This is one of the most important gear choices because there are no chest upgrades for a Retribution Paladin in Karazhan. The chest item that you wear through Karazhan will be the gear that will carry you all the way through Magtheridon, and possibly beyond. Listed below are the best choices among many from different sources.
Chestguard of Exile - For Those Who Like To Shop
This BoE item is one of the best starter items a Retadin can equip upon hitting Level 70 because it only requires some money and luck at the Auction House. With the amount of Gold flowing in the game, purchasing this shouldn't be a problem. It has the important stats such as +Strength and Critical Strike rating. Of all the items on this list, this is considerably the inferior choice, but also the easiest to get.
Netherforce Chestplate - For Those Who Feel Heroic
There simply is no point in pursuing any other 5-man drop. This chest piece drops of Kael'thas in Heroic Magisters' Terrace, which is easily accessible by even fresh 70s because attunement requires no Reputation grind. You simply have to finish regular Magisters' Terrace once. It's is quite possibly the best Retadin armor piece dungeon drop that narrowly surpasses even the Tier 4 Justicar Breastplate obtainable through Magtheridon.
Bulwark of the Ancient Kings - For Those Who Feel Crafty
This Armorsmith-only item is now easily (or much easier, anyway) attainable because of the changes to Nether Vortexes. Because the Vortexes were conceivably the most difficult part of crafting this item, it only makes sense to upgrade all the way to the highest tier of this series. The special ability of this armor is the best DPS boost for Retadins during key encounters.
Breastplate of Ire - For Those With Badge Bravado
At a hefty 100 Badges, this isn't the easiest item to get before Karazhan, and will most likely be an upgrade while you're already doing the 10-man raid. But because Retribution DPS relies immensely on auto-attacks, this gives a great boost thanks to its considerable Haste rating in addition to raw Strength.
Merciless Gladiator's Scaled Chestpiece - For Those Who Like to Fight
This Honor-bought item is another good item, despite the item points wasted on Resilience. It is also the only item on this list with Intellect, so it should contribute rather well to your mana pool. Better items are available through the Arena system, but considering you're only gearing up for Karazhan, you're probably not quite ready for Arenas just yet.
This piece is moderately important because the best upgrade here are the Ironstriders of Urgency, which drop off Nightbane, the last boss in Karazhan. Unless your guild has got Karazhan on farm (congratulations on that), you won't be seeing this drop soon. Listed below are the best choices from different sources.
Vortex Walking Boots - For Those Who Do The Daily Grind
Obtained through getting Exalted reputation with Ogri'la, these boots are easy -- if time-consuming -- to obtain. But if you're already grinding the reputation, getting a pair of these shouldn't be a problem.
Sunstrider Warboots - For Those Who Like Instance Gratification
Dropping off Kael'thas in normal Magisters' Terrace, this is considerably the easiest item to farm since you can run the instance numerous times a day. These are the best PvE boots before the Ironstriders of Urgency, and is one of the few Armor Penetration pieces available.
Vindicator's Scaled Greaves - For Those Who Like To Fight
Still available in the current Season, these Honor-bought boots do not have an Arena rating requirement (unlike its Guardian equivalent) so should be easier to obtain. The raw Strength on this item trumps even that of the drop from Nightbane, so will be a servicable item for a long, long time.
These are the easiest pieces to upgrade, and there are many, many options from dungeons or crafted items. However, I will detail only one item because it makes perfect sense to get. Trust me.
Brutal Gladiator's Scaled Gauntlets - For Those Who Would Like To Be Glad
Alright... I know it's an Arena item. I know I said you're probably not ready for Arenas. But this is the absolute best Retadin item a casual player can get -- even if you hate PvP. Play Arenas for about four weeks, even if you lose more than you win, and gather enough Arena points to purchase this item. Purchase a new team every week if you must. It has no Personal Rating requirement, so you can do badly on the Arenas and still get one of the best Retribution gloves in the game. I know, I'm terrible for giving you this kind of advice... but if you get this, there will be no upgrades for you in Karazhan.
