Never before in the history of WoW have level 80 players had so many options for gearing up at 80. Like PvP? You can epic yourself up pretty quickly almost exclusively killing other players. Have a fetish for heroic dungeons? Normal 5-mans? Daily quests? Profession gear? Grinding for faction rewards? All of those things are perfectly viable ways top get shiny epics. Read on, and we'll focus on two of the various and sundry methods you can employ to get raid-worthy without ever stepping foot into a raid. Then come back next week for the rest.
Trial of the Champion is, to put it bluntly, the single fastest way to get epics in the current version of this game. The non-heroic version of this instance is a relatively simple 5-man boss-fest that takes a good group about 20 minutes to complete, and is entirely farmable. Each of the three bosses drops epic loot. Picture a level 80 version of the Ring of Blood/Amphitheater of Anguish questlines, only one in which each boss drops epic loot, and you can do it over and over again. It's infinitely puggable, even a character with relatively crappy gear can contribute, and there are always plenty of other people looking to farm it.
And to completely contradict that last sentence, I'd like to point out that ToC isn't a face-roll, at least not for a character that's going in without good gear. Read up on the encounters before you go in, and know how to play your class. Though it is the fastest way to get epics right away, I don't want to encourage anybody to be the guy that comes in the second after dinging 80, still wearing greens he picked up in Dragonblight, doing 1k DPS, expecting to get free epics on the coattails of four other people. I've been in groups with that guy, and he's a pain. Do your homework, and gear up the best you can through other means before you hop into ToC's loot factory. Either that, or group up with guildies who are fine with you being undergeared.
Having said that, you don't have to be uber to make it in here. Just make sure you're doing more DPS than the tank. Get a couple nice blue pieces, run a couple of lower level instances, make sure you have a good grasp of things like threat management and spell rotations, and you should be able to pull your weight.
These are the normal mode Mage drops:
Belt of the Churning Blaze
The Confessor's Binding
Bindings of the Wicked
Handwraps of Surrendered Hope
Leggings of the Haggard Apprentice
Mantle of Inconsolable Fear
Signet of Purity
Brilliant Hailstone Amulet
Holy crap, right? These are item level 200 epics, on par with the gear from 10-man Naxxramas. Go. Go now.
Once upon a time, and not very long ago at all, heroics provided a shot at some nice blue-quality gear, the occasional epic from the final boss, and tokens that could fill a few slots with Naxx-level non-set pieces. You had to run a lot of heroics to get what you wanted, and you had to get a lot of lucky drops.
Things have changed.
Instead of each boss dropping lowly Emblems of Heroism, they now drop Emblems of freaking Conquest. That's the same thing that drops from, oh, Yogg-Saron. You want an idea of what you can buy with those? How about this, which you can then turn into this:
Conqueror's Kirin Tor Tunic
Or maybe some of this, which then becomes this:
Conqueror's Kirin Tor Hood
Yep. That's tier 8.5 stuff, right there. From running 5-man heroics. Do a few heroics of your choice, repeat every night for few weeks, and viola! You're uber! Well, partially uber, anyway.
Here's the highlights from the rest of the Emblem of Conquest gear:
And then, once you run out of things to buy with your Emblems of Conquest, you can always trade them in for the old emblems and fill the following slots:
Also, there are the old tier pieces, but you'd have to trade so many of your Emblems of Conquest in to get them, you'd be far better off skipping them and getting their equivalents the old fashioned way, by actually raiding.
Oh, and by doing the daily heroic, you can get Emblems of Triumph (only 2 per day, but still), which also drop in the current final raid in the game: Trial of the Crusader/Trial of the Grand Crusader, and use them to get the following:
Band of the Invoker
And a selection of item level 245 cloth armor, including but not limited to this beauty: Khadgar's Robe of Conquest.
That's right, tier 9. You can pick up tier 9 gear without ever setting foot in a raid. It'll take a long, long time, and you may or may not get done in time for the next expansion to come out...but you can do it. Just thought I'd throw that out there.
While you're in those heroics, you may as well pick up the nice gear the final bosses drop, including the following sweetness:
Utgarde Keep: Annhylde's Ring
Nexus: Gloves of Glistening Runes
Azjol-Nerub: Rod of the Fallen Monarch, Sash of the Servant
Old Kingdom: Wand of Ahn'kahet, Skirt of the Old Kingdom
Drak'Tharon Keep: Overlook Handguards
Violet Hold: Azure Cloth Bindings
Utgarde Pinnacle: Girdle of Bane
Halls of Lightning: Woven Bracae Leggings
Occulus (yes, I hate this place too, but this staff is nice): Staff of Draconic Combat, and also Cuffs of Winged Levitation
And then there's heroic Trial of the Champion, which can be a bit of a gear check. I've seen a lot of groups that can burn their way through most other heroics struggle here. But the rewards are more than worthwhile. Every boss drops epics, and they're item level 219 epics, putting them on par with 10-man Ulduar drops. If that's not worth a few wipes along the way, I don't know what is.
The drops? Glad you asked!
Boots of the Crackling Flame
Embrace of Madness
Gaze of the Unknown
Yeah. I wrote about ToC loot when the patch first hit, so you've already heard me wax poetic about that dagger. But...yeesh. Beat the Black Knight. Beat him with a stick. When he bursts open and candy falls out, hope one piece of candy is shaped like that frigging dagger. Scrabble for it on the ground with the other casters, then use it to stab the Warlock who's trying to grab it from you. I fully advocate Warlock-stabbing. It's appropriate in every situation. Disclaimer: No real-life stabbing. Put the knife down, crazy guy who also happens to read these columns. Go play Grand Theft Auto or something and blame your inevitable killing spree on that, and not my column, please.
So, let's review.
If your preferred method of gearing up is running 5-mans, here are the slots you can fill with epics without ever getting a larger group together:
All of them.
That's right. Without going crazy, you can now get an epic in every slot before Naxx, before Ulduar, before any 10 or 25-man content, guildless, penniless, socially repellent, and unattractive. Just give your Mage a steady diet of Trial of the Champion and heroics, and you'll eventually be able to pull off a rough impression of a well-geared raider. Fool your friends!
Next week, we'll go over the best of the rest of the ways to get epic gear before going raiding. Yes, there are more. If you hate instances, you can still get epics. You gotta love the new end-game. Epic gear is no longer an exclusive club, accessible only to progressive guilds. Everyone can get it. It's just a matter of choosing how you want to go about it. And to the three or four of you out there who will say this is a bad thing, that this proliferation of purples somehow cheapens the game, that by allowing even casual WoW players into the epic treehouse, Blizzard's ruining everything: you, my friends, are tools. I'm not even kidding. I'm so incredibly tired of that kind of elitism, it's not even funny. In a progression-based game where progression is ultimately measured by gear, more ways to progress--available to more and more types of players--is always a good thing. Soapbox-tangent over.
Every week Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of Mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Check out our recent two-part look at what Cataclysm will mean to Mages, or our guide to upcoming Mage changes in patch 3.2.2. Until next week, keep the Mage-train a-rollin'.