Monthly Archives: April 2011

Anatomy of a PuG: expectations

There’s been a lot of hubbub on various forums about the new incentive program for PuGging that will be launching with 4.1 (likely today!)  Many tanks are saying they won’t tank any differently than they do now. Others are saying that the anticipated rewards aren’t going to help. Still others say the “have to queue alone” requirement makes a significant difference to them, in that it’s not sufficient incentive to not be able to tow along at least one buddy.

Like many folks, I have read the debates with interest, but for a different reason. I’ve always been curious about why it is that PuGging has such a bad rap. I’ve done some. I’ve had more good PuGs than bad. I actually almost see it as being like rush hour traffic. There are jerks out there, and you have to watch out for them. But you never remember the peaceful trip home for more than the evening. You only remember the bad PuGs, too.

Healers and tanks claim to have it the worst. They’re in short supply, and are easily blamed for mishaps. Let me provide an example: I have a shaman who I heal on. She’s still leveling, and so I have been PuGging a little bit to practice that, since solo questing provides very little practice for healing.   I zoned into Shadowfang Keep. My tank was a druid. We had a hunter, a mage and a rogue. The tank goes racing off for the first pull. The rogue is sitting on his butt getting a food buff. The mage is summoning her water elemental. The hunter and I follow the tank.  The hunter’s pet still has growl on. Who gets blamed for the hunter dying in that first fight? The healer. Whose fault was it? Well, let’s see. It could have been the hunter, for not holding his own aggro in check, or for letting his pet get aggro and die. It may have been the tank’s for not waiting for the rest of the DPS to complete their preparations. Nope. It was the healer’s, who was, by the way, keeping the tank up to about 50% health, because he hadn’t waited for the rest of the DPS and was taking a little too much damage a little too long.

Fast forward. The hunter has gone, we now have a warrior in his place. We’ve killed the first boss with only one wipe. Caused (and admitted to, this time!) by the mage pulling while the tank was dead. We’ve gotten to a little hallway where there’s a sharp doorway before a boss room. We’ve just finished killing two of the three mobs in the room. One of those three had been pulled off the tank by the mage, and the warrior had just picked him up as the two the tank still had were dying. The tank turns, and runs around the corner into the room and grabs the next pack. While the rest of the group is still killing one, and I’m trying to keep a non-tank warrior up as well as the druid tank.  Said tank dies spectacularly in the moment I realize his bear butt has run around the corner. And blames… the healer. For, oh, I don’t know. Let’s see here, not chasing after him immediately… while we were still in combat with another mob, no less?

Yes. That’s a bad PuG. But why was it a bad PuG? Because we had bad DPS and a bad tank, and, potentially, a bad healer. I’d like to think I’m not a bad healer. I’ve successfully healed boss fights. I don’t think a bear being around the corner on trash counts as being a bad healer.

What this boils down to, though, is that one of the problems with PuGs is that everyone thinks everyone else is expecting you to be bad at your job. Tanks think DPS are impatient and just want you to keep pulling as fast as you can go. DPS thinks healers won’t ever drop a heal on them in a tight situation. Healers think they’re going to get blamed if anyone dies.  And because of these thoughts they become reality. Healers get blamed because they accept the blame. DPS are impatient because tanks keep going fast. Tanks die because healers get stretched too thin by DPS who think they won’t hold up their end if they watch their threat.

I go into my PuGs with a good attitude (If I feel I’m going to have a bad attitude, I don’t PuG). Let me give you another example: I’ve queued, and I’m in Gnomeregan with a pally tank, a pally DPS (who are chattering like they know each other in party), a rogue and a mage.  We get through Grubbis with no issues. He drops a pally item. Both pallies need the item. The one who loses makes a smart comment, and the other one responds “next thing we both need, I’ll give to you” (Remember, they’ve made it plain they know each other.) The rogue drops group. Huh? Well, he’s DPS, he’s replaced in half the time it took me to type this.

