Last week, I began the column by answering a reader's question regarding the two specializations of blacksmithing. The player had been considering switching, and I discussed his reasons for doing so.
I also began to compare the armorsmithing items to their non-crafted counterparts, to showcase how strong they really are. This week, I'm finishing up that analysis as well as giving weaponsmithing the same treatment.
Each item from either specialization tends to surpass its tier 5 counterpart, and strongly rival the tier 6, Black Temple pieces. Unfortunately, if the itemization is exactly right for your class, race and spec, the cost and effort spent to make any given piece is probably not worth it.
Still, for players who may never see the Black Temple, for whatever reason, can still work towards a strong epic piece to complement their PvP, dungeon and/or raiding gear.
It is also important to note the difference between blacksmithing and other gear-crafting professions, tailoring and leatherworking. Blacksmith specialists essentially create one piece, or in the case of dual wielders, two pieces, that are roughly tier 6 equivalent.
The other two professions can make more pieces, but the quality ranges from tier 4 to tier 5, although any gear choice is subject to individual circumstances and preference.
These pieces are bind on pick-up and cannot be sent to alts, so keep that in mind when you choose. There are many other blacksmithing patterns and drops that are BoE, but the specialty items, as with tailoring and leatherworking, can only be worn by the crafter.
In addition, should you make, for example, a sword and then switch to armorsmithing, you will no longer be able to wield the sword, as doing so requires that you have the correct specialization.
[Embrace of the Twisting Nether]
This piece is probably best suited for an enhancement shaman's needs, although it curiously lacks strength in favor of attack power. Another stat that is missing is hit rating, which might be a concern for some raiders, although it is less of a concern for enhancement shammies.
The tier 5 piece for enhancement shamans, [Cataclysm Chestplate] is itemized very differently, and favors agility and attack power over critical strike rating and strength, and boosts your hit rating rather than your mp5.
In this way, assuming that you have access to the tier 5 piece as well, you will likely be choosing between them based on which stats are not being covered adequately by your other gear pieces.
The tier 6 piece, on the other hand, is decidedly superior, but of course, you'll be killing the end boss in Black Temple, Illidan Stormrage. [Skyshatter Tunic] focuses on strength rather than attack power, which is an advantage, and it mixes in hit rating, critical strike rating and mp5 for a more balanced piece.
If you are a non-raiding, non-PvP, non-survival hunter looking for gear and you have an awful lot of money to spend on the materials, this is not a bad piece, even though it lacks agility. Because it is not ideal and quite expensive, as a hunter you want to consider choosing weaponsmithing or leatherworking.
Of course, the current 'best' piece that dragonscale leatherworking has to offer is the [Ebon Netherscale Breastplate] which also lacks agility, and is greatly inferior to the Embrace piece. This is probably because, as an armorsmith, you can make the breastplate, while leatherworkers can make other peices as well with their chosen specialty.
[Stormherald] is an amazing PvP mace, and one of the main reasons many players choose blacksmithing in the first place.
The extra stamina is nice, but the "Chance on hit: Stuns target for 4 sec" is the real draw. Unfortunately, one of the reasons this was so popular for warriors was Mace Specialization, which adds a chance on hit to stun the target for 3 seconds while generating rage, and this is being changed in patch 3.0.2 and will no longer generate a stun.
This mace is not recommended for raiders because bosses and many other mobs are immune to stun, which renders a significant portion of your itemization useless.
A similar weapon that would be coveted by arms warriors drops from Hyjal Summit from Archimonde, [Cataclysm's Edge]. While it might not necessarily replace Stormherald as the PvP weapon of choice, the talented sword specialization that adds 5% chance for an additional attack helps to make this a popular PvE weapon for MS warriors.
It has much higher DPS and is a bit faster than many of the other swords, or even the weaponsmithing items, which also helps to generate hits more quickly, increasing the chances you'll get an additional attack.
[Lionheart Executioner] is a bit odd. As a high-damage weapon, it performs quite well, but while the +8% to fear resist is great for PvP, the lack of stamina is not. The chance on hit is the equivalent of having [Enchant Weapon: Crusader], minus the healing benefits, and overall, the weapon is great for classes that feed off of strength to increase their DPS.
One comparable upgrade to the Executioner is a mace that drops from the Black Temple, [Torch of the Damned]. Ideal for retribution paladins, if you have a solid raiding guild that can take this on, you might as well not sink your money and materials into a weaponsmithing item.
[Bloodmoon] is the one weapon that could be useful to a hunter, and even though it lacks agility, the high attack power and critical strike rating make up for it. This weapon is not ideal for PvP, and is most likely to be spotted in a PvE setting. In addition, orcs with their + axe skill racial may want to consider this option.
If you are regularly running heroics and/or Karazhan, it is important to note that for 150 badges, you could acquire [The Blade of Harbingers], which has nearly the same amount of attack power and critical strike rating, with an added 53 haste rating. While 150 badges may seem like a lot, compared to the materials for the Bloodmoon, it is going to be cheaper and arguably easier to acquire.
Hunters that can raid the Black Temple might choose [Halberd of Desolation] over Bloodmoon, assuming they chose either. The polearm adds stamina and therefore survivability, as well as 100 attack power + 51 agility for a total of 151 effective attack power. While you are sacrificing some critical strike rating, you make some of it back with the agility, and gain hit rating as well.
[Blazefury] is too fast for a main hand weapon, but makes a decent off-hander. The speed of it makes it great for rogues because the extra swings allow for more poison and energy generated by Combat Potency. For warriors, faster off-hands result in smoother rage generation, although in the end, the generation is the same, leaving the speed up to personal preference. The specific stats of the weapon are most important.
[Blade of Savagery], another Black Temple drop, is even faster than Blazefury, and has stronger stats overall.
[Dragonstrike] is a nice weapon for enhancement shamans, who do not have weapon specialization talents drawing them to any one type. Stormstrike is an attack that uses both weapons at once, so shamans want a slow weapon in both hands. The 2.7 speed of this means a larger damage range, creating stronger Stormstrikes.
A Black Temple upgrade for this weapon is [Syphon of the Nathrezim]. It is a bit slower, boosts attack power, and may drain the life of opponents.
[Wicked Edge of the Planes] is another weapon that could be used by a hunter, especially an orc. This would also be good for shamans, again because of the slow speed.
The Black Temple counterpart, [Rising Tide], is not so much an upgrade as a change, leaving it up to personal preference. It cannot be dual wielded, and although the DPS is higher, the damage range is lower, which will affect Stormstrike and Windfury.
Keep in mind that any rogue or warrior raiding the Black Temple is ultimately seeking The Twin Blades of Azzinoth, a pair of warglaives that drop from Illidan. None of the above weapons are ideal for a protection paladin.