July 13, 2020

LOTRO: Captain Guide - In Depth Beginner's Guide and Class Overview

This is a Captain Class Guide for the Lord of the Rings Online, expanding on the introduction from the LOTRO Basics: Classes of LOTRO Guide. The guide is oriented towards new and returning players or those who want to learn more about the Captain. The goal of the guide is to:
  • Overview the basics of the Captain
  • Detail Captain gameplay, traits, and builds
  • Discuss how the Captain fits into LOTRO and compares to other classes

Guide Written: Update 27, July 2020

Guide Sections and Layout

Background  |  Introduces the lore, fantasy, and a description of the Catpain.

Role, Viability, and Soloing  |  Covers how Captains fit into LOTRO and compare to the other classes, with a evaluation on role viability. Also touches on how the Captain is as a solo player class.

Gameplay Overview  |  Gives a general overview of how the Captain plays in combat, covering some basic mechanics and notable abilities.

Specs and Traits - Gameplay Expanded  |  Details the specializations, notable class traits, builds, and how that affects your Captain's gameplay experience.

Further Reading and Additional Resources | Goes over where you may find material not covered in the guide and where you can continue to learn about the Captain after this beginner's guide.

Review and Closing Thoughts | A short opinion section on the Captain with some of my thoughts on the class for community comment and feedback, along with wrapping up the guide.

Captain Background

In LOTRO, the Captain is designed to be a true leader of the battlefield. The class draws inspiration from the leaders in The Lord of the Rings, such as Faramir (Captain of Gondor) and Boromir (Captain of the White Tower). Tales will be told about their triumphant victories and how they turn tides from imminent defeat. Captains dictate the flow of battle and are a vital piece in any group effort. In combat, they are are skilled melee fighters whose leadership allows them to inspire their allies to fight and rally to victory.

Boromir. Source: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

In game, the Captain is a vital support class that excels in group content, providing powerful buffs for their allies and fellows. While they have their own set of banners for allies to rally around, they may also enlist bannerguards that further inspire and buff allies. In addition to passive buffs from their leading presence, Captain gameplay involves active buffs that trigger from various skills. Often considered a jack of all trades, they have a versatile toolkit and are able to further specialize into a specific group role.

True to their inspiration, Captains were originally only available to Race of Man. A little over 10 years after the launch of LOTRO, the High Elf race was released (at the same time as, but separately from the Mordor expansion) and they could also be Captains. This brought in a new fantasy role for Captains as they now had two races to choose from - the original leader of man or the new elven leader.

The Role and Viability of the Captain in Group and Solo Content

The specs of the Captain and their role:
  • Blue (Hands of Healing): Support/Healer (Off-healer) - Focuses on keeping allies alive through buffs and heal over time effects while continuing to fight in melee.
  • Red (Lead the Charge): Support/DPS - While dealing melee damage with bleeds and strong critical hits, this spec focuses on creating powerful buffs for your group, enabling them to deal more damage.
  • Yellow (Leader of Men): Tank/Support - Focuses on grabbing aggro from enemies as tanking leader and providing defensive buffs for your group.
The Captain can meet any need of your group while fitting the overall theme of a support class. Captains are very often sought after for group content not only due to the flexibility, but also for how strong their buffs are. They always make instances and raids easier for your group!

Quick role evaluation:
  • Blue - Captains are not the most viable healers, as they cannot keep up with the output of other classes. However, their heals are sufficient enough to be an off-healer and are enough for easier content. They can also provide a small amount of damage while healing.
  • Red - Captains are frequently needed for their strong boosts from the DPS spec. Endgame raids and instances are balanced around groups bringing a red Captain. The boost to group DPS also helps in any level or difficulty of group content.
  • Yellow - Captains are one of the most valuable tanks, especially at higher levels, due to their utility and extreme survivability.

The Captain as a solo class:

The drawback of being such a valuable class in group content who provides strong buffs for the followship is that they are weak on their own. Although sturdy and able to slowly solo tough content, Captains are one of the slowest classes to level and quest on due to their slow kill speed, even in the DPS spec in which they do the most damage. Due to this, leveling a Captain can feel demotivating and frustrating, but once you do group content - even while leveling - they quickly pick up in usefulness and their intended role in the game shines through! Also for this reason, I recommend often grouping while leveling as a Captain!

For leveling/soloing I recommend playing the red line for maximum speed and either the blue or yellow line for maximum survivability to solo difficult content (even some group content).

