Sunday, 19 August 2018

Introducing the Warden: Level 1-20

The warden seems very much an Elven tradition. Some elves must have stood sentry or patrolled their part of the forest or the road or city for centuries, elves like Haldir, marchwarden of Lothlórien. Such dedication to the protection of their homeland, with time to really hone their skills. Wardens are agile and adept with both spear and javelin to fight either melee or ranged foes. The warden's legacy has been shared and adapted for Men and Hobbits too, with the Dunédain Rangers of the North defending Eriador from the threat of Sauron, and the Bounders of the Shire, defending their villages and way of life.

Wardens would probably make good chess players - they're always thinking ahead, planning how to join a sequence of skills into a powerful Gambit. They have a unique combo system which has a large learning curve, but determination and dedication is rewarded with a strong class that can handle almost any situation. Wardens can tank or deal damage and with the right moves, can offer group support with some buffs and a little healing. They can be very good at soloing.

The warden class is not readily available to free-to-play players: you will need LOTRO Points to buy the class (795 points) or the Moria expansion which includes the class (2495 points).

Here I'll record my experience levelling a warden from level 1 to 20, talking about skills, specs and anything else that might be useful to know.

Level 1 Woman Warden

Here's our brand new warden and some information about her:
  • Wears medium armour
  • Wields a spear and a Warden's Shield (can also use other one-handed melee weapons)
  • Primary stat is Agility (although prior to Update 10 it used to be Might and as you can see above, their starting gear still has Might as the highest stat)
  • Starting abilities are: In the Fray Stance (a melee combat stance), Assailment Stance (a ranged combat stance), Quick Thrust (a fast melee attack), Shield-bash (attack enemy with your shield), Warden's Taunt (a cry that causes Light damage-over-time), Gambit Default (a weak basic melee attack if used by itself, or after the right combination of skills it updates to a special Gambit), and Marked Target (a ranged attack that reduces your enemy's physical mitigation).

Since we only have a melee weapon at the moment, we'll start off in In the Fray Stance for melee combat. The first quest in the introduction provides a satchel with some weapons - a spear, a javelin and a shield. So now we can go melee or ranged. You can swap stances in combat too, so use whichever stance is appropriate. Note that when you change to ranged stance, many of your skills change automatically to a ranged version that has a similar effect.

When you use your builder skills, icons fill up the Gambit display. There are three icons:
  • a red Spear (often abbreviated as "Sp") activated by using Quick Thrust (melee) or an orange Javelin activated by using Quick Toss (ranged)
  • a green Shield (often abbreviated as "Sh") activated by using Shield-bash (melee) or Behind the Shield (ranged)
  • a yellow Fist (often abbreviated as "Fi") activated by using Warden's Taunt (melee) or Warden's Aim (ranged)
To remember that the Fist is for your Cry ability, I think of someone angry shaking their fist and shouting at their opponent.

The Gambit display out of combat
The gambit display after Spear, Shield and Fist builder skills have been used. See how the final gambit box icon and name of the Gambit updates.
The red Spear skill is replaced by an orange Javelin skill in ranged stance. The final icon and Gambit name is slightly different too.

A Gambit may be made up of 2, 3, 4 or 5 builder skills. You unlock the ability to use different Gambits as you level.

When you reach level 2, you are instructed to visit the Warden trainer. They want you to practice using Defensive Strike on a Training Dummy. This is a Gambit that becomes available after using 2 Shield-bash in a row.

Shield + Shield = Defensive Strike

If you open your Skills panel (default key = K), there is a tab which shows all the Gambits you can currently use. It says that Defensive Strike is a weak shield attack that increases your block chance. If you activate a gambit and don't know what it does, or you forget how to activate a specific gambit, you can look it up there.

Here are some other basic 2-builder gambits (some are not available until level 13):

BuildersMelee GambitRanged Gambit
Sp + SpDeft Strike (melee attack)Deft Toss (ranged attack)
Sp + ShThe Boot (interrupt)Ranged Boot (ranged interrupt)
Sp + FiOffensive Strike (double attack, morale-tap)Ranged Offensive Strike (ranged attack, reduces enemy outgoing damage)
Sh + ShDefensive Strike (shield attack, buffs block)Defensive Strike (shield attack, buffs block)
Sh + SpPersevere (melee attack, buffs block, HoT)Ranged Persevere (ranged attack, HoT)
Sh + FiImpressive Flourish (melee Light DoT, buffs mitigations)Impressive Flourish (melee Light DoT, buffs mitigations)
Fi + FiGoad (AOE taunt, AOE Light DoT)Goad (AOE taunt, AOE Light DoT)
Fi + SpPrecise Blow (melee attack, Light DoT) Precise Throw (ranged attack, reduces enemy defences)
Fi + ShWar-cry (AOE melee Light attack, AOE Light DOT, evade buff)War-cry (AOE melee Light attack, AOE Light DOT, evade buff)

A morale-tap is a where the enemy takes damage over time (DoT) and the warden gains health over time (HoT) - you're tapping into their morale pool!

At level 6 you gain the Hampering Javelin skill, which lets you throw your javelin at a target and slow them down. You can also choose a specialisation.

The specialisation options are:
  • Blue = Determination - focuses on tanking. You also gain healing and defensive buffs and the skill Warning Shot which is a ranged attack that reduces enemy outgoing damage.
  • Red = Recklessness - focuses on melee damage, with single-target bleeds and AOE attacks. You gain buffs to attack speed, melee damage and DoT effects, but your healing is reduced. You also gain the skill Shield Piercer which is a ranged attack that reduces enemy block chance.
  • Yellow = Assailment - focuses on ranged damage and group support. You gain buffs to ranged damage and range from which you can attack, and your gambits have a chance to increase your fellowship attack speed, crit chance or heal allies when they attack your target. You also gain Improved Hampering Javelin which roots and slows a target.

They all sound really good, so I'll try them all!

At level 7 you get your first trait point that you can spend on your chosen specialisation. You get a new trait point every odd level.

After completing the introduction, don't forget to check your mail for the adventurer's gift. It contains several useful items and starts a couple of quests, including one that rewards 5 Tokens of Salutations which can be traded with the Barterer for a pocket item that increases run speed plus some health or power potions. The run speed buff can be quite helpful, especially if you don't have a mount.

I've been levelling in Archet, and I was amazed at the recent revamp of the zone. It looks great - the river is much more interesting with an island in the middle, lovely water reflections and tall marsh grasses; the spider ruins look much more impressive and ruined; and a lot of the cliffs around Archet are gone (so you can run to Chetwood or the Bree-fields). I wish I had before-and-after screenshots to compare.

Longer bridge to the Hunting Lodge
New island in the middle of the Archet lake
Spider ruins with more ruins

Combe has also been updated. The lumber-mill has developed and has a waterfall nearby and the hills between Chetwood Forest and Midgewater Marsh have been flattened, so they seem much closer.

Bigger Combe Lumber Camp with a waterfall nearby now

So, back to the warden's adventures! At level 10 you get several new abilities: Ambush is a slow-to-cast ranged attack that can daze an enemy and increase your run speed (so you can close the gap quickly). Targets that have been Ambushed or dazed are more vulnerable to the next new skill Critical Strike, which is a melee attack. You also gain some skills to help reset your Gambit display: Quick Recovery will remove the most recent gambit added, while Recovery will remove all gambits.

You are also now eligible to take part in Epic Battles such as Retaking Pelargir, but although you get scaled to level 100, without all the equipment slots filled and with limited abilities you will be very vulnerable, so it may not be a very successful or satisfactory experience.

At level 12 you learn a couple of new gambits that are activated by Fist + Spear/Javelin: Precise Blow (melee) and Precise Throw (ranged). Both deal damage, but Precise Blow also adds a Damage over Time component, while Precise Throw makes the enemy more vulnerable to critical strikes.

At level 13 you can use War-cry, an AOE gambit activated by Fist + Shield that deals Light damage to up to 10 attackers within 10m and also has a Damage over Time effect. It is the same whether you are in melee or ranged stance.

At level 14 you get Forced March, which is a toggled out-of-combat run speed buff (unfortunately you have to turn it back on manually each time you leave combat unlike the hunter version which is automatic, so I generally forgot to use it), and Careful Step which puts you in stealth mode while out of combat for 20 seconds (and removes the cast time for casting Ambush).

