A couple nights ago, in an hour at which all right-thinking people would be in bed, I was up questing in Tanaris when I got an invitation to Zul'Farrak. I joined, double-checking, "You did see my player note in the LFG tool, right? Melee only?" "Yeah, that's okay." "...Cool."
The group original group constituency was: 46 warlock, 47 warlock, 44 priest, 46 hunter, and me, a 47 hunter. (The 46 hunter left and was replaced by a 45 hunter later on.) At last, my first all-peer instance group! I was really excited to see how this would play out.
There was a bit of trepidation about the lack of a proper tank. We compensated by using both voidwalkers, and pets where necessary. Overall that particular strategy worked well. Our only wipes were from silly things, like aggroing scarabs that chewed on the priest and interrupted her healing, and the occasional bit of simple bad luck. But the strategy that impressed me most was the way we handled the stairs. At someone's suggestion we left all four of our pets and minions, set to Stay and Aggressive, halfway down the steps. This formed a highly effective phalanx. A lot of the trolls that came running up the steps never made it past. Those that did had taken a fair bit of damage, making it easier for Bly and us to dispatch them. And we did well on more than the stairs -- the whole run was a big success. All in all, it was probably the most fun ZF run I've ever done. Thanks to Sabethon, Triplestack, Firewisp, Moodion, and Sierrahunt for showing a crusty old dwarf a really good time.
What of this relates specifically to melee hunting? For one, I felt like I performed quite well versus my peers. Consequently I've lost all hesitation about looking for instance groups. I'll still alert people about my play style, but I have no reason to think I should avoid them in favor of soloing anymore. The ZF experience altered my perspective to the point that if a group declines me, I feel like they're the ones missing out.
My role in the group was primarily DPS, but I did (accidentally) off-tank some mobs as well, in the same vein as I did in RFK. I tanked one healer for what felt like two or three minutes, and held several trolls at bay on the stairs encounter. And what of my DPS? Well, at no point did I ever see myself fall from first place. According to my meter, I was always Number One. Naturally, I don't believe that for a second. I suspect that since I was the only melee fighter, I missed a lot of damage notices from the other players because I was out of range of them. I'll take it as a reminder that when possible you should sync your damage meters. Even so, it was plain to see that I was a true peer, not just some oddball the other four had brought along for the ride.
Speaking of oddities, I picked up a curious item while I was there, the Shriveled Heart. +13 sta, but -5 str and -5 spi. The chatter on Thottbot about the item is filled with people who apparently feel cheated or otherwise bewildered by the fact that the item adds to one stat while reducing a couple others. I don't understand that. When you replace one item with another, you're making the exact same decision. Am I willing to give up x stats in exchange for y stats? In my case the answer was yes. I have more spirit than I need, so that's not even a factor. The 13 sta, to me, was worth giving up the 12 agi from my old necklace and 5 str.
Then, as it happened, I put the Shriveled Heart in the bank and re-equipped my agility necklace a day later when I bought my first epic item, the Ring of Saviors. I got it for a fair price, and it was paid for entirely out of my hunter's own funds. (I'm shocked by just how profitable grinding is.) I had a bit of angst about laying out the money for it, but I've also been very disappointed by how hard it's been to find level-appropriate mail armor with the stats I need. This ring went a long way toward compensating for that.
Right now I'm at 49, and collecting Sunken Temple quests. One quest I already soloed, grabbing the Guardian Talisman, which I took into WPL and tested out on some undead. I have several exciting milestones coming up. At 50 I can grab an Argent Dawn Commission. 51 opens up Alterac Valley and the luscious Ice Barbed Spear, and at 52... well, for now let's just say that I'm pretty excited about level 52.