Very clever, Blizzard. Very clever.
I had a post all queued up to go on a rant about how terrible professions have been designed this expansion. I still feel that way, actually, so let me just say it: professions in Battle for Azeroth are a lazy copy & paste job from Legion, including all of the mistakes. Well, most of them: at least alts aren’t as punished by needing mythic dungeons or whatever for Rank 2.
One of the principle sources of my ire however, were all the useless crafts and crafting materials.
Remember Unbroken Tooth in Legion? Well, the functional equivalent of that is Calcified Bone in BfA, which is selling for an average of 6 copper on my server. It’s supposed to be a higher-tier material, but all it does is displace the actually-useful Blood-Stained Bone material in Skinning – which will be relevant all expansion due to people crafting and scrapping leather wrists for Expulsom. So why have Calcified Bone at all? Why not split Blood-Stained Bone off and make Calcified Bone the crafting material needed for mail gear or whatever?
There’s not a good reason other than the lazy interns tasked with designing professions. But they’re going to get away with it because of Warfronts.
Basically, Warfronts are going to be item sinks for the entire expansion. The Horde have the turn-ins this week, and they include things like Great Sea Catfish and Straddling Viridium. Before this week, Great Sea Catfish was absolute garbage. Not only did you catch it in fresh water (huh?), you could only cook it into non-buff food. It’s greatest claim to fame was setting the floor price for Aromatic Fish Oil. Now you need 60 of them to get 500 Azerite Power and some reputation.
Meanwhile, while the 3% movement speed gems were nice in the first three days of the new expansion, I had bought several for below vendor price in the past few weeks. Now? There was about ~6 hours in which they were selling for 400g apiece. It says a lot about the game that people were willing to pay nearly 6000g to get 500 AP, but whatever, I just supply the things.
Guild Wars 2 has a similar “solution” for its own terrible loot system, in that the Mystic Forge lets you throw 4 (stacks of) items into a hole, and sometimes get a goodie out the other side. It kinda makes up for the fact that you accumulate an astronomical amount of debris in your inventory, and Warfronts provide a similar sink.
It’s all a bandaid, of course. The fundamental issue is that Blizzard regrets the existence of professions, and doesn’t know what to do with them. Should they be the source of the best gear in the game? “No, that should be raids.” Should they give better gear than WQs? “Also no, we need people out in the world.” Should they give gear that invalidates dungeon gear? “No, unless it requires dungeon drop materials, in which case we’ll allow it.” Should crafted gear be a catch-up mechanism? “Sure, that sounds fine.” You do realize that as soon as you put on crafted gear, then WQs will start immediately offering upgrades, right? “Working as intended.”
But, whatever. Warfronts are a thing now, and I just made 60,000g in a single day because of them. Mostly from Coarse Leather Barding and Prospecting Platinum Ore for gems. Next week should be much the same, up until people stop caring about maxing out AP. Which, given how the anti-alts philosophy Blizzard had in Legion has dropped, might not be for a while.
As of Battle for Azeroth, WoW professions have become almost entirely disposable.
I noticed this last night as I was puttering around on some of my alts. Three of them wear leather armor, so I was hopping onto each one trying to remember which had Leatherworking. As it turns out, none of them did. So, without much thought, I dropped Skinning on the rogue and then… paused. “Leather is cheap, but those Blood-Stained Bones are relatively expensive.” Then I decided that my druid would likely be more efficient at AoE farming for leather anyway, so I logged onto her and then dropped Enchanting without a pause and gave her Skinning.
If you have not been keeping track at home, Blizzard had been moving towards the Single Expansion Relevance model for a while now. Professions used to start at 1, and you would need to dedicate tens of thousands of gold/hours farming to level them up to 300+ just to get near where current-content gear was. If you kept up, you were sitting pretty, because everyone else just coming back from a break or brand new players had a huge grind ahead of them.
It was not a particularly elegant model, but it still felt… reasonable. Plus, the constant need for old-world mats for newly profession-ed characters meant that lowbies had a good shot at become rich by just gathering herbs/ore as they leveled. There was a whole micro-economy that existed there, including the savvy Auctioneers who were able to throw together a “profession kit” that would allow someone to max out to current content within 30 minutes. The dedication needed to remain in your own professions would inspire people to level alts just to have additional options, who then needed to be leveled and geared and fed a diet of AH materials, and so on, and so forth.
