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)
|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):
|Builders||Melee Gambit||Ranged Gambit|
|Sp + Sp||Deft Strike (melee attack)||Deft Toss (ranged attack)|
|Sp + Sh||The Boot (interrupt)||Ranged Boot (ranged interrupt)|
|Sp + Fi||Offensive Strike (double attack, morale-tap)||Ranged Offensive Strike (ranged attack, reduces enemy outgoing damage)|
|Sh + Sh||Defensive Strike (shield attack, buffs block)||Defensive Strike (shield attack, buffs block)|
|Sh + Sp||Persevere (melee attack, buffs block, HoT)||Ranged Persevere (ranged attack, HoT)|
|Sh + Fi||Impressive Flourish (melee Light DoT, buffs mitigations)||Impressive Flourish (melee Light DoT, buffs mitigations)|
|Fi + Fi||Goad (AOE taunt, AOE Light DoT)||Goad (AOE taunt, AOE Light DoT)|
|Fi + Sp||Precise Blow (melee attack, Light DoT)||Precise Throw (ranged attack, reduces enemy defences)|
|Fi + Sh||War-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:
|Sh + Fi||Impressive Flourish (melee Light DoT, buffs mitigations)|
|Sh + Fi + Sh||Maddening Strike (melee attack, buffs mitigations)|
|Sh + Fi + Sh + Fi + Sh||Conviction (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.
|Fi + Sh||War-cry (AOE Light attack, AOE Light DOT, evade buff)|
|Fi + Sh + Fi||Brink of Victory (AOE Light attack, AOE Light DOT, evade buff) [level 34]|
|Fi + Sh + Fi + Sh||Surety 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.
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 mobsThese 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.
- Marked Target (ranged attack and reduces enemy's physical mitigation)
- Impressive Flourish - Sh + Fi (attack plus DoT, plus buffs mitigations)
- Persevere - Sh + Sp (attack, buffs block, plus HoT)
- Offensive Strike - Sp + Fi (double attack plus DoT, plus HoT)
- Precise Blow - Fi + Sp (attack plus DoT)
- Power Attack - Sp + Sh + Fi (powerful attack and DoT)
Groups of mobsRound them up, DoT them up, increase your defences and self-healing, then finish them off individually.
- Goad - Fi + Fi (AOE taunt, AOE DoT)
- Warcry - Fi + Sh (AOE attack, AOE DoT, buffs evasion)
- Surety of Death - Fi + Sh + Fi + Sh (powerful AOE attack and AOE DoT and buffs evasion)
- Conviction - Sh + Fi + Sh + Fi + Sh (HoT, buffs crit defence and mitigations)
- Offensive Strike - Sp + Fi (double attack plus DoT plus HoT) to each target
EmergencyIf you're in over your head and want to try to escape to fight another day:
- Hampering Javelin (ranged attack and slows movement speed)
- Switch to ranged stance if needed
- Ranged Persevere - Sh + Sp (ranged attack plus HoT)
- 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):
|Statistics||Determination (Blue)||Recklessness (Red)||Assailment (Yellow)|
|Time||3m 0.6s||3m 0.3s||3m 0.4s|
|Critical Strikes (%)||54 (16.7%)||67 (18.5%)||45 (23.9%)|
|Power (%)||763/1038 (73.5%)||613/1038 (59.1%)||824/1038 (79.4%)|
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.
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.
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.
- 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:
(physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, resistance)
|Complete 75 quests in The Shire||Life of a Bounder (Final)(The Shire)|
(agility, tactical mitigation, in-combat morale regeneration)
|Explore all the farms in The Shire||Farms 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)
(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)
(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)
(resistance, tactical mitigation, vitality)
|Defeat 60 spiders in The Shire|
Defeat 90 spiders in Bree-land
|Spider-slayer (Advanced)(The Shire)|
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.