How to 5

Or, an introduction to small-group play in WoW

I read WoW Ladies. I'm not the most faithful or dedicated reader, since I stopped posting to my own LJ years ago, but they're a good bunch, and I learn quite a lot about how other people interact in the game there. One subject that crops up regularly is anxiety or fear about running dungeons with strangers. Having dealt with my own social anxiety issues, I understand where the problem has its roots.

There's a lot of nuance, and etiquette for 5's can vary from server to server and battlegroup to battlegroup. Now that there are cross-battlegroup random dungeon groups, some of that may begin to homogenize. But for someone who has never really grouped with others in a dungeon, it's all new and possibly confusing. The generalities will be summarized here. (Some things may be particular to Bronzebeard-US or the Cyclone battlegroup, but I think most of them apply pretty broadly.)

Group Roles

There are three roles in a dungeon group: one tank, one healer, and three damage (DPS). People who have been soloing almost exclusively are often unaware that the delineations mean that someone who signed up as damage should not try to "help" tank, or such. The biggest point of etiquette regarding party roles? Queue as the role you want to perform. If you don't want to tank or heal, don't queue for the role.

Some things every group member should do:
  • Buff. Regardless of your role in the party, if you can cast a buff, do so. Especially when you're running with people you don't know, you may really need that little extra boost. If you're a hunter and you're not leveling a pet (or using one for specific RP reasons), you might consider swapping out to a buff you don't have if your party has what you give. (I keep running with multiple shamans, so my cat is often superfluous so far as buffs.)
  • Dispel/Decurse/etc. If you can dispel a debuff, do so. Your healer will be happy not to have to deal with it, especially if it's one he can't do.
  • Move out of AOE damage if possible. Some abilities, like Anraphet's Omega Stance, will cover the battlefield, and it's damage you're expected to take. Void zones and most blast-wave like abilities, however, should be moved out of. The common phrase for this is "Don't stand in the fire." (This is why "Stood in the Fire," the achievement for getting killed by Deathwing when he flames a zone, is funny.)
  • Crowd control (CC). If you have a spell that can lock down a mob, and your tank or group leader wants you to use it, do it. A very patient warrior taught me to trap about 5.5 years ago now by telling me where to put traps. If you don't have Trap Launcher yet, a hunter trapping should put the Freezing trap somewhere it won't get broken and pull the target into it. Regardless of your form of crowd control, put the spell somewhere on your bars that you can get to it easily. CC-ing unexpected adds can prevent a wipe.
  • Communicate. If people don't know who's going to be doing what, disaster is likely. Raid markers (Skull, X, etc.) are shorthand for a lot of communication on trash - see common raid marker usage under "Crowd Control" for more. Some bosses are killed multiple ways, and if your group doesn't seem polite to a relative newcomer and you're unsure of the boss at hand, asking which strategy they intend to use may get you a better answer than asking what the strategy is. Going into things blindly can be costly.
  • Repair beforehand if possible, keep a supply of food and/or water on hand, and have some reagents if you still need them for anything. (Glyph of Mend Pet is highly recommended for pet happiness.) If you're going to need flasks or potions, keep them with you. Repairing beforehand is admittedly not always possible if your DPS queue is 40 minutes and you're mid-dailies when the queue pops, but at least repair before you go do your dailies so you have more to work with once you get into your dungeon.
  • Let the tank go first. If the tank accidentally pulls something, the healer is usually most prepared to heal her, and the tank is best able to take the damage. If you're the tank, go first. Everyone is probably waiting for you.
  • Stay with the group. If you go wandering off by yourself, you're likely to die. WoW is not like D&D; the dungeon encounters generally aren't random.
  • Protect your healer. If there's a mob on the healer and the tank hasn't gotten to it, crowd control it, or at least get it off the healer. A DPS dying is generally better than the healer dying, and without a mob on him, the healer may be able to keep you up till the tank gets to it.
A tank's responsibilities are pacing the dungeon by the speed (fast or slow) of the pulling of mobs; pulling, unless a crowd-control or misdirect pull has been arranged; holding aggro on the mobs being fought; breaking crowd control; picking up adds. The tank may or may not mark the crowd-control targets; tanks often do it, but sometimes the group leader will, or crowd-controllers may be asked to pick a mark and mark their own.

When pulling, a tank should not outpace the healer's (or DPS's, but especially the healer's) mana. If your healer has no mana, people die. Dying slows down a run. If crowd control has been used, in many cases the tank will want to move the remaining mobs away from the controlled targets so as not to accidentally break the others early.

