Optimizing With Professions
MMORPG.com World of Warcraft Correspondent Robert Duckworth writes this look at getting the most out of your professions in Blizzard's World of Warcraft
Optimizing your equipment is a part of almost any MMO, and WoW follows this trend closely. So closely it could be argued that the game doesn't really start until you are level 80. There are the typical ways of increasing your equipment: raiding dungeons, grouping up for heroics, PvP rewards, and questing. Crafting has always been a possible method of gear progression, but it often falls behind as players quickly outpace what they can make. Many players do not see this as a bad thing though, at least not at the level cap. There have been crafted items before that became so powerful everybody wanted one. Probably the most notorious example would come from TBC, where the Stormherald quickly became known as the PvP weapon of choice for warriors.
Blizzard's crafting system has never been perfect. The main problem is that when leveling, by the time useful gear can be crafted, it's no longer an upgrade. This pattern of out levelling crafted gear before you can make it continues all the way through end game raiding. For example, by the time a leather worker got an epic pattern to drop and could craft the BoE epic piece, it would be more of a side grade then an upgrade. While the Leather worker made a profit if they could find a buyer, it wasn't always worthwhile to wear the gear themselves.
In WotLK end game professions have been improved. So far, there are no epic patterns dropping in raids. End game professions are currently not. Instead, the item itself will drop from the end game raids and can then be sold or equipped by anyone in the guild. This sounds like a bad thing, but professions have been extended so that they provide more useful benefits to the players, as well as each having a means of making money. Each profession now gains crafter only special abilities. Either stat bonuses or the ability to create an enchantment of superior quality that is better than anything else in the game for that gear slot.
Stacking them up
Gathering professions are condensed and simple. Mining grants a passive stamina boost called Toughness, providing a bonus of 50 stamina. Skinning gives a passive ability called Master of Anatomy, which increases the players critical strike rating by 32, or in other words increasing their critical strike chance by about .70%. Herbalism provides an instant healing spell called Lifeblood, regenerating 2000 health over 5 seconds. Depending on what your goals are, these are nice bonuses. Especially for professions that many players consider as a means to an end, rather than a profession within themselves. The crafted professions on the other hand provide bigger and better bonuses then gained from the gathering professions, as well as more flexibility. All of the crafting professions do grant a rather similar end result reward, so players are not being forced into switching professions from one they like to one they don't. They are just being pressured to perhaps drop their gathering skill in exchange for a second crafting profession.
Blacksmithing, Jewelcrafting, Enchanting, Leatherworking and Inscription all provide nearly identical bonuses. Blacksmithing provides the crafter with two extra gem slots. Jewelcrafting lets the player craft more powerful gems that are soulbound. Enchanters gain special enchants for their rings. Leatherworkers are able to apply an enchant called Fur Lining to their bracers. Scribes get the most powerful shoulder enchants in the game. The net gain is always roughly the same no matter which of these professions a player chooses. Physical damage dealing classes can gain a bonus of ~64 Attack Power, while spell casters can gain ~37 bonus Spell Power.
Blacksmithing and Jewelcrafting provide more flexibility then Enchanting, Leatherworking, or Inscription. Ring enchants, Fur Lining, and shoulder enchants only apply direct Spell Power, Attack Power, or Critical Rating bonuses, which are only useful for some classes. Gems on the other hand, which is how the bonuses are created for both Blacksmithing and Jewelcrafting, can be selected to be much more useful. This is because many classes gain talents that increase specific stats. For example; Survival hunters have Lightning Reflexes which increases their agility by 15%, while Arcane Mages have Arcane Mind which grants them a 15% increase in intelligence, as well as Mind Mastery which further converts the bonus by increasing Spell Power by 15% of the mages intellect. For basically every class the bonuses from a pure stat are more powerful then a direct Attack Power or Spell Power bonus. The benefit from having both Blacksmithing and Jewelcrafting may seem trivial numbers wise, but just the flexibility of being able to stack Hit or Spell Penetration gems instead of Spell Power allows a player to fully optimize their gear.
Stacking two crafting professions will net a player a bonus of ~128 Attack power or ~74 Spell Power. Jewelcrafting and Blacksmithing could use gems for Critical Strike Rating to match up against the gathering profession Skinning with its 32 critical strike rating. The end result will see both of those bonuses equaling 32 critical strike rating as well. An issue with using a gathering profession for a stat, either Toughness or Master of Anatomy, is that these passive abilities will probably not scale. The only certainty right now for the future of profession bonuses is that gems will become epic quality. Epic quality gems only promote Blacksmithing and Jewelcrafting, whereas all of the other professions are going to need some kind of increase in their natural abilities or else fall to a second class profession. Judging from the lack of recipes that require top crafting skill, Blizzard is planning on allowing all of the crafting professions to scale with new content. Gathering professions on the other hand don't have any visible room for improvement.
