Sunday, January 30, 2011

Coattail Surfing

(This is my submission to Best of the month Blog Carnival, hosted by Not So Secret Society)

Being a highly successful auctioneer is a lot of work. It is all about risky venture capitalism, identifying nascent markets, tapping into hitherto untapped fonts of wealth, cultivating your own army of farmers, constant awareness of breaking-news patch notes, daily (or hourly) scanning of the AH, commercial espionage of your competition, and occasionally downright sabotaging of said competition.

Being a mildly successful auctioneer, by contrast, is pretty easy.

So you don't have hours and hours to do dedicated research on potential markets and programming profit spreadsheets. What do you do? You do what the majority of the rational world does: you let other people do the heavy-lifting. Part of that is doing what you are doing right now, specifically reading gold blogs. There is a huge wealth of information out there that other people have obtained through grueling experience that you can simply read about and absorb vicariously. The break-point of Obsidium Ore, the various things you can do with it, pitfalls to avoid, and so on.

Of course, every server is different so it is not always profitable to just cut and paste. What does happen to be mostly profitable is to just cut and paste what your local competition is doing.

Remember when I was talking about owning the Defender's Demonseye market? I had "discovered" that market after doing a lot of research on the Elitist Jerks website and basically had a monopoly for several weeks. Nowadays, I have at least four other JCs competing with me such that I would be lucky hitting a 10g profit margin per gem. While it is possible that these goons independently came to the same conclusion I did based on EJ research, I find it infinitely more likely they simply saw that I had 250g gems up on the AH and was making money hand over fist.

So, if you are strapped for time, be that goon.

My goon-making addon of choice is Auctionator. If you head over to the Buy tab, you can Shift-click an item in your inventory to search for the current prices of that item. If that item is a raw material whose name appears in the finished product, you can get some rather nice information. For example, when I went to my AH just now and Shift-clicked on Demonseye, the following appeared:

Err... yeah. So apparently there were a lot of Demonseyes up for 39g whereas the Defender's cut was at 120g. I had basically moved on from that market, but in the course of writing this article, it appears to have been (temporarily) profitable again. Aaaaaaaand that really proves my point about surfing coattails. If they are making money, then I should be able to make money undercutting them. So I bought a bunch of uncut Demonseyes and tossed some Defender's up on the AH.

Notice towards the bottom of that list there are Sovereign cuts going for 195g with 1 available and Timeless cuts at 350g with 3 available. With some leftover JC tokens, I went ahead and bought those patterns and tossed some more cut gems at 185g and 250g respectively. Did I have the time or inclination to research whether those cuts are valued and desirable? Nope. I'm simply assuming that whoever that guy is who listed them knows what he/she is doing. They shouldn't get too mad since I won't be moving into their market long-term, and even if they do get mad, what are they going to do? It is not as though they can sabotage a basically random coattail riding strategy.

If you also noticed, I did not buy the Guardian or Shifting Demonseye patterns despite them being listed at the top there with zero auctions up. I absolutely would have done that instead if I had the time to research the matter a bit more. I actually do have the literal time, but I'm writing in-character to prove a point. Namely that one should expect mild success from this strategy, not fantastic, mind-blowing, gold-capping success. It could entirely be the case that the Sovereign and Timeless cuts are garbage that only one dude is supplying because he is a highly successful auctioneer engaged in some AH R&D in squeezing blood from rocks... and failing. In which case I just blew six JC tokens and six Demonseyes on nothing.

On balance though, surfing coattails generally leads you to second-hand success more often than not. Or at least the general zip code of success.

I used the example of JC, but this really applies to every profession out there. In the purest form, what you are doing is what any Herbalist does when they go to the AH: look at what is currently the most expensive herb and then going out and farming that. You end up always chasing the market instead of leading it, but the price of the latter is blood, sweat, and tears. Many, many tears.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Case for Bot Farmers

As I was browsing the prices of herbs and ore the other day, I was struck by the disparity in prices. Twilight Jasmine was tanking down below 100g a stack whereas Heartblossom was still going strong at 300g, seven weeks after the expansion hit. As most of us remember, Blizzard nerfed the spawn rate of herbs and ore pretty hardcore a week after release, but that apparently had no real effect on Twilight Jasmine and other select herbs, right? After all there were 100+ stacks up on the AH for way less than market price... all from the same seller... in 12 hour auctions... with a name like Hlakwjerna...

