A guide to learning how to gear a character

I’ve started thinking about one of my alts as the next character to play a bit, and realised that my knowledge on the class mechanics for almost all of them is well out of date. In digging for answers across many classes and roles, it turns out that I follow a set of very similar steps regardless of the character.

So here is my cheat-sheet / guide for learning about a class.

Start with the EJ forms landing page for your class.

This will be initially an overload of information, but it is best to jump into the deep end. Sometimes printing the first post and reading in spare time is better to get a grip on the information presented. Go to Elitist Jerks, click the class mechanics. Find the thread for the spec that you’re interested in. These will usually have a leading 25-30 lines of basic information on stats, gems, specs, and rotations. Skip any of the comments after the first ten.

 http://elitistjerks.com/forums.php

 Then jump into the class specific forums on the official forums. Generally you’ll not see anything as useful or detailed as in the EJ forums, but there is still sometimes a post that is “how to”, or “introduction” based. Generally skip the comments, as they will be less and less useful as you get further through them.

Things to establish first are: How to select a Talent Tree.

 Pick the tree which is suitable for the way you wish to play in a broad way of speaking, and confirm that it is useful for levelling by doing a quick Google search. Each class will have many ways to level, but one spec which is considered better than others. For almost all cases this means picking a tree which has high dps particularly if it is burst dps, and potentially either a good set of defensive or “oh-shit” buttons, or a spec which gains a pet.

Examples of the really solid levelling talent trees for classes are:

  • Demonology Warlocks,
  • Beast Master Hunters,
  • Unholy Death Knights,
  • Frost Mages,
  • Shadow Priests,
  • Ret Paladins,
  • Feral-Cat Druids,

Basically any dps role if the class only has one dps talent tree. There are also very viable ways to level in almost any tree, these are just the most common, or easy.

For spending your points use the spec listed in some forums (below), but remember to only spend a maximum of 5 points per level. You do this so that you can select powers deeper in the tree, as the powers generally get much better the further down the tree you select. Be careful not to select abilities which are focused on either a lot of survival or reducing cool-downs on stuns and such, as they are generally for PvP, not for levelling. You’ll have an opportunity to grab some of them later anyway.

Which stats are important to your class/spec combination.

 This might be clearly stated somewhere if you’re lucky. It might also be expressed as a long textual description, or a shorter semi-mathematical statement. E.g. Str > Haste > Mastery > Crit > etc. This is very important as it will tell you which primary stat is best, and which other stats you should look for. The stats might also be listed with a stat weighting, rather than in a semi-equation method, where one stat is rated with a stat weighting value of 1.1 and others have 0.6, and 0.75. This means that the order of importance for the stats is 1.1, 0.75, 0.6.

 This will greatly simplify the task of selecting quest rewards, as you just select the items which have the higher values in order of the stats. So comparing two trinkets where one grants your best stat and the other does not, generally grab the one with the best stat. Items in WoW these days will tend to have one Primary stat (like Str, Int, Agi) and a mix of other stats like (Dodge, Crit, Haste, Parry).

 An alternative to EJ and the other forums is to use the WoWHead stat weightings, as they perform the same basic function. Visit wowhead and search for items of the correct armor type for your toon (select all Plate items). Then click the preset class and spec Stat Weighting ratings and search. You’ll see items which are great for your role.

 If you select the “Show Details” area of the Stat Weight there will be handy list of weightings just like the EJ lists.

 To be really clever also filter the result according to your level, and current level -5, and also select the Sort by Item slot checkbox. You’ll see a weighted list of all items that your character could gain, sorted by which are most important.

 For example a Death Knight who is dps role will generally select any item with Str, Haste, Crit, and Mastery. An item with Dodge or Parry is a tanking item, and is not for dps, and you should never select an item which cloth, leather or mail – they are for other classes and can be ignored. Some items are shared widely between characters like Rings, Trinkets, and Necks and stat selection is very important for these, so it is worth understanding this.

