After completing the 3-man instances in Evendim and North Downs, "In Their Absence" takes us further along the path of the Gaunt-lord invasion in the wake of the disappearing rangers. More specifically, the continuing story deals with the machinations of Ferndur and Drugoth as they continue to assemble their own dark armies in the service of Sauron. And these fellows have had a bit more time to work their foul magics, requiring larger groups to end their black schemes.
Flush from victory after foiling Ivar Bloodhand's plans at Stoneheight, the heroes' story continues in the Trollshaws, where the entrance to an ancient, forgotten temple has recently been unearthed.
Step inside the door, take a look around. Go on, do it, you know you want to. The design of this place is amazing and has the feel of high adventure. You will regret not bringing your bullwhip and fedora, and will be on the lookout for giant rolling boulders. Or maybe not - once you start engaging the enemies, you'll be glad for the 2nd age weapon currently in your sweaty hands.
You're going to want a very solid, balanced group for this: tank, off-tank, healer, DPS, support. A Lore-master traited for in-combat disease-removal might be a strong asset here, but if he doesn't know which diseases to remove and which to leave alone, he could be a liability. Diseases do play a major part in this instance, so make sure you have a full stack of Steeped Lhinestad potions.
The winding path leading into the temple is well-guarded by groups of mercenary hillmen, Angmarim and trolls. Each group has a slightly different makeup, and they get progressively more difficult the further in you go. For the first couple of groups, start with the Mercenary Captain as primary DPS target - he applies a debuff (marked by a giant red eye over the target's head) that increases threat generation by 300% for the duration. When/If this lands on the healer, the group is in trouble. Better when it lands on the tank. Do be aware of ranged attackers in each group - if not handled early on by the tank, they will invariably start picking on healers.
Later groups will have Acolytes of Pestilence - when you encounter these groups, take out the Acolytes first. They apply strong disease debuffs, some of which may or may not be potted off during the fight. The last couple of groups have trolls. Trolls are priority targets - they have a disease aura, and they do all the other horrible things that all trolls everywhere do. So target priorities are: 1) trolls; 2) Acolytes; 3) Captains; 4) whatever is left.
These fights are particularly hard on tanks and other melee classes, who will receive the Creeping Infection debuff while standing in the auras of the enemy mobs. This debuff increases incoming damage, and it stacks with itself, so if the main tank gets this debuff stacked 5 times (+100% incoming damage), it will be more or less impossible to keep him healed. Tanking needs to be spread out a bit across more than one character, and mobs need to be separated to prevent the debuffs from stacking too high and keep this penalty in check.
After fighting the final "trash" group with 2 trolls, you come to a gated courtyard, the realm of Sidhag and her brother Angaidh. You get to fight them both at once - hence the need for an off-tank. The trick here is to keep them separate and burn them down more or less evenly. There are a couple of ways to do this, but this method has proven to be fairly effective.
Put the main tank on Angaidh and drag him up the stairs to the left, and everyone else focuses on Sidhag. The healer stands in range of both groups. Sidhag is a ranged attacker and will usually not leave her spot until she goes to check on her brother - she will announce it ("How fare you, brother?") and go charging off. When the twins are standing close to one another, the combined auras make them hit harder than usual, and Angaidh will potentially unleash a massive AoE insta-death attack, so the goal is to keep them apart. As you can see in the image above, their auras are quite wide, so they need to be kept far apart.
The tank kites Angaidh around a bit when this happens, taking him across the raised platform to the other set of stairs and over to the other side. Angaidh, like his sister, will occasionally run off to check on his sibling, but the tank should not waste time or energy chasing him when he does this; he will come back, and waiting for this to happen avoids the AoE insta-death attack. Continue this pattern until Sidhag is down to about 60k morale and then switch to Angaidh - if the group burns her too far before taking Angaidh down, she will heal herself massively and the fight ends up being perpetual.
At 60k, switch DPS to Angaidh and take him down to about 60k, then switch back to Sidhag. Take her down to about 30k, then switch back to Angaidh and take him down to around 5k. Back to Sidhag, and kill her, then back to Angaidh and kill him. They need to die within seconds of one another to complete the deed. You can advance to the next part of the instance without doing it this way, but where's the fun in that?
