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

“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!

Comments on: "Pugging Pally Tries To Be Bossy Pally" (17)

  1. Cataclysm dungeons are definitely quite a bit different from the 1-80 experience, and I’m thinking might actually be a bit of shell-shock to players who actually spent all their days leveling in dungeons. I haven’t spent much time in them when I can help it, although I do end up pugging more heroics than I’d like.

    I wonder if other “dungeon levelers” make the switch to questing when they hit 80, or if they’re bravely going to soldier on!

    • I think I like what Cynwise said about this (up above). Suppose I’m a player who only ever runs dungeons casually and likes to do other things on the side but doesn’t raid. I used to just relax into a 5-man and it was a fun way to pass the time, now it feels like a mini-raid, but the rewards for doing it haven’t changed at all. Voss mentioned that they are going to be adding justice points to normals (not just the end boss), perhaps that will help! Not that I’m someone who will kick and scream and pitch a fit if I’m not being “adequately rewarded” but it does seem like quite a bit of effort to coordinate 5 random people for not much reward – either XP or otherwise. 😦

  2. I always, ALWAYS mark the tank and the healer on Slabhide, no matter what party role I’m doing. It helps the healer maintain LOS on the tank and vice versa and it helps the DPS make sure (if they want any heals, anyway) they’re in LOS with the healer. Normally if a tank gets petulant about a raid marker (I always mark them at the start) fine, whatever. But on Slabhide I all but insist. It’s just so much easier.

    I’m finding that as a healer for regulars, I’m growing increasingly apprehensive about tanks not knowing fights and just hurling themselves into it. BRC in particular just seems merciless for stupidly careless tanks in this regard. First boss? Oh look there’s 2 extra mob packs. 2nd boss, well fine I guess I’ll take a beam and hope someone else is smart enough to. And the lava pillar boss, god help you. As such I always try to broach the subject early and make sure to find out who knows the fights and have some quick instructions ready just in case.

  3. Well done, Vid!

    I suspect that if people had inernalized the lessons learned in the Tempest Keep and MgT runs at level, then Cata runs would be a lot more straightforward.

    Now it’s my turn, I suppose.

  4. The first time I ran Sunwell Plateau was at level 80. We wiped on the initial trash the first few times until everyone settled down, put their raid faces on, and got to work.

    That trash was harder than any boss, or any subsequent trash pulls. My GM explained it as the trash was both the gear and raid check – if you didn’t seriously have your shit together at level 70, both personally and as a raid, you weren’t getting in.

    That explanation stuck with me, and I’m reminded of it a lot reading about Cata dungeons. I think the trash is there to correct a lot of the bad behavior people saw in Wrath, a deliberate attempt to force people to work together. That’s a good thing.

    But it also takes away something a lot of people enjoyed doing – casually running dungeons – with nothing rewarding to really fill that void yet.

  5. I can definitely relate to the Stonecore trash being more difficult than some of its bosses. I recently ran it myself while working to level my little alt DK. I ended up tanking it and being really new to DK tanking it was rather… crazy.

    (Especially so when you have 3 guildies with you and they decide to pull off you on purpose to see how you handle it.. then again I suspect it was payback for a previous instance when I’d let him – while he was the tank – run all the way up to some caster mob standing far off and then death grip it back to me.. but I digress)

    On Ozruk I have to admit that the Shatter seemed to come very quick and even when I started running the moment I saw him start casting 90% of the time I couldn’t get out in time. So it seems to be fairly difficult to have enough time, I suspect with any lag it’s almost impossible.

    The final boss ended up being slightly odd for us. In fact, we agreed that it’s actually easier on Heroic. I don’t know if it’s intended or not, but when she went back up on her podium and started tossing rocks – and you get all those extra packs of adds – she also stopped making the portals. On Heroic there are still portals, which makes it easier since you just get the adds into the portals and don’t really have to deal with them (we usually place ourselves so that any add would have to run through the portal to get to us). So on normal we had to deal with and kill all the adds suddenly.

    But it all worked out in the end. It is taking me longer than I thought to get back to the tanking mindset though after having been dps for a couple of months now. I guess it doesn’t help that I changed my tank from a warrior to a dk either 🙂

    It’s interesting how you’ve changed your mentality when PUGing too. Do you find that it’s different depending on which role you take on – or is it the same whether you’re healer/dps/tank?

    And completely off-topic; if one was maybe interested in a commission how would one go about it? 🙂

    • I know exactly what you mean – there were times when no void zones existed and I just had to stand there letting the adds hit me in the face! I suppose they think “fewer void zones” means it’s easier but it really isn’t! I’m sure you’ll get the hang of tanking on a new class. My paladin healing is rusty too, I must admit.

      The best thing to do is to send me an e-mail at puggingpally AT and we can discuss! Thanks for your interest. 🙂

  6. Vidyala: pugs are no longer a really effective way to level

    Windsoar: I wonder if other “dungeon levelers” make the switch to questing when they hit 80, or if they’re bravely going to soldier on!

