Welcome! Essentially the goal of this thread is to help co-ordinate useful guides and links, and provide a simple summary for those who don't know a whole lot about Alchemy, and help them make informed decisions. As far as I am aware, there is no other thread serving this purpose in the Alchemy forum, and I feel that it could be a useful thing to have, to help avoid repeat threads/questions or to direct people to who have these questions.
Like my other guides, I consider this to be a community effort for the community. I welcome constructive criticism, and proof reading. Lots of proof reading.
"Man cannot obtain anything without first sacrificing something. In order to obtain something, something of equal value is required. That is Alchemy's Law of Equivalent Exchange" Alphonse Elric, Fullmetal Alchemist
Art assets used in this thread are all Gaia's. Hail our mighty artist team!
Alchemy is essentially a way of using a recipe (formula), and some ingredients (components), plus gold to make something new. Some formulae have more than one way of completing them, but all different ways create the same product.
Crafting a Formula (This section pulled from Panagrammic's Alchemy FAQ)
The easiest way to try this out for the first time is to use the Alchemist Starter Kit. You can get one by clicking on this link. Click on the starter kit in your inventory to unpack the components. Every user gets one of these on each account.
Next up you want to go to the Alchemy page on Gaia. This is where most of the action happens in Alchemy. It gives you the means to make your items if you have the components and recipes.
If you click on the formula details button, it will show you which parts you have, and what you still need.
For example, here to make the Aspiring Alchemist item, we still need 1 Ocean Summer Top. If we get the top & come back, this formula will have moved to our ready tab.
Now we can click on the complete button
This shows you that you have everything and then you can hit the craft button to confirm that you want to make it.
You'll see a gif of Crescento & Nicolae and then, all being well, you'll have your new item. Crafting will use up the gold amount specified, and also components, and the formula itself. If you want more than one of the same item, you'll need to have multiple formulae and components for each formula.
Components come from a mixture of different places. Some are items which already exist on Gaia (from gold shops/RIGS etc.) Some can be found in the Daily Chance. Some can be bought at the Bifrost- Gaia's special Alchemy gold shop. Most components that you will need as you progress through Alchemy can be found in the Philosopher's Cache (more on this later) or alternatively in the Winged Crafting Chest. There is a subforum of the Alchemy forum Item Alchemy Exchange, where you can go to buy or sell things you need related to Alchemy.
Formulae also come from a few places. They used to be found in Gaia's various different rare events (Gold Giftboxes, Pink Giftboxes etc.), but are now found in the Alchemist's Case, Enki's Catch, Enki's Drop, or the Bifrost. There is also a small chance of getting a backwings quest (Inizio formula) from the Winged Crafting Chest. Please don't waste your time opening other boxes in the hope of finding formulae.
The levelling system
Formulae are on different levels, with the lower levelled formulae mostly being basic items & components for other items, with higher levels often being Alchemy rares and highly desirable items. You need to be at or above the level of a formula to be able to craft it. For example, someone at level 3 can make recipes on levels 1, 2 & 3, but not 4 or higher. The current maximum level you can reach is 10.
Some formulae have more than one path- several different sets of components that can be used to make it. All paths make the same item, but sometimes one will be easier for you to make than the other. It's worth checking out every path to see if one will suit you better.
To reach a higher level, you need to gain experience on your current level. The amount of XP (experience) required for each level is detailed below. You can gain experience by making formulae at your current level or the level directly below you. For instance, a level 5 Alchemist can make formulae at levels 4 & 5 to gain XP. They could make formulae from levels 1, 2 and 3, but these will not help them level up.
I've shown how much XP is needed, and how many of each kind of formula you would need to craft to complete that level.
Level 1: 10 XP (10 level 1 formulae)
Level 2: 20 XP (10 level 2 formulae or 20 level 1 formulae)
Level 3: 40 XP (10 level 3 formulae or 40 level 2 formulae)
Level 4: 80 XP (10 level 4 formulae or 40 level 3 formulae)
Level 5: 160 XP (10 level 5 formulae or 40 level 4 formulae)
Level 6: 320 XP (10 level 6 formulae or 40 level 5 formulae)
Level 7: 640 XP (10 level 7 formulae or 40 level 6 formulae)
Level 8: 1,280 XP (10 level 8 formulae or 40 level 7 formulae)
Level 9: 2,560 XP (10 level 9 formulae or 40 level 8 formulae)
Level 10- There is 5,120 XP on the XP bar, but at present maxing out your XP does not provide any benefit.
