Wardens 101

Tanking and Crowd Control

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A comment I made in a recent podcast interview touched off a tad bit of a twitter explosion as folks argued about tanking and crowd control.  I believe what I said was something along the lines of tanking can be a form of crowd control.  I tried to explain what I meant via twitter, but in 140 characters replying to a handful of people it gets very hard.  So, I figured I’d step back and explain what I meant as well as provide a few examples of my logic.  Notice I mention “my logic” such that I’m not claiming it is right or the best way to do it, but how I look at it.

Tanking usually refers to the practice of making a mob (or many) so mad at you or believe you are the most threatening person in the group that they attack you and not your friends.  Crowd control (CC) typically refers to some sort of knockout that keeps a mob out of a fight for a period of time.  In LOTRO, typically the tanks are Guardians or Wardens while usually Loremasters and Burglars excel at CC.  I’m pretty sure most in the discussion were in agreement with these loose definitions.

What I was trying to get at was the idea that in a group setting, CC and tanking can result in similar looks for the other group members in that they’re doing their thing (healing, damage, etc) and not being bothered by the other mobs.  When approaching a fight the goal is always to meet your objectives (usually killing something) while not dying, which usually means keeping things off your healers.  One option is to CC mobs and deal with them later, another can be to tank them and pick them off one at a time.  Either way, then end result is the same in that nothing hits the group resulting in a happy and successful group.

A very common place this comes up is during challenge (or hard) modes of boss encounters.  Many times there will be a condition that certain mobs need to stay alive until the boss dies, or some such variation.  One way is to just CC said mobs and keep them in a corner until they can be killed, but another option is for a tank to grab that mob and keep him occupied in said corner.  One fight in particular that springs to mind is the last fight in the Grand Stairs with the archers and the Devoted.  The Devoted must not die to preserve hard mode and the archers are just annoying to everyone.  One way I’ve handled this fight on my Warden is to grab all three and hang out healing, taunting, and generally occupying them while the rest of the group deals with the boss.  The Devoted is immune to most CC, but the archers certainly can be locked down in the traditional sense such that the fight both ways would look pretty similar for the rest of the group.

After all this, all I intended to say was that there are many ways to succeed in encounters in LOTRO and depending on the leader and group makeup you may lean one way or another.  In my case, I’m a pretty arrogant (and successful) Warden and I’m more then comfortable grabbing everything in the room (controlling the crowd) and letting the group pick things off one by one.  But if my group happens to have a Burg or LM, I’m quite happy to have them keep something busy and make my job easier.  And on the flip side, if we can’t find a true CC class, most of the time there are other ways to handle the encounter to still succeed, albeit not necessarily the most optimal solution.  The end result is very similar and if you’re flexible about your strategies and groups you can accomplish quite a bit with non-traditional means or implementations of tactics.

For me, I look at a general crowd control term, that includes both tanking and traditional CC, which refers to the overall tactic of keeping the fight moving in the direction you want it to.  I don’t try to label folks as tank, off-tank, CC, etc. but more how they fit into a particular fight as your role can change quite a bit during a raid or even a fight.  I’m confident in the fact that all classes can fit multiple roles and as such usually try to figure out how different pieces can all fit into the puzzle to work through a particular encounter based on what tools we have on hand.

Hopefully this clears up a bit of where my comment was coming from, but certainly let me know if it isn’t clear.

 

Wardens – Learning to Tank

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The primary role of the Warden is tanking, but if you haven’t done it before you may be wondering how to learn and practice tanking.  Now there’s the obvious “go get in a group” answer that while true, isn’t always possible nor is it always the best option.  Luckily over the past few updates and expansions, there have been a number of additions that make learning how to tank an easier process.

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Wardens, what to craft?

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I’ve talked quite a bit about the Warden class and mechanics of the class but one area I haven’t covered is the crafting system.  I really enjoy crafting in LOTRO and have supreme masters in all professions except weaponsmith and scholar (although I will have scholar soon) and have definitely benefited from those crafters.  When it comes to crafting, I think there are a couple important decisions to make:

  • Do you even like crafting?
  • Are you looking to purely make money from crafting?
  • Are you crafting as a group, either with alts or friends/kinship members?

I’ll assume if you answered no to the first question, you’ve stopped reading by now so I’ll first talk about what I feel the Warden excels at and then also cover the later two questions at the end.

