A Deeper Look At Dragonflight Crafting – And What (Maybe) Comes Next

The last time I wrote about Dragonflight’s profession overhaul in WoW, I was a little skeptical of the difference it would make. The specializations are interesting, if confusing at times, gear and stats for crafting are a neat twist but also not really what you would want with the model in WoW (the deeper I’ve gotten into crafting, the more I actually dislike Inspiration as an idea!), and the newish mechanics around skillups and recipes acquisition are a smidge draconian (ha!) and not as good as they could/should be. But at that time, I also hadn’t interacted with work orders at all, and other concepts like recrafting hadn’t really made their value apparent yet.

So now, nearly 3 months into the expansion, my perspective has shifted a smidge on crafting in Dragonflight, and with it comes some excitement, some new issues, and a genuine sense of excitement and also dread for what can come next for crafting in World of Warcraft.

Gearing Via Crafting

Gearing via crafting has not been this viable in quite some time. For level 61, 70, and endgame, there are full sets of crafted gear, and the quality ranks system allows a gradual level climb in a way that prior crafting options have not. The system of Primal Infusions and Titan Training Matrixes allow further increases to several recipes, and this keeps crafting valuable for gear all the way into Mythic. It is helped by a genuinely well-designed set of gear embellishments and crafting options that add an edge to crafted gear that does not exist for most raid drops – stuff like the Alchemical Flavor Pocket, the Flare hood, Healing Darts, and the Elemental Lariat all add so much for crafters to offer to players. In the past, this kind of stuff would either have not existed at all, or would have been strictly BoP, but with the work order system, the game has widely expanded gear options for players. It is quite fascinating to me that a couple of items from crafting are BiS either pre-raid and some even remain BiS after raid gearing is done, because they’ve done a great job of building a library of options that players can pick from and customize to their liking.

The Value of Tradeskills

Trades in WoW are often maligned because they are poor value to players, outside of consistent money-makers like Enchanting and Alchemy. That improved slightly in a very obtuse way in Shadowlands when gear crafting opened up slightly and included Legendary base items, but the grind of low-value base items that were needed to rank-up those recipes felt awful and made it seldom worth engaging with outside of the already-wealthy who could afford to plow money into low-rank crafting to get the skills up. With just the Auction House, there’s also a very real concern about value for effort – if you craft a piece of high item level gear, is it going to sell? You could never be too sure, especially when gear value fluctuates throughout a season of content and eventually hits a wall as new seasons replace the old gear entirely.

The Work Order system is actually a very good counter to a lot of these issues. In addition to it expanding the availability of BoP gear to those without the ability to make it themselves, it also takes a lot of the risk out of crafting that high-end gear – your buyer brings you the supplies themselves and you just have to smash them together into the item they want – easy as that. You get paid, you take zero risk on the open market hoping your materials don’t go to waste, and the available gear options for the average player increases. As a system, it is fairly robust in how it ensures added value for crafters and non-crafters alike, and that is genuinely one of the best parts of Dragonflight – it is clear thought was put in to this!

What’s more, there is an element of social play at hand here too, as you can still use trade chat to advertise and push for personal work orders, especially given that Recrafts can only be done via a Guild Order or Personal Order. You can be a nameless, faceless goblin fulfilling public orders to whatever quality you craft without consumables and let it be that simple, or you can build a reputation in a way that gets bigger orders – like getting a guild who will consistently bring you orders for major raid crafts and pays handsomely for the work. The market is big in particular for folks with rare recipes and the ability to craft them to top rank consistently. Jewelcrafters with the Elemental Lariat recipe who can get it 5-star even with a Concentrated Primal Infusion in the mix are a rare commodity and are able to charge, essentially, whatever they want to get the job.

It’s the most valuable tradeskills have been in a while, if not ever – there’s clear value to be had, no or very minimal waste since the game’s crafting systems in Dragonflight push players wanting gear to crafters instead of creating a burden of guesswork and market analysis that is imperfect, and recrafting adds value for crafters and gatherers alike – because it ensures a constant need to bring a piece up the item levels as you go and the material costs keep gatherers engaged in getting supplies into the market, even if the natural pricing curve for raw materials has still trended downwards over time.

