Last night I took my death knight out to pug a few instances, to balance the large amount of solo-play that I've been doing lately. Since I gave her a tank spec I've found grouping with her much more enjoyable - I just think that melee dps is kind of annoying and boring. In fact, I've generally started to warm up to her a little.
I've complained in the past that I didn't like death knights because they felt too much like pre-made characters to me and getting all those abilities right from the start just confused me. However, after (very, very, slowly, over the course of nearly two years) gaining sixteen levels since her creation, my death knight is finally starting to feel a bit more like she's truly "mine", and I also couldn't help learning at least a little bit about the class's abilities after two years of playing with other death knights - I suppose you could call that mental osmosis. So things aren't quite as bad now.
But to get to the pugs. They were actually all pretty pleasant, and I don't think we had a single death, but that's not to say that nothing interesting happened. I started the night by queuing for a couple of specific Outland instances, since the dungeon finder won't let me do random normal modes anymore at my current level.
I expected a bit of a queue even as a tank, since healers tend to be the bigger problem in that level bracket, but I actually got a group very quickly. My first run took me to the Arcatraz. I don't know what it is about that instance, but I swear every time I run it these days it elicits cries of joy from at least one member of the group. People love the bickering demons, laugh at Millhouse Manastorm and gasp at Harbinger Skyriss. In this case our priest was particularly fond of them all. It's really weird in a way, because I remember that instance not being one of the most popular ones back in BC, especially on heroic mode, since it had a lot of absolutely murderous trash pulls, and Zereketh the Unbound was without a doubt one of the worst heroic bosses of that expansion (even if he could be skipped). It's funny how our perceptions of what's fun can change.
I also noticed that our healer had to drink a lot, which is perfectly fine and I was happy to wait of course, but I realised for the first time that this is another one of the things that I miss about crowd control - it gives the non-casters something to do while the mana users drink. I mean, I stood there in front of the next trash pull, trying to be patient but admittedly being a bit bored, and found myself thinking that I never had that problem back in BC because back then, while the healer was drinking, the tank and dps were marking up the next pull and discussing strategy. I do think this is why nerfing mana regen and requiring more crowd control have to go hand in hand in Cataclysm - because just forcing the healer to drink after every pull while everyone else taps their feet and waits to be able to do more AoE wouldn't really cut it I dare say.
Anyway, my next run took me to the Old Hillsbrad Foothills. I had run that one before, but went again because I had forgot to complete the Nice Hat quest. Two other people in the group had it too and everyone was perfectly happy to take a quick detour to get it done. I miss that kind of co-operation in many runs these days.
I was also really hoping that I could get people to continue to the Black Morass right afterwards but had no such luck. I've said in the past that Escape from Durnholde is hard to get a group for these days because it requires you to do a boring attunement quest that nobody tells you about, in a zone that's way out of the way when you're in the right level range, but after careful consideration I've come to the conclusion that Durnholde isn't so bad. Black Morass is much worse, for the simple reason that it requires you to do all the things you have to do to unlock Old Hillsbrad, and you have to complete the Escape from Durnholde quest, and you then have to be at least level sixty-eight to enter BM, by which point most people are already off to Northrend.
My last Outland instance for the night turned out to be the Mechanar. Again we had a pretty smooth run, though one thing pissed me off: When the other death knight in the group, level sixty-seven and dps, looted the crystal from Gatewatcher Iron-Hand, I told him to hold on to it because we'd need it later. Then, after we killed Capacitus, that same death knight suddenly announced that he would leave because he felt that he was too low-level for the instance and couldn't hit anything, and anyway, we should get a replacement quickly. I thought this was a slightly strange, but not entirely unreasonable complaint, but quickly typed out "wait" in chat because I wanted that crystal first. Too late, he had taken off already, taking our key to the loot chest with him. Grrr! Damn you, cross-server pugs and the way you allow people to just vanish into the nether!
After these three runs I decided to finish the night by giving Utgarde Keep a go. Even though I was level seventy-one by then, and keep in mind that I'm the kind of death knight who actually bothers to collect defense gear before starting to tank, my health went up and down like a yo-yo throughout the entire run. In the previous instances I had sometimes chastised myself mentally for not using my survival cooldowns enough, but in that UK run I was spamming them like there was no tomorrow. Being so squishy was just scary. It's really ironic how the normal Northrend instances are so much tougher at level now than the average heroic run of the same place. I have to give massive kudos to our priest healer, who never let anyone die even when the going got tough and who pulled through even though our dps was rather low.
That was the other interesting thing about that run - why was our dps so low? Right after we entered, I noticed that our "dps" paladin was sporting a sword and board combo. I inspected him and sure enough, he was protection spec and not changing. I asked him why he was dpsing if he was geared and specced to be a tank and he said that he just hadn't felt like tanking when he signed up. Now okay, I get that a tank might not always feel like tanking, but maybe he should make sure to also gather some dps gear then? The really daft thing was that it turned out that he was actually dual-specced prot/holy. Why in the world would you queue as the one role out of three for which you have neither gear or spec?!
I do have to admit that this annoyed me and I kind of wanted to get rid of him, but at the same time I felt that I should at least give him a chance. And to be fair, he did behave himself - he didn't use righteous fury or tried to pull aggro off me, he just attemped to do damage. Unfortunately he was still very much dead weight, as he only did about two hundred dps, which was about a third of what I was doing while tanking very amateurishly. On Prince Keleseth we must have gone through about ten frost tombs, that's how slowly he died. I couldn't hold it against the healer that he bickered at the paladin to pick it up, but the latter assured us very earnestly that he was trying. We did complete the instance despite of the paladin's rubbish performance, but I felt bad about the healer basically having to make up for the other guy's fail pretty much the entire time. Going into group content with strangers while intentionally gimping yourself is just wrong.