My fellow officers are starting to talk about when to start raiding, and while I agree that we should probably look into it soon, I have to admit that I don't think I'm quite prepared for it yet. I got to eighty-five somewhat more slowly than many, ran some normal instances... but I've only completed one heroic so far. I know that I could do better, but part of me is seriously put off by the gearing up process for some reason, which surprised me because I've always been one of the more dedicated raiders. What has changed?
I started thinking about how I handled the gear reset in previous expansions. In Burning Crusade it didn't really affect me because I didn't get into raiding until a few months after expansion release, and even then I was kind of drafted into it as my guild needed a shadow priest to shackle stuff in Karazhan. I was brought for my utility before anything else, and nobody cared that I had crappy gear. I only learned about things like the hit cap and enchants slowly and over time, but nobody seemed to mind much.
Looking back at BC heroics, they weren't that amazing a source of pre-raid gear either though. There were no "heroic" tags and I had almost forgotten that with the exception of the last boss who dropped an epic, all the previous bosses dropped the same items on heroic as they did on normal, plus some gems and stuff. Wearing full heroic gear before you started raiding wasn't really a requirement, because for many classes there was only a limited amount of heroic gear to begin with. There was a heavy dependence on crafting and quest rewards.
In WOTLK on the other hand the gear curve was so gentle that gearing up happened almost automatically because very little of it was necessary. I know I wasn't the only raider who still wore a lot of her level seventy epics when stepping foot into the new level eighty raids. In addition, heroics and ten-man raids were designed to be alternative gearing paths, so they dropped the same quality of loot. Or in other words, just having run normals meant that you were geared enough to raid.
The Cataclysm system on the other hand seems to be designed with the intent to be very grind-heavy. Run lots of normals to gear up for heroics, run lots of heroics to gear up for raids. I don't actually know how tight the gear requirements for raiding are, but from what I've heard they are tough enough that you'll want to wear the best gear you can possibly get beforehand. Now, thinking back to how people chained heroics in WOTLK that doesn't sound so bad, but Blizzard went back to a model of more challenging heroics in Cataclysm, so chaining them with pugs is actually not recommended. I've only run two so far myself, and while they were fun with my guild, I'm rather intimidated by the notion of attempting those same instances with pugs. So I don't do a lot of runs and gear up very slowly. My old epics mostly had to go before I could even enter the last of the new normal modes because they were dragging my average item level down too much. Sadface.
In addition I'm being told that warlocks and mages don't like spirit anymore now, and Blizzard seems to have itemised accordingly. Maybe I'm just imagining it, but spirit cloth suddenly seems annoyingly rare. For example I was looking for some nice pre-heroic boots for my priesting and the only PvE item I could find where these shoes from normal Halls of Origination. In comparison, my clothie brethren not interested in spirit have a choice between two different pairs of crafted boots (they have resilience but are accessible without actually doing any PvP) and two ilevel 333 quest rewards.
So you run the same couple of normal mode instances that have the only spirit cloth drops over and over, just to have a pug mage or lock who hasn't got the memo about spirit yet outroll you when your item finally drops. Argh.
Dejected, I turned towards reputation rewards where possible, just to find out that the faction with the best rewards for my class and spec is the only new Cataclysm faction for which you can't grind reputation by running dungeons with a tabard, and the only way to get your rep with them up is to grind dailies in Tol Barad. I gave this a try in my holy spec and had to run for my life after the second pull. I don't remember the last time soloing as a healer was this painful; my damage is piddly compared to the mobs' massive health pools, I run oom after every other kill and getting adds leaves you no choice but to run or die. I eventually caved in and sacrificed my PvP disc spec for a shadow soloing spec so as to not be completely useless on my own. But I'm a healer, damn it, why do I have to struggle through killing things to get better healing gear?
I guess I will have to push through this rough spot somehow, because it would set a rather bad example if not even the officers are ready to raid in terms of gear. But damn it, gearing up has never been this un-fun.