My theory on that experience was that the rogue wasn’t paying attention to anything but the negative comment made by the one pally, and thought someone was ninjaing. The run went smoothly as far as mechanics went. But it was perceived that there might be a problem, and so anything that sounded like a problem was one for the rogue.

And let me provide you with one final experience, just because it needs to be said. It was another Gnomeregan run. Everything has been going swimmingly. Viscous Fallout drops the cloth boots, which the mage in the group passes on. (remember, I’m a shaman, but healing.) The cloth boots have more int than my current quest greens. I ask “Mind if I need?” The mage answers “They’re an upgrade in stats, go for it.” I need. I put them on. We’re all happy, and keep going.

Down the hall towards Mekgineer, a pair of leather agi boots drop. The hunter (we have no other leather wearers besides myself) asks if he can need. Two of us reply with “Of course! No one else does!” He says he just thought he should check… and I realize why, so I say “Oh, the boots I asked about were cloth, and I can wear leather.”    Sometimes over communicating is good.

Next week I’ll talk about why tanks are supposed to be know-it-alls.

Blackrock Caverns – Normal Mode

Blackrock Caverns – Normal Mode

 This guide is designed to be a reference for relatively new players to the level 80-85 instances.  While it will provide more specifics than the boss-only guides that are more commonly available, it is not meant as a step-by-step guide.  Trash mobs will be listed as you may see them. Additionally, I’ll include the type of each mob and a list of abilities. I will do my best to indicate which attacks are ranged or melee, however, I will not necessarily be able to indicate whether the mobs will always stand at range if they have a ranged ability.  All of the links provided are from Wowhead. Blackrock Caverns is a fairly linear dungeon, so I will only provide minimal ‘directions’.

The first trash mob packs may include:

Mad Prisoner (humanoid) These melee mobs will try a Head Crack, and Enrage.

Twilight Sadist (humanoid) Sadists have a few short range abilities, including heart-seeker blade, inflict pain and short throw. They will also use sinister strike in melee.

Twilight Torturer (humanoid) The torturers may toss a short range inflict pain or shackle, but Red-hot poker is their primary attack. They also like to inflict Wild Beatdown, to make things interesting.

Crazed Mage (humanoid) These guys, as the name might suggest, like to hang out at range. They cast Frost Nova and Frostbolt.

Note that Rom’ogg Bonecrusher will patrol in and out of the first room. Pull as many groups away from his patrol area as you can before engaging Rom’ogg.

When you pull Rom’ogg, move him toward the hall you came from. According to Wowhead, he will Call for Help when he is first pulled (typical boss… can’t do his own work if someone’s handy to do it for him.)

He likes to cast Quake, and when he does, it will spawn Angered Earths. It’s important for the tank to pick these up and the DPS to burn them down to conserve the healer’s mana.

Rom’ogg has a 1-2 punch that can be vicious if the group isn’t on top of it. First, he will cast Chains of Woe. Everyone needs to beat down the chains, then run away before the second spell, Scullcracker, cracks your skull.  The final trick in his bag is Wounding Strike.

Loot, and enjoy Raz the Crazed. Learn to love Raz, though he will be in your life for a very short time.

Raz will kill a bunch of mobs for you, before leaping off the bridge. Don’t follow Raz. Keep taking the obvious path.

You’ll start to see Evolved Twilight Zealots (dragonkin) on patrol at this point. Try to kill them away from the bigger groups that you’ll be coming on, just to make things a little easier.  They’re melee, and have four abilities: Force Blast, Gravity Strike, Grievous Whirl, and Shadow Strike.  None of these abilities stand out except that the tank will have to soak a little bit more damage.

Also, you’ll get groups of 4-6 Flame Callers and Zealots.

Twilight Flame Callers (humanoid) Call Flames and use Blast Wave. Pretty standard stuff.

