After so many negative experiences with pugs recently, I had an absolutely glorious one last night, to the Sethekk Halls. We did wipe a few times, but it was primarily due to inexperience of the layout of the instance and some very tricky pulls. In particular, with the group of mobs immediately before King Ikiss it was probably entirely unavoidable.
Given that I talked earlier about what I've felt can cause bad pugs, I want to identify a couple of factors which I feel contribute to good ones.
The first, most major point was the level of humility shown by the members of the group. These weren't individuals who had a God complex purely due to their character level. By contrast, in a Steamvaults run I had the other day, we had a Druid tank for about half of it who had one of the most shocking attitudes I've come across, which was also overlaid with a strong sense of elitism and, "I know how to play, and the rest of you don't."
Leadership of a group is something which I feel needs to be done with extreme flexibility and a fairly light hand, and I say this as someone who has acted both as leader and follower at various times; in more or less every pre-60 five man instance in the game, and Warsong Gulch in particular, I've done both. Humility in World of Warcraft is sadly as rare as it is crucial, at high levels. You need to be able to see yourself as being as fallible and human as every other member of the group; elitism promotes silence and prevents healthy communication and positive group dynamics from forming, causes wipes and failure to achieve objectives, and will very often destroy a group. Another important element here is appropriate deference; if while in a group I begin marking in an instance where I am unfamiliar with the territory, I will ask if anyone else has a more intimate knowledge of the instance in question, and if someone does, I relinquish marking ability immediately.
Leading on from this, the second point was that this was a group which allowed me to serve what I feel is my role in groups as a Survival Hunter, which sadly is exceptionally rare. I'm going to write about this more thoroughly in another post later, but briefly, I've noticed that BRK has consistently said that he feels that a Hunter's role is sustained DPS. For a Beast Mastery Hunter in particular, that might be true, but I feel that the primary role of a Survival Hunter is what I could refer to as tactical co-ordination. In this Sethekk Halls run, (with one exception) the rest of the group were willing to stay some distance away from me while I utilised the philosophy found within this article, and pulled slowly and carefully in order to minimise wipes. We had a total of four wipes or near wipes, from memory. One of those I acknowledged as my responsibility, due to incorrect estimation of the pull circle of a particular mob; another was caused by the impatience of other members of the group, moving forward rather than giving me adequate time to scout and identify safe targets, and the last two were largely unavoidable, due to the group as a whole having inadequate knowledge of how to handle the boss fights in question.
The third point is that the Sethekk Halls was, in my opinion, an exceptionally well-designed instance, with a level of symmetry and order more reminiscent of the original game's instances than most of those I have seen in Outland. The Mana Tombs in particular, by comparison, were a mess. Mobs were clustered around randomly, with inconsistent patrol paths, there were elevation changes for no discernable reason, and lots of odd places where you could get stuck.
By comparison, Sethekk was a consistent series of rooms and corridors, with mobs placed in logical ways. The succession of corridors between rooms meant that you could set up a defensive perimeter in a first room, (such as with Hunter traps, Shaman totems, and other forms of persistent AoE) carefully pull mobs from the second room back into the first room via the corridor, and thus process each group in a predictable, controlled, and safe manner, with minimal risk to the player characters.
Because of how open, haphazard, and random the Mana Tombs was, such orderly neutralisation of mobs was a lot more difficult, if not close to impossible.
"Well-designed" also does not mean devoid of challenge. We wiped initially on both of the major bosses; not only do they have strategies that need to be worked out, but they also have a large number of hit points which meant that defeating them, for us at least, was a test of our persistence, our ability to follow an attack sequence, and our ability to survive.
The fourth point is that the Terokk's Quill quest gave me a very concrete reason and incentive for going into the Sethekk Halls. By comparison, for a Hunter at least, with the Mana Tombs there really isn't much point. Shaffar drops a couple of nice but relatively unremarkable blues, the Ethereal Warp-Bow and the Longstrider's Loop, which certainly do not justify the level of annoyance involved in killing him, IMHO. Pandemonius is better, especially on Heroic, but the others are laughable, both in terms of lack of challenge, and relatively mundane drops.
The Warp-Bow is almost exactly on par with the High Warlord's Street Sweeper, which is relatively easy (if time consuming) to obtain these days; simply do Alterac Valley for one of its' weekends. The amount of +hit on the Loop is perhaps nice for the level, but grab the socketeds from the Underbog, (a lot easier to obtain, IMHO) and throw in a couple of yellow gems, and you've got the equivalent right there, with some armor and probably a few other stats to boot.
In closing, the difference between having a positive pug experience and a bad one seems to involve a number of different factors. The lessons this taught me were to try and identify a bad group early, (if I've got one) and to do some background research on an instance before I go there, both to determine whether there's anything there that I want or need, and whether the overall quality of the instance and the likely experience that I will have justifies the difficulty and expense. (In terms of ammunition, repair costs, and supplies)
While I can safely say that the Sethekk Halls run was one of the most satisfying experiences that I've had with this game overall, if I'd known beforehand what I do now about the Mana Tombs, in the case of the latter instance, I wouldn't have bothered.