Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ask Coriel: Levelling Gear

Jordrah asks:

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.


  1. Leveling as Ret? Lots of crit and a little bit of hit. Haste rating is pretty useless (it will increase your dps slightly using Seal of Blood/Martyr, but that also means you take more damage and besides, that's if you're talking sustained damage, not the usual spiky burst damage you have when leveling), armor penetration is just crap, a little expertise doesn't go astray but it's not that important. Leveling Ret is all about getting good crit rating so you can get off your instant flash of lights more regularly.

    Don't bother getting much prot gear while levelling if you intend to switch at 80 - there are a few quest rewards from some group quests which are worth hanging onto, eg the Axe for killing the seal thing in Zul'drak, but you're going to generally use rep reward gear and crafted Temperered Saronite armor to get to the def cap.

    If you're ret, I highly recommend getting to honoured with the Kalu'ak. Shouldn't be hard if you do all their quests in Borean, Fjord and Dragonblight. The Whalebone Carapace they sell is an excellent piece of DPS plate, better stats than just about everything you can find for quest rewards until you're into Storm Peaks or Icecrown. It's wearable at 76.

  2. While leveling as ret, I just concentrated on strength, crit, hit, and expertise. Even now, that is all I really look at. Armor pen doesn't do much for us since our damage tends to bypass a lot of armor anyway. I also feel haste is pointless to gear for, especially if you use SoComm to level. At 80, I am still not convinced that haste is something I should worry about.

    One thing I did while leveling was try and gear for the 80 hit cap. That way, I knew I would be there once I dinged 80. Seemed to work pretty well since I jumped right into heroics at 80 pushing nearly 1500 dps with quest rewards and a few bits off the AH. The other thing this allowed me to do was gem and enchant for str/AP right out of the gate. I also don't really worry about dipping too far below the hit cap as I get upgrades.

    Right or wrong, that is my take on quest rewards :)

  3. As for re-gearing for prot at 80, just as a starter point, you can get the crafted tempered saronite set and the rep shield from horde expedition / alliance vanguard (only needs honoured, which you should have long before hitting 80), you'll already be sitting at 489 defense and 15k HP before collecting a single piece of instance gear.
    Add in the quest reward from Tirion's Gambit in Icecrown as your weapon, Torta's Oversized choker which seems to be sold quite often on the AH (it's a Naxx drop but I see 1-2 at the AH every week), cloak of tormented skies from LW, the ring of misinterpreted gestures from a quest in scholazar, and you're now sitting on 512 defense with 17k health before even setting a foot in any instances or adding any item enhancements to that kit. That's enough to get you through most normal instances to collect upgrades and rep.

  4. "I also feel haste is pointless to gear for, especially if you use SoComm to level."

    I meant SoBlood. Whoopsie!

  5. Definitely hang onto any quest-rewards or instance-drops that have a good amount of +Hit or Expertise.

    It's worth the bank-space, and if you're interested in raiding later, it can be very helpful to have enough gear on-hand to get hit/expertise capped without needing to hope-and-pray for a particular instance-drop.

  6. One (lazy) way is to install Pawn and crunch in the values that affect your dps. You can get the values from a dps spreadsheet or a "pawn template". For ret its something like:

    ArmorPenetration=0.41, CritRating=0.67
    Agility=0.64, ExpertiseRating=0.74,

    When you have this in pawn it will display a higher value in the tooltip for items that give you a higher dps and decide if you want the upgrade (or sidegrade to sacrifice the +stam for more pew pew).

    More info (and complete pawn values) here:

    So take that extra time to setup pawn (downlad addon + about 5 min configure), it will save you time in the end!

    It's also possible to do similar stuff for holy (hps) and prot-gear (mitigation).

  7. Armor penetration and haste are virtually worthless for ret paladins. Hit is somewhat pointless during the leveling process. You'll probably get some anyway, but when you're choosing what to wear, you'll never go wrong taking whatever gives you the most strength (attack power) and crit.

    Personally, I did build up a huge prot offset at 80 by running heroics as ret with a druid tank, very quickly. But tank gear just seems to drop when I'm around. Crafted/rep gear can fill any holes you have.