Figures I would go AFK for a few days right after we get linked off the delectable Righteous Orbs and get these shiny little spikes on our hit counter! To those who’ve found us from that link, welcome and I hope you enjoy what you find! To those who found us before that, you’ll always be our favourites no matter what (just don’t tell the others). To Tam, for linking us in the first place, thank you SO MUCH! I don’t know what to say except you have our undying love and gratitude (well, mine, anyway, but I’m sure the others would be willing to throw theirs into the pot as well)! ^^ Also, congratulations on your new hat!

And now, on with the show!

It was the best of PuGs, it was the worst of PuGs. Except it wasn’t – it was two PuGs, and so far varied in my experiences therein that reflecting on it actually boggles my mind.

One of them, you may already know, as I’ve posted on it previously. It was, to use the colloquial term, terribad. Pure swearing, yelling, caps-abusing, vowel-lacking, chain pulling, tank-ditching, gearscore bitching, recount linking, mana draining awesomeness. At level 20. It was also the second of the PuGs, and my shock at seeing such unfortunately familiar behaviour at such a low-level may have been largely attributed to the vast gulf between this (fail)PuG and the one (not fail) that preceded it.

The first one was slightly lower level – instead of being the lowest at 19, I was the lowest at 15, and we were running RFC. I believe my first thought was, oh my God I don’t think I’ve ever actually run this instance legitimately. I spent more time on the Alliance than the Horde in my formative years, so it wasn’t really in my instance rotation, and by the time I got around to rolling up a hordie all my large, manly, gnome-punting friends were much higher level. Also, the idea of trying to tank an instance with nothing but Heroic Strike to my name lacked that certain kind of appeal, otherwise known as fun. My toolbar stood naked and exposed compared to my high-level toolbar of I-Don’t-Even-Press-Half-These-Buttons.

But I digress.

I wasn’t a tank this time, either. I’d rolled my very own huntard, thinking to myself I shall redeem this class or die trying. It is not possible that there is no way to play this class like an intelligent human being. It must be useful. It has so many goodies, and I can see so much potential here. There is no way it is made of as much fail as the people who play it seem determined to convince me it is.

It was my first time using the LFG system for anything under level 70, but I was seduced by the thought of maybe getting my very own awesome cape of awesome. Do you have any idea how rare long capes are at that level? Do you?

The wait was longer than I’m used to (so, so spoiled by 10 second queues), but I worked on my potioning for a bit (all of my alts are alchemists because it’s the only profession besides Tailoring I have failed to level into even Outland – and the tailoring has a good excuse: my clothies (outside my JCing priest) die hard and often) and the time passed quickly and next thing I knew I was standing at the start of RFC, suddenly understanding why layteknight used to tell me never to run that instance during the day and fumbling with the cord on the blinds.

Once I was able to more or less see the instance, I immediately set about inspecting my party, trying desperately to determine who was tanking because all I know about DPSing is to follow the tank’s target and do my utmost to not be one of those people I hate.

Side question: does anyone know how to get Pitbull to tell me who the tank and healer are? Because it’s kind of embarrassing to ask.

We have a druid, a pally and a warrior in the party, and barely enough talent points between the lot of us to really claim we’re specced one way or another. Plus, I can’t remember whether druids can even be bears at this level. So I suck it up and ask, explaining that my mod doesn’t show me the icons in order to head off the usual barrage of “just look at the portraits”. In response, the druid goes bear form and heads off.

Good enough for me.

So pet goes on passive, growl gets turned off (and I am therefore already a better party member than every hunter I’ve ever played with except maybe three), and we start the instance. Tank pulls very cautiously – which I like – but feels strangely timid. These aren’t confident pulls. I don’t know how I can tell that through the medium, but it’s definitely the impression I’m left with. An explanation is provided moments later – he’s new to tanking and has never tried it before.

The pally says: “o. just pull more. pull all of them. ill keep u aliv”. We’ve just hit the area with all the troggs. I have bad memories of dying here. Bad, bad memories. And that’s from someone who’s never run it legit.

“Pull whatever you’re comfortable pulling,” I chime in immediately, terrified of letting an idiot push a newbie tank past his comfort zone and/or teach him bad habits so soon. “Also, I’m pretty sure the shammy’s healing, so I’d be more worried about whether she can keep you alive.”

At the same time as I hit enter, the bear says: “Oh. Well, okay” and goes in face first.

Terror, unrelenting.

He pulls a very large group, but – and my heart sings with joy at his common sense – he does not, in fact, pull them all. It’s a large group, but it’s manageable, and the shaman does, in fact, keep him alive (with no help from the pally, who’s quite busy blithely pulling aggro off our newbie tank with every button he can find).

Once everything is dead, the bear is jubilant, momentarily drunk on the invincibility of his class and spec. “Wow!” he says. “I didn’t think I could live through that many! You’re a good healer!”


It was a nice and almost painful reminder of how fun it can be to tank if you haven’t let too many bad PuGs turn you into a twisted, cynical, jaded heap of plate that looks at everyone in your party like they’ve already wiped the group and are going to blame you for it. I won’t deny that for a brief moment I was powerfully jealous. Sometimes I wish I could go back to being new, but that’s probably more a case of greener grass and selective memories than anything else.

So we continue on like this, the tank pulling as many as he’s comfortable with, the healer keeping him up, the warrior DPSing competently, me doing my usual I-am-at-best-a-mediocre-DPS thing, the pally being an idiot, and the rest of us ignoring him.

And people are chatty. Honest to God chatty. Commenting on the fights, the instance, the LFG, the gear, the game. They’re nice, polite, they can actually type (with one, glaring exception – two guesses who). It’s awesome!

