I get very intimidated trying to quickly evaluate if a piece of gear is an upgrade. Often I only have seconds. Are there any secrets other than making exhaustive lists of gear that end up in disarray all over my desk? TBH this was a huge problem when I was a new player, and not so much now, but I think it’s worth touching on.
This is a great question! And it’s a terrific lead-in to Rule Number Two:
Get the right gear for your class and spec, add the right gems and enchant it correctly.
Armor falls into four categories, and each class uses a specific category of armor:
- Death Knights
Use the right category of armor for your class. In some cases, you don’t have a choice; mages, priests, and warlocks are often called “clothies” because the only armor they can wear is cloth. Plate-wearing classes, however, have a lot more choice; they can wear any lower category of armor. The order I’ve listed categories above goes from most to least restrictive, so mail-wearing classes have almost as many options as plate-wearing classes.
At one time, it was common to see characters in different categories of armor if it was considered “best in clot”. So a paladin, for example, might wear a piece of leather or cloth armor if it was the best armor to fill that slot regardless of its category. This practice often lead to drama when a clothie needed ad upgrade, but the armor was also best in slot for a shaman or paladin.
In Cata, however, Blizzard introduced the Mastery stat, which is affected by armor category. If you’re wearing the wrong category of armor, it will gimp your mastery. So today, paladins, for example, should not be rolling on and wearing leather or cloth armor. Characters should only use the correct category of armor for their class.
For any item, the next thing to look at is the stat enhancements. Know which stats are best for your class, and choose the gear that enhances those stats. For casters, you almost always want more intellect. Healers also want spirit, which enhances mana regeneration. (for paladins and shammies returning to Cata after a hiatus, your old standby Mana regeneration is now gone; all healers now look for spirit for mana regeneration). Spirit really is not so beneficial to mages, warlocks, and elemental shamans, though. Rogues, enhancement shammies, and kitty and druids turn agility into higher DPS, while bears turn it into additional armor. Warriors, paladins, and death knights benefit more from strength, whether they tank or DPS. Know which stats you need, and which you can pass on.
Also check secondary stats, such as haste, crit, hit, mastery, dodge, parry, etc. Know which you need, which are priorities. Also know which you can cap, and what the caps are. For example, once you have pushed misses off the table (a major challenge in these early stages of Cata!) additional hit offers no real benefit. Once a DPS (or tank) pushes misses off the table, they can focus on other secondary stats.
Consider reforging an item if the stats don;t quite match your needs. A little short on hit as a DPS? Consider reforging to convert some of your crit or mastery to hit. Are you a healer with mana issues? Perhaps reforge some of crit or haste to intellect or spirit.
Most epic (purple) gear has gem slots, as do many upper-level blue items. If you have a gem slot, fill it. Most items with a gem slot also have a slot bonus for adding specific colors of gems to specific slots. Know the gems that benefit you most for each color. For example, healers typically want spirit for blue gem slots, and intellect for red gem slots; while tanks typically want stamina in blue slots, and dodge or parry in red slots. Sometimes, though, the slot bonus is less beneficial than simply gemming for a specific enhancement. Compare the slot bonus to the benefit of simply gemming for a stat that you need or that enhances your effectiveness.
Meta gems currently benefit only head slots, and have special benefits and requirements. Look at the benefits for each, and determine which is most beneficial for your class and spec. A meta may require a specific number of gems of a particular color, or a specific combination of colors of gems, or more of one color than another. Make sure you meet the requirements to activate your meta.
Finally, if you are raiding, you should enchant every piece of gear that can be enchanted. Look for enchants that enhance your spec and role. Tanks, for example, may want to enchant for stamina, additional armor, and health regeneration. Casters should enchant for spell power and haste, and either hit (for DPS) or spirit (for healers). Look up the currently available enchants. If you know you will be replacing an item, you may want to consider a less powerful enchant, but in any event, enchant all items that can be enchanted. Don’t be afraid to use an “outmoded” enchant if its more beneficial to your class, role, and spec than any current enchant.