Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Gear vs. Skill

On Sunday, I was invited to two different PUGs, who asked me just about the same question. Both reacted in somewhat the same manner, but how they chose to go about expressing it and their actions that followed greatly differed.

The first PUG was one for Heroic Utgarde Pinnacle. They needed a healer, and I needed heroics (and still need that elder). On my way there, I remarked in party chat that I had never been before, neither on normal nor heroic, and wondered if someone could give me a quick rundown of the bosses.

The immediate response was a wish to know my healing and spirit. Knowing it was lower than many preferred, I told them 1200ish in caster, with over 800 spirit, and 1330 healing in tree form.

What followed was a long, uneasy stretch of silence. After about five minutes, there was a sort of uncomfortable “I guess we’ll try it” and the bosses explained in about two sentences. The rogue disconnects.

I get to the instance and the lock and I start summoning. Four people are there and we run inside. Another person disconnects. Then the tank disconnects, and it’s just me and the warlock. Though of course I have no proof, I strongly suspect it’s due to the numbers I put in chat. Insulted, I thank the warlock and hearth.

Fast forward a few hours, and I’m in Dalaran when someone advertises for a healer for heroic Old Kingdom. I’ve also never been here, but I need badges and gear. I whisper the one asking. He also asks me for my healing, telling me it’s a difficult heroic. I reply with the numbers, and tell him I’ve never been, and it’s all right if he wanted to find another healer. He is also unsure, but he gives me a chance. A healer, who in his eyes is dangerously close to undergeared, who has never been, will still get a chance.

I have never had so much fun in an instance. It was challenging, forced me to focus and kept me on my toes. I think there were three deaths throughout the instance, and one wipe due to an accidental double pull. We made the corpse timer, I got two pieces of loot, and the tank was thrilled with me.

Gear isn’t everything. That tank took a chance bringing me along, and it paid off. I understand not everyone wants to take that chance; that people can be “elitist,” or at least jaded from bad PUGs. They could want an easy ride or simply think if you don’t hit a certain number, then you can’t do it. Sometimes gear means a lot; there are caps tanks need to meet, a certain amount of hit dps needs, but other stats aren’t always so regimented and a lot does depend on skill.

On Tuesday morning, I ran with a prot paladin with only 19k health, whose first instance as a tank was Heroic VH. I was forced to swallow some of my own advice; despite my irritation at his inability to hold aggro, and how he never used Captain America, the group as a whole worked with him to improve his tanking. They held back on DPS so he could generate threat easier, I blew cooldowns like a madwoman, and we helped him by reminding him to throw his shield and how to prioritize the different targets. In the end, VH went down, we all got loot, and there was only one initial wipe. It was difficult, but the tank improved and we got our badges and spirit shards.

Give people a chance, and don’t always judge them by their gear.

EDIT: I would like to reiterate that the part that insulted me the most was the fact that they chose to disconnect; if they had told me they were not comfortable with me healing, that would have been fine and I would have respected that choice, just as I told the tank looking for AN that he could choose not to take me.


Anglachel said...

I fully agree. I never ask anyone about their stats before inviting. I assume that if they are replying to the LFG call, they feel confident that they can do the place. After all, no one likes to wipe.

¿Has this led to some bad times? Certainly, but it has also led me to some great groups. Plus, this people usually can actually use the gear, and i always prefer people getting loot they can use instead of just sharding everything.

My guess is that the first group wanted to get carried through the place..

krizzlybear said...

well, you surely chose the right instances to heal in. oculus aside, pinnacle and old kingdom are probably two of the hardest heroics in the game (pinnacle solely due to skadi, if you're not used to the fight yet). halls of lightning is probably there too thanks to loken.

great job though, i could never be able to do the same with those stats.

Averna said...

There's such a fine line with this (gear vs. skill) especially in a pug when you have no idea what the person is like. Sometimes people have less than stellar gear but can still adapt and do well (example: you). Sometimes people have less than stellar gear, and are really handicapped due to that. And sometimes, people have great gear, and still suck.

