Taking your first steps into the heart of fire
Gaining access to the Firelands isn't a complicated affair. Long gone are the days of complicated attunements. As we all know, and you don't even have to have cleared the Regrowth for this one. Contrary to the popular saying, one does simply walk into Firelands. Well, portal into Firelands, but you walk through the portal, so that has to count for something, right?
The question that you really need to be asking yourself, do you want to merely walk into Firelands?
On the matter of gearing
The gear from normal Firelands boss encounters is slightly better in terms of ilevel than the heroic gear that you can force out of most heroic tier 11 content. That doesn't mean that you need to have cleared heroic tier 11 content in order to begin raiding, however. While having the gear and experience will certainly help, the bosses in normal are tuned in such a way that your raid should be able to complete them only using normal tier 11 itemization.
Keep in mind, however, that this content is going to roughly on par with the heroic content from the previous raids. Mechanically it will be easier, but for incoming damage, you're looking at pretty much the same variables. If your raid is struggling with some of the easier heroic bosses now, then Firelands certainly isn't going to be a walk in the park for you.
It may seem like an odd call, but if you find your raid seriously struggling in Firelands, then I would highly suggest going back and attempting some of the earlier heroic encounters from the previous tier. While the loot won't be quite as high in terms of quality, some of the encounters are actually easier from the perspective of the amount of damage that your tank will take and the damage that your raid is expected to produce.
While that has never been a favorable position to take, I've done it for every new raid that has come out. Unless every single member of your raid has their BiS from the prior raid, then you have something to gain by going back and clearing "old" content. Pushing new content is great, and you should focus on Firelands, but there's a difference between progression and throwing yourselves against a wall.
Don't let yourself get burned out too quickly by constantly wiping on the new content. Fun, exciting, and rewarding though it may be, it does come with stress. If the encounters are proving to be too challenging, then just take a short side-track to clear older content, get some better gear, then come back fresh, new, and full of confidence.
A new gearing alternative
Fortunately, raiding isn't the only way that you have to gain new gear in this expansion. On top of the Firelands raid, there is also going to be a new daily quest hub opened to all players. To gain access, though, you do need to have done some questing out in Hyjal first. The requirement here is that you have fought back the forces from the elemental plane of fire enough that the Regrowth is, well, the Regrowth. If your Hyjal map isn't all green and bright when patch 4.2 launches, you need to get to questing.
The daily quests won't hold an initial solution to any present gearing troubles that you may be facing, however. From the new daily quests, you can get ilevel 365 gear, which is just between what you would get out of normal Tier 11 raids and heroic Tier 11 raids. While they will certainly be upgrades for a lot of players, they aren't going to be all that spectacular. Moreso, they are useful in filling in a few slots here and there, which might just be all that you need.
For those that have been delving deep into heroic raiding content this time around, the daily quests won't offer you too much in terms of gear rewards. They can be useful in filling out a few slots where you simply couldn't find anything that would drop, but it is unlikely that they will prove all that useful to you.
Players that already have heroic raiding gear shouldn't have much trouble downing most normal Firelands content. It will take some learning and certainly won't be an loljoke that you should expect to clear in your first night there, but it won't be quite the same experience as throwing yourself against heroic Cho'gall or Nefarian.
Not entirely what you think
The unfortunate flaw that players looking to raid Firelands now will find with the new daily quests is that they won't be getting any rewards any time soon. Blizzard was great in having the new rewards only cost gold instead of grinded-out currency, but the cost of that boon is that you have to grind out currency in order to unlock your rewards.
It will take approximately 26 days of doing the new dailies every single day until you get your first vendor unlocked. It will take another 10 days after that in order to unlock the rest of the vendors. That's a total of 36 days, over a month from the patch release, before you can actually get your hands on some loot that is only slightly better than normal Tier 11 gear.
These items are not for those who are currently raiding and looking to raid the new content once patch 4.2 hits. They are far more geared towards alts and new players that haven't really raided any of the current content. By the time that you unlock the rewards, your raiding guild will have likely progressed through the new content to the point that you have better options.
