Patch 5.1 brings absolutely no changes to our core mechanics, so… carry on? Unless you’ve been heavily using Turn Evil or Hand of Salvation, you might not notice a difference.
It does, however, bring up some interesting questions regarding gear. In particular, now we can spend valor points to upgrade existing gear. Since we’re limited to 1000 valor a week, and 3000 total, we’re going to have to spend some of it between now and the next raid tier (5.2, presumably), or else we’re wasting it. So the obvious question that comes up is “what pieces of gear should I spend valor on?” There are some new items added from the new factions (Operation: Shieldwall for Alliance, Dominance Offensive for Horde). Since this isn’t a beginner’s blog, I’m just going to briefly touch on the new gear and then get to the meaty valor upgrading question.
New Reputation Gear
Unfortunately, most of the new items are fairly disappointing for tankadins, at least if you adhere to the Control gearing strategy. Seal of the Shieldwall (horde equivalent) and Sabatons of the Sullied Shore (horde equivalent) are both dodge/parry itemized, and the Vaporshield Medallion (horde equivalent) trinket is dodge with a mastery proc. Altogether uninspiring.
Edit: It looks like Seal of the Shieldwall is actually dodge/expertise itemized – wowhead is incorrectly showing the tooltip for Alani’s Inflexible Ring. That makes it a considerably better ring, and may be worth picking up depending on what else you have access to.
Waistplate of Immobility (horde equivalent) is parry/hit and has reduced strength itemization, though. Unfortunately it only has one socket, so it has trouble keeping up with other options in the stamina department. That said, it’s still arguably the best belt you can pick up before heroic gear, so it’s something to consider if you aren’t planning on clearing heroic MSV/Terrace any time soon.
Valor Upgrade Strategies
Determining which items to upgrade will depend on what you’re trying to maximize. For many of us (particularly 25-man raiders), stamina is the biggest factor in our choices. We maintain hit/expertise caps through reforging (and gems where necessary), but try and use most of our gem itemization on stamina. If that’s your gearing philosophy, trinkets one place you might think about spending that valor. There are only 3 stamina trinkets to choose from: Lao-Chin’s Liquid Courage, Relic of Niuzao, and Jade Warlord Figurine. That’s it – there are no other stamina trinkets in Heart of Fear or Terrace. As such, if you’re using stamina trinkets, you’ll be wearing these three straight through until the next raiding tier. Since Lao-Chin’s is guaranteed to not be replaced, it’s probably the first place to dump valor. You get +62 stamina from the first 750 Valor points and +64 from the next 750, for a total of +126 stamina when fully upgraded.
Note, however, that trinkets aren’t truly your biggest stamina upgrade. Helm, Chest, and Legs have the highest raw itemization factor of all pieces, so they’re likely to be the biggest upgrade. Let’s consider the normal-mode protection tier set: Upgrading the head, chest, or legs twice gives you +142 total stamina and +105 extra secondary rating. However, there’s the chance you’ll replace any or all of those pieces with heroic gear, making that valor expenditure short-lived. If you’re not likely to see many heroic mode kills before the next raid tier, it might be better to spend valor on those three slots before you go to trinkets. If you’re planning on being decked out in heroic gear before 5.2, then use it on the heroic helm/chest/legs as you accumulate them, and maybe upgrade your trinkets while you wait for those drops.
It’s worth noting that trinkets are still better (in terms of raw stamina) than any of the other slots. None of the other slots give more than 1600 stamina, with one notable exception: Heroic Elite Deepwater Greatboots, which are just high-enough ilvl to reach that stamina plateau.
If you’re not focusing on increasing pure stamina – maybe you’re trying to maximize DPS, mastery, haste, or something else – then you want a more general strategy. In that case, you want to prioritize upgrades based on Slot Modifier, which is what governs how much stat allocation each item gets. Since helms, chests, and legs all have the highest slot modifier (1.00), they have the most stats and thus benefit the most from additional ilvl upgrades. Shoulders, gloves, belts, and boots have a slot modifier of 0.75, so they’re the next tier of upgrades once you’re done with the “big three.” Bracers, cloaks, necks, rings, and shields have a modifier of ~0.56, so they’re the third tier upgrades. One-handed weapons fall into the last tier (~0.42), giving you the smallest raw stat upgrade. Trinkets are somewhere between the top two tiers, not far behind the big three slots.
There’s also one or two caveats to mention here as well. First, shields have over triple the armor itemization of other slots, so while they’re one of the weakest raw stamina upgrades, in practice they’re on-par with the second tier of items in terms of survivability. For example, you get an additional ~250 armor by fully upgrading a heroic Steelskin, and you won’t be replacing it, so it’s something I’d consider before upgrading shoulders, gloves, belts, or boots.
Weapons will generally give you the biggest raw DPS upgrade, provided the stats on them are good. Helms, chests, and legs come close thanks to the raw strength itemization, so a chest with expertise/haste or hit/haste itemization might even match a weapon upgrade. But generally, you’ll be better off upgrading your weapon if you want raw DPS.
And again, your personal upgrade path will depend on what gear you have and have access to. If you’re not going to replace something until 5.2, then that may take precedence over something you’ll be replacing in a few weeks. I’ll probably be hitting my trinket up first, but I may skip upgrading Relic of Niuzao in the hopes that a Jade Warlord Figurine will drop. Your mileage may vary.