Twilight Zealots (humanoid) are somewhat unpredictable.  They can be annoying, as they like their ranged spells. Usually, some will try to stay at range, while others will run up to the tank. Their ranged abilities include Arcane Barrage, Arcane Missiles, and Shadow Bolt. At melee range, they will use Gouge, Kick, Mortal Strike, Rend, and Shadow Nova. They also have Aura of Arcane Haste, which might make things slightly more annoying. Why does only the Twilights Hammer have Arcane Warroglocks?

As you start moving downstairs, you might be tempted to turn to the left and head out the door – That leads to a dead end, so continue down the ramp to the left.  You’ll see Corla at the bottom of the ramp.

Before you engage Corla, however, jump off the side of the ramp and take out the patrol that walks up to her area and kill them. They’re another group of zealots and flamecallers. You may also want to clear the groups standing on the side just beyond them to give yourself space to work.

Corla, Herald of Twilight has two Twilight Zealots who she is in the process of evolving.  To stop the process, have two members of the dps block the beams coming from the dragonkin. They will get a debuff called Evolution that stacks. If the stacks reach 100, the dps will become an evolved twilight zealot, which is bad. So, they should step out of the beams at about 70-80 stacks, and let the debuff wear off, then hop back into the beam.

Corla can also cast a 3 second fear called Dark Command. Otherwise, just beat her up and take her lunch money.

Once you’re done with Corla, continue down and through the corridor the pat had been walking up and down.  In this section, you’ll see more zealots and flamecallers.

Turn the corner and stop in panic! Until Raz the Crazed leaps down to save the day! Yep. He’ll kill all those evolved Twilight Zealots. You’ll be free to move on to the Twilight Forge.

When you get to the Twilight Forge area, you’ll see Karsh Steelbender, with two Conflagrations (elemental), and a whole bunch of Quicksilver elemental).  Around the edges are several bellows slaves (humanoid).   You can safely ignore the bellows slaves – they’re not elites, and unless things get out of hand, you won’t agro them dealing with Karsh.

If you pause a moment to watch the conflagrations, you’ll notice that they heat up the quicksilver as they pass, during which time it can move. Then it will cool off, and hold still again.   This is important to note.

First, carefully pull the conflagrations, one at a time, while Karsh is away from them.  Any warmed quicksilver will follow along. The conflagrations are a pretty easy kill, and the quicksilver will solidify in place when they die.  Because of this, you may want to pull the first conflagration far back into the hallway, so you only need to deal with a few of the quicksilver on each. If you have a tank with high health, though, you don’t need to be as careful about that part, as the conflagrations are a quick kill, and They only immolate and cause heat exhaustion.

Once the conflagrations are out of the way; you are ready to pull Karsh. Two things are very important from the start of the fight. The first is that Karsh needs to be dragged in and out of the pillar in the center of the room. The second is that everyone wants to stay off the ring grate, as fiery nastiness will happen if anyone stands there.

From WoWhead: Karsh starts off with a Quicksilver Armor buff, which makes him immune to 99% of all damage. You can drag him through the pillar of fire in the center of room, allowing him to gain stacks of Superheated Quicksilver Armor for every 2 seconds he spends there. If his Superheated Armor buff falls off, he will regain the Quicksilver Armor and summon fire elemental adds (Bound Flames)  . To make the fight as easy as possible, you want to minimize the number of Superheated Armor stacks Karsh gains, while making sure the buff never falls off. To do this, have your tank run (not backpedal) through the pillar of fire once the Superheated Armor has about 5 seconds left on it.

Time to loot and move on!

