In my post about duel boxing, I made a point that raiding is somewhat trivial on an individual basis and that the challenge comes from coordinating all the players. Last night I ran into an interesting scenario that proved the exact opposite is also possible.
At level 34 in LoTRO it was finally time to get into Garth Agarwen and see what it’s all about. Putting out the call in kin chat, we put together a group of five, consisting of a 34 Guardian, 34 Hunter, 33 Champion, 33 Lore Master, 40 Burglar. After some searching, we found a 34 Minstrel willing to join us, and off to GA we went.
After a rough start, and our inability to coordinate any type of combo fellowship maneuver, we finally got our act together and starting making some decent progress. We downed a few master elite mobs inside, collected some keys, and had made our way near the main baddy, Ivar. It was at this point that our Champ and Lore Master went link dead on us. After a bit of waiting, it was clear we had lost them, and I figured our night was done. Our burglar, Toxil, wanted to press on, and at least give Ivar a shot. I figured why not, might as well see him and get a first look at the encounter. No way could we down the main boss of the instance with only four in our group.
Toxil goes over the encounter, assigning myself to Ivar while she and our hunter would deal with all the adds. This is important due to the fact that Ivar heals himself a great deal if the adds stay up for too long. We begin the fight, and right off the bat it looks like it’s going to be a quick end for us. Ivar hits quite hard and I could see the life bars of my group mates dropping as well. With our minstrel having to spread his heals, he was running low on power quick. We had agreed that during fellowship maneuvers, we would go all power regen. Toxil pops the first FM, we all hit blue, and get a full refill. This allows me to ensure I have Ivar’s attention, allows our hunter and burglar to deal maximum damage, and most importantly keeps our minstrel with some power to healing us. After the tough start, we kill the initial adds and are able to focus a bit on Ivar before the next wave arrives. At 15,000 hit points (I have less than 2000 as a tank), his life bar is dropping very slowly, and we are only able to execute a FM every few minutes. For the next 10 minutes or so, we wage a desperate battle, seeing our power drop to zero, being on the edge of defeat, and pulling off a FM just in the nick of time, putting us back in the fight. At one point, our hunter caught hard agro from an add and I was unable to pull it off. Despite his best efforts, the minstrel was unable to save our hunter, and we were down to three with Ivar sitting at 5000 hit points. Again I thought we were done for, yet somehow we managed to pull off a final FM, giving us just enough juice to finish the bastard off. After 10 minutes, everyone was finally able to breathe a hard earned sigh of relief.
During the fight, I literally pulled out every guardian trick to stay alive and allow our minstrel to catch a quick break, and it was at this time that the brilliant balance and functionality of the class came out. Yes you have a taunt (a few actually), you carry a shield, and the main goal is to hold agro. What really separates the Guardian in LoTRO from the Warrior in WoW are all your other abilities. In WoW, if you spec prot you gain Last Stand, an instant HP boost ability for a few seconds with a fairly long cooldown. For the most part, Last Stand is somewhat useless for anything other than a quick ‘oh shit’ button, and is only good for one use. Aside from that, you have shield wall, a 30 minute cooldown ability that again only lasts a few seconds, and little else. In LoTRO, the guardian has some very key skills at his disposal. You have an ability that leeches power off your enemies and transfer’s it to you, an instant dodge/parry boost that lasts for a minute, and a skill very similar to Last Stand, but one that again lasts for a minute. Along with these, you also have a ‘skill reset’ ability that when used, makes all other skills instantly available. This skill is on a 5 minute cooldown, making it very useable during a prolonged encounter like Ivar. This allows a good Guardian to rotate his skills, giving his minstrel key breaks to regain some power or focus on others, or allows a guardian to gain the agro of multiple mobs and not be brought down instantly. After two years of raiding as a MT, this variety and additional depth is a very welcome change to the traditional tanking roll.
After seeing our group of four play to its peak, working together and following a solid plan, the overall balance of such an encounter reveals itself. If we had gone in and just tried to brute force the encounter, we would have failed miserably. By using all of our individual abilities, playing each class to its max, we were able to end the night on a major high, one that makes playing MMOs worth the occasional grind.