Hello and welcome to the Tol Barad Mining and Herbalism Guide! If you're reading this, you either have a miner or an herbalist (or hopefully, a character who has both!). Whether it's one or the other (or both), this guide will clue you in and help you master the art of farming in one of the most lucrative zones introduced in Cataclysm. Keep in mind that we're referring specifically to Tol Barad, the active battle PvP zone, and *not* Tol Barad Peninsula, the contested zone to the north.
What is so good about Tol Barad?
There are several things about Tol Barad that make it an ideal farming zone for herbalism and mining. They can be summed up as follows:
1) Little to no competition.
2) Little to no mob interference.
3) Nodes that are high in density, spawn in easily recognized areas, and respawn in about the same time as it takes to run a complete circuit of the zone.
But what makes Tol Barad different than any other farming spot?
That's a good question, and there are several answers.
For one, Tol Barad has two particularly valuable nodes: Whiptail and Rich Pyrite Deposits. Whiptail can only be found in one other place (Uldum). It spawns there only along the river/delta and the dried river delta, so competition can be rough. Rich Pyrite occurs nowhere else in the world: It is unique to Tol Barad and can yield two to three times as much Pyrite Ore as the regular Pyrite Deposits found in Twilight Highlands and Uldum. This stuff looks like a pile of leprechaun gold, and for all intents and purposes it may as well be. If you ever got excited in Burning Crusade or Wrath about finding a Khorium or a Titanium node, imagine if you could have found a "Rich" version of one of those nodes. One whack at a Rich Pyrite Deposit can easily be worth 100 gold or more, just in the raw materials value. The other nodes in Tol Barad are Elementium Vein, Rich Elementium Vein, and Cinderbloom.
For another, Tol Barad has the distinction of being a PvP battle zone, which among other things helps to keep your gathering competition extremely low for a number of reasons. If a player is in Tol Barad between battles, he or she is either there to do a quick set of dailies or to gather. There are many less random passersby to stop and gather the mining and herbalism nodes. Since only one faction can do dailies at a time, average competition is immediately cut by about half. Your mileage may vary, but this can be extremely exagerrated on your server depending on your faction balance. A significantly underpopulated faction has a distinct advantage in Tol Barad because it is easier to get a preformed group in, and players on the underpopulated faction generally always get in and so get more experience playing the battles and form a relatively tight knit group that performs increasingly well over time. The overpopulated faction tends to get a raid of a much more mixed variety of players and thus generally improves very little, and much slower. Plus, since defense is currently much easier to do, the trend is that the underpopulated faction wins and then continues to hold onto the zone indefinitely. So if the overpopulated faction generally cannot do dailies in the zone, the larger portion of herbalists and miners on the server have much less of a reason to ever wander in there in between battles. Even further still, as the day wears on and the members of the winning faction have generally completed their daily quests, the traffic in the zone falls off towards zero.
Furthermore, there is absolutely no phasing in Tol Barad. You do not have to worry about nodes pulling a vanishing act on you, appearing on your minimap then disappearing as you approach.
Lastly, it being a PvP battle zone lends a certain stigma to many players who will tend to keep away from it as much as they can. Many players are under the incorrect impression that (on PvE servers) you are automatically flagged in this zone and thus they will stay out, when in fact you are only flagged during a battle. In between battles it acts like any other contested zone: You will unflag after five minutes of unhostile activity. It is also a permanent no-fly zone. It is ground mounts only in Tol Barad, and this is largely seen as an inconvenience and yet another reason players will tend to keep away from the zone.
(It also stands to reason it is an inconvenience for botters as well. There are reports of gathering hacks and botters on most realms, but I have yet to see one in Tol Barad, at least on my realm. You can gather here without that frustration!)
As you can see, there are seven clusters of mining nodes (three nodes per cluster). Only one node per cluster can be spawned in at any given time, so one complete circuit around Tol Barad can yield at most seven mining nodes. These nodes can spawn as either Elementium, Rich Elementium, or Rich Pyrite. They are all also an excellent source of Volatile Water, Volatile Earth, and Volatile Fire. If you're really lucky, you might also loot an occasional Elementium Geode, a rare quality pet that is worth a fair amount on the auction house. You will also loot a small number of green and blue quality gems.
