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

Archive for March, 2012

Shadow Stance – Introduction

The first of the new stances I’ll be looking at in depth is Shadow stance. This is because it is obtainable at rank 1 and so will probably be the stance the vast majority of wargs have access to and can use.

What Is Shadow Stance?

In a nutshell this is our damage stance. The stance itself gives us two boosts: +15% melee damage and +253 ICPR. The stance also modifies a number of our skills to function differently than normal. The following skills are modified by Shadow stance:

Claws – Claws becomes Bestial Claws when stealthed as we all know, but Shadow stance means that we can use Bestial Claws even when unstealthed. In other words this skill will always function as if we are still in stealth whilst using Shadow stance. That means that it will hit for extra damage and also that it is extremely hard to block, parry or evade it.

Maul – This is transformed into Sudden Maul. It is basically the same as Maul with a few key differences. First of all the DoT lasts 20sec. Next is a critical response effect which places a buff on us lowering our attack duration by 25% if we score a critical hit. Sudden Maul also has a higher than normal chance to land a critical as well as greater critical magnitude than other skills. Again this attack is treated as if it were being made from stealth so it is very hard to block, parry or evade it.

Eye Rake – This becomes Eye Gouge. It is essentially the exact same as Eye Rake except that it has a debuff attached to it. This debuff will reduce the range of ranged skills by 10m assuming the ranged skill has a range of at least 20m in the first place. Again this skill is treated as if always being used from stealth so again it is hard to block, parry or evade.

There is also another skill that is changed whilst in Shadow stance: Pack Hunters. Pack Hunters needs to be traited before it can be used though.

Pack Hunters – In Shadow stance this becomes Shadow Pack. This places a debuff hotspot on the ground for 10sec that will cause those standing in it to loose roughly 3k from both their physical and tactical mitigations. If the freeps leave the hotspot they will loose the debuff, but gain another one that lowers their physical and tactical mitigations by around 600 for 10sec. This skill can be used from stealth.

The Element of Surprise

Shadow stance doesn’t actually modify any of our traits (with the exception of Pack Hunters mentioned above), however, there is a special note that needs to be made about The Element of Surprise.

As we know The Element of Surprise increases our critical chance when attacking from stealth by 20%. In the past this has been a pretty useless trait because we only get one attack from stealth per fight. However, Shadow stance causes some of our attacks to always work as if they are being used from stealth and The Element of Surprise affects these skills!

That means that whilst using Shadow stance skills like Bestial Claws have a 33%+ chance to critical whilst out of stealth. That’s a pretty powerful bonus and means that we should see a good number of critical hits whilst in Shadow stance, which should further enhance the damage output of this stance.

Power Costs

Shadow stance involves higher power costs for some of our skills e.g. Bestial Claws. The base power cost for Bestial Claws will be 125 power, but Audacity will reduce this figure somewhat. Even so it is worth remembering that in general Shadow stance will mean higher than normal power costs. This means that the longer a fight goes on the weaker we are going to become as our power pool starts to deplete. In other words it helps reinforce the idea that Shadow stance is best for short duration fights that see us get the kill quickly.

When Should I Use It?

Shadow stance is our damage stance and as such it’s main use will be in quickly burning down targets. However, for the extra damage this stance grants it also means we are relatively squishy whilst using it. That means that we need to tailor our use of this stance since it isn’t going to be good in every situation. Below I have set out the main scenarios where Shadow stance is going to be most useful:

Packs

With multiple wargs all hitting hard a single target should basically melt. Shadow stance will give the pack enough ‘oomph’ to basically ‘one shot’ a target. This is one of the best uses of Shadow stance, especially if the target has a fair bit of morale; multiple wargs all critting from stealth with Bestial Claws should really burn such a target in no time at all. The loss in survivability won’t matter much since it’s a pack and thus there is safety in numbers.

Scavenging

In fixed battle situations i.e. fighting at EC or OC, etc Shadow stance can really help you get some kills and thus some infamy. Those sort of fights aren’t usually too good for melee classes, but using Shadow stance we can nip in and out of the fight to target those freeps who have taken a few hits already and are low on morale. The extra punch from Shadow stance means we kill them quicker and can slip away to safety faster.

