CRITICAL STRIKE FOR HOLY
Of course, Critical Strike Rating is still an important stat to pursue. We already heal for massive amounts, and crits inflate those numbers to eye-popping values. Needless to say, we need to get all the necessary talents to pump up our Crit, which means going down the Retribution tree for Conviction and Sanctified Seals. Critical Strike keeps up Illumination, conserving our mana, and makes Holy Shock more viable in heal options followed by instant cast Flash of Light or extremely fast Holy Lights.
As I mentioned before, with raid gear you won't need to worry about the choice between Crit or Haste, as the items will have those. Gearing up for raiding, on the other hand, forces us to make a choice. I don't quite agree with having a bit of both scattered in different pieces simply because the values aren't that high and we'll need to stack it in order to feel some returns. Here's a quick gear guide for those who choose to go the way of Critical Strike.
The sad part about pursuing Plate gear with Spell Power and Crit is that most of the best items will be drops from dungeons. Take, for example, the Helmet of the Constructor, which drops from Skarvald the Constructor in Heroic Utgarde Keep. This awesome helm has meta and red sockets, great crit and good Spell Power. It also has Intellect, to boot. Prior to this, opening up The Crusader's Pinnacle in Icecrown, a soloable chain of phased quests, will reward The Argent Crown. It has comparatively good stats, and although it lacks sockets, it's incredibly easy to get.
Speaking of the Argent Crusade, if you're doing quests for them, anyway, you just might want to consider grinding reputation with them to obtain the Helm of Purified Thoughts, which can be purchased at Exalted. It's the best upgrade before Tier 7 and other raid drops, complete with meta and blue sockets. [EDIT: Thanks to Tophy for pointing this out!]
While you're in the area, you might also want to hit up heroic Utgarde Pinnacle, which has Ferocious Pauldrons of the Rhino. These drop from Gortok Palehoof, the second boss, and should be obtainable with some luck. It also has a yellow socket for more raw crit, although the socket bonus is just gravy. Alternatively, you can open up more quests in Icecrown (there tends to be a lot of quest chains in the zone) and obtain the Pauldrons of Morbidus as a reward for the soloable The Flesh Giant Champion. Aside from the great blue reward, the quest itself is pretty cool and story-driven, and I highly recommend completing it.
It's slim pickings for chest pieces with crit, but if you're willing to dive into the headache that is the Oculus, you might luck out with Eregos' Ornamented Chestguard. The good news is that it drops in Normal mode, so you'll probably get this while leveling to 80. When you're doing Heroics, however, Utgarde Pinnacle is again a good place to hit up as the last boss King Ymiron drops Ornamented Plate Regalia. Although it has no crit, it has a red and blue socket with a minor Haste socket bonus. As a last resort, you can always have a Blacksmith craft you a Brilliant Saronite Breastplate, which has no Intellect (eww, I know), but has pretty good MP5, crit, and a lot of Spell Power.
There are two excellent choices for a belt, both nearly identical in stats, down to having a yellow socket. The only question being whether you're lucky -- in which case you can try and go for the Girdle of Ice which drops from Omorok the Tree-Shaper in Heroic Nexus -- or unlucky, in which case you grind your way to Revered with the Kirin-Tor and buy the Girdle of the Warrior Magi. Perhaps you can do both and represent the Kirin-Tor whenever you run Heroic Nexus.
I feel bad about recommending this next piece because I think the Frenzyheart Tribe are total jerks and don't deserve all the sucking up that you'll need to do in order to get Discarded Titanium Legplates. Available at Revered status, these are about the best pre-raid crit plate pants Gold can buy. If the smell of those Frenzyheart snobs make you sick, you can always try and get the Ironshaper's Legplates to drop from Sjonnir the Ironshaper, the last boss in Normal Halls of Stone. He also drops a boring, crit-less epic belt in Heroic mode just in case you want to visit him then.