Ladies and gentlemen, we are dealing with a bot farmer.

More specifically, what we are dealing with is someone with an insurmountable competitive advantage when it comes to farming ore and herbs. Although WoW is played on Blizzard servers (as opposed to private servers), most of the terrain features are actually handled client-side, which means illegal 3rd-party hacks can cause your toon to zip around the map, farm inside terrain features, and otherwise eliminate the tedious flying time between nodes. Then the bots off-load their ill-gotten gains on the AH as a way of farming gold, which they turn around and sell to other players at a premium, which they recover later by the keyloggers they festoon their pages with. There is a sort of sick, predatory logic that probably sends marketing directors' black little hearts aflutter.

The reason I bring all this up is because I never quite realized the role bot farmers played in the complex AH ecosystem until... they were gone. Perhaps it was a ban or perhaps the botter went on vacation, but most of last week saw the soaring of ore and herb prices on my realm as the cheap supply all dried up. My normal routine, like most auctioneers I imagine, is to log on, loot mailbox, relist unsold merchandise, and then eyeball the AH to see about replacing sold goods or exploring new markets. The problem was... I couldn't. Or, rather, it did not make any sense to.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Cost of Undercutting

Making gold from the Auction House is all about managing risk.

The risk you take is that your auction will not sell, making you lose not only the deposit fee but also whatever time it took you to list it to begin with. Sometimes your goal is not necessarily to sell the item at all, or perhaps the profit margin is big enough by itself that infrequent sales is not much of a risk as long as one or two make it through. Your risk of a non-sale increases for each competitor in the market with an identical good, and increases further still when you get undercut.

When Not to Undercut
You do not actually have to always undercut the competition, or otherwise cancel your auctions and repost. In a demand-driven high-volume sales market it is entirely possible that buyers will chew through the lower-priced competition's wares and still be hungry for more. The risk you take by not undercutting is that there will not be enough sales within the listing period for your auctions to be on top (and then get sold) - you can also be burned if your competition lists additional auctions throughout the day. Of course, if your competition continues to list goods throughout the day, your undercutting is not going to help anyway.

An example of a demand-driven high-volume market: Mageweave Cloth. The people powerleveling their First Aid are going to need 4-6 stacks while the Tailors are going to need ~20 stacks. Considering that not everyone levels their First Aid as they level their character up, the demand pressure for Mageweave is always there at every level (e.g. a level 40 and a level 80 toon could both need it). While the same could be said of Wool Cloth or Runecloth, Mageweave is special insofar as it is much more difficult to farm as the dungeons in which it drops are out of the way for most max-level characters.

MFCs are also fairly high-volume although they are not entirely demand-driven as they are pushed.

When To Undercut, and How Much
There are generally two approaches to undercutting and using either depends on the circumstances and your expectations.

The first approach is the mechanical undercut. This is when you let addons like Auctionator just undercut the lowest-priced auction by X amount, usually a few silver. The benefit of mechanical undercutting is that it places your auctions at the front of the line while maximizing your potential profits for each sale. The downside? The competition you are undercutting can undercut you by canceling/relisting for the price of the deposit fee + the few silver. In essence, by undercutting by the minimum amount possible, you are taking the risk that you will snag some sales before your competition returns the favor.

The second approach is the savage undercut. You just put up some Bold Inferno Rubies on the AH for 250g because you happened to be the only seller at the moment, and here comes Noob B. Esq. with some of his own Bold cuts for 150g. Why a 100g undercut?! Does he not understand that he could list them for 249g and basically make an extra 99g? Hell, at that price I could buy them up myself and relist them for...

...hook, line, and sinker.

Fundamentally, the savage undercut model is used when you want to guarentee sales - the lower your price, the more of the demand triangle you get on those Supply/Demand charts, which increases the likelihood of a quick sale. The irony here is that if you undercut savagely enough, the buyers actually start to include your competition. If your competition wants to give you 150g for a chance at making 100g, I say let'em. In fact, I insist! Especially when I am getting the uncut gems at 80g or below.

Unless you are cashing in your chips and exiting a market, the key to savage undercutting is to understand your own profit margin independant of what else is going on in the AH. Would you be happy buying uncut gems for 80g and selling them for 150g? That is a 70g margin per gem. If you see someone selling them for 250g on the AH, that potential margin increases to 170g. The key word here is: potential. If you know the gem market and know the market price is 150g, then you also know the likelihood of getting those gems back in your mailbox minus the ~4g deposit if you start pushing 250g apiece with competition afoot is higher.