Around level 13-15 you should get some quests sending you to Bree. At level 15 you will get a class-specific quest, asking you to visit Daisy Appledore at the Bree Jail. She recommends you join Warden Oakhurst's spear training session. When you meet him though, he tells you the training session has been cancelled because there is a real threat to deal with: a group of bandits approaching Bree. He asks you to help hold the line.

Wardens making an organised defence against bandits

As a reward for your assistance, you receive a Warden's shield and the title "Spearman of the March". It's a very nice shield.

Shield of the Southern March

At level 16 you get First Aid, which removes a debuff such as poison, disease, wounds or fear from you or an ally. You also learn some more complicated gambits.

Not only do wardens combine individual gambit builders like the Fist or the Spear to make a gambit, they can combine gambits to make a "gambit chain" which are named after the first skill in the sequence. Generally these involve starting with a 2-builder gambit, then a 3-builder gambit then finishing with a powerful 4- or 5-builder gambit. You can skip steps and go straight to the finisher for example, but you will miss out on the accumulated benefits of completing the chain (i.e. small DoT + medium DoT + large DoT > large DoT)

Remember Impressive Flourish? Now we have some follow-up moves:

Impressive Flourish Gambit Chain
BuildersSkill (Effect)
Sh + FiImpressive Flourish (melee Light DoT, buffs mitigations)
Sh + Fi + ShMaddening Strike (melee attack, buffs mitigations)
Sh + Fi + Sh + Fi + ShConviction (heals nearby allies, buffs mitigations)

We also gain a finisher for the War-cry gambit chain, however, there is a middle skill that you won't learn until later. The War-cry gambit chain skills all have a similar effect, but get more powerful as the number of builders increase.

War-cry Gambit Chain
BuildersSkill (Effect)
Fi + ShWar-cry (AOE Light attack, AOE Light DOT, evade buff)
Fi + Sh + FiBrink of Victory (AOE Light attack, AOE Light DOT, evade buff) [level 34]
Fi + Sh + Fi + ShSurety of Death (AOE Light attack, AOE Light DOT, evade buff)

Longer gambits usually involve alternating two builders. You gain skills later that make it easier to quickly apply several builders at once so you can complete the gambit or chain faster.

At level 18 you learn the Power Attack and Ranged Power Attack gambits. This is a melee/ranged attack plus a strong melee DoT. It uses Spear/Javelin + Shield + Fist.

Level 20 is quite a milestone. You get two new skills - Diminished Target which is a ranged attack that reduces the enemy's tactical defences, and Steadfast which breaks you out of crowd control effects like daze or stun. You also gain some passive abilities:
  • you can equip a carving in your class slot which increases your stats and buffs a specific builder (spear/shield/fist) - these are made by woodworkers,
  • you can use a specific builder battle-hymn during combat to reduce power costs and increase damage for 10 seconds - these are also made by woodworkers,
  • you can apply shield-spikes to your shield to increase your critical strike chance or change your damage type for a limited time - these are made by metalsmiths, 
  • and you can apply fire oil to your javelin to do ranged fire damage for a limited time - these are made by scholars.
You can also take part in skirmishes and train at the skirmish camp. Skirmishes are similar to dungeons where you fight waves or groups of mobs, some elites and a final boss, but can be done solo or in a group and you can have a NPC companion who assists you. You can also buy gear from the skirmish camp, so since some of my questing gear was low-level, I went to the skirmish camp to find some upgrades.

Here's how my warden looks now at level 20:

Level 20 Woman Warden

Perhaps the hardest part of being a warden is knowing which gambits to use in which situations. These are only suggestions from my limited experience (and using skills available by level 20) and at higher levels there are recommended rotations and tips for dungeons and raids on the forums, but maybe these will help new wardens.

Easy Single-target mobs


These may defeat an enemy in one gambit, or could be combined to deal damage quickly. The ranged versions of these skills could be used in ranged stance.
  • Power Attack: Sp + Sh + Fi (powerful attack and DoT)
  • Offensive Strike: Sp + Fi (double attack plus DoT, plus HoT)
  • Precise Blow: Fi + Sp (attack plus DoT)
  • Deft Strike: Sp + Sp (attack)

Harder Single-target mobs

These mobs could be dangerous, so I would start with some defensive skills then once my buffs are up, use some more offensive skills, refresh defences, then apply more damage et cetera et cetera.

Defence:
  1. Marked Target (ranged attack and reduces enemy's physical mitigation)
  2. Impressive Flourish - Sh + Fi (attack plus DoT, plus buffs mitigations)
  3. Persevere - Sh + Sp (attack, buffs block, plus HoT)
Offence:
  1. Offensive Strike - Sp + Fi (double attack plus DoT, plus HoT)
  2. Precise Blow - Fi + Sp (attack plus DoT)
  3. Power Attack - Sp + Sh + Fi (powerful attack and DoT)

Groups of mobs

Round them up, DoT them up, increase your defences and self-healing, then finish them off individually.

  1. Goad - Fi + Fi (AOE taunt, AOE DoT)
  2. Warcry - Fi + Sh (AOE attack, AOE DoT, buffs evasion)
  3. Surety of Death - Fi + Sh + Fi + Sh (powerful AOE attack and AOE DoT and buffs evasion)
  4. Conviction - Sh + Fi + Sh + Fi + Sh (HoT, buffs crit defence and mitigations)
  5. Offensive Strike - Sp + Fi (double attack plus DoT plus HoT) to each target

Emergency

If you're in over your head and want to try to escape to fight another day:
  1. Hampering Javelin (ranged attack and slows movement speed)
  2. Switch to ranged stance if needed
  3. Ranged Persevere - Sh + Sp (ranged attack plus HoT)
  4. Kite mob while spamming Persevere until they're defeated or you've healed up enough to survive the encounter, or they've given up chasing you.

I then went to the training dummies in the Training Hall in Bree and tested each spec's unbuffed DPS over 3 minutes and took a screenshot at the end to eliminate the effects of DoTs that kept going after I stopped attacking. This was repeated three times for each spec and the best results recorded below. For virtues I had 2 tiers of Patience and 1 tier of Honour and with my 7 trait points I focused on damage-boosting traits where possible.

Here are my DPS results (collected with CombatAnalysis plugin):

StatisticsDetermination (Blue)Recklessness (Red)Assailment (Yellow)
StanceMeleeMeleeRanged
Damage101681305413065
Time3m 0.6s3m 0.3s3m 0.4s
Average DPS56.372.472.4
Minimum Hit2810
Average Hit34.139.075.1
Maximum Hit149201277
Attacks324363188
Critical Strikes (%)54 (16.7%)67 (18.5%)45 (23.9%)
Power (%)763/1038 (73.5%)613/1038 (59.1%)824/1038 (79.4%)
Skill Priorities
  1. Marked Target
  2. Impressive Flourish
  3. Persevere
  4. Offensive Strike
  5. Precise Blow
  6. Power Attack
  1. Marked Target
  2. Impressive Flourish
  3. Persevere
  4. Offensive Strike
  5. Precise Blow
  6. Power Attack
  1. Marked Target
  2. Ranged Deft Strike
  3. Ranged Persevere
  4. Ranged Offensive Strike
  5. Precise Throw
  6. Ranged Power Attack

The melee rotation flowed nicely and was fairly easy to maintain, and is the same rotation I was using successfully against elite mobs in the Barrow-downs. I did notice that occasionally a builder would be used and you saw the animation and damage, but it didn't register in the gambit display panel.

The damage and DPS is lower than I would have expected, but in the Barrow-downs there was a hunter in the same barrow as me and he did kill the mobs a lot quicker. I guess when you wield a shield you can't attack as fast or as strong as someone transferring all their energy into their weapon or weapons. Also, wardens use a lot of builders and the builders themselves are quite weak attacks, but at higher levels you can combine the builders and use the gambits more frequently, so I would expect DPS to be much better then.

General Observations


It's great when you can go from mob to mob, and if you defeated one mob before you got to use your gambit, you have a powerful gambit all ready to unleash on the next target. It makes questing feel fast and fluid.

