A Guide for the Student on the Ways and Means of the Warg and the Stalking of Prey

Archive for December, 2011

The Pure Survival Build

Like the Pure DPS build the idea behind the Pure Morale build is very simple; stack as much morale and survivability as possible. Unlike the Pure DPS build this setup isn’t quite so theoretical in that it can actually be used in real situations with fairly decent results.

Corruptions

Selecting your corruptions for this build is very easy, you simply choose those which give you the most morale & survivability.

Obviously we will be sleeting the Morale for Power and Morale for Damage corruptions here, both at rank 1 and rank 2. Between these four corruptions you will gain an extra 30% morale. That’s a huge increase in your morale pool, but it does come at a price. For starters your power pool will be reduced by 10%. Perhaps more significantly  your damage output will be reduced by 5%.

The extra morale corruptions use up four corruption slots, which means we have two left to fill. Since this is a ‘pure’ survivability build we are going to look at what else we can add to bolster our defences. There are four main choices here:

  • Tactical Mitigation
  • Physical Mitigation
  • Resistance
  • Critical protection

Each of these has its own merits, but I would personally recommend the mitigation corruptions. The Resistance boosts are nice enough, but as I discussed in a previous post I don’t think they offer consistent ‘value for money’. It’s a similar story with the Critical Protection boosts. We only have two slots to play around with here, and even if we were to use more I don’t think the level of protection these corruptions give us enough to really make any serious impact.

The Mitigation corruptions on the other hand offer a consistent boost that doesn’t depend upon chance. It might not be a huge amount of extra protection to be fair, but it is consistent. Depending upon who you are fighting you can swap out the Tactical and Physical Mitigation boosts as needed.

  • Rank 2 Morale for Power
  • Rank 2 Morale for Damage
  • Rank 1 Morale for Power
  • Rank 2 Morale for Power
  • Tactical/Physical Mastery
  • Tactical/Physical Mastery

Class Traits

Again what we want to do here is select those abilities that have the biggest impact upon our survivability.

There are a few ‘necessary’ traits of course e.g. Enhanced Skill: Stealth so we don’t actually have all that many slots to play around with here. The traits I consider necessary are:

  • Enhanced Skill: Stealth
  • Enhanced Skill: Sprint
  • Shadow Fang

You may not agree with me on how necessary some of those traits are, but I think they provide a solid base to work from and that is how I will proceed here.

With four class trait slots to fill let’s look at what we can use:

Shadow Howler – This seems an obvious choice for a survivability build in that is greatly enhances our survivability in combat as well as gives our DPS a boost, which suffers a bit from having no damage corruptions slotted.

Rallying Howl – It’s not the greatest self heal in the game by any measure, but it is a heal nonetheless. It can prove crucial in keeping us alive after a fight has ended and we are low on morale with DoTs ticking away and of course it can be crucial in pack/group situations to keep us fighting a little bit longer.

Armour Boost – Like Shadow Howler this seems like a no brainer when it comes to a survivability build. The extra armour rating adds to our non-common mitigations, not a huge amount, but still significant enough to warrant treating it.

Resistance Boost – Not a very exciting trait to be sure, but it does bolster our defences and in a survivability build that is what we are looking for.

  • Rallying Howl
  • Shadow Fang
  • Enhanced Skill: Stealth
  • Enhanced Skill: Sprint
  • Resistance Boost
  • Armour Boost
  • Shadow Howler

Racial Traits

Foe of the Light is a good choice here, not only for the extra stealth levels it provides, but also for the small boost it gives to Tactical Mitigation. It’s the stealth level boost that’s the real winner here though. Being detected less often in stealth is a sure fire way to increase your survivability.

Pack Mentality is another solid choice for this build. It gives boosts to both avoidances and resistance. A nice solid trait for toughening us up.

Pack Elder – Another boost to our mitigations, this time Physical. It’s a bit of a boring trait I suppose, but extra toughness is what we’re looking for here and it delivers on that, if not to any great extent.

Four-legged Foe is another defensive trait, but it does provide an increase to our movement speed so like Long Strides above is useful in ignoring slows and chasing down freeps, which helps our offence.