Then things started to change.
The first steps were allowing players to harvest current-expansion nodes even as a starter herbalist/miner. Blizzard made sure that the product extracted was basically junk, or 1/10th of the normal result, but you could at least tap the node. And that was reasonable, especially for the gathering professions, as it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to force high-level characters to be scouring old Azeroth for Tin nodes.
Then came the gimmie recipes for crafters, which allowed them to use current-expansion resources to rank up 400+ levels. One would think that such a feature killed off the old-school profession kits, but all it really did was set a price ceiling at which it was cheaper to just buy new herbs/ore. This was especially true at the beginning of an expansion, when the latest herbs/ore were selling for hundreds of gold apiece.
Somewhere in there, Blizzard also introduced profession books, which would allow you to “relearn” all the recipes you had lost when abandoning a profession.
With BfA, the circle is now complete. Professions are entirely stratified into expansion-specific tiers. Profession bonuses, which were the bane of hardcore raiders, were watered-down and diluted into irrelevance. Once a part of your character’s identity and story, professions are, at most, a (temporary) economic decision. Hell, in the heady days of a new expansion release, it can sometimes be worth the 1000g fee to relearn a profession if you can make ten times that amount in a night of being a temporary whatever. Blizzard helpfully removed most of the dungeon requirements for 3-star ranks, so the barriers has never been lower.
And all of that is probably for the best.
I sat here a while, exploring my feelings on the matter, before coming to that conclusion. I am a huge critic of any game design in which someone can lose on the character select screen, and WoW’s profession bonuses combined with the grind back up to max rank was just another form of that. That is on top of the ~5%/month churn rate which could see your entire MMO population turn over every 20 months. A new expansion is usually released how often, again? It’s just not a good design IMO to require people to pump out thousands of useless pieces of junk to increase a number to a sufficient degree to get to starting line.
Nevertheless, yeah, there is a part of me that had fond memories of the old system. My namesake paladin has been a Jewelcrafting/Alchemist since 2008 and none of that matters. I spent hundreds of hours leveling up a fleet of alts to cover every profitable base each expansion, and now the same thing could be done by one toon and a willingness to drop 1000g.
I am sort of waiting for the day when Blizzard just goes full GW2 and lets you buy extra profession slots for real money and otherwise just be done with the restrictions altogether.
This AH tip is from two expansions ago, but perhaps you also completely forgot it was a thing.
Do you know how in 7.1 there is a Blood of Sargeras trader? Well, there was one in Pandaria too. They are located in the Vale strongholds for your faction, out on the terrace. And, as it turns out, their exchange rates are very good:
Yes, a single Spirit of Harmony trades for 20 Ghost Iron Ore. Which are currently selling for 38g apiece on Auchindoun-US.
So, basically, if Spirit of Harmony are going for anything less than 760g each, then…
Now, what I will suggest is that you look at your own AH and not go too crazy with this sort of thing. Remember my Titansteel tip from Friday? I’ve sold two pieces, but the others have not yet sold. It’s entirely possible that they never sell at any price. Indeed, pretty much the sole purpose of any of these mats are to craft and sell mounts that have been out for 2+ expansions.
That said, I absolutely bought out all of the Spirits of Harmony below 250g and converted them to Trillium and White/Black Trillium Ore to post in the AH. Depending on sales, I might just toss in some Ghost Iron Ore as well. The profit margins are low considering that Starlight Rose is still ~75g a node, but I hate actively farming herbs and this breaks up the monotony.
Among the many mechanics Blizzard introduced to eliminate alts from WoW – after four expansions of encouraging them – one has been particularly annoying to me: locking Profession progress behind a lot of nonsense dungeon quests and random drops.
Don’t get me wrong, Blizzard has locked shit behind Exalted reputations and such before. But, Alchemy this expansion, for example, is a complete shit-show in terms of needing to run dungeons, and then proc Rank 2/3 potions/flasks by grinding through hundreds of still-pricey herbs. The other professions are a bit better, but barely. Gone are the days when you could port your alts to the latest capital city and basically start printing money.
