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So you like theorycrafting do you? Hmph, well then, how about trying this one on for size!
Hello there, I see that you have returned to enter the world of theorycrafting and what possible solutions can be achieved when you look into the realm of the unexplored. Last week we talked about the Alchemist and how he can be a great addition to the popular Blademaster.
The idea behind the Blademaster and Alchemist strategy was hero focus fire. Using the speed and attack power of both the Blademaster and Alchemist, both heroes are able to take down low HP intelligence heroes quite quickly. One of the victim heroes is the Archmage.
-AM finally catching up on his Playmage Tome subscription-
art by Joshua Keyes aka Raihn
Oh the Archmage, he is so noble! He is the bread and butter of any Human army. However, his low HP and lack of abilities to save him from a raging Alchemist or a Wind Walking Blademaster can make him a weak starting hero versus Orc. Yes, his summons own Orc hard, but how can the Archmage summon any Water Elementals if he has fallen off his horse? Obviously he can't.
Unlike last time, this article is going to focus on a weakness of a hero, rather than strength. All situations aside, when an Archmage tries to stand against a Blademaster early game, the Archmage dies, case closed. The question now is how do we solve that problem?
Coupling my love for the Tavern and a desire to follow a common theme, I found the Dark Ranger. At first you think, "That makes sense, she has summons that Orc can't counter." Then you really think about it and you say, "Wait, she dies just as fast as the Archmage does when a Blademaster is in the equation." A valid point, yet I've only brought up the hero, I haven't gone into her skills.
Has anyone ever tried to focus on a Dark Ranger using Life Drain? I have once. Picture this, I was playing on Twisted Meadows as Undead and I wanted to go harass a Night Elf that I assumed was cross map. Simple enough right? Run over, Coil a few Wisps, whack them a few times, and run away before that Demon Hunter gets back to Mana Burn me. However, the harass didn't go as smoothly as I had hoped.
In the middle of the map my Death Knight ran into a Wisp that was purchasing a Dark Ranger. Not an uncommon Night Elf hero versus Undead, but still, I was taken off guard. I decided that keeping the Dark Ranger from creeping was going to be essential, so I pressed her right then and there. Her life quickly went down, but to my surprise it started going right back up, and mine started to fall. At the end of our little exchange, my Death Knight had to run home to mommy, and the Dark Ranger went off to quickly get level two so she could rack up Skeletons.
Did I win the game? I don't remember, and it's not really important. What is important is that the Dark Ranger owned me hard early game with Life Drain. Yes, I played it stupid, but that doesn’t matter. She wouldn’t die early and she still ended up getting a lot of Skeletons.
Apply the idea of a Dark Ranger with Life Drain to the Human army. During the early game the Blademaster is going to try and take down that pesky Dark Ranger, only to find that she is draining his life and staying alive. Mid game, the Skeletons you have racked up are going to do a great job taking down the Orcs army. Late game when the Orc may dispel your summons, she can be retrained into an effective disabler and damage dealer.
Let us take a look at each of these parts of the game, piece by piece.
In the beginning of the game a Tavern build is used to obtain a Dark Ranger at a good time to counter harassment; the earlier the better. On some maps, you may even run into the Blademaster at the Tavern. If that did occur, the Blademaster will most likely try to take down your hero, but to his surprise he wouldn’t be able to. During this time the smartest thing for you to do is creep with Footman and Militia. If your hero doesn’t run into the Blademaster, you can use her as a tank for creeping. Life Drain will allow you to tank, much like Water Elementals do, and not lose any life. Ultimately, your goal in the early game is to get to level two as quickly as possible so you can train Dark Arrow and begin making a force of Skeletons.
