WoW - PUGs - A Survival Guide.

There are not many phrases in the gaming vernacular that strike as much fear and sense of impending doom into the heart of MMORPGERS as one small three letter acronym – PUG.  A pug...

There are not many phrases in the gaming vernacular that strike as much fear and sense of impending doom into the heart of MMORPGERS as one small three letter acronym – PUG.  A pug can mean different things to different people. To the non-gamer a Pug is merely an amazingly ugly dog. To the seasoned MMO player however a P.U.G. is a “pick up group”. Similar to those early playground days where captains picked the roster of their respective teams from the assembled mass of hooligans lined up in a row, it’s the act of assembling a group from essentially the unknown. While most WoW players will cringe, curse or log off at the mere mention of “running with a PUG” I am here to tell you that they aren’t all bad. In fact a PUG can be one of the most beneficial scenarios a WoW player can enter into, if you have the right tools and the right mind set. I know by now you may be dismissing me as an outright fool, but stick around, I ‘m here to provide you with some tips and tricks for PUG survival.

First off I don’t want to misrepresent myself and have you thinking that I believe all PUGs to be good things, far from it. While I personally relish in jumping into a PUG and find it highly entertaining I do understand your trepidations. I have had some amazingly awful PUGs that left me with nothing to show for them but an awful headache and a bankrupting repair bill.

I do have the advantage of coming from another MMO where it was impossible to really do anything in the game without a group and initially everything was a PUG. Those days a bag group could cost you far more than a few gold friends, they could cost you levels.


With WoW we can go about our whole gaming career completely solo if we chose to but that doesn’t make much sense to me as this is a social game. If you want to play solo games then save the 15 bones a month and pick up a nice RPG at the local game store.

Most of us came to WoW with a few friends of either the real life variety or from a prior game. Our initial groupings were probably with these folks but at some point we all ventured out and were essentially forced to PUG.

Earlier MMO’s seemed to cull the weak by their very nature so typically once you reached max level your fellow players were for the most part competent. Unfortunately the new breed allows all play styles to flourish and many folks now at max level in WoW are ill prepared to handle a group.

Having stated all of this, it would infer that I am against PUGs in general. Nothing could be further from the truth. I find a random group an amazing opportunity for honing your skills and meeting some great people. Let’s look at the tools we will need to make PUGing go as smoothly as possible.

As with any venture it is best to plan your work and work your plan. Set a clear goal for your PUG, pick an instance or raid zone (if you’re that brave) and stick to it. Allow a longer time frame for filling the group in relation to the zones difficulty. It’s much easier to fill a heroic UK run than it is filling an Uld 10 or Malygos 25 pug. Irregardless of what zone you are going to do the first two spots you need to fill are the tank and healer slot. If you happen to be one of these archetypes then your life will be much easier. Finding capable DPS is generally much easier than finding a good healbot and meat shield. I hope that at this point in the game you have forged a few friendships or are in a guild. If you have not or those folks simply aren’t on at 4 in the morning when insomnia compels you to do a heroic oculus.

Picking the right folks for the job is the #1 key to your success. There are many ways these days to help you figure out who will make a good invite. One of the easiest ways is simply to look at the player’s guild tag. If they are in a high end raiding guild with a good reputation  then the odds of them being a complete idiot are reduced (sadly this isn’t always law, sometimes even high end guilds keep a village idiot). If the player is in close proximity you can inspect them and see their gear level. Gear and skill have no direct correlation many times but in general it’s a good litmus test. Further expanding on this theme is the WoW Armory where you can “inspect” the player from any distance. While the armory is a great tool for seeing gear level, it’s most valuable info can take a while to extrapolate. I prefer to use WoW Heroes as my gear check. It shows the same information but gives each a player a total gear score based not only on item levels but also on their enchants and socketed gem choices. Often times you can easily tell the more serious player by these last two items. A player with properly gemmed and enchanted gear is typically more on the ball than a mage with a strength gem and an armor kit. The most failsafe way to form a good PUG is with one or two friends and some word of mouth references, however if that isn’t an option use the above tools to minimize your chance of train wreck like failure.  One last word of advice when forming a PUG – be as cordial as possible when “interrogating” prospective members as you are to them what they are to you, a complete unknown who might be wasting time by wasting all their time. If you take a condescending tone or come across as a complete jerk you may just end up losing a good player.

Now that we have assembled our motley band of complete strangers its time to move into the instance and let the poo hit the fan. This is my favorite part of the PUG; the first few pulls will really tell you all you need to know about your group. Sometimes the synergy is evident right from the initial pull and the group is EZ-mode cruise control (add these folks to friends list NOW!) Other times it’s a barely controllable Hyundai hurtling down a steep hill with no brakes, 4 blown struts and all the lug nuts loose on the left front wheel. The latter is where you can really prove your worth and hone your skills. No matter what archetype you play there is a chance to shine and have that hero factor come to the forefront in a group like this. Tanking more adds than should be humanly possible while maximizing your cool downs as the inept healer fumbles through targets trying to get a heal off. Healing through insane amounts of damage as your under defense cap tank overpulls and the hunter becomes an unwitting off tank. Crowd controlling not one, but two mobs while you simultaneously pummel a third mob to a quick death. All of these scenarios are played out daily in PUGs. If you have exceptional skills this is a prime area to highlight them and conversely if you have mediocre skills you may never be pushed to improve when carried along by a strong guild group, PUGs can often force you into becoming a better player.

Surviving and thriving in a PUG can earn you some great friends and get you a great reputation on your server. Don’t be afraid to jump into a PUG now and then to expand your circle of friends and hone your skills. Remember to always set your goal, recruit a tank and healer first and use your available tools to maximize your chances for success.

Until next week, stay safe and happy hunting!

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