Thursday, May 21, 2009

Birthing Pains: PUGs and Why You Should Do Them

We all know them. Heck, maybe you're one of them! The people who outright refuse to PUG. If the run isn't all or mostly in-guild, they're out. Even if it means a chance at losing badges and rep on a daily quest.

We, as healers, are lucky in this respect. Sure, there are enrage timers that DPS needs to beat and mechanics they need to master. Sure, a badly geared tank who thinks "dps run out" means him too can be painful. But a good healer can make a bad PUG possible.

Now, before you jump down my throat and say that enrage timers are impossible to heal through, I am not talking about the worst of the worst of the worst of all PUG runs. I'm talking about your every day PUG run where most of the trouble comes from some of the players being undergeared or just plain BAD. I know firsthand you can't possibly hope to keep 25 people alive when Emalon enrages, and that's not the kind of thing I am talking about here.

The reason I'm on the soapbox this week is the Heroic VoA run I was in Monday night. It was right before the server shut down for maintenance, and someone was advertising a PUG. I can't do raiding more than 2 nights a week at the moment due to family issues, so I thought "Hey, it's late. My family is asleep, and I haven't done VoA this week. Lezzgo!"

First of all, we were delayed because several of the people leading the raid were PVPing outside and wouldn't look for people. When we finally got the 25, a big chunk of the DPS was too low. We downed Archavon with no problem, but Emalon looked to be trouble.

There was a person in the raid who was not only bad, but seemed to be purposefully doing things incorrectly .... and when he was removed for some reason or another, he proceeded to pull Emalon and take out 1/3 of the raid.

Oh fun!

Now, many people would have given up and left by now, but we grabbed another DPS and shuffled around some people into different roles, and tried again.

This time, the MT on Emalon kept running out during the AoE damage and moving the boss all over the place. We were using Vent at the time, and he was not responding to any messages anyone was sending, nor talking on Vent. This sounds like a fruitless effort, right?

Well, we gave it one last shot. I (#2 on Recount, which was being shown in raid chat far more than needed) was assigned to heal the MT (uggghhh...), and the #1 priest was put on the OT. DPS was still low, and the MT continued moving the boss around. Raid damage was nuts, and the other two priests and I were trying to cover both the raid healing and the tank healing because the other healers weren't doing much of anything. (I'm used to an awesome druid topping me on meters, and these were waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay below).

Emalon is almost down.... and he enrages.

And DESTROYS the MT.....

And then dies.

And then, after the spam of achievements, we get the notice: 15 minutes until server shutdown.

And damn, if that wasn't one of the most satisfying kills I'd been present for in a while.

So why would I want anyone else to share the pain of a PUG like this?

Because you LEARN how to react to the worst possible situations. The first attempt, I was very close to going out of mana, and had to figure out a way to keep people up just as much without blowing through my mana as fast, because the MT wasn't listening and the DPS were standing in places they shouldn't be.

Sure, in a guild run the chance of your having to heal an under-geared, possibly high-on-pot tank who doesn't pay attention is slim. Sure, your Raid Leader will probably either yell at or boot DPS who consistently stand in fires and gas and rocks and on top of each other during Chain Lightning. Sure, guild runs don't have 3 out of 6 healers who know what the heck they're doing (and one of the 3 was a shadow priest who switched specs to help).

But running in a PUG teaches you the skills you need to react when things really do go wrong in guild runs. As a healer, they can teach you:
  • How to manage your mana better for massive amounts of damage.
  • How to predict and prevent damage from sources that should not be taking damage for whatever reason.
  • How to react quickly to a bad pull or a tank dropping.
  • How to appreciate your guild for how awesome they are.
On that last point, I was getting ready for an Ulduar 25 run with my guild last night, and asked a fellow healer what to expect from Auriaya, because I had read the strategy but was absent for the previous raid. She told me that the healing was intense, but it was a fun fight.

When we downed her, I said to myself: That didn't seem that intense at all.

Why?? Because a night or two before I had been in that VoA run, working together with a couple other healers to cover TONS of raid damage and a whoooooole lot of stupid. It wasn't arrogance. It was a genuine realization of how amazing my guildies are and how lucky I am to be raiding with amazing tanks, amazing healers, and amazing DPS.

But if you still think this doesn't really sound like your cup of tea, there are ways that you can PUG and make it less painful. Because badges give you shinies, and sometimes you may have to PUG for those shinies.
  • Start the PUG yourself.
  • Always use Vent and require raiders to use it if they want loot.
  • Be an adult: Talk respectfully. Don't curse or throw accusations. A key part of a successful PUG is mutual respect and trust - and don't forget a lighthearted atmosphere.
  • Bring some cheap food or a feast you have lying around.
  • Take the time to discuss strategy and address issues. If something goes wrong and the person repeatedly refuses to stop, address it on Vent in a calm tone, and if that person still keeps it up, you can usually remove him or her with the support of your raid.
Of course, there will always be PUGs that are just impossible to do, and you'll just have to quit. You may even get locked to the instance. But you'll never know until you give it a try, and you just might learn how to be a better healer in the process.


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