This post is going to be the first in a short series on how to choose upgrades for your character. Hopefully, it will be helpful to players of all classes. Your class may change, but the basics are consistent.

Let’s talk briefly about upgrading.

The goal of gear upgrading is to increase the effectiveness of your character in your chosen role.

Therefore, the first step is to define what your focus is. You decide this yourself as soon as you start putting points into a Talent Tree. You are making a choice as to what aspect of your character you are going to focus on.

As an example, if I am leveling my Priest character, choosing to put my Talent points into Holy will yield vastly different results than in Shadow. One shows a focus on my part to improve my ability to Heal, the other shows a focus on my ability to inflict ranged DPS. And different gear stats are important, depending on what Talent tree, what focus, I am going to concentrate on.

Because of the way World of Warcraft gear itemization works, your choice of Talent Specialization, your ‘Spec’, will determine what stats you want on your gear. You will want to choose gear that maximizes the stats or abilities that directly affect your Spec, without having points ‘wasted’ on items that do not help you. 

Gear itemization and Item Level are the phrases we use when we are talking about the ‘point value’ of equipment, and how those points are distributed among ability modifiers.

The fact is, each point of Armor value, each point of Agility, Stamina, Intellect, and Spell Damage or Hit Rating comes from a set amount of potential points that can be distributed on a piece of equipment. How many points are available to ‘spend’ are based on;

  • Item Level of the gear
  • Rarity
  • Minimum level needed to equip it

Also, it has been determined that the amount of points spent on pure ability bonuses {Stamina, Agility, Intellect, Strength, and Spirit} are more beneficial when split up amongst more than one stat.

An example of what I mean in regards to split up stat points; the Splintering Greatstaff. It is Item Level 117, equippable at level 69, and is Green rarity. It comes with it’s points distributed in one of five configurations;

  • …of Stamina (+82 Stamina)
  • …of Strength (+55 Strength)
  • …of the Bear (+55 Stamina, +36 Strength)
  • …of the Beast (+28 Strength, +28 Agility, +43 Stamina)
  • …of the Tiger (+36 Agility, +36 Strength)

You can see that, if it has only +Strength, it is +55. But if the points are spread among two stats, such as Agility and Strength, then Strength is lowered by 19, but you get +36 Agility. You get more bang for your buck on items with the points distributed amongst more abilities.

You can also see that Stamina is considered less valuable, points-wise, than Strength or Agility, so you get more of it. My math says that 1 point of Strength or Agility is being treated, roughly, as being equal to 1.5 points of Stamina.  

Note: the Item Level of a piece of gear is not the same as what level you need to reach to be able to equip it. You can find the Item Level listed in most database sites such as Wowhead.

Let’s compare some close examples. Each is Rare (Blue), Item Level 115, equippable at 70, and a Drop instead of a quest reward.

Dreamer’s Dragonstaff 

Greatstaff of the Leviathon

Draenic Wildstaff

You can see that each one is base 63 DPS, and has the same amount of points spent in Attack Power for shifted forms. When comparing them to the Green rarity Splintering Greatstaff above, they are actually 2 Item Levels lower, but because of their increased Rarity, they have more points to spend on higher base DPS and Attack Power in shifted forms.

The differences between each lie in where the rest of the points are spent. The Dreamers Dragonstaff has straight +Strength, +Agility and +Stamina. The Draenic Wildstaff sacrifices Strength to boost Agility and add + Hit Rating. The Greatstaff of the Leviathan eliminates Agility entirely to add Armor (which is multiplied in Dire Bear form, of course).

Initial impressions to me say that, instead of the random splitting of point distribution found in the different varieties of Splintered Greatstaff, these have intelligent design behind them. Each one makes you choose from what you want the most, but none give you everything you might want.

You have to make a personal judgment; Do I want to use it for tanking or DPS? Is the armor buff worth losing the Agility for Dodge? Is an increased Strength more important to my build than Hit Rating?

You have to be able to make an informed decision, based entirely on your Talent Spec and what abilties are most important for you. If you don’t know what Strength, Agility, or Hit Rating do exactly, you aren’t likely to choose exactly what’s right for you.

