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Hunters in The Lord of the Rings Online are a ranged, physical damage dealing class. They are good at dealing phenomenal numbers of damage on single targets in particular. Due to a small number of relatively weak healing skills, the fact they use medium armor and that vitality only provides 3 morale points per vitality point, as well as the lack of defensive buffs makes survivability often somewhat of a challenge when soloing difficult content, compared to most other classes. A hunter’s soloing survivability depends mostly on crowd control, kiting and killing the enemies as fast as possible. The melee damage output of a hunter is negligible.
Hunters have some distinctive possibilities that other classes don’t possess. Find The Path is a toggle-on skill that will increase the run speed of the hunters and all fellowship members within a 20-meter radius. They also have the ability to teleport to campfires as well as most central towns/hubs in Middle Earth (ones they possess a “guide to …” skill for) When teleporting, using a “guide to… ” skill they give nearby fellowship members the option to travel with them. The third distinctive ability that hunters have is the ability to track enemies (particularly useful against stealthy enemies). These tracking skills are called “Passage of Foes”, “Passage of Nature” and “Passage of Shadow”.
Levelling A Hunter
When levelling up, the gearing priority lies mostly with upgrading your bow every so often. The damage dealt by all your ranged skills is determined by your bow’s damage, multiplied by a factor. It is also multiplied by your total number of physical mastery. This statistic is provided by agility. So when given a choice in armor/jewelry rewards, it’s usually the best idea to go with that piece which gives you the most agility. Other factors to look out for are: physical mastery and critical rating. On the next step in the hierarchy would be fate, morale and vitality.
By the time you reach level cap, one of your best sources defensive statistics will be your virtues. Virtues are gained by completing certain deeds, such as slayer deeds, discovery deeds and questing deeds. As such, it is a good idea to pick a number of virtues that seem interesting (Tip: Innocence, Honour, Charity, Determination and Tolerance are a great set of virtues to have as a hunter) and look up on the Lotro Wiki which quest deeds provide these virtues. Set out a “questing trajectory” that brings you all the way from level 5 to level cap and complete as much of these questing deeds as possible. You will be happy you did!
The hunter has three stances that can be toggled on: Strength, Precision and Endurance. Strength stance will give you a ranged damage boost, Precision stance will give you a critical magnitude boost as well as (when traited) building up 3 focus points every 5 seconds. Endurance stance gives a parry and evade buff and power cost reduction and is the least popular of the three stances.
Focus is a central mechanic to the hunter’s gameplay. It is an attunement statistic that is built up by performing some of the induction bow skills (called “focus builder” skills) and in return, focus can be spent by performing focus bow skills (aka “focus consumers”). Quick Shot, Swift Bow, Split Shot and Barbed Arrow are induction bow skills that build up focus (notice: Heart Seeker does not), whereas Penetrating Shot, Barrage, Blood Arrow, Rain of Arrows, Rain of Thorns, Explosive Arrow, Merciful Shot and Upshot consume focus.
The Three Trait Trees
· Huntsman (blue)
The Huntsman trait tree focuses on speed. It offers possibilities to reduce induction times, increase your out-of-combat run speed and offers buffs for focus consumer skills, which have no inductions. The main characteristic that sets this trait tree apart from others is that it gives the hunter the ability to move while performing damaging skills (without focus penalty). This trait tree is since update 19 the best option for high sustained damage output by quite a margin. Most end-game hunters who participate to challenging content (raids, PvMP) are specialized at blue line and are geared specifically to accommodate the Huntsman trait tree.
· Bowmaster (red)
The Bowmaster trait tree gives the hunter the strongest initial damage burst. In the first few seconds, a red hunter can do devastating amounts of damage on any mob, though it ends up being somewhat lackluster on a sustained basis. This trait tree offers traits that maximize the damage that a single skill can do. Note however that the hunter has to stand still when performing their skills.
· Trapper of Foes (yellow)
The yellow trait tree focuses on crowd control, damage-over-time and defensive tactics. Overall, it is not an interesting option for maximum damage output, but some hunters enjoy using it in PvMP, often to great effect. Sometimes, before the start of a boss fight, hunters would quickly switch to this trait tree, because of the +15% incoming damage debuff that triple trap puts on foes, and then switch back to the Huntsman trait tree before the start of the fight.
Building Your Hunter At End-game
For overall effectiveness, it’s recommended in the current context to build a hunter with the Huntsman trait tree in mind. Legacies that are particularly interesting for this are: Focus Bow critical magnitude, Barrage Damage, Damage over Time, -6300 Ranged Skill Evade Chance, Focus Bow Power Cost, Power Restored by Traited Intent Concentration, Strength Stance Damage, Precision Stance Critical Magnitude, Agility and Fate.
Power cost will be an issue, but there are ways to manage it. There is a legacy called “Focus Bow Power Cost”, which is highly recommended to pick and it will provide -25% power cost for focus bow skills at maximum tier. The class item “Anorien Tome of the Wind Rider” will further decrease focus cost by 12% and provide +997 maximum power. In central Gondor it would be a good idea to reach ally standing with one out of the 3 reputation factions, so that you can barter an “Essence of the Powerful Draw”, so that critical hits will give a 25% chance to reduce your power cost by 50% for 10 seconds. This buff will pop very regularly during a fight ( hunters should always have 30% ranged critical chance) and is a real life saver for your power cost. Additionally, the Bow of the Righteous trait in the blue trait tree will return a portion of your focus on each skill. Make sure to have a nice stack of power potions on you at all times and pick the legacy that increases the power heal of Traited Intent Concentration. If possible, max out your Tomes of Fate, because the in-combat power regeneration from 560 additional Fate is invaluable to a hunter.
