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Monday, February 3, 2014

Points of Power #1: Inventory

For years, I have maintained that the most powerful force in the World of Warcraft is Inventory.  Today, I'm going to talk about why that is, and how it works.  Inventory refers to the amount of end goods you keep in stock to sell.  It is not materials for those end goods; it is the end goods themselves.  I'll talk more about materials in future posts in this series.  In fact, most all of the posts in this series will be closely inter-related.

Inventory allows you to save time.  And time - is money.  At the most fundamental level, if you post an item for sale - let's say Moss Agate because I like to pick on that little gem - that gets undercut, your next move is generally to undercut the lowest auction yourself.  Now, if you have extra Moss Agates sitting in your bags, then this is straightforward - you hit the AH and post it.  But if most or all of your MAs are sitting on the AH, then you've to cancel those that have been undercut, loot them from the mail, and THEN you can post them on the AH.

That sounds straightforward enough - and it is.  Plenty of gold makers, rich and not-so-rich do it everyday.  But it takes time.  There are addons that help with this, but imagine you're dealing with a more large-scale business like glyphs - with 444 separate items to track, post, cancel, loot from mail, and repost.  That adds up to a lot of time.

I'm gonna pick on some goldmakers for a bit - don't worry I still love you all :)  But there are folks who post glyphs and think they're quite clever because they can make every glyph and post them all from a single toon.  You might ask - how can a single toon handle 444 different items in terms of inventory?  Well, they only make as many as they're going to post and then post them to clear bag space.  Which is fine, but what happens when they get undercut?

They'd have to run a full cancel scan, loot the mailbox in waves of ~144 (or however many glyphs their bags can hold), and then post each wave until they're finished with all their glyphs.  It's three waves (a little more, but I'm being generous) for those of you doing the math.  Their own logistics creates more work for them.  The sanitized, military term for this is "stepping on your meat".  It's not the best way to about things.

Now, I like to use glyphs because they're an eccentric, yet accessible example of a lot of the points of power, which extend quite nicely to other markets.  But let's imagine a goblin who keeps Five of each glyph he makes in Inventory competing against the person that keeps all his inventory posted (call it 1 of each glyph).  So 5-dude posts, then gets undercut by 1-dude.  5-dude comes back, runs another post scan later in the day, and undercuts 1-dude.  1-dude now has to take 10 minutes to undercut, compared to 5-dude's three.  And that's fantastic - because 5-dude can do this three more times before he even has to loot his mailbox.

Counting 3 minutes per post cycle and 10 minutes for that worst-case undercut of 1-dude, the 1-dude spends 43 minutes a day doing what 5-dude does in 15 minutes.  Now are those numbers precise?  I don't know.  I haven't taken a stopwatch to different types of glyphing ops.  But it sounds about right.  I can tell you one thing - 1-dude is gonna have a hard time reposting while the raid takes its 10-minute break.  You see, in glyphs, and in many markets, an edge of a single minute can accumulate hours saved in a week or month.  That doesn't mean you need to be all Speed Racer as you go through your routine - enjoy it and have fun, but stepping on your meat usually isn't part of that fun.

But we're not done here.  Inventory goes beyond just being able to skip cancelling to repost.  It also keeps you from having to loot your mail so often.  This is key in large, stackable markets - like glyphs.  Let's say you have a toon with a 5-stock of 140 glyphs that posts in singles 4x a day on 12-hour auctions.  That's 560 auctions / day.  I'd bet 500+ of those expire, too.

Looting mail can be a pain in the butt.  Especially when we're talking about that much of it.  You can only see 50 mails at a time, and the mailbox only refreshes itself once per minute.  Some folks will force a /reload of their ui to get around this 60-second refresh timer on the mail, but that requires you to be there at the keyboard babysitting your mail looting.  And unless your computer is fairly powerful, you may not be able to loot 50 mails and reload your ui in less than a minute, anyway.

Now, if you've a mailbox addon like Postal or TSM_Mailing, these will open all your mail, loot all 50, wait for the mailbox refresh and then resume looting the next 50, until your mailbox is done.  Our dude is still waiting ~10 minutes for his mail to full empty / loot.  But now he can walk away and have a sandwich or clean the kitchen or check the steaks on the grill outside while that happens.

One of the things that's important to keep track of as a goldmaker is your available afk / semi-afk cycles.  I'll talk more about that in a future post.  But Inventory's advantages don't stop at just skipping cancelling and consolidated, afk-able mail looting - there's more!  Inventory also keeps you from having to recraft so often.

