Shadow priests are fairly lucky -- it's hard to screw up a lot of our gear without actively working to do so. Most cloth items just don't have stats on it that are absolutely useless to us. (Compare that to a shaman like mine, who is carrying around an ugly mix of elemental spellpower gear and attack-power-loaded enhancement gear.)
If there's anywhere we're going to make mistakes, it's in trinkets. It's a pretty forgivable error, since most trinkets deal in procs. It's hard to guess which is better than which with a quick glance. Let's get something straight now, though: The trinkets you can buy with emblems stink for shadow priests. Read that last sentence again. Memorize it. Save your emblems.
The item level 245 Talisman of Resurgence is one of the banes of my existence. So many spriests wind up using it simply because it's easy to buy with Emblems of Triumph. The passive intellect part of the trinket provides virtually no benefit to us (it's worth approximately 28 spellpower). The real benefit from it comes from the on-use part (ugh). Overall, it theorycrafts out to be worth approximately 128.0 points worth of pseudo-spellpower. If you take a look at a good, up-to-date gear list (like the one at shadowpriest.com), you'll see that it's bad enough to not even rank in the top 20.
It is noticeably worse than the farmable Abyssal Rune (Trial of Champions regular), the Nevermelting Ice Crystal (Pit of Saron heroic) and even the blue quality Forge Ember from heroic Halls of Stone.
Choosing the Talisman of Resurgence makes your GearScore better, but it makes your DPS worse. (Even the item level 264 Purified Lunar Dust performs worse than the level 200 Abyssal Rune.) Is it really worth playing under your ability to appease someone else who values you so little as to reduce your self worth to a simple number?
There's got to be a better way to do things ...
Yet another column on this topic here at WoW.com isn't going to change the world -- that I know. Still, a large number of you all are regularly pugging content, and this stupid GearScore metric is a constant part of your world. As someone who pugged his way through most of Wrath, I have some advice.
- Never chase after GearScore. Others will use it to judge you -- don't use it to judge yourself. When I think that someone felt pressured into buying the Talisman of Resurgence despite knowing there were better options out there, I feel like throwing up. You'll always be better served in picking gear that maximizes your performance, not what some lazy PUG leader thinks of you.
- If a PUG is built solely on GearScore, it's going to be a bad PUG. Okay, sure, that's a broad generalization, but there's a lot of truth to it in my experience. Anyone can get decent gear these days with emblems -- even ICC-level gear is purchasable through emblems. A PUG built solely using GearScore is a PUG built solely around people who do nothing more than meet the minimum requirement. And while the 35-year-old meth addict next to me on the bus may meet the minimum requirements to be president for the United States ...
- The real information is found by reading between the lines. Gear is, of course, always going to be important. But did you know that a smart PUG leader will also take a quick look at your enchants and gems, and actually value your knowledge of your class over your four-digit GearScore? True story, kids. Neither enchants nor gems contribute to the traditional GearScore rating, but most raid leaders don't want a 5500 GS shadow priest with a plus agility enchant in their raid.
- Reputation is everything. There are plenty of successful PUGs out there, and they don't revolve around randomly picking people based on GearScore. The best organized PUGs revolve around reputation. My shammy has a horrendous gear score. Based on GearScore, I barely qualify to run heroics. Still, because I've performed well in PUGs before on other characters, because my guildies know me. Because I've built some cursory relationships with regular PUG raiders and leaders, it's not hard to find a group. ("We need one more? Hold on, I know this writer from wow.com we can get. No seriously, he's a good player, even though he works for wow.com.")
Perform to the best of your ability, don't be a jerk to the people you're randomly thrown into groups with, and make smart gear choices. Do those three things consistently, and your GearScore will be irrelevant. I promise.
Hunger for more information about bending the light to your advantage? More interested in watching health bars go down than watching them bounce back up? Think it's neat to dissolve into a ball of pure shadow every few minutes? Hate gnomes? The darker, shadowy side of Spiritual Guidance has you covered.