“So fast, the bowstring smokes”

The first character I ever created on Lord of the Rings was a hunter. I didn’t know much about the class other than the obvious things one could infer about the class based on the description an the LotR IP itself, but that didn’t slow me down — making up a ranged DPS class as my first character is really sort of a tradition for me: my first 50 in City of Heros was a blaster, my first 70 in WoW was a hunter. (That fact that he’s still 70 should tell you when I left WoW.)

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(In my LotRO Screenshot directory, this is “ScreenShot00000”.)

Tyelaf was not, however, the first character I got to level cap.

He wasn’t even the second.

In fact, he just hit level 65 last night.

Of course that means I’m qualified to write about that class, right? I’m at the level cap. I have all the Guide skills. I’ve earned all the class and legendary traits. I win at Hunter, right?!?

Yeah. Maybe not.

So this shouldn’t be considered a guide, so much as me documenting what I’ve been doing with the class and what I plan to be doing with him in the future (except for some LM-wannabe experimentation with Trapper at some point).

Anyway. Story Time:

My first main was a guardian (Geiri) that I leveled up with my wife’s hunter (so I was always more than peripherally aware of the class skills and abilities), and we’ve done a lot of grouping in six-man instances and raids. During the heyday of Moria, we encountered the black, soul-sucking monolith that is Dark Delving.

It didn’t go very well.

We struggled pretty mightily against Gurvand and his hellish adds, and tried a number of different things to handle the adds — champion with a captain healer, warden with captain, runekeeper with captain… nothing really worked. The adds all attacked from range, mercilessly rooted anyone who attacked them, stacked nasty poisons on their targets, and pushed back inductions. Also, the effects of the darkness in Dark Delving itself meant anyone chasing them was moving super slow, and any and all induction skills took twice as long to use.

Then we had an idea.

A hunter.

Specifically, a really FAST hunter — one whose inductions were sped up enough that the slowed-attacks effect wouldn’t mess them up too bad, who could largely ignore the induction pushback, clear their own poisons (obviously), fight the ranged adds from range as well, completely ignore being rooted and the slowed movement.

So my wife respecced to do that, and it worked like a charm.

Then she stayed in the build for ‘regular’ stuff, and she fell in love.

Fast forward to a few months ago, when I resumed regular play on my then-late-20s, dust-covered hunter.

I looked at my pre-MoM trait selections and winced. Then I headed to the Bard to see what could be done. As I reviewed my options, that super-fast hunter build came to mind, and I had myself a plan.

It was a pretty darn good plan.

Lots of folks will tell you that Bowmaster is Where It’s At for hunter DPS and… yeah, sure, they get a lot of nice damage bonuses, clearly stated in their Trait Line Bonuses.

But personally I think that Huntsman hides a lot of damage dealing capability in there — Bowmaster may be a howitzer, but frankly I like being the nimble little machine gun.

Here’s what it looks like.

Skills used pretty much constantly:

  • Precision Stance (The whole build is basically built around Precision Stance. I use Endurance only when I pull aggro, and while I haven’t taken Strength Stance off my bar, it’ll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes. I haven’t turned it on since level 18.)
  • Penetrating Shot (This skill is the bread and butter attack for this build, set up so that it fires every other shot.)
  • Swift Bow (An excellent attack, usually the opener and the closer for any non-elite.)
  • Barbed Arrow (I used to scorn this attack a bit, until I ran CStats for a few days and started to see how much damage the Bleed was bringing to the party. My current bow increases that damage by almost 50%.)
  • Quick Shot (In Precision Stance, this shot crits very reliably. Crits are nice for damage, of course, but in this build they’re almost as useful for generating more focus.)
  • Swift Stroke (raises parry/evade) – Eventually, a mob gets in your face. I greet them with Swift Stroke, which caps my Parry and Evade chance.)
  • (Beta-only) Blood Arrow – I can’t wait for this attack to get to Live servers. It’s an excellent addition to the attack chain, and often gets used in the [something] slot, below.

My attack chain looks like this:
Swift Bow -> Penetrating Shot -> Barbed Arrow -> Penetrating Shot -> [Something] -> Quick Shot -> Penetrating Shot -> [[REPEAT]]

[Something] indicates a situational skill. This is about where a melee mob will reach me, so I’ll typically use Swift Stroke there. However, if their first melee attack on me opened up Agile Rejoinder, I’ll use that instead. If I somehow got extra adds on me or want to finish things up quickly, [Something] will be Needful Haste.

