Thursday, 29 June 2017

Introducing the Guardian: Level 1-20

The guardian class is inspired by Samwise Gamgee who was a loyal protector to Frodo Baggins.

The guardian is a team player who defends their allies from foes. Typically, they wield a sword-and-board (one-handed weapon and shield), but there is a two-handed tanking option as well. They have strong defenses but damage output tends to be lower than other classes.

Here I'll record my experience levelling as a guardian from level 1 to 20, talking about skills, specs and anything else that might be useful to know.

Level 1 Hobbit Guardian

Here's our brand new guardian and some basic information about her:
  • Wears heavy armour
  • Wields a one-handed weapon (club) and shield
  • Primary stat is Might
  • Starting abilities are: Guardian's Ward (buffs block and parry chance and deals some single-target melee damage) and Sting (a basic single-target melee attack).

The first quest in the introduction provides a satchel that gives you an axe and shield. At level 2  you get Shield Swipe and Retaliation. These abilities will be very important as they can start a chain of events. Shield Swipe becomes available when you successfully block an attack, while Retaliation becomes available when you successfully parry an attack. Also at level 2, you are sent to see the Guardian trainer who wants you to practice attacking a training dummy and use Shield Swipe. They suggest using Guardian's Ward to increase your chance to block so that Shield Swipe will become available.

At level 4 you get a basic AOE melee attack, Sweeping Cut, which hits up to 3 targets in front of you. At level 6 you get another AOE melee attack, Whirling Retaliation. Like Retaliation, this is activated by parrying an attack, but it hits up to 5 targets in a circle around you.

Also at level 6 you get to choose a specialisation. The options are:
  • Blue = The Defender of the Free (1H/shield tank) - specialises in protection and survival, with multiple taunts and buffs. Shield skills have a chance to apply a fortification buff that increases your mitigations and stacks up to 5 times. You also gain Shield-Taunt which taunts several mobs after using Shield Swipe, and Litany of Defiance which slows the attacks of several mobs, gives you a temporary buff to mitigations and deflects some of the damage intended for your allies to you.
  • Red = The Keen Blade (DPS) - specialises in applying bleeds and hard-hitting finishers. Critical strikes apply a stacking bleed effect. You also gain Force Opening which lets you use skills that rely on a successful parry response, and Overwhelm which requires you to have used Retaliation or Whirling Retaliation, is a strong finisher that removes bleed effects from the target but applies a stun on a critical hit.
  • Yellow = The Fighter of Shadow (2H tank) - specialises in debuffing enemies and dealing Light damage. You gain the abilities Force Opening, which lets you use skills that rely on a successful parry response, and Take to Heart which marks a target, causing them to have a higher chance to miss, and you have a chance to restore some morale when you attack them.

My interpretation is that Blue is the main tanking spec, Red is for DPS and Yellow is sort of a hybrid, or maybe an off-tank. Yellow might also be good for soloing tough mobs. You can also use a one-handed weapon and shield as Yellow, as the option to block with a two-handed weapon is only available through Set Bonuses (which requires VIP player status or a purchase from the LOTRO store).

After completing the introduction, don't forget to check your mail for the adventurer's gift. It contains several useful items and starts a couple of quests, including one that rewards 5 Tokens of Salutations which can be traded with the Barterer for a pocket item that increases run speed and some health or power potions. The run speed buff can be quite helpful, especially if you don't have a mount.

At level 7 you get your first trait point to spend in your chosen specialisation. I've started off in the Red tree, and all the options in the first tier look useful - crits restore some morale, increased parry chance or increased skill damage.

At level 8 you get a ranged ST ability, Let Fly. Note: you need a bow or crossbow equipped in your ranged slot to be able to use this ability. You can get a ranged weapon from a bowyer or the auction house (or trade chat, or a friend/kin-mate), make one if you have the woodworking skill or get one as a quest reward or random drop from mobs. I'll have to buy one. With a ranged weapon equipped, you can also pull mobs from a distance with the auto-attack key (`), which may be useful until you get a proper taunt (or shoot them in the back if they run away).

At level 10 you get another AOE melee attack, Vexing Blow. You are also now eligible to take part in Epic Battles such as Retaking Pelargir, however it may not be a very successful or satisfactory experience because even though you get scaled to level 100, without all your gear slots filled and with only limited abilities, you will be quite vulnerable.

