I went through all the WotLK dungeon loot tables and got my shopping list set. I don’t plan on spending much time in dungeons while leveling which means the loot I pick up on the way to 80 will be mostly green quest rewards so I will probably hit 80 wearing much of the same gear I have at 70. Based on my list though, there are only 4-5 pieces of level 70 gear that will see much/any use at 80. The list I put together is what I think will work the best for jumping into a raid and performing well as soon as possible.
I think the best helm out there is Arcane-Shielded Helm which drops from Grand Magus Telestra in heroic The Nexus. The second best option is Helm of the Ley Guardian which drops from Ley Guardian Eregos in The Oculus. Ley Guardian is a really good helm and it is probably better if you are struggling to be crit immune because it has nearly twice as much defense, but its big downfall is the lack of a meta socket.
Chained Military Gorget is the best neck piece and it is costs 25 badges of heroism. There are a few drops from Naxx10 that are sidegrades from the gorget (Medallion of the Disgraced and Amulet of Autopsy), but there isn’t a real upgrade until Heritage and Boundless Ambition in naxx25. I also like Burning Skull Pendant which is a BoE item that drops from trash in heroic Gun’drak if for some reason you can’t spare the badges for the Gorget.
There are a lot of options for shoulders but I think Iron Dwarf Smith Pauldrons (General Bjarngrim in heroic Halls of Lightning) are the winner. If you have enough defense and want a more threat oriented piece, then I think Pauldrons of the Lightning Revenant (Ionar in Halls of Lightning) are a good option.
I think Cloak of the Enemy (Stoutbeard in heroic The Nexus) is an excellent choice. Tattered Castle Drape (BoE from trash in Utgarde Keep) is another very strong option, but the hit rating and shield block value cancel each other out in terms of threat generation so you are looking at 11 strength versus 13 defense and I think the defense wins that battle. But, if you are easily crit immune already, the Tattered Castle Drape will give you a little more bang for your buck. Cloak of Flowing Command (Salramm the Fleshcrafter in Stratholme) is a decent option but I personally have never been a big fan of cloaks (or rings for that matter) with bonus armor on them. I haven’t done the math, but I would guess you get more effective health out of the 27 more stamina on the other two cloaks than the 359 more armor on this one.
There are a couple different options for chestpiece depending on what kind of stat distribution you are looking for. Sun-Emblazoned Chestplate (Sjonnir in heroic Halls of Stone) has a ton of defense as well as a healthy amount of hit and it has a socket. Ziggurat Imprinted Chestguard (Tharon’ja in heroic Drak’tharon Keep) has a little less defense and no hit, but you pick up a bunch of parry if you are short on avoidance. Breastplate of Solemn Council is purchasable at revered from Wyrmrest Accord and offers a nice option if you have bad luck with other drops and since expertise is hard to find on tanking gear at this level, this item is especially attractive. I think the socket on Sun-Emblazoned Chest gives it the edge, but just barely. Engraved Chestplate of Eck (Eck the Ferocious in heroic Gun’drak) is a dps item, but if you are all set on defense and want an aggressive chest piece, this fits the bill with a lot of strength, a lot of hit, and two sockets. I personally am probably going to get some use out of Breastplate of Agony’s Aversion because the three sockets make it pretty versatile and the strong itemization make it a viable option.
There aren’t a lot of good options for bracers. The only good defensive bracers are Bindings of Dark Will (Salramm in heroic Stratholme). If you want a more aggressive setup, Bands of the Stoneforge (Sjonnir in heroic Halls of Stone) and Golden Limb Bands (Krik’thir in heroic Azjol-Nerub) do a good job. I think Bindings of Dark Will are better than the T6 bracers, but not by enough to make me want to put in a lot of time to get them.
Horn-Tipped Gauntlets (Gal’darah in heroic Gun’drak) are the best option for gloves out there with a healthy amount of defense and gobs of expertise. Gauntlets of the Water Revenant (Ichoron in heroic Violet Hold) are a good second choice. Giant Sized Gauntlets are purchasable at revered from the Frenzyheart Tribe and are good if you are looking for some extra avoidance. Borderland Fortress Grips (Felmyst in Sunwell Plateau) fall behind a bit, but the 2 sockets make them a reasonable alternative if you’ve got them and are looking to cut down your gear farming.
There are a few good choices for belts. If you want a strong defensive item, Ancient Aligned Girdle (Anub’Arak in heroic Azjol-Nerub) is probably for you. If you want to get a little more aggressive then Skadi’s Iron Belt (Skadi the Ruthless in heroic Utgarde Pinnacle) is a good option and the socket means you get some versatility. If you want to get really aggressive and you are already crit immune, Flame Bathed Girdle (Keristrasza in heroic The Nexus) is an excellent choice. Waistguard of Living Iron is available from the badge vendor, but it really is not significantly better than the other options, only spend the 40 badges if you have terrible luck with drops.
Bolstered Legplates (Cyanigosa in heroic Violet Hold) are excellent and the huge amount of defense on this item means you can take liberties in other slots and stay crit immune. If you want some more avoidance though, Legplates of the Infinite Drakonid (Chrono-Lord Epoch in heroic Stratholme) are a solid choice. If you want a very aggressive piece, Staggering Legplates (Ingvar in heroic Utgarde Keep) would be pretty good even without any sockets, but the 2 sockets make them excellent. Special Issue Legplates, purchasable at honored from the Argent Crusade are not as good as the other options, but if you have bad luck with some of the drops, these are pretty solid.
