Cooking is probably the most popular secondary profession in World of Warcraft, as it allows us to cook buff food for ourselves and others, and raiders often lament the grind involved in maxing their cooking. When the cooking dailies were added to the capital cities, that helped, but many still consider it dull and boring.
In Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard is trying to breathe new life into this profession, and make it a bit more interesting to level. This fits nicely with the Pandaren race, as much of their culture is focused on food and drink. I think it is fitting that the Pandaren would be willing to share their talents with their new friends as part of this expansion. This article will provide an overview of cooking, as well as my opinions based on my experiences with the profession in the beta.
The big change is the addition of six specializations, known as “Ways,” that characters can start to learn after reaching 525 in cooking, and have a character level of 85. These are learned through quest chains at Halfhill Market in Valley of the Four Winds, so players will have to be able to get there before embarking on these specializations. If your cooking skill is not yet to 525, you can still go to Halfhill Market and there is a speed-leveling alternative, with most of the ingredients being available at the trainer. This will cost around 350 gold, but many players will think this well worth the time and effort saved.
There are six Ways, and most of them provide characters with a different buff stat:
Way of the Oven – Stamina
Way of the Pot – Intellect
Way of the Steamer – Spirit
Way of the Wok – Agility
Way of the Brew – Special effects, such as headaches and delusions
(If you are looking for some of the other buff food, such as hit or expertise, don’t fret. Those are still there, but are not part of the specializations. They are among the general foods you can learn in Pandaria.)
Players can learn all of the Ways, and this can be done concurrently. Each Way has a separate skill bar, and leveling for each is independent. Your overall cooking skill is determined by the highest skill you have earned in any specialization, and that is used for recipes that do not involve the Ways. However, you may only cook Way-specific recipes if you have a high enough skill in that particular Way. For example, If your skill in Way of the Pot is 550, but your skill in Way of the Grill is only 530, you will not be able to cook a dish in Way of the Grill that requires 550 skill. This may sound a little confusing, and it may be to some players while we get used to it.
As you progress further in each Way, you will discover that while the higher level foods give better stat buffs, they also require more and a larger variety of ingredients. Currently, that is only true if you are making feasts for your party or raid, but in Mists, even single player foods at higher levels will require a combination of fish, meats, and vegetables. So, mat gathering will be very important, regardless of how you acquire them.
Vegetables? Yes, I did say we’ll be eating our veggies in Mists. The good news is that we will be able to grow our own vegetables on our own personal farm. Farming could be it’s own article, but a short rundown is that players will be able to grow and harvest crops on farms located next to the Halfhill Market, and our farms will expand and progress as we work them. In addition to growing vegetables that we will use in cooking, we will also be able to grow special materials for other professions, including motes of harmony. As we work our farms we will also earn reputation with The Tillers, which will allow us to buy things such as mounts, recipes, and special seeds (for crafting materials). Players who plan to cook will definitely want to farm as well.
What about cooking awards and non-Pandarian cooking? Once you reach 525 and start the upper levels of cooking, the current Azeroth capital city dailies will no longer grant skill points, and cooking awards will not be used for Pandarian cooking. What you will earn from the dailies in Pandaria is Ironpaw Tokens, which can be used to purchase various things, including ingredients and recipes. My opinion is that you have toons that have not already done cooking, I would skip Old World cooking entirely, unless you have a specific need for it. However, the Darkmoon Faire quests will continue to grant +5 to your overall cooking skill (but not any of the Ways) so you will still want to do those each month until you hit max.
Players who enjoy cooking and want to continuing it on a regular basis may be interested in Nomi, the cooking student. Nomi is an eager student, who wants to learn all about cooking from you. You progress through six stages of “friendship” (or reputation) with Nomi by completing daily quests, and those quests change as your friendship level increases. At the sixth rank, when Nomi has become an “expert,” the dailies then grant you Ironpaw Tokens and random cooked dishes (which may be either individual food or banquets). In order to gain Nomi as your apprentice, you have to save up 50 Ironpaw Tokens and purchase the Cooking School Bell, and you must also have mastered all six cooking Ways by leveling each up to 600. Yes, Nomi is quite a bit of work, but if you are planning to cook anyway, I think this will make it a bit more fun, and give you a goal. Plus, when Nomi is fully trained you also get an achievement, and you complete a one time quest that rewards you with your choice of five of the purchase-only ingredients and the Apron, which along with the Frying Pan and Rolling Pin is part of a bind-to-account cooking set designed to help your alts with their cooking. The tooltips for the three items are still a bit confusing, as it is unclear if you need all of these to get the +10 to cooking, or if it is +10 for each individually, but there is some sort of bonus. Hopefully Blizzard will make this a bit more clear at some point.
If you’ll pardon the pun, I think that all these changes do add a bit of flavor to a chore that is otherwise pretty boring. Having the different Ways will help everyone a bit, as we will be able to easily see the foods that will benefit us. I like that we will be able to have small goals to hit as we progress in cooking, and that will make it a bit more interesting. Also, I like that cooking is tied to farming, thus giving players a reason for doing both of these activities. While you don’t have to farm to cook or vice versa, I think it is logical to do both. Will there still be a grind? Certainly, and some of that is made worse by the fact that many dishes take either two kinds of meat or both meat and fish. This may not sit well with some players, but gone are the days of leveling cooking all the way by either only fishing or never fishing.
With all of the changes to cooking, the real question becomes if cooking is worth the trouble. The answer to that will vary from player to player. Some players will embrace the changes, and see it as a challenge to learn all six Ways, while others may choose to only focus on their needed specialization, just to insure that they have the buff food they need for their personal adventuring. Those players who do choose to level all of the specializations and finish all of Nomi’s training will have completed quite an accomplishment, and they will definitely be able to cook up quite a feast. It will be time consuming, and may get dull at times, but personally, I think it will be worth it in the end, and that there will be some interesting moments along the way.
If you find you are interested in cooking in Mists, there are several websites that have much better and more in depth explanations of the profession. I personally think the best one out there is from El’s Extreme Anglin’ and their World of Warcraft Fishing Guide site. Even though their main focus is on fishing, they have written a wonderful guide to Mists of Pandaria cooking.