Tag Archives: it’s all fun and games until someone has to go and die

Places You Shouldn’t Learn to Tank, and My Nemesis

All of my characters generally feel that shoes are for sissies.

In my spare WoW-time when I don’t feel like working on Loremaster or other things for my to-be-main, I’ve been halfheartedly acquiring gear for my troll mage. I say “halfheartedly” not because I have a lack of desire, but because I get excited about it for a day or so – and then I run smack into LFD.

She’s slowly creeping up to an acceptable gear level, which is fine. Incredible magical devastation wasn’t built in a day, after all. I’m going to quote one of my guildies here, because I’m finding his observations to be true.

“Have you guys noticed,” he said, “That the people in LFD have gotten nicer? They’re incredibly nice.” (Brief pause). “They are terrible players. But nice.”

Yesterday I waited my 20-minute DPS queue out patiently. I’d done Direbrew, I’d done a random, and now I wanted to go to Forge of Souls. Happily, I zoned in. Nothing seemed amiss at first, except that the tank was a bit slow to get going. No problem; this gave me time to put up a refreshment table, set up my assist macro, choose a moonkin for Focus Magic, and then tap my two-toed feet. Once we finally started rolling, it became evident that our warrior tank was what I would politely call “new.” But hey, that’s okay! I eased off considerably on the AoE, made sure to silence the annoying casters in the first trash pack. It didn’t matter. The moonkin died. I died. The healer died.

Usually wiping on the first trash is something of a bad sign, but I didn’t say anything. The moonkin piped up in party chat, “I hate training new tanks.” I thought he was just being generally snarky, and was surprised when the tank didn’t reply. It was only as we laboriously worked our way through all of that trash that I clued into the fact that the tank, moonkin, resto druid and hunter were all in the same guild. Uh-oh.

“This tank has no idea what he’s doing and his guildies aren’t helping him,” I told Voss. “Stuff is all over the place. What would you do for this next trash pack?” Voss looked over my shoulder to point to one mob.

“Tell him to charge this one, and the rest will come to him,” he said. “At Bronjahm, make sure that he kites him away from the Soul Fragments.”

I passed this all on – not, I hope – in an obnoxious but a helpful way. Our prospects didn’t seem to be improving as we approached Bronjahm. I blinked in a moment of brief confusion. Our moonkin had gone resto. Spiffy.

Bronjahm with two healers was actually… okay. It took quite a long time, as DBM helpfully informed me when we finished, “Bronjahm down after five minutes, thirty-five seconds! Your last kill took one minute and thirty seconds.” Let’s just say that mana was an issue. I was starting to mildly resent these people for forcing me to compensate for lack of one DPS when it’s not as if my mage has super gear or anything, but I kept quiet. It seemed to be working.

We arduously made our way through the next series of trash packs. The hunter and I were doing what we could, but after all, we were only two. I had a sinking feeling as we stood in front of the Devourer of Souls. Was it even possible for us to pull this off?

Thirty seconds later I had my answer. The tank died about fifteen seconds into the fight. They battle-rezzed him. He died again. This is with two healers, mind you. The hunter was the next with aggro and he died, and kiting didn’t last too long for me. I died, too. At this point, in exasperation, I asked Voss to take a look at his armory to see just what this warrior’s deal was.

A strangled sound came from across the room, as I am navigating my ghost back to the instance. “What?” I ask Voss wearily.

“He’s wearing pants from Shattered Halls,” he replies. “And his gloves are ilevel 100… And his tanking weapon is the Tankard of Terror.”

“Defense? How much defense does he have?”

“…475.”

Meantime, in party chat the moonkin has gone on to say, “Soz, like I said, new tank.”

Now that I have some idea of what’s going on with this guy (you know, his BURNING CRUSADE gear) I reply, “Do you really think that H Forge is the place to learn?”

The hunter says, “Better harder than easier.”

Miraculously I manage to bite my tongue on what I think about that, as the moonkin goes on. “It’s OK, we’re getting him an elixir of defense so he won’t be one-shot like that again.”

An elixir of defense, oh, be still my heart. Never mind that even with it he’ll still be crittable. At this point, I am committed because we killed the first boss. I want loot from the last boss very badly so I’m obliged to stick it out and hope by some divine intervention we’re actually able to kill this boss.

Astoundingly, our tank lives about twenty seconds in, give or take. It seems the two healers are doing okay healing him up until the point where Devourer begins to do his laser beam wall of death thing. The tank stands in it and dies.

Fortunately for him (and me) he has not one but two Rebirths at his disposal. During one of these deaths I am killed, and we’re left counting on the hunter to finish it off. He does, and they resurrect me. I am extremely happy because the Arcane Loops of Anger dropped, and that’s what I had wanted.

I am less happy because the entire run took an hour. It’s an instance with two bosses. It should be the quickest of the ICC heroics. Because I am polite, I thank them for the rez and then leave the group. (You’ll notice I didn’t say “group,” even though I did get loot from it).

The thing is, I am not impatient with tanks who are learning, tanks who are new. We all have to start somewhere, and we’re all new sometime. But there is “new” and there is “How did you even get into this instance with such a frightening lack of knowledge and gear?” Unlike Lara, he was not prepared.

I actually don’t know the answer to that question – I thought that the ICC heroics had gear requirements. I should clarify, I don’t have a problem with running your under-geared friends through instances. I think that’s okay. But when you intend to do that, you should do one of two things:

1) Bring five guildies. Not four. Don’t inflict your friend on unsuspecting puggers. Nobody deserves to spend an hour clearing an instance that ought to take half that time – because you think it’d be best for your friend to learn the basics of tanking in some of the hardest heroics that exist. It’s presumptuous, and it’s rude.

2) If you can’t find five guildies to run Mister Just-Dinged 80, have him assume a less critical role. I’d be far less grumpy about carrying a fury warrior while someone competent tanked, and pretty much nobody cares about off-spec rolls for gear (so long as the person tanking doesn’t need it).

After the Forge of Souls shenanigans, I queued again and joined a friendly group for Pit of Saron. This one was going generally without a hitch, until I saw him.

My sworn enemy.

The horror!

He’s everywhere. It seems somehow fitting that he is also a rogue. Just when you least expect it… BAM. COMIC SANS. (If you don’t get the joke the link above will probably be enlightening).

Not on my watch

This is a slightly late Blog Azeroth shared topic suggested by Ecclesiastical Discipline (I knew I couldn’t type that correctly on the first try…) and it’s a doozy:

When should a healer let someone die?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and hope that my history bears me out. That means “please don’t dig through my blog looking for an instance of when I let someone die deliberately,” but in general, my answer is “I won’t.” Wait, it’s coming back to me, that’s not entirely true. There have been certain special circumstances where I did so, but in general my answer stands.

Tossing out heals for pugs since level 17.

I see the role of a healer as a facilitator. It’s part of what makes it so much fun, at least for me. You are a support for the group. When life gets the group down, you are the one to be there cheering them on, and bandaging their wounds. I take that role seriously, and it’s not lightly that I abandon it.

The damage dealers: “Whoops, I did it again.”

That means that when an over-eager DPS pulls aggro, I view it as a personal challenge to keep them alive. I know some healers would challenge me on this, and even some tanks. (You yank it, you tank it!) There are exceptions to this. When I was leveling Vid, my mana was pretty precious. I didn’t have forty-thousand mana to throw around, nor did I have the ability to simultaneously heal more than one person. I have a responsibility to the tank to heal them, and a further responsibility to keep myself alive so that I can fulfill the first. The other three group members take a back-seat to that. So when a DPS needs heavy healing because they pulled, I might do it – but only if it doesn’t put the tank or myself in jeopardy. This comes into play more in heroics at eighty. My restoration druid has so much mana, she hasn’t drunk a thing in weeks. Needing to heal a DPS probably means I’ll stop casting wrath to direct heal someone.

Again, it’s very situational. In a raiding situation, if someone pulls aggro they are likely to be dead. I’ve told you about the fury warrior-turned-warlock in our guild. His nickname is Dirtface, and it’s Dirtface for a reason. In his words, “I play because the ground in ICC is tasty and delicious.” His death is routine. I still try to keep him alive when I’m a healer. During one heavy pull in our last alt raid, our off-tank had to take a phone call. I’m not sure if he was actually AFK or just distracted, but we had a Fury warrior off-tank for awhile. And heck yeah I put Beacon on him. I wasn’t aware that the tank was AFK, I just knew he didn’t have aggro, wasn’t taking  damage, and didn’t need it. Dirtface lived.

The flip side of this (because I am DPSing at least as often as I am a healer) is a very resounding “mea culpa.” As a healer I try to keep the DPS alive. As a DPS – I don’t expect to be kept alive if I pull aggro. Whether the tank is “bad” or not isn’t relevant, it’s my job to manage my aggro. Sometimes I impose on my healers to heal me when I have gone overboard DPSing, and I’m very grateful for their benevolence, but I don’t expect it. Generally if I die, I have no one to blame but myself!

The wall of bricks: “We can handle all of this, right?”

