Formulating a plan
Before we begin, we need to take a hard look at ourselves. What kind of gear-seekers are we? Are we fully decked out in tier 11 hard-mode epics and looking to immediately upgrade to the next tier? Are we mostly running 5-mans and clad entirely in purples from the Zandalari instances? Do we prefer to solo and most of what we're wearing is tied to one reputation grind or another? Are we swimming in gold and prefer to "loot" our "drops" from the auction house?
There are so many excellent options available for gear upgrades in this patch that it's important, I feel, to map out a route prior to beginning our efforts. Let's look at the options for each kind of player.
The daily quester
There's a giant chunk of awesomeness available without ever setting foot into the new Firelands raid instance. Your first stop should be Hyjal. If you've quested through this zone already on your mage, you should be able to start right up with the The Firelands Invasion quest line, which leads to the Elemental Bonds line. If you haven't quested through Hyjal, pick up the guiding quest from your faction's quest board in your capital city and then head over there and power through the necessary portions of the zone. None of this will take you much time, the quests are easy, and at the end, you get this fine cloak:
Mantle of Desire
With that done, you've opened up the daily quest hub at the Sanctuary of Malorne (and seen a sweet bit of story progression for Thrall), and you can start earning your way toward unlocking the new epic gear vendors. Each daily quest you complete will earn you at least one Mark of the World Tree, a new form of currency that is used to unlock new stages and quests, and thus, new gear options.
Before the third stage of quests opens up (which should take you a couple of weeks at the very least), you'll need to choose a faction to continue performing quests for. You can eventually gain access to both of these factions, but that will take some time. As you complete quests for the faction(s) of your choice, you'll unlock new quests that reward various epic-quality items. All of this stuff will eventually become available to you as you continue to complete quests.
Spirit Fragment Band -- Finger
Widow's Clutches -- Hands
Globe of Moonlight -- Off-hand Frill
Nightweaver's Amulet -- Neck
Moonwell Chalice -- Trinket
So get on that.
The filthy rich auction house raider
Are you immensely wealthy? Does gold have no meaning anymore for you? Do you roll around every night on a bed made of money? Well good news: This patch will provide you with new toys to buy.
Craftables The trash in the Firelands raid area drop the recipes for the tailoring recipes, and the blacksmithing one can be bought from a vendor once you've completed enough quests. The drop rate for the trash drops doesn't seem to be too awfully bad. I've already seen several of the tailoring items up for sale on the auction house at ridiculous price points, but maybe you can either get a recipe for yourself or farm your own mats (you'll need to raid to get the Living Embers) and find a willing tailor/blacksmith to knit/forge one for you.
Boots of the Black Flame -- Feet
Don Tayo's Inferno Mittens -- Hands
Masterwork Elementium Spellblade -- 1H Weapon
BOE drops Keep an eye out for these, you rich bastards. They'll start dropping eventually, and you'll start seeing them in your local auction house at comically exorbitant prices soon after.
Chelley's Sterilized Scalpel -- 1H Weapon
Spire of Scarlet Pain -- 2H Weapon
The hardcore raider
I'm not going to retype a list of every raid drop here, because you can find that almost anywhere. I will, however, link you to Wowhead's list of every currently known raid drop. Simply click on each successive boss to see what it drops. So grab your guild, rig the warlock's roll button to only roll 1s, and get cracking.
Wowhead Firelands drops
Oh, and don't forget about everyone's favorite potentially guild-killing legendary staff, Dragonwrath, Tarecgosa's Rest. You can find my 2 cents on that topic in last week's column:
Arcane Brilliance: How to be legendary
And then, of course, there's the tier 12 valor point sets. You'll need to raid to obtain some of this stuff, but other pieces are simply purchased with plain old valor points, which still drop in every heroic 5-man ever. Which brings us to our next topic ...
Filling the gaps from old content
... I know, I know, the Firelands is shiny and new. Old content is old. But you may notice some gaping holes in your gear options up there, and you'll likely want to fill them in your downtime in between Beth'tilac wipes. The good news is that gearing up from pre-patch 4.2 content is easier than ever.
Farm valor points from heroic 5-mans, trade in all your old justice points for anything that's still an upgrade, and hit the Zandalari 5-mans for lower-level epic drops. It's all the stuff you were doing before the patch, but now it gets you more stuff, faster. The valor points come faster than ever before these days, and they can get you tier 12-quality gear.
Oh, and there's always the old raids, which Blizzard insists are now completely puggable. It's not as if the gear from these raids suddenly sucks. It's high-quality stuff that gets you ready for the Firelands, and with the accross-the-board nerfs to the older raiding content, it's easier to get than it has any right to be.
Hang out in a major city for a few minutes at a stretch, and the chances are good that you'll see somebody trying to start up a raid group for Blackwing Descent or whatever. Barring that, you can always just start one up yourself. As a DPSer, sometimes that's the best option, anyway. If you started the group, nobody can kick you out of it, am I right? Also, that way you can ignore any invite whispers from warlocks.
So there you have it, guys. What am I missing? There's so much loot out there for the taking, let's make sure mages get as much of it as possible.
Every week, Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Start off with our Cataclysm 101 guide for new mages, then find out which spec is best for raiding, get advice from the poor mage's guide to enchants, and learn how to keep yourself alive.