Note that the northernmost node of the cluster nearest the main entrance to Tol Barad is out of reach unless there is an active battle and an attacker dies and resurrects at the elevated graveyard and jumps down to it. It is possible to kite a mob over to it and creatively make use of a charge mechanic, but depending on the node (and your ability to do this) it probably is not worth your time. If the node spawns here, you will likely have to accept that it is inaccessible to you and forget about it for the rest of your session.
Here you can see that there are seven clusters of Cinderbloom nodes (three nodes per cluster). As with the mining clusters, only one node per cluster can be spawned in at any given time, so one complete circuit around Tol Barad can yield at most seven Cinderbloom nodes. There are six tightly packed clusters of Whiptail in the swamp area, mostly guarded by Crocolisks. Most nodes can be looted while avoiding combat. It is also possible to crowd control a crocolisk, loot a Whiptail node, and start running towards the next node and have the crocolisk in question drop combat with you before it reaches you. In this way, nearly all combat with Crocolisks can be avoided.
All herb nodes are also excellent sources of Volatile Life.
It is best to begin your gathering circuit from the zone entrance and move towards the first mining node near the Northwest Tower. Continue down the path towards the next mining node (do not enter the swamp for Whiptail at this time). Pass in front of Warden's Vigil, then proceed up the hill to the South Tower. Come back down and pass in front of Slagworks, heading across the bridge towards the Northeast Tower. Continue west and pass in front of Ironclad Garisson. After you check the seventh and final mining node, turn and make a loop through the swamp for Whiptail. End your circuit at the base of the hill between the zone entrance and the Northwest Tower.
The average circuit will take between six and seven minutes to complete. Coincidentally, this is almost exactly as long as the average respawn time on the node clusters. Therefore, when you get back to where you started, the first node you looted should be respawning. If not, you may only need to wait a minute before it respawns and you can continue on your merry way.
What do I need? For starters, you need to reach level 85 to access Tol Barad. You will need basic things like a ground mount and you will want to have 100% ground speed, as well as at least one of the largest gathering bags (mining, herbalism, or both) and, obviously, a mining pick if you are a Miner. Your gathering skill should be at or very near max level before entering Tol Barad so that you can take full advantage of the zone. Leveling herbalism is very easy. Leveling Mining can be tricky, as Obsidium Veins can be particularly hard to come by. A tip I have is to put a Gathering enchant on a pair of white quality gloves (+5 to all gathering skills) and to level mining in Wintergrasp until you reach 475 skill (470+5). At this point you can gather from Elementium Veins, which can be found in Cataclysm zones with much greater frequency than Obsidium Veins.
When to start? The best time to start is when the underpopulated faction on your server controls the zone. This automatically means less competition because the larger portion of the server population has almost no reason to be there.
What about competition? Do a "/who Tol Barad" to determine how many people of your faction are in the zone, and who they are. In time you may start to recognize who your competition is. If no marked competition is there, get a move on and start gathering!
What if competition joins me while I'm gathering? If a competitor joins in but you were gathering there first, do not be discouraged! You have the upper hand, as you know the exact order in which you have gathered from the nodes and you know best when approximately the nodes will be respawning. A smart competitor will do a lap or two around the zone and find nothing, realize there is competition here before him with knowledge of the respawns, and leave. An unintelligent competitor will circle endlessly and only be able to take the occasional node away from you.
15 Minutes Before a Battle: This is your golden fifteen minutes. During this time, all mobs and NPCs in the zone despawn. This means players doing dailies no longer have a reason to be there, and will often port or hearth out, so nodes lost to random passersby are no longer an issue. It also means that you no longer have to worry about mobs interferring with your gathering. Furthermore, at this time mark, a gate appears that blocks the entrance to the zone from across the bridge. This means that absolutely no new competition can enter the zone during this time. You might very quickly find yourself with the zone all to yourself.
Should I queue for the Battle? Absolutely, 100% YES. You don't want to risk losing out on a node that's right in front of you because the battle automatically ports you out of the zone.
