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 at his new email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the coolest enchants take Maelstrom Crystals. Why do most guilds not send raiders back home with a note to their parents when they show up with the second-best enchants on their gear? Because these crystals can be pretty darned hard to get. Even when they are available, they are very pricey. You can't even buy the recipes for some of the cooler weapon enchants until you can get your hands on five of these.
So what's the best way to get them? If your answer is to wait until your guild starts getting raid drops it doesn't need, then click through for a pleasant surprise.
The favored few
If you are one of the lucky few to have chosen alchemy and enchanting as your two professions, then Blizzard has provided you with the unique ability to manufacture Maelstrom Crystals by disenchanting the Lifebound Alchemist Stone, a bind on pickup alchemy epic trinket. I have no idea whether this was deliberate, but I do know that it means any guild who is lucky enough to have a character like this can count on being able to produce the epic enchanting mat for 50 Volatile Life and 12 of each Cinderbloom, Azshara's Veil, and Heartblossom. Assuming 10g for each life, 4g for Cinderbloom, 5g for Azshara's Veil, and 11g for Heartblossom, that adds up to a raw cost of 740g. That's a far sight less than the 3000g I've seen people happily pay.
Not so rare after all
Without this coincidental and possibly unintentional way of transforming regular mats, these crystals would be extremely rare at this point in the expansion. Searching the AH for them this early would probably rarely turn anything up. When they did show up, they would likely be too expensive to be worth it. If you can buy a crafted BoE epic for the same price as enchanting your weapon, your best performance boost would probably come from the new gear. Since most groups that have access to a steady supply of epics are still actually using them, these crystals would have been very hard to obtain.
With the easy availability of these mats, all you need to do to get your best-in-slot enchants is be lucky enough to know someone who is willing to take your mats and turn them into epic shards for you. Or just rely on these people to realize the gold mine they're sitting on and flood the auction house with as many as they can, eventually driving the price down to close to the cost of the mats.
Blizzard may, in fact, have balanced the content assuming that the real best-in-slot enchants wouldn't be easily obtainable for the first few months. Gear checks are not the only barrier to progression, but they are a barrier. Also, it's unlike Blizzard to pick an arbitrary and small subset of players and give them a key that unlocks something this highly sought-after. To me, this points to a change coming down the pipe, but that's just personal opinion.
What will Blizzard do?
Right now, the only comment in the 4.0.6 patch notes that has anything to do with this topic is that Blizzard is adding a bunch of new alchemy epic trinkets that do not appear to be disenchantable. The trinket that's currently live, however, still appears to be. The way I see it, if it catches on to this, Blizzard will do one of two things. It will either make crystals available through some other means (justice points, for example), driving the price down below the mats needed for alchemists to craft and disenchant their trinket, or it may close the loophole and simply prevent people from disenchanting this particular piece of gear. The designers have played around with the disenchanting tables in the past when they didn't like the effect it was having on the economy.
So if they close this loophole in 4.0.6, what will happen? Well, at the moment, quite a few realms' raiders have gotten used to having a supply of shards available. These people will hate to have to go back to the second-best enchants next time they get an upgrade. In fact, depending on how much of an upgrade it is, it may not actually make sense to equip the new gear until there are enough mats that they can afford to enchant it.
Of course, the supply for these shards will never truly run out. It'll just get to a point that the price goes up so high that only the most desperate and wealthy raiders will be able to afford them.
With all changes
Every time there is a change to the game, there is money to be made. Right now, a lot of people are farming Heartblossom to sell to people trying to get as many crystals made before 4.0.6 as possible. The people who can make crystals are stocking up in case they can't do it any more after the upcoming new patch, and people who can't are buying any crystals near the cost of the mats they can. If there are no changes in this patch, these people will lose money, but if the loophole is closed, they may be able to make serious profits by holding onto their inventory until the price goes up.
A tip for anyone considering this course of action, however: Remember that it's just a matter of time until the price for the crystals drops organically as the quality of gear being dropped in raids goes up.
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.