Mages, ten-man raiding, and other things that are awesome.

Posts tagged ‘pugs’

Looking For: Community

I was a bit late getting my Christmas shopping done this year, so I found myself in a department store at the jewelery counter. You can imagine the kind of swarm that exists around any department store’s jewelery counter at this time of year. (Vosskah and I have been laughing at a radio ad we heard in which a middle-aged lady is listing all of the possible gifts to be found at [Store], “Sweaters! Perfume! Jewellery,” and she utters the last word with the kind of lusty eroticism I never expected to hear on the radio. Jewellery is a Big Thing, apparently).

So the department is crowded; I’m only there to find some clip-on earrings for my Grandma, and a kindly lady shows me how they are mixed in and where I can look, etc. I feel for this woman because she is clearly petrified and it’s her first day on the job. When I find the earrings I want and am paying for them, she is taking the time to get gift boxes for them, and tissue paper to go along with the sweater I was also buying. She’s not moving at light speed, but I think it’s a reasonable length of time for a transaction. Before my things have even been bagged, though, the lady behind me has moved up to the jewellery counter and is placing her items while impatiently asking, “Is it possible to get some service here?” I’m still inputting my PIN into the machine at this point and the lady is almost shoulder to shoulder with me. The poor woman helping me finishes up our transaction while the woman training her takes over for Ms. Can’t Wait Two Minutes. I walk away from the jewellery department exclaiming to Voss, “Did you SEE that?”

As far as these stories go, it’s a pretty mild one. Entitled lady doesn’t think that waiting in line is necessary, she wants service and she wants it now. She’s the real life equivalent of a “go go go”-er. However quickly things are moving, it’s not fast enough for her. They’re unpleasant in real life as they are in a video game, and I’m afraid that more and more the game is tailored to them.

I've been taking screenshots of LFR chat here and there since the patch, here's one of them with more to follow.

This is fairly radical for the erstwhile Pugging Pally to admit, but I don’t like LFD. I don’t like LFR. Wait, before you scroll to the bottom and start typing an angry comment, let me clarify. I understand the dilemmas that LFD and LFR were introduced to address. I’m not one of the elite raiders who feels that only 1% of people playing the game should see end-game content. I don’t need other people excluded from things so that I can feel awesome about myself. It turns out, it is possible to have your internet dragon and loot it too. No one else can take away from your accomplishments in-game because they’re yours. So that’s not my problem. And on the surface, LFD and LFR work. You want a dungeon? You can be doing one anywhere from instantly to twenty minutes later, most any time of day. It turns out that the same is true for LFR; you probably won’t wait in a queue longer than twenty minutes and probably less for that, too. I have run LFR solo, I’ve run it with my guild, I’ve run it with just a few friends. I’ve done it as a druid, a paladin, and a mage. I’ve had plenty of experience with it. And here’s where I think the problem lies.

What it purports to do, and what it actually does – are two completely different things. In theory, LFD and LFR lets you get together and cooperate with a group of people to achieve a group goal: killing internet dragons of various ilks. In practice, they mask singular goals with the illusion of group play. Yes, you have to more or less cooperate to successfully complete an LFD or an LFR run. But are you there to cooperate, or are you there to acquire loot/VP? Herein lies the problem. Once upon a time, I used to run dungeons yes, to acquire emblems or points or gear or whatever, but also because just running dungeons was fun. On my old server, I had a massive friends list of people who might want to run a dungeon at any given time. If nobody felt like trying to run a dungeon, I would hit Trade or the now-defunct Looking For Group channel. It wasn’t elegant, but generally it worked. More importantly, it allowed me to make friends and build a reputation for myself as a nice/fun and competent person to run with. I did this across several characters. Usually, if I felt like running a dungeon, I could make a group to do so. If I couldn’t manage a group, I’d put it off and do something else.

Now before you counter that it’s still possible to assemble groups this way, it’s true, but unlikely. I’ve tried. I can usually gather up guildies to run things if enough are interested and perhaps if I wait a bit. I’ve tried different channels to ask if people want to run something, with very little response. I can check my same-server friends’ list and usually folks are raiding or already IN a dungeon. And why wouldn’t they be? Joining one as a tank or a healer takes all of ten seconds. You can’t blame people for taking the path of least resistance. I’m more likely to group up with friends on other servers – many times, friends I have made via this blog and Twitter. So I’m in the interesting position of having to build a reputation as a good player outside of the actual game in order to run with people I enjoy playing with. I’m sure my server has such people, but it’s unlikely I will find them because they’re either running with their own guild, or running quick pugs with LFD.

This was a guy raging on Zon'ozz because no other healers were dispellers (I joined the group after they'd wiped on Zon'ozz).

So it goes with LFR. And I will be completely honest – yes, there are good parts of LFR, but overall LFR alarms me because of what it represents, and because of its potential impact in many different ways. First of all, if someone gets their introduction to raiding through LFR I fear for what they think raiding actually IS like. A raid full of people face-pulling the boss, ignoring strats, backtalking each other and constantly squabbling, ninjaing loot they shouldn’t have (feral druids winning Int gear, I’m looking at you). LFR is a bad LFD pug writ large, with a proportionately larger number of Go Go Gos and bad attitudes. The issue with LFD and LFR both are that the majority of people feel that they’re being put in a position where they have to ‘put up with’ other people to get what they want. It’s not an opportunity to meet new folks or make friends, how could it be? There is no additional benefit to befriending people via LFD, and even if there were, you’d need to be willing to add that person via Real ID to take advantage of it. Most of us won’t do that.

Now, Blizzard has taken some steps towards addressing these issues. They acknowledged the erosion of server community by coding a preference in LFD to group you with same-server folks wherever possible. I think it was a bit too little too late, though, because most of us are already conditioned to join the group, begin killing things with the other four, faceless and anonymous people in our group, hope that it’s a “good group” so we collect our loot, points, or whatever and then move on to the next group. I’ll sometimes remark, “Hey, we’re both from this server!” and the reaction is almost always the equivalent of a shrug. If I don’t mention that we’re from the same server, then it usually doesn’t get mentioned. There’s a confusion of paradigm in what exactly is being awarded. So we’re grouped with people from our server; but tanks and sometimes healers can also obtain a satchel of loot if they are willing to join on their own. Even if a pug tank likes the group of four he/she is put with, there’s no benefit to them for staying with that group, and there is benefit to dropping group and re-queuing to obtain another satchel.

