During that period I saw everything from rogues rolling on +healing maces to warlocks needing on tanking cloaks, and I learned that you never can tell what you're going to get from a PuG. Yes, you'll get hunters who can't trap, mages who never resheep, rogues who mistakenly believe they leveled a warrior, and priests who Power Word: Shield you straight off the pull -- but you'll also find people who know their class well, or are in the process of learning just like you are, and who are fun to be around. I have now killed Illidan with a contingent of people who showed up to my PuG's back when I was a wee lolbaretank in quest greens and Heavy Clefthoof, so as a matter of personal experience I think PuG's are a somewhat underrated way to meet people who will later turn out to play crucial roles in how you experience the game.
I don't PuG as frequently anymore due to time constraints and increased time spent leveling alts, but I still hang out in LFG from time to time for the pure enjoyment of meeting new people. Yes, it is often difficult to PuG tanks and healers (I would submit, as someone who typically tanks or heals in dungeons, that it is also difficult to PuG skilled DPS), but a lot of people could make it easier on themselves than they do. If you're having problems finding a tank or healer for your PuG's, try these.
A note; this applies to anyone who's looking for more people (regardless of what role they're meant to play), but let's be frank; any given PuG is much more likely to be hunting down a tank or healer than they are to be hunting down more DPS, and it's tough to argue that these folks don't have a little more leverage. Nevertheless, these are the same rules I obey myself when I track down good DPS for my own 5-mans. For the record, these don't just apply to PuG's; even guildmates will have a tough time procuring a tank for their runs if they constantly ignore the following rules.
So ye finds yerself wantin' a tank?
1. Ask politely.
Seriously. This is the single best and most effective thing you can do to get someone to come to a PuG. People ask in a polite manner so infrequently that it makes me sit up and take notice. More typically I get the "what spec r u?" treatment, which I confess I usually ignore entirely.
"I'm really sorry to bother you, but we're looking for a tank/healer for (dungeon) and we were wondering if you had some time to help us?" is a highly unusual - and significantly more successful - means of asking someone to a group than the more standard "Spec?" or "U need (dungeon)?" If you can't be arsed to type a polite request, then I sit there thinking that you're probably not the kind of person who pays much attention to helpful 5-man details like Why Face-Pulling Is Bad, or Watching Your Damn Aggro: A Beginner's Guide.
2. Don't be afraid to slip in a discreet note meant to tug the ol' heartstrings, although maybe this is just because I'm a softy.
Not "MY DOG DIED AND I NEED A SHATTERED HALLS RUN," mind you. If you're supremely obvious and just as desperate, it won't work.
"Yeah, we've been looking for a tank/healer for the last two hours, it's been tough this afternoon" may not necessarily convince somebody to come, but they'll at least think twice before consigning you to the bowels of LFG. Everybody has been in the position of having a million quests for a dungeon you just can't seem to get a group for, and as long as you're not too overt about it, you lose nothing by prodding a person's natural sense of empathy. This may, however, be a lost cause if the paladin you are attempting to get for your run is named Pwnsyurface.
Addendum: mentioning your own Druid/Paladin/Warrior if you're looking for a tank, or your own Druid/Paladin/Priest/Shaman if you're looking for a healer, will occasionally earn you brownie points insofar as the person will think, "Oh, well, at least this guy isn't going to do (stupid thing that is only obvious to people who play tanks/healers)." Worth a shot.
Addendum to the addendum: This will backfire on you if you claim to know everything about healing but your Priest has been specced Shadow since Level 10 and you are in fact unaware of the existence of things like Renew.
3. Don't respond to their saying "Sure, I'd love to come" by immediately asking, "Is your gear any good?"
You have an obvious interest in not mistakenly pugging anybody in greens for, say, heroic Black Morass...but there's no truly polite means of asking what someone's gear is like before you send them an invite. Moreover, if you're in the position of pugging a tank or healer, then the God of Cold Reality is obliged to descend from the heavens to intone, "Beggars can't be choosers."
It's an old saw at this point, but it's true; the tank, healer, or DPS you really want is someone who's beyond the point of needing gear from the instance, both for selfish reasons (they're unlikely to roll on the drops you may need) and for pragmatic reasons (dungeons are certainly easier when at least one or two people in the group outgear it). People who want to come on your PuG are most typically going to be people who still need something, but something all tanks learn quickly is that, with the tanking shortage being what it is, you're going to spend a LOT of time tanking when there's no conceivable benefit to you apart from a hefty repair bill and the satisfaction of a job well done.
