I geared my tauren for pure DPS all the way back in pre-Burning Crusade content. I ran LBRS and UBRS constantly for gear upgrades, PvP'd for the epics, collected an assortment of dps rings and trinkets. I was fortunate to be playing horde side with a talented and well-practiced undead warrior who primarily wanted to tank, and so I could work on being DPS in my own unusual idiom... I've always preferred two handed weapons over dual wielding, even though I don't dispute the incredible damage potential of the DW builds. It comes down to two things: can you still do significant damage with a two hander, and what looks cooler?
To me, the answers were always yes, and a big honking sword or axe smashing down in a tauren's gigantic armored hands. I'm glad to say it still holds true, especially when that great honking sword or axe is Jin'rokh, Now that my human has progressed beyond Kara it's still fun to come on runs in DPS gear, spec arms and crush things into paste. We don't always have the luxury of coming to Karazhan massively outgearing the instance, however.
The next two posts will be about gearing up for the crushing of skulls and the tearing of ectoplasmic flesh in Karazhan. First off, as a DPS warrior you'll be disappointed by the paucity of DPS plate inside the instance. There's some nice weapons in here, especially off of Prince, but as far as armor goes the pickings redefine the word slim. Take a look: there's one piece that could be considered DPS plate, and even that piece is only considered DPS because it is a set of boots with no defense on it and two sockets. So if you're seeking DPS gear upgrades in Karazhan, you need to either consider mail and leather, just focus on weapons, or hope for the DPS versions of Tier 4.
But first you have to get in, right? Well, there are ways to gear up for this entry level raid instance, my friends. Let us discuss them.
Plated for death
There's a lot to consider in DPS gear for warriors nowadays. Haste, armor penetration, hit, crit, strength for attack power... all of these stats must be taken into account, and unfortunately pre-raid gear isn't really itemized for all of them. Fury and Arms need slightly different stats (arms warriors generally look for 142 hit rating, as just one example) but they're looking at the same gear pool to achieve their different goals.
Let's start our look at armor for DPS warriors with a look at the Doomplate Battlegear. Doomplate in general has strength, stamina, sockets and decent set bonuses. We'll look at the chestplate for an example of what I'm talking about: it is a solid item, not amazing, not going to make your eyes pop out but it does everything an aspiring DPS warrior can ask a piece of armor at this level to do. It provides you with stamina to survive splash damage like cleaves, AoE, charred earth (trust me, you'll be running out of a lot of this) and strength so you can deal some damage back. It has critical strike rating and three gem sockets, allowing you to customize it further to make up for any deficiencies it may have for your particular playstyle. Doomplate is not optimized for arms or fury, it's intended as a general set of DPS armor for warriors or retribution paladins, and so what it lacks in directed focus it makes up for in customization options. The set's real downside comes in the fact that, as instance loot, you may kill the bosses that drop it over and over again and still never see it.
There are a great many options from five mans and heroics still available to the DPS crowd, however. Items like the Gauntlets of Cruel Intentions for example, from Botanica, or the Heretic's Gauntlets from the Skettis questlines in Terokkar Forest. Both are comparable to the Doomplate Gauntlets, but replace socket flexibility with straight critical strike bonus. If you're a blacksmith or just willing to haunt the AH, you can pick up the Ragesteel Gauntlets, with their high strength and crit and total lack of stamina or any customization. You can also pick up the Adamantite Plate Gloves a little earlier than that, they're similar to a 'Doomplate Jr." with their two sockets. Finally, if you're a Scryer and feeling low on hit there's the Gauntlets of the Vanquisher. Back in the day these gloves almost made me go Scryer, but I stayed true to my Aldor roots.
Hats, you say? What do we wear on our heads while we slaughter the dead in Kara? Well, if you're an engineer, it will be these. Yeah, I know. Makes you want to be an engineer/blacksmith, doesn't it? Go ahead, try and level up that combination without alts feeding you mats. However, if you have the ability to do that, the hat is worth it. It makes my stomach hurt to look at it, it's that good. Your aspiring fury or arms warrior is pretty much done looking for a hat for PvE until Vashj if those are strapped onto the head. My tauren actually wore The Horseman's Helm for quite a while, and if you happened to be running SM last Halloween and picked it up it's a solid DPS hat to walk into Karazhan with, but if you don't have it I expect it will be fairly obsolete by next Halloween.
A solid blue option at this level is the Overlord's Helmet of Second Sight, available through the bestest quest there ever was.All those wipes in Black Temple were my fault! Well, at least I got a nice hat out of it. Unfortunately, on a tauren it looks like one of those collars the vet puts on your dog to keep it from biting at something. If you want pure attack power and crit, there's the Ragesteel Helm, which is a very straighforward hat. "Jorm smash." It knows what it wants to do.
