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Cataclysm brings us the new and exciting (maybe not so much exciting) secondary profession of Archaeology. As someone who spent the time levelling it to 450 on Beta, I will be the first of many people to tell you that it is the longest profession grind WoW has ever put players through, with very little instant gratification. However, for some, it reaps amazing benefits.
(Before you do anything! Download Archy, the Archaeology Assistant addon. It makes your life skilling up this profession ten times easier. http://wow.curse.com/downloads/wow-addons/details/archy.aspx)
If you're a lore nerd/buff/maniac/what have you like me, you'll definitely be interested in collecting all of the neat little trinkets and toys this new profession includes. Each of the major races of Azeroth has something to offer. The profession also offers a few amazing 359 epics, which come in handy with pre-raiding availability. I've included the list of these items here, at the bottom of the post.
But first, I'll cover the main topic; essentially, how to grind Archaeology. First, to make sure you don't go insane, get something else to do while you grind. Movie, TV show, other game, other productive activity, whatever. ~70% of the time you're levelling up Archaeology, you're actually travelling. This leaves a TON of time where you'd just be starting at your flying mount's ass, autoflying across continents.
Now that you're over the fact that you only spend ~30% of your time actually LEVELLING Archaeology, lets get to work. You'll need to go grab your tools from the Archaeology trainer first, one of them is in Garrosh's house. Once you have learned the tradeskill, bind the spell "Survey" (located in your profession tab of your spellbook) to something easily-accessible; if you'll be doing this for awhile, I'd just bind it to 1. This spell is how you actually find stuff. Also located in your profession tab, is the actual profession spell Archaeology. I'd place this on your bars in another easy-to-find location, as opening this gives you a lot of data. It shows your current artifact project and fragment count for each race, and also shows completed artifacts complete with cool lore info for each one.
In a nutshell, Archaeology is fairly simple. If you open your world map up, you'll see 4 digsites on the continent you are on. Starting off, you can only create artifacts from 4/10 of the races: Night Elves, Trolls, Dwarves, and Fossils. However, you can still dig up the fragments of all of the races. If you zoom into a zone map with a digsite, you'll see a highlighted area, basically the same as WoWs ingame questhelper. This area is where your digsite is. Once you're inside the area, use your "Survey" spell. Some surveying equipment will pop up, point towards the general direction of a fragmen find, and light up according to how close you are; green means you're within 40 yards, yellow means you're close, and red means you're far away. Keep surveying until you discover the find and you'll be rewarded with fragments of that race These act as a currency of sorts, applying to the current artifact project you are on. If you go over the artifact's amount of fragments, completing it will apply the spillover fragments to the next artifact, so you never actually waste fragments. Rarely, you'll also loot a Keystone for that race from the find, which is a BoE item that can be used when you are solving an artifact, and counts as 12 fragments towards that race's current artifact project. To use them, you either click the hexagon "gem-socket" in the archaeology book for that artifact, or drag and drop the Keystone into the socket. Each time you clear a digsite (three finds per digsite) another one is randomly opened on your continent. You get 3-6 fragments per find (9-18 per dig site).
Now for the more tricky/annoying stuff. Each of the races have a TON of common grey artifacts that really serve no other purpose than to give you a little lore info and be vendored. There are also "tiers" of artifacts, level ranges of Archaeology in which you are able to discover more artifacts. Many of the best artifacts can only be discovered at 300+. Every time you complete a project and start a new one, you're automatically given a random artifact from the race, the common ones obviously being more common than the rares or epics. Before any duplicate common artifacts are found, you must complete all of the artifacts currently available to you, which is probably the one GOOD thing about levelling this profession. Rares and epics are just that, rare. You have a small chance after completing any artifact to "proc" a rare or epic.
Edited by Draenna on 1/7/2011 10:42 AM PST
Before you begin levelling Archaeology, you want to ask yourself which races you eventually want to get rare or epic artifacts from. If you're a healer grinding solely for the epics, you'll obviously choose Night Elves. Caster DPS will want Dwarves, 2H DPS will want Trolls. If at all possible, you will want to save fragments from these races while levelling to 450. Quoted from Reitas, "If you end up with 450 archaeology and 500 troll fragments, you'll have a much better shot at getting 525 archaology and a zin'rokh than if you were 450 archaeology 5 hours sooner but a bunch of troll trash created and no fragments." This may make levelling slower, but if your end goal is an epic, this strategy will save you a ton of farming time overall.
