Sunday, February 19, 2012

Tips for playing against Council with Dark Elves

I've heard a lot of people complain that the Dark Elves are weaker than the Council.  While I tend to agree, I do not think the gap is very big.  The two races seem very well balanced against each other and I think the power gap in the races is smaller than the power gap between a good draw and a bad draw.

So with that in mind, I thought I'd try to publish some tips for playing as Dark Elves vs. Council.  If you haven't already, I recommend the tips posted over at the James Review.

From a big picture standpoint, the Council are more tightly bound to their roles than the Dark Elves are.

  • The Council tank is very tanky, but the Dark Elf Void Monk can do some DPS when needed.
  • The Council healer heals for more but the Dark Elf army can heal without a Priestess 
  • The Council archer does massive amounts of ranged physical damage but cannot deal damage at point blank range
This specialization of roles is where the Council draws it's power.  If you confront a Council opponent and let them set up a formation with a frontline of Knights with Wizards and Archers behind and a Priest support, you are going to get wrecked.  The Dark Elves are not as well equipped to fight on a battlefield with 8+ unit compositions on each side.

Although it looks fairly even, I can't help but feel I'm going to get wrecked

Your goal as Dark Elves is to force lots of favorable unit exchanges repeatedly.  If the board gets clogged up with units, your chances of winning go down (as James illustrates nicely with his Battering Ram and Phalanx illustrations).  Not only does a clogged up board make it easier for the Council to create formations that highlight unit strengths and cover weaknesses, but the Council has better AOE damage in the form of their Fireball and Wizard.

When playing against the Council I like to imagine a fighter in an MMA match: my opponent has longer reach, faster punches and stronger kicks - but I have a better ground game.  My goal is to bring the fight to the mat and keep it there.  My opponent is standing on two legs, and my goal as the Dark Elves is to knock out one of my opponent's legs.  I'm fairly confident if I can knock out one of those two legs without sacrificing too much in the process, I'll be in good shape. The Council's two legs are:
  1. Left Leg: Healing.  The Council is heavily dependent on the 3 priests for healing.
  2. Right Leg: Physical damage.  The council army has 3 sources of physical damage, of which only the 3 Archers and the Ninja matter. (Let's face it, the 3 Knights are pretty bad at dealing damage)
This leads to two obvious approaches

Approach #1: Kill the enemy priests.
If you are going down this road you want to suicide your units to take out enemy priests.  Remember that priests can't heal themselves, so if your opponent has only a single priest on the table, it's okay to take a priest low, or fail to stomp her.  Granted, your opponent might have a potion in hand or a priest in reserve, but I can't tell you how many times I've charged a priest with my void monk for 600 damage, and managed to kill the priest on a following turn.  The risk is worth the reward: kill priests with extreme prejudice.
Tips for approach 1
  • If there are no priests on the board, play a slightly conservative game but keep pressure on.  If both players are running back and forth plinking at their opponents the Dark Elves will win due to their life leech.  Doing light and consistent damage to your opponent will probably draw out any priests that are sitting in hand. 
  • Watch for your opponent swapping tiles or excessive upgrade usage.  Good Council players are more comfortable when there are two priests on the board.  Tile swapping or sub-optimal plays may be priest-fishing if your opponent hasn't placed two yet.
  • Be far more aggressive when there is only a single priest on the board.  Much like rabbits, priests need population control.  Beat on them when there's only one.  Once there's two priests the job is much harder.
  • Save your scrolls for two priest, or stomp situations.  Your deck has two scrolls, they have 3 priests.  In a perfect world each scroll translates into a priest kill + stomp.  This leaves a 3rd priest who can be slowly killed at a convenient rate since priests can't heal themselves.  If you manage to kill a priest without a scroll, then you can use your scroll elsewhere.
Approach #2: Kill the enemy Ninja and Archers.
Approach #2 is harder to pull off than Approach #1 but in my experience has a higher rate of success once you've attained it.  Your end-game plan is to use either a fully upgraded Wraith of a fully upgraded Void Monk to make life miserable for your opponent.  If you have a fully upgraded Wraith and you've killed the enemy Archers and Ninja's you've pretty much guaranteed a win.  A fully upgraded Void Monk will need a little bit of careful management but will still be extremely difficult for your opponent to deal with.

Note that fully upgraded means
  • Sword
  • Leech Gem
  • Helm
  • +50 Health from Potion
  • +Health from Soul Harvest if available
Here's a game I recently had.  My opponent lost all 3 archers and his Ninja.  I had lost everything on the board to get to this state except for my lone Wraith and 7 cards left in my deck.
Wraith: "Don't worry guys, I got this"
My opponent used 2 turns to set up further while I put a priestess on the board for safety.
Priestess is positioned in range to heal the Wraith while standing on Armor buff square

My opponent's fully geared Knight is a concern, and I need to make sure I don't get cornered.

I use my scroll to take out the full geared Knight,

Ultimately, a few turns later, my opponent concedes, realizing that with only Knights, Priests and Wizards, there's no way for him to kill the Wraith.

