On Trading and Farming

The state of the economy on my era cluster, specifically on Horde side, continues to both fascinate and vex me. Except for a handful of highly sought-after items, it's very hard to sell anything on the auction house, but I just have this urge to keep trying. (And I have noticed that the odds seem to be a bit better on weekends.)

It's really crystallised for me that I just see the auction house in a very different light compared to most players, who tend to view it either as an easy way of making money (sellers) or as a convenient way of having anything and everything they could potentially need delivered to their mailbox (buyers). It's not that I don't benefit from those things too, but they are not what matters.

I have this vague memory of my first days in WoW, levelling my night elf in Teldrassil alongside a more experienced friend, and him saying something like: "Don't vendor those light feathers, priests and mages need those for a spell." Somehow this instilled in me the notion that any drop that could be useful to somebody else is valuable and it should be my goal to get it to them. It made me view the auction house as a kind of community trading post where people share the bounty of rare materials that the game has bestowed upon them, and exchange items that aren't easily accessible from a vendor.

It's not really something I had to think about in a while because there just hasn't been any room for that kind of thinking in Classic, because there were too many people on each server that knew all too well what's valuable or not and tried to make money from it. I'd often loot an item that I thought would be useful to somebody, just to check the AH and find that there were already dozens of listings there, so that there wasn't much point in adding my own unless it was a trade good that was in demand in high volumes.

But in era, with only a few hundred of us per faction, things are different. I'll keep re-listing that Breath of Wind if it kills me, because eventually someone will need one for a greater resistance enchant on their cloak, I just know it, and I'll be their unsung hero for saving them from having to go out and farm air elementals.

Because that's what you have to do when the auction house doesn't yield any desirable results and you can't or don't want to rely on the generosity of your guild: You have to go farm it yourself. This isn't necessarily hard, depending on the level of the mobs that drop what you need, but it can be pretty time-consuming.

I mentioned in a previous post that I got a Barb of the Sand Reaver from AQ40 - since this is the best two-handed weapon for hunters outside of Naxx, I wanted to get it enchanted. A quick check for the required materials revealed a bunch of max-level enchanting materials and four Essence of Air. The enchanting materials are a bit of a tricky one - I do have my low-level mage to disenchant all kinds of stuff so I could get most of them myself, but Large Brilliant Shards are a bit hard to get solo, so I might have to lean on the guild for those.

Essence of Air was an obvious thing to farm myself though, and after a quick check on Wowhead I was reminded that those only drop from the air elementals in Silithus. So I spent a few nights camped out there, doing the rounds around the area. I generally think that these elementals are terribly unsatisfying mobs to farm, because most of the time they don't drop anything at all, not even vendor trash, but even so there was something very Zen about the whole thing. People need Essence of Air for their enchants. The only way to get it is to kill air elementals, because there isn't any being sold by other players. By doing this job, I was generating value. It felt strangely satisfying.

It all made me feel very philosophical really, about how we have this weird love-hate relationship with virtual worlds in that on the one hand, we want to use them as escapism into a simpler society, but on the other hand constantly strive to make them more like the real world that we're trying to escape from. That whole "everyone is moving to mega-servers" phenomenon is a perfect example of this, because on the one hand we want to pretend to live in a kind of medieval society, but on the other we want to have a virtual equivalent of Amazon where we can have access to thousands of consumer goods at any time with the mere push of a button.

I'm not saying I've had some huge revelation that having a barely functional auction house is somehow preferable to having a healthy economy, but dealing with the complete opposite extreme of what "regular" Classic has become does kind of highlight for me what has been lost along the way and I'm actually finding it kind of charming. It might well still be a while until I get that polearm enchanted... but when it happens, it will be something that I earned through actual gameplay and it will be all the more meaningful for it.


  1. I don't quite know what to say, because I spent an afternoon delving into another aspect of the in-game economy, and all it did was depress me. You'll see what I mean soon enough.

    1. When gold is the answer to everything, people will do anything to get gold. Which is why era is such a nice contrast to me, with gold having limited use just because there is no guaranteed supply of everything that you can just buy.

  2. I've also quite enjoyed doing a bit of farming for unusual stuff! When the AH is abundant you don't often need to go out into the world to find things (or can't because of competition for good spots), whereas here you can organise a chill afternoon gathering stuff in places you wouldn't normally explore. I find myself forgoing asking others for the odd bits because I want to get a particular rare recipe for myself, or create my own supply of certain things.

    Large brilliant shards are always a bit of a sore point though D;

    1. When the AH is abundant you don't often need to go out into the world to find things (or can't because of competition for good spots), whereas here you can organise a chill afternoon gathering stuff in places you wouldn't normally explore.

      Honestly, I feel that summed up the core message of my post better than I did. Kudos! 😄

  3. Really nice post. I think being in a smaller community like Era makes us appreciate the scarceness of things just a little bit more.

    A smaller community also presents itself with a lot of opportunities for players since they can fill niches that might be tedious for other players like farming mats and reagents and generally become a market maker. Mega-servers, I believe, is just a little too crowded for these kind of things to happen (also bots).

    1. There's definitely a lot of room for aspiring farmers and craftsmen; the short auction timers and irregular demand just make it difficult to turn a profit without charging ridiculous prices. Still, I've started to keep certain items crafted and listed on the AH "just in case" - for example my engineer always has at least one gryochronatom listed since they are needed for a quest.