Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
WoW Inscription Review

As you all should know by now, I love tradeskills in MMORPGs. So the new inscription craft in World of Warcraft was the most interesting part of patch 3.0.2 for me. After leveling it up to over 350, and learning all the recipes available from the trainer, plus a few others by research, these are my impressions of this new trade:

Inscription is a relatively simple trade, best combined with the herbalism gathering skill. You "mill" stacks of 5 herbs into pigments, turn the pigments into ink, and add some parchment to create mostly glyphs, plus a few other scrolls and off-hand items. You don't need any loot drop or crafted trade goods for inscription right now, just the herbs you can gather and parchments from an NPC vendor. This is spiced up a bit by "rare" pigments, but in reality these are more "uncommon" than rare, and aren't used for glyphs, which are the main product of the craft. They are great for skilling up, but the tarot cards and off-hand items you can make from them are mostly useless, and only the one rare pigment needed to make one type of vellums for enchanters is really useful. Sidenote: Inscription produces armor vellum and weapon vellum, which can be enchanted like armor or weapon, and results in a scroll of enchantment, which can be sold and applied by someone to his weapon or armor. If you already have an alchemist / herbalist, you might consider combining inscription with enchanting on another character. Other enchanters will have to buy the vellums on the AH. In any case this is a great improvement of the enchanting skill.

But as I said, the main product of inscription are glyphs, of which there are two types: Major glyphs and minor glyphs. Major glyphs modify one of your more essential spells or abilities. Many give a flat-out bonus, like 20% more effect to Ice/Frost Armor, or adding a heal effect to Power Word: Shield. Other major glyphs change the nature of a spell, like the glyph of Frostbolt giving 5% added damage, but removing the slow effect, which would be useful in a raid (where the slow doesn't work anyway), but bad for soloing. Minor glyphs are often mainly cosmetic. For example the glyph of the penguin turns people you polymorph into penguins instead of sheep. There are also minor glyphs that remove the material component of spells like levitate or slow fall, or that make your buffs cost 50% less mana. Characters get more and more slots for major and minor glyphs during their career; at level 70 they have space for 2 major and 3 minor, at level 80 they get another major, for a total of 3 and 3. The glyph page is a tab in your "spellbook" you open by pressing "P". To enter the glyphs in those slots, you need to stand near a "Lexicon of Power", which are placed next to the inscription trainers. Just ask a guard if you can't find them.

One great innovation hidden in the inscription profession is the way the recipes are learned. As far as I know, and only valid up to now, there are no loot drop recipes. Loot drop recipes ruined some other professions for me, because I can't go raiding with all of my characters, and grinding the same dungeon over and over for a 1% drop chance recipe doesn't appeal to me anyway. Up to now all the major glyph recipes are gained from the trainer. All the minor glyph recipes are gained by a completely new method: Research. You get a minor research recipe early in your career, with a 20-hour cooldown, using cheap materials. The recipe produces a random stat boost scroll, plus you learn a random minor glyph recipe. If I understood it right, the recipe you learn is completely random, and if you'd learn one you already have, the research "fails", yielding you nothing for that day. Getting all the minor glyph recipes together is going to take months, with no way to speed it up, except log on every day. Great lure to keep people logging in, and in my opinion a much, much better way to learn recipes than the loot drop or alchemy random discovery way.

So, should you learn inscription? The big question behind that is what other profession to give up to learn the new one. Frankly, I'd only do it you have a character where you are unhappy with his current profession. For example I learned inscription on my mage, dropping enchanting because I didn't have any of the good recipes anyway. It is true that I made a small fortune with inscription in the last days, but that was due to two factors: Everyone is buying his first glyphs, and I had enough herbs in stock to skill up and make glyphs. Herb prices on the auction house are crazy right now, so buying herbs to learn inscription would cost you thousands of gold. And I'm pretty certain that the prices for glyphs will stabilize at an affordable level. The main problem with inscription is that there will be little repeat custom. Most people will buy 3 minor and 3 major glyphs, install them, and forget about them. Only very few hardcore players will switch out glyphs on a regular basis, putting in "raid glyphs" or "PvP glyphs" for different modes of gameplay.

