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Gold Capped: Why Mysterious Fortune Cards will always be stupidly profitable

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Gold Capped, in which Fox Van Allen and Basil "Euripides" Berntsen aim to show you how to make money on the Auction House. Feed Fox's ego by emailing him, tweeting him at @foxvanallen, or sacrificing your first born to him.

Last week on Gold Capped, I discussed how to make money playing the glyph market. It's hands down the most popular way that scribes try to make money. Problem is, it's probably the hardest route to riches I know. Glyphs tend to fester on the Auction House, and most go unsold. And yet despite this, no single profession has made me more money over my WoW lifetime than inscription has.

Confused? Don't be -- I'm about the blow the lid clear off the most profitable aspect of inscription: Mysterious Fortune Cards. Yes, seriously. They're still making people boatloads of money.

My first-ever article covering the Auction House dealt with my quest to reach the Cataclysm-era gold cap of 999,999 gold. I utilized a large number of professions to reach the finish line, but nothing proved a better or more reliable seller than the stuff my scribe was making. But I wasn't making glyphs. I was making Darkmoon Cards and Mysterious Fortune Cards (MFCs).

I abandoned those markets a while back -- not because they stopped being profitable, but because I got tired of milling thousands of herbs and AFK crafting. Fast forward to this past week, when I revisited my poor neglected scribe. He still had a few MFCs sitting around in his inventory, so I crafted a few more and listed them on the AH.

I was pretty surprised at what I saw -- the Mysterious Fortune Card market is still ridiculously profitable. And better yet, competition for the market seems to be weaker than ever. Don't believe me? Let's look at the specifics.

Mysterious Fortune Card market at a glance

I try to be pretty cautious with blanket statements around here. After all, what sells well on one server might not sell well on another. And if competition is unusually heavy on a given server, trying to break into a new market can be a gold-losing proposition. So before I sat down to write this column, I did my research.

I stopped by my new favorite site (and The Undermine Journal competitor) AHSpy.com to take a quick look at the MFC market across every single US and EU server. Here's what I learned:
  • The average server (as of Nov. 20) has about 700 MFCs available; the median server has only 271.
  • The average server (as of Nov. 20) prices an MFC at about 12 gold Alliance, or 14 gold Horde.
In my experience, the MFC market is damn hard to saturate. I could list 271 cards each and every day and watch them sell out, even with other folks competing for the same market. True demand varies from server to server, but there have been plenty of days when I sold thousands of cards. And not when they were novel new items. Recently.

What contributes to the always-present demand? Well, it's simple: Mysterious Fortune Cards represent the easiest and most affordable route to the Cataclysm-era Well Fed buff. That's because there's no such thing as a Deepsea Sagefish pool, the fish required for the Severed Sagefish Head +90 intellect buff. You can only fish them up at random. It's almost always going to be quicker, easier, and often cheaper to craft MFCs into Fortune Cookies, which offer the same great +90 intellect buff ... or any other top-level buff you could possibly desire. They're magic.

And yes, Mysterious Fortune Cards still hold up well as WoW's answer to a lottery ticket. Each one you turn over (or obtain via eating a Fortune Cookie) has a chance to give you a Fortune Card worth 5,000 gold, a Fortune Card worth 1,000 gold, or more commonly, lesser amounts down to 10 silver. Wowhead doesn't have data on a player's expected return from just flipping over cards and vendoring the result, but anecdotally, they're worth about 2.5 or 3 gold per flip on average. That fact alone helps prop up their value.

And then there's the elephant in the room: Mysterious Fortune Cards can be somewhat tedious to make. You have to put in a lot of effort to craft the couple of thousand cards that buyers can consume in a single day. As a result, it's hard for one person to corner this market unless they have a lot of time on their hands.

High demand and weak supply -- it doesn't take a genius to smell profits in that mix. There will always be a high demand for these cards right up through the launch of Mists of Pandaria because they're a rare nexus between usefulness and fun. And judging from the data above, the market is woefully (and chronically) underserved. But will they always be profitable? Let's do the math.

Is the MFC market right for you?

If you're going to be making Mysterious Fortune Cards, you're going to need a lot of Blackfallow Ink. And if you need a lot of Blackfallow Ink, you're likely going to need to be buying (or picking) a lot of herbs.

Cinderbloom
and Whiptail are almost universally the cheapest of the Cataclysm-era herbs. And as such, they're the best herbs to go buying for the purposes of milling. Again, Wowhead doesn't offer any exacting data with regard to how many Ashen Pigments (and thus, Blackfallow Inks) you get from each stack on average, but anecdotally, we know this:
  • One Cinderbloom mills to ~0.25 Blackfallow Ink and ~0.025 Inferno Ink.
  • One Whiptail mills to ~0.3 Blackfallow Ink and ~0.05 Inferno Ink.
Thus, conservatively, it takes four Cinderbloom or 3.33 Whiptail to make one Mysterious Fortune Card. According to AHSpy, the average price of Cinderbloom is about 1.4 g each; the average price of Whiptail is about 1.7 g each. Either way, it costs about 5.6 gold worth of herbs to make a MFC -- or, about 6 gold total. That's a pretty satisfying 100% profit margin given average prices, and that doesn't even count all the Inferno Inks you'll make in the process.

You'll want to do the math with your own server's specific herb prices. Just multiply the price of Cinderbloom by four or the price of Whiptail by 3.33. If the result of either is a few gold less than you server's current market price for Mysterious Fortune Cards, you've found a lucrative market, my friend.

Selling the cards

Obviously, the best way to sell the cards you make is going to be on the Auction House. Mysterious Fortune Cards are desirable enough to sell on their own -- people know what they are, and they're regularly prowling the AH trying to find them.

If you want to boost sales a little bit, barking in trade might dredge up a few extra sales. This is especially true on the weekends, when there are more casual players online who are unfamiliar with the product (and the possibility of a 5,000 gold score). Be careful not to go overboard, though. Advertising too heavily can be counterproductive -- it can irritate possible buyers and clue others in that you found a lucrative market. And if your cards are selling for 15 gold each ... why can't they list a few thousand units for 14.50 gold and undercut you?

Mysterious Fortune Cards tend to sell best when you list them in varying large quantities. Stacks of one card almost never sell, even if they're the cheapest auction listed. Stacks of 20 seem to be the "sweet spot" where sales are strongest. Stacks of 50 sell well, too, and you'd probably be surprised at how many people out there are willing to buy stacks of 200. Listing in different but useful quantities (10, 20, 50, 100, 200) is a great way to stand out from other sellers.

Dealing with your "waste"

Back in the day, I never really set out to make Mysterious Fortune Cards. I was trying to make Darkmoon Cards, and MFCs were my waste product -- the most efficient and lucrative way for unloading my Blackfallow Inks. My, how the tables have turned.

So what do you do with all these Inferno Inks you craft? The easy answer is to sell them on the Auction House. They're still needed to level inscription to 525. Right now, they're worth about 22 gold each on average. That's a pretty nice bonus: You get 2 or 3 gold worth of Inferno Ink for each MFC you craft.

Or, alternatively, you could put in the extra work and do what I used to do -- make Darkmoon Decks. Prices for the trinkets have held up remarkably well, at least so far. The DMC: Tsunami trinket can still fetch as much as 10,000 gold; DMC: Volcano can fetch 7,500. Prices are sure to go down in patch 4.3, but for those who prefer to stay out of raids, they'll continue to hold solid value.

No matter what you do with those Inferno Inks, though, it's hard to go wrong. After all, if you're already making a profit on Mysterious Fortune Cards, it's just found money.
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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