So...I'd like to start out by apologizing to all of my faithful blog readers for the long, long, long absence. Work has been beating me up so hard that by the time I get home I usually make it to my chair before falling asleep and when I do wake up I barely have the energy to even log on to WoW let alone to write a blog post. :( But anyway I am able to write something now so enjoy!
So by now everyone has heard how hard heroics are in the cataclysm beta and how cc will be king and all that. Well there are more changes to running heroics at 85 then just that so I figured I would write a little for you guys who aren't in the beta or aren't as in the know as others. In the current expansion you ding 80 and start running heroics right off the bat for badges and maybe a piece or two of gear so that you can start raiding. After you hit 80 you don't ever queue for a regular instance because the gear is not as great as anything that drops from heroics and you don't get any justice points/badges in them after doing the daily regular dungeon.
In cataclysm things are not like this at all. Yes the gear from heroics is still better then what you are going to be getting from regulars and it'll be tons better then what you are wearing at 85. So what's different you may ask? Well first off each instance has a minimum average gear level requirement and if you aren't at or above that number then you can't queue for those dungeons. The first two dungeons that you can actually queue for at 80 are going to be Throne of Tides and Blackrock Caverns. Neither of these has a minimum gear requirement so you can start queuing for them after you run to each instance entrance and "discover" the entrance area. Each instance in cata requires you to have run to the entrance and discover it before you can queue for it. I guess blizz got tired of people complaining about others who would die in an instance and release just to get lost trying to get back to the instance. Anyway back on topic, since these two dungeons have no gear level requirement you can run them over and over until you ding.
At 81 you can keep on queueing for these two instances and you unlock two new ones, the Vortex Pinnacle and the Stonecore. Now these two instances require you to have an average gear level. At 80 in full ICC10 gear you'll be sitting in the 251ish range and in full ICC25 gear you'll be around 270ish. You can check out what your gear level is now ingame since they added it on to your character screen in 4.0.1 so you don't need an addon to find out what your average gear ilevel is. If I remember correctly VP and Stonecore require a 272 score so you will have to start replacing at least a few pieces of gear with new cata gear to get in to these. Why the hell did they do this average ilevel crap? Well I guess it is because they don't want people to have grinded up to 85 and then attempt to run heroics in ICC gear that they started the expansion with.
When you unlock the next set of instances, Grim Batol, Halls of Origination, and Lost City of the Tol'vir, they require 305 ilevel score. There is no way that you can get to 305 with all of your level 80 gear so expect to either run a lot of instances before this or to do A LOT of quests for gear rewards. Now if you do nothing but run intances...you have a chance of getting your gear level score to where it needs to be but I recommend mixing in some questing for gear as well as money.
Now you hit 85 and you are ready to queue for heroics...well just wait a second there. Heroics also have a minimum gear level...329. Now to get your gear level to this number you will have to farm regular instances to up your score. When raids were first opened on the beta servers new premades were released as well. The gear level for those premades was 350. This means that after running heroics and full heroic gear you will have a 350 gear level. You can probably start running raids slightly before this I am sure so I would say that mid 340s would probably be passable for raids. Once Cata comes along we'll know for sure what we'll need to raid. I hope this post helps at least one person prepare for Cata instancing. I am pretty sure my math is right but if someone has correct information please feel free to post it. =D