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I have two toons with professions attached to them. They are Leatherworking, Jewelcrafting, Alchemy and Engineering.

The problem is, I do not have a collecting profession such as mining or herbalism. This makes it incredibly hard to make low cost elixir's for myself because the cost of buying the ingredients needed to make say, a Flask of the Wind, is the same cost it is just buying the elixir itself from the auction house, completely defeating the purpose.

I guess my question comes down to, with those 4 professions, what's my best bet in order to be able to make my elixirs without going completely broke?

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Do you have an Alchemy specialization? Is it not elixir mastery? If so is there a reason you can't change it? –  LessPop_MoreFizz Jul 31 '12 at 20:48
    
I have Elixir mastery, sure. I'm not sure how that addresses the question though besides getting the occasional extra pot? –  imaginative Jul 31 '12 at 21:15
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That 'occasional extra pot' is a 25% improvement in your crafting yield. It doesn't get more cost effective than that. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Jul 31 '12 at 21:19
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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

So I want to back up a little bit here before I answer your question directly to talk a little bit about some basic economics. Specifically, I want to explain the concept of opportunity cost. Essentially, Opportunity Cost is the difference between whatever you're acquiring, and what you could be acquiring if you were doing something else.

Why is this relevant? Let's look at your goal for a second: You want to acquire flasks as cheaply as possible. Now, there are two 'currencies' at work here. There's gold, which you use to buy them, or components thereof on the Auction House, and there's time, wherein, someone with Herbalism as a profession goes out into the world and farms herbs to either make their own flasks, or sells them straight on the market.

You seem to be operating under the assumption that an Herbalist who makes their own flasks using materials they gather is somehow getting them at a reduced price, or even 'for free'. This is an erroneous assumption. The herbalist is 'paying' the same market price as you are for their flasks - by not putting them on the market, the opportunity cost is identical to the gold the herbs would've cost if they had spent that time farming something else and used the gold to buy the materials outright.

What does this mean to you? This means that asking for the most cost effective source of materials is, after a fashion, missing the point. While there are a variety of tricks that you can use to buy herbs at below market rates, these generally fall into the realm of social and economic game playing that rests outside of the scope of what an answer here at Arqade can provide. The short answer is: make standing relationships with people too stupid to sell their products at market rate. Offer to buy in bulk at a discount, and camp in trade chat in hopes that a chinese farmer/botter is unloading their product at any given moment in time.

In reality, the better question to ask youself, is what activity do you have access to that provides the highest return per/minute/hour/session/whatever of gold. Feel free to rule out some of the most efficient activities if you find them too tedious or inaccessible. In some cases, the absolute most profitable activities, such as doing Jewelcrafting dailies for tradable, and high demand Jewelers gems back at the start of the expansion, are highly rate limited. The gold/hour is sky high, but you only get to do them once a day. In other cases, such as with farming for a high demand crafting mat via say, fishing, there's no limit to how much you can do. The point is that raw, liquid, fungible gold is what you should always be measuring your economic activities in. For many players, especially those without access to a gathering profession, the best and/or least tedious method is simply doing dailies or running instances. Whatever activity it is that you choose, do that, and buy the materials or goods you need.

For instance, if I needed Silk cloth in large amounts, I could go farm low level zones for an hour until I have the 10 stacks I need, and earn another 100 gold in incidental 'stuff'. Or, I could go do my max level dailies, earn 2000 gold, buy the 10 stacks of silk cloth for 20g/stack or 200g total, and pocket the difference of 1700 gold versus farming the low level stuff.

Now that said, you asked if there's a more cost effective way to actually make the elixirs, and in this particular case, there is. As you noticed, the price of the flasks is often the same or lower than the price of materials. This is because most people selling flasks on the AH are mass producing them after specializing in Elixir Mastery. Elixir Masters, when crafting, have a random chance to receive double, triple, quadruple, or quintuple their yield. On average, you'll get a 25% higher yield from Elixir Mastery.