For the most part, I have resigned myself to not have Profession alts. And things were fine. Well, at least until I checked the AH back on Auchindoun and seen the dollar signs. Or gold signs, whatever.
As I noted before, I had been more or less in the Sky Golem material business for the last month or two. Log on the alt, compare the price relationship between Ghost Iron Ore/Bars and Trillium and Living Steel and Spirits of Harmony, perform a bit of Alchemy, and then log off. Since that market tightened up, I happened to look at what else I could be using my Transmute cooldown for. That is when I remember Titansteel still being a thing.
Prices on things looked like this:
- Saronite Ore = 14g
- Saronite Bar = 34g
- Titanium Bar = 296g
- Eternal Fire/Shadow/Earth = 140g/37g/34g
- Titansteel = 3899g
What do you see when you look at that? Do you see… pleasure? Satisfaction? I do.
I bought a stack of 200 Saronite Ore, mailed it to my Miner alt to be smelted into bars, then mailed back to my Alchemy bank alt. From there, I Transmuted 8 Saronite Bars into a Titanium Bar, snagging +5 extra bars from Transmute procs. I technically already had plenty of Eternals from forever ago, but let’s just assume I bought some at market prices. I then mailed those mats back to the Miner alt to smelt into Titansteel before returning them to the bank alt for sale.
At the end of things, I spent ~3855g for five Titansteel, or roughly 771g apiece. If everything sells at current market prices, that’s 15,640g profit. If those don’t sell, I could always try my hand on selling the Mekgineer’s Chopper.
In any case, having those alts allowed me to bake in profits at every stage of the process, while also increasing the health of the Auchindoun AH by converting unused resources into useful, needed ones. It doesn’t get any more brilliant or Invisible Hand-y than that, folks.
And then we got Legion. GG, Blizzard, GG.
Still herbing, still making bank.
Sargeras-US prices for the Sky Golem kept getting reset higher, with the latest scan showing them to be 250k apiece. Luckily, the prices were much lower on Auchindoun-US – around 100k – where I originally had all my gold (~320k). I had the Sky Golem pattern on one of my engineering alts, but still had 15 days to go, considering the daily profession cooldown that was necessary.
Then I saw it: Sky Golem on Auchindoun for 85k buyout. Do I wait two weeks and save X gold? Or do I purchase now?
Typically, I would hem and haw on this decision for ages, and likely end up with a crafted Sky Golem two weeks later. Or perhaps find out that I am bored with the game and stop playing two weeks later. In light of that possibility, I decided to go ahead and spend my pixels for fun now. And believe me, the Sky Golem makes random herbing so, so much more fun. Combined with the Legion Herbalism glove enchants, it takes literally 0.5 seconds to herb a node, and I never have to dismount.
Given the difficulty of herbing in Stormheim and Highmountain, I don’t actually consider the Sky Golem to be an “investment.” As in, I do not think the mount is going to pay for itself over the life of the expansion by increasing my herbing yield by X amount. I mean, at current herb prices, it’s the same as around two stacks of Starlight Rose or three stacks of the others. But what I do consider it and can vouch for is its investment in fun. It is so, so very satisfying to herb now.
In any case, this is my WoW time now. Log on, set up some Missions, complete the WQs that grant 835+ gear while hoping for a Titanforge proc, and slowly work through the Legion Pathfinder achievement while herbing at maximum possible speed. I have a Demon Hunter and a half dozen other alts potentially ready to go, but I have a hard time justifying playing anything else. Which, of course, is only going to make things worse for me later, considering that Artifact Knowledge isn’t rolling on alts. Yeah, the AK work orders will be completed faster eventually, but gating is gating.
The thought of taking 1-4 more alts through Friendly rep on every faction and cycling through WQs on all of them just gives me gas though.
I have been at the level 110 cap in Legion for about a week now. A lot of hit, and a little miss.
World Quests (WQ) are an interesting variation of the traditional WoW endgame daily quest grind. You get an “Emissary quest” every day (accumulating to three total), which gives you some general direction: complete four WQs of that specific faction, get bonus rep and a chest full of goodies.