A tank is expected to keep the mobs being fought off the healer and DPS. Sometimes you may find that one of your DPS far outgears your tank, and you may not be able to keep everything off him. Usually the vastly over-geared person has queued with a lesser-geared friend, and he should be polite about the vast gear difference. If he is not, ignore him. The only way to improve your gear is to keep running instances, so keep running them. The gear differences are likely the reason for difficulty maintaining threat.

If you have difficulty maintaining threat against similarly-geared players, you should look for a blog or website devoted to tanking, or your class's specific tanking tree. There may be a suggested ability rotation, gem or glyph usage, or stat priority that will help.

Tanks are expected to pick up adds that get pulled (if they don't get immediately crowd controlled), and being able to will make you a more desirable tank. Some fights will have adds by design; sometimes a trash mob will be feared, or a player or pet will be feared, and you will have new frenemies when they come back. Sometimes the hunter will, ahem, accidentally shoot something.

(Note: With the removal of the toggle in Interface Options that allowed a hunter to turn off automatically switching between Auto Attack and Auto Shot, if a hunter hits an ability right when his current target dies, the game will auto-target another mob in range. Even if the hunter manages to cancel the ability he hit, Auto Shot may still go off and pull it. There is much swearing in the hunter community about this.)

Only the tank should break crowd-controlled targets for the group to kill. Druid tanks may want to hibernate something, depending on the group make up and the pull at hand.

Healers are expected to keep a party alive. This doesn't mean that every death is the healer's fault, per se; tanks and DPS should do what they can to keep themselves alive, as well. Sometimes something happens (feared out of range, player won't get out of a damaging AOE) that there's nothing a healer could do to save you. It does mean that a tank or DPS should not be casting healing spells on themselves most of the time, however.

Healers may be expected to crowd control, generally for a pull rather than mid-fight. Healers are also generally expected to remove whatever curses, diseases, poisons, or magic debuffs they can. Being able to effectively dispel while healing will make you a more sought-after healer.

A healer should do what he can to manage his own aggro, either via Fade or Wind Shear, or whatever druids and paladins can do to keep their threat low if needed. Usually threat isn't a problem for healers, but if your tank is undergeared (or rather, you outgear her) or inexperienced, she may need all the help she can get.

Healing takes some practice, and if you're just starting out, it's good to remember that your #1 healing priority is the tank. You are #2, unless you're actively taking damage, and DPS are #3, 4, and 5. (If you want get detailed, you can prioritize the DPS by how much damage they're doing, if their form of CC is especially important, etc.) Basically, if either you or the tank die, the party probably will too. If one of the DPS dies, the fight will probably just be longer. There is a tipping point - if you and the tank are the only ones left, it may be impossible to kill the boss before you run out of mana. Sometimes recognizing futility and dying is a faster road to success than perservering through the current attempt. (I'm looking at you, 20-minute Heigen kill.)

You'll lose some people just starting out as a healer - your gear probably won't have as much haste, crit, or spellpower (Intellect) as you would like, so you'll likely have some DPS die to AOE in order for you to keep a tank or yourself up. If you're having trouble still as your gear progresses, there are quite a lot of healing blogs and sites that will be able to recommend healing strategies, addons, macros, glyphs, and so forth.

Damage (DPS)
DPS are expected to kill mobs, crowd control, and avoid taking damage as much as possible.

Most DPS classes have a way to reduce their threat in some way. (The plate wearing hybrids are the main exceptions to this, and I think Boomkin may also lack a threat drop.) Hunters can feign, priests fade, rogues vanish or feint, shamans wind shear, mages ice block, warlocks soul shatter, cat druids cower. Find your class's spell and put it on your bars somewhere you can get it while panicking. (Yes, while panicking, because OH GOD THEY'RE ALL RUNNING AT ME is often panic inducing.) It's good to use your threat-drop before the mobs actually start running at you.

When DPSing, there are two general methods of targeting: focus fire or area of effect (AOE). When focus-firing, target the Skull-marked mob if there is one, or target the tank's target if there isn't. (Some tanks may say, rather than marking, "Kill X," but not necessarily target it after initial threat gain; focus what the tank asked for.) Focus fire, where the three DPS in the group all hit the same mob, should be your default method of targeting in most groups. Some instances or trash packs of mobs are easier to kill if you just hit them all at once, in which case you can simply use AOE spells. (Many Wrath-content instances are like this.) If you don't have a real AOE, use focus fire methods of targeting. Regardless of what targeting method you're using, don't break a crowd-controlled mob free. If a crowd-controlled mob is wandering among the other mobs of the pull, focus fire rather than AOE-ing.

