Case Study: Earning Gold on Your New Character (part 1)

As an Alliance only player on my main server I needed a Horde toon to use cross faction sales in the neutral AH, and to farm some Horde only pets. As a service to the community (and me too, as I was curious), I wanted to try out some "new player tips" for earning gold and report the (surprising) results. 

New players often lament not having enough gold to buy what they need. They sometimes beg in trade chat. We all know how obnoxious that can be. I strongly suspect that pressures for gold lead some players to resort to ninja tactics to get upgrades or to "help themselves" to items in the guild bank. I also theorize that many new players never learn the basics on how to earn gold and remain handicapped for the whole time they play the game, and either quit or become super ninjas that no one wants in their guild or PUG.

Here is my very recent experience with detailed steps to follow if you wan to replicate my strategy.

Day 1

My new Blood Elf Hunter began in the starting area of Sunstrider Isle and proceeded to do all the starting quests. From level 1 to level 10 took a total of 3 hours 9 minutes. ((many props to ReadySetDing v0.76 for this information)). 

When I hit L10 I had a whopping 45s 71c to my name. I had not trained any professions. I didn't leave Sunstrider Isle so had not been to the Auction House. I did buy a white bow from one of the vendors, but other than that, just sold all my whites and greys to the local vendors. I also had my starting backpack and two 4 slot bags and one 6 slot bag from random drops and quest rewards.

I suspect most starting players have a similar experience. 

I equipped the cloth or leather gear that was better than my starting gear and vendored the rest. I did receive one BoE drop, a Gypsy Buckler of Stamina, which I wanted to list in the AH. Since I had to leave Sunstrider Isle for Eversong Woods anyway I made it a point to get to the AH in Silvermoon City before I did anything else. I listed the shield for 3g even, and left to do other quests.

Oh, and as I ran through the city I scanned trade chat for any ads for guild sigs but there were none--it was Wednesday night after all. Not prime recruitment time. And I also trained fishing, first aid and cooking, and bought a fishing pole. I was now officially very broke. I had about 10s left over.

Back to questing.

It took me another 90 minutes or so to get to L13. My only purchases were for training new hunter skills and repairs. I vendored all my whites and greys, used all my linen to train first aid until linen was green, fished for a bit, and cooked any recipes I had materials for. 

As an aside, it doesn't look like Blizzard updated the starting level cooking recipes for TBC. Besides the bread, all the other starting recipes required meat from mobs that don't exist in the area. Boar meat and wolf meat are farmed in Silverpine Forest, not Eversong Woods. So I had a few stacks of Lynx meat that I couldn't use--stored safely in my bank, tyvm. 

At this point I decided to log another character. When I returned I had mail from the AH. My Gypsy Buckler had sold! Now I had 3g 66s!! I'm rich!!!

Tip: This is the point at which my play most severely diverged from most starting players. Instead of buying some cheap gear upgrades, I bought the best bag I could find for my 4th (empty) bag slot, a nice 6 slot Small Black Pouch for 3s 75c. I then scanned the AH for cheap deals that I could flip. Here's what I found:
  • 1 Mote of Mana for 12s 43c
  • 4 Silver Bar for 2s 92c ea (8s 78c total)
  • 1 Tigerseye for 5s
I bought them all.  Lol, all 3 auctions.

I had trained skinning on my way to the AH, and figured herbalism was better for making gold now that glyphs are selling so well. All the mats are selling great too. Off to the herbalism trainer I went.

Since my bags were full of whites and greys, I turned to the herbalism vendor to empty my trash from my bags, and what did I find? She was selling 2 Mageroyal, 2 Earthroot and 1 Peacebloom for 8c to 13c. I bought them all and quickly hustled back to the AH.

I listed all my new purchases at market value. I didn't undercut anyone though there were some stupid high prices for the herbs, 250% and higher. I left the city and went back to questing. 

Since all the mobs in the Ghostlands were too high for me to skin I stayed near Silvermoon City and killed a ton of Crazed Dragonhawks and Springpaw Stalkers to advance my skinning. When I saw the fantastic drop rates of Small Eggs from the Dragonhawks, I eschewed the cats altogether. 

Tip: Know the value of items you find when questing. These eggs will likely have great value during Pilgrim's Bounty and Winter Veil for the quest recipes that have to be completed. Last year they were selling for 2.5g each during the first couple days of each event. I now have 65 eggs in the bank. 

