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Old June 14th, 2009, 08:00 PM
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[Edit I was looking at CBM when writing this guide, honestly not sure how much vanilla changes any of this suff]
MA T’ien Ch’i is a bit like an industrial, professional tool. In the right hands it’s got amazing versatility and more power than most people know what to do with. On the other hand it takes some fineness and skill to unlock that potential and it’s no surprise that this is a nation who generally has a lackluster image (I’ve heard several people describe them as a forge-***** nation). Much like Bandar Log this is a nation that should have a warning label reading “For Expert Use Only”. Just like any professional grade tool though, in the right hands this nation is an absolute beast.

This nation has some deep similarities to Bandar Log in how it plays. TC has a strongly differentiated roster and it’s quite important that you bring the right tools for whatever job is at hand. You’ve got first rate archers, cavalry and heavy infantry, but you don’t have a “super elite” universally applicable troop like many nations do. You’ve got nothing you’re “always” recruiting, you always need to field the right things to exploit your enemies weaknesses. This often requires using mixed troops which is a good portion of where the fineness of this nation comes in. You’ve got amazing versatility, but if you don’t handle it correctly that amounts to a lot of rope to hang yourself with. Because of awesomeness of your troops when properly balanced and the fact that you’ll need to shift your strategy several times over the course of the game I strongly recommend going with a production-3 scale which greatly reduces the time it takes to shift your troop ratios.

The amount of different ways to combine your troops is so varied I can’t begin to outline all of them, but let me give you some general guidelines of where your head should be. I’ll get into the wizardry in a following section, just take my word for it that the support spells I suggest should be easy to get whenever you need them.

Archery:

You’ve got five different solid archer deployments (told you this gets sophisticated). Your cheapest archer is pretty easy to mass and has a nice composite bow. He’s your goto guy for putting as many arrows into the sky as possible. As wicked as massing composite archers under production 3 scales can be all by itself, anytime it makes sense to field a bunch of archers it makes sense to throw in wind guide and flaming arrows, and if your opponent has any archers of his own don’t forget arrow fend and healing mists. The amount of damage you can lay out in this fashion is sufficient to bring even fairly heavy infantry to its knees, pretty much anything without tower shields and heavy armor. Particularly when you also drop quagmire and watch them slowly crawl across the battlefield. The really wicked will combine this with armor destruction spells. Destruction is an obvious one, but don’t forget about the less common armor destruction iron bane, rust mist, acid rain & acid storm. All these spells also completely destroy non-magic shields as well, turning those composite bows into a close approximation of a machine gun.

Against heavier/slower/fire resistant opponents you’ll want to use imperial crossbowmen for that AP damage. With a nice wind guide a decent sized mass of these guys will cause serious problems even for shielded SCs, particularly when you’ve forged a couple vine bows for your commanders (eye of aiming optional….stacking with that wind guide). This works better than tangling vines or earth meld because you can only script those for 5 turns, whereas that vine bow if fired from fairly close range will leave that SC standing around looking like a doofus for half time till the battle turn timer expires regardless of how tough he is. As if they’d live that long being pelted by all those point blank xbows….

Now, a good opponent is going to strenuously object to slogging slowly across a quagmire into hideously withering fire and try to counteract it. Flying or fast moving flankers are going to try to close the distance before you can empty your quivers. You can do some things to mitigate this such as good battlefield placement with blockers and casting storm (yes it hurts your archer’s effectiveness, but not as much as having the enemy instantly close to melee range), but assuming your opponent is wily you’re going to have angry guys with sharp steel nose to nose with your archers at some point. This is when you want to have your third archer deployment - the imperial archer. With full scale mail and a short sword this guy makes a pretty respectable medium infantry with the advantage that they sit around shooting arrows and giving you plenty of time to lay down buffs. With legions of steel, strength of giants, and wooden warriors these guys will make short work of any light, quick flankers hoping to engage some easy archers.

Against heavier fast movers (say, giants) it makes sense to use archer deployment number four, your horsemen. Set to hold and attack these guys will fire their (flaming?) composite bows twice while sitting around getting buffed, then charge forward for a hopefully devastating lance strike. The trick to this deployment is critical mass, between the arrows and the first strike you need to do crippling damage because these guys don’t have a whole lot of staying power. Fortunately, they’re perfect for this role as they’re only 20 gold so you can mass a lot of them fairly easily. Since these guys are intended to be glass cannons they make a lot of sense to use with iron bane – you’re really hoping the enemy breaks immediately after your charge. Also, don’t neglect the strength of giants as it nicely stacks with the first strike lance damage to *destroy* the guys who just got softened up by all those flaming arrows. It also makes a lot of sense to drop a panic or two the same turn and blood rain (more on that later).

