You guys did NOT make this easy. While there were some entries that I tossed out immediately because they didn't follow the rules or (quite honestly) made my eyes bleed, it got harder and harder to narrow them down as I zeroed in on my favorites. At the end, I spent a solid two hours flipping back and forth between two sets, looking at the submitted pictures as well as reconstructing them in MogIt, weighing what I liked about each one and what I liked less, trying each outfit on different races and genders. I finally settled on which one I liked the most, but before I get into that, I want to recognize some honorable mentions.
I like the set and I like that it's been built upon an idea rather than a specific item.
Zanzli's submission, as female pandaren often do, instantly earned an audible "Awwwww . . . " as soon as I opened the email. The set manages to walk a fine line between being a practical, understated outfit and still looking fancy enough to be something a champion of the Alliance would wear. The blend of browns and grays are earthy which make sense for someone that's going to be camouflaging themselves and stalking through the jungle. The problem I had was that, as I started trying the outfit on other races, it didn't have quite the same effect.
Hunter sets can be notoriously difficult to put together and Zanzli's works wonderfully.
When I first glanced at the picture of this leather set, I almost called the whole thing off and declared it the winner. I was so impressed at the color and how all the pieces came together that I was sure no one would be able to top it. As a plus, it's full of unique or uncommon models that spread multiple expansions. Classic greens, BC vendor gear and dungeon drops as well as some Dragon Soul items all come together in a fashion that looked like it could have been a legitimate set made by Blizzard themselves. Unfortunately, I grew slightly less excited about it as I plugged the outfit into MogIt in game. I found that my fascination with the set was in part due to the fantastic lighting and locale of the submitted screenshot and that, without those things influencing my opinion, I started to nitpick.
Still . . . wow!
And then there were two . . . .
I finally got to a place where I had two sets that I just loved, but for wildly different reasons and I was having a hard time comparing apple and oranges. I love both of these sets and couldn't bring myself to pick a winner even after I'd decided on a favorite. So, I decided to deviate a bit from the original plan and give away two Cinder Kittens, one each to my first and second place winners, and throw a Pandaren Monk on top for the winner.
I'm still not sure that I picked the right one. I love them both that much . . .
Second Place and winner of a Cinder Kitten: Casqade
I'll be completely honest here. At first glance, I had a bit of an eye-bleed, but I decided to hold judgement and come back to the outfit later rather then just tossing it out. I'm really glad that I did. There's a lot of color here, colors that I normally would never put in any of my own sets, but the more I looked at it the more I realized that that's exactly what I love about this set. It's creative. Most people stick to the softer and safer colors like browns and blacks that are easy to match up. It's risky. Seriously? Bright blue and gold? I've seen those pants a hundred times in my mount/rep runs through AQ and I've invariably tossed them away with a comment of how ugly I thought they were. It works. Everything ties together and matches perfectly, from the AQ20 boots to the crafted Black Temple shoulders to the Naxxramas sword, to create a look unlike anything I've ever seen before. Now, I'm looking at all these pieces that I've never been able to find a practical use for in my own outfits and I'm just amazed at how well they all work together.
What it came down to is that the set needed to grow on me before I started to love it. I needed to play with it in MogIt to see how it looks on other races (seriously, a Tauren Paladin looks awesome in this) and, when you're walking around Orgrimmar and you want people to notice your awesome gear, most people don't have time to sit back and give a meaningful evaluation of it all. You only have a few seconds to make that crucial first impression.
First place and winner of a Cinder Kitten/Pandaren Monk: Arisah
There are no words. I just love it. Not only did I give my obligatory "Awwwwwww" upon opening the submission and seeing the adorable panda girl, but I found later that the set works equally well on other races. It's simple and understated, but not boring. It's cute and sexy, but not slutty. It looks like a tier set, but is made of various items from multiple expansions. Most of all, it's very much a mage set. There are no traces of evil or dark powers implied anywhere like you would expect from a warlock set and there's nothing particularly priestly about it either. It looks like something that a scholar and member of the Kirin Tor would wear. It's just a great set.
It's late and I want to wrap this up, so big congrats to both of the winners and a huge thanks to everyone that submitted. Emails to the winners with their codes will go out shortly. I'm hoping to continue doing more contests and giveaways in the future, so keep dropping by the site or looking for updates on Twitter. I also have more posts planned that range from one-time hits to longer series that may run for months.
Thanks again, all. May all your hits be crits.