Because I care, people need to be aware of this game mechanic. For the first time since Patch 2.3, no catch up gear looks to be on the horizon for the casual player. Here are some recent tweets.
I don't think a lot of people understand the significance of this move. I'm going to turn off the old hardcore side of me that's jumping for joy, and put on the old green tinted clerk's hat so you may understand why you should plan for this change so you don't get hurt. Well, at least not too bad.
In the past, the big reason you stockpiled ore, gems and enchants between patches was to take advantage of next patch gear. Raiders are generally in the latest content gear, but there's an enormous population of casuals and alts. Alts became truly popular after patch 3.2 when they threw easy to retain epics to the masses via the tournament instance and easymode raids. We saw an absolute surge of them with the release of 3.3 and the new LFD. Since that time, you could count on the legions of unwashed masses of alts and casuals to snag this loot, run to their local AH and sharpen it up with your cut gems and enchants from Day 1 of the patch. By Cataclysm each patch represented a gold mine since people simply capped themselves out prior to the patch, then bought all the last tier's goodies as fast as possible.
Apparently, this will not be the case moving forward. The developers have decided from the looks of it that you have the opportunity to catch up via Looking for Raid and through reputations offered. After all, casuals wanted access to gear at their own pace, and Blizzard offered it in these two ways. Regardless of your opinions about these both being mandatory to even progress in normal mode raiding (pashah, right), these are now mandatory to see the content of the game if you are a casual player. Linear Progression = Classic and TBC Progression. The new mantra seems to be the old mantra, if you wish to see the content you will stay subbed and play through it like everyone else.
Ok, let's take a break here. What's in it for me? At this point, and IF they follow through here, you'll have hundreds of thousands of returning players who exited the game early into MoP. I have dozens of people in my casual guild that haven't logged in since late October, and they are generally in sub 463 gear and some have a few 476 pieces on. So when they wake up Patchmas morning, download and resub, they're not going to be seeing the new content right away. I look forward to the posts asking for this gear, only to be pointed to LFR and the daily machine. Yes Virginia, Blizzard killed Santa Claus.
So what's a casual player to do here? My alts need gear, too. (Mind you, I raid my alts in LFR and do dailies across several characters weekly, so this won't affect me, but it makes me think about what others will experience). Item level to enter the new LFR is going to probably be in the low 480s or high 470s and I'm going to guess 477 since they do odd things like that. To hit this item level, a person just needs to acquire a decent mix of 476/489 from raids and valor rewards. The fastest route to ilvl has always been to purchase the gear.
Hello Blacksmiths, Leatherworkers, and Tailors.
Don't get too excited about PvP crafted, this will be granted ilvl 458.
So with 458, you can't even queue LFR. People are going to be really excited when they notice they got 0-1 drops in their initial runs. I'm currently working my paladin, and thanks to bad luck I had to spend 3 weeks running the initial wings just to queue for the next tier. I cheated however, I crafted 2 epics and kept them in the bags unequipped and sold them after I got a piece to drop for each slot. WHAT? Still not fixed, confirmed gang. Get used to it.
The real answer to skip ahead will be to get Sha gear, T1 PvP gear (assuming they're going to do like they've been doing here and boost it to about 488/489 and make it all grindable and do not fix it to where it prevents people from hitting the queue), or purchase 476/496 BOEs off the AH.
Edit: One opportunity has come up (again Mith). If they were to convert 489 and under Valor gear - the stuff you get through dailies - to being available for JP, this could create a small market. This would of course assume the majority has their reps in line, and we all know that people can't be asked to do dailies on their mains much less their alts.
What was that thing about JC and Enchanting though?
Obviously, if you don't have the massive and easy acquisition, it's not going to be as needed. Over time, it certainly will still be a high turn profession, but I don't think we're going to see the enormous boost to profits like we've seen in the past. The answer here will be the PvPers. They will get their catchup gear, and hopefully they will be able to help reset these languishing markets we've all seen with all the various cuts.
So what do we do between now and then?
Honestly, this is your call. If you are stockpiling gems or enchanting mats, you probably won't see the big boosts we've gotten used to seeing for the past 5 years. Ores probably will get a slight blip on the radar, but I don't foresee the extreme jumps we've seen in recent years.