Guide to LotRO's Update 5 Instances: Fangorn's Edge
The new Armies of Isengard instance cluster in the Lord of the Rings Online is pretty intense. Remember the In Their Absence cluster from earlier in the year? It's that intense, but 10 levels higher. While the In Their Absence cluster (Northcotton Farm, Stoneheight, Forgotten Temple, Sari-Surma and Ost Dunhoth) dealt with the Gaunt-lords seeking to fill the power vacuum left in the wake of the departing Dunedain Rangers, the Armies of Isengard cluster tells the tale of Saruman's megalomaniacal quest to forge his own rings of power, intending to dominate Dunland and Rohan with his army of uruk super-soldiers. While he may have originally intended to use his powers to thwart Sauron, his thoughts, motives and actions have become much darker lately, and the Rohirrim and Dunlendings who have experienced this dark turn first-hand are looking to stop this madness before it consumes them all. That's where you, the player, come in.
Ox-clan Merchant Camp
First things first - head to Galtrev and find Mabon and Gwin standing outside the auction hall. Get the quest from Gwin first, then talk to Mabon, and you will be sent directly to the new Ox-clan Merchant Camp just outside of Isengard. This is a staging area with entrances to all of the new instances. There's a milestone here you can bind to, and you can come back by using the tunnel on the east bank of the river, right across from the one leading into the ring of Isengard.
When you get there, talk to Andras (standing beside Mabon right where you port in) and pick up his quests. He will give you a Sigil of Orthanc and tell you to use it at a forge. The forge is a big round spike-covered fire-pit at the top of the camp - just stand near it and use the sigil and it will give you Orthanc Sigil-fragments, which are a new currency used at a barter vendor in the camp. These sigil-fragments can be traded for excellent necklaces that scale up - start with a basic one, collect a few more fragments and trade the basic one and the fragments for the next one up, and so on. You may want to check the top-tier gold-named ones first and work your way down to figure out which "path" you want to take.You get more Sigils of Orthanc from the new instances, and they can be forged into more sigil-fragments - you get 1-3 fragments for each sigil.
There are also vendors (Provisioner, Healer, Supplier) and class trainers here. The class trainers have a barter option for the new armor sets. Each class has 6 new armor sets: 3 purple "instance" sets and 3 teal "raid" sets. There is one set of instance and raid armor for each trait line, accentuating skills related to the bonuses from those trait lines. For example, the Minstrel can choose between the "Resolve" set (Watcher of Resolve trait line) which gives a 50% bonus to Soliloquy of Spirit heals, the "Warrior-skald" set (Warrior-skald trait line) which reduces the cooldown of Cry of the Valar, or the "Song-protector" set (Protector of Song trait line) which reduces the cooldown of Gift of the Hammerhand. The purple sets have the class-specific set bonus with 5 equipped, and the teal sets have the same bonus with 3 equipped, plus another bonus at 5 equipped. All of these armor sets cost Medallions and Seals, and the teal armor sets additionally require the completion of different Tier 1 deeds in the Tower of Orthanc raid. To get all 6 pieces of the set, you must complete all 5 raid deeds.
Now that you've seen the rewards, it's time to start earning them. On to the 3-mans!
"You have found my lumber-camp. Very impressive. Few know of its existence. Do you think you can stop the tide of progress? The war will continue. The time of Man is over." - Saruman
This is a race to save the trees from the fires and cruel axes of the orcs, who need lumber to fuel Saruman's war machine. And because it's Fangorn Forest - a forest where even elves fear to tread lest they incur the wrath of the ents who live there - you can be sure that the trees are fighting back.
Your first encounter is a group of orcs attacking a huorn and felling it. They kill it and hit the road, which is a two-lane highway carved into the cliffs leading up into Fangorn Forest, and is heavily patrolled by uruks, warg-riders and tree-lugging trolls. The patrols are very tough and will murder anyone they catch snooping around the place, so the goal here is to avoid them. Wait for gaps between the groups and dash through between them - kinda like playing Frogger.
Speed buffs help a lot at these crossings - Hunters' Find The Path, or Captains' Make Haste, or the speed buff Destiny perk... or the newly-introduced Second Breakfast Coffee, which comes from Decorated Westfold cook recipe scrolls. The standard version of this recipe gives a 5% increase to run speed, and the crit version is 10%, and this buff stacks with other run-speed buffs. I tested it on my Hunter - Find The Path, plus the +6% legacy on his spear, plus the 10% coffee, plus the 10% boost from Fleetness gave him +41% (non-combat) run speed for 10 seconds - faster than the Bree-land starter horse. With the Captain's Make Haste, he would be faster than a standard mount.
One point of interest here - the first time you are killed by a patrolling troll on the road, you will complete the Thoroughbred deed and earn 4 Seals. It may be worth your while to do this at the first crossing point, where you don't have to make a long, dangerous trek back to where you were.
