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Insider Trader: Make a profit from Cataclysm blacksmithing

Insider Trader is a column about professions by Basil "Euripides" Berntsen, who also writes Gold Capped about how to make money using the auction house. Email Basil your questions.

Blacksmithing is a very profitable profession at level 85 if you have the time to manage it. There are a few different markets that you have to choose from, so as soon as you have access to the Twilight Highlands metal trader, you will be able to start buying the patterns you'll need.

Gear

There are two types of craftable gear: gear that you can make without a Chaos Orb and gear that requires an orb. Obviously, orb gear is going to be higher ilevel and desirability, generally, but you'll likely only get an orb every five heroics on average. The recipes that don't take an orb are obviously more accessible, so you can count on more competition. Since the demand for it is stronger, though, you might actually make more profit with it.

Green tanking gear tends to sell well. It's better than Wrath of the Lich King dungeon blues, so one of the first thing a level 80 tank looking at the new zones does is kit himself out in as many tanking greens as he can. For one reason or another, the most profitable one seems to be the Hardened Obsidium Bracers (thanks, Kaliope!), which I routinely sell for well over the materials cost. Look at all the Hardened Obsidium pieces when you're leveling, and keep an eye on prices even when you're done. If the supply ever dries up, make sure you're ready to put some pieces on the AH. It won't happen often, because these are made in volume whenever someone levels smithing, but there is strong demand for most of these.

Starter PvP plate comes in two varieties: Bloodied Pyrium and Ornate Pyrium. The gear is all blue and contains resilience. It's an alternative for people who don't want to have to grind out the honor needed to get the slightly better honor-bought equipment with absolutely no resilience. The pieces that require a skill of 525 to make are the chest, helm, and legs of each set. These will typically have absolutely no stock on the AH from someone just looking to get rid of stuff made while leveling, so they go for a decent margin. The shoulders of each set are craftable at 520, so there will usually be a small number of them on the AH from people who are willing to sell them at a loss. The rest of the pieces may sell for more than the mats, but be sure to check first, and never craft too many.

There is a ton of craftable gear that's not green tanking or starter PvP plate; however, it's typically going to be sold for less than the cost of the mats. The gear is comparable to quest rewards, and everyone leveling blacksmithing makes tons of it. When you level blacksmithing, you should always make an informed decision about whether to disenchant or sell gear. I had several pieces of leveling gear I crafted go so far down in price that they were worth more as enchanting mats than they were on the AH.

If you have an orb (or better: some orbs), you can try your hand in the very low-volume and potentially very rewarding world of high-ilevel crafting. The very first thing you'll be able to craft is at 510 skill, a couple of belts. Check the prices on the AH, and if there aren't any, choose the DPS option because there are more potential buyers. These patterns all take two orbs, so be careful how cheaply you sell them. There are a bunch of really desirable craftable items you can make with orbs, not the least of which are weapons. These are rarely posted on the auction house, but believe me that they are the first thing those fresh level 85s think of when they start looking at their gear.

I'll have to write another post about this sometime, but for now, the answer of how much a Chaos Orb is worth is simple. The fixed price of a crafted good is whatever you could have sold the Truegold, Hardened Elementium Bars, and other random mats for, but Chaos Orbs are hard to get. Some realms value them at 1,000g, some as much as 5,000g. If you can sell something that takes one orb on the AH, the value of a Chaos Orb is contained in your profit. If it took three orbs, the value of three orbs is contained in your profit margins. Of course, even if orbs were BoE and purchasable on the AH, you would be making a profit on craftable gear you listed. The final profit with BoP orbs going to be higher than the value of the orbs by as much as you'd have made if they had been bought off the AH.

Speaking of which: If you see someone linking a skill in trade and they claim to have orbs, ask how much you can "tip" them for the use of their orbs if you provide all the other mats. They're trying to avoid the risk of buying or farming mats, so they will often be willing to let their orbs go for a much smaller tip than the profits you'll make by selling the gear.

Non-gear

In addition to all the above stuff, smiths have some really incredible items that they will always be able to find buyers for. Typically, a single character won't buy a single piece of gear more than once. This means that the market size depends on how many new characters are buying gear. It's the same for glyphs, now that we can overwrite them with vendor trash, and the same for bags -- all still perfectly good markets, but they rise and fall with the influx of new characters. The other type of market is something that characters will want to buy more than once. In our case, that's gear enhancements.

Every single time a player gets an upgrade, they're going to want to enchant and gem it. Every single time someone gets a new belt, he'll want to put a belt buckle on it so he can socket another gem. Now, these didn't sell very well when the first batch of people were hitting 85, because someone figured out that the ilevel restriction on the old Eternal Belt Buckles was not being applied properly. They now are, so anyone buying a socket for any gear above ilvl 300 needs the new buckle. You can't make these until you've got your smithing maxed out, and the mats are much steeper than they were for the Wrath buckles. Also, the old buckles still sell, but not as fast as when they were the only buckles.

Additionally, smiths can craft Pyrium Shield Spikes. You would expect that every shield-wearing tank would want one of these, but for some reason, they aren't selling on at least the three realms I follow.

Lastly, almost every PvPer is going to want a Pyrium Weapon Chain. These in fact do sell quite well; however, as more and more smiths get to the phased vendors in Twilight Highlands and realize that the mats for these chains is a single Pyrium Bar, the prices tend to fall.

Odds and ends

All smiths would do well to have a miner. Even now, that the competition for mining has made it become worth too little gold per hour to compete with crafting, having a miner means that you can buy the cheaper of either ore or bars. It comes at the expense of AFK time, though. If this means that you spend 20 minutes of your designated "game time" watching your character repeat a very boring animation, it's not really "free." If you can AFK smelt as much as your heart desires, then having a miner is pure profit.

A lot of the materials for the crafting I've outlined above are volatiles -- specifically, fire, water, and earth. The best way to get a good deal on these, unfortunately, is checking the auction house frequently. They enter and leave the AH very quickly, so checking on the prices as often as you can will allow you to keep as low an average cost as possible. If you buy out the market at any one time, you will only increase your average cost.

[Image credit: Flickr]

Insider Trader takes you behind the scenes of the bustling subculture of professional craftsmen, examining the profitable, the tragically lacking and the methods behind the madness.

Filed under: Economy, Insider Trader (Professions), Cataclysm

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