Captain Gameplay

While the Captain is primarily a buff-focused class, their gameplay focuses on managing Battle States while using a variety of melee skills. Gameplay is relatively similar between specs, but the flow and priority of skills changes depending on spec:
  • Tanks Captains focus on staying alive and maintaining aggro from enemies
  • DPS Captains focus on maintaining fellowship buffs, largely passively, while prioritizing high damage skills
  • Healing Captains prioritize keeping their group alive above all else - then can focus on dealing damage while passively healing.

Below are a few sections highlighting aspects of the Captain's gameplay experience:
  • Battle States
  • "Pets"
  • Other Abilities
  • Weapon Choice - 2H vs 1H + shield

Battle States

Battle States play a large part in the Captain's gameplay experience. There are two primary Battle States - Battle Readied and Battle Hardened - and one secondary - Defeat Event.

Battle Ready - Gained from using Battle Shout at baseline and Shadow's Lament from the red line or Valiant Strike from the yellow line. This gives you an outgoing damage buff and enables your Battle Readied skills - Devastating Blow and Pressing Attack. Using either of these two skills will consume your Battle Ready Buff and move you to the Battle Hardened state. While Battle Readied, Sure Strike will give your fellowship a powerful buff for a short duration - it is always useful to use Sure Strike while Battle Readied!

Battle Hardened - After using Devastating Blow or Pressing Attack, you will move to the Battle Hardened state, removing any Battle Ready benefits. This state decreases incoming damage and enables Blade of Elendil. Blade of Elendil is a complex skill, but it results in the consumption of the Battle Hardened state which resets back to having no state. 

The "no state" point is when you don't have any buffs and are neither Battle Readied nor Battle Hardened. Additionally, you can be both Battle Readied and Battle Hardened at the same time by using the necessary skills (thus, gaining both the outgoing damage and incoming damage buffs).

Defeat Event - This state is separate from the other two and is automatically activated whenever a mob you are in combat with dies. Having a defeat event will boost the effect of certain skills and through class traits at higher levels, gives you some additional benefits. The two skills that are boosted from Defeat Events are Routing Cry and Rallying Cry. These skills consume the defeat event, and to gain the state again, you have to defeat another enemy.

Battle State Skills Summary:

  • Sure Strike - Basic, short CD melee skill that gives your fellowship a strong buff if used when you are Battle Readied.

  • Battle Shout - Ranged attack that enters you into the Battle Readied state.
  • Shadow's Lament Strong melee attack that enters you into the Battle Readied state.
  • Valiant Strike - Fellowship-wide heal melee attack that enters you into the Battle Readied state.

  • Devastating Blow - Strong single target attack that requires you are Battle Readied and moves you to Battle Hardened on use.
  • Pressing Attack Strong frontal area of effect attack that requires you are Battle Readied and moves you to Battle Hardened on use.

  • Blade of Elendil A melee attack that requires and removes the Battle Hardened state, giving the fellowship the Light of Elendil buff - everyone with the buff has a chance to deal light damage with every attack. This also gains various other benefits from class traits.

  • Routing Cry - Close range area of effect attack that deals stronger damage when consuming a defeat event.
  • Rallying Cry Fellowship wide heal and heal over time that becomes stronger when consuming a defeat event.

Captain "Pets" - Heralds

Captains have four pet-type companions, heralds. Three of them are Bannerguards which provide a small fellowship-wide buff in: damage, mitigation, and power cost. They have an assortment of basic abilities that are beneficial in combat. The fourth companion is an Archer which deals moderate ranged damage.

Typically in group content, it is best to use the Bannerguard that will give your group the most benefit - be careful not to overlap with another Captain! When solo, the Archer will provide the most benefit and significantly boost your kill speed at low-mid levels.

Other Notable Abilities

While Battle States makeup the core of the Captain, they have other basic abilities that are good to know and use. They have a large variety of utility abilities that are good to learn, but for this section, we will only briefly introduce those as they can require more advanced knowledge of the Captain. For more information on the utility skills, I recommend reading my 7 Captain Tips Guide!

Captains gain two bleeds, Cutting Attack and Grave Wound. Early on these will deal significant damage over time, but do not scale well with level (as in, they start doing less and less damage).

