Gearing Up the Druid

The Undeath Carrier Binds when picked up Two-Hand Staff 232 - 429 Damage, Speed 2.40 (137.6...

The Undeath Carrier
Binds when picked up
Two-Hand Staff
232 - 429 Damage, Speed 2.40
(137.6 DPS)
+77 Strength
+100 Agility
+151 Stamina
Requires Level 80
Improves critical strike rating by 51
Increases attack power by 2084 in Cat, Bear, Dire Bear, and Moonkin forms only.

Gear is the proverbial carrot that most players chase and the driving force behind most end game raiding. One of the more interesting things that World of Warcraft has done in its approach to the genre was to make the player feel powerful from day one. An original slogan of the games advertisements at launch was that you wouldn’t be killing snakes and rats anymore - a jab at older games that forced lower level characters into mindlessly repetitive creature grinds to gain levels in the anticipation of having a good time. Blizzard’s use of instancing for group content allowed them to add many dungeons into the game and they did an excellent job of spreading them out throughout the levels. (In this writers opinion some of the most fun and compelling instances are in the lower level ranges). As you level up your character and move into areas of increasing difficulty it is highly advisable to explore these dungeons as they provide some of the best gear at each level range, helping to increase your survivability and viability as you progress. 

How you choose to spec your druid will make a direct impact what items you will want to use and what instances you will want to run to obtain them.

Current game itemization lends to most druids using staves as their primary weapons of choice. Restoration druids and caster druids alike may find some very nice one handed maces or daggers along with off hand items to maximize their abilities. Weapon attributes will mimic those of your gear selections but will often contain your single largest increase to your most desirable stats. 

Gearing your druid will be done mostly via quest rewards early on. At level 15 you can start doing instances to obtain better items. As a druid there are several sets that fit us nicely in the lower ranges depending on the spec you choose. Most druids are leveling as feral due to better itemization and ease of soloing with this spec. WoW uses armor sets throughout the game. Armor sets are several pieces of armor that work together in form and function, most giving progressive bonuses based on the number of pieces you acquire. While the earlier sets are rarely completed by a player due to the speed of leveling, later stage sets are often one of the main focuses of raid instances. Set pieces, or tier sets, are very popular with the "played with Barbies" crowd as well as they look nice together. 

Let’s look at the items and item types you will want to pick up by spec and level range.

Feral DPS
Priorities: Strength, Agility, Stamina
Secondary Priorities: Haste, Expertise, Armor Penetration

Players who choose this spec will be gearing themselves much in the same way as rogues and will compete with them for most of all their gear. The preferred stats of the feral druid are strength, agility and stamina. The secondary bonuses you will look for are attack power, critical strike and hit rating. Remember when evaluating different items that base stats will multiply with buffs while ratings will not, this can make the difference between two items many times. There are a couple of other stats you will see on items that feral druids may desire and they are haste, expertise and armor penetration. Each of these stats are beneficial, however, they get a lower priority based on benefit and I listed them in order of priority. One thing of which to be considerate is assessing your own needs based on what you have to wear at the time. I would recommend using one of the many calculators available to achieve that balance. 

Feral DPS weapons will primarily be staves until patch 3.08 goes live and after that polearms will be added into the equation. Always remember that with any weapon used in a shapeshifted form, the DPS of the weapon is irrelevant and the stats are what to evaluate. 

Feral Tanks
Priorities: Agility, Stamina
Secondary Priorities: Dodge, Defense Rating, Hit, Expertise

Druid tanks will want to focus on agility and stamina. Agility is the top base stat for feral tanks as it gives three separate benefits in the forms of armor class, critical attack percentage and dodge.  Tank druids’ number one non base stat concern should be armor. The armor multipliers have changed in Wrath of the Lich King, but the need for high armor has not. Point for point, AC is the top concern of the tanking druid.

Next on the list of needed stats is dodge. Avoidance is huge for all tanks and the druid is no exception. The only downside to dodge is that once you have achieved a 50% dodge rating you will begin to see diminished returns.

Defense rating is next up for the tank (so many stats, so little item slots). While this used to be one of the premier stats for feral tanks, changes to the ‘survival of the fittest’ talent have moved it down a few notches. Pre-WotLK you needed 415 defense with the talent or 475 without it to render yourself immune to critical strikes. Post-expansion, the talent when maxed at 3 points does this for you, however defense rating is still needed and can be most beneficial to stack once you achieve 50% in dodge as it does not have diminished returns. Hit and expertise ratings will also help, as will crit, as they all contribute to your DPS which in turn helps you keep your threat generation high. Haste is nearly meaningless to a bear as it doesn’t affect your main tanking abilities. Feral tank weapons will also continue to be staves; no other weapon in the game is as well itemized to help the feral druid. 

Balance Druids
Priorities: Intellect, Hit, Spell Haste, Spell Crit

The boomkin druid will look towards intellect gear like all other casters, and will find both leather and cloth very beneficial. Some snobs will tell you that cloth is terrible but pay them no mind; wear what is best. You also get a nice armor multiplier in moonkin form that increases that cloth to proper AC levels….but if your tanking in moonkin form you have much bigger problems than your gear. The main stats in order of importance to you will be hit, spell damage, spell haste, spell crit. These stats are wildly contested by the druid community but updates to talents from WotLK have radically changed the way balance druids will want to gear themselves. Boomchickens will find both staves and one handed daggers, maces and off hand combos throughout the game that will be beneficial. 

Restoration Druids
Priorities: Spirit
Secondary Priorities: Spell Power, Spell Haste

The restoration druid is perhaps the easiest of the specs to gear, as your needs are fairly straight forward and resto gear is easily and clearly identified. Resto druids can wear both cloth and leather however once you progress into the Outlands and beyond you will find much less need for cloth as the good leather drops have been increased. The most important primary stat for a resto druid is spirit, more so that almost any other class in the game.

The most important secondary stat and the one that you should stack above all other, even the aforementioned spirit, is spell power. Spell power directly influences how well you will heal. Haste is next on the list but it can be a bit tricky. Haste directly effects how fast your spells cast and it can also, with a high enough value, reduce the global cooldown to 1 second. The tricky part of haste for the druid is in mana consumption. Follow this rule and you will know if your haste is appropriate:
  • Finishing a fight with 40% or greater mana = you can stack more haste
  • Finishing with 20-40% = your haste is perfect
  • Finish with under 20% and you may have too much (or you forgot about spirit….)

The last two stats most commonly seen on caster gear are spell crit and spell hit, crit can be an ok stat but not at the expense of the others ahead of it, three of our top healing spells, Lifebloom, Rejuvenation and Wild Growth are unable to crit. Spell hit should really never be a factor as its impossible for your healing spells to miss. The Detroit Lions will win a super bowl, hockey will be popular in the USA and Brittany will be a good mom before one your spells ever misses, pass hit gear to the boomkin and smile. 

However you choose to gear your character ultimately comes down to how and where you play your character, but rest assured this game is loaded with easy to acquire gear that will help you each step of the way. I hope to explore with you, in detail, level 80 gearing choices in a future article. Until then, happy leveling! 

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