If a tank dies, I get an immediate wash of intense guilt and regret. It always feels like a personal failure, and in many cases it is. The only exception to this is if a tank really was trying to do too much. I don’t mind a tank pulling aggressively, but I’m not apt to “punish” him for it either. I will do my damnedest to keep a tank up through hell and heavy pulling, but if I fail in that case I wouldn’t take all the responsibility on myself. It comes back to the tank and healer relationship. I was fortunate to have considerate tanks when I first started getting my hooves wet healing as a paladin at eighty, and I usually made a point of saying, “Hey, I’m still pretty new,” just as a heads-up. It’s part of the tank’s responsibility to know their healer’s limits.

I know I’ve pugged in with a great tank when they make their first few pulls a bit cautiously, or even ask me what I’m comfortable with. I know what they are doing; they’re feeling out to see how far they can reach with me backing them up. Only after they get a feel for my healing do they start to pull more aggressively, and I love that. In a short amount of time you’ve established a rapport and trust, even just for the 20 minutes you’re in the instance together, and those are always smooth runs. I like being able to trust the tanks I’m with, which is probably why I tend to prefer tanks I know.

A tank won’t die if I can possibly prevent it, unless he is an incredible jerk. I ran into such a tank wayyy back in my Deadmines days, and I checked: even then I didn’t kill him. Because if he dies, it means that other people are likely to die, and that’s not my decision to make.

It’s my off-spec that is Retribution

Occasionally I do run into a situation when someone will expressly ask or expect me to not heal someone. I know I’ve said I won’t let someone die, but there are a few exceptions, and here they are.

  • Avoidable environmental damage, a.k.a. “Why is the ground burning me?” For this I follow a general rule of “Once, shame on you, twice shame on me.” If someone is standing in something that’s killing them and I can heal them through it, I probably will – the first time. This will be followed by a general reminder, “Please watch out for such-and-such” on the ground. A repeat offense might be healed, but definitely not a third. This is a lesson situation. If there’s no consequence for standing in fire, people won’t ever learn not to stand in it.
  • The tank is having a hard time with someone continually pulling aggro and they ask me to “Please not heal so-and-so” or “Just let them die.” I still have a really hard time with this. It’s happened when a DPS thought they could pull groups instead of the tank, which is not the same as pulling aggro. This is a situation in which I feel the healer has to back up the tank, but it’s always a judgment call. Does it really justify withholding heals? In some cases it does. But I don’t like doing it. The biggest reason is because death of any kind in most instances punishes the whole group and not just the recipient. If I let them die, we have to then resurrect them, have them get their mana back, and probably rebuff them which costs me and other party members a reagent in any case.

In short, I don’t like punitive healing. If I’m there healing, I’m going to keep everyone alive to the best of my abilities. Sometimes DPS pulls aggro, mistakes happen, things get messy. I revert to my priorities: self, tank, DPS dead last. Sometimes that means they do wind up dead, and if they don’t I feel I’ve done a good job.

Most importantly, when I’m on the damage dealing side and I pull a bonehead maneuver and the healer has to heal me through something smacking me in the face… I make sure and thank them! Usually in the form of, “Thank you for saving me from my own stupidity, I know it was above and beyond the call of duty.” Because it is; the healer isn’t obligated to heal you through extraordinary damage if you bring it upon yourself. Treasure them and be grateful when they do, and remember it if you’re ever on the flip-side! If more people showed a little love for their healers, there’d never be a healer shortage. It can be an incredibly rewarding role when you’re grouped with great people.

When I Asked If You Had BG Experience…

Some of these built-in commenting system things always put my latest blog entry below my name, when I comment on another blog. I’ve enjoyed having my latest post there because I think it makes me sound combative and fearsome. I could be saying, “What a cute mini-pet you have!” but underneath my name it says, “I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your A*s,” so it’s, “Visit Pugging Pally! We have fearsome things here like swords that I can’t use properly.”

Having such an intimidating tagline did remind me, however, that I tried holy PvP for the first time last weekend! A key component of this story is 1) I did PvP with my paladin and also 2) you’ll notice it’s not my paladin I brought to kill the griefing guy while trying to level my hunter.

It was one of the rare occasions when I’ve gone to PvP with other people. It started when Dirtface (that’s actually his name now, though I feel vaguely guilty using it as an honest-to-goodness name) needed some honour points for… something he needed to buy, I’m not sure. He had never PvPed as a warlock and so he asked if anyone would go with him. Kayla (hunter) was game to go, as was Draos (feral druid) and Ulla (resto druid). I’d been meaning to put Vidyala in a situation where other people could hit her in the face, so I agreed too.

Absolutely ready for PvP. 100%. If you don't count all the PvE gear.

I considered her not altogether unprepared, because she has a few PvP pieces I am using for her PvE set. An aside, I know that Blizz said they wanted to take away the component of PvPing to get gear for PvE (ever since the days of PvPing on my mage to get that giant pink staff, the one that couldn’t be replaced by anything past Kara) but I think they failed. You can trade 30 Stonekeeper’s Shards to acquire 2000 honour points. If you’re like me and on a server where your faction often possesses Wintergrasp, you have a lot of these things. All of my characters had a lot of these things, so it was easy to get enough honour for Vid to buy a 264 cloak and necklace. Neither is as good as something intended for PvE would be, but having the cloak has allowed me to delay purchasing the emblem one in favour of other things. All of which is a long-winded way of saying, I had a little bit of resilience. I even have the Flash of Light PvP libram, which I purchased because I’d thought about trying a FoL build, and it’s nice for 5-mans when casting HL is usually overkill. I used Triumph emblems to buy another PvP piece and off we went, armed with very little knowledge of paladin PvP in general.

A bit of miscommunication landed Ulla and I (both of the two healers) in an Isle of Conquest match while our other three folks were in Arathi Basin. It didn’t take us long to botch the Isle completely; though the Arathi Basin took longer. When we queued up together again, I groaned inwardly to see the Warsong Gulch loading screen. I have not had happy times with Warsong Gulch. I don’t know if it’s because usually it’s just a random assemblage of people who don’t work together… I’ll be honest with you, I sort of like when there’s a bossy person who takes charge of a BG pug. Or even if people are just talking like Gnomeaggeddon was saying the other day. I tend to freeze up a little when it comes time to decide where I would be best employed, and typically (as a healer especially) I’ll find someone to follow into the thick of things and keep people alive. Fortunately for me there are worse strategies as a healer – obviously I’m not going to go off by myself and try to damage things. I am most useful where the fighting is happening. (Except when the fighting is on the road).

But this Warsong Gulch was different, possibly because at least two of the people I was with had extensive BG experience. “I don’t do this one ever,” I confessed in Vent, “So if you want to just tell me where we are going that would be great.”

“We’re going to get the flag, and you’re going to heal us,” was the calm reply. Between the hunter, feral druid, warlock, resto druid and myself, we were one-third of that WSG team and we annihilated them. I got these achievements: Warsong Gulch Perfection (Win with a score of 3 – 0), Warsong Gulch Expedience (Win Warsong Gulch in under 7 minutes), and plain old Warsong Gulch Victory – an achievement I’m not sure any of my other characters actually has (don’t laugh). Sticking close to my buddies for that encounter seemed to work out well. I don’t even think I died.

Our next BG was an Alterac Valley. I’m more confident here, because before “random” BGs were available I spent a great deal of time maging it up in the frosty north. I like the big, epic battle zerg and I actually know the names of strategic points etc. Our little strike team roamed the map reclaiming and defending places while the zerg people down South focused their energy on killing Drek. I still can’t say at this point that I was getting down to the nitty-gritty of healing as a paladin in BGs. I healed a bit, but we never got stuck in a chokehold with a great deal of fighting, it was more short skirmishes. The real combat began in our last match, Arathi Basin.

I think of all the battlegrounds this one’s my favourite because it’s fairly straightforward, the map isn’t too large (less opportunity to get lost) and a single player’s contribution can have more effect than in a huge place like AV. Again, we were ideally suited for this because we were on Vent and could talk to each other and decide which node we’d go to – and defend it against attackers, or move on to claim another if there were other people remaining behind. Here’s where I really started to actually PvP as a paladin. Random observations:

1) I love Beacon so very, very much.
Putting Beacon on myself and going to town healing everyone around me is so much fun. I’d be healing and a hunter would sent his pet after me… I could just flat out ignore it. It couldn’t interrupt me. It tickled a bit.

2) Wearing plate armour is OP.
All of my other healers have definitely been squishier than this. Granted, my priest was never Discipline, so take my opinion with a gigantic grain of salt. But I definitely felt more durable.

3) Interfering with the way other people are trying to hurt your team-mates is almost as much fun as just healing them.

With a nearby resto druid’s HoTs, I usually had ample time to make extensive use of my Cleanse button. Removing poisons, diseases, and magic is awesome. Living Bomb on someone? Whoops I’m sorry, ‘fraid not. There’s something immensely satisfying about removing something that was going to hurt – forcing whoever is attacking to either re-apply it and waste a GCD. But they usually didn’t have time at that point because someone would have killed them.