Burglars

Shadow stance seems particularly effective against Burgers because of the difficulty in evading attacks like Bestial Claws. This means that we can cut through their Touch and Go and Find Footing Evade bonuses much more easily. We aren’t too tough doing this of course, but then again Burgers aren’t particularly tough themselves without their avoidances.


A Quick Look At Stances

Arguably the biggest change that came with Update 6 was the introduction of two new stances. I’ll be going into detail on each stance in a later post, but I want to give an overview of each stance and how I have found them to work out.

Shadow

This is perhaps the more basic of the two stances in the sense that it is gained at rank 1. Shadow stance can be summed up pretty easily, it’s a glass cannon option. Initially I wasn’t too impressed with Shadow stance, finding its damage output to be sub-par in relation to the loss in survivability that it brings. However, after some testing I have found that I judged it too quickly. It’s not perfect for every situation, but there are occasions where it can really shine.

One such situation is when fighting Burgers. Because Shadow stance causes Claws and Maul to operate as if from stealth it means that these attacks become very difficult to block, parry or evade. This means, in effect, that we can stun Burgers and still tear through their Find Footing Evade buff.

The re are two other situations where Shadow stance has proven extremely successful. The first is in sniping at freeps already engaged in a fight. A solo warg skirting the edges of a raid vs raid battle can nip into the battle and quickly kill a freep already low on morale with just a couple of hits whilst in Shadow stance. So too can wargs in a pack use Shadow stance to ensure that they all hit with massive damage on a target. In neither situation is the loss in survivability a major weakness because the aim is to either get in and out quickly or simply overwhelm the target.

Where Shadow stance isn’t particularly good is against heavy classes or in any fight where you have to stick around for a while. It simply doesn’t have the survivability to allow you to do this. You might be able to take a fair bit of morale off your target, but chances are that in a fight lasting more than 30sec or so you will end up dead.

Flayer

This is definitely the jewel in the crown when it comes to warg abilities. This stance is just pure awesomeness. It’s hard to overdo it when it comes to praising Flayer stance because it gives so much love to wargs.

The most obvious bonus is the huge increase in survivability. The combination of the bubble, the self-heals and the mitigations mean that we can actually go toe to toe with freeps and have a chance at winning. This survivability has really impressed me in the time I’ve been playing with Flayer stance. A couple of quick examples to illustrate my point:

Freeps chasing me, half a dozen different DoTs ticking on me and only 200 morale left. I attempt to make my getaway after having killed a freep. I don’t expect to survive this battle given the situation, but I am in Flayer stance so instead of simply rolling over and dying the bubble absorbs some of the DoT damage whilst the self-heals kick in and start negating the damage. I make it inside Tol and live to fight another day! This simply wouldn’t have been possible before Flayer stance.

I’ve been taking on Champions and Guardians in 1vs1 fights with no buffs on myself and winning. I can stand toe to toe with them and come out the other side. Some of the fights have been incredibly close (100 odd morale between victory and death) and more to the point they have been great fun. They haven’t been facerolls for either side, but genuine contests that saw both sides really going all out to win.

The damage side of things is pretty impressive too. The stacking DoTs from Raking Claws are just beautiful. Couple with the Fangs bleed and the Maul DoT it all adds up to some fairly decent damage on the target. There may not be the bigger crits we see with Shadow stance, but it’s good steady consistent damage we get in Flayer.

One thing of special note I have to mention is the Pack Flayer root. Now there has been some criticism of this skill, and justifiably so given that it is supposed to be unbreakable and yet the Champion’s Sprint skill breaks it, not to mention the pinpoint timing it takes to use it with a moving freep. Despite these drawbacks this skill is pure gold. I’ve been using it whilst duoing with another warg and it is amazing to watch it in action. One of us roots and the other damages and then we swap. The target can’t flee to friendly NPCs, he has to stand and fight and we get our kills on targets that would otherwise have bolted for the hills.


I’m Still Alive!

