Shiny new purples, powerful trinkets, cool set bonuses and one more step towards the final legendary weapon of the expansion. That's what we really want to see.
It's not reasonable to cover everything in one post since we now have three seperate difficulty levels, each with their own idiosyncrisies and limitations. Best-in-slot for a 10M raider may now be different than the best-in-slot for a 25M raider due to the addition of higher item level Thunderforged gear and someone who primarily runs LFR won't have access to anything off of Ra-den. C'est la vie.
As such, I'll be taking a look at your gear options for each slot and how they all compare. Today, it's everything available outside of normal or heroic mode raiding, including crafted items, rep gear, world boss drops and Raid Finder items. The idea here is to look at what you'll be wearing if you're a casual, non-raiding or alt Warlock that will not be seeing the inside of a typical raid. A first glance analysis of trinkets will come in a later post since it's going to be a similar lineup regardless of which difficulty you raid in.
- All comparisons and recommendations are based on Heroic T14 stat weights since this is the item level you'll be at or near once you start collecting more gear.
- I'm assuming that your raid situation for Tier 14 is similar and aren't looking to replace Normal mode or Heroic raid drops.
- More tuning and numbers adjustments are happening on the PTR lately, but so far the only change to warlocks (as of this writing) is the Grimoire of Sacrifice adjustment discussed in my 5.2 post a few days ago. I fully expect to see Affliction nerfed to within an inch of its life (for reasons also previously discussed), but stat priorities should stay mostly the same.
- All sockets have been matched for their bonuses when comparing these items because I generally find it to be worthwhile. There may be some anomalies where one item will drop out of its best-in-slot position due to a shift in gemming strategies, but with secondary stats being stronger and socket bonuses being more appealing in Mists of Pandaria than they were in Cataclysm, it's unlikely that you'll be making a significant mistake by matching a socket. This means that all blue sockets have recieved an Intellect/Hit gem, yellow sockets have recieved an Intellect/Mastery gem (Mastery over Crit or Haste because it's a universally strong stat for all three specs) and red sockets have recieved standard Intellect gems.
- I'm not accounting for racial Expertise bonuses because our only weapons this tier are daggers, wands and staves. Gnomes will recieve an extra 1% Hit rating while wielding a dagger, but Gnomes are creepy and don't count.
- I'm including Normal Mode tier for the leg and glove slots because I expect them to be available from an easily pugged world boss like the Sha of Anger, as they've been since Tier 7.
One general piece of advice: As you're gearing up and replacing your 476/483 gear from Tier 14, the 502 gear from Tier 15 is going to be a pretty massive increase in stats, even if they're not ideal. Don't shrug off an upgrade just because it's not your absolute best-in-slot.
Lastly, there is an epic truckload of Hit rating on gear this tier. Be prepared to reforge away from it at every opportunity.
- Imperial Cowl
- Flamecaster's Burning Crown
- Hood of the Crimson Wake
- Hood of the Thousandfold Hells
Purely from a numbers standpoint, the crafted Imperial Cowl is a significant upgrade over LFR items for Affliction and Destro (it barely edges out LFR tier for Demo), but the lack of a Meta slot makes it a harder pill to swallow. Considering the (likely) high price of admission, it’s probably not worth it unless you’re bleeding money and are replacing a much lower ilvl item.
- Destroyer's Battletags
- Megaera's Shining Eye
- Necklace of the Terra-Cotta Invoker
The Destroyer's Battletags are available at neutral and require no more than clicking on the vendor. There's no question that these are a massive upgrade over your Wire of the Wakener and better than any LFR drop. A good place to spend your Valor Points on day one.
- Shoulders of Demonic Dreams
- Frost-Kissed Shoulderwraps
- Fissure-Split Shoulderwraps
- Chillblain Spaulders
- Lost Shoulders of Fire
- Lost Shoulders of Fluidity
- Mantle of the Thousandfold Hells
The rep items, being a higher item level, have the most itemization baked into them and are unquestionably better than anything you'll get out of the Raid Finder. Unfortunately, they won't be available until you're revered which could take some time. All three specs will make use of the Hit and Mastery on the Shoulders of Demonic Dreams but if you're already swimming in Hit rating they start to lose a lot of value. In that case, the Frost-Kissed Shoulderwraps are your best non-tier option.