DPS should debuff mobs in any way they can. This is especially true on bosses, but some trash pulls also see noticeable benefit. Whether the debuff reduces the mob's armor, spell resistance, ability to hit, or whatever, using the tools you have will make the fight that much easier.

DPS with dispel abilities (generally casters) should do what they can to remove curses, poisons, disease, and magic debuffs, at least from themselves, and from others, especially the tank, if the healer can't (either due to class limitations or because he needs all his global cooldowns just for healing).

Usually DPS who are hybrid casters should not be healing. There are some boss fights that may benefit from a DPS switching to heals during a certain period of AOE damage, but most fights need a certain minimum level of damage from all the DPS in order for the boss to die before your healer is mana-starved. Avoid taking damage in the first place if at all possible, instead.

Similarly, even if your class can tank, if you didn't sign up to tank the instance, don't. If you signed up as DPS, damage is your job. If the tank dies, that's when it's okay to switch over, though if you're in tank gear and spec, you're doing bad DPS (usually), so you shouldn't keep it on "just in case." Use a DPS spec and wear any DPS gear you've got. If you have an ability that does a lot of damage but also causes high threat, avoid using it. (Searing Pain specifically comes to mind; I believe Ret pallies also have an ability that's both a taunt and a hard hit.)

Unless the tank asks you to, don't pull "for" them. It's usually annoying to the tank, who may be relying on one of her opening pull abilities for the snap threat to keep the mobs off you. It's especially annoying to the whole party if you and the tank pull different groups.

Kiting is something of a forgotten art, but once upon a time, hunters especially were often called upon to kite mobs. The first classic kiting fight was the last boss in Upper Blackrock Spire, General Drakkisath, a 10-man, often-pugged raid. The two tanks would pick up Drakk's two adds, and the hunter would grab the General and run, heading out over a bridge and back through the halls, often to the Beast's room, but you could take him all the way to Rend's room if you were good before he would automatically start running back. Later fights (the first boss in Blackwing Lair, Gruth in Naxxramas, et al) required some kind of kiting as well. If you are called upon to kite, for whatever reason, just remember: don't fall off the bridge. (You land in Lower Blackrock Spire, among the orc camps on the lowest level. >.> Ahem.) Use any slowing abilities you have and run or strafe; don't back up. Earthbind totems, Ice traps, Concussive Shot, Wing Clip, Hamstring, Frost Nova - all of them can make kiting more feasible. Good kiting can save a party from a wipe after a tank dies, so it's still worthwhile to learn.

Often times a DPS's weakest spot isn't his ability to survive, crowd control, or manage his pet, but his actual damage output. At that point one is probably best served by looking for a blog or website that focuses on your class or spec and looking at talents, rotations, glyphs, gems, and so forth and seeing if you have a bad habit, or lack a good one, that's making a noticeable difference in your damage.


Several classes, mostly DPS, have pets. There are a variety of pet etiquette points for groups that aren't necessarily obvious to a solo player.

Remember to turn off your pet's threat/taunt ability. For hunters, regardless of the variety of pet, this is Growl. If a moving gold border is visible on the icon, the ability's autocast is turned on. To turn off the autocast, right click on it. If you're using a tenacity pet for whatever reason (leveling it, it has a buff you want, etc.), you will probably also want to turn off Taunt and Thunderstomp if you have them talented. Charge is more optional, but the root component can be annoying for tanks, so you may want to turn it off, as well.

If you're using a Tenacity pet regularly in instances for some reason, you can actually make macros to turn the abilities on and off. The commands are basically just /petautocastoff and /petautocaston . So you can use a macro that looks like:
/petautocastoff Growl
/petautocastoff Taunt
/petautocastoff Thunderstomp
/petautocastoff Charge
And similarly make one to turn them all back on while you're soloing. This was more useful, really, prior to having multiple stable slots to tote around, but if you take your bear or turtle everywhere, they may be helpful to have still. The commands should work for any pet that gets an action bar.

It's generally bad form to have your pet on Aggressive in an instance. Defensive used to be a no-no, but it is the default de jour. Passive is always fine if you're worried about your pet wandering off and will remember to send it to attack.