I haven’t been posting much here lately as you can see and there is good reason for that .. I’ve been trying out the changes to the warg class that Update 6 brought! There obviously wasn’t much point in me posting about them without some proper testing, which I have now done so you can expect some posts on various topics soon.

I will also be updating the various guides as time moves on. That will be more of a long term process considering just how much has changed with Update 6.


Enhanced Skill: Disappear Buff

I read every comment you guys post and I’m really glad I read this one from Feelmybite:

Actually, something that will help Disappear/Topple is that the trait Enhanced Skill: Disappear has actually been buffed up to its original proposal of a 5 min. CD reduction making it actually useful imo. I might just have to find a slot for it XD.

There are going to be three viewpoints on this change: warg, creep, and freep.

Wargs

A solid and needed change to this trait. When the trait was first announced by Kelsan last year Enhanced Skill: Disappear was originally going to reduce Disappear’s cooldown by 5min as well as provide a cleanse for harmful effects. Unfortunately the weight of all the freep tears over this trait meant that the devs had to take time away from doing any of that to help mop up Turbine’s offices. Instead all we got was a pretty crappy 3min reduction in Disappear’s cooldown. The end result was a trait that most wargs thought was crap and was thus barely used.

Reducing the cooldown to 5min gives us a bit more parity with Burglars who can HiPs twice on the trot, one after the other. It also means that our Topple knockdown skill will also have its cooldown reduced too. This is pretty good and makes up a little for still not getting that cleanse.

Not so much an awesome change as it is a needed change to make this trait actually worth slotting.

Creeps

A creep class is getting buffed? Great! Might not be their class, but most will probably appreciate that a creep is getting a buff anyway, it all helps.

Freeps

To sum it up in one word:

QQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQ!

The idea of wargs being able to use Disappear every 5 minutes no doubt sounds like the single worst decision Turbine has ever made in its entire history. Once these changes hit the live servers I fully expect to see posts decrying this change as the worst thing to ever hit PvMP in LOTRO. Rage filled freeps will be screaming that they couldn’t get the kill on that fearsome rank 4 warg with their underpowered Minstrel because he was able to use Disappear again so soon.

In all seriousness this probably looks like a more powerful buff than it actually is. For the benefit of those of you who don’t play a warg (shame on you!) here is why. Ignoring the many problems with Disappear as a skill for a moment we have to remember that Disappear is now a double skill: Disappear/Topple. That dual-role means that this skill will be seeing more usage than it is currently, which means that it will be on cooldown more. Simply put it will not always be used as Disappear.

The other thing to consider here is that this is a trait, not an inherent ability that all wargs will have. Unless the warg is of the appropriate rank or spends Turbine Points he won’t even have this trait. Even those wargs who do have it need to find room for it in their already crowded trait slots. Wargs have a number of ‘must have’ traits that they simply will not unslot, for example, Enhanced Skill: Stealth and Shadow Fang. That’s two slots used up right there.

No, this is a good change for wargs, a needed change even, but it isn’t as OP as some are surely going to make it out to be.


Flayer Stance – Part III

In this last part I am going to focus on the various debuff and crowd control options associated with the new Flayer stance. Please see part one for a look at Flayer stance’s survival options and part two for Flayer’s stance damage options.

Pack Flayers

Of all the changes coming to wargs in Update 6 this skill seems to have caused the most tears amongst freeps. You would think the devs were outfitting wargs with machine guns the way some people are going on. It’s certainly a powerful skill, but it also proportionate and fits the warg very well.

The skill is pretty straightforward: it allows the warg to root a target in place for 10sec and the root cannot be broken by any means whatsoever except for killing the warg. Both the target and the warg are rooted in place with the target unable to block, parry or evade whilst the effect is in place. Since this is a channelled skill presumably the warg using it cannot do anything whilst the channel effect is still running.

Initially I can see two major uses for this skill. The first is of course to stop a freep from fleeing (we know they never do that!). This would obviously only work if the warg using this skill has other wargs/creeps there to help him actually kill the rooted target. Hence this skill will probably see good use in warg packs to prevent targets bolting away or simply to hold the pack’s target in place while the rest of the pack destroys it. Raaawr!

