I thought it might be interesting to take a look over the new Isengard raid armour set this week. Itemisation has certainly taken a new direction in Isengard, with both a greater variety of secondary stats and a greater focus on each classes main set, along with an interesting omission or two, so looking over this set will give some idea about end game play in the next expansion. I also look at whether this or not set will make some of our existing sets, which have incredibly powerful bonuses, obsolete.

If you want to see the stats for the armour set and talked about here (along with details about a few level 75 items which have been released here), please refer to my lore-master gear spreadsheet in the armour and level 75 tabs. Note that among other things, this spreadsheet calculates a “total” stat number which is purely based on adding up will/fate/vit and morale/power (divided by three) to enable a relative comparison of the core stats on an item. Given that this number doesn’t calculate any of the secondary stats such as crit rating, tac offence or ICPR, it is much less relevant for the level 75 gear than it has been previously given that basically all the pieces now have some type of secondary stat on them.

The new armor set

Stats

The first thing that jumps out at you is wow – that’s a LOT of will. By comparison with the previous major sets, it has about 500 extra will (about 250%) than we had previously been given which is huge. Previously the designers were limited in how much will they could add without hitting direct or indirect caps, now that caps are gone or are greatly increased that isn’t a consideration any more and they’ve gone heavy on will. And will is an even better stat for us in Isengard than it is currently. At the moment it contributes to tactical offence and outgoing healing (the latter will become an even better stat in Isengard due to our expanded healing ability), and it will now also contribute to melee offence which, as you’d know if you read last week’s column, could mean a good increase in DPS. So more will = good, this is a good thing.

The total primary stats on the set are fairly inflated too. Although 65 -> 75 is only a 15% increase in level, there is a 25% increase in total primary stats (which is all in will/fate/vit and not raw power/morale – with no caps on the main stats, there’s no reason to pump up the less useful raw morale/power I guess). However, all that increased will, and a bit of extra fate, seems to have come at the expense of vitality/morale. We will obviously be needing to pick up a lot of vit/morale from our relics and jewellery because this armour gives us MUCH less survivability than previous sets did. Compared to 6/6 hele for example we lose a whopping 800 total morale with this set.

Something that’s completely missing that usually finds its way onto our armour is tactical crit multiplier. It isn’t just on this set either – it looks like tac crit multiplier is a stat that’s been completely removed off gear in Isengard, for all classes which is an interesting change. Given the lack of a melee crit multiplier stat, it may have just been a balance issue. It also seems like ICMR – which is a pretty bad stat – has basically been removed from items too which is a good thing.

Set bonuses

The bonuses on the set are as follows:

  • 3 pieces – +30s ancient craft duration
  • 5 pieces – +5% incoming crit chance on Sign of Power: See All Ends

From what I can tell, you get the first four pieces by trading in superior 4th marks (which drop in the same instances as superior 3rd marks currently do or can be bartered by trading in an obscene number of regular skirmish marks) and the final two pieces are drops from the dragon raid boss, Draigoch. So you can get the 3 piece bonus from 3/6-person fellowship content (or solo, in theory) but you’ll need to raid to get the 5 piece.

The 3 piece bonus initially struck me as underwhelming. Ancient craft is a very powerful damaging increasing armour debuff with a 30s duration (1min cooldown), but you can already get it up to 1min duration by traiting the yellow line capstone, as you typically will in raids. It does have some benefit even if you do trait that way though. Ancient craft is currently one of our highest cost skills, only having to refresh it every 1.5min instead of every 1min would save about 170 power per minute at level 65 which isn’t totally insignificant. But on further reflection, the real power of this bonus is that it decouples permanent ancient-craft from the yellow line. Outside of raids, you’ll rarely trait the full yellow line so it’s a nice fellowship damage boos in those situations. And it also makes the revamped blue line (or possibly even red) a more viable possibility in raid content if your group can get away without having the full power to your other damage-reduction debuffs.

The 5 piece bonus is clearly very powerful. It’s got burgs going green with envy for good reasons – lore-masters have typically been more about damage reduction debuffs rather than damage increasing ones, but this turns sop:sae into a big fellowship/raid damage increasing debuff. I can’t say for sure, but based on past discussions with DPS classes, I understand that each 1% increase in crit chance is about a 1% increase in DPS so this is a significant effect. The debuff, which by default reduces the mob’s critical chance for 15s (on 1min CD), is able to be maintained for 100% of the time when traiting yellow, provided you have the +non-damaging signs of power legacy on your book (which is a pretty key raiding legacy). That legacy doesn’t often find its way on DPS books though, given that there are other more important damage legacies, so unless you’re into swapping books around this set bonus might not have as much beneift to you in non-raid situations. For raids though, it’s a very significant buff to one of our key debuffs.

Does this new set make the current sets obsolete?

Putting morale/vitality aside, the new armour set blows all the older armour sets away purely through the massive boost in will that you get. However two older lore-master armour sets – the Moria set and the Ost Dunhoth set – have exceptionally powerful set bonuses so it’s interesting to ask whether they will remain relevant even at level 75.

.

Despite the massive bump in will from this set, your fire damage skills might actually do slightly more damage using the old level 60 Moria set (6/6) for the +10% fire damage bonuses. The new set has 505 more will than the Stone-Reader’s set (= +5050 tac offence), and an extra 802 raw tactical offence. At level 75 that works out to approximately a 10% increase in tactical offence (there are diminishing returns in this formula, so it’s actually between about 8% and 12% depending on where you start off). Because of the way the tactical damage formula works, a 10% increase in tactical offence increases the damage of tactical damage skills by about 6% if you are traiting in the red line (which comes with a +15% tactical offence bonus). That happens to be almost the exact same boost that you get from the +10% fire damage bonus (depending on your staff legacies – there are diminishing returns to specific bonuses). You also lose out on a significant chunk of crit multiplier and a bit of crit rating with the new set (along with 500 total morale) so if will didn’t give you so many other across the board benefits, including power and melee offence, and if finesse wasn’t a consideration you would arguably be better off holding on to your old Moria set in DPS situations.

On the healing/support side of things, the boost you get to outgoing healing from an extra 500 will (which will be closer to the full 10% that the increase in rating would imply because LMs have no other bonuses which directly modifies their outgoing healing %) is clearly inferior compared to the healing boost that you get from the Ost Dunhoth set. The Ost Dunhoth set adds a massive amount to the lore-master’s healing output if used correctly and a ~10% increase in outgoing healing rating won’t counter that. If finesse isn’t a big consideration when you’re in a support role it could well be the case that the Memory of the West set remains relevant at end game when you are in a healing/support role.

Up next week: Advanced crowd control tips and techniques