4) I’d rather be casting Flash of Light.
I can really see where different gear/gemming/spec would make a big difference here. In almost every situation, even with the haste I have – Holy Light takes too long. Having more oomph behind my fast little heals would make me more effective for this, I think. The Libram is nice but it can only go so far. I don’t really have the luxury of picking up a second Holy spec because when I do PvE stuff I’m often filling a DPS role (quick VoA which I choose to bring Vid to instead of my main, likewise for the raid weekly). But a PvP spec here would be pretty useful. Preferably something that reduces the duration I can be silenced for, which brings me to…

5) The sound of silence
This is like the kiss of death, and I’m not used to it at all. My only healing PvP experience prior has been as a resto druid – seldom casting anything long enough to be properly interrupted. Rejuv, rejuv, Wild Growth, Lifebloom, oh, are you hitting me? You didn’t notice the bark, right? Well, being a paladin wasn’t like that, but perhaps there’s something I’m missing here (like potentially a PvP spec). Silencing is very bad. Fortunately it never resulted in my death because I had my little posse with me, but even so. I always feel guilty when I’m silenced, and this may be a carryover from PvE content. Because if you get silenced casting when those big skeleton guards in front of Marrowgar do their shout thing? That’s your fault, that is avoidable. But I have the same feeling in PvP! “Oh god I’ve been silenced why what was I doing I must have been casting while the skeleton was shouting…wait.”

6) Blending into a crowd is nice.

Maybe I’m naive and I’m more visible than I think I am, but I definitely felt a bit more incognito as a holy paladin. I don’t have the pew pew green healing lasers of a shaman, although I do have the shield. I don’t have obvious bubbles like a priest, or the dress. More importantly to me, I’m not a giant walking tree, which always screams, “You know my HoTs are OP, try to kill me!” Many times attackers at our nodes would simply never start attacking me at all, which allowed me to focus on healing my people, and inevitably led to success. Obviously the success wasn’t just because of me, but at least I didn’t feel I was a hindrance.

7) Striking out on my own is dumb.
In fact, the only time I died where I died alone and felt that it was completely my fault was when I was heading from Lumber Mill to go with our hunter to a different node and I was lagging behind a bit. A rogue sapped me and my bubble was on CD and I kermitflailed. Probably a good paladin could have escaped it – but I never claimed to be a good paladin – and I died. I think if I had either stayed behind with the group or been RIGHT with the hunter it wouldn’t have happened. I have learned my lesson, just because I wear plate armour doesn’t make me invincible.

And so ended Vidyala’s PvP adventures. We won the Arathi Basin, I got an achievement for 100 HKs and some healing stuff and also Back Door Job which sounds incredibly wrong.

I did, belatedly, find this article about healing tips for holy paladins. It’s arena specific, but I assume many of the same principles apply to battlegrounds. Otherwise, if you’re looking for general PvP info, Cynwise has always got it covered. Please feel free to suggest links to any other paladin PvP resources you may know of, or otherwise elaborate in comments all the ways in which you are better at PvP than I am (really no huge feat, truthfully). I enjoyed it and I think I’ll do it again when the time and inclination hit me. Hitting me is okay, incidentally, silencing? Way below the belt.

What happens if the PvPing Paladin strays too far from her bodyguards, complete with dramatic death scene and anguished hand clasped to...uh. Right.

In Which We are Fools to Have Come To This Place

Vidyala has done a little bit of raiding since hitting 80. I sneak her into things like VoA runs, or the weekly if it’s a place like Naxx or EoE or even Ulduar, now that we’re done getting people drakes there for the foreseeable future. (And I’m happy about this, not because I dislike Ulduar, I think it’s fabulous. I just don’t want to see Yogg’s ugly mug again any time soon).

So I’ve been raiding, sometimes even raid pugging. A few weeks back there were a bunch of us from the guild online and so we organized an ICC run. First I picked up a tank I had seen asking in Trade – his gear was good, it sounded like he knew what he was doing. We had one bearface from within our own ranks so that was at least a single tank covered. I would heal along with our resto druid’s alt… resto druid. I have to confess I’m often a bit jealous of people who know so clearly which class they want to play. Oh, they flirt with alts, but when it comes right down to it, there’s one class they love above all else. So they have a main of that class. And an alt of that class. (See: guild mage who just yesterday moved a new character into the guild…another 80 mage). But I digress. So we had from within our guild, a DK, a resto druid, myself as a holy paladin, and a bear druid.

Now, as any experienced pugger will tell you, these are not good odds. We were greatly outnumbered. We didn’t even have enough of us to make a five-man. But, I put out the call in Trade, LFM for ICC 10, need DPS.

I have never seen so many whispers in my life. Seriously, they filled my screen. And I use an addon (WoW Instant Messenger) that is set up to make a sound when I receive a whisper, so that I don’t miss it. The whispers broke the addon sound. It just gave up. I started to sift through them. A couple of warlocks, DPS warrior, some hunters, a mage, a moonkin. To be completely frank, I set up the group with extreme prejudice. I like mages, and I like moonkin, so they were pretty much guaranteed as long as their gear wasn’t bad. Then I even grudgingly invited the warlock because hey, it’s good caster synergy. By the time I was finished looking people up on WoW-heroes, several minutes had passed. The fury warrior was starting to rage at me, whispering me impatiently. Finally he says, “You could at least ANSWER me,” and I felt a pang of guilt. I told him we were all full on melee DPS – not that I’d take someone who loses their shit over a five minute wait and has clearly never organized a pug where it actually matters who and what you bring. He didn’t reply after that, which is probably for the best.

So our motley crew set out to ICC, after I managed to grab a few fish feasts out of the bank. Vent info was passed out and everyone joined. Our little gnome mage, it turned out, gave me the feeling I would have if I were to play WoW with my Mother. She was sweet and, I think, a bit nervous. “I’m an ar-CAN ma-dge,” she told us all. Now that I think about it, what other class would my mother play? One who bakes, naturally! I was extremely glad to have her along, not the least because she was the only one of us who actually had the skill to USE the fish feasts I’d so thoughtfully grabbed from the bank. Whoops.

The hunter ruined my shot with his need to get ready to shoot Marrowgar in the face.

All in all, the ICC pug went… pretty well. Our paladin tank’s microphone was not working, so that was a bit aggravating. Worse, he was the kind of pugger that’s annoying – not because he says or does anything annoying, but because of what he doesn’t say. I have a mental image of someone sitting at their desk – TV on in the background, alt-tabbed out or with dual monitors browsing another website, music blaring on top of that, and, oh I don’t know, a book in one hand. And a drink. So when you ask them something like, “Alright, so you will taunt after you have x stacks of Nasty Debuff,” you’re met with silence. Both in vent (broken mic) and when you try to type it out in raid. Just when you start to throw up your hands in aggravation after typing “Are you there?” and decide the person must be AFK, they say something noncommittal and short like, “yeah no problem,” or the like. Maybe he took a break to do his taxes.

But apart from minor irritations like that, the whole group was quiet, respectful – and eerily silent. I don’t know if a decent ICC pug is a rare beast, or what, but I got the impression that they were all just really happy to be there and didn’t want to mess anything up or irritate anyone. We proceeded to do Marrowgar, Deathwhisper, Lootship, and Saurfant without a hitch. Really, not a single wipe. Then we hit the Festergut wall.

As one of our guildies remarked, “Pugs remind me of why I am in a guild.” I don’t consider Fester to be a really tough fight – it has a few coordination things and a DPS and healing check… oh, the healing check. Let me take a moment to talk about that. You understand, I didn’t heal this fight with characters in just entry level ICC gear before. I’ve healed it as a resto druid – the heroic version – with two other very skilled healers. I’ve never been OMG spam healing the tank before and had him die. I think in this regard I am remiss – if I’m going to be going any further into ICC, I need to do some paladin specific research about it. But more importantly, I think we might need three healers for our alt runs past that point. The raid damage was stupid, and the tank damage was stupider – and I’m not sure if it’s because the mage was barfing on the warlock or what, but here’s where the pug started to get interesting.

The hunter went AFK on our second attempt. He was locked outside the door just standing there, although it didn’t yet actually say over his head that he was AFK. We kicked him and were arranging a suitable substitute when our resto druid had a pet health related emergency and had to go. But the weekly raid quest was the one where you have to bring back a sample of spore yuck from Festergut and OMFGWHATISTHISITSTOUCHINGME from Rotface. With our odds of downing either boss slim (who am I kidding, zilch) someone suggested we could use the cheat-ey sort of method. Apparently if you engage each boss and run them to the door, having some folks stay in as sacrificial lambs and a few others outside, the spores will hit people outside. Then you go on to do the same thing with Rotface – in theory. We did the first thing, and a number of people had the debuff they needed. Of course, being the only healer I was one of the Marked for Death folks.