Put another way, by buying materials and crafting yourself, as an elixir master, you get a 25% discount on all of your elixirs. That's the best deal in town and you won't do better than that.

So to answer your question more directly: Do whatever it is that yields the most gold for you, and use the gold to buy herbs. Make your own flasks. That's the most cost effective way to do it.

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+1, excellent answer covering crafting, money making, and solid economic theory! –  Wikwocket Jul 31 '12 at 22:16
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To clarify a point that I don't believe was made, remember the saying "I've got more time than money." If you can't afford to use gold instead of time, you'll need to use time until you have enough gold to make up for that time. –  Koviko Jul 31 '12 at 23:15
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I can't speak for the other professions, but here's a list of moneymaking methods I've found with my Alchemist (transmute-specced, formerly elixir-specced). I usually use the profit from these methods to stockpile herbs for flasks.

Potions-specced Alchemists can make a decent amount of money. Potions of Concentration (extra mana regen) and Volcanic Potions (extra DPS) sell well. Depending on your server, you can get Azshara's Veil for around 1.5g each, and Cinderbloom for around 80 to 90 silver each. Volcanic Potions go for ~8 gold each and Potion of Concentrations can go for ~8 to 13 gold each.

In Cataclysm, potions don't drop at all from mobs (so there's a greater demand for them), the only other method to get them are from Sealed Crates (via Fishing) and Satchel of Exotic Mysteries (from "Call to Arms"-type quests from the dungeon finder [usually for tanks and healers]).

Transmute-specced Alchemists can make a profit from setting their Transmute cooldowns (Truegold and Volatiles), in certain Cataclysm expansion areas, where you transmute your volatiles will affect what you get.

  • Uldum will get you Volatile Air
  • Mount Hyjal will get you Volatile Fire
  • Vashj'ir will get you Volatile Water
  • Deepholm will get you Volatile Earth

Truegold can cost ~500 to 600g (prices varies depending on the server, costs might be lower or higher on your server) to produce on average and sell for ~650 to 750g after the AH "tax." Try to sell your transmute CD for close to the amount it's worth on the AH. If Truegold is worth 750g on your server and the materials are 500g, you should sell your CD for ~250g (don't go lower than 150g). If you are transmute-specced, you can sell it at a lower cost, as long you get to keep the procs (they are pure profit). Volatile Air and Water transmutes cost ~10g per Volatile Life and sell for around 25g each. You can also make money with rare gem transmutes as they are not on cooldown. 5-10g for each rare gem transmute is a fair price.

Certain people might be interested in BC-era armor/weapons (Tailoring/LW/BS) for transmogs. Those recipes require Primal Mights, as of patch 3.0.2 they are off cooldown. The Runed Adamantite Rod for enchnaters also require a Primal Might.

For Elixir-speced Alchemists, flasks aren't as profitable as they were previously. A lot of the demand for flasks has waned because of the Big Cauldron of Battle. It now takes 12 flasks to make enough for a raid of 25 (30 with the "Happy Hour" Guild Perk). I've found that a lot of Alchemists on my server are Elixir-specced and that really drive elixir/flask prices down.

I've found that around 6 to 8pm server time (on my server at least) is best time to sell your flasks. Most guilds usually start getting ready to raid at this time.

I found that a transmute-specced Alchemist works best used in with a JC and Enchanter (for disechanting, if you don't have one, you can ask a friend or guildie).

You can buy stacks of decently priced Obsidium/Elementium ore, prospect it on your JC and send all Carnelians (red gem) to the Alchemist to transmute (3x Carnelians, 3x Heartblossoms), cut the rare gems, make Hessonite/Jasper/Nightstone rings with the uncommon gems, and then send the rings to your Enchanter to disenchant and sell the dust and essences (or sell the enchants). You will usually make a profit if you can get the ore at a good price.

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