A couple of months ago, I posted an article called First Impressions: The Minstrel in ROI about my initial impressions of minstrel healing after the ROI update. Where other classes got some minor upgrades, the core mechanics of the way minstrels operated were fundamentally changed. After getting my minstrel to the new level cap and having the opportunity to run solo and in groups, I’d like to make a couple of comments on how I feel that the changes have affected minstrel gameplay.
As always, these comments are simply my perspective and my approach. How you build your character will reflect your personal preferences; play what you want to play, the way you want to play it. Please leave me your comments at the end, especially if it will elevate my healing from lousy to merely bad.
Virtues and Stats
Before, I get into mechanics and rotations, let me take a minute to discuss virtues. The virtues people slot are often intensely personal. They reflect that player’s personal style and also what they use that character for. Do you need virtues to do all of the game content? No. Can they make a big difference? Yes. If I am forming a PUG for a level 75 instance/raid and I see that your character’s slotted virtues are only rank 6 or 8, I’m probably going to pass you over if someone better comes along. If I am forming a PUG for a below-level instance (Carn Dum, Grand Stairs, etc.), I’ll probably let low-ranking virtues slide.
You earn virtues by completing deeds (slayer, exploration or quests) or by purchasing ranks from the LOTRO store. Virtues add bonuses or buffs to base stats, resistance and morale/power regeneration. You can read more about them here.
I admit that for the longest time, I didn’t understand exactly what virtues did. I spent a lot of time just standing around the 21st Hall and inspecting random toons of the same class. I kept track of what virtues people had slotted and then equipped the 5 most common ones. While this is a pretty good approach, it’s not necessarily the most efficient.
First of all, you need to figure out what stat(s) are the most important for you. One of my biggest gripes about ROI is that it seems to have made every class a one-stat pony, and much of the gear for the “squishy” classes concentrates on that one stat, and neglects power and morale, which some of the older gear had on it in addition to the stat bonuses. In talking with a small sample of LOTRO players, it seems to be a common experience for a minstrel, RK or LM to drop about 1,000 morale when they upgrade their armour and bling from what they had a level 65 to some of the quest reward gear that drops. From that perspective, it makes leveling up your virtues and relics that much more important.
It also means you need to make some hard choices about gear; do you keep that old bracelet that gave you +40 Will, +253 morale and +176 power, or do you take the new bracelet that gives +72 Will and +36 Vitality?
It used to be that minstrels wanted to get Fate and Will on their gear. However, now it seems that you want to concentrate on Will. It affects your: maximum power, melee offence, tactical offence, outgoing healing, resistance rating and non-combat power regeneration (NCPR). Fate affects: critical rating, in-combat morale regeneration (ICMR) and in-combat power regeneration (ICPR).
I would never pick an item giving your minstrel additional Might or Agility unless it also gave a massive bonus to will and/or morale.1 For the absolute best gear, you’re going to have to make friends with a Westfold Master craftsman or run a the level 75 skirm-raids, tier 2 3/6-mans and the Draigoch raid until you get the gear you want.
So back to virtues: the set I run is:
- Idealism – Fate, Will, Resistance
- Justice – in-combat morale regeneration, Morale, non-combat morale regeneration
- Loyalty – Vitality, Power, armour
- Valour – Morale, non-combat morale regeneration, might
- Wisdom – Wisdom, in-combat power regeneration, resistance
There is probably a better build out there, and some people like to slot all of the ones that increase Will or Vitality (even if it’s only +8 at rank 12). As I said before, virtues are a matter of personal preference and your build should fit your play style.
Another thing worth mentioning is that when you get your legendary items, you really want to start slotting relics that will improve your core stats, outgoing healing, tactical offence and other vital numbers. You might also add stat legacies if you have an extra legacy slot. Personally, I hate grinding for relics, but if you have the best tier 7 or crafted relics on your LI, the difference can be a couple hundred in stats and a couple thousand in morale and/or power. The cost can be prohibitive, though, as it takes thousands of shards to make the top tier relics.
Of the three trait lines, I only ever slot two of them: the blue line and the red line. I don’t even know what their official names are. Blue is for healing. Red is for DPS. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever traited down the yellow line.2 I know a couple of minstrels who trait yellow-line, but I’ve never been convinced to do it. If you trait the yellow line, please leave a comment below and let me know what the advantages are.