The second thing Blizzard is doing is introducing the “Battle Tag” system (currently being tested in Diablo III) that is probably what Real ID should have been all along. You’ll be able to choose a pseudonym that others will see if you choose to friend each other mutually, and gain the benefits of Real ID without letting people know your real name. This has the potential to enable friends lists to transcend server restrictions, and possibly even make reputation matter again to a certain extent. You could build a network of folks you’ve run with and would like to run with again, no matter what server they are on. For me this has great potential, and I’m watching it with interest to see what develops. I don’t just want to whine about things uselessly – I recognize that LFD and LFR were introduced with a purpose. Especially for smaller population servers, and for dungeon grouping while leveling, these systems have been a great boon. They enabled myself and other players to see lower level dungeon content that we probably didn’t have the opportunity to see before. Assembling lowbie groups was always a bit of a crap shoot – find four other people near your level, traipse out to the dungeon (possibly located in a place you hadn’t been, or you had to get there without a mount). Now we get mounts at level 20 so that’s much less of a concern, but LFD has made that completely moot anyway. It’s never been easier to join a group to do a dungeon, or as it turns out, a raid. At least, something raidish, with a raidish shape.

The overall DPS of this group WAS pretty low. I wasn't going to say anything about it, though.

I am concerned that LFR takes my favourite part of the game (raiding) and makes it so effortless yet empty to me. When you can roll in and kill Deathwing in under two hours, where is the impetus to join a long-standing, dedicated raiding group? Is it going to be worth it to the average player to say “I killed it on normal mode,” or “I killed it on heroic mode?” It was already reasonably tough to find people driven to complete heroic modes – what about now, when there seems to be three options of difficulty? I’ve had at least one friend privately confide to me that they weren’t much inspired to kill Deathwing on normal mode, having ‘seen’ him on LFR difficulty. Hard modes always stretched the veracity of the game for me in terms of lore considerations, which is more of a concern for RPers, but it does matter. There IS a “roleplay” in this MMORPG we all play, after all. Does Deathwing care if we killed him on “Looking For Raid” mode, normal mode, hard mode?

I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I was already a bit worried about LFR when it was announced. How will that work, I wondered? It’s the size and scope of a raid, and all of the art, without the heart. It doesn’t have the voices of my guild friends along with it; it has random and unpredictable people. It has that guy who will queue as a healer and then go ret instead and win the caster ring from Hagara and never say a word. It has mercenary people who are just in it for themselves, it has verbal abuse. (I’m not excluding myself from the mercenary people category, by the way). There is no benefit to being magnanimous or sharing loot or anything in LFR. It doesn’t have the jokes or the camaraderie or the time or the dedication. It doesn’t have what makes raiding fun for me. Yes, I know, it’s 1) not for me and 2) so just don’t do it then. I will stop doing it when there is no benefit for me, or I will do it and quietly do my job. But what worries me is the people who are doing it who might get the impression that they’ve experienced all the game has to offer and don’t need to seek a guild who will help them to reach those goals on ‘normal’ mode, or worse, the people who’ve never raided and are left with the impression that this is what raiding is. There’s no question whether Blizzard has managed to make a random grouping tool that enables pugs to down ‘raid’ content. For me, the question is really whether or not they should have.

What do you think? Please don’t hesitate to respond and say that you love LFR and are really happy with it, and your reasons why. I don’t consider my opinion any kind of definitive one here, it’s just mine, nor am I going to argue or get defensive with you. LFR has enabled me to get three pieces of loot I wouldn’t have obtained from our regular raids – and I’ve been doing it because I know it can help me perform better for my actual raid. I know many of my guildies have been doing the same. I’ve already seen a marked drop in overall LFR speed and efficiency since the first week, though. I wonder what it’s going to be like a month from now? I’m interested to hear what you have to say about all of this, whether good or bad.

DO IT THE RIGHT WAY

Of Tanks And Healers

This post originally appeared at Pugging Pally (my previous blog), but Twitter was having a “Retro Wednesday” and I thought I may as well just repost it here. So if you read my blog then, it’s old news to you, but I think it’s still relevant!

It’s a special moment, isn’t it? You look into each other’s eyes. You think to yourself, “Now here’s someone who would make a Last Stand for me.” They see a certain something in your gaze, a spark. You might even say, a Flash of Light. You know that this is The One. A tank that you can trust.

There’s a certain something about a tank and healer pair, something that people who’ve never played either might not understand. I don’t mean this to be exclusionary, after all – my main raiding character is primarily a damage dealer. But I’ve been a healer and played many healers and it’s truthfully the thing that often draws me back to healing. I find myself missing it.

The tank and healer must cooperate in a way that no other role does. Tanks work together to coordinate pulls, taunts, and specific tasks. Healers work together to know who’s going to heal who and when. You have to be able to trust everyone in your raid team (more about that another time). Of course the tank is watching out for everybody, if they’re a good tank. But your primary task is to keep them alive, and they know that if you die – their grisly demise comes shortly thereafter.You have to be able to depend on each other.

I’ll never forget the time we went back to Ulduar with a new tank. He was new to our group and the encounters. One of the first bosses we tackled was Ignis. This tank was a paladin, and his job was to keep the angry automaton adds off the rest of the raid. We had a Discipline priest healing with myself (resto druid) so the obvious choice was for me to heal the raid, and the OT. Okay. So I was healing this paladin and he missed one of the adds, which merrily proceeded to try and eat my face. I popped Barkskin, started hotting myself up, and then I called out in Vent, “Add on me!”

He snapped back, “I’m a little busy here.

I made a scoff-choking sound of indignation and rage, and then yelled at my monitor (without pushing to talk, naturally), “SO AM I. I’M BUSY TRYING TO HEAL YOUR SORRY *SS.”

