I love Heirloom gear.
Heirloom gear is equipment specifically designed to help you level. The stats on them scale to the equivalent to a very good blue item of your current level, so as you gain levels, your gear improves with you. You can enchant them with any vanilla WoW enchant, which gives you gear that is always enchanted. Some of the pieces give bonuses to your earned XP, while others give you access to stats (like Hit, Haste, and Resilience) that are very hard or impossible to find below level 60. And you can mail then between all your characters on a server, no matter what faction!
In many ways, that last attribute is the most desirable one about Heirlooms — they are Bind to Account items, which makes them usable by many of your alts. The time spent acquiring them can be paid back by their usefulness to several of your alts, in addition to the time they save in leveling.
HEIRLOOMS IN BATTLEGROUNDS
Heirlooms are great for leveling, to be sure, but they also shine in the battlegrounds. I’d go so far to say that if you have access to an endgame character and are fighting in any of the pre-80 leveling brackets, not having heirloom gear is putting you at a disadvantage. While not everyone will be running around with Heirlooms, enough do that when you encounter one it will not be a question of player skill versus player skill – it will be about the massive disparity in gear, which in turn manifests itself as character ability.
See, there are three factors that affect your play in both PvP and PvE: the kinds of abilities you have available (as determined by race/class), your character’s skill in executing those abilities (determined by skills and gear), and your ability as a player. Once you start, you don’t really have any control over the first factor, so it comes down to improving your character’s skill and gear, as well as your own. These are the things you can control in PvP – you can’t control your opponents, you can’t control Ghostcrawler nerfing your class, but you can make both you and your character as good as they can be.
And in nearly all cases, Heirlooms let you do that. Equipping an enchanted Heirloom is equvalent to having a best in slot, or near best in slot, item, no matter what level you are. This shifts your focus in a battleground from your character’s ability — can he or she do the things you ask them to do — to your skill and proficiency with the class. It’s no longer a question of gear, it’s about you learning your class and how it relates the the battleground.
As if personal development and mastery of your class wasn’t enough incentive, of course, there’s also that sweet, sweet bonus to experience gained in battlegrounds with Heirlooms. In case you needed another reason to go out and get some.
GETTING HEIRLOOM GEAR
Heirloom gear is available by one of three currencies available to endgame characters: Emblems of Heroism, Champion’s Seals, and Stone Keeper’s Shards. All of these currencies are available through PvE play, while Stone Keeper’s Shards are also available as PvP quest rewards for the Wintergrasp weekly quests. There’s a fourth Heirloom item available from fishing, but that’s an entirely different kind of grind.
Emblems can be somewhat confusing when you first reach level 80; basically, there are two types of emblems available at any given time, depending on what the current endgame raid is. Right now, Emblems of Frost are rewarded for killing Icecrown raid bosses, or doing the dungeon/raid quests, while Emblems of Triumph drop from all heroic northrend bosses. These can be converted into earlier Emblems by downgrading them at different vendors — my favorite place to do this is with Usuri Brightcoin in the Underbelly, because she allows you to move straight from Frost to Heroism without switching vendors, if you choose. There are three Heirloom vendors in Dalaran: Brammold Deepmine in the city proper, Enchanter Erodin in the Sunreaver’s Sancutary, and Enchanter Isian in the Silver Covenant enclave. These vendors all sell gear itemized for PvE.
The same gear is also available from Dame Evniki Kapsalis, the Argent Crusader’s Quartermaster at the Argent Tournament Grounds in Icecrown. Dame Kapsalis takes Champion’s Seals (the reward from various Argent Tournament quests and bosses) but she doesn’t take American Express… er, Emblems of Heroism. Doing all the dailies and a Heroic instance of ToC will get you
1513 Seals a day. Considering most of the Heirloom gear she sells starts at 60 Seals, this means you can get an additional Heirloom every 5 days or so. She also has some great other gear to buy (especially consider the Argent Crusader’s Tabard, for the free port to Icecrown, and the Argent Pony Bridle, which gives you access to a mailbox, bank, or vendor) but if you are looking to gear up alts quickly, doing both random heroics and the AT dailies are a great way to do it.
A different set of Heirloom gear, this with more of a PvP focus, is sold in Wintergrasp. You can only access them when your side controls it, but Knight Dameron and Stone Guard Mukar both sell a great selection of PvP gear that I may have mentioned once or twice on this site. They trade Heirlooms for Stone Keeper’s Shards, rewards for the Wintergrasp PvP quests and looted off bosses (normal and heroic) when your faction controls Wintergrasp Keep. These Heirlooms are tuned more for PvP, and are one of the only ways to get Resilience at lower levels.
