5 man PUGs – Oh, HELL no!

And the flip side of my Kara PUG post yesterday, would be my deeply held feelings on running a 5 man PUG.

As in, “Oh, HELL no!”

I’ve done a PUG run in 5 mans on occasion. Both regular AND Heroic, although I tend to think trying to PUG a Heroic is asking for pain. And I don’t have any masochistic tendencies taht I know of. The fact that Cassie beats the heck out of me on a daily basis has nothing to do with it. Okay, and I volunteered for the Marines. Clearly, I must have SOME desire for pain. Okay, and I write a blog. Hmm… I’d never really thought about that… maybe I DO…

Anyway, tearing myself away from these unwelcome insights, the fact is that to my mind, a pure PUG, where you join the LFG channel all alone looking for a run, and get thrown together with 4 other complete strangers, is a prescription for misery 9 times out of 10.

BUT… there are ways to cut down the potential for pain.

If you are really serious about wanting to run a PUG, for a specific drop like the Sonic Spear or for Faction Rep, and you want to minimize the chances for wasting two or three hours in a truly horrible experience only to have the loot you were hoping to have a chance to roll on get ninja’ed away, here are my suggestions to you.

The first, is to find at least one friend willing to run it with you, form a group with one of you as Party Leader, and then go in the ‘Looking For More’ section of the LFG tool.

If you set the loot rules to “Loot Master” you can avoid getting ninja’ed. Just make sure you set the threshold to Rares, since who cares about greens these days. Explain clearly and politely to everyone why you are doing this, and that it is only a precaution against potential problems. This clearly works best if you are a member of a guild with a good reputation on your server. People will at least be more willing to give you a shot as loot master if they feel they can go to a responsible guild master with complaints later if they feel loot was distributed unfairly.

Second, as the Party Leader you hold the power to boot someone if they act like serious asshats. I’ve recently seen a forum thread where someone asked for a few more players to fill out a PUG, and the guy got two serious jerks that joined specifically to intentionally try to wipe the party as many times as possible, and then went on the forums to brag about it later. Yeah, having the power to just say “Piss off” in the event of emergencies is a wonderful thing.

And third… with 5 positions open, each person makes up 20% of the run. (Wow, I did that math in my head… I didn’t even need a calculator. Did you know that in most offices, 40% of employee sick time is taken on Mondays and Fridays? Hmmm? Does that suggest anything to you?)

If you and a friend form the core of the party at the start, then you only need to worry about three other people. If you ask folks in your guild if any have interest, and then ask folks on your friends lists and your friend asks his friends, and you get some takers, then you reduce the odds of random strangers and unknown personalities even more.

Finally, as you post in LFG “Tank and melee DPS LF more for Heroic Ramps, PST”, you can have the WoW Armory up, and as people whisper you or say they’ll go, you can do a quick search on them to see how they are geared, specced, and what guild they are in if it’s one you are unfamiliar with.

I’m not saying that yuo should be judging people on their gear or specs. I AM saying that, if you are asking for folks to join a Heroic Magister’s Terrace run, and you get a Pally Tank wanting to as main tank that is in all greens and a few blues, you can at least ask him what he is thinking. Maybe he has a set of gear just for jumping off the Aldor Rise that he logged out in. You never know.

I would also recommend, if you are TRULY paranoid, to check them out quickly using the Character Search page of Warcraft Realms. On that site you can see a character’s history, tied to the character name and server, of how long they have been playing that character on that server by that name, how many guilds they have been in and how often they switched.

If you do a search and find that your prospective PUG member has a history on the server of 5 days , is level 70, and doing a search of that name doesn’t turn up any other level 70 gnome mages of that name that recently left any other servers (yes, you can check) than chances are good that the guy just did a server transfer and paid name change.

Does that mean he is going to be a ninja? No!

Heck, most of the current members of Sidhe Devils did server transfers, and some of them did name changes because they made alts on Kael’thas with their other character’s name and didn’t think about it before transferring. There are some very good reasons why people do server transfers and name chanegs. Heck, some of the best raiding guilds in WoW periodically do complete server transfers just to go where they feel there are more potential recruits to aid their quest for progression.