Item Upgrades and Recrafting Are Genuinely Great

A common problem with crafted gear in WoW’s past, even when it has been good/viable, is that it just simply exists in a single moment in time as useful before something eclipses it. In the current model of Dragonflight, you can have a rank 1 crafted epic at item level 382 and keep it through recrafting and upgrades until it hits rank 5 with a Concentrated Primal Infusion to reach 418 item level. WoW in general is almost allergic to this level of gear maintenance and upcycling, so it was rather surprising to see it make its way into the game, and for it to be as good as it is has continued to defy expectations. It also creates an additional baseline form of bad-luck protection – Heroic raid and 11-15 keystones drop Primal Focus that can turn into Primal Infusions for crafting armor at 395-405 item level, and Mythic raid alongside 16+ keystones drop the concentrated versions, which can put an item at 408-418 item level. It is a designed and intended part of gear progression that you have crafted pieces alongside your standard raid and dungeon drops and Great Vault rewards, and this adds an extra layer of gameplay to gearing your character. Since gear is really the only player power you acquire at level cap now, this layering of stuff adds the depth that Blizzard hoped borrowed-power systems would, and while there are some obtuse things about crafting we’ll discuss in this post, I think this is genuinely a lot easier to interact with and better overall. In addition to the ways that it keeps crafters employed and benefitting, it also makes crafted gear an investment worth pursuing to players of all stripes.

The System Has Some Warts, Too

Sparks of Ingenuity, with the alt catchup now on, aren’t too bad, although the “just do stuff” opaque way of getting more past the first 5 is a bad Blizzard trait that reminds me of Shadowlands Renown catchup, and one guide likened them to acquiring Legion Legendaries, which, uh…feels pretty bad! They’re intended to be a limiter, because while Blizzard wants crafting to be more potent, clearly, they also don’t want it to be too potent. If the acquisition of Sparks beyond the fifth had like, a progress bar or currency, I’d be far more into it than I am now, where it basically feels like dumb luck and is not a suitable incentive for me to push extra-hard on content. Because of this limiter, it also means crafting to fill gaps feels terrible at the entry-level. I made a choice to gear my fresh level 70 priest with a near-full main armor slot loadout of crafted gear, and that’s great for now – I get into Mythic Plus easily enough on him and the power is nice. However, the challenge now is that as I gear up and start getting tier pieces, I can’t un-craft my gear to get back the Sparks, and I can’t use the crafted piece in the Catalyst to make tier pieces. I made that choice so I could play higher content sooner and I knew the tradeoffs, but it would be nice if these tradeoffs didn’t carry as much weight as they do. In an expansion where systems have opened wide to give players room to make their own choices, this feels alike a bit of old Blizzard putting restrictions down where they feel a bit egregious. It’s not completely awful or anything, to be clear, but I’d like a way to at least unmake that choice at a cost down the road if I decide that’s the right path to progress my character further.

Limits on recrafts feel kind of bad too. The fact that you can’t submit a public order for recraft or submit a public order with a minimum quality means that for folks like me who don’t want to trade bark for stuff, you either simply leave your gear as-is or you wait patiently until a guild crafter or friend can do the work you want. The idea of an open market is undercut (ha!) slightly when you place limiters like this on it, and while I could guess that the intention is to push players to social methods of finding a crafter for that tricky recraft, it feels like a rough edge in the game.

I think that while the Infusions and Primal Chaos are okay, I can see Artisan’s Mettle being a real limiter as time goes on. For those not crafting or gathering, it puts you at a huge disadvantage – a minor edge case but one all the same. The bigger issue I see, though, is acquisition rate – you come out of the gate getting a ton of Artisan’s Mettle from an average play standpoint because every first craft, every first gather, every acquisition of trade knowledge is giving you a smidge of AM to play with. But as the expansion winds on, you get less knowledge, have fewer or no available first crafts/gathers, and while the weekly quest to talk to Miguel in Valdrakken for free Mettle does scale up weekly, the rate of scaling does not feel engineered to maintain the rate of acquisition early on. Couple that with the fact that AM is also the currency used for Artisan’s Consortium purchases like the Knowledge tomes and is needed for recrafts, and engaging with the system a lot starts to create natural limiters that outpace the natural supply of AM. Like a fair number of WoW systems, the problem ends up being that there’s a Bell Curve-like distribution of use where those sparsely engaging with the system face hurdles to doing so, and those who engage a lot and try to use everything they can within the system end up hitting a wall of their own, while those who kind of dip a toe in here and there with crafting and gathering get the greatest benefit – at least on these systems.

Lastly, I keep coming back to profession specialization and knowledge, because I think it’s a decent system but needs some work. The way that recipes come from it for some trades is aggravating, especially because you can’t respec. Sure, eventually you get everything, but early into an expansion, that’s not a comfort when I misplace 5 points early on and it delays my ability to craft a desired recipe by a week or more. I’d kill for some easy form of visual indicator to tell me what choice nodes offer recipes, like just put a hammer icon next to it with the skill rank needed to get the recipe so I can glance at it and parse the information quickly and effectively.

