Ask Pineleaf: Skirmish Soldiers

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Skirmish Soldier

Here at Ask Pineleaf, we will attempt to answer questions relating to skirmishes. We will begin our column with a series of three question from Bellcari of Landroval:

One thing I would love to hear your talk about is T2 and T3…like…what is the mechanic for T2 on a given skirm etc.  I think many of us just think of them as hard and harder respectively.  There are some things to know as I learned from the Rift podcast recently on L.A. [Lotro Academy]

A second thing I’d love to hear your thoughts on, in whatever venue, is the subject of soldiers.  Each have their pros and cons per class, and I can find that on line if I look.  But some also have their foibles within different skirms.  Finally, I’m hearing a lot about “once you are level 85 you only want an herbalist”.  If that is true, why would I start any other kind of soldier?  Hmm, I bet you would know!

Let’s look at these one at a time.

How are T2 and T3 skirmishes different from T1 skirmishes?

The most significant difference between skirmish tiers is the strength of the opposition: the higher the tier, the better the statistics of your opponents (they have more morale, are more resistant to damage, and hit harder). In this sense, T2 and T3 skirmishes are effectively “hard and harder.”

In a few skirmishes, there are some adjustments to the mechanics.I have only heard or seen such changes in a few skirmishes. If other skirmishes have any mechanical changes in higher tiers, then they were too subtle for me to notice.

As you noted, one of these differences is in Rescue at Nûrz Ghâshu. For the fellowship maneuvers, I have only seen flushes in Tier 1 runs, while you can get other types of maneuvers in Tier 2. This will not have any effect on solo runs.

In The Icy Crevasse, the bosses in the final battle are unaffected by the environment buffs in Tier 1 runs. In this case, there was originally no difference between the tiers but the devs later decided to tame the Tier 1 boss fight a little.

While I have heard that there is a wider variety of spawning patterns for mobs in Protectors of Thangúlhad in higher tiers, I have not been able to confirm this (since spawning patterns are random in any case, this is tricky to confirm).

Has anyone else noticed a significant difference in the mechanics of a skirmish while running at a higher tier?

What are the pro and cons of each soldier?

This question in be addressed in more detail in a later article. A brief answer is below. Please note that much of this is personal opinion (and a difference of opinion allows some variety in small fellowship runs).

First, note that soldiers seem to follow the same attack priorities as monsters. If three melee mobs rush you while a ranged mob sits back and fires, the soldier will often notice the ranged mob first (as the ranged attack may either happen before the soldier sees the melee mobs or else the ranged mob does enough damage to overtake the melee mobs in the hate list). This is why soldiers will often go out of their way to attack ranged mobs when there are several closer mobs in the area.

This characteristic is most likely to be dangerous when using a melee soldier in a densely packed area (such as the courtyard in Tuckborough). If the ranged attacker happens to be near another pack of mobs, the melee soldier may get the attention of the other pack while attacking the ranged mob.

The three melee soldiers stand in front of you while the other three stand behind you. Soldiers that stand in front of you are more likely to enter combat if you are fighting at range. This is because the soldiers that stand behind you may be out of range of the combat if you are standing far from the mobs.

If you are fighting in melee, though, then the soldiers that stand behind you have a better chance of seeing the combat. I have seen protectors move into their wait position (in front of their player character) and ignore the combat because all the fighting is taking place behind them. Apparently, soldiers are stone deaf to the sounds of combat. This is more likely to be a problem in a group run.

Archer

Anyone who’s read my articles knows that I like the archer. They generally stay put and attack only one target at a time. They rarely stop fighting (and most of those times are when it’s expected, such as against an Echo of Death) and rarely attract more than one foe at a time. They are of little use if you stand back from the fight (where the archer can’t see anything) but otherwise seem to be the most reliable of soldiers.

Bannerguard

I used to like the bannerguard. In the year before the release of Isengard, I used one on my warden. This is because I was able to get through skirmishes faster with a bannerguard than with any other soldier. They are the Jacks of all trades of skirmish soldiers and they provide some buffs.

The reason I stopped using them is because with the release of Isengard, the melee soldiers started standing further ahead of the player character than before. That was too far ahead for my taste. I do find the bannerguard as the most flexible of the melee soldiers though.

Herbalist

The herbalist is a popular soldier and my second favorite. They heal you and they make surprisingly good tanks (as their healing both attracts the attention of mobs and prevents the herbalist from dying). The herbalist will heal while not in combat, which means that they may provide you with healing even if they cannot see the combat. Note that wile the herbalist is in combat, their heals are treated by the AI as attacks. This means that if all the remaining mobs are on the “do not attack unless commanded” list (such as a mob under CC and an Echo of Death), the herbalist will not heal unless you use the Direct Soldier command on a mob.

Their one problem is that they do no damage. In a solo run, it comes down to a question of how much morale you are losing compared to how much damage you are inflicting without the help of your soldier. This is likely to depend on how you generally trait. It may also be affected by the tier you are running (some players prefer to use herbalists in T3 runs to improve survivability).

Protector

I don’t like to use the protector in solo runs (due to my current aversion for melee soldiers), but they come in handy in small group runs. If I fail to grab the attention of all the enemy mobs, the protector generally collects the stragglers. I also find them handy in some skirmish boss fights in duo/small fellowship runs. I recall once tanking the boss in Tuckborough in a raid and having a protector steal the boss from me. Fortunately, the boss was sitting at a good location, so we decided to leave the protector on the boss while I joined the rest of the group in fighting the lieutenants.

