Taking things a step further by assembling and selling full transmog sets, however, is the province of fewer players -- a select few indeed, according to Mickél of The Blackest Rose, a transmog set dealer on Madoran (US-H). "We were the first to do it on our server, and I have a feeling one of the few in game who is selling complete mog sets," he explains. "My partner works on making custom sets from the random greens we have; hers are often very clean and perfect-looking. I use the named sets, i.e. Emerald, Righteous, Abjurer's, etc."
Before you cry, "Aha! Must do this!" -- think upon the sheer amount of time and effort that goes into a transmog dealership done right. Mickél and his partner Aridas have to farm up each and every piece of gear. No set is complete without every last piece that shows, whether it drops quickly or not. The team needs to develop and market customized, themed looks and then farm up whatever's required from the four corners of Azeroth. They have to find a profitable way to offload all the random pieces picked up along the way.
And what about those teeth-grinding runs when a piece that's needed just won't drop? Run it again. And again. And again.
So why would any player in his right mind spend hour upon hour grinding for lowbie gear?
Main characters Mickél and Aridas
Guild The Blackest Rose
Realm Madoran (US-H)
WoW Insider: First transmog set dealer on the realm -- how did that come about?
Aridas: It started for me when all I ever saw was cloth-wearers in skirts. For my baby mage, I wanted something different. Pants. Looking through the resources for mog sets, I saw the perfect one and had to have it. It was called the Silver-Thread set, black and white, completely different than anything I had seen before. Gnomeregan was where I spent hours and hours grinding for pieces. I got lot of other greens doing this, and that's the idea popped in my head was, "We should start a mog business..." The idea really took hold during a long grind over a special pair of pants.
So what's competition like these days?
Mickél: Competition is sort of nonexistent. I use the qualifier "sort of" because Aridas and I have the only business on server who sells full mog sets. However, Alliance-side, I've noticed a dealer who is putting pieces on of matching sets for incredibly high prices. It only helps business on our end, as if the individual pieces are higher, than the full mog set sells for higher. Horde-side, there are people who pick up rare armor pieces, know they are rare, and list them on the AH for inflated prices [for] transmog -- and again, the same deal. It only helps us as our sets up in price if the pieces on the AH are going for more.
This sounds devilishly time-consuming. Doesn't the business eat up a good portion of your play time?
Aridas: It varies all the time. We spend some of our time grinding for sets, then part of the time organizing the sets. For custom sets, it takes longer hunting through the AH, our guild banks, mailboxes. Sometimes we are at it for hours, sometimes only a few hours a day.
Our main's guild, Heavens Darkness, raids two nights a week, and we are always there, so that hasn't changed for us at all. But I would say it has increased our playing time. At this point, it's endgame material. Grinding old-school raids and dungeons gives us something new to do with our guildees and have good time.
Mickél: We also have guildees helping by sending us greens that we buy, and in return we give them discounts on sets. We've dressed quite a few members of Heavens Darkness with our business, so they love throwing greens our way.
Mickél: I use the term named sets because often times the pieces of the sets don't always 100% match the name attached to them. For example, [in this transmog set], the shoulders and helm don't match completely, but we sell them with the matching lower pieces anyway. (When we sell a set with pieces that don't match, we offer advice and suggestions for matching pieces, weapons, etc.) We don't do tier gear sets, as they are BoP, and Aridas had a theory: "Eventually, people are going to get tired of tier sets because everyone is wearing them. They'll look for something unique." We've picked up business like a rock rolling downhill. We started selling one set a week, now two -- and this week, we've sold six.
Do you offer theme sets -- say, something for formal events like weddings to outfits for casual fun such as fishing? Do you take custom orders?
Mickél: We've never had an in-game wedding Horde-side (at least that we've been around for), and we've never had a request for a fishing outfit (other than long before mogging came out, and I asked Aridas to pick out my goblin "something pretty"). However, we are more than willing to help in that capacity. I turn that side of the business over to Aridas; she has a much better eye for matching up sets than I do.
Aridas: Custom sets are usually a set around a piece or a set of a certain color or colors. I can sit at our guild bank or the AH and match pieces together. They seem to sell rather well for those who really want something different on their toon. It's fun to come up with something unusual, stunning, or pretty out of pieces you would never think to use together.