Skills used situationally, in rough order of priority:

  • Bard’s Arrow – When dealing with two mobs, this is my pull shot. Fear one guy, switch to the other and kill him, then switch back to this guy while he’s still running around and burn him down. I have it traited so that the fear lasts 20 seconds instead of 30, and I love it.
  • Needful Haste – The way I’m traited, this skill not only speeds up my attacks, but prevents any induction set-back from damage. I tend to save it for when I get more than one guy attacking me.
  • Agile Rejoinder – Until you get Legendary items, this is kind of a lackluster skill. With the Legendary trait that gives this skill a chance to put a Heal Over Time on you, however, it’s really great.
  • Merciful Shot – I don’t use this as much as I used to when leveling, but it’s still an excellent finishing skill, and I almost always have enough focus available to use it. On boss fights, it’s often my [something] skill in the attack chain, once they’re below 50% health.
  • Blindside – I used to use this a lot more to generate Focus or to finish off mobs, but I’m trying to train myself to use it only in response to mob-inductions, because when the Beta changes go live, this skill is going to be an Interrupt. As such, it’s much more valuable if held back for the right time.
  • Beneath Notice/Beneath Care – At higher levels, this upgrades to give you a Power Over Time affect. I often use it for that purpose, since I don’t have to deal with getting aggro very often (no artificial boost to my threat, you see).
  • Distracting Shot – I don’t use this very often when soloing, but it’s an EXCELLENT bridge between two Bard’s Arrows. BdA’s fear lasts 20 seconds, and the cooldown is 30 seconds. Distracting Shot stuns them for 10 seconds — just long enough for BdA to come back and fear them again. Darn useful in six-mans.

Skills I rarely use (in descending order of likelihood):

  • Heart Seeker – I pretty much only use this as an opener — once the fight’s started, I can do more damage in the four seconds this takes to fire by just sticking to my attack chain, and I’ll get more crits/focus in the process.
  • Rain of Arrows – I used this in my attack chain while leveling, but that need will be met by  Blood Arrow pretty soon, and frankly I don’t have much use for the skill — it costs a lot of power, and it’s not very… precise. (Precision Stance, remember?) I like knowing exactly who I’m about to shoot. I use it a BIT more instance runs, but only if we’re not doing any CC.
  • Scourging Blow – I’ll work this into my [something] slot if we’re fighting something so resistant to bleed damage that Barbed Arrow is doing nothing useful.
  • Burn Hot – I just don’t use it. Frankly, shit happens, and I don’t ever want to be caught with no power and another fight to fight. I’m not even sure it’s on my toolbars.

CLASS TRAITS
ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE:

  • (B) Deadly Precision (Ranged Critical Hits increase your Focus by one) – This build relies on having a LOT of focus, and while I don’t do BIG crits, I do get numerous crits. This trait is gold.
  • (H) Strong Draw (Penetrating Shot costs one less Focus) – This one is a no-brainer. I’m set up to fire Penetrating shot every other attack; that’s not possible if it isn’t Focus-cheap.

Very Very Good to Have

  • (B) True Shot (Penetrating Shot Bypasses More Mitigation) – As often as I fire Penetrating shot, this trait makes a HUGE difference in total damage dealt.
  • (H) Enduring Precision (Gain 1 Focus every 10 seconds while in Precision Stance) – I don’t notice this trait until I don’t have it. In the time it takes me to stop, pick a target, and drop a trap, I’ve already earned a focus point, and I haven’t fired a shot.
  • (H) Fast Draw (Reduced Induction Time for Barbed Arrow & Swift Arrow) – Speed is life. Induction pushback sucks and Needful Haste isn’t always available; the shorter the induction, the less chance it’ll get messed with.
  • (H) Resolute Aim (Prevents setback on BOW inductions while using needful haste.) – Love this. Makes Needful Haste even more useful when you’re trying to kill something in your face.
  • (T) Strong Intimidation (Your fear skills last longer.) – I just like this. CC is fun.

