One of the things I’ve been enjoying doing with the new level cap increase is going back and soloing old group content. The lore-master has always been a strong soloing class, with its toolbox of cc, debuffs, healing (both self and pet) and pets themselves and some of the changes in the expansion have made us an even stronger soloing class. This article goes through some of the basics about preparing for soloing this type of content and I’ll share some of my early experiences. Soloing group content might not be for everyone, but personally I find the challenge pretty exciting in and of itself, and the rewards can be surprisingly good too in terms of deeds, crafting materials, gold and, for the later instances, IXP runes and relic boxes.

Preparation – traits, virtues and gear

There’s two ways to go here. For easier content where you don’t need cc or a pet to tank for you, just trait five or even 6 red and blow stuff up. The key to soloing more difficult content in the red line is to use the tactically adept trait to let you get your sticky gourd off without interruption and to use the eagle pet. The eagle’s skill toolbox is a wonderful complement to the MoNF line, with a high and steady flank rate, a useful cc option, automatic interrupts and a self res (the only one in the game!) if things go pear shaped.

For more difficult stuff though, especially where you’ll take too much of a beating if you try to tank stuff yourself, the blue line and bog guardian pet really come into their own, especially with some of the Isengard changes. The recommended trait setup is light of hope, healer, improved flanking, master of beasts and hardy companion coupled with two red (probably master of the staff and harmony with nature). For legendaries, take noble-savage to complement nature friend. Proof against ills is utterly unnecessary with Isengard – you can single target remove wounds off yourself and master of beasts allows your signs of the wild to remove any negative state effects from your pet.

The bog guardian makes a wonderful tank. For starters, it’ll almost certainly have more morale than you, with a bit over 8k when fully buffed up. It also does a pretty decent amount of damage (in melee range), make sure to turn the angry bees and bursting root skills on autocast (unless you’re saving bursting root as an emergency, unreliable, interrupt) but leave root strike off becuase it’ll unnecessarily drain power without any real increase in damage. With sign of the wild:rage on the pet also generates a decent amount of threat (consider using the minor book legacy to further boost threat if you’re going to be doing a lot of this sort of soloing). And it’s exceptionally survivable post-Isengard, improved flanking + continual air lore + huge flank rate is just amazing. Some people doubt the bog guardian’s flank rate and say it’s not much higher than the eagle, but my experience is that while it’s not quite as regular as the eagle (which almost always procs a flank every 20-25s), it’s got a much higher rate overall even if it can be a bit streaky. I quite often get back to back flanks with the bog guardian which you just never get with the eagle.

The final piece in the bog guardian as tank puzzle is inner flame. Whatever you do, don’t trait improved inner flame because what you want from the skill is the incredibly useful threat dump. It’s actually a pretty bad skill to use for healing, because half the time while you channel it you have to waste a flank event, but the skill transfers 5% of your threat to your pet with each tick so with a bit of patience you can help your pet build up a great threat lead. Basically in a tank and spank situation, to manage threat you should go relatively slowly at first to let your pet get a lead, then start hammering away a bit until you get aggro. Use inner flame to dump your threat and then use it every 2min after that to let your pet get a bigger and bigger lead. Don’t forget that you can use call to the valar to reset the cooldown on inner flame, something which has saved me on many occasions over the past week.

As for gear and virtues, you really want to be building for morale and physical mitigation. My recommended trait setup would be innocence, compassion, valour, Zeal and either wisdom or justice. For gear, you want to go heavier on morale than you normally would. As you can see in the screenshot, in my current soloing build I usually run at around 6,000 morale while maintaining a fairly decent amount of will. The fated necklace of theodred and the resilient earring (which I wasn’t wearing in that shot) add huge chunks of morale if necessary and are really good to have as soloing options. There’s also a crafted pocket with a good amount of morale that’s worth having on hand. Finally, if you have 3 pieces of OD T2 gear then carry them with you for those fights where the boss damage is too much for you to keep your bog guardian alive easily. It adds about 2/3 to your overall beacon of hope heal and is a great tool in some fights.

Needless to say you’ll want a good stack of morale, power and curative potions. Also bring along plenty of hope tokens and even tomes of dread removal (or destiny perk) because you’ll quite probably wipe while learning some of the fights and fighting with dread, or waiting for it to clear, is no fun.

So what can be soloed?

Urugath and Carn Dum

Time: A lot. Even putting in 2 hours into an urugath stretch, I only got 4 bosses down and it took me just under an hour to clear Helcham in Carn Dum.

