It came from the PUG: Make him run!!!

Welcome back to the annals of my random PUG experiences! Things have been a bit quiet on the PUG front because after having maxed out my reputations and sorted out raid gear on Spinks, I found my motivation to queue was very low. The instances were great and all – instance review to follow later this week – but it was as if I was done with that phase of my life. “It isn’t you, WoW Instances, it’s me.” Clearly this does not bode well given that a large part of the WoW endgame for every expansion up till now has involved running lots of instances.

Anyhow, recently I was levelling a Death Knight alt and dipped into the unchlorinated swimming pool of random PUGs as DPS to see how the temperature is in WoW randoms lately.

One thing I noticed is that when you are playing an alt and haven’t instanced in awhile, chances are you’ll make the odd silly mistake while you are remembering how it plays in groups. Maybe you’ll forget to put the right aura up, or accidentally taunt a mob, or something minor like that. If you’re lucky no-one else will notice and you’ll swiftly correct it.

If you’re unlucky, you will get the group from hell. They will either assume*** that because you made one minor mistake ONCE, you are the personification of all their hates and fears about being grouped with ‘morons’ (or M+S as Gevlon charmingly puts it.) Or else they’ll be so highly strung that even a single thing in an instance that doesn’t fit their expectations will send them off the deep end.

Make him run!

So the instance was normal Vortex Pinnacle, and my alt was around level 83 or so, wearing levelling greens/ blues as you do.

I realised this was going to be an odd run when I noticed that the tank was level 85 and in  raid gear. (Warrior Tier 11 is very recognisable because it’s so fugly.) There are actually very few reasons why a raid geared level 85 would be interested in normal Vortex Pinnacle, it won’t give reputations for tabard wearers and they’re hardly going to care about the justice points. I can only assume Blizzard patched in the warrior gun again as a drop there.

Anyhow, he was barging his way through quickly with occasional mana breaks for the healer and we came to the section where the trash pack starts within a grounding area. This means they are immune to spells, so the group needs to pull them outside the grounding pyramid to kill them.

I figured it probably wouldn’t work but I’d try to death grip one to bring it over. It didn’t work, but it did act as a taunt so when the mobs came over our way, it was still fixated on me. So my character died and we killed the mobs.

The tank said, “Who do you think is tanking here, you or me? Don’t res, make him run.”

I said, “Sorry, that was my mistake but you could have taunted it back. Now you’re just being a jerk.”

And (this part is crucial) then I left because I made the same attribution error as he did, figured he was probably just an arse, and decided there wasn’t anything I needed in the instance for which I’d put up with it. The nice thing about being low level is that you can always just go and do some quests instead.

This fairly casual attitude to instances, now that they are so easily available,  is why we both made the same mistake.

*** Technically this is called an attribution error. If you see a dps get aggro in an instance, do you assume?:

  1. They are a moron. All dps who pull aggro must die in fire.
  2. It’s a low level instance, s/he is probably just learning.
  3. It was probably just a one-off mistake and they won’t do that again.
  4. You didn’t even notice. Either mobs were dying so fast that it doesn’t matter, everyone was tanking everything in any case, or (if you were the tank) you just taunted it back again as an automatic reaction.

If you always automatically assume (1) without ever waiting for more evidence then you are probably the problem. Obv. if they have a stupid name or say stupid things in chat prior to the event, you’ll have more basis for that opinion.

Alas, poor deathknight, I knew ye well


Readers, I have a confession to make.

I have not one, not two, but THREE level 80 Death Knights in my stable of alts vs only one of any other class. For me, the class has been one of the great successes of the expansion. I haven’t done much raiding on any of them other than the odd VoA, they’re my fun alts.

And every single one of them has a talent spec which will disappear in the next patch. I can’t help that I like blood dps and frost tanking!

Things I love about my Death Knights:

  • Hair colour. People ask where my dwarf got the awesome hairdye. I say that’s not dye, it’s BLOOD! Or else I lie and say there is a special barber in Silithus, just to make them run across two continents because I am a death knight and I am eeeeeeevil.
  • Free weapon enchants. Why did Blizzard think it was a good idea to give Death Knights a free rune enchant that is the best weapon enchant in the game when everyone else has to pay through the nose for Berserking? I have no idea. There is no conceivable balance reason for this.
  • Levelling is such a breeze. For sure it doesn’t hurt to start with a nice set of blue quality gear, but access to fast running and lots of self heals in combat makes for a happy melee class. Expect this to change in Cataclysm unless you want to level as a tank.
  • Everyone hates them. The bar for a DK is very low, so if you are even moderately competent as a tank, people tend to be impressed.
  • Not one but two interrupts. Suck it, paladins. (OK, my warrior also has plenty of interrupts, massive numbers of stuns, and charge but the DK is almost as good.)
  • Pet army of ghouls. It doesn’t get better than this, and the fact they always piss everyone off is a bonus.