Once the Battle starts: Whether you stay or leave is entirely up to you. If you enjoy the battles, stay and participate. If you don't, you're free to leave. You're also free to keep right on gathering, only note that you may be inconvenienced by attackers. You won't be contributing to the battle, but hey, I won't judge you. You can even leave the raid without being kicked out of the zone, so nobody can identify you as a non-participating gatherer just by looking at the zone map and spotting you. It is also worth noting that you have a vested interest in the overpopulated faction losing, so if you are a member of that faction, you might end up actually helping yourself out by staying and not contributing.
Also keep in mind that a very recent hotfix (12/27/10) made it so that the attackers get 1800 Honor Points if they win, so if your faction is going to be attacking and you have any interest in PvP gear, it is definitely worth you staying on the off chance your faction succeeds and you score a free 1800 Honor.
What if I queued but the battle starts and I don't get in? You will be ported out to Tol Barad Peninsula. Now is a great time to empty your bags. Smelt your ore, and send everything by mail to your auction/bank alt. If you don't care to remain in the queue and possibly enter the battle in progress, you can also log over to your auction alt and post what you've gathered. Alternatively, you can take a break to do just about anything your heart desires, and return once the battle ends.
What should I sell? Smelt your Elementium and Pyrium into bars and sell the bars. Pyrium bars can be sold individually or in small stacks. Elementium Bars are best sold in full stacks. Sell full stacks of Cinderbloom and Whiptail. Volatile Life is used often by Alchemists to transmute into Volatile Air, and so is likely best sold in stacks of 15. Volatile Earth, Water, and Fire sell well individually or in small stacks up to about 5. Uncut green gems can often sell for more than cut greem gems, particularly if they are required for the Jewelcrafting daily. You can also sell uncut blue gems. All auctions should be set to Short / 12-Hour durations.
What if I get undercut? Never fear! Getting undercut is practically inevitable. However, if you're selling raw materials, keep in mind that currently all of these raw materials are basically guaranteed to get sold. Just wait for your auctions to expire and repost them. Posting once in the morning and once again in the evening should be sufficient. Everything that you have will sell, and you're only paying a pitance in listing fees.
How much money will I make? That's impossible to tell exactly. It depends entirely on your own server's market and how much time and effort you spend gathering. Gathering may or may not be the absolute *best* way to make money with the time you have available to you, but it is certainly up there. A *rough* estimate can easily be put at several thousand gold per hour, but as with all things in life, this is not guaranteed. Gathering in Tol Barad is certainly an easy activity, and the income is more or less guaranteed. It can also be a very relaxing way to spend your time, as it is repetative and often isolated from most of the population on your server. You don't have to spend time and energy haggling in trade chat or worrying much about playing the auction house (these raw materials will practically sell themselves). You also don't have to invest any money of your own, only time. There is no risk or any potential for loss involved with gathering.
Is there any way to make more money? Of course there is! They just require access to other characters (either yours, or helpful friends) who have other professions. Some useful ways to increase the value of your stuff include:
- (Blacksmith) Crafting Ebonsteel Belt Buckles. These can sell for double the materials cost, but don't make too many!
- (Jewelcrafting) Blue/Superior Gem Cuts - Depending on availability and your server's market, most cut Superior quality gems sell for much more than the uncut gems.
- (Jewelcrafting/Enchanting) - This one is tricky as it requires a toon that has both Enchanting and Jewelcrafting. With your own Volatile Life and Cinderbloom (and additional Heartblossom and Azshara's Veil either gathered yourself or purchased), BoP Lifebound Alchemist Stones can be crafted and disenchanted into Maelstrom Crystals. These can sell for a pretty penny on their own (be sure to check the value of the materials compared to the value of the crystals first). Furthermore, with access to the highest end enchants, particularly weapon enchants, severly limited because the recipes themselves require 5x Maelstrom Crystals each to purchase, you may be able to make a ton of money with a near monopoly on certain enchants. Be sure to check your auction house to determine your own server's market first!
- (Alchemy - Transmute Spec in particular) - Transmuting Truegold is almost universally profitable. Be sure to do this once every day on every toon you have access to, especially if they are transmute specced. You may have to purchase Volatile Air, or transmute Life to Air, but it will be well worth your while to do so.
Thanks for taking the time to read this guide, and good luck gathering in Tol Barad!