Kill dragons. Collect epic gear. Flaunt that shit. It’s why we play World of Warcraft, the most popular MMORPG of all time. In celebration of today’s Mists of Pandaria launch, we take a look at the myriad gear sets for each class and decide the best/our favorites based on how praiseworthy, indelible, and all around eye-pleasing they are. Enjoy:
The Best Armor Tiers In World of Warcraft
25 Sep, 2012
Russ: The Onslaught armor epitomizes everything I want in a warrior. When my prized belligerent suits up in this he becomes a spike-laden demigod of war; a goddamn coal-colored locomotive in humanoid form.
Imagine a drove of these spiked juggernauts stomping and howling down the battlefield, droves of arrows rattling in futility off the spiked pauldrons, horses yammering and shying and men scrambling in their path; and these plate-armored horribles never slowing, never faltering even as they trample the fallen and the dead beneath their unshod hooves.
Patrick: The Warrior is my least played class in all of Warcraft, as I’m usually on the receiving end of the calm, fanning breeze that is Bladestorm rather than being the one administering it, but for my money the Battlegear of Wrath (Tier 2) is where it’s at. Because Warriors just don’t look cool unless they’re paying homage to Mega Man bosses.
Warlock Tier 5: Corruptor Raiment
Russ: Oh, you evil huh?
Sure, there might be fancier warlock sets — but none so vile.
The Corruptor Raiments just emanate malevolence — ill-shapen, dark, and deranged as they are. And the skull-skewered spikes protruding from each mantle? The hellish glow in each blood red eye? They all culminate to form the penultimate in baleful; the sort of sinister stuff to make Dark Heart from the Care Bears Movie insanely jealous. Incredible set.
Patrick: The only thing keeping this from being the paramount of all Warlock sets is that pesky, badass-as-all-hell helm from Malefic Raiment (Tier 6/Season 3). You know, the one that periodically features, well… malefic wings sprouting from the warlock. Other than that, yeah, this set rules them all.
Shaman Tier 10: Frost Witch
Russ: The armor of World of Warcraft’s resident spirit talker should portray eminence, but at the same time primitivity and ruggedness. Like this:
So although there are some excellent looking shaman sets (Tier 3 Earthshatterer and Tier 6 Skyshatter), the aforementioned primal balance is best represented in the Tier 10: Frost Witch’s Regalia:
Also, sexy spirit wings are sexy.
Patrick: Periodic visual effects on gear rarely disappoint, and this set is a prime example. All Shamans look imposing, balanced, and telluric in this set. Hell, even that male Draenei up there looks like someone I’d be wary of in a field of battle rather than a complete farce of a combatant, a sick joke played by the Horde-favoring designers at Blizzard like they normally do.
Hunter Tier 6: Gronnstalker Armor
Patrick: Every Hunter set either looks like A) the hunter crudely fashioned makeshift gear after hunting and skinning some arbitrary creature for sport, or B) the product of a third grade Halloween party assignment where the child’s mother created a pirate costume out of scraps of leather. If I had to choose, though, I’d go with Gronnstalker Armor (Tier 6/Season 3). The moving eyes on the shoulders were pretty badass.
Russ: I understand the whole motif Blizzard’s trying for here — hunters should have a very strong relationship with their animal pals and as a result, honor their beast buds in emblematic fashion by wearing their skins; perhaps even believe they take on some of their abilities like skin-walkers from Native American legend. (Thought anything further and we’re treading on Shaman territory.)
Notwithstanding, the whole “I’m gonna wear the thing I just killed as my gear” has run its course. It started off pretty cool with the Dragonstalker Armor and Gronnstalker sets. (The moving cycloptic eye was bad-ass, as Pat said.) But what corny asshole decided this, this, or this would make the wearer feel in any way close to, “Yeah, that’s right. I just killed a fucking 900 foot tall dragon/demigod. Now I get to floss THIS.” A Big Bad Beetleborg tribute? And worse yet, since I love those amphibious bipeds as much as the next guy — a fucking Murloc hide? A creature you triumphed over in Elywnn Forest with a bronze dagger? I’d feel more accomplished wearing Hogger’s mangy hide as a damn keepsake.