Building new relationships
The good news is that there is a new raid reputation which offers it's own rewards geared more towards actual raiders. The new-for-4.2 Avengers of Hyjal are the new guys you have to impress by taking out their arch-nemesis. We see one of these in every new raiding tier.
This time around, the faction has their own vendor with different rewards that are unlocked at each reputation level. The initial three levels of reputation -- friendly, honored, and revered -- offer loot that is on par with items you would get from raiding in normal Firelands. You will gain access to cloaks, belts, and trinkets based upon your reputation, respectively.
At exalted, you will be able to purchase rings that are on par with those that you would get from raiding at the heroic level. Once again, these don't require any special tokens or grinded-out items, merely gold. And quite a bit of it -- the cloaks will cost you 250g; the belts increase by 50g, costing you 300g; and the two items after that have an increasing 100g cost, with the rings putting you out a full 500g. It certainly isn't a Kirin Tor ring in terms of cost, but they aren't entirely cheap.
Reputation for the faction is gained, as mentioned, by clearing out trash and bosses in the Firelands. How much each gives out is still a little bit up in the air at this point. While the bosses on the PTR have been giving some reputation, it isn't entirely confirmed if it's accurate. There is also reports that trash stops granting rep after a certain point. We also do not know if Ragnaros himself, whom rewards better items than the rest of the boss encounters in the instance, will reward additional rep as well, nor if completely an encounter on heroic difficulty will similarly provide additional rep.
Maximizing reputation gains
On the subject of reputation, should your goal be to maximize the amount of reputation that you wish your guild to earn, then it should be noted that a majority of the trash located in the initial foray into the Firelands is tied to Shannox. The first four bosses -- Beth'tilac, Lord Rhyolith, Alysrazor, and Shannox -- can be completed in any order.
If you are looking to get the most trash possible -- and who doesn't want more trash -- then save Shannox for last. Conversely, if you want to avoid as many respawns as possible, then do that encounter first. Should you be clearing all four bosses within a single raid night, then order doesn't quite matter as much. You may get some respawns if you choose to save Shannox for last depending on how long you take, but for the most part it won't make much of a difference.
Again, however, there have been some reports that trash stops giving rep after a certain point, so you may or may not gain much of a benefit by "trash farming" as it were. There is, though, always the opportunity for additional trash BOE drops, which can be worth the trouble.
Starting to become legendary
Every caster wants to own a legendary staff for themselves, right? Don't kid yourselves, we all know that you want it. Fortunately for those raiding now, the requirement to have cleared all current raiding content has been removed. Instead, you are now tasked with defeating a Molten Lord, which can be found in the Firelands raid instance itself.
Upon killing one, you can go and pick up the quest to start creating your staff from your respective faction's capital city -- Orgrimmar or Stormwind. After a short trip the the Caverns of Time, you will then be given the first collection quest in forging the staff.
It is important to take note of this. The first collection quest for forging the legendary requires a drop from bosses in Firelands. This means that you want to have any casters interested in getting said staff on this quest before you actually start killing things in there, otherwise you will be missing out on drops and it'll just take that much longer in order to craft your first staff.
For this reason, you may want to toss together a 10-man group -- or more if you happen to have enough players -- prior to your actual raid time for the sole purpose of going in and killing a Molten Lord. They're an early trash mob, so it won't interfere with your lockouts. This way, you don't need to hold up the raid while everyone runs out to get their quest.
At this point in time it is unknown how the looting for the first quest item is going to work. The item itself will not appear unless someone in the raid is on the quest, and like other quest items, it cannot be master looted to the player -- they have to pick up for themselves. It could very well be that this item behaves like other quest items in which everyone currently on the quest can loot one or it could be that only one person can loot one. The best thing to do is to have your "first" person loot theirs and then check if other people can loot as well.
Ready Check shares all the strategies and inside information you need to take your raiding to the next level. Be sure to look up our strategy guides to Cataclysm's 5-man instances, and for more healer-centric advice, visit Raid Rx.