But it is a perfectly valid reason to make the loot rules clear up front, and if that player makes a big thing out of it, point out to him that with his previous history, it’s better for everyone’s peace of mind to play it safe. And if he doesn’t like running with somone else as Loot Master, well, to each his own.

The point is, you want to run something, you HOPE to get a good group, meet good folks and hopefully make some new friends. You want to have the few hours you are about to play in the game to be fun.

But leaving your fate purely to the luck of the draw is just asking for trouble.

Oh, and I think it would go without saying, since you’re reading my blog, but… just as a reminder, please make sure that you act in an honorable, professional and polite way on the run as well. Try your best to be patient, open minded, and fair to everyone you are playing with.

Remember, the new folks are not going to know you or your sense of humor, and tone of voice does not travel through typed chat very well… you may think you’re funny, and your friends who know you and have come to appreciate you may think you’re funny… the three strangers in the run may think you’re being a pissy smart ass.



16 thoughts on “5 man PUGs – Oh, HELL no!

  1. I think most of this is by server, With certain exceptions like heroic arc. or shadow lab, I will pretty much pug anything and with 90%+ success rate. I even pugged kara start to finish on Saturday night and other then a OT (had 500 hp more then me as healer) who couldnt offtank Romeo without falling over dead their wasnt any real issues. Dumped the 12k hp pally tank and went on to 1 shot Nightbane and Prince.


  2. Quite interestingly, I think I had my “Best ever PuG experience” last night!

    Slave Pens was the Daily Heroic, and I’ve been running it quite often recently, for a number of reasons, mostly because it’s “easier” than others, with the amount of Mobs that can be skipped…

    I’d just had to decline a kind invitation to Heroic Bot due to the Real World requesting my presence, so joined LFG for Slave Pens.

    Oh, and I’m feral, with “OK to good” (mostly) pre-Kara gear – 14k health and 24k armour in Dire Bear or 2500 AP, 38% Crit in Kitty.

    Withing 10 seconds I had a /w asking if I’d Tank – “We’re at the first boss”.

    That sounded ominous, but I’ll give anything a go! So I joined the party, to see the leader (Rogue) was dead and the Healer (Druid) was just making his/her apologies for having to leave.

    We picked up another healer (Paladin) and headed in from the stone.

    In the big room with the frosty patches, at the moment, the normal mobs were cleared and the “run through the gap” was set… Someone pulled on the run through – I think it was the Healer – quick 4 person wipe (the leader was still dead, waiting for a rez rather than run back)…

    Oh dear – this had all the makings of a disaster – one party member who refuses to run back, two party members have left recently (Tank and Healer), and someone “not on their game” getting through the skipped mobs…

    We ran back in, made it through the gap, rez’d the dead non-runner…

    So… Paladin healer, Druid tank (me), Rogue, Mage, Hunter.

    Then it went like a finely oiled clockwork thingy! A clockwork thingy that had been designed with quickly clearing Slave Pens, in fact.

    1st boss down – “Oooh, that was easy”.

    Run up to the “short” cut – debating whether it was worth it (as every single time I’ve done it recently it became the “frustrating cut” as at least one person couldn’t do it)… Everyone did it. First time. With no hassle.

    2nd boss down – “Oh! That wasn’t hard, either”…

    Through the packs of mobs that need multi-mob tanking and good CC… (And I’m not generally fantastic at multi-mobs, as I only do either 1 or 2 instances a week I’ve not been honing my skills like that recently).

    Knife through proverbial butter. Even the ones “up the corridor”, where the Hunter got a resisted trap and died – I picked up the mob that should have been trapped too – and we cleared the group with 4.

    Next groups all cleared with no problems – including the ones that run up after the Druid’s released (and hence are hard to mark)…

    And 3rd boss down…

    It’s probably significant that we had 3 Shards at the end, though – indicating that we were all geared beyond the Instance…

    In total it was probably about 30 minutes or so. And it seemed no-one knew each other at all.

    So there’s the exception that proves B^3’s rule.


  3. Somehow I get the impression that this is a US phenomenon. I’ve done PUGs for most of the 5-man content in BC, hardly organizing myself and most of the time people knew their respective jobs, hardly anyone ninjaed, and people were courteous. Occasionally you have one idiot but normally that one is removed by the rest of the group and a replacement found.

