Every week, WoW Insider brings you Gold Capped, in which Fox Van Allen and Basil "Euripides" Berntsen aim to show you how to make money on the Auction House. Feed Fox's ego by emailing him, tweeting him at @foxvanallen, or sacrificing your first-born to him.
Last week here in Gold Capped, I gave you a sneak peek at the alchemy profession in Mists of Pandaria, including some of the new potions, flasks, and transmutes available to those willing to put in the work. That column apparently got a lot of you thinking, because immediately afterward, I got no fewer than three emails from players asking if they should change their professions to alchemy -- or more generally, whether or not they should switch to a better profession.
It's a question to which there's no easy answer. Each profession has the potential to be profitable -- some more so than others, sure. But one person might make millions of gold from inscription, for example, while another player struggles to make a few silver.
Aside from knowledge (which you're all getting right here from Gold Capped, natch), what's the biggest factor regarding a profession's profitability? It's your playstyle. Certain professions lend themselves to the weekend Auction House warrior, while others reward daily persistence. So what profession is right for you? And should you change to that profession for Mists of Pandaria?
Define your playstyle
Before you make any kind of decisions about your professions, you really need to sit down and consider exactly how you play World of Warcraft in the first place. Take these key questions into consideration.
How often do you play the game? Some of us are terribly addicted to WoW and log on every day. Others only play a few times a week, or in some cases, a few times a month.
How much time do you want to spend crafting? When Mists of Pandaria launches, you're going to be incredibly distracted with new content, from new raids to new Battlegrounds to new areas to explore. Frankly, not a lot of us are going to want to spend a lot of time with tedious activities such as milling, prospecting, smelting, and crafting. We're going to want to be out there doing something fun.
Why do you want money in the first place? Are you earning money to be able to afford the best gear as soon as it's available? Are you funding an expensive pet or mount habit?
As you're answering those questions, remember that your playstyle is likely to change somewhat when MoP launches. You'll play more often. You'll do different things. But even that enthusiasm will likely fade, and you'll sink back into your current playstyle.
Mining, skinning, and herbalism
Without a doubt, gathering professions are at their most profitable at the start of an expansion. People eager to get to 600 skill will pay any price for the materials to do so. If you can hold off using the raw ore and herbs yourself for a few weeks, you can rake in a bundle thanks to the start-of-the-expansion price spike.
If you've got 525 skill in either mining or herbalism, you've probably noticed that farming doesn't bring in nearly as much gold per hour as it used to -- not by a long shot. That tempts a lot of people into dropping the profession, but now is definitely not the right time. It's always darkest before the dawn. Those professions will be extraordinarily lucrative in the early weeks of MoP.
Is a gathering profession right for you? There's no huge monetary investment required, so they're great for players who are new or are just starting out on a new realm. It's a great money maker for casual players. You don't need to spend a lot of time camping the AH, and you don't have to put work in aside from the act of farming itself. If you like exploring, you like running dailies, and you like being able to supply your own mats when supply on the AH is low, then a gathering profession is right for you.
Just be prepared for a frustrating few months in terms of farming competition. Things get cutthroat at the start of every expansion, and node sniping is the norm.
Tailoring, leatherworking, and blacksmithing
Do you raid actively? Are you always out for the latest and greatest gear? Or maybe you just prefer to avoid the Auction House when you can and do things for yourself. If you fit any of these profiles, you'll likely do well with a crafting profession such as tailoring, leatherworking, or blacksmithing.
The real benefit to these three professions is gear. They all let you craft top-tier armor, and in the case of blacksmithing, weapons. This is especially valuable during the opening days of an expansion, when you'll be in the market for this gear yourself. They all pay off, first and foremost, in convenience. Because of that, they're great for a casual player.
More active players may stymied by slow-moving auctions and low demand. You can't put in extra work into these professions to get extra reward. There's only so much crafting you can do to make money, and most of that crafting can be done in no more than an hour a week.
Tailoring, ironically enough, is a great profession at the start of the next expansion, thanks to effort you put in at the end of the current expansion. You simply cannot make enough bags before the new expansion launches to satisfy the demand upon launch. Keep making those bolts, and keep crafting those bags. Wait until the second or third week of MoP to start unloading them. Profit.
Jewelcrafting and inscription
Most people who play WoW think that the key to making money in jewelcrafting and inscription is in cutting the right gems and making the right glyphs. But those people are wrong. The real value in jewelcrafting and inscription is in the tedium -- prospecting and milling.
If MoP is anything like Cataclysm, these two professions will offer near unlimited potential for making you money. But to get that money, you need to put in work. Serious, boring work. I got a million gold in less than half a year, and I did it by spending hours each week milling. (In other words, I watched TV while absentmindedly clicking a mouse button thousands of times.)
As that anecdote suggests, these are two time-intensive professions that should really only be attempted by the most hardcore of AH players. Sure, you'll make a little bit of money selling cut red gems. But the real money will be made by prospecting cheap ore to find uncut red gems. Similarly, you'll get more money milling herbs, making ink, and then making Darkmoon cards than anything else you can do with inscription.
If you're looking for the ideal middle-of-the-road profession, I'd strongly recommend enchanting. No matter what your playstyle, you can make money. If you're a casual player, you can make decent coin buying mats off the AH and crafting scrolls or just by selling DE mats you find while questing. If you're a more hardcore player, you can make epic enchants -- high initial investment, high profit potential.
You'll be able to make some money through engineering by selling the occasional weapon or pet. But the real point to engineering is fun. It's a fun profession with lots of fun perks -- teleportation, repair bots, portable mailboxes, and the like. You'll never get rich as an engineer. But if you don't care about making money at all, engineering is one of the best and highly recommended professions out there.
To switch or not to switch
It takes a lot of work and money to get a character up to 525 skill in two different professions, and it will likely be even more expensive to get a character to 600 in MoP. Changing professions is not something to be taken lightly.
First of all, the only people who should consider switching professions are heavy users -- people who play WoW a lot and, more importantly, play the Auction House a lot. If you're a casual player, don't bother switching. You'll spend far more money to level your new profession than you'll probably make in the new profession, and you'll lose the benefits of the profession that you've been enjoying (and probably been taking for granted).
For those players who are regular WoW players, especially those maxed out on character slots, there may be some value to switching professions -- but only if you meet at least one of these criteria:
You don't like your current profession. Fun matters, and if what you're doing isn't fun, you're unlikely to get value out of it, gold or otherwise.
Your current profession no longer matches your playstyle (i.e., you don't run dailies anymore, so you get almost no value out of skinning).
You genuinely believe the expense in switching (often 10,000 gold or more) can be easily made up by your new profession with a speed you cannot match with your current profession.
If the temptation to switch professions is hard to resist, keep this in mind: You're much better off starting a new death knight and leveling it to the point where you can take and max out two new professions. You could do this with any class, of course, but since a DK starts at level 55, you've got a huge head start on the process.
Maximize your profits with advice from Gold Capped. Want to know the very best ways to earn 10,000 gold? Top gold making strategies for auctioneers? How about how to reach 1 million gold -- or how one player got there and then gave it all away? Fox and Basil are taking your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.