Well I caved, bought HoT and resubbed.
What's with the item display now? Recommended level stuff doesn't show the stats in red anymore? How do I know what the final stats are, or the current stats?
I picked up a couple new items from the bazaar and went to a few zones to see how things go with a healing merc. Eventually I figured out I can buy Bite of the Shissar which speeds things up quite a bit.
Anything else I need to know?