Which is the worst, IMO. Usually in pugs, the only stat I really actively seek out is a quick check of the tanks health points. Even if it's a bit low, I'd still give him a chance; it would just change my healing rotation a little bit (Tanks with a ton of health can withstand a bit of initial damage, so I can just put hots on them and waiting for them to tick is fine... a tank with lower health might need an initial regrowth to bump them back up, for example)

However, even if that first group had reservations about your healing stats, they could have handled it much better... a simple "hey, we're sorry, but we're looking for someone who has higher numbers than that" would have been more appropriate than a series of "NoobCaKe has disconnected from the server" or whatever.

Paradoxx said...

I never even bother responding when the only whisper I get from LFG is "you geared?". I figure if it's THAT important, they can pull up my wow-heroes o b.imba profile in the 2 minutes that they're waiting for a response. Now a more polite version is acceptable to me. Like "Hey, we're gonna hit AN, what's your DPS like?"

whazzmaster said...

I was pretty surprised last week when I was told that 1500SP and 15K mana was not enough to heal heroic Utgarde Keep (yes, Keep, not Pinnacle). I was pretty glad not to have gone with them, but it was pretty mystifying-- I mean, I heal our MT in Naxx!

Myze said...

I don't ask stats when trying to do a heroic. And I don't ask stats trying when trying to recruit for my guild. I go by the cohesiveness of the gear (whether the player at least has the right idea of what stats are good, even if they are decked in greens) and the play ethic of the person.

Swordchucks said...

I took a minute to examine your gear and... you're pretty much where you need to be to start healing heroics. I'd definitely suggest having a good tank along, though. I don't think your gear is good enough to handle a "barely geared" tank in the harder instances.

Numbers are a weird thing. It always seems to me that priests have a much easier time getting high spell damage than resto druids. I'm sure it's down to talents and specific gear, but I couldn't tell you exactly what. Those high numbers tend to skew people on resto druids. Maybe our numbers are a little less, but our effectiveness isn't.

GHeals said...

I will be the first to disagree, but let me explain why, from my (rather casual) point of view.

It is a simple problem of risk management. In risk management, you have to identify sources and problems.

Sources, in the context of a wow instance run, are other players.

Problems are the loss of gold, time and enjoyment.

Once risks are identified, they must be assessed as to the probability at which they will happen.

Runs being painful because of an under geared tank and/or healer, or dps that can't push enough raw numbers, have happened quite a bit to me.

By making sure that my group is decently geared, i am not eliminating the risk but i am mitigating it.

If i had a lot of time to spare, i wouldn't mind so much the time-loss risk, however, i get limited play time where i can run maybe 3 or 4 heroics per week.

Do not get me wrong, it is not a problem of "Gear MEANS skill", i am not one to think that if you aren't geared up you can't do it. However, in MY current context, i am not willing to take that risk.

Resto Shaman

PeterJ said...

Im sorry 4healz, I know you're a great healer, but you've got to understand that at times when people, pug, we just want a speed fun run with similarly overgeared people. I tend not to pug too often unless I'm on an alt - its very risky as we all know - but when I do, I've often kicked people who are tiers & tiers below me & my non-pug friends. I've done the instances so many times on my main that I dont have the time or inclination to lead a newer person through them. I have a right to a fun game, played the way I want to play it, just as much as a player who's just starting out in heroics. Please understand that getting kicked through being "undergeared" is not personal. It's more about finding the right players to play with.

Having said that, I will judge a pug also by how they respond, what they type, their level of english & grammar, and how they perform in the first few pulls. If I'd grouped up with you, I have no doubt you'd be on my pocket healer list! I can spot a skilled player a mile off no matter what their gear, and I'd much rather play with them.

Bell said...

I just want to make it clear that I wasn't insulted because they had chosen they did not want to heal with me, it was the manner in which they expressed it. That was my biggest issue; the three suspicious d/c's right in a row after I stated my healing. And for the record, I've been healing heroics at less than 1300 +healing just fine. :P

I know a lot of people want to just blow through heroics and that's cool. This group had been advertising in trade for about a half hour for a healer, and none of them were in top/elite guilds, so I do not know if that was it.

Everyone's entitled to their opinions, of course, and I love the discussion. :D

Leontine said...