While the gem deposit fee is big enough to discourage casual cancelling/reposting, the same cannot be said of other goods, like Glyphs for example. If you show up at the AH with a handful of glyphs and start undercutting the 80g ones at 79.99g, the Glyph Barons lose around 3 silver by undercutting you (their time is irrelevant, since they are already committed to the abysmal time sink that is selling Glyphs). If you show up and start savagely undercutting their glyphs, say posting them at 50g, then... well, you will still probably get undercut. The point is that the Glyph Barons aren't losing 3 silver by undercutting you, they are losing 30g. Even if savagely undercutting results in no sale, what you lost was the deposit cost, while they lost nearly half of their margin. In the scheme of things, I'd call that a win.

Have I mentioned I hate the design of Glyphs top-to-bottom?

So What is the TL;DR?
The answer is going to cost you, conservatively, around 10,000g. A month. That is approximately how much you stand to lose by A) never undercutting, B) always undercutting by 1s, or C) always undercutting by 50g+.

If you missed your Ritalin dose for today though, here is the quick and dirty version. Don't undercut in fast-moving markets like Dust/Cloth OR when there are just 1-2 severally discounted auctions compared to the normal, more reasonable market price. Undercut by a minimal amount when it is unlikely your competition is going to bother canceling/relisting, either because they aren't hardcore auctioneers (e.g. normal players who just check their mailbox 48 hours later) or because the deposit fee makes a 1s undercut from you cost them 1g or more. Savagely undercut in slow-moving and/or high margin markets to guarentee sales.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Virtual Demand

I occasionally like to dabble in social engineering via the AH and have seen some measure of (temporary) success by doing so.

It started out with an exploration of how profitable it might be to craft Spidersilk Boots. These are a level 19 blue-quality footwear that are pretty nice for twinking and are otherwise better than a lot of quest rewards up until the Arathi Basin PvP boots you can buy at level 28. Part of the mats to make the boots include Iridescent Pearls. Checking the AH, I notice that there are only two Iridescent Pearls each going for 6g apiece. Two pearls are enough for one pair of boots, but getting a steady supply is really necessary if this Spidersilk Boot thing works out. So I have a decision to make. Do I:

A) Buy the pearls and make 1 set of boots?
B) Buy the pearls and create virtual demand for Iridescent Pearls?

What do I mean by virtual demand? I bought the two pearls and and posted them for 40g apiece.

The majority of players, even those using addons with historical pricing functions like Auctioneer, take cues from the pricing of materials on the AH within reason. There is an unspoken assumption that human beings are rational creatures (many real-world economic models are based on ridiculous assumptions like perfect information and rational consumers), so in seeing two Iridescent Pearls on the AH for 40g the average person would most likely conclude that Iridescent Pearls have enough demand to support that price - the thought someone was just tossing them up there to screw with them probably has never crossed their mind.

Now, remember I said "within reason." Posting a stack of Linen Cloth for 3000g in an effort to make the 50g/stack look reasonable in comparison is called "poisoning" in Auctioneer-speak, and the addon has some tools to combat that. My goal is not to poison Auctioneer's data or even reset the price (it would indeed be counter-productive to do so). My goal is to motivate players to farm more Iridescent Pearls. How do you get people to farm Iridescent Pearls? By convincing them that Iridescent Pearls are selling at 40g apiece. Suddenly, starting a 20-minute pogrom against the Naga and Murlocks in Hilsbrad is more profitable than doing the normal daily quest routine, thus encouraging (more) people to do it.

I have zero expectations that those two Iridescent Pearls will sell. In fact, I hope they won't, because that would mean I would have to find two more before trying out the Spidersilk Boots thing. If they do, well, I made 68g by flipping Iridescent Pearls. It is virtual demand in the sense that I do not believe the market is capable of sustaining 40g Iridescent Pearls, or 35g, 30g, or even 15g pearls. The best case scenario here is for a handful of people to farm the pearls, get into an undercutting war with my 40g pearls, and after several unsuccessful AH cycles at the inflated price, everyone gives up and goes back to the "true" price of 6g. At which point I now snatch them up and continue on my Boot venture.

