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Old April 5th, 2009, 03:49 PM
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Default MA Argatha - go punch a mountain

Agartha is a challenging nation to play because of their stark contrasts. They have both obvious strong strengths and obvious crippling weaknesses, to successfully play them one must be able to effectively leverage the former while getting around the latter. Properly balanced though, MA Argatha has everything needed to be a dominating power. The way I like to think about it, fighting Argatha should feel like fighting with a mountain. All you accomplish is bloody knuckles and winding yourself. Now, just to head this off at the pass I’ve got no interest in arguing who came up with what ideas as some of this has been discussed in a recent thread, this is my take on a comprehensive strategy for MA Argatha and there’s probably not an idea in here that a dozen people haven’t had before. This guide is geared towards CBM.

The most obvious weakness is their national troops. They just plain suck, and by default will struggle against even indies. This is a bit of an exception for a nation with giants, but the ancient one’s low attack and size 4 coupled with a dinky little spear (which results in them dealing no more damage than a good human with a high damage weapon) makes their offense atrocious. They lack any archers whatsoever, the smaller pale ones are even worse than the big ones (an 8 attack!), and their human infantry is on par with indie infantry. Clearly these guys are not going to be winning any wars for you.

Now, the obvious choice in this situation is to take an awake pretender, and if you choose to go that route it’s a very tough sell to go with anything other than the risen oracle. The charms of this unit are obvious and well known so I won’t belabor them, but I also want to point out how terribly expensive that awesomeness is. 150 points, on first glance seems expensive but not that bad, thing is you have to consider the other costs. 1) Obviously you’ll want to start out awake. 2) The magic paths you get do nothing for your magic diversity, and new paths cost you 60 points. 3) Not only do the paths do nothing for your diversity, they don’t do much for your bless options. True, an earth bless could be nice, but specifically fire is a great blessing for Argatha, and a minor nature very nice. You can make it work with a risen oracle, but I think you can do better by focusing on Argatha’s strengths.

Consider a build like this: sleeping forge lord with F4 E4 S4 B4. Turmoil-3, Cold-3, Growth-3, Luck-3, Magic-1 with a 7 dominion. This is probably a bit counterintuitive and has some room for alteration to better align with whatever your playstyle is, but bear with me and I’ll explain the odd choices. First off, as you look at those scales realize I don’t plan on doing much with those crappy national troops. That blessing will turn the ancient ones into decent troops for assaulting enemy fortresses (out of your cold dominion, supported by other troops), but really the only concession I make to the troops is *not* taking sloth-3, and this is solely to give me at least some initial expansion.

Your initial expansion is going to be using your human infantry, and I’ll tell you right now it’s gonna be slow – probably the slowest in the game if everyone’s at the same skill level. This is the weakest part of Agartha’s game and I didn’t help it by gearing my design choices towards mid/late game power. Still, in sufficient numbers your infantry isn’t *that* bad, and without having sloth scales you can build up critical mass. It works a lot better if you resign yourself to a slow initial expansion and don’t try to send out expansion parties with less than critical mass. Those Agarthan light infantry actually do a pretty decent job against indies so long as they outnumber them.

Now, I’d like to talk about the first of my “controversial” design choices. Turmoil/luck. Plenty people feel like this is never a competitive choice, but I think this is the perfect situation to use it. Consider that you’re expanding slowly and probably avoiding the highest income (and best defended) territories, the primary advantage of taking an order scale initially is the income from your capital. While this is not inconsiderable, the income bonus from luck isn’t either. Additionally, Agartha has some very nice national heroes, a couple of which will greatly improve your initial expansion if you luck into them early, and will greatly compliment your magic diversity as they show up through the game. Finally, while gold is always very useful, this is a nation who can go a long way on a little gold, what you really want is gems. After your initial expansion you’re not going to be recruiting many troops at all, and while more golem crafters are always welcome they’re cheap and holy so you can field a respectable number of them on a modest gold income. This strategy is still viable if you decide to go with order/misfortune, but in this situation I prefer turmoil/luck.

