Choosing your primary professions
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You can only have two primary professions at a time. But they are not 'cast in concrete', you can discard a primary profession and replace it. And they are dirt cheap - Apprentice level training in a primary profession costs 9 in your starting area. When you are first starting, you might benefit by switching professions to meet a goal. You can use this to get a fair upgrade to your starting gear cheaply, and stock up on some low level consumables.
The downside is that every time you switch professions, you lose all of your built up skill and recipe knowledge in the one you drop. Your professions provide more capability and benefit when you keep them leveled up as you progress through the game. However, building and service professions are also costly to progress in.
One way to minimize this is to cherry pick the professions all at once; start out gathering, farm gathering a bit, then switch to crafting and make some key items, but don't invest heavily in training, then switch to what you really want. This is useful when you first leave your starting area, around level 5 or 6, where the crafting professions can produce useful gear upgrades immediately. By the time your character is in the teen levels, this strategy will no longer pay off.
- See also: Beginner's guide to professions
Choosing two primary professions
Though professions are cheap to start, your time is not. You will want to settle on two primary professions, or at least settle on not having any.
One option is to take two gathering professions. This will supply a very good income and will remove the expense associated with leveling a production craft.
- Skinning is generally the easiest, since you are often killing skinnable mobs as you level; you are essentially looting twice. Note that Skinning requires a or equivalent, purchasable from almost any skinning or leatherworking merchant.
- Mining and Herbalism are generally the most lucrative. Mining requires a , available from almost any mining or blacksmithing merchant. Herbalism requires no specific tools.
Although the "crafting" or "production" professions may look attractive because you can make armor and weapons as you level, newer players fail to realize that the money invested in leveling the craft and creating those items is often more than the cost to simply buy comparable equipment from the auction house. Likewise, low-level crafted goods rarely sell for more than the cost of their materials, except for the occasional twink item. With dual-gathering not only do you avoid the cost of leveling a craft, but you have a source of income with which you can buy that equipment. However, crafting professions do have unique crafted items that only those with a specific profession can use, which are mostly better than buyable items of the same item level. Therefore, discretion is required.
Perhaps the most important purchase you'll make in your early adventures is a mount. Mounts aid in movement and speed up the leveling process, so it is advisable to get one as soon as possible. By taking two gathering professions, you're much more likely to have the money you need for a mount at 20, a swift mount at 40, and a flying mount at 60.
While gathering pays well early on, the rewards don't always increase as you level; supply and demand may dictate that high-level herbs and ores sell for only slightly more than their entry-level counterparts. At some point you will probably want to take a crafting or service profession. They have better earning potential as you approach the level cap, and the crafted gear can be useful in a number of ways. Bear in mind that by holding off until you are higher level, you can gather all your own ingredients quickly, because you'll have access to a ground or flying mount, and you'll have fewer interruptions due to mobs wandering into aggro range. By developing a trade after reaching the level cap, you also don't have to worry about bumping up against a skill level cap; if you're willing to spend a few thousand gold at the Auction House or travel Azeroth gathering materials, you can level your crafting profession from Apprentice to Artisan and beyond in one day. Higher level quests provide greater cash flow, making it easier to afford your recipes as well.
"Production" professions can create potentially useful items. At level cap most production crafts have sought-after BoP items.
- Though some crafted items are very good, most are not up to the caliber of the best items that drop and can be found in the auction house.
- There is often much seller competition, and prices will then be severely deflated.
- Most common (white) item armor and weapons do not sell for a profit. Exceptions are generally the first piece that can be equipped in a slot, for example, the lowest level shoulders and helmets.
- You will need to learn what stat buffs sell, and at what levels players are willing to spend their money on them.
- If you take a profession that makes armor, take one that makes armor suited to your class. Not only is the armor wearable by your class, the buffs on the armor that you can make are geared toward your class - or at least some of the items are; leatherworking is fairly diverse, for example.
- Bags are a critical resource, so you might take tailoring just to make high level bags. If you want to do this, be aware that harvesting the fabric materials depends on your level and the level of the humanoids that you can handle, so check the materials you will need and see if the bags you want to make are within the scope of what your character can accomplish. If not, you might want to skill-up before you select this profession, otherwise, you are just wasting your profession slot before then.
- You might take a production craft just to make items to .
If you take enchanting:
- Disenchant drops and auction the enchantment materials. This helps save bag space, and the mats sell well.
- There are a few items you can make and sell directly. Do not expect these to make the bulk of your income. For caster classes the mana and wizard oils can aid leveling.
- Prior to Wrath of the Lich King, it was necessary to sell enchantment services on the trade channel. The addition of weapon and armor vellum, produced by Inscription, allows the selling of enchantments at auction.
- The demand is high for high-level enchantments, but non-enchanters are unaware of the costs and may be unwilling to adequately compensate.
- Often enchanters make their money from selling disenchanted materials on the auction, and therefore expect the player seeking an enchantment to provide the materials.
Tailoring is a good companion profession for enchanting for the production of disenchantable items.
Why not? Even if you do not want to invest the time in leveling a craft or investing money to do so, you can take two gathering skills while leveling and have some supplementary income by simply gathering the items you come across.
'Why not?' is because a profession takes time. It slows down leveling. And, you really don't need one.
Even just gathering takes time. Even selling the gathered items takes time. ... Running in to town with the good. Putting up the auctions. Re-auctioning. It all comes down to time - if you are running through the world leveling like crazy, stopping to skin, mine, return to a vendor or auction house, sell, ... it all slows you down. (See Power leveling)
You can get good enough gear just from drops and quests. You can get comparable or better gear than you can buy if you do instances with groups.
Even then, taking enchant to disenchant green items you don't want can help manage your bag space.
Professions at high levels
High level characters have a dilemma, they are both very good at their chosen professions and yet have many activities open to them that diminish the relative value of their professions.
Jewelcrafting stands out, because high level gear is socketed gear, and jewelcrafters cut and sell the jewels for sockets. Jewelers can also create BoP socketed trinkets and epic quality prismatic gems. Because prismatic gems match any color, and a jeweler can equip up to three at a given time, it's easier for jewelers to activate socket bonuses and meta gems.
Enchanting stands out, because you'll want to enchant that new gear.
Alchemy stands out, because the product is consumable and must be replaced.
Key high level crafting has long (multi-day) cool downs, so having high level crafter alts working the cool down items can save time.
If you are high level and you are considering changing your profession(s) consider that though you presumably have a lot invested in your profession(s), you also have vastly greater resources for developing your new profession(s) and can much more easily farm materials. Many players wait until their character is a high level before even choosing a profession (see Why bother? above).