Gathering Skills: A Beginner's Guide

So you want to be a Gatherer?

These are considered the money-makers in WoW, especially if you learn two of them and don't train any type of manufacturing skill (Smithing, Alchemy, etc). One thing to keep in mind when choosing two gathering skills is that Mining and Herbalism both use the in-game mini-map to display nearby nodes or spawns of the item being tracked. If you choose both of those skills, you'll only be able to track one at a time. This can get irritating if you want to gather all of the nodes in a given area. It's for this reason that most gatherers select Skinning as one of their skills so that they can use the mini-map for the other.

Companion Skills

If you plan to use only one Gathering skill, then presumably you are going to choose the most logical manufacturing skill to go with it. For Herbalism this is Alchemy or Inscription and for Mining this would be Blacksmithing, Jewelcrafting or Engineering. Skinning is obviously best used in conjunction with Leatherworking. You can learn any two skills you like, but these combinations will properly utilize the materials you'll be gathering.

To start gathering, you'll first want to find yourself a trainer. Most major cities will have all of the various trainers, simply ask a guard. There are also some trainers located in towns in various newbie zones, but this is not reliable so your best bet is to take care of this in the city. Keep in mind that you should be level 5 before you seek a profession trainer.

Once you've trained in the gathering skill of your choice, you'll want to head out and start collecting materials. Not so fast though, if you are a Miner or Skinner you'll also need some equipment to proceed. Any trade vendor will sell Skinning Knives for Skinners and Mining Picks for Miners. Make sure you purchase one and keep it in your inventory at all times. You'll be unable to gather without it. Herbalists do not need special equipment, so they can proceed at will.

Mini-map Usage

Now that you're properly equipped, the first thing you'll want to do is activate your mini-map if you are an Herbalist or Miner. To do this, click the tracking button (right below the Map button) on your mini-map and select which type of tracking you want active. If there are any nearby spawns, you should see them on your mini-map as a yellow dot. If you don't see any dots, wander around a world zone until you do. Sometimes you may see a dark yellow dot on the map. This means the spawn is underground, inside a building or on a different level than you.

Once you find something to harvest, right-click it to mine/skin/pick it. Then right-click the loot box to move the harvested goods to your inventory. You can also hold your SHIFT key before you click the node to auto-loot the node. If a node is red to you, this means your skill isn't high enough for that type of node.

Skill Levels

And now that we've mentioned the concept of difficulty and associated colors, we should probably give a bit more detail on that. Starting out you'll gain skill points just about every time you gather something. Eventually these low level items will become too easy for you and you'll need to move on to more difficult types of nodes to continue gaining skill points. Here's a chart that covers the various skill levels:

Item ColorChance to Gain Skill
RedNone - you are too low
OrangeGuaranteed skill point
YellowLikely skill point
GreenLow chance for skill point
GrayNo chance for skill point

When you hover your mouse pointer over the node or corpse in question, the color of the text denotes the difficulty level in the above chart. Once you start to see mostly or all green nodes, you know it's time to move on to a higher zone.

Just for Skinners

In order to skin corpses, you'll need to loot all the items from the corpse. Even if you don't want the loot, you cannot skin it unless the corpse is empty. Most of the time you'll get leather from the beasts you skin, but occasionally you'll get hides. These are used by leatherworkers, so if you don't plan to use them you can sell them at the Auction House. Certain beasts also drop specialty leathers or leather-related goods such as scales and chitins. These are also used in recipes and should be sold to other players.

Just for Herbalists

There are a few types of herbs that have a small chance to give bonus herbs: Mageroyal, Briarthorn, Purple Lotus, Goldclover, Tiger Lily and Talandra's Rose. The bonus herbs are Swifthistle, Wildvine, Fel Lotus, Dead Nettle and Frost Lotus. Various types of Lotus generally sell well because of their relative rarity. Also Herbalists have special Herb Bags for their loot. These bags tend to have more slots than regular bags, but can only hold herbs. If you plan to do serious herb collecting, it could be worth investing in one of these bags.

Just for Miners

Miners have the ability to smelt their ore into bars. At the early stages of mining, smelting can give you skill points just as mining itself does. Take advantage of this by smelting your ore as soon as you hit a new mining level for the easy skill points. Also, there are times when it's better not to smelt your ore. If you are selling ore for cash, very often the ore will sell for more money than smelted bars. This is because other players prefer to gain skill points from smelting too, and they'll pay more for the privilege. In addition, Jewelcrafters use stacks of ore for prospecting, they can't use smelted bars for that. So do some price comparisons on the Auction House before you blindly smelt all your ore into bars.