Once my skinning was of sufficient level for the Ghostlands I made one more trip to the AH to post my new leather scraps and light leather. Then, back to questing.

After another hour I was done for the night and logged off after dinging L15. 

Gold on hand at log off: 2g 28s. Auctions in AH: 10.

Day 2

Imagine my surprise when I logged in and saw that all of my auctions had sold! Total gold earned was 15g 72s, for an investment of 40s (or thereabouts) and the time spent farming the leather. That brought my gold total to over 18g after one day of playing!

Again, my next decision is one that many new players would not make--avoiding the purchase of new gear (though I did bid on a gun, but it was really cheap, 5s I think), I purchased two Journeyman's Backpacks and got rid of my two smallest bags. 

Tip: Bag space is as good as gold. Total cost was just over 3g for the pair of backpacks--an excellent deal. It was so good that I considered flipping but finally decided in favor of utility. The more you can carry, the less time you waste traveling back to sell off stuff, so the more you can earn for your time invested. When experienced players start new toons one of the first things they do is get them Frostweave bags, or Netherweave bags--for this exact reason.

Tip: My strategy for flipping at this level is simple: risk only 50% of my total gold and only on very sure flips. I don't want to have to turn an auction twice, and I only want to buy and sell items for which there is certain demand and little supply at the time.

So, I reinvested about 7g in some undervalued Crystallized Life, Medium Leather, Bronze Bars, and a Primal Life. All of these were re-listed for significant markups but only up to market value--no undercutting. I also listed the additional leather scraps and light leather I had gathered, along with the herbs from the herb vendor (again) and ones I had picked the day before.

Back to questing. 

It then took me over 5 hours to get from L15 to L18 for a few reasons. I made three trips back and forth to the AH to list BoE greens that had dropped and to train my professions; the quests are all over the map and running  (instead of riding) from place to place just plain SUCKS; and I got distracted by a L80 Shaman who invited me to his guild after randomly just offering to help with Wanted: Knucklerot and Luzran .

The AH results so far are very good. I have netted another 26g on an investment of 7g, and still have 18 active auctions for BoE green drops, some leather I skinned, herbs I picked, and Crystallized Life that I am flipping. Total value of current active auctions is 34g. 

And I have 33g 22s in my pocket.

Lessons Learned

What trends do we see, and what lessons can you learn from this example so far?

  • Buying low level gear on the AH is a waste. I have purchased no gear from the AH for this character and leveled to 18 in just over 12 hours. I am clad in a mish mash of greens and whites. Slots with greens are cloak, bracer, gloves, legs and feet. I have cloth boots because they had a +3 agility boost. My sword and bow are both green but I have white chest and belt. Oh, and thanks to the benevolence of my new Shaman friend I have a nice ring. I have died a few times but the cost of new AH gear isn't worth the return.
  • Get two gathering professions. The ore, herbs or leather you get as you level those professions will sell in the AH. There isn't really a down side since you need to kill the mobs anyway for quests or experience. Even if you only make 50s per stack in profit you will gather a few stacks, which translates into several gold.
  • Flip for profit. There are always deals in the AH that are undervalued. Using Auctioneer or another AH addon you should be able to identify which products are there for the grabbing at bargain basement prices that you can flip for big profits. 
  • Know your limits, and stay within them. If you only have 20g to your name, why would you want to buy an 18g item to flip? You tie up all your working capital in an item that may take 3 or more days to sell. Why handicap yourself? My rule is 50% investment limit when under 100g capital. I then get less risk tolerant as my total gold goes up--in other words, between 100g and 500g, I will only risk 40%, between 500g and 1000g its 25% and over 1000g my limit is 10%. And if at any point I have two days in a row where I lose money in the AH, I stop buying until I recover my losses.
  • Avoid weapons and armor, and gravitate towards trade goods--cloth, ore and leather are best, and elemental is close behind. You may find lower margins, but if you are making 1g per stack and selling 25 stacks of something a day, I think that is more stable than selling one stack at 25g that may not sell for a day or two. If someone undercuts your 25g sale by a copper you may not sell it today. But there are so many people buying trade goods that even if you are slightly more expensive than others in the market you will most likely still sell.
I hope you find this information useful. Feel free to comment on what you think would work for you or that you tried and didn't find to be a good strategy. If you have suggestions you want me to try on this toon, let me know.

Part 2 is coming tomorrow.

Till then, For the Horde! lol