So who does what for the business?
Aridas: I will work on custom sets, organize guild banks (Mickél is the messiest, most disorganized slob ever) and decide whether greens get sharded or stored. I also do a lot of Burning Crusade grinding for green sets. I help Mickél with pricing and will run between guild banks when he goes on his "Aridas, do we have this piece? Did you get this in the mail? Shoot, I know I had it, where did it go?" rants.
Mickél: This slob (ha, funny, Aridas) here will store the completed sets (custom and named), bark in trade, handle the forum posts, grind the vanilla greens, watch the Auction Houses, price the sets, and trade with the customers.
Mickél: Aridas will use her prot paladin Acoaria for grinding. I'll use my prot warrior Glimma, or if we are planning some big pulls, my disc priest Liliami.
Let's talk about price ranges.
Mickél: Honestly, prices vary according to three principles for us:
- How easy is the set to farm up?
- How desirable is the set?
- How expensive is the set on the Auction House?
What's the typical wait time on orders?
Mickél: Wait times vary based on what set is requested, how rare of a drop it is, and how many sets are ordered at a time. Boost of Matador ordered three Scouting sets, and it took about three weeks to get them put together. Another set was requested, but it has such a rare drop that even farming the instances have only yielded one of the pieces for that set, which is disappointing for us and our customer.
I would say the average wait time for named sets is anywhere from a week to three, and if we get overloaded with orders, we will have to make a waiting list. Aridas' custom sets can usually be completed in about a week [to a ] week and a half.
Most popular set?
Mickél: Abjurer's for cloth. Scouting/Swashbuckler's for leather. Lord's/Ornate for mail. Emerald for plate.
Mickél: Honestly, the whole business is quirky. Aridas and I can grind and grind for that one special piece to drop. For example, Brigade Pauldrons -- Aridas and I were working on getting those for almost a month ... I find them on the Auction House, and then grinding for greens, I had three drop. I assure you, this type of thing happens so often and is so frustrating I have some NSFW words when I get three in a row after a long, long grind.
Toughest set to assemble?
Aridas: Saltstone and Steadfast!
Mickél: Tyrant's, Jade, and Hyperion. You can see that Aridas has a certain hate of those two sets. With good reason, she's been after the Saltstone Surcoat since we started the business. The Steadfast set has been a slow steady grind; it all started with those pants ...
What's your advertising strategy? How do you get the word out?
Mickél: For advertising, we have a forum post on our realm forums. Our intent with that is to explain what we do and have a billboard where people can see what sets we have on tap at any given time. I have two macros I do in trade at five-minute intervals or so that have some sets and ask people to hit me up for links or with offers.
Our biggest seller is word of mouth. Once a person in a certain guild knows of us, they will tell their guildees, and it will spread. I'm thankful for this word of mouth -- honestly, I would prefer it. Nothing beats a friend saying, "This business is legitimate, and they are not a scam." When we first started, it was a nightmare of trolls saying, "OMG full mog sets -- what are you doing, running them through dungeons, you level 20 nobody?" After a few sets sold, it stopped, and we'll get the occasional, "OMG using trade to sell things, Insane!"
Mickél: We started with a 5k gold investment that neither of us thought we would ever see again. We had to buy the bank tabs, get our own characters looking spiffy, and then of course pick up random filler pieces on the AH. In our travels, we pick up a lot of blues, and I list those on the Auction House to try and keep money flowing in between mog sets. We also will disenchant pieces that we have three to six copies of and sell the shards as well.
I have to say, honestly, I'm pleased. We've been making steady income from the business. I will say one thing concerning the total money we've made: It was well worth the 5k investment. For me, it wasn't about the money. I fell in love with the idea of mogging, and I thought it was the absolute best feature Blizzard has come out with. I love to help people mog out their toons and look gorgeous doing it. The other big contributing factor to it is I get to go into business with my best friend and have a blast doing it.
Aridas: There are quicker ways to make gold, no doubt; however, even though our way is slower, we not only have a lot of fun doing it, we get to meet some the most interesting people on our server. We joke around and have good time. A heap of gold is nice to have; having fun -- that's the best part of it all.
"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) ... a blind ex-serviceman and the guildmates who keep him raiding as a regular ... and a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.