I'm not necessarily afraid to PuG a raid. Infact, being at University the only time I really get to raid now-a-days is via a PuG, or if a raid is up on a night when it's a little bit more expensive for a lot of vodka and a little bit of coke. However, I was a little apprehensive saying "Yes" when asked if I'd like to PuG Trial of the Grand Crusader.
For those of you that dont know, Trial of the Grand Crusader is what Blizzard would have probably made TotC, if they weren't making everything so god damn easy. Let's face it, TotC is a joke, a really unfunny one, told by that prick who knows one of your friends somehow and always insists on coming round when they're not exactly welcome.
Anyways, I was currently bored, sat in Dalaran watching Guild chat so I thought "what the hell, if they wipe on beasts I'll use my "Sorry, booty call" excuse (which by the way, is an awesome excuse) and went for my gear check. I passed and hopped on my Dragon and flew to the Tournament grounds.
After the usual round of buffs, a quick run over the Beasts fight and how it differs (only slightly, mind you) from the normal version we talked to Tirion Boringlongspeechesring. What was surprising, was the level of dps we had - these people weren't the customary heroic farmers in T9 I've come to expect from PuGs, they actually knew what the hell they were doing. I was mutilating away while the Snowbolds got raped in a matter of seconds. So, we one Shot the beasts. It got a little messy on the Worms, someone had to be Combat Rezzed but a kill is a kill. I even got some nice Leatherworking patterns out of it, which was great.
So we moved on, to Lord J. Who was pretty much the same execpt the portals had to be killed or they'd keep spawning those damned-whorish-women that spin people around. We had a few wipes, mainly because everything hits so damned hard but after around 2 tries we killed him, smoothly. Another Leatherworking pattern for me, some loot for a very greatful hunter and we moved on the Faction Champs.
Faction Champs is a raid breaker. People can wipe on them if they dont know what they're doing. I've seen it happen, it's not fun either. So what happened next was a bit of a shock. We one shot them, I was surprised. The fight is a lot different - the Champs aren't tauntable, which means the tanks actually have to do some work, chase them around, stun them. Because stuns have cooldowns it means DPS have to be on their toes, if you see the warrior running at you with that "I'm gonna make you wear a dress and hurt you" look in his eyes, you get the fuck outta Dodge, real fast. The healers, I've got to admit where absolutley fantastic. They hadn't messed up so far, the deaths on Lord J were entirely the DPS's fault for not obeying Raiding Rule number 1 and it showed how good they were on Faction Champs. It restored a tiny bit of faith in humanity to myself and my friend.
Next was Twins, which proved a little bit more difficult. The fight is exactly the same but the Orbs are deadly and they occasionally cast a dot which really stings if you dont change to the correct Essence to cancel it out. We had about 5 wipes, which usually would make a group fall apart. But no, instead, this PuG was, wait for it, infact...I want a fucking drumroll for this...
We discussed where we'd gone wrong and how to improve/avoid doing it again on the next attempt.
There were no cries of "FFS HEALERS." or "Omg, l2p." Only constructive critism, which every member of the raid took onboard and with a good attitude. After a few more attempts, we smoothly killed them, resulting in another Leatherworking pattern for me!
Now, Anub'arak was the next guy on our list. He'd get us the achievement and some bonus loot because we'd only died around 11 times, I'd liked the difficulty so far, it was interesting and was definitly helping with my rogue-out as I actually had to pay attention and not mindlessly bash my face against the keyboard.
After being the laughable last boss in TotC, I wasn't holding much hope out for poor Anub, I dont know why I was being Naive, I mean he's the last boss in Trial of the Grand Crusader (which so far had been getting increasingly more and more difficult) for fucks sake! So when our PuG raid leader started to explain the tactics, I was more than taken a back by how damned complex it was.
We all know normal mode is easy, get ice on floor, tank adds on ice, kill adds, faceroll boss. Repeat after avoiding spikes when he submerges etc etc. Well, Heroic is a whole different story, infact, a whole different genre.
You have 6 Orbs, which dont respawn (that's right, you did read it correctly. 6 Orbs). You get 4 adds instead of two and in addition, someones been putting a little something extra in Mr. 'Arak's morning protein shake because he hits so fucking hard the tank almost shit himself on the first pull.
Needless to say, we ran into a bit of an obstacle. It was difficult to co-ordinate where the Ice was going to drop after our hunter killed it and where the adds were going to be tanked. Sometimes it was next to the boss, others it was on the other side of his little burrow. Meaning melee having to run all around the place and loosing valuable dps on the boss.
The hardest part was not dying on his Submereged phase. It was terribly, terribly hard. 6 orbs and you can only use 2 per phase (3 in total, as one goes down at the start for the adds to be tanked on). He's deceptivley fast, starting out like a fat man running to his car in the rain and suddenly becomes Usain-fucking-Bolt. You've got to kite him for long enough that he'll only choose 2-3 people to chase. Which is difficult for people who cant speed up. At the same time, you've got to be killing the adds, which actually hurt on Heroic.
After about 8 tries, we called it a day. We'd been in there for coming on 4 hours and people were getting tired but those 8 tries were some of the most fun I've had in a raid in a long time, content wise. It was a proper challenge and I actually would love to go back again with the guild if they ever decide to come out of ICC.
I was a fan of the Hard modes in Ulduar, it kept the game a challenge for those looking for one. Blizzards way of "balancing" between accessible raiding and the more "hardcore" side.