Some time ago, I wrote an article about gearing your elemental shaman to be raid ready from purely auction house obtained items. (You can read that article here.) Since then, I’ve had numerous requests to produce a “best in slot” guide and I’ll admit that I’ve generally avoided the topic.
A “best in slot” list refers to an end product comprising of the best available items in game. There are multiple problems with this concept. Firstly, World of Warcraft’s raiding game is now offering a great deal more choice. Players are presented with the option of focussing on ten man content alone. Throughout the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, ten and twenty five man loot tables have been separate entities; much to the annoyance of those people confined to ten man content to allow their guild to stay ranked. This is changing in Cataclysm (thank goodness) but it does mean that the items available to us vary. On the note of availability, many players also need to be realistic about their guild’s capabilities. Many coveted items for such a list are from heroic versions of twenty five man bosses. With the Icecrown Citadel buff gradually growing in it’s potency, the content has undoubtedly been accessible to more players. That said, some encounters remain very difficult and a portion of the player base will just not see them. You can, naturally, argue that this doesn’t change the “best in slot” list; indeed it doesn’t. However with a need to balance hit there is little point in relying on items from end game content that you have little chance of acquiring. When your spells are being resisted and your DPS directly affected, telling yourself that if you were to loot a specific item from a specific heroic encounter is of little consequence. We need to play in the here and now. Finally and related to the previous points, it is easy to forget that hit rating is our strongest stat until we are capped. Being under hit cap and experiencing resists will impact your DPS far more than any other stat. As such, it is vital to remember that acquiring best in slot gear is the destination at the end of a long and arduous journey. On the path, you may find that another item is far superior to you than one flagged as best in slot. This is frequently the case for high hit rating items.
Considering all of this, I’m not going to produce a definitive best in slot guide. I’m going to discuss your options at each step of your journey to that much desired destination.
At the centre of creating your ideal gear set should always be hit rating. It’s imperative that you remain hit capped as slipping under this point will have dire consequences for your DPS. The raid setup your guild utilise is key to calculating your required hit rating. There is zero point in aiming for a “best in slot” gear set that balances it’s hit around having misery or a boomkin’s presence if you raid with neither. Equally draenei aura rewards and additional 1% hit that needs to be accounted for.
I’m going to assume that everyone raids with Elemental Precision as aside from the hit rating increase, it also provides threat reduction. Based on this, hit rating required is shown below:-
- Draenei with Misery / Boomkin Buff = 10% Hit Required = 263 Hit Rating (on character sheet)
- Draenei without Misery / Boomkin Buff = 13% Required = 342 Hit Rating (on character sheet)
- Non-Draenei with Misery / Boomkin Buff = 11% Required = 289 Hit Rating (on character sheet)
- Non-Draenei without Misery / Boomkin Buff = 14% Required = 368 Hit Rating (on character sheet)
These are the figures you need to balance your gear set around. Being a few points under will impact your DPS but it will be quite negligible. Equally a few points over isn’t catastrophic. Avoid going considerably over hit rating as the stats are just wasted. Equally if you slip too far under, you’ll experience a large amount of resists on your offensive spells and your DPS will suffer.
Ten Man Versus Twenty Five Man Gear
Undoubtedly the largest factor that determines how your best in slot template looks comes down to whether you have access to twenty five man raiding. When Wrath content became available in two different incarnations (ten man and twenty five man), many players chose to focus purely on the smaller raids. Out of this apparent enthusiasm for a smaller raid size came strict ten man guild rankings. This gave the smaller guilds their own forum in which to feel competitive. To qualify, your guild had to forgo most twenty five man content. Indeed to ensure a new guild could not form out of veteran players boasting the crème de la crème of twenty five man gear, restrictions were put in place to limit how many twenty five man kills one guild could accommodate.
There is a vast difference between the gear available to twenty five man raiders in comparison with ten man players. For some item categories, you’re going to find yourself very limited in choice. The prime example of this, for casters, is in regards to trinkets. The lack of good trinkets has been a plague throughout the Wrath expansion. It began with the Illustration of the Dragon Soul back in Obsidian Sanctum. It continued into Ulduar and the Trial of the (Grand) Crusader instances with Flare of the Heavens, Scale of Fates and Reign of the Unliving and it has shown no sign of ceasing it’s torment in Icecrown Citadel and Ruby Sanctum with Dislodged Foreign Object, Phylactery of the Nameless Lich and Charred Twilight Scale.
As an officer in a ten man strict guild, the biggest request I get from members is them asking if we can afford a raid flag so they can pug for their trinkets. Their justification is simple and obvious; “it’s best in slot for me.” My answer is equally simple, “change your best in slot list to account for your guild.”