- Shadowspike Cloak
- Shimmershell Cape
- Deadly Glare Cape
Again, the Shado-Pan Assault item, Shadowspike Cloak, is a higher item level with solid secondary stats and is therefore your best option. The Deadly Glare Cape's red socket and Intellect bonus makes it better than the Shimmershell Cape, but all three will be a significant upgrade over what you're likely currently wearing and will serve as a nice stop-gap until you have the rep and points for the Shadowspike Cloak.
The Kirin-Tor Offensive and Sunreaver Onslaught have blue quality 496 cloaks available at revered, but you're probably going to want to spend your Valor Points elsewhere.
- Fire Support Robes
- Zandalari Robes of the Final Rite
- Robes of the Midnight Down
- Robes of Mutagenic Blood
- Robes of the Thousandfold Hells
Keeping with the theme of this whole tier so far, the Fire Support Robes are a large upgrade over any LFR drops and your best non-tier option. That said, your tier robes have universally appealing secondary stats and a 180 Intellect socket bonus that make them a very nice option for all three specs. You'll likely want tier for the set bonuses, but if you're unlucky with drops I would spring for the rep item.
- Troll-Burner Bracers
- Azure Shell Bracers
- Frostborn Wristwraps
- Bracers of Fragile Bone
The Troll-Burner Bracers are available at Friendly which, according to Zarhym, can be achieved with a single boss kill. Given their higher item level, nice secondary stats and highly accessible nature, you're unlikely to want anything else.
The Frostborn Wristwraps have a random enchantment ("of the Feverflare", "of the Fireflash") and could vary from complete garbage to absolutely amazing, depending on how lucky you get with the stat spread. At the same time, the Azure Shell Bracers are beautifully itemized for Demo and Destro. However, given how easy it will be to get the Troll-Burners and how good they are, it doesn't really matter.
- Flameweaver Handwraps
- Gloves of the Thousandfold Hells
- Lightningweaver Gauntlets
- Crystal-Claw Gloves
- Lifedrainer's Sordid Grip
The Flameweaver Handwraps, while beautifully itemized for Affliction and (thankfully) absent of Hit rating, are slightly edged out by your Normal Mode tier gloves. They're a good option for Affliction while waiting for your tier to drop, but Demo and Destro have options that are just as good or better in LFR, namely the Lightningweaver Gauntlets.
Your tier gloves scream Demo/Destro and are the best option for all three specs.
Is it just me or would "Lightningweaver Gauntlets" have been a better name for Elemental Shaman gear? You know, a spec that actually casts lightning?
- Firestrike Cord
- Cord of Cacophonous Cawing
- Abandoned Zandalari Firecord
- Pain Binder Girdle
- Belt of Loa Charms
Once more, the Firestrike Cord is available from rep is likely to be your best option, but with a revered requirement it may be a while. The two LFR drops are nice filler pieces until then.
The Pain Binder Girdle and Belt of Loa Charms are really unappealing due to their extremely low item level in comparison with the rest of the 5.2 options. If you're in danger of points-capping and have nowhere else to spend them (and replacing a dungeon blue) then they're a decent choice, but there's not much more reason to get them.
- Charfire Leggings
- Leggings of the Thousandfold Hells
- Al'set's Tormented Leggings
- Leggings of Pulsing Blood
- Legwraps of Cardinality
Surprised yet? The Charfire Leggings from Shado-Pan rep are your best non-tier option. Since they're also available at Honored (which should go fairly quickly) it's unlikely that you'll get an LFR drop before these are attainable. However, if you don't have the Valor Points then Al'set's are fairly solid for Affliction while Demo and Destro will enjoy the Legwraps of Cardinality and those delicious red sockets.
