Let's deal with the "now" part first. I previously wrote about how Outland materials are a great place to invest. Another great area for investing is Northrend, because the materials are still in abundant supply, but won't be for much longer. Northrend is less accessible now, and because it's old content, leveling characters will be rushing through it as quickly as possible to get to the new Cataclysm zones. They won't be likely to take a leisurely pace through Northrend, spending time farming up the materials they'll need to level their professions, so they'll be AH'ing those materials later on. So, how to invest?
Northrend is a fairly simple area economically, compared to Azeroth and even Outland. Most of the needed items are commodities rather than fewer rare drops, which makes an auctioneer's job both easier and more difficult at the same time. It's easier because you have fewer items to keep track of but many of those items serve multiple purposes (see: saronite ore), so you're not dependent on one profession for your sales. But it's also more difficult, because you can't monopolize a market and you'll never see supply of something dry up completely. What you can do is invest wisely and always have a backup plan. Here's what to look for:
- Infinite dust. Enchanters still need a ton of this (around 600 at least), even if they stop with Northrend recipes at 425 and switch to Cataclysm recipes. Enchanting materials are a good stockpiling item in general because they're hard to farm, and infinite dust is one of the best of them. Beware of other enchanting materials: cosmic essences aren't needed to hit 425 (and barely needed to hit 450). Dream shards are another potential area, as they are needed to purchase the Dalaran recipes, which means you can cater to those using Wrath recipes to level all the way to 450 as well as completionists.
- Saronite: a safe bet if you can buy it around the vendor price (12g50s per stack of ore), as you can always smelt it to bars. This is a low-risk investment, but you're also probably not going to get rich off of it, because saronite will always be somewhat easy to farm. Some profession levelers will be able to skip needing saronite by moving to Cataclysm recipes at 425 skill, but you can always prospect it for gems that leveling jewelcrafters will need, or turn those gems into greens that you can vendor or D/E. Saronite is a safe investment that will turn a profit, just not an enormous one.
- Cobalt and titanium are the real places to make money in the ore market. Both are much more spread out and difficult to farm than saronite. Cobalt is needed in larger quantities for profession leveling, as its use goes all the way from 350 to 425 skill. Titanium should hold its demand well into Cataclysm due to its use in motorcycles. These two ores should definitely be on your snatch list, and with all of the dumping going on right now, you can build your stockpile cheaply. Everybody seems to be big on saronite, and you can definitely make money with it, but I think the real money is going to be made in cobalt.
- Northrend herbs are another safe investment if bought cheaply. Prices have been plummeting as scribes can no longer trade Ink of the Sea for other inks, however, Ink of the Sea is still going to be the most used ink. Cataclysm herbs will be more expensive than Northrend herbs for some time, so you shouldn't have to worry about loss of demand from scribes trading in Blackfallow Inks. Alchemy is also going to be a popular profession in Cataclysm due to the new mount, which will further drive demand. Herbs are something that will be more popular in the short term (1-2 months after launch) than the long run, as eventually Cataclysm herbs will drop in price as people spend most of their time in those zones and scribes can just buy those for their ink needs. Buy now as the prices collapse, and sell shortly after Cataclysm goes live.
- Borean leather is really cheap right now and is needed in huge, huge quantities by leatherworkers. The Alliance, especially, should see a lot of leather demand due to the Worgen racial bonus. Most players won't collect all of the leather they need while leveling through Northrend, so there will be good demand here. Stockpile it cheaply, but I wouldn't make this a huge section of the stockpile, as unlike the other items listed leather only really caters to one profession.
- Eternals (and frozen orbs) are actually a great market to be in, but you need to be careful about which ones you invest in. Eternal life will still see demand due to Darkmoon Faire decks, while earth and shadow can be turned into green items by jewelcrafters and then disenchanted. Eternal fire is needed (as well as earth and shadow) are needed for titansteel, which is used in making motorcycles. I'm less bullish on air and water, as their uses are more limited. The other four eternals have a wide variety of uses, including profession leveling up to 450, which will still be popular early on as it will be cheaper than using Cataclysm materials. Frozen orbs offer you the most flexibility as they can be traded in for any eternal, but at least on my server, eternal prices have absolutely collapsed while orb prices have remained steadier. If you want a price comparison, just look at the prices of primals from Outland over the last year or so and see how much they've gone up from where they were during BC.
That's the nice thing about Northrend, you don't need to stockpile 100 different things. Here's the Northrend buy list, in short form:
- Infinite dust
- Dream shards (if found very cheaply)
- Saronite ore (around vendor price)
- Cobalt ore
- Titanium ore
- Northrend herbs
- Borean leather
- Eternal fire, shadow, earth, life
- Frozen orbs (if found cheaper than the eternals)
Whew, that was a long article. That's it for now, and it's almost the weekend! I'm planning on using this weekend to organize everything I've stockpiled over the last couple of months and get ready for the actual launch. Over the weekend I plan to write about how to organize yourself to do your auctioning quickly and efficiently once Cataclysm is live so you can spend most of your time out enjoying the new content, as well as initial launch strategies for making gold.