Inspire is a melee attack that requires a target from your Brother buff, which is a toggle-skill (as in, you use it and it stays on them until cancelled or they go out of range... or they make the mistake of dying). If playing solo, your Brother buff can be used on your companion, otherwise in group content it is often good to use on the strongest DPS player. The Inspire skill will give your brother a small heal and deals moderate damage (significant damage at low levels!).

Your Mark (targeted toggled debuffs) and Banner (ground-area buff zone) skills are also important to know. Each spec has a mark in the second row (on the far right) and Banner in the fifth row (called "Standards"), with effects matching the theme of the spec. These become valuable skills used regularly in combat and will be covered in more detail in the next section!

As a Captain, your arsenal also includes a targeted heal over time, debuff remover, interrupt, corruption removal, and two resurrects - one in combat and one for out of combat. For a full list of skills, I recommend the LOTRO-Wiki: https://lotro-wiki.com/index.php/Captain#Skills. That contains a somewhat up-to-date list of the Captain's skills, sorted by level and spec.

Weapon Choice - 2-Handed versus 1-Handed + Shield (2H vs S&B)

Captains have the ability to use 2-handed weapons to maximize damage, but may also equip a light shield and use a 1-handed weapon to go with it (commonly referred to as sword and board, or "S&B").

2H - For general purposes and leveling, I always recommend using a 2H, as you can make the most out of it. For casual players the exact 2H does not matter, but both Man and High Elves can get a sword damage bonus. This is also the best option for a red line Captain.

S&B - Using a 1H will decrease your outgoing damage, but as a Captain you do not do much damage to begin with. Gaining the stat and minor defensive bonuses from a shield can greatly outweigh this drawback. Thus, I recommend S&B for tanking or healing as a yellow line or blue line Captain.

Captain Specializations, Trait Builds, and Gameplay

This section will look at each spec individually, offering a sample build to start off from, and going into more detail on gameplay and notable skills. The general rule of building Captains is to start with what spec your group needs and fill in the most valuable and effective traits. At high levels, you will be able to spend points in the other lines, gaining a lot of utility.

Blue Captain

The blue line Captain best serves as an off-healer support-type, but can manage to main heal some lower difficulty content and small group sizes. The key to building a blue line Captain is improving our healing ability and boosting our support as much as possible. With the starter build below, we cover all necessary traits from the blue line and get a nice bonus in the early red line.

50 Trait Point Starter Build:

Further in the build, I recommend continuing in the red line for continued group support traits. However, this starter build offers flexibility in how you may advance it. For some defensive options, you may also put points in the yellow line.

Captain Gameplay as a Healer

A lot of the healing works passively as a blue line Captain. Using regular melee skills give AoE healing effects to nearby allies or the entire fellowship. The main deviation from regular melee combat is you will sometimes have to target allies with your heal over time (Words of Courage) and debuff remover (Muster Courage). Another difference is the blue line can get an additional short-CD melee skill called Gallant Display which is used in regular rotation (third row in the trait tree), leaving you with less downtime.

In the blue line, you get Revealing Mark which makes any attack on the enemy trigger an AoE heal, with a short CD between triggers. Your banner is the Standard of Honour, which gives a heal over time in the ground area and deals damage to all nearby mobs when you activate it.

Your skill priority is to focus on your healing abilities most, to keep your group members alive. After that, you can work on other supportive abilities and dealing damage.

Red Captain

For a more in depth analysis of the red line traits: https://www.lotrobasics.com/2020/07/red-captain-trait-guide.html.

The red line Captain fills the support-DPS role, dealing little damage on its own, but significantly boosting the damage of members in your group. The red line Captain can focus on two different building styles - one for maximizing solo damage for leveling and quests or one for maximizing support for group content, both shown below!

GROUP 50 Trait Point Starter Build:

SOLO 50 Trait Point Starter Build:

Further in the builds, I recommend continuing in the blue line as that has the best options for both solo utility and group support. At higher levels and with more trait points, you can also build towards a hybrid style, mixing solo and group focused traits. You may also go into the yellow line to boost defenses.

If you are interested in an in depth analysis on each trait choice, I have a guide here: https://www.lotrobasics.com/2020/07/red-captain-trait-guide.html.

Captain Gameplay as a Support-DPS

Most of your regular support is built into your regular melee skills, little that you do will involve targeting fellowship members or interacting with them. However, the red line gives you access to many longer cooldown abilities that, while strong on their own, are best used in coordination with your group and the current fight/task at hand. A great support Captain will fully utilize their utility and, like a true leader, communicate well with their group and coordinate their buffs and cooldowns.