Before I get to the meat of the post, a couple comments for those of you who haven’t been playing LOTRO that long or are rolling your first class.  Crafting by no means is a requirement in the game and depending on what you pick can be expensive, so I wouldn’t necessarily be in a rush to jump into crafting.  There’s a pretty good overall crafting guide hereon this site if you want a more in-depth look.  You can always go back and pick it up at another time, and the early tiers of crafting do move pretty quickly.

For the most part, I don’t really buy the “this particular class should chose this profession” but I think there are some things that do make sense.  Wardens, because of their speed buff, really shine as gatherers, especially if you’re in an area where you don’t have to worry about agro’ing mobs.  For professions, this means:

  • Forester – gathers wood, and processes hides into leather
  • Prospector – gathers ore and processes into ingots
  • Scholar – hybrid profession as they gather materials to create scrolls and potions

Now, I don’t consider farmer or cook to be “gathering” professions and will cover those later on.  With this thought in mind, the next thought is what output from crafting would best benefit the Warden Class.  The main ones I can think of are:

  • Jeweler – while leveling (and even end-game) crafted jewelry is some of the best in the game.  And hope tokens are very helpful all along.
  • Tailor – making your own armor and cloaks can be really handy, and if you exclude radiance, crafted armor can be good even at the end-game.
  • Weaponsmith – every class needs weapons, and Wardens are no exceptions.
  • Woodworker – Wardens probably gain the most from this profession as Woodworkers make both Spears and Javelins.  Also (I forgot this until reminded in the comments) don’t forget about the ever important Carvings that can reduce power costs with an added choice of increased light (our DoTs) damage, increased tactical resistance, or increased melee defense.

With all that said, the big decision is what Vocation (combination of 3 professions) to pick.  With the above suggestions you’re left with the following Vocations:

  • Armourer – Metalsmith, Prospector, Tailor
  • Armsman – Prospector, Weaponsmith, Woodworker
  • Explorer – Forester, Prospector, Tailor
  • Historian – Farmer, Scholar, Weaponsmith
  • Tinker – Cook, Jeweler, Prospector
  • Woodsman – Farmer, Forester, Woodworker

For the most part, these all have a gathering profession that feeds into another profession, like prospector and weaponsmith.  However many also include a profession that would be lacking the required materials, for example the Armsman doesn’t have any way to create their own wood needed for the Woodworker portion.  This is where it comes down to the questions I asked at the top of the post.

If you’re crafting purely to make money, you need to be self sufficient and not rely on other players as well as gather things that are in high demand.  In my opinion this leads to either Explorer or Tinker.  Certainly other professions have valuable outputs, but at the end-game (where the big money is, not that you can’t make money earlier on) there are many other non-craftable options that are just as valuable.  I included Tinker mainly because of the value of jewelry all along, especially at end-game, and you can pretty routinely sell it for quite a profit.  However, I think the best choice is the Explorer as it can gather and process all possible inputs for the other professions and selling ore, ingots, and leather can be quite profitable on the auction house.  Processing ore and hides doesn’t require any money, so anything you sell is pure profit.  Plus you can make your own armor and cloaks do sell quite well on the auction house as the they are among the best.

Now if you’re crafting as part of a group or kinship, pretty much all this goes out the window, :) as you’ll want to craft whatever is needed to fill in the gap.  Explorer is always a good default option as everyone needs raw materials.  Historian also becomes more intriguing here as Scholar outputs are always in high demand but leveling that profession can be difficult and expensive, so having help is handy.  Along those lines, I’ll put Cook here as they’re similar to the scholars in their output and requirements, but they pair very well with farmers.  If you’re planning on leveling a cook, I highly recommend either choosing the Yeoman vocation or having an alt/friend who is a farmer.  I can honestly say that having food available is probably one of the most underutilized buffs available in game and can quite often mean the difference between success and failure.

As a wrap-up, crafting can be enjoyable and profitable if that’s an area you want to pursue and you have many options available to fit your play style.  All of the professions are valuable and can benefit you all throughout leveling as well as at end-game, so there really isn’t a bad choice.  You don’t necessarily need to focus on what fits the Warden class, but what fits into your playstyle.

 

Crafting from a Warden’s perspective

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I put up a new post over on LOTRO Reporter talking about crafting choices for Wardens.  As you may have noticed, I do craft quite a bit and that’s a big part of how I play.  But that’s also because my gaming style not only focuses on the end game but I do enjoy being able to supply myself with the things I need.  My Warden is an explorer, primarily because I wanted to be able to gather resources as I leveled.  I did end up maxing out Tailor (my second max tailor) such that I could join the Tailor guild as my Armorsmith was already in the Metalsmith’s guild.