The main weakness of the inscription profession is that glyphs aren't terribly well balanced. Some glyphs simply don't sell at all, because others are just downright better. You can only put three major glyphs at level 80, and you'll want those to boost the spells and abilities you use the most. Even allowing for the possibility of different specs, and different play styles, that still leaves a good number of glyphs that simply don't make the cut. And I think Blizzard is aware of that, and is already talking about changing a lot of glyphs in the 3.0.3 patch, still coming out before Wrath of the Lich King. And then of course WotLK will allow us to skill up from 375 to 450, adding more recipes for glyphs. There are several rumors surrounding the future of inscription, like the self-only shoulder enchants replacing the previously planned bonus glyph slot. And some people speculate on glyph combos, which would activate if you put in certain combinations of glyphs. But I'd wait for Wrath of the Lich King to really come out before believing any of this, betas and rumors change all the time.

In summary, inscription is fun enough as profession. It appears to be especially suited as "crafting lite" for alts, for example Death Knights, as you don't need to visit specific dungeons to find the recipes (unless that changes with WotLK). Inscription will probably not be a huge money-maker once the initial excitement cools down, but it is useful enough, and low maintenance.
I'm a bit underwhelmed by this profession, it simply looks too cheap for me. You wrote that you dropped Enchanting because you had no good recipes anyway. As an Enchanter you have the chance to find a rare recipe in a dungeon. You don't have to, but if you do, the better for you. The whole Inscription-Profession doesn't even have such a possibility, meaning every Inscriptor is damned to stay in the same state as your old Enchanter.
Minor Glyphs don't count in my eyes because they are purely cosmetical, you will perform just as good without them and it won't hurt you to wait until everyone knows them all and they get cheap.

The 'rebuy-rate' might be even worse than you thought, because Blizzards announced Dual-Spec-Feature will allow you to switch between two sets of glyphs without having to buy new ones all the time.

An aceptable profession for a third alt if nobody in your guild has it already, but I already pity those who unlearned their previous profession with their (raiding) main just because Inscripting is new.
The whole Inscription-Profession doesn't even have such a possibility, meaning every Inscriptor is damned to stay in the same state as your old Enchanter.

The ability to differentiate yourself from somebody else doing the same profession is not "good" or "bad" in absolute terms. My Enchanter felt useless, because when somebody was asking me for an enchantment, it sure always was one I didn't have. As Inscriber I might be the same as everyone, but at least I can do all the useful recipes, and I'm having fun collecting the useless ones (which happen to sell very well).

I think it is good that WoW has both kind of tradeskills: Low maintenance ones like Inscription, and others where you have to raid to get recipes for. Not everyone wants to invest the same amount of time and effort into a profession.
So far, this profession isn't worth learning. It doesn't provide any benefit for your toon yet (we need to wait for the release of WOTLK to get those). All major glyphs are learnt from the trainer, it's nice because you don't have to farm some reputation or some instance to get a recipe but it also means that you won't make any profit producing major glyphs. The only way to make money is to be lucky enough with the minor glyphs you've discovered so far. And contrary to jewelry or enchanting, people won't need to change their glyphs on a regular basis.
I got this on my level 63 mage alt who had no profession besides his Master Tailoring. I bought a bunch of herbs the day before the patch for cheap, leveled my Inscription 360, and proceded to make 6500 gold on the auction house in the next 48 hours.

I believe that even despite the massive ammount of gold made in the "rush" of Inscription, simply being able to make my own Glyphs and Vellum for my friends and my other characters will be very valuable.
Tobold, has minor inscription research failed to give you a learned recipe? I leveled inscription on two toons, a high-level and a low-level. On the high-level toon (Inscription skill 350+), I am able to learn a wider range of minor glyphs. But on neither toon has research failed to give me a new recipe yet.
Haven't had a failure yet. But today I got a minor glyph for Death Knights, which wasn't really what I was looking for right now.
Sadly I really don't think the profession is done. Think engineering at the launch of BC (not that its all that great now).
Its going to launch unfinished, but I imagine 3.1 to have some very nice things in it. Maybe idols, sigils, and totems. That would be nice.
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