The other crafting professions are worthwhile, but they go about it in a different manner. Alchemy has a new passive ability called Mixology, which increases the potency of any flasks or potions that the alchemist consumes. Only if the Alchemist knows the recipe themselves though. Mixology is not as good as the other crafted professions because the benefit is only gained while the flask or potion is active. So while the other professions gain their benefits on a permanent basis, an Alchemist must constantly consume potions in order to maintain their bonus. While it may sound like flexibility, able to switch your stats on a spur of the moment just by drinking a different potion and gaining added benefits, it really isn't. The only time players of crafted professions might need to switch around stats is when they get a new piece of gear, not every 2 hours or so when their potion wears off.
Since potions and flasks can't be used in arenas, Alchemists also gained a new ability which allows them to craft two new potions; Endless Health and Endless Mana. These are the only two potions that are useable in arenas, though they can be used outside it as well, and they function identically to Healthstones and Mana Gems. The potions are also permanent, so you never have to make a second one. Unfortunately the amount of health returned isn't much, and the amount of mana returned is just abysmal. The Endless Mana Potion only returns 400 to 600 mana; compared to a Runic Mana Potion which returns ~4300 mana.
The last professions is Tailoring. While Leatherworking got to create Fur Linings for their bracers, Tailoring gets to create Embroideries for their cloaks. Tailoring is special because there are no straight stat bonuses, instead everything is chance related. There are three different kinds of Embroidery; Darkglow has a chance to give the user 300 mana on a spell cast, Lightweave may cause damaging attacks to deal bonus ~1100 damage to targets, and Swordguard could increase Attack Power by 300. Because of the nature of Embroideries, it is hard to determine how they stack up against other professions.
Engineering falls into the same boat as Tailoring. Instead of proc related embroiders though, engineering uses various activated devices. Probably the most surprising issue with the Engineering gadgets is that they do not stack with any of the enchants. It appears that Blizzard, in an attempt to give Engineering fun and exotic abilities while not overpowering them, left them underpowered. In TBC Engineering was a major boost to any arena player, this is no longer the case in WotLK. Most of the abilities Engineers get are flavor rather then necessary. The only two gadgets of note are the Nitro Boosters and then Hand-Mounted Pyro Rocket; the first increases run speed for two seconds and the latter fires a rocket dealing ~1100 damage. Compared to the top five crafting profession bonuses, Engineering just isn't worth it right now except in extreme situations. Some players probably still swear by the Nitro Boosters.
Right and Wrong
Currently in WotLK there is no right or wrong profession for enjoying the game. Even the slight bonuses that Jewelcrafters currently enjoy over all of the other professions are minuscule in comparison to the larger picture. Though it is no longer advised to skip professions all together, and two crafting professions are better than having a gathering profession, the end bonus is not required to play your class to its expected potential. With that said, right now and most likely in the near future, the best two professions for maximizing a classes gear is Jewelcrafting and Blacksmithing. The special gems available from Jewelcrafting can be used to fulfil any necessary socket bonuses from tier gear, as well as providing all the necessities for meta gems without any waste. When combined with the bonus sockets from Blacksmithing, there is an even larger benefit as the gems that would have been pure and replaced by the special jewelcraftings gems are placed there instead.
As an example: a Retribution Paladin wants to stack Strength as their main stat. The Tier 7.5 set, Valarous Redemption, contains 1 Meta socket, 4 unpure sockets, and 3 pure sockets. Ignoring the haste bonus on the chest piece, because haste is a bad stat for Retribution Paladins, the sockets turn into 1 Meta, 3 unpure, and 4 pure. All 4 pure sockets are filled with +16 strength gems. The 3 unpure sockets are filled with the +27 strength Dragon's Eye gems, which fulfils the Meta requirements as well as the socket bonuses. The extra sockets are then added, providing a further 3 sockets filled with +16 strength gems. Due to the socket bonuses gained from the Dragon's Eye gems, the character gains a further +12 strength. This is a rather huge boost of the strength stat when compared to a character with no crafting professions, and a decent but minor boost when compared to a character with a mixture of other professions.