When I trait for healing, I slot the following traits:
- Focused Performance
- Graceful Demeanor
- Power of Song
- Silver Tongue
- Smooth Voice
- Subtle Movements
When I trait for DPS/soloing, I swap out to the following:
- Enduring Morale
- Improved Echoes of Battle
- Light in the Dark
- Powerful Voice
- Subtle Movements
The build you choose may be different, and this works for me. The bottom line is: If it works for you and it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
One of the changes that came with ROI is that they tied the three minstrel stances to the trait lines. The default stance is called Melody and is for healing (blue line). War-Speech remains the DPS (red line) stance, and the buffing (yellow line) stance is called Harmony. Depending on your stance, some of your skills are changed, as are some of the ballad effects.
[Old man voice=on]Sonny, back in my day, we had ballads . . . but none of them were “major” or “minor” . . . and what the heck is a “perfect” ballad?3 The only “perfect” ballad I know is Open Arms. You youngsters need to get your stuff straight![/old man voice]
I am not musically inclined.4 I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. I can’t read music, I can’t sing and I suck at Guitar Hero. But I’m told that the change to the ballad system is somehow related to musical intervals. Whatever. All I know is that minstrels lost of a bunch of skills when ROI opened up, and some of the ones that were left were changed to something unrecognisable from what we had before.
That leaves us two choices to approach the new ballad system:
1. Mash buttons
2. Figure out how the new ballad system works
Since I’m inclined to believe that option 1 will lead to my groupmates hearing “Oh, god, oh, god, we’re all going to die!” more often than option 2, here goes:
Under the old system, ballads were assigned a tier, and you had to work your way up through the tiers to get get to all of the ballads. A tier 2 ballad required a tier 1 ballad, and a tier 3 ballad required a tier 2 ballad. The tier 3 ballads opened up anthems, which in turn reset your ballad counter.
Now, you have three ballads: Minor, Major and Perfect. Having three active ballads opens up the anthems and codas. It used to be that a ballad stayed “active” for a certain amount of time before it expired and you had to work your way up through the tiers again. Under the current system, they reset after you’ve been out of combat for 9 seconds. Ballads also reset when you use a coda.
We’ll talk some more about this in a minute.
For all intents and purposes, it’s easiest to think of the ballads in this way:
The Minor and Perfect ballads always do damage in addition to their other effects. The Major ballad either does damage (when in War-Speech) or heals (in Melody stance). You’ll also notice from the links above that slotting certain traits can increase the ballad’s effects, which means if you’re the main healer for Draigoch, you probably really want to trait down the blue line, but if you’re over level for Grand Stairs, you can probably get away with staying on the red line.
You can have three ballads active at a time, and the ballad bonuses stack. If you are traited down the blue line, your ballad skills will look like this:
Similarly, if you are traited on the red line, your ballad skills will be:
And for yellow line traits, you bonuses work out to be:
So if you’re traited blue-line and you have three Major ballads active, you get +21% outgoing healing, –3% power cost for non-anthem skills and +3% tactical damage. Similarly, if you’re traited for DPS and you have three minor ballads active, you get +21% tactical damage, –3% power cost for non-anthem skills and +6% outgoing healing.
Without getting into a lot of math,5 use this general approach to your casting your ballads:
Minor: Tactical damage
Major: Outgoing healing
Perfect: Power reduction
You can mix and match your ballads to get the balance that you want. For instance, if you’re finding that you’re burning through power, you might want to put three perfect ballads up, even if you’re running in War-Speech. Personally, when I am going for DPS, I play three minor ballads right off and then augment them with my other skills. If I’m healing, I throw down three major ballads and then heal the group with my other skills. I always try to get the three ballads up right off because that’s when your party should need the fewest heals or and the tactical damage boost will pay off later.
There is no reason to have fewer than three ballads active during combat.
Otherwise you won’t have access to anthems or codas. You also won’t be able to take full advantage of the boost in tactical damage, outgoing healing and power reduction. If you cast a coda, put your three ballad rotation back up. Immediately.
Unlike the RK attunement meter or warden’s gambit tracker thingie, there is no separate panel on the screen to show you what ballads are active. The only thing you can do is watch your character portrait and see which icons are up. If you are having a hard time seeing the icons, go into your Settings>UI Settings>Vitals and increase the size of your character portrait.
When you play a ballad, it appears under your character’s portrait with the first-cast one on the right and the most recent on the left. If you play a fourth ballad, the oldest is moved out of your rotation and the newest one takes its place. For more about the ballad rotation, check out the ROI Minstrel Developer’s Diary.