We proceeded to Rotface to do the same thing. Here I reveal to you a dark secret… Sometimes, I do things. These things, might not be considered the most intelligent things. For instance, in an effort to save our death knight’s multiple debuffs from death by Rotface, I may have…BOPed him. Which may or may not have removed both debuffs. I really couldn’t say. The best part about this was that he instantly blamed the other paladin with great ire in guild chat. “Why would he do that,” etc., and the best part, “STUPID PALADIN.” I turned to Voss (husband exhibit A, not in the raid, but in the room and in guild chat) and said, “Please don’t tell Shaen – there was a stupid paladin involved, but it isn’t the one he thinks it is. I’m just glad there’s another one here to take the blame.”

Yes, that’s right, I tossed my fellow paladin to the wolves… remember, he’s watching a movie, reading a book, reading websites, and possibly preparing a four-course meal during this raid. He’s very busy and important, so it’s too much of a strain for him to type, “Yes, I understand,” with regards to any fight mechanics. My conscience is clear. A few minutes later, though, said Death Knight came to the realization that there was in fact more than one paladin in the raid… one paladin he’d feel immensely guilty about calling stupid had I, in fact, been the one stupid enough to Ruin Everything. He whispered me to apologize.

The best part about the whole thing though was that after I’d stolen his debuffs so cruelly…the whole raid turned to see the mage – the only other person who’d managed to acquire both debuffs – her little gnomish body entombed in a block of solid ice. Why she iceblocked, we’re still not sure. (Why did I BoP the DK when there was no need? Let’s not go there…) I’m of the opinion that she panicked, didn’t want to screw up and get killed, and was trying to save us all. Unfortunately, iceblocking, much like a BoP, removes the debuffs! We were back at square one.

Astoundingly, we still had people with the Rotface debuff, so we only had to re-do Festergut and we had someone with both debuffs. We did not BoP, iceblock, or in any other way interfere with the delivery of said debuffs. The warlock laughed at us running back and forth down the corridor – as we went to turn in the quest we triggered the Trap of A Zillion Geists. He said, “We are such a bunch of muppets!”

I will neither confirm nor deny his claim. But we got to turn in the quest and earn some extra frost emblems! Around this time, the previously AFK hunter whispered Bearface to apologize for having gone away without a word. He said, “My roommate fell down the stairs, and he wouldn’t shut up!” We aren’t certain whether this means he fell down the stairs and was screaming in pain, or that he fell and then insisted on continuing to talk about it. In any case, the hunter was not so callous as to let a friend down (har) and he must have gone to either help the guy deal with his broken bones, or make him tea to soothe the pain. In any case, he missed out on the raid weekly and earned himself a mention.

I’m beginning to formulate a theory as to the likely composition of any pug raid. It’s not very scientific.

There will be:

  • One lady who could be my Mom
  • One guy who is baked out of his mind (in this case, the moonkin, honest to goodness I saw him hitting a blood beast with his Nibelung at one point)
  • One guy who never talks
  • One guy you wish would never talk
  • One guy who apparently is filled with pug rage and rants on and on about how pugs fail, why all pugs break up after Saurfang, how we promised we’d go further, etc.
  • One guy who goes AFK
  • One guy who Knows All There Is To Know About These Fights and is Happy to Share His Knowledge. His very presence causes capitalization.
  • One guy who will do or say something completely random that may or may not coincide with one of the previous categories. Clearly the Hunter takes this prize.

I’m sure there are more, but fortunately we don’t get them all at one time because we try to have approximately half guild to half pug. All-in-all, it was a successful run, good times were had, and I can’t complain because I cleaned up in the loot department. The first thing that dropped was the Frost Needle from Marrowgar. I know, it has hit, but it was still a huge step-up from Seethe. I never thought I’d get my pally hands on it, though – the group had both a mage and a warlock. As it turned out…They both had Quel’Delar. So I took that. The other thing that dropped was the Citadel Enforcer’s Claymore. The only person who could have used this two-handed beauty – our Death Knight – also had Quel’Delar. So I took that too. Later on at Gunship I also wound up with a mail headpiece whose name I can’t currently remember, but it was better than what I had, even though it bears a disturbing resemblance to a moose skull. I have it hidden. And the run – in combination with my epic trash clearing a few weeks earlier, was enough to make the Ashen Verdict feel more friendly about me than neutral, really. They gave me a ring, and I was very happy.

Finally, our proper raid group (no blues, no n00b paladins in sight) deserves a mention here for having cleared out the last parts of ICC we needed to get these Bloodbathed Frostbrood Vanquishers:

This is the one and only time my druid will actually ride the thing, sadly.

Having killed H. Sindragosa on the 13th, we just had a few oddball achievements to finish. We’re still working on the last of these for people who missed them the first go-around; most painfully (of course) the Sindragosa one where her Mystic Buffet debuff must not stack on any raid member higher than five stacks. Somehow the first time we attempted this we did it almost effortlessly. A repeat has been a bit tougher, but we did it again last night. We haven’t really started serious heroic Lich King attempts because we wanted to make sure to get drakes for people first. I’m sure once we do start working on it more it’ll give me plenty to talk about.

The Odyssey

Once upon a time, there was a young paladin. She followed in the footsteps of previous paladins – ghosts of paladins who never made it past level twenty; deleted, forgotten. But such paladins had existed before the miraculous wonder of the Looking for Dungeon tool! This paladin could be a healing paladin. It would be convenient for her. After all, she had a healing spell, didn’t she? The day was December 11th. At level seventeen, she rolled up to her first instance, bright and shiny with heirlooms and all ready to employ her single healing spell. She wended her way through Wailing Caverns, and left some bodies in Deadmines.

Taking Gnomeregan by storm.

She remembered that she probably ought to have some glyphs for doing this, and met her first LFD jerk. “Because I’m the tank,” he said, “and I can do whatever I want, that’s what being the tank means!” (No wonder you all want me to try it…) This paladin killed some wolves, and some prisoners, and just a few irradiated gnomes. Some people wondered why she would level the way that she was leveling, and she had some answers for them.

She did it because she likes people, amazingly (yes, even still!); because she wanted to level an alt differently than all her other alts before. Soon her mission to do so found her healing Scarlet Monastery Graveyard, unfortunately, she did this forever. No, really, she’s still there. A part of her is still there, anyhow.

She met the world’s most foolhardy mage. Who attacks with an AoE fire spell in a library? Come on now. “You shall not defile these mysteries,” no worries there, buddy, you’re going to send them up in flames first! Reckless shenanigans, I tell you.

I think she's going for a Wonder Woman look.

This paladin started to keep track of her beverages. Unfortunately, running with tanks not wearing pants continued to drive her to drink, if you know what I mean. Her ultimate average ended up being about 8.9 beverages per instance, for a total of 1345 drinks on the way to 80. That’s a lot of rest rooms, that’s all I’m saying.

At this point, before level forty, the paladin had already begun to consider some of the drawbacks of exclusive LFD leveling. They definitely exist. It wasn’t until she obtained a fast mount and Crusader aura that she picked up many common flight points. When she did reach level forty, she confused the Scarlet Monastery lady not wearing pants with Noth, and ruminated about how other plate wearers got to wear plate when they hit forty. This paladin wore very little plate until she went to Outlands – which was still an improvement over wearing very little, believe me.

She was afflicted with an uncommon amount of warlocks at one time. (Har, you see what I did there?) Then her queue times began to add up, and she started to wonder if she’d chosen the right path. While wondering this, she wiped a group in Maraudon. She also learned how to spell “Maraudon.” (It’s Mare-au-don, that’s how I remember it, which isn’t actually the correct way to say it but it definitely starts with Mara.) By the time she’d figured out how to spell Maraudon, she was already doing Sunken Temple, trying to coordinate Blessings with other paladins, and trying to convince groups to kill Hakkar.

At some point, the paladin fell off the pug wagon. I had to stop here a moment and picture what ‘the pug wagon’ might look like, driven by hunters wearing greens they needed on (cloth, naturally), death knights death gripping elite mobs towards them, tanks without shields, with eighty warlocks crammed in the back, all life-tapping, while a mage Blizzards before the tanks have touched the mob. It made my hand shake a little.

Conveniently, it's not just Dwarven sized.

Amazingly enough, Blackrock Depths is enough to get aforementioned paladin back on this (shudder) pug wagon. She went, saw, conquered, and stole Dagran’s pants. She tried to be a Jenkins and failed, utterly and completely.

But wait, what’s this? It’s time to go to the Outlands? Our intrepid paladin had her first encounter with Hellfire Ramparts and Death Knights, and it left her speechless.

At least somewhere along the way, though, she figured out that her underwear goes under the pants. She also had more to say about Outlands, death knights, Hellfire, and hunters named Criticalsnot.

Oh, the shame.

Underbog was visited. Just a few times, amid confusion about who is the tank. A healing paladin just isn’t the same without a tank to call her own, and our paladin took some time to think about the relationship between tanks and healers. Fortunately that story had a happy ending, just at a time when the healing paladin was feeling least puggy, she found that a friend can make all the difference.

A paladin gets her wings, and meets a flirtatious death knight. She begins to pug through Northrend, finally, finally getting to wear actual plate. Along the way, a funny thing happens, a thing she hasn’t yet set down in words. Pugs begin to grow more competent. Less hilarity ensues. When she finally hits 80, it is with a mixed feeling of elation and disappointment. A whimper rather than a bang, even. Does the journey end here? Will she have nothing further to say? She thinks she’ll take a few days to mull it over, because surely the completion of any epic quest requires a suitably epic account. In the end, this account will have to do instead.