I know that he was stressed out because he was new to the encounter, and possibly he’d forgotten that I was a healer… I used to play a DPS role. But I was left with a feeling of betrayal. This tank and I weren’t headed for a good relationship.

The tank’s just not that into you

All the signs are there. They’re pulling away – way, way ahead of you. She says things like, “Heals?” or asks where you were. Actually, amendent, the tank calls you “Heals.” She’s gone while you’re drinking. He doesn’t taunt when something is trying to kill you, or he AFKs when he should be throwing heals your way. There’s no trust there.

I hope we’re not talking about a tank in a raiding situation – but the tank-healer relationship exists in a pug too. Except that pugging is like the equivalent of blind dating fifty people in a row, each less attractive than the previous. They chew with their mouth open or you split the bill and they don’t tip. So what can you do to foster some good tank-healer vibes, both in the short and the long term?

What we have here is a failure to…

I can’t stress this enough. In a pug, communicate, communicate, communicate. If you’re tanking, ask your healer to let you know if their mana is low. Watch their mana. Ask them if they’re comfortable with you making larger pulls. When in doubt about anything, just ask. The healer will know that you are a responsible tank who wants the group to succeed. And you’ll get to know what you can expect from your healer. Even if you’re only together for an hour, you still have to work as a team to get the job done. Don’t ever get accusatory with a healer who seems to be struggling – a bad situation can go from bad to worse. Perhaps they’re new to healing, or maybe you’re harder to heal. If you ask, you can pace yourself accordingly – or maybe even consider things you could do with spec, gear, or glyphs to make healing you easier if you’re inexplicably squishy.

As a healer, I’m going to say it again, communicate, communicate, communicate. You need to drink? Let the tank know. Make a macro if you have to. I made a stupid one for my druid while I was leveling her that was really corny, along the lines of, “Don’t leaf me behind, I’m watering the plants, otherwise I’ll have to bark at you.”

Yes, I know. I like stuff like that, but you’re here reading this, so you already knew. It was lighthearted and a bit nerdy, but it got the point across. Very simple things like owning up to mistakes and just being forthright with how things are at your end can help smooth over what might otherwise be a nightmare pug. When I got lost, I admitted I was hopelessly lost, and my group helped to find me. When I had to continually ask to stop and drink, I confessed that I’d been having mana troubles lately. Especially in pugs while you’re leveling, everyone is in the same boat. They may have struggled with mana, or something else that led to them dying. Most people are just regular, good people. Yes, there are well-documented exceptions.

So if you need to give the tank pertinent information, or something is bothering you, or you aren’t sure about something, ask! There are no stupid questions (except “Who’s the tank?” There’s a shield next to your name, doofus.)

Going Steady

Maybe you’re lucky enough to be in a guild with a tank you really like, or you just have a tanking buddy you get to hang out with often, or a similarly fantastic healer. This is a great place to be. If leveling a character via pugs is like blind dating, a solid tank or healer you can trust is like a marriage. She leaves toast crumbs on the counter, but you expect them. You know he’ll be your Guardian Spirit and you’ll be there with a Shield Wall when he needs it.

Often tank-healer pairs really are married in real life. My husband plays a tank, and when I was healing him it was great. We’re sitting in the same room, so I could always say to him, “Go ahead and pull these next three packs, I’ve got you,” or he’d hear that chokey yelp noise I make when I’m throwing out HoTs as fast as my branches can toss them and know that he needed to use a cooldown to give me some breathing space – or I would say to him, “Use something NOW.” It’s a pretty handy situation, but you don’t have to be married to your tank or healer to have a good relationship with them.

I’m going to keep harping on about this, but when you aren’t in the same room with your tank or healer, communication becomes even more vital. Use Vent. The more you run with someone, the more you’ll get to know their idiosyncrasies. “Slaphappy always charges ahead when he’s going to engage a group of mobs, I’ll have to make sure to stick closer to melee than otherwise, so I don’t get left behind,” or “There’s a lot of movement in this fight so I know that Shamtastic might be distracted and need me to use a cooldown at some point.”

You won’t always know exactly what’s going on with the other person – but that’s when you ask. I actually went through a bit of these growing pains myself, when our guild was doing hardmode Mimiron. My job was to tank the head in phase three, and at that time our awesome pally healer would switch off and heal me. It was a bit strange for me to be in a tanking role, and I was goofing it up. His healing skills amazed me. He kept up my squishy self through damage I would’ve never expected to be able to live through, even with mitigation talents. But a few times, I died. I whispered him. Guess what I said.

“Heals?”

NO! I said, “Gee, I’m still getting the hang of this. What can I do better?”

He said that my blinking was making it a bit tougher for him to always keep up with me, and that a few times when I had been line of sighting Mim’s head around a corner, I’d left him completely behind. I was more careful the next times to watch where he was before I blinked away willy-nilly, we stuck together, and his healing kept me alive while I was tanking. We made a great team.

Always Depending on the Kindness of Strangers

I’ve met a lot of tanks during the course of my pug leveling. Some have been good, and I connected with and liked them a lot. Some of them have been very bad. (Maybe they thought that about my healing, too). It’s possible to have a positive experience and a tank-healer combo that communicates well in a pug, but I won’t lie, it is more rare especially in these LFD days when many folks queue as a tank or healer simply because they know it will get them a group instantly and not because they enjoy it or actually know what they’re doing.

To borrow my earlier analogy, if pugging is like blind dating, lately the rejection has been starting to get to me. I struggled for a way to end this entry because I realized that the reason I was writing about tanks and healers was that I was weary of feeling I couldn’t trust the person nominally ‘in charge’ of each run. It became clear to me during my last few Mana Tombs run. In one, the DK tank zoned in, pulled all the trash and nearly died although I was healing him the whole time. “This isn’t right,” I thought, although in party I said “um, omg.” He responded cleverly, “omg ur mom.” So I just said, “Why did you nearly die? That was just trash.”

“Oh, my gear is mostly red and yellow,” he said. “Guess I should go repair.”

Yes, DK, I guess you should. He disconnected instead and we voted to kick him, bringing in a marginally less clueless DK.

