I’m sure Doc will be along with a post of his own on this, but as you might have seen the Bullroarer update 5 (Armies of Isengard) patch notes are now up! This looks like an exciting update and I can’t wait to jump on Bullroarer and test it out. In the meantime though, I’ve got a few questions about the update from the lore-master’s perspective

1) How will lore-masters fit into the instance finder?

When I first saw the reveal about the instance finder in the Tentonhammer interview a couple of days ago, I assumed that it was going to be more along the lines of the DDO Social Panel assisted-manual system than a full-blown automated dungeion finder like WoW. Looks like I was wrong:

Currently, Instance Finder allows you to set the following options:

•Content: Skirmishes, Isengard Instances, and/or Scaled Instances
•Scale: Solo, 2-man, 3-man, and/or 6-man
•Difficulty: Tier I, II, and/or III difficulty
•Role: Defence, DPS, Healer, Support

Once a player or partial group places themselves in queue, the system will intelligently match them with other players for a random instance within their selected parameters. Once a match is found, the system will notify the player who can then accept the match and travel immediately to the instance. In addition, while using the Instance Finder, players can take advantage of additional bonuses and rewards!

Looking past the odd facts that the instance joiner is apparently limited to men and can be used to set up a “solo” group for you (but can’t be used to create raid skirmishes… booo), this information raises a number of questions about how it’s going to work in practice. The first question, which I’m sure can be answered as soon as I hop on Bullroarer, is what limitations, if any, exist on people ticking “role”. This is a big issue for lore-masters. If we can only select “support” then that really limits our grouping options, especially in 3-person instances. In 3-person instances, I personally would select dps/healer/support, while for 6-person I would choose dps/support because we can’t heal full instances. Allowing maximum player flexibility though obviously can lead itself to abuse. You wouldn’t want to end up with a situation where rune-keepers were checking “tank” to make their queue speed go faster.

And on the subject of 3-person instances, what type of group will the system be looking for? Generally, these smaller group instances are more flexible on class composition than a full instance, I find that at most you need only one of a full healer or tank (not both), and quite often you can get away with no dedicated tank/healer. In fact, the easier 3-person instances are BETTER without both a dedicated tank and healer, because they go a lot faster, so if the system is smart then it will be a little bit more relaxed on class composition with 3-person instances to make queues go quicker and to give lore-masters an easier way to get into groups (eg. instead of a dedicated healer).

2) Will the Limrafn be a viable healing pet?

The only class-specific change noted for lore-masters in the patch notes is a buff to our new Isengard pet:

The Lore-master’s Spirit of Nature companion has been upgraded. Its Flashing Flank skill now has a 45 second cooldown. Its Nature’s Gift healing skill no longer requires the Spirit’s sacrifice. The Spirit of Nature will no longer accumulate threat for any action that it takes nor from any threat transferred to it. The Physical and Tactical mitigations of the Spirit have been much increased. Finally, and most importantly, the Spirit is now a Creature of Nature.

I must say, I’m still not sold. The auto-flank is still about 3x slower than the bog-guardian and 2x slower than the eagle pet. That amounts to a LOT of lost healing. I assume that the Nature’s Gift skill will now get a cooldown, but unless the cooldown is fairly short then it isn’t going to make up for the lost flank healing potential of the other pets. Nature’s Gift heals everyone for appx 600 morale (so in a 3-person instance, which is where this pet has the most potential use, it will do about 1800 healing) while each flank heal does about 1400 healing, to you and the tank. Overall, when you also take into account the pseudo-revealing mark, the Spirit of Nature will likely have a marginal edge in effective healing output over the bog-guardian (and a bit more of an edge over the eagle), but you’ll be giving up all of the benefits that those other two pets bring and also have a pet that does no damage. I’m still not convinced I’ll ever summon it.

3) Does cc/support have an important role in the new instances and raid?

