Par's Guide to Building Good PUGs
If you're reading this then more likely than not you are far enough along in your WoW-career that you've had plenty of bad experiences with Pickup Groups doing instances and whatnot. You may already be all set and happy in your big raiding-guild, but if you ever want to level up some alts or hit up a new server this Guide might still give you a few ideas on how to make building a good PUG smoother and above all, faster.
There's plenty of ways to build a decent PUG. It takes a little more to build a good PUG in a short amount of time during a time of day or week that not a whole lot of ppl are online and ingame. A properly built PuG will not wipe very often, assuming ppl play reasonably well and group relations don't deteriorate into blame-games and /ignore-fests. It will also go much faster through the instances so you can get back to quest-grinding/PvP or doing another run, increasing your overall gaming efficiency.
Good, balanced, powerful and safe PuG = reasonably fast, very efficient, probable-success instance run. Haphazard group-building = slow run with wipes probable, leading to ppl getting pissy, which inevitably leads to drama. I enjoy drama as much as the next guy, but all the same I'd rather take a quick, efficient run so I can go to bed earlier and get some sleep before I have to go to work in the morning.
Not much of an issue for Mages, Hunters, Warlocks and Rogues and Holy Priests, though Hunter and Lock pets have been known to out-perform a bad tank in plenty of lowbie instances and even some higher ones. Priests will of course be expected to main-heal, though some just love relinquishing that duty to a good Resto-druid or a Paladin/non-Resto druid that really knows what he's doing and has the appropriate extra gearset.
Skip this section if you play a single-role class that's so specialized that you really can't do much else, or if you simply HATE playing anything other than one way of a multi-faceted class. I generally play Druids, and most of the time prefer not to be the main healer unless I happen to be Resto-specced atm, which means I'll either tank, offtank and/or dps while always being ready to save the group with a combat-rez/Barkskin + Tranquility or to grab aggro from some mad dps-machine or healing/tanking gone bad. Ppl will generally expect you to be able to utilize all the different strong pts of your class, so it pays to learn how to do everything in instance-runs or elite open-world quest runs in the 40-55 lvl range where you have most of your endgame class skills but may not have the experience of playing the single-pt failure role in a group, i.e. playing healer in a group with no other healing class, or MT in a 'squishy' group or whatnot.
Then Advertise in a major city while deciding what player-levels would be reasonable to expect would want to come along.==
XX (Class) LFG (instance)
Why start this way? - B/c someone may already have a group that's heading out and just needs one more spot filled by something that your class can do, even though you may not be dying to fill that role in a group composed of what they have going. I generally capitalize the fully written-out name of the instance I'm running to make it more noticeable and put it in a macro for easy access. If you spam this too often in a short period of time you'll piss ppl off and be treated accordingly. Piss off too many people and it may come back to haunt you later on. Play nice and you'll find it easier to get groups the further you level.
In addition, depending on how long your server's been around a lot of ppl may have alts that need specific instances.
Usually announcing in this way will get you a few responses, but sometimes only one or two, or none, if you're lfg Farawayinstancewithcrappydrops. Having a lot of shareable quests can also make a difference once you start talking with ppl, since WoW-players can be notoriously lazy.
If you already have the shortcut key to a specific instance (Scepter of Celebras, Mallet of Zul'Farrak, etc.), then announce that in your LFG message, and if you're specifically lf only one side of an instance, then it'd be nice to include that too. If someone who wants to do a full run finds out later that you're only doing a few select bosses, they might up and leave, though announcing in this way does make it harder to fill the group with exactly what you want.
Have whoever joins you advertise in their guild-chat. You never know, occasionally someone will bring along a 60 to help. This means it won't be as exciting, and you won't get as much xp, but the quickness with which it'll get you to the end-boss loot table more than makes up for it in the eyes of most players. And after you've leveled three chars or so through the same old instance runs it does become somewhat of a drudgery. Just get through it as fast and as efficiently and safely as possible, then.
Some servers also have specific server/faction-wide LFG channels, though these tend to become polluted with random trash-talk/chitchat after a while, same with IRC channels and whatnot.
Ragefire Chasm 14-16
The Deadmines 17-26
Wailing Caverns 18-22
The Stockade 24-32
Blackfathom Deeps 24-32
Shadowfang Keep 24-26
Scarlet Monastery 34-45
Razorfen Kraul 29-35
Razorfen Downs 37-46
Sunken Temple 50-55
The above were taken from the in-game meeting stones, but it's been a while and I'm on vacation after having quit the game, so one or two may be wrong. (Yes, WoW withdrawal syndrome is a pain.)