Persevere was able to provide enough self-healing most of the time, but health potions are still useful. Power potions not necessary at all. First Aid was also really helpful, and even though it only removes one debuff at a time, it has only a short cooldown, so you can get rid of most ill effects quickly.

Using The Boot gambit for an interrupt was really awkward - usually they could cast a spell faster than I could complete the gambit so it was a waste of time trying. An instant interrupt (i.e. a javelin skill) with a cooldown would be much preferable.

By level 20, wardens have lots of skills for different situations and they get more as they level and become more efficient which is great. One of the other great things about wardens that isn't available at level 20 is the Muster skills which lets you teleport yourself to specific major towns. The first Muster skill is Muster in Ost Guruth at level 26. Something to look forward to which will be very useful for completing the epic quest and travelling around Middle Earth

Specialisations


Blue - Determination: The trait tree gives bonuses to skills like Persevere to help with self-healing and Warcry to help with multiple targets, which is great for tanking. The play style was very similar to Red spec and I believe that people who like to round up the mobs they need for quests and burn them down might enjoy this spec which has good survivability.

Red - Recklessness: I really enjoyed levelling in this spec and found it ideal for taking on single-targets but I could deal with groups or ranged mobs if needed. I would definitely recommend this spec to new wardens for levelling.

Yellow - Assailment: The ranged damage of individual attacks was a lot higher than in Red or Blue spec, but mobs generally don't stay at range while questing so I found myself changing to melee stance and losing most of the benefits of being in Yellow spec. It was also quite unreliable when building gambits in ranged stance and often would not update the gambit display properly so I had to repeat builders or use a different gambit from what I intended. I think this spec would be most suitable for a DPS/support warden in groups with a tank who could keep the mobs away from the warden so they can get their ranged shots in.

Stats

  • Agility - your main stat that increases your damage and mitigations (parry/evade)
  • Critical Strike - increases your damage
  • Mitigations and Resistances - reduces damage taken
  • Morale and Vitality - bigger health pool increases survivability 

These stats should help make the levelling process a bit easier in the beginning. Look for medium armour or jewellery with agility and critical rating, morale or vitality. If a piece of gear has Fate on it, it will also increase your critical strike chance. The best place to get Mitigations and Resistances at low levels is probably from virtues.

You can use other melee weapons than a spear, but the spear really is ideal, especially as it has an intrinsic chance to cause a bleed effect and Red spec gives bonus bleed damage.

Here are some virtues that may be helpful for wardens and how to get them by level 20:

VirtueActivityDeed
INNOCENCE
(physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, resistance)
Complete 75 quests in The ShireLife of a Bounder (Final)(The Shire)
TOLERANCE
(agility, tactical mitigation, in-combat morale regeneration)
Explore all the farms in The ShireFarms of the Shire (The Shire)
COMPASSION
(physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, non-combat power regeneration)
Complete 15 quests in The Shire

Complete 20 quests in Ered Luin
Life of a Bounder (The Shire)

Defender of Ered Luin (Ered Luin)
DETERMINATION
(agility, morale, in-combat morale regeneration)
Defeat 60 slugs in The Shire

Defeat 90 wolves in Ered Luin

Defeat 90 barghests in Bree-land
Slug Slayer (Advanced)(The Shire)

Spider-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

Barghest-slayer (Advanced)(Bree-land)
ZEAL
(morale, physical mitigation, armour)
Defeat 90 goblins in Ered Luin

Defeat 90 spiders in Ered Luin

Defeat 90 Barrow-spiders in Bree-land
Goblin-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

Spider-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

Brood-hunter (Advanced)(Bree-land)
HONOUR
(resistance, tactical mitigation, vitality)
Defeat 60 spiders in The Shire

Defeat 90 spiders in Bree-land
Spider-slayer (Advanced)(The Shire)

Spider-slayer (Advanced)(Bree-land)

Pros of the Warden Class

  • Versatile playstyle - can deal melee or ranged damage to groups or single targets
  • Has a range of buffs, debuffs and utility skills (e.g. crowd control, stealth, cleanse, out-of-combat speed buffs, teleport spells)
  • Has good survivability

Cons of the Warden Class

  • Big learning curve - lots of gambits to learn, memorise and use appropriately
  • Gambit display panel not always responsive, can disrupt rotation
  • Low DPS (at least at low levels)

I hope this has been helpful. Feel free to leave any questions or advice for new wardens in the comments below.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Free-to-play Progress

After levelling 10 free-to-play classes to level 20, I had enough LOTRO points to get several characters riding and I bought the Evendim quest pack. After taking a few classes through Evendim, I was able to get the Angmar pack and so I have taken a hunter to level 50 and completed Volume 1 of the epic quest and had a great time. I must say, hunters are a fantastic choice for completing the epic quest because their travel skills make it so easy to get around, and they didn't have too much difficulty with any of the quests. It was also nice to revisit Angmar thoroughly - usually I'm rushing to get to Moria around level 46 or so, but the instances in Angmar are awesome, hence why I wrote some guides to them - I had fun there and I hope you will too.

Carn Dûm in Angmar

As part of the epic quest, my hunter went to Eregion and I was surprised to find that even though I hadn't unlocked the quest pack, I was able to get some LOTRO points for some exploration deeds and the Tham Mírdain instances. Unfortunately, climbing to the lookout on top of the Hollin hills didn't count, but there's still a great view to enjoy.

My hunter on top of the Hollin Ridge

After levelling a hunter to 50, now I want to level all the other classes to 50 on my free-to-play account. I've started with the burglar and she's in her early 30s now. Such a completely different play-style to the hunter really makes it feel like a fresh new experience even though I'm doing the same quests. I was worried about the burglar not having many AOE or ranged skills, but she's managing just fine.

I've been saving up my LOTRO points to get the Moria expansion, so I can get all the quests, instances, the Rune-keeper, Warden and two more character slots per server. I was half-way there, then they had the summer sales and the Eriador bundle was 75% off. Such an amazing good deal I just had to get it even though it cost me all my points. That gives me an extra 5 zones I can quest through and lots more opportunities to earn LOTRO points, so I think it's worth it, but it will take a bit longer to get to Moria.

I've almost finished levelling my new warden (on my VIP account) to level 20 for the Introducing X Class Series. I've been impressed with the environmental changes in Bree-land, especially around Archet and Combe, but also in the Old Forest. It looks really nice and adds a lot of atmosphere - Archet seems more tranquil, Combe more industrious and the Old Forest is more creepy. It's great to see the developers giving some of the older graphics a fresh coat of paint, so to speak. LOTRO continues to be the game I take the most screenshots in because there are so many beautiful places where the lighting and water reflections and scenery just makes me go "Wow! I wish was there."

Updated Archet lake

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Instances: Angmar Cluster

Angmar is where the major confrontations with the Witch-King's minions take place in Volume 1 of the Epic Quest, and likewise, the instances here are also epic.

Barad Gúlaran - 6 person instance (level 50)

Barad Gúlaran

The shortest instance, Barad Gúlaran is a fortified tower in the barren wasteland of Angmar where the Witch-King and his servants studied dark arts.

Forvengwath's chamber

The first boss, Forvengwath, is at the end of a large hall with a fiery floor. Go around the sides and defeat his guards. He casts a strong aura of dread, so hope tokens may be helpful. He also summons minions who will heal him if they reach him.

There is a side-hall to the west with stairs leading up to a library. In there is Coblaith, the Gúlaran Sorceress. She drops a piece of Withered Parchment with tips on defeating the Rogmul, and a Staff of Dark Shadows which will also weaken him. On the east, is another library with Afraig, the Gúlaran Sorceress. She also drops a Withered Parchment and a Scroll of Ruin to use against the Rogmul.

Upstairs leads to the Solar, partially open to the sky, where the wraith Castellan Wistán presides. The sense of dread increases as the fight goes on, so burn him down quickly. He drops a Castellan's Chest Key to open the chest beside him. Inside is the Horn of Arnor and a Withered Parchment, for weakening the Rogmul, and the Key to the Summoning Chamber.

