Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dark Elves vs Shaolin general strategy guide

Right, so that SL/DE matchup. It's one of my least favourite matchups as DE, because it's so darn slow and grindy. SL can't attack because SL has problems attacking everybody. DE can't attack because combos. And shadows and monks are nigh unkillable. So what generally happens is that you and your opponent kinda line up opposite each other and a stalemate happens.

According to Trip's excellent FAR (Faction Achievement Rating) analysis, at high levels, SL outperforms DE by 30%. 30%! That's huge! I think that DE does do rather poorly against SL, but I don't think that it's a 6.5-3.5 matchup in favor of SL.

Anyway, on to the guide.

Exceptional units in this match:

Poisoner - without her, you do not deal damage.
Shadow - makes dives for key targets VERY expensive.
Monk - weakens monster units.

VM - don't let them get converted. You can't deal with a 960 40/40 VM.
imp - one of the only ways to burst damage down a helmed/shielded shadow.
L3 wraith - The other way to take down a helmed/shielded shadow. You should ALWAYS have a vanilla L0 wraith around to eat converted units - this is one of the soft counters to the shadow. By himself, the shadow does not do enough damage to really threaten you.
necro - remote stomp means you don't have to worry about combos. phantoms blocking means one less combo. Shadows can't convert phantoms, so use them to dive stomp even without a necro around to remote stomp.

So, let's look at what each race CAN do.

SL threats:
poisoner + any unit combo for 800 on standard unit.
3x poisoner attack for 800 on standard unit.
2x sworded poisoner attack for 750 on standard unit. (630 on helmed unit, 510 on helmed VM)
3x sworded poisoner attack for 1200 on standard unit. (1020 on helmed unit, 840 on helmed VM)
dragon + any unit attack for 800 on standard unit.
poisoner + dragon for 1100 on standard unit. (940 on helmed unit, 1040 on poisoned helmed unit)
dragon for 900 on poisoned unit. (780 on helmed poisoned unit/vanilla VM, 660 on helmed poisoned VM)
dragon for 600 on vanilla unit
Monk debuffs for 200 on all units.

Notice that these numbers are generally still not that high, and the thresholds are easily reached. For example, all 800 and 600 thresholds are exceeded by any item or soulbomb. Note in particular the VM numbers - if there's one unit you can't allow to be stolen, it's the VM! 780 will not take out a poisoned vanilla VM, unless monk debuffed. 660 will not take out a poisoned helmed VM, even if monk debuffed. 3x sworded poisoner will not take out a single helmed VM, unless pre-debuffed. Generally, treat helmed VMs as safe unless in exceptional circumstances, and vanilla VMs safe unless monk debuffed.

The exception is of course a equipped necro, who is a bit more equishy, and a high value target. Still, with his range 3 attack, he can force 2AP move before SL attacks, which is generally enough to prevent a killstomp (2AP move, 2AP attack, 1AP stomp). Watch out for dragons though! Poison + dragon will deal 940 on a helmed necro, so a +3 necro is barely safe (barring monk debuff, or prepoison, in which case, hide).

Notice also that SL needs a poisoner to make credible threats. Not even the monk debuff will help if you don't have poisoners. In this matchup, my aim is always to take out either the 3 poisoners or the 3 taoists. After that, I can take my time. The rest of the units are fodder as far as I am concerned.

DE threats:VMs to take on T shapes. Splash crystals if you can, SL has to invest significant time in setting up a defence and can't deal with hit and run monks very well.

Poisoners are 650 HP. 650 is a nifty number, actually. It does take a 3AP kill for 300 damage units, so it may as well be a 800 or 880 HP 0% resist unit in that regard. However, a single piece of armor does NOT help - just a shield, and you're up to 715 hp and 20% resist. Still within 3 AP kill range from an imp (3hits for 720 damage). You need both a shield and helm (780HP) to stop 3 AP kills. Also, you can replace any one of those 300 damage hits with a soulbomb for rezzing or HP buff purposes, and still get the kill (650 > 550, 2 hit kill, 780 > 700, 3 hit kill). So try to soulbomb those poisoners if you can - even if it's only 80HP, that translates into a 1AP advantage and forces a heal.

Taking down Shadows - at 1200 20/20, these guys take a beating. Scrolled sworded imp only does 1080 due to 20% resist, so you need to find 120 damage from elsewhere, or take another AP. Curiously, the numbers also work out exactly the same for a L3 scrolled sworded wraith - 1080HP on a 40% resist shadow. Always keep an eye on stray damage on the shadow and if it's more than 120, watch for the kill.

DE problems with the matchup
The thing about VMs is that they're just not all that durable against SL. Think about it this way - a +3 VM does 300 damage per hit. If you want to stomp, you'll have to spend all 5 AP, and end up deep in SL territory. Even excluding poisoners, you're talking something like monk-windblade-windblade to take down a +3 VM, with 2AP to spare (to move and stomp), or alternatively, taoist-sworded windbladex3 stomp. Or just monk debuff (to 760), and wait for the next turn to do taoist-sworded windbladex2. VM can't even kill shielded monk in 4 AP...

SL (and all teams, really) can also negate a lot of splash by arranging their units in a checkerboard pattern (can't splash at all) or in a "+" (only 2 units splashed). With a taoist on the back end of that shape, it's very hard for VMs to be effective without ending in a postion where they get absolutely pizzowned next turn (any stomp will mean you end in range of 3 other SL units, if you don't stomp and don't move away, 1 move will cause you to be in range of 3 SL units). This is even worse if there are poisoners around.

+3 necro generally sidesteps this - you outrange windblades, and if SL has to send 2 AP to move, generally they cannot kill without dragon, EVEN IF they have a poisoner. Phantoms also screw up LOS of poisoners and shadows a lot, which eats up their 1 AP to move (remember, usually 3AP attacking to kill, which means only 1 move and 1 stomp).

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