There is a slightly bigger concern that takes my top one, though, and it’s the last topic today…

Crafting Is Pretty Good *Now*, But What About In A Patch Or Two?

Right now, crafting feels pretty decent, and I like the way it has pulled players in. It’s been very beneficial to me specifically as a way to keep my characters, even and especially my main, on a path towards more power, and I like that crafting offers a mix of genuinely best-in-slot gear along with an interesting mix of consumables and slightly higher level of gameplay interaction. However, there’s a theme in Dragonflight that I have already mentioned in the past and will likely mention again – the game is pretty great in most ways for now, but what about the next patch?

Crafting fills me with this dread right now because the system right now works very well, and it creates this feeling and perception that it’s worth investing in for the long haul. If you get something crafted now, you can continue to advance it through recrafts with optional reagents like Titan Training Matrixes and Primal Infusions, and that is fantastic for now, but the part of the system that is unspoken is that there is some measure of assumption or trust that it will stay good into the future, that in 10.1 we’ll get a some new themed infusion item that allows us to take the existing crafting recipes up to like, I dunno, 435 item level or something so that we can continue to roll recrafting forward for the duration of Dragonflight, and I…hate to say it, but I don’t trust Blizzard like that yet.

If Blizzard had a stable track record on professions in patches, it would be one thing, but the past 4 expansions have all had drastically different profession changes as patches came out. WoD had upgrade items to rank up crafted gear, Legion had little except a couple new recipes a tier and the crafted Legendaries you could make, BfA had the first (and only to date) mid-expansion skill cap increase with new recipes that required the upgraded skill, and Shadowlands rolled out new and different mechanisms for crafting Legendary base items at higher ranks coupled with new optional reagents to upgrade base crafts as the expansion went on.

Now, in theory, given that Shadowlands is the most recent, the closest to how Dragonflight crafting works mechanically, and had upgrade items rolling out as the patches went on for the same base items, we might be okay. It might, honestly, actually work out if they just stay the path, maybe expand the number of Embellished pieces we can wear or make a small handful of new recipes at like, 10.2 that start at a higher base item level alongside being able to recraft the existing gear recipes to the new item levels too, but there’s one problem – skill, spec, and stats.

Right now, the crafting experience is balanced around the idea that as your target item level climbs, the difficulty of a recipe and effective skill needed to craft at max rank increases as well. Right now, things seem pretty well tuned to the idea that you can cap out in skill around the region needed to hit those 5-star, Concentrated Primal Infusion crafts and get 418 gear, but as it scales beyond that…the question remains as to how things will work. Will you be able to get suitable skillups to land at 5-star ranks when the base item level of a piece scales higher within the current specialization choices, or will you eventually hit a hard ceiling that would require Blizzard adding either new spec choices or other ways of skilling up? Sure, theoretically we can get better tools and profession gear as a part of that, and it would help scaling. We could also, perhaps, gain the ability to get 4 or 5 star reagents for crafting which currently cap at 3 star, but in that case, it feels bad now because you’d be hitting the same nodes in this idea but then magically getting better stuff next patch or in two patches, unless it becomes a zone-locked thing. Theoretically, that could work – an Herbalist could pick a bush in the 10.1 zone that gives a reagent that you can use with the herb combining ability to upgrade something beyond the existing 1-2-3 quality for herbs, but that also still feels kind of strange.

I guess to get out of armchair game design mode, the issue is basically this – engaging with crafting right now for gear and as a path to power requires a certain amount of belief that Blizzard will keep these things rewarding as patches roll out and that you’ll be able to continue to invest in the gear you currently have to keep it relevant and rewarding, but there is not much in the way of reasons to have faith that Blizzard won’t curve us with some new and strange thing like only being able to add updated Infusions to new recipes or eventually hitting a ceiling on recrafting that requires a new base piece or some other path to rewards that feels bad. Right now, crafting is great – but there’s that lingering doubt that it will stay great, and that’s kind of a problem!

Otherwise, I think that as time has wound on in Dragonflight, I do actually like a fair bit of the tradeskill revamp, more than I first thought. However, I still think that the stats are vague and unrewarding, the specialization system feels even more like a mess, and the stuff I do like feels dangerously close to being “Blizzard Experimented” out of value in a major patch or two.

And I hope that the doubt I feel is wrong, because it would really go further to cementing Dragonflight as a comeback expansion if they stay the course they’re currently on, for the most part.


7 thoughts on “A Deeper Look At Dragonflight Crafting – And What (Maybe) Comes Next

  1. It is quite fascinating to me that a couple of items from crafting are BiS either pre-raid and some even remain BiS after raid gearing is done, because they’ve done a great job of building a library of options that players can pick from and customize to their liking.

