In part one I took a look at how PvMP has developed over the years and its position with regards to the rest of the game. Here I am going to be looking at why things have come about the way they have.
In the last part I made much of the fact that PvMP is a side game and for good reason. Launching the game with PvMP included as a last minute addition that would effectively act as a mini ‘game within a game’ meant that LOTRO’s PvP faced two key problems from the start:
The system wasn’t finished. You can see this in the fact that the Defiler wasn’t made available until after the game launched. Less dramatically, but far more important in its ramifications, this unfinished state could be seen over the following five years as Turbine tried to fire ‘magic bullets’ at PvMP to make all the problems go away.
The second problem was a lot more subtle in that it perhaps wasn’t so easy to identify right away. However, even if it was hard to spot at first it’s effects would be impossible to miss as the game progressed. The problem was that with PvMP being a side game there was considerable difficulty for an active, long lasting, PvMP community to form and take root.
Right from the start then PvMP was saddled with two major drawbacks. The lack of polish to the system along with missing features; balance issues, etc meant that it was something of a niche for players. That niche status and lack of integration with the rest of the game meant that players would come and go with only the most dedicated sticking around consistently.
With only a relatively small core of players sticking around in PvMP for the long term it seems obvious that PvMP simply wouldn’t be able to generate the numbers that other aspects of the game, such as raids, instances, festivals, etc would be able to generate. That in turn leads to less attention being directed at PvMP in a cycle of diminishing returns.
It is important to point out that Turbine have, from time to time, come along and given PvMP an injection of dev time. It’s is especially apparent in the time sine Kelsan started heading up PvMP. The key here though is that despite good intentions, and some great work, the changes that have come to PvMP haven’t really expanded the system at a base level.
It’s the initial failure to establish a strong PvMP community that is at the heart of LOTRO’s PvMP problems. Players need to feel that their gameplay matters and in PvMP the feeling one gets is very often the opposite. The obvious solution would be to expand the scope of PvMP and integrate it more tightly with the rest of LOTRO. However, here we run into a major obstacle: the community. Whilst a broad based long lasting PvMP community has proved elusive a strong PVE centric community did take shape and its a community that at best views PvMP with indifference and at worst views it with outright hostility.
LOTRO became, and is resolutely, a PVE centric game. Broadening PvMP out of its narrow confines is something that will likely see opposition from many players. Perhaps they might feel that dev time is being taken away from PVE systems; they might feel the game is heading away from its core values; they might see an expansion of PvMP as a threat to the aspects of the game they most enjoy and so on. These are all understandable reactions of course, but they underscore the difficulty LOTRO has in making PvMP anything more than a side game.
The Art Of The Impossible
So how does PvMP ever become more than it is? Well there are in fact some encouraging signs. For starters the RoR PvMP update is more than just a lick of paint, it is obviously aimed at paving the way for the Ettenmoors to see more usage. That fact alone is very telling because it shows us that the devs are not happy with PvMP from a business viewpoint.
The side game nature of PvMP means that it sees relatively limited use. That isn’t a good thing if you are wanting to make money from it and PvMP is a potential cash cow in this F2P era. That the devs would want to see more PvMP players, and thus more PvMP cash, seems obvious. The first step is of course to make the Ettenmoors fit for purpose, which I think is what we are seeing the start of with RoR.
It’s the step beyond that that will be the most challenging. The Ettenmoors is what it is, but it is never going to be able to generate the sort of PvMP community that befits a top tier MMO. For that to happen PvMP needs to expand, not just into other regions, but into the rest of the game through better use of technology, more integration with existing systems and so on.
Whether Turbine has the will to push through such changes at this stage of the game will ultimately decide if PvMP can ever be more than the sum of its parts.
Rise of Isengard has been out for over a month now and I have had a chance to play my warg a fair bit and get a feel for the changes that came in with the expansion. I’d like to spend some time talking about those changes and how they affect us wargs. There is a lot of ground to cover so I am going to be splitting this into two parts; the first will be an overview of the freep classes and the second will be a look at everything else.