  • Foe of the Light
  • Pack Mentality
  • Four-legged Foe
  • Pack Elder
You will notice I have only listed four racial traits when we have five slots to fill. The reason for that is pretty simple, there aren’t really any other defensive traits. The last slot is a bit of a free for all then in that you can choose whatever you want to fill it. Personally I like Pack Alpha for a wee bit more offence, but it’s down to your own tastes.

Pros

The most apparent benefit of this build is the increase in morale it gives. That is of course great in terms of making us harder to kill, but the extra mitigation and resistance ratings we get from corruptions and traits in this build shouldn’t be overlooked either. When we add those to Shadow Howler we become relatively tough, maybe not quite in the same league as Champions or Guardians, but certainly tougher than we would normally be.

Cons

The biggest downside to the pure survivability build is of course the hit we take to our damage output. How much of a downside this is seems to depend upon personal preference in my experience. I am not a fan of this build because I think it costs too much in terms of damage, but other wargs seem less hesitant to sacrifice damage for survivability.

The other thing to say about the loss in damage is that you may feel it to a greater or lesser extent depending upon your playstyle. If you normally target the squishy freep classes such as Rune-keepers or Hunters then it might not be such a big loss to you. On the other hand if you go for any freep that moves you may find yourself unable to bring down Champions or Guardians. The extra survivability this build gives you probably won’t be enough to win a war of attrition with those classes and they will burn you down before their own survivability wears thin.

Effectiveness

This is definitely a more effective build than the other extreme of the pure DPS build, but I would still say that this isn’t an optimal build for general gameplay. The extra morale and so on does definitely make us harder to kill,but I feel the drop in damage is too high a price to pay for that unless you are only going after the squishiest of freeps.

Having said that this build could be a good choice for raid play. The extra survivability would certainly make staying alive in a raid a bit easier and wargs aren’t usually in raids as the main damage dealers anyway so the loss in damage shouldn’t be a major problem.Indeed the extra survivability should actually make harassing healers at the back of the freep raid a little easier.

All in all it’s not a terrible build, but for every day gameplay it isn’t one that I would choose.

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Ola All!

Ola all! I hope you all had a great Xmas! This is just a short note to let you know that I am back after the festivities and normal posting will resume shortly.


PvMP: The Connected World

In the last part I discussed how PvMP feels like a separate game from the main PVE experience in LOTRO. I talked about how this leads to a feeling of disconnect amongst PvMPers and that ultimately the PvMP experience feels somewhat hollow because of this. In short, one’s actions and accomplishments in PvMP simply don’t matter.

What can be done to remedy this? How can the disconnected be connected? How can meaning be brought to the meaningless?

The Connected World

The first step, in my opinion, is to connect the PvMP experience in LOTRO with the wider PVE game in a more meaningful way. LOTRO is primarily a PVE game so it isn’t realistic to expect PvMP to become a dominant aspect in the game, but it doesn’t have to be, it just has to feel like it is actually part of the game.

One of the ways this could be done is to integrate PvMP with some of the technology we’ve seen appear over the years. For example, trait lines for creeps; PvMP skirmishes; using the instance finder for PvMP skirmishes; an expanded cosmetics system for creeps; access to shared storage for creeps, and so on.

The effect of such changes would be to make the PvMP experience feel as if it is actually keeping pace with the rest of the game. All too often PvMPers see new technology and systems appearing in the PVE game, but not in the PvMP game. We watch as these advancements sail past us and this only increases the feeling that PvMP isn’t just marginalised, but is a separate entity to the game we call LOTRO.

Variety

If connecting PvMP to the rest of the game is the first step the second must surely be making sure there is something interesting going on for PvMPers. This is the exact same process as goes on in the rest of the game: adding new content!

Just because we PvMP doesn’t mean to say we don’t want new and exciting content. There are a few general points to make on this score:

  • New PvMP maps should be added on a regular basis e.g. at least twice a year.
  • New, and exciting PVE quests should be added to PvMP zones on a regular basis (look if there has to be PVE quests in PvMP zones they should at least be good quests). Creep and freep PvMP class quests could be added, for example.
  • Creep classes should be treated as full blown player classes with the same frequent updates and care and attention that freep classes receive (creep players invest just as much gameplay in their creeps as many freeps do). Full blown dev diaries should be released for each creep class just as they are for freep classes.