Anthems and Codas
When you have three ballads active, you can play an anthem. All of the anthems provide a buff to you and/or the group, and they share a common cooldown. The ones I used most often are Anthem of the Free Peoples (buffs Vitality and ICMR), Anthem of the Third Age (buffs healing in Harmony or cry damage in War-Speech) and Anthem of War (increases melee, ranged and tactical damage), although your rotation will also depend on the situation. For instance, I almost never use Anthem of Compassion, which reduces healing threat.
In addition, they added a coda skill, which is dependent on your stance. In War-Speech, it’s called Coda of Wrath. In Melody, it’s Coda of Vigour and in Harmony, it’s Coda of Resonance. In each case, casting the coda resets all of your ballads and anthems. I’ve found the coda to be semi-useful; it’s intent was to be a “finishing move”, and in many respects it’s good, but I don’t know that it’s worth the trade off of losing all of your damage/outgoing healing/power reduction buffs for having to reset your ballad rotation.
For the most part, ROI did not change the way the other healing skills are used. I addressed these in my Guide to Lousy Healing. The two notable exceptions are that they reduced the cooldowns for Fellowship’s Heart and Triumphant Spirit from 30 minutes to 10 minutes, which is just enough time to having around for once in every boss fight instead of twice per raid.
DPS, Soloing and Raiding in the Moors
The other thing ROI did was to make minstrels AOE DPS machines. In doing away with the ballad tier system, some skills which you had to unlock can now be used right away (Improved Call of the Valar, I’m looking at you!). Add in the +21% tactical damage for traiting red-line and having 3 active minor ballads, and it’s a recipe for mass destruction. In fact, I’ve seen raids have their minstrels go War-Speech and use captains and RKs exclusively for healing. This is especially true in the Moors where the defeat responses make captain heals that much more effective.
When I was soloing my minstrel up to level 75, I found myself surviving multiple-mob fights that would have resulted in repeated visits to a rez circle before ROI. I have a feeling that this is going to be nerfed . . . er, “balanced” . . . in an upcoming update, but for now, use it while you’ve got it!
The only big trade off is that when in War-Speech a minstrel can only self-heal. That’s not a big deal, but I used to run GS in War-Speech and heal the party though the trash mobs and only dropped out for the boss fights. Still, when you add in the fact that the healing penalty went away and that you can trait Subtle Movements to make Bolster Courage uninterruptable, I’ll take it.
Some minstrels carry a pack of instruments around. Each has some advantages over others, but for the most part, I carried a drum (ballad damage) and a theorbo (reduced threat). I know people who had macros written that would switch to bagpipes for certain anthems, drums for ballads and theorbo for healing skills. I don’t know enough about writing macros and I don’t think it made that much of a difference, so I never bothered. If this is you, please leave a comment below and let tell me why I should swap out instruments when healing.
As it is, I use the Exquisite Premium Cowbell for DPS and the Exquisite Premium Clarinet for healing. See their bonuses below.
Some kinmates made the instruments for me and said, “These are the best minstrel instruments in the game” and I simply took them at their word because I know them to be pretty good minstrels. My woodworker is level 44 right now, and I haven’t logged in on her in a while, so I can’t comment on whether there are better instruments available. If there are, please let me know.
Re-learning the Class
More than the other classes, minstrels were subjected to the most changes when ROI dropped. All in all, I like much of what they did, and I like the new ballad system far more than the old system. I also like the massive DPS that minstrels do, even if only for a squishy class. I think there was a sharp learning curve for the first couple of weeks after ROI, but now, I think a lot of minstrels have adapted to the changes and for the most part, they like them.
As always, your comments are welcome.
- I’ve never seen an item give a bonus to the combo of Might, Agility and Will. Sometimes, you’ll see Might/Fate or Agility/Fate, which would be good for a captain/guardian/champion or a hunter/champion/burglar for the ICMR/ICPR. ↩
- Similarly, my captain is always traited Hands of Healing. I’ve been talked into the red line exactly one time, and things went badly, so I go blue line on my captain at all times. ↩
- Substitute another word for “heck”. ↩
- Ironic, considering my choice of LOTRO classes to play, huh? ↩
- I used to be good at math, but I never liked it. So when I got to college, I majored in history specifically to avoid taking math classes. Of course, liberal arts major = guaranteed unemployment/graduate school, so maybe that wasn’t such a bright idea. Thank goodness my lovely bride has a degree in something that’s nearly impossible to outsource (nursing) and was able to put me through graduate school. Twice. Hey, someone has to work to keep me in the lifestyle to which I have become accustomed. Stop judging me. ↩