As I talk about in the post, I don’t think you need to worry so much about what class fits what profession, but more on what profession fits your playstyle.

Go check it out to get a feel for my thought process in picking professions and where Wardens excel.

 

Playing Second Fiddle

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First up, a little public service announcement – my blog that I refer to quite often in my posts has moved over toDocHolidayMMO.com, same content and everything just a new hopefully more flexible site.  And now back to your regularly scheduled Warden post.

I’ve primarily focused on how to not only solo effectively as a Warden but tank and hold agro as well.  However, arecent post on the Guardian forums got me thinking that I should put down some thoughts on off-tanking as a Warden.  I will admit that I’m not the greatest off-tank on my Warden as I do tend to just end up tanking, mainly due to my arrogance when on my Warden :).  However, in some cases it may make sense to off-tank so here are some ideas for you.

You might be wondering why if I’ve written and boasted how good Wardens are as tanks, why would I now advocate taking a back seat?  My thoughts here primarily revolve around group makeup and open communication, although fight mechanics also can have an impact.  For group makeup, I’ve run in numerous groups with another tank (either another Warden, or a Guardian) and it really makes it easier for everyone if there’s a designated main tank.  So in that case I’ll defer if I know the tank or if they speak up that they want to main tank for whatever reason.  This is a really good time to learn how to tank as there’s not the same pressure since you have a true tank as a backup.  As for fight mechanics for bosses that hit real hard sometimes it can be smoother for a Guardian to tank it since they have the flat 10% higher mitigations.  Or there may be a need to wrangle up a series of adds and having a Warden do that works out better – I’m thinking the Igash fight in the Grand stairs where the Warden can grab the archers.

Now that I’ve walked through the reasons why you might want to off-tank, lets jump into the specifics.  The responsibility of the off-tank is to grab any other mobs that the tank doesn’t have.  Primarily I look at the off-tank as the protector of the squishies whether those are Minstrels, RKs, or just a Hunter who’s a bit overzealous.  Ideally the way it works is that if a mobs peals off to go after the healer you’d target that mob and taunt it such that it comes after you and either hold it till it dies or until the main tank can pull it back.  The easiest way to do this is by using the “target of target” option in the Combat Options such that the offending mob is highlighted and then target that mob.  Skill target forwarding helps too but it might not always get you the right target as it will give you who the squishie is targeted not who’s targeting the squishy.  Off-tanking is a little easier on Captains and Champions as they have targeted forced taunts but a Warden can fill this role just as well and offers a slightly different way of doing it.

Your best friend for off-tanking is the fist-spear mastery as you can instantly que up a Precise Blow and get it off almost instantly.  You might also to want to use the recovery skills if need be, but with the recent changes you’re probably just as well off hitting whatever’s in your gambit bar and doing it that way as the recovery skills just aren’t as fast as they used to be.  I wouldn’t suggest Defiant Challenge since it is an AoE forced taunt and speaking from personal experience it does confuse (and annoy) the tank when mobs are force taunted off them.  I would only use that as a last ditch skill if either the squishy’s getting pounded or if you just can’t pull it off.  Usually a single Precise blow will get the mobs attention, but if not spamming it will most likely be the quickest way to pull it.

The other important gambits to use are our threat transfers like Conviction and Dance of War, but you do need to be cautious such that you don’t over-steal threat :)  This is where Wardens function a bit differently as an off-tank and when done well can really make for smooth runs.  The reason for using the transfers is such that you can keep yourself higher on the threat table for all nearby mobs but also lower everyone elses threat level.  Conviction also provides some nice healing which not only is additional threat but it lessens the load on the healers a bit, which again lowers their threat.  So the threat transfers are a sort off preventative off-tank strategy which really should help eliminate the need to grab a stray mob.

Outside of all that, the only other thing I have to say about off-tanking is that you don’t want to get into a threat competition with the main tank, it may help your ego (I’ll admit, I’ve done this on a few occasions) but it really doesn’t help your group.  So outside of the skills I’ve mentioned, try to stay away from taunts and if you are building a gambit with taunts in it try to use builders as much as possible since they don’t have a threat component.  But probably the most important thing is to communicate with your group about the roles everyone is expected to fill.

 
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