So now you’ve decided to try your hand at raiding. What’s next?
The first thing I would do is to make your character as raid-ready as possible. In this article, I’m going to talk about building your toon so that it will be able to contribute to the group. The focus of this article is not to be a class guide,1 and I will be talking in broad, general terms, although I will cite a couple of class-specific examples.
As I mentioned in the previous article, this series is not intended for experienced raiders, and all opinions expressed here are my own. Your insights are welcome in the comments below.
What do you like to do?
Like most MMOs, the LOTRO classes are built around the standard group dynamic of healer, tank, DPS. Most classes have a DPS trait set and others can operate in two of those three main roles. Some, such as the lore-master, burglar and captain, have some extra skills and abilities which will augment the group. I’ll talk more about that later in this article and in the next one.
I subscribe to the belief that you should play what you want to play, the way you want to play it. That means if you want to be an overpower guardian or a tankstrel, more power to you. I had a kinmate who played a hunter in fleet stance with melee weapons like a medium-armour champion; I don’t know why, but he enjoyed it.
However, if you are going to embark on a raid, chances are good that if you’re not the raid leader, you might have trouble finding a group if you choose to play a class outside of its generally-accepted role. People expect guardians and wardens to tank. If you are a minstrel or rune-keeper, they will probably ask if you are set up to heal. The raid leader may want your lore-master traited for crowd control (CC), or your burg set up five deep in the red line. And if you do not retrait to the way the raid is being built, you may find yourself dismissed.
It should not be surprising that the easiest role to play in the group is DPS. After all, your only job is to stay on target and shoot anything that moves. It’s also the role that most players can fill, so it’s often hard to find a group since a raid might already have five DPS players in it and they really need a tank, healer or CC.
My second toon, which is now my “main” is my minstrel. Basically, I rolled her because my hunter couldn’t find a group. After running a few instances in the low and mid levels, I found that I really enjoyed healing, so I’ve stuck with it, and I’d like to think that I’ve become a pretty good healer. However, not everyone likes to heal.
Similarly, not everyone likes to tank, and not everyone likes to play DPS. If you don’t like a certain role, don’t do it. Not only will you have an unenjoyable time in the raid, but since you don’t want to heal/tank/kill, the raid will probably wipe, too. Personally, I like to heal on my minstrel, DPS on my RK (and off-heal when needed) and do cappy stuff on my captain.
Skills and Traits
Once you’ve picked the role(s) you want your toon to fill, it is incumbent upon you to be the best that you can be as the tank/healer/killer.
While there are several instances that are available for low-level characters, most people start raiding at level 50. By this time, you should have been working on your virtues (which I will talk about in the next section), your class traits and your racial traits.
In most cases, your class traits are tied to using a particular skill a certain number of times; it may be as few as 100 times and may be as many as 1,500.2 Also, the number of times per day you can use that skill towards your class trait is probably incremented, so it might take you a week (or more) of playing that character every day in order gain the trait.3 Some class traits are tied to completing a certain quest (such as the level 15 class quest) and some are tied to the epic quest line.
Before you set foot in any raid, you need to have earned all of the class traits you can earn.
When I started playing, at first I thought, “Why the heck to I need to use _______ skill 750 times?”4 The answer, from a game mechanics point of view is to get you—the player—used to using that skill and to set it into your rotation or finding useful circumstances for that skill. Note that not all skills have a class trait associated with them; for the others, you will just have to get used to using them.5
Each class trait will be assigned to one of three trait lines: blue, red or yellow. What each trait line does varies by class, but in most cases, blue line skills are generally healing skills and red line skills are generally DPS skills. Yellow line skills are generally geared towards some specific mechanic or may just be some other group of skills that fit together.
For instance, in the case of the minstrel, the blue line is the healing line, the red line is the DPS line and the yellow line is the anthem/buffs line. For the RK, the blue line is the healing line, the red line is the fire DPS/DOT line and the yellow line is the lightning DPS line. If you are going to raid, you should be aware of what each trait line is for, and while you may favour one or two of the trait builds over the others, you should be familiar with all three for your class.