I fully agree with you there. When I first dinged 80 on my druid I PuG'd like a madwoman thinking I could get some gear before getting into Naxx10. A few asked my +heal and mana regen after getting into the group and when I told them, they said it was too low. But two times people remembered who I was and how I healed and we made it through both that VH group and UP heroics with ease.
Sometimes it is your reputation that will save your group. You just need to remember most people are praying that 2kspell power 25man geared healer is bored and get carried through. Sometimes those healers do not know their class as well as that struggling 1200spell power healer.

Anonymous said...

Heroics suck. These people acted like jerks but heroics are not fun for healers especially if the DPS are dumb or nag you about achievements.
My advice, hop on one of the many naxx pugs and pick up tons of gear. People are more forgiving for naxx, and they'll love you on Patch/Sapph.

Anonymous said...

I agree that skill > gear to a point. If you're still sitting in Kara epics at 80, you're not trying very hard. Granted some gear will not be replaced right away, but when you're in a pug and the DPS are getting rocked by the tank in damage, and stressing out the healer, then this becomes a problem.

However, as I look at your gear I see many level 80 blues that are enchanted, I'm not saying to drop 2k on the best enchants for things that will likely be replaced, but leg armors are like 40g, old world helm enchants are 90g, and if you're doing dailies, that money isn't too hard to come by.

I just like to see that the healer / tank / dps is making an effort to better there gear, rather than just be carried though content.

Breen said...

I don't pug as a healer, I find it to frustrating since in a lot of peoples eyes, death = healers fault.

For example I decided to to do a pug just to see how it would go and it was not a pretty sight, was in Drak'Tharon keep and the first boss buffs him self with a stacking buff that increases his damage done and on the first attempt the tank ran all the way up the stairs with me at the bottom so he was out of line of sight and died before i could get to the top and the second (and last attempt) the melee died from being 1 shot by the corpse explosion.

Not all pugs will have tank out dpsing the dps (2 of the dps i was with did less then 900 dps) or tanks with low hp, avoidance, etc. but i just find it safer for my own sanity not to pug.

Kayeri said...

Bell, I agree completely. If they didnt think you could handle it, they should have said politely, "We're looking for someone better geared, but thanks."

But a lot of people just dont have the guts to say that kind of thing. I feel up-front brutal honesty is better than the sneaking behind your back type.

Krizzly is right, though... the Skadi fight in heroic is one of the most challenging in the game right now... but its also a blast because of the challenge! I want to hear about it when you do it!

Anonymous said...

Luckily, 99% of the runs that I make I make with my pally tank, so I don't have people questioning me. The other 1% they usually take me or don't. (For whatever reasons, I don't know, but they don't ask numbers.) But I don't blame you in the least for the fake d/c's that the group pulled. Ugh. I'm glad that you ended up with a group that let you try and you had a great time!

Syrana said...

Good post and message. I do agree with the comment about risk assessment and management, but they could have simply said they'd prefer to go with someone else rather than "disconnect."

And as you say, gear and skill do not equal each other. They could just have easily located a person with the numbers they wanted to hear, but did not perform as expected.

Anonymous said...

Might be less of a gear issue and more that you haven't done those particular instances.

I really don't like that you can do heroics before even doing this instance on regular.

Splintered said...

These things happen. People want to be healed through their stupidity. (eg. standing in the breath of a dragon, in hurty black holes, in spikes)

Yup, you need big numbers to heal stupid people.

Anonymous said...

I always armory someone, its a paranoia I guess. Check their gear, check when they got to 80, and check if they have done the heroics.
I hate pugs

Anonymous said...

i got removed from a heroix grp cos i was "under geared".. i had 1350 heals in tree and we are jsut doing H UK... can't believe it..

Ketanna said...

well if i had what happened to you on the the first run they would end up on my ignore list, wasting time is not cool>.>

o btw im a pally tank and always end up on the top of the damn dps meture's o.0

wtb MOAR dps>.> XD btw sexy blog ^.^

XANi said...

Skill is everything about playing a healer, gear is maybe 20% of healer's performance. For example I dinged 80 2 days before my 1st naxx10 and ended first on meters beating ppl with 1600 healing (i had like 1100).
Or another example, we had drood in our guild(kicked for not listening RL and CL advices... well my advices im CL ;]).
Seh beaten me in every stat (over 2k healing, tons of regen, i had 1400 heal)
and still she was landing 4th on 25 man naxx and me first.
Gear is not everything but i'd rather not go to hc with tank who have less than 25k hp ;] But tanks have fucked gearing anyway ;p

Michael said...