In the red line, you get Telling Mark which increases incoming damage on the enemy (this should be maintained throughout any fight and is often the first skill you use). Your banner is the Standard of War, which gives a powerful damage buff in the ground area and deals AoE light damage on use.

The main skill priority of the red line Captain is to maintain your buffs (for example, the two main active buffs at lower levels are the outgoing damage buff from Sure Strike and the Light of Elendil buff from the Blade of Elendil skill. As you level, your traits will make more skills give buffs, so watch out for those, as well). Additionally, your cooldowns are very powerful and should be use frequently. Outside of the support aspect of the spec, your skill priority is to maintain the Battle Readied state for the outgoing damage buff, and work on strong critical hits with Shadow's Lament and Devastating Blow. After that, another theme of the spec is with bleed damage from Cutting Attack and Grave Wound.

Yellow Captain

The yellow line Captain will fill in as tank for group content, and is a strong spec for soloing difficult content. When building your yellow line, it is important to get any defense and aggro boosting traits. One of the reasons a tank Captain is viable is also due to the large amount of utility offered for the spec - even from the blue line at higher levels.

50 Trait Point Starter Build:

Further in the build, I recommend finishing the Absorb Momentum trait, then going into the blue line for maximum utility and self-sustain. Notably, Gallant Display in the blue line is an effective heal and helps with building threat.

Captain Gameplay as a Tank

In LOTRO, aggro generation in tank specs is mostly passive, other than force taunts. Because of this, you do not have to worry about aggro generating skills. So, like the other specs, much of tanking works passively. But, importantly, tanking in itself requires more skill than just holding aggro and staying alive! To get started with the Captain, though, you mainly go about regular combat with your melee skills, but sometimes throw in specific utility abilities or force taunts if you lose aggro.

In the yellow line, you get Noble Mark which deals damage over time, and any skill attack will trigger a heal for the player that attacked the target, with a short CD between triggers. Due to the powerful healing effect, this is a very nice debuff for enemies to have! Your banner is the Standard of Valour, which gives an increase to incoming healing in the ground area and deals AoE light damage on use.

The skill priority in the yellow line is to use skills that keep you alive as needed and keep enemies off of the other members of your group. The latter largely involves going through your regular damage rotation. Otherwise, you want to stay in the Battle Hardened state as much as possible due to the decrease in incoming damage.

Further Reading and Additional Captain Resources

Because this was just a beginner's guide (even if in depth!) and gave an overview of the Captain, I did not include things relevant the current endgame meta in LOTRO. However, this section will list some other resources if you are ready for more advanced learning on your Captain! The LOTRO Basics Captain Page contains an updated catalog of Captain guides and other resources:  https://www.lotrobasics.com/p/captain-class-guides.html

My other Captain guides:

External guides:

Review and Closing Thoughts

For the last part of this guide, I will give a short review and summary of my thoughts on the class. In the near future (~August 2020), I plan to make a full review series on the Captain on YouTube. But to get this section started, I think the Captain can provide a solid experience in group content, but may lack in solo play - this is pretty much expected for a support, group-oriented class (in which content is balanced around having in your group!).

For me, the biggest downside of the class is how slow it feels to play and in combat. When I play a support class in any game, including LOTRO, I would expect to be able to react to situations quickly, and have a fast to medium paced combat speed. However, Captains are one of the slowest classes in the game, in terms of how long each skill takes from start to finish. They also suffer from animation delays similar to Champions, that other classes such as the Guardian and Beorning do not have. This overall slowness may not bother other players, but, before you get into the Captain and investing too much into it, I just wanted to share that my expectations for a support class do not pan out in-game. 

For my Captains, I find playing the blue line is most fun, even if it's the least viable spec at end game (generally red line is preferred for damage support, and yellow line for tanking - blue line is only helpful if off-healing is needed and you won't set back group damage too much). So, the biggest upside is how fun it can be to play as a support class, and for me in particular, as an off-healer support in the blue line.

With all that said, I definitely encourage players to try the Captain - not only because having them in groups is awesome for everyone in the group, but also because they can be a very fun class!

That is it for the guide! I hope it helps some LOTRO players and Captains along their adventures - any feedback, comments, and questions are appreciated! Future class "mini" guides will follow this format, focusing more on newer/returning players and getting you started on the class, avoiding a lot of the endgame mess and advanced game mechanics used up there that aren't relevant to lower levels.

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