Pugging Pally By The Numbers

Time played – 8 days, 2 hours, 22 minutes, 10 seconds

Mana potions consumed – 65 (Most used: Lesser Mana Potion at 22)

Beverages consumed – 1345, wow, that’s a lot of water. Most of it was Filtered Draenic water (256). Apparently Outlands gave me mana trouble as my gear adjusted to the demands of new tiers of instances.

Food eaten – 48, food eaten most, Conjured Mana Biscuit. This paladin doesn’t eat unless it’s FREE, y’hear? Or unless I need to make space in my bag and have one singular talbuk steak or something.

Healthstones used – One lousy healthstone, thanks for nothing, pug warlocks!

Greed rolls made on loot – 488, this is for loot I sort of wanted but didn’t want to actually prevent anyone else from having if they wanted it.

Need rolls made on loot – 74 times I thought, “MINE!” (Probably not).
Disenchant rolls made on loot - 332, I guess leveling enchanting paid off after all.
Creatures killed – 23723, I have no basis for comparison, but it seems like quite a lot. 10,048 of them were humanoid, the most killed type.

Critters killed in the making of this blog – 557

Paladins killed in the making of this blog – 42

Total raid and dungeon deaths – 36, I’ll leave the missing six deaths up to your imagination, except to say that I can’t blame them on a pugger.

Total deaths to Lich King dungeon bosses – 1, it was Dalronn the Controller, which is actually pretty amazing when you think about it. Of the 36 times I died in an instance, only one occured in the Wrath instances. There`s a strong argument for increasing group competence, or else it’s my increasing competence.

Resurrected by soulstones – 1, probably the same warlock who gave me a healthstone…

Redeemed by paladins – 4

Revived by druids – 1, never rebirthed, incidentally.

Total 5-player dungeons entered – 151. This number is accurate, but also misleading at least as far as Wrath is concerned. I ended up questing quite a bit towards the end.

Lich King 5-player dungeons completed (final boss killed) – 39

Lich King 5-player bosses killed - 144

Lich King 5-player different bosses killed – 44

Lich King 5-player boss killed the most – Krik’thir the Gatewatcher (8)

Flight paths taken – 152, this seems low to me compared to other characters but I could be wrong.

Summons accepted – 1. The summoning stone is dead for LFD groups, why would you need it?

Mage Portals taken – 1, and it was a portal straight to Dalaran, baby. I’ve hearthed back there 85 times since.

Number of hugs – 3, you’d think with all of the pugging I would have needed more.

Total times LOL’d – 4, see above.

Total cheers – 34, I’m willing to bet almost every one of these was someone in an instance dinging, and I cheered at them instead of actually typing out “Congratulations,” because I’m a jerk.

Total waves – 6, I like to wave at bosses sometimes.

In conclusion, this is not the conclusion of Pugging Pally, however it may seem less aptly named from hereon. I’d appreciate if you’d all bear with me while I figure out what I’ll be writing about now, because I’m fairly certain there’s no danger of my shutting up any time soon.

I want to thank everyone who commented here to commiserate, help me find resources, and/or laugh at my expense during this adventure. I never thought people would actually read this, but amazingly you do. I have also to thank all of the awesome bloggers who linked to and encouraged me as I was starting out. The WoW blogging community is an incredibly warm and generous one; you’re all a huge part of what makes this so addictive and awesome to be a part of.

Other than that, I have one thing left to say today, okay, two:

A paladin reaches 80 in Halls of Stone, after running Halls of Stone, Oculus, Halls of Stone, in a spectacularly appropriate "crappy instance sandwich."

Now THAT'S a paladin! What do you mean, my sword has hit on it? Shaddap! No more wiener forks!

Even the patience of the Draenei has its limits

Vidyala has had ridiculously awesome luck with loot drops since beginning Northrend instances. It’s as if the Loot Gods look and say, “Lo, and it shall be healing plate,” and it is. I’ll admit something to you all here. This is what I envisioned when I rolled a holy Paladin. So many times I’d seen spellpower plate dropping and thought, “That stuff drops so often, and there’s no one here to take it. If only I had a holy paladin, she would be so well-dressed.” Yes, the motivating factor behind my alt-project, avarice, of course. It’s even working; she’s starting to be so well-dressed! I even had a fancy chestpiece drop, that I don’t wear but I was tempted. Losing 10% of my XP gain is bad, but the chestpiece itself has better stats than my heirloom.

Of the slots in which I am not wearing heirlooms, Vid has:

Head: Unbreakable Healing Amplifiers (an iLevel 200 I can wear at level 72, with a meta socket…thank you, Engineering!)
Neck: Mark of the Spider (BoE zone drop in Azjol-Nerub)
Back: Cloak of Azure Lights (OK, this one was a quest reward… the cloak from Jedoga in Old Kingdom dropped but I lost the roll to a warlock).
Wrist: Glowworm Cavern Bindings (BoE zone drop in Old Kingdom, mail, but it replaced wrists I had from a quest in Nagrand)
Off-hand: Tharon’ja’s Aegis (Tharon’ja in Drak’tharon Keep)
Hands: Aura Focused Gauntlets (Krik’thir the Gatewatcher in Azjol-Nerub)
Waist: Crawler-Emblem Belt (Elder Nadox, Old Kingdom)
Feet: Greaves of the Blue Flight (Ormorok the Tree Shaper, Nexus)

Basically, if Loot For A Paladin can drop, it has dropped, including BoE stuff that my group members were kind enough to let me have (even in one case of mail). I have absolutely nothing to complain about. I’m also a bit obsessive so I’m planning gear for 80.

For anyone else who might be gearing up a healing paladin sometime soon, here are the resources I’ve found. I welcome the addition of any I may have missed, in the comments! Some of them are unfortunately a bit outdated (e.g. Banana Shoulders, it’s a great guide but it was written before the current tier of emblems, and before the ICC and ToC instances).

Paladincraft.net’s Holy Paladin Gearing

Elitist Jerks Holy Paladin Thread

Banana Shoulders Pre-Raid Holy Paladin Gear List

Wowhead Forum topic someone else wrote about gearing their alt holy spec

Since I’ve hit Northrend with Vid, a funny thing is happening with my pugs. I’m awash in the sheer volume of them. It used to be easy to write an entry, “Oh, I went to this hour-long instance, I’ll write about that.” Now I’ve done Nexus something like six times.

One time was with a paladin tank who had apparently fallen from the sky, into Nexus, with little notion of how to use any of his tools and bad gear to match. He was incredibly hard to heal and I think still learning to tank – or had just queued as a tank for the fast queue times. He was slow. And I’m not of the “gogogo” school, I’d never pull for the tank, or be rude, but this guy was ponderously…just inching his way…through the instance. We could still be there, that’s all I’m saying.

I got dropped into Azjol-Nerub with a tank who was actually from my own server, and I remembered again what Veneretio said about how the dungeon tool is ruining your chances for raid tanking. I don’t know about that in this guy’s case, but I am surprised at the people who don’t seem interested in making connections even when they COULD. I mean, he seemed like a competent tank, I whispered him but he didn’t answer me (I’ll usually ask, “Hey, mind if I add you to my friends’ list?” This tank didn’t want to be my friend, which is fine, but really – how many people would pass up the opportunity to meet a decent enough healer, who isn’t a jerk and seems friendly? Before LFD, my friends list (on my old server) was crowded with tanks I’d met in pugs. I actually once logged over from one healer to another after running a pug with a tank, and he whispered me, “Hey, would you like to come heal xyz,” and I had to laugh because I’d just been running with him. He didn’t know they were both my characters, he’d just noted me as a healer on separate occasions. But nowadays, I guess people figure why bother to make friends on your server? Your next dungeon run is an instant queue away, and there’s a revolving merry-go-round of people willing to fill each role.

I know it’s ironic, coming from me, considering the name and focus of this blog so far, but I find this immensely disheartening. I said from the very beginning that my reason for pugging was that I enjoy the social and teamwork aspect of the game. I didn’t want to silently quest to 80 on yet another character, all by my lonesome. And for me, the experiment with Vidyala has been a smashing success, not the least of which is because a few people with stray characters have come to visit on Moonrunner. I’ve met great people, expanded my social circle – I’ve even met people on my server who happen to read here for some reason or other, which is really cool. But I’ve yet to meet more than a passing acquaintance through a pug. I used to meet people that way all the time.

Anyway, my failpug story for this entry comes to you from Azjol-Nerub, an instance so simple it’s hard to imagine that anyone could mess it up. Yet somehow, this DK tank did. We zoned in and pulled the first trash pack; everything was looking fine, we had no problems, and then the action ground to a halt. We looked back at the tank – he was just standing there. “Did he disconnect?” someone wondered. We did the WoW-equivalent of waving a hand in front of his face. We waited a few minutes, people grumbling. We tried to kick him (still had to wait 12 minutes before being able to kick him). We’d just started thinking about dropping group when miraculously, he moved! Without a word of apology or explanation, he ran in to aggro the next patrol (in Azjol-Nerub, one of the three-packs before the first boss).