What’s odd about the system are two things. First, the interface for this is all weird. Maybe an addon will solve this (Edit: there are several), but I find it awkward having to zoom into each individual zone and hover over the WQ icons to see the rewards. Don’t really care all that much about Artifact Power or gold at the moment, and a whole lot more for the free gear.
And that’s actually my second concern with WQs: it does weird things to incentives. Basically, some of your WQs are going to reward gear straight-up, and the relative quality of this gear increases as your average ilevel increases. I’m not sure of the limitations of this system, e.g. if every armor slot is open season, but you better believe I’m willing to click on some objects and/or kill X mobs for the equivalent of heroic dungeon gear. Then you sometimes get Mythic gear WQs for defeating dungeons at any difficulty. Which, yeah, provides a pretty big incentive to run dungeons.
Incidentally, my DPS dungeon queues the last few days have actually been 3 minutes. One time it was actually instant, which caused a moment of panic as I thought I accidentally queued as a tank. I think WQs are the same across regions, and that might be the reason why a given dungeon would have no queues. Or possibly more people are willing to be tanks, given how easy questing is as one.
Gold-wise, I broke 100,000g last night. All as a Gatherer mind you, as the AH continues to be throttled. I suppose the expansion is still new – and raids have just came out – but the prices of some of these goods is rather surprising. Either Blizzard has gotten the farming bot situation finally resolved, or everyone is still flush with gold from Garrisoncraft, because
70g 100g+ Foxflower is crazy. That herb in particular is not only easy to farm, it can proc a literal fox that runs around and drops 20-30 herbs. If I cared more about wanting more gold, I’d be doing that every night. Fjarnskaggl is also crazy, and Starlight Rose? 280g apiece.
Given the profitability of Herbalism, I went ahead and dropped Mining on my druid. I started up Alchemy, under the assumption that if herbs were so profitable, adding some labor in there might increase that profit margin. As it turns out, I understand now: Alchemy got hosed. Basically everything is gated through a half-dozen or more dungeon quests. Not just high-tier recipes either – you don’t get the Alchemy trinket or transmutes until the end of a long, multi-dungeon quest-line. Flasks are after heroic boss kills. Rank 2 recipes also drop from dungeon bosses.
And then you have recipes themselves, which require ridiculous shit even for cosmetic items. Skystep Potion requires four (4) Starlight Roses. To move at 150% speed for 8 seconds. At current prices, that’s over 1000g a potion. Yeah, herbs will probably be cheaper a year from now. But Starlight Rose in particular is an herb that can actually proc failures.
In any case, I am overall comfortably coasting right along at the endgame. I spent another WoW token to resub, and the general gameplay of collecting the easy WQ gear and herbing my way to 10,000g by the end of the session is satisfying. At some point I am going to check out Demon Hunters, and then take a look at my rogue and/or other alts. My other alts will be a problem though, I suspect: most are trapped pre-Draenor, and I never unlocked flying there.
We will just have to see how engaged I stay with the druid.
Legion is weird.
After all the dilemmas of two weeks ago, I bit the bullet and created a druid on Sargeras-US using my level 90 boost. With the help of some donated +300% potions during the Invasions, I hit 100 well ahead of the Legion launch. The plan? Level as Balance with Restoration as a 5-man backup.
My first impression is that druids might well have won this expansion, at least on paper. Mages might have portals baseline, but the Dreamway can take you damn near anywhere (old world, Wrath, etc), and it’s a pretty place to boot. Plus, any misgivings I might have had with Balance gameplay-wise was erased with the artifact ability. I smile every time I get to cast Full Moon and watch a goddamn moon crash into a bunch of mobs, usually hitting them for 50-90% of their HP with one spell.
Outside of the questing experience though – which is just as good as before – everything feels weird.
As Syp notes, the class order halls feel like a waste of space. Or, perhaps more accurately, a waste of time – just another set of loading screens on my way back to questing. Seriously, my recent routine is Dreamway –> Order Hall for missions –> Dalaran for any profession quests –> Stormwind to AH herbs/ore –> Dreamway –> Order Hall for Flight Point back to questing zone. I suppose there might be a more efficient route in there somewhere, but the point remains that we now have three entirely different hubs with Important Things in them.
Remind me again how this is better than people being stuck in their Garrisons?