Let’s build on our previous examples by looking at another Druid staff that is also Item Level 115, equippable at level 70 and a drop. The only difference? It is an Epic Purple instead of a Blue.

Terestian’s Stranglestaff 

As you can see, even though it is the same Item Level as the other staves, the Purple has a higher base DPS, much higher Attack Power increase in shifted forms, and when we compare it to it’s closest match, the Draenic Wildstaff, it has higher bonuses in every stat.

The lesson here? There are two of them.

First, Rarity has a direct impact on the potential amount of points that can be distributed amongst the abilties of an item. Even if they are the same Item Level, a Green has a higher potential than a White, a Blue higher than a Green, and a Purple higher than the rest.

Second, there are only so many points that can be potentially distributed amongst the item stats. If the item has points in a stat you do not need to achieve your character goals, than those points are wasted. You are advised to search for a piece of gear that most closely matches your real in game needs.

Knowing this, you can see where I’m going to go with this series. You need to know exactly what stats do for your Spec, so you can choose wisely. We’ll talk about that more next time.

Also, If you are at the level cap, and you intend to change your Spec when your goals change, then your gear needs to change too. Most Druids are already familiar with the concept. If you’re Feral, and you both cat DPS and tank Bear seriously, then you need one set of gear that optimizes your melee DPS damage output, and one set of gear that maximizes your Survivability and Damage Mitigation.

Likewise, if you like to respec to Balance, Resto, or a hybrid for PvP, and you are serious about it, you should build a set of gear that boosts your new spec.

I’m curious; how many raiding Feral Druids carry with them not only a full set of Bear Tank and Cat DPS gear, but also a set of Resto gear in their bags for fights where they might be expected to offheal/spotheal?

18 Responses to “Upgrading Your Toon; Equipment Point Costs”
  1. Drashian says:

    Nice introduction to itemization. One point I wonder about is that I always figured that the weapon DPS (and whatever “DPS replacement” stat a non-traditional weapon like our staves uses) was more of a fixed amount based on item level and rarity than something that points were “spent” on. I don’t think I’ve ever seen two items of the same type, rarity, and item level that didn’t also have the same DPS/Feral AP/Spellpower/Healing.

    In answer to your question, I carry a fully enchanted and gemmed set of tank gear (my main focus, of course) and an equally well cared for set of dps gear (I keep up with and commonly outdo our other dpsers). My healing set is also always with me, though it’s mostly just epics that I’ve saved from the shard bin filled with green gems and inexpensive enchants, I’ve still got a solid 1400 +healing when I need it. It’s nice to have for patching up quickly after wipes, too, and I find that if I cast a few HoTs on myself in healing gear and then switch to tank gear, I’ll be at both full health and mana by the time they finish ticking. My balance gear is in about the same state as my resto gear, but I only carry it when I can afford the bag space. I don’t really get to use it much when I’m not actually playing around with that spec.

  2. Ard says:

    I’m still leveling my druid alt (currently at about 61.45), but even at this point, I carry tanking gear, DPS gear and caster gear (focused on healing where possible, but generally emphasizing caster-based stats). Of course, there’s a lot of overlap, and since I’m still leveling I don’t go looking for specific pieces.

    I will say that I have one staff waiting for me to ding 62 (I forget where I got it) and another that a friend gave me for when I ding 64, both for tanking. Why does it seem like you get a bunch of stuff in one category while others seem to languish, waiting for *some*thing to drop?

    Ardelo / Earthen Ring

  3. Heather says:

    While I have several lvl 70 characters, my feral druid is my favorite. While my (healing) priest is generally more in demand, I raid with the druid whenever I have a chance. I carry a full set of bear, cat, AND healing gear at all times, and am generally chided about my lack of bag space, but it does come in handy. I won’t ever be asked to raid heal full time with my spec (though I have been considering respeccing briefly just to see how awesome tree druid healing is for myself), but I can heal for quests, lower level dungeons, and off-heal when the melee dps is a drawback and I am not tanking (for example, the Maiden, and sometimes the Prince, in Kara.)

