This is really the age of PUG raiding, so given your interest in content and upgrading your gear, you should look into them. Some are bound fail, but the content is pretty easy right now.
It's interesting, and perhaps especially relevant for me this morning, as Anub'arak finally coughed up the [Rod of the Fallen Monarch] I've been chasing. This marks the final item on any heroic 5-man drop table that would see immediate use in my spell hit set (which is now entirely ilvl 200 blues and purples).
Other folks' damage meters have recorded me in the 1900+ DPS range (presuming my elemental lives, AI and Molten Armor but no consumables) using a Frost-based Frostfire spec that the devs acknowledge is not competitive, so I should be able to deliver at least 2.5K-3K raid buffed DPS in a cookie cutter frostfire spec. That should be more than enough to get me into the many pugs that form up on my server. So, why NOT do PUG raids?
As I've experienced, PUG members, occasionally including myself in all fairness, can do some pretty stupid things. This isn't any more or less true for raids, except that the content is slightly harder. I have no idea how successful the pug 10- and 25- man raids are on my server, but I'll guess that they fall into one of two categories:
- Can't get it together to kill even a single boss, disbanding with a repair bill (and possibly a week-long raid lockout)
- Overgear the instance and zerg down every boss on 1-2 tries using strats that most of the group already knows.
The former would be painful, but the latter might paradoxically be just as disappointing for me.
I used to be a 40-man raider once upon a time. When my old guild, the Phoenix Syndicate of Hyjal, fell apart, I left the game to go spend some time in Middle Earth. When I came back, I didn't know precisely WHAT I wanted to do, but I knew that I didn't like what raiding did to my real life schedule. However, where was the challenge in the game, if I'd already topped out on reputations and solo content?
For me, the answer was gear. How close to the top of the line could I get on my own terms? In TBC, the answer was closer than I would have thought. Through battleground PVP, and those possibly over-powered BOP Tailoring epics, my mage would not have needed almost anything in Tier 4 raiding. Meanwhile, I was able to take a Pally alt I'd never even bothered to get to level 60 before the expansion and get him enough gear to qualify as an uncrushable raid tank (with the minor caveat that I'd never tanked anything bigger than an outdoor group quest boss before) without setting foot in an instance.
Now let's say that I managed to join that perfect dream of a 25-man Naxx Pug. Within an evening, the place lies dead (again) at our feet, 20+ emblems of valor (which I'm otherwise earning at a rate of 2 per week from Archavon) in my pockets, and maybe a few /random rolls for the very best drops currently in the game. That should be a triumph - suddenly I'd be standing at the top of the hill. But would I really feel that I had accomplished something?
In that kind of situation, I wouldn't really even have time to learn 15 fights in an evening. I'd just be doing my best to follow directions from the people who'd been there before. Perhaps, if I did it repeatedly, I'd eventually be able to learn the zone and be one of the people carrying the next generation of new PUG raiders. And sure, I wouldn't have gotten that group invite if I hadn't done the work that I have done to date.
But would it really feel like an accomplishment? Or just like the game that I used to play, of trying to make the best of the content that I can do on my schedule, was a waste of time? Why hope that one day there might be a daily with a chance at solo emblems of heroism when I could be mowing down Naxx for 20?
Striking a better balance between difficulty and reward
The ironic thing about my Azjol-Nerub run from last night is that it wasn't the smoothest run ever. The dungeon in question has about three trash pulls to go with its three bosses, and can be steamrolled through in about half an hour by a good (read: overgeared) group. Last night's wasn't one of those runs - it took us three attempts to kill the first boss, two to beat the second, and something like 5 to kill the final boss. The irony being that this "bad" PUG experience would actually have been a great day in 40-man raiding; I remember spending whole nights repeatedly wiping while we worked on the pull for some encounters.
Perhaps the content in Naxx-10 is actually at a point where pugging it will be more like a 5-man run that actually has to work for the loot than a 40-man wipe fest. Or perhaps the solution is for me to try and find time for some guild raids, so that at least I can view the time/gold spent on the attempt as a social event and a contribution to the guild community.
(The downside there is that the guild really doesn't seem to need more DPS available most nights. We're in that weird middle ground that happens to guilds our size where we don't have enough tanks and healers for a second Naxx RaidID, but we have to leave a lot of DPS on standby when we're only running one. Our raid leader is doing a great job with it - /wave Anni if you're reading this - it's just a quirk of having the main raid in the expansion be a 10-man dungeon with a week-long save state. I'm not sure it would actually be fair or responsible of me to ask to be included in the rotation for a random night every other week when it means that other players who can actually commit to a more reasonable schedule would be left on standby.)
Either way, I'm not quite ready to jump into the Age of PUG Raiding just yet. Ah well, at least I have other things I'm working on, and vague plans/hopes for the badges I'll be earning in the mean time.