Even though it was only one patch ago, quite a few things have changed, both in the landscape of the game, and thus the overall landscape of gold making, and for myself personally. Things aren't what they once were, and that's required adjustment, for good or ill. So, what exactly has changed, and how have I been dealing with it?
One of the biggest features of patch 5.4 is the Timeless Isle, a new "free-form" exploration experience using what Blizzard learned from Battlefield Barrens, with item level 496 gear (and 535 if you're lucky) to be found therein. It's a big change in the non-raiding experience of the game, and most players either love it or hate it.
Personally, I'm pretty firmly on the "hate it" side of things, both as a player in general, and as a gold maker in particular. As a player, I'm one of those that needs some structure in my play experience. It's the reason I struggle maintaining interest in games like Minecraft and Terraria that have no real "goal" other than what the player decides their goal is. Don't get me wrong; I'm not a fan of too much linearity, either (Final Fantasy XIII, the interactive cutscene). Something with a balance is best, and grinding mobs while rushing from rare to rare (only to find them dead long before I get there, unless I'm very close when they spawn) is not my idea of a fun time.
That wouldn't bother me, however, if it weren't for the effects the Timeless Isle has on the gold making game. First and foremost, its easy access to item level 496 gear, along with the lack of new crafted PvP recipes with the new PvP season in 5.4.7, has taken the crafted PvP gear market out back and put it out of its misery. Hell, I just got through saying how much I hate the Timeless Isle, and I still take my alts there for some easy gear.
The crafted PvP gear was never an amazing market. It certainly was no glyphs or gems or enchanting. It made a decent, predictable profit, though, and with very little effort needed to maintain it. That's not to say that the pieces never sell now, nor that they aren't necessarily profitable. What it does mean, however, is that they sell infrequently enough that I've had to drastically cut back on my stock. Without doing that, I'd be losing money on, of all things, posting fees.
However, Blizzard's decisions are not the only things to which I've needed to adjust. Some come from the community itself.
When I left, TradeSkillMaster 2.0 was in beta. I'll admit, now, that it would have probably been beneficial to participate in the beta, to learn how to adjust to the changes sooner than later. At the time, however, I told myself that I didn't have the time. Of course, I don't have any more time now, but it's not like me of last year could have possibly known that, right?
There are definitely some things I like about TSM 2. I can use things like percentage of crafting cost or market price without having to put each individual item in its own group. Retrieving mats I need from the bank is often a matter of a single click. Pricing has a bit more flexibility.
So what don't I like? The new design just seems to add a fair amount of extra complexity for the sake of complexity. TSM has never been the easiest add-on to simply pick up and use, and it often intimidated many people, but it was still straightforward enough that with enough practice and reading of tooltips, it wasn't that difficult to learn. Now, so many functions are different from what they used to be that when I first opened up TSM upon coming back to the game, I literally could not figure out how to make it work. I'm very thankful for the video guides Phat Lewts has made, and with those, I've managed to get settled in, but I still feel like it shouldn't have been as difficult as it was.
On a more personal level, it's been a bit of a struggle getting back into the gold making game. Back in 5.2 and 5.3, in an attempt to give our struggling raid group whatever help I could, I was watching the Black Market Auction House like a hawk. I bought a few pieces of gear from there, not only for me, but for some of our core raiders as well. That took me from comfortably over gold cap to about 300k gold across all my characters on my main server...and all for a raid group that ended up falling apart anyway.
Now, I don't necessarily begrudge the expense. All of the people I actually bought for were people I'd consider friends still, despite the fact that we're not raiding. And at a certain point, making gold starts to seem pointless if you don't spend any of it. It's just that looking at where I was then, compared to where I am now, it seems like an awfully long climb to get back there.
What didn't help matters, either, was that I was gone long enough for my entire stock of goods on the AH to not only expire, but disappear from my mail. Getting my stock back to reasonable levels was a costly investment, and one that I've only started to recover from in the last week or two.
I also have, for whatever reason (likely shuffle related), a bank full of enchanting materials. There were about 5,000 Spirit Dust in my Enchanter's bank, along with proportionate amounts of Mysterious Essence and Ethereal Shards. It would be tempting, seeing as I'd completely forgotten about them, to see them as a windfall, but if I'm going to be honest, they're a loss. I presumably got them from disenchanting the jewelry I produced when shuffling Ghost Iron Ore, back when DEing those made sense. Nowadays,at least on my server, you're far better off vendoring everything but the rares, given how far enchanting mat prices have fallen. Still, looking at the bright side, at least I don't foresee having to buy more enchanting materials for quite a while, which saves time, if nothing else.
Despite all of this, though, I'm still plugging away, not spending too much time with it each day, but still turning a decent profit (currently about 7.5k a day, according to TSM Accounting). I probably could be doing better, and plan to look into some less obvious markets as we get further into the end-of-expansion lull, but given the minimal amount of time investment, it's not bad, either.
For all that the changes since I left have required adjustment on my part, and for all that I've felt the need to rant about said changes, the basic premise of my gold making remains the same. Find things I can make at a profit, and make them consistently. Expand as more sells. Always keep looking into new or underexplored markets. Make profit, and reinvest that profit.
In the end, it really is like the old saying goes. The more things change, the more they stay the same.