Hitting a gear reset when a new patch or expansion comes out is relatively common at this point, but I really wasn't expecting dungeon reward gear to be quite so short-lived.
Leveling dungeons of Cataclysm
The seven new 5-man dungeons of Cataclysm are effectively divided into three level-range tiers (81-82, 83-84, and 85). The strange thing is that players gain enough (or, in my case, more than enough) experience to leave each level range just from then solo quests. My dungeon gear got pitched the moment after I looted it because it was already out of date by the time I got it (late in level 83, and therefore in the tier above the 81-82 content).
This design drastically limits the range of dungeons that you would want to do at any given level. Once you get to level 85 and acquire enough gear to unlock heroic dungeons, you will have nine options available to you. Unfortunately, a level 83 character's random queue includes four dungeons (two of which are out-dated), and I'm told that the level 85 random normal dungeon includes the 3 level 85 dungeons plus the 2 83-84 dungeons (which you no longer want to run by then). If there's one thing that makes WoW's dungeon system feel old faster, it's doing the same limited selection over and over again.
Exp but not gear
Blizzard's in a difficult situation here because the power level of gear increases significantly over the expansion. The experience curve seems to be balanced around players completing all the solo content without rested exp. In reality, the stuff I've done for the exp from 80-84 includes:
- All the quests in Vashj'ir
- 2-3 quests in Deepholm (for access to the zone)
- About a dozen quests in each of Hyjal and Uldum (about the minimum needed to hit friendly with the local reputations, so that I can have their tabards for dungeon rep at 85).
- One run each through Blackrock Caverns, Throne of the Tides, and Stonecore
- Enough archeology surveying to get to 135 skill
- 15-20 days worth of daily cooking quest
- Completed the "explore Cataclysm" achievement by flying around the new zones
- Logged off in cities, so that I've always had rested exp while leveling
The result has the unfortunate effect of really limiting the value of running these leveling dungeons. It's probably still worth visiting each location once since there are guaranteed quest rewards, but the remaining loot for the majority of the expansion's normal five-man content just isn't going to stick around long enough to be worth farming.