I want to go with Tier 4 Demonstalker, just because it resembles a jungle camouflage Predator — the most bad-ass hunter in the galaxy, but Tier 3 Crypstalker is too sexy to deny:
Monk Tier 14
Fat-shit panda Raiden wins! Animality!
Russ: Wait, wrong game… isn’t it? Sure, this upcoming monk set does look suspiciously Thunder God Taoist, but when you’re paying homage to the Far East, the coolie hat becomes sort of requisite. Though if this set’s bonus is “(4)Set: Your Fist of Fury move causes you to shoot lightning bolts from your ass, instantly electrocuting your opponent to death,” it might be time for Midway (and Mel Gibson) to start taking legal action.
Priest: Vestments of Faith (Tier 3)
Patrick: No set in the game looks as righteous and pure as the Vestments of Faith. The whole “floating halo” thing that’s sort of become cliche by this point was started and also arguably perfected by this set; the soft glow of the Light-infused aureola, the faded, detached angel wings sitting behind the priest as her flowing robes cover every part of her but her midriff…
…So it’s also a horny cosplayer perv’s biggest wet dream.
Russ: Angel halos are fine and all, but they’re played out and kind of anticlimactic when they’re the defining feature your gear hinges on; exactly why Tier 5, Avatar Raiment is my Priest choice.
The robes have a decidedly ecclesiastic theme to them, complete with angel wing adornments. The real treat though comes from the wearer’s face enshrouded in shadow from the cowl — an enigmatic touch that elevates this set from merely being what your dad could buy at a Halloween costume shop to something spiritual and sublime.
Rogue: Bloodfang Armor (Tier 2)
Patrick: Rogues are usually blessed with pretty sweet looking sets, but this one definitely takes the cake. I mean, the shoulders are BLOOD RED SPIKES that emit SMOKE from them. And the hood is everything a rogue hood should be; you know, a thick shroud covering any identifying features of a stealthy assassin, not some strange Punisher logo affixed to their faces or cosmetic, semi-useful-at-best spikes protruding from their necks somehow as seen in later sets.
Paladin: Judgement Armor (Tier 2)
Patrick: Here it is, ladies and gentlemen: the Holy Grail of WoW gear design. The measuring stick by which all tiers of armor are compared; the biggest reminder of better times that we experienced in vanilla. For a 1.x set of armor, it was intricately detailed (although if it were released today it would probably be considered ho-hum, since, as the developers once put it, it doesn’t have “Thrall’s head orbiting your shoulderpads”), it’s instantly recognizable, and while a departure from the bright, yellow-and-white knight in shining banana armor archetype that Paladins were originally molded into, it’s grown to be one of the most iconic sets in the WoW universe.
…Never mind the logistics of just how exactly Paladins remain mobile in a kilt made entirely out of steel plate, or the fact that this set has some of the worst set bonuses known to mankind. This gear is the real deal.
I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention Lightbringer Armor (Tier 6/Season 3), because while Judgement Armor is on a level all its own, I actually think Lightbringer is my personal favorite Paladin set. The sword and the scripture adorning the light-infused shoulderpads are incredibly powerful in depicting the mission of the Paladin, and the halo, while floating, still has a plate armor feel. If only this set featured a skirt, we’d be in business.
Russ: I’ll never forget the first time I beheld the Judgement Armor in all its glory. I was still just breaking into the game; only a level 18 on my main, a gnomic warrior.
As I scuttled through the halls of Ironforge, a level 60 friend stopped me from whatever menial task I was performing. I was wearing a few derelict scraps of chainmail, and a shoddy helm that resembled a 1920s leather football helmet. I looked like an absolute sack of garbage.
