Over the past two days I've been working on Zen Blacksmithing. I ran into a troubling snag with motes of harmony, they seem to be dropping at a much lower rate. I'm not the only one having this issue, one of our readers has also reported a poor rate on motes this week. I want to investigate this more fully, but the drop rate currently looks to be around 70% lower than my previous test of 10/hour. Bear in mind that my tests are done in the early zones where most players will be starting out. I will continue to monitor the situation, but at this point we need to consider the mote situation as somewhat unknown on drop rates.
On the plus side, I've finally run into a profession where Cataclysm recipes are a good starter option for Zen leveling. In the Beta there are a number of recipes that are still orange at 525, but most are not the sort of item you'd want to grind skill points with. The Pyrium Shield Spike is a reasonably low cost recipe that is still orange and would be worth considering. On my realm the mats for spikes are right around 20g. Desade has done more extensive testing on this method than I did and he has the spikes turning yellow at 530, green at 535 and gray at 540 (plus all other Cata recipes). If you have a stash of pyrium you don't mind burning through, this could be a good way to knock out the first 10-15 skill points.
I opted to use the new ghost iron recipes so I could document the progression using new materials. Most of the recipes grant 3 or 5 skill points when you make an item, so the leveling process doesn't feel nearly as wasteful in MoP. Blacksmithing has been converted to the new "random" crafting model, where you have one core recipe that creates a variety of stat gear. I took a couple of screenshots to show you some of the items you end up with:
You'll notice that one of these pieces is rare quality. I only got one item like this during my level up process, but it looks like we're getting the random blue procs that Jewelcrafters get :) I'm pretty excited about that part!
So let's get down to the progression path I worked out for Zen Blacksmiths. I'm not entirely happy with this list just yet, there's a nasty patch at 565 that I'd like to smooth out a bit (completed, see "update" section below). I'm going to recopy my Smith to see about making some tweaks. Meanwhile this path will work and it gives you guys something to start planning with:
525-526: 1x Pyrium Shield Spike
526-532: 2x Ghost-Forged Belt | 2x Ghost-Forged Gauntlets | 5+ Pyrium Shield Spike
532-544: 4x Ghost-Forged Boots
544-549: 1x Lightsteel Shield
549-554: 1x Lightsteel Shield | 1x Spiritguard Shield
554-559: 1x Spiritguard Shield
559-569: 2x Ghost-Forged Breastplate | 2x Ghost-Forged Helm
569-575: 6+ Ghost-Forged Shoulders | 6x Spiritguard Shield (made 13x shoulders)
575-600: 9x Contender's Armor (16 recipes to choose from)
Total materials used: 12.5 stacks of ghost iron bars + 1 spirit of harmony
At 565 all of the trainer recipes will be yellow except those that require Spirit of Harmony. As a result, you'll be using yellow recipes to get through the next 6 skill points. This is by far the most brutal portion of the process, using more than a third of the ore required for the whole Zen tier. On average it takes 2 crafted items for each skill point. You may want to try the Spiritguard Shield (9 bars) instead of the cheaper shoulders (7 bars). The shoulders are a lower skill recipe and I suspect the skill points gained from using it might be poor compared to the shield. Use your own judgement here.
Once you reach 575 you can purchase vendor recipes for the final push. Just like Leatherworking, the Blacksmithing recipes are on a vendor in Vale of Eternal Blossoms. You'll need 1 Spirit of Harmony to purchase a recipe and you only need one recipe to complete the leveling process. It may take you 2-3 hours to collect 10 motes if the new drop rates remain as they have been this week.
When you get to 550 skill you'll automatically unlock two new socket recipes. Apparently there are some item level restrictions on the recipe. I don't have the right items to test this, but Desade has indicated that the sockets cannot be added to gear over ilvl 416 until your Smithing skill is above 550.
I tested Blacksmithing for a second time and made some strategic changes to the progression list. By adding one Pyrium Shield Spike to the very start, you get a skill point buffer that is carried all the way to 564. At 564 you can make a 5-skill point item that jumps you all the way to 569. All of the trainer recipes turn yellow at 565, so you can skip over 4 of these truly brutal skill points. With this change, we can shave off an estimated 30 ghost iron bars (60 ore) from the original progression list I created. Instead of 280 ghost iron bars, we can complete Zen Blacksmithing with 250 bars.
You can make even more pyrium shield spikes and save yourself more ghost iron bars if you don't mind potentially wasting pyrium. Personally I don't think I'd take it any further than 532 (the recipe turns yellow @ 530). If you decide to work more shield spikes into your plan, just make sure you end up exactly on 544 to pick up the Lightsteel Shield step as described.
If you have any questions about Blacksmithing, feel free to leave a Comment!