Virtual demand does not work in mature markets, but that is fine considering mature markets should not be experiencing such item droughts to begin with. The other problem is the passive nature the initial ploy. You are telegraphing real demand to the person(s) who you bought the first two pearls off of, but what are the odds that they will come back and check on the current AH prices? I mean, I would, but normal people probably will not. What you are really banking on is future people unloading a pearl or two on the AH and seeing the "demand," or those people who want to buy pearls but see that they have been "priced out of the market."

If you have less scruples than rubles, you could probably jump-start the engineering by acting flabergasted in Trade Chat: "OMG! Iridescent Pearls for 40g apiece? This economy sux." I consider that more willfully misleading than simply posting the auctions and giving people space to come to the wrong economic conclusions, but hey. Word of caution: don't be dumb and post that Trade message on the same toon you listed the items on.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Snowball Effect

(This post is my submission for Cold's Gold Factory Blogging Carnival on February 11th.)

The hardest part of any endeavor is usually taking that first step. You may have it in your mind to do something - starting that research paper, beginning an exercise routine, jumping into the dating pool, deciding you want a piece of the AH game - but it is easy to become overwhelmed by all the options and variables available to you at the start. This is especially the case for beginning Auctioneers, as no matter what server or faction you play on, there are hundreds and hundreds of potential markets for you to dabble in and not enough time in the day to participate in all of them. No, seriously, you can't. So if you want to succeed as a fresh Auctioneer from rags to riches, I recommend using the Snowball Effect, in three stages.

Stage 1: Taking Stock, or I am an Unique Snowflake
Everyone has to start somewhere. So... where are you starting from? Take stock of how much gold you have right now, what characters you have on the server, what items may or may not be in your bank, and any professions you might have (at any level). Do you happen to have any addons installed to assist you? If not, go and download Auctionator right now, and perhaps Auditor if you enjoy tracking the progress of your bottom line. Successful use of addons, especially Auctionator, is what I consider one of the Foundations of gold-making, so if you remain leery of using these tools, just understand you are holding yourself back.

One thing to keep in mind concerning professions, and by extension other characters, is that having more available to you allows access to markets that would otherwise be shut. Can you be highly successful with zero professions and just a level 1 character? Yes, it is possible. Not ideal by any stretch of the imagination, of course, as anything a level 1 character could do, you could do faster on a level 85 (and presumably have fun things to spend that gold on). Point being, I always recommend leveling professions to max level if you have not already, even on alts (but especially if they are level 75+ alts as you can hit 525 on them, depending on the profession).

Stage 2: Seed Money, or Getting the Snowball Rolling
You have probably heard that it takes money to make money, which is true, but a bit misleading. The reality is that it doesn't take a whole lot of money to at least get more money than you had before. The goal with seed money is to provide a base of capital from which you can start making larger and larger investments. But where do you find the seeds? You find them like anyone finds seeds: by digging for them.

One way to dig for seed money is to actually get down and dirty by doing daily quests. Yes, a gold blogger actually recommending daily quests. Once the snowball starts rolling you won't need to do any daily quests for the gold itself, but if you are starting from nothing, daily quest rewards allow you to at least start expanding. The other benefit from doing these is that it gets you out in the world killing and looting things, some mobs of which drop items that you could sell: greens, cloth, food, or other materials. If you have not already, start getting into the habit of putting a price tag on all the things that grace your bags; an addon might do it automatically for you, but appraising the true market value of an item is 1 part skill, 1,000,000 parts prior experience.

The other source of seeds is low-hanging fruit. Heard about Enchanting Vellums? Ask a guard in any major city to direct you to the local Enchanting trainer, and the Enchanting Supplies vendor is probably nearby. Buy a few stacks for 10s or less apiece and then toss a stack or two of them (as singles) on the AH, letting Auctionator automatically undercut any that may be already on the AH. If there are none, count your blessings, and list them for 2g apiece. One sale at 2g pays for the entire stack, with any further sales bringing pure profit. You can usually do the same with practically anything from vendors, with limited supply recipes commanding hundreds of times more for the same sort of effort. There are a lot of guides out there to give you ideas about markets, and I talk about some of said markets in my other Foundation article, Finding the Margin.

