I'm rapidly drawing near to the point where I'll have enough of Wrath's various currencies to buy my very first heirloom items. The quirk of these items being from a currency, rather than a typical reputation, is that I have to pick one item to purchase first. The extra special quirk is that which items my alts will need depends on which alts I intent to play.
Heroic Badges versus Stone Keeper Shards
The Wintergrasp-related [Stone Keeper's Shard] is used for a variety of PVP-related enchants, meta gems, and jewelcrafting recipes, none of which I'm making a high priority of right now. As a result, I'm really free to use these guys almost exclusively on heirloom items without feeling like I'm passing up the chance to help out my main. (Don't cry for Greenwiz, he's earning a good 8K honor per day in Wintergrasp and is well on his way to his third epic quality PVP reward item, and that's BEFORE they add in the rumored Wintergrasp mark rewards.)
The only bad news is that these things have PVP stats, with a focus on stamina and resilience. If, at some point down the road, I ended up with an excess of [Emblem of Heroism], I might regret spending shards now on an item I would prefer to replace with its PVE equivalent. I'm not sure how likely this is to happen, though - my main remains my favorite character and there are almost no heirloom items I would consider equipping on him.
(The exception is the [Discerning Eye of the Beast], which would actually be a decent upgrade in the short term, and could be passed down to my caster alts, and/or to my Pally for a healing set piece or somesuch. If my caster alts more of a priority, this item would probably top my wishlist. On paper, the [Swift Hand of Justice] can be equipped and used by ANY class because Haste rating is now universal, but I can't see myself using that on my mage at the moment.)
Shouldering the exp burden
The heirloom shoulder items are the only in-game source of bonus experience in WoW. I'd say that the two most noteworthy of these are the cloth [Exquisite Sunderseer Mantle] for casters and the leather [Exceptional Stormshroud Shoulders] for melee DPS.
The reason why I pick out those two in particular is because, with those two, you can equip any class in the game with a pair of shoulders that isn't totally irrelevant to their spec. Sure, you're losing a lot of raw armor value, and the stats won't be spent exactly how you might prefer for the melee version (the platewearers in particular would like strength) but I'll take those two debuffs in exchange for bonus exp any day of the week. The loser on the utility scale has to be the healing Pally shoulders, the [Pristine Lightforge Spaulders], which are only usable by one spec of one class, and not a spec that most players will use to level. I'm sure they're great if you're using your Pally as a low level healing twink in PVP, but otherwise that's a lot of shards to sink on a single item.
Of course, if you are getting that much milage out of them, that might make you think twice about whether you'd prefer to get something that has the stats you actually want, which was why I mentioned the topic of the PVE badges up top. Of all the items on the list, I'd get probably the most use out of the leather shoulders, but I'd also be most likely to want to replace them if I ever had emblems to spare.
(The cloth ones are relatively similar (in fact, I might prefer the Wintergrasp version to the [Tattered Dreadmist Mantle], which opts to spend item budget on spirit. The big difference is that the melee leather shoulders - the [Stained Shadowcraft Spaulders] - are more universally useful than their wintergrasp counterpart because they feature hit rating, hard to get pre-Outland, and lots of attack power over Agility, useful for some classes but not others, and less attackpower.)
If you're planning caster alts, you want a staff, and there are cases to be made for either the Wintergrasp [Grand Staff of Jordan] (hit rating is hard to come by at low levels) or the PVE [Dignified Headmaster's Charge] (int and crit are more useful than resilience). There is a 1H mace for the healers, but there is no accompanying heirloom shield/offhand, so it would really only appeal to Holy Pallies. (I guess the other exception would be for players who want to be able to off-heal in instances as needed and don't want to be bothered to keep a current healing weapon on hand, but, again, that's a specific niche market, and you know if you fall into it.)
The melee weapons are more complicated because they really force you to sit down and figure out which classes you're actually going to play. Some questions:
- Have you been meaning to play an Enhancement Shaman? Wintergrasp's 2H weapon is a sword, which Shamen cannot equip, while the Emblem 2H weapon is an axe.
- Does your race, class (Rogues need daggers for a number of special attacks), or talent spec (weapon mastery talents for Rogues and Warriors) favor a specific type of weapon? Having a guaranteed scaling version of that weapon may be very valuable to you. (The other PVE vs PVP difference is that Wintergrasp offers a gun while the Emblem ranged weapon is a bow, so take note if you're planning a troll or a dwarf hunter.)
- Will your new alt pick up the ability to dual wield (or, for Fury Warriors, later pick up the ability to dual wield 2H weapons) down the road, changing what type of weapons your new alt wants? This may or may not influence Feral Druids as well, since Feral attack power staves (whatever they're going to be called after the changes next minipatch) aren't available pre-Outland.
One minor additional wrinkle is that you're going to have to use a pre-TBC enchant on your new toy, because the items count as level 1 (since they scale down that far) for the purposes of enchants. This isn't too bad for the melee weapons, but the old school +30 spell damage enchant for weapons is a recipe that drops in the Molten Core, which means that you may have a hard time finding anyone who HAS the recipe to enhance your new staff.
For my own characters
I think my two top choices right now are the [Sharpened Scarlet Kris] and the previously discussed Stormshroud Spaulders.
The dagger is nice because I can use it on both my rogue (Cheerydeth version 3.0) and my Hunter (who can't use exp bonus shoulders because I'm keeping him at the same level as my wife's druid, who won't have access to my account's heirloom items unless I paid to transfer a character over to her account to deliber them). It would also see potential use for a future Feral Druid, Enhancement Shaman, or Fury Warrior (the likely specs I'd go with for each of those three classes), and the rogue (and Hunter) would happily dual wield daggers if I someday got the badges for a [Balanced Heartseeker].
Despite the concern that I'd rather have the PVE leather shoulders, the fact remains that they would be usable by almost every alt I'm considering leveling. My main is a mage, I'm not a fan of the shadow priest spec, and I'd rather do Feral/Enhance over Balance/Elemental if I do a Druid or Shaman, so the cloth shoulders would really only be for my Warlock, if I ever decided to dust her off. I suppose there's nothing stopping me from getting a pair of the PVE [Polished Spaulders of Valor] if I ever find myself swimming in badges.
So that's where I sit on heirloom items at the moment. I don't know how useful this wall of text was to all of you reading this, but hopefully you either A) learned something or B) got something useful out of reading the thought process I used to evaluate them.