Of course, these are all just my opinion so take it with a grain of salt. Players' tastes vary, so I'll preface my qualifications by saying that I, uh, am a fan of John Galliano, have the fashion sense of Brüno, and read medieval fantasy fashion magazines. Oh alright, none of those are true, except maybe the first one which still has nothing to do with World of Warcraft armor design. What the heck, this is a humor piece, anyway, so let's get right into battle!
Round 1: Class
As usual, we'll start by checking out the Alliance version. Nothing about the set particularly screams 'Hunter', which should probably be expected considering its the first set that breaks away from the '-stalker' nomenclature. There are token scales, but that's nothing new for Mail armor. If you see the armor on a Night Elf, as pictured above, the character can just as easily be mistaken for a Druid.
The Horde version, on the other hand, leans a little more towards the Hunter kit. First of all, it has some animal-style horns on the helmet along with some aggressive horns on top and the shoulder pads. Speaking of shoulders, there's a chitinous shell above it that resembles some beast's hide; these can also be found on the gloves, hips, and presumably matching boots which drop in the Crusader's Coliseum. These, coupled with the more animal-like scales, evoke an affinity with beasts or at least a predatory nature.
Verdict: The Horde set wins this round, with their Tier 9 still continuing a Monster Hunter tradition of salvaging trophy beast parts for armor.
Round 2: Faction
This is a really interesting match-up, and I think we can cover both sets in one paragraph. First of all, the Alliance Hunter's Tier 9 set is colored in the traditional blue, white, and gold, making it readily identifiable as Alliance from a distance. The second notable feature are the two lion's head insignia's on the shoulders. Bam, Alliance set. Any other questions? The Horde version is a little more subtle, with its rust coloration several hues removed from traditional Horde red. There's also a subliminal Horde symbol smack in the middle of the chest, although it's obscured with straps and other elements.
Verdict: Both are pretty good representations of faction, but the Alliance set wins easily because a tabard covers up the Horde symbol. And really, who doesn't wear a tabard?
Round 3: Overall Look
What's with the boat shoulders? I mean, a pointy hat isn't so bad, but those Alliance shoulders look like they belong in architecture, not in armor design. Or maybe at some souk in Dubai.
Verdict: Horde Hunters snipe this win away if only because the Alliance shoulders miss the target.
Winner: Horde 2-1
Round 1: Class
The Alliance version of Tier 9, thanks to its colors, is very reminiscent of the Netherwind Regalia, one of the most popular and near-iconic armor sets for Mages. Aside from that Tier set, no particular Mage set has actually come to represent the majesty and power of Mages. This set helps evokes memories of Tier 2, which should make all those guys in Dalaran happy.
The Horde version just isn't particularly Mage-like. It's robes with some glow and spikes. On the other hand, this set is quite possibly the first Tier set that looks absolutely perfect for Fire Mages. Red and black for maximum burn? Yes please, thank you.
Verdict: Although the Horde set looks great for pyromaniacs, overall the Alliance version of Tier 9 feels more Mage-like. Blame the twisting nether and arcane magics for being all lavender. It also gets bonus points for the milky way splatters subtly integrated into the armor (check out the hi-resolution pic in our gallery).
Round 2: Faction
Sadly, there doesn't seem to be anything in the Alliance set that makes it distinctly Alliance. Nothing subtle, and definitely nothing obvious, either. It seems tailor-made for any Mage. On the other hand, a lot of things feel very Horde-like in its counterpart, from the (wrong color) Horde symbols to the entire color scheme, which uses shades of red found in most Horde shields and banners. There are Horde symbols on the gloves and shoulders, which would make any Alliance Mage reluctant to wear it.
Verdict: The Horde blinks away with this one.
Round 3: Overall Look
This is a rather tough decision, actually. For one thing, both designs are cool in their own way. While the Alliance set feels perfect for Arcane Mages thanks to the coloration and smooth, curving lines, the Horde set, as I mentioned, is great for Fire Mages. It's the first set that leans towards that aspect of the Mage, something I'm certain a lot of players will welcome. Sorry, Frost Mages, you had your day with the Frostfire Regalia.
Verdict: It's a tie! Each faction scores a point here as both sets look just great, and because frankly, all the Mages will just be happy to be wearing a skirt again.
Winner: Draw 1-1-1
TALLY SO FAR: 3 Horde vs. 2 Alliance
The Horde have won two match-ups so far (Death Knight, Hunter), while the Alliance have won one (Druid), and pulling even on one encounter (Mage).
In tomorrow's Mighty Battle, we'll pit the forces of Alliance Paladins and Priests against their Horde rivals. This will be a battle of epic proportions! Or maybe just a walk-off. We'll see. In the meantime, check out the hi-resolution gallery of Tier 9 gear prepared by the super guys at MMO Champion, and cast your votes below to see how public opinion matches the current Mighty Battle!
Patch 3.2 will bring about a new 5, 10, and 25 man instance to WoW, and usher in a new 40-man battleground called the Isle of Conquest. WoW.com will have you covered every step of the way, from extensive PTR coverage through the official live release. Check out WoW.com's Guide to Patch 3.2 for all the latest!