This may not sound like much - after all, there are addons that help with that, right?  Well, of course, but even recrafting with addons takes time.  Why do we recraft at all?  So that we have inventory to post - because if you don't have anything to post, you won't have a chance to make a sale.  Recrafting is what restocks our inventory.  Let's use another glyph example: suppose we've a lady that keeps a 15-stock of all the glyphs she sells.

15-lady posts 3 times a day in singles.  At this level of inventory, she can post for 5 days straight without ever even having to loot her mail.  By the same math, she could sell out of an item every time she posted and not run out.  But that rarely happens.  Let's say that she does really well, though, with her bestselling glyph and sells 13 a week.  What this allows her to do is recraft her glyphs only once a week, since she doesn't really run a risk of running out of inventory.  Compare that to someone who has to manage inks and recrafting 2,3, even 5 times a week.  You can save lot of time by effectively consolidating the frequency at which you need to recraft, just by having more inventory.

What's more is that, if you use the add-on TradeSkillMaster (which is what i use for glyphs), then you can save yourself even more time.  TSM has a minimum restock quantity feature that helps me a lot.  By default this is set to 1, but I keep an 18 stock of glyphs (I do not recommend going over a full stack of inventory for glyphs because the logistics break down very quickly).  So if I sell 1 or 2 of a glyph over a week, I really don't need to make 1 or 2 more to get me through the next week.  If I set this minimum restock quantity to 5, then TSM will only queue up that glyph when I'm down to 13 in inventory - which means it takes ~3 weeks before it queues.  This saves me some time and energy while I'm crafting.  Because crafting goes faster the fewer clicks I have to make.  Extrapolate that across a potential 444 glyphs and I'm saving a solid handful of minutes every week like this.

What all of this boils down to is wielding a bigger stock than your competition.  By making your logistics efficient, and spending less time than your competition on your AH routine, you're better equipped to outlast them.  In many markets, dealing with competitors can be a matter of attrition - this is no more true in any other market than glyphs, but it also applies in gems, scrolls, and other markets.  Inventory frees up your time to do other things - level alts, expand into more professions, post more often, or just play other parts of the game.

Hope that sinks in.  I'm not trying to bash on anyone for being sub-optimal here - I just want to show you guys the goldmaking tips that the pros use.  Hope enjoyed the first entry of the series and stick around for the rest!


  1. There are pros and cons to every method. To make a stack of every glyph in the game is in many cases results in a lot of wasted time and mats. To narrow your focus to just some is another option. To make a few of every glyph and update periodically I find is definitely easier. Most of this depends on server, cancel/repost , competition.

    I dont think there is any truly right way to do it but there are some that will work better in some scenarios. I have always found it easier to determine what time of the market do you want and then deal with that. For me it was always late night market was my focus. Rare to be undercut for me and little time posting.

    As to materials vs finished product....I definitely do not follow your method. Why? In general most prices start high at the start of an expansion and continue to decline. I have never been on a high pop server so to sell say 20 glyphs at the start of an expansion just may not happen. Change the item to something that starts out with a high mat cost which declines every week with a declining selling price. Think of early dancing steel prices vs current prices.

    I advise to be ready to react to situations in the market and dont let the market dictate your actions. I prefer to control mine by controlling my buying price and leaving items in the form of mats.

    1. I don't make every glyph in the game, myself. I don't craft Trainer-taught glyphs. I was the guy that mainstreamed the theory that glyphs are more profitable the harder they are to learn. I didn't start the idea - I just proved it with the data across several servers.

      For glyphs, there is a better way to do it, though, and this post touches on some of the points involved in that. An 18 stock of even the remaining 273 glyphs is gonna run you about 74k in inventory at 5g / ink. The level of competition and demand on your server will impact just how much time you can save, but not whether there will be a time savings.

      I generally don't overstock on things when they're new. My philosophy on Goldmaking changes when new stuff comes out. It becomes "Speed Kills". Because, you're right - you don't want to stock more than you can move in a market that's in decline.

      Right now, markets are pretty stable - and glyphs tend to stay stable even throughout new content - at the very least, there's no freefall of glyph prices relative to ink costs - not without folks buggering the market with stupidly low walls.