One of the most common pet "oops" moments comes when the party jumps down off something. The classic example was taking the shortcut in Upper Blackrock Spire and jumping into Rend's arena from the balcony, rather than coming through two additional trash packs in the hallway. A pet would not jump, and it would run around and bring those two packs with it. If you have to jump off anything, especially if you're unsure which way your pet would go, dismiss it first. Similarly, pets sometimes have trouble with elevators or other movement mechanics (the whirlwinds in the Lost City come to mind). Dismissing them will let you resummon on the other side, rather than having them stuck out of the fight.

If you have multiple pets available to you, consider switching them out for a buff or ability that will make a fight easier, even if it's a minor DPS decrease. In Molten Core, a warlock's Felhound could be a huge help with Baron Geddon's mana burn, since it would dispel debuffs. Some hunter pets offer buffs now that can affect an entire party or raid. If, like me, you find yourself running with three shamans, it might be worth swapping your cat for another pet, since one of them will probably be dropping a totem that provides strength and agility. (Probably not your wolf, though, if you have an elemental shaman, since elemental oath will provide the crit buff.)

Don't expect your party's healer to heal your pet. Mend pet was made a HoT for a reason. Your pet will probably get a lot of splash AOE healing, and its ability to reduce about 90% of the AOE damage it would take will keep it from getting killed too often.

Crowd Control

Crowd control (CC) is used to make a large pull easier by incapacitating some of the mobs until the party is ready to deal with them. If there are unexpected adds of a type you can crowd control, you probably should. If the tank wants to pick it up immediately, she will.

Good crowd control can make or break a group. Some tiers of content were made with the use of crowd control in mind. (See especially level 60-70 dungeons and levely 80+ dungeons.)

Regardless of who does the crowd control marking, there are a few common conventions:
  • Skull - first kill target; not crowd controlled
  • Red X - second kill target; not crowd controlled
  • Blue Square - hunter trap
  • Moon - mage sheep
  • Orange Circle or Yellow Star - usually rogue sap
  • Purple Diamond or Green Triangle - usually shaman hex or banish (elementals)
I haven't run with a warlock who needed to seduce/banish in so long, I don't know what the mark for them is, but we usually used the same as for the shaman. If you don't have enough of the 'right' marks for the party, just clarify at the start whose mark is what. Mages and hunters especially are used to squares and moons, however.

Not everyone can crowd-control everything. Some mobs, additionally, may be immune to one or more forms their type is normally susceptible to. (Only long-duration, at-the-pull crowd controls are listed here; there are things like Gouge, Frost Nova, etc. that are short-duration, in-combat control methods that may help situationally, but aren't set up using raid marks prior to a fight.)
  • Mage - Sheep (Polymorph) - Humanoids and Beasts (and Critters, but, you know...)
  • Rogue - Sap - Humanoids, Beasts, Demons, Dragonkin
  • Hunter - Freezing Trap - Most things
  • Shaman - Hex - Humanoids and Beasts
  • Shaman - Banish (Bind Elemental) - Elementals
  • Druid - Cyclone - Damn near everything
  • Druid - Sleep (Hibernate) - Beasts and Dragonkin
  • Warlock - Seduce (Seduction) - Humanoids
  • Warlock - Banish - Demons and Elementals
  • Priest - Mind Control - Humanoids
  • Priest - Shackle Undead - Undead
  • Paladin - Repentance - Demons, Dragonkin, Giants, Humanoids, Undead

Taking harmful spells off of party members is often thought of as a healer's job, but several classes, healers or not, can do so. Not every class that can remove one can necessarily remove another, and who can dispel what changed with Cataclysm.
  • Priests - Magic, Disease
  • Mages - Curse
  • Shaman - Curse, Magic (resto talented)
  • Druid - Poison, Curse, Magic (resto talented)
  • Paladin - Poison, Disease, Magic (holy talented)
Loot Etiquette

Loot etiquette is something that varies most widely server to server; whether or not it is considered polite to need or greed certain BOEs, disenchanting, crafting materials, etc. is something best discussed beforehand if there are issues. Regarding boss loot, however, there are some more widely accepted points of etiquette.

If you queue for a particular role, that is considered your "main spec" for that instance. If you normally tank or heal, but queue as DPS, it is generally considered rude to roll "need" against the person actually tanking or healing the instance for items of that spec. Similarly, if you are tanking or healing, it is rude to roll "need" against the DPS in the party for a DPS item.