For the best pre-raid plate boots -- outside of spending thousands for the Blacksmithing-crafted Brilliant Titansteel Treads, you'll need to venture into Heroic Gundrak and defeat Moorabi. He drops Mojo Frenzy Greaves, a pair of red socketed boots with crit. Make sure you're headed in there with the quest One of a Kind, so you can always walk away with Slippers of the Mojo Dojo in case Moorabi refuses to cooperate.
Not too many options for bracers, but you just might manage to get the Catalytic Bands off Mage-Lord Urom in Heroic Oculus. But since you're doing Heroics, anyway, you might as well aim high and kill the traitor king Anub'arak in Heroic Azjol-Nerub. The big bug drops Flamebeard's Bracers, which will be the best epic plate wrists outside of Naxxramas.
If you're doing Heroic Nexus for your waist, why not hit two birds with one proverbial stone and get the Grips of Sculptured Icicles to drop from those frozen commanders. Your next upgrade after this should already be inside Naxxramas. If you want a sure thing, make your way to Sholazar and make friends with those tick-infested Frenzyhearts. Aside from the Legplates, you can also get Sparkly Shiny Gloves at Revered status.
Even though I think Utgarde Pinnacle -- or at least the part with the boss on a proto-drake -- is totally sickening, there're a bunch of good upgrades in there. Fortunately, you'll only need to kill King Ymiron in Normal mode and hope that he drops Tor's Crest. When you finally do Heroics, you can save up enough Emblems of Heroism for a gorgeous Protective Barricade of the Light. It only takes 35 Emblems, so about a week or two worth of casual Heroic runs should do the trick.
10. Main Hand
Unless you've got the Gold to spare to have a Blacksmith craft the 3.0.8 nerfed Titansteel Guardian, your best option is to get the Gavel of the Brewing Storm. This is available from the Wyrmrest Accord at Revered reputation, so it might take some time. Since you'll need to hit up Heroic Nexus for a number of drops, anyway, be on the lookout for the War Mace of Unrequited Love. It has no crit, but it's appropriately epic and will be the best weapon you can carry heading into Naxxramas.
A very good alternative would be the Hammer of Wrenching Change, a reward from Tirion's Gambit, the latter part of an epic solo quest line in Icecrown. Notice a trend here? Icecrown has excellent blue rewards that can be obtained while soloing. The quest itself is steeped in lore, well-scripted, and wonderfully dramatic. Do it for the sake of enjoying the game, if not for the good loot.
I'll go out on a limb here and recommend springing for a Deathchill Cloak. The materials aren't terribly expensive and while it has no raw stats, it has Haste, Crit, and Spell Power. The only difficulty with this cloak is finding a tailor who has unlocked the Loremaster of Northrend Achievement, which is what grants the recipe for this cloak. Otherwise, you can complete the quest The Fate of Bloodbane in -- you guessed it -- Icecrown for a blue reward, Bloodbane's Fall.
If you're loaded with Gold like Adam Holisky, why not splurge on a Signet of the Kirin Tor and pair it off with the Jewelcrafter-made Titanium Spellshock Ring. The only limitation to both is money, but if you have these, you won't need any ring upgrades until quite possibly Ulduar. If you're poor just like me, then you can hope Anub'arak also drops the Ring of the Traitor King in addition to the epic bracers. If you're just hanging out in Dalaran, why not see if Ichoron drops the Globule Signet from Heroic Violet Hold.
As for trinket slots, well, there's another reason to try for Sjonnir the Ironshaper in Heroic mode, and that's the Forge Ember trinket, which is straight up Critical Strike Rating with a sweet proc. You can pair this up with the Cannoneer's Fuselighter, a reward from The Last Line of Defense in Icecrown. You're certain to do this quest, anyway, as it leads to opening up Crusader's Pinnacle. Icecrown is awesome, isn't it? Anyway, that's it for our Holy Paladin pre-raid gear guide. Up next, we'll take a look at Haste gear for Retribution Paladins. Stay tuned.