Since 3.2 dropped, I've noticed something afoot in my raids and 5-mans. And on WoW-Heroes for that matter. Our tanks are staying alive easier. Our healers yawn into their palms in heroic ToC. Suddenly our gear level is on par with being ready to step into 25-man ToC...but it's not vile sorcery -- it's the badge gear!
Don't get me wrong -- our guild has a number of skilled players who have been making serious efforts in raids all year long. But this past week was the first night that we ever cleared every boss up to Vezax in 3 hours and 15 minutes. We didn't all suddenly have more skill, or more experience. But we did have significant gear upgrades all around.
I personally upgraded my Naxx 10 OH in Ulduar, then used badges to upgrade my Naxx 25 chest to T8.5 and my T8 helm to 8.5. That may not sound like much upgrade-wise, but I can tell you my WoW Heroes suggested instances jumped to the highest available tier (as did a solid 30 of my guildies.) Previously, we had closer to 10 at that level, and I was not one of them.
Yes, I saw Gevlon's experiment with his raid of blue-clad (tho as he admitted class/buff optimized group). And they did great DPS. But I have also been raiding for well over 3 years now, through AQ in vanilla, to BT in BC, and now through Yogg Saron in Ulduar, and I can tell you for sure that a big dose of gear upgrades does make a visible impact on your raid. No, it can't take a mediocre group of layabouts and hand them success. But it can give you the extra bit of avoidance and dps and healing you need to push you into success.
As my raid leader Garkas said to me last week: "The line between success and failure can be a thin one." I'm glad Blizzard gave us all that extra edge -- and the lockout period extensions -- to help casual guilds like ours achieve our dreams.
Once I have time to catch my breath, I'll be posting a guide to upgrades to shoot for with your Conquest and Triumph badges.