This does not mean you can't roll need on something - it's better gear is used rather than sharded. If it's not for your active spec, however, ask first. If no one else needs it, it is perfectly acceptable to roll "need." Someone's chance at a shard does not have priority over a piece you will use in your other spec.

Greeding on a piece is generally always acceptable, unless an arrangement is made at the beginning of the instance for some purpose. It is straightforward - you don't need the piece, but may want it for cash or enchanting materials. This is the point of need and greed, and it should broach no arguments.

Skinning, herbalism, and mining in an instance are best arranged either at the beginning or when the first gatherable object is encountered. Gatherers rolling on ore nodes, herbs to pick, or corpses to skin, generally alternating thereafter, is a common arrangement. If you are an enchanter, rolling "need" to disenchant something is extremely impolite, and will likely get you vote-kicked or /ignored. Leveling your professions is often seen as "greed" rather than "need."


If you're playing solo, you probably don't need a lot of addons, unless you like to customize your interface. There are a variety of addons that can make your life easier in group play, however. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other addons which can, in some way, make your WoW life easier, or at least your interface prettier, but they are mostly a matter taste.

Threat meters
WoW has built in threat warnings now, but if you prefer a compact little box with bars representing your relative threat, there are two widely used ones. Omen is one of the oldest and widely used threat meters. Skada, which is also a damage meter, has a threat meter function, as well.

Damage meters
Damage meters can be a blessing or a curse, depending if the DPS are watching them instead of their threat, but they can be useful for finding out how you're doing so far as DPS, dispels, overhealing, threat generation, and a variety of other data, depending on which on you're using. Two common ones are Recount and Skada. Skada is more lightweight and modular; Recount gives you pie charts if you want them. (Mmm, pie...)

Boss mods
Bosses have generally always done their special moves on predictable cooldowns, but there was not always an emote or warning associated with them provided by the game. (Now there usually is.) Deadly Boss Mods and Bigwigs are two of the more common boss mods, which will give you timers for boss ability cooldowns, alerts about events in the fight, and generally help you notice what's going on without you having to watch your chat box for a boss emote. Most are customizable, and you can choose which abilities and bosses you are notified about.

Healing addons
There are several addons which can help you heal in a group, either by changing your party or raid layout, providing pre-written macros for you to put on your bars, or creating special ability bars. Among the most popular are Healbot, Vuhdo, and Grid, often in combination with Clique. Decursive is still popular for dispelling.

Voice Chat

Voice chat can make a run easier mostly by smoothing communication, but if social anxiety is a problem for you, it could be a nightmare. If your group is using Ventrilo or Teamspeak or Mumble but you're not comfortable talking, don't. As someone who has a serious phone phobia, I recommend baby steps. Even if you never get to the point of being comfortable talking, you may be able to get comfortable with listening in. This can be helpful if strategy is getting relayed verbally, but not always entirely transcripting into party chat. Many PUGs don't bother with voice chat, either because it's unavailable, or because waiting for all members to install software or configure to connect to a server is inconvenient.

The common voice chat options are Ventrilo, Teamspeak, and Mumble, and there is built-in voice chat for WoW, although its quality is at times questionable. Skype is probably also an option, but I've not seen it commonly used.

General Resources:

Web sites:
  • WoW Insider - general WoW news, plus class and spec columns, often with links to other resources.
  • Elitist Jerks - theory crafting for all classes and specs.
  • WoWwiki macros - Macros, including links to the class macro pages.
  • Tank Spot - for boss fight strategies and other WoW information.
  • WoWhead - item, mob, and ability database, as well as having write-ups for many bosses and a blog for WoW news.
  • Curse and WoW Ace - common addon sites. CT Mod and Deadly Boss Mods are specific addon bundles, but self-host.
Suggested Google searches: (Replace with the specific one you need; words separated by | you pick one of.)
  • rotation|glyphs|gems|macros
  • tank|heal blog wow|
Examples: hunter marksman rotation; tank blog warrior


Of /castsequences and haste

So, due to my own mediocrity, I am the user of a /castsequence macro. During most of Wrath, with our 1.5 second global cooldown, there was only so much wiggle room in the rotation - you could do one Chimera, one Aimed, and a combination of one Arcane and two to four Steady Shots, depending on your Armor Penetration, talents, and haste.