The trick to maximize your DPS output as a blue hunter is to enable yourself to spam focus bow skills. In order to do this, you might want to trait Precision Stance to give you +3 focus every 5 seconds. Also trait down the red trait tree for “deadly precision”, so that critical hits will build up 1 focus. This relates to every tic of your damage-over-time skills as well. Another trick that many of the best end-game hunters use is to wear 2 pieces of the Erebor Huntsman armor. Despite the fact that this is level 85 armor, its 2-piece set bonus that makes Fleetness reduce the focus cost of Penetrating Shot and Blood Arrow by 1 enables the hunter to spam focus bow skills much more easily, and effectively increasing their DPS output.
Other than that, it’s a good idea to pick 1 induction bow skill to fall back to when you’ve run out of focus. Max out the ‘volley’ trait, so that this induction bow skill will be an instant cast. The best option by far is Barbed Arrow. The total damage dealt by Barbed Arrow, when traited for maximum Damage Over Time in the blue and yellow trait trees, backed by the +120% damage-over-time legacy, will outperform Quick Shot and even fully traited Swift Bow. The induction of Barbed Arrow is shorter than that of Swift bow and even when “volley” takes the induction away, Barbed Arrow has a very short skill duration compared to Swift Bow. It is also a good idea to perform “Exsanguinate” when Blood Arrow procs it.
Stat Numbers To Aim For At Level 105
Hunters often raise the question “how much of this statistic should I have”. Overall the only statistics to really worry about as a hunter are Physical Mastery, Critical Rating, Finesse, Physical & Tactical Mitigation and Morale. Critical Rating is capped at 30% (You should always max out the Critical Eye trait in the red trait tree) and that percentage is reached at ±17,650 critical rating. Since you will be looking to stack a lot of T8 agility essences into your gear, you will normally achieve this number with those agility essences alone. The Ranged Skill Evade Chance legacy will help a lot, but still get your Finesse to somewhere between 9k and 13k. Concerning the mitigation numbers, hunters will cap at 50%, or 58% if they traited for Survival Gear in the yellow trait tree. This number is reached at ±15,321 physical and tactical mitigation [40%] (against Tier 1). However, for T2C instances/Raids, a hunter will need about 22,408 physical and tactical mitigation, because the enemies in those instances will have a high mitigation bypass. Aim for between 21k and 25k morale unbuffed. Other than that: stack up on Masterful Agility or Ithilien-Tempered agility essences.
There are several rotations hunters can use, depending on their setups. For the following rotation suggestions, we assume a blue line hunter build that has a good power management and focus game. The ‘Volley’ trait is maxed out and the damage output for Barbed Arrow is maxed out by the DoT legacy as well as the Barbed Fury and Natural Extracts traits. Preparation: You’re in Precision Stance. Use foods, particularly Superior Feast of Anorien and Seven-Star Stew, perhaps you might want to have a Scroll of Anorien Battle Lore active, apply an oil (light oil for orcs, fire oil for other mobs, animals in particular) but make sure the mob in question doesn’t reflect the damage type of the oil. Apply a Anorien Breach-finder bow chant.
· Option 1: level 105 essence gear+ 2-piece Erebor Huntsman bonus
Switch to the yellow trait tree, throw a triple trap towards where the mob will be walking over it (preferably after the tank has been able to grab aggro). Switch back to blue before the fight starts. Click Improved Focus. After that click Strength Stance. Fire Barbed Arrow, Fire Barrage, Blood Arrow, Barrage. Click Rapid Fire, Rotate between Barrage and Penetrating Shot for about 8 seconds (aka about 4 times back and forth) Switch to precision stance. Apply Westemnet Potion of Focus. If volley buff is active, always give priority to firing Barbed Arrow. Try to make sure volley is always active when firing Barbed Arrow. Other than that, rotate between Barrage and Penetrating Shot. If Blood Arrow cool down is over, click Blood Arrow instead of Penetrating Shot. If Exsanguinate procs and it isn’t on cool down, give priority to Exsanguinate before anything else. If in need of focus and power is low, click Improved Intent Concentration. Keep an eye on your power and pop a power potion sooner rather than later.
· Option 2: 2-piece Erebor Huntsman bonus and 4-piece TDT T2 Heartseeker bonus
Same as above, only you have traited to have the Heart Seeker skill at your disposal. As such, make sure to have the legacy that maximizes Heart Seeker damage. The difference will be that, as soon as the Heartseeker instant cast buff pops up, you will want to prioritize clicking Heartseeker before clicking any focus bow skill. Note that the Heartseeker instant cast will consume the volley buff, should that one be active as well. So when both Heartseeker instant cast as well as Volley buffs are up, prioritize Barbed Arrow, otherwise it’s a waste of a buff. After Barbed Arrow, click Barrage before Heartseeker, because there’s an internal pause between Barbed Arrow and Heartseeker. Might as well use that pause to fire a Barrage. On top of that, Heartseeker can (and should) be traited to do additional damage to bleeding targets.
(Tip: it’s not recommended to use the Osgiliath 4-piece Bowmaster set for the same Heartseeker bonus, as the loss of valuable stats by not using essence gear will result in decreased DPS that is not compensated by the availability of a Heart Seeker instant cast. The only merit of the Osgiliath Bowmaster set is to practice your reflexes on training dummies in anticipation of the TDT T2C Heart Seeker 4-piece set.)