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Dev Journal: Warden Mastery

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Warden Mastery

With the launch of the Mines of Moria looming closer, the folks at Lord of the Rings Online have prepared an in depth look at the Warden, one of two new classes that will be introduced in the expansion.

Warden Mastery

The Warden class represents the brave citizen-soldiers of Middle-earth, the vigilant defenders of the realm patrolling at the edge of the firelight, where civilization meets the Wild. Whether she takes after the Rangers of the North or the infantry of Gondor, the Warden is a quick and cunning skirmisher, shunning heavy and restrictive armor in favor of nimble shields and flexible leathers. Joining spear and javelin with gall and guile, the Warden stands ready to fight the Enemy at home or abroad.

As a class, the Warden strikes a new balance between defense and offense. It’s not a straightforward tank like the Guardian, or a focused damage-dealer like the Hunter. It stands midway between those classes, combining flexibility and power to provide an exciting solo-play experience and a valuable new anchor for fellowships.

The Warden is simple to learn and play, but it rewards careful attention and clever planning in ways that no other class does. Some classes reliably play the same no matter who is at the controls, but the Warden lets your own style, gameplay choices, and expertise shine through. It’s a unique, richly interactive class with more than one road to mastery.

Choosing the Warden

The Warden is a great martial class effective in both close-quarters and ranged combat. Available to Men, Elves, and Hobbits, it offers up a wide array of potent combat options, all controlled using just a handful of core attack skills. It plays fast and is easy to learn, yet it expands steadily, offering up loads of new powers, special effects, and animations over the course of the character’s advancement. If you’re looking for a Lord of the Rings Online experience that involves more moment-to-moment action and less time spent managing skills, look here.

If you want a rewarding class that’s flexible and distinctive, the Warden fits that bill too. One day your Warden might be tanking for a fellowship undertaking epic quests in Moria, and the next she might be a vital ranged-damage-dealer during a battle in Angmar. With its host of unique Gambit effects and animations, the Warden can even be fun to just watch. Whether in a fellowship or going solo, the Warden is a good-looking, well-rounded class that’s perfect for the player who is willing to risk the sure thing in exchange for a little extra excitement.

In the Beginning

From the first moment of play, you can see the Warden is distinctive. The Gambit panel—a special addition to the UI, unique to Warden characters—occupies a central place on the screen. This panel tracks your progress as you perform attacks that, in the right sequence, trigger combos called Gambits. Each of the Warden’s core attack skills adds one of three icons to the panel. Different combinations of icons cause the Warden to perform different Gambits.

In the beginning, the Gambit panel has space for just two icons at a time, making the Warden able to execute two-icon-long Gambits. As the Warden gains levels, the panel expands, and she learns more complex Gambits requiring three, four, or five icons. Every Gambit, though—whether it’s made up of two icons or five—is a combination of just three core attacks. These attacks, combined with two other core skills, make up the heart of the Warden’s combat style.

Quick Thrust: Adds one Spear icon (red) to the panel

Shield Bash: Adds one Shield icon (green) to the panel

Warden’s Taunt: Adds one Fist icon (yellow) to the panel

Quick Recovery: Removes the most recently added icon from the panel

Recovery: Removes all icons, clearing the Gambit panel

You read the Gambit panel from left to right. As you add icons to the panel, the rightmost symbol—the one in the shield—changes to reveal the particular Gambit the current icons add up to. When you have the combination of icons you want, just press a single hotkey to trigger whatever Gambit is currently ready in the panel.

Every time you use one of those core attack skills, you build toward a potential Gambit. The question you must always ask yourself while playing the Warden is this: How far do you want to go?

Say your high-level Warden has a Fist and Spear icon already in the panel. Do you add just one more icon to set up your Piercing Strike Gambit (Fist + Spear + Fist) or do you hold out until you’ve added three more icons and unleash Exultation of Battle (Fist + Spear + Shield + Fist + Shield)?

Once you trigger a Gambit, the panel is cleared, and you start setting up your next great maneuver.

More Than A Warrior

The Warden class may be a new addition to the game, but it has been seamlessly slipped into the culture and game world of Middle-earth world to seem as if it has always been a part of the saga. Wherever you go—from the charming marches of the Shire to the hills of Evendim and the vales of Eregion—you find Wardens already in place, their spears at the ready.