Stage 3: Being the Avalanche, or All Your Gold Are Belong to Us
Part of the benefit of getting your seed money from low-hanging fruit, such as selling vendor recipes, is it gets you acclimated to making small investments that net large returns. Seed money in hand, you simply redefine what you consider a small investment. Spending 10s on Enchanting Vellums should almost be trivial to you by now... but what about spending 50g per stack of Obsidium Ore? As you should know from here and elsewhere, 50g is below the True Vendor Price of Obsidium if you have a Cata-level Jewelcrafter, so it should not even register as a risk. Should you be dropping 5,000g on a hundred stacks at a time? Maybe not at first, but as each investment you make in any particular market grants a return, your purchasing power increases and allows you to either take on more risk, or at least make more and more low-risk buys.

One of my alts is a max level Scribe who I basically abandoned at the end of Wrath because I no longer wanted to be a part of the Glyph racket. Cataclysm rolls around, and in doing my character audit, I note this toon has around 2000g in its bags. From this starting point, I went to the AH and noted that some farmer has sent Azshara's Veil and some other Cataclysm herbs down to 60g per stack. What did I do? I bought 30 stacks of herbs at 60g, leaving me with all those herbs and 200g. At a minimum, each stack of herbs would make four Blackfallow Ink, which sell practically instantly at 15g apiece. Of course, each milling attempt has a chance to give you Burning Embers, which then turn into Inferno Ink that go for 150g at the lowest possible end. In effect, I was taking on zero risk for a fairly good shot at 150g profit per stack, or 75g every two stacks. I do not actually advocate selling the Blackfallow Inks themselves, as there are ways to turn each ink into a different good that adds 20g to its value, as I documented in Low-Impact Inscription.

Once everything has been milled, crafted, and listed on the AH, I waited. Did everything sell? Irrelevant. Did you get discouraged when not all of your Enchanting Vellums sold? The only important thing here is that enough things sold that I got my 1800g investment back plus the unsold merchandise. As it happened, most everything sold so I got a lot more than 1800g back, and what did not sell immediately eventually moved after a few more days of listings and uncutting. Now instead of 2000g, my capital has grown to 5000g, which means I can either purchase 80 stacks of herbs next time instead of just 30, or I could jump into other markets... like buying Blackfallow Ink someone else listed for below the cost of Mysterious Fortune Cards and/or Inferno Ink, saving me the 17+ minutes of milling while fostering the next generation of goblins besides.

Epilogue: ???, or Profit
Where is that Scribe alt now?

The only thing that I have that a brand new auctioneer doesn't is the confidence that comes from experience. Hell, many of the gold blogs I read today did not even exist when I started playing, so in many ways goblins fresh off the boat will have an easier time getting started than I did. The key is to take stock of what you have to work with, start small by collecting seed money and becoming comfortable with the AH, and finally escalating your investments and otherwise being the avalanche. Whether you cash out and buy that Tundra Mammoth once you hit your goal, or reinvest the gold in your alts to get thumbs in more pies is a choice I leave up to you.

Good luck, and most importantly, have fun.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Enchant Scroll Speculation

In my For the Hoard! post, I warned against following WoW investment advice given by persons with longer time horizons than you. That warning is still in effect, but...

...this is getting a little ridiculous.

Chances are good that if you have an Enchanter, you already knew that your Enchanting peers were dumping scrolls on the market with complete abandon. You would probably even be (somewhat justifiably) upset with this situation, since it destroys any semblance of a market. Well, any semblance of a Seller's Market. After all, if you stumbled upon people flooding the AH with items not only below their (probable) market price, but also below their True Vendor Price (e.g. the cost of mats to craft them), you would buy them all and relist them all day, yes?

Well... maybe.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Elitest Jerks, and the People that Love Them

The website is and if you are at all serious about the PvE aspect of World of Warcraft, you should already have it bookmarked. Why? Because this is where all the the mathematical modeling magic takes place. Why are you stacking Strength as a Retribution paladin? Why do you hear about Enhancement shaman running around with spellpower weapons?* Why is that Unholy Death Knight wielding two 1H weapons and dealing 2,000 DPS more than you?* Because Elitest Jerks (hereafter EJ) said so. Fire mage rotations, Resto druid stat weights, and more can be had for free from people who enjoy simulators and spreadsheet more than you. The format is not always conducive to to finding summaries of the information you care about, but when they do summarize, they do it better than anyone else.

