Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Guild Wars 2 - Casual Crafting Guide

I'm always a little hesitant to write posts like these, because you think well six months into the game, who needs a crafting guide?  But the fact is Guild Wars 2 crafting system can be more than a little obtuse.  It feels similar to crafting in other MMO's, but it's just enough different that you get into and you're all.. wait.. I can't progress at all!  And even now, I still see enough myths being pushed around, things like crafting is worthless before you're level 80, or you can' produce anything useful while crafting, that I have to think perhaps a fundamentals guide is, in fact, still useful.

What this Isn't
This isn't a 0 to 400 guide.  If the only thing you want to know is how to get from 0 to 400 in crafting profession X as quickly and efficiently as possible, there are a number of fine guides out there for that.  What I want to is to help to show the patterns in GW2 crafting, and to go into a bit more explanation into how it works.  Because once you recognize the patterns, you'll find you probably don't even need a guide.

Cynderette in fully crafted gear
Why Craft?
There are two main reasons to engage in crafting while you're leveling your character.  The first is gear.  You will find that for a leveling toon, crafting is one of the most reliable ways to keep your character outfitted in top-end level appropriate gear.  This is why I always recommend taking an armor or weapon producing discipline appropriate for the toon you're leveling - unless you already have that discipline maxed on another character.  For instance, recently, when elementalist reached level 20, I was able to deck her out in a complete full set of Masterwork, level 20 armor pieces, compliments of my tailor.  I also crafted full masterwork level 20 weapons, studded them all with gemstones, and additionally crafted a full set of jewel studded trinkets.  Two of those crafting disciplines - artificing and jewelcrafting - were displines she was leveling.  And that gear is pretty much top end for that level range, and most of it will stay in place right through the next ten levels.  A few pieces will get replaced here and there, but most of it will remain.  At level 30, I'll upgrade her entire set.

Now, you might say, why bother?  I can make more money by gathering components, selling them, and then just buying the very low cost items I need for my level on the Trading Post!  And while I'd argue it probably ends up being a wash in terms of making money, you can certainly do that.  But then you would miss out on the other, and probably more important aspect to crafting - experience.  Crafting produces an extraordinary amount of experience.  So much so, that it's not uncommon at all for players with large quantities of resources at their disposal to knock out 10 or 20 levels (or more) on their character entirely through crafting.  But even if you're not twinking your character, you want to take advantage of the experience gain you get through casual crafting.  And this is important.  The leveling curve for zones assumes a certain amount of experience gain through crafting.  If you completely ignore crafting, (and gathering), you'll find that you have completed a zone, but are still considerably below the suggested level range for the next zone.  You'll have to find another level appropriate zone (ie., move to another starter zone) to get the rest of the levels recommended for the next tier zone.

Only Pick One
What you won't do, however, is make money crafting while leveling.  Make no mistake - it is a drain on resources.  It's not a huge drain, per se, but because there's no real specialization like you might find in other MMO's, anything you craft while leveling has also been crafted by two hundred thousand other players out there, and in the unified auction house, will be selling for mere coppers above their vendor value.  That's not to say you can't sell them, and some items you might be able to turn for a slight profit over the cost of resources plus trading post fees.  But I wouldn't go into crafting with the expectation of making money.  Because it is a resource drain, if this is your first character, I highly recommend taking only one

The reasons to craft are that it provides a nice break from exploring zones, it provides you with level appropriate gear, and experience.

Gather Gather Gather
You probably already know this, but it bears repeating.  Gather all the things!  If this is any character other than your very first one, the second you step out of the opening tutorial, you should make two stops.  First, the bank, where you'll pull out a few silver from your account funds, and second, the vendor standing beside the bank (there's one at every bank in every town), that is always a full service vendor.  Pick yourself up a basic salvage kit, and one each of the copper resource gathering tools, and equip that.  That way you can start gathering right away.  Remember - when you're gathering, you're not just harvesting resources, but you're harvesting experience as well!  And then I recommend stockpiling everything.  Because all gathered materials are account wide, you're not just gathering for this character - you're gathering for all your characters to come.

Chef - The Black Sheep of the Family
So let's get this out of the way up front.  All of the crafting disciplines follow a straight forward, standard pattern of discovery - except for chef.  As fond as ArenaNet is of symmetry (and they are fond of symmetry), they're also not at all afraid to break their own rules, and as a crafting discipline Chef breaks the rules.  So the rest of this guide is talking about all of the disciplines in a general way except for cooking. Curiously enough, because many of the components are available for karma, and coin from vendors, Chef has largely been considered one of the cheapest disciplines to level.

Discovery - the Unlisted Recipe
So enough with tips and myths and exceptions - let's get to the heart of the matter.  The key to effective leveling in Guild Wars 2 crafting is Discovery.  And the key to understanding Discovery is realizing it's not discovery at all - it's just an unlisted recipe. By now, all the discovery are readily available online through the wiki and other sites.  But because Guild Wars 2 likes patterns, the vast majority of the discovery recipes you can just deduce.

Discovery earns both production
experience and discovery experience
It's worth a paragraph to explain why discovery is so important.  When you discover a recipe, you not only get the experience for producing the item, but you also get an additional truckload of experience for the discovery itself.  So you gain twice the experience from discoveries as you do for production.  Discover everything - including the things you'll make for yourself. Keep what you want for yourself, and vendor or trading post everything else.  If you're very short on resources, you can salvage the pieces you make to reclaim a small portion of the resources. Pretty much the only time you should be producing a piece that's not a component is when you are making something for another player or character.