Fine until you get something better, or Situational

  • (B) Arrow Storm (Rain of Arrows costs one less Focus) – Eh. It makes it a lot easier to Rain of Arrows into your regular attack chain, and at lower levels you may need that.
  • (B) Swift and True (Increased Damage with Swift Bow) – It’s not as effective in terms of your DPS as True Shot, but it’s still pretty darn good.
  • (H) Swift Recovery (Reduced Recovery Time for Needful Haste and Intent Concentration) – There are times (Dark Delving, Turtle raids) where I’ll want both Resolute Aim and this reduced cooldown, so I can fight with Needful Haste up as much as possible. Finding room for it is sometimes hard. (In DD or Turtle I drop Strong Intimidation for it, because fears don’t work in there anyway.)

Something I need to Toy with a Bit

  • (B) Barbed Fury (Increased Magnitude of Barbed Arrow DOT) – My current LI gives me a very nice boost to bleed damage, which I didn’t care about until I ran CStats and saw how much the bleed was contributing to my damage. Given that, I MIGHT try to work this into my build somewhere but (a) I don’t know where and (b) the end game bosses frequently resist Common damage to the point where the Bleed damage basically vanishes.

TRAIT SET BONUSES
Usually, I run four deep in Huntsman, two deep in Bowmaster, so I have the following Trait Set Bonuses:

(Bowmaster)

  • +5% Bow Critical Multiplier

(Huntsman)

  • +2s before Focus loss from Movement
  • “Strength of Earth” give morale regen and increased power, eliminates starting induction.
  • A total of -20% to Bow inductions (Heartseeker is four seconds instead of five, for example.)
  • “Press Onward” legendary usable in combat with longer Cooldown

LEGENDARY TRAITS

  • Bard’s Arrow (Single target fear vs. evil enemies. 15-20 second duration.) – This is excellent for solo work (moreso than Rain of Arrows, in my opinion), and lets you do some pretty decent short-term CC in groups. It’s probably my favorite legendary.
  • Rain of Thorns – There are times I don’t slot this, but it’s not too often — when CC doesn’t matter, usually.
  • Bow of the Righteous (Returns power for each successful non-auto ranged attack) – I hate going without this — it’s just so nice. Effectively, this is +200 to +300 ICPR.
  • Press Onward (Restores your power and morale. With this build, it usually works in-combat, but with a longer cooldown.) – I love when I can use this, but it’s less useful soloing — in situations when I need it, I usually can’t get enough alone-time to use it — the induction’s too slow. Thank god for the Man heal.

USEFUL LEGENDARY ITEM TRAITS
Ranged Weapon (Pool A)

  • Focus Bow Critical Multiplier (Just because I don’t build for big crits doesn’t mean I’ll turn them down. As often as I hit Penetrating Shot, this is very valuable.)
  • Ranged Skill Evade Chance Modifier (I hate missing.)
  • Ranged Skill Block Chance Modifier (I **HATE** missing. Also, how the hell do mobs block with NO SHIELD?)
  • Focus Bow Power Cost (Penetrating Shot isn’t cheap on power, and I hit it a LOT. This LT is very useful.)

Ranged Weapon Pool B

  • Ranged Evade Rating
  • Induction Bow Threat
  • Focus Bow Threat
  • Barbed Arrow Bleed Damage (+50% to what’s already pretty significant damage is pretty tempting)

Melee Weapon Pool A (In order of awesome)

  • Precision Stance Critical Magnitude (This is basically mandatory. I’m a DPS class that lives in Precision Stance.)
  • Needful Haste Duration (Darn useful.)
  • Beneath Notice Cooldown (Semi-useful.)
  • Find the Path Movement Bonus (Just kinda fun.)

Melee Weapon Pool B

  • Swift Stroke Parry/Evade Rating Buff (Getting hit less is good, and it increases the chance to open up Agile Rejoinder, which means I can make use of…)
  • Agile Rejoinder Heal Chance (I have this maxed out to a 50% chance for the heal which, if it activates, will heal me for a little over 500 morale in about 10 to 12 seconds. It helps. It’s CERTAINLY the best heal that hunters get from any of their skills. 😉

And that’s it. The end result is a mobile build that almost always has some fuel ready and waiting in the Focus tank, and which throws out attacks at least 20% faster than normal (even faster for some skills).

Pew pew.


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