The Pay Off

It is often said that LOTRO is primarily a PVE game. That is true, it is. But then how can it be anything else when PvMP has never been given much scope beyond a side game? I’m not calling for LOTRO to be transformed into a PvMP game, but by placing a bit more importance on and expanding PvMP I genuinely feel that it could become a significant part of the game that could attract new players in its own right.

The premise of PvMP is great and there are some superb classes and concepts already in the game. If we could just see these expanded upon and fleshed out into a more meaningful experience  LOTRO could be a game that could attract serious PvP players. That’s a win win situation; Turbine gains paying customers whilst the PvMP community gains more action and the game as a whole benefits from new players.


PvMP: The Disconnected World

Anyone who frequents the LOTRO forums on a regular basis will be aware that over the past week or two there have been an increasing number of calls for some sort of expansion to PvMP. Now when I say ‘expansion’I don’t mean a game expansion in the mould of Rise of Isengard or Mines of Moria, rather I am talking about expanding the scope of the current PvMP system. I talked about this a bit in a previous post: Open World PvMP?

I’m not going to talk about open world PvMP specifically here, instead I’m going to take a look at how PvMP fits into the wider game and what, if anything, is wrong with the current implementation.

The State of Play

Most readers of this blog will probably be wargs (hat the odd non-warg reads this is likely too) an so will be familiar with how PvMP operates, but for those unfamiliar with PvMP I’ll set out how the system works at a basic level.

The system itself is actually incredibly simple. PvMP in LOTRO is setup to operate completely separate to the rest of the game. The single PvMP zone in the game 9the Ettenmoors) is completely cut off from the rest of the game world;there is no physical way of getting from the Ettenmoors to any other zone, whether through official means or otherwise.

There is very little you can do in PvMP that has any meaningful effect on the rest of the game. Freeps can gain armour sets, jewellery and so on that can be used in the PVE game, but frankly none of that is significantly beyond what you can attain in the PVE game. There are no material rewards for creeps at all that can be used in the PVE game. Both freeps and creeps can earn titles that can’t be earned in the PVE game, but of course titles are cosmetic appellations with no bearing on gameplay. The only thing that I can think of that does have a meaningful impact are destiny points. Destiny points can be obtained in the PVE game to be fair, but the most efficient means is through PvMP, where huge quantities can be amassed in a short space of time.

The ranks you achieve in PvMP have absolutely no bearing on the PVE game. They mean nothing outside of the Ettenmoors. Even within the Ettenmoors ranks don’t have much meaning for freeps, simply allowing them to wear a few more pieces of armour or access to a new horse.

In short nothing you do in PvMP will have any effect on your PVE experience. Anything you can gain through PvMP activity can be matched or exceeded through PVE activity.

Disconnect

I believe that this state of affairs leads to a sense of disconnect amongst those taking part in PvMP. The Ettenmoors,and PvMP in general, feels cut-off from the rest of LOTRO to the extent that it is almost like its own self-contained game within a game.

This feeling of separateness is especially true for creeps. At least freeps can use the rewards they obtain in PvMP when they take part in PVE content. At least they can show off their titles in the wider game. Not so for creeps. Creeps are perpetually stuck in the Ettenmoors, and no matter how much you invest in your creep character it will remain forever in the Ettenmoors,your gameplay and achievements confined to that single map and only those players who choose to enter.

What all of this leads to is PvMP feeling like it isn’t really part of LOTRO. There is little, if anything, to make PvMPers feel they are part of the wider game and that what they are doing in the Ettenmoors is part of the wider War of the Ring. You could literally take PvMP in LOTRO out of the game and re-package it with a different name and it would have no adverse effect because that it pretty much how it is operating at the moment.

Part II: The Connected World


Search Term Find #30

can minstrels do damage

Just a little.


Guide: Combat Openers

With Update 5 wargs received some nice boosts to damage output. One area where these boosts are most apparent is in our ‘combat openers’. These are the three attack skills wargs commonly use to open a fight, hence the name. Because these skills have received a bit of a boost it open up some new opportunities so I thought I’d take a look at how they can best be used now.

This guide is set out in a simple enough manner: each skill will be discussed in turn along with a description of how the skill is best used.

 Sudden Pounce

This has the least damage of the three ‘combat openers’, but crucially it does have a 5sec stun. On a critical hit this stun is transformed into a knockdown instead. The key component here isn’t the skill’s raw damage, but the stun/knockdown component. Keeping a freep out of the action for 5sec means we can tear into him from behind for that entire time. Essentially this is free damage since he won’t be hitting us back and the fight won’t ‘properly start’ until he gets up and fights back.