So, in that light, it’s no surprise that I’m also going to say to get out there site searching early. Golem crafters make surprisingly good manual site searchers with an emphasis on what you need the most urgently - earth gems. Have a couple out site searching some mountains while everybody else researches enchantment and by the end of year one you’ll likely be sitting on a hundred E gems and closing in on ench-4. Now, as painful as it is you’re probably also going to want to overlap that site searching with an oracle of the ancients. This is terribly expensive for a manual D1 site search, but it’s the only way (unless you get that nice national hero early) to prime the pump for your remote site searching. After you land just one or two D sites pull him back and just research until dark knowledge is done. You’ve got fairly light access to D magic, but it’s enough to do your site searching and with the boosters you’re forging later on (more on that in a bit) you should certainly consider yourself a death power.

At this point you’ve expanded very slowly and the indies are running out, but your pretender has just awoke and you’ve got the first of your national summons available. At this point of the game a force of attentive statues (shields) and enlivened statues (heavy hitters) is very difficult for many nations to deal with. Avoid picking a fight with anybody fielding heavy air mages and there’s not a lot of effective combat spells against them at this level and they’re plenty tough enough to chew up most enemy troops when heavily outnumbered. You’ve also conveniently researched strength of giants which stacks on your blood and fire minor blessing, their high strength and good weapon to bring your sentinels up to 29 damage and a 13 attack…with a 22 protection and hitpoints pushing 50. Your attentive statues don’t have the same offense or hitpoints, but they do have a big old shield and are half the price, so they work nicely together. Granite guardians give you 50% more hitpoints than the sentinel for the price (2 sentinels for 1 guardian), but sacrifice half your offense, so they each have their uses. Very broadly you’ll want sentinels at first then switch to guardians as your golem crafters gain the research to be the damage dealers. Sentinels certainly have a role through the whole game though.

I’d like now to talk about another of my scale choices. Cold-3 seems a bit surprising at first given the cold blooded nature of some of your troops. But remember, we’re not using those troops! What we’re using is our summons who are encumbrance 0 and tough as hell. One of the angles we’re going to leverage is fatiguing out our enemies, and in addition to the simple fact that our constructs don’t care that they’re fighting in cold-3 nor take supplies we’re going to be using several things with cold auras. As far as your mages go, we’re going to be using your oracle of the ancient’s very sparingly, and it’s extremely cheap to stick a frost brand on any of them going into combat. Your golem crafters are going to be casting breath of winter (sense a theme yet?) so they don’t care. You can also go with cold resistance if you don’t want the cold aura because of other friendlies around. I wouldn’t take the cold-3 scale just for this angle, but it’s got great synergy as we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel for the design points we need to get those paths on a sleeping forge lord while really needing to take a growth scale because of all our old mages.

One thing you want to pay special consideration with for MA Agartha is to avoid being a one trick pony, which is a tempting prospect at the point in the game that your opponent starts throwing kitchen sinks at those cheap juggernauts chewing tirelessly through their troops. The previous paragraph gives you a clue as to my first suggestion for a switchup, consider this cheap and early combo. One oracle of the ancients and a couple golem crafters with ten or so cavern wights. Golem crafters are equipped with frost brands, shields of beaten gold, and any cheap armor. Buff cycle includes support mages casting enough iron warriors to cover the wights (bonus: buffs the golem crafters to without needing the extra fatigue for a self buff), blessing, earthpower, invulnerability and breath of winter for the crafters while the oracle is buffing strength of giants, legions of steel, etc. The freezing effect stacks to nasty proportions as your enemy tries to chip away at these awesomely tough units. As your research/magic ability progresses you’ll probably want to switch to regular wights who can be summoned by a revenant with a skull staff and are useful in small enough squads (especially buffed like this!) to make sense to summon one at a time. Umbrals also make wonderful additions to this strategy, though you’ll have to be clever with your scripting to avoid them charging too far ahead of the slower infantry. Umbrals, with their hitpoints and life draining attack are quite fearsome buffed with iron warriors and the supporting cold auras are icing on the cake. You can also mix mechanical men in for further filling of these cold based squads.

