Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What makes successful PUGs fail?

Before I get to the title of the post, I want to toss out some quick player history. I'm going to keep it short..promise.

I've been playing on US-Drak'thul since the beginning of my wow career; which started a couple months before Burning Crusade came out. Drak'thul is close to one of the lowest population servers in the US and it's reflected in everything on the server. Non-dynamic auction house market, no (successful) pugs of any sort, no real progression guilds. Anyways you get the point. Best move I've ever made and forced my lovely girlfriend to make was to leave the server the second the opportunity arose. We had a lot of in-game friends from previous guilds and what not and leaving is always tough, but more so now than ever I can tell it was the right decision.

Mal'Ganis is completely different that Drak'thul. The population is enormous and while this has its downsides the upsides far far outweigh them.

Every week now we both get the maximum number of Frost emblem a casual with no 25 man guild can get and although the server lag is sometimes fairly bad I can honestly say its worth it. Here is what I base a successful week of frost emblem farming on:
  • VoA (25/10) - 4 emblems, easily pugged on Mal'Ganis
  • ICC (10) - Ran with real life friends in our own little guild, we got 8/12 last week so that 16 emblems plus 5 for the weekly raid, so 21
  • Daily heroic - For a week, 14 emblems
  • Weekly Raid Quest - 5 emblems
So total that's 44 emblems and to be honest with all the things you can do with them it's not nearly enough. So now to the original purpose of this post. I decided to run my own pug 25 man ICC last night.

If you've never managed your own 25 man pug raid it can be a daunting task; however, it can be quite rewarding and I don't mean by ninja looting gear to friends or taking all the BoEs or saronites. It's rewarding when you get in the instance and start pulling and you can just tell the group has potential.

So what made my pug successful last night?

A number of things, but here is how I went about it. Created a macro and began peppering the ever so busy trade chat with the following: "LFM 25m ICC, must have 5.5k GS and 7/12 ach, pst with GS/Spec/Ach or ignored". Two things on this for anyone actually reading this - First, I know it's annoying gearscore gearscore gearscore, this is for a different post but let me at least say I by no means use it to judge a player's skill, just as a marker for overall gear level. Secondly I say in the macro that you have to have 7/12 which sounds elitist considering I only have 6/12 in 25 man; however, I use it simply to weed out people that don't have any experience at all in 25 man ICC. Anyways back to creating a seemingly successful pug..

It takes a while to fill but after about 25-30 minutes the roster is complete (and balanced) and we're starting summons. Here are a couple things I think can help any pug no matter what the content or size.
  1. Vent
    If you have it available tell everyone in the raid to join you in vent. Make sure you or someone you know has vent admin in-case someone obnoxious joins, but having a vent is key.

    The first four bosses in ICC in no way require the use of vent to complete. However, last night is a prime example of why getting people in vent and being chatty can help create a successful pug. We had a lot of chatter last night in vent and a lot of jokes and goofing around and funny things happen, but it was completely functional at the same time. It get's people more connected to the raid..there is no other way for me to put it. We had 23 of 25 people in vent and we simply had a blast.
  2. Loot Rules
    From the start of the raid, and actually even before it was filled, I repeated whenever it was asked by someone that recently joined.

    "Loot rules are simple. MS > OS, and there are NO reserves."

    People are more comfortable when they know how the raid is suppose to go down. I'm not saying to be successful you have to exclude reserves or give everyone a chance on BoEs or saronites, but having clearly defined rules from the start will go a long way in attracting people to join the raid and to stick around when that first BoE drops and 10 people ask who gets it!

    Another important thing to decide early on is deciding what gear tanks get to roll on. More specifically the 2nd OT/OS tank who is actually DPS for 85% of the raid. I gave ours some leeway with loot. Basically he was rolling on DPS gear for MS, and tank gear was his OS. You can handle it in a different way, but I feel that's one of the fairest.
  3. Lead
    This one is pretty obvious and a given, but more importantly than just being the person that put the people in their groups and recruited them in the first place, have a plan and stick to it. Don't let the tank or the healers (and especially the DPS) lead the raid. This is extra important if you are using vent. I'm not saying you need to talk over everyone, but your word is final. Remember that. Use ready check enough but not too much. Don't pull if someone doesn't understand what they need to do, nothing good can come of that.
  4. Have fun
    Not to be cliche, but calling people out for doing things bad can help everyone understand what is right. I have a knack for being able to tell who can handle the heat and who it might be better to let ride. Call people out for doing stuff correct too. For example we had a hunter last night, a fairly geared hunter, that was doing 11k DPS on Marrowgar. While tanking and echoing DBM over vent for people that are  let's just say 'less focused', I also toss in..."Hey does your back hurt a bit?". The remark got a few lol's in /raid as well as some chuckles over vent, including the hunter who responed by saying "Nahhh". Humble I'll admit, but the next person was doing 8.5-9k, that's a substantial gap and I felt he deserved some recognition. Things like that just plain help the raid. It can kick the other DPS into gear if they were auto-piloting their DPS rotations and gives people something to laugh at. Another great example of this was a priest we had in the raid last night. High geared discipline priest that was in vent but using /raid to talk. He kept complaining on the trash before Marrowgar because we pulled the 'optional' trash groups for the Ashen Verdict rep and because honestly it's hard to avoid them. Here is how the convo when, me talking on vent and him in chat during trash.