The Summoning Chamber

The Summoning Chamber is beyond the doors Forvengwath guarded. Inside, Múlvuirë the High Sorceress has Udúnion the Rogmul bound. He fought with Thaurlach during the Breaking of Thangorodrim at the end of the First Age, but was captured by wizards and banished to the realm of shadow. Now he seeks freedom.

When you approach, Múlvuirë cries that we're all doomed if Udúnion gets free. Then she guesses that you have a powerful staff and she wants it, so she sends her three Caretakers after you. When that doesn't work, she sends tormented spirits and then attacks you herself.

As soon as she is defeated, Udúnion starts casting streams of fire, so avoid these as well as the fiery immolation zone in the middle of the room. When he calls out his signature ability, get to the appropriate sigil on the ground, use the item to interrupt him, and cleanse any debuffs he applies or it is instant death.

When he calls:
  • "Shadow take you!" - use the Staff of Dark Shadows on the West sigil.
  • "Burn!" - use the Horn of Anor on the North sigil.
  • "Come dark fire!" - use the Scroll of Ruin on the East sigil.

This is a tricky battle with precise timing required. The events can happen very quickly so stay alert.

Carn Dûm - 6 person instance (level 50)

Carn Dûm seen from near Tármunn Súrsa
Entrance to the instance

Carn Dûm is a massive fortified city in the north-west of Angmar that was the Witch-King's strong-hold, and is still controlled by forces loyal to Sauron. The instance is part of the city and is accessed by winding streets full of trolls, orcs, goblins, wargs and Angmarim who don't take kindly to visitors (or, via the instance finder).

There are several short-cuts to various areas if you have the right keys.

Once inside, the path leading towards the castle is blocked by a gate that requires the Ornate Grate Key. Without that, take the path to the left heading down to the huts in the Slave-pens near the toxic water.

Head downhill towards the Slave-pens

In the cliff-face is an iron gate which requires the Iron Grate Key. Without that, take the ramp nearby past the Fell-water Source to another iron gate guarded by Urro. Defeating him unlocks the gates to the Carn Dûm Sewers.

The sewers are home to leeches and stealthy hornblowers on the raised platform. The passage way opens onto a ledge where trolls and pale-folk are mining the cliffs under Angmarim supervision. Be careful not to get knocked off the ledge! Eventually there is a Gorthorog Guardian and when he is defeated you hear Baraschal call out. Fight past the Guardians and eventually the path will lead up to Baraschal himself.

Baraschal's Domain

He causes dread and tries to heal himself and knock you back. When defeated he drops the Ornate Grate Key.

Head back down. There's a place where you can drop off one platform onto a platform below it with two doors - the one on the left says "Gate" and the one on the right says "Ornate Grate". The Ornate Grate door will take you back into another part of the Sewers, with bigger leeches and Merreveil. One path leads you to some optional Merreveil elites (Bolgrukh, Zûrtith and Tarbâm), the other path leads to a large underground chamber with Helchgam in the middle.

Helchgam

Defeat any tentacles and make your way around the pool to the other side of the cave. He pulls down a pillar and you can get close enough to damage him, but once he grabs onto the floating pillar its time to get back to shore, before he pulls you under along with the pillar. Defeat more tentacles near the next pillar and then he pulls that one down for you to attack him. After a few pillars you should be able to defeat him.

Exit via the tunnel on the opposite side of the cave from where you entered. It will take you back into another part of the Sewers then follow the left path, but when you see the door that requires an Iron Grate Key, turn right towards the entrance to a ruined tower.

Iron Grate door to the left, ruined tower to the right

Climb the stairs until you see the torches with a gate at the end of the hall, hear Sálvakh talking and see pale-folk. Clear the side rooms. Approach the boss and he will call some Angmarim to help him. Once defeated, the gate opens revealing another door behind it.

The door opens to a courtyard ahead with Avalgaith surrounded by High Priestesses. There is also a path leading uphill to the north and a path leading south towards some Angmarim guarding a housing area. Go north to a cave with Merreveil and Azgoth. She causes dread and drops the Iron Grate Key which will be useful. Return to the edge of the courtyard. If you have the quest to rescue Erscin, take the path south to the Duvárdain Quarter. If not, or once completed, enter the courtyard but stay away from the boss.

Avalgaith (the Cargûl in red) surrounded by priestesses and mobs

Clear out the Gorthorog and other mobs around the edge first. When you approach the boss, he will call on the healers and become invincible and cast an aura of dread. Attack a priestess and she will summon several pale-folk and then join the attack herself. Once all priestesses are defeated Avalgaith will attack. He has the Terrible Retribution buff - he will reflect Shadow damage at anyone who uses Common, Westernesse, Ancient Dwarf or Fire damage. Once defeated, a small gate beside a banner opens.

The path winds between some buildings then out onto a wide street with a gate that requires the Ornate Grate Key to the south (leading to the entrance), and a gate requiring the Iron Grate Key to the north (leading to the castle). Head north.

Tárlakh guards the inner gate to the castle. He summons waves of Angmarim from behind you then attacks. You enter the castle and come into a room full of occupied cells. The door at the end of the room is locked. Clear out the cells and Târlug will come through the locked door to investigate. Stairs lead to a similar room but the cells are empty, and there is an aura of dread. Mormoz and several Merreveil hang from the chandelier in the middle of the room! Focus on Mormoz because when the Merreveil take damage and drop down they run to the cells and summon bats.

Continue upstairs. Rodakhan is sleeping on the floor in the middle of a chamber, with Angmarim and Dúvardain in cells around the room. Defeat them first or she will summon them to aid her. When she is almost defeated, she becomes invincible and collapses. Múra then comes and heals her to full health. Defeat Múra then defeat Rodakhan.

Rodakhan at rest

Continue upstairs and Gúrthul the wraith waits ominously in the middle of the room. He has the Terrible Retribution buff and an aura of dread and splits into 6 spirits that attack one by one, each calling out a particular class to stun for 30 seconds. After the 6 spirits, Gúrthul reforms in the middle and can be defeated.

Continue upstairs and you come to a hallway, with a door to the right. The long hallway to the left leads to another door that opens to the Witch-King's Watch, a balcony that looks out over Carn Dûm.

View from the Witch-King's Watch balcony

Once you reach that door, turn around and open the doors along the corridor. A group of Angmarim, then bats and Morroveil, then Gorthorogs and a Cargûl will come out of the side rooms. After the Cargûl, the final door will open to reveal the Witch-King's throne room.

Seat of the Witch-King

Mordirith is on the throne. He is impressed you made it so far, but he wants to prove he's stronger. Make sure you have hope tokens for this and possibly power potions. He goes through many phases, splitting into different forms at times: ghosts, crawling hands, forest-trolls, giants. Some forms will try to knock you back into the lava. Eventually he calls on Mordor for aid and the pattern of the Eye of Sauron glows on the floor and he gains a strong dread debuff. He summons several fallen spirits and tries to remove any hope effects so that you'll be weakened. Use defensive cooldowns if needed and burn him down.

Urugarth - 6 person instance (level 50)

Entrance to Urugarth

Urugarth is a fortress on the outskirts of Carn Dûm, home to some of Angmar's armies.

Near the entrance

Upon entering, there are three paths: A bridge on the left, a bridge in the middle and a path leading uphill towards the entrance on the right.

The bridge on the left is guarded by a few goblins. Across the bridge is a flock of birds and two Uruk bosses, Sorkrank and Burzfîl. They summon more birds during the fight.

The path on the right leads to Dushkâl's Lair, the feasting-hall of Dushkâl, the leader of the Krahjarn trolls and his followers. He summons a few allies who try to smash you with their giant maces.

The bridge in the middle will take you to Akrûr, the leader of the goblins, who tries to heal himself. Once defeated, a gate opens on the left beside his platform and leads you onwards.

Akrur's Throne; left gate to Lhugrien's Roost, right gate to Gríshakrum
Lhugrien's Roost

Some goblins stand on the bridge until they are incinerated by Lhugrien returning to roost on the mountain beyond. Defeat the hatchlings and wardens, then Lhugrien flies down for revenge.

