I've said before that farming professions are usually a waste of time. The opportunity cost of a farming profession is another crafting profession, which could make you so much more money per hour that you can always afford to buy the mats you need. The exception to this rule is mining.
All the gathering professions are simple and no risk. You pay nothing but time to level them, and you are able to make money by using them without risking anything but, again, time. The difference between your average player and an auctioneer, however, is that the auctioneer is always measuring his success in gold per hour. Extremely good farmers can do better than extremely bad auctioneers, however if you're capable of being an extremely good farmer, you're probably capable of being at least a good auctioneer, and are spending those hours doing a more repetitive, less interesting task for less money.
Mining is the exception to this rule because it opens up the ability to perform several very important transformations:
- Smelting ore into bars
- Smelting bars and elementals into Titansteel
Do you actually mine?
No, I don't. I mined to get my skill up, and I'll mine for the first week or so in a new expansion. Aside from that, though, there's never any reason for me to spend my time gathering. Assuming the opportunity cost of an hour is, say, 2000g in lost AH profits, I can always get more ore for 2000g than I can mine in an hour. This will likely not be true when Cataclysm launches, which is why I'll mine for a week or so when it starts.
What I use my miner for is vast amounts of AFK smelting. I stockpile Cobalt Ore and Saronite Ore when they're close to my target prices, and smelt it as I need it. Saronite can be smelted and vendored for 25g a stack, so if the ore is ever under 12.5g a stack, I'll buy every last scrap of it and mail it to my smelter (with the understanding that I'll never actually vendor Saronite Bars -- I simply use their vendor value as a cost limiter). You can store as many mails as you want on a single character for 30 days, however you can only see 50 at a time. I use one character specifically for storing massive quantities of herbs and ore, who never gets any mail that I could conceivably miss. Every 28 days, I mass-return the mail to my purchaser, who will open and resend them all.
Why am I smelting ore? There's a variety of reasons.
- I use tons of Cobalt Bars to make enchanting mats. When I'm saturated with enchanting mats, I sell the bars for almost double the ore on a regular basis because people often don't have a miner capable of smelting this.
- I use tons of Saronite Bars for tons of things, including making Titanium Bars and belt buckles. I also sell Saronite Bars for a nice margin over the two ore it took to make them
- I smelt Truesilver and make a decent profit because of all the neat toys that still call for the bars. In fact, I smelt many different types of old world ores and sell the bars for a decent markup, considering that most of the work is done whilst I watch Dr. Who.
- I smelt Titansteel when the prices go far enough above the mats cost to be worth the trouble.
Ok, ok. I'll get a miner.
Good. Now remember that unless you're a tank, you probably won't want to mine on any character you plan on playing seriously. You're costing yourself a serious profession perk and replacing it with a dinky amount of bonus stamina. Also, druids can switch in and out of flight form without the cast time of a mount. Paladins, DKs and hunters all have fairly accessible mount speed talents available to them. Hunters can Feign Death out of annoying patrolling mobs. No matter who you pick, getting to 450 skill will be a seriously annoying process unless you have a epic flying mount with Cold Weather Flying.
You're going to make a 65 DK anyways, right? He's a good choice for people who want a miner but don't want to have to level one.
Being an auctioneer is like being able to print money (or gold, as it were). Wait, that doesn't make sense ... You can print on gold, but you can't print gold. That would be closer to transmutation? I can transmute titanium, but that's only worth it if the price of saronite is low enough to justify the time spent making it. I need some sort of analogy here. ... Whatever, I'll figure it out later. Making gold? Every time they let Basil write Insider Trader, he will endeavor to teach you the tricks of the trade.