If you think about this skill in those terms then this actually might be the skill that provides the most damage at the strt of a fight since it allows us a full5 seconds to pound on a freep.

 Bloody Maul

This skill has higher base damage than Sudden Pounce, not too much more, but enough to make sure it packs a bigger punch. It also has  a higher chance to score a critical hit from stealth and it will do more damage on a critical hit than an attack normally would. That means that this skill actually delivers a bigger wallop than might be thought at first glance.

There are two other important features to this skill, which make it very attractive to use. The first is that it will place an incurable DoT on the target that lasts 20sec. Normally the DoT from Maul does not stack with itself, only with Maul DoTs from other wargs, but the DoT from Maul WILL STACK with the DoT from Bloody Maul, even if both DoTs are from the same warg. So after using Bloody Maul the warg can wait 5sec and then use Maul (being out of stealth by that point) to stack both DoTs.

The other feature of this skill is that critical hits will place a debuff on the target that reduces their incoming healing by 25% for 30sec. This is actually a very powerful debuff as it will reduce the effectiveness of their morale pots and self-heals.

 Bestial Claws

A very simple skill, but a very effective one too. This is our highest rated damage skill and whilst it doesn’t have any extra effects like a stun or a DoT it can hit harder than either Sudden Pounce or Bloody Maul in terms of initial damage. A critical hit with this skill can see a hit of around the 1400-1500 mark depending upon your setup. A devastating critical can see hits of as much as 2k depending upon your build. In short it’s the most damage we can do with any one skill in a single hit.

How Do I Choose Which To Use?

There are three basic situations a warg will find himself in when it comes to attacking a freep. Each of these skills neatly fits into one of those categories.

The Standard Attack

The default situation for wargs is when you spot a freep and use Sudden Pounce to stun him for 5sec so you can get in a few ‘free’ hits before he can fight back. This should be assumed to be the default strategy for most encounters. It’s a tried and tested tactic and it will serve you well in the majority of fights.

Even though Sudden Pounce might not hit quite as hard as either Bestial Claws or Bloody Maul the ability to render your opponent immobile and unable to fight back for 5sec is a superb way to open a fight. You will easily be able to make up the loss in damage from using Sudden Pounce during the 5sec stun as you tear into your opponent from behind.

No Stuns Please, We’re Burglars

Actually the title is a little misleading because this situation also covers the likes of Lore-masters and anyone who has stun immunity or some form of reactive skill that will negate stuns. Simply put there are some occasions where a stun is either impossible e.g. anti-stun or undesirable e.g. Burgers and their Find Footing skill.

In these situations using Bloody Maul to open the fight is a better choice. The higher than normal critical chance and critical damage multiplier should hopefully see it make a good dent in a freep’s morale and of course the 20 sec DoT and incoming healing debuff are great tools for setting up the fight in your favour from the get go. The DoT especially ticks for a  good chunk of time and will immediately force the freep onto the back-foot as you can then stack your other DoTs to ramp up the damage.

A Big Bad Paw

The third situation that wargs commonly find themselves in is spotting a freep already on low morale who is trying to flee or who is perhaps in the midst of a battle, but hasn’t been killed yet for whatever reason. Sure you might be able to pounce that freep, but sometimes, especially in the midst of a battle, you might be taking damage or become stunned yourself. It’s probably safer to simply strike a low morale freep with as much force as you can muster i.e. Bestial Claws.

A critical hit from this skill can one shot a freep already near death and even a non-critical hit will likely mean you only have to follow up with one other attack to finish him off.

Bestial Claws can also be a good choice when you are attacking a freep at full morale. If the freep is particularly squishy i.e. has a relatively low morale pool then opening the fight with a critical hit from Bestial Claws can send them into a panic right away as a huge chunk of their morale bar suddenly disappears.


Site Update: Trait Builds

I’ve updated the traits section, both revising the current material and adding some new stuff. At the moment there are two trait setups; the Pure DPS Build and the Balanced DPS Build. I’ll be adding more in time of course, but hopefully this gives you something to chew over for a while.

You can read them by hovering your mouse over the ‘Traits category at the top of the page and selecting the build you want to read about.