    QQ Priest: "Stop pulling extra, this isn't a rep run"
    Anon on vent: "yeah, who still needs rep anyways"
    RL buddy of mine (plays a resto shaman): "Oh didn't Ampzilla tell you all we are resetting after we clear trash for some extra rep before we move on to Marrowgar?"
    *Hysteria over vent and /raid ensue.*
    Me (over vent): "haha yeah, sorry everyone I still need the rep so looks like we are resetting"
    Me: "Only kidding, but seriously I'm pulling the side mobs because if I don't some fail DPS is going to"
    RL buddy (mocking priest over vent): "Why didn't we skip that pack!"
    Me: "Okay hunters one of you LOS pull we don't need to do this last pack, everyone get ready to run past them, happy ?"

    It was funny, but possibly one of those you had to be there moments..regardless..have fun in PuGs, trust me in helps.

    Me: "Now, now , don't leave we all love you!"
    QQ Priest: "I don't leave unless 6 people do, if that happens then the raid is falling apart and I'm gone."
    Me: "Oh good then I'm gonna harass you all night"

    After we one shot Marrowgar, the priest got loot and I said over vent: "Now that you got loot, you aren't allowed to leave unless 8 people leave"
We clear trash fast, we one shot Marrowgar, we one shot Lady Deathwhisper, we have a debate over doing heroic gunship that I shoot down for fear that we might wipe and people will leave, we proceed to one shot regular gunship, we then move on and one shot saurfang. After Saurfang we get the Residue Rendezvous weekly ICC quest and the priest from earlier gives everyone insight that you can get the weekly done without killing the bosses. I'm willing to try it and we manage to pull it off. Which is great because after collecting our Sack of Frosty treasures is when things start to go down hill.

Finally to the point of the post. We could not kill Festergut and here's why. The concept of keeping the three spores separate was just a bit too much to ask of the Pug last night. Most of the time like I said you can just tell when a group has the potential. I thought the group we had last night was going to be making attempts on Professor at the very least. As luck would have it, we had the same couple people get the spore in a row for a couple attempts and they simply did not know what to do with the spores. We had the DPS, we had the heals and the other tank and I were on point with using cooldowns to live and swapping aggro and using salvation so we could DPS, but a couple inexperienced ranged DPS simply couldn't grasp the spore mechanic. Well one thing leads to another and after a couple wipes people start coming up with reasons that have to leave. It was getting late and we lost a healer and I wasn't about to go to Dalaran and try to find a competent healer that would want to get saved to 1 possibly 2 bosses in 25 man ICC on a Tuesday, so I called it. I could tell the group was respectful of the effort put into making the group and realized we didn't have much option besides calling it because most peacefully departed with a "had fun" or "thanks for the run" remark. I also took the time and whispered a few individuals who were extra helpful (including the priest I harassed) and that was it.

I think it's more than just some people not knowing the mechanic though. I thought about it before going to sleep last night and a bit more this morning and the issue wasn't always just one individual misunderstanding what to do with the spore. Honestly the fight reminds me of Mother Shahraz and the mechanic fatal attraction. Three people get ported and need to read each others' minds to run in 3 opposite directions as quickly as possible. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Mother was a bit more forgiving than Festergut, but the idea is the same. We had a clearly defined strategy. DBM marks three people. Skull, X (Cross), and the blue Square. If you get skull you go to melee, if you get X you go to the door we start the pull from, if you get the square you go to the right were we had a shamans totems down. The issue is when skull would spawn by the door and x and box would spawn in the melee. X would try to run to the door, skull would assume X knew to stay in the middle because why move, or vice versa, and box would assume one of the other two would run to the totems or would run to the totems and that would throw off X who then assumed skull would definitely run to melee.

It's easy on paper to assign spots for each spore, but the fight by the nature of RNG either someone who had no clue what to do would get a spore and stack them, or the situation above would repeat itself in some variation and coordinating it over vent just wasn't happening last night. I feel like if we got pass that with some luck or had the two extra people gotten in vent that of course got the spore repeatedly we could have moved on and possibly got a chance to work on professor, but alas 4/12 is as far as we went.

That's it for now, if you are still reading, I sincerely thank you and put a comment about what peeves you about some boss mechanic or PuG story, and also I desperately need feedback on what YOU like to see in a blog and what you don't like.

Also I'm thinking of ideas of a banner, hopefully something worthwhile will pop up sooner rather than later.


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