Ask Pineleaf: Why are Skirmishes So Tough in the 40s?


Dourhand in Icy Crevasse

If you start skirmishing at level 20, you will likely say “Wow, these things are way easy!” By the time you hit 41, the word “easy” is the last word you have in mind. What happened?

Today, we will have a little look at the difficulty curve used in skirmishes. I suspect that your initial guess would be that it would follow the same curve as your character. That is, if you can place your character on a definite curve. After all, we do have to consider level, abilities, traits, consumables, equipment, class, and even player ability when defining a character’s effectiveness.

We don’t have access to all the statistics of the opposition but there is one statistic that is very easy to determine: morale. Every creature in the game has a morale bar with the current and total morale values always visible. I will therefore compare the morale of standard mobs at various levels to determine how level affects morale (and likely other attributes).

Note that in collecting this data, I had to use a particular creature type consistently through the levels, since different mobs have different morale levels (the curves appear to be consistent if normalized but the base morale values are different).

When we move from level 20 to 21, the morale increases about 8% (computing the increment more precisely than that would be difficult due to the low morale values at that level). When moving from 42 to 43, the morale increases by 5.9%. When moving from 84 to 85, we get an increment of 4.7%. The general trend is that as you increase in level, the absolute amount of the morale increase goes up while the percentage goes down. So far so good.

There are two exceptions to this trend. The first is at level 81. Here we move from 4.3% to 5.8%. This new value sets a new baseline. This is probably related to the change in the player damage curves found in the Rohan areas (which is turn are likely to be related to the introduction of mounted combat).

The other exception is a blip at level 41. The increment at 40 is 6.1 and as I indicated earlier, it is 5.9 at level 42. Therefore, you would expect an increment of 6.0 at level 41. That isn’t the case. Instead, the increment is 11.5%. Yes, that is nearly double the expected value. Huh, what’s happening? It’s like their morale jumped two levels instead of just one. Why is this happening?

I suspect the answer is legendary. By that I mean legendary traits and legendary items. When you earn your legendary traits and your first legendary weapon, your character starts to make a significant advance in their combat effectiveness. You do have your legendary traits and items all set by level 41, right?

Well, maybe not. When I am 41, I am lucky to have one legendary trait slotted (the other two slots aren’t even available yet) and I am another four levels from the minimum level for the legendary item quest. This means that unless you really got your pages quickly, you are a little behind the curve for a couple levels when you reach 41.

It really doesn’t help that one of the new skirmishes you earn at level 40 is The Icy Crevasse. Yes, you get access to the toughest skirmish right around the same time skirmishes in general become tougher.

There is one more factor. While it is hard to see it in the raw numbers, it is obvious from play in the lower levels that the opposing mobs get steadily more resilient as you increase a skirmish’s level. At level 20, you are fighting mobs made of paper (alas, those defenders that are supposedly helping you are made of the same brand of paper). At 30, it seems more like cardboard. It’s not until around 40 where they seem to have actually remembered their armor.

Why is this? Most likely, this is to help the new player. A level-20 character has as small selection of skills available. In addition, a new player with a level-20 character is unlikely to fully understand their class yet or to have decent equipment (some players attempt to always get the best equipment available for their level but I certainly don’t). The power curve to skirmishes is therefore tweaked a bit at the lower levels to ease the new player into the system. Naturally, if you have a player taking their fifth warden through the lower levels while the grace period for the might/agility switch is still in effect (i.e., wardens are currently a little overpowered due to having two primary abilities), those lower levels seem a joke.

If you are still laughing at level 41 (especially at Tier 3), then you are have mastered the art of skirmishing.

May your shield protect you and your spear never break,

Pineleaf Needles



  1. Andang /

    Wow! I didn’t even realize that. Thanks Pineleaf!

  2. Kazren /

    Thanks for the explanation. This happened to my Landroval burg and I thought it was him! I didn’t realize this was due to the change at that level, and I didn’t do more skims with him until they fell into the epic quest line! He’s 73 now and he made it through all the Moria and Mirkwood skirms, so I guess he’s settled in.

  3. leslie /

    Wow, now this is something I didn’t know! I thought it was just me (and the fact that I hadn’t upgraded my soldier since we were in our 30s). Great to know that they do get a bit harder at 40, and that Icy Crevasse isn’t a walk in the park, like the previous lower level ones were.

  4. Interesting data, thanks for sharing! At least it shares the general leveling lull that you’ll probably hit early in that range, too.

    (and for personal reasons, just have to toss out the typo in the title…sorry!)

  5. OHHHHHH!!! Thank you for this! I gave up on my Warden when I had such a hard time with Icy Crevasse when I first got it and I thought there must be something wrong with me. Legendaries… any legendaries? Riiiiight.

    So I guess I should feel good about being able to get through it at all while gnashing my teeth?

  6. Kaleigh Starshine /

    Very informative. Thank you, Miss Pineleaf!

  7. WOw explains so much, must stop crafting and go out and get my legendary…Tsuhelm my main hit 42 and was wondering why the few skirms I had were so tough, Dyort, my lv41 champ is still finding the going ok. He will also need to start collecting pages 🙁

  8. And thanks Pineleaf, keep the info flowing 🙂

  9. Lilikate Buggins. /

    Pineleaf hello and thanks for this article. I actually noticed a difference in the early 50’s. I found skirmishes much tougher…Time to go back and level up some of my alt crafters. Maybe thats the issue. I do have on all on level armour and equipment from the skirmish vendors and anything better if I can make it or find it in the auction house.


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