Editorial: Was the Firelands recipe grind worth it?

Warning: Contains Math.

Updated with live figures from our server – see below.

One of my big things in WoW at the moment is the Auction House – having started about 2 months ago from the premise of “I wonder if it’s possible to make serious AH gold from professions that most people think of as money-losers?”, I’ve been tracking it pretty hard. And like most serious AH players, I’ve been hacking through the Firelands dailies as a furious rate, trying to get the Blacksmithing professions first, so I can make phat bank, as I understand the kids say it today.

Now we’re in the final day or so of the grind – I’m already hearing reports of the recipes being available to some players. And so the question becomes – was it worth it?

Doing the Math

Let’s have a look at the crafting recipes from the Firelands. They’re all roughly the same in mats usage, so I’ll just pick the two-handed sword as an example, the Masterwork Elementium Deathblade.

I’d expect this weapon to sell for about 20-30k when it first appears on the AH. Mats are 8 Truegold, 2 Ocean Sapphire, 4 Hardened Elementium Bars, and 5 Chaos Orbs.

Not too shabby, eh? We’re in the money!

Not so fast.

First up. Truegold. Truegold’s going to spike when these recipes become available, and tailor off roughly in proportion to the demand, most likely. On my server, it’s already been seeing highs of 800g, so I’d be expecting a price during the first rush of – let’s be conservative – 1200g. So, for 8 of them, that’s 9600g.

The other mats aside from Chaos Orbs are trivial. 400g for the lot. So, mats cost 10k, potential sale price 30k, that’s 20k profit. Win!

Except for those pesky Chaos Orbs. Now, you’ll probably have some of these already – but on the other hand, you’ll probably be wanting to craft one of these recipes for your main or an alt. So, how much does a Chaos Orb cost?

In most dungeon runs, you’ll have between 2 and 4 people rolling on them, in my experience. Thanks to the VP kerfuffle, we have pretty good numbers on how long a standard dungeon run – the most efficient way to get a chaos orb – takes. It’s about 50 minutes. So, to get enough Chaos Orbs to make one of these weapons, on average, you’re looking at 3(average number of rollers) x 50(minutes) x5 (Orbs) = 12 hours, 30 min of dungeons for a single weapon craft (not counting queue time).

(This is optimistic, by the way. I’ve been seeing more rolls on them recently thanks to the dailies – often 4 people, sometimes even 5.)

Wow.

That ISN’T going to go down, either. So how much money could you make in that time?

A quick Google and my own experience suggests that a dedicated and skilled farmer working intelligently can probably make 1500g per hour. You’ve got to be fairly heavily optimised doing that, but if you’re planning to be a serious epic weapon seller, you’re going to be in that camp. So your 12 hr 30 minute opportunity cost is 18,750g.

Total cost for getting the mats for your first weapon, right out of the gate – 28,750g. Expected sale price – 30k. Auction House cut: 5% or 1500g. Net profit: -250g.

And after the rush dies down? Well, let’s assume that Truegold drops back to its 500g price, where it has been stable for months. At that point your mats cost is 23k approximately. Expected sale price? 20k. Oh, dear. -3000g profit.

But it’s not as bleak as all that. The chances are that you’re doing dungeon runs anyway, and with the new recipes out, your Chaos Orbs would otherwise just sit in your bank. So is it an efficient way of making money if you’re already going to be doing the dungeons?

Hardcore VP-Cappers – WIN. Other people – Not So Win

Of course, that’s assuming you’re not getting Chaos Orbs anyway. Let’s assume the best possible case here and assume you’re a hardcore, Valor Point-capping raider. That means you’re running 7 Troll Heroics a week, and possibly also means that you involuntarily stab yourself in the hand every time you see a boss shaped like an animal. But it also means you’re going to be getting Chaos Orbs just as a biproduct of doing that.

How many? Approximately enough to make a weapon every 2 weeks, for roughly 14k profit assuming you consider the Orbs to be free.

Sweet!

Erm. Except that we haven’t considered the opportunity cost of spamming through to GET the original recipes yet. Most people estimate 45 minutes per day to do the dailies, and it rises after the 11th day, probably to about 1 hour for the sake of simplicity. So, in order to go through the 25-day process to get the recipes, you’ve spent 11×45 +14 x1 hours = 22 hours approximately. (This is a VERY optimistic estimate, and doesn’t include learning time, time to do the quests you only do once, time to complete Hyjal if you haven’t done that yet…)

At our figure above, then, the opportunity cost of getting the recipes was 33k at best.

