...for the first time. Without training wheels. On a steep incline. With a bed of gravel at the bottom.
Well okay, it wasn't that bad. I knew I would have it rough at the start because until now, my instance groups consisted of my level 70 Kara-geared enhancement shaman plowing his way through old-world elites with the support of two healers and two DPS. Most of the time the only participation from the group was having the paladin and priest drop a coordinated heal on the shaman. Aggro was a non-issue; mobs simply didn't live long enough once the shaman had them targeted, and his high DPS and health allowed him to generate more aggro than the group could.
My original plan was to have the paladin take the lead as the tank, and have the shaman relegated to a healing role. The shaman had excellent healing gear and his level would allow him to better deal with healing aggro. But now that I had a group of only moderately well geared 60s instead, it would be a completely new experience for me. DPS would be much lower now. My tank would be facing mobs at his level range. Aggro would be a concern, and my cloth characters would not have the health to handle a beating for long. But hey, this was exactly what I was signing up for those many months ago when I started leveling these guys!
In any event, I did some scribbling on a pad to get my keybindings in order and make sure that I knew which keys to press in order to get the group doing what I wanted. I made sure I had the necessary items (reagents for buffs, ammo, pet food, etc). I entered the Hellfire Ramparts, buffed up, positioned the group, took a deep breath, and pulled the first two mobs. Oh great, I got the roaming add as well. Terrific, no one is attacking and no one is casting heals! This would be a wipe right off the bat, just as I'd feared. But somehow, the paladin held on long enough for me to get things in order and kill the three mobs. Very nice!
The first half-dozen groups went down without much fuss. The paladin only lost aggro once or twice, and when he did the mob was at low health and died before it could cause any trouble. targeting was working fine, focus fire was... enough to kill the mobs before they killed anyone in the group. The warlock's felguard and the hunter's pet both died twice, which was not a good thing. I pulled out the warlock's imp instead. I moved further along and now I saw mobs in groups of four instead of three. Here is where I hit my first snag, mostly due to having DPS too low to kill the beastmaster before he could summon adds. The group wiped.
I ran the paladin back, rezzed the group, re-buffed, and continued on my way. The groups of four and five mobs proved to be difficult, and it seemed in large part because I simply didn't have my keybindings in order, and it seems as if some of my macros were not working right and thus the mage often stood in one spot, casting nothing at all. As she is a very good source of DPS, this would lead to long fights and the priest would eventually get aggro and die, after which the group followed. After four or five such wipes I hearthed the group out and decided to prepare a bit more carefully.
I created a chart to keep track of my keybindings and simplified my macros. I am using few macros now, and will rely on key sequences (ie, first I press F1 to get one action, then F2 for the next action, etc... as opposed to using a castsequence macro and pressing F1 over and over). This will all but eliminate the possibility that an improperly-written macro will short-circuit any of the characters during a battle. I also created a simple set of heal/decurse macros, one that targets each party member and tied to the same set of keys for each character that can heal or remove debuffs. Thus, when I need to, I can press a key corresponding to a target character, and the priest will cast a heal, the mage will cast Remove Lesser Curse, and the paladin will cast Cleanse. The priest also has a separate button tied to Dispel for the paladin when he is main tanking.
With everything in much better order, I plan to try again today or next weekend. While I quit before getting to the first boss of the zone (and I was just two or three trash packs from getting there) I was also encouraged at how quickly I got through the first few packs of mobs. I didn't have to be so precise in my keybinds and macros before now, and had a level 70 as a safety net. Mistakes and sloppy play will cost me now, as will slowness in execution. But I should have it down to a science pretty quickly, and will chart my progress here, so you'll know if I have succeeded or not.