The other major use for this skill that I can see is in allowing wargs to bring a bit more utility to mixed creep raids. Creep raid leaders will no doubt find it useful to be able to use wargs to chase down fleeing freeps after a battle, but it could also be used to lock down freeps attempting to harass the creep raid’s back lines. It could even be used to lock down the creep raid’s RAT target to make it easier to kill it.

Muscle Tear

This is Flayer stance’s version of Throat Rip. Rather than silencing a target it will slow their run speed and increase their attack duration.

The duration of the debuff is pretty short, just 10sec, but the magnitude of the debuffs are pretty high to compensate for that. The target’s run speed is reduced by 50%, which means wargs now have one of the best slows in the game. Equally important though is the +33% Attack Duration effect. This is a pretty serious debuff as increasing a freep’s attack duration basically means he is going to hit you less during the fight. Couple this debuff with Flea Bitten and Brutal Fangs and we could increase a freep’s attack duration by 68% for a short time!

This will almost certainly be a must use debuff during 1vs1 fights!

Brutal Fangs

I already spoke about Brutal Fangs in Part II, but that was looking at the way it would help our damage output. Looking at just the debuffs this is a really great skill to use.

The attack duration debuff is always good of course and when stacked with our other attack duration debuffs can really slow a freep down. Definitely worth using.

As I talked about before the Evade debuff is incredibly sweet. This is a pretty major debuff and should help us land more attacks in 1vs1 situations. Even in pack/group/raid situations this debuff is really useful, especially when used on a hard to take down RAT target as it will make it that bit easier for everyone focusing fire on them.

The Brute bonus is great too albeit with a low chance to proc. Again it will be useful against tough targets as it will mean they loose some mitigations when their armour value is lowered.

Raking Claws

Again I have spoken about this skill before and again it was focused very much on the damage aspects of the skill. However, there is a great debuff associated with Raking Claws too.

This is an amazing debuff in fact. When used against induction based classes i.e. Lore-masters, Minstrels, Rune-keepers and Hunters this is going to really screw with their ability to get skills off. With raking Claws on a  1sec cooldown this debuff can be applied all the time too. It should really help to reduce what an induction class can do if their skill usage is being constantly interrupted, which means they should be pumping out less damage and healing themselves less.

The interesting thing with this debuff is that it is listed as a Brute bonus, but there is no percentage chance given for it to proc. All the other Brute bonuses have a base 5% chance to proc. Might it be then that this Brute bonus always procs? If that is the case then this really is an awesome debuff!

Topple

This is possibly our best and our worst crowd control ability. It’s a 10sec knockdown on a 10min shared cooldown with Disappear. I say best because a 10sec knockdown is of course awesome. However, using this also means we burn a very big, and very important cooldown. If you use Topple you won’t be using Disappear for a while.

Personally I don’t see this skill being used too often because of those factors, but when we do use it it should provide an enormous advantage in terms of being able to take someone out of a fight for a short while. Using it against an enemy raid’s healers could be a good alternative to silencing them (since we won’t have silences when using Flayer stance). The healer won’t be able to pot it and will be out for the count for a good while. It might also see use in immobilising RAT targets in order for a raid to better burn them down. Either way it should provide wargs with more utility in raids as well as in 1vs1 situations.


Flayer Stance – Part II

In the last part I focused upon the protective aspects of Flayer stance compared with Shadow stance. In this part I’m going to be looking at how the damage output compares between the two stances. The obvious comment to make at the start is that Flayer stance doesn’t have the +15% melee damage bonus that Shadow Howler does. That would seem to indicate that we will be doing less damage in Flayer stance than we are doing in Shadow Howler.

What Do We Get?

We might not have a +15% damage bonus, we Flayer stance does provide extra damage through other means. The most notable of these is a new stacking DoT that has been added to Claws when using Flayer stance.

Raking Claws

In Flayer stance Claws is transformed into Raking Claws. This skill appears to have the same base damage as the normal Claws skill that we get when using no stance and out of stealth. However, it now applies a 16sec bleed to the target that can stack up to 3 times. Below is a screenshot of the skill tooltip and the DoT tooltip as taken by Pikacho on Bullroarer.