Heavy horsemen you’d think would be the same only more so, but that’s not the case. These guys don’t do much more damage (only difference is +2 damage from their bigger horse hoof) but cost more. You’ll field more than 5 horsemen for the cost of 4 heavy horsemen and you hopefully noted my previous focus on the importance of critical mass for a crippling first charge. What the heavy horseman does excel at is a hybrid role. This is because they have a much better protection than the horsemen and a buckler, which means they are much better at resisting incoming archer fire and not falling over so fast if your initial charge wasn’t successful in breaking the enemy. They’re a good way to hedge your bets if you don’t think you’ll actually be able to inflict enough damage in that first charge, particularly when you lay on legions of steel & wooden warriors. They’ll perform some nice blocking for awhile while your other archers keep pelting away at close range from behind. These guys are particularly nice for countering enemy archery if you find yourself without access to arrow fend, they’ve got good armor and a buckler…but will be targeted by “fire archers”. Place them in front of your massed regular archers and they become much harder to counter.

I don’t want to go into the same detail on your non-archer units or this guide would be so long nobody would read it. You’ve got tower shields, you’ve got pikes, you’ve got glaives, you’ve got map move 2 infantry, map move 1 heavier guys, you’ve got very good map move 3 heavy cavalry, and as I’m about to illustrate you’ve got access to almost every spell Dominions includes so I think maybe you can understand my point about this being an “experts only” nation. You’ve got the tools to exploit any weakness your opponent has, but you also run a real risk of not bringing the right things to the party. Because of the importance of properly anticipating what you’re going to be fighting I recommend having at least one castle pumping out imperial consorts. The extra intelligence you get from spies will give you a much better chance of avoiding being surprised, and building up a large spy network also gives you an opportunity for crippling economic strikes.

The trick to a good spy unrest attack is to do it as an overwhelming surprise in conjunction with direct military action. Spies are not that hard to counter if you give your opponent the chance, but when their unrest starts spiking while they’re being hard pressed by your armies it can drastically reduce their ability to recover their troop losses. Also, the chance of a spy being discovered by patrolling troops decreases as the unrest goes up. This means it makes a lot of sense to use several spies together along with unrest increasing spells to bring unrest levels up nice and high on a few important provinces rather than spreading the love around. .

My suggestion to devote a castle to pumping out spies is particularly “expensive” for TC because they are one of the few nations who have a mage which can be recruited without a lab. Pop up a castle and with no other building necessary you can crank out your best research mage – the Minister of Magic. This guy would be one of the most cost efficient research mages in the game even without this special advantage, with it your research advantage climbs to the obscene levels. I recommend taking order-3 scales to complement your production-3 scales, and magic-1. Your national troops are plenty sufficient for high speed indie expansion and your pretender doesn’t need to contribute much in the way of magic diversity so dump those design points into scales. With those excellent scales and brisk expansion aggressively castle up and start massing up those ministers which also further amplifies your production abilities. You’ll want to send out a couple imperial alchemists out and a single celestial master pretty much immediately to site search, but after that recruit magic ministers from your capital and you shouldn’t have too much trouble having castle 5 or 6 under construction around the end of year one. Your year one research will be a little bit slow (with no research pretender and sending your first few mages out site searching) but it will ramp up extremely fast, you’ve got no excuse to not be one of the research leaders of the game.

At this point you’ll want to mostly recruit Imperial Alchemists with a few Celestial Masters from your capital while just piling up the ministers from your secondary castles. Now, at first glance these two mages might seem a bit similar, and I would love to be able to tell you to recruit mostly Celestial Masters for the significant savings in upkeep. I would love to, but I can’t. The CM’s bring astral and holy, while the alchemists bring fire, more powerful nature, and a map move of two. The map move of 2 is crucial, as is the fire and higher nature for reasons I’ll get into in a minute. You will want at least one A2 and one S2 celestial master, but mostly you’ll want to crank out alchemists as fast as you can.

Now, I’m willing to bet some of you guys reading along this long have been wondering what the heck you do with these mages. I’ve mentioned some fairly hefty spells thus far with no mage stronger than level two in sight. Seeing the staggering breadth of magic the alchemist brings I immediately start thinking about things which increase all magic paths. He’s got no astral or blood, so no communions, no power of the spheres, no hell power. MA TC can’t pick a forge lord pretender, so we’re not going to be sticking rings of wizardry on any significant number of them. So, where am I going with this? Any guesses?