- Sandals of Arcane Fury
- Dam'ren's Frozen Footguards
- Silentflame Sandals
- Home-Warding Slippers
Strictly by the numbers, the Sandals of Arcane Fury are the best option for Demo and Destro, but with so much Hit rating on our gear already and only one option without it in this slot, it's likely that the Home-Warding Slippers are going to be more appealing in the end.
For Affliction, it doesn't really even matter. After all the sockets and bonuses are figured in, the difference between the best boots and worst boots is so minimal that you're not going to notice a difference. Grab what drops and, if you see more than one set, use whatever works best for your current gear setup.
- Signet of the Shado-Pan Assault
- Jin'rokh's Dreamshard
- Ro'shak's Remembrance
- Restored Hexxer's Signet
Again, you'll want the Signet in one of your ring slots regardess of your spec. Someone at Blizzard obviously had a moment of temporary insanity and decided not to put Hit on it. Thank God.
For your second slot, Destruction and Affliction are going to want Ro'shak's Remembrance, but the difference between Ro'shak's and Jin'rokh's for Destruction is almost non-existant. Jin'rohk's is the better option for Demonology's second slot.
The Restored Hexxer's Signet is a fairly solid option if you're not having good luck with drops before you manage to get Exalted with the new daily faction (and actually better than Jon'rokh's for Affliction despite the lower item level), but more of a points dump to replace a remaining 5.0 ring than a real part of any gearing strategy.
- Dinomancer's Spiritbinding Spire
- Suen-Wo, Spire of the Falling Sun
Weapons get tricky because a lot of us are sporting a Sha-touched weapon complete with gem and probably spent some Valor Points to upgrade it. A lot of people have been asking whether or not they will replace those weapons in 5.2 as a result. So, rather than getting into a ton of technical mumbo-jumbo, here's a handy little table:
The numbers in the table above are a total of all the stats on each item multiplied by their respective stat weight for each spec and then added together (this is how sites like AskMrRobot do it and that's how I've done this entire post). This gives a total overall value to each item so you can compare, for example, a Crit/Mastery item with a red socket and Haste bonus to a Hit/Crit item with a blue socket and Intellect bonus. In short, the higher the number, the better the item is for you.
As we can see, even if you're sporting a fully upgraded Raid Finder Jin'ya, Orb of the Waterspeaker with a Sha-touched gem, then you're still going to find an upgrade in 5.2 Raid Finder. However, you can also see that the difference between Suen-Wo and Dinomancer's is fairly small which means the better option will change depending on if you need the Hit rating or not. Dinomancer's Spiritbinding Spire has almost 1,000 Hit rating on it, close to 20% of our total required amount. You can reforge a chunk of that off, but it still has potential to be a lot of wasted itemization if you're already near or over the cap.
- Venomlord's Totemic Wand
- Athame of the Sanguine Ritual
- Nadagast's Exsanguinator
The same comparison applies here to those of us sporting Loshan, Terror Incarnate.
The choice is quite similar. Even a fully upgraded Loshan with the Sha-touched gem will be replaced with any of the drops in the next tier. Kinda sucks, but so did replacing my Dragonwrath with a dungeon blue.
Nadagast's is the only one with native Hit rating which may affect your decision.
- Fetish of the Hydra
- Lei-Shen's Orb of Command
These two are fairly close for each spec. The primary difference is that one has Hit and the other doesn't. Equip accordingly.
One of the things that I've been whining about since the start of Cataclysm is the obnoxiously small loot tables and the fact that so many slots are "get this item, not because it's the best but because there is literally nothing else". While it can be argued that best-in-slot lists only allow one item for you to be "optimal" and other drops are ultimately pointless, having large loot tables allows the gear to spead around a bit. You won't have every cloth caster rolling on the same set of bracers when there are more options available.
Raid Finder and Normal Mode warlocks will have seven(!) different options for shoulders, four sets of boots, and five legs to choose from. That's pretty awesome.