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Gold Capped: Shattering Maelstrom Crystals

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Every week, WoW Insider brings you Gold Capped, in which Basil "Euripides" Berntsen and Fox Van Allen aim to show you how to make money on the Auction House. Email Basil with your questions, comments, or hate mail!

Patch 4.3 will bring with it the ability to shatter Maelstrom Crystals into Heavenly Shards. This is unsurprising, as we have been able to shatter or transform the epic enchanting mats from other expansions. At this time, it looks like it will produce two Heavenly Shards per Maelstrom Crystal, and since it's not disenchanting, it's unlikely to be affected by the guild perk. This is going to be an opportunity for people to make some money, as well as provide a much needed sink for these Maelstrom Crystals, which have been piling up of late.

The market for Heavenly Shards is a little odd. In case you've forgotten, you can make one from 16 Elementium Ore and 8 Obsidium Ore. Despite this being "common" knowledge, the price for these enchanting mats has a consistently high profit margin. Maybe it's because of how long and annoying it is to turn ore into shards, or maybe it's because of the large volume taken by the popular enchants this expansion.

Notably absent

Hypnotic Dust is not on the drop table for a shattered crystal, even though last expansion, we were able to get dusts from a shatter. This is a good thing because right now, the ratio that enchanting materials are produced in seems to be a little out of balance with the demand for enchants.

Heavenlies are a choke point, and until chain-runnable heroics and hard-nerfed T11 content started generating them in enormous volume, Maelstroms were another choke point. At no point has dust been one, though. Many enchanter/jewelcrafters still have thousands of stacks rotting in the mailboxes of alts because of how profitable the jewelcrafting shuffle was before the nerf to the vendor price of green-quality gems.

Right now, the ratio that enchanting mats are used in does not match the ratio they're created in. And since it's not rare to find the epic Maelstroms for about the price of the blue Heavenlies, putting a one-way transition in place that will force their ratio to 1:2 makes sense.

How low will they go?

Let's look at what we know now:
  • Blacksmiths can make Heavenly Shards for 24 ore, and everyone gets them when they run pre-epic heroics.
  • Maelstrom Crystals come from farm or nerfed raids as well as 5-mans that award epics.
If this shatter had not been introduced, the price ratio of blue to purple shards would probably have remained where it currently is on your realm. Now that we'll be able to turn Maelstroms into two Heavenlies, if they're ever close, any 515 skill enchanter will be able to double their money by shattering. This will, of course, have a positive pressure on the price of Maelstrom Crystals and a negative pressure on the price of Heavenlies.

The question is whether the shatter will raise the price of Maelstroms more or lower Heavenlies more. There's no rock-bottom price floor for Heavenly Shards -- even if they went down to 20g, people would still make them when they did pre-Troll heroics. They should have a price ceiling, though; any time it's cheaper to buy 24 ore than it is to buy a shard, you'd think some blacksmith somewhere would make one. What ends up happening on many realms is that if the price for shards ever gets to 50% higher than the 24 ore, the crafted supply starts flooding in.

Whether the price ceiling for Heavenlies after patch 4.3 is 24 ore or 24 ore plus 50%, this will mean that there is a price floor for Maelstrom Crystals. Any time the price for Heavenlies gets higher than half a Maelstrom, someone will buy and shatter a Maelstrom until it's not worth doing. No matter what the price of Heavenly Shards is, though, people will still buy Maelstrom Crystals to enchant their gear and buy enchanting recipes.

Floor to ceiling

Interestingly, since the shatter spell only allows us to make Heavenly Shards from Maelstroms, the only way it'll make us money is if Maelstrom Crystals continue being generated faster than they're being used, despite all the new demand. If, on the other hand, the supply for Heavenlies goes through the roof and there's no increase in demand, Maelstroms will quickly get out of the range of profitability. If everyone spends the first month of 4.3 wiping on new raid and 5-man content, that's a significant loss in Maelstrom production. Also, as new gear gets looted and worn instead of sharded, it only serves to accelerate the demand for high-end enchants, which feeds back to higher Maelstrom prices.

We can't make Maelstroms from Heavenly Shards, so a surplus of Heavenlies would do nothing but prevent people from using Maelstrom Shatter.

Measuring wind speed in a hurricane

Economic predictions are beautiful on paper -- pristine logic based on historical data and simple analysis of isolated variables. Unfortunately, the real economy doesn't isolate variables well, and patch 4.3 is going to bring such a whirlwind of player activity with all the chaos and unpredictability that this entails that any predictions might get lost in the noise.

For the first month, demand for all enchanting mats will be through the roof. Maelstrom Shatter might be useful if it's competitive with the blacksmithing method of getting Heavenly Shards, but it all depends on the availability of ore and the stockpiles of enchanters and 4.3 speculators.

Speaking of stockpiling

This change adds an element of complexity to your decisions about what to stockpile for the patch, but the fundamentals don't change. There will be a lot more demand for the first few weeks of 4.3 than the market is equipped to supply normally, and only stockpilers can mitigate the demand. Don't top off if you feel that the prices are being inflated by other stockpilers, but check back in on a regular basis to take advantage of the gradual nature of the supply. Don't stockpile Heavenly Shards if you have to buy them for more than 16 Elementium Ore and 8 Obsidium Ore, but consider stocking the ore and transforming it when you know you can sell it at a profit.

Maximize your profits with more advice from Gold Capped. Do you have questions about selling, reselling, and building your financial empire on the auction house? Fox and Basil are taking your questions at fox@wowinsider.com and basil@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Economy, Gold Capped

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