Balance Druid lvl 85 pre-Heroic Gearing Guide

I'm not done. This will probably remain a work in progress. I think all I'm missing now are some Firelands grind items and a complete review of new Justice Point items. But I figured I'd start sharing now, you know? Why not?

The Efficient and Easiest to Follow Guide to Gearing your Balance Druid in Cataclysm: Pre-Heroic

July 6th, 2011: Added some 4.2 items in red.

The purpose of and the advantage of this guide over others is that you don't have to think... at all.  Just get these pieces.  There's no wishy-washy, "These are the best three or four for each slot.  Knock yourself out."  I know people who write guides that leave things open a little are trying to be kind and leave you some room to decide for youself, but even picking from three or four, then finding out where you get them, deciding what order to get them in, etc, literally takes HOURS.  This guide tells you what to get, how to get them, and even nearly how to get them in order.  I'm also going to tell you what enchants and gems to get.  That's days more of your life back!  ;^)

The point being that this guide assumes you don't play WoW for four hours a day five days a week.  I find I often get to play 20-45 minutes at a time, which means running so much as a normal PUG means setting aside an evening of free time.  That's tough to do.  So this guide maximizes ways of getting gear in short spurts, and does not suggest you run a ton of instances unless it's absolutely necessary (which I think it is for trinkets, cloak, and weapons). There's no stigma against buying from the AH either! Trade gold for time; it's a good deal.

That said, I'm a casual player too.  I might get some stuff arguably "wrong".  But that's the whole point -- we don't want to waste the amount of time theorycrafting to be sure we get it all "right" for our slightly tweaked playstyle.  We want to save that time for when we're doing Heroics, at which point we're going to replace much of this junk anyhow.  What you'll find here is safely well above good enough.  It's very nearly BiS for pre-Heroics, and I'd like to see the arguments for switching any of the items.  (Not that they're not out there, but I bet the arguments aren't obviously better than what we've got here.)

Quick warning: There are now actually a good number of pieces that get replaced if you follow the guide all the way through.

* Your weapon (if you PUG enough)
* A trinket once you earn Stump of Time
* (4.2) Your bracers if you can buy the Smolderskull Bindings
* Your chestpiece (Wrap of the Fallen City replaced with Stormrider's Vestment (4.2) once you get Justice Points)

Each of those are defensible replacements, I think. Weapon is luck of the draw, and lots of staffs seem to drop even though you eventually want a one-handed weapon. The Stump of Time is probably the last thing you get, so that's not too bad. You'll get your mileage out of the PUG trinkets before you earn Tol Barad rep. The Smolderskull bracers cost 20-30,000g (!!) right now, so that might not ever be attainable until you go Heroic [and buy them with 1250 Valor Points instead, perhaps]. And the chestpiece is replacing a quest reward with what's now a very cheap T11 piece, which makes a lot of sense. Again, you'll get your mileage out of the quest reward before it's replaced.

I think my only weakness here is in the head piece. The Cluster of Stars was initially an obvious and only choice. Now, it still costs 2200 Justice Points, but so do T11 legs, with T11 gloves even cheaper. This might be an area where you ignore a piece for a while and start running Heroics without it so that you have the 2 piece T11 bonus (and great hands or legs).

Finally, I owe a big thanks to the Shifting Perspectives gear list, which got me started.  Much of this stuff comes from that list, which gave my hunt some structure.  There's plenty here that's different, starting with only chosing one from each spot (except the chest -- I've got three chest suggestions /sigh), but without our buddy Tyler, I'm still lost in WoWHead looking for gear to get next.


There are several ways to pull down pre-Heroic gear, listed in order from "easiest" to toughest/most time consuming.  Get the pieces using these methods in roughly this order.
  1. Buy some on the AH with gold
  2. Get quest rewards
  3. Run reputation grinds
  4. Create with professions/gathering
  5. Run PUG random instances
  6. Buy it with reward currency (Justice Points & Tol Barad Commendations)

1.) Buy on AH

Bracers of Caustic Purification (~750g -- enchant with Draconic Embossment Intellect if you're a Leatherworker)
Tarvus's Poison-Scarred Boats (1200g -- enchant with Mastery)
Blazewing's Furious Kilt (2000g, but seen for 1600 and lower -- I've got Dragonscale Leg Armor right now.  No idea why.)
Tattooed Eyeball (can't recall what I paid. Do note the JP relic in 6. before you buy.)
Smolderskull Bindings (4.2) -- 20k-30k
Fading Violet Sandals (1200g or so)

UPDATE: If you bought the Tarvus' Poisoned Scarred Boots from the 4.1 version of this guide, don't bother "upgrading" to the Fading Violet Sandals. The two are very close.