One thing you will hear in the roundtables and in the game is that people trait “four deep into the yellow line” or are “five red, two blue traited”, or in a few cases, their trait build is “skittles” (a mix of all three).
What happens is that the more traits you slot in each line, cumulative bonuses begin to apply. In addition, some “capstone” skills require that you trait at least five traits from the same line to become available.
They open up at different levels, but VIP/lifetime players will have up to 7 trait slots available to their toons. I don’t know how many trait slots F2P players get to start, but if you are going to raid, you must have 7 trait slots available to you. Can you get by with less? Probably. Will a raid leader take you in an on-level group if you only have five trait slots available? I doubt it.
In general, most people build five deep into one trait line and two in another. They do this to get the maximum extra bonuses for having at least two traits in two lines, plus a capstone skill. In some cases, you’ll see people with four traits in one line and three in another. Usually this is for a specific bonus/buff for traiting four skills in one line and not needing a capstone legendary skill.
Whether you slot a capstone skill or not will depend on your play style and what your raid needs, but it’s always a good idea to know what your legendary skills do and when to trait them. I’ll talk more about this in the next part, but some raid leaders won’t take people who don’t slot certain skills.
Each character also has some racial traits which are not specific to their class. In general, these don’t affect your raid build, but add a racial port skill, damage increase to a certain type of weapon or bonuses to certain traits. In some cases, when generating a character (role-playing considerations aside), your character’s racial traits may come into play in a raid. The hobbit flop (the “Hobbit Silence” aggro-dump) skill comes to mind as something that is really useful for a minstrel.
Some people also consider each race’s stat bonuses when rolling a character, but for higher level toons, the extra +15 agility that elves get really doesn’t make that much of a difference when hunters have 1,900 agility.
Another LOTRO mechanic which doesn’t greatly affect solo play, but is vital in raids are virtues. Virtues are generally earned one of two ways: exploring a lot of places, and killing a bunch of stuff.6
Before you start raiding, you will want see which virtues will best apply to your class. Read more about what bonuses virtues give here. All virtues offer three bonuses, either to a stat, morale/power, mitigations/resistances, armour or power/morale regeneration.
In generally, if you’re playing a minstrel, rune-keeper or lore-master, you probably want to slot virtues that enhance your will and fate. Burglars and hunters want agility. Champions, captains and guardians are looking for might. I’d say something pithy about wardens, but all I do on mine is button-mash.7 Vitality is good for everyone. The latest update made some of the classes one-stat monkeys (although not as bad as SWTOR is), but most classes will want to emphasise two or three stats.
If you’re not a completionist, you will want to concentrate on ranking up the virtues that you’re going to slot the most. See the link above to get a list of which deeds add to which virtues, and concentrate on completing those deeds (especially the ones that will increase a virtue by two increments).
Also, as you prepare for some raids, you will want to concentrate on ranking up some of the virtues that you don’t normally run. For example, the bosses in Orthanc (especially tier 2) require tactical mitigation virtues almost to the exclusion of everything else. I recommend reading about the raids in advance and seeing if there is some special item, gear, stat, virtue or skill that you will need to work on prior to embarking on the raid. I’ll talk more about this in part 3 of this series.
Generally speaking, you should rank your virtues up to a level that is appropriate for the level of the raid you are running. So for the Shadows of Angmar and Moria raids, you’ll want your virtues to be around 10. For the Mirkwood raids, you’ll want them to be 12, and for the Isengard raids, they should be 14. Presumably, for the new Rohan raids, you’ll want your virtues to be 16.
Gear and Other Stuff
Acquiring gear for a raid is always a troublesome thing. You can’t start getting gear until you run instances and raids, but no one wants to take you on a raid unless you have good gear. While you may not always have the best armour set or weapons, there are some things you can do to prep for raids.
Before going to any raid, I always make sure I have a full inventory of all six kinds of potions,8 tokens, scrolls, trail food and cooked food. Plus, you might need fortifying food depending on which boss(es) you’ll be facing in the raid. Whatever pots, food, scrolls or tokens you bring, they should be level appropriate to the raid you’re running.
