I've recently (last weekend) hit level 85 with my rogue in World of Warcraft. There's a special place in my heart for this rogue, as she was the original use of the name "Jiyambi" and was my first "main" in WoW. But at the moment, she's terribly far behind the other characters in my guild, and the task of catching up to them in order to be able to participate in current raids is somewhat daunting. I thought I'd share my philosophy on how to catch up quickly, in case anyone else is in a similar position to me.
Know Your Class
If you want a simpler approach, just punch your class and spec into the item filters in WoWhead. This will give you the Wowhead developer's opinions on what the best stat weight is for you. For rogues, stats are very simple, and I've found Wowhead's suggestions agree pretty much exactly with the "equivalence points" assigned by the Elitist Jerks folks. However, for classes with more complex stat needs, such as healers, your mileage may vary.
Know The Gear
Not surprisingly, in order to get good gear, you need to know what's out there. It would be really unfortunate to spend thousands of gold getting a cape crafted only to discover there is an awesome cape as a quest reward (incidentally, there IS an awesome cape as a quest reward for the Firelands quests).
One resource for finding gear, which can also be found on the Elitist Jerks website, or downloaded and run locally from your computer, is Rawr. Rawr is a simulator which actually tries to simulate combat based on whatever gear you feed into it, taking into account spec, rotation, glyphs, and even what buffs you usually have on, how long the fight is, or how much you have to move or switch targets. It's somewhat clunky, however, and takes up a lot of computer resources to run, making it difficult to run alongside WoW on older computers. It also is sometimes not actively maintained, depending on your class, so use it with caution. For my rogue, as gear for rogues is relatively simple, I primarily use Rawr to determine the best trinkets. Trinkets can't easily be ranked based on equivalence points alone, and simulators are great for finding out exactly how useful one might be.
Wowhead is definitely high up in the ranking for finding gear - it is a database, after all. You can use their pre-built stat weighting to look for gear or enter your own, and add filters for your class, armor type, and how the gear is acquired. In my recent gear quest, I used this tool almost exclusively. I found it to be far more transparent and much less buggy than Rawr, but again my class is very simple. For more complex classes such as healers, Rawr is nice since it takes your current gear into account when determining upgrades.
I kept track of all of the potential gear and it's stats in an Excel sheet. This is above and beyond what most people will want to do, but I'm an engineer. I love spreadsheets and I'm not afraid to admit it. Having everything in an excel sheet let me see at a glance what the stats were on the gear, helped me automatically calculate equivalence points, and reference a sheet with my current gear to determine the amount of an upgrade. Which brings me to my next point...
Know The Upgrade
So you know what it means for gear to be good and you know what good gear is out there and where to get it. The next question is what to do first. I organized my gear list by source. I had all the gear available in heroics into groups based on which heroic you could find it in. Similarly all the gear available by reputation was separated into groups. This let me pick which rep I wanted to grind first, and which heroics I was most interested in running. I also looked at what was available in justice points - these items would be pretty easy to come by, and it would be a shame to grind reputation for an item when you could get one of comparable quality (or better!) simply through justice points. For rogues, it's really easy to rate how big an upgrade something is because we have a value known as equivalence points - essentially, how much an item will contribute to our DPS. For other classes, though, upgrades are more qualitative, so you'll have to decide for yourself how to rate these.
Keep It Simple
Of course, all this might not be necessary for your situation. I enjoy creating spreadsheets and figuring out the exact most efficient use of my gear grinding time. But you may simply pop on once a week and run whatever dungeon you get in the random finder. If that's the case, here's my suggestions for you:
- Get the addon RatingBuster and turn on stat summaries. Every piece of gear you mouseover will now be compared to what you currently have. When a piece of gear drops in a dungeon, if the green numbers are for stats you like (see Know Your Class above), and they offset any red numbers, then it's an upgrade!
- Always wear a tabard for a rep you haven't maxed out yet. Max out the rep for your arcanum faction (look it up on Wowhead if you don't know which one you need) and Therazane first, as you will always need an arcanum and inscription (head and shoulder enchants). Get all your reps to at least friendly and carry the tabards around for those you haven't maxed yet so you can switch if you max one out. Each time you reach a new level, either look it up on Wowhead or just head to the vendor and use your RatingBuster addon to check for upgrades.
- When you are about to cap out on Justice or Valor points, head to the vendor and buy something that's an upgrade. At least at first there will be a LOT of things to upgrade. Try to find something not easily replaceable via rep or quest, but if you don't want to do a bunch of research, just replace the item that has the lowest ilevel in your current gear. These days it's somewhat of a waste to buy blue gear with your Justice points, so try to stay with purples.
As always, it's important that you have fun as you work on your gear. It's a game after all! If you absolutely can't stand a dungeon, DON'T RUN IT even if it happens to have good gear. Having good gear is not worth being unhappy while you are supposed to be having fun.