So far I'm finding the Guardian a bit frustrating. Already there are quite a few skills and there are so many cooldowns and pre-requisites and abilities flashing up on the Auto-skill bar that it can be hard to tell what to do next, so combat feels rather chaotic.
  • Single target scenario (as Red spec) - I start with Guardian's Ward then Sting. If I haven't blocked or parried, I hit Force Opening to enable the parry chain then use Retaliation, followed by Overwhelm. If I block, I use Shield Swipe. Once I've used Shield Swipe, Retaliation or Overwhelm, they have rather long cooldowns, so even if I block or parry again, I might not be able to use them, so I have to go back to using Guardian's Ward and Sting, or use AOE abilities. Or maybe I block one attack and parry the next so now I have both Shield Swipe and Retaliation and Whirling Retaliation available - which do I use first (I would go with Shield Swipe because it hits harder)?
  • AOE scenario (as Red spec) - I start with Guardian's Ward then use Sweeping Cut and Vexing Blow. If I haven't blocked or parried, I hit Force Opening then use Whirling Retaliation and Overwhelm on my main target. If Sweeping Cut, Vexing Blow and Force Opening are still on cooldown, I have to use ST abilities. If I block, I can use Shield Swipe on my main target, but if Whirling Retaliation is available that would be my priority because it hits more targets. I'm taking a lot of damage in AOE situations (with 3 mobs I might drop to 50% morale).

Writing down what skills I would use in different scenarios actually helped it to start making more sense. With a couple more levels under my belt, it isn't feeling so chaotic anymore.

Nevertheless, I decided to try out Yellow spec with a sword and shield. I enjoyed it more than Red and I think part of that is because of the target marking (which also taunts the mob) and getting morale back when hitting that target felt like a survivability boost, and partly because the DPS seemed a bit better.

At level 13 I decided to do a little test and compare Red and Yellow DPS against wolves in The Shire. I killed 5 wolves of the same level and recorded DPS and time to kill (from the CombatAnalysis plugin).

SpecialisationAverage DPS (range)Average Time to Kill (range)
Red17.14 (14.6-20.9)11.18 seconds (8.8-14.1 seconds)
Yellow17.92 (16.4-20.9)10.02 seconds (9.0-11.3 seconds)

It was only a small test, but I thought Red would have higher DPS; instead it seemed to be more spiky whereas Yellow was more consistent.

At level 14 you get the Charge ability which is a sprint. When I saw the skill name, I thought it was a gap-closer that lets you charge at a target, like in other MMOs, but the sprint is nice, even if it has a long cooldown.

Around level 13-14 you will get offered some quests to go visit Bree-land. At level 15 you get a class quest in the mail, asking you to visit the Guardian trainer in Bree (in Bree-land). The Guardian trainer is in the jail and sends you to assist one of his guards, Oswin Leek. Oswin wants you to protect a farmer, Burle Pierson, from brigands who are trying to scare him off his farm south of Bree.

Pierson's Farm

After defeating the brigand leader, you get a helmet and the title "Shield Against Adversity".

At level 16 you get the Challenge ability which lets you taunt multiple mobs. There are no new skills for a few levels but you do get a couple of trait points.

At level 20 you get Turn the Tables which lets you deal damage and stun an enemy if you are knocked down, dazed or stunned yourself. In a group, this also starts a fellowship manoeuver. You also get some passive abilities - you gain Critical Defence which reduces the chance of being critically hit, and you learn to use Shield Spikes which can have various effects such as increasing critical hit chance or changing the damage type (which may increase the effectiveness of your attacks against certain types of mobs). Shields spikes can be bought from the Guardian trainer, or crafted by a weaponsmith.

My gear obtained through questing wasn't very good at level 20. I still had level 5 gloves and was missing several pieces of jewellery. So I went to the Skirmish Camp and upgraded everything I could.

Here's how my guardian looks at level 20 now:

Level 20 Hobbit Guardian

I then went to the training dummies in the Training Hall in Bree and tested each spec's unbuffed DPS over 3 minutes (or until power runs out) with a sword and shield, and with a 2H-sword, and took a screenshot at the end to eliminate the effects of DoTs that kept going after I stopped attacking. For virtues, I had one tier of Compassion and one tier of Charity active. With my 7 trait points, I focused on damage-boosting traits where possible.

Here are my DPS results with a 1H and shield (collected with CombatAnalysis plugin):

StatisticsDefender of the Free (Blue)The Keen Blade (Red)The Fighter of Shadow (Yellow)
Time3 m 0.5 s2 m 9.2 s2 m 42.6 s
Average DPS58.971.259.1
Minimum Hit241324
Average Hit51.148.953.1
Maximum Hit125137125
Critical Strikes (%)32 (15.4%)26 (13.8%)32 (17.7%)
Skill Priorities
  1. Shield-swipe
  2. Retaliation
  3. Guardian's Ward
  4. Sting
  1. Shield-swipe
  2. Overwhelm
  3. Retaliation
  4. Force Opening
  5. Guardian's Ward
  6. Sting
  1. Take to Heart (pre- combat)
  2. Shield-swipe
  3. Retaliation
  4. Force Opening
  5. Guardian's Ward
  6. Sting

Here are my DPS results with a 2H-sword (collected with CombatAnalysis plugin):

StatisticsDefender of the Free (Blue)The Keen Blade (Red)The Fighter of Shadow (Yellow)
2 m 21.3 s2 m 59.4 s
Average DPS
Minimum Hit
Average Hit
Maximum Hit
Critical Strikes (%)
23 (11.7%)23 (13.5%)
Skill Priorities
  1. Retaliation
  2. Guardian's Ward
  3. Sting
  1. Overwhelm
  2. Retaliation
  3. Force Opening
  4. Guardian's Ward
  5. Sting
  1. Take to Heart (pre-combat)
  2. Retaliation
  3. Force Opening
  4. Guardian's Ward
  5. Sting

Note 1: Blue spec with a 2H weapon only had 3 single target abilities and when all were on cooldown and she had to wait a few seconds, CombatAnalysis kept resetting, assuming she had left combat (hence why the results are marked N/A; not available). Based on multiple attempts, she was not going to run out of power, and average DPS was around 55-60.