Another Mana Tombs run saw me zoning in with a different tank – “Misspladin” [sic]. It didn’t start well, beginning with my usual “Excuse me I just have to respec and regain my mana,” statement. “Please hang on a sec while I drink,” I told the tank. She started pulling right away and didn’t stop, period. I was completely OOM, but I managed to type, “Or you could just ignore me and start chain-pulling, that would work too.” By some miracle we managed to down the first big shadow boss guy, and then the tank did a curious thing. In chat, he typed only a sort of wicked, evil emoticon… crashed into the next three groups of mobs, and then bubble-hearthed and dropped group.

“OH NO HE DIDN’T,” I shouted in party chat. I’m not going to dwell on what causes people to do things like this. One of the DPSers said she could get her boyfriend to come in and tank. He was a 70 DK. It’s Mana Tombs. How hard can this be, right?

Hard enough that we all nearly died with the exploding arcane wyrm things. Enough that when I said, “Mana,” he ran ahead and kept pulling regardless and we all did die. Again. I said, “And that’s what happens when you pull and your healer is OOM.”

“Having mana is overrated,” he said to me.

“So is dying repeatedly,” I told him.

Faced with a future of tiresome pugs, Vid contemplates exchanging her healing shield and mace for a metric ton of chocolate.

And I meant it. I left the group, wondering if I’d ever even finishing leveling poor Vid, or just start questing and never look back. I was resolved to do it, but then was prevailed upon to give it one last go.

Mana Tombs again, and this time a bear tank. “Let me know if you need to drink,” she whispered to me, “But I’ll keep an eye on your bar.”

The instance started out promisingly with the usual suspects – a DK who felt that he could go ahead and do all the pulling for our bear. But unlike any other tank I’ve seen in all my pugging, she stopped dead.

“You pulled that,” she said, “You fight it.” She stood there. The DK struggled with the group, flailing around as his health took a massive beating. Taking my cue from her, nary a heal went his way. He very nearly died – oh so close to dead – I think she may have taunted the final mob at the last second, or else he just lucked out. I laughed a lot. “Now, are you finished wasting time?” she asked.

Uber-DK lurched ahead and pulled another group. “Apparently not,” remarked the druid, and we killed his extra group, and then kicked him. The rest of the group was pleasant and easygoing, and the run was completely smooth. We didn’t have any deaths or any problems. My heart wasn’t beating out of my chest, nor was I shouting at my monitor in frustration. I knew when I had to drink I could, but I hardly had to drink at all because my tank was so practiced with cooldowns, surgical with pulls, and threw an innervate my way when I needed it.

In short, it was the absolute most fun I’ve had in a pug in a long while. I could relax and actually enjoy it. We went on to do Sethekk Halls afterwards and it was just as good, enough that someone at the end remarked, “Solid group.” It was an incredibly solid group, unbelievably so, and I firmly believe it was so because the tank and I trusted each other and communicated.

(Incidentally – a DPSer named “Bumpirate?” I don’t have to say anything more about that. This stuff writes itself).

But I have to admit, I’ve been holding back on you a little bit. I’ve told you the story but not the whole story, or the whole truth.

The truth is, I went into those last two pugs knowing my tank. If you ever read my comments here, you may also know my tank – she’s Lara, and she’s awesome. Having no prior commitments and looking for a new server for her character, she chose to move her druid alt to my server. I said that I started this experiment because I wanted to experience the game alongside other people, and that’s absolutely true. Writing about it has been a blast, even if the experience itself has been frustrating at times. Having been able to find a friend I can pug with – that I never would have found if I hadn’t done all that pugging, written about it here – is indescribably awesome. I trusted Lara from the first, and I think we both had so much more fun because of it. So if there’s anything that all this pugging has taught me, it’s that it’s a means, not an end – a way to meet people you want to run with again, so you don’t always have to have an endless merry-go-round of what-are-these-people-thinking. Sometimes the tank or healer you were looking for is closer than you think.

I almost gave up on pugging today, but I’m pretty glad I didn’t. In Lara’s words, “I felt good knowing you were back there with your tuning forks!”

To which I can only reply, there’s nothing like having a bear butt you can trust!

Further Adventures in Troll Land

For reasons that will be the subject of another post at some point in time, lately when I pug I’ve been pugging as a mage. It increases the wait times significantly and it’s often the result of insomnia. Last night I was fishing and when my LFD window appeared I was surprised. I had completely forgotten I was even in the queue! The pug started off poorly, which I actually prefer. If a pug is going to fall apart within the first few bosses, it’s nice to know.

This pug had a tank with other important things to do. So he stood there, and stood there for about five minutes before he finally started moving or responding to greetings. “Sec,” he said, and continued to stand there. Finally, mercifully, we killed the first troll and he began to run through the hornets and then promptly died. The hornets killed everyone, and the tank made some sound of confusion in party chat.

“You fell off the bridge,” the hunter told him. We all run back in, this time killing the hornets. I figure, hey, everyone makes a clumsy move sometime. Except then the tank stops moving again. “One sec,” he says. The healer drops group. We get another healer immediately and we’re moving onto the next actual troll in the instance. Somehow a hornet joins this fight and eats the healer while the tank blithely keeps “tanking.” The shaman healer uses his ankh and the tank pulls the next trash before he’s even moved off the bridge. We all die horribly. I don’t do this often, but I initiate a vote-kick on Mr. “Defender of A Shattered World.” The reason? “Self-explanatory.” A tank that can’t even make it through the initial Zul’Gurub trash without falling off bridges, AFKing and pulling without his healer is not going to do well.

