Fluxdada has a great post up over at his blog, PowerWord:Gold, on the classic Obsidium Shuffle and whether it's "Heating up, or Winding Down?" First off, if you my read blog, but not his, shame on you. Go read it now, he's got some really great stuff up there.
His post on the shuffle really got me thinking, so I wanted to do a bit of an "extended commentary" with my thoughts on the matter. On most servers, bots are back in full force and are driving the prices down on ore like never before. It used to be that seeing a stack of Obsidium below the 54g "floor price" was cause for celebration, and I'd snatch it up without hesitating. Now, it's getting hard to find Obsidium above the floor price! You'd think this would be even better, but as Fluxdada points out, the regular shuffle isn't as profitable as it once was. Dust prices are dropping like a rock too, meaning disenchanting Jasper Rings or Alicite Pendants will actually lose you money compared to what you'd get just vendoring the cuts. Transmuting isn't always worth it either, as many Rare quality gems can be bought on the AH for less than 27g (what you'd make cutting and vendoring three of the Green quality gems, and that's not including the varying price of herbs). Even the daily doesn't seem to bring solace (for me at least), as so many people have caught on to this strategy and there's so many of the gems that the competition is absurd. I used to be able to go through stacks on the dailies for absurd mark-ups, but now I'm lucky to sell ten at seemingly normal posts. Just for a quick comparison, go read my post I linked above (the Obsidium Shuffle one) that I wrote when the shuffle was at it's heyday, and compare that to what's going on on your server right now. If you're lucky, that post is still relevant. But I'm willing to bet that it's completely off the mark now.
So what option do we have now, if shuffling just isn't worth it? Well, there's always the fall-back of vendoring! But, is that really such a great option? To quote Fluxdada, "while this may bring in SOME profit it is an incredibly laborious process and I may have to start evaluating if the time spent is worth the profit gained." And he's quite right. Last night, I saw about 240 stacks of obsidium ore at 40g a stack. Some quick math puts me at about 3, 360g profit if I just prospect, cut and vendor (54g "floor" - 40g/stack = 14g profit/stack X 240 stacks, ignoring Rare quality gems). 3k profit is nothing to shrug off, but will the time commitment really be worth it? Prospecting has a 2 second cast time, so adding in an extra second for "looting" and reaction time I'd say it takes about 3s to do one full prospect. Since you can prospect four times per stack, that comes out to 12s to prospect an entire stack. That doesn't seem too bad, but let's do that for 240 stacks. Now that's going to take 2,880 seconds, or FOURTY-EIGHT MINUTES! Ok, well, 48min for over 3k gold doesn't seem too bad, does it? Well, we still haven't cut or vendored anything! Cutting a gem takes 3s and you can AFK this, only returning when your bags are full. But, after all that prospecting you now have 6 X 240 gems, for a grand total of 1,440 gems that still need to be cut and vendored. How long is this going to take? 1,440 gems X 3s per cut / 60s in a minute, or an additional 72 minutes! Though a decent amount of this can be done AFK, you still have to baby it and come back when your bags are full. And this doesn't include the time it takes to actually vendor everything! I use an auto-vendor addon for this, and even then it can take it a few seconds to vendor a bag full of cut gems. So right now we're looking at 112 minutes purely devoted to prospecting and cutting. I'd say adding an extra 8min for miscellaneous time-sinks (retrieving the ore, storing the gems, actually selling them, etc.) is reasonable, so we're now looking at 2 whole hours devoted to this process.
Although that still comes out to a respectable 1,680g / hr, at this point what we're doing isn't that much different from farming! The whole point of playing the AH game (at least to me), is that we can make this much gold with just a fraction of the time and effort invested! Just as it is with farming, the problem is if you're doing this one thing, you're not doing something else! The harshness is somewhat mitigated by the semi-AFK factor (I'll usually blindly mash my prospecting macro while reading cases for class), but this is still a rather substantial amount of time sunk in to the shuffle.
So is it worth it? For me, not so much in all honestly. Even if I can read while doing this, or listen to podcasts or whatnot, it's beginning to seem a little too much like farming for my comfort.