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First off, as discussed in the previous article, your Tier 1 and 2 Ballads do damage and give you some kind of buff, while advancing your Tier, which is even more important when doing damage or soloing than when focused on healing.
You start the game with Herald’s Strike, which will give you an incoming healing buff. It which helps if you are grinding in solo melee or are forced to engage a mob when grouped. At level 16 you get Noble’s Cause which, the next three times you use Herald’s Strike, eliminates the cooldown, increases the damage, and gives a small group wide heal on Herald’s Strike.
That combo won’t be as useful as Piercing Cry (level 2). It does good damage and has excellent range. The only reason not to use it as your main pull is that Ballad of Resonance gives you a Tactical Damage buff and starts your Tiers moving, so it is nice to open with that. If you are focusing on damage, use Piercing Cry whenever it is up.
Level 14 gets you Echoes of Battle, a novel combination of damage over time and a toggle Skill. When activated, ghostly swords (scaled to the size of the mob, it looks amazing on big stuff) appear and whack away, doing Beleriand Damage, in exchange for a power per second cost from you. Though not noted in the description, this skill seems to draw quite a bit of agro. Having War-Speech (described next) on turns the Skill into Timeless Echoes of Battle, which does more damage.
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War-Speech: DPS for the Minstrel Plus Ranting Hobbit Animations
War-speech is a Toggle skill with a pretty long induction to activate, but no turn-off time, so if you’re going to use it, you want it on before the fight starts. Perhaps better than the game mechanic impacts is that the induction animation features the Minstrel shouting and flailing their arms in gesticulation with the fury of history’s greatest totalitarian militants. Seeing a Hobbit do it is really cute.
Anyways, in addition to the Timeless tweak to Echoes of Battle, War-speech also reduces the cooldown and increases the critical chance on Piercing Cry. Most noticeably there are damage dealing skills that are only available when War-Speech is on.
Call of Orome (level 22) does good AOE damage and leaves the targets debuffed against Light Damage, so it is good to throw it before Piercing Cry. Call to Fate damages a single target. Call of the Second Age does AOE, and gives your group a combat run speed buff, but has a longer cooldown.
There’s the good news, the bad news is your that having War-speech on reduces your heals to 50% effect (more if you slot enough Warrior Skald Traits), so it is generally used solo. Make sure you turn it off when the tide looks like it might turn. You can try to finesse having War-Speech on in a group, particularly depending on the group’s make up, but if anyone dies, you failed to fulfill your role, and others have every right to be unhappy.
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Other Skills – Crowd Control and Agro
Minstrels actually have more crowd control than they get credit for. Cry of the Valar (level 12) is your first shot at crowd control. It is an effective fear, but fleeing enemies may activate and return with adds when it wears off. Be careful where you use it, but it is better than dying.
Song of the Dead (level 18) will put an undead mob to sleep, but has a long induction so it is best used before a fight. Song of Distraction (level 34) has to be used outside of combat, but it still has to be one of the most underused Skills in LOTRO. You can use it to more or less turn off a mob indefinitely. It won’t respond to calls from nearby mobs, so you can pull something standing right next to the Distracted mob. The only way to agro the mob is to hit it or step almost directly on it. This makes thinning out or sneaking past mobs a lot easier.
Where crowd control fails, agro management takes over, and you have few options here. Anthem of Compassion (level 24) is useful and helps you against all mobs. Song of Soothing (28) is good if a single mob is beating on you and you want it to stop, but the induction time makes it tricky to use if it is being set back and you need to heal the damage you are taking. The best thing you can do if getting beat up in a Fellowship is say something and hope someone can take the assailant off your hands.
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Other Skills – Crowd Control and Agro
Cry of the Chorus (level 26) not only removes and makes you immune to silence debuffs, but allows you to bypass the Tier requirements of Ballads and Anthems (explained in the previous article). If you are getting beat up from all directions, but reasonable slowly so, throw Cry of the Chorus to open Anthem of Compassion up. If you don’t have time for that, there are still some tricks up your sleeve.
If you still have a good deal of Power, Lay of the Hammerhand transfers damage from Morale to Power. This is good to survive not only legitimate combat, but running past or through mob-infested areas without fighting. If you are out of options, use Still as Death (level 38) to hit the dirt and hope some of what was beating on you looses interest. Doing this in a Fellowship can leave your partners in a tight spot, so let them know, and try to throw the big group heal (Triumphant Spirit) before you take your break, since you won’t have to worry about the agro anyways. Note that if you are taking damage over time, it will stay on and can kill you even if you are Still as Death.
Even if your group wipes, in many instances the bad guys will wander off before you pop up, and you can rez everyone out of combat with Enlivening Grace (20). Rezzing someone in combat requires acquiring and slotting the poashjikg Legendary Trait, and even then the Rally Skill has a very long induction and huge cooldown, along with a big Power cost. If you loose a tank during a boss fight, go for it, but if you loose a support class and know there is a boss fight coming up, try to finish the current fight shorthanded and than use Enlivening Grace.
If for whatever reason someone dies and retreats instead of having you rez them, you can remove their Dread with Song of Restoration. It has an absurdly long cooldown though, so if you have more than one Fellow trying to shake off Dread, give it to the tank.
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Other Skills – Odds and Ends
Cure Fear (level 26) is useful, but it has a pretty long induction and short range, so try to let the target know you’re using it or they may run off before you are done. Call to the Fellowship (level 46) and Greatness (level 50) buff your group during a Fellowship maneuver or a single Fellow, respectively.
Irresistible Melody (50), which makes all players in range dance a bit, can be very amusing, if used tastefully. You can also use Mentoring Skills and Scribe Stance to teach or create teaching manuals for LOTRO’s non-combat musical instruments.