Gold Capped: Alchemy specializations overhauled in patch 4.3

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I love playing the alchemy market. It's proved profitable for me all expansion long. Part of the reason why its been so profitable is a general alchemy specialization imbalance; almost no one chooses Potion Master on my server. Why? Part of the reason is that a lot of people choose Transmutation Master. The other, more important part of the equation: Few casual players know that specializations even exist.

Come patch 4.3, though, that's about to change -- new alchemy specialization quests are being added in your capital city.

Specializations: Worst-kept secret?

Anyone who's been around since The Burning Crusade knows about alchemy specializations. They're a terrific bonus to the profession that allow you to, on occasion, produce extra potions, elixirs, or transmute products as a bonus. With a proc rate of somewhere around 15-20%, they can single handedly mean the difference between profitability and taking a loss.

Great though these specializations are, though, not a whole heck of a lot of World of Warcraft's current player base know they're even available. The necessary quests are located in different locations in Outland. Some newer players miss them entirely. Come on, show of hands -- who's been to Stormspire in the last two years for reasons not associated with alchemy? Anyone?

And even once you find them, the three alchemy specialization quests are a pain to complete. One sends you into the Black Morass instance, one of my least favorite in the game. Another forces you into the Botanica. If you're at level 75, 80, or 85, you can't queue for these through the Dungeon Finder -- you have to make the trek all by your lonesome and solo the instance. Granted, soloing these instances is pretty simple these days. But for a stupid alchemy specialization, it's a lot of work.

Moving the specialization quests to Stormwind and Orgrimmar is a terrific step in getting newer players caught up to speed. Of course, it also levels the playing field information-wise and will likely make it harder for alchemy moguls to make a living. (Sorry, guys.)

Meet your new specialization quests

In patch 4.3, you'll be able to pick up the three new specialization quests by visiting your local alchemy trainer. The quests will only be available if you haven't already specialized.

Changing your specialization is simple in patch 4.3 -- just visit the professions tab and click "unlearn specialization." Then accept and complete one of the three available specialization quests. Visiting Outland is no longer required.

In their current form on the PTR, you need to be a minimum of level 1 to grab these quests. (This may very well change.) Being able to complete the quests without aid of the Auction House requires you to be a far higher level, however -- you'll need a slew of Cataclysm-era herbs and materials.

If the requirements for Potion Master seem a bit lower than you'd expect, that's because Blizzard is slashing the mats requirements to craft potions in patch 4.3. The Mythical Mana Potion, for example, now only requires a Crystal Vial and a single Whiptail. Similarly, the Mythical Healing Potion only requires a Crystal Vial and single Twilight Jasmine. Those changes should cause a significant price drop on two of the most widely purchased potions in the game.

Are the current BC quests being removed?

According to Wowhead, all of the existing BC alchemy mastery quests are staying in the game, so your future alchemist alts can breathe easy. That doesn't mean that existing alchemists won't see changes, though.

On the live (pre-4.3) servers, once you finish one of the three alchemy specialization quests in Outland, changing your specialization requires you visit the NPC who originally taught you, talking with them, and paying them 150 gold to unlearn it. Right now, this is either Lauranna Thar'well (Potion Mastery, Cenarion Refuge), Lorokeem (Elixir Mastery, Shattrath), or Zarevhi (Transmutation Mastery, Stormspire). Once you've paid to unlearn a specialization, you learn your new specialization by talking to one of the other two NPCs. (That part is free.)

On the patch 4.3 PTR, your ability to talk to an NPC and learn a new specialization for free is gone. Instead, you'll need to accept one of the new quests from an alchemy trainer and complete it.

What does this mean for your bottom line?

This has a ton of implications for alchemists who play the Auction House, especially those who play it regularly. The most obvious change is that, post-patch 4.3, almost all players will know about and actively have alchemy specializations. That will likely drive down profit margins across the board by increasing supply. I would presume the potion market will be especially hard hit, since the cost to become a Potion Master is far lower than the cost of the other two masteries.

For anyone who actively switches back and forth between specializations as a routine part of doing business, things are going to get much more convenient but much more expensive.

Currently, switching a specialization costs a flat 150 gold plus whatever costs are associated with traveling to that particular NPC in Outland. Switching to become a Potion Master should be cheaper in patch 4.3 than it currently is; the materials for completing the Potion Master quest only cost 75 gold on my server. The costs for completing the Transmutation or Elixir Master quests are much higher than 150 gold, however -- just under 1,000 gold for Elixir Master and about 1,750 gold plus four days' wait for Transmutation Master (or about 1,800 gold if you just buy the Truegold off the AH).

Costs here are significant enough to keep folks from switching their specializations back and forth at a whim. And presumably, that's the goal. If you want to play multiple sides of the alchemy market -- say, profiting off of both gem transmutes and potions -- you'll need more than one alchemist to do it.

My only criticism here is that Blizzard may have made the cost to complete these quests a bit too prohibitive, at least on the Elixir and Transmutation Master side. One to two thousand gold is a lot of money to beginning players who may not know a cheaper BC-era option is available. I'd like to see the cost of Transmute Mastery cut in half (or, alternatively, see the materials requirement to make Truegold cut in half). To balance things out, I'd like to see the Potion Master quest should be a bit more material-heavy -- maybe requiring 20 Mythical Mana and Health potions instead of just six and four.

Act now -- time is running out

This change to the alchemy profession necessitates a review of your alchemist's Auction House strategy. Do you want be a key player in the epic gem transmute market when patch 4.3 goes live? Do you want to be your server's elixir and cauldron salesman? Or do you want to make your margins through volume selling potions? The time to decide is now. Choose your patch 4.3 specialization now, and head to Outland while it's still cheap to change.

[A hat tip to the folks at Power Word: Gold for bringing this subject to my attention.]

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