Starting a Warden
I’m excited to become a columnist here at LOTRO Reporter as I love listening to the podcast and it gives me a different audience to focus on. For my first post here, I thought I’d step back a bit from my blog which is more focused on the end-game and write from a broader perspective. I will certainly cover some higher level content but at first I’m going to focus on getting started with the class as it is quite a different animal from the other classes currently in LOTRO. For those of you who want to know more about me, I just updated my About page on my blog with some more information such that I can jump right into the main topic.
Now the Warden class is one of the two new classes added with the Mines of Moria expansion and I think has been one of the more mis-understood classes in the game. For many reasons (which I won’t go into now) there are many misconceptions surrounding the class and that was one of the primary drivers behind me starting my blog. My focus here will primarily be on helping folks as they level their Wardens and progress through the various stages of their development.
For the meat of this post I thought I would cover the first 15 levels or so of growth as a Warden with a primary focus on the gambit system. The Warden’s main role is that of a tank, we can contribute to DPS, but in all honesty tanking is what we do best, and specifically tanking multiple mobs. Wardens have some ranged capabilities, but that’s more of a supporting role and not expected to replace a Hunter or Rune-Keeper. However the way a Warden tanks is different from all other tanks in LOTRO, but that discussion is for another post. :) (I don’t cover this specifically on my blog but these posts should help – Threat definitions, Wardens, Tanking Gambits, and Group Dynamics) The general differences lies in that we don’t have any snap agro tools but instead build it over time and don’t mitigate damage we avoid it or self-heal through it.
When it comes to racial choices, there are only 3 options available to Wardens – Men, Elves, and Hobbits. Like most other classes the reason for picking a particular class isn’t going to make or break your Warden so the primary reason should be what race you enjoy most. For me, I mainly look at the racial trait abilities as the main distinguisher and as such all three have useful traits for Wardens. Hobbits can stealth and play dead, both of which can be very handy while solo but not as much in a group. Elves have their parry buff which can be a very handy oh-crap skill which Wardens don’t really have. For me, I chose Men for their large heal as this is (in my opinion) the best racial oh-crap skill in the game. Men also do get a boost to their base block, parry, and evade which is another key thing for Wardens. Races do get a trait for bonus weapon damage so keep that in mind if there’s a particular weapon you like best :)
Wardens work a bit differently from other classes in that their main skills are gambits which are a combination of various skills built up in a set pattern. While this does make our quick-slot bars a little easier to set up, it can be hard for some to learn all the combinations. By level 4 the warden has all 3 of the gambit builders:
- Quick-Thrust which adds a spear to your gambit
- Shield-Bash which adds a shield to your gambit
- Warden’s Taunt which adds a fist to your gambit
These 3 builders are the building blocks for almost all of the wardens skills and abilities and as you build your gambits the Gambit Default skill will change to represent the appropriate gambit. These builders do have their own effects, but the true power of the class is not in these builders but in the gambits they can create.
- Quick-Thrust is simply a melee damage attack
- Shield-Bash does some level dependant common damage with a 15% chance to apply a block rating buff
- Warden’s Taunt does some initial light damage and also applies a second light damage tick 4 seconds later. This is in addition to the initial taunt :)
Until level 16, Wardens can only build gambits that comprise of 2 builders so things start off rather easy – this does increase and at level 40 they can build the max length gambits which consist of 5 builders. There’s really not much group content as you start off in Middle-Earth so this is a great time to get a feel for how the gambits work and the system in general. You will also unlock some of the initial traits available to Wardens, which I won’t talk about here quite yet. (However, I do have a pretty lengthy post on my blog if you want to jump right in)
As you probably imagined there are only 9 possible combinations for length 2 gambits, but more importantly is starting to understand the patterns as that will be crucial to learning the class. All gambits starting with a spear () are focused on damage or interrupts, all gambits starting with a fist () are focused on generating agro or Damage over Time (DoTs), and all gambits starting with a shield () are focused on self-healing or defensive buffs. So as I walk through these initial gambits, I will also point out the pattern they start and what that “line” specializes in. The exception being the double builder gambits as those are only length 2 gambits – meaning there’s not a spear, spear, spear gambit. Now some of the length 2 gambits don’t quite follow the patterns you’ll see me describe but they’re at least somewhat similar. I will list these in the order that you can learn them with that level in parenthesis.
- (1) Deft Strike () pure damage attack
- (2) Defensive Strike () damage + block rating buff
- (3) The Boot () damage + chance to daze + interrupt. All gambits following this pattern are capable of interrupting inductions.