In summary, I don’t like using protectors but they come in handy when I group with someone who doesn’t have the same aversion.

Sage

Area attacks and light armor can be a fatal combination. I never could use a sage properly. I recommend them mainly for tanking classes who can keep the enemy off the poor sage. This works best of you are a better tank than I am (i.e., not one who loses the boss’s attention to a protector during the final fight of Tuckborough).

With my fighting style, I can get through a skirmish as fast with an archer as I can with a sage. If you can keep her alive and fight several opponents at a time, then the sage may work for you.

Warrior

The warrior is my least favorite soldier. Melee plus area attacks? No thank you. This is not a soldier for those with a cautious play style.

Is the herbalist the only soldier you should use at level cap?

The answer to this question depends on your play style. Personally, I think there is no reason to always use an herbalist while at level cap, but I am more likely to run skirmishes solo and in small groups than I am to run then in raids.

Players who regularly run level-cap skirmish raids have a preference for herbalists. Generally, a raid party has more than enough damage output and they are more interested in relieving the pressure on the healers.

This preference is strongest in groups running Rescue at Nûrz Ghâshu. In full fellowship and raid runs, the most significant challenge in that skirmish is keeping Golodir alive. The last thing you want is for one of your soldiers to attack Golodir. For this reason, most groups running that raid ask you to dismiss all non-herbalist soldiers (and for Lore-masters to use their spirit pet) during the boss fight.

In addition, the herbalist is the least likely soldier to start a fight prematurely. In raids, you want to control the fight, not start off with all the mobs scattering about the battlefield and making the tanks job difficult at best.

That said, my level-cap wardens generally run with an archer on the few occasion I am in a raid. In addition, I am not the only one in the group with a non-herbalist.

While leveling, though, you are likely to rarely be in skirmish raids unless your character is part of a group that is leveling together. If you plan on running numerous skirmishes while leveling and your play style doesn’t work with an herbalist, then I see no reason to start with an herbalist. Should you switch when you reach cap? That will depend on the groups you plan to run with at cap and what soldier you leveled with.

For those who are curious, I often run in a three-player group that includes a hunter (with an herbalist), a rune-keeper (with a protector), and a warden (with an archer). I would rather have this mix than three herbalists.

May your shield protect you and your spear never break,

Pineleaf Needles

11 comments

  1. Andang /

    Awesome article as always Pineleaf. I really like this new segment!

  2. Tomeoric /

    Agreed – warden and archer make a great combo. My level cap burglar uses a herbalist with a nice build provided by Danania (http://www.danania.net/2012/03/herbalist-is-my-skirmish-friend.html). Really nice as it draws aggro to itself, has good survivability, and allows my burglar to get her back-stab on…

  3. Belwynne /

    Aww Pineleaf. Thank you for answering my questions! As always, you are the best person to ask. I appreciate your thoughts.

    Congrats on this new “Ask Pineleaf”. I can think of several more questions…

    Thanks again,
    Bellcari/Belwynne/Beldwyl/Belinquent of Landroval

  4. Thanx for the clarification of the soldiers Pineleaf. You did forget to mention that you must always have a picnic basket at the ready for the wayward warrior. 😀

    Have fun

  5. Lilikate Buggins. /

    What do you think of a Hunter having an Archer as a Soldier as opposed to a Herbalist?

    Would it work better in some Skirmishes than others?

    • Lilikate – I’d probably say that if you are really only doing T1 solo skirmishes, you’d probably be just fine using the archer for extra DPS. However, if you plan on doing higher tiers or doing a lot of group skirmish play (especially if you don’t have a dedicated healer), you might want to invest in a more complementary solider (whether that be a protector that can try and hold enemies while you pick them off, one by one – or ofc the handy morale/power battery that is an herbalist).

      The best way may be to spend some points in both an Archer to try it out, and also have some allocation into a more complementary soldier as a backup. Have fun!

  6. Lilikate Buggins. /

    Hehe Origional Lilikate did have an Archer for many moons, my Lili on Landroval has a herbalist. I do prefer my Soldiers not to wander far and not to aggro everything, or worst still to stand like lemons next to me doing nothing at all. I was just wondering if Pineleaf had looked at it and could quote some facts.

    • Pineleaf /

      I tend to be a conservative player. A hunter using an archer doesn’t sound very conservative for me. Therefore, I have no solid data on this matter.

      I think the hunter+archer combination would work fine in low-density skirmishes, such as the Amon Sûl or Rift skirmishes. I would avoid it in a high density skirmish. In high-density skirmishes, such as Attack at Dawn, I want a companion that can keep the enemy off of me and survive long enough to allow me to make a dent in their forces.

    • Belwynne /

      I ran my hunter, Beldwyl, with an archer up to level 80. Switched to herbalist and the world if a happier place. I liked the archer because it didn’t run forward and aggro everything. However, having some kind of heals is making skirmishes SO much easier that they are fun again. I’m glad I switched.

  7. Stu /

    Great article & review!

    Thank you 🙂

    Good hunting & Best Regards

    Stu

  8. Braag /

    Hail Pineleaf! I can’t think of any other differences in mechanics between tiers of skirmishes offhand, but I think a great future article would be to focus on the differences in final boss fights of skirmishes based on party size. I think that most people get into trouble not understanding that a Skraid boss fight is usually not just a Tank and Spank and might require some actual strategy/coordination!

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