Most of the time, the gear problem solves itself. No sensible tank is going to volunteer to tank an instance that they're just not geared to do. The time spent wiping and the gold spent on repairs just aren't worth it. You can get around the gear question more subtly by asking them if they've tanked the instance previously. If they have, you have to have faith they can pull it off again. If they haven't, you have to ask yourself whether you're willing to put up with the inconvenience that necessarily occurs whenever a tank is learning a new dungeon, what the mobs do and how often they do it, where to LOS casters, and all the stuff we need to know.
If you are willing, it's really nice to help with marking targets and offering suggestions on where the mob packs can be pulled safely. If you're not willing -- well, LFG awaits.
4. Have the group ready to go, or almost ready to go. It's a major faux pas to make the person you've begged to come on your run be the person who starts summoning everybody else.
It's incredibly irritating to be asked to come on an instance run and then sit there for ages while people putter around in Alterac Valley or go on a mining run (before the teleport, this always seemed to happen with the CoT instances). There are any number of reasons why a run can be delayed, and while some of them are good, most of them aren't. Delaying a run because your healer got disconnected or because your shaman gets up to answer his door is fine. Delaying a run because people get passive-aggressive over who has to go to the stone is not. And, on a for-the-greater-good note, every moment that your tank or healer sits in your PuG doing nothing is a moment they're not tanking or healing for somebody else who's having a hopeless day in LFG.
Don't tie people up just because you can't get your act together. When I agree to go to a group, I get the stuff I need and head to the stone because I want to get moving. If you have to go looking for more DPS or a healer and they're in the middle of something, people will understand that -- but you need to be honest with them so they can decide whether the 50 minutes to 1 1/2 hours they reasonably budgeted for the instance run is still going to be OK if it's likely to mushroom past the 2 hour mark.
OK, folks, so you lured people to your PuG. How do you get them to remember you so they say yes again in the future?
5. Install a threat meter and put it somewhere prominent on your screen.
It is very demoralizing to see only yourself and the healer show up on Omen or KLH. If you're DPS, you need to see what the threat ceiling is, and you need to be able to assess whether you are DPSing at an appropriate rate.
PuG's are often lousy experiences because aggro goes haywire and the pull never fully recovers. Unless your tank's threat generation is so monstrously bad as to raise questions over whether her cat is rolling around on the keyboard, aggro control is ultimately the responsibility of the DPS. Which leads us to our inevitable conclusion:
6. Don't. Pull. Aggro.
Will it happen? Yes. Should it happen constantly? No. Simple as that. Watch your threat meter, give the tank time to establish aggro, don't hit anything before they do, watch out for anything that will interfere with the tank's ability to produce threat, and DPS responsibly.
7. No, seriously, don't pull aggro. It's annoying, stupid, dangerous, disrespectful, and -- worst of all -- entirely preventable.
People who haven't played a tank tend not to realize how incredibly irritating it is when they can't or won't control their aggro. And it's annoying in no small part because the chance of the tank losing control of the mobs ratchets up considerably when they have to run down a mob that's sprinting off to ranged DPS.
Here's the deal. If you're tanking a multi-mob pull, and in BC dungeons you typically will be unless the group's stacked for CC, then running down an errant mob is time that's not spent building aggro on the other mobs while you still have to be healed, and this is a fantastic way to get your healer killed. You have to taunt the mob back onto you and run the risk that the taunt will be resisted anyway. You have to reposition the entire pull -- if you even can, and if the mob pack is mixed melee/caster then in all likelihood the caster mobs aren't going to budge. And you're almost certainly going to be taking additional damage for the duration, because you have to present your back to the other mobs while chasing down your DPS. If you're a bear tank who depends on getting most of your critical-hit reduction from Survival of the Fittest rather than +defense, more often than not you're also going to get Dazed. Of course, all of this necessarily depends on being able to reach the errant mob in the first place, which you may not be able to do if the DPS panics and runs.
This is why tanks hate it when players don't quit pulling aggro, and why a certain low-patience breed of tank subscribes with cold religiosity to the maxim, "You pull it, you tank it."
If you're creeping up on the aggro threshold or about to surpass it, quit nuking, stabbing, shooting, or hacking the mob. If the tank gets stunned or feared and can't build aggro, that's a really bad time to pop your trinkets and keep blasting. And if you're a class or spec without an aggro dump, please remember that you have no way to make the mobs hate you less, and you're entirely dependent on our ability to make them hate us more. If you are a class or spec with an aggro dump, please use it, and you're much better off using it before you pull aggro. If you use it afterwards, you still manage to create all of the aforementioned bothersome problems on top of running the risk that your junk is going to get resisted.
