When I was a young enhancement shaman, barely out of my teens, I had an obsession with gear. "Elam," my friends would say, "why are you in Wailing Caverns for the eighth time? You should be leveling. That gear will be replaced by Thousand Needles, anyway." Their disdain for my overwhelming need to complete my Armor of the Fang set was great, but my desire for the shiny blues was greater. I leveled my first 70 primarily through 5-mans and hit Karazhan raid-ready. As for my friends, the joke was on them -- given my obsession with gear, it was all replaced in Razorfen Downs, not Thousand Needles.
As a direct side result of my love for all things blue and purple, I've spent the better part of my flight time scouring loot tables on AtlasLoot Enhanced for the past week and a half, looking for the absolute best pieces of gear to come out of heroics for enhancement shaman. Like Fox Van Allen with shadow priests and Christian Belt with mages, I've made a list of which gear is optimal for enhancement in the pre-raid Cataclysm scene. Last week, I talked about reputations. This week, I'll be covering which heroics to queue for and which justice point rewards to prioritize.
For this list, I assigned priority to heroics that drop weapons and trinkets. On average, weapon upgrades are any melee class's best friend, as weapon DPS generally has a significantly higher stat weight than any other stat on equipment. Trinkets have ridiculously high passive bonuses and have procs that outweigh most secondary statistics on a given piece of gear. After weapons and trinkets, slight priority was given to helms due to their meta socket in the hope that Blizzard fixes Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond's requirements soon. Finally, every other item was weighted based purely on its stat combinations, using the same stat weights as my reputation post last week.
Spellpower weapons are included on this list, as there is still some theorycrafting that suggests they're better than 2.6 speed agility main hands for DPS. These did not affect heroic priority, as the theorycrafting isn't validated yet and the weapons might be nerfed into oblivion tomorrow. Also, as much as I condone min-maxing your DPS, I never condone stealing a spellpower weapon from a healer or caster.
And now, the list:
Storming the Stonecore
Heroic Stonecore is the heroic that everyone wishes was not at the top of any priority list. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is "my home planet is being invaded by Cthulu" and 10 is going to Disneyland when you're 5 years old, pugging heroic Stonecore is somewhere around "passing a gallstone."
Unfortunately for you, Stonecore trash has the Heavy Geode Mace, a 409.6 DPS weapon with hit and expertise as secondary stats. If that isn't enough for you, it also drops the main-hand fist weapon Fist of Pained Senses, making it the best place to queue for if you want to upgrade your weapons. To add to the fun, Stonecore has the Key to the Endless Chamber, with 285 base hit and a stellar agility proc. As icing on the cake, it has the well itemized Pendant of the Lightless Grotto and the more lackluster Elementium Scale Bracers.
The Lost City of Tol'Vir was the first heroic I did at 85, and for good reasons. First, its loot is awesome. Second, the only boss that doesn't drop loot for us is the only significantly difficult encounter in the instance and is often skipped, which makes for a pleasant run with chances for loot off every boss.
The first boss drops the Kaleki Cloak, a masterfully itemized mastery/hit cloak. The third boss drops Balkar's Waders, critical hit/ hit rating pants that give a 20 crit bonus if you socket a red and blue gem. Given the need for hit at this gear level, the blue gem slot isn't a burden.
Siamat, the last boss, drops the Hammer of Sparks, a hit/crit mace that makes dwarf shaman drool. He also drops Tia's Grace, which has 285 base mastery and a stacking buff. The stacking buff (340 agility in all) is less good in heroics with a lot of downtime, but it will be great for raiding. If all of these items aren't enough to make you help bring doom to the Neferset, the trash mobs of the instance also have a chance to drop the Mirage Ring, a haste/hit ring.
Rocking Blackrock's world
Blackrock Caverns isn't awesome on the same level as the other two, and the most desirable enhancement loot is brought out in the first two bosses. Skullcracker Ring has mastery/hit, a beautiful combination. Renouncer's Cowl is the best pre-raid helm, with a meta socket, blue gem slot, +30 mastery bonus, and an awesome mastery/hit spread of secondary stats. The second boss also drops Torturer's Mercy, a 2.3 speed spellpower mace that is worth taking for testing if no caster wants it. Blackrock Caverns also sees Twitching Shadow, a terrible haste/crit cloak, and the Sandshift Relic, the best pre-epic enhancement relic.