If you have yet to do every instance in the game up to your level I suggest you take the time, pref as you level up, since there's some cool events here and there, and you'll learn a few things playing with imperfect group setups and bad healers/bad tanks or aggro-magnet dps machines along the way. You getting better at taking care of a situation where another player's dropped the ball means that you'll be more experienced at dealing with unexpected things happening to your supersmooth endgame guild group down the road.
I used to just spam 'lfg' and 'lfm' messages in Orgrimmar or Ironforge and then take whoever answered as long as the group didn't have to have a healer or tank to fill the last one or two spots. Lately I've gotten a lot more picky about who I bring along, an easy way to do just that is outlined below.
When putting together a group it's of major importance not just what classes you fill with, but the level of the people that come along. Bring along a 60 guildie friend and you can get away with a lot more things that may have wiped a more level-appropriate group, and things will go faster as well of course, but now your xp-gain will go down a little.
More realistically, say that you have all the regular spots (the trinity: Healer, Tank, AoE) filled already and someone wants to come along that's slightly low for the instance. If you have a group member that's slightly high this may be workable, but if the group average is already in the low range, than be careful of just who you fill with. Taking the first guy to answer your announcment may be honest and impartial, but that can come at a cost to the speed and ease with which you blow through to the drops and the bosses or the quests that you want completed.
This fact can lead to some problems, and possibly drama. If the only ppl to respond to your announcment are kinda low for the instance, then you'd either have to be darn sure that they are very skilled/knowledgeable players, or you'll have to make up the level-deficit in some other ways.
PuG going into Uldaman: 44 Resto-druid who's main-healed before but it's his first character. 43 Mage that no-one's worked with before, and no-one is sure if he actually speaks English. 45 Hunter, leveling his third char to 60. 41 Warrior, says he's got 'Maad tanking skelz' but no-one's seen him with a shield or ranged weapon.
39 Rogue messages you saying she's on her third Ulda run and wants in.
The Rogue may or may not be good, may have had real good groups in Ulda before where she didn't really have to work too hard, and the tanking and healing in this group, both single-pt failures, is already questionable, so if there's a reasonable chance of getting a better offtank or some better dps, another secondary healer, a 45+ anything, or a Priest that can let the Druid go offtank (Bear), go main tank (Bear with very good skills and equipment), or dps (Cat with decent skills and good equipment) is probably a better bet than that 39 Rogue. It's not the Rogue's skills that's the issue, it's what's already in the group that's dictating what you need to fill with, especially assuming you want to do the end boss Archaedas, who's notoriously good at wiping even good guild-groups if they don't have the right plan and execute it well.
When in doubt, talk to the rest of your group mbrs and figure out what they're willing to accept as far as filler goes. While you're discussing this someone's guild might decide to help out with a higher-lvl coming out.
Having a few ppl together in Vent or Teamspeak can also add some surety and efficiency to a group, and it's always nice to have several ppl from the same guild in the group, since they can be assumed to know each other's habits better, and if someone screws up or dc's, they'd be the ppl to turn to in order to figure out what's going on. Otoh, having the group ldr in the same guild as half the group can be a bad bad thing for the rest of the group, ince Master Loot getting turned on right before a boss-kill will always be a threat.
Basically, higher-lvl ppl in relation to the mobs and bosses in the instance, more player experience, better player skill, and a group makeup that'll not include any single-pt failures (i.e. there's always a backup for the healer and tank if they get whacked or dc in the middle of a fight), will allow you to scrimp on one or two things, like bringing a relative lowbie along, or having a tank without a ranged weapon or shield, or a mana-inefficient healer, or ppl who only know how to complain other than playing their class in one specific way all the time.
The single most useful tool in putting together exactly the kind of group that you want is the /who feature. Once you've narrowed down what kind of class and level you're looking for, send them a nice, polite /tell (don't just talk in ONLY acronyms) asking if they're interested in filling a spot in your group.
Pay attention to their current location and if there's a reasonable chance that they can hearth toward your group, or if you can summon or simply wait for them to catch the zepp or boat. Hunters and Rogues kinda get the shaft with this alot since there's usually so many of them that no-one will go out of their way to find one for a group. Exception being Feral Druids who want ppl to appreciate their Leader of the Pack Aura, possibly.
/WHO PRIEST - the main healing class in the game is mighty sick of getting tells all the time from ppl they don't know asking them to main-heal an instance. Some of them will not respond at all, and some will not respond to ppl just saying 'ST?' even though you may think that'd be the easiest way to communicate that you're looking for them to fill a healing spot in a Sunken Temple group. 'Interested in a Sunken Temple run - all bosses?' might work better, but adding '- have 54 Protection Warrior' will ensure you get as good of a chance of a response as possible. Adding ' - got good Tanking Druid' may not work as well, though some priests don't mind depending on the rest of the group.
