Sunday, 13 August 2017

Introducing the Hunter: Level 1-20 (High Elf Edition)

Hunters are ranged archers, shooting their targets with bows from afar or using traps and decoys to control their opponents' position. They have melee weapons ready for close combat and a range of utility skills, including transporting themselves or a group to many important cities or camps throughout Middle Earth (see Travelling Around Middle Earth for more information). They are a strong DPS class with three interesting specialisations.

Here I'll record my experience levelling as a hunter from level 1 to 20, talking about skills and specs and anything else that may be useful to know. The High Elf starting experience is a little different from normal but once you complete the introduction the levelling should be similar between races.

Level 1 High Elf Hunter

Here's our brand new hunter and some basic information about her:
  • Hunters wear medium armour
  • Primary stat is Agility
  • The main weapon is a bow, but also dual-wield one-handed melee weapons such as daggers, swords, or axes.
  • Starting abilities are: Quick Shot (a ranged attack that generates focus), Penetrating Shot (a ranged attack that costs focus and bypasses enemy mitigations) and Blindside (a melee attack followed by a close-range ranged attack).

Focus is a key resource used by hunters. You build it up and then spend it on powerful attacks. At higher levels you will gain abilities that let you build it up quickly before or during battle. You could also gain bonus focus or reduce focus costs when using certain skills.

The high elf is initially scaled up to level 110 in the introduction in stats but not skills, and starts with a bow and a pair of daggers (one of the daggers is in your bags). When you return to Elrond's House, you are returned to level 1 stats. You receive a gift from Elrond which contains your old armour from the Second Age, some armour dyes, a housing decoration (a Radiant Basin), some basic food and some healing potions. You also gain the Milestone skill, automatically set to Celondim in Ered Luin, and the novice passive skill.

Arrival in Celondim, Ered Luin

The high elf is boosted to level 5 on arrival in Celondim. You also gain several skills:
  • Set Trap: place a trap at your feet that will deal damage and root enemies in place for 30 seconds, giving you time to get away.
  • Stance - Strength: this stance can be toggled on or off and increases your damage and critical chance. It also gives Quick Shot a slowing effect.
  • Barbed Arrow: a ranged attack that generates focus, causes a bleeding effect (damage over time) and slows enemies.

At level 6 you can choose a specialisation. Here are the different specialisations you can choose:
  • Blue = Huntsman - you can shoot while moving; you also gain Barrage (a ranged shot that costs focus and deals more damage each time it is used) and Scourging Blow (a melee attack that deals more damage if the enemy is bleeding from Barbed Arrow).
  • Red = Bowmaster - you can attack faster and have greater range; you also gain Pinning Shot which roots an enemy in place for 5 seconds.
  • Yellow = Trapper of Foes - you have many crowd control options and can cast traps while moving; you also gain Lingering Wound (an instant ranged attack that causes a bleed effect and stacks up to 4 times) and Decoy (an object that causes enemies to attack it instead of you).

I've played all the specs on various hunters and they're all good, with different playstyles. Blue offers great mobility and sustained damage, Red needs to stand still to shoot but has high burst damage, and Yellow has lots of crowd control and defensive buffs.

At level 7 you get your first trait point to spend in your chosen specialisation. You get additional trait points every odd level from now on, as well as from some quests and deeds.

At level 8 you gain the Focus skill which lets you fill up your Focus before combat so you can start with some strong attacks.

At level 10 you gain a couple of skills: Swift Bow, which generates 2 focus and hits hard, but has a long cast time (can be a useful opening skill, if the enemy doesn't know you're winding up a big shot), and Passage of Nature, which lets you track beasts (good for finding rare mobs or quest objectives). 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.

You get a great skill at level 12: Find the Path. This is a toggled ability that gives you and your nearby fellowship members a run-speed buff when out of combat. You probably want this on all the time, so when you log in, change specs or get defeated you may need to turn it on again.

At level 14 you can Purge Poison (as well as wounds, disease and fear debuffs) from yourself.

By the time you get to level 15 you've probably got several quests sending you to Bree and Bree-land. At level 15 you get a quest in the mail suggesting you should visit a hunter trainer. The hunter trainer urges you to seek out Gytha Lainey at Adso's Camp in Bree-land who needs you to track down a wolf in the Old Forest.

Track down and defeat Yellowfang in the Old Forest

On completing the quest, you receive a furry helmet and the title "Swift Arrow".