This brings us to another thing which might not be obvious, your national ability which buffs golem’s hitpoints affects all constructs in the game, not just your national summons. This has several delicious implications, but probably my favorite is mechanical men. Why? Because while your sacred constructs are your big stone fist, mechanical men are your big metallic middle finger to foil most of the things your opponent scraped up to combat the other juggernauts you’ve been fielding. Lighting? Middle finger. Frozen heart/incinerate? Middle finger. Dust to dust? Middle finger. There’s precious few spells which do squat to these fabulous troopers, and they’ll obviously be buffed with strength of giants and weapons of sharpness so who the heck wants to engage them in melee when their hitpoints are doubled? Use them as bodyguards (buffed, of course) for those golem crafter’s wearing something like: frost brand, golden shield, fire helm/chestplate, ring of tamed lighting (haha, your frostbrand also benefits from that weapons of sharpness you cast for the mechanical men!). Solo golem crafter thugs are a bit dicey, but fortunately there’s no reason at all to use them like that and with any of their several good choices for uber-tough bodyguards these guys are plenty nasty and immune to almost everything.

Light thuggin’ is actually a side note for these awesomely cost efficient golem crafter though. As you’ve no doubt noticed from some of the things I’ve mentioned so far, we’re obviously going to focus on construction research fairly early. This is very important for your golem crafters, because without any boosters you’re going to struggle to see them as much more than solid earth mages. Once you start leveraging the wonderful world of boosters though your golem crafters go from ‘nice’ to ‘top of the line’. Now, of course, is when I gush over my choice of a forge lord pretender and explain why I think he’s an even better choice than the more flashy risen oracle.

Your forge lord, obviously, is intended to crank out blood stones at first. With a dwarven hammer he can pop out a bloodstone for 2E + 3 slaves. This is fabulous, because not only do you obviously not have any national blood hunters, I think I mentioned how urgently you need to start cranking out earth summons early on. With your forge lord doing the forging though there’s never a contention between blood stones and summons, the stones pay for themselves in two turns! Also, with such a low blood slave requirement it’s perfectly possible to have the forge lord himself bloodhunt then forge several bloodstones from that one turn’s bloodhunting. Obviously as you get established it’s a better idea to have some scouts provide the bloodslaves as your pretender has so many other things you want him to do, but this can be a powerful jumpstart as you’re hitting that critical beginning of the second year and everything starts happening at once. As the game goes on and you reach a more stable income in earth and slaves leverage your forgelord to forge super cheap blood boosters and pass off the bloodstone forging to another mage so we can put the forgelord to other uses. Initially though, just consider how much of a boost it is to go from a (purely theoretical) 10 E income to a 20 E income in the first year. Considering the leverage you get on E gems, that right there practically justifies the forge lord – you’ve doubled the amount of troops you’re fielding.

I suggest using earth readers for your secondary bloodstone forgers – stick one of those blood stones on them, two blood boosters and a blood empower and you don’t have to worry about sticking boots of youth on them to protect your empowering investment (they’re not old). This is actually another point I wanted to briefly mention – earth readers are *fabulously* cost efficient support mages once you start swimming in bloodstones. Why use a 200 gold golem crafter for those staple buffs (blessing, legions of steel, strength of giants, iron warriors, etc.) when a 90 gold (holy!) earth reader will do? Your upkeep will thank you if you add these guys to your mix, and heck, you need somebody to hold your bloodstones anyway, right? Remember, one of the sacrifices I made in this build is a significantly below average income so you’ll need to be very mindful of your upkeep costs. Thankfully, most of your troops are upkeep free summons and all your national mages are holy (and everything except the oracle is cheap) so you’ve got a lot working in your favor.

