One of the biggest misconceptions about the lore-master class is that they are a ranged tactical nuking class, like a fire mage or archetypical magician in other fantasy games. However, while it’s true that lore-masters can put out fantastic burst tactical damage with some flashy skills, especially in AOE situations, due to the fact that our big tactical damage skills are all gated by fairly significant cooldowns a surprisingly high amount of our sustained DPS actually comes from our melee skills and melee auto-attacks. This post will outline some general DPS tips and rotations and provide some statistics to show why if you are looking to do damage as a lore-master then you should be in melee range unless there is a very good reason not to be.

I won’t go into a detailed discussion of legacies in this post, but I will assume that you have at least the two most important staff legacies for lore-master DPS – + tactical skills damage and –staff strike cooldown (maxed, this reduces it to 5sec). These are critical legacies and any lore-master trying to kill stuff should have them on their staff. I also assume that you have the sword and staff legendary slotted because it’s an absolutely indespensible legendary trait.

Due to the cooldowns on our skills, lore-master rotations are all about skill priorities and hitting whichever skill that will do the most damage which isn’t off cooldown. When grouping you also need to be somewhat mindful of threat in the early part of the fight. If they try, lore-masters can put out far more damage in the first 10-15 seconds than any tank could possibly keep up with – especially if you use ents go to war which, being an AOE stun, is particularly nasty for guardian threat generation as it stops them from getting any reactives opening up. For this reason, you should start most group fights with some sort of a debuff rotation (fire lore, ancient craft, sop:c, sticky tar, warding circle if relevant, maybe gust of wind) before opening up with your damage skills.

15,000 damage in 3 seconds? Yes please!

AOE rotation

Our AOE DPS skill priority is relatively simple. The priorities are as follows:

  • Lightning storm – note that this is an important cooldown which you should consider saving up in some situations.
  • Ents go to war
  • Improved sticky gourd
  • Staff sweep – even more important in Isengard
  • Cracked earth – due to its long induction and relatively low damage, this moves to below burning embers if there are less than 3 targets
  • Staff strike
  • Light of the rising dawn
  • Burning embers

One of those skills should always be off cooldown. You might be surprised to see staff strike above both LoTRD and burning embers in priority, especially because, depending on your setup, it probably has a much lower tooltip damage than either of those skills. There’s a few things that mean staff strike does consistently more damage per second than either of those skills though. First, it has no induction which means it squeezes in more damage in a shorter amount of time and also gets your auto-attack hitting quicker and second it has a naturally high crit chance and gets bonus damage when used on flanks. I should note that this could change with Isengard, stacking burning embers DoTS might mean that it becomes a much higher priority skill especially if you build for it with the pulses book legacy. In Isengard, though, we will gain melee offence from will (!!) and will get a higher melee crit rating from the new combined critical hit stat, so further testing will be required.

There are a couple of other considerations. Always make sure to do a staff strike early in the fight to get your auto-attacks started. Unlike with RKs, lore-master tactical skills do not trigger an auto-attack and it’s important to get them going. Also you’ll obviously be wanting to respond to flank effects when you can. If you are going to be in a long fight you might want to save up staff sweep this purpose because the power return from that skill will go a long way to making your rotation power-sustainable. Otherwise either use wizards fire for a flank heal or staff strike for more damage. Also note that gust of wind is not on that list. That skill does such pitiful damage with such a long induction that it shouldn’t be considered a damage skill – it’s a relatively weak debuffing skill. Feel free to use it in the opening of the fight as a debuff, but don’t waste time using it in a DPS rotation.

Positioning of mobs is obviously important in AOE situations too. Particularly in things like skirmishes where mobs don’t stay alive very long and spend a lot of time moving towards you/your soldier/pet, you’ll want to make sure that as many mobs as possible are in your target area before unloading with your big skills. Ents go to war can help here by holding a group in place for 6sec to let you get a sticky gourd/cracked earth off. Also remember to try not to use improved sticky gourd on moving mobs, the fire puddle does about 30dps on its own so it’s sometimes best to hold it off until the mobs are in a stationary position if they’re going to stay alive for the ~30s of the puddle. Don’t forget sticky tar and herb lore either, they are great at getting mobs exactly where you want them before unleashing the fiery death, and sticky tar gives your fire skills a decent damage boost.

