When I wasn’t ganking blood elf warlocks with toydonut before they could chain-fear us to death in World of Warcraft (WoW), one of the most fun things I did was get rich crafting elixirs of minor agility. The irony is that I could probably talk to some real heavy-duty WoW players and they wouldn’t have any idea of what I’d be talking about.
I played WoW pretty much around the time it launched, retired my wise-cracking-never-raiding 60 rogue in Iron Forge when Guild Wars came out, and then returned to play with toydonut on a new (to me) server after The Burning Crusade expansion came out. Due to toydonut’s busy schedule we weren’t leveling all that quickly, giving me ample time to do something I neglected with my first character: play the economics game of WoW. It turned out there was an interesting demand that wasn’t being met by the hardcore raiders and other players, and that was mid-level alchemy.
Budding leatherworkers require an alchemist potion, the elixir of minor agility, to progress their skill beyond a certain level. The unfortunate issue for them is that it used a main ingredient, swiftthistle, which rogues also require for energy-replenishing tea. Multiplying the stakes, the elixir recipe was a random world-drop. The perfect storm for me was that I had plenty of time to gather the ingredients, no other alchemists could be bothered to make the elixirs or even recognize the need for them on my server, and I was in no real rush to be doing anything else.
My side-venture in the game started out innocuous and innocent enough; I’d throw a few minor agility elixirs onto the auction house for 50 silver (s) or so, let them sell out, then put some more on. But as this went on it became apparent that there was literally nobody else supplying the market of midlevel leatherworkers, so I gradually increased the price, with my highest sale being about 4 gold (g) 50 s for one elixir. That was an extreme case, and the price usually hovered closer to 2 g 50 s at buyout to keep the gold flowing into my bank account because some money is better than no money, and at the end of the day a business really does have to cater to its customers. In the rare instance that somebody actually tried to undercut my prices I had no problems buying them out and delaying my gratification, which was as guaranteed as the next player who wanted to make their own leather armor.
I had my mount bought and paid for in my early-mid 20s, and continued to accrue so much wealth that I was able to solidify my grasp on the market by buying up the recipe for the elixir and then destroying it anytime I saw one up for bid, while also getting a nice corner on the swiftthistle market for my efforts. I never expanded by bringing anyone else into my business, but I had an alt who sat in the Iron Forge auction house, and then a couple strategically placed herbalists in good flower-picking territory. My main didn’t even have to dirty his hands with the actual labor; I felt like my very own mafia don. Once I had a nice presence established in the minor agility elixir market, I was able to expand into things like thorium bars and arcane crystals that were of more value to higher-level, richer clientele.
While the success was mine and mine alone, it’s important to note that the crafting system of WoW was seriously flawed. The biggest issues were the reliance on recipes for items that could really only come from random world drops and the fact that players were artificially limited in what careers they could pursue. Anyone can have a day job and then run their own dumb blog without being a master programmer; a good crafting system would have in mind that an amateur alchemist might only need to make one or two potions while focusing on what they’d really rather be doing. But by the same token leatherworkers were able to get enough money where equitable exchanges with me were frequent, proving that the system wasn’t completely broken.
By the time that we were in our mid-40s, right before the imbalance, over-saturation of animu blood elves, and the realization that the $16/mo. just wasn’t worth it finally drove us to quit again for good, gold was a non-concern. I already had a heart-seeker dagger, and some good high-level armor in anticipation of playing more; it was relaxing not worrying about having money available for whatever. While the need for money and a desire to acquire it for the great WoW loot treadmill wasn’t fun by any stretch, making that money was enjoyable since I found a niche and grew a very successful in-game business up from scratch all on my own. The power and the wealth that I gained from less than 30 minutes of daily playtime doing what nobody else would or could (as efficiently) was remarkable and a completely alien experience that I wouldn’t have believed possible for a poor rogue from my first main character’s experiences. The human element and supply and demand are the factors that usually make a MMO slightly more interesting to me than games like Skyrim or Deus Ex, and why I’m certain that a game like EVE Online might be the literal death of me.
Now there’s serious pandas that stemmed from a joke and $20 flying mounts and whatever else, but anytime I overhear somebody talking about WoW, yeah, I remember the ganks, some epic instance runs, and some god-awful grind sessions, but I always end on those little agility elixirs and I catch myself with a bigger smile than I’d rather have.