Tuesday, October 27, 2009

On PuG Raids and Gear

I spend a fair amount of time on my alts in pug raids. My alliance feral is all by herself in a one-person guild (Dreambound!), so anything I can't solo has to be done in a pug; my rogue is guilded with my horde main, but being in a small guild, anything beyond a heroic needs to be pugged, too.

So, I see a lot of pugs. I dislike leading them, as I know I am not a good raid leader; I have difficulty focusing on what the overall group is doing over what I need to be doing, myself. I'm also too nice to lead raids: I take too long considering options, I like to avoid conflict, and even my ML'ing can take ages as it gets sorted out to the "best" person with as few hard feelings as possible. I know my failings, so I don't raid lead. But, I also can see them in others, and know great raid leaders when I see them: I have a few on my friends list flagged as "good raid leader" so that I can catch up with them again.

Nefernet posted some excellent tips yesterday about pug raiding.

I have immense respect for anyone who has the patience and ability to lead a good pug through an instance that most puggers would just be carried through, and let's face it: most puggers for raids are puggers because they are either
  • a) alts who may or may not know how to play their class, or
  • b) mains who aren't in a strong raiding guild and may or may not know how to play their class.
You don't see well-geared, strong mains who know what they're doing in a pug unless they missed out on their guild run for some reason, or their guild is no longer running that instance and they are feeling nostalgic. In rare cases, a pugger main is in a ten-man guild, so they are pugging VoA25/Ony25 until they are able to solo it as a guild (if possible, like Archivon and Sarth25 can be 10-manned).

This brings me to a rant: gear score, related gear-ranking mods and websites, and how the vast majority of the time, these are abused and taken to mean that gear is the end-all/be-all.

I have not yet been in a pug that requires a specific gear score or wow-heroes score, though my alliance druid did pass a gear inspection for a toc-10 normal that didn't make it off the ground for lack of healers. Frankly, I avoid pugs that require a gear score, even on my main. Ranking someone's ability to play based off of their gear is asinine.
  • Well-geared players can have purchased gear using badges "earned" while being carried through a raid as baggage; they may've been dead in a corner somewhere and still be able to loot. Gear does not equal skill.
  • Under-geared players may be alts or unguilded/non-raiding-guilded players who DO know their class, may've done the research and taken the time to know wtf they're doing. I have seen under-geared players in greens or blues out-perform players in 226/232 epics. I have DONE it, myself, on both my alts. Gear does not equal skill.
  • Gear-checks that are really strict may only serve to guarantee that your puggers will have enough HP to maybe survive being dumb.
  • Gear-checks that kick out half your healers, however, may be shooting yourself in the foot, because finding healers who are willing to pug is difficult, particularly if you're kicking some for wearing one or two i200 blues for an Ulduar or basic Sarth run. I can understand removing someone if they are a healer wearing strength gear, but really... don't mess with the healers if you want to actually get anywhere without the raid crumbling from sitting around waiting to fill healer spots.
  • There are a good number of "raid leaders" who gear-check their invited puggers on standards that they themselves would not pass, apparently expecting to form a raid of "super players" who can carry their tail through a raid; if they seriously wished to pull the "gear is not skill" card in their own defense, then they have no excuse to be gear-checking everyone else they invite.
I have been in some awesome pugs, and I have been in some terrible pugs. The best pugs I've ever been in didn't require a strict "gear check" or even announced that they were checking gear... because the raid leader valued skill over gear. Key roles were filled with players who responded intelligently to their questions; these were players who knew the limitations of their own gear anyway, for roles such as tanking or basic survival, and probably wouldn't offer themselves to a pug unless they knew they could handle it. These were players who, if they didn't know what to do, would ask, rather than stubbornly do it wrong and wipe the raid for it. Skilled players don't need a crutch of gear to survive or do their job, and can outshine a geared player who is just expecting to be carried.

There are always limits, of course
: one should not be wearing greens for the current cutting edge (currently ToC, later to be Icecrown Citadel) content unless the rest of the group is confident that they can make up for the slack in raw stats (which is difficult, but possible, in a pug). Seeing such things doesn't require a gearscore, though, just a cursory glance at the player's gear, even by staring at the models or questioning someone's rather low HP for their class (unbuffed stamina being a pretty steady indicator of relative gear level, taking cow-racials into account) , which can be done without grand gear-checking announcements.

I think a better pug-checking system would be a mod that queries interested puggers with a raiding-related question and rates their answer for keywords, or lets the raid-leader decide who to invite based upon answers to the questions. I'd be interested to see a mod made that can assist in sending out whispers and collecting replies, like an entry exam for the instance. Even if the puggers can google the answers, it at least means they took the time to do so. It'd have to rotate the questions through a series so that people don't share answers and ruin it for the leader... but it could be done.


kyrilean said...

Well said. Although I generally don't pug anyway, I absolutely refuse to pug with anyone hinting at gear score, "must be geared", etc.

