Arcane Brilliance: Gearing your mage up for the Raid Finder in patch 4.3

Raid Finder

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Arcane Brilliance for arcane, fire and frost mages. This week we discuss some ways to make sure your mage's wardrobe is filled with only the prettiest dresses, most mysterious cowls, sparkliest wands, and ... er, staffiest staves.

Patch 4.3 has been with us for a good solid month now, and I sincerely hope that by now we've all escorted our mages through a good portion of the new content it offers. As all the best patches do, 4.3 has ushered in a fresh tier of gear and a new progression hierarchy to follow in getting said gear. Best of all, we have a whole new gearing tool to play with in the Raid Finder.

If you happen to be one of those mages who looks at his item level and finds it still languishing somewhere below the minimum requirements to join the battle to vanquish Deathwing, I believe a gearing guide is in order. Without further preamble, I present Arcane Brilliance's Handy Guide to Shiny Things, patch 4.3 edition.

The goal

To qualify for the Raid Finder, you need to have an average item level of 372. This is totally doable, even with a freshly dinged level 85 mage clad in quest reward hodgepodge, and it's doable without a whole of time and effort expended. The aim of this guide is to take you from those leveling greens to raid-worthy purples in as little time as possible.

Pre-heroic gearing

Your first stop on the gearing ladder is the normal Dungeon Finder. You may have already been using this as you leveled to 85, but before you can begin gearing in earnest, you have one barrier to entry, and that's the item level 329 requirement to queue for heroics. Honestly, at this point in the expansion, this section on the gearing expressway is little more than a speed bump. So hop back in there a few more times. It really shouldn't take you long to grab some nice high-level blues to fill your most lacking slots.

If you've gained any reputation with the Cataclysm factions at all while leveling (and frankly, it's tough not to), hit up their various faction vendors and purchase whatever they offer that will help you. Crafted gear can also work wonders for a new level 85 mage, so either befriend a tailor, hit up the Auction House, or learn to sew. Whatever you do, though, don't spend too much time or money getting anything pre-heroic. You'll be replacing it so quickly it's ridiculous, and your only goal here is to cobble together enough gear to get into those heroics.

The real prize in the random normals -- the only thing of any lasting value -- is justice points. With each normal 5-man run, you'll also be hauling in fair chunks of this currency, which you can now use to purchase item level 378 gear. Not only are you vastly improving your gear level average and getting yourself ready for the 4.3 5-mans, you're already getting Raid-Finder-level equipment.

As soon as you feel up to it, you should also hit up the Firelands quest lines, which begin in your faction's home city and Mt. Hyjal. Much of the epic gear you can grab there requires very little work to obtain and will greatly assist you in becoming heroic-worthy.

Random heroics

Your next goal involves random heroics until your item level is high enough to enter the new patch 4.3 5-man instances. The magic number here is item level 353, and it really shouldn't take long. All of the purple drops in the two troll instances are item level 353, and you'll be picking up some upgrades in even the older heroics -- but again, the main reason we're here is to pick up stacks and stacks of justice and valor points. Keep using your justice points on patch 4.2 badge gear while you save up your valor points for the occasional fat piece of item level 397 sweetness.

Valor point gear

With time put in, there are numerous slots you can fill with valor point items. A full list:

Patch 4.3 5-man heroics

By now, you should more than geared enough to start farming the newest 5-mans in the game for all of the item level 378 loot that drops therein. What to look for:

End Time

Well of Eternity

Hour of Twilight

It is entirely possible to obtain a level 378 piece for every slot with drops from these three instances alone, with the exception of one ring and one trinket. Those are the pieces I'd focus on filling with justice and valor points if need be, and then start saving those points for the tier sets, and fill the rest of your needs with the 5-man drops.

And on to the Raid Finder ...

Once your average gear level is high enough, read up on the fights and jump directly into the Raid Finder. Deathwing needs killing, and you're just the mage to give him what he needs. Warlocks also need killing, but I don't need to tell you that. You're a mage.

Every week, Arcane Brilliance teleports you inside the wonderful world of mages and then hurls a Fireball in your face. Start out with our recent beginner's guide to being a mage, then check out our three-part State of the Mage columns on arcane, fire and frost. Don't forget to look at some of the addons your mage should probably be using.