ow hai. I usually do a lot of reading and theorycrafting myself but I've been wildly busy lately, just now started to read up on mages and their gear after 3.2, and she's my main even though I've spent most of my time on gearing the paladin. Just bought the last Runed orb for badges on my mage and had the crafted 226 tanking belt made (had the Conq one but the time and cost for a sidegrade was well worth it).
First, I'd like to point out that I know there are a few gaps in my gear (Audacity armory link in profile) that I'm trying to fill - tanking ring and trinkets mainly, but tanking weapon, cloak, pants and bracers are on the list too. I am also aware that my gear is a mishmash of threat, AV and EH stuff. I'd also like to point out that I am a neatness whore and I like to fill socket bonuses even if it would be better to just stick 30 stam in there. At 34.5k unbuffed I feel very safe in Ulduar-25 and I tanked 25 man beasts last night with little problems anyway (except trying to beat the server shutdown timer, random lolpugs ftw ) so I'm not that fussed tbh.
Anyway. This results in the type of random gear that you get from gearing a tankadin in mainly heroics, and I don't have time/resources to get several offpieces to build clean cut EH/AV/Threat sets just yet, so I am looking for solid upgrades that will be good enough to be usable in different sets and last a long time. I have only random Triumph income (IE I tanked team 2 CC10 last week, Anub only, and sometimes I'm lucky to find a PuG but nothing consistent) from anything than the daily heroic so I really want to make them count on this toon.
I went for the libram first, seeing as that was the biggest upgrade for me at the time (I had a ilvl 138 libram before) and that people generally saw it as a very solid, long lasting avoidance piece. I will get my 35th badge today, meaning that I'll be able to get the ring if I should so choose. Howevever, using a ilvl 200/219 setup there's plenty of room for improvement from raid drops already and I do get into PuG's or the odd guild run on this toon. I have trinkets I'm pretty happy with, have a crab in my bags (just recently powerlevelled JC, had the cash but not the time - BS comes next) and some odds and ends ilvl 200 I switch depending on content and for an on-use AV trinket, I'd probably switch crab in rather than shell out a massive amounts of badges for a trinket that "only" gives armor when it's off.
I'd probably only look to pick up T9 pieces from VoA and not spend badges on them, even if someone says something like "but lol gloves+pants are in the BiS set!!1". I am looking to move away from the T8 stuff, the set bonus and the good stats were just a crutch to get me going, after all, 116 badges are pretty easy to farm and very good when going from quest blues, so they are just a crutch at this particular moment.
I usually don't hold out on grabbing gear upgrades, but is it worth it to put off getting the ring (or possibly trinket) and save more to get one of the more solid badge pieces, and instead hope for 219/226 stuff to drop in the random PuG's I'm in? I tend to run with other warriors or paladins since they are the most prevailing on my server, so there's often competition, but in the month or so it will take me to get enough for one of the expensive pieces, I'll have plenty chances to both pick up T9 from VoA and rings from random pugs and guild runs.
Having a little trouble with the Armory at the moment mate (it's down I think) so I took a look on your cached character sheet on wow-heroes. Apologies in advance if the wow-heroes info is slightly out of date as a result.
Firstly I would use Monarch Crab over Essence of Gossamer - not only does the Crab have a higher EH potential now (due to epic gems) but it also has a strong on-use ability. Essence of Gossamer's proc has always kinda sucked but in 3.1 and onward it's basically worthless. Pretty OP for boosting people through low-level dungeons though, heh. So yeah, first step would be switch to the Crab and keep the Black Heart. See if you can get a pug for Ignis-25 for Hear of Iron or Ignis-10 for Furnace Stone. The only other trinket worth its salt in Ulduar is from Yogg-10 so you probably won't get a pug that goes far enough for that.
I would personally get the Triumph Badge ring (especially if you're not after the Tier 9 set just yet) as that will work very nicely alongside Mark of the Relentless with it's huge EH potential.
If you can afford it, I'd recommend mirroring what you did with your Mage and investing in Runed Orbs to "sidegrade" to the crafted belt - Indestructible Plate Girdle. It's not a huge upgrade, but it has two sockets naturally, a Stam socket bonus and you can add yet more Stam with an Eternal Belt Buckle.