I don't know how you personally get your gold (quests, crafting, Auctioneering the heck out of the AH), but if this is an alt, you've probably already got gold in spades.  Even if this is your main, in Cataclysm, the money just keeps rolling in.  I usually only spend gold on healing pots, mats for professions, repair, and the occasional drink.  Conserve, keep an eye on your AH prices, and buy the above (prices are approximately what I paid).

Can you farm some of these?  Sure, but I've never seen Tarvus even though I ran through the cave with regularity (and started to recognize the realm's Tarvus campers), and I only saw Blazewing once -- dead on the ground.  Save your cash, find a good price, buy, and feel good about not grinding.

Money's worth very little sitting in your pocket, and the time it takes to grind these slots is too much.  I even leveled Leatherworking to 525, which involved buying a decent amount of expensive mats, and still had plenty, so you'll have the cash.  Be frugal, then splurge on these, and enjoy.

4.2: As Lissanna says, and then there were bracers. The Smolderskull Bindings are new in 4.2, and are actually 1250 Valor Point items. But they're BoE. I think you're better served by saving Valor Points once you earn them for Tier 12 gear. And when you're pre-Heroic, you can't get Valor Points anyway. The price is so high I considered keeping these off, but some folk are so good at gaming crafting on the AH or have access via guilds or mains that it's good to keep them in mind.

(Obviously you'll be replacing your 750g Bracers of Caustic Purification with the Smolderskull Bindings. If you've already got 20k sitting around at level 84, consider skipping the Caustics.)

I think this logic on the Bindings works even once you start Heroics and are banking 4.2 Valor Points. Save for Tier 12 items, and need/save up as many Chaos Orbs (items you roll on after finishing Heroic 5-man instances) as possible to bank gold by selling crafted gear.

With 4.2, the Tarvus boots are no longer the item to get. Instead, grab Fading Violet Sandals, which are a steal now that they're no longer VP but JP BoE gear. JPs seem to be worth less than a gold a piece. Buy.

You could also save on the Blazewing by skipping it, getting the T11 legs with your Justice Points instead of a head piece (see #6, below), and putting that cash towards the bracers. You'd be light on a head piece, though you gain Justice Points like mad in Heroic dungeons (70 per boss). Another tough call.


By the way, you can buy every gem. Let's just copy in which gems to buy from Gray Matter:
I assume that all socket bonus will be met using Superior quality gems. This is how I socket each gem: Meta = [Burning Shadowspirit Diamond], Red/Prismatic = [Brilliant Inferno Ruby], Yellow = [Reckless Ember Topaz], Blue = [Purified Dremonseye].

2.) Get quest rewards

Aessina Blessed Gloves (enchant with Exceptional Spellpower)
Arcanum of Hyjal (this is a head enchant)
Wrap of the Fallen City (enchant with Mighty Stats, though you will replace this slot in 6.)

Okay, the gloves and enchant aren't technically quest rewards.  But when you're done with Hyjal's questline, you've already got enough rep to buy them both  There's no grinding at all.  You're a druid.  You should be running Hyjal as you level from 80-85.  It's the storyline that makes the most sense.  Do it for the trees!

After Hyjal, I think you want to go directly to Uldum ASAP.  DO NOT GO TO Vash'jr!!  There's a chestpiece as a quest reward that Shifting Perspectives recommends.  It's even a reward from a tag and tally quest.  It's only an ilevel 325 piece, but it's excellent (see 4, below, to compare).

3.) Run reputation grinds

Mantle of Wild Feathers (Honored  -- Greater Inscription of Charged Lodestone from Therazane)
Band of Singing Grass (Revered)
Belt of the Untamed (Exalted -- add the belt buckle for an extra gem socket)
Lightning Flash Pendant (Exalted)

Diamat's Ring of Temperance
Greater Inscription of the Charged Lodestone

Hyjal (again)
Nightweaver's Amulet (4.2)

You really can't call the Guardian's of Hyjal a rep grind.  Do the quest chain and you're done.  So it's in 2.).  Once you're done getting to 85, go to the Wildhammer cities.

Remember that you grind two ways.  One is to do the dailies, which are short enough that you can squeeze a few in with 20 minutes of free time, or finish a day's worth in 40-50.  The second is to champion each faction by wearing their tabard as you run instances.  If you've done an okay job gearing with your quests from 80-85, you can probably start PUGging normal dungeons using the LFG tool now.  You're going to need to PUG a ton anyhow to get Justice Points for the gear in 6.), so no time like the present to get started.  Rep via LFG and do the dailies while you wait for LFG to put the team together.