I feel that the LM class itself is in a really good place right now from a basic design perspective, but from an actual gameplay perspective we’re at a little bit of a loose end because there is ZERO end game content at the moment in which our cc, debuff, off-healing and other support abilities are actually needed. Quite frankly if you want to challenge yourself at the moment and use a decent amount of your class toolbox, you have to go solo older content or do the current content with less people than you’re meant to (eg. 6 person raid skirms). All end game content at the moment basically boils down to faceroll DPS, perhaps with a little bit of situational awareness and movement. Very little of our or other classes skill toolbox is getting a workout and it’s frankly annoying. I can only hope and trust that the new instances and raid will be of a comparable quality with the excellent In Your Absence cluster and, if so, look forward to once again filling a really valuable role in groups.

4) What happened to fixing the scaling for tactical damage rating? And what about pet damage and flank healing scaling?

Just prior to the launch of Isengard, buried on page 7 of the Rune-Keeper dev diary, Zombie Columbus revealed that tactical damage hadn’t scaled with the level cap properly:

I am loath to admit this, but this disparity between weapon and tactical growth rates wasn’t realized until rather late in beta. The DPS numbers we were getting from tactical classes compared to weapon classes were way off from what we saw and liked at level 65. As such, you can expect a follow-up pass on Rune-keeper legacies at some point in the future.

We were promised a fix (later on in the diary ZC explicitly noted that the fix would be to the tactical damage ranking, which is present on lore-master staves), but none has come and none is announced in the patch notes. I do note that there are NO rune-keeper fixes noted in the patch notes, so it might just be an omission but rune-keepers did get a lot of bugs fixed in the last patch so maybe they really don’t have any bugs, other than this, left. I can only surmise that they have either forgotten about this, or that they’ve decided that tactical damage is good enough as it is and so don’t need to change the itemisation. What this will mean long term if they have decided to leave it, though, is that the benefits that tactical damage classes get from uprgrading legendary items to 2nd and ultimately 1st age will be less than the boost that the physical damage classes get. If these bumps have been increased for physical damage weapons, as ZC indicated, then any gap between physical and tactical damage will get greater and greater as LIs get upgraded in the future. So if this really is something they’ve put on the backburner, hopefully they don’t forget it in the future when they introduce 1st age LIs.

And while I’m on the subject of scaling, the update is fixing Warden HoT scaling and giving them a way to increase them through gearing by linking outgoing healing to might. How about a similar change for the lore-master’s second most important heal? Our flank heal barely increased with Isengard (I think mine’s about 10 morale higher than what it was at 65), and unlike at level 65 it is longer affected at all by outgoing healing so you have no way to increase it. I’m going to test this on Bullroarer and if it’s still the same I’m actually going to /bug it because this is a big oversight imo. Also, pet damage for all pets other than the bear seems to have not scaled at all in 10 levels. As far as I can tell, pet autoattacks hit for pretty much the same numbers at level 75 as they did at 65 which is really annoying. Another change I’d LOVE is to see pet damage linked to our melee offence or something (which in turn is linked to will), so you could actually scale pet damage with your own gear. But that’d be a bigger change and I doubt it’ll get implemented with Update 5.

5) Is our new class consumable useful?

About 2 months ago, a store advertisment went up which said “Avoid interruption and reduce power costs as a Lore-master with Parables”. Now, I don’t buy consumables in the store so I didn’t actually check to see if they made it in, but at the time a few of us were worried that this would be a store exclusive. It looks like that concern was misplaced, because Parables (which presumably do what the store advertisment said) are going to be a scholar consumable in Update 5. This is the first time that lore-masters have had a personal class consumable (we’ve got pet food now, but that’s not for us directly) so this is nice to see. Interruption induction is always welcomed and power cost reduction can be comboed usefully with high power skills like ancient craft/lightning storm (which also benefits from the induction knockback protection) or wind lore. I look forward to picking these up.

All in all, it looks like there’s a lot in the new update to get excited about – I’m looking forward to trying it out!