I have already leveled two wardens to cap. As such, for this series I will be following a third warden.
Not quite. For the recruit levels (20-29), I worked with a warden on Nimrodel. This was mainly in preparation for a special event that was held on that server. For this article, I decided to start from scratch as part of a new challenge.
What is this challenge? To run the epic story from start to finish in its intended order (and if I reach the end, then pick it up once again whenever a new book is released). The primary rule is that the epic quests will have precedence over most other quests.
As a basis for comparison, I also leveled an additional warden on Arkenstone. This warden did not have any of the limitations I imposed on the epic warden.
Having resolved to give priority to the epic line, I created the epic warden on Laurelin (an RP server). The rule is that if I have an epic quest available at my character’s level or lower, I am to attempt that quest as soon as possible. I can finish whatever I happen to be doing at the time and I can take side quests in the same area as the epic quest in question but I cannot piddle about and ignore the epic quest. The upshot of this is that I am unlikely to be running many skirmishes when I hit level 50, since there are several books at that level.
Another rule is that while I have an epic quest available (at level or lower), I cannot use any experience enhancers (rested experience gained while I am offline cannot be avoided but I cannot use any other sources such as the pocket item I gained with my Isengard preorder).
While running this character, I expect to face two major challenges.
First, since legendary items are tied to the start of Volume 2 and I am required to finish Volume 1 before starting Volume 2, I will not be able to access legendary items until after I complete Volume 1.
Second, while I will allow class quests, I suspect that getting the major class items to be a challenge. I won’t be able to run enough skirmishes to get the marks to purchase the items. That means finding a group to run CD on a server where I am not yet fully established. I have no other characters on this server, so I can’t just get the items from alts. Perhaps I will find the items in the auction house when the time comes.
This is not optimal play but is instead a challenge.
The following skills are earned in this level range (levels 30-44):
- Mighty Blow (30) – Spear Gambit
- Boar’s Rush (31) – A spear gambit with a possible stun
- Wall of Steel (32) – A spear gambit with an interrupt – useful against some lieutenants
- Muster in Esteldin (32) – A good jumping point for getting to Angmar
- Recklessness (34) – Definitely not a tanking stance
- Shield Mastery (36) – I use this when I remember to but I don’t remember often enough
- Celebration of Skill (37) – Extra healing never hurts
- Wages of Fear (38) – A nice javelin attack, especially from behind
- Surety of Death (38) – A favorite of mine when I am facing an encounter
- Muster in Evendim (40) – A jumping point to Forochel
- Dance of War (41) – Perhaps it’s useful in group runs but is of little use in solo skirmishes
- Resolution (42) – Nice against large crowds and those pesky Shepherds of the Filth
- Spear of Virtue (43) – I rarely use this gambit
- Muster in Rivendell (44) – Good for access to the Misties and for some parts of Volume 1
My wardens are hobbit yeomen. In other words, I have plenty of food – yum.
While my wardens are technically tailors, they have not seriously pursued the profession. Therefore, I am left with skirmish and quest reward items. The epic warden didn’t quest in Evendim but did quest in Angmar while running Book 6. She therefore wears the Fém set. The Arkenstone warden did quest in Evendim and found that the mix of Evendim and skirmish armor to be prefereable to the Fém set.
One of my cap wardens has all six soldiers fully ranked but prefers to use a bannerguard. My other cap warden runs exclusively with an archer. For these wardens, I decided to follow the example of my Nimrodel warden and run with a sage. The main reason for this was to add a little extra challenge in tanking: a sage is squishy and tends to draw aggro, so they challenge my tanking skills more.
I found “challenge” to be the right word. In fact, I found three challenges with the sage. First, she only has light armor, which means that if she draws aggro, she is quickly dead. Second, area attacks tend to draw aggro. Third, my Arkenstone sage was using the Tanglefoot skill, which proved annoying when I was facing a single opponent.
The Tanglefoot bit proved to be the final straw, which is why my Arkenstone warden switched to an archer at level 44. I then ran Trouble in Tuckborough, which proved to be the first skirmish run in some time where I managed a clean run (i.e. so defeats, no soldier losses, and no defenders lost). I now remember why I like the archer so much.
This level range introduces five new skirmishes: Attack at Dawn, Thievery and Mischief, Defence of the Prancing Pony, The Icy Crevasse, and Ford of Bruinen.
My Arkenstone warden managed to run a few duos during the 20s and early 30s. A few were with a lore-master but the majority was with a hunter.
Attack at Dawn
With its high mob rate, high wound rate, and low mark rate, Attack at Dawn is not on the top of my “to run” list. I do find the warden to be one of the easier classes for this skirmish since they can handle crowds well. Even with my wardens, I do prefer to take both side gates to reduce the number of counterattacks as I sometimes find the double counterattack to be overwhelming.
Thievery and Mischief
During the boss fight, I try to keep the soldier behind the boss as the boss has a frontal area attack. As such, stunning the boss generally accomplishes nothing except to cause my sage to run behind me and into the boss’s deadly blades.
This was the skirmish where I decided that Tanglefoot had to go. Perhaps firing my sage was a bit of an overreaction but the move proved to be an improvement.
Defence of the Prancing Pony
This is generally an easy skirmish unless you get the craban and goblin encounters at the same time. I once decided to get the craban as soon as it appeared so that it would no longer be around if the goblin did appear. That proved to be a disaster as the bird was still around when the sixth wave appeared. Now I stay away from the south end of the skirmish if they both appear and hope none of the archers pull my soldier far enough south to be seen.
The Icy Crevasse
I ran this a few times for page drops but the life expectancy of a sage during a level-40 Icy Crevasse run is not very long.
Ford of Bruinen
This skirmish generally goes fairly well. As usual, the exception involves the defilers. I just finished off a lieutenant and thought that it would be a good idea to take out the defilers since I knew there wouldn’t be a lieutenant in the next wave. Unfortunately, no one followed to help and my interrupts kept failing. The result was that I didn’t finish off the defilers until the middle of the second wave after the one where I started the fight.
That was, of course, too long. That second wave had a Forest-born Reaver and by the time the defilers were dead, so was one of the twins. The moral is that if you want to go after the defilers, ask your soldier to help you and try to get the twins into the fight if at all possible. You want the defilers to go down faster and the non-lieutenant wave to last longer.
The epic warden is one of the few characters I have that managed to reach kindred with the Men of Bree. I spent some time in the rep dungeons after completing Book 1 (and waiting to reach a good level for Book 2). This gave me both a port to Bree and access to a nice repair facility.
My Arkenstone warden reached ally with The Mathom Society at level 44. Alas, I was negligent in killing spiders so I have set my milestone to The Shire for easy access. Perhaps I should have followed epic’s lead and worked for the Men of Bree.
While I was planning the epic challenge, I was thinking that I would have trouble getting the pages from the cold regions (the Misties and Forochel). I turned out to be dead wrong. Between Book 5, a few runs of The Icy Crevasse, various Misties side quests, and attacking any hillmen I happened to encounter, I managed to complete the cold set for all three deeds.
I arrived in Angmar rather late in this level range, which meant that I did not have much time for warm region page collection. I completed the deed for Defiant Challenge but not for the other two legendary traits. I will surely finish the other two early in the next range seeing that the next few books are all set in Angmar.
The strangest matter is that I felt the epic version of the character was better developed than the non-epic version. I had assumed that the epic rule would hamper development, though it appears that the rule against using experience enhancers forced me to develop the character more fully. Of course, the next level range starts with the legendary item quest, which is one area where the Arkenstone warden will have a major advantage.