One of the best parts about World of Warcraft is that there are many things to do that appeal to all sorts of people. If you have lots of time to play, there are things for you like dungeons and raiding. If you only have a short period of time to play, there are things for you like questing and professions. Today’s focus will be on the latter, and more specifically focused on one of the best things to do if you’re short on time: archaeology.
Firstly, I define having a short amount of playtime as being under two hours a day. Previously there were more dungeons and raids that could be completed in that amount of time, but with Cataclysm we’ve seen a shift to slightly longer time invested in those. The fastest random heroic that I’ve done was around 45 minutes, which falls into this time allotment, but that will be another post.
Archaeology was introduced in Cataclysm as a new secondary profession, added to the existing ones of: cooking, fishing, and first aid. This means that you can have all four without having to leave any out. The idea is to go around the world to various “dig sites”, where you’ll unearth certain races’ artifacts by collecting fragments from these sites. The benefits are mainly monetary from selling what you make, but also offer some fun vanity and other useful items.
To access the profession, a visit to the trainer is necessary to learn the skill (talking to a city guard in any faction capital is the easiest way to find them). Once trained, there will be a few options available under the professions tab of your spellbook: the archaeology icon to access the UI and see what’s happening, and the survey icon. It would be wise to move the survey action to an easily accessible keybind as you’ll be using it a lot.
The first step after training is finding a digsite to go to. Go to your world map and look at the continents. Across the various zones, you’ll see little shovels which correspond to the dig sites that you can go to – up to four per continent, randomly generated. If you zoom in to the zone map you’ll then see a blob across an area, which is the boundaries of where you can do your surveying to find your precious artifacts. Hop on a flight path and head towards where you want to start.
Once you’re in the confines of the dig area, start your surveying! After you cast survey, one of two things will happen: if you’re really lucky, you’ll get an archaeology fragment! Otherwise, an apparatus will show up that has a scope on a tripod and an antenna beside it with a light blinking. The scope points in the general direction of where the find actually is, and the light will be one of the three traffic light colours – red, yellow, or green. As you can probably guess, red means that you’re still far away from the find, yellow means that you’re a middle range away from the find, and green means that you’re very close. Along with the light, the scope is more accurate for the specific direction to the specific find the closer you are.
Different race digsites show different artifacts for you to click to collect. For example a Night Elf site will have a vase show up, while a Troll site will be a tablet. When you collect the items, you’ll get an amount of fragments (usually 3+) that builds up towards the project you’re working on. Depending on the rarity of the project, the fragments required can be as low as 30 and as high as over 100.
Every once in a while as you collect the fragments, you might get an extra item called a “keystone”. These keystones show up as different things, such as an “Orc Scroll” for Orcs and a “Draenei Tome” for the Draenei. These help complete projects quicker, as they’re worth a set amount of fragments. Some projects allow one or more keystones, which are very valuable for the rare ones as they have high fragment requirements.
To complete a project you have to either have enough fragments for that race, or a combination of fragments and keystones allowed. The completion will give you skillups depending on the rarity of it, with a minimum of 5 points earned.
Starting out, the best way of getting ahead is to get your skillups by surveying until you can’t anymore. When archaeology was introduced you could get up to 100 skill points before you had to start completing projects, but unfortunately that was reduced to 50. Once you’ve earned your 50 points, it’s time to start completing your projects as mentioned above.
Depending on your faction, flight paths, and ability to move around quickly, it might be good to focus on a specific continent. As Horde, I did my entire 1-300 skillups in Kalimdor as I can get to various points easily via my hearthstone set in Orgrimmar and using the portals in the city. If you’re a mage, you have it easy as you can get to all points of the world very quickly.
Currently there is no way to focus on a specific race to work on for your projects. If the current project for a certain race is a rare one that you want to prioritize, it doesn’t make any difference for the digsite that is given to you. However, the continents tend to have more types of ruins than others. For example, Kalimdor is loaded with Night Elf ruins – it was very rare for me to not have one up for my four available digs.
Your skill ranges equate to what digsites open up, in the same way as the other professions. 1-300 is in Azeroth, 300-375 is in Outland, 375-450 is in Northrend, and 450-525 is Cataclysm areas. There’s no limitations to where you do the digs, so in the same way as fishing, if you wanted to do your entire process in Azeroth you certainly could. The only thing is that there are only certain places the ruins open up.
All in all, archaeology is pretty straightforward. You go to the digsites, survey and get the fragments and keystones, complete projects to get skillups, repeat until capped.
There are some nice benefits from the skill. In all Cataclysm dungeons, there is a repeatable quest object at the beginning of them where you can turn in a keystone to give a buff to your group. As well, some of the rewards that you can get from completing projects are very useful. Many of them are grey or white quality items that are good to vendor, but can give a very good payday. The ones most people are looking for are the rare or epic quality items, which can be a lot of fun to play with.
A few items are bind-on-account, so they’re able to be sent to other characters to be used. However, unlike heirlooms they don’t scale with level, but are at least not limited to the character you’re doing archaeology with. Others are more fun items like the Ancient Amber which encases you in an amber block when used, or the Priest and Druid Statue Set which creates a font of green stuff above you when used.
It is possible to start archaeology from level 20, but I would not suggest it until you are able to learn Old World Flying and hopefully with an epic flying mount. While it is definitely possible to get to many of the sites, there are some which are very remote and hard to access by ground mount. Also, depending on your level, you may not be able to get to some of the sites until you can survive getting to them.
Only recently have I tried an archaeology addon to help things out, because I didn’t think I needed to. While that is definitely true, as for the most part it’s just a matter of flying around, the one that I picked up is a very nice addition.
I use Archy (available on most addon sites), which in essence offers the basic information to you on your main UI screen. It shows the four digsites for the continent you’re on, as well as the current projects for the different races you have along with how many fragments and keystones for each one. Also, there is the option to make the digsite boundaries show up on your minimap, making it much easier to know where and where not to survey.
However, the best part for me is the surveying tool. There’s a button to cast survey, which will trigger a circle with a number and colour. As you move, it counts the steps you take and will be in the green/yellow/red zone from your survey location. So if you survey and it shows yellow for the distance, you have an idea of how far to go before casting your next one.
Archaeology is basically a time sink. I do it mainly while I’m waiting for the queue for a random LFD group, or just when I don’t feel like doing anything that requires too much thought to it. The only thing involved is the time invested as well as flight path costs, and the rewards can be very nice – some of the completed projects vendor for over 100 gold, and some way more than that.
As most secondary professions, it’s not a requirement by far. However, I believe that what you can get out of it is worth the effort put into it.