While you're grinding VoA-25, beg steal or borrow to get hold of the Tier 8.5 Legs (from Emalon) if you can as they're far better than the Wyrmguard Legplates with all their block rating on. Wyrmguard can be a nice upgrade for some, but the Tier has its iLevel budget far better spent in my opinion. Another sidegrade in terms of iLevel that's actually a good upgrade, heh.
Otherwise though your gear looks good to me - as you say, a bit of a mish mash in some respects, but certainly going in the right direction. Goes without saying that getting your Blacksmithing up for the two sockets needs to happen at some point, though you already know that.
I would say that I'm not a big fan of the Orange gem you have in your chest - I personally fill all my red sockets (assuming a decent bonus) with Shifting Dreadstones (Agi/Stam) though many choose Regal (Dodge/Stam). Having one Dodge and one Agi limits the benefit of both - if you go Agi, go for it whole hog so that you get the most benefit from it when Kings is applied (the more base you have, the more the 10% bonus represents).
Finally, you obviously need a weapon enchant. Your choice is basically between Blood Draining (good, though doesn't add too much), Blade Ward (better post-3.2, but still not great), Accuracy (good for threat), Mongoose (good avoidance if you don't mind procs rather than always there) or Exceptional Agility (if the idea of Mongoose procs turns you off and you'd prefer static avoidance). It's mainly a matter of personal preference and playstyle, so pick what suits you as there's no clear "BIS" weapon enchant for a Tankadin.
Since you mention pugs toward the end of your post, you can get two clear upgrades from Flame Leviathan on 25-man, namely Titanguard (sword) and Mimiron's Inferno Couplings (bracers). Flame is easily puggable (and regularly is, on my server at least) so they may be worth tracking down.
Best of luck
EDIT: Just realised you mentioned your cloak in your post too. Unfortunately, there's less easily-obtained options for upgrading here. A relatively decent pug should be able to down Aurayia-25 who drops Cloak of the Makers (an awesome upgrade to Platinum Mesh Cloak, though I've not seen it drop myself yet). There's also Cloak of the Iron Council from Council-10 which is BoE but... well, it kinda sucks and is full of shield block. Other than getting a pug together for the cat lady, the only other option that's a strong upgrade is Pride of the Eredar from Trial of the Crusader-25 Normal. It drops from Jaraxus, who is (luckily) before the anti-pug cockblock that is Faction Champions so you may be lucky and get your hands on it.
Big thanks for taking the time to reply - and so fast! Combatting boredom at work is so much better when you gain something else too.
First, Essence was only used until I got my crab properly gemmed, and I whipped it out again yesterday for Beasts-25 (dodge does little for the impale) for a tad bit more survivability and that's why I would be logged out wearing it (Armory down LOLOLOL) instead of my crab. Usually I run with heart/crab when I raid, a one-minute cooldown is awesome.
Second, you mistunderstood me (or I was unclear, but I prefer to blame others ). I bought the orbs on my mage (as she needs no more Conq stuff and just grab orbs and epic gems for her badgers) and had the Indestructible plate girdle made (as I said, sidegrade, but worth it) and decked it out in Solids and a regal. This, again, would have been seen if Armory worked.
Thirdly, prot paladin tier is yet to drop for me in VoA (only started running it once I could tank it, don't like being carried in shite ret gear and then beg to roll on tanking stuff) so the pants are certainly something I am looking to replace. I know block rating/value is shite but I saw little point in grabbing a ilvl 200/213 without block since all other stats are going to be nerfed.
Fourthly, gem in chest was (obviously) picked up when I first got the chest and the epic gem recipes still weren't all out there and available, I just grabbed whatever a guildie could make. Intend to replace it with a dodge/stam when I'm not actually sticking my epic gems in new gear anymore (which is like, now).
Fifthly, I've been holding off on the weapon enchant as I was hoping for another 219 to drop in Ulduar (this is also the reason why there's a blue gem in it and the ilvl 200 ring, don't wanna spend too much even though I'm making loads on specialty cloths on my mage) or possibly Last Laugh/Titanguard from random PuGing. I want to replace it mostly for vanity reasons since every damn plate wearer is running around with it, not because it is not a solid piece (it is). I'll probably gem it with an epic and stick a enchant on it once I have found a gear set to use it in. I have both Blade Ward and Blood Draining on my mage so I can make those very cheap, so it's not a problem. I've just been focused on other stuff.