Whether or not you have the site bookmarked, you have probably heard the EJ haters. Maybe you even indulged in it a bit yourself. "If you aren't getting the socket bonuses, you're doing it wrong." "No thanks, I'm going to spec the way I want to." Sure, no problem. I mean, unless you care about maximizing your character's potential, there is no wrong way to spec. If your intention in picking one talent or enchant or gem over another was to improve performance, then there are, in fact, ways of doing it wrong.

Why bring the EJ forums up at all? Simple: the site is a really, really good market indicator.

I alluded to the Defender's Demonseye in my Transitive Property Farming post, for example. The Wrath version of that gem was complete garbage because Parry as a stat suffered diminishing returns faster than Dodge, so you were almost always better off using anything else in red sockets. That was Wrath. In Cataclysm, Parry and Dodge suffer diminishing returns at the same rate so balancing the two stats (11%/11% is better than 12%/10%) becomes very important. I did not know about the Defender's Demonseye before I was looking for something to put into a red socket for Protection paladins, and it was the EJ forums which indicated that the gem was useful at all. So, I bought the pattern, socketed my gear, and decided to toss a few extra on the AH for 150g since Purified Demonseyes were being tanked down to 60g. There was no competition for Defender's Demonseye. I listed some more for 175g. They all sold, usually to the same tank. Raised to 250g each. Still sold. It has been more than 30 days since Cataclysm has shipped and the hardcore JCs will have had gotten 10 cuts by now... and yet I have the Defender's Demonseye market all to myself. The tanks have done their EJ research, but apparently the (other) JCs have not.

Sometimes the EJ advice is not particularly useful to Auctioneers. "Stack Strength gems." Yeah, okay, there are 40 Bold Inferno Rubies going for less than the uncut gem at the moment. But if you dig a little deeper, you may surprise yourself. In browsing weapon enchant scrolls on the AH, I noticed Berserking still up there at 600g. That seems a bit silly, I thought. I tossed a few up and they sold. It was not until I looked at the stat weights for Retribution paladins that I realized that Haste was worth 0.27 per point whereas AP was worth 0.69. In other words, Berserking provides more DPS than Hurricane for Ret paladins by about 150 DPS (based simply on 400 AP vs 450 haste, not uptime considerations). The upcoming patch 4.0.6 will probably shake things up, but until it does, I will continue buying Abyss Crystals at 15g apiece and pumping out Berserking scrolls at 400g margins to the people doing their homework.

Do you have to understand why something sells before you sell it? Nope. But understanding the why of things helps you get an idea of how deep a market might be and when you may want to hop off the train before it hops the rails.

*Not after 4.0.6, of course.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

PTR Patch Notes, 1/11

Some things to eyeball if you have not gotten to eyeballing the PTR notes already:

  • A socket has been added to all crafted epic armor pieces that did not already have one.
  • The number of herbs required to create flasks has been reduced, while the Volatile Life needed has been increased slightly.
  • The drops from Tiny Treasure Chests have been improved slightly.
  • The Electrified Ether recipe now creates 2 to 3 Electrified Ether instead of 1.
The epic items gaining a socket is very good news as obviously it makes acquiring them more appealing. MMO-Champion is reporting that the flask change is pretty significant, going from 12 herbs down to 8 while the Volatile Life has been increased from 6 to 8. It is hard to overstate my jubilation over this change as it might, might make flasks worth the trouble of actually making now. In the meantime, stock up on Volatile Life. Unless Blizzard has a radically different definition of "improved slightly," I doubt the Potion of Treasure Finding change will amount to much - Heartblossom is a huge pain to farm since the node nerf of 2010, and Auchindoun's current market means these potions cost 84g to make just considering the Heartblossom.

The last note may not seem like a big deal, but I have been making a pretty penny out of Electrified Ether. Not just items made out of the Ethers (the new Cata pets for example), but the literal Ethers themselves. The material cost right now is two Volatile Airs for one, but I have gotten 150g+ for each Electrified Ether despite that being nearly double the cost of the Airs for an item that I can only assume is being bought by people who could make it themselves. You cannot quite make a living out of such sales, but you can very occasionally make a killing.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Transitive Property Farming

"Hey Azuriel, where is the best place to farm Volatile Fire?"

"The AH."

"No, really."

"Yeah, really."