You can make any mixture of formulae at your current level or the level directly below you to reach the next level.
Philosopher's Caches & Alchemist's Cases are the building blocks of most of the alchemy system. You could think of a Philsopher's Cache as a place to get ingredients, and an Alchemist's Case as a place to get recipes.
They are both level 1 formulae, which can be made from components readily found in towns/games/ZOMG. It is also possible to purchase a completed Philosopher's Cache from the Bifrost for 50,000 gold or 250GC, and (very rarely) get a Cache or a Case from Daily Chance.
There are four routes for each of them, with the first 3 being the same except that they require either bugs or paper or flowers, and the 4th being made from 5 or 10 Gold Giftboxes respectively. A Case requires 4 times as much towns' material as a Cache.
Inside the Cache
When you successfully craft a Cache you have a few options. You can sell it as-is, or you can open it. If you open a Cache, you will get one of 10 different 'grab bags' named after different gemstones- Amethyst, Aquamarine, Diamond, Emerald, Garnet, Gold, Platinum, Ruby, Sapphire, or Topaz.
Each of these contain a different set of components which are used in some formulae.
You can look here for a list of which components are available in which caches, and here to find out your likelihood of getting a particular bag when opening your Cache.
When you have got your gemstone cache, you can select the component that you would like from it simply by clicking on the desired component, or alternatively you can sell the cache untouched.
Here I am about to get a Tasty Ham out of a Sapphire Cache.
My suggestion if you don't want the Cache that you get, is to sell it unopened. In general, the Caches are more desirable & valuable than any of the components within them.
Inside the Case
If you open an Alchemist's Case, it will give you one formula. The formulae in here are all Alchemy exclusive, and not found in Enki's Catch, Enki's Drop, or in the Bifrost (the other main home of formulae). Obviously like a lot of other things on Gaia, there is an element of chance, with super desirable formulae (e.g. Erebus Moon, Nice Suit For Work, Backwings Quests) being more rare than others.
If you look at your formulae on the Alchemy Page, or in the Bifrost, you will see a chance attached to the formula- Very High, High, Medium, Low, or Very Low. This gives you the chances of a crafting succeeding if you are at the corresponding level of the formula.
Formulae which are Very High or High will rarely fail, for Medium probably about 1/2 crafts will fail, and Low or Very Low may fail several times before you can make the item. This thread contains more detailed information on crafting chances.
If you fail, you lose the gold for that attempt, but you keep all your components and the formula.
If you are a level above the formula, your chances of succeeding are higher, and if you are 2 or more levels above, you will very rarely fail when crafting (but you will not gain any XP).
Sometimes it's possible to hit what is known as a 'chain fail'- where if you craft a lot of things at once, or keep trying after a failure, you will continue to fail on the same formula. If you hit a chain fail, the failure message will come up very quickly & it will not remove the gold for that attempt. The best suggestion if you fail is to go do something else for a few minutes then reload the Alchemy page and try again.
Gaia has updated the Alchemy system with levelling bundles. These will always work first go and can be purchased from the cash shop or the MP.
People often ask what is the fastest & cheapest route to clear a level. To be honest, these are possibly not the right questions to ask, as fast and cheap are often mutually exclusive in Alchemy.
For levels 1 & 2, the best options are to either make Alchemy Starter Kits, Ultra Satan Cat Faces, Orb Aggregates, made from Orbs in ZOMG & gold, or alternatively to make Philosopher's Caches/ Alchemist's Cases and collect all/most of the components yourself. The Caches & Cases will take a bit more time to make (on the assumption you play enough ZOMG to have excess orbs), but can be used if you intend to progress further in Alchemy.
After that, there is no clear path really. I would suggest looking at what is available, and doing your research. Look at the components- are there lots of components or only a few? Are the components common/rare? Are they cheap/expensive? How much does the crafted item sell for versus the components? Lei Trigar has placed information in his thread about the the ease and cost of formulae for each level.