I often judge PUG people based on gear, because that's all I really know about them. If I see someone in all greens, I shy away from them as the probability of them being an exceptional player to overcome the lack of gear is slim.

On the other hand, if I see someone in blues and/or epics who has not gemmed their gear yet (which I see quite often), it looks to me like they just don't care about their class, or their performance. Uncommon gems are very cheap... I keep a stock of 80 each on my JC and would give them away for free if anyone asked.

But yeah, I agree they shouldn't just mysteriously DC or drop group. If I had come across a healer with low stats in a heroic, I would probably just tell them I don't think they're ready for it. s It's not hard to go to a few 78-80 regular instances and get a decent set of blues before trying heroics.

hexxe said...

zomg NOOB!
3 deaths!, 1 WIPE!
shame on you!

Leafweir said...

I can't even even imagine this happening on my server (Doomhammer). Healers are rare enough that unless you're terrible, you will always have a spot in a group. Out of all the healers I've pugged with only two were so bad that I wouldn't consider using them again.

That being said, I'll try anyone at least once.

Rick said...

I just dinged 80 with my mage alt (my main's a tree too) and looked for my first Heroic today after picking up all the rep gear I could get. Not wanting to be a total dead weight in a heroic, I picked up a couple of epics from the AH and got a Titanium Spellshock Ring made, boosting my SP to around 1300. Add in a flask and some SP food and I could do respectable DPS. Or so I thought. I was rejected by 2 groups who asked for my SP and said that it was too low. For H-UK and H-Nexus! Sigh. I know those instances back and forth and have dragged a couple of 1000 DPS toons through them with no problems - just a couple of longer boss fights. Eventually a group took my young mage and we made it thru with nary a close call through H-UK, bolstered by a very good pally healer with more blues than purples.

Bottom line is that a short chat can usually assuage fears that there's a total noob behind the undergeared toon. Healers on newly dinged 80s who have healed through BC endgame instances can succeed with 1200 spellpower. And any new 80 with any clue on how to properly gear his toon can do well in HUK and HNex. I've met a lot of good players who became regular pugsters later on this way.

Grats for making WOWInsider! :)

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if I would have taken you or not. I generally don't armory people, but I'm also paranoid about bringing PuG healers if it's not absolutely necessary.

Honestly, if you were an undergeared DPS, I probably wouldn't care. At this point I'm a pally tank in all 10/25-man epics, so the risk of bringing along an undergeared person or 2 is fairly minimal, and as long as they aren't a complete moron, it's all good. But I generally try to get a guildy healer, then PuG any necessary DPS spots.

This isn't really related to the gear of the healer at all. I'd just rather have someone who I trust to keep me alive. I've had a few PuG healers in my day that were geared to the teeth, but awful.

My advice would be make friends with some tanks you can heal for consistently. Most of the time you avoid the discussion all together that way, and if you don't you can easily replace any DPS that balk.

Anonymous said...

Pugs are certainly sub-optimal ways to approach content, but they are also convenient. For some of us, who play in off-hours, they are a necessity if we want to see the content or get the gear. I've pugged through a lot of WotLK and seen undergeared players succeed and overgeared players fail. The most important thing to me is how we feel about it - I'm fine with failing, if everyone is polite and patient and tries, and I'll happily group with those people again. Eventually, we'll get through. I am not interested in groups that are so short sighted as to rely completely on numbers - they're the same ones who will get you in trouble rushing through content and pulling aggro off the tank while trying to top the damage meter they post at the end of every fight. Not so long ago, a guy trying to start a pug whispered "how bad is your gear?" to me. What kind of a way is that to start a good group? I ignored that invite. A couple weeks later, while in lfg for heroics, the same toon whispered me simply "sp?", and then, when I ignored him, went ahead and invited me to the group - I rejected it, he asked me why I was in lfg if I wasn't going to go, and I happily said "to go with someone who isn't you." As a healer, you're often the one filling out the group... if they're not polite, let them know, and let them wait.

Macbook said...

Great post :)

I'll be honest, 9/10 I am the guy who simply doesn't invite healers if their numbers are too low, for heroics.