    My pally also carries a full set of tanking gear along with her full set of healing gear; her spec is more split between the two, because a paladin is much more valid with a half’n’half sort of spec than a druid, but she’s primarily a healer.

  4. Bradley says:

    I have a full set of tank gear that’s usually got the best of blue gems and maybe an epic or two from heroics, about 3/4 a kitty gear purples and blues (some of my tanking gear has been better than my previous kitty gear greens, so I ditched em), and a full set of healing gear, although my healing gear is for the most part lackluster. I also have a set of arcance resist gear in my bank for when I’m soaking on Curator.

    Bag space sucks. I plan on eventually having full sets of each, and possibly moonkin gear in the bank as well, but I don’t accept healing/balance/kitty gear unless anyone else in the raid needs it. (Right now we’ve started progressing through Kara, although we can’t do the last four bosses – I’m in a pretty small guild).

  5. Tigersoul says:

    I still carry my Staff of the Redeemer for healing but dropped the rest of the healing gear in the bank because it was never getting use and forced me to not make as much money as I wanted. Bag space = Profits to me. The second reason I’ve basically ditched my healing gear (which really isn’t great stuff anyway) is because I SUCK at healing. I’ve started a Resto alt to learn from the beginning, because I’m masochistic like that.

    I ALWAYS have my Tank and DPS gear though… Unfortunately because I PVP a lot I have too much intermixing and no PURE sets. I’m working on that. But like you asked earlier – what do I want my focus to be? I enjoy Tanking, but I enjoy DPS a LOT more. I enjoy my Rogue more than my Warrior, but I really LOVE the DPS abilities which still retain versatility as a Feral Druid.

  6. RedFox says:

    I started playing World of Warcraft again just late last year and had never been a high level the last time I played. I chose druid and went feral after getting a taste of shapeshifting.

    Unfortunately, I’m in both a low-pop server (Echo Isles) and Horde-side due to joining a small guild of RL friends. This meant that as I leveled I rarely saw an instance and didn’t get much advice on what being a druid was.

    I was pretty much convinced that if you played a class a certain way while leveling, and you were happy with what you were doing, then that is what role you would be playing throughout the game.

    …you know I ended up loving playing a kitty dps’er, right? Well, I got my rude awakening in the late 60’s and quickly had to learn how to re-acquire gear with no in-guild guidance.

    I’ve managed, I think, to succeed for the most part. I’ve hit the crit cap and am only really languishing for +hit. However, when I switched over I completely neglected my kitty dps gear in the process! My kitty dps set is cobbled together from what few epic drops I could get (luckily our guild doesn’t have any 70 rogues or ferals. told you it was small, didn’t I?) as we’ve progressed through Kara once-a-week.

    So I’m completely lacking in +dodge and have little idea of how to shore up the set. Nobody writes articles on gearing up 70 kitty dps druids. So that means while my dps is alright, I’m so flimsy I daren’t even farm solo in the dps set. Instead I kind of mix-and-match with my tanking set when I’m outside of raids (using the worgen spike collar while keeping my heavy clefthoof on, for example).

    I carry both sets around everywhere in my bags, as my main role in Kara is to off-tank and sometimes melee dps.

    I’ve also got a few shard-trash drops of druid healing gear, but they’re in my bank until I can get a decent set.

    My character’s Pakarn @ Echo Isles if anyone wants to inspect him, though sometimes I logout in a festival suit instead of actual gear. >.>

  7. Rusco says:

    I generally carry a healing/casting set for raids. Granted it hasn’t gotten much attention, I still pick up the gear no one else wants when I can remember to. However, it’s rarely equipped. I never heal and I only cast hurricane in Karazhan for aoe groups.

    I’ll be going to Gruul’s for the first time this weekend, so I’m not very raid experienced. Maybe having another set of gear will become helpful in the future, but for now I feel like it’s just taking up space. I’d leave it behind if I cared less about “just in case” but I do and so it sits in my bag waiting to be used.

  8. Messyah says:

    I used to carry a full resto set, but quite frankly it was taking up way too much bag/bank space and I just didn’t use it enough. My heals are good enough for me when I PvP and good enough for my teammate in 2v2 arena, and that’s all that matters.