Also, getting from 65 to 125 in Mining can be difficult. This is because Tin is a fairly uncommon ore spawn. To bridge this gap you can mine Incendicite in the Wetlands. This is a quest-related ore, but any player can do the quest and therefore you can sell the ore on the Auction House to players who don't have Mining. To find Incendicite, go to Thelgan Rock at the southern end of the Wetlands. There's a cave that's crawling with low 20s spiders, but also plenty of Incendicite to gain skill points with. If you are also in your 20s you'll probably have to fight the spiders, luckily they drop a decent amount of Spider Silk that sells very well.

Another tough stretch for miners is 150-175 (right before Mithril), but luckily there's another quest ore you can harvest during this time. Lesser Bloodstone is used for a quest in Stranglethorn Vale and it's located in a mine on the northeast side of the Arathi Highlands. This mine is crawling with 30-38 kobolds that you may have to fight, but they drop lots of silk which is usually a good seller too.

Etiquette

Since all of the gathered items are available in the world at large, you may be competing with other players to collect them. It's not unusual to see others picking herbs or mining ore in the same general location you are. Skinning doesn't tend to have quite as much competition, but Mining can get quite ugly in this regard. In general it's not good form to collect a resource that is next to another player. This is especially true if they are fighting nearby, there's a good chance they are killing the mob so they have free access to the node. If they walk away from it, you are welcome to harvest it yourself. In cases where you're not sure, it's fine to ask. It's never appropriate to just walk up and help yourself to something that someone else may be planning to use, so don't do it!

There will be times when you are grouped with other players and you come across herbs or ore during your time together. Any of the gathered resources can be found during dungeon runs too. It's a good idea to figure out who in your group has the same gathering skills that you do and devise a plan for sharing the resources. Taking turns is usually the best way, but come up with a plan in advance so you can avoid frustration later on.

Useful Mods

Unfortunately this will not benefit skinners, but herbalists and miners can download add-ons that will allow them to catalog all the nodes they visit and save them for display on the mini-map when they return. This is very useful since many nodes tend to respawn in the same spot. If you revisit certain areas frequently, having this historical data is a great time-saver. One such add-on is called Gatherer (appropriately) and you can get it here.

Skill Bonuses

Yes, there are ways to increase your skill for all of the gathering professions. Most players can achieve this with an enchantment. Any pair of gloves can be enchanted with a bonus up to +5 for Skinning, Herbalism or Mining. These can be very useful when you are skilling up, since you'll be able to move on to the next type of resource more quickly (Ex: Iron at 120 instead of 125). There is also a pair of leather gloves made by Leatherworkers that give a +5 bonus to Herbalism. Another item can be made by Engineers that gives a Mining bonus of +5, but the item is a Mail helmet, so only classes that can wear mail or plate would be able to use it. Skinners have a couple of special daggers that drop in UBRS and Zul'Gurub which give a +10 bonus to skinning, however these daggers may be hard to acquire since those dungeons aren't visited much anymore.

Taurens are the only race that have a gathering bonus as one of their racial skills, so if you are a Tauren you get an automatic +15 bonus in Herbalism. I guess this means that Blizzard thinks the Tauren people are peaceful, flower-loving hippies :)

About Burning Crusade

  • There are several herbs in Outland that will bestow an effect when harvested. Sometimes the effect is beneficial, sometimes not...
  • A node that is orange to you is not guaranteed skill point. This is especially true for skinners, they will gain a skill point about 20% of the time.
  • More crafting bags have been added to the game, including vendor-sold bags that can be found in Telhamat and the Allerian Stronghold. Larger bags are made by Tailors or Leatherworkers.

New in Wrath of the Lich King
New buffs have been introduced that are available only to Gatherers! Each gathering skill has it's own special perk and the benefits increase as your skill goes up. Here's a chart of these abilities and their levels:

SkinningMiningHerbalism
75 Skill: +3 Crit Strike Rating75 Skill: +3 Stamina75 Skill: 300 HP over 5 seconds
150 Skill: +6 Crit Strike Rating150 Skill: +5 Stamina150 Skill: 480 HP over 5 seconds
225 Skill: +9 Crit Strike Rating225 Skill: +7 Stamina225 Skill: 900 HP over 5 seconds
300 Skill: +12 Crit Strike Rating300 Skill: +10 Stamina300 Skill: 480 HP over 5 seconds
375 Skill: +20 Crit Strike Rating375 Skill: +30 Stamina375 Skill: 1200 HP over 5 seconds
450 Skill: +32 Crit Strike Rating450 Skill: +50 Stamina450 Skill: 2000 HP over 5 seconds

A tip on leveling your gathering skill from 375-450 if you're having trouble doing so efficiently in Northrend is to return to Outland. The Isle of Quel'Danas and Netherwing Ledge are excellent locations for high level Outland herbs which can help you get skill points more efficiently. Since you can still use a flying mount there, you can travel from node to node much faster and the competition is notably lower.

So get out there and start gathering... Happy Hunting!