      But, as the Buddha would say, "moderation in all things" - you're right - you don't want to overdo it in some situations - mainly markets in decline :)

  2. Man... Im the live example of this... I used to have 18 glyphs of each... and live well as you said...
    Now.. I only have 5-8 and it makes you lose some time... why I have that much 'cause I left the game and got my stock vanished on the email (dumb, I know) ...
    The point is... Youre describing the perfect camping, at least in glyphs/jc... look.. 1 toon.. can handle all the glyphs/many many cuts.. and if you have some nifty macros you can post all in less than 3 minutes.. then.. once your "post" is fresh.. you go, get to your expired / cancelled glyphs... loot 3 4 times.. go back AH.. repost (some may not need, but youre still on top for the UCs).. keep looting the expired.. and voila.. you dont loose time.. and you keep on top.. selling
    Thats having 15+ glyphs or +10JC cuts..
    On glyphs with 5, as Im now.. Im not efficient.. but, having 15+ you may think.. a lot in invest.. well.. build the inventory... youll see the profit :)
    this post says it.. build the inventory... have some logic... time to get some cash!

    1. Hah - I lost about 40k+ inks in mail at MoP launch when I let the sub lapse on my 2nd acct. I feel your pain :) On top of that, I've a full 18 stock stranded on each of 2 different servers now. I had to start from nada on Aerie Peak and slowly build up to 18 - just got there this past weekend.

      Glad you enjoyed the post!

  3. Great post. I am still new to gold-making, but I have tried to keep my gem counts up as well, as I've noticed cancelling takes a ton and has costs me too much time. Good tip on the min restock quantity, I'll need to mess with that as well.

    1. Gems can be tough to keep up with - even as you push inventory - don't get too caught up in all or nothing - if you can go just 2 post cycles without having to cancel, that's still saving you time :)

  4. As we approach the end of the expac, I am sure there are SOME items that you are reducing stock on, aren't there? I know glyphs may continue to be a good seller in WoD, but do you think 450 ilevel PVP gear, or MoP gems are gonna be hot ticket items in the last few months of MoP?

    1. Oh sure - it's a risk / reward thing. To be honest, this principle applies less to items that don't stack - stuff like gear needs to be careful not to overflow bag slots. But yeah, 450 PvP gear, I wouldn't stock up on. Gems I don't usually pre-cut more than a stack of, and I don't usually have more than maybe 10 extra stacks of any one rare gem sitting around.

      For some of that stuff, you have to weigh the time-savings from increasing your inventory against the risk that you'll be stuck not being able to sell it or that it will sell for less than mats cost. And definitely be sure not to run out of stock and miss out on sales because of that. At the end of an xpac like this, we're in a pretty stable market cycle - so we have a pretty good idea of what's selling for a profit on our servers. So, those markets are sure bets - I wouldn't stock more than a month's volume in inventory, personally.

      And here's why - I figure Blizz will give us two months' notice on WoD's launch date. SO over those two months, I should have plenty opportunity to de-leverage any inventory at risk so long as that inventory is only one month's supply.

      Most people slowly ramp up their inventory as they get a better feel for a market, so they should have a decent understanding of how much volume they can reasonably move before they suddenly find themselves with something like 4 months' supply.

      I guess I'm not known for my tl;dr's, lol - Hope that explains a little more about your question.

  5. A glyph poster can only have 160 unique glyphs in inventory at any one time. Which means they're only in ~36% of the glyph market, or spending time running back and forth from the auction house to the bank swapping out bags.

    That's the downside of maintaining a larger inventory. One might save time by not cancelling, but how much more time are you spending by swapping bags and changing characters because you don't have the space to run multiple professions from a single character?

    1. The only scenario where this question really makes sense is if you're posting your full glyph inventory on the AH.

      I use 2 toons, myself. Most folks use 2-3. The time to log from one character to the next is about 1 minute for me - which is about the time it'd take you to loot any more than 100 cancelled auctions from your mail.

      My way is definitely faster, and so there is no downside. Swapping glyphs with a bank is easily done with addons like dumpster or TSM_Warehousing - if that's the route you'd like to go. I can swap 144 for another 144 in 5-7 seconds. I don't have to cancel; I don't have to loot them from the mailbox.

      Logistics around a larger inventory can be arranged around it with some very extreme efficiencies.

    2. BankStack is awesome.

      #AddonRivalries #TeamBankStack

      I use TSM_Warehousing for everything but glyphs.

      I also use BankStack to sort my bags because OCD.

  6. I post one of every glyph in the AH all the time so all my inventory is either in the AH or sitting in ink in my bank. I have the biggest Inscrip bags. When undercut I cancel all auctions and then make 3-4 trips to the mail box to retreive and repost. I then swap out a bag for one with inks and make glyphs of anything I sold and repost. Its not complicated and takes like 10-15 min depending on how many new glyphs need to be made.

  7. Sounds like you've a reliable system for handling all that. I was a bit hard on this type of posting, but I still think there's a lot of time that's lost if you're posting glyphs more than once a day. I think the inconvenience of recrafting that often is a pain, but it will vary with how many and how fast your glyphs sell.