Four Set Tier Ten Bonus
Due to tier items and set bonuses, a reasonable number of our gear pieces are selected for us. This raises the question as to whether it is better to aim for a set bonus or choose offset pieces.
The entire tier ten set can be purchased with frost emblems. Much like tier nine, however, each piece has potential upgrades which are purchased with emblems dropping in raid content.
The two set bonus for the elemental set is as follows:-
- Your Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning spells reduce the remaining cooldown on your Elemental Mastery talent by 2 sec.
It’s not an amazing set bonus and it suffers under certain circumstances (such as high movement encounters). It’s still worth around 100 DPS however.
The four set bonus for the elemental tier ten set reads as follows:-
- Your successful Lava Burst casts increase the duration of your Flame Shock on the target by 6 seconds.
- Sanctified Frost Witch’s Helm
- Sanctified Frost Witch’s Shoulderpads
- Sanctified Frost Witch’s Hauberk
- Sanctified Frost Witch’s Gloves
- Sanctified Frost Witch’s Kilt
This reduces the number of Flame Shocks we cast as Lava Burst extends the duration. While it took a lot of tweaking for Blizzard to arrive at a four set bonus that was actually valuable to us, this is worth upwards of 300 DPS.
In summary, when creating an ideal gear set you need to aim for the four piece tier ten bonus. The benefit you will gain from improved stats on other items will not outweigh the DPS gain from the bonus.
Weighing Up the Best Tier Ten Pieces
Establishing that we need four of the available five tier ten pieces to unlock the bonus, the next question is what pieces to choose. Keeping in mind our stat priorities of hit being paramount, haste and spell power being delicious and critical strike being of less value to us (partly due to it not effecting Lava Burst), lets look at the tier ten set pieces.
The helm, chest and shoulders all have the perfect combination of spell power and haste. This makes these pieces the most obvious initial choices. Both the leggings and the gloves replace haste with critical strike rating which make them slightly less appealing to us. When considering spell hit, however, the kilt boasts ninety two hit rating in comparison with the seventy two rating on the gloves. In this sense, the legs offer us a nice chunk of hit rating that is sorely lacking on our other pieces. The choice isn’t quite this simple naturally, the alternative items must be considered.
Ten Man Options
This list will take into account both normal mode items and those obtained from heroic modes.
Blood Queen’s Crimson Choker – Icecrown Citadel Twenty Five Drop (BoE)
(The bind on equip neck is superior to even the heroic Soulcleave Pendant, however it’s a relatively rare drop and it can be expensive. The difference between the two is very small however.)
Drape of Bitter Incantation – From Trial of the Grand Crusader (10) with Fifty Attempts Remaining
If you don’t need hit rating, the Drape of Bitter Incantation is the superior choice as you’ll be trading in wasted hit for critical strike.
(Should you find yourself severely lacking in hit rating, the above offhand is an option, particularly if your guild have only just started raiding Icecrown Citadel and Sindragosa is out of reach)
Bizuri’s Totem of Shattered Ice – From Frost Emblems
(Once again, the latter is an option for those struggling with hit rating (like myself). It’s worth noting that they’re cloth however, so you may need to wait for your cloth casters to receive them.)
Waistband of Despair – From Frost Emblems
Lightning Infused Leggings – Crafted
(The tier leggings compensate for the lack of hit found on our “best” tier pieces (the head, the chest and the shoulders.) The crafted leggings are very nicely itemised should you need something to fill in the gap until you have enough emblems for tier legs.)
Earthsoul Boots – Crafted
(The crafted Earthsoul Boots are superior to the Boots of the Frozen Seed from the normal version of the Lady Deathwhisper encounter. My own guild have also had dire luck with the Boots of the Frozen Seed drop rate. We have seen one pair during all our Icecrown Citadel runs and, obviously, they went to our boomkin. I’d strongly advise you craft the The crafted Earthsoul Boots until you replace them.)
Ashen Band of Destruction – Icecrown Citadel Reputation Ring
Saviana’s Tribute – From Halion Heroic Mode
(If you’re still desperately lacking hit, Halion drops the Saviana’s Tribute. You do lose haste rating to gain that additional hit however, so I’d generally recommend sourcing it elsewhere.)
Reign of the Unliving – From Anub’arak Normal Mode (Trial of the Crusader – 25)
(The Reign of the Unliving is, naturally, from twenty five man content. I have mentioned it however because Trial of the Crusader twenty five man (normal mode) was removed from the ten man strict limitations quite some time ago. This means that you are safe to pug this for the trinket even as a member of a ten man strict guild. Be warned, however, it took my own guild twelve weeks of organised pugging to obtain this for myself and even then you are likely at the mercy of rolling against other players)
As I mentioned at the start, I am not aiming to produce a definitive list but rather the best options you have available to you. It’s upto you to account for your own raid buffs and compile a gear set from the above suggestions.
