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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Zul'Gearup

Matthew Rossi

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Care and Feeding of Warriors, the column dedicated to arms, fury and protection warriors. Despite repeated blows to the head from dragons, demons, Old Gods and whatever that thing over there was, Matthew Rossi will be your host.

I decided to wait until after 4.1 goes live (which I expect will be this upcoming week) to discuss arms in both PvE and PvP. Right now, for a short statement to tide you over, I'd say arms is viable in PvE and still strong in PvP. Part of the reason I want to hold off on discussing it is because I spent all week tanking and didn't get a chance to try arms out in raiding. So I feel like it would be disingenuous of me to tell you how awesome arms is in PvE right now when I haven't been arms outside of Tol Barad and Random BGs all week.

(Well, okay, I've been arms on my level 70 alt. But do you care how arms is doing in outdated content? I don't think so. By next week, I should have had a chance to raid as arms after the patch 4.1 changes and should have a much better idea how it's shaking out.)

That leaves us with this week. What do we talk about? Well, since I bend to peer pressure like a willow sapling (an extremely hairy one, but still), we're going to talk about patch 4.1's new heroics and a whole mess of new gear squarely between 346 blues and 359 epics. Yes, we're going to Zul'Gearup. Yes, I made that up. Yes, I'm suitably ashamed.

The first thing to consider is how this gear is going to interact with our various spec changes. Protection isn't going to value hit or expertise any more than it does now -- but with Fury's Precision adding 40% damage from white hits, hit just got even better for fury, and with Fury's mastery dropping from 8 to 2 before gear, stacking hit (and getting more white hits with its added 40% damage) just became even more attractive for fury. Meanwhile, mastery will work better with arms than before (roughly 10% better, in fact). That all aside, let's start looking at some gear.

Keep in mind this is gear that will either fill a hole that your average raider just hasn't managed to get a drop for yet or that a non-raiding player will use to upgrade his or her blues. Some pieces are surprisingly competitive with raiding epics.

Tanking armor

First up, let's look at some tanking plate. The Battleplate of the Amani Empire is comparable with the Hardened Elementium Hauberk crafted BP. It has fewer stats overall but an extra socket, meaning that you can tweak it even more for your own personal tanking style. It's a very solid piece, with dodge and expertise in addition to those two sockets, meaning you could reforge the expertise to parry or mastery if you wanted more defensive stats and sink two Solid Ocean Sapphires for more stamina than the crafted BP. Or you could put any one of a number of red or purple gems in to get that nice mastery bonus. I really like how much flexibility this BP offers.

The Bone Plate Handguards are nicely itemized for pure avoidance, with dodge and parry on them. I'm still the kind of old-school tank who likes some threat stats on my gear, but that doesn't make these bad in any way, shape or form. I wouldn't have any problem trading up to them from any of these current 346 options.

The Amani Armguards are fine, but unfortunately they're competing with a reputation epic from Ramkahen, the Sandguard Bracers, which are very similarly itemized and superior. If these drop and you don't have the Sandguards yet, snatch 'em, but you won't use them very long.

The Coils of Hate are basically a very slightly inferior copy of the Hardened Elementium Girdle. A 20-stamina difference, 13 less strength, and 23 less dodge, but the same socket (and socket color) and very slightly more mastery -- the real issue here is, do you want to buy or craft the epic for your up-and-coming warrior tank, or save some money and try for this drop? Considering the belt can go for about 6k gold on my server, if I didn't already have it, I might be tempted.

The Legguards of the Unforgiving have parry, a pure avoidance stat, and mastery, a mitigation stat that also generates rage via the Shield Mastery talent for protection warriors. With a parry rating socket bonus as well, I think they compare fairly favorably with the Legguards of the Unseeing off of Atramedes and are superior to any current 346 option. It comes down to if you feel you want or need that expertise on your tank legs.

The Pauldrons of Sacrifice are again similar to a BoE epic, this time the random drop Heaving Plates of Protection. With the exception of the HPoP's having a blue socket with a mastery bonus vs. the Pauldrons having a red socket with a stamina bonus, these are extremely close. Considering I've seen the Heaving Plates auction for 39k gold, I have to think a lot of folks will be farming for the Pauldrons of Sacrifice.

The Spiritshield Mask is a clear upgrade over current heroic drops like the Helm of Setesh or the justice point Helm of the Proud. It is, however, clearly inferior to the raiding Daybreaker Helm, but for a tank who doesn't raid, the Spiritshield is very good indeed and would serve you well waiting for the Daybreaker to drop.

DPS plate

Now that we've looked at the tank drops, what kind of DPS plate do the new instances have to offer?