    I started leveling as a Tankadin before the Cataclysm release. The experience and environment is entirely different now. The XP and rewards don’t compete against the redesigned questing experience 1-60, which is hugely rewarding. The only thing missing being fewer blues, which don’t matter when you’re outleveling the gear in a few hours anyway!

    Of course, things change in Outland. The quests haven’t been redesigned there and the rewards of LFD are attractive. However, this will mean many newbies in the queue without dungeon experience. It reminds me of all the flack new DKs got as inexperienced to their roles and needing to L2P.

  7. I’ve been doing more dungeons on my holy pally than any of my other characters so far, and it does seem that Stonecore feels harder than other 5-mans — though my guildies claim that it’s easier to heal on a priest, for what that’s worth. (Not much, says my pally.)

    But it does come with practice. Gearing up went a long way toward solving my mana problem, which makes life ever so much nicer. And in general, I’ve gotten into the habit of hitting Divine Plea as we run between pulls or while I drink to speed up mana regen without nerfing my own heals.

    Good luck!

  8. Aye pugs are way different now to be sure. I ventured out into regular dungeon cata land with my pally tanking. I am way to slow for my guildies. LOL. I guess I’d better stick to healz

  9. You know, I was having some problems in regular Stonecore too. Especially on Ozruk. The tank would try running away from Shatter but not get far enough. And when he ran away, he would run away from -me-, so I would have to pick up my totems and move myself allll the way over there to try and heal him before he died. And on top of that, he was taking additional heavy damage from the ‘Ground Slam’ ability, which could be avoided if the tank moves out of it. I didn’t realize that at first, but the second time we did the boss I realized what was going on (after the tank died and our kitty turned into a bear to finish tanking the boss).

  10. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chris A., walks, Ttrinity, Vosskah, Disciplinary Action and others. Disciplinary Action said: RT @_vidyala: Last night on Manalicious: Pugging Pally Tries to be Bossy Pally (but not the real @BossyPally). Than … […]

  11. I’m leveling my holy pally at the moment, but haven’t healed any Cata instances yet. When I do though, I know I’ll be doing much the same as you, explaining what needs to be explained and not putting up with crap I don’t have to.

    Sometimes when pugging as dps I’ll hear the healer be “bossy” but it never bothers me, because I know why they are explaining everything to people. It makes their job easier and some people just don’t know.

  12. I’ve healed Stonecore many times now (normal & heroic) and tanked it a bunch on normal mode.

    Raid marks on tank & healer both for Slabhide! Makes it easier for the DPS to keep line of sight on the healer too.

    Shatter is *such* a pain to get out of. Tank & melee both need to start running out way before they think they do, and the tank has the further problem of the shatters immediately following the ground slams. So you’re always out of position for them. Or so it feels. Anyway, melee movement on Ozruk is annoying & I have yet to get it right. Sigh.

    You will always and forever attract most of the adds on the final fight with healing aggro. There’s no helping it and because aoe tanking has been nerfed, not even a paladin tank is going to peel them all off you. You’ll need to use this to your advantage as you lure all those silly adds right through void zones of doom. Or right into the dust cloud where a giant rock is about to fall!

  13. Stonecore is tough. I’m pretty much doing it exclusively right now on Heroic, and still have yet to tank Ozruk successfully. By that, I seem to be dead everytime, and we’ve eeked out a win.
    You hit the nail on the head. No longer are PuGs able to silently destroy instances.
    Without some type of communication, I don’t care how strong your tank/healer combination is–you’re going to die.
    Also–awesome strat on Azil. It’s the only way we’ve been able to do it. As Leafie said–there is just no way to really AoE tank that–while dodging rocks, interrupting Force Slam (or w/e that is called).

  14. Nearly all of the people I run into have some appreciation for what the healer is doing and understand when they’ve botched it up, killing themselves and/or draining your mana unnecessarily.

    Wrath runs were too quick and easy to bother with the drama and I never had to start a vote myself, such was the level of idiocy required to merit one.

    Cata runs are even more ‘srs bsns’. Very few people are obvious experts so most people are accepting of encounter strategies and tips which make things easier on the healer.

  15. Firstup thanks for another great read, I really enjoy all of your posts.
    I can totally relate to what you wrote – seems to be the same all around the globe.
    Stonecore normal can be very, very rough if you have the wrong group setup, or puggers just don’t care. Problem is also that a lot of people try to run that dungeon, as soon as they can get into it.
    I’ve waited at least till 83 before entering, but on my way to 85 (with 9 chars) I’ve entered every dungeon only once to do the quests there.
    In WotLK I’ve leveled a healer only through lfg and I’ve gotta agree with you, that in Cata it’s not very much fun or relaxing to heal a pug – at the moment.
    I’m guessing this may change sooner or later, when the nerfbat comes around.
    Oh and just to make this clear: I love cata difficulty when doing dungeons with friends – but not so much with (often to silent) pugs. ^^

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