At level 15 you also gain some passive abilities, namely that you can now wield clubs, hammers and maces, and you can also use Hand-wrought Traps (except these weaponsmith recipes and items are obsolete and no longer in the game).

I had been levelling as Yellow, but I switched to Red. At the Brigand's Watch camp in Bree-land, it seemed almost unfair that I could stand there, fill up my focus bar and then one-shot three of the brigands as fast as I could cast Penetrating Shot three times. They didn't even have time to warn their friends standing right next to them.

The Precision stance becomes available at level 16. With this stance toggled on, you gain some focus every 5 seconds, a brief finesse buff upon activation and Quick Shot has an increased critical strike chance.

At level 18 you get an AOE melee attack, Low Cut, which also slows enemies. I still had quests to do in Vale of Andrath and Adso's Camp, but I decided to head to the Barrow-downs because the rewards are better and I knew I would reach level 20 quickly there.

Usually there are racial deeds to be completed before gaining racial trait skills, but at level 19 I automatically got the High Elf skill Wrath of the Firstborn which, when slotted, gives you and your fellowship a 5% damage boost for 10 seconds on a 10 minute cooldown.

At level 20 you gain several skills which aid survival. Cry of the Hunter dazes and slows nearby mobs and gives you a morale "bubble" which absorbs damage and a speed boost to help you get away. You also get Desperate Flight which lets you travel instantly to the nearest rally point, on a 30 minute cooldown. Then there are also some new passive abilities: you can use Fire-oil when causes some of your shots to do extra fire damage to mobs. Fire-oil can be made by scholars or bought from Hunter Trainers. You can also use spears now.

Great view of Bree from the Dead-man's Perch
I went to the skirmish camp to upgrade any gear I could and found that skirmish gear is invisible on High Elves, at least in the character window. Fortunately I still had cosmetic armour showing or that might be embarrassing!

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

Level 20 High Elf Hunter (with invisible skirmish armour)

I then went to the training dummies in the Training Hall in Bree and found several other people using the dummies so I did the skirmish training and Siege of Gondamon instead. It was quite easy picking enemies off as they approached, but when I was casting Focus before the next wave of mobs arrived, the channelling would get interrupted if my skirmish soldier started combat.

I returned to the Training Hall and tested each spec's unbuffed DPS over 3 minutes (or until power runs out), and took a screenshot at the end to eliminate the effects of DoTs that kept going after I stopped attacking. For virtues, I had one tier of Compassion and three tiers of Charity active. With my 7 trait points, I focused on damage-boosting traits where possible.

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

Trapper of Foes
Time3 m 0.3 s3 m 0.8 s3 m 0.4 s
Average DPS202.2213.4178.3
Minimum Hit353334
Average Hit219206191
Maximum Hit206113171317
Critical Strikes (%)41 (24.7%)40 (21.4%)27 (16.1%)
Skill Priorities
  1. Focus
  2. Barrage
  3. Quick Shot
  1. Focus
  2. Penetrating Shot
  3. Quick Shot
  1. Focus
  2. Penetrating Shot
  3. Quick Shot

For the test, I started in Strength Stance, filled the Focus bar, cast 3 Penetrating Shots and then went into building up focus with 3 Quick Shots then spending it on Penetrating Shot (or Barrage). A very simple rotation, but in normal combat you should consider all your skills and which is most useful for the situation.

I was surprised that I was able to keep fighting for the full 3 minutes without power issues (10-30% power remaining at the end), as many of the other classes run out sooner.

I also tried using Barbed Arrow every 10 seconds in the rotation to keep up the damage over time debuff, but DPS ended up being about 17% lower in Red spec, possibly because it has a longer cast time and deals less damage up front. Even in Yellow spec which has bonuses to damage over time early in the trait tree, it was still a DPS loss to use Barbed Arrow or Lingering Wound. This may change at higher levels (for example, with full traits and legendary item legacies, Barbed Arrow may do more damage than Quick Shot or Swift Bow).

For the Blue spec, I tried both Penetrating Shot and Barrage as the focus spender skill and the average DPS was very close (199.1 for Penetrating Shot, 202.2 for Barrage). Average hit damage were similar, but Barrage had much higher maximum hit damage. Barrage used slightly more power than Penetrating Shot but after 3 minutes, with Penetrating Shot there was still 29.9% power left and with Barrage there was still 24.9% power left.

