July 10, 2020

7 Captain Class Tips in LOTRO

The Captain class in the Lord of the Rings Online has a lot of different themes as a buff-based support class. With the Captain entry of the LOTRO Basics class tips guide series, we will break down the class to help you get started with and improve your Captain experience! If you are interested in a full guide to the Captain, I wrote one here: https://www.lotrobasics.com/2020/07/captain-guide.html.

In this guide, I will have 7 tips for the Captain class, covering gameplay, traits, builds, equipment, etc. The goal of the LOTRO Basics 7 Class Tips series of guides is to help newer or returning players better understand their class and get started with them. For other guides in the 7 Class Tips series, they can be found at this page: https://www.lotrobasics.com/p/class-guides-and-resources.html.

This guide was written and last edited during U27, in July 2020.

The 7 Captain Tips:
  1. What Being a Support Means
  2. Use Sure Strike When Battle Readied
  3. When Bleeds Are Worth Using, By Level Range
  4. Know Your Utility
  5. Which Herald (Pet) to Use When
  6. Group While Leveling
  7. Hybrid Speccing

Tip #1 - What Being a Support Means

The core role of the Captain is being a support class. For the first tip, I want to break that down in terms of gameplay and class fantasy. 

Support class fantasy - Support classes (including Captains) are best used in group content as they can provide a lot of utility and benefit to other players in their group. Specifically with the Captain, you provide a lot of buffs and bring utility to battle - which will be gone into more detail in tip #4. Support classes are often sought after for group content and can control the flow of battle.

Gameplay - When playing a Captain (any spec), a lot of your support stuff works passively. So in combat, you spend most of your time using regular melee skills that deal damage, but provide other group-support benefits such as heals and buffs. However, a key to being a great support player is using your other skills that require you to pause from fighting, such as your heal over time (Words of Courage), debuff remover (Muster Courage), or other utility skills.

Compared to the rest of the classes in this series, this is an unusual tip, but I hope it helps some players decide if the Captain, as a support class, will fit the gameplay and fantasy style they are looking for. The rest of the tips will focus on the more usual topics - ultimately aiming to help you better your experience as a Captain!

Tip #2 - Use Sure Strike When Battle Readied

Sure Strike, a basic melee ability that Captains have, gives a strong fellowship-wide buff when used while you are Battle Readied. This should always be used when you are Battle Readied, especially in group content where your allies can take greater benefit of the buffs. The exact buff changes depending on your spec (shown below).

The Battle Readied state is gained from using Battle Shout at baseline and Shadow's Lament from the red line or Valiant Strike from the blue line. This gives you an outgoing damage buff and enables your Battle Readied skills - Devastating Blow and Pressing Attack. Additionally, Sure Strike gives a powerful buff to your group while you are Battle Readied and is always worth keeping up in combat.

Bonus tip: remember that using Devastating Blow or Pressing Attack will move you to the Battle Hardened state, removing the Battle Readied state. Also you can be both Battle Readied and Battle Hardened at the same time by using the necessary skills!

Sure Strike: blue line, red line, yellow line (left-to-right).

Tip #3 - When Bleeds are Worth Using, By Level Range

Bleeds are one of the most inconsistent parts of the Captain experience. You get two bleeds, Cutting Attack as a new character and Grave Wound at level 30. Your bleeds scale oddly with level and their damage relative to the rest of your skills changes as you level up. We will look at when bleeds are worth using, in solo or group content, based on level range.

Level 1-20 - At the beginning of this level range, mobs die slow and Cutting Attack does signficant damage, and it worth using near the beginning of each fight. Towards the end of the level range, it deals relatively less damage over time and on short fights it is often better to use other skills with immediate damage (such as the skill that involve Battle States).

Level 20~50 - A large level range where bleeds are only worth using on longer fights. By this time, as a DPS specced Captain in the red line, you can kill mobs relatively fast with the archer herald and focusing on your strong Battle State skills. Even with Grave Wound as a second option, they don't do enough on short fights to take priority early on. It is important to know they are still useful on longer fights where the bleeds have time for a few ticks!

Level ~50-100 - Another large range where bleeds are only worth using on longer fights. The reason I separate this range is because regular fights (solo questing) while naturally start to become longer with the current scaling in the game (especially level 65+) - at that point, I find it is worth using your bleeds more frequently.

Level 100+ - From here, I recommend using bleeds regularly as a higher priority for three main reasons: (1) you get your imbued LIs, which can give an additional bonus to bleed damage, (2) you will have a lot of trait points and can get most of the bleed-boosting class traits by now (from the red line), and (3) mob health scales greatly from level 95+, which leads to a higher time to kill mobs, and more time for your bleeds to have their full damage effect.

Captain bleeds, with red line traits

Tip #4 - Know Your Utility

As a support class, Captains can bring a lot of utility and flexibility to group content (and solo play). Like the Lore Master, I recommend knowing what all of your utility skills do and learn when to use them. And like the Warden, I believe practicing is the best way to learn how your skills work and when they are or are not effective. For the rest of this tip, I will list out some of the Captain's baseline utility skills and what they do. Remember, you also get some more from your traits at higher levels!

