This week, I'm writing a post exhorting you warriors out there to PuG. Run pick up groups as tanks, DPS, hey, if people really want you to run around trying to keep them up with bandages then go nuts. Why am I telling you this? Well, it fits into my current crazy plan to stave off WoW burnout. Playing a warrior can be a lot of fun, but it takes a certain mindset to do it and frankly, if all you're doing is tanking raids and grinding on quests, you're in danger of falling into a rut. You don't even have to be tanking raids for this to happen... soloing your warrior in Dustwallow Marsh can be just as much an example of staying in your comfort zone. Do you make up excuses why you can't run Zul'Farrak just to grind away on quests in the deserts of Tanaris instead? Does the very idea of running Uldaman make you break out in a cold sweat? Then you should run Uldaman.
Like most classes in WoW, warriors at say level 12 running Ragefire Chasm or level 15 braving Deadmines are hardly the same as a level 70 warrior running Sunwell Plateau, but the path to the latter leads right through the former. You can read the forums, talk to other warriors, listen to long winded self appointed expert bloggers, or cruise the theorycrafting sites every waking moment, but as helpful as all these things can be you can learn more from doing than from all of them combined, if you pay attention and are willing to accept that you will screw up, groups will wipe, blame will be cast your way and sometimes it actually was your fault. If you can endure this and learn from it, you'll become a better tank or DPS. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that's why these various instances are there. BFD isn't just there to get you Strike of the Hydra, it's there so you can learn how things like aggro management, crowd control, and tanking actually work.
Great for new warriors, you might say. But they're coming up with no access to later tier talents like Shield Slam and Devastate, they're not in epics, it's fine for them to learn their craft in PuG's but I've done my time. I can understand that mindset. In fact I often feel that way myself. It's very hard for me to make myself use the LFG tools when I have a guild full of people who would like me to tank any five man you can think of. Why should we PuG?
Well, for starters, PuGging can keep you sharp. It's one thing to tank a raid, with everyone expected to have a threat meter and make use of it, to use aggro shedding talents and abilities. But eventually threat is going to be lost, and as a tank you need to have a good grasp of how to react and get it back. Frankly, I've come to the opinion that it is better to hone this reaction time in a pick up group than in a guild run if only for the cynical reason that I'd rather risk failing and wiping on complete strangers. More importantly, a PuG is often filled with complete strangers. Unlike a guild group, you won't have a sense of how these people play: you won't know going in that the moonkin in your PuG frontloads a lot of threat but then tapers back to a reasonable level and as a result, you can't fall back on that experience to let yourself coast building rage until the moonkin pulls aggro, and then taunt to get all of his threat and start unloading your stored rage to build more the way you can with guildies you know.
Another reason to run PuG's is a simple one: you can't meet new people if you run the same instances with the same people all the time. Sure, there are jerks, bigots and Primulas out there, but there are also good folks to run groups with and you'll never meet them if you cut off all avenues of exposure to them. I guess you could try meeting good players via trade chat. Good luck with that. A more wretched hive of spam and pointlessness you will not have seen since the days of the global LFG channel. As much as my long dark night of constant Heroic Mechanar PuG's for my Sun Eater sucked, it also exposed me to players in two of the really excellent guilds I've called home since returning to Norgannon. I wouldn't have met those folks if not for suffering through that rancid pain in the hindquarters of an instance over and over and over again, and I have to say that in the end it was worth it. (No, I'm never going back to that soul draining instance. I will tank any other heroic instance you name, Shattered Halls, Shadow Labs, Black Morass, Magisters' Terrace, but not Mech. Don't ask me. This is not a PuG issue, this is a PTSD issue.)
PuGs can be extremely stressful, especially when you find yourself tanking trash mobs you've never seen before, bosses you've only read about a few times, or even running a familiar instance with folks who have never been there before. Likewise, going into an instance as a DPS warrior and watching a new tank struggle can be quite maddening. But these experiences are often important tools to helping you grow and progress as a warrior, and you shouldn't dismiss them out of hand the way I often find myself doing. Such thinking leads to stagnation. Yes, wiping sucks. Wiping sucks even more as a tank, not just for the repair costs (come on, you can make it back with a few dailies nowadays, even in your coveted Professor Plums) but because tanks tend to not want to wipe at all, in my experience as a tank, DPS and a healer. It's contrary to the mindset of the tank of any class, which tends to want to do things like hold aggro and move through the instance without wipes. But it was in a PuG Stratholme run going back almost two years now that I first discovered how to hold aggro on those ridiculous undead packs before the first gate via frantic tab sundering, thunderclapping, demo shouting and outright maniac unwillingness to lose the packs, and this was a lesson that's stood me in good stead a solid ten levels later and several talent improvements like Devastate and Thunder Clap in Defensive stance.
Even at max level you can learn things from PuG's. PuG's are where your beginning warriors will learn the pain and the glory of tanking and how to properly apply DPS (hint, the first time you whirlwind in the middle of the crowd conrtol, the PuG members will let you know you done messed up, loudly and repeatedly), how to get along with other players, and even where you will meet future guildmates and friends in game. Sure, there are bad apples on every server, you'll have wipetastic runs, you'll group with folks who can't get to the instance themselves or keep everyone waiting while they run AB, loot will cause friction. Yes, you'll be tanking a new instance for the first time with that one guy who always runs ahead (possibly a rogue in stealth, but just as often a mage, a fellow warrior or some other class entirely) and then runs back to your low on mana, half health group with two packs of mobs hot on his heels. A hunter will roll need on a perfect tanking weapon, you'll have a DPS warrior who rolls on the healing paladin's healing plate because... well, who knows why? The people who populate PuG's are still people, some are awesome, some make you wish you could shake the internet hard enough that they'd fall out and break their necks.
Very rarely will they be boring, however. You'll learn how to react on the fly, think on your feet, and not panic when you lose two people in the first four seconds of the pull. You'll say oh yeah, this is how I hold aggro on six mobs at once or figure out how to keep a mob stunned and off your healer with intercept and intervene long enough for the tank to taunt it back. You'll pull off a spectacular recover thanks to excellent oh my bleeping bleep reactions that will show you other classes in a whole new light. And yeah, you'll wipe horribly ten times and wonder why you ever listened to that crazy Rossi dude in the first place.
Welcome back to the PuG. You'd better get used to them. Wrath of the Lich King is coming, and I promise you, you'll be PuGgging Utgarde Keep like it or not. So you might as well embrace it, right?
Next week: Fury gear, this time for sure! It's taking me longer to write than I expected.