We get another tank – a paladin – and things go pretty smoothly for awhile. Amazingly we kill the first boss with no deaths, which is fairly unheard of in the ZG pugs I’ve seen. So many things that need avoiding usually kill at least a few people! The raptor boss dies as easily, and we kill the Archaeology boss without occasion for remark. Nobody even dies to the fire gauntlet! It’s all going swimmingly, up until we reach Bethekk (aka the Panther boss). This trash is pretty intense anyway, but some of it is also bugged and will pull through the wall if you use AoE. In a guild group we’ve managed to survive the combination of extra trolls along with existing trolls, but not tonight. We wipe to this trash at least twice, it might have even been three times. Patience seems to be wearing thin quickly judging from the tone in party chat. We apply crowd control liberally to the group at the bottom of the stairs and manage to make it to Bethekk. The actual boss fight is easier than all of this wiping on trash. But the best is yet to come – as we make our way to Zanzil’s area, the tank confesses that he is new to the fight.

Something about saying he hasn’t done it seems to send both the shaman healer and the hunter into a rage spiral. “Oh great,” the hunter says. They give very cursory directions to the tank, amounting to “don’t stand in the fire” and then pull. Somehow, they’re surprised when we wipe.

I can't remember why I took this screenshot, but somehow Millya's making a great "pug expression" for me. She even looks like an insomniac, but that could be my imagination!

The shaman berates the tank for not getting out of fire as quickly as he should, and the tank admits that he was looking down at his ability buttons. Mr. Shamtastic is so busy berating the tank for being terrible, that he stands there typing insults while the tank pulls again – so he’s locked outside of the encounter area, and we all die quickly. Of course, this only makes matters worse as party chat is degenerating into an epic round of the “blame game.” It’s just this shaman’s luck, being stuck with such a fail tank, etc. etc. I interject at this point, “It’s no crime to be new to a fight.” (Thinking of Shintar, I add a smiley at the end.)

“It’s a crime to pull without the healer,” the shaman retorts. I don’t bother to reply. Each mechanic is re-explained for the benefit of the tank, and after approximately four tries (total) we kill him. “The next boss is going to be a bitch,” the hunter grouses. We proceed to the next boss while the shaman and hunter alternate scolding the tank about how he has to do THIS for the last boss and THAT for the last boss or we’ll fail. They seem to be hitting all the relevant explanations so I just let them go on.

The tank assures us that he’s seen the fight, just not tanked it. I add some paladin specific stuff (yes, I tanked it for a pug just the other week! It’s a sickness) mostly related to using Righteous Defense on CD to help keep things from killing the healer. Unfortunately, the tank doesn’t manage to get into the safety bubble quickly enough to avoid the Shadows spell. So we try again. And he fails to do it, again. At this point I can imagine the hunter on the other side of the screen frothing and throwing a fit with his keyboard. But I figure the tank deserves at least a few tries to get this fight right.

“45 mins for these last three bosses!” the hunter rants. The atmosphere in the pug is getting worse, if that’s even possible. Completely contrary to how I would have reacted in his shoes, the tank says, “Let me give it one last try and then I’ll drop group since I’m holding you up, np.” This attempt doesn’t go any better than the previous ones, and we wipe again before even finishing the first phase. The tank drops group wordlessly, and his corpse lies there like a silent testament to the punishing nature of pugs (and perhaps hunters in particular). It doesn’t take long for us to get a replacement tank; this one is a DK that knows the fight and it goes off mostly without a hitch. Every Body Slam hits a chain, which is probably for the best, as I’m sure the hunter would’ve popped a vein in his forehead otherwise.

I guess I am different from many people pugging. I would’ve preferred if the first tank had stayed, figured out the fight and really aced it. But the impatience of the other DPS (and the healer, who was at least as rude) didn’t allow him to do that. The hunter shouted his (expletive) relief when the tank dropped group. In terms of time and money invested, maybe I was a bit relieved too. I’d rather complete a fight than spend a half hour wiping to it. That said, I join pugs fully expecting to wipe and to take much longer than I would if I went with guildies. The next time I look at my thirty minute queue time, I know I have people like that hunter to thank. Why would anyone want to subject themselves to that kind of abuse? Why put yourself in a position where your mistakes will be judged so unforgivably? The answer sure isn’t because of the potential for a mount in a fancy satchel of big fat nothing. (I’ve claimed a few satchels myself, but apparently the loot force is not with me).

Granted, the tank wasn’t entirely without fault here. Before queuing for these instances, he could have prepared himself by reading the fights over quickly. When you put yourself at the mercy of a pug, you want to have all the defense you possibly can – which to me, means not having to rely on them for probably inadequate boss explanations. When the hunter’s explanation of a boss fight amounts to “Stay out of fire and get the red cauldron,” you have to be sure you’re missing something. Even so, there’s no call for treating other people like this. If your time is so valuable, then don’t pug, it’s that simple. Spare the rest of us who are actually willing to patiently work through difficult content with a group of strangers. We recognize that coordinating such a group isn’t always easy, but we’re willing to allow for that. Sometimes you have to wonder if folks like this hunter even remember that it’s a game they are playing – that they’re supposed to be having fun.

LFD Mention and Search Engine Soup

In farming Magister's Terrace for the hawkstrider, I had a good laugh as this boss tried to Iceblock to save himself from me. I've been there, buddy, but we have patience. You only delay the inevitable...!

I have some odds and ends for you today. First of all, as reactions to my post about some LFD pugs were fairly heated – it behooves (do you see what I did there) me to acknowledge publicly that the majority of pugs I run in the dungeon finder are really fine. Honest. And I run them primarily as a healer! So with that in mind, I am going to try to make more of an effort to highlight some good pugs I’ve had recently. Today’s was extremely excellent, and I’d like to thank Lotuz from Lightninghoof for being a great pug tank. CC was marked, and despite the fact that this player was not “overgearing” heroic content (still with some 316s etc.) healing him/her was not at all difficult. Instructions for bosses were clear and concise, and the entire group agreed to do every boss in HoO – even though I only asked if we could please do Setesh because I’m still using the Mace of Apotheosis and even though I think it’s kind of funny that it’s an homage to Kurn’s guild I’d still like to replace it with something a bit better. But I digress. Almost everyone in the group got at least one upgrade from a boss, proving that doing all of HoO can be very lucrative. I even scored a retribution chestpiece (alas, no sword, no mace). But anyway, great pug, everyone was pulling their weight, polite and easy, no deaths and mild chatting. I had fun. This made up for the fact that right before this pug, I accidentally disenchanted my Justice Point healing gloves and had to waste more points to replace, re-enchant, tinker and gem them. It was not my finest moment, proving that sometimes the stupidity you expect from LFD is actually closer than you think!

