First, shaman are the only caster class that uses mail as their highest available armor class. The issue that comes out of this is that there are two caster specs in our class, each with very different needs in terms of gear. What's good for the goose (Resto) is not usually good for the gander (Ele). MP5, for example, is a stat that's plenty good for Resto (and will be on nearly every piece of Resto gear), but offers no plausible benefit to elemental.
Want to downgrade to cloth or leather instead? Well, there are issues there, too. The majority of cloth and leather caster gear you encounter will have gobs of spirit on it, which is also of near-zero benefit to Elemental. Found a piece that doesn't have spirit on it? You'll be fighting with the other non-spirit caster specs for it, and they should rightfully have first dibs on their highest armor class anyway.
The third and arguably most infuriating aspect of elemental gearing is that Blizzard makes it incredibly difficult to get not only best-in-slot elemental gear, but any elemental gear at all, depending on what you raid. The only available pieces are spread out between 10- and 25-man versions of bosses, making it impossible for you to get a full current-tier set of ele gear if you only raid 10-man.
That issue is compounded with other awful decisions like completely forgetting to put items of certain slots into loot tables at all. Did you want a set of mail elemental boots in Ulduar on any difficulty? Too bad. Did you want a pair of mail elemental bracers in Trial of the Crusader? Tough luck.
But wait! You've been saving up emblems in case of just such a situation. Well, up until tier 10 content, there wasn't a single piece of elemental-specific gear on any emblem vendor, save for totems. Everything had either spirit or mp5 on it. Blizzard threw us a bone with Emblems of Frost and made sure that there was an item or two with great ele stats on it, and even some craftables, which is mind-blowing given the trials and travails of ele gearing this expansion.
But there are solutions to some of these problems. If you've already come this far, you're probably prepared to accept the often-infuriating task of gearing up your dude, so let's take a look at what's available once you ding 80.
But, before we go into it: I can't stress this enough. Get your tier 9 set as soon as possible. Nothing you get in non-Icecrown heroics will match the power of the easily-accessible tier 9 elemental set, and the pieces are relatively cheap in terms of time investment. For a paltry 60 badges, you can get the gloves and shoulders, and ergo your very useful two-piece bonus as well.
Okay, so how do I find elemental PvE gear?
Well, first Blizzard has to actually make some. But if you mean "find" as in "know where to get", then I have a solution. For your convenience, I've set up Wowhead filters, like this one. It looks for all mail gear with spellpower and no mp5, ignoring any items obtainable through PVP, any items that are part of a set, and any items that are heroic versions of existing items. The ones you'll see below will show you what armor is available from a specific source -- normal dungeon, heroic dungeon, 10-man raid, 25-man raid -- for a specific armor class.
While I won't be going into huge detail about armor choices, weapons are a little more tricky, so I'll talk about 'em a little bit. Where weapons are concerned, at the endgame you'll usually be using a dagger or mace and a shield, but until you can get that sweet-spot weapon/shield, a staff is also a fine choice for PvE.
I'll also be including some weapons with mp5 on this list due to the fact that you can't be too picky if you desperately need a level 80 mace for the spellpower.
- Titansteel Guardian (200) - A craftable mace with great ele stats on it. You can get it for cheap now that the Titansteel market has tanked. This is a great choice if you need a level 80 weapon right off the bat.
- War Mace of Unrequited Love (200) - Dropped from Keristrasza in heroic Nexus. This is clearly a resto weapon, but if you have nothing else, the spellpower boost will probably make it worth keeping until you can replace it.
- Mariel's Sorrow (219) - Drops in heroic Trial of the Champion. Another clear resto weapon, but will do for ele in a pinch.
- Misery's End (245) - If you can get into a 25-man ToC, this drops from Anub'arak and would make a formidable addition to your arsenal. The best non-Icecrown elemental weapon available (save for its Heroic version, of course).
- Titansteel Spellblade (200) - Another craftable choice, this one is slightly better than the Guardian if you're suffering for lack of hit.
- Spectral Kris (219) - Drops from the Black Knight in heroic Trial of the Champion. Great ele stats and a fairly easy instance mean this is a good pickup.
- Chilled Heart of the Glacier (219) - Drops at the end of the Arthas encounter in normal mode Halls of Reflection. You can farm for this great +hit dagger since it drops on non-heroic mode.
- Blade of the Silver Disciple (232) - If you're able to get into Trial of the Crusader (10-man), this drops from the Faction Champions, and it's worth pursuing.
- Blade of Tarasque (245) - Same as above, but for 25-man. This one has +hit on it if you're still trying to reach the cap.
Shields:I have bad news. There are no perfectly-itemized shields available for elemental shaman without going into a raid. But you do have some other options if you're not too picky.
- Unspeakable Secret (219) - Drops from Forgemaster Garfrost in the Pit of Saron, normal mode. Being a normal mode drop means that this staff is farmable.
- Engraved Gargoyle Femur (232) - Drops from Scourgelord Tyrannus in the Pit of Saron, heroic mode. Has +hit.
- Enlightenment (232) - Drops from the Val'kyr Twins in 10-man ToC. Two slots make this the best staff choice this gear level.
- Protector of Frigid Souls (219) - Drops from Scourgelord Tyrannus in normal mode Pit of Saron. Itemized for Resto, but probably your best choice until you can raid.
- Protective Barricade of the Light (200) - Purchasable with Badges of Heroism. You're better off farming for the above shield instead of buying this one.
- Bastion of Purity (245) - Drops from Anub'arak in Trial of the Crusader 25-man. A great shield, if you can get it!
- Bulwark of Smouldering Steel (264) - Drops from the very first boss in Icecrown Citadel (Lord Marrowgar) on 25-man. It's also the best elemental shield in the game.