8. Don't be rude to the other group members.
If you've spent hours in LFG looking for a tank and I show up to your group, then odds are good you'll be fairly polite to me -- but I'm going to notice if you're not polite to the other people in the group. I vividly remember one Shadow Labs run a little less than a year back where I subbed in for a tank who had disconnected right before Grandmaster Vorpil. A hunter from my server's then-top-ranked guild was running the group and, while perfectly pleasant to my face, spent the run bad-mouthing the other DPS and snapping at our healer. It was uncomfortable and ugly and I wanted to leave, but the priest needed his Kara key fragment and I would have been punishing the wrong person by hearthing.
No run anywhere -- dungeon, quest, or raid -- is enjoyable with a toxic player along poisoning everybody else's experience. If you're nice to me but not nice to the other people in the group, that doesn't make you a good person with a blind spot. It pretty much just makes you a selective jackass. If you're quarreling with one of the other group members over something-or-other issue, that's one thing, but if you're rude to other group members, and especially if you're rude to my healer, I don't want to be there. Don't expect to find much success in LFG if you acquire that kind of reputation, and if I can leave a run and re-form the group without you, then I will.
And Mr. Hunter? Shortly afterwards there was a period in which he became the sole Hordeside possessor of the schematic for the Stabilized Eternium Scope, but so many people had had such an ugly experience with him that he got next to no business outside of his guild. People went to the trouble of contacting Alliance-side guilds in order to transfer scopes over the neutral AH, and he lost a ton of potential business without ever realizing it. Some small measure of karma can usually be dealt to those who purposely make themselves unpleasant.
9. No matter how good your DPS is, you're not just there to DPS.
Mobs don't particularly like being tanked and will take any opportunity to escape control. Your tank is going to be stunned, feared, gouged, kicked, blinded, poisoned, scatter-shotted, mind-controlled, rooted, frozen, and cursed -- the whole panoply of charming mob abilities and never more so than in the 70 dungeons and heroics.
DPS can often prevent both the tank and group from taking a tremendous amount of damage or just wiping, period. If you're there to help CC, make sure the mob stays locked down as long as you can. If you're a class with an interrupt, please use it. My guild's main healer remarked recently that he's amazed that people who never Kick, Counterspell, or Earth Shock on 5-man runs sure seem to find these buttons in a hurry once it's time for the week's arena matches. A DPS warrior of my acquaintance, while possessed of some of the best gear in the game, still doesn't show up in my runs much because he will never interrupt his rotation to Pummel a mob who's trying to Mana Burn the healer or Fear me. In caster-heavy dungeons, and most especially the heroic versions of Steamvault, Magisters' Terrace, Auchenai Crypts, and Mana Tombs, the lack of an interrupter in the group is functionally no different from the presence of an interrupter who just never bothers to do it.
Every DPS class and DPS spec in the game brings something more than just DPS. They bring traps, decurses, battle rezzes, snares, interrupts, fears, buffs, debuffs, stuns, taunts if things go south with the tank, and offhealing if things go south with the healer. Anyone can DPS, but not everyone can DPS while remaining situationally aware of both the group and how the pull is going. Tanks and healers are not likely to remember you if you're the former, but if you're the latter, they will go looking for you when they want a run. I forgot the name of the warlock who had his Felguard charge into pulls while they were still being positioned, but the warlock who slapped Curse of Exhaustion on a heroic Sethekk Ravenguard (way back when I just didn't have the gear to tank more than one at a time) and then ran like hell? That guy is still on my friends' list.
10. Honesty actually is the best policy.
I don't expect everyone in a group to have an amazing, life-altering grasp of what their classes and specs can and can't do, and even the best players are going to get unlucky resists or badly-timed crits or what have you. Moreover, very few tanks have extensive experience with every class at 70 (I sure don't) and may mistakenly ask you to do things that your class or spec isn't really capable of doing. If I ask you to chain-trap a mob and you don't have a ton of experience doing that, or points in Clever Traps, it's OK to say so.
If you haven't done the dungeon, or it's your first time doing it on heroic, or you've just gotten your alt to 70 and haven't done a lot of runs with the character, that's completely fine as long as you don't pretend otherwise for the sake of your pride. People are usually very accommodating to players who are actively trying to improve their handling of a class and/or are just honest about their current limits; I got a lot of sympathy and help from people when I started tanking and frankly just wasn't any good at it. They tend to be much less so retroactively. If you tell me straight off that you're unsure of your ability to chain-trap, all that means is that I adjust the pull and bump up the trap target's priority, rather than assume that you're going to get that loose mob at the back of the party under control.
A good tank will adjust and readjust tank/CC targets throughout a dungeon to ensure that things go as smoothly as possible, and a large part of this is just subtle assessment of how the group has handled previous pulls. I could go into the whole psychology and strategy behind successful pulling, but that's an article in itself, so we'll leave that for a different day.
So. If you have any more suggestions for people looking to put together a decent PuG, I'd welcome comments. May your runs be short, and your drops epic!