    So since you are not the only one bitching bt PUGs by far, I guess US servers play out differently.


  4. Armory Lite is a great website for checking players, but doing it without the bloat of WoW’s official Armory. I also use iArmory on the iPhone for that too. Fast checking is a good thing.


  5. I can’t find any explanation for the PuG-phobia I encounter all over the place.

    Take a look at my Armory (but ignore my spec I was trying something odd for solo Strat runs):

    Doralen on Boulderfist


    You’ll notice that I’m exalted with every single non-raid TBC faction. And I did 90% of that reputation grind in Heroic PuGs. Usually as the healer, rarely as the tank.

    PuGs do fail. I’ve seen it and (at least in one case) I’ve caused it. But I’ve encountered more good PuGs than I have bad PuGs. Maybe it’s a matter of server maturity (Boulderfist was added about 2 weeks after release)?


  6. Llangar:
    I would disagree, though that is the most important part.

    The healer needs to be sufficiently geared to heal through the damage (though a more geared tank allows a less geared healer). For many instances, you need CC who know what they’re doing (this varies by class; polymorph is easier to use that traps). The DPS needs to be at least good enough so the healer doesn’t go OoM, and for some fights they need to be on the ball (final boss of SV, for instance).

    There’s a synergy. Obviously, the more mitigation the tank has, the less good the healer needs to be. If everyone can use they’re CC, and use it well, there’s fewer mobs on the tank, so the demands on the tank and healer are lower.

    I’d agree that the absolute minimums for a tank are lower (you cannot tank heroics in greens, manimal’s cinch notwithstanding). But everybody has a job to do. A healer in greens could heal a tier 6 tank through a heroic, but probably not a tank in blues; if a healer can’t heal unless the tank is epicced out, it’s not the tank’s job to gear up more.

    And, of course an absolute idiot can almost always prevent success. Breaking CC, etc, can cause serious problems. There are just some people who are a net drain on the party.


  7. Well, a knowledgeable tank helps a ton. Some instances though, particular their heroic versions, pretty much require that everyone be on point.

    Generally, uncontrolled dps in a heroic just dies the instant they pull aggro, because the trash hits so damn hard it’s almost unreal. Places like Heroic SL, Shattered Halls, and both versions of MgT, your CC people have to keep on top of things, and the group generally has to have decent situational awareness to deal with stuff like resisted/broken CC. (Even simple stuff like, “Don’t break the damn trap when the Sapped mob is gonna be loose in 5 seconds.”)

    And if your group is well geared, and everyone is both alert and skilled at playing their class, then a “bad pull” doesn’t have to equal “wipe”. I’ve had a pull in heroic Botanica go horribly, horribly wrong and cut us down to the Tank/Healer/DPS trinity in the first 4 seconds. 2 extra mobs, 2 DPS/CC down, and mobs all bearing down on the healer, wipe imminent. A quick Howl of Terror allowed me to lay down a Seduce, Banish and establish fear+dots on a mob, the druid healer Cycloned something else, and the tank managed to get the remaining mobs under control before he had to grab the cyclone. A well timed Deathcoil shut down a healer (can you say Ghetto Counterspell?) so we could kill it, and we were suddenly golden.

    Remember, just because they call it a “Panic Button”, doesn’t mean you actually have to panic first. 🙂


  8. Really all that matters in a PUG is that the tank is geared, knows how to mark, and how the pulls work. Almost all the failed PUG’s I’ve been in are because I didn’t know the instance well enough, or wasn’t geared.


  9. Interesting post & comments about PUGs.

    After reading your Kara pug, I decided to stop being so mean spirited and semi-pug a heroic with another guild. They are always asking and I keep refusing, because I know their players a little, and while I like them because they’re very well-meaning, they are rather unskilled (and undergeared).

    A bit of a variation on the classic PUG, but it also requires tact and diplomacy. I had a mixed experience: I wanted to help them out and give it another shot, but I also couldn’t help feeling rather used by the end. No – they had not improved, neither in skill nor in gear.

    Skilled players find themselves in demand… Sometime people even try to flatter you into doing a run by giving a lot of positive feedback! On the whole though, I dont think its worth doing people favors just for the sake of it, through some tenuous in-game friendships. I wonder if anyone else has come across this situation, and how did you deal with it?


