I've got a slight problem that I was wondering if you'd have any input for. I'm a very slow leveler (that's quite the understatement) so my paladin is still level 73 and my shaman 71, this long after the expansion was released. My paladin's gear was a mix of heroic rares and epics, Kara/Gruul/Mags and SSC/TK epics, with the main goal of staying at the old hit cap. Since I started leveling again I've had trouble deciding what gear is better. I have Rating Buster installed so that helps somewhat, but it's still a bit hard to decide when it's between something with more penetration and expertise and something with hit rating and crit rating (with nearly equal amounts of stam and str). It was a lot easier to decide what was best when I was at max level and there was a hierarchy of importance with respect to all the stats, but there is no resource that I know of for gear selection when it comes to leveling. I was wondering how you go about deciding what gear is better and worse while you're leveling?
In general, you use the same hierarchy that the max level people use. For Ret paladins it's Str, Hit, Crit, etc. The only difference is that you don't want really large amounts of Hit Rating because you're usually fighting stuff around your level.
To be honest though, it doesn't really matter. I actually go by armor value when I level. If it is damage plate gear and has more armor than my current gear, I upgrade. It's a very simple rule of thumb that works out quite well.
You really only need to be concerned about gear once you approach 80. Otherwise, just concentrate on levelling and questing, and you'll find that the upgrades will come. My gear was roughly the same as yours, and I started seeing a few upgrades around level 74-75, if I remember correctly.
Thanks for the input. I was just wondering how to pick the gear that I keep and the gear that I vendor. I go by a similar hierarchy, and in fact sometimes end up using what ever item has the higher armor value like you said. But the confusion on my part is all the new stats that are on gear now.
When I hit 70 during BC, the stats that we got from entry level gear were always strength, crit or agility, and hit rating. As BC went on, Blizzard started adding in new stats such as armor penetration, haste and expertise, and since I never really raided Black Temple or Sunwell I never looked too deeply into those stats.
But in Wrath, there are green quest rewards with these new goodies and I'm unsure about whether they really are goodies or not. Ex: how much haste does an item needs to have in order for me to decide that its better than another item that has crit instead of haste (assuming equal amounts of strength). I'm not very concerned about gear while I level, but I just don't want to regret vendoring a quest reward that might be vastly superior to what I have.
You don't really have to worry about this. In my experience in Wrath, an item's "budget" is divided evenly among its stats. So if it has more haste than crit, it will also have more strength, making the choice a lot more obvious.
The only items that don't follow this are trinkets, as they usually offer a lot of a single stat. But usually these are fairly obvious upgrades, or the numbers are very close so you just choose the better stat.
To be honest, gear doesn't really matter all that much. As long as you are in the right ballpark, and using the proper ability rotations, it will be good enough for starting out. Try and enchant your gear (with the relatively cheap enchants) when you get to 80, even if it's just blues. That will help a lot as well.
Also, I was wondering how you would go about re-gearing from ret to prot once I hit 80, should I group as ret and try and get tank drops, or should I respec and try and get gear to get me started via the AH, quest rewards and crafted items?
Generally quests will only offer 1 plate reward. If there's a tanking plate reward, there's not likely to be a DPS plate reward. So you can collect gear for all three sets at the same time. Then you can supplement those with crafted items and reputation items, and that will be more than enough to get started with whatever spec you desire.
I don't think it will be worth it to try and get Prot gear while Ret specced. It will take a lot longer, and you should be able to put together a decent Prot set by the time you hit 80.
The best advice I can give you is not to worry about gear. Enjoy levelling and questing and do the normal 5-man dungeons. As you do stuff, gear will come.