Gearing up in World of Warcraft can be a daunting task. If you’re a fresh level 80 then most of the content is locked off to you if you plan on using the dungeon finder and there isn’t a whole lot you can do about getting the ball rolling and the loot flowing in. We’ve recently have gone through the process of taking a brand new level 80 and gearing it up to see exactly how things work now in patch 3.3.

Table of Contents

  • Notes for Fresh Level 80s
  • Gearing up for Heroics
  • Tanks & Healers
  • Word of Warning
  • Gems & Enchants
  • Gearing up for Raiding

Notes for Fresh Level 80s

If you’ve just hit level 80 then you’re going to be hitting a massive wall known as the new gear score checks placed into the dungeon finder. These gear score checks will check the total gear score of your equipped armor and weapons to determine if you’re allowed to queue for an instance or not. This isn’t so much a problem for heroics, but for Trial of the Champion and the Icecrown instances you may find yourself unable to even get the gear necessary to start off your career in PvE.

If you’re in heirlooms there is a little trick you can do. Now, most heirlooms are better than ilvl 178 greens and even most ilvl 170ish blues. However, they count for a total ilvl of “1” towards the games calculated gear scores. Even though they’re excellent gear for low level instances they are still going to keep you from getting inside.

The trick is to simply equip a green or blue item (either off the AH or from a quest) to allow you to begin queuing. The game bases your ability to join instances by your lifetime highest gear score, so if you equip say a feral staff for a Mage then queue it’ll let you in and you can change back to your heirlooms from there.

If you’re a fresh level 80 in level 70-75 greens then you might be in an even bigger jam. Luckily enough Blacksmithing/Tailoring/Leatherworking can provide you with a plethora of rare quality loot to bump your score up enough to participate in the upper level normal instances.

Gearing up for Heroics

I find this chart (from the addon) to be inaccurate, I'd say a score of 3,000 to 4,000 is the minimum for PuG dungeon finder heroics. You can get by with 2,000-3,000ish but it may be difficult and a lot easier to do with a guild or group of friends. GearScore isn't as important as the base stats, though, or player skill.

So you’re level 80 and you need to get enough gear to unlock heroics or at least unlock the good ones. The first thing you need to do is read the above advice to unlock normal Trial of the Champion along with the Frozen Halls instance and run them over and over again until you have enough spell power/attack power/defense/etc. to not enter into a heroic and have people want to kick you. Here is a list of what you’re looking to obtain:

  • Melee DPS: As close to 3k Attack Power as you can get. Doing 1,500+ DPS in a heroic means you're fine. Less and you need more gear.
  • Caster DPS: As close to 2,000 Spell Power as you can get. As close to the hit cap as you can get. (See our class guides for caps.) If you can do 2,000 DPS then you'll be fine, more than 1,500 is acceptable.
  • Tanks: 25k health unbuffed and 535 defense.
  • Healers: 2,000 Spell Power, over 300 mana regen while casting, and over 15k mana unbuffed. More if you want to make up for bad tanks.

Any DPS should be able to put out of a minimum of 2,000 sustained DPS in a heroic. If you’re doing 2,500ish in a normal then you’re good to move on up to heroics.

You can go with less than that, but be prepared to take flack if you’re not playing your best. We have guides that go over doing DPS, healing, and tanking so be sure to look into one of those for detailed instructions on how to go from being “n00b” to being “1337”. In laymen’s terms we mean to play well.

You’ll be able to get most of this as a DPS or healer class from the four level 80 specific heroics. Tanks will need to invest into some titansteel in order to hit their defense cap. You’ll also want the trinkets from Trial of the Crusade.

As a small note, The Frozen Halls (all three instances) along with the normal random daily give Emblems of Triumph in patch 3.3. This means that you can purchase a single piece of tier 9 gear after gaining 30 badges. Additionally, Crusader Orbs do not sell for a lot now so you can craft some ilvl 245 bracers that will last you a long time. I’d avoid the robes because the money could be used on high quality gems.

If you have access to a guild that can help setup raids then you’re in luck. See if you can get a quick run through Naxxramas or Ulduar and get the loot passed to you. Plus you’d be able to pick up quite a few emblems along the way. If your guild can also bring four overgeared players (or at least an overgeared tank/healer) then you can skip straight into heroics with them. If you’re on your own then it’s a little bit more difficult because other players have high expectations for your performance in a 5man.

The Tank & Healer Dilemma

The GearScore addon is a helpful tool to know how your gear is doing, but is just a tool. Be sure to examine other stats like hit rating, defense, haste, mana regen, etc. before assuming you're ready! You can get by with 3,000ish for heroics, but I find 4,000 to be the perfect point where you can compensate for other members who are lacking.

Tanks and Healers need to bring A LOT more than DPS to heroics. If you can do 2,500 sustained DPS then you’re “just fine” in a heroic, if not perfect. If you can’t heal the tank and he dies then oops! If you’re a tank and you get crit’d and die then you’re not going to finish the instance. Here is a trick that I personally used. If you want to gear up to heal, say as a Priest, then start gearing yourself up to heal but keep in Shadow. You’re going to miss a lot of Hit and DPS, but if you’re good enough to make up for it by following our awesome DPS advice then you’ll be able to output enough DPS to not be a complete idiot while you gear up for your eventual debut as a heroic healer. Besides, epic healing gear is way better than blue DPS gear for DPS. You can also gem in a good bit of Hit, which is really the only difference. A lot of healing gear trades in Hit for Spirit & Haste or additional Spell Crit.