So, what other things are we going to use our forgelord for now that we’ve got apprentices handling the bloodstones? One of the first obvious things is fire helms. These boosters are usually too expensive to make it to general line mage use, but your forge lord can pop them out for 5f with a hammer. That extra level of fire pops your golem crafters up to phoenix power, so it really opens up a lot of fire options. Also, I have to be honest, there’s one item in particular which I had in mind for this forge lord – a crystal shield (for 2e + 2s!). You’ve got several flame helms, lots of water bracelets, are swimming in blood stones and a rack full of crystal shields…I think maybe you’re starting to see the potential of the golem crafters? Now in addition to this realize that forge lord can pop out a ring of wizardry for 12 pearls. So, it’s not really all that difficult to get several (flame helm + phoenix power + crystal shield + ring of wizardry) 5F (bracelet + robe + shield + ring) 5W guys….or ‘merely’ level 4 without even splurging the 12 pearls on the ring. In actuality you’re probably not going to put the fire and water boosters on the same guy most of the time, but the point is you’ve got no problem whatsoever having a powerful fire and/or water mage for any battle you care to.

One consequence of this is that grip of winter is an obvious goto spell. This spell works wonderfully with your sacred statues even though they’re not cold resistant because they’ve got that reinvig from your blessing and aren’t accumulating fatigue from combat. They’ll gain a little bit of fatigue, but the effect on your enemy will be much more drastic, and obviously this works like peas and carrots with your cold aura troops. This is particularly true when you add rigormortis to the mix. Skull staff + ring of sorcery + 2 D gems on a simple revenant. This should also be a standard goto spell, your mages have enough reinvig to be plenty resistant. What’s this? Oh, we’ve also got easy access to rune smashers, S1 indie mages are usually not too much of a problem to round up for void eyes and we’ve got tons of powerful earth mages and earth boosters so let’s spam curse of stones from a couple mages and see what happens. One word – amusing. Oh, well a couple more words I guess – the enemy can’t even run away when they start routing so you’re looking at probably close to 100% casualties. One thing to be mindful of - be careful not to get in a situation where you can’t kill all the enemy before the turn limit expires or your mindless statues will all die. Not generally a problem though with the damage outlay you’ve got. Now, just as your opponent thinks he’s got a handle on this, switch this up to use heat from hell and summon some fire elementals to bolster your mechanical men to…you guessed it, give the big middle finger to those cold immune troops/SCs who thought they were going to give you a problem. Don’t try to cast both heat from hell and grip of winter though, they cancel each other out!

Another spell you’re going to add to the regular mix is quickness. You’ll be cranking out the water bracelets, and having 2 or 3 crafters spamming quickness while others drop weapons of sharpness & strength of giants and there is absolutely *nothing* which is going to want to engage your 0 encumbrance guys in melee. Problem is, they probably don’t have a choice. Quickening is an obvious upgrade for the end of the game, but certainly don’t neglect the much earlier quickness, with the smaller size squads you’ll be using, 3 golem crafters can cover a lot of ground. Plus, of course, they then switch to other nasty stuff to rain down for the rest of the fight after the buff cycle.

With all the love I’ve been giving to alteration, don’t for a second forget that your golem crafters are top shelf direct damage dealers. Not really much reason to put any boosters other than a blood stone on them for this, from blade wind to magma eruption these guys are supercharged from your E bless and summon earthpower to keep going like the energizer bunny. In some situations though you might want to switch up to the fire and water evocations, particularly when you’re leaning on your mechanical men (no friendly fire). Also don’t neglect the obvious vector – earthquakes. High hitpoint, high protection units and ubiquitous strong earth mages, this spells is great for everything from snatching those enemy mages from the back row to exploding that undead hoard who thought to counter your uber-fatigue strategy with sheer numbers.