Once you get across the highway, you will start encountering groups of mobs. There are stationary groups of 4 orcs, patrolling pairs of warg riders, and groups of 6 or 8 orcs and uruks attacking huorns. The stationary groups and patrolling warg-riders are pretty standard, but the groups attacking the trees can be tough, and particularly if the group is attempting to complete the Tier 2 challenge of saving all the huorns.
For these groups, the fellowship needs to go in with area-effect attacks and pull all the mobs off the besieged huorn. On Tier 2 difficulty, the huorns go down really fast, so it's imperative to get all the orcs away from them right away, and healers may need to spend some time keeping the huorns alive before tending to their fellows.
Further down the path, after the second highway crossing, the group will encounter a pair of sleeping warg-riders - these can be avoided by walking wide around them to the right. Likewise, there is a pair of trolls on the hill overlooking the glade at the end of the instance that can be dodged.
Reaching the final glade, surrounded by great forest-clearing mobile sawmills, you will see the first boss, an uruk named Undurz who is standing alone in the middle of the clearing. He has a truckload of morale, and, once engaged, he will call in groups of adds to attack the 4 huorns surrounding the clearing. To complete the challenge, you need to save these huorns.
With a traditional Tank/DPS/Healer group, put the tank on the boss, keeping him more or less in the middle, and have the DPS handle the adds when they come in. If the DPS is a squishy class like a Hunter or Rune-keeper, pull the adds over to the tank. The huorns make fairly short work of the adds, but if left alone, they could fall to the orcs' axes. The trees can handle one or two adds on their own, but the rest should be pulled away. When the adds are down, return DPS to the boss.
Occasionally, the boss can be kited near to the huorns to draw their aggro, and they will contribute with ranged root-spike attacks. Sharp-eyed tanks can pull the boss over to the huorns when the add waves come in, and the huorns will continue to attack Undurz when the adds are all down. Don't bank on this happening, though - occasionally the trees will return to a "dormant" state when the adds are all dead, and Undurz may not get any tree-aggro. It's not a big deal if the boss doesn't aggro the trees, but the fight will take a little bit longer.
Be wary of Undurz's powerful attacks against secondary targets. These attacks have long inductions and can be interrupted, but if they go off, they hit hard. A medium- or light-armored DPSer (think Hunter or Rune-keeper) who is the target of one of these attacks can find himself in real trouble if he is in the middle of fighting the adds attacking the huorns - particularly the uruk adds, which have strong ranged attacks. Best policy is for the tank to watch for these long inductions and to try to interrupt them every time.
Once Undurz is downed, the real fun begins. A trio of ents enters the clearing, declaring that all orcs must be destroyed. Unfortunately, it's been a while since they have seen humans, elves, hobbits and dwarves - they don't realize that the players are not orcs, and will attack. Players will want to avoid the ents - stay well clear of them because they do have area-effect attacks and hit like freight trains.
This is a complicated and difficult fight, particularly on Tier 2 difficulty. Have the tank focus only on the adds, keeping them off the ents and the other players - especially the healer. Tanks will want to be very careful about their area-effect threat generation - pull the aggro of the ents or trolls and there will be trouble. The tank wants only the small, manageable adds. The tank will want to kite the adds, which is tricky because the orcs apply a slowing debuff. Keep them moving, running them through the legs of the ents, who will stay in dogged pursuit. The DPSer will want to kill a few of the orcs and help keep the healer add-free, running near the tank if he gets add aggro of his own.
After a few minutes of this, three fiery, named trolls will come stomping in. The ents will break off from chasing the puny, scurrying things around and focus solely on the trolls. The tank needs to keep kiting the adds and keep them away from the other players. DPS will focus on one troll at a time, taking them down as they battle the ents. Let the ents tank the trolls - once the trolls engage the ents, they are locked in and can't be pulled away. Hunters can go full-on Strength stance without worrying about pulling aggro, so Burn Hot and let fly. Even if the troll does aggro on the player, it will stay in position with the ent. If an ent dies, the troll attacking it will turn on whatever its next aggro target is, so if the DPS-focus troll manages to kill its ent, it's going to turn on the player attacking it. This is therefore a DPS race - you want to kill the trolls before they manage to take down the ents.
When the troll dies and the ent is still alive, it will move to the next closest troll and help its tree-brother. If the tank is managing to stay alive, this fight gets progressively easier as the ents gang up on the trolls. Continue focusing DPS on one troll at a time until they're all dead.
There are a number of deeds for the various ways this fight can pan out - killing the trolls with 1 ent alive, killing Undurz with no huorns left alive, saving all the ents and saving all the huorns in one run. If all of the ents die, the fight will reset and you'll have to start again. The first time you run this, you'll more likely be worrying about developing a solid strategy and staying alive than about completing deeds, but it's always a good idea to shoot for the best possible outcome.
Loot the big chest for a Sigil of Orthanc, some relics and runes and other goodies. Your next step is into the Pits of Isengard, so be sure to soak up the afternoon sun while you're here. It'll be a while before you see it again.