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Insider Trader: Tradeskills for noobs

Amanda Miller
April 25, 2008

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You've entered Azeroth with a brand spanking new character and you're trying to find your footing in the world. Perhaps this is even your first MMO entirely, and while looking for guidance, you're overwhelmed at the sheer volume of information available. Sound like you?

While our very own WoW Rookie column has a wealth of information specifically tailored to new players, this week's Insider Trader is going to go in-depth and personal with your profession choices to help make sure that you get the job you want.

Whether you are looking for a challenge, thinking ahead to your future, or looking to maximize your profit, you'll find the advice you need to make an informed decision. Have you already chosen, and are regretting it? Never fear, I'll walk you through backing out of the deal and finding something that really suits you.

Make sure not to skip the comments section, as input and personal experience will help you learn about the different outcomes you might face.

An introduction to tradeskills
Professions are a great way to provide materials for other crafters, make yourself gear or weapons, or produce buffs for yourself as well as other players, in the form of potions, enchants, and more.

While you can hold only two professions, you can actually learn all of the secondary professions, including cooking, fishing and first aid. Most players are going to want to at least level cooking and first aid, although you may find that you don't need them until higher levels. Fishing can be lucrative, and is a nice bonus if you have cooking. While many people find it time-consuming or boring, others find it relaxing and even a preferred activity.

You may find yourself holding different professions at different stages of your character's development, even unlearning old ones in order to pick up new ones. This week, we'll discuss professions you might want to take up as a low-level character.

Crafting, gathering, service and secondary professions
There are essentially four types of tradeskills. Crafting is potentially the most useful, although expensive and time-consuming, with sometimes little reward to justify the expense until level 70. Gathering professions should either be taken alongside crafting professions to provide materials, or on their own for maximum profit from the auction house.

Service skills include enchanting and a rogue's lockpicking, although lockpicking is technically a class skill and not a trade.

Secondary professions are professions that all characters can, and perhaps should, acquire in addition to their two primary skills.

Backing out of a profession

Because you may only hold two primary professions, it is important that you cut your losses and back out of one as soon as you feel that it isn't going to work for you. Of course, you shouldn't make a decision like this while uninformed, but should you want to change tradeskills, the process is actually quite easy.

First, click on your Character Info button next to your Spellbook. It should be the button that looks like your face, just to the right of your main spell bar. Once you have this open, notice the tabs at the bottom of that window. You are going to want to click on Skills.

Once there, you will notice that your skills are broken into categories, the first being Class Skills, and the next, should you have primary professions, being Professions. Click on the tradeskill and notice that a description will pop up at the bottom of the window, with a heading such as "Jewelcrafting 14/75." To the right of this you will notice a tiny red button, and this button will allow you to unlearn that skill.

Keep in mind that depending on your professions strategy, which this guide will help you develop, you may actually choose professions that you will level and then purposely unlearn at a future point.

Treating professions as a challenge
If you like a challenge, there are some hard-roads you could explore in the professions world, and you'll encounter folks with mixed opinions on any strategy. For example, many players do not believe that you should level a crafting profession until you hit level 70, if ever, because of the wasted opportunity to make gold.

Still, this is only a game, as much as some people tend to forget the fact, and if you are interested in a profession, or in the challenge of acquiring the funds for all of your character's endeavors, including your professions, then by all means, don't let anyone stop you.

Aside from crafting professions as a whole, another notoriously challenging tradeskill is engineering. Incredibly expensive to level with almost no items to sell to recoup loss, this quirky, fun, complicated job has rewards that some people feel makes up for the lost gold.

Your profession, your class, and you
1. Engineering and mining:
Any class can benefit from engineering in a number of ways, although the size of your pocketbook isn't one of them. While we have an in-depth analysis of how engineering can fill the gaps in your class, it is important to note at this stage that some of the point of engineering is fun. Here are some examples:
Generally, because of the expense of engineering and the fact that it uses a lot of metals, mining is taken as the second profession to help ease the burden.

2. Alchemy and herbalism:
Alchemy is considered a crafting profession, while herbalism is a gathering profession. The two often go hand-in-hand, because the herbs are used by alchemists in potions. Any class can benefit from alchemy, with healing and mana potions, as well as elixirs that will provide extra buffs to different stats, such as intellect, attack power, agility, and more.

Often, but not always, it is healers who take up alchemy, while melee classes gravitate towards other fields, partly because they have no use for mana potions. Still, alchemy has a strong potential to make you money, as does selling any herbs you're not using.

3. Jewelcrafting and mining:
Jewelcrafting is a touchy subject right now. While it is interesting, and more complicated than some other professions, partly because of prospecting, it also became overwhelmingly popular once the first expansion, The Burning Crusade, came out. On many servers, jewelcrafting is a money pit, and profits are few and far between, especially at lower levels.

Still, it has a number of trinkets and other goodies that only the crafter can use, that might entice you. Statues like [Solid Stone Statue], trinkets like [Figurine - Golden Hare] or [Figurine - Truesilver Boar] add to the fun.

