Alchemy is one of those professions that’s suitable for almost any class, as there are plenty of potions to be made, with a wide variety of effects. Using the herbs you gather from your herbalism collection skill and empty vials that are purchaseable at any trade skill vendor, you’ll be able to get your fix as often as you like.
Of course, the most alluring aspect of Alchemy will be the ability to make healing and mana potions, since these aren’t available for purchase in stores. In addition to these straightforward concoctions, though, there are plenty of other delectable treats in store, from stat-buffing potions, to regeneration potions, to damage-absorbing potions, and so on. All of these have only temporary benefits, but they can still be useful when you’re heading into a tough fight or into an instanced dungeon. In addition, you will eventually be able to transmute metal bars from one sort to another, or even the high-end elemental essences, which will let you more easily obtain the reagants required for your potions.
One thing to note is that alchemy isn’t a big money-making profession. Although you can sell or auction potions to other players and they can use them freely, most people aren’t willing to pay a huge amount of money for items that will only grant them temporary buffs.
After you’ve managed to get ore up out of the ground and have converted it into bars at a forge, you’ll be ready to create arms and armor with your blacksmithing ability. Blacksmithing is unique in that it’s one of the only professions that’s capable of creating weapons, and indeed that’s one of the biggest draws of it. In addition to plenty of armor that’ll be rolling off of your anvil, you’re going to be able to create daggers, swords, maces, axes, and plenty of other varieties of weapons. Many of these won’t be as good as the weapons that you’re likely going to be finding, at least through the early portions of the profession, but if you stick with it until you reach the higher-level crafting, you’re going to be able to make a host of blue weapons, such as the coveted Truesilver and Arcanite Champions, which are exceedingly difficult to find the ingredients for, but which will make you well-respected in your guild, or just obscenely wealthy when you put them up for auction.
The main drawback to Blacksmithing is that there aren’t many support items that can be created with it, meaning that you’ll mostly be rolling out weapons and armor that you have no intention of using, just to increase your skill level. There are a few useful items, of course, such as Mithril Spurs, which can increase the speed of a mount, and the various Whetstones and Sharpstones, which can increase the damage dealt by a weapon for up to half an hour, but much of what you create will be outclassed by the items you find or obtain via questing. You can earn a good amount of money by custom crafting for guild members, or placing hard-to-create items up on auction, but until you reach the upper levels of the profession, you’re probably not going to be making many items for yourself.
Enchanting is one of the few professions that is completely self-contained; there’s no collection profession to learn alongside it, which makes it a popular choice to pair up with tailoring. If you do decide to become an enchanter, then you’ll be able to permanently upgrade armor and weapons with sometimes substantial bonuses. Of course, at the earlier levels of the skill, you’re going to be enchanting stuff just to be enchanting it, as the bonuses are fairly insignificant (+1 to all resistances, +5 to mana, etc.); it isn’t until you significantly increase your abilities that you’ll start seeing the stat increasing or +X damage enchants. This can make it frustrating to level up, but once you do gain some of the higher-level enchanting recipes, you can at least make a bit of money by offering your wares in the general chat of a major city.
Of course, if it was easy to be an enchanter, then everyone would do it. Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as just putting your hands on an item and magically making it better - as with most professions, you’re going to need to have reagents before you can cast your enchantments. The trick here is that these reagents can only be found by disenchanting high quality items, i.e. anything green, blue, or (god forbid) purple.
After you train into the lowest level of enchanting, you’ll automatically obtain the Disenchant skill; when you use this on a green or higher-quality item in your inventory, you’ll destroy the item and gain one or more enchanting reagents, such as Soul Dust, Magic Essences, Astral Essences, or so on. Like items, enchanting reagents come in various rarities, with higher-quality items more likely to be disenchanted into the rarer reagents. Of course, the more powerful enchants will usually require the rare reagents, which are the toughest ones to find, since the blue items that will yield them when disenchanted are themselves tough to come by. If you plan on being a serious enchanter, then, you’d be advised to get yourself into a lot of instanced dungeon runs and roll on any green or blue items that the other members of your party don’t need; you’ll find a lot more of them while doing these dungeons than you will while running around in the overworld.
In fact, one of the reasons that tailoring goes well with enchanting is that many of the items you make with tailoring can be immediately disenchanted to provide more reagants. All an item needs to be is green or blue to be disenchanted, and many of the tailoring recipes you receive as you skill up that profession will at least be green. In this fashion, you can continue to increase your tailoring abilities while providing the reagants needed to simultaneously progress in your enchanting skills.