Before I answer that question I want to emphasize how fabulous those two alchemists you sent out are doing at site searching. Crunch all the numbers you want about site searching level 1-2 in most paths at one go, then go try it and witness how common it is to get the “xxx has discovered [2, 3, or 4] magic sites”. Your gem income will very likely be well ahead of anyone else. Even rainbow pretenders can’t compete because they’re only one person while you’ve got several alchemists running around. You’re going to put every one of those gems to good use, but for the time being I wanted to focus on your earth and astral income. You’ll almost certainly have piled up 50+ of each in the first year and have a modest income. Use an earth random alchemist to make earth boots and then a few dwarven hammers, and meanwhile recruit a few imperial geomancers who will begin the assembly line cranking out slave matrixes.

With a dwarven hammer slave matrixes cost just 3E + 3S, so you really shouldn’t have much trouble cranking out 3-4 per turn pretty much indefinitely at this point. Don’t be shy about trading for more if you need them or even alchemizing in a pinch, there is nothing at all you can more effectively spend gems on….well, with a couple support items. Namely a master matrix or two and some crystal shields (why you wanted an S2 Celestial Master). The crystal shields are a bit more expensive but you really don’t need that many.

These synthetic communions are a bit expensive compared to natural communions, but they also offer some hefty advantages. One (obviously), you can pull in mages with no astral magic. Two, the communion is in place when the battle starts, which not only saves you a turn and fatigue of casting communion slave/master, it also can save you *another* turn if you’re doing a reverse communion because that crystal shield autocasts power of the spheres at the start of the fight…which done to a master effects all the slaves. In a classical reverse communion you spend one turn casting communion slave/master, then another casting power of the spheres, then possibly another casting summon earthpower (or whatever) to finally start laying the smack down around turn 4. With a synthetic communion your slaves are laying out thunderstrike’s and blade winds turn one or two while the communion master casts something nasty *before* the enemy can lay antimagic, or stone rain, or whatever they were gonna do. Turn one action is such an immense advantage for big fights it’s hard to overstate.

Just consider what those imperial alchemists look like now as a slave. All their paths have been boosted by one from the crystal shield. Fire, Earth, and Nature can be boosted again with an appropriate spell, and water bracelets are cheap so matching up the right guys with the random paths that sounds a lot like a bunch of level 4 guys (5 in nature) with access to all the nasty multipath spells like magma eruption and acid rain which they switch to after dropping legions of steel, wooden warriors, etc on that cavalry you’ve got screening your archers. The master, on the other hand, as all that *plus* the 2 level boost to everything for having a mere 4 communion slaves so I can comfortably say stuff like follow your quagmire with flaming arrows and arrow fend – the same mage can cast them all (and it’s all in the same research path)! This is, of course, before you pass out a single conventional booster…

You should have a lot more slave matrixes than alchemists (every one should have one), and there’s no reason to limit yourself to capital only mages. At first imperial geomancers seem like an obvious choice because they’ve already got an astral path, and indeed they’re your goto guys if you’re (against all odds) sucking wind in the E/S gem department for slave matrixes. These guys lack the synergy with the crystal shield opening, but they can do a pretty decent job using celestial masters and no slave matrixes at all if you need to. They also give you gift from heaven spammers as reverse communicants, which can be just what the doctor…er alchemist ordered.

If you’ve got the slave matrixes though (which you generally should) I say use those cheap ministers of magic you’ve got coming out your ears. Use them in matched sets of 5+ (all with the same random path), slave matrixes with the master holding a crystal shield. The best of these is the earth groups, the master casts summon earth power and those 70 gold mages are now spamming destruction or blade wind plus the obligatory continuing mention of legions of steel/strength of giants while the master lays down weapons of sharpness and army of lead, and don’t neglect the potential of 5+ guys spamming out earth elementals (match them with a ‘helper’ guy to buff each elemental with body ethereal or quickness or haste or gift of flight or…well, you get the idea).. Water groups can spam lots of fun stuff from ice blast to numbness to cleansing water, or pass out water bracelets and falling frost while the master lays out quickening or niefel flames. The air and astral communions are somewhat less useful, but certainly have their niches (air master casts storm then storm power and now your slaves are spamming thunderstrike while the master drops fog warriors, etc., astral guys are spamming soul slay after a light of the northern star)

Much like your troops, your research is going to need to be pointed in the right direction or you’re going to fail to have what you need. You’ve got powerful options in evocation, alteration, enchantment, and construction (lightless lanterns, weapons of sharpness, golems) with some nice stuff you’ll want to pick up in conjuration and thaumaturgy. You’ve got a powerful research engine but you’ve still got to decide in what order to pick this stuff up, which depends strongly on what you’ll be facing. Do you go for flaming arrows/arrow fend/quagmire, or destruction/wooden warriors/legions of steel, or magma blast/gifts from heaven/acid rain? You’ll eventually have it all, but it makes a big difference what you have available for your first fight. Again, “experts only”, you have to really be able to anticipate and plan. The good news though, is your enemy doesn’t know what you’re going to throw at him next.