    I do however, keep full bear and full cat sets. Btw, I topped in an EotS last night in KBs, HKs and Damage… not bad for a itty bitty kitty. If you’d like to see, I took a screenshot. o_0

    (I can post it when I get home from work)

  9. Bodhimofo says:

    I’m in the same boat as just about everyone else RE carrying at least one extra set of gear around with me at all times. I’m a pretty casual player and I’m still leveling my druid (balance spec) – I’m at 53 and always have a full set of +healing gear on me at all times. This puts me at about +350 healing, what surprises me is that I’m about as good healing at my level as most people who are heal spec’d on my server because they dont bother to collect +healing gear.

    I also have a full set of feral gear which mainly collects dust in my bank but does see action every now and again. As an interesting side effect of this I’ve got a reputation as a great person to have in a group – just about every time I log on these days I’m asked to help out in some instance or another because people know that they can count on me to fill what ever group role they’re missing. I’m exited to focus deeper in my dps/off tank role as I get closer to endgame content but as I’m getting there it’s good to know I can keep the jack of all trades feel I had in the beginning of the game when I bother to collect good gear for each group-role.

  10. Ngita says:

    I carry the better heal pieces but keep about half of the tree set banked.

    I dont actually have a full kitty set:( I swap in rings,trinket,idol,weapon, neck and hat for 2t4 and thats about it. If I am grouped 90% of the time i am tanking.

  11. Jezrael says:

    I am about halfway through 61 on my druid alt (currently feral spec) and carry 3 sets of gear – tanking, cat DPS and a ‘off heal’ set. I’ve been lucky enough to be on a few instance runs where I got to pick up stuff for my offset that no-one else wanted so it’s not too shabby for an ‘off spec’ set.

  12. tessy says:

    *raises hand*

    Being a druid is being perpetually out of bag space. The bear set and the cat set are with me wherever I go, and I have a bag full of healing gear and stuff and another with pots and oils and foods for all specs. When I go farm or grind I usually put the healing bag and the picnic bag in the bank and switch them for a herb bag and another empty bag.

  13. Garrandor says:

    I have a Set of Healing Gear which I keep in the bank unless I’m raiding, when i will bring it along just in case, never have to use it though

  14. Messyah says:

    As many times as I have run Kara, I have never seen this drop until last night. Yep, I am the owner of a shiny new ring. Yummy!

    Garona’s Signet Ring
    Binds when picked up
    Unique
    Finger
    +20 Agility
    +25 Stamina
    Requires Level 70
    Equip: Improves hit rating by 18.
    Equip: Increases attack power by 40.

    I am now up to 37% crit, 166 hit rating and yes, oh yes, I FINALLY broke the 3000 mark in Attack Power. So, I insisted that we go into arena and we tore through our first 8 matches with decisive wins… then the full S3 guys showed up for our last 2 and made them close matches. We lost both, but man did we put up a fight.

    Now, I am a bad Bear and a BAD KITTY! :-)

  15. stobnor says:

    Me too!

    I’m a pretty casual player – attuned for Kara but only been there once – and don’t have a RL schedule that is likely to let me raid on a regular basis…

    And I too carry three sets of gear with me – Tank, Kitty and Heal. I’d been of the opinion that my spec is rubbish for healing, but recently have found that +750 healing and decent mana regen is fine for 5 man content, and even 4 manning some 5 man stuff, like the Ogrilla group quests to open up the dailies…

    That surprised me, but has made me more aware that I’m a viable healer to help guildies at times…

    Hopefully luck will be with me and I’ll be online when some casual Kara opportunities come up so I can gear up a bit more…

  16. Althura says:

    I blogged about this bag space problem recently. I generally have over 2 bags full of gear, and a third full of food, water, bandages, pots, healthstones, and other random consumables.