Engineering is a more circumscribed profession than many of the others, in that the items that you make will often not be sellable, due to the fact that most of them require the user to have a certain amount of engineering skills to use them. Thus, most of these will be purely for your own entertainment. Most of the engineering recipes require ore or rock, meaning that you’ll want to have mining as a secondary profession if you choose to be an engineer.
On the plus side, engineering gives you a large array of items to make, with a really wide variety of effects. With engineering, you’ll gain items that will let you increase your movement speed, trap an enemy in a root (which is devastating in PVP), take control of a mechanical mob, resurrect a fallen ally, or even use mind control on a humanoid opponent. Of course, if these were all guaranteed effects, then everyone would want to be an engineer, but that’s not the case; most of these items stand a chance of backfiring, which will usually cause either the opposite of the intended effect, or will directly damage the user. For example, the Goblin Jumper Cables may shock a dead player back to life, but they might also explode when used and kill the user. The Net-O-Matic Projector, on the other hand, is intended to trap your target in a net for ten seconds, but may catch on the user’s clothing instead, thus trapping you in the net.
Although plenty of the items created by engineering have these drawbacks, many do not. The most common of these are going to be the dynamite and bombs that you can make; these give engineers a quick form of AoE damage, albeit one that requires sometimes significant cooldown times in between uses. Hunters will also find engineering a useful skill, as it allows them to make guns, bullets, and even scopes which can attach to guns and bows for extra damage. There currently aren’t any professions that allow players to craft bows or arrows (a serious oversight!); hopefully there’ll be a fletcher profession at some point, but for now, engineering is the only way hunters have to increase their offensive capabilities.
This is the collection aspect of Alchemy. This works in a similar fashion to Mining; when you have the Find Herbs skill activated, then herbs will appear on your minimap, allowing you to track them down and collect them. You don’t need any kind of collecting implement in your backpack, as you would with Mining or Skinning, so you’ll have more room for your precious herbs, and you’ll need it, as you’ll usually be wanting four or five different kinds of ingredients at a time.
Luckily, herbs can be found almost anywhere in the game world, as opposed to mining veins, which are generally found only on rocky outcroppings. Still, you have to pay attention to context while collecting; if you’re in a group, it’s generally considered rude to consistently run off to collect herbs, especially if you’re all trying to travel somewhere.
Leatherworking is the crafting companion to skinning; with it, you can turn your various kinds of leather into an assortment of items. Most of these will be leather armor, of course, of a variety of types, with a number of items that’ll give good agility bonuses, which are perfect for hunters and rogues. In addition to the armors, the main support items are armor kits, which can be applied to four different kinds of armor to permanently enhance their defensive capabilities, and quivers or ammo pouches, which all hunters will find necessary.
One of the main drawbacks of leatherworking is that it will become precipitously less useful after your hunter or shaman hits level 40, since they’ll be able to switch over to mail at that time. This is more of a problem for a shaman than hunters, as the latter will be primarily concerned with pure stat bonuses on their equipment rather than its capabilities as armor qua armor; shamans, though, will need both the higher armor of mail as well as the strength and stamina bonuses that are more readily found on that type.
Mining is the collection skill that matches up with both Engineering and Blacksmithing. Before you can mine, you’ll have to have a Mining Pick (which you can buy at any trade skill merchant), and will obviously need to train your mining skill up to at least level one. Then you can head out into the world and start looking for mining veins, which will let you unearth valuable metals.
Metal is usually going to be found in veins near mountains and hills - it’ll rarely be found out in the open areas of a zone. This means that metal collection will usually require a bit more dedication than either herbalism or skinning. You won’t be able to create your own resources just by killing beasts, as you will in skinning, and you won’t be running across your resources as you run around the bulk of a zone; you’ll probably have to dedicate portions of your time to "mining runs," as they’re called, and run around in zones where lots of metal veins are known to be located. A good example of this is the range of mountains stretching from just above Crystal Lake in Elwynn Forest all the way around to the Eastvale Logging Camp; if you run from one end of those mountains to the other, you’ll usually find a number of copper veins. Unfortunately, after a player gets three or four pieces of ore from a vein, it’ll disappear, and won’t respawn for a few minutes. Thus, if you have the misfortune of starting a run a minute or two after another player, you’re unlikely to find much of anything to mine. This can make mining something of a random pastime. We’ll see how Blizzard deals with the increased server population in retail; if enough people have a hard time finding mining veins, it’s reasonable to assume they’ll either increase the number of them or decrease their respawning time.