He led me to the Ironforge Auction House bridge, and standing there, was a pally whose armor glinted in the torchlight like something celestial, something uncovered at a meteor crash site — more regal and intricate than anything I had ever hoped to see in a videogame. I looked on with eyes wide as dinnerplates. At the majestic, becowled greathelm. At the pyramidal pauldrons. The delicious red and gold and white hues. I felt unworthy. Like an old hobo in the presence of royalty or a bon-bon eating housewife in the presence of Oprah. “T-that’s beautiful,” I said, voice cracking, fingers sweaty.
When I saw that Judgement Armor… I knew then that there were things worth striving for in the World of Warcraft. Beautiful, elegant things. A wonderful set that still is the pinnacle of design even to this day.
Death Knight: Darkruned Battlegear (Tier 8)
Patrick: Death Knights are unfortunately missing six sets with which to compare, but the sets Death Knights have been privy to have usually embodied the dark, malicious intent that Death Knights usually display. The best of example of this is the Darkruned Battlegear in my opinion, as it closely resembles the befouled raiments worn by The Lich King himself. A cavalcade of these scourgebringers, each flanking the Jailer of the Damned, creating a true “Army of the Dead” is a truly haunting image for any ardent adventurer.
Druid: Nordrassil Regalia (Tier 5)
While Druids and Shamans share the commonality of their attunement to nature, it’s really more of a druidic thing since Shamans are technically more adept in communing with The Elements rather than nature proper. Therefore, a perfect Druid set should embody the very concept of “nature,” and under that ruleset two sets of gear immediately come to mind. The first is obviously Tier 1, Cenarion Raiment, but I was never too fond of looking like a common piece of shrubbery whilst in the heat of battle.
Tier 5, otherwise known as Nordrassil Regalia, is sort of like the Burning Crusade upgrade to the Cenarion Raiments; the spiritual successor, if you will. They still feature the iconic antlers that adorns the head of Malfurion Stormrage himself as he rules over his fiefdom of the Emerald Dream, but instead of the cheery, kitschy bushes that made up Cenarion’s shoulderpads, you are guarded by sturdy tree bark, complete with rapidly blooming flowers. It’s this attention to detail that puts this set head and shoulders above its predecessor.
Russ: I’ve always found most druid armor to be boring as hell. Their gear as of late looks comparable to what someone might wear for a riveting day of apple picking or rolling down a grassy hill.
Tier 3: Dreamwalker was clearly illustrious, but it was just as its name implied — almost too ethereal and fancy for our rustic shapeshifters. That’s why my choice lay with Tier 2: Stormrage Raiment.
Dignified, down to earth, and somehow pulls off the whole “I have enormous Bullwinkle horns on my head” shtick without looking too retarded.
Mage: Frostfire Regalia (Tier 3)
Patrick: Despite being one of my most played classes, I had the hardest time deciding on my favorite mage set out of any class, and not because they’re all super awesome. Quite the opposite, frankly; they usually suck. Mage sets are sort of difficult to design, because make them too badass and it treads dangerously into Warlock territory, and make them too white and bright and you run the risk of looking like a priest. Mage sets have to exist as an intermediary between these two extremes, and the results are often less than salivatory. Mage sets are more often than not named after historical lands or ideologies based around arcane study (such as Tier 8’s Kirin Tor set or Tier 5’s Tirisfal amor), but I’ve chosen one of the sets that gets back to basics: Tier 3’s Frostfire Regalia.
Frostfire, as its incredibly perfunctory name suggests, is inspired by perhaps the two most iconic specs a mage can choose, and it pulls off this designation flawlessly (I chose the Tier 3 version rather than its Tier 7 recolored siblings simply because, as is the case with almost every class, the originals have way better color schemes.) No other set in the game thusfar makes a mage feel more like a master conjurer of the deadliest elements.