Patterns of Discovery
Every crafting discipline (with the exception noted above) follows this basic pattern for discovered recipes:

Crafted Item = Stat Enhancer + Component 1 + Component 2

The Stat Enhancer (my term) is the thing that gives the item its characteristics: inscriptions for weapon producing professions, insignias for armor producing professions, gemstones for jewelcrafting, etc. It's also the thing that consumes Fine Crafting Components, and those, in turn, will quite likely be your limiting resource.

Because you can only discover each piece one time, what you want to do is to discover one each of each crafted item, for each type of stat enhancer that you can craft, at each tier.

Gannon at 153 Weaponsmithing
An Example
So let's look at an example.  Gannon here has 153 weaponsmithing.  That is, he's just crested over into the 150 bracket.  Our job is to get him to the next tier - 175.  As you can see, he can now produce Steel components.

Three new inscriptions are available - Ravaging, Vigorous, and Pillaging
Scrolling down a bit, we see that three new inscriptions have unlocked for us at 150 - Ravaging, Pillaging, and Vigorous Seasoned Inscriptions.  Weaponsmithing allows you to produce 8 items.  Our goal is to discover one each of these 8 items for each of these inscriptions. By doing so, we should easily get the amount of experience necessary to unlock the next tier of inscriptions.

So the first thing we need to do is to make sure we have enough of the raw materials for the weapon components. I'll spare you the math, but to produce the necessary components to make 8 weapons, I'll need 8 planks, and 33 ingots.  We can choose any of the three inscriptions to make 8 of, but I suggest you look over those available and choose the one you have the most components for already gathered.

If you're short a component, buy it from the trading post
directly from this interface
In my case, I've been gathering quite a while, so I have enough to make 8 of 2 of the three inscriptions.  But suppose I didn't.  Here's a useful shortcut you may not know about.  It takes 3 Bones to make each Vigorous Seasoned inscription. So I'll need 24 to make 8, and I only have 20.  If you right-click right on the component, in this dialog, you'll get a prompt to Buy more at Trading Post.  How cool is that?  You still have to go to the trading post to pick the items up, but through this one interface, you can go through and purchase any supplies that you're lacking.  And this works for all of the crafting windows, so you can pick up whatever you're short of for your entire crafting batch, and then just make one trip to pick up everything you need.  No more running back and forth as you realize you forgot something else.

And I want to emphasize, use the trading post.  Yes, you can go out there and spend hours farming the actual crafting components you need, rather than spend the money purchasing them.  But nothing will suck the fun out of your experience faster than mindless grinding on a particular mob looking for drops. And in the time you spent farming, you will gather more money from drops than you probably need to purchase the items from the T.P. anyway! The only time you should consider actually grinding for drops is when you get to the high end materials, and you're looking for specific, expensive components for specific recipes.

Back to our example.  I also need to produce dowels for the inscriptions. 8 dowels for 8 inscriptions, each dowel takes another plank, so 8 more planks for a total of 16.  Steel is one of those lovely ingots that requires additional component (lump of coal) from the vendor, so I pick up enough of those to allow me to make 33 ingots, and get about producing my raw materials.

We get to 165 producing the raw materials alone
By the time I've produced the planks, the ingots, and the dowels, I've already gone from 153 to 165.  I personally try not to produce any more basic components than I absolutely need for any particular batch.  Two reasons: First, the raw components typically tend to sell better than the refined versions.  Second, once the refine process turns grey, there's no more experience for this character on that refinement.  But some other character that I might level in something else that also uses that refinement could benefit from the orange experience.  So produce only what you need.

Producing the weapon components. Be careful to only
produce one of each item.
I now produce 8 ravaging inscriptions, and incidentally, level up just from the crafting experience.  The next to last step is to produce the item components.  I'll go through each piece, and produce one each of each component as necessary to produce all 8 weapons.  Here's where I find out if I did my math right.

And now "discover" 8 weapons
Hey what do you know I did.  Finally, the discovery phase, where I put all 8 of my weapons together, one for each inscription, and rake in the experience. Drag over the inscription first, and then any single component, and it will show you the other component necessary to make the discovery.  By the time we finish our 8 weapons, my rating is 179, almost to 180.  The current crop of inscriptions has turned grey, but look, when we hit 175, we unlocked four new inscriptions!

Weaponsmithing 179, new inscriptions unlocked
And Done!
And that's pretty much it.  Rinse and repeat for each tier of inscriptions and weapons.  You won't always need to produce all 8 to unlock the next tier.  And sometimes you'll want to produce a set for your character.

But you'll find that this pattern holds pretty much true for all of the disciplines: 1.) Produce inscriptions, 2.) Produce components, 3.) Combine inscriptions and components in "discoveries" until you get to 400.

There are of course, a few exceptions you'll encounter along the way.  For instance, to get that final tier (375 to 400), you'll have to buy a few high end, yellow inscription recipes from the merchant, and "discover" those  items to push you over the top.  You'll probably spend the most on material components for that final push as well.  I have found I typically have to spend more money getting from 375 to 400 than I do for all of 0 to 375 - that's just the nature of the economy.  But I hope, overall, this gives you a better understanding of how the system works, and more specifically, a pattern to follow to work your way right through the crafting tiers, while still producing items that are useful for you.

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