The problem is, he was terrible. Aggro? He’d never heard of it. I know that the skirmisher has no aggro table, so that’s not his fault, but it wasn’t the only loose mob. I was web-wrapped and nobody freed me. I lost two DPSers on the first pull…and then we all started to panic as the next pack came towards us (I wasn’t able to get off a rez in time)… the tank had gone AFK. Again.

He came back and said, “Why is everyone dead!” I replied, “That’s what happens when you AFK in the middle of a pull,” while the shadow priest chimed in, “Seriously? You don’t know that these packs are all tied together?” It’s not rocket surgery to figure out when a pug is going south fast with no hope of recovery. I told the tank, “I will rez you, but then I’m out of here, this isn’t worth my time, sorry guys.” That’s what 59-odd levels of pugging have taught me – some pugs aren’t worth saving, it’s best to just put it down. I  have no guilt.

Somewhere in there I had my first Violet Hold run (uneventful). I’m starting to run into people whose 80 friends are running normals with them. It made healing the VH tank sort of a joke. I could have been retribution for that run I think, easily. When I’m not running pugs I’ve been doing a few other things – going back to do now-grey Hellfire quests for the Honor Hold rep. Do you know the quest where you have to assist the Draenei anchorite with an exorcism? He gives you the prayer beads that the dog stole and buried (I think Rades may have mentioned this…)

Anyway, I was doing that quest the other day, and you can target either the anchorite or the “released darkness” (floating skulls). I kept having to retarget the NPC to use the beads on him. Of course NPCs all do that oddly jarring “generic response” thing when you click them, which often leads to funny times:

Very angry human NPC in quest text! But you click him and he says, “Hey there!”

This Draenei was the opposite! I clicked on him the first time and he said, “You have other matters to attend to, yes?”

Sure, I’m helping you with the prayer bead thing. Look, see? I clicked him again.

“The Naaru frown upon such behaviour,” he admonished me.

But I’m just trying to help out! I target and click him again. He says, “Even the patience of the Draenei has its limits,” and then at another click, “I think I hear someone calling you…” This poor NPC just wants me to leave him alone so he can do his “Back, demon!” thing. I was really just being helpful.

It was the final one that broke me, though. In a tone of increasing irritation and despair, there in the midst of the exorcism, the Draenei demanded to know, “Who taught you to act like this?!” NPCs have it rough.

p.s. – I heard a little something about changes to the way that raids work. I’m sure you have too, unless you’re living under a rock. I’ll probably write about them sometime soon, maybe after the furor dies down a little. My unadulterated glee is having trouble expressing itself in 8000 words or less.

p.p.s. – The only funny search result that brought someone here this week was “Straight outta Gnomeregan.” The rest of them are variations of “I died in Blood Furnace,” “How do I get my corpse out of Blood Furnace,” and “Blood Furnace corpse run.” The answer? You came to the very, very wrong place, it took me at least twenty minutes.

As Bad As Three-Week Old Tuna Casserole

Vidyala reached another milestone yesterday. Well, it was “yesterday” when I first wrote this, but it’s no longer yesterday. Still, look! For non-paladin people, this screenshot is like secret paladin code for “I am now level 70.”

Every time a pug tank lets a healer drink, an angel gets its wings.

I don’t know why I always seem to end up taking screenshots of her in Ironforge. It’s where I do most of my banking, and my capital city of choice to go to when I need to. Which is nearly never, as she’s an engineer. I honestly just found the engineering AH a few days ago. I had reached Northrend level engineering, and thought, “There’s an engineering trainer in Dalaran! I can just go there.” I clicked on the wrong NPC, and my jaw dropped, literally, as the happy “Ding!” sound of the auction house greeted my ears. I may or may not have turned to my husband and said, “*!&@^@^ there’s a !^!&%!% auction house for engineers in Dalaran,” so great was my surprise and delight.

I have begun Northrend pugging in earnest, quite a bit with my trusty bear, and a little bit on my own. I realized that if I didn’t run some pugs without the “safety net” I might well never do it again. But I was a little afraid. Because you see, we went to Utgarde Keep. And the trash was tough. Everyone was taking a ton of damage, a situation that tends to chill me. “So many people are taking damage!” quickly translates in my mind to “someone is going to die very soon.” In this case I was sort of right – Lara died as we faced Yngvar (a.k.a Mr. Pathetic Failure). All the times we’ve run UK, this has happened.

I’ve found that it’s hard to adapt to the new gear requirements of an expansion without doing a bit of questing to augment. The pre-quests and quests for Nexus have yielded some rather nice returns. I can sense level 80 on the horizon and I am heading for it as quickly as possible! Now my gear is adequate to the instances and I’ve gotten some upgrades inside, as well. We ran Nexus with an extremely oblivious rogue, and a DK who had his eye on my wiener forks, people.

Because Blizz, in their infinite wisdom, won’t let me roll on spellpower mail – even when there’s nobody in the party who would use it, the rogue won some gloves from a boss in Nexus. I lamented that I couldn’t “Need” on them, politely: “Gee, it’s a shame that it doesn’t let me roll on those, I would wear them.” Someone else in the party said, “Oh, that sucks, I would usually hand them over though.” Nothing from the rogue. I said, “Well, that would be nice but it’s entirely up to so-and-so, he’s not obligated.” Which is actually true. Usually polite social pressure works in this scenario, but the rogue was blissfully oblivious. Later on one of the other bosses dropped a fist weapon, and I said (without a hint of sarcasm), “Oh great! I’m glad you got some gear YOU CAN USE.” (OK, so there were no capitals. But still). He said, “Me too.”

Meantime, this Death Knight, wow. I didn’t realize they handed out “Picking up chicks 101″ to Death Knights, because he was a regular Casanova. The conversation (whispered) went something like this:

“Do u work for Blizz?”
“Umm, nope! Why?”
“Ur so polite and nice”
“Not really, I’m Canadian.”
“Oh yah is it cold up there?”
“Not really, the weather’s been really nice, around 50 F.”
“It’s 85 F here in [thisstate] really hot! I like it here I’m originally from [otherstate] though”
(Me, not responding, thinking we could just let this die)
“Love the Canadian accent, BTW”
(Further not responding: and why would he say that? He can’t actually HEAR me typing.)
“Can I keep running with you guys? You and Ann, ur so nice”
“I think we’re finished after this one, sorry.”
(Then finally, at the end)
“I hope I run into you again, ur a really great and nice player!”

Well thanks, DK. U seem nice yourself. A little too nice. I, on the other hand, am probably not as nice as I may otherwise appear. The shadow priest in the same group found this out to his detriment, as he started telling us How To Nexus as we ran into Keri’s room.

“So you have to move when you are taking damage,” he tells the group at large. Nobody really says much. I’ve run this instance so many times. He makes a point of saying it again, but this time he’s pointing it at me. “You have to move when you take damage, Heals,” he says. Yes, heals. “Really?” I type back furiously. “Because I’ve never been here before, I’m glad you knew.”

We finish off Keri with no problems. A funny thing about that damaging aura, though… it persists after she’s actually dead. The shadow priest has taken a lot of damage. Somehow… I’m just not quick enough with the Flash of Light. “You have to move when you take damage,” I tell his corpse helpfully. “I was healing someone else,” he says, sullen. I tell him it’s very nice of him to keep an eye on other people’s health like that. I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet, myself.

When I had time to pug later and Ann wasn’t around, I queued up. I picked Azjol-Nerub specifically because I really wanted to get it done (plus it had loot I had my eye on). I must have the stupidest luck ever, because of the things that Kaliban’s Loot List says are to be found for me in AN – both dropped. A BoE necklace, and the plate healing gloves from the first boss. The group was really nice and let me have the BoE (promptly equipped, replacing my Sethekk Halls quest necklace). The tank was quirky, interesting, and I think doped up on some really powerful cough meds. A few pulls into the instance she says in party, “So, my mage friend and I just wanted to tell you that you are way better than the pally healer that we had earlier today.”
“Thanks,” I respond, “Bad?”

Bad as three-week old tuna casserole!” she says. I can tell this run is going to be fun. And it is, the tank and the mage are joking as we go, my new Northrend gear is proving its worth and healing the place is fine. Interesting, but fine. That’s my happiest instance run zone – people taking enough damage that I need to heal them and I don’t feel like “Why am I here again?” but not so much damage that it’s always a razor’s edge decision as to whether they will live or die. I have something ridiculous like 15K mana now (I know, it’s only the beginning, but for a level 73? I think, not bad.) I ended up running three instances with that group. Azjol-Nerub once, and randomly we drew Utgarde Keep twice. By the end the tank was falling asleep. I told her during the first UK run, that I didn’t want to alarm her but there was this thing that had been happening where I keep killing my tank at Yngvar. “That’s not going to happen,” she replied, and she was actually right. I still don’t
like the fight, but it’s okay now.

