Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Money Making (Part 1 of 2): Core Rules

What would you do with 40,000 gold?

Well, besides opening a trade window and showing it off to people (it garners some interesting forms of begging), you can essentially buy anything you want. To meet the 10,000 limit for server transfers, I spent a good portion of my nest egg on epic gems, a couple of Amani Bear mounts and relearning Professions. JC in 1 day for a trinket? 3,000g? Sure! Want to drop it and learn Engineering for that nifty flying mount? 4,000g? Sure! You quickly learn that when you have tons of money, everything is for sale. These days, some guilds are even selling the KJ kill achievement!

So the big questions that I get asked when talking about making money is "How?" and "Will you teach me?"

The answers are, "Sure" and "If you want to learn". To illustrate the points, we'll use the most recent 'gold mine': Inscription, as a reference point in Part 2 of this article. The reason why I like using Inscription as a tool for examples is because the other big money maker, Jewelcrafting (and Enchanting to a lesser degree) is going to follow suit with pattern/design accessibility in WotLK. But, we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's talk about some general stuff before we get into details.

For the majority of players, gold is an extremely limited resource which can realistically limit game enjoyment and game play. Have you ever wanted to respec to help a guild run or buy that pattern on the AH that you've been lusting over but didn't have the funds? Understanding the WoW economy and using it to leverage (quite literally) a gold mine of possibilities can lead to lucrative results. As reference, prior to transferring off of Mannoroth (end of Arena Season 3), I had amassed upwards of 40,000 gold and was possibly in a position of making even more when I chose a lower ping environment. Hey, a guy has priorities! The majority of that 40,000? Made off the AH and at some point, I gave up doing dailies because they just felt so pedestrian. With WotLK right around the corner, massive opportunities are approaching to explore a brand new market and establish a presence.

In general, I follow a few core rules when I sit down to try to make some cash and I'll lay them out right here:

  1. Participate in your markets as much as possible. Get up a few extra minutes early every day and manage your auctions. Do it again in the evening if you have time. I prefer to post my auctions for the minimum duration every 12 hours, which happens to work well with my work schedule. This frequent AH'ing gives you two things, a) the ability to see trends in your chosen markets and b) a lower overhead cost if you have to re list stuff. Having to eat a 48 hour listing fee multiple times because you weren't quick enough to catch on to a dying market means alot of overhead. Amusingly, it's also what's giving many businesses the shaft right now, IRL, due to their product financing exceeding low retail sales. This participation also gives you the ability to see trends in your sales so that you can adjust by providing more or less product. If you are using a crafting profession to create your product, constantly check for material prices.

  2. Minimize your undercut. Anyone who undercuts for more than a few silver is smoking crack. They are giving away free money. When someone needs a certain item, they'll always go for the item that's cheapest, often times regardless if its 1 copper less than the next cheapest or 5 gold less. Why give away that ~5 gold? Also, by minimizing your undercut, you maintain the stability of the market for a longer period of time as well as instill an expected value in your segment of the market. A healthy market niche is better for all participants. A completely tanked market niche is of no use to anyone except the one who's watching for when the 5 gold undercutting rats all bail and the true market value can be re-established.

  3. Maximize profits when there is no competition. If you find a niche market, play it smart because you will have competition somewhere down the line. Set a reasonable price and gradually move it up or down depending on market reaction. Over time, you'll get a good idea on how to price it and similar items in the future.

  4. Don't rely on an auction mod. Auction mods are often touted as the way to make money, but while they do make money, the profit margins, unless strictly controlled and supervised by the user, are often much slimmer than they could have been if the user had been paying attention. Additionally, while it may be great when you find a rare niche that could possibly bring in a good return one day ("Wow! 300% markup on Troll Sweat!"), I find that players that rely on a mod such as Auctioneer end up diversifying so much that they don't see market trends. As such, these individuals end up reacting to the market instead of being proactive.

  5. Choose a market and then diversify. If you're constantly in and out of several different markets, it gets difficult to spot trends and can end up hurting your potential profit in the long run. When you do diversify, stick with it for a while and see where it takes you. Obviously, if the market isn't profitable, you wouldn't be there in the first place, but now that you're there, try to see who are the big players and who are hanger on's.