Ok so let’s start off by looking at the various freep classes. A few notes before we get into it though: i) all of this is from my own personal experience and your own views may differ depending upon your own experience and ii) this is not a detailed analysis of each class, rather it is a short summary of each with a view to giving an overview of their current state of play.
In general I have found Burgers to be easier after ROI than before. Previously they had always seemed just a little too slippery, but that doesn’t seem to be the case now. Don’t get me wrong they can still pop ‘Oh Shit!’ button after ‘Oh Shit!’ button, but in-between those they don’t feel as tough as they used to.
I think Finesse might be the reason for this. Being relatively high ranked I have a fair bit of Finesse, which will of course reduce the Burger’s b/p/e ratings. They will still be pretty high, but a reduction, any reduction, means that I will be hitting more often, which obviously means they will be taking more damage. A side effect of this is that I have noticed more Burgers using ‘Knives Out’ when their morale starts to fall. Not that they didn’t use this skill before, it’s just that I am seeing it a little more often now.
Shadow Howler is making a difference here too and not just for the extra damage it brings. The increased survivability means that I can actually stick around a little longer, which means that I have a better chance of outlasting their panic buttons.
Burger damage seems to be varied depending upon the Burger. I have encountered some who seem to hit like a tonne of bricks, zapping my morale in seconds whilst others look like their hitting with wet noodles.
One thing that really sticks out though is the ability to track them. I had the stealth track before the ROI expansion so this isn’t a new ability for me, but it will be a new ability for many lower ranked wargs who have purchased it from the store. Coordinating a few wargs to track a Burger helps to negate the ridiculous double HiPS scenario and gets us our kills a little more often now.
Difficulty: Less difficult than before, but still slippery
On the whole I haven’t had any real problems with Captains. I’ve found that they hit a bit harder than before, but not so much that you are in any real danger of being zapped down quickly. They do have good survivability and Last Stand can prolong the fight, but in general they don’t feel any more difficult or any easier than they did pre-ROI.
All the old strategies still seem effective against Captains and unlike Hunters I haven’t seen any new behaviour from them to warrant upgrading or downgrading their difficulty. In groups though they can be problematic, not so much for what they can do to you, but for their support abilities that can keep the freep side up and fighting longer than you might expect. If you see one in a group you are facing it is definitely worth assigning one warg to deal with him to at least try and keep him from helping his side too much.
Difficulty: Same as before. Not a quick fight, but no real problems either.
Champions received some major buffs with ROI and it shows on the Moors. The Champions tanking trait line received some hefty boosts to survivability and it is quite common to see Champions using the Glory stance along with a number of tanking ‘blue’ traits these days. Of course this means they loose out on the extra damage that Fervour provides, but even so they can still hit very hard, especially as they got a skill that makes the next use of Remorseless Strike, a big hitting melee skill, auto crit.
The increase in survivability is very noticeable and chiefly takes the form of two morale bubbles, both of which provide significant amounts of temporary morale. These bubbles effectively give Champions huge amounts of morale and it takes sheer brute force to wear them down, all the while being hit for fairly high damage in return.
What I find though is that the outcome of battles varies a great deal depending upon the skill level of the Champion involved to say nothing of their gear. For example, recently myself, another high ranked warg and a Blackarrow struggled to kill one Champion on his own. He did eventually die, but not before getting us down to around 3k morale! Compare that with an incident just yesterday where I managed to kill two Champions by myself one after the other.
In short it’s a bit of a mixed bag with Champions. They have the tools available now to output a lot of damage whilst also having fantastic survivability. The key ingredient though is the player behind the Champion. If they know what they are doing it will be a very tough fight that will be nothing short of a war of attrition. If they are a poor player the fight might still last a while, but you will know you are pushing inexorably towards victory from the outset.
Difficulty: Definitely more difficult than they were before, but depends a lot on player skill.
I’ve found Guardians to be similar to Burgers in that they feel a bit easier than they did before. It’s not that they are any more squishy because they aren’t, rather it’s that they don’t seem to be hitting quite as hard as they used to. I think this might be a combination of the increased warg morale pools, improved Shadow Howler, and Guardian dos not having skyrocketed. In other words they are more balanced now in the sense that they have great survivability, but without tremendous damage to match.