In Cataclysm, our GCD has dropped to 1 second. One second, with instant-cast, no cooldown but the global cooldown Arcane Shots. Steady Shot still has a base cast time of 2 seconds. Chimera Shot's cooldown is still 10 seconds (since I don't glyph it).

Our goal is four Steady Shots to every Chimera Shot. Why? Improved Steady Shot. We want these four in bundles of two. With 1 second of the 10 second rotation given to Chimera itself (GCD), a maximum of 8 seconds will go to the four Steady Shots. With no haste, that gives you time for one Arcane Shot, preferably between the bundles. When haste pushes your Steady Shot cast down, however, you're looking at extra time in your rotation, and face it - you're probably carrying extra focus. Add in Rapid Fire and your Imp. Steady Shot haste and you're probably rolling in focus and GCD time.

This was what I noticed - my focus bar was always too full. My Steady Shot cast is down to 1.54 seconds - that's about an extra two seconds in my rotation, which is two extra Arcane Shots. Obsessively watching focus consumption in a heroic (the only of two heroics I have successfully completed) got me killed on Anraphet, so it probably wasn't the best idea. I had been popping an extra Steady Shot onto the end of my rotation when my haste procs were up, waiting for Chimera to cool down, but more focus doesn't do me any good. Arcane is a focus dump for a reason.

So! The /castsequence now looks like:

/castsequence Chimera Shot, Steady Shot, Steady Shot, Arcane Shot, Arcane Shot, Arcane Shot, Steady Shot, Steady Shot

With my usual lines for the engineering tinkers, tooltip, error clearing, and such, of course.

I couldn't leave it the way it was and manually add the Arcanes - I really want to be hitting two Steadies before my next Chimera to assure I have the focus for it. The flexibility comes between the Steady bundles. There's still enough room in this for Aimed procs without losing Serpent Sting, although the shorter Serpent Sting duration due to the glyph change does make things a little tighter.

I would say that my DPS did edge up afterwards, but that heroic was really not a good run to judge one's DPS on.

As haste probably continues to edge upwards, additional Arcane Shots will, at some point, be untenable to add - three in a row seems to be about the limit for the focus pool following a pair of Steadies. Further shots added to the rotation will probably be Steadies, depending how the haste goes.


Unexpected delights

Hm... I was especially emo yesterday, no? Today, something more positively reflective!

With the change to focus, et al, that hunters underwent, quite a few changes didn't become apparent until I'd started playing a while with them. Many of these were awesome.

You can Multi-Shot while moving! For the longest time, Multi-Shot had a built in cast time of .5 seconds, which meant you had to stand still for it. Now you can spam the button as long as you have focus while desperately backing up and hoping that the pet-targeted Misdirect you just cast will eventually stick one or more of the bazillion mobs you're trying to get at range with back on your bear/crab/etc. Multi-Shot is one of my long-time favorite skills, and I was including it in my regular rotation in Burning Crusade before an Arcane Shot/Multi-Shot/Steady Shot rotation was de rigueur. There is nothing quite so satisfying as being the unorthodox player whose methods suddenly become, for your spec, the orthodoxy. True, enchanting my 2-handed weapons for Int, or getting +mana librams on my T1 (more mana = less feigning to drink mid-boss), never caught on, but leveling in "of the Falcon" (agility/intellect) gear was more appreciated once the Int -> Attack Power talent went in. Of course, those days are gone.

That green and orange cat in Felwood is tameable! No, seriously! I've named him Octavian, and he's currently my DPS pet in 5-man's just because the color scheme is so hilarious. I need to team him up with a troll feral druid for something...

Glyph of Misdirect is amazing. I mentioned this in my macro post a couple weeks ago - if you're soloing without Glyph of Misdirect, you're missing out on the awesomeness of sending your pet into a pack of a gazillion mobs, dropping Mend Pet on it, and alternately spamming Misdirect and Multi-Shot. If you are like me, you will forget the first two Misdirects and end up in the scenario described under the Multi-Shot entry above.

Trap Launcher is surprisingly fun, if still clunky to use. I have not yet developed good macros for making Trap Launcher more stream-lined, but being able to toss an Explosive Trap on a tank for non-elite adds, or to throw my Snake Trap over at an add on a healer to hopefully pull the aggro off onto the snakes, is really handy. I wish Trap Launcher + Freezing Trap were more useful for something besides crowd-controlled pulling, but it seems like every loose add I want to trap is bleeding or poisoned or burning or in the throes of agony from a curse. Hence the substitution of snakes for adds on the healers.