Captain utility skill rundown:
  • Rallying Cry - A Defeat Event boosted skill that heals the fellowship and applies an additional heal over time.
  • Inspire - Applies a heal and power restore to your Brother. At medium-high level, traits can allow for this to also affect the fellowship.
  • To Arms - Gives your Brother a strong buff on a one minute cooldown. The exact effect changes based on spec.
  • Kick - Deals damage and interrupts the target. This is also an immediate skill and may be used to animation cancel (read more about that here: https://www.lotrobasics.com/2020/05/animation-cancelling.html)
  • Cleanse Corruption - Fully removes one corruption from the target.
  • Muster Courage - Removes 1 debuff from the targeted ally.
  • Words of Courage - Gives the target a long-lasting heal over time.
  • Make Haste - Gives the fellowship a run speed boost for a short time, on a long CD.
  • (Fighting) Withdrawal - Removes crowd control effects from yourself.
  • Inspiriting Call - Revives an ally while out of combat.
  • Escape From Darkness/Cry of Vengeance - Revives an ally when in combat and can be traited in the blue line to immediately revive 2 allies and give the fellowship a powerful buff for a short duration (this trait turns the skill Escape From Darkness into Cry of Vengeance).

Tip #5 - Which Herald (Pet) to Use & When

Herald background: Captains have 4 "Heralds" which follow them in combat, acting just like pets (you can only have 1 out at a time). Each brings something unique to combat, but they all have a basic set of abilities. Three of them are Bannerguards which are melee Heralds that buff the fellowship and have the same abilities: a damaging attack, an attack with a chance to stun, and a CD skill that heals you. The other is an Archer, which deals ranged damage and provides no buffs. Below, we will cover each Herald individually.

Herald of War - Increases fellowship damage - This is herald I most often use in group content, unless mitigations are needed (Herald of Hope). Increasing your group's damage is always valuable! In general, I do not use this solo.

Herald of Hope - Increases fellowship mitigation - This is my secondary choice for group content. I use this whenever my group needs a boost to defenses. Most often, I end up using this when I am tanking or healing to ensure the group stays alive! Typically, I don't find this useful in solo, even when I feel squishy.

Herald of Victory - Reduces fellowship's power cost - While an effective buff to conserve power for the group, I rarely use this Bannerguard - as in, I only use it when there are two other Captains using the two other Bannerguards.

Archer - Gives no buff - On its own, this Herald deals the most damage, so I often use it when playing solo. For group content, Herald of War will be generally be a better choice.

For a quick bonus tip, remember to not use the same Bannerguard as another Captain in your group - buffs don't stack!

Tip #6 - Group While Leveling!

The Captain is one of the slowest classes to level in LOTRO, largely due to the low damage they do on their own. The class is also my least recommended for going through the game solo or for the story because other classes would likely give you a better experience. Because of all this and that Captains are always helpful in groups, I recommend taking advantage of group content while leveling - or even join/make a leveling group to progress through the game with.

To highlight some grouping opportunities by level:

Eriador (the level 1-50 part) provides a lot of instances and fellowship landscape questing areas for a group to do. Angmar has a set of level 50 instances and a raid that are also useful for deeds for virtue XP. This level range also includes other scaling instance sets, such as Erebor (level 20+).

Moria and Lothlorien (Level ~54-60) provide many instances (3-12 players size) that have a lot of associated quests and valuable deeds.

Mirkwood and Enedwaith (Level 65+) provide a few scaling instances, including Warg Pens of Dol Guldur, which is often used for power leveling (or general speed leveling run on level!).

Isengard (Level 75) has a few non-scaled instances, and the Great River (Level 75) has a landscape group area and an instance to go with it with some valuable deeds for virtue XP.

After that, there is more scattered group content, some of which scales (to even lower level), and some does not. However, you can still run through the old scaling content, do new instances as they come up, and can quest in a group. A lot of quests in the 95+ level range give class trait points and, especially as a Captain, are essentially required for endgame progression.

Tip #7 - Hybrid Speccing

As is true with a lot of support classes, choosing a hybrid build for your specialization could allow you to give most benefit to your group, and even be the most fun choice for you! For this build tip, I will highlight some potential building options, focused on medium-high levels (when you get enough trait points to really become a "hybrid"). Formatted MainSpec -> OffSpec.

Red -> Blue - This is a fairly standard red line Captain build path, focusing first on damage-buffing traits, then choosing some beneficial healing options to maximize support. Solo builds mostly fill out red, then go blue, but save a few points for yellow (specifically bleed damage).

Blue -> Yellow - A less common option, this allows you to gain many defensive benefits as a healer. This is often inferior to going Yellow -> Blue, but is a solid choice if you are specifically not wanting the extra threat generation from speccing yellow.

Blue -> Red - Less common than Red -> Blue, this allows you to be a serviceable healer or strong off-healer, while eventually providing decent damage buffing. This can be a great option for 3-mans, main healing easier 6-mans, or being an off-healer in raids.

Yellow -> Red - A tank build path that allows you to increase your damage (and threat) and can give a small amount of damage-support. This is a great option if you are surviving content fine and want to boost your group's speed. A specific trait to look out for is Time of Need, which is an active 2 minute CD buff.

Yellow -> Blue - Another tank build that allows for more survival, utility, and group support. Getting Gallant Display is very nice for having an extra, short CD melee attack and group heal. 

Is it worth hybrid speccing?

At high levels, you will often end up with some sort of hybrid build due to the large amount of trait points characters can now get (and due to this, the points are often required for higher difficulty tiers at endgame). At low-medium levels, hybrid speccing can be an inefficient use of your trait points, and is less effective than finishing out your main spec. What hybrid speccing does provide is utility and more options for what your group needs most (for example, if they need a little bit more healing, but still need damage, a Red -> Blue Captain build can be very helpful).

That is it for the Captain entry in the LOTRO Basics 7 Class Tips series! With this entry, I tried to emphasize the support role of the Captain and hoped to clear up confusion on how it may actually play in-game. Please comment if you have feedback or a class/guide request!

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