There is a door to Asht-Shâpol that requires a Steel Key. Without the key, return back to Akrûr's throne and a gate has opened on the other side. The path leads downhill and Gríshakrum and some orcs dance around a bonfire. Just a little further down the hill is the South-western Foul Idol. There are five foul idols and near each one is a torch to burn them down (which summons three guards from Lagmas' Court). The Central Foul Idol is directly east of the first idol. The path then continues northwards through some guarded gateways to the Northern Foul Idol which overlooks a sickly green waterfall.

The path leads to the Urugarth Kennels which is full of wargs and ruled over by Athpukh and his pet Lâmkarn. You fight the wargs first, then Athpukh.

Urugarth Kennels

Head back past the Northern Foul Idol and turn left at the gateway. It leads to a bridge and a path heading down towards the green river. Follow the path north by the river to the Fell-water Falls and the North-western Foul Idol. Follow the path back, under the bridge and continue south along the river, across a low bridge to the Southern Foul Idol. Head back to the big bridge.

The bridge to Lagmas' Court

The bridge leads to Lagmas' Court.  Just before the entrance to the courtyard, a path leads down beside the river. At the end of that path, Gruglok and two allies are waiting on a mesh platform over the green water. As you approach, they disappear through a door, the gate closes behind you and you feel a sense of dread as you are trapped in an arena and waves of mobs attack. Finally Gruglok attacks and once he is defeated, you obtain the Steel Key needed to open the door to Asht-Shâpol.

Gruglok's arena

In Lagmas' Court, Morthrâng the Uruk and his trolls Brízrip and Thordragh await, along with additional guards (depending on how many foul idols you burnt). If you enter the court they will all attack at once, but you may be able to pull smaller groups from range or by using crowd control.

The ramp at the back of the courtyard leads to the door to Asht-Shâpol. Even outside the door, you feel a strong sense of dread. Inside is Lagmâs and his birds. He started out in the Ettenmoors but proved to be such a tyrant he was promoted to commanding the armies of Urugarth. He has an aura of Piercing Talons that reflects 15% of damage and his birds slow your attacks.

The Rift of Nûrz Ghâshu - 12 person instance (level 50)

Entrance to the The Rift
Inside the entrance

Angmar's armies seek to mine the Rift of Nûrz Ghâshu in the far north-east to make weapons, but they have uncovered the Eldgang - fire-giants - and an ancient evil that should not have been disturbed. This is a very story-driven instance. All the bosses have a dread aura so hope tokens are recommended.

The miner slaves and overseers are afraid of displeasing their tyrannical masters Barz and Zurm. As you reach the bottom level of Bornabar, you find miners taunting a friendly giant called Asmólf of the Eldgang. He asks you to defeat Barz and Zurm before they can dig into his home.

Asmólf under attack by miners

Barz and Zurm are at the opposite ends of Bornabar but both summon slaves to aid them. Once defeated, Asmólf leads you to the Eldgang camp in Upper Nuruidor. They ask you to help defeat the Ghâshfra - fire orcs - who have invaded their home. You find the troll Frûz and his minions not far away. He summons allies whose presence give him the Strength in Numbers buff which heals him.

The Eldgang home in Upper Nuruidor
Zogtark and the fire drakes

In Lower Nuruidor, Zogtark and his minions are trying to control fire-drakes. If you get close to his elder fire-drakes he will fight to defend and heal them, while the drakes cast fireballs at you.

Behind the drakes was a door that leads to the Norbar Approach, which is a lava pit. At the end of the islands (defeat the fumaroles ASAP to reduce fire damage taken) is the Ever-Seer (who has a very strong dread aura) reproaching Narnûlubat. Starting the fight is tricky. You have to step onto the platform near the Ever-Seer, and kite Narnûlubat away from the Ever-Seer and the fire Seers, but not too far or he resets. He hits hard and reflects all damage while the fire Seers live, so the tank will need lots of healing. Wait for the Ever-Seer to leave, then eliminate any Darklings approaching the void hole and the fire Seers (from range because they have a fire aura) to remove the protection from the boss so that he can be defeated.

The Ever-Seer and Narnûlubat

The door opens into Norbar. The Shadow-Eater and Stone-biter are visible behind a gate, so make sure everyone is ready before opening it. Defeat any Darklings that approach and aim to defeat both bosses at the same time as defeating the Stone-biter first causes several adds to spawn. The Shadow-Eater also casts Channelling the Void for a short while which deals shadow damage to anyone nearby.

Thrang's arena

The next door leads into a fiery arena and the Ever-Seer is giving orders to Eimyr of the Eldgang to destroy "the little people" (i.e. you) who have brought the orcs. He agrees to obey despite his doubts. After you descend the stairs into the arena, Eimyr will attack. He will need to be kited (but avoid hurting him) while waves of fire-orcs attack from the stairs. Defeat the fire-orcs and Eimyr starts to believe you are more friend than foe and leaves. Thrâng, the leader of the Ghâshfra, and four shamans arrive. Defeat the shamans first so Thrâng is no longer invincible or reflects all damage. He still has the Tempered by Flame buff which reduces the damage he takes, so kite him near a fumarole to remove the buff. He occasionally deals a fire AOE that stuns anyone nearby. Once he is defeated Eimyr returns with the Eldgang and thanks you.

The Eldgang no longer trust the lying Ever-Seer. Thaurlach the Balrog has plagued the Eldgang for centuries, until Glathlírel the Elf and the Blue Wanderers chained him up. Now the Ever-Seer wants to set the Balrog free for his own purposes.

Glathlírel
Thaurlach's prison

You enter the Gorthban Approach which leads to Thaurlach's prison. Inside Gorthban itself, you meet Glathlírel and she tells you her history, then takes you to check on Thaurlach. He is agitated and getting stronger, and the water has been corrupted. You must protect her from Darklings and World-eaters while she purifies the water. Once done, she returns to Thaurlach, just as he breaks free from his chains.

Note: if Glathlírel dies, it's an instant wipe.

Group Strategy:


Ever-Seer's room at the back

A tank and a healer stay to keep the elf alive, while everyone else runs to the Ever-Seer's room behind Thaurlach. In there, defeat the Darklings then damage the Ever-Seer and remove any debuffs he applies. Once defeated, turn levers 2 and 3 to unlock the door and remove the Eldritch Renewal healing buff on Thaurlach then return to the elf. Thaurlach will cast Baleful Roar which removes any hope buffs and causes shadow damage. Position him so DPS can avoid his frontal melee AOE attacks and tail swipe. As his health drops he will cast random effects (like dealing more damage or healing) and occasionally put debuffs on anyone in front of him. Once his health gets down to 50k, he starts flying around and landing with an AOE splash that is instantly fatal to anyone nearby touched by the toxic water. When he gets down to 10k he will attack the elf so needs to be taunted off her ASAP, then finish him off quickly.

Solo Strategy:

A high level ranged player could potentially solo Thaurlach if they:
  • stand behind and to the side of him (be in position before he gets free from his chains) and DPS him faster than he can heal (10k HP/10 sec) or kill the elf (about 40 seconds) (e.g. hunters)
  • stand near the elf and both DPS him and heal the elf (e.g. minstrels)

Monday, 2 July 2018

Public Instance: Sarnur

Entrance to Sarnúr

Sarnúr is a large cavern in the ruins of Orodost, not far from Thorin's Hall in Ered Luin. There is a Dourhand dwarven stronghold, but below are caves filled with trolls and creatures that like the cold, including a dragon. It is a public dungeon with mobs between level 45-50 and a great place to get Thorin's Hall rep (tokens drop from most mobs) and complete some deeds. 

There are several quests available from NPCs in front of The Blue Garrison in Thorin's Hall that give rep. You can reach kindred with Thorin's Hall in a few hours (the goat may be useful in Moria!). There is also Ancient Iron/Ancient Silver and beasts drop Exceptional Hide. Lots of Master (tier 5) recipes drop as well.

Many of the mobs are resistant to any damage type except Ancient Dwarf, so it would really help to use an Ancient Dwarf type weapon. Most mobs also respawn fairly quickly so keep moving. Safe spots to rest are near the entrances to the Great Hall and the Keep.