  6. Take risks. If you've got your core business down, take some risks and try to anticipate the market response to world events or other impactful dates such as...oh, I don't know...November 13th. Everyone's heard the story of Small Eggs going for 5 gold/egg when Father Winter rolls around. Why not be 'that' guy who profits from it? Did you have extra gems and enchant mats to sell when Arena Season 3 rolled around and Gladiator gear was purchaseable through Honor? I made 10,000 gold that night. It was like Black Friday, but on a Tuesday. While you take risks, remember that they are risks and that you can wind up in the negative. Understandably, don't feel bad if your guesses aren't as stellar as you would have hoped. It's just a part of the game.
So, those are my core rules and they absolutely work. I haven't made thousands of gold in the last couple of days purely off of my good looks (although I could if I wanted to). The next section will talk more about specifics and managing both the core market and specifics about diversification, just in time for WotLK.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Battleground Suggestions for Newbies. Please take note.

(Author's note: This article was post dated as it's unlikely I'll be writing about BG's for a while once WotLK comes out. May this serve as a reminder as we go into Northrend, possibly fighting the opposite faction for quest mobs, and grinding Honor in Wintergrasp and Strand of the Ancients.)

The litany of curses that my fingers would have typed out during this weekend honor grind count out in the hundreds and while using a blog to continuously rant about the dumb things people do in Battlegrounds could feasibly provide endless material, it's just not fun to read. Also, one of my new guild's rules is 'No Profanity'. And we're trying not to piss people off. But, Lord, it's hard when dumb people join Battlegrounds.

So here's my best suggestion for people who don't PvP very often, and if you're smart, it can make you a better player, regardless of your gear.

Pay Attention, Communicate, and Cooperate.

Everything stems from those three points. If you're paying attention, you can call out incomings to a node and you can see when people are capping a flag. If you have a strategy, you can let people know so others can work with you, instead of against you. If you are a DPS class and you see your healer getting mowed down because the other side has (intelligently) chosen to target your healers first (no way!), you can help better the situation through crowd control and/or selective targeting.

There are a billion more examples I can give to illustrate the merits of the above suggestion, but, really, who wants to read that boring list?

Instead, to the people who don't PvP often, I give you 3 suggestions to help brighten your experiences and those of others when you do choose to join a Battleground.
  1. Mount Up. If you're not fighting and you're guarding a node or you're waiting to see where the opposition will strike next. Mount up. By the time the average call of "inc node" comes through, it's usually too late to mount up and move to support. And if you are riding to a location, take a look at the map before you go. If you see (count them) 10 dots already there, go somewhere else. Go defend somewhere else so that healer can go help deal with your teammates who need healing.

  2. Keep an eye on the flag. No matter how much DPS you can put out or how much healing you can provide, none of it matters if your flag gets taken. Every class has an ability that can interrupt a flag cap, from Moonfire to Rain of Fire to Wanding (you did level up your wand skill right?) so there's no excuse for not tagging the capper except for dying while preventing a cap.

  3. Fight on the node in EotS. It's really that simple. If you don't see a bar that shows the node status, you're in the wrong place.

And for you Rogues and Druids, a special suggestion:

  • Stealthing around does not mean you are doing anything beneficial to the team. If you see an opening, take it. Every second your teammates are getting trained down, while you sit in the comforts of stealth, sipping your thistle tea, is a second of negative participation. You're doing more harm than good. As reference, I had a stealthed rogue sit next to an Arcane Mage for a full 5 seconds, moving back and forth trying to make up his mind, before he decided to cheap shot. During that period, I got Arcane Barraged twice, a POM fireball and 2 Slows applied (I dispelled the first). To survive all of that, I had to pop Pain Suppression, 2 Shields and PI to spam Flash Heals. Angry whispers were exchanged and now he's on /ignore. Before anyone comes to his defense, there's zero reason not to take the opener when your healer is in danger. Need proof? Ask your nearest healer. He'll tell you.

And remember, it's not about gear. I would have rather had a level 50 Rogue who knew how to take the CS into KS into Gouge to save his teammate than the one last night who sported raid gear and the decisiveness of a butterfly.

With WotLK around the corner, if you're on a PvP server like I am, treat each zone as a big Battleground. Save your fellow faction'rs from gankers and travel around in groups. Unspoken truce or not, there's always rogue players who just want to have a bloody good time.