Now I don’t know how Pikacho was traited, nor do I know how he had setup his warg on Bullroarer, which is a test server, but knowing these young wargs he probably went straight for rank 15 at the auto-leveller. 😛 In all seriousness though we don’t know how his warg was built here so the damage numbers you see here may be higher or lower than you will find on your own warg, but nevertheless they give us an idea of what this skill can do.

The upfront base damage from the skill doesn’t look all that high it has to be said, but the DoT does actually look fairly decent. At 16 seconds it’s a fairly good DoT in terms of longevity, but sadly just has 4 ticks. Even so it looks to be hitting for a decent amount of damage each time. The important thing to remember here though is that it can stack 3 times and with Raking Claws having a cooldown of just 1sec these DoTs can be permanently maintained on a target. Using the numbers above that’s a combined DoT ticking for 408-582 every 4 sec.

Once we factor in the Savage Fangs ( Brutal Fangs) bleed and the Agonizing Maul bleed we can have 5 DoTs ticking away on a target.

Agonizing Maul

Agonizing Maul is the version of Maul we get when using Flayer stance. The tooltip (again provided by Pikacho) is provided below:

For me this skill represents a bit of a nerf. With no stealth usage whilst using Flayer stance we loose the longer 20sec bleed we get when currently using Bloody Maul. That 20sec DoT stacked with the 10sec DoT from Maul used out of stealth for a total of two DoTs so here we have just one 10sec DoT. Tha’s a drop in dps right there.

Also notice that the -25% incoming healer debuff is now a Brute. Previously this debuff would apply on a target when you scored a critical hit with the skill. The base chance for this Brute bonus to proc is 5%, which definitely lower than our critical chance. To be fair we can increase the chance to 25% if we use the new Brute skill, but that means we now have to use an extra skill to get a good chance to apply this debuff.

Brutal Fangs

If Agonizing Maul represents a nerf to wargs Brutal Fangs is a major buff. The reason for this will probably be overlooked by many, but there is actually an incredible useful change here.

The skill is basically the same as the Savage Fangs we are all familiar with, with two exceptions. The first is that there is now a Brute bonus associated with the skill. There is a base 5% chance to apply a -1238 armour debuff to the target. That’s a pretty good debuff to be fair as it will lower the target’s mitigations, which of course helps our damage output.

The big change here though is the -3300 Evade debuff. Previously Savage Fangs had the ludicrous debuff of lowering a target’s block rating. Why is that ludicrous? Well think about it, only freeps using shields can block and how many freeps use shields in the Ettens? Wardens, Mincers, the occasional Guardian and once in a blue moon maybe a Captain. For all intents and purposes though it’s pretty much just Wardens and Mincers and there are hardly any Wardens active in PvMP. In short a block debuff is worthless for a creep.

An Evade debuff on the other hand, especially a nice big Evade debuff like this one, is useful when fighting any freep. I can’t emphasise enough just how good a change this is for wargs. It’s useful against all enemies and will help to bolster our damage output. Awesome!

Topple

Topple is the skill that Disappear transforms into when a warg is using Flayer stance. It shares the same cooldown with Disappear so at 10 minutes it’s not a skill we will likely use very much, however, a 10s knockdown is a powerful tool so it’s worth looking at.

The obvious benefit of this skill is to render an opponent immobile for 10sec. However, it isn’t going to work out like that. Even though knockdowns are not affected by diminishing returns they will almost certainly be affected by Audacity. If that is the case then we will never see the full 10sec duration of this skill take effect. All freeps level 40+ will have at least one rank of Audacity, which reduce crowd control effects by 25%. So right off he bat this means that this 10sec knockdown will actually be a 7.5sec knockdown. That’s still pretty good, but with each rank of Audacity a freep gains it becomes less and less effective. At full Audacity a freep will be reducing crowd control effects by 50%. Hence this will in fact be a 5sec knockdown against such freeps.

