First you should camp near your Alchemy trainer in Stormwind/Orgrimmar. When you log in, pick up the two discovery recipes: Alchemist's Rejuvenation and Master Healing Potion. DO NOT learn Zen Alchemy yet! You want to learn as many new recipes as you can before you begin the leveling process. You can see from the tooltip on both of the trainer recipes that they allow you to discover other recipes. It also says that discovered recipes can unlock recipes too. So making any Zen recipe has the possibility of teaching you a new Zen recipe. Unlike previous guides I've written, I am not recommending the use of older content recipes to get early skill points. The discovery process is too important for unlocking new recipes to bother with going that route.
Now you need to level Herbalism, which you can do by following my leveling guide here. Only in this case your goal is not to reach 600 Herbalism, just to collect the necessary herbs for leveling. You will need to progress to at least 565 so you can collect the snow lily needed for the harder recipes. The mix of herbs you'll need for Alchemy will vary depending on which recipes you unlock at the time they are helpful for leveling. It's quite possible to discover a recipe after it's already yellow, green or gray difficulty. For the purposes of this guide I'm going to prioritize recipes that use green tea leaf, followed by silkweed and then snow lily. These are the three easiest herbs to collect. Here is the list of materials you'll probably be using:
525: 40+ green tea leaf for discovering recipes
525-530: 5-10 green tea leaf for the first 5 skill points
530-540: 20 green tea leaf OR 10 green tea + 10 silkweed OR 20 silkweed
540-590: 80 silkweed + 80 snow lily OR 80 green tea + 80 snow lily OR 80 rain poppy + 80 snow lily
590-600: 50 ghost iron bars OR 5 golden lotus + 5 uncommon gems
For each step the easiest recipe is shown first, followed by the 2nd and 3rd choice. The recipe you select will depend on which recipes you discover. No matter what you learn, you'll need at least 2 stacks of green tea leaf and likely at least some silkweed.. I would farm 3 stacks of green tea leaf and 1 stack of silkweed to cover all your bases. Next, use those herbs to unlock as many recipes as you can by crafting Alchemist or Master Healing potions.
With any luck you'll discover Mantid Elixir (best option) or the Jade Serpent potion (2nd best choice) during this phase. Just keep making the first 2 potions until you stop learning recipes. Odds are you'll unlock about 7-10 recipes and then the discoveries will dry up. If you've cranked out 5+ potions without learning anything else, you're probably done until you skill up again. Now is the time to train Zen Alchemy. If you're already in Pandaria picking herbs, you can visit Ni Gentlepaw at Dawn's Blossom. Otherwise grab it from your trainer in Stormwind or Orgrimmar.
At this point, use your first set of discovery recipes to get to 540 skill. Hopefully making these potions will start to unlock more recipes that you can use for the next part. After 540 you'll probably need to move on to a harder recipe in order to get optimal use of your herbs. Hopefully you learned at least one of the recipes on the 540-590 list. If you didn't, you probably need to farm more green tea leaf so you can go back to crafting Alchemist/Master potions for discoveries. If you did, you can either move forward or you have the option to stay in research mode and unlock as many recipes as you can. This is up to you.
As on the previous step, I've listed the 540-590 recipes in order from easier to harder. Hopefully you discovered at least one of them, so now is the time to continue farming herbs. You need at least 4 stacks of snow lily and 4 stacks of green tea/silkweed/rain poppy. No matter what, you're going to end up farming silkweed in order to get access to snow lily. Once you have your 8 stacks of herbs, make 80 potions from the 540-590 list. You can do combinations if you happen to discover an easier potion while making one of the others. Once you finish making these you should be at 590.
When you reach 590 skill in Alchemy, the only recipes you can level up with require a Golden Lotus or metal bars. Currently none of the transmute recipes have cooldowns except Living Steel. No matter which option you take, you'll probably need a Miner to get these last 10 points. The transmutes are a better choice than flasks because each one gives you 2 skill points. I had originally planned a path that involved the gem transmutes, but after doing a timed Mining test I think the Trillium Bar recipe is the best way to go. I was able to collect 5 stacks of ghost iron ore in less than 15 minutes (12:52 to be exact), even with a handful of other folks farming ore around me.
So the last step is to grab your Mining toon, train Zen Mining and go to Pandaria. You can reference my leveling guide for Mining here for details on how to get there and where to mine. Collect 5 stacks of ore and smelt it all into bars (there's an anvil/forge at Halfhill). You should have 50 bars, which you can mail to your Alchemist. Convert these bars into Trillium and you should hit 600 Alchemy in the process!
