Now that we have a release date for Mists of Pandaria, I need to start pushing out some leveling guides for the professions! By my estimates we are probably looking at roughly 4 more weeks of Beta, so ready or not it's time to start compiling guides. I'm going to lead off with professions that I have on multiple toons, just in case new changes get pushed after my initial testing. First up is Archaeology, which I have capped on two different characters.
I decided to level with Kaliope first because she was still sitting at 525 skill. Since Kaliope has already reached level 90, I gave myself some restrictions in order to simulate the level 85 experience. I used only ground mounts for traveling, even though Kaliope is able to fly. I allowed myself to use a flight path only after I had already been through a particular area. I fought whatever mobs jumped me to approximate a low level experience as much as possible. Some classes can shed aggro, but I did not use my escape abilities for this test.
Before Beta launched, I stockpiled fragments from 8 different races on the Live realms, ranging from Night Elf to Tolvir. I also had two different epic items unlocked and ready to discover. Sadly none of the current races gave me skill points and neither of the epic items granted skill points either. The only skill points are coming from Pandaren or Mogu completions. Each completed Panda/Mogu artifact will give you three skill points.
Before midnight on Launch day, park yourself next to the Archaeology trainer! Grab Zen Archaeology training before you head out. Then start the quest that pops up in Stormwind/Orgrimmar. If the quest doesn't automatically launch for you, just run into Stormwind Keep or Grommash Hold to activate them. Once you reach the boat and zone into Jade Forest, jump off the boat. Try to aim for the water below if you can!
When I first arrived started digging in Pandaria, my dig sites were spawning mostly in Valley of the Four Winds (VotFW) and Krasarang Wilds. Around 570 skill, more dig sites start popping in Kun-lai Summit. For the last 20 skill points I was also getting dig sites in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms and the Dread Wastes. I can confirm that it's possible to reach Kunlai and VoEB via ground mount. I did not try to navigate the Dread Wastes since I only had one digsite pop up there.
The early zones are pretty easy to reach, you'll start out in the Jade Forest. From there you can ride due west from the Serpent's Heart and cross the river into VotFW. To reach Krasarang you simply go south from Thunderfoot Fields. The higher zones are a bit trickier because they are really meant to be unlocked with quests. To enter Kunlai you take the Veiled Stair from VotFW (north of the Grassy Cline FP) and follow the Ancient Passage north. Stay on the left side of the tunnel to minimize aggro from the mobs inside. For the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, you need to go to the Shadow-Pan Fallback at the southwest corner of Kunlai. Enter the tower and go to the top of the wall, then follow the wall south. You can drop off the wall to your left and you'll be in VoEB, just make sure you actually cross into the zone before you fling yourself over :) If you drop before you reach the bright red trees, you'll take minimal fall damage.
Pandaria dig sites are currently providing six archaeology finds per dig site with 5-9 fragments per find. For those who are curious, dig sites on older continents have also been upgraded to the Pandaria model of six finds per site. Generally you'll get enough fragments from one dig site to complete an artifact. Panda research projects range from 40-50 fragments each. Mogu projects range from 30-60 fragments each. You get 3 skill points in Archaeology for each common artifact you complete. At this time I have not unlocked any rare or epic artifacts.
Most of the Pandaren artifacts are the Twin Stein Set and the Mogu artifacts are usually a Mogu Coin. You can click the coin or stein to "crate" them, which allows them to stack. You'll want to crate your artifacts if they can be crated. Otherwise the coins/steins don't stack and eat up bag space. Each of these common artifacts has a "pristine" version (mogu/pandaren) you may get on occasion which starts a quest. The quests are not working in the current build.
Occasionally an ancient spirit will spawn while you're digging and attack. They drop additional fragments matching the current dig site when killed. The mobs appear to scale to the player, not the zone. Kaliope was consistently getting level 90 spirits, even when digging in lower level zones.
While you're leveling Archaeology to the new cap, you'll likely end up with 20 or more Restored Artifacts. These are used to purchase items from Brann Bronzebeard in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. Here is a screenshot I took that shows what Brann will sell you:
You can see in this first image that Brann has a number of crates which are related to each race. These boxes contain fragments from the specified race. I purchased one that had 9 Dwarf fragments inside. I assume the number is somewhat randomized but I didn't waste my "coin" testing that theory. I think these crates are meant to address some of our requests to focus our research on specific races. We can use our currency to purchase extra fragments for the races we want to progress on.
I think the item in this second image will turn out to be quite handy. This is a trinket that lets you teleport to one of your Pandaria digsites. This should cut down on the significant time investment needed to work Archaeology once you get your rep up with the Lorewalkers.
In this next image is an awesome new item you can purchase from Brann. This is something many of us have been asking for since Archaeology went live -- a way to reset the dig sites. Now you can buy this "map" and have a way to do it!
Brann and his goodies can be found at The Seat of Knowledge, which is located on the upper level of Mogu'shan Palace in the Valley of Eternal Blossoms. I don't believe there's a way to access the Seat of Knowledge without flying there (at least I can't find a way up). The Seat of Knowledge is also where you can pick up the daily quest for Archaeology. So far there are only two quests: Uncovering the Past and Research Project: The Mogu Dynasties. Both of these quests simply require you to have a stash of Pandaria fragments to complete the quest. Doing this quest every day will get you 5 Valor Points and some gold.
For those wanting to try for a Realm First, I attempted to determine a meaningful estimate of the time needed to reach the new Zen level cap for Archaeology. This is why I restricted myself to a ground mount and only used flight paths after I had already been to an area earlier in the test. I spent about two and a half hours leveling Archaeology from 525 to 600. This included all of the travel time and fighting nearby mobs, as well as the time needed to unlock flight paths along the way.
Folks who want to go for a realm first should plan on three hours but push as hard as you can to shave that time down. You should also be prepared to fight mobs when you reach higher zones. While it's not difficult to avoid mobs as you ride through an area, some of the dig sites are in mob-infested locations. Make sure you pack some flasks, buff foods and whatever else you think you may need to take on the occasional level 90 mob.
I'll be out of town for the rest of this week, so no promises on providing further details during that time. If other beta testers want to chime in, feel free to do so!