Even so a 5sec knockdown is a great tool to have, even if it is on a 10min cooldown. Obviously without proper testing it’s hard to say how this skill will be best used, but right off the bat I can see it being a great tool for finishing a freep off. After wearing a freep down a bit popping this knockdown could be a great way to ensure that you can finish the kill in peace without the freep popping any last minute survival skills, etc. Basically it could be an opportunity to get in some ‘free’ damage at the end of a fight when you need it most.

The other use is in fighting tougher opponents who have better survivability. Again with no diminishing returns on knockdowns this could allow you to stun them first and then apply a knockdown afterwards, effectively stunning them for a fairly long time with no chance for them to pot the knockdown. That all adds up to a lot of ‘free’ damage.


Flayer Stance – Part I

Now that we have some numbers to go on on I thought it might be worth taking a look at how the new Flayer stance compares with the current Shadow Howler stance that it will be replacing.

The Numbers

Shadow stance currently gives the following benefits:

  • +1238 Armour
  • +608 Tactical Mitigation
  • +15% Melee Damage
  • 1k morale bubble, 30sec refresh rate

Flayer stance will provide the following benefits:

  • +2925 Armour
  • +1351 Physical Mitigation
  • +1351 Tactical Mitigation
  • 300 morale bubble, 7sec refresh rate
  • 1%/5% max morale heal linked to bubble refresh rate

The main changes between the stances is the loss of the damage boost from Shadow Howler and the gain of better mitigations. Flayer stance provides substantially more armour and Tactical Mitigation than Shadow Howler and it also provides Physical Mitigation, something Shadow Howler didn’t have at all. So in short Flayer stance looks to make the warg much tougher than Shadow Howler did, but at the cost of the extra damage Shadow Howler provided. I’ll get to the loss in damage later, but let’s first look at the morale bubble.

Bubbles

Currently Shadow Howler provides 1k of temporary morale that refreshes every 30sec. If we take that over a minute Shadow Howler provides the warg with 3k of temporary morale:

  • 0:00 – Initial 1k bubble
  • 0:30 – 1st refresh, a new 1k bubble
  • 1:00 – 2nd refresh, a new 1k bubble

Flayer stance provides 300 temporary morale that refreshes every 7sec. Using the same time span of 1 minute we see that Flayer stance provides 2.7k of temporary morale:

  • 0:00 – Initial 300 bubble
  • 0:07 – 1st refresh
  • 0:14 – 2nd refresh
  • 0:21 – 3rd refresh
  • 0:28 – 4th refresh
  • 0:35 – 5th refresh
  • 0:42 – 6th refresh
  • 0:49 – 7th refresh
  • 0:56 – 8th refresh

On the face of it this would appear to be a nerf. However, there is also a new heal component to Flayer stance that we haven’t taken into account yet. How this works is that if the morale bubble is destroyed by damage then the warg is healed for 1% of his maximum morale. If after 7sec the bubble has not been destroyed then the warg is healed for 5% of his maximum morale. Now 300 temporary morale isn’t very much at all to be fair so for the purposes of this analysis let us assume that is burnt through every time meaning that the warg only receives the 1% heal during a fight. With 8 refresh per minute that equates to a heal of 8% of the warg’s maximum morale.

Different wargs will have different morale pools of course. Differences in rank, corruptions, and buffs mean that we don’t have a standard figure to use here so let’s take a couple of averages; one for lower ranked wargs and one for higher ranked wargs. For lower ranked wargs we’ll take a figure of 8.5k for their maximum morale and for higher ranked wargs we’ll take a figure of 12k for their maximum morale.

For the lower ranked warg healing 8% of their maximum morale per minute would be the equivalent to roughly 680 morale. For a higher rank warg it would be roughly equivalent to 960 morale. Adding these figures to the temporary morale provided by the bubble we get the following per minute figures for morale provided to the warg:

  • Low rank wargs – 3.38k
  • High rank wargs – 3.68k

These are rough figures of course, but nonetheless indicative. They also assume that the 5% heal never procs so the figures could actually be higher. Either way Flayer stance looks to be providing more morale per minute to wargs, whether through temporary morale or heals, than Shadow Howler currently does.