Twenty Five Man Options
This will include items from both normal and heroic versions of Icecrown Citadel encounters
Blood Queen’s Crimson Chocker – From Blood Queen Lana’thel Heroic Mode
(The normal version of the Cloak of Burning Dusk is no real upgrade from the heroic Frostbinder’s Shredded Cape so wait until the heroic version drops if you already have the upgraded Valithria cloak)
(Ruby Sanctum brought new wrist options albeit cloth wrists. The normal version of Bracers of Fiery Night are inferior to the heroic Bloodsunder’s Bracers, so wait for the latter to drop. Due to the Halion bracers being cloth, there may be more competition on them so it’s always worth grabbing the Rotface bracers initially)
Bizuri’s Totem of Shattered Ice – From Frost Emblems
Gunship Captain’s Mittens – From Gunship Heroic Mode
If you can afford the slightly reduced hit rating on the Gunship Captain’s Mittens then these are the best option due to the quite high haste value. However be aware that they are cloth so you may have to wait in line behind several casters. As such, it is worth getting at least the basic version of the tier gloves)
Waistband of Despair – From Frost Emblems
(Ruby Sanctum introduced a new waist item, the Split Shape Belt. The normal version of this is inferior to the heroic Crushing Coldwraith Belt so wait for the normal version if you already looted the Marrowgar belt. Luckily, the Halion belt is mail so there is much less competition for it.)
(The Crushing Coldwraith Belt is superior to the emblem bought Waistband of Despair without doubt. However, be aware that the Marrowgar belt is cloth and again you maybe waiting quite some time for it. If you have spare emblems, buy the mail belt to see you through)
Plaguebringer’s Stained Pants – From Festergut Heroic Mode
Lightning Infused Leggings – Crafted
(The Sanctified Frost Witch’s Kilt has slightly higher hit rating than the Plaguebringer’s Stained Pants however the latter are vastly superior to the haste in place of the critical strike chance on the tier legs. Sadly, as is the case with much of our gear, the Plaguebringer’s Stained Pants are cloth and very desirable. If you can afford to go without the hit crafting the Lightning Infused Leggings can help. If not, take the tier leggings)
Boots of the Frozen Seed – From Lady Deathwhisper Heroic Mode (Ten Man)
Earthsoul Boots – Crafted
(The heroic Plague Scientists Boots are by far the best for us but again they are cloth. The normal version are slightly behind the heroic Boots of the Frozen Seed, though the difference is very small. If you have access to the heroic leather boots, then take those and wait for the heroic Plague Scientists Boots. If you need an easily obtained pair of boots to see you until they drop, craft the Earthsoul Boots.)
Ashen Band of Destruction – The Icecrown Citadel Reputation Ring
(With the release of the Ruby Sanctum instance, what were previously the two best in slot trinkets for the elemental shaman became contested by the Charred Twilight Scale. The scales are desired by all casters however, so it still may be worth grabbing a Phylactery of the Nameless Lich while you wait on the scale. (Unless you have oodles of DKP to spend of course.))
The ten man raiders will find it more difficult to find really desirable options for all slots. Our best in slot offhand, the Pavise of the Blue Flight boasts MP5 which is really not needed for us. On the other hand, the Scourgelord’s Baton, the option we have should we need more hit rating has critical strike chance. In terms of trinkets, it’s quite obvious that we’re struggling when we resort to using the Abyssal Rune. In fairness, this is an insanely good trinket for it’s location but when compared with the Charred Twilight Scale, we quite rightly feel robbed.
(Nice itemization between ten and twenty five man there Blizzard)
As usual, we find ourselves looking to both cloth and leather items for our ideal gear set. This creates problems in the sense that, rightfully so, we will be below the other casters in terms of priority for these items.
I’d highly recommend using the Zap! spreadsheet as you gear up. There is a great deal of haste to be found on our best in slot items (particularly with the introduction of the trinkets from Ruby Sanctum) and it’s worth keeping an eye on the personal value of each stat as once we hit the 50% haste mark, it’s relative worth decreases somewhat and the value of critical strike rating becomes greater.
In summary, while “best in slot” lists have their place and they certainly give us something to aim for, be sure to modify your gear as you progress and ensure that you don’t fall under hit rating. That really amazing trinket may have a lower value to you than the Maghia’s Misguided Quill at times (if you slip under the cap.) As such, be willing to make alterations that may deviate from your ultimate plan.