I had a conversation with DK and Danny yesterday about finding gear improvements. I was a bit surprised that they weren't using Wowhead, which I've found to be the best approach, other than a specific list compiled on a wiki or blog.
There are other tools too. Most notable is of course the Armory, which will tell you improvements for your gear. I don't like their presentation, though. It's too tough to sort through different possibilities, and you never know how they're evaluating what would be an 'improvement'.
Wowhead gives you a lot more control, and it's easier to see why a given item is ranked ahead of another. Let's work through an example. In my tanking gear, I have a green belt, Manimal's Cinch. It's decent, but is there anything better I can find? Let's see what kind of better tanking belts I might track down.
- Open Wowhead.
- Using the dropdowns, select Database > Items > Armor > Leather > Waist. Wowhead shows you a list of all leather belts.
- Now comes the fun part. Click on Create a Weight Scale. For this question, we'll choose Druid, Feral (Tank), and Rare gems.
- Now look at the results. First, note that we're down to 297 results. Wowhead has screened out anything that a) druids can't use, and b) has no value to a druid tank. But that's still a lot of items. Let's rule out low-level stuff. In the first Required Level box, put 68. Now click the Apply Filter button. That limits us to items for level 68 players and up, and we end up with 57 belts. Much better.
(Actually there's a better way to do this, using the Level box. This is tied to an item's iLvl -- an internal stat that tracks how powerful something is. I should write more on that sometime... but we'll keep it simple today.)
This isn't that different from the Armory list, but there are some very nice features. First, you can scan down the item names and get a good sense for where they come from, whether it's a drop (and from who, what instance, and whether it's Heroic), or PvP, or Arena, or crafting. The Armory tries to do this too, but the names are truncated and there's not as much detail.
Now look at the right-hand column. It shows a numerical score. This is a rating of the item, specific for a feral tank. That gives you a quick metric for judging how much of an improvement it is. Manimal's Cinch lists at 22.02. As an example, the [Bladeangel's Money Belt], which drops in Zul'Aman, is a 24.03 — so you know it's only a slight improvement. (Much better for Cat druids of course, but that's a different rating scale.)
What stands out on this list?
- The best tanking belt in the game is [Belt of Natural Power], with a 36.82 ranking. It's a leatherworker-crafted item... and it's BoE, so you could buy it at auction or have someone make it for you.
- The next best belt is the [Guardian's Leather Belt], a PvP reward that requires 17,850 honor and 40 AB marks. That's a good chunk of honor, but it's very grindable in battlegrounds.
- The #3 belt is [Waistguard of the Great Beast]. You can buy it from G'eras for 60 BoJ. That's grindable too... but look again at the Belt of Natural Power. The hardest materials are two Nether Vortex, which you can buy from G'eras for 30 BoJ. So if you can find a leatherworker with the pattern, that's really a cheaper use of the badges.
(As it happens, you can customize the rating scale to reflect your specific needs. But that will be a post for another day!)
There's plenty to explore from here. You can play with the Filter settings in Wowhead, to (for instance) only show PvP rewards, or to rule out anything with +agi less than 20. Or you could switch from belts to bracers, by switching to the Wrist slot. This is where Wowhead really starts to shine over the Armory, because you can slice and dice the results in so many ways.
The biggest limits in this approach are trinkets and idols. The stats, procs, and Use functions on these are a lot more difficult to compare. So you'll need to use other approaches here. Overall though, this is a great way to evaluate gear, and can be a lot of fun to spend time with.