Sarnúr Great Hall

The Great Hall


The entrance level can easily be soloed as it has single or small groups of Dourhands, hendroveil and cave claws (level 46-47). Northpaw is a rare stealthed lynx that patrols and is resistant to most damage except Ancient Dwarf. Latub is a rare goblin that can spawn near the bridge in the middle of the Great Hall, or near the tunnel or stairs leading down to the caverns.

Sarnúr Keep

Sarnúr Keep


In the northwest corner of the Great Hall are some large doors leading to the Keep. Inside the Keep are more Dourhands, plus wargs and goblins (level 48-49); they are resistant to most damage except Ancient Dwarf but can still be soloed. Faded parchments for the quest "Gathering Ancient Scrolls" can be found in the main chamber and downstairs.

There is a tunnel on the right of the entrance that leads up two floors with some chambers and narrow ledges, but ultimately dead ends.

There are stairs on the left of the entrance that lead to a cave with the Forge of the Blue Dwarves. Beware the freezing water!

Glúmir is a rare Dourhand that has several spawn locations (dead end tunnel on the left, in the lower cave near the water or on the stairs overlooking the hallway). Defeating him is the objective of the quest "Retrieve the Rune-shards".

Sarnúr Caverns

Caverns


On the right of the Great Hall is a tunnel guarded by Dourhands that leads downstairs. This area is recommended for fellowships as the mobs are in larger groups and there are more elites.

In the first chamber there are some Dourhands and cave claws fighting some elite Snow-Trolls (level 46-47). Clear out the Dourhands and cave claws then you can kite the trolls if needed. Watch out for their stun and knock back attacks. There are two quests requiring defeating trolls: "Dispatch the Snow-Trolls" and "Cleanse the Ruins of Sarnúr".

The tunnel continues down and opens into a large area with a shallow river and elite snow-trolls, snow-beasts and snowbears. This area can be seen from the Great Hall as the bottom floor.

Gâdhâp is an elite level 48 troll who may be guarding the bottom of the tunnel, or patrolling the bridges. Icerender the Snowbeast is a rare level 47-48 elite master that can be found near the river. Brúllug is a rare level 49-50 nemesis of a drake who flies and patrols the caverns. These rares are resistant to most damage except Ancient Dwarf. The fellowship quest "Defeat the Cavern Horrors" asks you to defeat either Gâdhâp or Brúllug.
 

Deeds


Some of these may also count for Ered Luin deed completion (e.g. defeating Dourhands and hendroveil).

  • Betrayer's Bane (5 Lotro Points and "Betrayer's Bane" title) - defeat 80 Dourhands
  • Betrayer's Bane Advanced (10 Lotro Points) - defeat 160 Dourhands
  • Master of Beasts (5 Lotro Points and "Master of Beasts" title) - defeat 80 beasts
  • Master of Beasts Advanced (10 Lotro Points) - defeat 160 beasts
  • Troll-kicker (5 Lotro Points and "Troll-kicker" title) - defeat 40 snow-trolls
  • Troll-kicker Advanced (10 Lotro Points) - defeat 80 snow-trolls 
  • Avenger of Sarnúr (10 Lotro Points and "Avenger of Sarnúr" title) - defeat the 6 rares 

Quests, deeds and tokens from Sarnúr can contribute to notoriety with Thorin's Hall:

  • Known to Thorin's Hall (5 Lotro Points and "Known to Thorin's Hall" title) - acquaintance
  • Friend to Thorin's Hall (10 Lotro Points and "Friend of the Hall" title) - friend
  • Ally of Thorin's Hall (15 Lotro Points and "Ally to the Hall" title) - ally
  • Kindred to Thorin's Hall (20 Lotro Points and "Thorin's Hall Monitor" title) - kindred  

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Level 115 Gear

Myndariel finally reached level 115 while doing some Erebor quests in Northern Mirkwood. It's been a slow and arduous journey levelling from 105 to 115 and I hope they don't make any regions like Mordor again because it wasn't fun. Northern Mirkwood, on the other hand, is beautiful and a joy to explore and quest through.

Now that I'm 115, I need new gear. So where do I get level 115 gear?

  • Crafted gear
  • Quests in Northern Mirkwood
  • Dungeons/raids/instances
  • Barter with factions
  • World drops
  • Auction hall
Unfortunately, skirmish camp gear only goes up to level 105 at present.

The maximum level for legendary items is still level 100.

World Drops


These scaled items have no Light of Eärendil and generally no essence slots. Item levels range from about 304 to 315. They can drop from mobs, be found in treasure caches, or for sale at the auction hall.

Quests


Some quest chains in Northern Mirkwood reward you with level 115 gear with item level 340. I got gloves from Dale, a helmet from Erebor, and boots from Felegoth.

Crafted Gear


Some crafted gear have essence slots and most have Light of Eärendil. Recipes must be purchased from barterers. Crafted gear may be for sale at the auction hall.

Conquest of Gorgoroth (Mordor)

The Quartermaster (Conquest of Gorgoroth Crafting) has Doomfold recipes for item level 323 to 326 armour, weapons, jewellery and minstrel instruments. There are also superior minstrel instrument recipes for item level 336 instruments.

The Quartermaster (Gorgoroth Crafting Vendor) has superior versions of Doomfold recipes for item level 333 to 335 weapons, armour and jewellery. Ally standing with Conquest of Gorgoroth is required to purchase recipes.

Men of Dale (Northern Mirkwood)

The Quartermaster (Men of Dale Crafting) has Doomfold recipes for item level 345 helmets, Will pocket and Will necklace. Kindred standing with the Men of Dale is required to purchase recipes.

Elves of Felegoth (Northern Mirkwood)

The Quartermaster (Elves of Felegoth Crafting) has Doomfold recipes for item level 345 helmets, Agility pocket and Agility necklace. Kindred standing with the Elves of Felegoth is required to purchase recipes.

Dwarves of Erebor (Northern Mirkwood)

The Quartermaster (Dwarves of Erebor Crafting) has Doomfold recipes for item level 345 helmets, Might pocket and Might necklace. Kindred standing with the Dwarves of Erebor is required to purchase recipes.

Barter with Factions


Gear can be earned by completing quests and tasks to impress various factions and collecting the appropriate tokens of barter.

Conquest of Gorgoroth (Mordor)

The Quartermaster (Gorgoroth Rewards Vendor) has item level 330 off-hand weapons and shields for barter. Ally standing with Conquest of Gorgoroth is required to purchase items.

The High Enchanter (Elf-smith) has item level 330 armour and jewellery for barter using Ash of Enchantment. Ally standing with Conquest of Gorgoroth is required to purchase items.

The Keeper of Mysteries (Vendor of Rare Oddities) has item level 337 armour for barter using Ash of Enchantment.

Men of Dale (Northern Mirkwood)

The Quartermaster (Men of Dale Rewards Vendor) has item level 340 light armour and jewellery for barter. Acquaintance standing with Men of Dale is required to purchase items (some items require higher levels of reputation).

Elves of Felgoth (Northern Mirkwood)

The Quartermaster (Elves of Felegoth Rewards Vendor) has item level 340 medium armour and jewellery for barter. Acquaintance standing with Elves of Felegoth is required to purchase items (some items require higher levels of reputation).

Dwarves of Erebor (Northern Mirkwood)

The Quartermaster (Dwarves of Erebor Rewards Vendor) has item level 340 heavy armour and jewellery for barter. Acquaintance standing with Dwarves of Erebor is required to purchase items (some items require higher levels of reputation).

Allegiance Halls

Quartermasters for the Court of Lothlórien, Durin's Folk, The Kingdom of Gondor, and Hobbits of the Company have item level 330 armour and jewellery for barter.

Instances (dungeons/raids/challenges etc.)


The Featured Challenge Rewards Vendor has item level 340 class sets of armour (with set bonuses) for barter.

The Plateau of Gorgoroth instances (The Court of Seregost - small fellowship, The Dungeons of Naerband - fellowship, The Abyss of Mordath - raid) are designed for level 105-115 and has gear drops with Light of Eärendil. The item level will depend on the instance level (based on preliminary data from Lotro-Wiki, it appears that at level 115 the item level will be at least 330).

