Items to Save for Cataclysm
By now, we’re used to the way gear progression works when an expansion hits – first we get all epiced out, in gear which absolutely eclipses our first purples, and become Like Unto Gods Among Tauren – and then the expansion comes out, and within 2-3 levels we’ve replaced the majority of the purples we ground so hard for with greens and blues. But there are always a small handful items – usually trinkets, sometimes weapons – which extend in usefulness well into the next expansion’s raid content.
First, let’s talk about how to identify what we will most likely not be using in early Cata raiding:
Stats with Poor Longevity
Bonus Armor. As much as we love bonus armor in current content, a new expansion is always accompanied by item level inflation. Item level inflation means a rapidly-growing amount of base armor, on every slot that holds base armor. Even worse, bonus armor’s item point cost appears to be significantly increasing in Cataclysm, and current gear is being recalculated to use the new costs – compare our current Pillars of Might with the Cataclysm version, and then compare that with a level 82 green blacksmithing craftable. See also the new Signified Ring of Binding, which stands ready to completely invalidate my first post. Worst of all, a few items with bonus armor are having their armor removed entirely.
Gear with less than three sockets. This should go without saying – the great advantage that late-expansion gear has over the new gear of a new expansion is its gem slots. As the new expansion’s gems are released, they can be used to upgrade the last expansion’s gear to something more in line with the available quest drops. Gear without sockets will for the most part be unable to keep up.
Ratings. Rating stats are designed so that the devs can tweak their contribution to the “real” stat down fiercely with each expansion. Expect a large increase in the amount of rating required per stat.
Defense/Dodge/Parry. Normal ratings will be bad enough, but items which currently provide all three of defense, dodge and parry are getting a double whammy. In most cases it appears that defense rating is being converted directly into dodge or parry rating on items which lack one or the other. Items which already have all three of defense, dodge and parry, such as Marrowgar’s Scratching Choker, are losing all of their defense rating and gaining almost nothing.
Items to Keep
So ratings are out, bonus armor is out, and stamina and base armor will be eclipsed by the higher-item level Cata gear. What’s worth keeping?
The Black Heart. This simple ilvl 200 trinket from regular ToC5 has rightfully lasted into ICC for many 10-man tanks, and even 25m tanks will switch it in for certain kinds of fights. The magic of this trinket lies in its proc: 7056 armor is a lot, more than any non-shield item in the game. It balances this out in item budget by having only about a 20% uptime (1411 average armor) – the 10 second buff has a 45 second cooldown, though it has a fairly high proc chance. This lowers its usefulness for tank & spank encounters. On encounters with 20-30 second tank switches, however, the Black Heart is amazing: the proc ends up having nearly a 50% uptime (3528 average armor) while the tank wearing it is taking damage, and it usually procs almost immediately on the switch, reducing the new tank’s damage intake as the healers switch over to him.
This sort of encounter design has found more and more favor as Wrath has progressed, and there’s no reason to believe it will be abandoned in Cataclysm. For this reason I recommend that we all keep the Black Heart in our banks at least until we fill ourselves out with trinkets from Blackwing Descent.
N.B. Since so much of gear with bonus armor is getting nerfed, it’s quite possible that the Black Heart’s armor proc will be nerfed as well. Unless the nerf is devastating (as it might well be), we should still take a good long look at the Heart for tank switch fights in early Cataclysm dungeons and raiding.
Last Word. This is a one-handed tanking weapon from Putricide 25, and again, it’s most notable for its proc. The buff has a nearly 100% uptime as long as you’re hitting something – so unless you’re kiting an add at range, you’re probably benefitting from it. The proc itself is a 300 spellpower boost to every heal you receive (limited to heals which are based on spellpower – blood draining, health potions, bandages, etc. are not affected). Note that while at minimum this is as though the caster of the heal had 300 additional spellpower, the bonus is applied every time you’re healed – so a HoT is going to be significantly more buffed than a flat heal.
Normally I wouldn’t mark this in particular as an item to keep around – healers are going to be gaining spellpower from intellect now, and 300 will be a drop in the bucket – except for the devs’ stated intention to make healer mana matter more in Cata. (For the record, my only healer toon is a resto shaman, and I’d like to know when mana stopped mattering in the first place). A cross-section of “mana matters” and “new content with new mechanics” is an environment ripe for mistuning on the part of the devs and of healers – an environment in which that extra 300 SP per heal could easily be the difference between a kill and a wipe.