I’m sure at least one of them will struggle through to 85. I still like my warrior best, but death knights do run them a close second for me.

edited to add: I will write a proper comparison between warrior and death knight, but was inspired by Larisa’s post on how she loves WoW to write about something I really enjoyed in this expansion. Suffice it to say I enjoy both classes very much. And warriors will be amazing to level in Cataclysm too — getting Victory Rush so early minimises downtime.

Who is the most important person in your group?

One of the great things about well designed team games is that every single member of the team can feel important. They each have a part to play. If they play their part particularly well, they can see it make a difference to the team.

And that’s good because, for self-esteem, everyone likes to feel that they were contributing. (If you aren’t in the team for self esteem then what you mostly want is everyone else to think you were contributing while you actually find somewhere quiet to hide at the back, in much the same way that I used to pick my position in the school rounders team.) I wouldn’t be surprised if the boost to self esteem from running in successful groups is one of the reasons people enjoy grouping so much in games.

I’ve seen a lot of blog articles and forum posts since the new dungeon finder came out explaining how the writer and their class/ role single-handedly can carry a group. I’ve read posts by smug tanks, healers, and dps explaining how it doesn’t really matter what everyone else does, because they are the sole reason for success. And I think … well, OK, but they can’t all be right. Can they? Even allowing for people playing with rose-coloured blinkers.

If the team game is genuinely good, then each member of the team should have a chance to shine. That means it shouldn’t always be one team member who has to shoulder the burden. So probably it’s right that everyone sees this differently and feels that they personally carry their groups to victory.

From running instances recently in WoW on different alts, I changed my view on this. (Note: this does vary based on different encounters, different classes, and different games but I think it’s interesting to compare how in control the different roles and classes can feel.)

As a tank: Yup, I control the run. I can make it smooth and easy as long as the other members of the team are vaguely together. It won’t matter if all four of them are undergeared and inexperienced, I’ll make things work. It might feel like hard work at times, and I can’t always make up for a really incompetent healer – although I have soloed a few bosses from about 20% to dead in the past couple of weeks. If the group is bouncy and insists on pulling way too many extra groups, I can probably handle it although it’ll make me grouchy. If anything goes really badly wrong with a pull, I can pick it up as long as I get some heals along the way.

So yes, I feel pretty much in control as a tank. If the group is good, I can find fun things to do to keep my interest. I can step up the pace, or give myself marks out of 10 for getting all the mobs in a pull on top of each other when I use shockwave, for example.

As a healer: I almost always feel useful, but I never really feel that I am carrying a run unless something else has gone catastrophically wrong, in which case I still need the tank and dps to be doing something about it. All I can do as a healer is buy them time. I can make up for poor dps to some extent by simply not running out of mana before a boss dies.

So I don’t really understand where healers feel that they can single handedly pull things together. The only way that happens is if everyone else has failed horribly, which isn’t really that common. If the group is really good, it’s quite dull to heal (which is good if you want to sit back and farm some emblems). If not, it can be extremely exciting with plenty of chances to shine – when you spin the random dungeon you don’t know which you might be getting or how quickly a group can switch from one to the other.

I don’t feel in control as a healer, but I don’t heal in order to feel in control. I heal when I want a break from that and want to just chug along behind the group and sling some heals around.

As a dps: This is where I changed my mind after having pimped up my Death Knight to the point where I can talk my way into TotC and ICC PUG raids and have people asking to put me on their friends list afterwards. (6.5k on ICC trash yesterday, I don’t even know how that happened!)

As a high powered dps, I do feel that I am a powerhouse in groups. It barely matters what the rest of the group are doing, I will kill things quickly, can pull annoying mobs into position, have some crowd control, and can even tank in a pinch. So I feel really useful in runs where things are going well, but also really handy in an emergency where everything has gone pear shaped. Plus, even if all the other dps die in a fire, I’ll make up for them in boss fights.

I don’t control the run, but I have a lot of power over the more important side of it – the bits that involve mass slaughter of innocent mobs as efficiently as possible. If the group is good, I can always try to beat the other dps on meters. It may partly be the Death Knight, which feels incredibly potent as a character, since I don’t remember feeling like this on my warlock.

I don’t know which role I prefer, because it depends on my mood. I do like having the options available though – only possible for me because I’ve been playing WoW for long enough to have a few geared alts. But I do find it funny that so many people feel as though they are the most important person in every group they run.

The long distinguished roll of pick up group disasters

This post marks the end of a long week of posts about WoW and particularly about the new random dungeon finder that came in with patch 3.3. What can I say? It’s been a jolt in the arm for an aging game. It’s been a reminder that the instanced content was always WoW’s strongest selling point. And it’s reminded a lot of people who thought they disliked grouping that what they mostly disliked was all the associated hassle in getting the group together.

