I'm going to ramble at you a bit. If you don't see anything useful here, just move on - no intent to insult or be negative. As a former resident of Blackhand I'm just trying to help you brainstorm (from a distance)
First, lets frame whats happening.
The game is evolving. Back in the day of 20 and 40 man raids you had more of a heterogeneous mix. Even in more progressive 40-man raid teams you had a broad range of players. The hardcores and the slackers could easily co-exist in a single guild's MC raid. I remember well many people pushing their skills and a few basically just autoshotting and trying to stay alive.
Then Karazhan came along and started to separate us. Guilds fell apart as the hardcores pushed boundaries and geared up fast in 10-man Kara leaving their less motivated brethren lacking gear and skills for 25-man Magtheridon's Lair and Gruul's Lair. In many (most?) cases players with similar goals and performance found each other. That 10-man roadblock to 25 man content shook up the world (or warcraft) and encouraged homogeneity.
Since TBC the differentiation between hardcore and casual was playing out on the guild level. But now something similar is going on with realms. Regardless your guild, the realm use to be the exclusive sandbox where you were known and those relationships were important when it came to finding groups and experiencing content. It was your home.
Now? Not so much. Whereas in years past a realm change or faction change might have labeled you as likely being a bad who had run out of town by your homies, now many players scan WoWprogress to find guilds at their skill level that are recruiting, transfer to join them, and theres no stigma.
Add changes like LFD, LFR, CRZ all diluting the importance of the realm as "home" while filling the world outside your city gates with cross-realm competitors and theres little incentive to stay on a realm you don't feel is a good fit. Especially since the economy of so many small realms is (at best) an unwanted game challenge.
So we now have players treating realms as they did guilds... hopping from one to another and clustering where they find like-minded people. Like Wpvp? Go to Emerald Dream. Like instanced pvp? Go to KT. Like instanced PvE? Maybe Mal'Ganis. Once you are there, drill down and find a guild you like. At this point in the game, homogeneity is two layers deep (realm and guild)
So where does that leave Blackhand and realms like it? If you use Karahzan as a metaphor, the players still on Blackhand now are like those who stayed with the old guild after the hardcores formed new ones to do Maggy.
Some of those old guilds failed. Not because the members didn't have anything to do... theres always lots to do in Warcraft besides high end raiding - even more so now. The guild and cultural fails were because in many cases the charismatic leaders were among the hardcore group and left behind a rudderless ship. Those that did survive (and thrive) as more casual guilds embraced their casual status. They looked back to some of the things popular in Vanilla that were lost.. the self created content, the dedication to helping one another, to fun silly stuff like gnome races.
Those casual guilds which remained and continue to thrive now cater to the demographic that the hardcores don't have patience for - moms who need a 15 minute afk to put the kids down, students now in grad school and career people who can't commit to a rigid schedule any longer but still want to see content, people who enjoy the battlepet scene, transmog enthusiasts, casual RBG'ers who like to coordinate but play without screaming, those who like to try to beat last weeks time on the Challenge Modes.
At this point in the game, Blackhand could position itself as a destination for those players - who I think you'll find skew toward an older more female demographic. Be casual and heterogeneous by intent and draw in players who want that. Don't see not having an overwhelming focus on progression PvE or competitive PvP as a problem... push your casual diversity as a selling point. So long as you have still have charismatic leaders on the realm, it doesn't matter what you do so long as you do something fun! Build it and they will come. And as they arrive and repopulate, the AH situation will remedy itself.
Hope this sparks some ideas for those of you banding together to "save" your server. :-)
Edited by Calliesta on 4/5/2013 11:45 AM PDT