26 January 2009

How to PUG a raid

If it's not obvious by now, I'll be clear: this blog is not written by or for elite WoW players. If you're in a guild that has two Naxx teams or Malygos on farm, I'm sure this stuff is old hat to you.

But I write this blog for the rest of us.

For example, take my guild's raiding experience. We have been able to set up multiple Naxx runs for the past 3 weeks or so, and that's been fun. But we also need to pick up other players, as we usually have 8 that can go into the raid. Usually we need another healer and a DPS, though for some fights we can do fine with just two healers.

We've had a range of PUG players in our raids. Sometimes we'll get a geared, experienced player — maybe someone who's running 25-man raids every week but has an off night to help out in 10-mans. That's wonderful and really helps with learning. The other extreme is to bring in someone new to raids entirely, or at least new to the fights you're taking on. And even someone who's been in Naxx before may not have fought (or fought successfully) the bosses you're tackling on a given night.

It's very common to see this. Reading the official forums, it's easy to believe that Naxx is 'too easy' and 'no challenge'. And yet I see numerous players and guilds who aren't able to get deep into it. For us, we have downed 9/15 bosses max, and felt pretty good about that. I don't doubt that many experienced guilds have an easy time. But there's no need to feel noobish just because you're struggling with Maxxena or whatever. If you have the right attitude, and enjoy challenges, you're having more fun than the uber leet crowd.

So, if you're a average joe or jane like us, maybe you want to try some raiding, but don't know how to get started. Obviously you can (and should!) read up on the fights and know what to expect. But how do you set things up so that you have a good chance for success? Here are a few ideas I've found that will help out.

Tips for starting a PUG raid

1. Start with a core group. If you can, begin with a nucleus of players who you know and get along with. This might be the 5 or so players that you run instances with, or the handful in your guild that want to try things out. Things are easier when you know what to expect from even half of your raid.

2. Tackle something that's realistic. This is affected by how good your gear is, how skilled your players are, and how organized your group is. A good place to start is the Archavon raid in Wintergrasp. If you have zero raid experience, try tagging along for this a few times; it's usually PUGged right after a Wintergrasp battle (if your side wins, of course). If you have no trouble organizing Archavon, your next step would be either Naxxramas or Sartharion in Obsidian Sanctum. They're both targeted for about the same levels of gear. The advantage of OS is that it's three mini-bosses and one boss; the disadvantage is that the boss fight is a little bit complicated, and if you don't figure him out, you get no loot. There are Naxx fights that are more complicated, but the first few bosses are relatively simple.

3. Make learning the goal. Loot is good, and it's worth striving for. But depending on who you're running with, it's very possible that you'll struggle with parts of the raid. If you start with an attitude that loot means everything, that can quickly lead to disappointment, whining, and arguments. Instead, you should focus on understanding the fights you're tackling. If (like us) you're adding new players to an existing core, make sure you understand what they know — and try to teach your newer players. On the other hand, if a more experienced player joins your raid, be willing to learn from what they have seen.

4. Keep the tone light but focused. Don't sweat things if you're struggling, or if someone gets something wrong. That's part of the learning. Be polite. And, if someone is making things unpleasant for everyone else, don't be afraid to have them leave the raid (but be polite about that too).

Remember, the whole point of playing this game is to have fun. Yeah, it can be intense, but that doesn't make it OK to be a jerk.

5. Try to learn every time. If you wipe, try to understand why. It may well be a mistake by someone. Don't punish it but learn from it. If your strategy is really complex, it can take a long time for everyone to learn it. And don't be afraid to own up if you make a mistake; that helps everyone. (And raid leaders can make mistakes too, by failing to explain things.)

6. Understand your raid lockouts. This is a real pain sometimes, but you have to know about it. Basically, you are (usually) saved to a raid instance after your group has downed a boss, but you can be saved before that too. Once you're saved to an instance, you can't group up with a different group and try things again. Some notes about this:
  • All current Northrend raids reset every Tuesday morning (for US players). So if you ran a raid on Thursday, you're saved to that raid until the following Tuesday.
  • Normal and Heroic raids are saved separately. So if you ran normal 10-man Naxx, you're saved to it, but you're not saved for 25-man Heroic Naxx.
  • Check your saved raids. This is done in two ways. The nicer way to do it is to use your in-game calendar. You'll have to turn on the "show raid resets" option, but then it will show upcoming raid resets. You can also accomplish this through the Raid interface. Open the Social window (O) and click on the Raids tab. Then click on the Raid Information button at the top of the window. It will tell you what raids you're currently saved to.

    Be ready to explain this to any PUG candidates you're bringing on too. It's surprising how many players won't remember what raids they've run this week.

7. Use a standard method to communicate. Voice chat works best when you're explaining things; you can use in-game voice chat or Ventrilo. You don't need everyone to have a microphone, but if they can listen in that will help.

If voice isn't an option, be prepared to type a good bit!

8. Build up a regular group. Not everyone can run your raid every week. But as your regular group gets bigger, things will get much easier. If someone runs with you and you got along well with them, try to invite them back the next time.

OK, those are my tips. Hopefully those will get you started. The raids are fun, and more accessible than they've ever been. Give them a try!

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