Lore-masters love AOE burst situations like OD wound wing

Single target rotation

Our single target skill priority is relatively similar, although staff sweep falls away a bit and cracked earth is off the list completely

  • Lightning storm
  • Ents go to war
  • Improved sticky gourd
  • Staff strike
  • Light of the rising dawn
  • Burning embers
  • Staff sweep
  • Sign of battle: wizard’s fire

In practice, a good single target rotation looks something like SS – other skill – other skill – SS. Repeat. The ‘other skill’ is whichever skill is highest on the above list that is off cooldown – note that ents and lightning storm takes up basically the entire gap between staff strikes due to their long induction. In testing, this results in a 1min rotation for me that looks something like this (I left ents go to war out of this testing because it’s got a > 1min cd):

Auto-attack x30
Staff Strike x8
Burning embers x6
LoTRD x3 (could sometimes squeeze a 4th in)
Sticky gourd x2
Staff Sweep x2

This rotation uses about 2800 power per minute which is clearly unsustainable. A big power pool, decent ICPR (1000+), cooked food, drinking pots every cooldown and using staff sweep on flanks will obviously help out here. Also try to avoid using wind lore at all, which is a massive power hog – you should probably use ancient craft though even though it also uses a huge amount of power, the group damage increase is definitely worth it. You should do everything you can to not resort to draw the power, because sitting still doing nothing for 20+secs does terrible things for your DPS!

Again, I expect that there could be some changes to this rotation in Isengard. Stacking burning embers dots could mean that spamming it will completely replace LoTRD and perhaps some of the staff strikes from that rotation. Again, testing will be required before we can really see the effect of all the changes though

Some statistics

Now, I can hear the complaints already. ‘I want to play like a mage, I don’t like to get in close and my hands dirty’, ‘if I wanted to play a melee class I would have rolled a champion’, ‘I’m afraid that if I get in close I’m gonna get hit and die’ yada yada. Apart from the last one, which is only true in a very, very select number of situations, none of these excuses cut it as far as I’m concerned. If you want to kill stuff as a lore-master you MUST be in melee range. No if’s, no but’s, no ‘oh it’s just my different playstyle’. If it was a case of 5% or 10% damage here or there, I might have some sympathy for lore-masters wanting to stand at range. But the fact of the matter is that melee attacks do an enormous proportion of our potential damage. It’s not a percentage here or there, you’re losing closer to 30%+ of your potential sustained damage if you stay out of melee range, especially in long single target fights.

To help demonstrate this, I used the combat analysis plugin to track my damage over the course of 8 skirmishes (2x rift, strike against dannegor, attack at dawn and thievery and mischief). The total damage breakdown is shown in the graph below:

For this test, I took all of my personal skirmish traits off so that my numbers weren’t distorted by being in a skirmish and I used a warrior soldier with no skills that debuff the enemy in any way. In this time, my character did a total of almost 1 million damage. I did everything I possibly could to maximise my fire damage, using roots, sticky tar, stuns, storm lore to position mobs for the AOE hits and using the big fire skills whenever they were off cooldown. I didn’t close to melee range as quickly as I could or anything either, I used all my tactical skills as soon as they were in range, stunning at range and using sticky gourd/cracked earth etc. And Skirmishes are particularly favourable for our fire damage, because of the way mobs are grouped up and because you have down time in between each group to refresh your cooldown. So if anything, the numbers above show an unrealistically high amount of fire damage being done and STILL melee skills made up a third of my damage.

The results were even more stark when I isolated the single target fights, where AOE burst damage doesn’t play such a big fight. The graph below shows the results for the single target encounters in these fights (encounters and boss fights):

The numbers don’t lie. An enormous proportion of lore-master damage comes from melee attacks. Sometimes you might have a very good excuse for not getting up close and personal. But laziness, like not wanting to deal with mechanics that are worse for melee chars, like the shard spreading and power-eating on the Coldbear sari-surma fight or the ice stuns against Drugoth doesn’t cut it. With some very rare effects like blind one’s damage aura or the occasional boss which does really nasty close range 360 AOEs, you might have an excuse for not getting up close becuase you’re slightly squishier than a champ (slightly). But a well built lore-master can take a few hits no problems, and you have self healing ability, so really for almost every fight I can think of you should be up close whacking the mob over its head with your staff. Just like Gandalf.*

Next week: A look at the newly released Isengard armour set bonuses and a preliminary analysis of some of the gear that’s been revealed

*No warranties, express or implied, are made as to the accuracy of lore-related statements in this post