Anyone who has played the World of Warcraft and tried to get a group of players together to do an instance or a raid knows one simple truth; getting a good group in the World of Warcraft is anything but easy.  All players have run into a horrible pick up group (PUG) at one time or another while playing the game, but what really leads to PUG Hell, as it is referred to?  To make matter worse there has been a steady increase in the number of players that have highly geared characters but have very little skill in the game. Does the term ‘Overgeared and Underskilled’ really apply to most players in the World of Warcraft?  Find out as Byron “Messiah” Mudry wades into this delicate topic with his usual not so delicate manner.

First let me take a meander through a little bit of history on this topic.  The issue really comes down to finding good players to do instances or raids with. Finding players for regular instances has never been that horrible (only slightly bad), since most are so simple that if you are the correct level, chances are you can manage to get through it.  That is, unless of course, you are a Death Knight or Hunter, but that’s a whole other story

Excluding the first few times someone ever runs any kind of leveling instance, most players figure out enough to not cause too many issues.  I can see and understand the issues that new players have, and I am not focusing my critical gaze on them.  After all, at low levels many players have no idea what they are doing or how groups work.  We all remember that poor misguided shaman at level 20 who figured that just because he had a shield he could be the group’s tank. I also remember being invited to a group with no healer, or no tank, simply because the player was new to MMOGs and did not know any better.  These are all bad, but once players do a group or two at low levels, this sort of thing sorts itself out, usually.

By the time players make their way to level 80 however, you have to assume that they have learned the game, its mechanics, how groups function, and a million other things.  At least, you should be able to assume that, correct?  Unfortunately that is anything but the case.

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Is this Hunter Overgeared and Underskilled?

Finding players for max level instances and heroics is very tricky because of just that assumption.  You get into trouble with that assumption since there are quite a few people that reach level 80 that really have never grouped before.  How or why they do this in a Massively Multiplayer game is another whole separate issue, but I will leave that confounding fact out of this editorial.  These players have reached level 80 and want better gear and have heard that instances and heroics are the way to do it so they went looking for group.  This is where the real issues begin.

If you are looking for a group for either a regular instance or heroic, how do you know who you should take or not?  The looking for group tool (or trade channel messages) only lets you know the player’s name, level, and class.  You have no idea how long they have been at that level, their play history, or any number of other important things.  The one method that most players use is to inspect their gear and see if they have reasonable gear to be able to assist in that instance or heroic.  With an instance, as long as a player is in green or blue quality items of relatively near the level of the instance they should be ok.  With a Heroic instance, as long as they are in blues with a few crafted or reputation epic quality items, you have to assume they are ok.

If you are looking for a group for a raid, things become a little more complicated as you will likely be looking for a higher level of gear.  While some people do a quick check to ensure that the player has no green items left (for early raids) or no blue items left (for anything above entry raids) this just doesn’t cut it. After all, there is a huge difference between epic heroic gear that is item level 200 and epic gear from Uldaur 25 player raids that is item level 226. 

To be able to help find players that have decent gear, and supposed skill, to help with heroics or raids, a whole new subset of tools evolved.  These tools are either in game utilities or external websites that look through a player’s gear and rank them based on item level and possibly the enchants or gems on it (depending on which scoring system you use). Some of the tools out there even try to establish if the gear is appropriate for the current talent build of the character, although these are never perfect.

To further confuse the issue, different sites use different calculations and provide different scores.  My personal favourites are and the in game gearscore recount addon.  If I have time, and am being picky, I will generally use the web based tool as I find it more accurate because it factors in enchants and gems.  The in-game utility is handy though to quickly check players in game. 

If you use either of these tools, you quickly come up with a scale of gear that you are willing to accept for a heroic or raid. When I go looking for a person to fill in on a raid, I tend to look very high, due to the fact that my guild is fairly active and we don’t want to get stuck on a farmed boss, even though we are a player or two short.  We expect to keep moving and don’t take kindly to being slowed down.  Therefore we use numbers roughly like those found in the following chart.  Keep in mind that they changed either up or down if someone knows the player.


Wow-heroes GS

In-game GS

Naxx (10), OS



Naxx (25), EoE



Ulduar (10)



Uldaur (25), ToC (10)



ToC (25)



Basically, however, by making decisions based on gear you are again making some pretty big assumptions.  Someone who has Ulduar gear probably has enough skill to have earned it.  There are unfortunately those that have not though, and how do you tell the difference? How do you find someone to fill the last spot in a raid quickly is you are short?