The real question wasn't "where do I upgrade to" but "do I get the ring or drudge another month for something else", but I think I got my reply (and some extra to boot) anyway, and I'll buy that ring once I've run the daily once I've come home from work. Five more minutes!
OMG NINJAEDIT: "relatively decent pug should be able to down Aurayia-25" I just have to add we have yet to do this in our own guild, although it is mainly because at the time we reached her progression wise, summer lull set in and we have fielded like, one 25 man since. I don't see myself downing her soon, but thanks anyway.
Oh yeah, Summer's a bitch - our 25-man runs have suffered hugely as well so we've been focusing on 10-man hard modes. Hate letting folk down each raid night though and saying "yeah, once again no 25-man..."
And yeah, apologies about the confusion - as I say, wow-heroes was probably an old cache so didn't show you with the Plate Girdle on.
Finally, for clarity, I do definitely think the ring is a good upgrade - there's a ring from ToC-10 Twin Valkyrs which is okay but I think it will be some time before you find yourself upgrading from it and it'll last well into Tier 10. It's the first piece I picked up as well (followed by the Tier 9 gloves because I got over-excited and spent all my DKP on a stupid Trophy of the Crusade, heh). Go for the ring, the chicks dig it.
I'm gonna go ahead and disagree, mostly for the point of offering a different opinion. I don't think any of the advice you've gotten so far is bad or poorly thought out, but as has been said countless times, tanking is about playstyle and situation, and I think a little differently.
First, to exactly what you asked: I wouldn't get the ring. Hell, I have access to a lot more Toc-10, Toc-25, and Ulduar 25 gear than you do and I still haven't bothered to get the ring myself. As beautifully intemized as it is and as much as I love armor... for me, it comes down to the itemization point values of each slot. Rings get fewer points to spend overall than the helm and shoulders I was looking at, so the upgrades are comparably bigger (and admittedly, comparably cost more). Then there's a question of availability - what can you upgrade?
I don't know about your server, but on my server ToC 10 is relatively easily pugged up to Anub, and many pugs kill him. Toc 10 drops all 232 loot, all of which would represent an upgrade for you, including a beautiful ring (nearly identical to the badge ring, but slightly lower item level), great bracer/belt/chest/weapon upgrades, etc. But there's no tanking Helm in 10 man. In the current content you seem to have access to, the badge helm is the only viable upgrade for you. And it's a big one. Upgraded the same helm myself, and it's an upgrade in every way - stam, strength, armor, avoidance, and threat. You couldn't ask for a better upgrade, and I think you should save for it.
The shoulders are also an excellent upgrade for you, and a better one than I considered since I had 226 ulduar shoulders. Still, you'll face the same conundrum I did - big upgrade in avoidance, decent upgrade in stam... but it's gonna cost you hit. And the strength offset PROBABLY won't make up the threat you lose. I'm a threatwhore because my dps in my guild are monsters, so this is a bigger issue for me than many, but if you're willing ot take the threat hit, I'd get the shoulders. They're a bigger overall upgrade than the ring vs what else you can feasibly get.
Pug Ulduar 25. As much as you can. As often as you can. Titanguard is virtually unreplacable for you right now as a threat weapon, and if you eventually get the sword off Anub in ToC-10 it's a minor survivability upgrade. Personally I want both - so I can keep titanguard enchanted for accuracy, and enchant my survival weapon for blood draining. There is no 245 level tanking weapon available in normal modes. The only survival or threat upgrades to Titanguard/Anub10Sword are in hardmodes. As an aside, the bracers and shoulders from early Ulduar would also be an upgrade for you, but are easily replacbale in Toc/triumphs. Still, Heart of Iron of ignis is a trinket I probably won't remove until I get the Icecrown one.
You'll get the ring eventually. ToC 10 is really, really easy, and triumph badges flow fast once your guild is clearing it regularly (which, if you field a 25 man guild at all, i suspect you can get 10 people for a good ToC 10 team).