Mining is often taken as the second profession, both because you'll need the metals, and because you'll need the ore for prospecting to get gems and jewels. Again, jewelcrafting is suitable for almost any class.

4. Blacksmithing and mining:
Blacksmithing is an intensive profession, but it has some pretty awesome rewards. With the most choice for specializations, to craft armor or weaponry, with sub-focuses in each category. The items can be pretty materials-intensive, although they rival or surpass dungeon drops.

Some fun items of note include skeleton keys like [Truesilver Skeleton Key] to open locked areas and chests, rods for enchanters, and shield spikes like [Iron Shield Spike].

Paladins and warriors will benefit the most from blacksmithing, as they can wear mail and eventually, plate. While hunters and shaman can eventually wear mail, and of course can wield weapons, it is not a popular choice for starting out with either class.

Because of the sheer volume of metals needed, mining is generally taken as the second profession.

5. Tailoring and enchanting:
Tailoring is the favored profession of casters everywhere. Mages, priests and warlocks can all benefit from the cloth gear produced, and indeed, in Outland, are sometimes bullied into taking tailoring even if they hadn't before. Still, especially for the lower levels, you don't have to feel pressured into tailoring if you don't want to be, although you might enjoy being able to make bags for yourself, your friends, and to sell.

Paladins, shaman and druids who are specializing to be healers might eventually decide to pick up tailoring, because armor value is less important than overall stats for a healer, although it is not a popular choice for those classes. I wouldn't recommend it to start.

Because there is no natural gathering profession that works with tailoring, feel free to take any of them, and sell the materials for pure profit. One of the main choices tailors make is actually enchanting. Tailoring actually utilizes cloth, which drops from mobs, rather than requiring a profession to find and gather.

Enchanters can add permanent stats to weapons and armor, but the real draw for tailors is the other aspect of enchanting; disenchanting. While you're making piles of armor that you're not going to use and can't sell just to level your skill, you can disenchant them and either sell the materials at a good price, or use them in your enchanting. This is a great way to recoup your losses, and in fact, gives you materials to sell your enchants as well.

Enchanting is an appropriate profession for any class.

6. Leatherworking and skinning:
Leatherworkers are generally rogues, hunters, shaman and druids, who all wear leather, at least to start out. At level 40, when shaman and hunters can start to use mail, you'll find that you can make mail armor as well by weaving scales into your leather.

Skins and not metals are used primarily in leatherworking, so skinning is the favored second profession. Skinning can be quite lucrative on its own, and even when leveling leatherworking, you may find you have extra skins to sell. Leatherworking will also allow you to convert your skins into higher level skins, increasing your profit margins.

Some items of note are armor kits like [Light Armor Kit], and quivers and ammo pouches for arrows and bullets.

The crafting professions (leatherworking, tailoring, blacksmithing, engineering, jewelcrafting and alchemy) can be expensive to level, and may not bring you as much profit as you'd like. In fact, most often, you'll be mainly concerned with making back some money, with the rest written off as a loss.

Still, if you would like to craft, you may have more fun and make some things you'll find handy to have. As long as you pick a smart pairing profession, usually from the gathering section (mining, skinning, herbalism), you should be able to handle yourself.

Then again, many players choose, at least for the time being, to stick with only gathering and service trades in order to make almost a pure profit.

Professions for profit
It is the belief of many that a player is better off with two gathering professions, either until a certain level, or forever. The thinking is that, although you might make the odd piece of armor you're going to use with a crafting profession, the actual cost of that profession is so high that you would have been much better off simply purchasing a similar item from another crafter, or from the auction house.

While this is true, it is also in some ways, less interesting. Still, if making boatloads of money is, in itself, fun for you, then you might like this route! Here are the recommended combinations:

Mining + skinning. Herbalism + skinning.
Mining and herbalism, while both keen moneymakers, tend to compete with one another. Because you're always searching for nodes of ore, or herbs scattered around, and because both allow you to track these items, you start to miss out. While tracking ore, you can't track herbs, and vice versa. Of course, there are addons that can help with this, but as a new character, you might as well avoid the issue. Mining and skinning have no conflict and indeed, can make you a fair amount of money.

Mining, herbalism or skinning + enchanting.
While gathering professions won't help you be a better enchanter, you can still get a lot of enchanting materials by picking up armor and weapons, or getting them as quest rewards, and disenchanting them. Having gathered materials and enchanting materials to sell, as well as enchants, can be lucrative.

Further reading:
  1. WoW Rookie: An overview of professions.
  2. How to change your specialization once you choose it.
  3. Have you been wondering why people hold bank alts?
  4. The ins and outs of players who wear cloth when they could wear plate, and more!

Each week, Insider Trader takes you behind the scenes of the bustling sub-culture of professional craftsmen, examining the profitable, the tragically lacking, and the methods behind the madness. Try our farming guides, including our cloth farming guide or our guide to motes. For a complete list of profession guides, feel free to peruse our directory.

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