Some of the worst players I've ever encountered are the best geared.

Zigi said...

I have to say I have one criteria when I armory someone. I check to see if their shoulders are augmented correctly. In general, if they have done that, it means that they know how to do a little research to figure out the best augments for their gear, and have done a little work to max their character's stats. I'm in a guild that raids casually and we do our 10 man content together, but we are friends with a lot of similar guilds, and so we have "semi-pug" 25 man raids with members of those guilds, where I know most of the people know what they're doing.

I do like your idea of a potential pug questionnaire though.

*Speaking* of questionnaire's, Jessabelle from Miss Medicina has started a little game where healing bloggers will fill out her questionnaires and then have to tag someone who blogs about a different healing class- I'm tagging you ;). If you want to fill out the questionaire and let the healing blogosphere know a little bit more about druid healing, check it out here:


Anonymous said...

I cannot agree more with everything you said, Kae!

If I offer myself to a PuG, and they want to know if I am "gud" or what my gear score is...I'll tell it to them, and then when they invite me, I will politely decline telling them that I'm no longer interested in participating in their run, and explaining why.

Bell said...

I always check gear for my ToC 25, but it's more of a "are they not wearing blues/greens/ilevel 200" than "must have everything done." I also check achievements, but really I'm looking for at least some ten man experience, and I don't require everything having been done before. After that, it's just bringing them in and hoping it works out. As a leader I have a responsibility to my group to not bring baggage and so far I've done a decent job; we've never failed to down Anub!

Partshark said...


Anonymous said...

Sad to say Blizzard disagree with you. See the new patch 3.3 notes. They have made explicit gear scoring part of the new LFG system.

Mark said...

Eh, I see that more of a compromise due to the cross-server nature of the LFG tool. Since it's not possible to filter people *at all* through it, that seems like a fair way to do it. That said, they specifically said it's for certain instances, which I imagine is probably going to be Heroic ToC and Heroic Icecrown due to the higher difficulty.

Honestly, a minimum gear level is still required for some of those places. I ran a Heroic ToC with a freshly dinged 80 with 12k health today and he got one-shot by a bunch of different abilities (Eadric's Hammer, Ghoul Explosion, Black Knight's toss thingy, etc). We effectively 4-manned the instance which is pretty unfair when you think about it.

Nefernet said...

Thanks for the link Kae. ;)

I would be very interested in a questionnaire evaluating the knowledge a pug player has about an instance.

I can imagine it could be something like "what is the most important thing you have to do (to not fail at) for this encounter ?" kind of question. And we could get with a bunch of answers for each class or role : "switch quickly targets", "dispell this", "heal this debuff", yadayada...

Checking shoulder enchants too is a good advice.

I was going to write a wall of text about how I handle pug players, but I realised that I already wrote everything on my blog ><

Kae said...

I suppose I should clarify what I mean by gear-checking: while checking gear in itself is not bad, it's that the vast majority of the times pug leaders decide to gear-check, they do so unfairly. As I said, wearing greens to cutting-edge content doesn't make any sense, and a wisely-done gear check can notice those and save a raid time by removing them before the run starts--or before a player is even invited to the raid.

However, most of the "gear checks" I have seen--both alliance and horde--are for things like Naxx and Sarth and VoA. Places that we ran back when we all had greens and blues anyway, aside from Koralon. Many, many pug leaders abuse the gear-checking sites, since so few of the "popular" ones provide little in the way of "this is what this person can safely run," so the leaders will often set their limits ridiculously high (to the point where they're kicking healers from a normal Sarth, no drakes run who are wearing Ulduar gear, as happened to a guildie of mine).

The Blizzard-introduced system of a gear-checker *should* help mitigate some of these problems, however, by controlling what the gear-level is itself. To quote the patch notes: "As part of the matchmaking system, some of the more difficult dungeons will have a minimum gear requirement. Players also need to meet the requirements for dungeons that require attunement, such as keys or quests. If a player does not meet the requirements for a particular dungeon, a lock icon will be displayed next to that dungeon. Hovering over this icon will display the requirements which have not been met."

What I imagine this means, given the ever-increasing gear tiers being introduced to the game, is that it will keep people in greens/blues out of ToC heroic and Icecrown raids, where they certainly don't have the HP/mana/regen to assist the raid in the same degree as a raider in a decent selection of atleast 219-232 epics.

Nefernet... my guild was joking in guild chat over the weekend about the questions such a questionnaire would have, and it went straight to Monty Python :D "WHAT is your name? WHAT is your favorite color? WHAT is the average airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow??!"

Mark said...

Thinking about it further, I would actually argue that unbuffed health should be the main discriminating stat in organizing PuGs. It's probably the only stat that is entirely unable to be overcome by skill -- if something will hit you for more than your health, it doesn't matter how good you are, you're going to die.

Of course, this also tends to have a bit of a built-in gear check too since non-tanks generally only get more stamina as a byproduct of obtaining better gear.