General Observations

Hunters have a lot of utility from early in the game - speed buffs, slows, purges, defensive bubbles, crowd control, mob tracking. Plus, the simple rotation but lots of options and having both ranged and melee abilities - hunters can deal with almost anything. They are very easy to level.

Strength stance seems to be the best in general, but learn when to use Precision or Endurance (becomes available later) stances.

Be careful not to break crowd control by using AOE abilities like Rain of Thorns (becomes available later). Also be careful not to pull threat off the tank when in a group situation, although it may be helpful to pull threat off the healer.


Blue - Huntsman: With good mobility and good damage, this spec is popular in instances and groups, but also very suitable for soloing - for tough mobs, you can kite them if necessary. Overall, I think this is the best general-purpose spec for hunters and if you're not sure which spec to use, try Blue.

Red - Bowmaster: I see this spec as a marksman - carefully positioned, they are deadly at picking off targets from afar suddenly. For soloing or PvMP, they don't have as many escape options as Blue or Yellow, so positioning and assessing the situation ("Can I deal with this quickly?" Yes - give it everything, No - flee and fight them later under more favourable circumstances) are important. Overall, I think this spec may be situational or suit a specific play style.

Yellow - Trapper of Foes: This reminds me of the engineer class in Guild Wars 2 or the engineering profession in World of Warcraft - they've got a gadget for everything. It's a fun change in play style and still very effective as you use traps, tripwires, explosions, decoys and more to destroy your enemies. With some planning, you can create quite a minefield that will lock down a number of mobs so you can pick them off, but if something goes wrong, you get some defensive bonuses to help you survive their fury. Overall, I think this spec is better for solo play, PvMP or maybe group questing in landscape areas than instances.


  • Agility - your main stat that increases damage
  • Critical Strike - increases damage
  • Mitigations and Resistances - reduces damage taken
  • Morale and Vitality - bigger health pool increases survival

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.

For ranged weapons, you can use bows or crossbows, but bows tend to have more offensive stats and crossbows tend to be more defensive (better for tanking classes like guardians). For melee weapons, consider the stats and DPS, then what racial bonuses you get from using a specific weapon type (e.g. Men and Elves get a bonus with swords, while Dwarves get a bonus with axes).

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

(physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, resistance)
Complete 75 quests in The ShireLife of a Bounder (Final)(The Shire)
(agility, tactical mitigation, in-combat morale regeneration)
Explore all the farms in The ShireFarms of the Shire
(The Shire)
(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)
(physical mitigation, resistance, non-combat power regeneration)
Complete 10 quests in Ered Luin

Complete 30 quests in Ered Luin

Complete 30 quests in Bree-land
Ally of Ered Luin
(Ered Luin)

Hero of Ered Luin
(Ered Luin)

Bree-land Adventurer (Advanced)(Bree-land)
(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)
(physical mitigation, morale, 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)
(tactical mitigation, resistance, 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 Hunter Class

  • Good single-target damage
  • Utility includes tracking mobs, speed buffs, fast travel
  • Variety of playstyles
  • Good survivability (mobility, crowd control, self-healing, stealth, threat-dumps)

Cons of the Hunter Class

  • Limited defensive abilities

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

Coming soon in the Introducing X Class series: the Lore-master.

    Saturday, 5 August 2017

    Walked into Mordor

    The Black Gate is open!

    Hooray! The Mordor expansion is here!

    I bought the Collector's Edition - I wanted a special mount and the high elf, and the extras in the Ultimate Fan Bundle would be nice, but too expensive.

    Steed of the Alliance of the Third Age
    Alliance of the Third Age cosmetic armour

    So far, Myndariel my Lore-master, Tyravorth my Beorning and Letycia my Captain (who used the Aria of the Valar to get boosted to 105) have entered Gorgoroth and are questing in Udûn. I've also created a new High Elf champion.

    Mordor First Impressions

    Session play was used quite well to show us key moments in the final stage of Frodo's journey, especially Gollum with Shelob and the battle between Gollum and Frodo for the ring. The Field of Cormallen looked stunning in glorious colours. Radanir was funny with his speech about an important to decision to make (which inn will the Rangers meet at for drinks?).

    Gollum and the Ring
    Field of Cormallen

    Walking into Mordor (yes I did originally try walking into Mordor from The Wastes - not recommended - you'll die!) by taking the horse from the Field of Cormallen to the Black Gate, it's dark, but not as bad as I expected. I like the purple shadows around the player when they leave the beaten track; they emphasise the sense of potential danger. The soot-smudged pages to find and audio lore excerpts are nice - if I could be patient enough to stand still and listen to them fully. I read them though. Briefly. Then rush off to explore some more. So much to see and do.