The boot selection is a little slim. Sabatons of Draconic Vigor are purchasable at revered from Wyrmrest Accord. These are probably the best boots out there as they have a lot of defense, more stamina than the other options and some hit rating which is always nice. Terrace Defense Boots(Trollgore in heroic Drak’tharon) look pretty good and they have a socket which gives them the edge over Slaughterhouse Sabatons (Meathook in normal Stratholme). There is no option if you want a pair of boots with avoidance stats on them so I will be keeping Onslaught Boots around just in case.
There are a lot of good ring options out there and they are all pretty defensively oriented. Unsmashable Heavy Band (Ingvar in heroic Utgarde Keep) is the only ring with any aggressive/tps stats on it. Keystons Great Ring (Tharon’ja in heroic Drak’tharon) is a great ring (c wut i did thur) that no tank should be without. Band of Torture (Drakos in heroic The Oculus) and Woeful Band (Maiden of Grief in heroic Halls of Stone) are good options as well. The rings are all similar in terms of stat distribution and none of them is significantly better than the other so just use whichever to you get your hands on first.
Trinkets are always a funny thing and I think Blizzard often has a hard time itemizing them appropriately, especially for tanks. Consider that one of the best melee dps trinkets comes from Gruul, the best tanking trinkets come from Karazhan and a heroic, Neltharion’s Tear was a strong performer for much of the expansion and I know several healers that still use Rejuvenating Gem. There was even a quest reward trinket from the Burning Steppes that played a major role in the Moroes fight at the beginning of the expansion (Luffa, the part about bleeds cast by enemies over 60 was added in later). That said, there aren’t any trinkets from the level 80 5-mans that appear to be outstanding. Essence of Gossamer (Hadronok in heroic Azjol-Nerub) has a bunch of stamina, which is always welcome, but the chance on hit effect is pretty lackluster. Lavanthor’s Talisman (Lavanthor in heroic Violet Hold) looks like an updated version of the Auto-Blocker except slightly worse since the passive effect is block rating instead of block value. Seal of the Pantheon (Loken in normal Halls of Lightning) looks decent and the defense is great if you are struggling to be crit immune, but I am not particularly impressed by the ‘Use’ effect – its not bad, its just not quite good either. There aren’t any other trinkets that seem to be designed for tanks that I noticed, but there are two more trinkets that I think could be interesting for threat generation. Depending on the proc rate and internal cooldown, Vestige of Haldor (King Ymiron in normal Utgarde Pinnacle) might be really good or it might be something that you just use for funsies. Meteorite Whetstone (King Ymiron in heroic Utgarde Pinnacle) could be the new Dragonspine Trophy which was an excellent threat trinket if you could somehow manage to get one in front of every physical dpser in the raid. I’ll probably get some use out of my Commendation and my trusty Pocket Watch might even make an appearance occasionally. Trinkets never really go out of style, you should think long and hard about ever getting rid of one.
Valor Medal of the First War is a waste of badges. It may seem like a new version of Moroes’ Lucky Pocket Watch, but its not, it’s a piece of garbage. The pocket watch was an ‘oh shit’ button because the use effect was very powerful – almost 16% dodge – but it only lasted for a short period of time. The Valor Medal’s use effect lasts twice as long as the Pocket Watch, but it is only half as effective – 7.5% dodge. If there is a fight where you need to be able to get 7.5% dodge on demand, save your badges and use the Pocket Watch, which gives just slightly less dodge rating – 300 vs 335.
Shields and weapons on the other hand are pretty much the opposite end of the spectrum from trinkets – 9 times out of 10 the item with a higher ilevel is just plain better. Red Sword of Courage (King Ymiron in heroic Utgarde Pinnacle) blows the competition out of the water. The Interrogator (Drakos in heroic The Oculus) is the next best option followed by Eternally Folded Blade (Volkhan in normal Halls of Lightning). Royal Crest of Lordaeron (Mal’ganis in heroic Strat) is the top shield but if you are horde and can’t bear the thought of carrying around Alliance paraphenalia, Crygil’s Discarded Plate Panel is available for 35 badges of heroism and has almost exactly the same stat distribution. The next best option is Bulwark of the Noble Protector (Keristrasza in heroic The Nexus). After those three shields, there is a serious drop in quality. For a ranged weapon, I like Hardened Vrykul Throwing Axe (General Bjarngrim in normal Halls of Lightning) and Tracker’s Balanced Knives (BoE from trash in heroic Utgarde Pinnacle) but the best option is Stolen Vrykul Harpoon which is a reputation reward from the Frenzyheart Tribe and is purchasable at revered.
Don’t get fooled by pretty purple pixels. Most of the stuff I am recommending is blue/superior but the ilevel is 200 which means they have the same stat budget as Naxx-10 loot. Just because something is epic doesn’t necessarily mean it is better. With that in mind, I didn’t bother to look at any of the craftable gear because it is going to be crazy expensive (especially for the first few months of the expansion) and not significantly better than gear you can get for free if you put a little effort into grinding out heroics.