The Chestplate of Hubris is a solidly itemized, two socket-bearing epic DPS chest. While it's competitive with 346 drops and JP purchases (and for my money, probably superior to any of them), it loses out to the Elementium Deathplate, its most easily obtained epic rival. Mastery will still probably trump haste for fury and is about to be much stronger for arms. If you're not going to be crafting your own and don't have the gold for the BoE chest, the Chestplate of Hubris is far from a bad option.

If you're hurting for crit, the Deathcharged Wristguards have a solid amount. But with hit going up in value for fury and mastery for arms, either spec would probably get more out of the socketable Alpha Bracers.

Comparing the Jungle Striders with the BoE Corefire Legplates, I'm surprised at how much I like the Striders. For one thing, you can basically fill up on a great deal of your expertise in one item, while also getting more hit than the BoEs. A red socket gives you more room to customize your options. The Corefires are fine legs but often costly on the AH, and with the right choices, you could get as much or more out of the Striders without spending a dime at the AH.

Non-raiders can eventually buy the Earthen Gauntlets, which are superior due to raw itemization and the relative chance of picking up the two-piece set bonus. But the Plunderer's Gauntlets certainly top any JP/reputation rewards or 346 instance drops. I'm not thrilled by all the expertise so far on the 4.1 drops, just because it seems the easiest stat to cap at present.

Right now, neither DPS spec puts haste as its #1 or even #2 or #3 priority, and that's not likely to change in 4.1. So the Roaring Mask of Bethekk will most likely need some reforging to meet warrior needs. I would put it ahead of the Helm of Easeful Death, for example, but only because you can reforge away some of that haste and it has a red socket. And it looks freaking awesome.

The Skullcrusher Warboots are pretty solid for either arms or fury. With hit and mastery, you can reforge away some of whichever stat you're less interested in to crit and be ready to roll. Most non-raiders will eventually pick up the Woe Breeder's Boots either off of the AH or for valors, but I personally think hit/mastery will be more compelling than crit/haste for either DPS spec in 4.1.

Finally, the Skullpiercer Pauldrons have enough raw stats to beat out any 346 contender. They're inferior to raiding options, but if those haven't dropped/won't drop for you, these are a very solid option as well. With mastery going up for arms in 4.1 and hit being fairly easily capped for arms, these shoulders offer nothing superflous for an arms warrior.

Fill things out with accessories

We have two options for cloaks. The sadly outclassed Soiritguard Drape (defeated by a Hyjal reputation cloak as well as the cloak purchaseable via valor points) is the tanking cape, while the Hex Lord's Bloody Cape is inferior to the Floating Web from valor points but has two offensive stats that don't cap instead of expertise, easily capped for any DPS warrior.

There's no DPS neck to be had here, but the Amulet of Protection is a very solid tanking neck and better than the JP equivalents.

For rings, the Talonguard Band is a solid enough tank ring, although you may have all the expertise you need. (I expect prot warriors may reforge this exp to mastery, which pulls both mitigation and threat via rage generation.) The Ring of the Numberless Brood will be of interest to arms due to the mastery, but the haste still isn't terribly interesting; expect some crit reforging here. With Precision's extra 40% damage making hit more appealing, the Band of the Gurubashi Berserker may attract fury warriors, with a similar caveat about reforging some of that expertise away to crit or even mastery.

There are currently no trinkets warriors would care about in these instances.

Down to business: Weapons

Finally, we're up to weapons. There are two options for 2H and four for 1H weapons. Unless you're playing an orc, human or dwarf, the two 2H weapons are fairly close in terms of desirability. A fury warrior, orc or not, will probably prefer Reforged Trollbane. For arms, Jeklik's Smasher may take the lead with crit and mastery and not easily capped hit, especially for humans and dwarves.

Tanking warriors who remember the old Zul'Gurub will remember the rival to Quel'serrar, Bloodlord's Protector. The new version is a very solid tanking sword for modern tanks. It's purely itemized for avoidance statistics and will serve you well transitioning from heroics to raids. Rentaki's Soul Slicer, meanwhile, is itemized with expertise and mastery, meaning it could be a DPS weapon for SMF fury or a tanking threat weapon. SMF builds will also be interested in the Reforged Heartless and Zulian Slasher. While either could also serve as threat tanking weapons, I'd definitely think them better itemized for SMF.

Finally, the Voodoo Hunting Bow, perfect for your DPS warrior in 5-mans looking for a ranged slot option. Not terrible for tanks, either, considering how sparse any sort of pure avoidance or even avoidance/mitigation weapons can be.

And that's as comprehensive as a look at gear in PTR content can be. Next week, arms in 4.1.

At the center of the dury 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.

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