I don't know about you guys, but I've been farming my butt off this first week! Lots of ore for my jewelcrafter, some herbs for my Alchemist and a ton of leather for Kaliope. I've also been collecting some general information and tips that I can share with you guys :)
I think skinning is the least discussed gathering topic, so I'll talk about that first. This tradeskill is very easy to level up, I didn't even bother using my Finkle's Skinner. Something to keep in mind is that phasing can still bite you even though you're not dealing with nodes. I read on Wowhead that the dragonkin in Mount Hyjal will phase away if you finish all the quests there. Luckily I got fed up trying to kill Nemesis with that stupid turtle that aggroes everything - and I left Hyjal for Vashj'ir. So I'm about 10 quests shy of completing Hyjal and the dragons are still phased in for me. I was able to complete Deepholm with no major losses, I also finished Uldum but I haven't checked on all the various critters there. I know the crocs along the river are still phased in and I try to pick up some freebies whenever I'm flying through. I was able to hit 85 without tackling Twilight Highlands, so I have nothing useful to share about that zone.
Something else I discovered this week is that skinners can collect an item called a strange bloated stomach. I actually saw a few of these in Beta, but it was after I had done the bulk of my skinning and I didn't have a good fix on what it was. Apparently this is the skinner's nod to the volatile collection process. Each bloated stomach contains 1-2 volatiles, I don't think I've seen more than two yet. So far I've been able to collect all five types of volatiles this way. Unfortunately the drop rate is pretty low. Last night I went out and skinned 100 critters and got only 3 bloated stomachs. This is a pretty typical ratio for me, sometimes I'll get as many as five but in general we're talking about a pretty low percentage. Considering how many volatiles are required for Leatherworking goods, I really think this drop rate should be bumped closer to the rate for Miners and Herbalists.
The big challenge this week has been mining. I'm still trying to farm up all the uncommon gems needed to cap Jewelcrafting. Even though I'm putting in about an hour a day in the morning and another right before bed, I'm still short on the mats needed to transmute meta gems. I've been trying to come up with some good strategies for farming, but it's hard with all the competition out there. I still think that avoiding quests in Mount Hyjal is a good starting point. Too many players are complaining about the lack of obsidium once they finish Hyjal, so you don't want to risk losing this on your Mining toon. You might also consider aborting Vashj'ir as well. I've had reasonable luck collecting obsidium there - even during prime time hours. It seems that few people bother Mining in the Kelp'thar Forest. Unfortunately I don't know what the phasing situation is like in Vashj'ir, so be careful! To be honest I've gone almost two levels on my Miner just from collecting ore. I've done maybe 20 quests total, mostly to unlock the seahorse mount in Vashj'ir. You may not need to do much questing if you're mining as much as I am!
I wish I had some amazing farming spots to share, but it seems whenever I find a good one more peeps turn up! I'll just try to share some general tips instead. First, I check the population of the zones I'm contemplating to see which is less crowded. You do this by typing:
If you get 49 names, you know you've capped out the list. In that case, I amend the search:
/who uldum 80-83
This will tell me how many players are in that level range and hopefully I'll get a number smaller than 49. Keep narrowing the level numbers until you fall under 49. Then do a second search for the next group (ie: 80-82, 83-85, etc). By doing this you can see how many players are in each zone and pick the least crowded one. Bear in mind this only shows your faction, so you can assume roughly double the number of actual players. I've found it quite handy for picking a zone to try mining. It's also helpful if you want to keep an eye on zone congestion and do something else until the crowds die down.
A few spots you might want to visit if you're just having no luck with Mining are The Abyssal Depths in Vashj'ir (far west end), the Kirthaven & Vermillion Redoubt areas of Twilight Highlands and the central area of Deepholm (Temple of Earth). These spots seem to attract less farmers than the more well-known areas. Also, I've heard good things about Tol Barad though I haven't actually been there myself.
I don't have any special tips for Herbalism yet - I've only done enough herb picking to level Alchemy to 500. If you're hurting for Stormvine, I was able to collect a couple of stacks in the Kelp'thar Forest. As with mining, not many players in this first section of Vashj'ir seem to be collecting nodes there. The northern portions of the Shimmering Expanse also seem to have reasonable herb coverage with lower competition.
As always, feel free to share any tips you've picked up this week in the Comments!