Because I don’t want a whole post just to say that, it’s been ages since I did search-term-o-rama. Here are some from the past seven days. I don’t do these as much as I once did because they are often boring or obvious (“manalicious,” and other prosaic mage-related stuff. But sometimes they are still funny).

and yellow socket gems for fire mages
I think you know what to do. (Hint: The answer is not yellow and it’s probably not orange but you never know).

“kill it with fire”
Yes! That’s what we like to do.

vidyala gemming int
By gosh, I am, and so should you. That holds true for both my mage and my paladin, really. It’s funny that you were searching for it so specifically.

mage static cling
We hate that. You know, you want your robes to be all flowing and dramatic and they are clinging to your legs and… Oh wait, you probably mean at the end of Vortex Pinnacle. Well, you can blink out of it. But if you want to avoid it altogether (and you should) note that he always casts it immediately following a chain lightning. So if you see chain lightning (zzzap) you know the Static Cling is coming really quickly so get ready to jump. Latency can make this tricky, you have to jump sooner than you’d imagine.

beautiful draenei
Thanks, I suppose, but you know we’re more than that. We have brains too (and in some cases we kill things with fire, but it’s not a requirement).

guild leader authenticator
Yes. Your guild leader should have one, more than any other person in your guild. This is my admittedly strongly biased and unabashed opinion. The GL is the only player who cannot have their bank access limited and so if they are hacked your guild is hooped and will probably lose everything. These days it’s pretty easy to have things restored, but that still is additional time and hassle for everyone involved. Just get an authenticator – get one on your phone if you can, order the $5 one if you can’t. No excuses!

what does a mage need agility for 4.0.6
Nothing! Ever. The most agile thing we do is blinking from one place to another. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise and please, please don’t ever use anything with agility on it. Every time you do that, Varian builds another statue of himself and Garrosh eats a kitten.

draenei patch 4.0.6
I don’t think we’re really changing. In fact, apparently we are so awesome that we’re the only race that didn’t get another class before Cataclysm. Too many people already like to have hooves and tails, I guess.

My next planned post: Why I am the world’s worst Death Knight. It’s true.

Further Adventures in LFD (Paladin adventures, of course).

A snapshot from Vid's pug life - every single mob in Stonecore descending on us simultaneously.

I ran a pug last night. This is nothing new. Actually, Vidyala – the erstwhile Pugging Pally – dinged 85 some weeks ago and has been quietly running many pugs since then. Of course, I try to run with guildies when available. Guild XP is valuable! But when they aren’t, I pug.

The first pug had me zoning in to Grim Batol, right in front of the first boss, General I-Charge-People-In-The-Face-Guy. This isn’t usually a good sign, because it means that the group probably just wiped on that boss and then their healer left. I assume their healer left, since it turns out that all four other people were from the same guild. I said hello, as I do, and after a few minutes one person said, “No Englis.” Okay. It’s going to be sort of tough to talk about boss strats if nobody speaks the same language, but I figure there’s no harm in trying. Most people know these bosses, yes? Let’s give this a try anyhow.

It does not go well. These people don’t seem to understand the Blitz mechanic, because each time he does it one of them dies except one lone DPS. When I try to tell them of course, they don’t understand me. The tank is not tanking the trogg adds and they are all over me, no matter that I ran them to him. The DPS do not kill them. We all die. I’m starting to understand why they may have lost their first healer.

We pull him again. We lose a DPS to the first Blitz, and then another to the second. At this point it’s just three of us left and almost every Blitz is on me. I hold it together as long as I can but my mana can’t take the length of time one DPS, a tank and a healer will require to kill a heroic boss on their own. I drop group.

Enough time has passed that I’m not on random cooldown anymore so I am able to queue up again immediately and wait ten minutes for a group that I can hopefully communicate with. Soon I see the Vortex Pinnacle load screen.

“Hey guys,” I say. This group all says hi, and then the DK tank declares in party chat, “We have 50 minutes until reset, so lock and load.”

I think, “Oh boy,” but Vortex Pinnacle isn’t a long instance. We’ve got time to do this. What that seems to mean in DK parlance is “Chain-pull forever and never pause.”

I will grant you, Vid is my alt. I do work on and love her as much as I can, but she’s no Kurn or Walks (and nor am I). We have two melee DPS and one mage. There is tons of incidental melee damage in VP. I can keep folks alive, but even using Divine Plea on cooldown is not going to cut it, I need to drink to do that. The resulting series of pulls is something like a snowball rolling downhill and gaining momentum. I am able to regain less mana after each pull, and by the time he pulls the last trash pack just before the first boss, I am completely, 100% OOM. Frustrated, I can’t even start drinking because I’m already in combat. I manage to eke out the pull by judging my face off, Crusader Striking and using Word of Glory as much as I possibly can. It’s not fun.

I say in party chat, “Please don’t pull when I’m completely OOM.” The DK is quick to retort, “I had cooldowns, it was fine.”

Continuing, I say, “I know you guys want to do this fast but we’ll get it done faster if nobody dies.”

“If I had died it would be on my own head,” the DK says.

His DPS DK guildie chimes in, “It will make you a better healer.”

I bite my tongue on any further possible reply and just resolve to do the best I can. I’m pretty mild-mannered when it comes to most pugs – if something is intolerable (people who don’t know a boss that I can’t even explain it to) I might leave, but most times I’ll roll with what’s going on. This riled me.

First of all, it’s the dismissive attitude. Some groups make me feel like a walking first aid station. This casual disregard for what I was saying, “Hey – let me get the resource I need so I can do my job,” made me feel like even less than that. I felt invisible. This was not a tank I could trust. Of course, you can’t have the same affinity with a pug tank you just met that you will have with someone you know and trust. I wouldn’t ever expect that. And perhaps I am spoiled, because the tanks I tend to run with respect their healers.