Rewards: Primarily T5 scholar materials (ignore the worn elf-carvings, but moon letters and second age texts are worthwhile) and both major and minor class items for level 50 class quests. It’s going to depend from server to server, but things like the slime of Helcham still go for significant amounts of gold on my server (I sold one for 15g last week) and you can still get a few gold for even the easier to get ones. These instances also have a lot of great deeds for hard to grind virtues (soloing them isn’t the best way to get these virtues but it’s a nice bonus). I was also able to get a surprisingly good amount of coin for corrupted droplets, and I suspect drake scales probably go for a decent amount too.

Difficulty: As I indicated above, I haven’t cleared the whole of these instances, but at least up to the Warg Boss area, urugath wasn’t all that difficult, although trash pulls can go south very quickly if you get swamped. The boss fights themselves were pretty easy up to that. I only did Helcham in Carn Dum, and while it was a bit time consuming it was really quite easy. I was able to defeat him in three pillar phases.

Strategy: I traited red for urugath and blue for carn dum, but in truth I might have been better off taking red for both. The only thing to be mindful of in Urugath is that you can still die, quite easily, to > 3 mobs beating on you at once. Be careful not to let that happen and in the worst case, hit storm lore -> cracked earth and kite for 10s. Many of the bosses (eg. Dushkal, Troll boss) are not slow immune and, unlike bosses in later instances, won’t reset if you kite them which makes them trivial to kill thanks to burning embers. I ran out of time on my way to Athpukh (warg boss), and I haven’t tried Lhugrien or the last 3 bosses (Morthrang, Gruglok and Lagmas) so they might present more of a challenge but with careful add control I didn’t find anything particularly difficult here.

For Helcham, the only time that you will get even a little bit stressed is when you attack the first two pillar tentacles on each side. When that happens you’ll have 2 tentacles and Helcham himself beating on you so you’ll take a bit of damage. It’s nothing unmanageable though and you can always hide behind a pillar and take very minimal damage. I suspect if you traited red, unlike me, your burst damage would make that phase go quicker and thus be easier. It would probably be possible to take him down in just two pillar phases if traited red too, which would be good.

NCF and Stoneheight T1

Time: 40min-1hr each

Rewards: An excellent swag of T4 relics, about 200k in IXP runes, almost 500s in each chest and 5 north men medallions (which are bound to account and can be given to alts for some, now, very cheap legendary item accessories or even armour – go check out the vendors, they’re having a fire sale compared to what they used to charge!). Oh, and you get 2,000 destiny points too.

Difficulty: Fairly easy

Strategy: Both of these should be done in blue traits imo, because you’ll be relying on pet tanking. I think the trash in NCF is more difficult than the bosses really, simply because if you let yourself get surrounded you’ll die pretty quickly (esp vs the goblins at the end). Legbarthil (spider) is a bit long but not hard as long as you ensure that your pet maintains threat (the poison puddles can still kill, so stay at a distance). Make sure you have a sticky gourd + burning embers combo ready for the eggs (~90k, ~45k, ~15k), and be prepared to go in and hit staff strike too if they aren’t enough to take it out because you really don’t want the fight to go on as long as mine did (2 eggs popped…. sigh). Pets are immune to the acid puddles so it’s pretty easy. Úmheryn (Cauldron) is a really fun fight (imo), make sure to bind /slap with an alias, ensure that you’ve positioned your pet in melee range and whittle the boss down with a combination of sign of battle and burning embers (having + burning embers dot pulses is a great help here, and definitely ensure that you have the +15% damage over time legacy). Keep running, cause the puddles hurt, but don’t be afraid to take a couple of ticks to get a burning embers off if you’re reasonably healthy, and keep an eye out for flanks to keep yourself healed up. I managed to get it down before hitting the 1min warning, so the DPS requirement is easily achievable. Ivar was the most healing intensive of the three bosses, particularly because your pet will eat the “face me” attack (I guess it would be theoretically possible to use the follow command to dodge it, but it’s imprecise and unwieldy so I didn’t bother) but in general wasn’t very difficult.