Where the Guardian can shine though is in simply wearing you down. They are still extremely tough and you will have a hard job in battering them down, which gives them plenty of time to wear down your power pool and gradually beat down your morale. However, I have found that because they aren’t hitting me as hard as they used to, coupled with Finesse, I am actually able to get them down.
Like Champions player skill and gear do count for a lot and a good Guardian can still do some serious damage and give you a good beating. Poor Guardians though seem to go down fairly easily in the sense that whilst the fight might still drag a little owing to their inbuilt survivability, they don’t present too many problems.
Difficulty: Slightly easier to take down now, but in the hands of a skilled player still a serious challenge.
This is an interesting one because in a sense nothing has really changed with Hunters in my experience and at the same time everything has changed. Ok so that sounds a bit Zen. I shall explain.
On the one hand I have found that Hunters in general are playing exactly the same way as they did before. They are stacking as much morale as possible; treating mostly in the red ‘damage’ line, and still use all their old (and useless) tricks like messing you for a few seconds to get some distance, etc. In this respect they are no different to how they were before and are the easiest class for a warg to take on. Success in a 1vs1 should be somewhere around the 99.9% mark for the warg.
However, some Hunters have actually started to think a little differently and are playing to their strengths rather than thinking that they can simply ‘tank’ you with a high morale build whilst trying to hit you with high damage ranged attacks that can be interrupted. What I’ve seen from a small number of Hunters is a very effective ‘blue build’.
The Hunter’s blue trait line focuses (pardon the pun) on building focus, some melee skill enhancements, and speed & movement. In short it’s a kiting line that also produces some very effective damage, indeed in some respects the damage is better than the red ‘damage line’. With these blue traits Hunters can build Focus, which they need for their highest damage attacks, more quickly as well as moving and losing less Focus than they normally would. Couple this with a buff they have called ‘Fleetness’ and they gain an in-combat movement buff whilst building and retaining Focus.
When this build is coupled with equipment geared towards maximising damage instead of morale what you end up with is a glass cannon of sorts. These Hunters can output tremendous amounts of damage in a very short space of time. They can also move fast and get off more of their highest damage skills more quickly.
When engaged in melee combat they are very squishy from having sacrificed morale and possibly mitigation, etc so they do go down pretty fast. However, because of their high damage and fast fire build they can do significant amounts of damage before you kill them, possibly taking you down.
These are the Hunters to be careful around. If you see a Hunter with less than 7k morale then be wary. He might just be poorly geared, but he might also be packing a bazooka instead of a bow.
Difficulty: Mostly as easy as they always were, but a few are starting to wise up and can pose a real threat.
Lore-masters are a class that can either be a dream for a warg or a nightmare. Arguably more than any other class they personify the concept of player skill being important. It’s a difficult class to master and the range of options they have at their disposal is both potent and complicated. In the hands of a n00b a Lore-master can be one of the easiest classes for a warg to take on because of their inherent squishiness. However, in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing you are simply not going to win. That part isn’t so much opinion as fact. The Lore-master has a counter to almost everything you can do and can do a hell of a lot more to you that you have no answer to.
This is pretty much still the case after ROI, but things are now a little easier on the n00b Lore-masters owing to some very potent buffs the class received to its damage output. The ability to stack the Burning Embers DoT up to three times and keep all there eon you continuously is a very serious threat. So to is the ability to vastly increase their critical chance so that when they do use something like Ents Go To War you might be on the receiving end of a 4-7k crit.
I haven’t faced too many Lore-masters since the expansion went live and those I have faced have mostly been of the n00b variety. They were easy kills. However, with the enhancements they received well played Lore-masters are more dangerous than ever.
Difficulty: Easy for poorly played LMs, extremely difficult from well played LMs.
If the Lore-master represents a major challenge for the warg the Minstrel is nigh on impossible to beat. The problem here is that Minstrels have the ability to do three key things that spell disaster for wargs. First of all they have the potential to output tremendous amounts of damage. I really want to stress the term ‘tremendous’ here because Minstrel damage, when properly treated and equipped, can be extremely potent. Add to this the ability to very effectively self-heal and they have great survivability. The third ability is to counter almost everything we can throw at them with the exception of our stuns.