Owing to changes in supply & demand, what may be good now could be prohibitively expensive in a few months or vice-versa.
The simplest way to level usually involves making formulae which have few components which are readily available. Don't expect to make gold on most of them- the rewards come from levelling itself, or items you can make when you reach higher levels. Also, if there's something you really like- why not make it? If you want the item for yourself, it's going to be worth it.
The first person to reach Level 10 said it cost him over 100 mil. It doesn't have to cost this much for everyone, especially with many of the changes to Alchemy, but consider that it's not a cheap hobby.
Update: Gaia has now released 'Levelling Bundles' in the Cash Shop, which have a 100% chance of success on crafting for levels 2-9. These will create a crafted component (different ones for each level). These are a straightforward way of levelling up, though possibly not the cheapest method for gold users. Research is still beneficial!
Q. I have this formula for Underland/Valefor Academy/ (insert RIG here), and how on earth do I get 10 of this thing?
A. These probably aren't very efficient formulae to use. The only time that this could be handy is if you have managed to get a lot of fails out of a RIG yourself, and instead of selling them back to the shop/in the MP, you can use them to make another chance at the RIG
Q. I've just failed 5 times at making this formula- when am I going to succeed?
A. There is no fixed rate for success, it's based on probability. Make sure that you haven't hit a Chain Fail by coming back to craft again after a few minutes. Also consider that it took a user 17 attempts at an Aurora Kitten Star on Low at 1 mil per attempt. At this point they did not actually succeed, but the admin granted them their item. That doesn't mean that you may not get something first go, or take more goes to craft it however. If you're interested, I'd suggest looking here, for a better idea of your chances of crafting success. It's user-submitted information, so please feel free to submit your own too!
Q. I really only want Aurora Kitten Star/Erebus Moon/ (other Alchemy rare here). Do I really have to level up?
A. You can use Alchemy Services, where there are several high levelled Alchemists who are happy to use their experience to help you for a minimal fee, or sometimes for free. If you want to consider this, take time to browse the forums. Most Alchemists expect you to do the legwork of sourcing your own formula and components, so be aware of that if you contact them.
Q. Should it really cost me more to make the item than buy it?
A. Often to craft an item is more pricey than to purchase the original if there is an existing version (e.g. lots of evolving items). The formulae have been created to ensure that there is a way of providing items if they are consumed in Alchemy. This is why research is important when you're considering what to make.
Q. How is "Item: Alchemized" different from it's non Alchemized counterpart?
A. Essentially it isn't. They still have all the same poses- the Alchemized tag is just showing that it's been made via Alchemy instead of purchased.
Q. I really want Backwings/Nice Suit for Work/Erebus Moon. Where can I buy them?
A. At the moment, the supply of these is far outstripped by demand (heaps more people want the items than the amount of items/formulae in existence). The formulae alone are being sold for several millions in some cases. You either need to consider making Alchemist's Cases in the hope of finding one, or saving up lots of gold to either buy and open Cases or keep your eyes open for the formulae. As Alchemy stands, these items will only be obtainable by the rich or lucky, though there are changes being made based on user feedback on a gradual basis. Be vocal in site feedback if you would like to see adjustments.
Q. How much will it cost me to get Backwings?
A. The formula alone are being sold for tens of millions, in addition to estimated hundreds of millions to get to the final stage (based on buying all components- making them yourself may save gold, but would be significantly more time-consuming). This thread outlines the components and gives a cost calculator. Bear in mind that there's not really a standard price for Inizio quests, owing to the small supply and limited release windows. Quests seem to be selling for 10-50 mil, depending on the type and interested parties at the time of sale.
Gaia has released completed wings as a direct buy for GC item now, and also Inizio quests for 1,000 GC, so it is likely that these will be available intermittently. The GC direct buy wings are different from the Alchemised ones in that they only have the set of poses purchased. So, Michael's Wings only has the largest white feathery wings, whereas Michael's Wings: Alchemised has the largest poses, together with the poses from Raphael's Wings (medium) and Gabriel's Wings (small).
If you'd like to know anything else, please ask! Also, I may update the FAQ with other questions as needed.