So we've all been talking a lot about how the dungeon finder allows people to chain heroics by the dozen, but how well does it work for low-level dungeons? In the first few days after the patch my shaman alt got a little neglected since I was focusing on getting some new shinies for my eighties instead, but when I logged onto her again yesterday I was pleasantly surprised to see that she was already eligible to run a random normal dungeon for two emblems of triumph - and that at level 72! For some reason I had assumed that the random normal dungeon feature would be like the old daily quest for normal dungeons: only for characters that are level 78 and up. But no! At this rate my shaman will hit eighty and be able to buy some tier nine the moment she dings.
Anyway, the first time I queued myself up as a healer I was baffled when I got a group pop-up literally instantly. I got dumped into an Azjol-Nerub run that was tanked by a level eighty death knight who, frankly, didn't give a shit about whether he had a healer or not. When I discovered to my horror that I was still in my enhancement spec and said as much, he just said that it didn't matter. Sadly he was right and I healed through the first couple of trash packs just fine anyway, until I managed to snag a couple of seconds out of combat to change specs.
On the trash pack before Anub'arak both of the mobs decided to cast their debuff on me at once, I exploded big time as I tried to heal myself and died. As I ankhed and sat down to drink up, the tank decided to rush the boss, thereby locking me out of the fight. Well done. I got killed as the adds came in and so did the slightly confused retri pally, but really, we were clearly dead weight anyway. The 80 death knight just pwned Anub and his adds without even breaking a sweat, grabbed the loot and disappeared while the pally and I ran back to our corpses. I wasn't too annoyed because I had still got credit for the kill and had received my first two emblems, but well, as far as fun pugs go, that one was an utter failure.
Today I decided to try again. This time I had a wait of a couple of minutes, during which I went off to do the Shattrath fishing daily, until a pop-up invited me to join an Utgarde Keep run already in progress.
As it turned out the group was about halfway to the second boss but I didn't really mind as Utgarde Keep has a bit much trash for WOTLK standards anyway. The question was just what had happened to their previous healer, but I decided not to ask. When I reached the rest of the party I was initially a little worried upon discovering that the druid tank had only slightly more health than me, even when in bear form, but as it turned out that wasn't a major problem. I think it's important to keep things in perspective: when you're used to running heroics with tanks who have 50k health, seeing a tank with only 11k will initially make you uneasy, but back in BC that would have been enough to start running Karazhan - and since Utgarde Keep is a level seventy instance, that's pretty much exactly what it's tuned for.
Other members in the group included a retri pally who loved to pull aggro and spam damage metres, a shadow priest and... I can't actually recall what the third dps was, how lame is that? Anyway, this run actually turned out to be a blast and reminded me of what I miss while just "farming" instances at eighty: the sense of adventure. I mean, I knew the instance and I think most of the others did as well, but it was obvious that a lot of them were new to their current role and having fun figuring out how it works. As it was I couldn't even begrudge the retri pally his aggro pulling and damage metre spam, because he was clearly excited about being able to do damage omg! There's something cute about that.
Our tank, Mr Bear, was the cutest of all however. He was clearly new to this whole tanking lark and took a lot of damage, but he tried. He messed up a few pulls and lost aggro on mobs more than once, but damn it, he tried. He kindly asked the dps to not start too early, taunted things occasionally, and after the last boss he said "maybe I'll be a tank one day". Awww! I told him that he'd been doing fine and that he should just keep practising. You can't encourage enthusiastic and humble newbie players nearly enough.
As for myself, I also had a blast healing. Since the tank was pretty squishy, just putting an earth shield and riptide on him didn't really cut it, so I often had to cast lesser and normal healing waves as well, chain heal if the pally stood on a bomb too and so on. Now that I've made it all the way down the resto tree I'm actually having a lot of fun trying to optimise my use of tidal waves. It's kind of like a priest's serendipity (in fact I believe that the priest talent was modelled after the shaman one), only more complex. It encourages you to use a sort of rotation on occasion without making it so repetitive that you could macro the whole thing.
Also, I came to the conclusion that shamans are the perfect healers for newbie tanks. I mean, when my priest or druid gets aggro I always have to spam heals on myself big time and still risk dying very quickly. Whenever my shaman got aggro on the other hand, I kind of pictured her standing there with her shield over her head, just waiting patiently and hoping that the tank would notice the problem within the next decade. Paladins are sturdy like that too, but since they have no HoTs and little AoE healing, getting interrupted by an add on themselves is quite annoying. A shaman can just cast a chain heal or let earth shield and riptide keep the tank alive in the meantime, taking that beating with unsurpassed stoicism. Go shamans!
I'll have to try getting into a low-level instance on one of my littlest alts soon just to see how well that works.