Essences


You can purchase Tier 10 essences from:
  • Keeper of Mysteries (Vendor of Rare Oddities)
  • Quartermaster (Men of Dale Rewards) - requires Kindred standing with Men of Dale
  • Quartermaster (Elves of Felegoth Rewards) - requires Kindred standing with Elves of Felegoth
  • Quartermaster (Dwarves Rewards) - requires Kindred standing with Dwarves of Erebor

Crafting essences of your choice may also be an option:

EssenceItem LevelRecipe SourceRequirements
Shadow Essence326Conquest of Gorgoroth Crafting...
Empowered Shadow Essence330Gorgoroth Crafting VendorAlly (Conquest of Gorgoroth)
Abyssal Essence337......
Empowered Abyssal Essence345......
Northern Stronghold Essence345Men of Dale Crafting

Elves of Felegoth Crafting

Dwarves of Erebor Crafting
Kindred (Men of Dale)

Kindred (Elves of Felegoth)

Kindred (Dwarves of Erebor)


I will try to update this if changes occur or I learn of other sources of level 115 gear.

    Saturday, 16 June 2018

    Introducing the Rune-keeper: Level 1-20

    Rune-keepers attune themselves to words of power that let them unleash fire or lightning damage, or healing. Both elves (including high elves) and dwarves have a significant history with runes and secret or lost languages and are the only races who can become rune-keepers.

    Rune-keepers wield a rune-stone as a weapon, and carry a special satchel for storing it. Jewelers can make rune-stones and there are three types with slightly different stat priorities: fire, lightning or ice. RKs (as rune-keepers are often called for short) are spell-casters so usually stay at range, although in the lightning spec they often need to be close to their targets.

    The rune-keeper class is not readily available to free-to-play players: you will need LOTRO Points to buy the class (795 points) or the Moria expansion which includes the class (2495 points).

    Here I'll record my experience levelling a rune-keeper from level 1 to 20, talking about skills, specs and anything else that might be useful to know.

    Level 1 Elf Rune-keeper

    Here's our brand new rune-keeper and some information about her:
    • Wears light armour
    • Wields a rune-stone (counts as a two-handed weapon but it looks like you're dual-wielding them in combat)
    • Has a rune-satchel equipped in the class slot
    • Primary stat is Will (although strangely, Agility is shown as the highest stat at level 1!?!)
    • Starting abilities are: Fiery Ridicule (a fire damage over time spell that stacks up to 3 times and increases Battle attunement by 1 point), Scribe's Spark (an instant lightning damage spell that increases Battle attunement by 1 point), Shocking Words (an instant lightning damage and stun spell that has a 20 second cooldown and returns attunement to Neutral), and Prelude to Hope (a heal over time spell that increases Healing attunement by 1 point).

    This is the Attunement Metre:
    Rune-keeper attunement bar
    When you are out of combat for awhile, or use certain skills, your attunement returns to Neutral (or Steady-state) in the middle of the attunement bar. Damage skills increase the Battle attunement and little bars will turn yellow to red from the middle towards the left. At 10 points of Battle attunement, the bar to the left will be completely lit up red. Using healing spells will move the attunement towards the right. At 10 points of Healing attunement, the bar to the right will be completely lit up green (but if you were in full Battle attunement, it would take 20 points to move the attunement to full Healing attunement).

    When you start a new rune-keeper, you will find an item in your inventory called "Rune-keeper -- Attunement" and it gives a brief overview of the class that you might find useful (for example, the characters marked on the attunement bar; the symbol like an "F" represents the Sindarin word "Dagor" and means "battle", the symbol like a "b" represents the Sindarin word "Thalas" and means "steady", and the symbol that looks a bit like a "m" represents the Sindarin word "Nestad" and means "healing").

    The first quest in the introduction provides a satchel that contains a better rune-stone. At level 2 you are sent to the rune-keeper trainer who wants you to practise using Fiery Ridicule against a training dummy. They give you a new rune-stone and a handy hint - skill icons that increase Battle attunement will have a red background and skill icons that increase Healing attunement will have a green background.

    At level 6 you get a new skill. Chilling Rhetoric does frost damage and reduces your target's movement speed, but it has a 20 second cooldown which really limits its usefulness.

    Also at level 6 you get to choose a specialisation. The options are:
    • Blue = Benediction of Peace - focuses on healing, especially with heal over time (HoT) skills. You also gain several skills: Rune-sign of Winter is a HoT that also reduces damage taken while Writ of Health is a HoT that can stack up to 3 times.
    • Red = Cleansing Flame - focuses on long-range DPS, especially with fiery damage over time (DoT) spells that are channelled or have a cast time. You also gain Smouldering Wrath (a fire DoT that is channelled) and Writ of Fire (a fire DoT that can stack up to 3 times).
    • Yellow = Solitary Thunder - focuses on short-range DPS with instant lightning damage. You also gain Sustaining Bolt which does an instant burst of lightning damage and reduces power costs for skills for 15 seconds, but also resets attunement to Neutral and has a 15 second cooldown, and Writ of Lightning which deals lightning damage and reduces the target's lightning resistance.

    So for questing and levelling, Red or Yellow are the main options. For healing in groups or instances, choose Blue. From what I've heard and experienced myself so far, Red has stronger DPS but you have to stay still while you cast. Yellow has instant-cast skills which gives more mobility, and more crowd-control skills, but you have to get close to your target (and you've only got light armour so you're rather squishy), you have cooldowns to wait for and the DPS is more spiky (lightning *is* spiky hahaha, but I meant more affected by procs and crits or lack thereof). However, because they have such different play-styles you should probably try both specs and see which one you enjoy most.

    After completing the introduction, don't forget to check your mail for the adventurer's gift. It contains several useful items and starts a couple of quests, including one that rewards 5 Tokens of Salutations which can be traded with the Barterer for a pocket item that increases run speed plus some health or power potions. The run speed buff can be quite helpful, especially if you don't have a mount.

    At level 7 you get your first trait point that you can spend on your chosen specialisation. You get a new trait point every odd level.

    Here's a cosmetic tip - rune-satchels are typically turquoise and brown, but that might not look good with your beautiful outfit. However, you can dye a rune-satchel and add it to your cosmetic outfit panel, or you can add a rune-satchel to the wardrobe and apply several dyes to match different outfits. Unfortunately there are not many styles of rune-satchel to choose from.


    Default Rune-satchel

    Rune-satchel dyed Rust

    Here's another tip - you can purchase a Simple Chisel or Simple Riffler from the Rune-keeper Trainer (or metalsmiths can craft better versions) which goes in your ranged weapon slot. Chisels give extra stats (such as increased tactical mastery which increases damage/healing plus either finesse, in-combat power regeneration or critical strike) while Rifflers increase stats and can alter some attributes (such as increased tactical mastery plus either reduced threat, increased Prelude to Hope healing or all Writs have reduced power costs).

    At level 8 you get Shocking Touch, a melee-range lightning spell that dazes the target and moves attunement 3 points towards Neutral. It also has a 20 second cooldown.

    At level 10 you become eligible for Epic Battles such as Retaking Pelargir, but although you get scaled up to level 100, without all your equipment slots filled and with limited abilities, it may not be a very successful or satisfactory experience.

    The next new skill is learnt at level 14. Word of Exultation is a bubble that grants extra health temporarily. It requires you to be in healing attunement, so it may be difficult to apply to yourself in the middle of a fight. If in battle, use a skill to return you to neutral attunement then cast Prelude to Hope (or another healing spell) to activate healing attunement, then quickly use Word of Exultation when it becomes available. The effect lasts 12 seconds and has a 30 second cooldown.

    Word of Exultation bubble

    I've been trying out both fire and lightning specs and I had an interesting experience in the spider grove in Rath Teraig in Ered Luin. In fire spec, I was getting higher DPS if I alternated between Writ of Fire and Fiery Ridicule, but that ended up pulling several spiders into combat with me. I dotted them all up and burned them down but I was taking quite a lot of damage while casting and had to use Prelude to Hope to heal myself. I changed to lightning spec and alternated between Writ of Lightning and Scribe's Spark and I was pulling each spider individually, killing them in a couple of hits and not taking any damage.