Sindragosa’s Flawless Fang. Another fantastic ICC trinket that doesn’t appear to be nerfed yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if this stuck around 2 or 3 tiers into Cataclysm raiding, and even made a comeback on the Deathwing encounter itself. Though the stamina will be low by comparison to Cata items, the on-use is of a so-far unusual type – a type which lends itself very well to encounters against elemental- and dragon-themed enemies. Unfortunately, it drops off of Sindragosa 25, which means that very few tanks will ever see it; but I wouldn’t be surprised if some Cata tanks began farming ICC25 to grab the Fang for difficult fights. If you can manage to get this, however, you’re probably good enough that you don’t need me telling you to keep it.
Shadowmourne. If you’re a death knight tank with Shadowmourne, and you need me to tell you it will probably remain useful/viable into the first tier of Cataclysm raiding, you fail at the game.
Two Piece Tier Ten Bonuses. Percentage-based increases to major threat abilities are pretty awesome. For example, a few months ago (shortly after the advent of the random dungeon finder), I tanked Heroic Nexus in full t1 (with defense- and resilience-heavy Northrend accessories to get as close to uncrittable as I could). The warrior 8p t1 bonus is a flat 15% increase to the threat of Sunder Armor and Devastate, and by tabbing super-buff Devastates around on trash, I was able to hold aggro just fine. A 20% increase in damage won’t convert directly to a 20% increase in threat, of course, but the same principle applies. Until we see (and are able to obtain) the tier 11 bonuses, it will be a good idea to keep our old t10 around for use in a threat set in situations in which rolling with 2 (Cata-gemmed and -enchanted) Wrath pieces isn’t going to make or break our survivability.
Bryntroll, the Bone Arbiter. I honestly have no idea how this is going to work in Cataclysm. I suppose some people will wonder why I’m listing this as a keeper – after all, it’s not particularly well-liked even now. The reason is that I mentioned Last Word as an item with potential for high longevity due to the upcoming changes to healing; and if Last Word’s healing proc is good, it might follow that Bryntroll’s healing proc would also be good.
On the one hand, Last Word is good because it is on all the time; it is constantly reducing the amount of mana you take to heal, and as mentioned, the +healing taken buff works overtime on HoTs. Tanks taking longer to die will likely increase the amount of HoTs cast on them, as there will be a smaller likelihood of catastrophic overheal. In addition, many classes have talents which increase their spellpower multiplicatively; so between bonus healing talents and heals over time, the +300 healing from Last Word will result in respectably higher healing across the board. In contrast, Bryntroll is a random heal. It does not proc in reaction to damage or healing taken; it could easily proc when you are at full health, and fail to proc when you’re below. It’s unpredictable, and thus your healers will and should heal despite it, instead of healing assuming it.
On the other hand, the only people using Bryntroll for tanking will be death knights, and the only tanking death knights in Cataclysm will be blood. Blood’s self-healing and +healing taken modifiers will not only improve Bryntroll’s proc, they will also likely mess with healers’ reactions and healing style – to the point where a 2-3k random heal might not be any more unpredictable than the rest of the DK’s self-healing. We’ll really have to wait and see blood DKs in action before we know for sure whether Bryntroll is worth saving; but in the meantime, better to keep your Bryntroll in your bank just in case than to delete it and later wish you hadn’t.
Unintuitively Short-lived Items
Not everything that’s BiS in ICC25 will be worth keeping around in Cataclysm. These are the excellent items from this expansion, off the top of my head, that I don’t think will make it to Cataclysm raiding, even though you might think they should.
As previously mentioned, pretty much anything with bonus armor. This is a shame, not only because I’m a big fan of armor, but also because ICC was so full of it. Of greatest note is Unidentifiable Organ. The static armor has been completely removed from this trinket, leaving it with only a stacking stamina buff that reaches 240 maximum. That’s right, at maximum stacks UO will be comparable to Corroded Skeleton Key. On a related note, the sound of my heart breaking is similar to the sound a potato chip makes when you crush it on a table with the palm of your hand.
Four Piece Tier Ten Bonuses. Though the druid and death knight 4p bonuses especially were excellent mini-cooldowns, the warrior bonus would seem to scale absurdly well with Cataclysm’s higher health pools, and the paladin bonus seems out of place in WotLK but tailor-made for Cataclysm, the 4p t10 bonus will almost certainly not be worth equipping in Cata content. The problem is that these are all survivability cooldowns – but they will come with a heavy inherent survivability cost, in the form of not being stamina-heavy, base armor-loaded high item level Cataclysm gear. In general, if you’re worried about survivability, you’re going to get more out of always-on Effective Health than on a ten-second mini-cooldown a minute. That said, I recommend that you save as many pieces of tier 10 as possible; not to use for the 4p, but instead so that you can juggle them for the lowest opportunity cost when you want the 2p bonus.