With my previous three posts covering the rest of my primer, it's finally time to get down to the nitty gritty of selecting gear as a bear. Since I don't intend to waste my time (and yours) with a long list of "Best in Slot" gear, I'll try to cover what I see as the important things to focus on, then swing through how to gem and enchant your gear to get the most out of it.
The proverbial elephant in the room as far as stats bears look for on gear is, of course, stamina. Due to the boosts bears get, they get more out of every point of stamina than any other class. Being a tank, this is a good thing - tanks LOVE stamina. The dangerous part, the hole that far too many people fall into, is that you can't focus on stamina to the abandonment of your other stats. It doesn't matter if you have a million hit points if you can't mitigate or dodge any incoming attacks.
As such, always remember that if you can't do direct upgrades to stamina and other stats at the same time, it's ok to lose a small amount of stamina for a larger chunk of agility, for example. These sideways upgrade leave you with a little lower ability to survive burst damage, but higher long-term survivability, as increased dodge, crit rating, and attack power mean you'll take less damage over the course of a long fight, which reduces the stress of healing you and the mana cost to your healers of keeping you alive. Higher stamina does contribute to that as well (due to Improved Leader of the Pack), but less so than other stats. This will really be important when I talk about gemming and enchanting.
Outside of stamina, of course, the most important two stats are armor and agility. Armor is your best and primary source of damage mitigation. Agility is your primary source of dodge and critical strike chance, and adds to your armor. Thankfully items with higher armor are generally going to have higher stamina and agility, making *most* item choices in that respect easy. So the short version of things to pay attention to is stamina, agility, and armor, in that order.
Keep in mind, of course, that you need to factor in the effect gems have. An item with 100 stamina and a blue gem slot that is otherwise identical to an item with 120 stamina and no gem slot is better, because you put a solid majestic zircon in that item slot and boom! 130 stamina!
Secondary and tertiary stats you'll want to pay attention to are hit rating, dodge rating, crit rating, and expertise rating, in no particular order. Hitting the hit cap is good as it removes your miss chance, and expertise removes the opponent's parry and dodge chances (although you're highly unlikely to hit the 400+ expertise rating to completely remove enemy dodge chance.) Crit rating, as mentioned previously, is a mitigation stat for bears, and dodge helps out our one avoidance stat.
Gemming goes hand-in-hand with gear selection, but there's a lot less choices to make. Blue gems should (almost) always be solid majestic zircon (or solid dragon's eye, if you're a jewelcrafter). Red gem slots should be filled with regal or shifting dreadstones (dodge/agility + stamina). Yellow gem slots should be jagged or vivid eye of zul (crit rating/hit rating + stamina). Notice that I've used purple and green gems to get stamina along with the other stats in non-blue gem slots. Despite what I said earlier, stamina is still the most important thing out there.
As far as meta gems go... The only meta gem worth mentioning is the austere earthsiege diamond. A bunch of stamina and 2% additional armor on top of our other armor bonuses is awesome.
What I see a lot of folks do (looking at armory profiles) is stack stamina to the exclusion of all else. No matter what color gem slot, unless they need something else to satisfy the requirements of a meta gem, they have a solid majestic zircon there. The really sad part, IMO, is that because these folks have a really high hp pool, they will get taken on a lot of raids in which their healers will struggle to keep them alive, because they've ignored their avoidance and mitigation needs. The socket bonuses and gem bonuses to get those socket bonuses (in my case) boost my agility by 50+ points and my crit rating by 30+. Do not ignore your other stats!
Enchants are almost impossible to cover without going slot-by-slot, so here goes.
The best head and shoulder enchants are all arcanums/inscriptions, purchasable from various quartermasters. For head items, despite the +20 defense rating being mostly useless to us, the +37 stamina makes Arcanum of the Stalwart Protector our best option. For shoulders, you have a choice between a Sons of Hodir Greater Inscription of the Pinnacle for dodge and defense rating, or my choice, the Greater Inscription of the Gladiator for the stamina.
For the chest slot, powerful stats for +10 all stats is probably the best choice, although you can use a Heavy Borean Armor kit for +18 stamina.
On the back side, there are a couple of options, but I believe the +22 to agility trumps the others.
For the feet and hands, the Heavy Borean Armor kit is not a bad choice, although there is a direct upgrade on the feet for 22 stamina. I've seen several folks take the boot enchant that grants 15 stamina and a minor run speed increase, but I've never felt that's really worth it. I believe there is an agility enchant for the hands that might be a small upgrade, but I'm still using the HBA kit.
For your legs, the leatherworking upgrade that grants +55 stamina and +22 agility is by far the best option available to you. It's jormungar leg reinforcements for those of us that are leatherworkers, frosthide leg armor for everybody else.
On your wrists, the best enchant for non-leatherworkers is the +40 stamina one. For leatherworkers who get Fur Lining - Stamina, we can get +102.
If you are an enchanter, you can enchant your rings, there (might) be a better shoulder inscription for inscriptionists, blacksmiths can add a couple extra sockets (and don't forget that everybody can buy an eternal belt buckle to add a socket to your belt). But I'm getting a little ahead of myself, because I'm going to add a short discussion on...
I originally chose skinning and leatherworking as my professions because hey, I wear leather and that way I can get mats for my leatherworking without spending money. I've since become a leatherworker / jewelcrafter for reasons that I'll get to in a minute.
The gathering skills used to do just that - gather mats and nothing else. Blizzard has since given them each their own unique benefits. Skinning grants critical strike rating, Mining grants 60 stamina, and Herbalism gives you an instant self-HoT.
When looking for ways to improve my tanking abilities, I came to the subject of professions and decided that a) I wanted to have professions that were useful to me for both healing and tanking, and b) I wanted to get the most stamina that I could out of my professions. As such, while critical strike rating is useful for healing and tanking, it doesn't get me any more stamina. So I decided to get something that would help me across the board, while still getting me more stamina. I came to the following conclusions regarding the stamina professions gain you. I did not seriously investigate other professions, but it is my understanding that none of them provide you with as much as a 60 stamina bonus.
Mining: 60 stamina.
Enchanting: 60 stamina. Both rings can be enchanted with +30 stamina.
Blacksmithing: 60 stamina. Two additional sockets for solid majestic zircon.
Leatherworking: 62 stamina. The only thing you get that cannot be achieved by anyone else is the +102 stamina wrist enchant. The next best enchant is +40.
Jewelcrafting: 63 stamina. Replace 3 of your +30 solid majestic zircon with +51 solid dragon's eye.
Since leatherworking and jewelcrafting also provided me with their maximum benefits for my healing and DPS gear sets, I settled on the two of them.
... and at long last, I'm done. I'll review some T10 gear from the PTR soon, and maybe get into some real life commentary. Maybe. If I feel like it.
Hope everybody had a safe and fun weekend!
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