If you're running heroic Ramparts, you can find the Irondrake Faceguard in the fel iron chest. Frankly, despite the impressive stats, I'd skip it for the Overlord's. Finally, there's Doomplate, which looks less impressive on paper, but has a meta gem socket which means you can slap all sorts of lovely gems into it, like a haste gem. Since haste weighting is very hard to achieve at this level of gear, keep that in mind.
What about our precious torsos? (I never get tired of that joke. Everyone else does.) Well, if you're feeling like you can run heroic Magisters' Terrace (perhaps you have four really awesome friends, and the reason you haven't been in Kara yet is just that you don't have enough people) then there's the Netherforce Chestplate off of Kael'thas.It's a really rather impressive DPS chestplate, especially if you're not raiding. I think, if you're not raiding, this is not the easiest heroic to attempt but nevertheless, it exists and you can five man the place. (I use the Netherforce in my pure attack power set, as those three gem sockets allow you to slap whatever you'd like in there. Basically, if you're at the 'about to start Karazhan' level, you won't find much better than this.
If you're an armorsmith, of course, you can craft yourself Breastplate of Kings, the starting chestplate for the epic level armorsmithing chests. The final version is superior to the Netherforce.
If, however, you aren't a blacksmith and you're not regularly farming the hardest heroic instance in the game, there are many blue options available to get you into the Karazhan door. Heroic Ramparts presents you with the Crimsonforge Breastplate, a solid contender with hit, crit, stam and strength. We've covered Doomplate already, but here it is again, a solidly customizable option. The Ragesteel Breastplate is not about being fancy at all, it lacks stam for pure AP and crit. It does what it does and it's worth checking the AH for when you hit 70. If you happen to be doing the second bestest quest ever while leveling in Blade's Edge, the Blackened Chestplate will help fill a slot for you, but you can replace it a single zone later if that's your intention. Also, I should mention this solid chest from normal Old Hillsbrad, which is surprisingly good for arms warriors.
What do we wear on our shoulders? After all, you can't just show up without some huge thing on them. Even though in my entire life outside the game I have never once worn a specific item of clothing just for my shoulders, while on Azeroth one simply cannot go without. It's not done. If people have decided to start farming Kazzak on your server, you may find Ripfiend Shoulderplates on the AH. After all, the guy is right there, making Hellfire dailies more annoying. If, however, you're not lucky enough for that to be the case, then you'll need to look elsewhere.
Heroic Magisters's Terrace would like to direct you to the Shoulderplates of Endless Pain. Selin Fireheart drops them, and they're a solid choice. Even on heroic it's not the hardest fight in the instance by a long shot, a group geared from running regular heroics should have a solid shot at this guy. These are weighted towards haste and flexibility from those sockets, but if you're already hit capped and can afford solid blue or even epic gems, these are worth considering. (And you're going to want the Netherforce anyway.) They're not as flat out excellent as the chestplate.
If you're looking for blue options, there's the remarkable Ragesteel Shoulders, which surpass the rest of the set by a long while. WIth solid attack power, a dose of stam to keep you up when you're taking AoE damage, two sockets and both hit and crit, these are significant shoulders for anyone gearing up to DPS in Kara. They are superior to the Doomplate, to the Pauldrons of the Crimson Flight, to the Spaulders of Slaughter and maybe even to the shoulders from heroic Magisters unless you're working on a haste set.
Pants are what separates us from the animals. Well, that, and all the other aspects of human culture, but now we've just ruined the whole saying.
What pants should you wear to accentuate your murderous impulses? Well, if you're feeling up to running a heroic there's the excellent Vanquisher's Legplates from heroic Mechanar. You can usually find a tank interested in running this, if you're not willing to spec over and do it yourself. (Hint: Pathaleon drops this. Go as tank and get them both.) Meanwhile, you can hit the AH and pick up these, which should just be called the Ragesteel Leggings anyway. If you're horde and you want hybrid DPS/tank legs, there's always these. The Doomplates provide solid hit and crit and contribute towards the Doomplate set bonus, while the Bloodlord Legplates not only look like Might, but they also have sockets for the customizers among us. They drop in heroic Blood Furnace.
Hey, what about the PvP options?
I haven't forgotten them. While they're not ideal for PvE, the fact that Season 4 is coming soon makes them worth mentioning for up and coming DPS warriors who can spend the time in battlegrounds. Your options here are the Savage Plate Battlegear, purchasable from reputation vendors across Outland and at the Caverns of time, the Gladiator's Battlegear purchasable via honor and marks until June 24th, when it will be replaced by the Merciless Gladiator's Battlegear. Frankly, the Merciless is more than good enough for Kara, even with wasted stam and resilience taking up pure DPS budgeting.
Okay, this looks like a reasonable place to stop. Next week, we'll cover rings, necklaces, trinkets, boots, belts and weapons for arms and fury warriors. Please make any suggestions for that column and any corrections or oversights that belonged in this week's installment in the comments if you would be so kind. I'm off to soak my hands in ice water.