There are two main choices when it comes to Cataclysm level. The first of these is Truegold, which is currently problematic, to say the least. Even when people were scrambling for new crafted gear, this could easily be a loss over the mat costs if you didn't get a proc (You are transmute specced, right?). Now that almost no one wants that gear, the prices have plummeted even more, and Truegold's just not a good option.
Many in the know instead went with the less flashy option, Living Elements. With this, you could take the dirt cheap Volatile Life, and turn it into everyone's favorite, Volatile Air. It didn't have the alluring price tag of Truegold, but it's been a consistent money maker since the launch of Cata. The extra volatiles you could get with your proc (You are transmute specced, right?) were unfortunately truly random, but it didn't matter because you made enough money with the transmute itself that the procs were just a nice bonus.
Edit: A little clarification, because I do tend to take this information for granted. The description for the transmute says that the result is random. This is true in most cases, but the result can be set if you're in certain zones. Using the transmute in Hyjal will always yield fire, Vashj'ir water, Deepholm earth, and Uldum air. The extras from your transmute spec proc (You are transmute specced, right?) will still be random, but the base 14-16 result will be set by the zone.
Hopefully, you've still been using your alchemy cooldown every day. Hopefully, you've also been double checking the prices for each of the volatiles on your server. If you have been, you may have noticed a trend.
|That one cheap one was added between the last time I checked and when I took the screenshot, but you get the idea.|
As you can see, in this screenshot, fire has almost caught up to air. At certain times lately, fire surpasses air. And when we look at it using simple economics, it's not that surprising.
Let's look at the supply side first. On most servers, volatile fire hit its all-time lowest price points during patch 4.2. It made perfect sense, really. 4.2 was the fire patch. You had the Molten Front dailies and the Firelands raid, both full of fire elementals and increasing the supply. Now? How many people do you know that still do their Molten Front dailies? (I really should on some alts for patterns, but I'm just so bored with them at this point.) How many groups are still doing Firelands? It's only natural the supply's on the decline.
Now for the demand side. Simply put, one of the things that's still selling well even at this late stage of the expansion is PvP gear. The Vicious sets that can be crafted by tailorers, leatherworkers, and blacksmiths are still going quite well, both to PvE players who are bored and want to try out a little PvP, and to people looking to boost their item level in order to get into Looking for Raid or the new Hour of Twilight five mans. More of those pieces take volatile fire than any other kind of volatile, so it makes sense that demand would increase as well.
Simple economics tells us that when supply and demand increase, so does our equilibrium price.
So what's the point of all this? Any time you're going to do your alchemy cooldown, compare prices first. Even if the prices are just close like they are in the screenshots above, remember that diversity is the name of the game. If you have multiple alchemists like many gold makers do, it might be nice to split what you do if the prices are good enough.
As always, though, your server may vary, so give it a look before you rush out and transmute fire. Feel free to leave a comment, maybe tell me what the situation looks like on your server. Until next time, good night and good gold.