But for that statement, I probably would have just shrugged it off. It’s as if this guy and his buddies said to me first, “We’ll decide when you need to stop and drink, AND shut up because it will be good for you.”

I heal pugs because I want to be a better healer. There is nothing that forces me to react quickly, think on my feet and become familiar with my tools and tricks more than a pug. It’s why I’m there. I didn’t even need a daily when I ran this VP – I’d done one earlier with guildies. I just felt like healing an instance. So I don’t need some random pug DK telling me what I do or don’t need to do to ‘be a better healer.’ I thought about this the entire run.

Was the breakneck pace and lack of CC making me work hard? Definitely.

Would it ultimately make me a better healer? Probably.

Was I free to leave at any time? Sure, but I stayed out of pure cussed stubbornness. (You’d be surprised the kinds of things stubbornness gets me to do).

Was it fun? Not at all.

Did any of them say thanks at the end for a job well-done? Of course not. I could have been any person with a plus sign next to my name; they don’t care that the intense AoE healing I had to do to keep all those melee up without CC was tough. They’ve already forgotten me, or if they remember me at all it’s to congratulate themselves on “giving that paladin healer a challenge.”

I am ranting about this because it’s not the first time I’ve encountered this attitude. The other day I ran Throne of the Tides with a hunter and mage friend. The paladin tank thought he was pretty hot stuff. Fsob said, “Feel free to mark Moon and I will sheep things,” and the tank said, “It is more fun without CC, I won’t be doing that.”

“No thanks,” I replied, and asked Fsob and Fuzz to CC anyway. Of course they did, and I could actually breathe. This tank did not have the kind of gear or skill to sustain an “all or nothing” approach to current heroics, yet he clearly felt he was entitled to dictate how the run would go. I’m not sure how it would have been without my friends there (both awesome DPS, and both ignoring the tank in favour of CCing). He then proceeded to freak out because “MYYY PAAANTSS!1!!1″ dropped at the end of the run, and then he needed on the +Spirit trinket for good measure, so obviously this guy had deeper problems.

What this all boils down to, as far as I’m concerned, is a simple bottom line: Be courteous to the people in your run, no matter what their role. If your healer says, “Please CC,” and you have CC available – do it. Because not doing it presumes that the healer should work twice as hard because you just want to be lazy.

If your healer says, “Hey, I’d like to drink sometime,” don’t get belligerent and insist that you’re just fine without the healer. I have a newsflash for you! Other people take damage besides the tank. They don’t have cooldowns. They don’t wear tank gear. If I can’t heal them, THEY might die, and you’re just wasting all of our time. I would never, ever pull a mob or group for the tank and then say “It’ll make you a better tank if you have to taunt the mobs off me instead of pulling them yourself.” As a tank, I wouldn’t refuse to taunt something back from a DPS who pulled and say, “It will make you a better DPS.” So don’t flat out refuse a reasonable request I make as a healer, or at least – don’t be surprised when your LFD queue times increase because healers are tired of dealing with this kind of thing and they just wait to run with their guilds instead.

Pugging Pally Tries To Be Bossy Pally

“Gogogogo,” the druid chanted. “We ready let’s go!”

Having just respecced and refilled my mana, I threw out buffs as the DK tank hurled himself headlong at the first group of trash in Stonecore. With a sinking feeling I quickly put Beacon on him and sprinted after. Fifteen seconds later, we all lay dead.

“Rez me,” the same druid said in party chat as the rest of us gathered up again at the entrance. “Rez!”

I’m reminded me of something Redbeard said to me last week, that throughout the course of pugging to level 80 he saw me change. I asked him if he meant it made me jaded. “No,” he’d replied. “Experienced.” He’s right. This pugging pally doesn’t take crap.

“No,” I said to the druid. “You can run back like the rest of us did.”

“Come on, rez me,” he said again.

“Or we could just kick you,” one of the three DKs responded. Obligingly, I pulled up the vote to kick window. Reason: “Won’t run back like everyone else,” I typed.

The vote passed and we stared down the same trash again.

The previous night I had felt like I might lose my supper just at the prospect of pugging. I carefully read through all the paladin changes I’d missed, set up my keybinds (Vuhdo seemed to have forgotten them) and made sure I knew what to cast when, and why. Then, telling myself that I needed to discover the instance entrances – I promptly went Retribution and didn’t even glance at the LFD window. When I finally went to pug, I first asked Voss if he would tank a few normals for me. Rusty, new-to-Cataclysm healing paladin did not want to inflict herself on pugs just yet.

Vid's return coincided with some painting experiments I've been doing. It's not super but it was good practice.

Now I had a few instances under my belt, including Stonecore – but Voss had been tanking it. This tank had the same HP I have as a holy paladin. And as Redbeard had observed, I was not the same paladin I had been. I started putting up raid icons.

“We attack him first, and these guys need to have whatever CC is available. Even a Cyclone would help.” The obliging moonkin that had pugged in to replace the other moonkin agreed. We managed to limp through that trash pack and proceeded at a more cautious pace.

“Which are the ones that do the exploding thing?” the tank asked.

I marked one for him and told him,”It’s the Earthshapers.” Each pull was a bit easier, but they were still intense and mana-draining. It was all going well until the last pull before the boss – the tank, feeling confident, no doubt – ran ahead and pulled the last group while I was still drinking. He died a horrible death but we managed to finish the trash regardless. Old Vid might have just said nothing or apologized. This Vid said, “Those pulls are really tough on my mana, so please make sure I’m with you before you pull again because I’ll probably be drinking.” The tank didn’t do that again.

I don’t know if it’s a question of design or what, but it seems inherently wrong to me that a boss fight should feel like a relief after trash pulls. The crystally worm guy went down without any problems and we moved on to the fun Quake-trash. Here there were some more lessons to be had. “Try not to stand in front of them while they’re flaying,” I told the melee with a smiley. We dodged Slabhide’s stalactite gauntlet without any problems and killed Slabhide himself similarly. (Note to self: Next time throw a raid marker up on the tank. One worgen looks much like another).