If you cannot make these items for yourself, I suggest finding a kinmate who will make them for you either at cost or for a marginal profit. Lacking that, you will probably have to go to the Auction House to acquire these items, and it won’t be cheap.9
You should also try to have the best weapons and armour that you can. If you’re just starting out, you probably will be wearing quest reward armour, or crafted armour. When it’s in your inventory, most gear shows up as one of three colours: green, purple and teal. Think of this as basic, good, best.
The colour will be reflected in the item’s name and the background colour in its inventory item. By the time you get into the mid-levels, you should be getting purple quest reward gear. Your crafted gear should at least be purple. Much of the loot that drops in a raid is teal. You want to start off with the best gear available to you, and by best I mean gear that suits your play style.
There are also some guild/raid drop recipes which will make the gold gear, which has the same background colour as First Age lengendary items, but in my experience, they’re very, very rare, and you probably won’t have any of this gear when you begin raiding. Just know that it’s out there.
Of all the things I miss about SWTOR, two top my list: 1) my commando’s BFG and 2) the comparative tool tip option. When you put your cursor over a piece of equipment, SWTOR will show you the stats of that piece, the stat of the comparable piece you are using and the new piece’s net effect on your stats. This–in a word–is AWESOME! LOTRO will not do this (yet), but when building your character, you will often need to decide whether you want to pick up a few extra points in your primary stat or lose some morale/power/mitigation/etc. However you like to build your toon, try to get the best armour, weapons and bling that you can.
Some people want to have the maximum in their class’s main stat that they can possibly get. Others believe that due to diminishing returns, there’s isn’t much advantage to having a will of 2,400 as opposed to 1,900 when they could equip other gear to raise their fate or morale. If you are unsure of the best build for you, my advice is to seek out other players whom you know and trust, and ask them for their thoughts on what armour set or jewelry would be best for you.
One of the nice things about the Barter Wallet is that many of the old tokens which were previously bound to a character are now shared across all of your toons on the same server. This means that the Moria tokens I had sitting around on my minstrel are now available to my champion when she is high-enough level to barter for the Moria set. Same thing for the Rift armour coins.
If you don’t have any of the Moria tokens, then I’d be checking out GLFF or the Moria LFF channel to see if anyone is running Grand Stairs or any of the other instances that drop the tokens.
Many of the armour sets are not only good pieces individually, but they add set bonuses if you have two or more pieces. Acquiring enough tokens from the Moria/Lothlorien/Dol Guldur/etc. instances is something of a grind, but so is raiding. In some cases, four of the set pieces will be available for barter with medallions/seals/tokens and two pieces will require specific tokens which only drop in some raids. Think of the Watcher/DN/Draigoch pieces. Other armour sets can be purchased from the Classic item vendor at a skirmish camp for some combination of marks, medallions and seals.
That said, it’s not always necessary to have a full set. Like the trait builds I discussed previously, many folks mix and match the armour sets. I know that even at level 65, all of my toons were wearing four pieces from the Moria armour set and two from the Dol Guldur set and that was an acceptable build for most of the instances and landscape quests in Lothlorien, Enedwaith and even a few levels into Dunland.10
Each class has two legendary items: a main-hand weapon and a class item. At level 45, regardless of where you are in the game or in the epic story, go to Eregion and do the Walls of Moria quest that gives you your first legendary weapon. At level 46, enter Moria and get your legendary class item. You can go back to Forochel, Eregion, Angmar or where ever you were later. This way, you start leveling up your LIs as early as possible.11
As you progress to higher levels, you will be expected to have leveled up your legendary items/weapons and have the best legacies on them for your class. There are several articles here at CSTM and many guides on the interweb about building the “perfect” legendary items, so I won’t belabour this point here, but suffice to say that when you get into a raid, having a proper set of legendary items (or two) is imperative.12
Once you level a LI up to level 30, when you deconstruct it, you can take a legacy off of it and move it to another LI. I recommend leveling your item up to level 31 so you get a better loot table for the rune ball and relics when you deconstruct it, but level 30 is the minimum to take a legacy.
Also, each LI starts off with three major legacies (formerly Pool A legacies). At levels 10, 20 and 30, you get to select a random legacy that is available for that LI. Most of the time, you get to choose a minor legacy (formerly Pool B legacies). However, sometimes, you get the option of choosing a major legacy.
