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LotRO's Rise of Isengard: Survive the Culling Pit of Avardin!

By Jeff Sproul -
LotRO's Rise of Isengard: Survive the Culling Pit of Avardin!

There's some neat new stuff happening in the Lord of the Rings Online's latest expansion, Rise of Isengard, that hasn't been mentioned much in any dev diaries or PR blasts. Late in my First Day in Dunland, I came across something of a surprise. I had not spent a whole lot of time questing during Beta, so I knew nothing about the Culling Pit in Avardin. It's a great, gore-splattered gladiator arena with 4 banners in the middle and a raised ring for spectators around the outside. I went in, not knowing what it was or what to expect, and it turned out to be awesome... kinda like Spartacus, but without the nudity and cussing. Well... okay, so that makes it almost nothing like Spartacus, but it was still awesome.

Rise of Isengard - the Culling Pit, Avardin

Before you go here, get yourself a solid 6-man group. This isn't an instance - it's not a separate, private space, and people can watch the fights - but it sort of behaves like one. Pick up the quest from the announcer, Geralht, at the back, and don't leave the arena - once you have the quest, you have to stay in the Pit or you automatically fail and have to go back to pick it up again. When you have the quest, one of the banners will start glowing. Don't click it until everyone is buffed and ready.

This is a gladiatorial contest, pitting your team against four different groups of powerful mobs. Treat it like you would any instance - you need a strong, balanced group with tanks, healers and DPS. My group initially consisted of 3 Guardians, a Burglar, a Champion and my Hunter - none of us really knew what to expect and didn't realize the pressing need for a healer. This error was quickly made apparent, and the Champion dropped out to allow us to find a healer replacement. We found a Minstrel and tried again.

The first fight is the easiest - a handful of Dunlending warrior-types, each with around 75,000 morale. The three guards rounded them up in the middle of the "bowl" and kept them there, while I pew-pewed from the outside and the Burglar ran around the edges. Once we got a healer, we beat this group first try. Another group I know of tried a different method - kiting the mobs around the ring and burning them down one at a time, which proved ineffective. The mobs kept resetting on that group, and they never got past the first fight. To do this properly, you need at least 2 tanks and a good healer that can keep up with the hammering.

The second group is a flight of three drakes - one fire, one ice and one acid, each with around 150,000 morale. This fight was much harder. The drakes all have damaging auras and powerful ranged breath weapons. The fire drake and cold drake auras are mobile, following the drakes as they walk around, but the acid drake seemed to drop clouds rather than emit a damaging aura. We took out the cold drake first, then the fire drake, then the acid one last. It may not have been the ideal order, but it worked okay for us.

The third fight was comparatively easy - a big, gnarly giant and his bear. The giant has 644,000 morale, and the bear much, much less. This was an endurance fight - the Burglar had to pop a lot of Fellowship Manouevers to restore our flagging power, and I actually switched from Strength to Endurance stance a few times.

Fight number four was the most difficult. We wiped a couple of times on this one before we figured it out. This fight is three uruk-hai with 300,000 morale or so. They have damaging auras and are stronger when they are close together, so we kept them separated as much as possible, using the big blood patches as positioning guides. Also, they distribute damage among themselves. There didn't appear to be a way to split them up enough to prevent the damage from being distributed - since we had three tanks, we had one for each of the uruks. We focused DPS on one, and the other two tanks held the other two off to the sides. The first uruk to die was one of the ones being tanked rather than the one being DPSed, and came as a bit of a surprise.

One of the more difficult aspects of this fight was the uruks' use of stuns - they would bash the tanks unconscious and then go peeling off after a secondary target while the tank was stunned. They seemed to prefer going after the group's DPSer - me - or the healer, so non-tanks in this fight need to be able to take a bit of a beating. Having a Lore-master use Sign of Righteousness to give the tanks stun-immunity would help enormously here.

Our fighting drew a number of spectators - some players got bold and came right inside the arena to watch up close (and, I strongly suspect, at least one of them threw some outside heals at us to keep us standing). It was a proud moment taking down the last of the uruk-hai, and particularly so with people watching and asking questions about it. This is now one of my very favorite things about the expansion so far, and there is much yet to come.

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