    At level 15 Rune-keeper trainers can sell you a better rune-satchel. Basic Rune-satchel of Dagor increases Shocking Words damage by 2%, Basic Rune-satchel of Nestad increases Prelude to Hope pulses by 1 and Basic Rune-satchel of Thalas reduces target resistance to Shocking Touch. Tailors can make even better rune-satchels for level 20+. You also get a quest to visit Techeryn outside the Forsaken Inn in The Lone-lands. They can teach you more about the power of words and runes.

    The Forsaken Inn with Weathertop in the background
    Techeryn asks you to join her on Weathertop for the lesson. A storm rages as you place rune-stones on top of flat stones at Weathertop's summit. Orcs try to drive you off the mountain, but you must hold your ground and wait. Lightning strikes each of the rune-stones then Techeryn explains the rune on the stone represents "thunder-bolt" - you effectively told the lightning where to hit and it did. That is the power of the rune-keeper. As a reward, you are given a new rune-stone and the title "Eye in the Storm".

    The "thunder-bolt" rune-stone rests on the flat stone

    At level 18 you get two new skills: Scribe a New Ending is a cleanse that removes a debuff (wound/poison/disease/fear) from you or an ally every 2 seconds for 6 seconds (up to 3 debuffs in total - very helpful!). Epic for the Ages is a direct heal with a long cast time, a 15 second cooldown and requires healing attunement.

    You also get two new skills at level 20. Nothing Truly Ends is an out-of-combat resurrection skill and Break the Bonds breaks you out of crowd-control effects.

    Some of my gear was quite low level, so I upgraded my armour and jewellery at the Skirmish Camp. Now Fate is my highest stat, followed by Vitality and Will. Skirmishes become available at level 20 so I did the introduction quests for that too.

    Here's how my rune-keeper looks now at level 20:
    Elf Rune-keeper at level 20

    Then I headed to the Training Hall in Bree and tested Red and Yellow specs' DPS with no consumable buffs active over 3 minutes or until I ran out of power, and took a screenshot at the end to eliminate the effects of DoTs that kept going after I stopped attacking. I repeated this three times and recorded the best result below. For virtues, I had one tier of Compassion and three tiers of Charity. With my 7 trait points, in Red spec I placed 5 points in Deliberate Address for +5% Tactical Damage and 2 points in Conflagration of Runes for +6% Fiery Ridicule Damage, while in Yellow spec I put 5 points in Confounding Principles for +5s daze effect and +25% damage from Shocking Words, and 2 points in Cutting Remarks for +2% Tactical Critical Chance.

    Here are my DPS results (collected with the CombatAnalysis plugin):

    StatisticsRed (Cleansing Flame)*Yellow (Solitary Thunder)
    Total Damage591211977
    Time1 m 24 s3 m 0.2 s
    Average DPS70.466.5
    Minimum Hit554
    Average Hit61.6113.0
    Maximum Hit266382
    Attacks96106
    Critical Strikes (%)19 (19.8%)18 (17.0%)
    Power (%)1207/1300 (92.8%)1290/1300 (99.2%)
    Skill Priorities:
    1. Writ of Fire
    2. Fiery Ridicule
    3. Smouldering Wrath
    1. Sustaining Bolt
    2. Writ of Lightning
    3. Scribe's Spark
    * Data collected by manually reviewing combat log

    For Yellow, I tried including Ceaseless Remarks (from the yellow class traits tree) in the rotation but it used a lot more power (only 25-30% power remaining after 3 min instead of 99%) and average DPS was about 60. Instead, using Writ of Lightning and Scribe's Spark until Sustaining Bolt is available worked better. If in melee range, using this rotation and Shocking Words on cooldown produced slightly higher DPS than shown above (about 75 DPS) and also used neglible power.

    For Red, I had a lot of trouble recording the combat because it kept stopping while Smouldering Wrath was channelling. With three stacks of Writ of Fire and Fiery Ridicule, then using Smouldering Wrath, I was getting around 90-110 DPS before it stopped recording, usually around the 15 second mark (so no indication of sustained damage potential).

    So I manually timed 3 minutes of attacking the training dummy then reviewed the combat log. It did not show the full 3 minutes, only the last 90 seconds or so. I recorded the type and damage of each attack (e.g. Fiery Ridicule: 89, Writ of Fire Tier 3: 63 or Searing Words: 45) and whether it was a crit or not. I repeated this three times and recorded the best result above. Under the circumstances this seems to be the best estimate I can provide.

    General Observations

    I was disappointed with the rune-keeper - it feels like it doesn't have enough abilities at level 20 to really give you a good idea of what it's capable of at higher levels. Spamming two builder skills and an execute doesn't take much strategy, although maybe keeping track of stacks and procs does (I've heard the BuffBars plugin is recommended). The DPS was much lower than I expected too. It seems this is just the tip of the iceberg and there's a lot more complexity to come. I guess you just have to be patient, but I don't really like waiting for a class to get better - I want it to be fun and interesting from the start. I have two other rune-keepers levelled to 42 that I want to like, but they are still a chore to play.

    If you're going into a difficult battle, try using Prelude to Hope before starting combat so that your health keeps getting topped up as you fight. It's only a small heal though so you may still need potions.

    Stats

    • Will - your main stat that increases damage and healing
    • Fate - increases survivability (morale/power regeneration), damage and healing (increases critical strike chance)
    • Morale and Vitality - increases survivability
    • Critical Strike Rating - increases damage and healing
    • Mitigations and Resistances - reduces damage taken

    These stats should help make the levelling process a bit easier in the beginning. Look for light armour with will and maybe some jewellery with critical strike rating or fate. Morale is always helpful (vitality also increases morale). The best place to get mitigations and resistances at low level is probably from virtues.

    Here are some virtues that may be helpful for Rune-keepers and how to get them by level 20:

    VirtueActivityDeed
    INNOCENCE

    (physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, resistance)
    Complete 75 quests in The ShireLife of a Bounder (Final)(The Shire)
    COMPASSION

    (physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, non-combat power regeneration)
    Complete 15 quests in The Shire

    Complete 20 quests in Ered Luin
    Life of a Bounder (The Shire)

    Defender of Ered Luin (Ered Luin)
    WISDOM

    (will, in-combat power regeneration, resistance)

    Explore Elf-ruins in Ered Luin

    Explore the Old Forest in Bree-land

    Find pages from the Journal of Cardolan in the Barrow-downs
    Elf-ruins Exploration (Ered Luin)

    The Old Forest (Bree-land)

    Lore of the Cardolan Prince (Bree-land)
    IDEALISM

    (will, fate, resistance)
    Find relics of the Dúnedain in Bree-land

    Find flowers in The Old Forest in Bree-land
    The History of the Dúnedain (Bree-land)

    Flowers of the Old Forest (Bree-land)
    PATIENCE

    (physical mitigation, resistance, in-combat power regeneration)
    Explore Dwarven settlements in Ered Luin

    Retrieve spoiled pies in The Shire

    Deliver mail between settlements in The Shire

    Explore the ruins of Bree-land

    Explore the Barrow-downs in Bree-land
    Places of the Dwarves (Ered Luin)

    No Place for Spoiled Pies (The Shire)

    Restoring the Quick Post (The Shire)

    The Ruins of Bree-land (Bree-land)

    The Barrow-downs (Bree-land)
    ZEAL

    (morale, physical mitigation, armour)
    Defeat 90 goblins in Ered Luin

    Defeat 90 spiders in Ered Luin

    Defeat 90 Barrow-spiders in Bree-land
    Goblin-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

    Spider-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

    Brood-hunter (Advanced)(Bree-land)
    FIDELITY

    (tactical mitigation, vitality, power)
    Explore landmarks in The Shire

    Explore Dourhand strongholds in Ered Luin
    The Sights of the Shire (The Shire)

    Scouting the Dourhands (Ered Luin)

    Pros of the Rune-keeper Class

    • Potential to have good DPS at high level (red spec is popular for raiding)

    Cons of the Rune-keeper Class

    • Has either limited mobility (red spec) or range (yellow spec)
    • Can be squishy
    • Limited AOE at low levels
    • Low DPS and healing at low levels
    • Doesn't reach full potential until high level
    • Lots of debuffs to keep track of

    I hope this has been helpful. Feel free to leave any questions or advice for new rune-keepers below.

    Coming soon in the Introducing X Class series: the Warden.