Now, here’s another bit of nastiness from your bag of tricks- clockwork horrors. These are some underappreciated units in my mind, and even better with double hitpoints. They’re size 1 with two attacks apiece, which means each block of them attacks 12 times – but you can hit 6 of them with an aoe-1 spell, so quickness comes right to mind. Try this recipe on for size: Take a couple dozen clockwork horrors. Use your pretender to create a golem (who make even more excellent heavy raiders than usual because of your dominion). Nab one of the ubiquitous N1 indie mages who’s got a ring of sorcery (8 pearls from your pretender) and a thistle mace. Finally mix in half a dozen golem crafters with water bracelets. Most golem crafters cast quickness, nature mage drops a haste, while one golem crafter casts strength of giants and the last one casts….iron bane. Each square of clockwork horrors will charge straight across the battlefield in one turn and attack 24 times dealing 16 damage each attack to the now naked opposition. If you’re facing guys with magic armor (SC/thugs) swap out iron bane for weapons of sharpness. The golem, what’s he for? Hold, hold, hold, hold, vortex of returning. Vortex of returning + clockwork horrors is a fabulous combo.

Golems actually fill a number of important rolls for MA Argatha. Battle fortune is an easily accessible doubling of your already retardedly tough guys staying power (perfect for smaller squads), and with your reliance on mindless units why not stack an astral tempest to the rest of the nasty battlefield enchantments you’re dropping? Antimagic is a great buff when your opponent gets annoyed at your immunity to everything else. Finally, with a cap, coin and ring you’re up to a versatile S5 adding astral travel (use leadership boosters) to the threat vector your opponent must fear (consider those clockwork horrors dropping out of the clear blue sky….). Astral travel actually bears special consideration as it allows you to enter critical fights straight from your strongest dominion, and thus highest hitpoints. Gateway gives you much earlier flexibility to jump around and recharge your lifeless constructs into your strong dominion. Just because you don’t have any national mages who can summon them, don’t forget this is the *golem* cult!

As I mentioned, you can leverage into nature pretty easily. N1 -> ring of sorcery -> haurespex (yeah luck-3 to prime the pump) -> ring of sorcery -> ring of wizardry -> ivy kings, fairy queens, etc. D1 -> dark knowledge -> ring of sorcery -> skull staff -> mound fiends, etc. So, you should have a good income and strong mages in water, fire, nature, death, astral and retarded strong earth power. Fairy queens can get you a touch of air, and you’ll ignore blood other than pumping every slave you scrape up into bloodstones.

Now, as you round into the late game you are going to have some good uses for your oracles. Ever had 10 earth attacks dropped on you ever turn indefinitely? This is arguably the best assassination spell in the game with not a whole lot you can do to counter it other than swarms of decoy commanders. Crumble and wizard’s tower along with a very strong earth income will let you dictate castle control. Petrify is good. A whole lot of petrify is great.

Marble oracles are good in an obvious way. You’ll use them, I don’t have anything particularly interesting to point out about them. Likewise, darkness is almost too obvious to mention, but don’t forget about it.
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Old April 5th, 2009, 03:52 PM

Executor Executor is offline
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Default Re: MA Argatha - go punch a mountain

You just had to do it...
I have to tell you I'm a little surprised to see a forge lord instead of a rainbow mage.

Like the guide very much, especially the blood stones part. But still there's a very good chance of being eliminated in the first 20 turns.

Last edited by Executor; April 5th, 2009 at 04:14 PM..
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Old April 5th, 2009, 04:14 PM
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Default Re: MA Argatha - go punch a mountain

I did not notice that the forge lord has a 50% forge bonus in CBM until I read this guide...good to know, certainly ups his usefulness...with a dwarven hammer the price he can forge things for is amazing.
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Old April 5th, 2009, 04:43 PM

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Default Re: MA Argatha - go punch a mountain

Very nice.