 Be aware that all gear now probably has Stamina on it, and you should not include it in figuring out what is important, unless you are tanking. A non-stank does not need to have Stamina as a priority at all – ignore any Stamina on the gear when deciding between options, you’ll get plenty anyway. This is not to say that you should skip an item if it has Stamina, take the item but don’t take it specifically for the high Stamina.

 If you are a low level tank, especially below level 70 then Stamina one of the best stat to choose. In fact Tanks can generally just grab anything with Stamina and look for Dodge (all classes), Parry (all except Druids), Block (all except DKs and Druids). All Druid Tanks will want Agility as the second stat to select, and all the others use Strength.

 A small problem you may face is that the EJ forums are written for the current end-game raiding needs, not levelling. That is ok, as the theory of what is useful at end game is so similar to what is useful while levelling that the basic theory can be used. You will not have access to all the abilities, and will find a little later that the rotations of attacks is different, but the core content is there. The difference is basically not important enough to make this not a good guide.

 The last consideration for Stat Weighting is the idea that some stats are very important if you don’t have a particular score, but basically valueless after you reach that score. This is known as the Stat-Cap. It will be written is terms of:

 Strength, Hit to Cap > Expertise to Cap, Haste, Crit.

 In this example Strength is more important than everything, then its important to get to the Hit Cap, then Expertise Cap, then try to get Haste. In this example you’d be looking to reforge Crit into Hit and Expertise if you were missing some (see reforging below).

 You’ll need to dig for what the caps are for your class, and please remember that while levelling these Stat-Caps are generally guidelines, not rules. You’ll be fine to have a little Hit and just put in your primary stat, than ponder the balancing act of reforging for the perfect combination. The time and money spent reforging is better spent levelling.

Gear Gemming, Enchanting, and Reforging:

When gemming, enchanting, and reforging your gear always perform the setup in this order:

Enchant your gear, and add any sockets or spell thread type additions. If you are levelling spend the absolute minimum on enchants, as the gear will change quickly. I tend not to even enchant green items while levelling unless I get a cheap offer or have spare enchants. An exception to this is Armour enhancements which are very cheap at low levels and always worth it. A bit more armour and sometimes some free Stamina is great for levelling.

 Then Gem all the slots. Generally you should ignore the colour of the gem slot and just add your primary stat into the slots. The exception to this is when it grants over half the value of the best gem that can be put into the slot on the gear. There maybe times where the gear grants a huge bonus to your primary stat by gemming for it, and therefore worth considering, but overall it’s ok to ignore it. The real difference might be Meta-Gems, but they are a very specific case which you’ll not stress over unless your Helm has a Meta-slot.  

 Then reforge your gear to reach any particular values you need. E.g. If you need to have a Hit value of 7% (to hit in melee) then reforge the lowest priority stat you have (from the list above) into Hit until you get very close to that number. In the example above you would reforge Crit into Hit before you reforged Mastery into Hit.

Glyphs:

Which glyphs is something that changes often, and your levelling glyphs are sometimes different from the raiding glyphs. That said, you can’t go far wrong with grabbing the end-game raid glyphs. Just remember to take the glyphs for abilities you actuallyhave, as some glyphs are for powers that are granted later. The Talent trees will usually include a set of glyphs.

Rotations:

The typical button rotation is hard to figure, and here is my cheat method.

After reading the EJ lists and doing a general Google Search – Grab each ability listed in the end-game rotations and add those to your number bar. If you’re missing some then don’t worry, they might be later abilities. Then grab all the other abilities which hint as DPS abilities and add them to a secondary bar. As you level see if switching some abilities in and out helps. Some of the secondary powers of the classes are highly situational, but very powerful (eg. Interrupts for fighting casters). Try to get used to using them.

 Just like Stats the game is based around using abilities as priority, or in response to a buff, rather than a fixed rotation. Look for the triggers for the buffs and place the abilities that you often close to each other – and then hit the target dummies.

 If you get all that done, then you’re basically ready. Get out there and do 10 quests watching for how you perform. More practice means better overall performance.

Happy Killing.

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