The next hallway of trash was impressively orderly. The only misstep we had was when we accidentally pulled a pack of mobs prematurely by way of a Stonecore Sentry. Again, I think firestanding inclinations were not helping my mana situation and I was drinking heavily after each pull. I feel like I really have to re-learn how to be a paladin – how to manage my mana and get it back when I have to. I guess this is something that will come with time, research, and some more experience. Soon we reached Ozruk, and I began to brace myself. The heroic version of this boss is often a complete nightmare for a number of reasons. How would his normal version stack up with my much lesser-geared tank?

It was pretty intense. I think it would have been entirely manageable if 1) the tank had managed to avoid Shatter, or 2) the two melee DPS had managed to avoid Shatter, or 3) both of the above. As it was, my mana was not a happy camper, the tank damage began to be more than I could heal through. It was like with each successive Shatter I could feel things slipping more and more out of my control until finally they went splat. If you want a better metaphor, imagine someone juggling and they throw one ball just a bit too far forward, so they unconsciously move forward to compensate, and all of the balls move just a bit more forward, and in a matter of seconds they’re falling to the floor. It was like that. Astoundingly a last gasp of emergency healing on myself and the remaining DK managed to finish Ozruk off and I was able to rez the rest of the party.

“Without so much Shatter damage on everyone I think that might have been okay,” I told them, and apologized to the tank. One DK said that lag had made it hard for him. I don’t know how hard it is since I’m not dodging Shatters, so he gets a benefit of the doubt pass. I know they’re adding more time to dodge these on heroic, I’m not sure how that applies to normal, but the boss was down and we were that much closer to victory.

We killed the large packs of cultists as we headed towards High Priestess Azil without much happening of note – except that one of the DPS death knights pulled aggro on the second to last pack and died. I tried to make light of it, “Haha tanking didn’t work out for you so well that time,” but the DK didn’t say anything. Apparently there were rising tensions here that I hadn’t been aware of. I knew the aggro situation had been a bit sketchy, but I assume it was because – well, much of the trash is tricky.

Our first attempt on Azil we wiped horribly, spectacularly. The adds were all over the place, many of them were on me, and the ones that weren’t were on the DKs. DPS overall on Azil was slow – probably because we’d all been scrambling around like chickens with our heads cut off. As we all started to run back (nobody was about to drop group just at the end of the instance, not after the time we’d put in) the tank spoke up in party chat. “DPS really needs to pick it up.”

“Tanking needs to seriously pick it up,” one of the DKs retorted, “And get some tank gear and learn how to get aggro.”

I began to reply when the moonkin beat me to it, “Guys, let’s stop the blame game,” he said. I erased what I’d been about to say and retyped.

“I agree, we just need to manage adds a bit better and I know I can do better too,” I added. I asked Voss (who was sitting nearby) what he thought. Maybe he’d have some insights, obviously I’ve never tanked it myself. He told me that getting aggro on all the adds can be tough, and that I could help out by always situating myself so that the adds go into the void zones. I know that having someone looking over your shoulder might not work for everyone, but it definitely helped me to have him there as we initiated the next pull. If this is a question of not just getting out of void zones but also positioning yourself strategically near them – then clearly I had to learn to do better.

“Now go on the other side of that one,” Voss said, “OK great, now move back towards the other.” Since I was the one drawing them towards me with passive aggro, carefully watching my position (while keeping the rest of the party in range) helped tremendously. Perhaps the DPS gave the tank more time to pick up the adds, too, I’m not sure. The end result was that we got a few Justice points, we killed a boss, and then went our separate ways. Success!

I can’t exactly say either “It was a horrible pug,” or “What an awesome pug.” Over the past few days I’ve healed quite a few Cataclysm instances. I’ve run BRC a number of times (druid and paladin), Throne of the Tides (once, as a druid) and Stonecore three times (only as a paladin). I’m tempted to say that this pug was typical for a pug right now from what I’ve seen.

Keep in mind, I have barely scraped the surface of Cataclysm pugging before now and I can’t comment on heroic pugs at all. I have been blessedly enjoying the company of my guildies in that regard. So I am late to the party to observe this – but the complete paradigm shift is astounding. The default mode for Wrath pugs – silent, but largely effective – is dead. I spent a BRC run giving a brief explanation of each boss, because someone said they hadn’t been there. Perhaps there will be a point where pugs will know all of a dungeon’s quirks and foibles and can effortlessly, silently clear one – but that’s not the case just yet. A pug that does not communicate is going to fail, even if that communication is just raid markers and an understanding that “Moon” means “Sheep” (you know it does).

Enter the Slightly Bossy Paladin (I’m not the original, and of course I play my paladin for fun as a sideline). I spent most of levels 15-80 generally going along with a group, healing them, asking for time to drink when necessary. I’ve never been “the dungeon guide,” or purveyor of strats. But if it means the difference between success and failure, then by gosh that is what I’m going to do. I don’t know if I leave group and these guys are thinking to themselves, “Man, that paladin just wouldn’t shut up.” I won’t tell people what to do if they seem to know what’s what. But I also won’t stand idly by while repair bills add up simply because a pug doesn’t want to type a few lines into party chat. The days of the quickie runs are over. It’s not as if pugs can’t coordinate their actions just like a guild can when running together. It’s that we’re all unknown quantities, and that didn’t used to matter, but now it really does. Will the mage Polymorph (and maintain) his polymorph reliably? Can the paladin brute force heal through trash packs that pummel the entire party with incredible amounts of damage? Does the tank have enough mitigation and health to do his job – will he use his cool-downs? These are all things that matter.

The end result is that pugs are no longer a really effective way to level, and I’m going to be doing some more questing. It’s good experience, but not good XP, if you know what I mean. I’ll be very interested to see how things proceed as Vid levels. She’s sitting at 83 now and has many more normals ahead of her before I’ll be looking at heroics (and when I do, despite my newfound pug assertiveness, I hope to do it with guildies). It’s not you, pugs, it’s me. Actually I lied, it’s kind of you in a “none of my dear readers” kind of way, because I’m sure all of you would be awesome in a pug. Better than I am, for sure – I kept forgetting to use my magical paladin wings. For shame!

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