The most brilliant thing about the dungeon finder from Blizzard’s point of view is that no one else running current gen games can copy it. In order to work, a tool like this needs a massive user base. For example, I woke up at 2am this morning and tried to get a group on my death knight out of morbid curiousity. 10 minutes later *BAM* smooth as silk Forge of Souls Heroic run. Now think about how many players you need active in order for there to be a 50% chance for any single person to only have to wait 10 mins to get a group at two in the morning.

My new Death Knight who conveniently hit 80 the day before the patch is also looking rather sleek in her new gear, thanks to some lucky drops.

In any case, we’ve all been running a lot more instances, and getting to grip with a lot more PUGs. I feel as though I’ve been in a permanent sugar rush when logged on. And it’s also not all perfect – what’s more, even those of us who are usually paragons of perfection occasionally make (say it in whispers) minor mistakes.

Here’s a list of some of the dumb things I have done this week:

  1. Ran a whole instance with my Death Knight in the wrong presence. I didn’t realise until right at the end when the tank asked why I kept getting aggro.
  2. While manoeuvring a mob in Forge of Souls, I fell off the platform.
  3. Told a death knight that it was fine for him to use Army of Souls on Loken, following which we immediately wiped.
  4. While trying an experimental short cut in The Nexus, I fell off the platform (incidentally, EVERYONE who has ever run Nexus has fallen off that platform at some point but it don’t half make you feel like a noob when it isn’t your first run.)
  5. Let far too many people die while healing on my druid because of being a bit out of practice.

By the way, every single one of those runs was actually successful (except for the Loken one because my friends logged on and I left the group). The only one that even caused a wipe was when I fell off Forge of Souls, because I was tanking at the time.

The oddest complaint I have had from another player was that I killed the bosses in the Nexus in the ‘wrong order.’ I told him I hadn’t received that memo.

I’m not the only person who has been cataloguing personal PUG failures (aka “I was THAT guy.”)

Am I spoiled for MMOs?

Maybe I have been playing too much Dragon Age over the last few weeks (surely not!!!), but levelling a Death Knight through Dragonblight at the moment is a frustrating experience in comparison.

As Horde, you encounter Koltira the blood elf death knight in Agmar’s Hammer where he has some quests. I thought, “Hey! I saved your life in my origin story, you’re going to recognise me now and we can chill out together and bitch about what a jerk Arthas was and how much better things are now, right?” Nope. He treats you exactly the same as a death knight as any other class.

I should know better than to expect more, but I think the damage has now been done. The bar on my expectations has been raised.

Fellow DAO fans, do you think playing that game is going to change your expectations of MMOs?

Raid Update: When the going gets tough …

It’s summer. The weather is hot. Exams are finished. And this means one thing: people are wanting to take things easy and cut back on raiding.

And even in a tight-knit raid group, unless you regularly had several people signing up as reserves for your raid, you don’t have to lose many regulars before you can feel the pinch.

So even though the raids we have run have been going reasonably well, we’re sometimes struggling for signups on raids. We don’t always have the luxury of going with the ‘A Team’ (this means that sometimes we need people to come as off-specs or bring alts). And it’s affected both progression and morale. Or rather, it’s in times like these that you see who isn’t interested in signing for the wipe nights. Or in my case, who’d like to come but can’t make the schedule.

Morale can be a downwards spiral if you aren’t careful. All we can really do is press on, keep trying to recruit, and keep things moving as much as possible.

Last week I cancelled a 10 man for the first time because of raid balance – I’m not saying that 3 warlocks, 3 shamans, 3 paladins and a warrior couldn’t beat the keepers with at least two of them having to come as off-spec … ok, actually I am saying that I didn’t fancy our chances.

Note: We’d previously cleared out all the bosses up to and including Auriaya so it wasn’t a failed week, just I’d hoped to press on for more tries on Mimiron. Which is actually the only keeper we haven’t yet killed in 10 man. Maybe next week. It’s always a hard decision as to whether to cancel a raid or press on.

We still have a lot of the instance left but it’s hard not to feel a pang of sympathy for Tarsus who’s finding that some fights just are easier if you go with the optimal class balance (death knight tank, in this case). I say this cheerfully, but we don’t have a DK tank so if we get that far, we’re stuffed.

Raid Composition Issues

Death Knights making bosses easier isn’t the only composition issue in Ulduar. We’re finding that some fights are notably harder without a priest and since my main healers for 10 man are a paladin and a shaman – it affects morale.

We won’t stop trying but I don’t know that I want to have to do everything on extra hard-mode just because my friends don’t play the right classes.

I’m beginning to feel Syp’s reroller anxiety again. Did I make a mistake in not rerolling a Death Knight? Will they get nerfed into the ground? Will paladins be the next overpowered tank (this is my personal guess actually — as soon as they get an extra cooldown and block is fixed)?

There’s no way I will plan to gear up another tank now that Spinks is geared up and I like playing her but I sometimes wish Blizzard would just make us all identical – it would be better than this frustration. Is it bad to wish that you could be the best occasionally?