- (4) Goad () 3 target Area of Effect (AoE) damage and damage over time (DoT). This is also the first taunt gambit learned which has an initial taunt and a taunt over time (ToT) effect.
- (6) Persevere () damage + heal over time (HoT). All gambits following this pattern are HoTs with larger pulse values.
- (8) Offensive Strike () double melee attack with an initial threat component. This pattern continues as a purely melee damage line.
- (8) Impressive Flourish () DoT + HoT. However, this pattern changes as gambits going forward are threat transfers.
- (12) Precise Blow () damage + threat. Best single target threat gambit for wardens that provides initial threat and a ToT. This line continues with increased damage but not any increased threat.
- (12) War-cry () 10 target AoE DoT + HoT + threat. This is a good AoE threat gambit as it hits lots of targets with both an initial taunt and a ToT plus it does heal for a small amount. Now again, this line does diverge a bit as the continuation is a DoT with a threat component.
All DoTs and ToTs start off as 4 pulses (or ticks) spaced 4 seconds apart, and all HoTs start off as 4 pulses spaced 3 seconds apart. Both DoTs and HoTs have traits and trait line bonuses that can add additional pulses which come in real handy as it allows us to stack them more efficiently.
So that pretty much covers all the gambits you get initially and provides a good mix of offense, defense, and taunting. However, I will mention that tanking at low levels (even into your md-20s) is VERY hard for any class, let alone a warden so don’t get discouraged if you struggle in areas like the Great Barrows. Hopefully my next post should help better prepare you for these early tanking experiences.
There are a couple other skills you learn during this time that are pretty significant for the Warden and really change their play-style. At level 10, 3 skills are available to learn:
- Ambush – ranged attack which stuns opponents
- Critical Strike – melee attack with high crit damage potential only available on stunned mobs
- Recovery – skill that clears all builders from your gambit. So this allows you to quickly switch gears if you were building something for damage and need to heal for example. Now granted, in some cases you can just fire off the current gambit and build the next but for some inductions and things like that you need to act fast!
The Ambush/Critical Strike combination can be a very effective way to start off fights as it allows you to front load lots of damage on a mob. Now, there are cases when it is better to use Ambush from range and just attack with our Javelin (especially when you get Wages of Fear at level 38 which does increased damage from behind) but getting into melee range quickly can be a good way to help minimize adds from wandering mobs. Either way, Ambush is a very useful skill and many Wardens (including myself) will use it in group situations to start off a pull. Critical Strike can either be used then, or mid-fight when you daze a mob with your boot :)
Now, at level 12 Wardens get their first stance which is a huge boost to our survivability as Determination significantly boost our In-combat morale regeneration rate. This stance really is your first step towards being able to do things on your Warden that you wouldn’t think of on other toons, and is part of why Wardens are such a strong solo class. As you level there are a total of 3 stances (plus a legendary trait that combines them into one), each have their uses and will get covered as I progress. But for now, once you get this skill toggle it as soon as you can and never turn it off ;) Until you get another stance that you like better of course.
The other major shift comes at level 14 when we get our run buff (Forced March) and our stealth ability (Careful Step). Forced March can only be used out of combat and carries a hefty power penalty so be cautious using it in an area where you’ll have to stop and fight as power will instantly become an issue – or carry LOTs of power pots ;) Careful step is pretty handy for the obvious reason of just avoiding mobs (it has a fixed duration sadly) but it also allows you to instantly use Ambush without waiting for its induction.
I’ll wrap up with a very important concept to keep in mind as you start to get longer gambits, all of our HoTs, DoTs, and ToTs can stack with each other. Now ToTs of all kinds (even repeats of the same gambit) stack with each other, so that’s why spamming Precise Blow can be a very effective way of keeping agro :) HoTs and DoTs don’t stack with the same effect of the same length gambit, but different effects of the same length or the same effects of different lengths can stack. So, for example our HoTs, you can (and should get used to doing this) stack Preserve, Safeguard, Celebration of Skill, and Restoration all together such that each heal tick is a combination of them all. For DoTs I quite regularly will have the 3 Fist DoTs (Brink of Victory, Surety of Death, and Desolation) stacked with the 2 Spear line DoTs (Power Attack and Mighty Blow).
For my next post I’ll spend time on the mid-levels of the Warden and offer some suggestions on tanking, traits, useful and useless traits and gambits, and also various other things you should be concerned with as you progress through the Lone Lands and towards the North Downs. Until then, feel free to contact me with specific questions, take a look at my blog as there’s a bunch of info and resources there, or I highly recommend the Warden forums on LOTRO’s main site as the Warden community for the most part is incredibly helpful.