Monday, 14 May 2018

Introducing the Minstrel: Level 1-20

Minstrels in LOTRO are one of the most unique classes I have ever played in a MMORPG - they wield a musical instrument as a weapon for healing or damage. There are lots of different instruments to choose from and each provide different bonuses, such as drums increase damage, theorbos increase healing, flutes reduce power costs of certain skills and bagpipes can increase critical chance. When you're not busy fighting or healing, you can also use those instruments to play music in-game and there are some amazing orchestras and bands that perform in taverns and towns across Middle Earth (there is even an annual concert called Weatherstock on the Landroval server). Musical instruments can be crafted by woodworkers, or purchased from a bard in major towns.

Minstrels also have three stances, Dissonance provides a DPS buff, Melody allows both limited DPS and healing, and Resonance provides group healing buffs.

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

Level 1 Hobbit Minstrel

Here's our brand new minstrel and some information about her:
  • Wears light armour
  • Can wield one-handed weapons (e.g. mace, club, dagger, sword)
  • Primary stat is Will
  • Starting abilities are: Dissonance Stance, Melody Stance and Resonance Stance (only one stance can be active at a time), Minor Ballad (a ranged attack that also provides buffs), Dissonant Strike (Dissonance)/Hero's Strike (Melody)/Healer's Strike (Resonance) (a melee attack that heals you or your group depending on stance), Coda of Fury (a ranged finishing attack/heal that requires 3 ballad buffs active), and Raise the Spirit (a direct healing spell for you or an ally)

Minstrels have glowing hands! The first quest in the introduction provides a satchel that contains a better weapon. At level 2 you learn Major Ballad, another ranged attack that also buffs (except in Resonance stance where it only buffs). You are also sent to the minstrel trainer who wants you to practice using your ballads. As a reward you receive another weapon and a basic lute instrument. The lute goes in your ranged weapon equipment slot. Now when you use your skills they will have sound effects specific to your equipped instrument.

At level 4 you gain Piercing Cry, a powerful ranged attack that also interrupts. This can sometimes one-shot weak mobs. At level 5 you unlock the passive ability to use Fiddles.

Playing the fiddle

At level 6 you gain two new skills, Anthem of War (a group damage buff that requires 3 ballad buffs active) and Perfect Ballad (a ranged attack that also reduces power costs for skills). So now you have three ballads which deal damage and provide buffs, an anthem that provides a damage buff (good for long or hard fights) and a coda which provides strong burst damage. This forms the basic combat rotation. For easy fights you will probably want to be in Dissonance Stance, but for harder fights Melody Stance will really help with passive healing. Resonance Stance is really just for healing so is more useful in groups and instances.

Also at level 6 you can choose a specialisation. The options are:
  • Blue = The Watcher of Resolve - focuses on providing strong heals. You also gain the skill Soliloquy of Spirit which is a heal-over-time skill, and increased Will and Fate stats.
  • Red = The Warrior-Skald - focuses on DPS. You also gain Call to Fate which is a strong ranged attack skill, and a buff to damage and range from which skills can be used.
  • Yellow = The Protector of Song - focuses on on providing healing and group buffs. You also gain Anthem of Prowess which buffs your fellowship's armour, evade and attack speed, codas give extra fellowship buffs and you can have two anthems active at once.

For questing and DPS, Red is the obvious choice. If you want to play a healer, both Blue and Yellow have a lot to offer and it may depend on your group for which will be most useful. 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.

At level 8 you gain Timeless Echoes of Battle, a damage-over-time skill that also debuffs enemies, but is only usable in Dissonance stance.

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.

Level 12 provides Invocation of Elbereth, a skill that causes a mob to run away in fear. At level 14 you gain Enlivening Grace, a skill for resurrecting defeated allies out-of-combat.

You learn how to use two new instruments at level 15: the theorbo and the bagpipes. You also receive a class quest, advising you to see the Minstrel Trainer at The Prancing Pony inn in Bree-land. The Trainer tells you the renowned minstrel Piper Prescott is in town and has heard of your talent. He has a challenge for you: Leland Underhill is a hobbit adventuring in Bree-land and likely to get into trouble. You should accompany him as he raids a bandit hideout then compose a song about the experience and perform it at The Prancing Pony. The crowd loves it and Piper Prescott says you deserve the title "Song Warrior" and a new club to help protect you on your adventures.

Perform at The Prancing Pony in Bree

At level 16 you gain some more healing skills: Bolster Courage, a direct heal with a long cast time, and Story of Courage, a cleansing skill that removes a Wound, Poison, Disease or Fear debuff from the target.

No new skills until level 20, but then you get a lot of changes! You get a group heal, Inspire Fellows, and Spirit of Freedom will break you out of most crowd-control situations. You can use shields in your off-hand and journeyman woodworker crafted instruments with bonus effects become available to use.

You can also take part in skirmishes and find gear at Skirmish Camps. Some of my questing gear was low level or non-existent (e.g. I never got a necklace), so after I hit level 20 in the Barrow-Downs I headed to the Skirmish Camp to find some upgrades.

Here's how her stats look now at level 20:

Level 20 Hobbit Minstrel

Then I headed to the Training Hall in Bree and tested Red spec's DPS (in Dissonance stance) 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 two tiers of Innocence and one tier of Honour. With my 7 trait points, I had 5 points in The Fundamentals (increases Ballad and Coda damage) and 2 points in Discordant Cries (increases damage of Cries).

Here are my DPS results (collected with the CombatAnalysis plugin):
StatisticsRed (The Warrior-Skald)
Total Damage19172
Time3 m 0.2 s
Average DPS106.4
Minimum Hit48
Average Hit197.6
Maximum Hit891
Attacks97
Critical Strikes (%)17 (17.5%)
Power (%)534/1326 (40.3%)
Skill Priorities:
  1. Minor Ballad
  2. Major Ballad
  3. Perfect Ballad
  4. Anthem of War
  5. Call to Fate
  6. Dissonant Piercing Cry
  7. Coda of Fury

General Observations

I really like how the minstrel has both sustained and burst damage and they can work together to make a really smooth rotation. Plus since all the skills are instant-cast, she can maintain great mobility and kill most mobs before they get near her. But wait there's more: great self-healing, especially in Melody stance. And while she didn't have any AOE skills in Dissonance stance by default, you can put a trait point in Call of Oromë for an AOE attack that hits 3 targets, or in Melody stance Coda of Fury becomes Coda of Melody which does AOE damage. She didn't have a lot of utility skills, but it seemed to be enough. Levelling the minstrel was a breeze.

At higher levels you gain some more heals, bubbles which absorb damage, AOE damage skills, threat-reducing skills and a combat resurrection. From Moria onwards, you will be able to get legendary melee weapons and a music book that goes in your class slot. You can also learn to mentor other players and teach them how to use various musical instruments.

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 Minstrels 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 Minstrel Class

  • Good mobility
  • Good healing
  • Reasonable burst and sustained damage against single targets
  • Fun, unique playstyle using musical instruments

Cons of the Minstrel Class

  • Can be squishy
  • Limited AOE damage at low levels
  • Noisy - musical sounds effects and shouting may get annoying

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

Coming soon in the Introducing X Class series: the Rune-keeper.

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