Anyway, when you whack at a vein with your mining pick (if you have one in your inventory, all you need to do is right-click on the vein while you’re standing next to it to do so), you’ll get a window showing you what you’ve mined. This will always include at least one piece of ore, but may also include various other items like pieces of rock or valuable gems, many of which will also be usable in your crafting profession, or, if not, then can be sold for good chunks of change.
It’s the ore that you really want, though. Before you can use it, you’ll need to convert your metal ore into metal bars; this can only be done at a forge, which can usually only be found in towns with enough of a population to support an NPC blacksmith. (I.e. the smaller a town, the less likely it is to contain a forge.) When you’re standing close to a forge, you can use your smelting ability to smelt the ore into bars, which are what you’ll need before you can start smithing items.
Now, when you have bars of metal, you can feel free to start making engineering items, if you have the other required ingrediants. To blacksmith, though, you’ll need an anvil; check the blacksmithing section for more details on that.
Skinning is the collection aspect of leatherworking. In order to skin, you’ll need to train at a Skinning trainer, buy a Skinning Knife (available from Leatherworking and most Trade Skill merchants), and find yourself something to skin! Of the various mob types, only beasts are skinnable, but not all beasts. Insects and birds are often not skinnable, but most other types of beasts are, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding something to take your knife to. You can check whether or not a target is skinnable by mousing over its corpse after it dies.
When you have your skinning ability set up, you can head out into the wilderness and start skinning away. If you obtain your skinning after your character has levelled up a bit, though, you may notice that you can’t skin mobs of your level after you kill them; like any profession, you’ll have to start out on easier targets, which in this case means that you’ll have to return to a newbie area and find low-level monsters to kill and skin. You should be able to skin anything at level 10 or below with a single point of skinning, but that’s just to get you started; to skin higher-level monsters, you’ll need to have five points in skinning for each level of the mob. For example, if you want to skin a level 30 monster, you’ll have to have a skinning skill of 150 or higher. As with most collection skills, the difficulty of the collection will impact whether or not you’ll gain a skill point when you perform it, meaning that you’ll have to consistently skin enemies near your theoretical limit in order to consistently skill up skinning.
On the good side, though, it’s very, very easy to skill up skinning, since there are good populations of beasts in every zone; you won’t have to hunt down mining veins or keep your eyes peeled for herbs, in other words. If you skin everything that’s available to you, you should be able to maximize your skinning skill without having to make "skinning runs" or anything like that, leaving you more time to focus on your leathercrafting.
Tailoring, along with Alchemy and Engineering, is one of the professions that most suits mages and warlocks. With it, you can create cloth clothing, armor, and other items that are most suitable to classes that aren’t heavily armored. Many of the armor pieces that you’re able to create will have inherent bonuses to intellect and spirit, and some will even give you direct bonuses to magical damage or healing, making them recursively useful for spellcasting classes. In addition to the normal armor items, though, you’ll also be able to make tailored shirts of various colors, odd items of clothing like the Tuxedo Jacket, as well as bags that will often fetch a good price at auction. (If you manage to max out your tailoring skill, you’ll eventually be able to create bags with up to sixteen slots!)
One of the unique things about tailoring is that, like Enchanting, it doesn’t have an associated gathering skill; the raw materials for tailoring (namely, linens of various quality) drop on humanoid enemies throughout the game world. Thus, there’s no need to do anything to obtain your materials except adventure as normal, assuming you face off against humanoid enemies fairly often. Unfortunately, the same linens used in tailoring are also used in First Aid, which is available to all classes regardless of their main professions. These means that, when fighting through an instanced dungeon, you’ll usually have to compete with almost every other member of your party for the cloth drops, unless you all agree beforehand on a fair distribution of them.
Unlike professions, you can obtain as many of the secondary skills as you wish, even if you already have two professions. These skills revolve around creating or finding items that will let you more easily heal yourself; they’re not usually highly lucrative and won’t let you create equipment or long-term buffs.
Cooking is simple, albeit somewhat circumscribed at this point in the game. As a cook, you’ll be tasked with finding meat of various animals, ranging from the commonplace, such as boars and wolves, to the relatively obscure. (Meat drops off of beasts naturally; you don’t need any other collection skills to find it.) When you have meat, you can bring it back to a fire or cooking rack to make it into food.