With so much of Middle-earth to watch over and safeguard, Wardens must be more than warriors. They must be capable travelers as well. A Warden learns the Forced March skill to increase her run speed so that she can reach besieged folk in times of need. Likewise, a Warden gains swift-travel abilities that carry her to those distant outposts of the Free Peoples where her combat skills are so often in need. Eventually a Warden is able to Muster in Esteldín, Evendim, Ost Guruth, and Rivendell.

This adds a nice dimension to the class’s personal character. Though the Warden’s map may lead to a milestone in some home township like Bree, you can expect to find Wardens in many of the remote refuges of the Free Peoples, anywhere brave folk gather amid hidden ruins and secret retreats to oppose the Enemy.

The Role of the Warden

Able to both take and deal considerable damage, the Warden makes a great solo class. These qualities also make the Warden an invaluable comrade in a fellowship. The trick is to know just what kind of support the particular fellowship needs, and then to provide that.

Your choices during play determine how your Warden excels in any given battle. Those favorite Gambits that you know by heart are as important to your Warden’s individual effectiveness as how you spec your Traits or what you equip. By employing the right Gambit at the right moment, a Warden can heal herself and keep right on tanking or drawing threats away from ailing allies. The Warden’s self-reliance may be her greatest asset to a fellowship.

The Warden’s ranged-combat options also make her a great choice for a first-strike combatant. With the stealth granted by the Careful Step skill and the brutal stun-and-slow effects of the Ambush skill, a Warden can sneak up on an elite foe and prime it for a rapid defeat at the hands of the fellowship. Then you can decide if you want to stay back and employ your withering javelin strikes from a distance or get in close and finish your foe with a bold Gambit.

Mastering the Warden

Mastering the Warden requires experience with its dynamic and patterns of play. The single best way to hone your expertise with the class is, naturally, to play one for a few levels and spend some time trying out the available Gambits. To give you an edge on your road to mastery, here are a few tips to keep in mind when playing the Warden:

• Know what you’re doing next. The first icon of a Gambit determines what kind of effects you can expect from the finished combo, so it’s good to know early whether you want to be dealing damage, restoring Morale, or drawing threats six seconds from now.

• A high-level Warden is able to perform dozens of potential Gambits, but memorizing them all—or checking a list in the midst of battle—isn’t always possible. Don’t be afraid to experiment, throwing together a few icons and hoping for the best. Once you know the core three icons and the rhythm of a few Gambits, you have a good chance of stumbling into a working Gambit on the fly. There are no bad Gambits, only ones that are incomplete.

• Learn the rhythm of Gambits. Alternating between two icons is always a safe bet for building to a useful Gambit in the thick of combat. Just combine the icons associated with the type of effects you’re after. For example, alternating between the Shield and Fist icons (Shield + Fist + Shield + Fist + Shield) results in the Conviction Gambit, which restores Morale (thanks to those Shield icons) and draws threats away from the rest of the fellowship and onto the Warden (thanks to those Fist icons).

• Two-icon-long Gambits are the only Gambits that call for two of the same icon to be played in sequence. Once you’ve got an icon in the Gambit panel, don’t add that same icon next if you’re planning on going for a longer Gambit. If your first two icons in the Gambit panel are the same, either trigger the Gambit or use Quick Recovery to erase that last icon.

• Watch out during battles against lots of enemies. A Warden’s greatest advantage is her momentum in battle. An unexpected injury can disrupt an otherwise breathtaking display of martial prowess. The more chaotic the battle, the shorter your Gambits should be. With those shorter Gambits, a Warden works as an agile tactician, able to deal damage one moment and raise Morale the next.

• Keep a close eye on your Power. A high-level Warden, pulling off one long Gambit after another, can burn through Power before a hard fight is finished—especially if her Gambits are interrupted. Familiarize yourself with powers like The Dark Before the Dawn (Spear + Shield + Spear + Fist + Spear), which deals out two attacks and simultaneously restores Power.

• Don’t be afraid to abandon an unfinished Gambit. If the course of battle is changing, go ahead and change with it. The sudden arrival of a new enemy or the unexpected loss of a comrade can mean your Warden must switch from the role of damage-dealer to tank without warning. It’s better to waste a bit of Power and time than to stick with a Gambit that just won’t help. Either perform whatever Gambit you can with the icons already in the Gambit panel, or use Quick Recovery to clear the panel so you can start over with the right kind of new Gambit.

Follow these tips, and you will master the Warden in no time. With a bit of dedication, you can then fulfill your fate and become the one of the greatest protectors of Middle-earth!

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Guest Writer