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WoW Rookie: PUGging without the bad apples


New around here? WoW Rookie points WoW's newest players to the basics of a good start in the World of Warcraft. Send us a note to suggest a WoW Rookie topic, and be sure to visit's WoW Rookie Guide for links to all our tips, tricks and how-to's.

PUGs (PickUp Groups), which are groups of players that come together on the fly to run instance groups or raids, are a fact of life for most WoW players. Especially in today's WoW, when instances fly by more quickly than ever before (a quick TotC before dinnertime, anyone?), PUGs help you accomplish your quest, gear and achievement goals when you can't run them with a regular group or guild. And now that most players are concentrated in endgame content, PUGs are likely to be the only way you'll get a shot at running earlier instances as intended, with a group of the appropriate level.

Sounds like a winner ... So why do PUGs get such a bad rap? Mostly, it's the bad apple theory – but as Donny Osmond warbled so winningly above, "one bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch, girl." In a Massively Multiplayer Online RPG like WoW, you shouldn't be afraid to get involved with other players. Let's see how you can dig into PUGs without biting into (or being) the worm.

PUGs can be viewed with disdain (and even ire) by players who've suffered through bad PUG experiences or who have progressed so far in the game that they can't contain their impatience with others who aren't intimately familiar with the encounters. PUG turnoffs include:

  • loot ninjas
  • immature, rude, uncooperative or vindictive players
  • incompetent or inexperienced players
  • insecurity; fear of attempting content without the benefit of experienced or overgeared members
While the first two reasons to be wary of PUGs hold some water, we're dubious about players who turn down PUGs based on the latter two. If you're rushing through content so quickly that you can't afford the time it takes to group with players whose game knowledge, gear and experience may be lower than yours, you're probably in danger of losing your grip on enjoying both the content of the game and the company of your fellow players. There's much reward to be had from being the glue that holds a weaker group together; indeed, top players will be able to help a flimsy group sing. And what if nobody in the group has any knowledge of the dungeon you're attempting? Break it together -- that's how every player did it back when the content was new, a mission that proved both possible and entertaining.

It's important as a new player that you not fall prey to the notion that members of progressed raiding guilds are by definition "better" than you are. Some may be; successful raiding does demand and develop certain gaming skills. However, a certain number of less-skilled raiders inevitably get carried along on the backs of more-skilled guildmates and the relentless march into ever-stronger gear. Their skills are essentially no better than anyone else's. So don't apologize for being a PUGger, and don't let anyone belittle you for being newer at the game than they are (or want you to think that they are).

Not coincidentally, PUGs are a great way to tune your play skills. As we've mentioned, if you're a strong player, a PUG is your time to shine. You can make a huge impact in a group that needs steady direction, quick thinking and swift reactions. If you're still building group awareness and a solid skill base, PUGs will give you the chance to flex your muscles -- a chance you'd never get if all you did was ride the coat-tails of stronger, established players.

Looking for group
Ok, so you're officially LFG. For the best chance of getting into a successful group, follow the basics of grouping:

Finally, don't zone in without a healthy dose of respect and tolerance for your groupmates. Despite the proliferation of strategy guides on the internet and the proclamations of self-styled "experts" in Dalaran, there is no single way to approach any content. Strategies and even styles vary widely; methodical groups succeed by taking things slow and easy, while more chaotic groups enjoy tearing into mobs with abandon. Let your group set the tone, and don't be a stick in the mud if things don't go your way. You may discover something you like better!

If you're level 80
If you're a level 80 looking for Heroics and raid content, make sure you've covered the basics. Read up on your class and the places you're seeking to go, and make sure you meet minimum expectations for gear and DPS/HPS. Bone up on raid terminology and get a handle on what to expect during your first raid before you get your feet wet.

One development that may put a damper on your spirits is the trend of screening the gear and achievements of players who are looking for groups for Heroics or raids. PUG leaders will either check you out on the Armory or ask you to link an achievement that proves you have successfully completed the content in question. (Yes, they're requiring you to have completed the content you're interested in doing; that's the state of things today).

Don't be put off by achievement requirements. Heroics and raids demand that certain roles be filled and that strong players be slotted for key roles. As long as you're not seeking one of those pivotal positions or as long as there are other strong players to help support you in those more challenging roles, you may find that your piece fits into the puzzle quite nicely. If a PUG is asking for achievement or performance requirements, reply with a whisper explaining what you can contribute (your DPS, other instance/Heroic/raid experience). Then don't buzz the leader with questions; assembling a PUG can be hectic. If you see that the group is still LFM after 15 minutes or so, you can send a simple "I'm still available if you're still looking for members," but don't beg or pester. If the group doesn't pick you up at that point, take the hint and move on.

Some groups seek strong players so they can muscle through content in minimum time. Don't feel slighted -- you don't need groups like that. Speed runs won't give you a chance to develop your own skills and knowledge or even to have much fun. You'll be so busy racing from one pack of mobs to the next that you building relationships with your groupmates will be out, too. There's nothing here for you. Don't think twice about passing speed groups by.

WoW Rookie walks you through all sort of new-player concerns, from game lingo for the beginner to joining your first guild as a mid-level player and on to what to do when you finally hit level 80. Visit's WoW Rookie Guide for links to all our tips, tricks and how-to's.

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