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Patch 4.1 and Jewelcrafting, or, the Dance has Ended

April 27, 2011

Since Cataclysm has hit, I’ve been meaning to write a blog post concerning how I’ve been playing the ‘financial game’ of WoW, and explain my strategies and successes in earning gold.  Well, a small change with large effects quietly rolled out yesterday as part of patch 4.1, and I’ve decided to rush out this post to address it and discuss other financial strategies later.

To start with, my primary alt, Vyvian, is a miner and jewelcrafter.  I can’t begin to emphasize how profitable jewelcrafting has been.  It has allowed me to more than double my net worth in the last few months, even though I play the AH as a ‘casual’.  But as of yesterday, things are now going to be significantly different, and probably not in a good way.

Let me explain…

I’ve had a few different plans of attack to make money on my miner/jewelcrafter thus far, which I’ve illustrated on the decision-making flowchart below.

How I used to make gold!

Now the biggest thing I’ve come up against is how to acquire uncut gems in the first place.  I don’t have an alchemist, so transmutation is out of the question.  I don’t have the time to spend farming ore to prospect, either.  (Plus, I really am better than that! *wink*)  So either I buy uncut gems off the AH or buy ore and prospect.  I do both regularly depending on the price: for uncut gems if they are at least 10g-15g less than the cut ones are going for, and for ore if it falls at least 5g below the price floor.

Mommy, what’s a price floor?

For ore, the price floor is the lowest amount a stack of ore can be sold for before it’s more profitable to change it to another form, either by prospecting or smelting.  It just so happens that when Cataclysm was released cut green-quality gems would sell to vendors for 9g.  That’s great, because on average a stack of Obsidium Ore would prospect into 6 green-quality gems (and the rare blue-quality gem).  That’s 54g/stack if you merely prospect and vend the resulting gems.  Basil at WowInsider has a post that explains this in more detail if you’re interested.  It’s merely a subset of the complex decisions and interactions that are called the ‘Obsidium Shuffle’, which has also been discussed already by others.

The only cost to this method is the time it takes to prospect, cut, and vend (which, admittedly, can be significant and tedious).  But with a stack of Obsidium Ore on my server going at prices around the low 40s and sometimes even dipping lower, it was a great source of income and blue-quality gems.  (On my server I’ve encountered a unique situation as far as selling blue-quality gems on the AH, and it really deserves its own post on how I’ve had to work around it.  Needless to say, for the remainder of this article I’ll ignore them and focus on what I’ve done with the green-quality ones.)

Ite, missa est

I’ve bought countless stacks of Obsidium Ore from level 1 characters with quite unpronounceable names, often turning thousands of gold in profit.  Well, those days are gone.  As of patch 4.1, cut green-quality gems now sell to vendors for 75s, down from 9g.  This is going to have a HUGE effect on the economy.  The price floor for a stack of Obsidium Ore will now be 4.5g if you prospect, cut and vend a stack, and 5g if you smelt and vend a stack.

The obsidium shuffle is dead, the dance is over.

So what are the possible ramifications of this change?  First of all, my beautiful flowchart is no longer valid or useful.  Secondly, jewelcrafters like me that have been snatching up ore to prospect, cut, and vend will no longer have an easy source of income and gems.  It’s going to greatly devalue Obsidium Ore for jewelcrafters in general, since green-quality gems (in my experience) don’t sell well when cut, and have significant competition when trying to sell uncut.  There will be even less use for green-quality gems now, as people will only want uncut ones for dailies or leveling jewelcrafting.  Thus, miners will probably notice less demand for their ore, and the price will also decrease significantly.

I’ll have to do a little more thinking to figure out how I’m going to work around this, and what, if any effect this will have on the other types of ore.  I’m curious to see how the market re-stabilizes over the next few weeks also.  Surely this change caught many off-guard, and there’s probably a lot of Obsidium Ore and uncut green-quality gems that are now not going to sell quickly, driving prices down significantly for a few weeks.  Since prospecting is probably the main source of gems, in the long run I suspect prices for uncut (and consequently cut) green- and blue-quality gems will rise as fewer people prospect ore due to its non-profitability.  It’s just going to take some time for the supply to dwindle down to equal the demand.  Devaluing Obsidium Ore in this way will probably increase the value of Elementium Ore also, since jewelcrafters will need a less-risky source of gems that actually sell on the AH (i.e. primarily blue-quality gems).

To everything there is a season…

Long story short, patch 4.1 brought a small change which is going to have big effects, and things are not going to be the same for miners and jewelcrafters.  Like it or not, it has happened and we’ve all got to adapt.  While the prospects (hyuck, hyuck!) look a little grim right now, I suspect that jewelcrafting will continue to be a profitable profession, and there are probably some other good side-effects that we’ll see.  Perhaps so many people will get discouraged that there will be less competition in the market… that wouldn’t be so bad.  So put down your pitchforks and torches – things will probably be okay.  If nothing else, it’s a beautiful rainy day outside, right?

One last thing

This change was not announced in any official patch notes that I read.  It was datamined and spread out as a potentiality through the WoW blogosphere.  Surely Blizzard was aware of the ramifications that this change would have, and I can’t imagine why this would not have been officially noted or recognized.  This frustrates me a little, but I imagine it frustrates those who didn’t happen to catch wind of this change before the patch dropped even more.  I would be very irritated if I logged in on Tuesday to find out that my stockpile of ore or uncut gems were suddenly worth 8% of what they had been.  No one likes to be caught with their pants down.

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