Let me give you an example of a recent 1vs1 fight I had with a kinmate who plays a Minstrel. He is is a very good Minstrel and plays that class and only that class so he knows it inside and out. I of course started with a pounce to stun him and get some damage in whilst also silencing him. Upon waking from his stun he was able to self-heal after the silence had worn off. This self-healing effectively neutralised the damage I had delivered. my next silence from Dire Howl was a waste of time as he had made himself immune. Rabid Bite was useless as he has over 6k power and can regen his own power through skills. My stuns rarely proced after this, but even if they had they would have been less and less effective owing to diminishing returns. Meanwhile his fears proved effective on me. What happened was that he simply self-healed whilst i vainly tried to deal damage. When he had exhausted my power reserves he could then start doing his own damage. At that point, with no power and pots on cool down, I had two choices: i) flee and forfeit the kill or ii) stay and die. In other words it was pointless me attacking him in the first place.
This is the trouble we face with Minstrels. They have no appreciable weakness at the moment. They combine great damage with great survivability. The few means we have of crowd controlling frees or reducing their fighting power can either be neutralised by the Minstrel or grow rapidly less effective as the fight wears on.
That’s not to say that I haven’t had a few Minstrel kills, but these have been mostly poorly played Minstrels who panicked and didn’t really use the full array of options at their disposal. When up against even a half competent Minstrel the fight is a tough one and facing a well played Minstrel it becomes close to impossible for the solo warg.
Difficulty: Extremely high. Might be better not even attempting it if low ranked or Minstrel is known to be competent.
Pre-ROI Rune-keepers were known for their high spike damage from lightning attacks. These days it is all about fire damage! The Rune-keeper has always had fire attacks and a whole trait line dedicated to them, but it wasn’t used as much as the lightning trait line in the Ettenmoors pre-ROI. With the fire trait line having received buffs that has changed.
What I am finding is that the fire attacks from the Rune-keeper, whilst not producing the ridiculous telephone number damage of the lightning attacks, is actually producing very significant damage, both directly and through DoTs. The DoTs in particular are very nasty. They can be ticking away for several hundred points of fire damage and some of them can last a long time. One attack in particular is very worrisome for the warg in that it places a DoT on us that tiers down. When the first DoT has expired the second DoT is automatically applied and so on. this continues for a full minute!
When we think of DoTs we tend to not place much importance on them as a source of damage. They knock us out of stealth and they might even kill us if we are already low on morale and our pots are on cool down, but generally DoTs aren’t too bad and we can keep on fighting away. This isn’t the case with the Rune-keeper DoTs, because if they are allowed to stack up they will strip your morale off very quickly.
Thankfully the Rune-keeper is as squishy as ever when actually engaged so they do go down fast. However, the DoTs can last long enough for the Rune-keeper to kill you from beyond the grave. The key thing I have found though is that because the fire attacks don’t have the huge spike damage of the lightning attacks the fight can actually last long enough for you to get in some serious damage and take the Rune-keeper down. Sure the DoTs might still kill you, but at least you get a kill too.
Difficulty: A bit easier than before, but DoT damage can drop you fast so don’t underestimate.
There aren’t many Wardens on the Moors and that seems to be the case for most servers so my experience is quite limited when it comes to this class. Having said that I have fought some since ROI was released and gained a few insights.
Wardens don’t hit you very hard for the most part, at least not with direct damage. They rely on DoTs to take you down and unfortunately for us they have a lot of DoTs. These DoTs can be applied relatively quickly by the Warden and you can soon find yourself with numerous DoTs all ticking away burning through your morale.
The real problem though is that the Warden has ample opportunity to apply these DoTs because of the length of time it takes to kill them. They are pure tanks, they have no other significant role in the game and as such they are built for survival. They have high morale pools, on par with creeps (they will probably have more morale than you do!) and they can also count on high avoidances too. Not only that, but they have a skill that restores 75% of their morale then they are near death. Effectively this resets the fight for them meaning you have to kill them twice.