The Wildhammer Clan rep run is the most important.  You grab four BiS (here, I mean pre-Heroic BiS) pieces from them!  The Wildhammer questline, needed to open up dailies, was out and out fun.  The daily quests are fun enough too, though there's a lot of drinking and post-drinking binge puking.  I kid you not.  I ran these while waiting for PUGs to get together in LFG, and didn't touch Therazane until I was exalted with Wildhammer.

Then you head to Therazane, where you get Diamat's Ring and the shoulders enchant, a la Sons of Hodir in Wrath.  Takes a while to finish the questline to open up the dailies in each spot, but only takes 30 minutes or so for each set of Wildhammer dailies and a little longer, perhaps, for Therazane.  The Therazane quests were a bit boring -- I did a lot more championing with this faction than dailies, though I did enjoy saving the little rubble dude. 

You've already run Hyjal and gotten good rep just with the quests. That bagged the Aessina Blessed Gloves I mentioned before. With 4.2, you can now quickly pick up an ilvl 365 neck, the Nightweaver's Amulet, for under 90g if you've finished Hyjal and enter the Firelands. It takes a few Marks of the World Tree to enter the Firelands proper, but it's a minor grind. So that's not precisely a rep grind, but, again, close enough to keep here.

4.) Create with professions

Bloodied Wyrmhide Chest (enchant with Mighty Stats, though you will replace this slot in 6.)

The only profession piece I used was the Wyrmhide, but note that it's really a PvP piece with resilience.  When you compare to the Wrap of the Fallen City, they really are close, even though their iLevel is 14 different.  The Wrap has +176 Spi and +150 Haste over Wyrmhide.  The Wyrmhide has +34 Int, +52 Sta, +215 Mastery, +46 Armor, and +144 useless Resilience.  That's nearly a wash.  If you're a leatherworker, consider the Wyrmhide.  If you're not, enjoy your Wrap.

5.) Run PUG random instances (all normals here)

Staff of Siphoned Essences (Grim Batol -- enchant with Hurricane)
* Scepter of Power (Halls of Origination -- enchant with Hurricane)
* Gale of Shadows (Grim Batol)
Anhuurs Hymnal (Halls of Origination)
Azureborne Cloak (Grim Batol -- enchant with Greater Intellect)

The problem with telling you to run instances is that it's impossible to know what will drop or even what instances you'll get when you random PUG.  And you'll want to be random PUGging all of your instances so that you're killing two birds with one stone, banking Justice Points for 6.) as you run instances.  Three instances came up in LFG (almost?) every time for me -- Grim Batol, Halls of Origination, and Lost City of the Tol'vir.  Over and over and over again.  I ran each about 9-11 times before I was done.  That's why this gear comes from Batol and Halls.

These are things I've seen drop once or, more likely, several times.  NEED THEM.  Don't be overly nice.  These are on the list.  You can need them WITHOUT ASKING.  You're a balance druid.  Honestly, you need each.

The best I got are marked with an asterisk if there's more than one option in a slot.  Essentially you need to bag trinkets and weapons (and the cloak) from instances.  Keep your eyes open.  Be patient, and concentrate not on ganking gear but building Justice Points.  Then when a piece you need falls it'll feel like a bonus.

6.) Buy with reward currency

Justice Points:
Stormrider's Regalia Tier 11 Items (4.2)

All non-tier JP gear:
359 Back 1250
359 Finger 1250
359 Trinket 1650
359 Relic 700
346 Head 2200
Leather Armor
Apple-Bent Bough
(AFTER you have 1h weapon)
346 Held In Off-hand 950
Off-hand Frill

(enchant head with Arcanum of Hyjal) (2200 JPs)
(enchant chest with Mighty Stats)
(enchant Apple-Bent Bough with +40 Intellect)

Tol Barad Commendations:
Stump of Time

Let the serious grinds begin.  You've got two types of currency pre-Heroic -- Justice Points from PUGging random normals (140 per dungeon), and Tol Barad Commendations for doing dailies and winning battles in Tol Barad.  These are time consuming and, with Tol Barad, kinda boring, frankly.  Very Shattered Sun from BC, though Shattered Sun was much quicker with fewer deaths and running, iirc.

With the addition of Tier 11 to the list of Justice Point gear in 4.2, this list gets lots longer. You've now got up to about 14,050 JP worth of gear, which would be 101 normal runs. That's crazy.

So let's get the Vestment and Cluster (still the best head pre-Heroic). Then if you've got a one-handed weapon, go with Apple-Bent Bough. If not, save for the Stormrider's Leggings. Why? Because when you go Heroic, you'll want the lower price Tier 12 Valor Point gloves first, I think. If you've got the Furious Kilt from the AH or farming, you could potentially skip the legs here.