The only other thing of note was that I let a moonkin die. I know. My stories seem to have a lot of “I let so and so” die. The thing is, we ran Utgarde Keep twice. The first time, we get to the first narrow, crowded corridor. It is a perfect place, one might think, for a large-radius AoE spell that isn’t targeted. Wait, actually it isn’t a great place for that spell. Nonetheless, the bane of tanks and healers everywhere, and I’m guilty of it myself – Starfall. Also known as “HEY GAIZ I’M HERE CASTING SOME SPELLS COME EAT MY FACE.”

I threw Hand of Protection and beaconed him, healed the tank as she picked up aggro, and he lived, it was all good. So when that instance was done and we queued again and get UK, I wondered – is he going to do the same thing? We run up into the corridor, and sure enough, I see those tell-tale stars. I throw him some heals, initially, giving the tank a chance to pick up the mobs, but her cough medicine is kicking in and she’s a bit slower. He had a ton of things pounding on him and I just let it go. The tank was actually upset, “Was that me? What happened?” she said.

The moonkin, to his credit, owned up right away. “No it was my fault,” he said, and I added, “He is learning that Starfall is both his best friend and worst enemy…” I look at it this way philosophically. It’s better for him to die once in UK when he’s level 71 and maybe pay more attention to when he pops his massive AoE aggro-fest, than for healers to aid and abet that kind of behaviour and have him dying the entire way. Hey, I play a DPS, I know how it is! Why, I know a moonkin who once cast Starfall in the middle of the crowded room before Loken. What moonkin would be so foolhardy, you may wonder? I’ll never tell. Let’s just say I’m aware that my DPSing may come with a healthy dose of death, and almost all of the time it’s well-deserved on my part.

The other thing I wanted to mention was how marked the difference is between: XP gained in Burning Crusade and Classic dungeons versus Northrend dungeons. It’s really not very good. Three instance runs yielded something like eight bars of XP (or less than half a level, if you want to get technical, which I clearly don’t). So there’s another big reason why the “pugging pally” has become the “puquesting pally,” because I want this character to be eighty sometime in the next few weeks. She’s already over four months old. I intend to talk more about the leveling experience once I hit the big 8-0. But for now, I leave you with an image, and a quote from one of our newest guildies. He said, “Your blog makes me want to level an alt! …But not like that.”

The goggles! They do everything! Including gather an army of baby murlocs for me.

“That’s the biggest ninja I’ve ever seen!”

There’s a particular feeling that comes with being a tank and a healer pugging together. It’s a kind of freedom. But more than that, it’s the feeling of “you need us more than we need you.”

Don’t get me wrong, this hasn’t become the blog about how I abuse random puggers. I don’t, and certainly Lara doesn’t. But if a DPS is rude or mouthy – we could kick them, easily, and have another in the time it takes us to click “A member has left your group for [This Instance]. Would you like to find another?” They’re ultimately replaceable. But we’ve been pugging, and it has been fun.

First, I went and did the Nesingwary quests to acquire the Blessed Book of Nagrand. Librams don’t grow on trees, folks, and this is the first one I’ve been able to obtain that actually benefits my healing. I had another one from a Hellfire quest earlier on but it’s not really a Holy libram. So I have this, and lo, it is glorious.

We thought that maybe we’d like to run Escape from Durnholde, and so we’d gone to do the tour-guide pre-quest thing. But when we queued up for it, it was taking an uncommonly long time. (A whole five minutes, no kidding). I remembered that before we’d done the pre-quest there had been a lock symbol (not that kind of ‘lock) next to Durnholde in my LFD queue pane. It won’t put you in there for a random unless you have gone to the Caverns of Time, and done the whole ring-around-the-rosey thing. I consider this a major oversight on Blizz’s part. You worked to make this content, you created the LFD tool so that people would run it. Don’t make it so that the average person can’t hop in there to see it. I like Durnholde, but if we want to do it I think we’ll have to get a group together by asking around in LFG which may be more trouble than it’s worth because I still anticipate the trouble of people not having done the pre-quest. Might be something we’ll need to go back and steamroll later in order to get it done.

Instead we queued for a random, and drew Sethekk Halls again. My husband hates this place so much that when I was running it to get the Anzu mount for my druid, he’d say, “Yeah sure, I’ll go to septic halls with you.” I don’t dislike it, though. We did have a bit of a mishap with one of the mind-controlling totems. The totem picked Lara out of the group – I was frantically trying to beat the totem down, and I think the group turned…and commenced to beat the crap out of my poor bear. She died.

We went on to do The Shattered Halls (what’s with all the Halls places?) It was a pretty interesting run, I’ve never done it at level before. I love having a tank who can innervate me. The gauntlet parts of the instance are just pressing enough that they feel urgent and had me watching my mana use as well as utilizing all the cooldowns available to me. The fire patches at the end of one of these gauntlets proved a bit distracting for one of our DPSers – so attracted was he by the glowing light, much like a moth, that he walked into it and ignited promptly. A similar event happened on the boss who puts shadow void zones on the ground, but I’m sure the incident was unrelated.

I was briefly excited to think that I could blow the door down with one of my engineering bombs, but sadly, I couldn’t. We had no rogue and no blacksmith of the appropriate level either, so we had to Scooby Doo it through the sewers of fel orc muck. Overall, I liked Shattered Halls, it was challenging enough. I would not have liked it with a less familiar tank, though.

He really is a big ninja.

After we were done there, we wanted more of a challenge. Unable to get through the portal to the Isle of Quel’Danas (affectionately referred to hereafter as the Isle of WTF, a moniker that has persisted since the first time I went to do dailies there at level 70 and was bewildered by the mass of people and mobs), we opted to queue for it via LFD without actually picking up the attunement quest.

Our MgT group was actually pretty good. We had two mages and a DK. The DK was one of those random, loud people that just says stuff and leaves you scratching your head. I find these types always make a pug run entertaining, if nothing else. We had a bit of a mishap at the first boss (I want to say Selin Fireheart, but I’m not sure if that’s right). One mage and the DK didn’t come into the room as we were engaging, and got locked out. “YOU LOCKED US OUT OF THE ROOM,” the DK exclaimed. Lara apologized and said she hadn’t meant to, and he stood outside the door ranting and raving the whole time. “Lier,” he said, “You meant to do it.” We assured him that we really hadn’t deliberately been trying to three-man the boss…which we then proceeded to three-man with nary a hitch. And to think, my guild told me I’d need the Arcanite Reaper to do DPS. Hah!

Magister’s Terrace was probably the most pugging fun I’ve had since… the most pugging fun that I’ve had. I knew that going in at only level 69 was fairly bold of us – that instance isn’t messing around. Much like the Icecrown Citadel 5-man instances, back at 70 it had better loot than most of the other instances, and was a “step up” in difficulty. We actually employed crowd control (two sheeped mobs per group, on some pulls) and methodically made our way through with little further incident. The one thing I wasn’t looking forward to was Kael’thas. The kiting necessary to keep the phoenix engaged is tricky. We entrusted this task to one of the mages initially, but I’m pretty sure that the Death Knight got involved. In any case, while we were flying around and freaking out and I was trying to heal the massive AoE damage, one mage died. Then the other mage tried to take over – that mage died too. Then the Death Knight died.

It was just Lara and I, and Kael’thas. “I’ll turn your world upside down!” he kept yelling. I do not mind admitting, I was completely freaking out. Healing on the run is not my strong suit with this character. I slapped Beacon on myself. I healed Lara. I’d swim/fly by and holy shock her, pause for a second to toss a quick FoL, then when we landed, I’d Judge Kael’thas and swipe away at him with my silly healing mace, and Holy Shock, and just whatever. It was hair-raising. It took several “flight” phases. But we got him down! Just the two of us. And for an extra treat, look what he dropped:

I will pet him, and love him, and call him George.

I wanted either Lara or I to have him. I won the roll with a 100, but we will maybe have to go back and get one for her too, when we can do the place with only two. Needless to say, I felt that we earned that little phoenix, even though the DK made a rude gesture at me for my hundred roll. One of the mages was extremely gracious in saying, “I think that it should go to the ones left standing,” which obviously I couldn’t say on our behalf, but I was secretly thinking. When you down the last boss of MgT with just two people, it’s kind of a big deal.

After that, we did this:

Your pathetic failure will serve as a warning to all.

First Northrend instance (twice), and first Triumph emblems. (Why, back in my day, Triumph emblems didn’t just grow on trees… we were grateful to have an instance with DPSers who seemed to know where their “2″ button was and didn’t pull aggro. We traipsed all the way to the meeting stone and we liked it…!) But I have to admit, I don’t much mind the change for my spoiled alts. Pugging to 80 should amass a goodly amount of emblems that will serve me well. Right now, even with twinked out gems in my gear I felt that healing this instance was a struggle. Not the whole way, but definitely hairy at parts. I have been using Beacon (Highest DPS/health or myself, and not hunters) and that helps some. I figure that some more gear for Lara and myself probably won’t hurt, even if it means giving up all those luscious gem sockets. I can’t help but remember that everything I’ve read also says that healing five-mans is harder than healing raids, and I could see why that would be. To some extent, is that going to change though, with the Cataclysm changes?