The fourth place to get an Heirloom, and easily the most difficult, is from Elder Clearwater, the host of the Kalu’ak Fishing Derby. He doesn’t sell Heirlooms per se, but he does offer a very nice Heirloom ring as a reward for winning the Derby. The Dread Pirate Ring is itemized so it’s good for pretty much every class, and it gives an experience bonus to boot, so if you can get it: do so. But it’s not easy.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT GEAR
There are some great tools out there for evaluating Heirloom gear. My personal favorite is the Heirloom Items Scale, which allows you to see how all of the gear will look at a specific level. (This really helps when trying to twink for a specific bracket, for instance, but also when comparing against normal blue items. Knowing when something will be outdated is useful). You can also do a general search for all Heirlooms on Wowhead, which will return not only the gear, but also commendations, enchants, arcanii, and other cool BoA stuff that you can get from your level 80s. There’s a lot of gear to look at, and in most cases you should be able to equip your new character with Heirloom shoulders, chestpiece, weapon, and trinkets, for any of the three major specs. (If you have the ring, you lucky bastard, you already know you can use it too.) The one glaring exception is the lack of an Heirloom shield, which would benefit Protection Warriors, Paladins, and Enhancement Shamans.
For leveling, you will generally want to start out with a set of shoulders and a chest piece to get the maximum XP bonus available. For battleground use, several items are clear standouts, though.
- The Inherited Insignia of the Alliance / Horde is practically a necessity for any non-human characters you’re leveling. While it has the longer 5-minute cooldown of the lower-level Insignias, it provides Resilience at levels where you would not normally get it and is superior to the PvP trinkets available up through level 70. At level 70 you should be able to pick up the Medallion of the Alliance / Horde with the superior 2-minute CD without much trouble.
- The Swift Hand of Justice should be your other trinket, and if you are human, you should have two. Even if you are a caster who could benefit from the spellpower of the Discerning Eye of the Beast, having Haste on your actions in low-level battlegrounds is exceptionally useful, and conserving health is more important than mana. Even if you’re playing non-humans, I still think you should have two of these, because they are so good to have when you don’t need a PvP trinket.
- Heirloom shoulders are exceptionally potent at early levels, because shoulder items don’t start appearing until the late teens. The Exquisite Sunderseer Mantle is possibly the best single purchase you can make, since it gives the XP bonus in addition to reasonable stats, while being the one piece everyone can wear. Just ignore the spellpower and you’ll be okay! Other standouts are the Exceptional Stormshroud Shoulders (for just about every melee class), the Strengthened Stockade Pauldrons (for warriors, DKs, and pallys), and the Aged Pauldrons of the Five Thunders (for shamans, hunters, and holy pallys.) The Lasting Feralheart Shoulders are okay (especially if you’re playing a balance/resto druid or shaman) but the Pristine Lightforge Spaulders are … well, they’re pretty bad, and usable only by Holy pallys — who would probably prefer the Intellect on the Aged Pauldrons of the Five Thunders.
- The Grand Staff of Jordan is a monster of a weapon. Resilience, stamina, and hit, all in the same weapon? Enchanted with either Spellpower or Mighty Intellect, this is a great staff for many classes, not just casters. Similarly, the Dignified Headmaster’s Charge can be used by more than just casters; anyone who needs Intellect can benefit from it. (*cough, cough HUNTER WEAPON cough*.)
Obviously, you need to consider your class and spec first when choosing heirlooms, and an appropriate weapon and chest piece are vital. But if you’re just getting started, or are on an Emblem diet to fuel your main, consider the above pieces first.
IT’S NOT (JUST) ABOUT THE GEAR
Yes, I love Heirloom gear. I think it’s a great addition to WoW and can make leveling a real joy. But it makes it a joy not because you’re OP — though you are — but because you can focus on other elements of the character, like how to use their abilities better in PvE and PvP. Heirlooms remove the distraction of having to constantly replace your gear as you explore Azeroth (and beyond.) I don’t have to walk into a battleground worrying that my gear is substandard; I have the best gear I can get for my level.
Everything after that point is up to me, the player. And now it’s up to you.
Enjoy your Heirlooms.