We drop the first big guy who is some kind of felguard demon thing but apparently counts as a humanoid (WTF? I have a brief, far away flashback to being angry exorcism wouldn’t work on him, but have no recollection of actually taking a pally through RFC…have I really had that many alts?). Apparently he counts as the last boss (despite being the first) and we all get our lootbags. The pally ditches the party even as the shaman writes: “there’s still the bulk of the instance to go.”

He is not missed.

We continue on our merry way, down one person. The instance is simple enough that we can 4-man it easily, so we do so, chatting and talking the entire way. We help the tank out where we can, but he honestly seems to have the swing of it, and is playing with a good deal more common sense than a lot of experienced, veteran tanks seem to have these days. The shaman healer is awesome, and keeps us all up even when the warrior’s on the wrong target, or I do my Protflashes-is-not-meant-to-play-DPS thing and push the wrong buttons at the wrong times and spend the next ten minutes apologizing profusely no matter how minute the consequences.

And, as always seems to happen when I’m in a group with nice people and newbies, the biggest, most epicest of fails is me.

I am embarrassed about this to the point of being reluctant to admit to it in public.

In one single, stunning example of primal stupidity, I earned the title of Huntard for myself, and all the shame associated with it.

We were on an overhang, staring down at the last boss and the large pull before him. We had taken some obscure shortcut I didn’t know about and skipped the vast bulk of the trash behind us. The plan was to jump down onto the trash group before the boss, take it out, then pull the boss.

I can do this. I know how to jump. This is a very simple strategy.

I wait for the tank to land and open fire, then follow after.

I press Ctrl-1 and wait for the irritating shriek that means my hawk is running in.

I don’t hear it.

The realization washes over me like ice water, and all I can think is: Oh my God, oh my God, I didn’t. Tell me I didn’t.

I did. I totally did. I jumped without dismissing my pet.

Maybe it’ll despawn, I think to myself, just a little desperately, as I try to remember which of my buttons dismisses the pet. Where is it? WHERE IS IT?! Sometimes it does that. It can’t possibly run all the way back down that ramp, and then all the way through the crisscrossing paths and pats and trash groups and casters and oh my God I just got us wiped. Bearing down on us, full tilt, is a lag-inducing pile o’ trash, with my little hawk at their head, leading them right to us.

I can see her beady little eyes as she squawks a battle cry. This, she seems to say, is for all those times you left me to fight hordes of monsters on my own so you could pick silverleaf – not even mageroyal, but silverleaf!

There’s not even a warning as they slam into us like lightning against a cliff face. We’re dead before the group even fully understands what happened. And all I can say is: “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! That was so me! OMG I’m so sorry! I am epic fail! I can’t believe I did that! I’m sorry!”

Here it comes, I think to myself. Protflashes has been kicked from the party. And rightly so. I can’t believe I did something so stupid. I just got us killed for no reason. I am an idiot. I am terribad. I am Fail made manifest and given flesh, to roam the world and wipe the innocent.

“LoL,” says the tank, “don’t sweat it! We’re supposed to wipe at this level. It’s part of the game. :)”

All I can do is blink at my screen.

“Yeah,” says the warrior, giving me a /pat as we run back into the instance. “Oh no, you cost me a whole 2 silver for my repairs. However will I survive?”

“LoL ^^” says the shaman.

And I am shocked into silence. I mechanically type “Thank you and I’m still sorry and it won’t happen again” and wonder in a vague way if they’re being sarcastic. They’re not, though.

I am shamed, deeply shamed by their reactions. I like to think of myself as a positive, forgiving person, but I know that were the positions reversed…the apology would have stopped me from initiating a vote-kick, but I still would have said something half positive, half-warning. “Don’t sweat it, but maybe dismiss the bird next time, hmm?” with a fake happy face or something equivalent. And if someone else had initiated the kick…would I have voted yes?

I don’t know. There’s a lot of extenuating circumstances (attitude, history, experience, etc.).

Either way, I doubt I’d have been as happy and positive as these people were, had someone caused a wipe through something as absent-minded as not dismissing a pet before jumping down.

We finish the instance with an unbroken sense of camaraderie and fun, everyone enjoying the game, enjoying their class, and absolutely none of the animosity or awkwardness that so often follows a wipe. The warrior /hugs me before he teleports out. The shammy /pats my hawk. If it was possible to add cross-server folks to my friends list, I would have.

Gulf is the only word I can think of to describe the difference between that first PuG, and the second (which was more the type of thing I’m used to). A vast, uncrossable canyon – 1KN or something – and I can’t help but think, given how much I’ve PuGged and how poor the experiences, that it was only through some random, magical happenstance I found myself on the other side of it that one time.

It is a glorious, sunny place, full of nice people and a game that remains as fun as the day I opened the box. I remember it distantly, the same way I remember that the big dude is a humanoid no matter how demonic he looks, even though I don’t remember taking a pally through.

I see it every now and then in glimpses, like someone running through the trees. A shaman who drops DPS the instant the healer goes down and starts spamming Chain Heal. A warlock who banishes an unexpected pat without being asked, even though it costs him his whole rotation. A DPS DK who uses his death grip to pull a mob off a healer, instead of just for pulling the next mob.

A newbie tank only just starting to realize how much he’s going to love this role.

A friendly group of strangers, moving at a decent but livable pace, chatting like old friends.

A group that does their best to make an idiot hunter feel better about getting them all killed, instead of yelling or scowling or vote-kicking.

God I wish I could go back there, or cross over, or figure out how to keep myself on that sunny side, instead of always slipping back across.

I would jump the gap if I could.

I might even dismiss my pet this time.