I'm not sure anyone else has noticed or commented on this in a meaningful way, but I thought I'd throw my 2cp out there and see what you guys think about the increase in group quests in the expansion. I don't know how many of you remember that far back, but prior to Burning Crusade we had just a few group quests that you could do and receive a blue item as a reward.
One was the Tyrion Fordring chain which actually forced you to run Strat at one point, so I'm not sure if that really counts. But I remember desperately trying to complete it with Kayree (my tank) so she could get the awesome chestpiece at the end. There was also The Last Barov, which required you to go into enemy territory and take out one of their elite mobs in exchange for a fun trinket. Not as exciting as a new piece of gear, but the basic concept is there.
We also had Blightcaller which had a great bow that I got for my hunter Korlyn. That was a tough fight and if you had noobs in the group you could easily wipe on it. And right next door was the Battle of Darrowshire. But as far as I can recall, that was the extent of the world quests that could be done as a group and grant you a rare item as a reward.
I suppose you could also count the various Silithus quests, but I don't think they really qualify since you had to kill many elite mobs and grind insignias to claim even one item. The Argent Dawn quests they added after that were pretty much the same deal, although I did manage to get a couple of those thanks the the addition of the crafting writs they allowed players to do. Can't tell you how many Stonescale Eels Kaliope fished up to get the healer helm they had, heheh.
Back to the original topic, I really have to commend Blizzard on the way they've made blue-quality gear available to more casual folks in the expansion. Even in Hellfire Peninsula they gave us a few quests with blue gear. Sure, we upgraded it later but it was still fun to walk away as a "noob" with a few nice items to whet our appetite.
Even better is that each of the level 70 zones has several quest chains that will result in a very nice blue item upon completion of a 'final' step that generally requires a group. It's not unusual for the item in question to be a solid pre-epic piece, such as the 'Second Sight' helms you get in STV. From what I've seen each version of that helm is at the top of the rankings for the class in question. And by doing the Ruul the Darkener or the Cipher of Damnation chains, you can get a blue weapon. In fact my rogue did both and got two very nice daggers.
I would bet if you did all of the various chains, you'd probably end up with a near-complete set of blue gear. Especially if you augmented with a few crafted items or BoE drops from the Auction. This was never possible before, to gear a toon up in all or mostly blue stuff without stepping foot into a dungeon.
Not too long ago, I remember being so proud of my hunter because I made her two of the Spitfire mail items available from the Cenarion Circle faction. But Korlyn never ran dungeons (as my 3rd toon) and she was lucky to have even a few blues to her name. My tank Kayree and my rogue were in the same boat. Only Kaliope had the full set of blue and I'd been working on her for almost two years when I ended up joining a raiding guild and finally got my first epic item.
As it stands right now, my hunter just turned 70 last week and she's already wearing half blue gear just in items I crafted or bought for her. By completing some of the group quests she'll be able to add a few more nice items to that. I wouldn't be surprised if she were able to collect a full set of blue gear in the next few weeks, just by completing some of the group quests and maybe building up her faction. My level 61 tank already has blue gear sitting in the bank from stuff I looted or crafted while playing the other three toons.
So as much as people say that Blizzard doesn't make the good stuff available to casuals, I think they really did a nice job of opening up the better gear to non-raiding folks. Granted, you really can't get yourself decked out in epics as a casual player. But realistically you wouldn't need that kind of gear if you weren't raiding.
The items they did make available should be sufficient for a player to start running dungeons and collecting raid-worthy gear if they choose to do so. I think they did a better job of knitting the two groups together than what we had before and opened up a lot of options for casuals that didn't exist a year ago. Specialty crafters can now make epic gear for themselves, including weapons if you're a weaponsmith. Let's not forget the faction epics you can now access. Can you imagine getting Exalted with Argent Dawn and purchasing an epic weapon back in the day? No way.... but that's exactly what I did with Krystella who is now the proud owner of the Scryer epic dagger.
To all you folks out there who have been around awhile, what's your take on the availability of gear in Outland?