If you’re a Paladin, it’s a bit trickier, since spell plate and ret plate are two different things. The trick here is to get just enough gear to do 2,000 or 2,500 DPS and then farm heroics as DPS until you can load up on spell plate (or greed some healing leather/cloth). Druids are in an icky situation. Moonkins are not very strong, they’re viable but not very strong, so DPSing in healing gear as a Moonkin isn’t really going to work well. However, gearing up as feral is easy in normals. Leather is only used by Druids and Rogues so there isn’t a lot of competition for it. Just grab a normal DPS set and you should easily do 2,500.

For tanks, well, there isn’t much you can do. You can craft a good bit of Titansteel to get defense capped, but until then you’re useless as a tank and will just have to run heroics with a makeshift DPS set. Avoidance is important too. You need a lot of health and a good bit of avoidance, otherwise you’ll pull a less than stellar healer and wipe over and over again. There isn’t a lot you can do, but once you get that heroic tanking set you’ll be good for near instant queues.

Do note there isn't a "cap" to defense, but instead a point where you will not be crit'd in heroics. That's at 535.

[protip]Druids don't have to defense cap because their talents grant it, so it's much easier for them to get into heroics as a tank. However, you should gem for Stamina and at least get some tank gear before starting. Death Knights do not require shields either, giving them one less thing that they need. Warriors and Paladins have to gear up as usual.[/protip]

Word of Warning

Instant queues are nice, but if you’re undergeared then you’re going to be causing a lot of problems. If you’re a tank and you get steamrolled then you’re going to wipe and the group will disband. If you’re a healer and can’t keep people up then they’ll leave. Be sure you’re geared before you head out! It will save you a lot of time from waiting on dungeon cooldowns from failures. Practice in normals if you're just switching over to a new spec for the first time.

A Quick Word on Gear Score

There are a lot of ways to measure your character's "gear score", WoW-Heroes or the GearScore addon for instance. They compare your gear to your spec and give a relative measure of how strong your gear is. It doesn't matter nearly as much as your results and how you play, but it is an excellent tool to give you a rough idea of where you stand. You can get by with a lot less gear if you're smart and conservative with how you play and use your abilities for both heroics and raids.

If you're in a gear, none of it can matter, because a fresh group of 80s or a new 80 can join up with friends and do a lot more with coordination. It's the harsh reality that the dungeon finder imposes higher requirements on easier content. The reason for this is that many players are running their daily heroic every day and do not wish to spend all day working slowly through an instance using CC and coordination. As such, entering the dungeon finder is like a pot luck of attitudes and players, many who won't be tolerate to sub 1,500 DPS, lack of healing, or low HP tanks. If you can get together with friends it becomes a lot easier to get by with a lot less.

Gems and Enchants

Enchant and Gem everything, even low level epics and blues. Use cheaper enchants if it’s not an expensive item. Blue gems work too, until you get 232s, at which point you should use epic gems.

Getting Ready to Raid

Getting the gear needed to raid in 3.3 can be challenging, but it’s not necessarily that difficult. There are four instances that provide enough gear that you won’t really have to work too hard on the rest. Trial of the Champion along with The Frozen Halls provide enough offset gear that you won’t have to worry about much. You can manually queue into them each day for a chance at some awesome 219s-232s. Additionally, you will only need 160 Emblems of Triumph to reach four pieces of Tier 9 which can easily be obtained over the course of a few days by running the random heroic over and over again. Assume 4+2 (or 6) badges per instance. On average that would be a piece of loot every 5 to 10 instances (depending on the cost). If you’re lucky that shouldn’t take much time at all (and provide you with A LOT of practice with your class).

The ilvl 245 offset shoulders are only 45 emblems and are available for each class. There are also 25 emblem ilvl 245 ranged slot items like wands, idols, librams, etc. These can help boost your strength by a lot. Not to mention that you can get some of the cheaper pieces of Emblem of Frost gear after a week or two of farming.

You can make 245 bracers and a chest with Crusader Orbs. Each piece will end up costing about 1,000 to 2,000 gold depending on prices on your server (chest pieces can go MUCH higher upwards to 5,000 or more, and the materials range for instance Spellweave is a lot more than Arctic Fur).

Once you’re over 2,000 or 2,100WoW-heroes gear score you can easily get into some of the pugable raids like VoA where there is a chance to get some additional loot (and badges). Your ultimate goal is to reach a combined score of about 2,200 (for 10 man Trial of the Crusader) or 2,400 (for 25 man ToC or 10 man Icecrown Citadel) WoW-Heroes score or about 4500 or more for ToC and 5500 for ICC from the gear score addon. You can figure out your current gear score by visiting WoW Heroes or via one of the many addons available in the game now (one simply called GearScore is the best at the moment). You can also base it off of your stats. Defense capped with more than 35k health? Normal 10s shouldn't be a problem.

It’s not hard to gear up anymore, but things sure have come a long way. Once you’re capable of chaining heroics then it’s not long until you can find yourself geared up enough to raid the current content.


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Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

Xerin 1
Get in the bush with David "Xerin" Piner as he leverages his spectacular insanity to ask the serious questions such as is Master Yi and Illidan the same person? What's for dinner? What are ways to elevate your gaming experience? David's column, Respawn, is updated near daily with some of the coolest things you'll read online, while David tackles ways to improve the game experience across the board with various hype guides to cool games.

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