It is one of the measurable milestones of any Auctioneer's life when they no longer have to worry about farming their own materials. When my friend was asking me the best farming spot for Volatile Fires, the AH was the first place I checked. At that time they were going for around 17.35g each at the cheapest, but there were probably 200+ Volatiles within a 17.35g-22g band. Is that a good price? Well, it depends on why you want some. If you were intending to put up some Scorched Leg Armors for 100g then, no, probably not. If instead you were hoping to replace an Etched-Fire Dagger that had just found a new 999g home, then yeah, those prices are not bad. My friend wanted to farm however, and so I sent him on his way to go fish up some Volatile Fire over in Hyjal.

Sometimes you are just in the mood to farm and that is 100%, perfectly fine. My recommendation though is farming via the transitive property. My friend wanted Volatile Fire and was willing to spend X minutes farming it. Since the AH has plenty at a subjectively reasonable price, if you really want to farm something, then farm something worth more - or easier to acquire - than Volatile Fire, sell it, and buy the Volatile Fire. Or more likely, buy the Fire now and sell what you farm later. "I'm not paying 18g for an item fished out of pools in Hyjal." Okay, cool... then why did you buy my Defender's Demoneye for 250g that I bought uncut off the AH for 45g? The Volatile Fire did not get any cheaper when you fished it out yourself - in fact, that personally-farmed Volatile Fire is probably more expensive considering you spent your otherwise valuable time doing it.

Farming via the transitive property is a fancy term for something most everyone knows instinctively on smaller scales. If you need Wool Cloth, for example, do you head down to Stockades and farm some? How about Copper Bars/Ores? Unless someone is being cheeky and listing Wool Cloth at 300g/stack, chances are you simply buy what you need with gold you got doing something else. There simply appears to be an invisible line after which a person's indignation (Khorium Ore at 60g a piece!) overrides their rational mind (Pyrite Ore is going for 60g per node) and they end up farming something out of spite... that doesn't affect the source of their ire at all, while harming themselves. Don't be that guy.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Low-Impact Inscription

A month ago, I hated Inscription. Hated it with a passion and intensity that led to a 2,000+ word rant against the profession that would have been eventually been posted here, had Blizzard not opened a timely release valve in the way of low-impact Inscription. What made me so angry? Glyphs. Top to bottom, the entire design of Glyphs and what it did to Inscription... but nevermind. You are going to make gold in less than 20 minutes a day, three times a week, and all without making a single glyph (other than the ones to level you up).

I am pretty late to the blogging party when it comes to commenting on the Mysterious Fortune Card (hereafter MFC*), but that is fine, because there is nothing to really talk about. It sells. It sells in defiance to all common sense. There is plenty of text devoted to barking MFCs, undercutting, "bait & switch," and so on. You won't even need to worry about that. People bark for you, the undercutters will get bought out, and you will sell most of your stock without even trying. Price it between 35g-50g apiece and watch them fly off the shelves.

Depending on the going rates of MFCs and its market saturation, you may actually lose money doing anything else with your Blackfallow Ink. Unless, of course, you desire to profit off Inscription without even having the profession.

The above happens - look for it. Blackfallow Ink should not be trading below 10% of Inferno Ink's going rate, at a minimum. I have been selling Inferno Ink at 190g for the instant sales it generates, and with that low-ball price buying the above 60 ink for 657g would bring back 483g profit, minus the AH cut, in about nine mouse clicks. The beauty of turning Blackfallow Ink into Inferno Ink sales is that you don't even need Inscription to do it. Just park an alt in Dalaran and you are seconds away from the AH, Jessica Sellers, and the AH again. Turning those 60 ink into MFCs at 35g each would bring in 1,000g more profit however, if you did have a scribe. yeah. Inscription is going to be pretty boring to talk about for the next 1.5 years.

Despite MFCs sucking all the oxygen out of the gold blog sphere vis-a-vis Inscription, I did want to offer some advice on making Darkmoon cards. The biggie? Darkmoon Card: Hurricane =! Darkmoon Card: Greatness. The latter was the Darkmoon lottery of Wrath precisely because the trinket was best in slot for most melee classes up until, and even including, Icecrown Citadel. Greatness survived four entire tiers of gear and was still amazing two years after its introduction. Hurricane, on the other hand, is likely to be outclassed as soon as 4.1 hits some months from now. It is already somewhat of a sidegrade to Crushing Weight that drops off the 4th boss in Bastion of Twilight, and people can purchase License to Slay from the JP vendor once T12 rolls around. The point is if you are thinking about jumping in, do so sooner rather than later.