  10. Awww, just when I was agreeing with you every post.

    I just don’t buy that 5-man PUGs are almost always going to be bad experiences.

    For all the reasons I outlined in my post re: raid PUGs, I think you can come away from a 5-man PUG successfully and maybe with a couple new friends. Not always, but more of than not.

    The universe of jerks is not as large as people make out.

    Your comments are all good about ways to improve the odds for a positive experience (though I’d have a hard time imagining a need to hit up something like Warcraft Realms).

    Now if Blizz would just improve its really, really, really weak LFG tool…


  11. @ Sid67 – Hmmm, thank you for th suggestion as to those addons… they both sound like a very good idea. I currently add people to my friends list and put notes by their names, but we all know there are limits to the size you can use. I’ll have to try those.

    @Fnord – Well, pretty much. But a Kara run, and even the Mags and Gruuls PUGs I’ve heard people do, are unusual enough in the size of people needed that, at least the ones I’ve seen, almost always start out with a core of friends and grow from there. A normal PUG from the LFG tool is a bit of a different story… and there are tons of people out there lurking for a ‘quick’ heroic to grab some Badges and to hell with the rest of the group.

    @Lawdog – Must be a new visitor, welcome to you. I’m pushing 40, and the days when I’d be heading for boot camp are long, long gone my friend. Been there, done that, got the shirt and the sand in my boots, thank you very much. These days, it’s all rum drinks and pretty girls at the beach. Well, A pretty LADY at the HOUSE, but the thoughts the same. Semper Fi, and best wishes to you. Keep your nose clean. 🙂

    @Artorin – I still like Steamvaults… as long as you take the back waterway. I did a mix of PUGs, guild runs and bought a LOT of Coilfang Armaments to get my Earthwarden. /cry


  12. @ Law dog

    BBB has been out of the marines for about as long as you have been in it, but I’m sure he will tell you. The volunteered was past tense.

    @ BBB

    I agree the best thing you can do to avoid potentially fatal pugs is to have atleast 1 friend and be the group leader. Often times if you lead professionally the group follows in that matter. Not allways of course there are allways those exceptions. I actually enjoy pugging instances for the most part as long as I am geared for the encounter. Most of us Feral druids had to do alot of pugs back in the day for the Earthwarden (I know 70% of the SV runs I did were in pugs, that place still gives me nightmares)


  13. BBB —

    Good stuff, as always. As someone who is (and has been for a bit) guild-less, I have no choice but to PUG all-too-often. My only concern/complaint about people who loot master and have a specific drop as the goal for running the instance… state it clearly, early and often before the run even begins. That way people know — up front — that your whole focus is [Sonic Spear], or whatever. If they’re cool with it, they continue on with that knowledge in mind. If they’re not cool with it, they can leave before you even start, and save everyone a headache. Hell, I LOVE when someone has a goal in mind for the run, and they achieve it — I’ll be first in line to cheer and “gratz” and pat-on-back. This kind of stuff makes the game fun.

    Mind you, I’m not asking for the asshat that we’ve all encountered who keeps spamming in chat the drop(s) he wants from the run, and “can I have them if they drop?!?! Huh? Can I!?!?” before you even enter the instance. Death to this guy.

    I’m just suggesting that any motives or goals should be stated up front — it’s all about clear communication.

    My thoughts, anyway.

    — Braveship


  14. Hey future Devil Dog,

    Congrats you your decision to join the Marines! I myself have been in 14 years and loving it. Good times, bad times, but many more great times.

    You didnt mention when you leave for boot camp, but be loud, be fast and good luck.

    Semper Fi!


  15. I PuG 5 mans all the time. The key is to not leave your fate to the luck of the draw. Addons like DoIKnowYou and Spyglass (both found at http://www.wowace.com/files) allow you to collect and store info about people. DoIKnowYou lets you take notes about past PuGers to help you avoid bad groups. SpyGlass gives you a summary report on the other players vitals when you inspect them. It also stores the information of any player you inspect allowing you to look them up later. Used together, you can collect a lot of information about people to help you make good decisions about putting together a group.

    So even if you don’t know players well — you can collect a decent data on people you have played with in general and SuperInspect alerts you to someone who is poorly or improperly geared.


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