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MMO Healing in General
There are many aspects of healing in MMOs that are the same from game to game. These basic principles are important to understand when analyzing any healing class in any MMO. I highly recommend that you read An Introduction to Healing in MMORPGs.The information in that article is useful to players of any experience level.
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Solo Kind of a No-No
Let’s get the bad news out of the way: the minstrel is not a good solo class, likely the worst in all of LOTRO. Limited armour and dps mean that fights are lengthy and require you to self-heal. This isn’t only tedious, but gives plenty of time for adds to show up and ruin your day.
The flip side of this is that finding a group as a Minstrel is pretty easy. As in most MMOs, members of the main healing class are in high demand. If you would rather be playing in a group than solo anyways, the Minstrel is a great choice.
Another thing we’ll note before going on is that in LOTRO lore, the Minstrel doesn’t use spells or cures to heal hit points or life, but songs and ballads to restore morale. From a game mechanic perspective, the difference is irrelevant. The feel perspective is very much there however, as you actually play little songs in combat. As you level and have access to different instruments, they give different buffs (use a drum solo for more damage, and a theorobo in groups for less agro), tying the feel into the mechanics nicely.
Because of the cross over in LOTRO lore and mechanics versus traditional MMO healing mechanics, please accept heal, health, and so on interchangeably with restore, moral, and similar terms.
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We’re gonna break Minstrel skills into five groups: Ballads and Anthems; Healing; Tales; Damage; and Other. While it may seem that healing, as the core role of the Minstrel, should be dealt with first, the fact of the matter is that you can’t be an effective Minstrel by just spamming heals. Obviously you need to do damage solo, and there are too many nice group buffs for you to ignore while in a fellowship.
As a result, whenever you don’t have the pressing concern of healing yourself or a dying fellow (or focusing on damage, see the Damage and Healing sections), you will be working on moving forward your Tiers. Many of your Skills are Ballads (note that some are called Songs but are listed as and function as Ballads in game and here). They are divided into Tiers. Tiers 1 and 2 require an enemy target and do damage to it, while giving you a buff. Tier 3 Ballads don’t need a target or do damage, and provide a buff to the whole group. There is a Trait you can slot that turns your Tier 2 Ballads into group buffs with no damage, but I would only slot it in very specific situations like some raids. The buffs available as you level can make your head spin, including vitality, attack speed, dodge, etc., but definitely use Ballad of Steel a lot for the armour buff, you’ll need it.
Performing a Tier 1 Ballad successfully gives you a few seconds to perform a Tier 2, which opens up Tier 3. Hitting a Tier 3 lets you use an Anthem. Using an Anthem resets your Tier back to 1, but they are nice Skills: a group heal over time, a reduced agro buff, or solid area of effect damage are available as you level. Also note that you can get two if not three Tier 3 Ballads in before firing the Anthem. This is great as Ballad of War should be up as often as possible and depending on your enemy you may also want to use Ballad of Unshakeable Will or Ballad of Flame.
Working through the Tiers seems simple, but remember that if a target resists a Tier 1 or 2 Ballad it won’t open your next Tier. Also, make sure you don’t wake a stunned target with one. Finally, you can only work the Tiers when you aren’t healing.
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You Are the DJ That Saves Lives
Deciding when and which heal to play is crucial. You start the game with Raise the Spirit, which has an induction time. Knowing how long it will take the heal to go off is key, and complicated by the fact that anything that hits you can set back or even interrupt the induction. You’re unlikely to get it off if you’re taking agro from four or more mobs.
At level 10 you get a group heal, Inspire Fellows, again with an induction delay, actually a rather long one. It a bad choice if two or more things are hitting you. This one can’t be spammed since it has a 5 second cooldown and the power cost would be prohibitive anyways, so break it up with your other heals.
At level 18 you get Bolster Courage. Though it has a longer induction than Raise the Spirit, it has a far better power cost to morale restored ratio, so it largely replaces Raise the Spirit as your main heal. If time is a factor or you are very low on power Raise the Spirit is still useful, particularly if you are getting beat on by 3 or more mobs.
There are only three healing skills that don’t have an induction. At level 30 you get Triumphant Spirit, which is a large, instant, group heal. It has a very long cooldown and incurs a lot of agro though, so it is a last resort, and try to follow it with Still as Death (detailed in the Other Skills Section).
Level 38 offers Chord of Salvation, which is instant, but has a 30s cooldown. Therefore, use it when someone needs health immediately, or you have too much agro to get off an induction heal. At level 56 you get Soliloquy of Spirit, the only Minstrel heal which is not only instant, but can be used while running. It is a heal over time, so use it to help yourself out when running from stuff. It is also nice to throw on one person taking damage so you can switch to another person taking more damage.
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There aren’t many to worry about, but remembering to toggle one on and using the right one makes a big difference. You get Tale of Herorism at level 22, and you should have it or another Tale on from that point forward. Tale of Battle is available from level 32 on, which is good when you are fighting things that do a lot of Wounding. My favourite, Tale of Warding, is available at level 44. The armour buff is great for your poor Minstrel, and the Radiance buff is great for people who get rezzed during a fight and have dread effects.
At level 58 you get Tale of Frost and Flame, which is great if you are fighting things that like to burn or freeze you. Depending on your Trait setup and level, some of the Tales become improved or even combine the benefits from two Tales into one.
We’ll cover the Damage based and Other Skills in the next article.