This gear as a trophy idea is far from exclusive to PvE. It has long been the case in PvP, where the top level of gear, which is only available to players above 2200 rating at present, although that changes in patch 5.2, has been mostly a cosmetic enhancement. The weapons are upgraded, but at present, nothing else is. Again, this will all change in 5.2, when that elite level of gear gets upgraded stats on key pieces, and becomes available to all players, no longer restricted by rating.
The uproar this has caused among certain sections of the playerbase indicates that, despite most of the gear having no additional stats, importance was placed on its exclusivity. Like the player quoted in the aforementioned post, the PvPers who bemoan the removal of the rating requirement might have wanted to show off their shinies like trophies -- apart from the weapons they serve no additional purpose. The same is true for the challenge mode transmog gear, it has no stats, offers no upgrade, it just looks different. Its only purpose is to show off an achievement.
And every time an old piece of gear re-appears for transmogrification, there's usually at least a few players objecting, if it came from an old achievement in an old raid, or similar. There has been a very tiny din about the upcoming availability of vanilla-achievement PvP gear in exchange for rated battleground titles.
A disappearing idea?
Is this idea of wearing gear that somehow indicates prowess or power something that is slowly disappearing from WoW? Certainly, there is still gear that is exclusively available to certain skilled groups, such as the Challenge Mode rewards, but I don't recall the last time I saw a heroic raider wearing the current tier's gear. Or perhaps they all wear it, but I don't notice. Either way, for me it's lost its impact. There are probably exceptions to this, certain stand-out pieces, but with the similarity in models between all the tiers of raiding, it's always hard to tell who's wearing what.
Transmogrification has certainly done its part in subduing this idea, not only because players will often transmogrify the current tier's gear into older sets, but because it has been the thing galvanizing the reappearance of many long-lost items, sets and pieces. Gone are the days when you had to get gear when it was current, there's now a vendor for many missing pieces, with Ghostcrawler suggesting that more will follow.
Will the trophies be missed?
Do you miss the exclusivity of certain types of gear? Do you wear your epics like trophies, telling stories of battles lost and won? Or do you tend to consider gear more as a means to an end, a tool allowing you to progress more easily, to improve your DPS or healing, or allow you to take more hits for your raid? And, of course, are the two mutually exclusive? I, for one, have no objection to gear being available to everyone, I still hold on to certain epics I was happy to have earned at the time, but if every player in the game had one it wouldn't make any difference -- mine is the one imbued with my memory of the wipes and the frustration and the eventual success. I still have the first purple I ever obtained in the game.
But what about you? Do you agree with Draztal or the OP? Do you wear your gear to impress those around you? Do you consider gear a trophy or a means to an end or something in between? What does gear mean to you?
Mists of Pandaria is here! The level cap has been raised to 90, many players have returned to Azeroth, and pet battles are taking the world by storm. Keep an eye out for all of the latest news, and check out our comprehensive guide to Mists of Pandaria for everything you'll ever need to know.