    The introduction of new NPCs with their own goals in Mordor is interesting and I look forward to journeying alongside them and seeing what mischief they get up to. I love crafting so I'm happy to see new resources and recipes and less reliance on essences. I'll have to wait and see whether the disenchantment system (breaking down unwanted gear into Ash of Gorgoroth) is good - will we get enough excess gear drops? Other than quest rewards, I've only had one piece of gear drop in the wild and I can't wait to use it (it's for level 107). I've found lots of chests that apparently contain Gorgoroth Crafting Bundles - but you need level 106 to open them. I hope they will be worthwhile.


    The mobs have been difficult because my characters aren't that well geared. Myndariel has had the easiest time so far, but the mobs still take a while to defeat. I feel like I'm hitting them with wet noodles and they avoid so many of my attacks. Once I get new gear with the stats balanced appropriate for the zone I'm sure it will get better.

    So far I'm enjoying it. It's tough but it should be. I'm looking forward to new gear and exploring new regions and learning more about the allegiance system and the Black Book of Mordor.

    High Elf

    Taurileth in the Second Age

    I created a High Elf champion and played through the starting area. After having just been through the finale of the War of the Ring on Myndariel and Tyravorth, it gave me goosebumps and that déjà-vu feeling playing through the High Elf intro set in the Second Age during the last battle against Sauron. It was awesome!

    High Elf Intro - Second Age

    And Elrond's house! Oh my! It looked amazing compared to the version we are familiar with, and that was pretty good to start with.

    Tham Send in Elrond's Last Homely House
    Taurileth in Tham Send

    I'm so glad we get the beautiful armour to keep. I love how you get sent to Celondim in Ered Luin with Elrond's sons - and a pile of books to catch up on a couple thousand years of history that occurred while you were sleeping! It's hard to imagine what that would be like. I've decided to make her a scholar as a result. Imagine poking around ruins and remembering them as beautiful buildings like it was yesterday - maybe she'll find "ancient" artifacts that were created by her friends or family, or even by her!

    I almost wish I had used the character boost on her, but from reading the Patch Notes, it looks like there are quite a few quests that have minor variations for High Elves, and it might be fun to experience those.

    Aria of the Valar

    When I logged in after the expansion launched, I was missing my Aria of the Valar package. There was an announcement that it was a known issue, and would be fixed soon. I transferred crafting materials to my bank to make room in my bags for Mordor stuff, and my bank was nearly full, so I bought some more shared storage, and then my Aria of the Valar Package arrived. So I used the Aria of the Valar character boost to take my level 18 Captain to level 105 so she could head into Mordor. I'll have to level her crafting skills later.

    It included (all character-bound):
    • Aria of the Valar (instantly boosts character to level 105 and transports you to Camp of the Host in The Wastes so you can pick up the Epic Quest Volume IV, Book 8 from Aragorn that leads you into Mordor; you also get 12 tiers of each virtue, trait points, promotion points, over 300 marks, a Westemnet Iron Coin, at least 10 LOTRO points from auto-completed deeds, an Anórien lootbox and a sturdy key).
    • Aria of the Valar Armour Pack (contains a full set of item level 294 armour and jewellery appropriate for your class, but no pocket item).
    • Aria of the Valar Weapon Pack (contains a item level 294 weapon set appropriate for your class (e.g. a sword and shield), plus 3 Unidentified Third Age Legendary Item Boxes so you can choose a weapon, a class item and a war-steed bridle).
    • Aria of the Valar Item Pack (contains 25 Dale-men's Crams, 25 Rejuvenation Potions, 25 Mithril Coins, Map to Eastfold - Aldburg, Map to the Sutcrofts - Snowbourne, an Anfalas Star-lit Crystal, Trait: Riding Characteristic (gain riding skill), Steed of the Citadel and war-steed appearances). 
    • 3 Giant Piles of Silver Scraps (worth 5 gold 400 silver).
    • 5 Tomes of Extraordinary Experience (XP boosters).
    • Map to Rivendell.
    • War-steed.
    • Trait: Mounted Combat (can use war-steeds).
    • Trait: Legendary items (can use legendary items).

    Camp of the Host, The Wastes
    Steed of the Citadel
    Captain boosted to level 105 wearing equipment from Aria of the Valar Package