This is another hard-to-upgrade piece because the next piece in Karazhan is dropped by Prince Malchezzar, the other final boss. There are quite a few blues from dungeons and professions, so I'll lay some basic guidelines by recommending getting anything with over 20 Strength like the Ruby Helm of the Just from Keli'dan the Breaker in Heroic Blood Furnace or the Crusader's Scaled Helm from Honored reputation with Keepers of Time. Other than that, it's really up to you. Here are the best pieces for fresh Level 70 Retadins...
The Horseman's Helm - For Those Who Like Instance Gratification
Unfortunately, this is only available during the Hallow's End event. Considering that's all the way in October, you might not want to wait that long. If you got lucky last year, perhaps taken along by Level 70 friends while you were leveling up, this is one of the best DPS plate helms for casual players. Three sockets, loads of Strength, and one of the coolest Use features in the game.
Merciless Gladiator's Scaled Helm - For Those Who Like To Fight
Don't hate me for recommending PvP items... but at this point in the game, they simply provide the best gear for the time investment. This Honor-bought item is good enough to match the Tier 4 head drop from Prince Malchezzar and is obtainable with a mere time investment in the Battlegrounds.
[ADDED: Breck & Nightwatch] Mayhem Projection Goggles - For Those Who Feel Crafty
Goggles are always cool. This is a rule. In this case, the Mayhem Projection Goggles are the upgrade to the Furious Gizmatic Goggles. If you have a guild that raids Sunwell Plateau on your server, there's a high likelihood that they don't have Engineers (it's just not a very raid friendly Profession) and will sell this BoE pattern. Try to luck out at the Auction House and upgrade directly to this, since all the materials are easy to obtain. It has massive Strength, Hit, and Crit. The blue socket is sort of meh, but there's a meta socket for your troubles.
There are no Retadin leg upgrades in Karazhan, so enter it with the best gear you can get. Fortunately, there are excellent ones from Heroic instances and, yes, from PvP Honor which I won't detail here because you know the drill. Instead, you can check out the following pants...
Vanquisher's Legplates - For Those Who Feel Heroic
Drops off Panthaleon the Calcuator in Heroic Mechanar, this is one of the most common, yet effective Retadin leg pieces for fresh Level 70s. With three sockets, two of them red, this item will help you pack a mean punch. This is as good as it gets for pre-Karazhan gear.
Greaves of the Martyr - For Those Who Feel Heroic
Very similar to the Vanquisher's Legplates, this item is geared more clearly for Paladins, as it has Intellect and the unnecessary but welcome MP5. It has two blue sockets out of three, so it isn't optimized for DPS, making it less favorable than the Vanquisher's Legplates in my book. If you'd like a bit more mana and fight endurance, though, you can bully Epoch Hunter in Heroic Old Hillsbrad.
Your choices here are fairly limited if you want a truly quality item. The next upgrade in terms of PvE progression will come from High King Maulgar in Gruul's Lair, so expect to use the item for quite some time. Fortunately, it's fairly easy to get good shoulders from instances, such as the recolored banana shoulders -- the Pauldrons of Swift Retribution from Nexus Prince Shaffar in Heroic Mana Tombs. Pauldrons of the Crimson Flight from the Black Morass (do it in Normal mode if you want to farm it) drop off Aeonus, and has massive +40 Strength. But, if you like purples, there are a couple I'd like to recommend.
Shoulderpads of Everlasting Pain - For Those Feel Heroic
If you're going to do instances for your Retadin gear, anyway, you might as well farm Magisters' Terrace simply because it has the most bang for the buck. These shoulders drop off Selin Fireheart, the first boss. With two sockets (unfortunately blue and yellow) and added Haste, these are great shoulder pieces to see you through all of Karazhan.
Merciless Gladiator's Scaled Shoulders - For Those Who Like To Fight
I know this is an expected recommendation, but what can you do? This Honor-bought gear is excellent not just because of the stats but because these are the last PvP shoulders you can get without an Arena Personal Rating. In fact, the shoulders for Season 3 and Season 4 are the most difficult items to obtain, so celebrate in the fact that these excellent shoulders are easy to get.
