I made a comment this morning about whether I was crazy enough to level Engineering to 450, repeatedly, to get Synapse Springs on Ashwalker. (Twitter responded unanimously that of course I was; thanks for the vote of confidence, y’all!) The reasons why I would do it repeatedlybear some explanation, because they’re not apparent.
With the introduction of engineering tinkers in Cataclysm, you get a chance to learn the tinkers as you learn new recipies and create new stuff as you level from 450-525. The first one you get is at 450, and there are 8 of them distributed throughout the 75 point skillup curve, mostly at the beginning. Which one you get is completely random.
If you’re a level 70 twink, that means you get one random tinker at 450, your max Engineering skill. (Gnomes get 3.)
Synapse Springs is an on-use burst effect which grants you 420 of your primary stat. That’s pretty damn good for Cataclysm stat ranges, but for level 70, that’s fucking awesome. Ashwalker has 523 Strength unbuffed, which probably averages out to about 575-600 with normal buffs in PvP. +420 Strength is huge – consider that it’s a 75% buff for 10 seconds every minute, and you’ll see how big this is.
But you only get one shot at it. You can level to 450 and are likely to not get it – you can get the Quickflip Deflection Plates (which would admittedly be very good and awesome for tanking) or any of the others, but you only have a 1 in 8 chance of getting this particular buff.
So, is leveling Engineering repeatedly to 450 worth it?
If she were a leveling character, obviously not. Why level Engineering multiple times just to get her a bonus that will come naturally with leveling? That’s silly.
But if she were an endgame character – let’s say this was a situation at 85 – then it becomes a really difficult question to answer. How much effort do you spend on getting something awesome – but that will be outmoded with the next patch? People (including me) dropped 15-40k on Darkmoon Cards in 4.1 to have great trinkets; but that was honestly pretty easy compared to this. Leveling Engineering is a PITA, and I might end up spending 10k-20k on getting it. Do I like this character enough to go through that effort and expense?
I liken this to when I considered going for the Lucky Fishing Hat on Cynderblock, which was really the first “crazy” piece of twink gear I tried for. There’s a real dissonance when you say, I’m going to spend this much effort getting a single piece of gear (or enchant or tinker or consumable or whatever) for a character who isn’t at level cap. That’s the key here – level cap somehow makes it okay to spend hours farming for a piece of gear, of running 14 hours of Heroics for a piece of gear that will only last a single raiding tier – sometimes not even that! – but not okay to spend 12 weeks logging in at random intervals to get an awesome trinket for someone at level 19.
Why is that? Why do we think that way? Is it because one is the best you can get in game, but the other gets outmoded by something as simple as leveling?
It’s funny, because our brains play tricks on us here. The best you can get in game is only good for so long, and then you have to get something else. There’s transient value there which decays over time. All you have to do and wait and your Valor gear and T12 gear will be replaced.
The best you can get at a given level is static. The effort put in to get it isn’t wasted, it doesn’t decay. You get the best and you’re done.
Aside from this difference of decaying value, though, it actually doesn’t matter if you’re at the endgame or not. The simple reason is that: if it’s worth it for you to play your character as well as you can, it doesn’t matter if it’s level 19 or 39 or 70 or 85 – then it’s worth it to you. If I’m willing to spend 20k gold on Cynwise for an advantage for a few months, because that’s who I’m playing at the time, then why should Ashwalker’s level matter? Or Cynwulf, or Cynderblock, or any of the others?
It’s an interesting, and disturbing train of thought.
Interesting, because it helps to frame gear decisions based upon longevity and benefit.
Disturbing, because I just fucking talked myself into leveling Engineering to 450 as many times as it takes to get this damn tinker.
I’m going to need some Copper Bars and Wool Cloth.