Moving into the mid game, you are probably around level three, almost teched to tier two and eagerly awaiting getting your second hero. When using an Archmage, the goal of the Human tier two push is to get another summoning hero, such as the Beastmaster, and push the Orc. This is extremely effective due to Orcs tendency to shy away from getting a Spirit Lodge. Your objective is still the same when starting with a Dark Ranger. One might assume that you would pick up the Archmage second, as his aura would greatly support the Dark Ranger. While this is true, the negatives to getting an Archmage first are still prevalent when getting him second. Adding to the equation that the Blademaster now has Critical Strike and possibly even level two Windwalk, the Archmage is going to have a tough time staying alive. This is why you choose a Beastmaster second. His high HP will prevent the Blademaster from being able to focus down and kill him hero as quickly as he could an Archmage.
When you have selected your Beastmaster and trained Quill Beasts, it is time to get some clarities from your shop. The lack of Brilliance Aura does hurt your heroes’ mana pools, but with the use of clarities you will be able to keep them summoning throughout the game. Think of it as a trade off; you have to buy clarities for them, but your heroes don’t die to focus fire. If you plan to use Life Drain a lot during battle, purchasing a mana potion for your Dark Ranger is going to be a good idea. Once your heroes’ MP is full and their items are bought, you are ready to push the Orc.
I’m not going to go into exactly how you push an Orc and what units you should use. Any Human player should already be knowledgeable about how to do a tier two push. The only difference from this tier two push and the normal Archmage/Beastmaster tier two push is that you have a Dark Ranger. Just make sure that she is getting the final hits on all of the units you are killing so that you have the most skeletons possible. Also make sure that if you are going to use Life Drain that you use it on a unit which is close in order to maximize the damage that is done and the life that is gained.
Assuming that your push does a considerable amount of damage but does not end the game right then and there, you have to start worrying about late game. Again, I’m not going to talk directly about the units involved in late game Human versus Orc, because a Human player should have a good idea of what those units are. I will focus on the two main ways of playing Dark Ranger against Orc late game.
One of those ways is through using Dark Arrow and racking up skeletons. This method assumes that the Orc player has not decided to counter your summons in any form, or only has a few Shamans. If this is the case, your enemy doesn’t have much of a chance. A full army plus skeletons that don’t cost any food, will make quick work of any Orc.
The second way to play Dark Ranger is to retrain her for Silence. If your opponent was smart, he probably set up a Spirit Lodge and started to get anti-caster units. In this case your skeletons aren’t going to be extremely useful. Thus, you can retrain your Dark Ranger to use silence. Why would you want to do this? Because no one likes to be abused by a Blademaster and a Shadowhunter. Silence does a good job and keeping the two heroes from doing a large amount of damage, ultimately keeping your heroes alive.
When using the second method it is up to you whether you want to select Silence at level five or Life Drain. The choice should largely depend on how your opponent is playing, whether or not they are aggressively casting their spells, and whether or not your Dark Ranger is constantly in need of healing.
Overall I feel that this is a solid strategy that should be given a fair chance to shine. Not only is the Dark Ranger a good hero, she is a fun hero to play. I personally get a kick out of watching my enemies units turn into Skeletons. Also, this strategy builds on what already makes Human an awesome race versus Orc, while improving on what makes them weak.
Similar to any strategy, this one has its flaws. I have already mentioned that without an Archmage’s Brilliance Aura, it takes a little more energy to keep your heroes' MP pools full. The lack of Brilliance Aura also makes it harder for you to spam spells for non-adept casters. My advice to solving this problem is to make sure that you upgrade your casters as quickly as possible. Each upgrade greatly improves the caster’s MP regeneration rate, which may even prevent you from needing Brilliance Aura at all. I mentioned during my Optimization Series that having a bunch of priests laying around with full MP all game doesn’t help you.
I hope that Human players can suspend their feelings of love towards the Archmage for a few games to give this strategy a try. I think that its positives outweigh its negatives, making it completely viable. But who am I to say these things? I’m just theorycrafting. Remember now, it’s not real until you use it. Spread the word, spread the strategy and have some fun with something new for a change. Take a break from the Archmage and give him a rest! I mean, gheez, he’s already grumpy as it is.
Rumors of the Dark Ranger smelling bad are all false. Also, contrary to popular belief her name is not Drow. Calling her Drow may evoke the wrath of Tainted Sun, and you really don't want to do that.