economy within each individual World of Warcraft server is unique
and in a constant state of changing. Since the Wraith of the Lich King
expansion has been out for quite a long period of time the economy is
rather predictable, with changes happening slowly, if at all. This
relative calm is occasionally shaken up by the introduction of a new
patch, but for the most part things remain mostly the same. 
While we cannot predict precisely what changes the Cataclysm expansion
will bring looking at the effects of previous expansions can give us a
general idea of what to expect before and directly after the expansion

In the weeks and perhaps on even a smaller scale the months leading up
to the release of Cataclysm players can expect their once stable
economies to be thrown into chaos. The extent of the chaos cannot
really be guessed at and will not be truly revealed until it is upon
us. Based on past experiences with other expansions, and noting the
fact that Cataclysm will change the world unlike any other expansion
before it, I think it’s safe to say that every
server’s economy will be broken apart, rearranged, and leave
those not prepared for it more than a little dazed and confused.

What exactly does this mean for you the player then? It means that
things that normally sell well will be worthless, while things that
previously were worth next to nothing will be in high demand and sell
for record prices. To better keep up with the changes (some of which
are even happening now) players should keep a close eye on their local
Auction House and Trade Chat. Here you can easily observe changes in
prices first hand. If you see things selling for unusual prices, check
the items against what is currently known about Cataclysm (the PTR is
your friend here). This will help you decide if the unusual prices are
just a passing trend or a semi permanent change brought about by the
impending expansion

A good example of Cataclysm affecting prices can be seen right now even
though the expansion is months away. Frozen Orbs were once the bane of
every World of Warcraft player’s existence. Most players had
at least a stack collecting dust in their banks, because you
couldn’t even manage to give them way. Then Frozo the
Renowned was introduced and everything changed. Frozo will now take
those useless Frozen Orbs and let you purchase other more useful (and
sometimes hard to obtain) items. This change has made the price of
Frozen Orbs skyrocket with no end in sight. I think it’s safe
to say that as the expansion comes closer and closer the prices of
Frozen Orbs will continue to go up and up.

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The prices of other items will change just like the Frozen Orb,
becoming infinitely more useful with the coming of Cataclysm. It will
be impossible to predict exactly which items will take an upturn in
price and demand, but you can make an educated guess. Ask yourself what
we know about Cataclysm, and how it will affect the World of Warcraft
universe. For example, we know there is a new profession being
introduced, by stocking up on items that are likely to be used in the
leveling of this profession you can get a head start on preparing for
the new Cataclysm economy.

We also know that two new races will be available. It is likely that
more than a few players will want to create alts, or even new mains as
these races. So from this we can conclude that items and materials that
are useful in the leveling of new characters will be in high demand.
Cataclysm will also bring drastic changes to several zones such as the
Barrens, and Ashenvale. Sellable items only available in these zones
(such as vanity pets) have a good chance of no longer being obtainable,
making them far more valuable than ever before.

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the months leading
up to Cataclysm (you could even start now) you should make a clear plan
to clean out your inventory. Hoarding is a very bad idea, as many of
the items that are pricey now will become less valuable or completely
useless in Cataclysm. Sell these items before their prices drastically
fall, or they become so useless it would be better to sell them to the
nearest vendor. While it may seem like a good idea to hold out for the
price you expect, I would suggest you sell even if it’s not
the price you had hoped for before it’s too late. Taking a
slightly reduced price is far better than being stuck with a bank full
of junk.

The best example I can think of to demonstrate this is purple and blue
quality items from instances. Since it is likely that at least some of
the green gear in Cataclysm will easily replace the blue and even
perhaps purple items players currently have access to, the lack of
demand for these items will cause the prices to fall. This means that
these items, while once sought after and selling for 3000 gold each
will now be selling for perhaps less than half of that, if they even
sell at all. This trend has happened in past expansions, and I see no
reason for it not to repeat itself.

Drawing once again from experience with previous expansions I believe
that the economy after Cataclysm will be even more chaotic, with
changes in trends happening  basically overnight. Players who
have the time and ambition to push forward, level quickly and begin
collecting the new items and materials available will be able to sell
them at insane prices. As more and more players level up, the prices
will fall, with other items quickly taking their place. No one can say
really what these fast selling items will be, although reasonable
guesses would be instance items, new materials used for crafting, and
new vanity pets.  The economy will eventually settle down, but
it will take at least a few months to even out and once again we will
be lulled back into the relative calm we enjoy now.

So be prepared for anything, watch market trends, and don’t
hang onto items if they probably won’t hold their value and
you will be well on your way to becoming prepared for the new
unpredictable economy that Cataclysm will bring. Join us on our forums
to share your thoughts and preparation plans on the Cataclysm economy.

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Amunet, also fondly known as Memtron, is an organic life form best known for its ongoing obsession with Blizzard Entertainment's numerous properties. To that end, Amu has authored hundreds (thousands?) of the most popular World of Warcraft guides, editorials, and Top 10 lists on the planet. When not gaming and writing, Amu is busy chasing after her three children in a perpetual loop of ongoing disaster.