Moving along the next section, you’ll run into a variety of mobs, again in packs of 4-6.  These are all ranged capable types, though some will run to melee more readily than others. Defiled Earth Ragers, Incendiary Sparks, Twilight Obsidian Borers and Twilight Elemental Wardens comprise these ranks. Here is a breakdown of their abilities:

Defiled Earth Rager (elemental): Bludgeoning Strike, Meteor

Incendiary Spark (elemental): Fireball, Final Volley

Twilight Elemental Warden (humanoid): Chain Lightning, Frostbomb, Fire Blast

Twilight Obsidian Borer (humanoid): Bore, Shadow Prison

After a few groups, you’ll get to a spot where you can go left or right. To the right is Beauty’s den, and she is a skippable boss.   On the other hand, so long as you don’t kill Runty, she’s a pushover, so there’s no real reason not to take her out.  Make sure you clear the intersection area, though, as Beauty has a fear ability.

First, figure out where Runty (beast) is, and mark him, just so everyone’s clear on where the little bugger is. I’ve seen him hiding in the back behind Beauty, which makes things much easier. The reason you don’t kill Runty is because Beauty will enrage when Runty dies.

The four pups (Lucky, Buster, Spot and Runty (all beasts)) have the same abilities: Lava Drool and Little Big Flame Breath. When one of the pups is near the front of the cavern is the best time to pull it. You can pull the pups individually, or use CC to pull them all at once, your choice.    Remember! Don’t kill Runty. If you get Runty in a pull, make sure to CC him to keep him out of the way.

Presuming you didn’t get Runty in a pull, grab Beauty when you’ve taken care of her other pups.  (If you did get Runty, as soon as you’ve downed the pups in front, grab Beauty as well, and make sure you keep Runty out of the way)  Beauty has a few abilities, the most notable being the fear, called Terrifying Roar. Her other abilities are Magma Spit, Flamebreak and Berserker Charge.

Move on to the left after you’ve made appropriate jokes about Molten Core for your skinners.

You will have a couple more groups like the ones discussed before Beauty. And then you will face the Ascendant Lord with a whole lot of minions, which makes things look much more complicated than they really are. Move a little closer. Oh, Hi Raz! Unfortunately, Raz will die here. Fortunately, when he does, you will be facing Ascendant Lord Obsidius and two Shadows of Obsidius.

Assign a DPSer to kite the Shadows. The kiter will need to have at least a little bit better than average run speed (or a slowing ability), and a ranged attack of some kind.  They should kite the adds within range of the healer, and not too far away from the Ascendant Lord.  The Shadows have Crepuscular Veil, which is why the run speed ability is handy. They also take no damage.

At 66% and 33%, the Ascendant Lord will switch places with one of the Shadows. The tank will still have aggro on the new Ascendant Lord, but the kiter will need to pick up the new Shadow.

Additionally, the Ascendant Lord will use Thunderclap, and if your kiter is in range, it needs to be removed. He also uses Twilight Corruption, which can either be removed or healed through.

Congratulations, you’ve just completed Blackrock Caverns!

A History of Altitis

When I first started playing WoW (in February of 2005), the friend who got me interested in the game suggested that I try to play several different classes before I settled on one. I took that a step farther. I started 10 characters – one for each class (yes, that meant that I had a Hordey out there, too, not just my Alliance toons.) The first toon I settle into a truly loving relationship was Shoryl. (yes, I know, Shoryl is my second paladin. Wait for it already!)
Shoryl was a human paladin. She was easy to play. She provided me with hours of enjoyment, and she had the name that had, in other circles, come to supplant my given name. The other toon that got a lot of my time was a druid named Caitlinn. My shaman got very little love, partially because she was horde, and I knew nobody who played horde-side, and partially because those totems were just way too confusing to me.

As I mentioned in my introductory post, I raided in vanilla, but before I resigned myself to healing, I tried valiantly to play retribution. Back then, I didn’t know much about the online resources available. Eventually, though, I gave in to healing, and got pretty darned good at it, if I must say. My 40-man group, which started out as a PuG, would go on to complete AQ-40, and nearly complete Naxxramus – though I stopped raiding while we were still getting confident about Blackwing Lair.