    I’m a resto, so my healing set is my main, and I have a couple of points in balance to help soloing and off-dpsing. I’ve always got at least my main set, my dps-caster set, and my tanking set with me; I can run as a dpser, throw on my healing set for damage-heavy encounters, and fill in for the tank if he goes afk in a fit of pique and leaves us meat-shield-less. No kitty-dps for me though, I found the balance set easier to build (I could start with my healing set, which was heaps better than my tanking set, and just replace bits and pieces).

  17. Ribeye says:

    I absolutely subscribe to this tenant, and it’s just about got me bankrupted at all times – but well worth it, IMHO.

    I levelled my Druid as a Resto, all the way up to 68, when I went Feral. My rationale for doing so at the time was directly tied to the amount of quests that I had left and my ability to knock ‘em out at speed. Since I had been running a lot as an instance healer (and 10+ Blood Furnace runs *still* didn’t net me the healer pants off Broggok!), I was substantially father along in level progression than my Quest Log would indicate. In fact, I had barely scratched the surface of the Nagrand quests, and had not even touched anything beyond.

    Since then, I’ve acquired a lot of gear. I gathered DPs stuff to solo out my quests, and tank stuff to run instances that worked for my spec. Since I had been Resto for so long, I already had a significant head start on that set too. It’s been a huge money sink to keep them all up to date and top-shelf, but I think that I’ve done a good job. Add to that the fact that a lot of Tank drops are easy to get if you’re the Tank on a run, and Druid healing stuff is rarely, if ever contested (outside of cloaks!) and that part has gone fairly well. It’s a point of pride for me that, as a 0/50/11 Feral spec, I can run any 5-man regular instance as a healer when called for and some instances (particularly old Hillsbrad) VERY effectively. It’s cushy as heck to type “/4 LF1M tank or healer for , pst please” and know, confidently, that I can handle either role effectively despite being off-spec for one.

    As to taking it ALL with me, I usually don’t, but there are times that I do. I primarily run around while soloing with my full DPS and Tanking contingent in my bags, especially since there are times involving elite mobs that I need to go bear. As an Herbalist, though, I have one of *those* bags, too… so after taking up a ton of space with a second set of gear, it’s pretty prohibitive for me to take along 17 slots worth of Healer stuff. On some Heroic runs that may call for 2 healers at times (Shirrak the Dead-Watcher in Crypts comes to mind), I’ll bring it if I’m filling a DPS slot. If I’m the Tank, though, I never do as I don’t expect to trade that role off with anyone.

    Going forward, I don’t know how long I’ll be able to maintain this kind of versatility without exhausting my DKP for months in advance so I’ll likely narrow my true top-flight stuff to one spec or other – but that’s the fun of playing a Druid. :)

  18. Kotathalas says:

    I play a full DPS/Moonkin (with a few points in resto) druid on Malorne(A) US.

    I keep my main set as a PVP/PVE, mostly leather/cloth hodge-podge of purples and blues, but only because during a bad pull I never know when I may need to drop moonkin, switch to bear, and growl a heroic mob off a guildie that gained someones aggro. Since items don’t switch out (for the most part) while in combat, do you have any advice for the kara-raiding Moonie that wants to take full advantage of what their class has to offer? Are there any websites, or do you have any insight into what may be the best stats to keep aware of for total versatility.

    That being said, I do have a full tanking set for when the raid needs me to OT, it just doesn’t easily get equipped while half way through the Curator and your main OT goes down. I also don’t have the points invested in that tree to get the full benefit of the spec. I’m a scrappy little bear and have made some amazing saves (<– trying to say that with as much modesty as possible) ( and can I mention, I LOVE BEING A DRUID!!) but I am not ready to hang up my owl-beast outfit just yet, because I feel that balance you get to play a lot more roles than if your a pure healer, or even pure tank. I feels like as a Moonkin you get to step back, watch your aggro, unleash some major DPS, combat rez a down squishy, innervate the healer, tranq., pop into bear to get those mana leaches off the squishies, and when everything seems to be under control you can step back start unleashing the DPS all over again. Theres just something about all that makes being a hybrid amazingly fun to play! (The treants are wicked cool too!) But what should I look for when it comes to a truly Balance/OT set that I can keep equipped and not worry if I have to drop from moonkin and pinch-OT??

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