Spirits of Harmony

One of the most controversial topics in MoP beta right now is the introduction of Spirits of Harmony. It’s roughly equivalent to Frozen Orbs or Chaos Orbs of the previous expansions. However, Blizz threw in some twist:

  • It’s required in a lot more recipes of Pandaria professions, not just the high level ones as Chaos orbs and Frozen Orbs did.
  • It would drop not only from top level dungeons and heroics but also from the lower level mobs. Even according to Blizzard, it would drop more often in the leveling content than it would drop for raiders. For higher level content, mobs would drop motes of harmony or something, and you can combine 10 of them to form a spirit of harmony. Either way, you get less and less as you progress, unless you’re back to doing dailies and 5 mans.
  • It’s BoP. Fair enough, frozen orbs and chaos orbs were also BoP when they were first introduced, and made sellable several tiers later. However, chaos orbs and frozen orbs were only required for the high level recipes and they only dropped from top level dungeons.

The consequences of this design are thus:

  • Gone are the days of having an alt that’s leveled only for professions. We used to have an army of alts of every professions imaginable and use them to craft this consumable and that enchant. Since chaos orbs were used only to craft cutting-edge gear, it didn’t matter if my blacksmithing alt never hits level 85. As long as he can make shield spikes and belt sockets, he’s fine. As long as my enchanter can make the standard +50 rating enchants, she’s fine, no need for chaos orbs cuz she’s not making power torrent or anything. Right now, Spirits of Harmony are used in recipes even before 600 skill points. That is, no more crafting belt buckles unless that toon is well-leveled.
  • Gone are the days of ultra-geared character waiting in AH for LFR to pop while crafting. Almost all profitable recipes will require some amount of these spirits, and in order to do so, you have to go out and quest, or do 5 mans. In other words, you gotta FARM.
  • BoE gears will be more scarce (although not extraordinarily so) than they are today. The Imperial Silk (Pandaria equivalent of Dreamcloth) will be BoP as well, and they need spirits to make, so the character that wants to craft a BoE gear must first gather all the required spirits himself, and there’s a LOT of them needed.

Now I don’t know if they would change their decision, if this design is intentional, or even if it would make it to live with these settings, but assuming that it is intentional, I don’t understand their design decision. Here are some of my best guesses:

  • Blizz wants people to get out to the world more, and hang out in SW / OG less. They’ve said it again and again they’re doing everything they can to get people into the world, including awarding VP for dailies, Farmville: WoW edition, Pet Battles, removing guild summon perks, adding AHs and Banks in Pandaria. This would just be yet another attractive force to go out and repulsive force to hang out in the cities. But they seem to forget a few things:
    • Once you reach a certain point, raids ARE the only way to progress further. Now this is debatable of course, because arguably you can progress further by gaining more reputations and gold and what not. But if MY enjoyment comes from raids, I shouldn’t be punished for doing so. In the past, WoW has always been a raid-oriented game, and Blizz is trying to shy away from that by offering alternative means of character progression. However, there’s a danger that they’re over-correcting themselves. If anything, they do have a history of over-correcting themselves. Just look at BC-WotLK-Cata progression.
    • You might say, punished? How so? Well, raiders gotta eat too you know? If consumables and enchants become so expensive that they can’t afford it because they can’t support themselves due to rarity of Spirits in their content, then I consider them being punished for running the content they love to run because they want to enjoy the game the way they want to enjoy it.
    • There’s a faint but dangerous similarity between this design and the Vanilla days where we had to farm air elementals in Silithus just to get Essence of Air required for potions and flasks. This problem is exacerbated by making Spirits BoP, so even if say the guild is willing to fund each raider 1k gold per week to buy consumables, they’ll have to pay AH price. They can’t pay the “material cost” and craft them themselves.
  • Blizz wants to combat the economic disparity that has plagued basically every servers in the game. There’s an adage that says 90% gold in a server is owned by 1% of the population, and I don’t think it’s that far-fetched. Blizz obviously knows the exact statistics and they recognized this as a problem. How did they get there? Well let’s see…. There are several popular methods of amassing gold by playing the AH, but they can be divided into a few basic categories:
    • Buy low sell high / market timing. They’re just playing commodities like they would a stock market. This is not gonna be countered by anything obviously, Spirits or no Spirits, BoP or sellable. As long as there’s a time-dependent fluctuation of supply and demand, arbitrageurs are going to be there.
    • Buy popular items for cheap or sell beautiful transmog gears for a high price. This is a variation of buy low sell high method. In the end, it’s solely driven by and manipulating market forces.
    • Crafting. If I’m understanding the gold-making blogs correctly, this method accounts for a large majority of rich people’s income. What they’d do is do nothing but buy a large amount (hundreds of stacks) of clothes and volatiles, craft a large amount of gears, and sell. Of course the gear is not all the same. Part of what makes them really successful is their ability to know what’s in demand, and controlling supply by not posting everything all at once. A few of these crafters can easily account for 70% of item movements in the AH. (Warning: a statistic pulled out of my butt). Either way, these people don’t simply craft 10 gears and call it a night. They craft hundreds, but only post 10 of them (1 of each gear), and move on to the next profession on another alt. How else can you amass hundreds of Ks per month? This type of gold-making is the one that’s going to be severely impacted by Spirit of Harmony’s bindability (bopability, bopness?) If you want to craft anything remotely profitable, you gotta farm. Not farm ALL of the mats, but farm some. That puts a limit on how much volume a tailor / leatherworker / blacksmith / enchanter / scribe / (what else?) can churn per hour.

So this is my guess as to what’s going to happen a few weeks into MoP after the dust settles and the market balances itself out:

  • Inflation is going to happen, but not as rampant, thanks to black market AH. Gold will be distributed more equally among players (see #2 above).
  • All materials (leather, clothes, ores) are going to be dirt cheap, thanks to the lack of demand since the production line is held up by scarcity of Spirits.
  • BoE gear is going to be expensive, which is fine. Right now it feels wrong that my rogue hits 85 and can do LFR in a few minutes if I wanted to, as long as I’m willing to spend 20k for it. Expensive BoE is going to make sure you learn your class and get a chance to play with your new spells and talents before you step foot to LFR.
  • Consumables are going to be expensive. I’m not sure I’m okay with this. Expect to see a lot more people in LFD and LFR ungemmed and unenchanted, or suboptimally gemmed / enchanted. Raids will have to make do without flasks, unless you’re doing progression content.

All of those are speculations of course. Who knows, maybe Blizz will up the drop rate of Spirits significantly that it doesn’t change supply and demand in a big way, but simply curbing the large-scale crafters a little bit. Sucks to be them, but cest la vie.

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Progress: ding druid 85, inscription

My feral druid dinged 85 and after a few runs of heroics, completing this and that quest lines, buying JP gears, he is at gear level 349 now. I can’t wait until he hits 353 and can start running the new heroics. But for the time being, the zuls it is.

On the other news, my DK hits 525 inscription. Forged documents continue to be an easy gold maker (averaged around 15g profit every time). It’s not big money but you can’t argue with free.

Also, mysterious fortune cards continue to sell, albeit with a very thin profit. Maybe 2g per card if my calculations are correct. This is expected, as raiding dwindles down in this stage of the expansion, so does the main contributor of MFC’s demand: buff food that uses MFC as its main ingredient. Currently the profitability of MFC only hinges on the fact that blackfallow ink continues to be cheap, mostly because herbs are cheap as farmers try to unload the rest of their inventory. Those herbs are going to lose their main relevance in the next expansion.