I did sell a Strength Hurricane trinket for 26,000g which set the individual cards at 3250g, or the Inferno Inks at ~300g apiece once you discount the Volatile Life. If it at all looks like you can get a higher return selling the individual cards, I would do that - getting 5000g in the mail from a Three of Winds is always better than getting 400g for a Two of Stones by using Inferno Ink that would have sold five times that price. Inferno Ink that that makes each card worth at least 3500g in MFC sales at 35g apiece.

God, I hate MFCs.

*Not to be confused with that other MFC (Dane Cook, NSFW).

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mobile Armory and You

Chances are good that you already know about the Remote AH, and how you can pay $2.99/month to buy, list, cancel auctions and so on. What you may not know is that the $2.99 is there if you plan on actually moving any product. If you just want to check to see what is listed on, say, the Neutral AH, that is free. Just use your smartphone or iPod Touch to download the Mobile Armory app and go to town.

You may be confused, as I was at first. The Remote AH is a part of the Mobile Armory, and it's ability to see currently listed items on the AH is a part of its free service. If you are like me, you have toons parked in the goblin cities to periodically check for deals on the Neutral AH, or perhaps even cross-faction toons to keep an eye out for arbitrage opportunities. Well, save yourself several log-ins and potential travel time by using the Remote AH (again, for free) to check up on those without ever having to log off your main character.

As for the actual monthly service, I do not think it is quite there yet. While it is fairly easy to search for specific items, you obviously do not have access to the addons you have when playing the game proper, some of which have more powerful searching and filtering tools (to say nothing about their listing powers). The one feature that would send everything over the top though, would be the ability to buy something on the Horde AH, list it on the Neutral AH, and then purchase it yourself for sale on the Alliance AH. Such arbitrage requires you to have a second account on hand to do it solo, but $15 extra a month is a bit steep in my opinion just to make some extra gold. $3 on the other hand? Instant sale.

If you are using the Remote AH and have some feedback to share, please do so in the comments.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Low-Impact Leatherworking

If you have a character with a Leatherworking skill of 485 and a character at level 84-85 (it does not need to be the same character), it is quite possible for this scheme to make you thousands of gold in the time it takes you to take three portals. How? First look at the following picture:

Anything jump out at you? For the uninitiated, Savage Leather Scraps are Skinned from lower-level Cataclysm mobs and have no function in of themselves. You can, however, combine five of them at a time into one piece of perfectly good Savage Leather at 425 Leatherworking. In the above picture, we can see that the prices for Savage Leather Scraps are not, in fact, anywhere close to matching their proportionally-priced counterparts. In other words, you can buy five Savage Leather Scraps for ~9.75g, right click them, and sell the result for 35g. I did just that in the opening days of the expansion and ended up with something stupendously large like 14 stacks of Savage Leather without having skinned a single mob.

It would be easy to stop there and be satisfied with our haul, but we can click a few more buttons and increase the profit potential by, oh, let's say a thousand times. With all of your 28% priced Savage Leather, you can combine them via a 485 Leatherworker into Heavy Savage Leather which increases it's value quite a bit already (none was selling at 1000g apiece however). With your Heavy Savage Leather neatly stacked in increments of 10, it is time to take the final plunge: Pristine Hide.

Much like Arctic Fur of the Wrath days, Pristine Hide is something that can be Skinned very rarely from level-appropiate mobs... or very commonly purchased from Misty Merriweather (Alliance) or Threm Blackscalp (Horde) out in Twilight Highlands by anyone with 10 pieces of Heavy Savage Leather to rub together. This was actually one of my favorite activities in Wrath, as you could easily come across cheap Borean Leather on the AH and after some Leatherworking alchemy turn around and start selling Leg Armor kits with a 60% margin. In any case, I had neglected this market for quite some time until there was an auspicious bidding war in /Trade that was establishing Pristine Hide's value in the neighborhood of 1850g.

Yeah, my jaw did the same thing.

Prices have dropped quite a bit since I wrote this article a few days ago, but the underlying scheme still works:

If Scraps x5 < Savage, then Buy.
If Savage x5 < Heavy Savage, then Convert.
If Heavy Savage x10 < Pristine, then Trade.