We’ll skip the drama that happened, but then I found myself on a new server, with an impending new expansion, and a level 60 paladin who’d gotten probably 80% of my WoW time. Caitlinn had been left on the old server, where she still languishes at level 50. I’d been playing a new toon, though, whose name was Unsocial. He was a night elf rogue, and I purposely made him look like a nice purple Wolverine. The name was intentional. I wanted him to be a solo toon. He didn’t even quest, because he didn’t like to be told what to do. (No, I do not RP, but my characters still end up with personalities.)

Once again, when BC launched, I took Shoryl right out and started the grind to 70. Unsocial would languish while I worked on getting my girl up and ready to raid, but raiding didn’t happen for me. For starters, I tried to go retribution again – and while it could have worked had I been dedicated enough and willing to PvP, it was a nightmare for itemization, and not something I really wanted to do. But I did go Shockadin during that time, and had a heckuva good time with it. I didn’t end up raiding much at all in BC, partially because of my poky leveling style, and partially because of personal things giving me less in-game time than my guild.

Enter my second attempt at a Shaman. I was sure that this time it would stick. My little Draenei, Peilla, would become an elemental shaman, since Shoryl couldn’t buck the healing gig and go ret. But alas, it wasn’t to be. I ditched her in the 50s. Unsocial made it to 70, and then I discovered I hated all the fussiness of playing a rogue. During this time, my sweetie leveled her first paladin. We did crazy stuff with our two pallies, like 5-man world quests, all by ourselves.
Then, it was time for Wrath of the Lich King to launch. We intended to level our pallies together, to keep the synergy going, but that would not come to happen. I went ahead and leveled Shoryl on my own – and yes, she was ret! Wrath was a huge alt-time for me. I didn’t care for Northrend much, so I spent all kinds of time on other toons, and ended up with several in their mid-40s.

During Wrath, we also talked my sweetie’s parents into playing. And somewhere near the end of Wrath, they decided to change servers from the one we were on. Since we weren’t having very good luck finding a guild we liked, we decided to go check out the server they had moved to. We created pallies: Shoryl and Sonaira. And as we leveled, and talked her folks into starting a guild, we decided we wanted to bring our 80s over to the new server as well. But I didn’t want to delete Shoryl. So, Shoryl (prime) had to get a new name. And her name is Taoiseach, which is gaelic for prime minister.
Eventually, as these things happen, I took over the guild that the folks had started (which we had encouraged them to do), and so now Shoryl is the leader of a tiny guild called Higher Authority.

I still have my alts. Taoiseach is also level 85 – my paladins are both retribution. I have a hunter at 85, a druid in the midst of gaining the Loremaster of Eastern Kingdoms achievement (before heading to Outland), and my third attempt at a shaman – though she’s going to be a healer. And I don’t plan to raid this expansion.


This blog comes from all of the things I’ve been reading about World of Warcraft: what I have found lacking in the guides department; the joys and challenges I’ve faced as the leader of a tiny guild; and the musings of an alt addict.

My primary (main, if you must) toon is Shoryl. My guild is Higher Authority (US-Ysera), and at this moment in time, has a whopping 13 member accounts (49 member toons).

Shoryl is my second paladin, which has led to one of my personal memes: Everybody has a pally alt.  Taoiseach was my first paladin, and the one who gets the memories of raiding in vanilla. There’s a story about that, but I’ll save it for another blog post.

I’ll be posting once a week, on Tuesdays (to give people something else WoW-related to read while we can’t get into the game).   I plan to post on one of 3 rather broad topics each week:

  1. Instance Guides.
    Yes, I know there are a lot of instance guides out there. But they lack information for people who don’t have the support of a great big guild behind them. What does that trash do? What’s the fastest way to get to the achievement? So I’ll be perusing lots of other guides and resources, and posting my own, with pictures!
  2. Life in a Tiny Guild.
    Tiny guilds face some unique challenges, but also have some great benefits.
  3. A Perspective on Altitis.
    There are plenty of closet altaholics out there. Altitis is serious business, and managing your altitis is important for your success in WoW.