-- 5.3 Patch Notes
This (and the accompanying changes to ore collection) is the only change currently scheduled in the next major patch that relates to professions. I wasn't sure how long it would take them to get this implemented, but it's starting to look like a release may happen soon so I thought I'd check into it.
I created a pre-made 90 and dropped one of her professions for Herbalism and grabbed an Herbalist's Spade while I was in town. Then I flew down to Valley of the Four Winds and turned on my herb tracking. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I located an herb on my map and swooped down after it. You can see in this image that my Herbalism skill is only 2 but the Silkweed is showing as orange difficulty:
So even at a skill level of 2 (plus 10 for my spade) I am able to pick the Pandaren herbs. It's important to note that I'm not actually getting Pandaren herbs, what I'm really getting is bits of herb. When you collect these herbs at low level, you receive things such as a Silkweed Stem or a Torn Green Tea Leaf. Ten of these can be combined to make one regular herb, much the way you'd convert motes into spirits. You cannot convert back to fragments, not that I think you would want to. Luckily these shouldn't be bag space hogs, I had a stack of 24 and Wowhead indicates that they will go up to 200 per stack.
I decided to run a head-to-head between herbalism leveling results and max herbalism results. I picked 20 nodes on my leveler and another 20 nodes on my capped Herbalist. Both runs were done in Valley of the Four Winds.
|Level 1 Herbalist||28 Herb Fragments||10 Spirits||1 Golden Lotus|
|Level 600 Herbalist||61 Herbs||10 Spirits||0 Golden Lotus|
Of particular interest I think is the fact that bonus materials are dropping at roughly the same rate for beginners and capped players. You can see that I got 10 Life Spirits on my leveling Herbalist and the same number on my 600 Herbalist. I also snagged a Golden Lotus on the leveling toon. I can easily see folks opting to go this route to level up a new toon.
The downside is that these changes don't appear to have rolled out to any other continent. I was hoping I could use this with my wee panda (46) who seems to level past zones before she does much herb/ore picking. But after visiting several older locations (Outland, Tol Barad, Blasted Lands) it's clear that this new system only applies to Pandaria. I would love to see this system expanded to the full range of content but I'm sure that's a bigger task. I still appreciate this new option for 85+ toons who want to switch professions.
UPDATE: I just did a second pass with mining and happened upon a Golden Lotus node. I was able to pick it with a skill of just 20 -- and got an actual Golden Lotus! So it seems that Golden Lotus is not subject to the fragmentation process.
Questions? Comments? Leave 'em if you've got 'em!