So, in the end, how much are your recipes worth? Well, if you’re doing at least 7 Heroics a week, every week, after 12 weeks you’ll have made 51k, or 600g a day – not bad, but not a great return. It’s about twice what I make off Ebonsteel Belt Buckles on their own – for 5 min work a day.

And if you’re not a hardcore VP-capper, it’s even worse. 3 Heroics a week? Then you can make one weapon every 5 weeks, meaning after 12 weeks you’ll have made 7.2k.

But what else could you do with the Orbs?

Of course, that means that you could, essentially, be looking at a steady income from Chaos Orbs, which is nice. But the problem is that at some point, the market’s going to change.

Pretty much everyone’s expecting Chaos Orbs to become BoE. Even if they don’t, with the next raid patch the iLevel will go up again, and in all likelihod there’ll be another recipe grind.

So what’s going to happen then?

Well, for starters, if they do become BoE, you could then sell all the Orbs you’ve aquired even if you didn’t do the recipe run. Everyone will be unloading at once, so there’ll probably be a glut, but nonetheless you’ll be able to make 500g or so for each orb.

At the same time, the new recipes are likely to make the older ones, compared to their mats cost (including newly-tradable Orbs, if that happens) significantly less valuable. It wouldn’t be unfair to assume that the utility value of the recipes essentially stops at the next patch.

And whilst we’re examining all this, it’s worth remembering that you can still make the old 359 Chaos Orb items now, even if you don’t have the new recipes. They don’t sell and won’t sell for nearly as much as the new items, but still, making something like Elementium Deathplate or Assassin’s Chestguard will net you a grand total of about 4-5k, meaning approximately 1-2k profit, again working out at, very roughly, 500g per orb. That means that your increased profit for selling the new stuff is effectively reduced by 500g per Orb from the totals above, because you could have simply skipped the Firelands recipes and sold the old items instead.

So, grand and final total maximum profit from grinding for these recipes, over simply farming the same amount of time?

For a 7-Heroics-per-week raider: 110k total over the 6-month lifespan of the recipes, or 600g per day.

For a 3-Heroics-per-week more casual player: **22k total over the 6-month lifespan of the recipes, or 120g per day.

**

Overall, if you’re a VP-capper, grinding for the recipes was probably significantly less profitable in the long term than levelling a new toon to 75 and getting them two professions maxed, unless you already have all professions covered. If you’re not capping your VP, it was probably a LOT less profitable.

Of course, all of this could be wrong. Demand for the weapons could be much higher than I expect, and they could sell for 50k for months. Equally, they could sink like a stone now that everyone’s PUGing raids for 359s. But my best guess is the above.

So what to do now?

If you’ve already ground out these recipes, all is not lost.

The most important limiting factor in all this work is the rate at which you can aquire Chaos Orbs. If you can somehow arrange it so that you get a Chaos Orb every single run, the recipes become a massive money-maker. At 7 Orbs a week, if everything else stays the same, you’re going to make 370k profit from having these recipes rather than anything else over 6 months.

That means that it’s worth using almost any means necessary to get those Orbs. Offer to boost people in exchange for the Orb. Organise runs with guildies you know don’t use Orbs. Pay people off not to roll.

If you can optimise your Orbs, you win.

And what should we watch out for next time?

The Firelands recipes looked like obvious winners for gold-making, which is why so many of us have been grinding hard to get them. But in actual fact, it turns out that they’re less a gift and more a treadmill for comparatively little reward, unless you’re already doing some other very grindy activities.

If the next patch contains more tempting recipes, it’s worth looking very closely at the amount of effort needed to obtain them. Do they require materials that can’t be easily obtained (Living Embers, I call you to the stand) or are only obtainable through farming (Orbs)? What else could you be doing with the time investment needed to get them, and would it be more profitable, more flexible, and/or more fun? I know I would have had more fun levelling a DK at my own pace than HAVING to do the dailies every day to get the recipes as soon as possible.

In this case, if Blizzard puts a sparkly pony on a string in front of you as an AH player, it’s definitely worth counting its teeth.

– UPDATE as figures come in –

Numbers are coming in on our server at least. Currently the weapons are going for 10k-15k, less than HALF what I predicted below. Truegold hasn’t spiked as predicted, although I would expect that to happen at the weekend.

This significantly changes my summary to a very simple “It’s basically not worth it no matter what you do and how you’re getting the orbs”. Even if you’re a hardcore raider, to make the time you spent back will take more than 3 months (@10k price – 5k mats every two weeks).

Please comment with the numbers you’re seeing on your server – I’ll be interested to see if this value estimation FAIL is happening across the board.


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