Indeed, the whole Order Hall business as Garrison 2.0 is making me scratch my head. I get the fiction of Order Halls. And I even agree that it fits thematically with us being commanders, wielding the artifact weapons of our people. But… why? Why this Garrison business again? The system is a lot more streamlined than before, with only ~5 followers or whatever, and that’s good. But the “gameplay” of three clicks every 2/4/8 hours is a road to nowhere. So much so that Blizzard recently released a companion app that lets you make those three clicks while not even playing the game.
Don’t get me started on Professions. Catch-up mechanisms really needed to exist, lest new players be forever stuck behind old-world material walls. This new paradigm of only needing level 100 skill though (and even then only for World Quests)? Jesus, what’s the point? Skill level is immaterial, old-world recipes are immaterial (outside maybe transmog), old-world mats are immaterial… oh, but the entire design in predicated on being max-level and hitting high reputation levels with endgame factions, rendering crafting alts as functionally useless. Which might well have been the design. But it’s a dumb design, a design that explicitly punishes the very things that Blizzard has been adding to the game for more than half of it’s existence.
So… I dunno. Blizzard probably got a good year of subscription money from me back in Wrath by actually making alt characters useful and engaging. We have now reached the point at which we have the opposite philosophy from the last four expansions. Between that, the fact that Sargeras had 30-40 minutes queues on Tuesday, and that the AH continues to be throttled (presumably due to realm size), I am beginning to question why I spend time playing this game over, say, anything else.
I was reading the 6.2 PTR patch notes for WoW the other day, and I was thinking to myself “hey, these are really good changes.” Like, really good. But after thinking about them for a little bit, I realized that they were so good because the mechanics they were changing were so bad. Like, really bad. Here are two of the items I’m talking about:
- Players can no longer queue for Ashran while in a raid and are now automatically placed into a raid after entering.
- Crafting the new upgrade items requires Felblight, a new reagent that can be obtained from Fishing, Herbalism, Mining, or Skinning in Tanaan Jungle.
I zoned into Ashran one day last week, and the experience was almost awful enough for me to stop playing altogether. Honestly, Ashran is just another failed iteration in pseudo-world PvP in a long list of them, but somehow the Blizzard devs made it worse.
Look at that first patch note. What happens right now when you zone into Ashran is: nothing. You grab some of the quests and then you storm out. But because you aren’t in a raid with everyone else, that means you get no buffs, no shared kill credit, no passive gains at all. While the LFG function can be used to find groups within Ashran, the only ones available when I zoned in were either farming specific races (for achievements, etc), or had some gear requirement, or were full. Which is fine on its own, go form your specialized groups, but we’ve had auto-raids for Wintergrasp and Tol Barad and it boggles my mind that this is just now being implemented.
On the other hand, I am not entirely sure how much this would actually help entice me back to Ashran. The “combat” is a one frame-per-second shitshow of lag and AoE spam where everyone charges up the middle lane. I guess there are events off the main lane sometimes? All I know is that if you aren’t a ranged class or a DK with Deathgrip, you are a waste of space and will die instantly the moment more than one person can tab-target you out of the crowd. Retribution paladin? GTFO. Compare that to Wintergrasp or Tol Barad, where even the worst-geared, worst-class player could make a difference in the battle’s outcome.
The second patch item listed above is what really drove things home though. For those that might not know, the hitherto endgame upgrade material was Savage Blood. For the crafted items in Warlords, there are four levels of upgrades, which can bring a level 91 2H Axe from already-beyond-heroic-dungeons power to current-raid power. The only realistic way to get Savage Blood? A level 3 Barn in your Garrison. It didn’t really matter what your professions were or where you farmed or anything at all to do with anything: you needed a Barn.
Which is precisely why the change highlights the absurdity of the current system. Blizzard all but killed every gathering profession this entire expansion. Every character has access to a Mine and Herb garden no matter what their professions were, and generally these resources were enough to fuel your required daily cooldowns. Which were largely the only reason you actually needed things like ore and such, since every profession was gated behind daily cooldown items. If I were to be optimal about things, I would have dropped at least one profession from every Warlords-level toon and made them Enchanters, strictly to sell their daily material (one of the few non-BoP versions).