THE TUNNEL AND CRYPTS
After looting the chest, head on inside to the tunnels. The tunnels are populated with trolls, wights and maggots, and pretty much all of them apply disease debuffs. At this point, you're going to want to know which debuffs have which effects, and which can safely be potted off or otherwise removed. Here's a handy little chart to help you with that:
|Occurs when standing in auras; cannot be removed with potions and stacks with itself. Tanks may find this unavoidable in the first few seconds of a fight, and can fall very quickly when they have this debuff stacked 5 deep.|
|Occurs during mini-boss and final boss fights; can be removed with potions. Infected characters will have a yellow fuzz on their screen and will periodically cower. This one has a slightly different icon than Creeping Infection - the Brain Fever icon has a yellow box border, and the Creeping Infection icon has no border.|
|This one surrounds the victim with a green cloud. If removed with a potion, anyone within the green cloud will be infected. Move well away from other characters before using a potion, and make sure no one is standing in your cloud when you do.|
|Can be removed with potions. The icon for this disease is exactly the same as the one for Maggot Infestation.|
|Can be removed with potions, but will cause the victim to be stunned momentarily. This one is dangerous for tanks and healers, but is better left alone on most other classes. If there is a Lore-master in the group, and he has used Sign of Power: Righteousness on you, go ahead and use the potion.|
|Can (and should) be removed with a potion before it spawns more maggots. Infected characters will have a green maggot stuck to their face.|
|Can and should be removed with potions. This one is particularly dangerous when coupled with the Creeping Infection disease, or when applied to healers. When cured with a potion, the formerly-infected character will perform a roar emote.|
|Can be removed with potions, but will drain a large amount of power when cured. Let it run its course and chug a Celebrant potion after.|
Maggots are usually a priority in these fights. Left unchecked, maggots will grab onto the faces of characters and spawn in more maggots, and also they're freakin' gross - kill them first and fast. Then you can worry about the trolls and wights. Be careful about charging into any rooms that appear to contain only one mob - sometimes there are others hiding out of sight, or more will spawn in around you. It may be a better idea to pull the visible mobs into the hallways and deal with adds as they come.
In these tunnels, there are 3 crypts of ancient kings, and each one is a mini-boss. Follow the same priority list (maggots, then trolls, then wights) and save the boss for last. Bosses will call in waves of reinforcements, so be prepared to deal with them when they come charging in the door, and stick to priorities. And again, remember to take care of the ranged attackers before they start wailing on the healers. Watch out for them in every crypt.
In general, you'll want to run the tank in first to handle the boss, and send DPS and support in along the sides to take out the adds. Once the adds are down (there are usually 4 or 5), switch to the boss and burn until more adds come, then take care of those. These fights are challenging, and keep in mind that the sarcophagi in the middle of the rooms blocks line of sight
FERNDUR THE VIRULENT
At the end of the long, winding tunnel, you reach a large central chamber, the room you can see on the other side of the fence in each of the smaller mini-boss crypts. Ferndur the Virulent stands tall in the middle of this room, surrounded by the rotting corpses of his victims. At first glance it may look like a straight-up tank-n-spank fight, but Thadur is much more devious than that. Like a popular country singer of olde, he has friends in low places. And you have to destroy them all.
During the fight, Ferndur applies a number of debuffs. The one to watch out for is the glaring yellow-green eye - this is a timed effect that will spawn a large, corrosive cloud around the victim and reanimate any corpse within the cloud's radius. These clouds must be used wisely to animate all of the bodies lying around the room. Keep in mind that they are highly corrosive and can kill anyone standing in them. The goal here is to drop the cloud in a useful spot and then get out immediately.
When the bodies are animated, the group wants to focus DPS on the adds and have the tank kite Ferndur around the room. The group will need to beat on Ferndur a little bit initially to trigger the debuffing stage, but once this starts, keep DPS off of him.
For placement of the clouds, start with the groups of bodies in the middle platform on the left side facing in, and the next cloud to the right of that. Those clouds will dissipate eventually, but in the meantime stay out of the middle of the room. The rest of the clouds will be deposited clockwise around the edge of the room, tight together but placed so that each one will cover 2 bodies. You want to get 2 at once, and not more than 3 - anything more than 3 can get difficult to keep under control. When a player gets marked with an eye, the healer will need to pay particular attention and be ready to hit some big heals quickly after the cloud pops. And the player will need to avoid any previously-spawned clouds - stepping into one while bearing the eye will result in immediate death.
The adds must be dispatched fairly quickly - Ferndur doesn't waste much time between applying the debuffs, and the group can easily be overwhelmed by too many zombies and not enough DPS. Maggots will spawn in periodically during the fight, and these need to be handled immediately. You don't want the room filling up with maggots as you're battling zombie trolls. Trust me. Fortunately, the maggots can be interrupted when they start their dangerous inductions - keeping a Burglar on the maggots helps out a lot.
Keeping the adds-killing group in a fairly tight ball will help with general crowd-control. Rather than having loose mobs running willy-nilly, hither and yon, they will surge towards the one part of the room where everyone is standing. This will also help with containing the maggot threat, making it easier to notice when they are entering the fray since they have to slither all the way across the room.
Late in the fight, Ferndur's resurrected Mercenary Captain minions will apply red eye threat-increasing debuffs on more than one target at once. This can get dangerous if the red eye lands on the healer, as it significantly increases threat from healing. If the healer gets the red eye, he needs to kite enemies and pause on the healing until it expires. This can be avoided by keeping the Mercenary Captains locked down with stuns and mezzes until it's killin'-time.
At around 180,000 morale, Ferndur will drop 2 eyes at once, and 2 players will need to rally to their zombie-spawning points. They will need to know how far apart to stand or get caught in each others' clouds, which can be fatal. At around 150,000, Ferndur calls in a swarm of maggots, which will need to be handled quickly.
After you finally down Ferndur, Elrond comes in and says what a great job you did. And then you get to loot the chest for a handful of medallions, runes and relics and some kick-ass jewelry and such. Once that's all done, you can begin preparing for your next trip to the frozen wastes of Forochel.