Ever since we got Cataclysm, there isn't a week where I don't see someone in Trade asking about how it works, and even the people who seem to know how it works don't even know the half of it.
However, I've listened today to a (very good) podcast where the hosts were explaining that they didn't need to know everything about it to be able to make money off of it.
While that is indeed true, it gives me the added opportunity to shake my WoW Veteran Walking Stick® at the youngins who don't do their homework. (Just kidding guys : your show is awesome!)
Let's get to it, shall we ?
There are two ways currently to make money with Archeology.
You can get the Vial of the Sands recipe on an alchemist and craft and sell the Vial of the Sands mount, of course.
If you didn't know that by now, you haven't been paying attention to the game you're playing.
The second way to make gold is to sell Keystones.
This is not the Keystone you are looking for...
You don't know what they're used for ?
See, in Archeology you go around digging the digsites to collect Fragments to make the items.
You need a certain number of Fragments to create the items.
The specific number varies depending of the quality of the item that you are gathering Fragments for.
Keystones are something extra that you have a chance to loot as something extra as you're picking up Fragments.
Keystones are worth 12 fragments each.
Here's a list of all Archeology items that you can create.
There's a column for Fragments and one for Keystones.
You can notice that not all items have a slot for a Keystone.
As you move higher in the number of Fragments required, you notice that the number of Keystones goes up to 2, and then 3 for Rare and Epic items.
The in-game Archeology UI will show slots at the bottom of the item and you can stick those Keystones in to give a boost to your item completion.
This Grail Tablet could use a Keystone right there
Now I don't want to bore you with all this stuff, but keep following because this part is also important.
People want to get stuff done.
People are impatient in-game.
People don't like flying around to all those dig sites.
People don't want to hit just one more digsite that will give them about 12 Fragments.
They'd rather get a Keystone and be done with it.
Some people will see a slot for a Keystone and will automatically look for one to put in.
They don't have to - in fact it's generally recommended to hold on to your Keystones until you get an Epic item in the works or an item that has 2 slots.
But people will buy the Keystones.
Keystones = Time-savers.
Now this can be out of laziness (it generally is - my opinion) or sometimes in outright frustration at the Archeology system.
More specifically the RNG in Archeology that will randomly choose what's going to be the next item you're going to be working on for which race.
The RNG that will determine which digsites on the continent will be the next ones available for you.
Ask anyone who's done Archeology and tried to get Zin'rokh, Destroyer of Worlds or the Vial of the Sands recipe or any Tol'vir artifact.
Patient people will sometimes be tested with the Archeology system and will throw their hands up and yell "That's it! I give up!", and then go to the Auction House to buy a few Keystones to ease their pain and complete some items to make the RNG slot machine go faster and get it to generate their lucky number.
-Blizzard's plan to turn kids into mindless diggers
-RNG is the heart of the problem
-That's one way of easing the pain...
And then you will be there.
You'll be the smart person who's had a lot of patience, because any good gold-maker knows the value of patience.
You've been going through the digsites on your main or an alt when you had nothing to do and you've been keeping all your Keystones.
And you will be handing them out to people.
For a price.
LEGO that Keystone!
Oh and I almost forgot.
Keystones are also used in Cataclysm dungeons.
At the beginning of the dungeons, there will be an altar, a tablet, a thingy that will seem to be giving a daily quest.
Only high-level archeology characters will be able to see the exclamation marks in the dungeons.
If one person of the party turns in a Keystone, the whole group gets a special buff that lasts throughout the completion of the dungeon.
Sometimes it's extra damage, or extra speed...
The buffs are tailored by Blizzard to fit the dungeon, and it can give an edge to a party.
Not anything critically important for the dungeon, but some people might be interested to turn in some Keystones for that reason.
For a gold-maker, Keystones are like little solid gold bars.
Plonk 'em in the AH - you might have to repost a few times - and many a time you'll find that you're the only one selling a certain type.
Check The Undermine Journal to see how far people are willing to go and set your price.
That's the fun of this market - you can set YOUR price, because no one is going to go through all this time and all this flying to make gold.
Doing that has been deemed "not profitable" by the GoldPerHour-rabid crowd in this Cataclysm era of Auction House-based farming.
The only ones you are likely to see on the AH are from people that are leveling the profession, if they are not using the keystones.
I don't think I've heard so far of anyone who's gone through digsites just to sell the Keystones.
Maybe it's because you have to get past the rats...
Another fun thing is that there will always be a demand.
Archeology is still in the backlog of a lot of players - just something they'll only work on when there's nothing left to do.
I can bet you that there's going to be a lot more competition in the last lap months before the next expansion, because that's what people do during that time: they go through their checklist of things they haven't got around to do during that expansion, in order to leave it behind when the next one comes.
But then again, keep in mind that we don't know about Blizzard's plans on what they're going to do with this profession.
It's still just only seeing the light of day.
Like all things from Blizzard, it will mutate and evolve.
We know we have dailies to expect in a future patch, but we don't know if or how they are going to change the profession.
Are they going to make the dailies work around the profession or are they going to change the way the profession works with how the dailies are working ?
So should you get on board with this ?
My answer: I'd say yes, but with a warning.
Right now the sky's the limit because Offer is limited and Demand is there, but it's not steady enough to guarantee a non-stop stream of revenue.
You can be sure that some of the current buyers will be hardcore completionists.
But what if Blizzard gives a reason to get even the stupidest of casual players to start working on Archeology, and they start picking up Keystones and then begin the downward spiral of undercutting until the AH profits are dead ?
If that's a possible scenario, I'd rather get that Keystone money right now.
Being a lore buff, I really like Archeology and I am interested to see what they'll do with it.
As a gold-maker, I like it so far. (Cha-ching!)