: ilvl227
- Zone 81 blues: ilvl232
- Zone 85 blues: ilvl277
- Dungeon 85 blues: ilvl277
- Heroic Dungeon 85 blues: ilvl285
- Heroic Dungeon 85 epics: ilvl300
- Level 85 crafted epics and epic reputation rewards: ilvl300
This will mean that most players will drop their raid gear at some point before they reach level 85 – not unlike what happened in Wrath of the Lich King.
I believe that the items available from Cataclysm level 85 heroics will be better than anything available in Wrath of the Lich King. Er, that’s assuming Blizzard don’t get their gear itemisation totally wrong.
Whether or not this forces even the most hardcore, realm-first chasers to complete heroics for loot before stepping foot in a Cataclysm raid will most likely come down to the difficulty of the first raid. If it’s easy, why waste a week grinding heroics? Take in your mediocre gear from Icecrown Citadel and fight for those speed kills!
Lathere tells me that they’ve already announced that entry level epics will be item level 350. That’s what I get for avoiding all the Cataclysm spoiler news! I still enjoyed speculating