For those of you who are not pushing for a Realm First, I have a slightly longer but more lucrative path to offer for the last 10 points of Alchemy. Take your Alchemist to Jade Forest and head for the section of the river just north of the Serpent's Heart. Along the river bank is an area called the Slicky Stream. If you're in this spot (as noted on your mini-map) you'll see Stream Striders in the river, but if you wander too far away they phase out. They have about half the health of most mobs and drop Motes of Harmony. Motes of Harmony are your ticket to Golden Lotus =)
An alternate area with low health mobs is the Fox Grove. There are Mottled Caterpillars you can farm, but this area has aggressive tigers as well. The Fox Grove is on the east side of the river opposite Nectarbreeze Orchard. Hopefully you got a few Golden Lotus while you were picking herbs, if not you can use the striders or caterpillars to farm motes of harmony.
For each Spirit of Harmony you collect (made with 10x motes) you can trade for 3 Golden Lotus. Once you have enough motes to bring your Golden Lotus count to five, you can travel to the Vale of Eternal Blossoms to exchange your SoH for lotus. So worst-case scenario is you have to farm 20 motes of harmony, which can be done in 2-4 hours (average of 90 minutes per 10 motes).
If you want to go with this plan, I advise that you make a detour during your herb gathering. When you're ready to leave Kun-lai Summit, travel south down the road through Winter's Blossom. Go past Kota Basecamp all the way down to the Shado-Pan Fallback. Run inside the tower there and take the stairs up to the top. From here follow the wall south - the Vale of Eternal Blossoms will be on your left. Before you reach the next tower, jump over the wall and into VoEB. You shouldn't die from this fall.
Now ride all the way across the zone to the southeast corner. You should reach a city called the Shrine of Seven Stars (Shrine of Two Moons @ NE corner for Horde). Go up the curved stairs and in toward the semi-circle balcony. At the far edge of the balcony is Krystel the Spirit of Harmony Vendor. She will trade your Spirits of Harmony for a variety of crafting materials. Horde players can take the road north after they pass the Golden Pagoda. Danky the Spirit vendor is standing in front of the large tree on the upper balcony.
You'll still need ore to do the gem transmutes, but much less than with the trillium path. I think 1-2 stacks of ore should be enough to get 5 uncommon gems. Once you have your 5 lotuses and the 5 gems, do the transmutes and you should reach 600 Alchemy. On top of this, you'll have some rare gems to sell!
Realm First Seekers
If you end up with recipes that use more difficult herbs (like rain poppy) this is probably going to hurt your chances for a Realm First achievement. Farming any herbs other than the three I've listed in the Herbalism guide will take you longer and put you behind someone else who doesn't need those herbs to skill up their Alchemy. The reason for this is that all of the 540-590 recipes require either Fool's Cap or Snow Lily. Of those two, snow lily is the easier one to collect. In order to pick any of the higher herbs, you need to farm several stacks of silkweed to get your skill up. Therefore the easiest recipe to use for leveling Alchemy is the one that uses silkweed and snow lily (aka Elixir of Perfection). Anything else and you are picking extra herbs on top of what you collected during the Herbalism leveling process.
At 540 if you haven't learned Elixir of Perfection, you'll be at a disadvantage. If you only have Virmen's Bite or Elixir of the Rapids, you'll need to go back to VotFW or Jade Forest and farm 4 extra stacks of herbs to continue. Personally I would farm one stack of green tea leaf / rain poppy, then make 10 potions and hope you discover Elixir of Perfection in the process. You could do another round of 10 potions if you still don't learn the Perfection recipe. Beyond that I think you probably need to write off a Realm First since other players are very likely ahead of you due to better luck with discoveries. I don't say this to scare anyone off the process, just to make sure you are aware of what you're up against if the discoveries don't fall your way.
- Farm at least 3 stacks of Green Tea Leaf and one stack of Silkweed.
- Follow the Herb leveling guide (Do not leave VotFW unless you have 5 stacks of Silkweed. Do not leave Kun-lai unless you have at least 4 stacks of Snow Lily.)
- Crank out 40 Alchemist/Master Heal pots to discover recipes.
- Make 5-10 discovery potions to reach 540 skill. Check which recipes you learned.
- If you have Elixir of Perfection, make 4 stacks of it, otherwise farm 8 stacks of rain poppy or green tea leaf. Then make 4 stacks of potions with the herbs you collected.
- Farm 5 stacks of ore on your Mining toon and smelt into bars
- Make 5 trillium bar transmutes (has no CD)
If you find any part of this post confusing or vague, please leave a Comment so I can fix it!