The adventures of Brann Bronzebeard, episode 3
The best item to come out of heroic Halls of Origination comes off the last boss. With 285 expertise and a 1,710 agility proc, the Left Eye of Rajh is the C3PO to Key to the Endless Chamber's R2D2 and over half the expertise you need to cap at 85. To further help with reaching caps, the second boss of the instance drops the best pre-raid necklace for enhancement, the Mouth of Earth. Hit and expertise in one place? Yes, please.
Beyond that, Boots of Crumbling Ruin and the Bloodpetal Mantle both are nice hit/mastery and hit/crit pieces. The Ring of Blinding Stars isn't incredible due to its haste, but the mastery part is nice. Finally, Halls of Origination drops the Scepter of Power, a healing main hand with 2.3 speed, spirit, and haste. This is the worst caster main hand for enhancement, and from what I understand, both it and Torturer's Mercy have had their DPS cut from 204.8 to 47.0. I'm simply including it because it's worth thinking about.
Taking the Throne of Tides
Throne of Tides drops a weapon, which makes it weird that this instance is so far down the list. This weapon is the Lightning Whelk Axe and is sought after by many an orc enhancement shaman. Like the mouth-watering Wrasse Handwraps (crit/mastery, yellow socket with a mastery bonus), the Lightning Whelk Axe drops off the first boss. Unfortunately, that first boss is the only boss worth doing. Later enhancement drops include the vomit-worthy Nautilus Ring and the Wentletrap Vest, a crit/haste abomination with two gem slots. To top it all off is the Barnacle Pendant, an expertise/haste necklace that embodies the rest of the instance's loot -- half useful, half skippable.
Grim Batol is a more extreme version of Throne of Tides; other than group loyalty and justice/valor points, there is no reason to move further than the second boss. (This makes this a good instance to pug, however, as most pugs don't get past more than two bosses.) The only really attractive part of Grim Batol is Skardyn's Grace, a 285 agility trinket with an agility use. The Ring of Dun Algaz is also worthwhile, offering crit and hit.
Beyond that, Modgud's Blade is a spellpower dagger with hit rating and crit, but the fact that its DPS was hotfixed down to 56 makes it disappointing. The disgusting Wildhammer Riding Helm is crit/haste with an awful haste bonus in a nice red socket. The Red Scale Boots are also haste/crit with a haste socket bonus, but they're not even pleasant enough to have a red socket.
Shadowfang Keep is the king of haste/mastery gear. Every piece of mail agility gear that drops in heroic SFK has haste/mastery, and each has a gem slot. If you're hit/expertise-capped through other gear, grabbing the Traitor's Grips, Haunting Footfalls, or Worgen Hunter's Helm might be a good idea, but there are better options out there. Your main reasons to run Shadowfang Keep is nostalgia.
Vortex Pinnacle is fun, short, elemental-heavy, and leaves you with a fierce fear of natural disasters. Unfortunately, due to its brevity, it lacks a lot of item drops. If you're hit-capped, it offers the nicest pre-raid belt for enhancement, the Hail-Strung Belt. With crit, mastery, and a 10 agility blue socket bonus, it is only beat out by the justice point belt if you need the hit.
Vortex Pinnacle also offers Biting Wind, a 1.8 speed spellpower dagger. The important thing about this dagger is that it hasn't been hit by the same hotfixes as every other spellpower main hand, meaning that it still has its original 204.7 DPS. This makes it a very real contender for your main-hand weapon slot.
Death to the Defias!
I'm very sad about how low down Deadmines is on the list, as my experiences in the redesigned dungeon while leveling made me super-excited to see it on heroic. Unfortunately, Deadmines has only one mail drop, the Bracers of Some Consequence. Crit/haste gear is the bane of our existence. (Dear Blizzard, please ban all hunters and stop itemizing for them.) Beyond the bracers of no consequence, Deadmines drops two agility cloaks. The Cloak of Thredd is a very nice crit/mastery cloak and the only real reward from the dungeon. The other cloak is the Cape of the Brotherhood, a hit/haste cloak that is slightly less useful than a crit/hit cloak.
Your just desserts
The following is a quick list of justice point rewards, going from best itemized/most useful to stuff that you'd only buy a relative you don't like for Christmas. This would be my suggested route for buying items with your justice points, but you might have different priorities. For example, you might have the Renouncer's Cowl out of Blackrock Depths, causing you to skip the Willow Mask for the next item. The fourth and fifth items are literally the same item in different slots; choose whichever would be more of an upgrade for you.
- Vest of the True Companion
- Willow Mask
- Gloves of the Passing Night / Belt of the Dim Forest
- Wrap of the Valley Glades
- Hillside Striders
- Amulet of Dull Dreaming
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