ALWAYS PICK THE MAJOR LEGACY!
Even if it’s not one that you want, you will have an extra major legacy slot on that item. You can replace it with another—more desirable—legacy later. But you won’t always get the chance to put a fourth, fifth or even a sixth major legacy on a LI. See the above screenshot of my healing sword; it’s a level 75 Second Ager that I keep around because I don’t need to put points into tactical damage.
If you take a major legacy off an LI, when you put it on another LI, it will replace one of the existing major legacies. If you take a minor legacy off an LI, it can replace either a major or a minor legacy.
So it’s always to your advantage to select a major legacy so that you’ll have the option of replacing it with a major or minor legacy later.
Even if you get a crappy tier 1 or tier 2 major legacy, you can replace it with a better legacy and then tier up the legacy with Scrolls of Empowerment later. Increasing the tier of a legacy–major or minor–decreases the number of points it costs to rank up the legacy.
This is not meant to be a legendary item walkthough or guide, but I also have to touch on melded and crafted relics. For most of the tier 1 raids, the standard tier 1-9 relics will be serviceable for you. However, for the harder tier 2 raids, you will probably want to use melded relics which provide much better bonuses. The offset is that they require a tremendous investment of time, energy, shards and (fake) money. If you’re a beginning raider, I wouldn’t spend a lot of time worrying about melded relics, but be aware that you probably want to put them on your “to do” list.13
Now that you’ve set up your virtues and traits, acquired the necessary legendary items, and stockpiled enough pots, tokens, scrolls and food, you’re almost ready to go raiding.
All you need now are 11 other people to fill out your raid.
In the next part, I’m going to talk about finding a group, fitting your skills into a raid and some of the dynamics of raid interactions.
- If you want good advice on playing your class more effectively, I suggest listening to the class roundtables—if and when Merric ever gets around to recording new ones—or going to the Class Guides link from the CSTM menus. ↩
- Or more. ↩
- A few of the class traits are really hard for solo players to get. The burg’s CJ skill and the minstrel and captain’s rez deeds can only be earned in groups, so a solo player will have to go out of their way to earn these traits. I rolled my captain three years ago and just finished the rez deed last week. ↩
- I’m going to get on the soapbox Goldenstar and Merric have foolishly given to me and use this opportunity to ask the LOTRO devs a question: Why the heck (not the word I really want to use) does my healer have to rez someone 100 times to earn a class trait!?!?!!? If I’ve done my job right–and earned all the other skills I’ve been grinding–NO ONE SHOULD DIE. By requiring me to rez 100 people to earn a blue-line class trait, I have to purposely be bad at my job! What. The. Eff. Is this your way of getting money put back into the LOTRO economy by buffing my fellowship’s repair bills? Or does it amuse you when I have to go into my raid chat and say, “Please stand in the purple cloud; I need to spam my rez deed”? ↩
- It should be no surprise that some of the skills that I don’t use regularly don’t have a corresponding trait that required me to use it 350 times. I was in a group once and someone said, “Hey, Vrae, hit the wight on the right with Song of the Dead” and I was like, “Say whaaaaaat?” ↩
- Or for people with more money than free time, you can rank up virtues by buying them in the pervasive LOTRO store. ↩
- Wardens want might and agility as well. ↩
- Morale, power, wound, poison, disease, and fear ↩
- But then again, raiding isn’t an inexpensive proposition. ↩
- One reason for this now is that as newer raids have come out, people stop running the old raids. So unless you’re in a kin that is still willing to run DN or watcher, you may never get those pieces when you’re on-level. Of course, when you’re way over-level you can also run these as 6-mans and the armour coins are shareable with your lower-level toons. ↩
- It used to be that you didn’t want to enter Moria until level 50 because anything you killed didn’t count towards slayer deeds until you were level 50, but that may have changed in one of the more recent updates. ↩
- Most people have at least two sets of legendary items; some have as many as four. Minstrels and RKs, for example, typically have a weapon/songbook or stone/satchel set for DPS and a second set for healing. Check out some of the class guides around here for more information on legacies and building sets of LIs. ↩
- Maybe one day I’ll write a more in-depth article about legendary items. ↩