Of note: my prejudice about the tanking ring is based on several factors. First, it is indisputably the best effective health ring available to you because of the armor. However... as much as I <3 armor and swear by the gospel of EH, there are quite a few fights you'll deal with that involve spike magic damage, spike combo damage, etc. Actual health is more important than EH in these situations. Secondly, and this cannot be understated, you've said you're pugging. No pugs ever look for armor - pugs think in simple terms. They're going to look at your health. If you want to collect supporters and followers as a pugger, you have to stack stamina. The final tiny consideration is that, at least till 3.2.2, actual stamina gives you threat through TbtL. EH armor doesn't. This isn't meant to trivialize the value of armor in any way - just tank Anub through the built in freeze where you can't avoid anything if you want to understand just how good armor is - but, all else being equal, stamina is still a preferable stat for general tanking. Why is this relevant to the conversation? Because the stamina on the Mark of the Relentless is MASSIVELY over budget. It has 89 stamina, just like all the other 219 rings.... but is the only one with a socket. Which is blue, no less, for a 36 stamina bonus.... making it the 2nd highest stamina ring in the entire game, and the highest until ToC25 heroic mode. That. Is absurd. You're going to want to keep it for Icecrown, for the inevitable magic damage fight. You're going to want to keep it in general for when you want that extra bit of health. It doesn't have the EH the armor rings do, so it's not as versitile overall, but if you're trying to push your health for pugs, and triple dip in TbtL, it's a ring you're going to keep for quite a while.
Tl;dr - I think you only need one ring upgrade, and the 10 man ring will do. Get the badge ring too - eventually. But when I do... i'm going to have to talk myself into buying a badge upgrade that COSTS me health, even if it's an upgrade in EH. That's a hard argument to convince myself of.
Wow, I came back to post and there's a reply I've completely missed. I didn't get the ring, as I was shooting for an Uld-25 PuG this lockout and lo and behold, it came.
And as you can see, Coil dropped off Levi. I'd been kicking myself if I'd gotten Clutch. I also pugged beasts + Jaraxxus (wasn't gonna try Chumps with that setup and it was getting late) and got some shineh bracers. Even at that the ring was a dubious upgrade at best (which is why I posted the thread to begin with).
Head definately looks solid and between it and the shoulders I already decided (need 21 more badges ), I'm only keeping T8.5 stuff for a block set anyway (have four pieces and I see now that I logged out in my skirt ) and there's the odd chest piece drop here and there (Beasts 25 man is doable) that's gonna be an upgrade from T8.5.
As far as my server goes there's the odd gear/achievement check for raids but generally not. I -do- gear check people, if only through Pugchecker to see what their experience is like (I'll take people in greens to Ulduar but I'll make it damn well clear to them as being carried they are lowest on loot prio). If it comes to that I'll equip max stam stuff for when they are LF TONK and once in-raid, I'll switch to my optimum set, nobody is going to notice that my health didn't scale as far with the raid buffs as it should.
Thanks again, now begins the long wait for my last badgers before I can buy the head...
Solid advice here - my reason for getting the ring was simply to finally get rid of the Signet of the Earthshaker. I've been incredibly unlucky with rings so far (my guild has never once seen Leviathan's Coil, for example) so for me the itemisation made it an upgrade far beyond some of the other items.
To be honest I'm not a big fan of a lot of our Tier 9 gear. I have the Triumph gloves and I'm thinking about getting the chest (shoulders are also awesome, but can't take priority for me since I won off-set shoulders in ToC) next time I win a trophy. From there I'll get the badge helm and hope for off-set legs to drop in ToC (or at least to finally get the Saronites to drop - again, Blizzard hates me, qq etc).
At some point I still need to get the Libram as well. I think I subconsciously also suffer the problem of not wanting to spend badges that don't increase my EH, even though the Libram is really good.
So for me I guess it comes down to Breastplate of Triumph (over 8.5 chest) or badge Helm (over 8.5 helm) first. The helm is probably the better upgrade, but then I'm missing out on the +5% HotR and 6 second taunt... Hmmm.
I didn't start out super decked-out, just some normal Uld25 gear and a couple pieces of hardmode Uld10 stuff, but here's what I did:
1) bought the trophy shoulders first thing, because I was sick of looking at my T7 pads.
2) bought the trophy gloves second because the 2-set is wonderful.
3) bought and resold the dodge libram until I had enough for the ring.
4) bought the libram
I got the offset 245 chest (Hauberk of Towering Monstrosity) and the 232 T9 legs from Koralon, so I have been contemplating going for 4-set T9, but the T9 helm is kind of icky so I would want to get the T9 chest + badge helm at the same time.