Best of luck!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Disc Vs Holy in PvP: A Comparison and Some Predictions

In the early stages of the game, Priest PvP healing wasn't as much of a specialized spec as it is today. With a game and itemization centered around PvE (pre TBC), Holy was a natural go-to as raiders would just bring their raiding specs to the Battleground and healbot their Dreadnaught clad Arms Warrior buddies after a night of beating back monstrous dragons and their progeny.

However, as time passed, through tweaking by Blizzard, the Discipline tree has been gaining popularity as the default PvP tree for utility and flexibility. Early Arena seasons saw hybrid Disc/Holy specs such as the old standby 28/33 for Blessed Resilience. As gear started to match damage in later seasons, 41/20 Pain Suppression builds started showing up en masse with Priests electing to give up some personal survivability for added situational answers.

To try to predict where all of this will go in the months and Arena seasons to come, it becomes key to understand the natures of the two healing trees, where they excel and where they fall flat. Keep in mind that the Priest is the only class that has two healing trees, so it's pretty unique that there are viable options for a class to spec when dealing with a variety of situations.

There's a couple of overall differences between the functionality of the Discipline and Holy trees in PvP. When comparing the two functions, I find that the best term to describe differences is "Bandwidth vs Throughput". The analogy between the characteristics of these Priest talent trees and the traditional usage of these two terms in the data transmission can be confusing at best, so let's break it down for non-technical people out there.

First, to establish the boundaries of the explanation, there is usually a limiting factor. In data transmission, the limiting factor is usually cost, and to a lesser extent, amount of data to be transferred. Simply, if you're willing to pay for wires that can handle more data, you'll get better performance. To dumb it down even further, we can think of wires as plumbing pipes for data and make the observation that narrower pipes typically cost less than big honking pipes (for proof, go visit Home Depot). So basically, if you have to move .. say .. a large quantity of .. excrement (or Porn), but you're limited in the amount you can spend on the pipes, your options are either one big pipe or several small pipes. The same is with data and (hopefully you're beginning to see the parallels) with healing. (And by using the word 'healing' we're essentially referring to death prevention)

The point, without getting mired in .. crap .., is that these two characteristics are generally proportional. Within the boundaries of cost and amount of data (mana and time alloted to 'save' someone) you can either cast a big heal or several small ones. It stands to reason that the Holy tree is the spec for throughput in that it puts out some really really big casted heals, typically with a higher crit rate, and possibly boosted by procs of additional big heals or even BIGGER heals. By contrast, the Discipline tree represents the bandwidth aspect of death prevention through its effective shields, cheaper dispels, extra haste, shield proc effects and several utility cooldowns.

Interestingly, in PvE, a typical raiding Holy spec can represent both 'bandwidth' and 'throughput' with just a shift of talents, however, this is not really the point of the discussion so we'll leave it for later (if people are even interested in this spec's discussion).

Ok, so where is this all going?

Well, predictions, of course.

Well, as with Arena season 1, the initial set of gear for many fresh level 80's will likely be pretty poor. A mix of PvP and PvE gear will be pretty prevalent and the PvP gear that is present will likely be fairly weak and unable to hit the resilience cap. We will likely see many double DPS in 2's and triple DPS teams in 3's as healing (due to gear) is very unlikely to match up with the potential damage output. In addition, due to poor weapons and low stats, melee is unlikely to perform as well as casters, making caster teams very viable.

As such, with knowledge of past Arena seasons, a Holy spec is likely to be the dominant spec for the variety of 2's and 3's comps where the Priest is the solo healer. I'm not saying that it will be the only spec for solo healing Priests, but it is unlikely that Discipline will have the throughput and personal survivability as compared to Holy to deal with the vast amounts of pure DPS teams out there. Once the healing starts catching up with the burst DPS and more Healer/DPS, Healer/2xDPS and 2xHealer/DPS teams become viable due to better gear becoming available, it's logical that Discipline variants will become more and more popular. This is primarly due to the better efficiency and 'tricks' that are needed to set up a kill on teams that are designed to survive for more than a few minutes

Of course, comps such as Rogue/Mage/Priest or other similar incredibly offensive burst comps would probably benefit from a Discipline Priest over a Holy Priest due to the Haste effects, cheaper Dispels and 0.5 second Mass Dispells for all of those incredibly annoying Divine Shields and Ice Blocks out there. We'll be sure to do a write up on their viabilities once we get to 80 and nab us some gear.

As for right now, we still have 30k honor to grind.