Updated Wed, Oct 05, 2011 by gunky
At this pace, I had reached level 67 and replaced a few pieces of gear with some new stuff. The gear I was wearing going into Dunland was the result of years' worth of grinding and toil and careful calculations, painstakingly assembled with the use of spreadsheets to build a solid, balanced raid-spec Hunter. I am very picky about Gunkydoc's gear - just because an item has 70 Agility, for example, does not make it desirable if it compromises Vitality, Morale, Power or other important stats. Gunkydoc never had "ultimate" stats - that was never the point. He's built for a solid balance between raw offensive power and long-term survivability. He was capped on Agility and Vitality prior to Rise of Isengard, so my goal was to find good, balanced gear that didn't compromise the build with over-the-top min-maxing. I found a few good pieces so far:
Now I need to find a good pair of boots to replace my Boots of the Great Bow, which I've worn since level 58.
With the changes to Virtues and removal of stat caps (as discussed in our Developer Diary Roundup) and the minor gear upgrade, Gunkydoc's stats got a significant boost - Agility is at 758 now, and Vitality at 795, both up from the former cap of 650. There are other players who are reporting primary stats in excess of 1000 already at level 67, but this comes at a cost to Morale, Power and defense - the really stacked gear has only a few high legacies, and the older gear typically has more bonuses in smaller amounts, but those small bonuses add up.
One of the most significant upgrades, in my opinion, has been the really excellent-looking new cosmetic items. I don't care to equip the new gear - the stats are good, if imbalanced, but not good enough to replace my older stuff - but I do love the look of it. I put together a new outfit comprised of all Rise of Isengard armor and cosmetics.
Shoulders: Scout's Weathered Leather
Shoulder Guards (undyed; quest reward from Trum Dreng)
Cloak: Dolen-clog (Evendim Blue; quest reward from Tal Methedras)
Chest: Reinforced Leather Dunlending Jacket (Evendim Blue; quest reward from Galtrev)
Gloves: Gloves of the Helmingas (undyed; RoI pre-order item)
Boots: Reinforced Leather Dunlending Boots (Evendim Blue; quest reward from Galtrev)
I was originally going to dye this outfit olive green for a nice ranger-y look, since it's the go-to color for Hunters everywhere. But one of the quests from Tal Methedras rewards the player with 5 red dyes and his choice of 5 Evendim Blue, Rivendell Green, Crimson or Black dyes, and I went with the blue because it reminded me of a beloved Hawaiian shirt of mine. Also, the markings on the hood look like flames. It's not particularly Hunter-y, but I think it looks awesome.
I soldiered on through Starkmoor, doing the
quests in Avardin. Two things are particularly
worthy of note here: this was my first encounter with Saruman
and his scintillating disco robe (a non-combat instance
involving the auctioneer), and, following that, I got a group
together and conquered the Culling Pit. The
Culling Pit is one of my new favorite things in Rise of
Isengard, a challenging instance-like non-instance group
challenge. It's tough enough to require a mini-guide of it's own
the Culling Pit of Avardin!
At the end of the day, I had hit level 68 and was moving on to Dunbog in the southwest corner. A couple of players on Arkenstone had slammed through all the way to 75 with barely a pause for breath. Gunkydoc is moving at his own pace, however, and shall continue documenting his adventures as he heads deeper into the expansion.