Camouflage is quite fun, although I've yet to use it for its supposed strength, PVP. Mostly I pop it on in 5-man's as we're moving towards or around groups to avoid my huge cow ass pulling something. (I had problems with that in Nexus for a long time. >.>) The additional bonus of cloaking my pet is great if I don't have the cat out.

The fox pet dances! I got a Black Fox a couple weeks ago (from Redridge) and named him Hawkins. If you don't get that joke, I am disappointed in your movie tastes. "Play" + "Move To" was highlighted by someone else, but for especial hilarity, go to Thunder Bluff and dance your fox back and forth across the pond. I was giggling way too much.

Scatter Shot is a baseline skill! This wasn't a surprise, but despite having it sitting there on my bars, I had mostly forgotten about it until I went to Tol Barad the other day (successful defense, woo!) and oh, God, Silencing is still on cooldown there it was! It was a favored shot while leveling, and having it around again is great. Hawkeye, the other talent Survival stole from Marksman years ago, also sort of went baseline - most of the damaging hunter shots have longer range, although Multi-Shot, Silencing Shot, and Tranquilizing Shot still seem to have the old base range, which means on fights you're going to need them, you have to make sure to move up enough for them. Basically, the two formerly Markman talents that made me put points in Survival in Burning Crusade and Wrath are now mine for free.

Hey, I can get Improved Mend Pet! I don't know if I'll keep it when I put together a raiding spec (and my devilsaur and worm are doomed to a life in the stables), but it's been coveted for a good four years, so it's definitely staying in my soloing spec.

A non-huntery unexpected delight were the quests in Uldum. I love Vashj'ir - it's gorgeous, and the ecological details were greatly appreciated. The ultra-violet canyon is beautiful, and for some reason the secluded emptiness of the Abandoned Reef makes it one of my favorite places. (It is also where Ghostcrawler roams - beware the Nerfbat.) But Uldum - it took a little bit to get into, but as soon as I ran into Harrison Jones, the quest chain just skyrocketed in its level of awesomeness. The end of the chain (spoiler) was unexpected but had me laughing. The reworked Silverpine and Hillsbrad are also amazing for their quests - Siliverpine for the drama, Hillsbrad for the comedy.

There are always disappointments with changes (Aimed Shot's more or less neutering is one of them - if it's going to be only for opening or a proc, at least make it hit hard enough for it to be special - it's our friggin' specialization skill), but I am enjoying most of the changes.


Notes on a Guild and my (often ham-fisted) leadership thereof

I've been with my guild 5 of its 6 years (we turned 6 on Christmas); an officer for 4.5 years; GM for 1.3 years.

I don't come to leadership naturally (I make decisions slowly - or rather, I admit my decisions slowly), so I don't think I've done the best job of it. On the other hand, we're still here, so I haven't entirely botched it yet.