Note 2: Because my guardian is on a free-to-play account, I didn't have set bonuses unlocked so could not block in Yellow spec with a 2H weapon, but VIP players could (I would prioritise Shield-swipe over Retaliation if available).

General Observations

Playing the Guardian requires concentration to monitor what abilities are available and the play-style is more reactive than proactive.

The Yellow spec mechanism of spreading debuffs from your main target to nearby mobs made it easy to switch between single target and AOE damage or take down a strong enemy and their minions/weak allies.

Armorsmith would be a useful profession for Guardians because they can make heavy armour, shields and legendary Guardian belts (which go in the class slot later).


Blue - Defender of the Free: Strong defences which is great for groups but boring and slow to play solo. Overall, I wouldn't recommend this spec for levelling solo but it should be good for tanking in instances.

Red - The Keen Blade: DPS can be a bit spiky depending on how frequently you trigger block and parry chains. Parry chains seem to be more important, so you could use a 1H and shield or a 2H weapon. I think I would use a 2H most of the time and swap to a 1H and shield for tough mobs. Unfortunately, from what I've heard on the forums and seen from my own experience levelling various classes, the DPS is low compared to other classes. Overall, I think while this spec is not ideal for instances, it should be fine for levelling or questing solo. 

Yellow - The Fighter of Shadow: I found this the most enjoyable spec to play. As mentioned above, it could easily switch between single target and AOE damage. It also had some defensive buffs so it felt tougher but the DPS didn't feel much weaker than in Red spec when questing - the difference was more noticeable on the training dummies. If you don't have the set bonuses unlocked, stick to 1H and shield, but otherwise 2H is a viable option and alternative to Red spec. Overall, I think this spec would be fine for levelling and would probably be good for group quests because you debuff and weaken the enemies, but I'm not sure about instances because it seems to be a hybrid DPS/tank.


  • Might - your main stat that increases your damage and your block and parry (activating various abilities and bonuses)
  • Critical Strike - increases your damage
  • Mitigations, resistances and critical defence - reduces damage taken
  • Morale and vitality - bigger health pool increases survivability

Here are some virtues that may be helpful for Guardians and how to get them by level 20:


(physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, resistance)
Complete 75 quests in The ShireLife of a Bounder (Final)(The Shire)

(physical mitigation, tactical mitigation, non-combat power regeneration)
Complete 15 quests in The Shire

Complete 20 quests in Ered Luin
Life of a Bounder (The Shire)

Defender of Ered Luin (Ered Luin)

(might, physical mitigation, resistance)
Defeat 90 wolves in Ered Luin

Defeat 60 hendrovail in Ered Luin

Defeat 60 sickle-flies in Bree-land
Wolf-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

Hendroval-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

Sickle-fly Slayer (Advanced)(Bree-land)

(physical mitigation, resistance, in-combat power regeneration)
Explore Dwarven settlements in Ered Luin

Retrieve spoiled pies in The Shire

Deliver mail between settlements in The Shire

Explore the ruins of Bree-land

Explore the Barrow-downs in Bree-land
Places of the Dwarves (Ered Luin)

No Place for Spoiled Pies (The Shire)

Restoring the Quick Post (The Shire)

The Ruins of Bree-land (Bree-land)

The Barrow-downs (Bree-land)

(morale, physical mitigation, armour)
Defeat 90 goblins in Ered Luin

Defeat 90 spiders in Ered Luin

Defeat 90 Barrow-spiders in Bree-land
Goblin-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

Spider-slayer (Advanced)(Ered Luin)

Brood-hunter (Advanced)(Bree-land)

(resistance, tactical mitigation, vitality)
Defeat 60 spiders in The Shire

Defeat 90 spiders in Bree-land
Spider-slayer (Advanced)(The Shire)

Spider-slayer (Advanced)(Bree-land)

(tactical mitigation, vitality, power)
Explore landmarks in The Shire

Explore Dourhand strongholds in Ered Luin
The Sights of the Shire (The Shire)

Scouting the Dourhands (Ered Luin)

Pros of the Guardian Class

  • Good survivability
  • Blue spec tanks are popular for instances
  • ST and AOE abilities and debuffs

Cons of the Guardian Class

  • Low DPS
  • Limited ranged abilities 
  • Reactive play-style

I hope this has been helpful. Feel free to leave any questions or advice for new guardians in the comments below.

Coming soon in the Introducing X Class series: the Hunter.

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