What I find though is that not many Wardens play regularly in the Ettens so they tend not to have a good grasp of how to deal with wargs. Of course this won’t apply to those Wardens who do regularly PvP. This unfamiliarity can lead them to panic, which can give you an edge as I have often found. Wardens don’t need to run from a warg, but if they panic and flee then you stand a good chance of winning.
For those who have stood and fought me I find that stuns and silences work wonders. Wardens can make themselves immune to stuns for 10sec, but they can only do this once every 30sec so you can still get in a few stuns. This is when you can really burn them down and force them to switch from stacking bleeds to self-healing. The silences are also useful because it denies them access to a number of their gambits for a few seconds, which can interrupt their flow.
On the whole I’ve resigned myself to fighting a war of attrition with Wardens. The key is making them burn their power pool so make sure you use Rabid Bite. Once their power is gone they are effectively just a walking morale pool that can be killed. I see the best results when burning their power pool before they activate their big heal because then they still can’t do anything even though they are back at almost full morale.
Difficulty: A bit harder than before due to being able to heal 75% morale, but no real threats except when building DoTs on you.
One thing that I have seen repeated over the years, and again in the past few days, is that wargs are the creep equivalent of the Burglar. This is such a popular misconception that I felt I should explain why it isn’t true.
There are some similarities between wargs and Burglars to be fair and this is no doubt where comparisons arise. The most obvious similarity is of course both classes’ ability to stealth. There are others though, such as the ability to open conjunctions on demand as well as the ability to debuff opponents. Both classes also have effective escape skills that can take them out of danger.
So what are the differences then? Well for starters the role each class serves is different. The warg is a scout, someone who creeps around the map looking for the enemy and reporting their position. The warg is also a scavenger, looking for the weak to prey upon and finish off. The Burglar, on the other hand, is less of a scout and more of an assassin. The Burglar will often stick close to the main freep groups and engage in harassment tactics or go toe to toe with creeps directly. The warg will often be separated from the main creep group and engage in hit and run tactics.
There are actually differences inherent to the similarities I mentioned above! Take stealth for example:
Burglars can achieve higher stealth levels than wargs, especially when one considers low ranked wargs. Burglars are able to equip various items that will enhance their stealth ability whilst wargs are entirely dependent upon traits, some of which are not gained until higher ranks.
The escape skills both classes have are also different. Both classes have an instant stealth skill, Disappear for wargs and HiPS for Burglars. However, they each function differently. For instance, Disappear is on a 10 min cooldown whereas HiPS can have its cooldown lowered to as little as 7 min. HiPS also negates any slow effects on the Burglar, setting run speed to 100% whilst Disappear does not. Burglars also have a reset button that will instantly reset their HiPS cooldown, effectively giving them two uses of the skill back to back. Wargs have no such luxury.
The other ‘panic buttons’ each class has are very different. Wargs have Sprint, which will take them out of a fight. Burglars have Touch and Go and Find Footing, which can keep them going in a fight much longer. Wargs are designed to be the embodiment of ‘fight or flight’ whilst Burglars are more a case of ‘keep fighting’.
In terms of debuffs both wargs and Burglars have a 25% slow they can apply albeit the Burglar can turn their’s into an AOE effect. Wargs have a rather meagre range of debuffs when compared to a Burglar, either suffering from long cooldowns, lacklustre effects or gating until higher ranks.
Something needs to be said about packs, both of the warg and Burglar variety. Both classes do operate in packs although wargs much more so. The warg pack can cover large distances, both through speed enhancements and through use of maps. The warg packs act as scouts, but also as self-contained groups in their own right. My experience of Burglar packs has been one of groups that are more cautious than the warg packs in the sense that they tend to stick beside the freep raid or hang around only select spots instead of moving around much.
The warg is not a Burglar and vice versa. They are two stealth classes. That’s about it. That should be something that is played up rather than the recent trend of seemingly trying to make the warg into a mirror of sorts for the Burglar. People who play a warg do so because they want to play a warg, not a Burglar.
Welcome to the new home of The Art of Warg! Previously the blog was hosted over at Tumblr, but since Tumblr is a pain in the arse for people leaving comments I decided to move the blog to more amenable shores. So once again I hope you find the site useful and please feel free to leave a comment on anything that interests you.