This brings us back to the real issue for which this whole op/ed has been written, and the much bigger problem that you find when you go looking for a person or two to join a raid.  There has been a steady rise in the number of highly geared players that have almost no actual skill in the game, and the rise has been even more drastic since the release of patch 3.2. This was brought into clear view on several recent raids where my guild had to PUG a few DPS.  We were very careful about checking everyone we invited and several had truly amazing gear, however once we got into the raid they were constantly at the bottom of the DPS chart.  Some were even below yours truly, who happens to be the tank.  Not good. 

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Are Items like these, available for badges that anyone (deserving or not) can get, to blame?

With the change to heroics and the badge system, this is only getting worse.  While doing back to back speed run heroics on the weekend, I ran into an extreme example.  We needed a DPS to complete the group, and picked up a really solidly geared hunter (2250 wow-heroes score).  He advertised in LFG as doing 3k+ DPS and with that gear score I had no doubt he could.  After the first heroic of what was to be a chain of them, the apparently geared hunter was turning out a pitiful 1450 DPS.  Huh?  Our rogue who plays only as an alt, for fun, and is self admittedly a horrible melee DPS player, with a gear score of only 2000, was turning out over 3.5k.  Needless to say the hunter was dropped from the group before we continued.

This issue really has evolved and worsened over time. In the beginning all was good, if you were able to get into Naxxramas and beat it in the first month, chances are you were a good player and deserved the gear you got.  This was still not 100% true but was much truer than today’s environment. Today, many groups simply run 5 man Naxx runs to get badges since the content is so trivial to anyone with gear.  Many times groups fill out simply to get bodies in the instance and do not even worry about their gear. After all, if 5 can clear it easily, and you have the 5 that can, anything else is just icing on the cake.

This means that over time, more and more players are getting gear that they have not really earned through any amount of skill or ability, other than the ability to log into the game. So while they now have better gear, for the most part, they are not better players.

This is only getting worse with the 3.2 patch having gone live.  Now players can run and clear trivial heroics to earn near top level raid gear.  This means that now it is impossible to even use gear scores or a player’s gear at all as a method to look for players to fill in groups.

I know I have spoken entirely about the PvE end-game aspect of this topic, but it still applies every bit as much to the PvP side of the game as well.  Gear only counts for so much, skill is the predominant factor.  In fact, in PvP it likely counts for even more than in PvE. 

In the end I think the sad truth is that really there are only about 5% of the players that play WoW that really know the game inside and out and can truly contribute at the highest level of their chosen area whether that is grouping, raiding, or PvP.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is probably in that other 95%.  I know it’s a harsh statement, but is it really far off? 

How many players are truly able to get to and see new content in a timely manner and not wait until it has been nerfed multiple times over, or until they are way overgeared for it?  How many players end up struggling through content even when they are way overgeared for it?  How many players are able to find and use combos, learn the mechanics, or math behind the game on their own? How many players really have a chance in the PvP game?

If you answer all of those questions honestly, it probably comes out to even less than 5% of all the players out there.  This, to me, leaves no doubt that as more and more time passes at a level cap that the ratio of ‘Overgeared and Underskilled’ players rise dramatically, as do the issues they create for more skilled players.

The really difficult issue is how to fix this problem.  There are very few things that I could suggest at this point, since Blizzard obviously wants to cater to the masses and provide better gear to everyone.  The only way I can think of to help raiders, or even serious players who do not raid, but still want competent groups, is for some new type of player rating.  This new rating could potentially be based on a gear score tied to a record of kills and achievements.  It could also apply some sort of penalty to the gear score for crafter or badge purchased gear.  It could be relatively simple to add in a kill tracker to the game that would record which bosses you have defeated and how many times.  After all, it would be just an expansion of the stats and achievements section.  This would provide some help, but again, it’s not fool proof.  After all, we all know at least a few players in 25 man raids that are there taking up space, even though we may like them as people or friends or need them week after week, they are very firmly in that other 95%.

The Messiah has his opinion and has spoken. Do you agree or disagree?  Do you have additional ideas on how to fix the issue?  How do you find players to fill in a group? Comment / Flame away.

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Byron has been playing and writing about World of Warcraft for the past ten years. He also plays pretty much ever other Blizzard game, currently focusing on Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, while still finding time to jump into Diablo III with his son.