Agreed; fire heart the better item now since it's more beneficial at lower levels. Still might purchase a battlemage ring at higher levels, but it's not doing nearly enough in the early-game to be worthwhile as a preparation.
I've actually put the Vampiric Blade back in my locker. I'd booted it out earlier since it absolutely sucks for higher-level characters, but with many of the better options now gone it's making a comeback for me. Combine it with the shield (-2 damage) and you're able to absorb 7 points of punishment as a 1st level character. Great combo with poison, healing, or resistances, but becomes horribly insignificant after you've gained a few levels. Too bad it doesn't combo with the Earthmother, otherwise I could literally see tanking level 5's and 6's as a level 2 character... uh, I'm gunna go play a Paladin with a vampiric blade and go scum for Earthmother now, I SO wanna do this.