Ripfiend Shoulderplates - For Those Who Like To Shop
Alright, so you hate PvP. There's still hope. Well... a little, anyway. These shoulder pieces drop off Doom Lord Kazzak and are now BoE. With some luck, you might find this item on the Auction House although it's rather uncommon because very few servers kill Kazzak on a regular basis. You would think more players would try since he's always yelling. It has Hit and Crit, as well as two yellow sockets for more crit love.
Swiftsteel Shoulders - For Those Who Feel Crafty
Not only are these the best PvE Retadin shoulders for casual players because of the massive Strength, the Hit, and Haste rating, but these are simply the best-looking shoulders on this list. The downside is that it's a BoP item for Blacksmiths, and the pattern is a BoE drop from the Black Temple, so finding a guild willing to sell you their pattern may prove difficult. The Hearts of Darkness might also be a bit expensive, but well worth the price one of the coolest-looking shoulders in the game.
[ADDED: rogue9607] Ragesteel Shoulders - For Those Who Feel Crafty
Excellent stats, these Drake Talon Pauldrons lookalikes have two yellow crit sockets and a dash of hit rating. The best feature of these Blacksmithing-made pieces is the massive crit it confers if yellow gems are socketed.
There aren't plenty of options here, but not necessarily in a bad way. It just means there aren't plenty of belts out there for Retadins, especially not inside Karazhan. So find a good belt that will last because there's nothing inside that dump to replace it.
Red Belt of Battle - For Those Who Feel Crafty
With so many guilds done with Serpentshrine Cavern, it should be fairly easy to find a Blacksmith to craft this belt for you. Again, the change to Nether Vortex works very well in your favor because that used to be the hardest material to obtain for this recipe. It has excellent Strength, important Hit, and sockets to boot.
Guardian's Scaled Belt - For Those Who Like To Fight
Yes, another PvP item. But just like the strongly recommended gloves, this is the best Retadin item for casual players. It's the latest gear from Arena Season 4 and is one of the few items without any Arena Personal Ratings. That's like a freebie. Slog through the Battlegrounds for a few days. Or even just do the daily Battlegrounds quest until you get enough Honor and marks.
Again, this is another slot that won't be getting upgrades inside Karazhan. Don't worry, just like the other slots there are superior items that you can get without having to set foot inside a single instance. Not even the Battlegrounds. That option's still there, although Season 4 Guardian bracers will require a Personal Rating. The choices are limited, but fortunately extremely obtainable.
Black Felsteel Bracers - For Those Who Feel Crafty
Immensely easy to acquire mats for, and even easier to find someone to craft them for you since the plans are a world drop. If you're a Blacksmith, you can buy the pattern off the Auction House yourself and try to earn from crafting in the process.
Swiftsteel Bracers - For Those Who Feel Crafty
Of course, if you can afford it, have someone craft you these instead. The plans are a BoP drop from Hyjal Summit and the Black Temple, so it might be a task to find someone who can make it. It's also considerably more expensive, with Hearts of Darkness a rare and pricey find at the Auction House. It's well worth it, however, because the Haste rating results in a significant, passive upgrade in DPS thanks to faster auto-attacks. Stack these with the other Haste items on this list, and watch your DPS gains go through the roof.
[ADDED: rogue9607] Bracers of Slaughter - For Those Who Like Instance Gratification
Drops off Priestess Delrissa in normal Magisters' Terrace, these bracers are very, very close to (and tons cheaper than) the Black Felsteel Bracers when socketed with a Smooth Dawnstone.
Many of these items are actually superior to anything that you will find in Karazhan. However, they are included in this list because they are obtainable by players who've just gotten their Paladins to 70. Most will be taxing to your resources, but also well worth it to be competitive in Karazhan DPS. Many of these slots will not be filled by Karazhan gear, so it pays off to invest heavily in them. In our next installment, we'll take a look at the best rings, trinkets, amulets, cloaks, and librams for a pre-Karazhan Retadin.