Have you been enjoying the Three Spirits update for Dota 2? I certainly have. Do you know who hasn’t? Dota 2 traders.

Virtual economies have always been an interesting field, ever since the “Stone of Jordan” days of Diablo II. Betting the farm on items which aren’t limited by physics  is a dangerous but potentially lucrative prospect.

When NAG originally reported on the Three Spirits update, there were some significant changes in the form of a crafting system and a gem socketing system for items. The system allows you to apply special effects by attaching certain gems to the item in question – say, for example, a courier.


I’m crafting a Dragon of Hyperinflation.

The system has caused some contrition amongst Dota 2 traders, that semi-dodgy group operating outside of the Valve Community Marketplace. These traders often worked on the rarity of an item to bolster its value – a courier that was unique to a particular event that’s since been discontinued, for example, would fetch a hefty sum.

Unusual Couriers in particular were a solid investment, because of the colour system that accompanied them. It was possible to apply special particle effects of a certain colour to couriers, but as a result of updates certain colours became unattainable – so-called “Legacy” colours. Such was their perceived value that, in a widely reported trade, one buyer bought an Unusual War Dog courier with a pink Etheral Flames effect for $38,000.


The $38,000 courier. By the way, looking costs $1,000. You can send the cheque to NAG.

Yep, that’s not a typo. Did you just hiss with a sharp inhale of breath at the thought of what’s happened to that courier’s value since the patch? I did. Basically, the new systems allow you to craft a similar courier, which essentially removes the scarcity factor that drove their high places in the first place.

Even inside the official market, prices have fluctuated significantly. Shadow Essence (which I got as a drop and sold for some $12 during the Greeviling last year, filling me with illusions of financial acumen and grandeur.) has dropped significantly from $30 plus right down to half a dollar due to an increase in its drop-rate during Diretide.


Shadow Essence, meet Shadow Slide.

A fantastic Rock Paper Shotgun piece details some of the more dramatic fall-outs of the patch, but it was certainly not unexpected. Daniel Nye Griffiths of Forbes, as early as the 14th, argues that the patch was probably a deliberate shot across the bow from Valve at a market over which they have no control, as well as a way of increasing sales amongst what were once static and high-priced status symbols which had little actual traction in the official marketplace.

The lesson: if you’re going to deal in will ‘o the wisps, don’t cry when you’re led into a bog.


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