On December 9, World of Warcraft: Shadowlands will open in the first raid of the expansion — Castle Nathria. For most, the idea of banding together in groups larger than your average five-man dungeon crawl is the main allure of the MMORPG genre, making the Wednesday reset arguably a bigger event than the expansion itself.
Unless you already have a pre-formed group, you can’t just log in on launch day and expect to be allowed into the abode of Revendreth’s major villain. Not without some prior prep work. The matchmaking-friendly Raid Finder difficulty opens a week later, on December 16, but you’ll need to hit an average item level of 170 to be allowed in. Here’s your guide on how to get gear for Castle Nathria.
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If you’ve hit level 60 without the ilvl needed to run some of the later normal-mode dungeons, the best you can really do is to look out for sidequests with gear as rewards. As you may have noticed throughout your 50-60 adventure, gear doesn’t come at a set item level these days. Like the enemies around you, they scale around your current item level.
Keep working on the myriad side quests available to you and you’ll slowly but surely find gear that’s around ilvl 148-158. And you’ll still have a chance of Rare (blue) items upgrading to Epic (Purple) ones for an even bigger boost. All that should get you into the next step relatively easily.
Once you hit the item level needed to unlock all the normal-mode dungeons, you can say goodbye to quests. Your next port of call is to run dungeons like there’s no tomorrow. At 60, you’ll have a total of eight dungeons available to you.
It doesn’t really matter which dungeon you run. Like questing, they’ll scale to your average item level, meaning any rewards you do manage to pillage from the bosses within should replace any lingering Uncommon (Green) items pulling your average ilvl down.
It can feel like a bit of a grind when you’re only pulling one (or less) usable item out of each run. To make sure you don’t waste your time, use the loot tables found in the Adventure Guide menu to work out exactly which dungeon bosses can drop what you desperately need to replace.
Another way to grab the odd piece of gear is to survey the map for World Quests when you log in. World Quests have been around for a couple of expansions now, and while they’re not quite as relevant as they once were, they’re some of the more straightforward methods of getting select gear.
You can hover over a World Quest on the map to see exactly what piece of gear you’ll get for completing it; that way, you don’t risk doing something for nothing. There isn’t a whole lot of choice with these — it’s mostly down to luck of the spawn, really — but if there’s a World Quest out there offering to fill a gap in your equipment, taking it up on its offer can be one of the quickest and easiest upgrades you can get.
When you choose your Covenant, you earn yourself a Soulbind — a Covenant-specific NPC who tags along with you across Shadowlands zones. Alongside your Covenant ability, Soulbinds can hold “Conduits,” allowing you to slot spell-boosting Conduits into a table to further improve on your build. These work similarly to glyphs from the Wrath of the Lich King days.
Additional slots unlock as you increase Renown with your Covenant, so getting as many of these unlocked before Castle Nathria opens will pair nicely with your gear to increase your strength in a raid scenario. Most of these “Conduits” are rewarded through World Quests, giving you another reason besides traditional gear to see what’s available when you log in.
The eight initial dungeons cap out their gear rewards at item level 158 on the Normal difficulty level. That’s not quite the 170 average you’ll need to go knocking on the doors of Castle Nathria in mid-December, but it will meet the 155 average required for the Heroic-level difficulties of said dungeons, which skirt the requirement with ilvl 171 drops.
Heroic dungeons aren’t the end of it, though. Mythic difficult, where high-tier players frequent, is where you’ll have heard the horror stories of ultra-complicated mechanics and skill checks.
Heroic, while certainly a step up from Normal Mode, isn’t too drastic of a difference to have you quaking in your boots. With the right gear and a bit of patience, you’ll get through them just fine and come out the other side with the gear needed to finally challenge Castle Nathria.
In fact, given pre-formed Castle Nathria don’t impose specific item level requirements, kitting yourself out with 171 Heroic Dungeon gear can be all you’ll need to nab a spot in a casual run on December 8.
Fully realized Conduits will become the bottleneck for higher tiers of play, but if you’re not quite at that level, you can rest assured that your 171 equipment will get you into the easier Raid Finder queue, where you’ll be able to experience the content without the expectation of being the best of the best.
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