    We saw this in TBC Classic, with pre-Raid and P1 BiS lists for Mages, Bear Druids, and other classes having crafted gear included. (Spellfire, anyone?) At first blush it looked great –hey, you can actually craft some items on your BiS list!– but in practice the hardcore guilds in particular demanded that raiders have all their pre-Raid BiS on Day One, which meant a ton of farming for mats –and in the case of mats such as Spellcloth, which you could only make once every 3 or so days– that meant the market for those mats skyrocketed. Great if you’re wanting to make a ton of gold, but if your guild wanted to get into Karazhan and Gruul/Mags on the first week you had to be either crafting within a week of crossing the Dark Portal or farming insane amounts of gold to pay for those mats. I knew someone who had about 3 or so alts all with Tailoring, and he had effectively a Spellcloth factory going for all of his gearing and selling. The amount of effort it took to keep that rolling –on top of the demands for doing dailies and daily instance runs and whatnot– just had me shaking my head.

    So, I guess it’s a “the system is great, but trust the players to screw it up” scenario. I’m kind of torn about it, given that I discovered that gearing up via running Heroic instances in Wrath was much easier than gearing up via crafting in TBC, and it seems that in Dragonflight Blizz has come full circle.


    1. Yes I was curious about the mention of full crafted sets for 61 and 70. The 70 only really applied to cloth wearers. Sure I enjoyed my sunwell level chest, not so much the 20k I spent on it. But it was far from a full set. From memory I got close to a mace but I used the mats towards the chest. I think that was the only bs item I I crafted in tbc that saw use past a few weeks? 61? all my cloth wearers that started tbc at the start had at least mc level gear.


  2. To me, the Dragonflight crafting system is just too complex for a casual player / raider. I just want to level my skill to max (which should always be 100 and not all over the place like in Shadowlands) and learn my recipes. Crafting should be simple and straightforward without all the hoops I have to jump through for Dragonflight. I want to be able to be done leveling any skills my main and alts have before the first patch. Not have an expansion long commitment to crafting on top of everything else. As it is, I think crafting is going to be even less useful for me as a casual player. Too much time, too much work is involved with crafting. I want crafting to be fun, not another job. There is an irony that Blizzard took the job-like aspects away when they stopped doing borrowed power, only to repeat that mistake with crafting. Don’t get me started at the annoyance of having crafting stations again. I feel like I’m having to run Scholomance to do alchemy flasks…

    The system would be fine if it was for a Crafting Class where you could make / gather anything, but only specialize in two or three. Then I could see the complexity as it would be part of the class experience, but not for characters that are aimed at being a dps/tank/healer. :sigh:

    /disgruntled old man: finished rant. ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The system would be fine if it was for a Crafting Class where you could make / gather anything, but only specialize in two or three. Then I could see the complexity as it would be part of the class experience, but not for characters that are aimed at being a dps/tank/healer. :sigh:

      Oh. My.

      I hate to say it, because it very much could be a second job, but an actually dedicated Crafting class would be awesome. Minimal combat skills, but a pure support class would be nice. That being said, the potential for abuse –the hardcore guilds demanding at least one Crafting alt per raider, for example– is omnipresent.


      1. Hard core guilds have had those issues since Burning Crusade. I remember reading about one of the guilds (Nihilum, I think) where every raider had to learn Leatherworking so that they could continuously rotate drum usage through various fights. With the current crafting order system, guilds could have a stable of non-raiders do the crafting to free up the raiders to keep focusing on their raiding alts. The current crafting order system is a nice change for Wow. It’s basically buy orders, but you can have public, guild, or personal orders which seems to work well.


    2. I definitely agree on the overall complexity. Even in FFXIV, where you can level a double-digit number of crafter and gatherer jobs, you have a lot of easing moves in place – a simple system of recipe acquisition, shared gear short of tools, common abilities that make the gameplay interactions essentially identical, and so while you can craft as a main mode of gameplay, it somehow manages to have both more gameplay and less total complexity than Dragonflight!

      That being said, I think I’m still kind of glad they tried *something* for crafting this expansion, because it has desperately needed any form of focused attention for near a decade now. But it misses the mark by being more complex and slow to level and skill to max, not offering an actual gameplay component (gathering maybe, but that still has mostly the same shape as before), and being alt-unfriendly in an expansion that has improved on alt-friendliness by a lot elsewhere.


    3. I dunno, I’ve quite liked the new system as a casual. You don’t have to engage with all the complexity. I’ve just enjoyed crafting some gear while levelling up, and at max level I keep learning new recipes from reputation and specialisations that result in further upgrades. I’ve never done any research about it, used optional reagents or fulfilled any work orders.


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