Saturday, April 25, 2015

Play That Funky Music, Elf-boy...

If you're like me (Then I pity you. -- Mrs. Pad), you need people telling you how to play LOTRO "better" about as much as you need a particularly virulent foot fungus. Aside from the obvious fact that LOTRO is a game, and aside from the equally obvious fact the developers have made this game easier to walk through than the White House's perimeter defenses, the truth is there are many "right" ways to play. Sure, high-level skraids are challenging and there are still plenty of places where you really need to be on your game or the game will game you (or something), but let's be honest: being level 100 doesn't guarantee anything with regards to understanding of the game mechanics. It pretty much only proves you've had a pulse for a while and were occasionally logged in while you had it. I know this because it worked for me (...and it'll work for you too! For only 18 easy payments of $49.99...).

That being said, the last thing I want is for this blog to be seen as preachy -- the world ill needs another self-proclaimed swashbuckling soothsayer saying "sooth," swinging self-regard around like a slim, slimy scimitar slashing satisfied soldiers by the score (Stop. Just stop. -- Mrs. Pad). One of my purposes (or is it purpii? I never can get those right) here is merely to delve a bit into certain aspects of the game with a goal of possibly helping some folks to better appreciate LOTRO's many intricacies thereby finding new and exciting ways to enjoy it. With that being said (and at a quite unnecessary length), some people might like a closer look at the minstrel's yellow line. This trait set is quite interesting, although it's also about as straightforward as two wrestling pretzels. With some patience, however, you can find yourself bringing some massive benefits to your fellowship.

The mini's yellow trait tree is a buff and support set, not unlike the captain's normal role in a group. Similar to the cappie buffs following Turbine's ill-advised transition to the trait tree, the mini's yellow-line buffs are triggered and maintained by using certain skills, frequently in the right progression to activate the buffs you wish to apply to your fellows (As usual with these entries, I'm writing as if the entire skill tree is unlocked).
Potentially confusing, the minstrel's yellow trait tree requires some reading and memorization to take full advantage of its benefits. The payoffs for the fellowship who has such a player, however, are substantial.

Let's start with the ballads. They damage enemies and allow you to play anthems, right? Yes, but wait! There's more: at higher levels each ballad also places buffs on you, your fellowship, and debuffs your opponents. Each ballad has multiple effects, but generally the major ballad increases outgoing healing, the minor ballad increases outgoing tactical damage, and the perfect ballad decreases power costs. The Strike A Chord trait is the one which applies the negative variation of these effects to your foes while Perfect Performance spreads the love to your group. The important thing to remember is each of these ballads provides a +3% buff/debuff in the areas I just mentioned, so playing the same ballad three times in a row gives you a +9% buff/debuff. Use this to capitalize on your group's makeup -- if you're running with lots of rune-keepers and lore-masters hurling DPS around like some deranged abuser of figurative language, they will certainly appreciate a +9% boost to their tactical damage output! Likewise, using minor ballad when you're surrounded by champions and wardens won't make much of a difference.
Galfi gets jiggy with it in the Three-Farrow Crafting Hall.

Now let's talk anthems. In yellow line, you'll have access to four anthems:War, Prowess, Composure, and Anthem of the Third Age (AOTA). These anthems apply some really nice buffs to your team and, while they do expire after a few seconds (the Extended Anthems trait increases their longevity), you can keep re-applying them until you use a coda or you're out of combat for nine seconds. Also, until you get the Harmonious Anthems trait you will only be able to apply two anthems at a time, so you'll need to decide which ones will benefit your group most under the circumstances. War increases all outgoing damage, Prowess boosts attack speed, armor, and evade ratings, Composure buffs resistances and tactical mitigation, while AOTA decreases the power cost of subsequent anthems by 20%. Pretty straightforward.

Things get a tad complicated when you use codas. The codas will remove all ballad buffs/debuffs and all anthems as well, but they have very beneficial effects which vary depending on which anthems are active when the coda is played. War increases the critical chance of the coda, Prowess causes your next three Herald Strikes to have no cooldown, Composure places a considerable power recovery buff on the minstrel (a favorite of many players), and AOTA keeps the AOTA buff on you (-20% to anthem power cost) in the event the coda crits. Here again, depending on the situation, you need to decide a) which anthems to apply in order to get the desired effects out of your coda and b) the right moment to use the coda since it will take a few seconds to re-apply your ballads and anthems before you can use another coda.

Okay, that's enough music lessons: let's take a look at the yellow mini's other great assets. And what better place to start than Tale of Tales (TOT)? Much hay is made about the cappie's In Defense of Middle-earth (IDOME) trait, but TOT is a close second when it comes to these kinds of things. Essentailly, TOT acts just like IDOME -- a permanent buff placed on everyone just for being in the mini's glowing presence -- and, while it's effects aren't quite as awesome as IDOME, they are still more than enough to give Sauron's lackies some major migraines. The base buff is (on my 100 mini, at least) +90 to Will, Fate, and Vitality, +1,212 armor value, and +758 tactical mitigation. TOT is also modified slightly depending on which stance you're in: Dissonance grants +1,243 finesse, Melody decreases power cost by 5%, and Resonance increases incoming healing by 5%. Again, these buffs apply to every member of the fellowship and you don't even have to do anything -- your mere presence is enough!
Padhwe's glowing presence inspires his fellows! Okay, maybe that's the Glorious Beer....

Other helpful buffs come from Call of the Second Age (sizable AOE damage plus 10% run boost and -10% skill inductions to the group), Improved Inspire Fellows (-4% to all incoming damage for the group), and Improved Story of Courage (+4,444 fear resistance in addition to the usual debuff removal). Finally, there are Song of Aid and Call to Greatness, which are the only skills in LOTRO I can think of right now which apply class-specific buffs to a fellowship. They don't last long, but when used at the right times (preferably with a little advance notice to your fellows) they can really make a big difference.

So there you have it: no longer will you cower in the shadows, fearful of ridicule by your mates for misuse of the minstrel's yellow line! Go forth! From the highest mountaintops, shout, "I am MINI! And I am YELLOW!"

All shall flee before you!

Master of Toons

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