As a note, don't start actually completing artifact projects until you reach level 100, or when actually digging up fragments stops giving you skillups. Common artifact completions give 5 skillups, no matter the race, artifact, or what level you're at. Rares SHOULD be giving 15 skillups as of December 21st hotfixes. This is the ONLY way to level Archaeology past 100. Once you get to 300 however, you can move onto the Outlands races. At 375, Northrend. The speed of leveling really doesn't matter on any continent; it really just matters what races you want to get the majority of your fragments from. If you're under (character) level 85, you gain experience for completing artifacts according to your level, not your level of archaeology or quality of artifact your complete. Once you hit 450, you're essentially done with the large grind for this profession, as all artifacts are now available to you. Now comes the "will I proc my epic artifact" lottery. If you've saved up a truckload of fragments from the race you wanted an epic from, here's where you start creating. And creating. And creating more...
...Unless you're grinding Tol'Vir. Which, I'm assuming, you will be eventually. Tol'Vir is the most annoying of the 10 races to grind, as their sites only pop up in Uldum, and only after 450 skill. This means that any time you finish a Tol'Vir dig, a random Kalimdor dig is chosen, and a vast majority of the time, it won't be another Tol'Vir dig. You essentially have to farm all of Kalimdor to farm Tol'Vir, and this is extremely tedious. But, you've already done most of the legwork with the profession. If you ever see Tol'Vir keystones on the AH, I would recommend buying them, as you can use 2 for each of their 45-fragment commons, which would greatly speed up the process of discovering the artifact you want.
List of epic (iLevel 359) artifacts (all cost 150 fragments to complete, may use up to 3 keystones, and can only be discovered after 450, with one noted exception):
[Ring of the Boy Emperor] (http://www.wowhead.com/item=64904) Tol'Vir
[Scimitar of the Sirocco] (http://www.wowhead.com/item=64885) Tol'Vir
[Staff of Ammunae] (http://www.wowhead.com/item=64880) Tol'Vir
[Staff of Sorcerer-Thane Thaurissan] (http://www.wowhead.com/item=64489) Dwarves
[Zin'rokh, Destroyer of Worlds] (http://www.wowhead.com/item=64377) Trolls
[Tyrande's Favorite Doll] (http://www.wowhead.com/item=64645) Night Elves
Thanks for reading, and happy digging.
[EDIT 1, 12/09/10]:
A few are reporting that the iLevel 359 epics are completely random when attempting to discover the specific artifact. Until official confirmation, we can assume this is true.
[EDIT 2, 12/10/10]:
Cleaned up the OP a little, edited relevant information.
[EDIT 3, 12/14/10]:
Overhauled a few sections which really needed it, added more relevant information.
Big list of edits found at post #229, by Reitas.
[EDIT 4, 12/21/10]:
Rares should now give 15 skillups.
[EDIT 5, 01/07/11]:
Yay sticky! Also, added a link for Archy, because its simply amazing.
Added link to Jinze's archaeology guide on MMO-Champ.
Sources and useful links:
Jinze's archaeology guide (very indepth and detailed!)
Edited by Draenna on 1/7/2011 10:45 AM PST
Nice write up, I'll keep this in mind when I level it.
Do you think it's worth levelling right when Cata comes out or is it best to just wait till 85?
I also notice you stopped describing it at 450, does the profession stop there? Does it not go to 525?
The profession goes to 525, but at 450 everything you can unlock has been unlocked. Leveling it to 525 is possible, but suicidal. :(
Also, I would suggest leveling Archaeology after hitting 85 and farming your dungeon gear.
Edited by Trui on 12/1/2010 2:30 PM PST
Hmmm.... I have an "achievement" main that I tend to do all the completionist stuff on, my prot warrior, but I'm thinking about levelling my Rogue first in Cata to raid with my guild. Do you think it'd be worthwhile to level Archeology on my rogue at all or just use my warrior, even if he's still at 80?
I'll probably do it on my warrior in the end no matter what, I don't know if I want to wait until I've levelled two characters to 85 though.
Yea, currently there's no level 85 epics for Agi-wearing melee, hunters, or tanks, which kind of sucks. Blizzard most likely has a lot of things in store for Archaeology, and I'm sure that they'll round out the list of epics at some point.
@Zokol If you'd just be levelling it for completion, your level really doesn't matter; at level 80 you could easily kill any of the baddies in the Cata-level zones in Azeroth roaming the digsites. I'd personally level to 85 first, just to get it out of the way on a character you're gonna play anyway, but it honestly doesn't matter.
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