I'll admit, its not always the nicest thing, and I'll usually tell healers/tanks their stats are too low (they usually reply with "...").

IMO - Heroics are one thing. For me, if I'm going to take a less-than-geared tank, my healer needs to be geared. The converse is true.

I do believe in gearing people up and giving them a chance (for some reason I never believed that for heroics though). I lead Naxx/OS/VoA pugs almost weekly, and I'll usually readjust my groups if I'm going to take an undergeared healer (ie - I usually take 2 geared healers to Naxx10, but I will take 3 healers if 1-2 are undergeared).

Anyways, great post, the best way to gear up is to find those people that are willing to give you that chance, prove yourself to them, and from there on, your set.


Anonymous said...

Few thoughts as a disc priest

1. If somebody is geared chances are he is also savvy in other areas.
2. Gear is by no means guarantee of anything.
3. Heroics are the fastest way to gear up - but are by no means the only one regular 80 instances have ton of useful gear for fresh 80ies.
4. Good group can carry a weak healer, good tank and healer can carry the whole DPS team etc.
It is a team effort and each class can compensate for shortcomings of others.
However 90% of all DPS are too busy to stare at damage meters or just brain dead (what was the last time you have seen CC in a PuG? How many hunters even have scorpid sting on their action bar or know how to trap?)
5. Skadi fight on heroic is stupidly easy if you have a good tank and half smart DPS (45 mins last night). It's impossible otherwise.
6. Heroic PuGs are hard. I have been called names many times - when it was not even my fault. The end result is that I either run with people I know or that I check their stats and ask them about the boss fight before i go anywhere.

Having said that grats on completing the old kingdom. And the fact that you were under geared makes it even sweeter.p

Jyotai said...

Skill -ALWAYS- vastly outrates gear.

Back in the 2.3 and before days, we could do Kara with people in quest greens, gearing ourselves up, simply because of good coordination. The moment we had a new raid leader step in and demand gear minimums we started facing wipes and a failure to progress...
- It put a different set of people into our raid rotation. They had better gear, but they'd gotten there through less team focused means. Either carried by more advanced raiding guilds, or in PvP epics...

I've seen it though, over and over again. Subpar gear on a well skill player gets you about 2 to 4 'jumps' progression wise / level wise (ie: clearin an instance 4 or levels before you're even supposed to be able to enter it - like tanking SM Cath before you hit 30).

The thing about PvE is, what matters is coordination and cooperation. For PvE, gear might have more impact, but I suspect what matters is timing and maneuverability.

Gear doesn't even really suffice to get you in the door. You can do content below the 'gear check' if you work together well, and you can fail even if you outgear it if you're coordination is just that bad.

Gear can make up for some level of cooperation, which is why many PUGers do gear checks, but no where near as much as people think - thus it is still common to see complaints about bad PUGs failing.

Simply put, you have to know the -people- you run with. For PUGs, that means you need to be very quick about telling how good they are people just from listening to some of that early chat.

You can do it though. Signs like decent grammar, spelling, not using slang, not jumping around, not dueling, not demanding certain loot, not bragging, not being AFK, and so on can go a long way towards telling a player has the maturity to also be a team player.

You can also spot it in things like toon or guild name. Names that are bad jokes, have leet speak, or speak to how 'cool' someone or something is are bad signs. Guild names with a little humor to them can often be good signs, depending on the style of humor (again, pwnage humor, or negative humor are bad - but a slight pun or joke or even a self-put down can be good - people who can make fun of themselves tend to be good team players).

Matoushin said...

Your discussion of swallowing your own device is interesting. We seem to have different ideas of what constitutes giving someone a chance.

From my perspective, you did more than that. The moment you began to teach the Paladin how to play his role you implicitly accepted that he failed the chance you gave him. You were willing to see if his gear belied his skill, and it did not.

From then on you were not giving him the chance you received earlier, but a completely different one; you began to give him the chance that he would learn.

I've done the same, but I've also ended runs. It depends on the tank. If they're eager and communicative I'll coach them, but otherwise I don't feel that heroics are the place to learn that your shield is for throwing.

Crusader said...

I've been in very similar situations to this, i've recently written a small article on my thoughts, im sure not everyone agree's but if your interested check it out at Gear vs Skill