The first boss in stoneheight was pretty enjoyable. Mez one goblin, set your pet onto Gundúl and burn the other goblin down ASAP. If you haven’t killed the other goblin within the first 30s or so when the first coordinated attack occurrs, you’ll have to wait about 10s until the mez immunity granted by the coordinated attack wears off before re-mezzing the original goblin. Once you stabilise the inital burst and get into a 1v1 boss fight it’s very easy. Likewise, Búbhosh-grat is very easy (pets are immune to the “little trick” AOE attack so just keep yourself at a distance) and the only issue with Dale Truitt is that if you don’t interrupt his stealth attack quickly enough (with blinding flash) then he can do a fairly large amount of damage to your pet which could kill it. Needless to say, interrupt that and you’re fine.

Sword Halls and Warg Pens

Time: half an hour for sword halls and I wasn’t able to complete warg pens.

Rewards: If you’re doing this for the rewards, go do NCF/Stoneheight instead. The amount of relics and runes here is WAY less than in those two instances.

Difficulty: No surprises here, Swords Halls is extremely easy. Warg pens on the other hand…. I’m not convinced it’s possible unfortunately.

Strategy: Trait red for sword halls with the eagle pet (useful against the morroval). It’s a pretty easy, but boring, run with lots of waiting in between waves. The first boss is the hardest, the fire still hits pretty hard and you’re the only target that it’s going to follow so you’ll have to do a fair bit of kiting. The morroval is simple, though the heal is annoyingly unable to be interrupted with blinding flash (bug?) so better hope your eagle gets it. The final boss is pretty easy, keep stun protection up and kite until you get a flank and can recover a bit if absolutely necessary.

I really enjoyed trying to do Warg Pens but I think it’s just a little beyond reach at the moment. The first boss took a couple of tries, but I figured out the strat eventually. The difficulty is at the start, if you don’t kill the first two wargs quickly enough (and the boss will periodically heal them) then things end up spiralling out of control as he summons more to the party. The trick is just to go in there, leave your bog guardian near the entrance and set him on the boss, while you throw ancient craft on the wargs and then storm lore/lightning storm, using staff sweep to clean up. Hopefully that’s enough to kill them in one quick burst and then it’s just a tank and spank on the boss. He actually hits harder than any of the bosses in NCF/Stoneheight. I found I had to pull out my OD set to keep up with the healing and even then it was a bit touch and go, I had to make sure every last flank was used on a heal (so I didn’t use any staff strike or staff sweeps to avoid accidentally eating up the flank) and keep up as much debuffing as I could.

As for the last boss… curse you Kranklob!! Do you see in the screenshot above that every single one of my items are damaged? Yeah, that was this fight lol. This is a tough fight to solo. There’s a bunch of things going on. First of all Kranklob hits harder than any of the bosses to date so you have to make sure you’re hitting beacon of hope every cooldown along with using every flank heal that procs. And you need to keep all your debuffs up when you can. And you need to watch out for poisons which will do steady and stacking amounts of damage to your pet, but they come so quickly that you’ll need to carefully manage the cooldowns on the sign of the wild skills to avoid having an unclearable poison. And THEN you need to burn each of the wargs around the edge of the room quickly to start with, trying not to let them eat the meat which involves smart use of stuns and roots (you could go for HM, but doing so adds even more complications to an already difficult fight). The reason you need to kill the wargs at the start is that you definitely DO NOT want to have two of them coming to you at a time which is what happens if you just start on the boss.

Basically after a number of attempts I was able to kill all the wargs and get to a 1v1 with the boss, but his damage output was just a bit too high compared to what I was able to put out in healing so my pet would eventually die, and then I’d have one chance to resummon (had to use a combo of call to the valar + combat summoning to actually allow the summoning induction to go off), but then I had to get threat back on my pet which by that stage of the fight was easy thing even with inner flame because he’s hitting you pretty hard while you sit there desperately trying to shed threat. One time I did actually manage to restabilise after summoning a second pet (with about 500 morale left!), only to lose the resummoned pet a few minutes later cause my healing just couldn’t keep up – and I was having to go really slow on the damage after the resummon to in order to avoid regaining threat. I’m not sure what more I could do here, other than perhaps trying to kite the pet in between beacon of hope cooldowns, but i’m not sure that would work (cause it would mean you lose out on flank heals) and it’d make an already exceptionally long fight go for even longer. If anyone else has managed to do this, I’d love to hear from you!

Up next week – more soloing adventures. I’ll try to do full clears of uru and carn dum (which might not be possible, eg. I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to kill Mordrith), Annuminas and I’ll even have a stab at the moria 6-persons and perhaps some level 50 raid content to see if it’s at all possible!