Problems I've generally handled badly:
  • Intra-officer conflict. It tends to happen in whispers and private messages, so I haven't really found out about it until someone is on the verge of quitting. This is very frustrating, and officers who are all buddy-buddy aren't necessarily the best thing in a guild of 150 people. I don't expect everyone to be best friends, but we all have common goals, and I'd think we could all be at least collegial about it. On top of it, it's very difficult for me to watch two people I like argue. Sometimes there are no ready or obvious solutions. (Sometimes the solution is so foreign to your mindset that it doesn't occur to you that it was obvious until about 6 months too late.)
  • Personality conflicts. These tend to show up blatantly in guild chat, but again, we're a large guild, and they're going to happen. They can be difficult to deal with when, say, the humor is a matter of taste, and someone refuses to believe that while the subject probably shouldn't be in guild chat, it's not a reason to boot someone. (Some things are just flat out, though - racial/ethnic slurs, casual use of 'gay' or 'rape' - not everything is a matter of taste.) I generally handle them badly mostly because I'm not easily offended. (I am sometimes disappointed in how people react to being offended, but it's their loss.)
  • Dealing with the trigger points I do have. There are some things that will set me off. They're generally narrow, specific, and involve raiding. If someone's in the guild, I'm of the opinion that they have equal access to all our amenities (at least on their mains; alts have different privileges so as not to edge out other people's mains). I mean, hell, that's written into our charter. If someone is capable of the content, I think they should be eligible for our raids. Sometimes the metrics for determining "capable" seem arbitrary or capricious. (16 hit rating gem versus 20 hit rating gem, when you only need 12 more hit rating (prior to reforging existing), but our raid requirements would have made you buy the epic. That's a "WTF?" moment for me.) So suggestions of set raiding teams or other methods that would pare our raiding pool of ~45 people down to ~15 irritate me, and I don't always manage to be civil about it.
Things my guild did well in Wrath while I mostly stood by and organized the bank:
  • Raid progression. Oh. My. God. We got past the first tier of Wrath raiding. In Vanilla WoW, we raided Molten Core, Ahn'Qiraj 20, and Zul'Gurub. We took shots at the first boss in Blackwing Lair, but we never got anywhere. In Burning Crusade, we cleared Karazhan and Zul'Aman, and with the lovely Daughters of the Horde, took on Gruul and Magtheridon. Later we managed to kill the Lurker Below and Hydross, as well. That was the extent of our progression, however. In Wrath, we killed everything, most of it on both 10 and 25. (What's missing on 25: Thorim, Freya, Mimiron, Vezax, Yogg-Saron, and Algalon from Uldamon; Sindragosa and the Lich King from Icecrown Citadel; and Halion from the Ruby Sanctum.) We didn't do the hard modes for everything, but some were done.
  • Kept calm and carried on. Even when raid leaders or officers or guild members were leaving (it wasn't often, but it did happen), the guild kept going. Someone always stepped up to help out. Raids happened, bosses died, and we eventually saw the Lich King die. Heroic dungeon drakes were obtained. Alliance faction leaders were slain. Old raids and reputations incomplete were organized and finished.
Cataclysm brings some logistical problems to our raiding - specifically, the 10 vs. 25 debate in that the loot is the same; and single-boss lockouts regardless of raid size, so that if you go to a raid Tuesday, you can't help with the guild's scheduled raid of the other size Thursday. Given what I've seen out of the guild in five years, this is mostly a headache for the raid schedulers, and not the end of the world. I do have constant concern about burnout for those who organize and run our raids; we lost four officers in Wrath after I became GM, and we have, besides me, four left. Only one of those actively works on raid organization, and we have one designated official raid leader outside the officer corps. I think there is room for growth there, but it's unlikely I'll know who will fill those shoes, or even if there are indeed some sitting empty, until we've gotten back into raiding.

There are aspects of Cataclysm I'm curious to see how they work out - rated battlegrounds, later guild levels, longer-term guild achievements, and so forth. Being as old as we are, it's a little bit of an affront that we have to do the guild leveling from the beginning, but really, it'll be done in a couple months, and the real benefit will be for the long haul. Of the large Vanilla Horde guilds on Bronzebeard, we are one of the last handful remaining. Going into the next expansion, probably two years down the road, I would guess there may very well be another 5 guild levels, which we will be poised to start as soon as it launches. Some people, I suppose, would be surprised by an online gaming social group lasting so long, but really, it's no different than a bridge club meeting for years. We're just location-independent.

So... Lessons I learned from...
  • 5 years as a Pirate: Pirates are awesome! I play WoW with some of the best people out there. Even though I have neurotic fits and normally push me away from online social groups after about a year, somehow this group has managed to get around that.
  • 4.5 years as an officer among Pirates: There's always someone who can step in to help, even if you haven't realized it yet. The vast majority of the people who get into the guild are awesome, and the bad apples either disappear quickly on their own or find that they can't really be a bad apple if they want to stay a Pirate.
  • 1.3 years as the guild master of Pirates: I'm not used to overseeing other people with authority. Everyone has different standards for other people, and mine are stricter than some's and laxer than others'. Still learning how to balance that. I think, overall, I've learned that some people I like are going to disappoint me. I won't babysit adults; I will help mediate problems, but people have to let me know there's a problem first.
I decided a while back, when we were going through one of those "where's our raiding going" rough patches, that the one thing I would be stubborn about is that I'm not going to get bullied out of my own guild. (One person in particular tried it.) There are very few points of policy that I'm adamant about; the rest don't affect the flavor we've developed. I could probably better communicate which are the "this is how we are" things and which are the "just my opinion, but I don't really care which way we decide, because it'll all work out in the end" things. There are quite a few of the latter. For the most part, the guild works, and my biggest goal is to not break that.

Oh, God, I've been writing on this too long; I'm starting to edit for grammar and style. Enough navel gazing for now. ;)