Now I know! Only now it's 85, and things have gotten even more complex. There's a lot of scope for getting better gear at 85, and it's not trivial to figure out where to put your time and effort to get the best gear available.
To get started, I studied some gear guides:
- Gerocks Hunter Guide - see also the rather unpleasant but quite useful comments from refire.
- Pre Heroic Gear in Cataclysm
- Pre Raid Gear for Cataclysm Hunters
- Cataclysm Hunter Trinkets
- Hunter Enchants
- Best in Slot Hunter Gear for Cataclysm - this is the long term goal. Very long term, in some cases.
I also got a lot of advice from my nephew, Sean Simpson, for which I'm very grateful.
In early February put together a spreadsheet of gear items from the guides above, along with their agility, hit, crit, and other stats, and the currency or reputation necessary to get each item. I analyzed all of the items - this took some thinking - and created a list of priorities, to help me decide what to work on getting for each slot.
Although the guides above listed a number of really sweet items that were drops from bosses in dungeons (and particularly heroics), I decided to leave them out of my strategy, since it's impossible to plan for them. If a great item drops, great, I'll use it - and if it's better than whatever I've planned for that slot, even better. One less item to earn. But meanwhile, I'll proceed with the plan.
This is what I came up with:
Wildhammer Revered for Windhome Helm
Ramkahen Revered for helm enchant
3k gold for Brazen Elementium Medallion
1650 Justice Points for Wrap of the Valley Glades (fourth best JP item)
Therazane Exalted for Greater Inscription of Shattered Crystal (shoulder enchant)
Earthen Ring Revered for Softwind Cape
2200 Honor Points for Bloodthirsty Gladiator's Wristguards of Accuracy
2200 JP for Vest of the True Companion (second best JP item)
2200 Valor Points for Lightning-Charged Tunic
1650 JP for Gloves of the Passing Night (third best JP item)
5k gold for Corded Viper Belt
2200 JP for Hillside Striders (best JP item)
Guardians of Hyjal Exalted for Treads of Malorne
Therazane Revered for Terrath's Signet of Balance
Earthen Ring Exalted for Signet of the Elder Council
129 Tol Barad Commendations for Unsolvable Riddle
1650 Valor Points for Fluid Death (this will take a while)
85 Tol Barad Commendations, Tol Barad Revered for Spear of the Trailing Shadows
85 Tol Barad Commendations, Tol Barad Revered for Sky Piercer
To look at it another way, here are the reputations and their rewards, in an approximate order of priority:
Tol Barad Revered Spear of Trailing Shadows, Sky Piercer
Hyjal Exalted Treads of Malorne
Wildhammer Revered Windhome Helm**
Earthen Ring Revered Softwind Cape
Earthen Ring Exalted Signet of the Elders (ring)
Therazane Exalted Greater Inscription of Shattered Crystal (shoulder enchant)
Tol Barad Exalted PvP Head & Shoulder Enchants
*Don't need Exalted for Agility
**use Arcanum of Ramkahen on helm
And here are the items you can buy with Justice Points, in order of priority, based on cost vs. gains in agility and secondary stats:
2200 Hillside Striders
2200 Vest of the True Companion
1650 Gloves of the Passing Night
1650 Wrap of the Valley Glades
If you're a jewelcrafter, you can equip three Delicate Chimera's Eyes. Otherwise, the Delicate Inferno Ruby is the gem of choice, unless you have a slot that gives a +20 agility bonus for matching the socket color. In that case:
if +20 Agil socket bonus:
- yellow socket:
Deadly Ember Topaz (+20 agil, +20 crit; orange)
- blue socket:
Glinting Demonseye (+20 agil, +20 hit; purple) if below 6% hit cap
Shifting Demonseye (+20 agil, +30 stamina; purple) if not below hit cap
Having all the above targets really helped me focus on the tasks I needed to do to get the best item I could for each slot.
I was lucky that I was able to buy several Bloodied Dragonscale items (head, shoulders, chest, hands, and waist) on the auction house on my server for about 3k gold. Although this is PvP gear, it was still better for questing and dungeons than anything I had or could easily get, and helped me a great deal on my way toward the above goals.
I did quests in Hyjal until I could get the tabard for the Guardians of Hyjal, and then did dungeons to get the reputation, while also doing the rest of the Hyjal quests. This got me the marvelous Treads of Malorne.
Doing dungeons also earned me Justice Points, which I used to buy the various Justice Points items in the list above.
I have been following the same strategy for the other factions, and also have been doing Tol Barad dailies for the weapons and enchants. As of now, early March, I've got all my target gear items and am working on the last of the exalted reputations that I need for some enchants.
The New Armory
I've discovered a very useful tool to help me with this process. On the official World of Warcraft site, you can search for a character on a specific server like this: Alaurai@Velen. This takes you right to that character's information. Not only is this useful for looking at other peoples' gear, stats, and so forth, it also allows you to see what gems and enchants you're missing.
I've got a set of goals for PvP gear, but I don't enjoy PvP as much as PvE, so I'm happy to keep PvP equipment on the back burner for now. If and when I get into doing battlegrounds a lot more, I'll work toward a full set of Bloodthirsty Gladiator gear.
In the meantime, I have a few pieces of PvP gear, one of which, Bloodthirsty Gladiator's Wristguards of Accuracy, is still the best available to me for its slot, even for PvE.
Those, along with the Bloodied Dragonscale items I used for my starter gear, give me a reasonable set of PvP gear for whenever I am feeling masochistic enough to try to help my faction take back Tol Barad from the rotten and despicable Horde. :)
As for PvE, next up are items that require Valor Points, and those will take a lot longer, because that means doing a lot of heroic dungeons - and Cataclysm heroics are hard! But now I've got the best gear I could earn to prepare for them.