Most of the food that you can create is straightforward, of the sit, eat, and regain health variety, but you will eventually be able to make food that will buff your spirit and stamina for 15 minutes with each meal. This can be fairly useful, but it takes an awfully long time to get up to the higher levels of the skill, and when you do, you might find that many of the recipes you’re interested in will also require a high level of fishing skill to acquire the ingredients in what can be an unpleasant bait-and-switch if you haven’t been spending a lot of time fishing.
First aid is likely going to be something that almost every player will want to pick up, mostly because it’s easy to use and lets you cut the downtime related to health drain, or lets you heal up your teammates, no matter what class you are, even during combat!
To start out with First Aid, you’ll need to gain the skill from a First Aid trainer, then find some cloth. Cloth (linen, wool, silk, etc) is a common drop on humanoid enemies, and can be made into bandages with your First Aid ability; these bandages can then be applied to yourself or to a teammate, and will heal your target over a short period of time. The best part of all this is that cloth is pretty easy to find, which makes First Aid an easy skill to build up, especially if you grab it at a low level. If you wait until you’re a high level before you nab it, you’ll have to start out with the linen recipes before you can work your way up to the higher-quality cloth, which will either force you to buy a bunch of linen at auction or camp a bunch of low-level spawns, neither of which is a very palatable option.
It’s important to remember, though, that applying a bandage is considered to be a channeling action. This means that your target (or yourself) won’t get all of the benefits of the bandage right away; it’ll take around six seconds for the complete effect to be felt, during which time you can be interrupted if you’re hit. (This prevents you from bandaging yourself during solo combat, by the way, or at least prevents you from getting the full effect of a bandage, as it’ll cut out as soon as you’re struck by a weapon or spell.) Also note that when a bandage is applied, the target can’t be bandaged again for sixty seconds. Thus, first aid is best used for either shortening the downtime between solo fights, or for healing yourself during combat when you don’t have aggro, or for healing a teammate who’s on the cusp of death. You’re never going to be able to match the pure healing power of a class with healing spells, and you’ll find that over-reliance on bandages will result in your running out of them at inopportune times, especially in instanced dungeons, but still - it’s a free skill that every non-healing class will find use for at some point or another.
Well, almost every non-healing class, we should say. The only reason you might not want to pick up first aid is if you’re also a tailor; since tailoring requires large amounts of cloth, then you’d have to be splitting your resources between two skills, meaning that you’d be unlikely to excel in either of them. Since the classes that are most often tailors are mages (who can summon in food to heal themselves in between fights) and priests (who obviously have little need for first aid anyway), you’re unlikely to miss first aid if you choose to be a tailor.
Whether you consider fishing to be merely boring, really boring, or brain-liquefyingly boring, will depend on your level of patience. After you receive your initial training in fishing, you’ll be asked to buy a fishing pole and optional bait. (You’ll probably want the bait, as it greatly increased your fishing skill for a few minutes.) When you have a pole, you can walk up to the edge of a body of water and use your fishing skill to cast your line. If for some reason the water is unfishable, you’ll get an error message telling you so, so pack it up and head somewhere else when this occurs.
When you’ve cast a line, all you can really do is wait for your bobber to, well, bob; when you see it splashing around, right click on it to see what you’ve caught. The thing here is that your bobber will rarely splash before the timer drops below halfway, sometimes won’t splash until the timer is almost done, and sometimes won’t splash at all, forcing you to recast. The tedium really starts to set in when you realize that, even if the bobber does splash, you’re not guaranteed to get anything; at low levels, at least, you’re going to get an awful lot of "Your Fish Got Away!" messages.
The thing about fishing is that, if you’re willing to put the time into it, you’re going to find plenty of restorative items (fish that can be eaten like any other food), including some that are a bit more powerful than what you would normally be able to buy. If you’re a real cheapskate, then, and don’t want to have to pay for food, then fishing might be a good alternative for you, if you’re willing to soak up some of your time with it. (You might also want to try out cooking and see which one is easier for you.)
In addition to plain old edible fish, you can also find inedible fish (these are useful in alchemy and can sometimes be valuable at the auction house), messages in bottles (usually containing scrolls of some sort), and lockboxes (which are rare, but will usually contain something decent). Of course, you’re going to have to stand around by a body of water to get anything at all, unlike first aid and cooking, which at least have the benefits of letting you gain experience while you gather the materials required for them. Still, though, it’s relatively inexpensive to train yourself in fishing, so you might want to give it a shot and see whether or not you enjoy it.