Without a Ninja, archers, and assuming you don't stand in a corner next to a Knight, here are some facts to consider about our lovely Wraith

  • If your Wraith swings just twice a turn he'll deal up to 1200 damage.  Usually you'll do less because of overkill - absolutely conservatively you'll deal 800 to kill a unit. This means you'll leech ~534 damage minimum without even trying.  If you manage to deal 1200 or even 1800 damage you'll be leeching 800-1200 health.  
  • A Wizard using all 5 attacks on the Wraith will only deal 700 damage.
  • A Wizard with a sword or standing on a red quare, using all 5 attacks will deal 1050 damage - still not enough to kill a Wraith.
  • A Wizard who Equips a weapon and then uses a scroll, followed by 3 attacks in a row is still only going to cause 1050 damage
  • A Wizard with a weapon and using a scroll plus 4 attacks deals 1260 damage - still not enough to kill the Wraith!
  • A Wizard using a weapon and standing on a red square will deal 1575 damage. This is finally enough  to kill a Wraith but doensn't have an action left to stomp!  so with a Priestiess or Soul Harvest handy you can easily recover.
  • A Wizard using a weapon, standing on a red square, and using a scroll can deal the 1575 damage and stomp.
  • What this means is that, assuming you Wraith is at full health, the only thing you have to worry about is a Wizard, with a weapon, standing on a red square.  And even then if your opponent has used both scrolls and you have a Soul Harvest in hand you're still safe.  A Wizard standing on a red square is ridiculously easy to deal with too, just don't end your turn within range of him.
  • Generally speaking as long as you don't end your turn within range of a red square or backed into a corner where a Knight can attack your Wraith is going to solo their entire team.

If you don't have a Wraith available, a Void Monk can sometimes do the job too.  The Monk may not have as much health, but he has 40% Magic Resist and 20% Physical Resist when upgraded.  This means the Monk can take on any non-upgraded unit

  • Damage the Monk will take: 160 per attack from Physical, 120 per attack from Magical
  • Health the Monk will leech with gem: 200 per attack against unarmored foes, 160 per attack against 20% resistant armored foes.
As you can see, while the Void Monk can't lock up a game quite the way a Wraith can, he can very often lock up the game enough to secure a win.

So how badly should you try to kill Council Priests and Archers?  While there are no firm rules - it always depends on the current game state - here are some general guidelines
  • I will happily trade any non-Wrath unit without upgrades for an enemy Archer or Priest any day of the week and twice on Sundays. When an opponent  presents an Archer or Priest to me for trade it feels like Christmas.
  • I will trade any non-Wraith unit with a weapon upgrade to get my second priest kill (because you know after you've killed the second priest, the third one will fall easily due to the inability to heal herself).
  • I will trade any non-Wraith unit with 2 upgrades to kill an archer with a weapon upgrade.  
  • I typically save scrolls to kill either a priest, an archer with a weapon upgrade, or a Ninja
Finally to close, here are some tips for actually killing those enemy priests and archers in games against more experienced opponents who are doing a good job protecting their squishies.
  • Watch for lone priests and archers in the early game.  There are lots of games where after the first 1-2 rounds of setup, I'll run straight across the board with a Void Monk or an Impaler at the enemy priest.
  • If the board is starting to stall out but you see a priest that you think could be weak, push forward with 3 units at once.  Your opponent will kill one of your units leaving 2 units in striking range.  At that point you're trying to get a 3 for 2 trade.  It's not as ideal but against good opponent's it's often the best you can do.
  • Sometimes the board is so clogged you have to pre-scroll.  Pre-scrolling a weapon'ed necromancer is usually enough to take out a priest or archer that's only moderately protected. Don't be afraid to sacrifice a void monk to get your damage closer.  If you're getting desperate, try moving your impaler or necromancer a little closer than usual, but place a void monk in front for protection such that the Void Monk might die, but your damage unit will nab the target.
Hope those tips help!  All the best!


  1. man... those council formations >_< Ouch.

  2. Nice write up! Great tips!

  3. First off, I LOVE these write-ups and you attack strategies the way I do. I would like to say though that knights aren't as weak as they appear from an offensive standpoint. Maybe because they are already underrated but I have had a few games where camping a knight (with shield and helmet to make them unkillable, AND a sword) on the enemy sword or shield tile is a super effective strategy. I think it's similar in effect to what coined as "ninja bombing", but even without a ninja, it provides a lot of problems when your enemy needs to regroup after a wave of offense. In particular, most of the stat boost tiles are near walls, which provides the knight some legitimate deep-ranged killing power, especially if a cleric is mid-range or you have a potion handy just in case they surprise you.

    1. Yes I think you're right. I've found extremely tough to kill units camped on the enemy sword to be stronger than I once thought. I lost a game last week to somebody with a fully upgraded knight sitting on my sword.

      Along a similar theme, I've found fully upgraded Dwarven Paladins to be extremely strong. The latest update even buffs the Paladins further. I find 2 paladins within healing range of each other, both with sword, helm and shield are pretty much game enders.