Though, your guide has the same thing that keeps bugging me with MA Agartha every time. The research is just all over the place. When normal nations can concentrate on few paths, Agartha has Ench, Alt, Const, Evo and Conj for its go-to spells...

...or then I just need to sleep a bit before reading so much text.
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Old April 5th, 2009, 04:46 PM
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Default Re: MA Argatha - go punch a mountain

the thing is, most of these tactics seem to demand a fair amount of research, and/or gem income for items. however, MA Agartha's problems are not that the mid-game is too difficult for them, but to survive and prosper in the early game; especially w/ having a giant target painted over top.

I'm not sure how having prod 0 for their esteemed mm 1 hvy inf is going to be sufficient to protect them...
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Old April 5th, 2009, 05:23 PM
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Default Re: MA Argatha - go punch a mountain

What? No props for the B4 bloodstone factory Forgelord idea? :O

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Old April 5th, 2009, 06:54 PM
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Default Re: MA Argatha - go punch a mountain

You don't even need B4, as by the time you can actually build secondary stone forgers, you'll be able to forge yourself a Ring of Sorcery. I haven't looked at the points, but that might buy you a scale, maybe get you to Turmoil2.
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Old April 5th, 2009, 08:28 PM
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Default Re: MA Argatha - go punch a mountain

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jazzepi View Post
What? No props for the B4 bloodstone factory Forgelord idea? :O
Jazzepi
Heh, despite my disclaimer that I don't claim to have come up with any of these ideas myself, I will admit there was a bit of teeth grinding as you posted this straight out of the written portion but as yet unpublished guide I was putting together.

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Originally Posted by JimMorrison View Post
You don't even need B4, as by the time you can actually build secondary stone forgers, you'll be able to forge yourself a Ring of Sorcery. I haven't looked at the points, but that might buy you a scale, maybe get you to Turmoil2.
The B4 blessing is not inconsiderable, and as long as you're going to B3, the points to get an extra +2 strength on your sentinels is worthwhile. It really adds up when you look at battle after battle.
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Old April 5th, 2009, 09:09 PM
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Default Re: MA Argatha - go punch a mountain

Quote:
Originally Posted by Baalz View Post
Heh, despite my disclaimer that I don't claim to have come up with any of these ideas myself, I will admit there was a bit of teeth grinding as you posted this straight out of the written portion but as yet unpublished guide I was putting together.
I guess great minds think alike?

If you're going to turn your forgelord into something other than just a blood stone ***** (BSB), I would consider dropping the silliness of all those high level paths. Give him S3, F1, E2, B3. Forge boots, a hammer,a crystal coin, a starshine skullcap, then you can push out the next two levels of rings from there. Personally, I don't know where you're going to get all this astral from. With no natural mages, you better hope you find some lizard shamans. Not that you can afford to dump a temple + lab into an empty province with such bad scales

To me, Argatha is a lot like Ulm, but with national mages who don't happen to have a forge bonus. I wouldn't even bother trying to get secondary bloodstone mages up, I would focus exclusively on making the forge lord your sole source of bloodstone forging.

But I think I'll get in on a CBM MA game with Argatha, and see how I do.

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Old April 5th, 2009, 09:20 PM

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Default Re: MA Argatha - go punch a mountain

When I was trying (and failing) to hammer out a guide for Agartha, probably the most fun I had was with golem crafters on the field behind the golems. You've got the earth/water/fire for all the rust/acid spells which don't faze your armorless summons in the case of friendly fire and even the 16ish AP of acid rain isn't really that detrimental to your mid to high 20 prot. On top of this, I've found it brutally effective to hold the line with attentive statues, break down the armor with rust/acid spells and then finish up with that old chestnut blade wind. Your high prot statues will laugh it off but whatever they're holding in place(who've recently had their armor nuked) won't be laughing long.
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