When I prepared for Heroics, I got what would now be the equivalent of the...
Apple-Bent Bough
Cluster of Stars
Stormrider's Vestment

That's only 5350 or 39 runs, which seems about right. YMMV. It's hard to say you should get what I got with 4.2 items, though. Still, again, I don't know that there's a better bankable head or off-hand in the game for a soloer pre-Heroic, though. After starting Heroics and their great JP bonuses (70 per boss), I'm slowly backfilling, starting with Stormrider's Leggings.

Honestly, for your long-term planning, I think I'm going Valor Point/Tier 12 gear for gloves (lowest price T12 item) and then chest to get the T12 2P bonus. Keep in mind that I got my Chestguard of Forgetfulness during 4.1, so I don't have a T11 chest. If I did, I'd skip the T11 pants here, and grab T12 gloves and then pants. The math problem here is that you've got three slots' worth of Justice or Valor Point tiered gear and need two to dedicate for any tier bonus. If you get two T11 JP pieces, you'll have to replace one to get the T12 VP gear bonus, meaning you'll've wasted JPs you could've spent on the other stuff in that table, above. To get both T11 and T12 2P bonuses, you have to raid.

Then I'll try to find some guild that'll run The Bastion of Twilight (a low level raid) until I bag the Stormrider's Shoulderwraps, perhaps the most obnoxious shoulders in WoW history (they're on the bottom of that picture with blue feathers and, which the picture lacks, LIGHTNING crackling). Then I'll have both the T11 2P (Tier 11, 2 piece) and T12 2P bonuses without obsoleting any items. So, again, I'd grab those three JP items, above, and start hitting Heroics.

UPDATE 20110711 -- Okay, quickly, after reading Tyler's guide on 4.2 VP gear for locks, I should add that T11 and T12 gloves and legs fall from bosses in Baradin Hold, the raid instance inside of Tol Barad. That's important because you can find PUG raid groups for BH. Because the raid only opens up when your faction controls the battle ground, it's hard to plan a raid. A 2200 VP reward is awesome, though it's painful that we can't get a drop that's not pointed gear from the only commonly PUGged raid. This puts some emphasis on buying the chestpiece as your first T12 item, which might make you less likely to bag the T11 chest here.

Really? There's a raid browser since 3.3? Is all of this info in one place somewhere that I've missed, or is it only here? /sigh END UPDATE

Note that the Fading Violet Sandals are in 1.), the Auction House list, b/c they're BoE. Don't waste your JPs on it. Buy.

Ultimately it's up to you. Just know if you go gloves for the T11 two-piece bonus that you'll prevent yourself from getting the T12 2P bonus as quickly in Heroics without having wasted your JPs -- or finding a serious raiding guild for your second T12 piece (head and shoulders drop from raid bosses), which will also require you gear up something fierce. You're not wrong to keep a crappy head piece, save by not buying Blazewing's Kilt, and instead spend 2200 on legs.

Note that the Chestguard Vestment replaces the Wrap or Wyrmhide you used earlier.

Note that Tol Barad is just for the Stump of Time, and, honestly, it's the toughest piece to get on this list.  Save it until last.  You can PUG Heroics without it for a while if you have to, and Tol Barad is a more enjoyable place to spend your down time between instances than archeology, imo.

Firelands: The Firelands grind info is coming ASAP, but it really looks like you have to raid to get rep. There are a few items from vendors that open after a month or more of grinding that I'll parse out eventually. The raw info's at Wowhead here.


I've left off archeology rewards, though it has a great staff and interesting trinket.  It takes forever.  I can't see suggesting archeology to anyone who plays casually as a way of bagging epic gear, even though it is something you make good progress on with 20 minutes of free time.  The problem is you need about a thousand 20 minute periods to actually get something useful.  I've never flown so much in my life, and I'm not even 150 yet.  BOR-ing.  It's essentially fishing, but without anything useful while you're starting the grind.

Also, with 4.2, the ilevel of these items isn't nearly as good. Is there new Arch stuff in 4.2? If there's not, that's an oversight.


All right.  That should get you to 344 or so with solid DPS within a reasonable amount of time.  Getting everything on this list would push you well beyond 344. You're all ready for Heroics, where you start bagging valor points and start pursuing Tier 11 prereqs.  Only 24 Heroic randoms until you get some gloves...  Good luck.

For more on 4.2, check out MMO Champion and Grey Matter's list. Gray Matter hasn't swapped all his currency costs yet, though, so you're mostly going to view the top 10 or so items per slot.