Iteration is one of the cornerstones of game design, I know. But I can’t help but feel like Blizzard sometimes gets away with outrageous bullshit that would bankrupt any other MMO. Completely removing profession bonuses, followed up by rendering most professions functionally useless, on top of limiting how many pieces of crafted gear can be equipped? Then, a year later, saying “lol jk, I hope you didn’t drop Mining/Herbalism on every toon”? Just imagine something like that happening in Guild Wars 2 or WildStar or whatever.
I’m glad they are fixing terrible, broken game design. But who approved this shit in the first place? You already knew what worked three expansions ago!
Having read all these changes in the pipeline, I’m in a weird place now. Not just with the above, but there are also notes in there about how the mat cost of the crafted gear is being lowered, and the mat generation being increased. I have a bunch of alts that would be more than happy getting ilevel 640 gear the moment they ding 91. So… what? Do I go ahead and craft these items for them with the mats I have now, or wait until 6.2? Obviously if I’m going to keep playing WoW between now and then, it makes sense to craft them. On the other hand, I don’t have to keep playing. It’s not like I don’t got other shit to do. I feel like I’m in that Enthusiasm Tax trap of being better off if I enjoyed playing a game less.
Then again, that’s pretty much always been the case with WoW. And yet, here we are. Again.
How the fuck do they do it?
It has been weeks, and I just hit level 88 on the paladin.
I have established a pretty stable routine based on daily profession cooldowns, which is a good sign to anyone that wishes me to continue logging in everyday. Scribe, Tailor, and then JC/Alchemy. I mentioned before that the AH on Auchindoun-US is pretty garbage, and things have not especially improved since that first impression. Instead, I have adapted. Glyphs, for example, were a market I avoided previously because the value for my time just was not there with the botting and the undercut wars. Now? The competition is basically one baron with a 699g fallback that I undercut by 100-200g depending on my mood. In fact, since I’m just using Auctionator instead of a more robust addon, I simply order all glyphs by highest price and use that as my guide for production.
By the way, many virtual tears were shed when I realized how utterly useless my 50 stacks of banked Twilight Jasmine and hundreds of other Cataclysm herbs became. The two dozen stacks of Pyrite Ore got prospected into gems which turned into rings which turned into nicely priced Enchanting materials. Blackfallow Ink, though? Good for only a single glyph… and Mysterious Fortune Cards. Better than vendoring the herbs, I suppose. I hope.
Something I always find interesting is how much Blizzard changes the paradigms with each expansion. After two straight expansions of alt-friendliness, Mists is the most alt-unfriendly expansion I have ever seen. The whole Spirit of Harmony thing in particular is maddening as someone with alts of every profession. Specialized crafting components being BoP is nothing new (Frozen Orbs say hi), but what is somewhat new is how early in the process they are required for goods. Level 85 blue Blacksmithing weapons requiring 2 Spirits at skill level 545? Why?
Speaking of crafting, I don’t know how I feel about its present trajectory. Blizzard has been simplifying the process for years, of course, but my return after a 1.5-year break makes the culmination stand out. Specifically: do people really like random-stat crafted gear? Or how Ghost Iron is basically the de facto resource for all Blacksmithing? Or completely interchangeable Enchanting ingredients? Some historical aspects of crafting were becoming increasingly obtuse as the game aged – Enchanting rods come to mind – but there is something to be said about requiring more than two moving parts and/or working towards a specific item. Hell, I was immensely relieved when I saw the level 90 crafted JC rings/necklaces were specific things with concrete stats.
Anyway, my immediate goal is to get the paladin to 90 so that I can unlock the farm. While that sentence was a bit depressing to type, it is more painful to me knowing that while I make it a point to log in daily for the profession cooldowns, I am continuously missing all the easy Spirits of Harmony (etc) that I could be gaining while I putz around looking for a new main. I have not tanked on the paladin yet – part of me rebels against the necessity of memorizing yet more mob/boss abilities – but I am definitely not a real fan of the Retribution rotation/kit anymore. At least compared to how fun/fast I was mowing down mobs as the warrior anyway.
Although… well, I did have a bit of a giggle Bubble-Hearthing away from two separate gank attempts. Just like old (TBC) times.