Patch 4.2 is in full swing by now, with most players having unlocked either the Shadow Wardens or the Druids of the Talon for the various vendors. Many guilds are already working on heroic modes, and even more are fighting their way through the raid to one degree or another.
And what does this all mean to us warriors? Well, it means new gear, for one thing. The past couple of weeks, we've discussed gear you could pick up in the Firelands raid itself as well as via reputation rewards and unlockable vendors (and a quest chain). Now, it's time to discuss what you can buy for valor points, since we're getting close to the third week and you should have been able to pick up some points as well as had a shot at Occu'thar.
Before we go into the big list o' loot, I wanted to say that a couple of weeks in, I'm feeling like I'm getting a handle on how warriors perform in the Firelands raid. It's like I figured: Once again, warriors need to get geared up to equal other DPSers. I feel that for right now, arms DPS is the easiest to sustain, then SMF fury, and finally TG fury. I expect TG will pull ahead once I'm using a couple of Firelands weapons. On a fight like Rhyolith or Staghelm, I can sustain more DPS than on an Alysrazor or Shannox, where I have to target switch more, move around to chase down mobs or avoid damage and even interrupt. I think perhaps the nerfs to fury were more than was needed, but we'll see once a couple more weeks are gone and we're talking about set bonuses and Firelands level weapons.
Speaking of set bonuses, let's start talking about valor point rewards.
Before we go too far, please remember that aside from tier pieces, valor point purchases can be upgraded to heroic versions with Crystallized Firestone. No more being stuck with a ranged weapon way below the rest of your gear.
The tank's arsenal
First off, you should keep in mind that only three of the five pieces to the tanking and DPS sets are available for valor points, so I will only be discussing those three pieces. Shoulders and helms still require you to kill bosses. Still, there's a reasonable amount of gear available for points. (Two of those pieces, the gloves and the legs, also drop off of Occu'thar.)
Let's talk about tanking pieces first.
There are a very solid set of tanking bracers available for valors, the Bracers of Regal Force. Not only do they compare very favorably to the last tier's heroic bracers, they're itemized differently so you could keep the mastery bracers for a high block set and use the Regal Force for a pure avoidance set, with that dodge and parry. The tanking ring, the Deflecting Brimstone Band, has high strength and mastery but less dodge than the previous tier's tanking ring of choice, the heroic Bile-O-Tron Nut. With the heap of expertise, the BoTN is also itemized for threat, but I'd have to say the Deflecting does a better job of spreading out threat stats with avoidance/mitigation stats by emphasizing mastery. These are pretty solid options for your tank looking to spend some valors.
The ranged option, Deflecting Star, is solid, but I don't think I'd buy it right away. Compared to the Crossfire Carbine, which most tanks probably have ... Sure, you'll get stamina and parry, but at the cost of mastery. Mastery is both a mitigation stat and a rage generator for tanking warriors (at least ones who take Shield Specialization), and so while I'd argue that the Deflecting Star's high parry and stamina does make it better than the Crossfire, it's not better enough that I'd make it a priority for my valor purchases. Time enough to buy it when I am running out of things to buy.
For a tanking neck, the Stoneheart Necklace is superior, in my opinion, to the Firebound Gorget in pure stats. The Firebound remains attractive if you're building a mastery stacking set for pure block, but otherwise, the Stoneheart's a better neck. However, the Firebound drops off of trash, so it's something you could buy or farm for, saving points for later. It comes down to what pieces you already have. If you've gotten a lot of Firelands drops already and don't need to pick up tier as fast as possible, the Stoneheart may be the best investment of your points. I do really like the parry/mastery combo on the Stoneheart.
Finally, there are the tier 12 tanking pieces. You can't get your four-piece set bonus via valors, but you can get your two-piece. It's an interesting one to consider, especially if you can manage to combine it with the two-piece tier 11 set bonus. Threat is more of an issue for warriors than for some other tanking classes due to how rage works (less so once Vengeance builds up, of course, and not a crippling issue by any means), and this set bonus gives you a nice DOT to help with initial threat. The pieces available to you via valor points are the Chestguard, the Legguards, and the Handguards of the Molten Giant. The Handguards are cheapest, but since both the hands and legs can drop off of Occu'thar, I'd recommend picking up the chest first and giving the other two a couple weeks to see if they drop. I like the itemization on all three pieces, with dodge, parry and mastery in liberal amounts.
Valor point options for DPSers follow the same pattern, of course, with a ring, a throwing weapon, a set of bracers, and three pieces of tier 12. Since I'm contrary even to myself, I'm going to talk about tier 12 before the other drops this time. Why? Well, why not?
The three pieces of the Molten Giant Warplate available via valor points are the Gauntlets, the Legplates and the Battleplate. Since our DPS tier set needs to do double duty and try and be viable for both arms and fury, it has a harder job ahead of it, but the two-piece T12 set bonus is pretty spec-neutral. However, it's not talent-neutral. If you have a point in Booming Voice, the duration drops to 9 seconds, and if you have two points, it drops to 6 seconds. With the GCD still in effect for shouts, this means you'll get less effect out of this set bonus if you spend two points in Booming Voice. So in attempting to make it equal for arms and fury warriors, Blizzard's actually made the set bonus better for arms. I don't think it's enough to make folks spec out of Booming Voice, because frankly, there's not all that much room in fury anyway. But you might see people drop to only one point in the talent, depending on how the set bonus interacts with it. Is a 9-second duration enough to avoid the GCD downside? (In short, is having the effect for 14 seconds with the GCD enough to offset losing the extra rage from being able to shout every 30 seconds?)
Purchase priority is pretty much the same for T12 DPS. The Chestplate is the most spec-neutral of the three pieces and would be my first purchase, if I weren't terribly impatient. Since I am, I bought the gloves. Bad me. Bad!
The Gigantiform Bracers are solid for pretty much any DPS warrior. A TG warrior might leave them where they are, while SMF might reforge mastery, and arms might already have enough hit and reforge for crit. This is why I think reforging may have been the biggest change in the game for classes with multiple specs that perform the same role differently, because while all three possible DPS warrior specs have different stat priorities, a piece like this can be shaped to fit each.
Giantslicer has the exact same stat spread as the Voodoo Hunting Bow but is superior to that weapon, as one would expect for a significant ilevel increase. The Crossfire Carbine, which is also used as a DPS ranged weapon for warriors, has expertise and mastery instead, making it marginal for TG warriors but probably superior for arms warriors, who probably are fine on hit. It's not that Giantslicer is bad; it's just not what I would look at spending points on first.
Finally, the Stoneheart Choker is a crit/exp neck with solid strength. If you're capped on expertise, reforge some off, and you're good to go. Pretty much every spec likes crit, and if you're SMF or TG, crit means more flurry, which is always good.
Next week, we'll look at how to DPS every boss in the Firelands -- and, more importantly, how not to die while doing it. As soon as I work out that second part myself. (I die a lot.)
At the center of the fury of battle stand the warriors: protection, arms and fury. Check out more strategies and tips especially for warriors, including Cataclysm 101 for DPS warriors, a guide to new reputation gear for warriors, and a look back at six years of warrior trends.