/WHO BADLANDS 40-50 - gives you the ppl that might be interested in quickly filling a spot that just opened up in an Uldaman group. /WHO ROGUE 40-50 - gives you the rogues currently on in the game that might be interested in stealthing to your group that just finally made it to the end boss in Uldaman after 5 wipes due to the guy that you just kicked.
There's a mod called WHO FAVORITES that will make the above process a lot simpler by simply saving a list of the /who searches you do most often. You can find this mod at:
Download and install it to save yourself the hassle of having to type out your most often used /who searches every time you build a group or want to find out if there's an AV game on or whatever. It's basically just a rip of the old AH Favorites mod.
The reason for sending out all these tells is simple: You are at least 4 times more likely to get a response from someone that you just send a PM to, as opposed to just announcing in the LFG channel that you need help. Ppl rarely pay attention to what's said in /4 or /5, but when the PM comes up they're almost guaranteed to at least read your message. Same human psychology tactic used by the ppl that spam tells for gold-buying websites. of which, Blizz could easily hotfix that problem but they choose not to.
A quick way to find out what level, guild and location a player is that you've just gotten a tell from is to Shift-click his or her name. Use this on ppl that respond to you advertising for group mbrs.
If someone you're talking to asks you the makeup of your group, the quickest way I've found to tell them is to type the lvl and first three letters of the class, ie. 'got 41dru 42pri 40war'. You may also want to include this in LFG advertisements, but that tends to be slow and you have to change it as your group fills.
A problem that often occurs in filling a group is that none of the appropriate-level players of a given class that are on atm want to go, they're already sick and tired of that instance or have all they need from it, and the xp just isn't worth the trouble to them. Pure-healers like most Priests in particular are apt to start doing any given instance at a slightly lower lvl, since they're mostly far away from any mobs that they won't proximity-pull due to their lower lvl. As a last resort when filling a particular spot, open up the lvl-range your looking at, and send tells to ppl who might not ordinarily be interested in this instance, or who might be slightly too low for it.
An advantage to using this game mechanic is also that you can perform these kinds of specific searches while taking an FP toward the instance, or even while doing the /follow thing behind another group-mbr while on your way there (I got so addicted to that command that I made a macro button for it - helps immensely on corpse-runs).
With certain instances, like WC for Alliance, it can at times be almost impossible to find enough ppl to fill a group. Try looking in the immediate vicinity of the instance, since players are much more likely to join for something that they're close to than for something far away.
The Trinity of the Tank/Healer/AoE still rules most instances, though you can certainly get away with somewild things if you have the skills, communications, levels or gear to do it. BFD has been mage-bombed by 4 mages and a priest, all < lvl 30. Groups with multiple Hunters, Rogues, Locks, Warriors are not uncommon. I've done ZF with 4 Druids and a shammy, and my second time ever main-healing an instance we had two shammys tanking, their experience made up for my n00bness.
Now that Blizz has finally started to get a grip on the class balance issues it's come to light that several classes can start to fill different roles in a group, which has put a crack in the armor of the Trinity. I watched a warrior tell an equal-level Druid 'You go Bear, I'll dps'. Might not have been the smartest move in the world due to that particular Druid's lack of tanking skill, but since the instance was already within easy reach of the group's level and balance it made little difference.
Several classes now also have reasonably good AoE spells, which has cut into what was once strictly Mage-territory. Just be careful not to launch them until the tank has had a chance to grab some aggro, or you'll find the mobs running out of the dual Volley/Hurricane you just set up.
CC, a.k.a. 'mez' is something that has remained more consistently restricted for the few classes that can use it well. Most common are the Mage's Polymorph, the Rogue's Sap and Improved Sap, and the Hunter's various traps, though Druids can root outdoors, Locks can Banish and Priests can Shackle. Take this into account, since some CC spells are only useable in instances where there are predominantly Humanoid mobs etc.
Blizzard's changes in the class-balance game has made it a lot easier to put together a decent-looking group with a good chance of success, but the Meeting Stones system still sucks, and for the time being, announcing in /guildchat, advertising in the major cities alt. zone just outside the instance (sometimes, for some instances near heavily populated zones), and doing the /who thing will remain the best way to put together a group of 5 ppl who are all willing and able to commit to spending a few hours on a dungeon-crawl just to get a shot at a few blues and get some quests done.
Gosh, I really want to get back into this game. But work and grown-up priorities will probably keep me away. If not you might see me on whatever brand new US RP-PvP or pure PvP server opens up in January maybe. I'll be the guy PM'ing all the rogues and druids 'lfg Thrall'. (The Tauren graphic model is just a pain to look over and around, I'm stuck on Druids, and Alliance zones got all the love.)
Pä² ex-Gnomeketchup of US-Laughing Skull ex-Sverige of US-Laughing Skull ex-Rootbear of US-Maelstrom