On that note, you won’t find a breakdown of Cataclysm changes for any class here. I’m too easily distractable with my various alts. I can jot down my reactions, though.

Mage: Heck yes we are getting Mage Heroism. There isn’t a single mage change I’m not happy about. They’re mixing up Arcane a little bit, and looking at Fire (which used to be one of my favourite trees to play) and even Frost is getting a bit of attention. I really like being a mage, and Cataclysm looks like it’ll be a good time to be one.

Druid: They went and made all the trees sad. Well, most of the trees. I’m a fairly indifferent tree. If anything, I dislike moonkin form and wish I could choose to eschew it, but it’s one of those things I just deal with because I love the druid’s utility. We were doing Yogg + One Light the other day to get some more people Rusted proto drakes. I was going into the brain room – if I hadn’t been a druid, I couldn’t have put HoTs on the melee as we ran, then went boomkin at the brain and DPSed the heck out of it. Druids are very cool. I think the solution to have the perma-tree form be a minor glyph is a reasonable one. I wouldn’t personally glyph it, but it would let folks glyph it who care about the form a great deal.

Shaman: Right now the shaman is a strong contender for a Class I Might Like To Play More come Cataclysm. The changes aimed at making resto a more mobile healer are quite yummy, as well as instant cast Lava Bursts (Lava burst to the face!) We’ll have to see how this goes, but I like it.

Paladin: I don’t think the nerf to Beacon was a huge surprise. What we have here is a class/spec that is so strong in many contexts that it makes any other option laughable. We’re working on Heroic Saurfang right now and without a Holy Paladin’s ability to heal two people at once… it’s hard. I know that “bring the player not the class” can go too far, but in some cases it can go Not Far Enough. We have a great resto druid and Disc priest but the two of them together can’t touch this encounter the way a holy paladin could. I’m not sure why Blizz delayed the announcement when they announced really, so little. Except the Hands thing. Because I needed another “hands” spell to not get confused about. Yes.

Finally, search engine terms! Because I love them.

can a dk tank ramparts – My personal experience suggests otherwise, but your mileage may vary.

pugs sudden death – Yes, they do that. I’d suggest first things first: Look down. Are your feet on fire? If not, look around: Are there corpses located in anything that resembles: ooze, void zones, burning patches, freezing patches, or anything else commonly called “floor candy”? One of those corpses may be your tank and/or healer, and is possibly the source of your problem. Few pugs are willing to admit that they may have in any way messed up, as well, which leads to Sudden Pug Death.

troll totem – The newly redesigned totems are very cool. They look like this: Totems!

why is scarlett monastery so great – Why is Scarlet Monastery so great? I think that it’s because it’s broken up into digestible pieces (Graveyard notwithstanding, which is a bit boring). It has enough patrols to keep you on your toes, corner places for line of sight pulls, a guy who tortures people for fun, and some weird dominatrix relationship drama thing at the end, plus a pseudo-cultist religious order has “win” written all over it. It’s also pretty linear, which means I won’t get lost in it.

level 80 running alt thru stockade – You don’t really need to google this, do you? Just…run in and facepull things. Everything, if you want. I like to do it with my priest. Shield, facepull half a wing, Holy Nova! Profit. Tell your lowbie buddy to hang way back and don’t do ANYTHING. Don’t even breathe. Just give you plenty of room, don’t cast, and be a loot monkey, that is their appointed task.

quickest way to finish gnomeregan – Hahaha.

wiener fork healer – That’s Mrs. Wiener Fork Healer to you, bub. What are you staring at? They work for marshmallows too.

Of Tanks and Healers

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!

There’s no need to fear! Underbog is here.

when DKs in this world appear
and cause pally heals to shed a tear
they frighten all who see and hear
the cry goes up both far and near
not Underbog! Underbog! Underbog! Underbog!

speedy tanks and half-dead runners
fighting all because we blunder
It’s Underbog. Underbog!

when in this world the blogs all read
of those whose pugs are filled with greed
it’s plate gear but the hunter rolls need
to crush your spirits with blinding speed
comes Underbog! Underbog! Underbog! Underbog!

speedy tanks and half-dead runners
fighting all because we blunder
It’s Underbog. Underbog!

Guess what I’ve been doing, guys? Here’s a video so you can get the tune, and not think I’m just nuts. Well, you’ll probably think I’m nuts any way, but I’m okay with that. Plus if you’re anything like me it’ll be stuck in your head for an entire day afterwards!

Outlands has been rough on my little pally healing self. The soul-crushing weight of a thousand inexperienced DK tanks descended upon me, causing me to doubt myself and wonder if I could even finish this project. Sure, they were funny at first. Ramps was, as Rades so aptly put it, a clown car of WTF. (The clown car part, I added the rest myself). But you know, Underbog and Slave Pens aren’t really a joke either in terms of difficulty (particularly tanking difficulty). There are some tricky pulls at the beginning with all of those pathing bats and other miscellaneous doodads. It’s usually around this point where I know whether I’m in for a good run, or A Run. I’ve had a few not even worth mentioning (or remembering).

Today’s, though, was purely epic. Well, technically there were two today. The first one was fairly unmentionable, which is good! Nobody died. I went with the “do not beacon” tactic and it seems to help my mana quite a bit. I used it once or twice and then let it expire, but overall I seemed to do better going easy on Beacon for the time being. So that pug was fine, and I was only three bars away from leveling so I queued myself up for another one.

This time I zoned in and it was like a scene from Comedy Central.

“Who is the tank!” one DK kept saying.

(I kept myself from yelling “WHAT’S THE MAGE.” But only just barely).

Even the tank didn’t know he was the tank. “IDK who is the tank,” he said, “sposed to be me I guess.” Judging from how much I had to heal her, it might as well have been the elemental shaman – incidentally named “Angryfarmhoe.”

We blundered into the main room full of bats and elemental giants, miraculously managing not to die along the way. “I’m gliching! [sic]” the tank said.

“That’s putting it mildly,” I replied. (Yes, all of these DK runs have made me belligerent. It’s okay, though… he didn’t get it.) Fortunately, he was quick with the anti-magic shield there… You know, for all the magic those bats do. They wiggle their little bat fingers. Actually, this is an aside, but have you ever been turned into a bat by the Hallowed Wands and then eaten food? You get a tiny little piece of bread in your claw. It’s so cute.

But I digress. So it turns out both of these DKs were Unholy… and somehow, it was actually easier to heal the one DK than it has been to heal many of the others, so what do I know? By the time we reached Hungarfen, the other DK still hadn’t figured out who the tank was. The hunter didn’t know what the mushrooms were – he was way over on the other side of the room standing by one…and he died, I regret to report. Around this time I endeavored to calm Angryfarmhoe, letting her vent her DK frustrations in whispers.

“****ing ridiculous!” she kept saying. “DKs!” I told her I felt her pain. And then, I couldn’t help myself.

“So, Angryfarmhoe… I have to ask.”

“Sure,” she said.

“No, the name. Is that the garden tool, or a farmwife?”

“Oh LOL,” she said. “The tool”

“Yeah, I could see that, hoeing is hard work, it’d make me angry too.”

By some miracle we managed to make it past the big leviathan thing, and then it got weirder. I don’t usually post conversation screenshots because 1) let’s face it, I am lazy and 2) it’s often easier to paraphrase. However, this time the conversation can only truly be grasped by relating it in full. To clarify, when Angryfarmhoe laughed, it was because she cast water walking on a DK when we were jumping off the platform.

And when I got impatient it was because we were standing in front of the last trash pulls before the final two bosses while those guys talked about cake.

No, save one for me!

Hey, I like cake as much as the next person! At this point, I voted to kick the inactive tank, and someone else voted to kick the other inactive DK. I’m sure that wherever they are now, they got to have their cake and eat it too. I hear it had coconut. For real.

Fortunately, after they left we got another tank and DPS immediately. Two DKs, naturally. They were gnomes. Very enthusiastic gnomes. But the one tanking actually seemed to know what he was doing and spoke in complete sentences, and then Hellfire froze over. I have no screenshots to prove this.

Later in the evening when I was running my daily heroic we had a paladin healer who put Beacon on me (boomkin) and I started whispering to badger him about pally questions. He had the Hand of A’dal title. I asked him why he Beaconed me, and how does he choose who to Beacon? He said: Highest health, second highest DPS, and not hunters. He said that he doesn’t Beacon the tank in five mans because the millisecond of time it takes for the heal to “transfer” is too risky. I wonder if that’s why I was killing my tanks. That’s one paladin’s opinion, though, I’m certainly open to hearing more. Our guild’s pally tank recommended that I Glyph Beacon so that it lasts longer, to save mana, which seems like sound advice but the glyph cost 50 G on the AH and nobody was around to craft me one. 50! For a glyph! I don’t think so.

Meantime, I’ve gotten plenty of luscious OL gear with sockets I’m twinking the heck out of – and I’m so close to Northrend I can taste it! I’m very excited, and maybe it’ll be people’s long-neglected 70 alts tanking for me instead of Every Person Who Ever Wanted To Level a DK.