One more thing to put on the roadmap is conjurations. You’ve got two nice national summons which give you some good diversity. Celestial hounds are some nice flying troops at a reasonable price, and celestial soldiers are very cost effective heavy hitters. You’ll also want to get up to conj-6 fairly early to round out your magic diversity.

I haven’t mentioned your pretender yet as there hasn’t really been a hole yet he needs to plug. There are two glaring holes in your arsenal though, death and blood magic. You’ve also got a great nature income from all those alchemists site searching without much spending. To me, this screams lamia queens, and your pretender is the only way this is going to happen. In short order these ladies will supply you with some nice undead thug/SC chasises, and can add a welcome blood component to your communions. R-E-I-N-V-I-G-O-R-A-T-I-O-N, that’s how I spell relief. This also lets you drop nice stuff like blood rain and rush of strength as you pull into end game.

Last edited by Baalz; June 14th, 2009 at 10:47 PM..
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  #2  
Old June 14th, 2009, 08:17 PM

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Default Re: MA T'ien Ch'i - a little of this, a little of that and BAM!

All those archer cavalry is nice but they need to be combined with Vine bows. With an Attack of 10 they re unable to hit any half-decent thugs - or opposing cavalry for that matter.
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Old June 14th, 2009, 08:22 PM
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Default Re: MA T'ien Ch'i - a little of this, a little of that and BAM!

I personally have had good luck (in cbm) with an awake general of the east with A4E4 he expands well against indies and over time builds quite a respectable army from his auto summons while also giving you access to a semi useful minor earth bless and an air booster forger
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Old June 14th, 2009, 09:04 PM
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Default Re: MA T'ien Ch'i - a little of this, a little of that and BAM!

The lack of Thugs is a problem for MA TC. As is the weakness of their very varied communionable mages (inc. with matrixes the expensive Imperial Alchemists). Like all these all rounder mages they can cast just about anything in battle with enough slaves but little outside it. So globals, overland spells and decent forging is a problem.

For example I don't think you have a reasonable shot at a Hammer builder (Const 2 but Earth 3). So that means you have to go top Const 4 for the boots (just earth 2?) before you can build the hammers to start cranking out the cheap matrixes. That's a significant detor for a power that needs some mages backing its armies with decent combat magic as soon as it meets anyone with a decent sacred or elite troop. Or thugs. Or an awake SC Pretender....

Do you think you need an awake SC Pretender? With Blood or Death of course To keep the wolves from your door at the beginning? You can expand vs indies especially with Prod 3 but can you really fight off an early attack. Or rather persuade your neighbours not to attack you. Especially as your gem income should be expanding fairly early with your strategy.



Lastly the Imperial Alchemists (I think) have nature 2 and sometimes more. Plus high upkeep. So even the nature 2s with a mace (which it will probably lose) or a moonvine bracelet (that it should keep) are these not perfect candidates for transformation? Unlike Pans or Capricorns you are likely to have plenty of decent Astral mages knocking around to put off mind hunts. And in battle you are likely to have plenty of proper mages along to make enemy targetting of the magical moose at the back more problematic than with some other nations that commonly try this tactic.

I have always considered them a bit like a MA version of pre patched Jomon. Nice but resource hungry troops but no real killer units. Great communionable mages but they are frail and generally weak outside of combat for forging and overland spells. Thugs hard to come by. You want a dormant rainbow to round out the overland weaknesses and missing schools but really need an awake SC for defence. And you have no points as you want decent scales. Plus a minor earth/nature bless for you expensive sacred or shrouded battle mages (many soon get old age too) would be nice but basically unaffordable with the other things you need.

Anyway great guide as always I had never considered half the archers before - just defaulting to the cheap composite in most cases. But the fire and charge (especially with wind guide etc to make them hit something and some buffs) on the cavalry is something to try. And of course, like most people I suppose, I would have assumed the Celestial Master with its sacredness the automatic first choice. But the Alchemist has some advantages I had not considered like its extra move.
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Old June 14th, 2009, 11:16 PM

Dragar Dragar is offline
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Default Re: MA T'ien Ch'i - a little of this, a little of that and BAM!

This strategy sounds awesome for SP, but I have concerns with that strategy in a MP game…

TC troops are fine for early expansion, but won’t stand up well without magic against an early bless rush. Sending 3 cap only mages out site searching early will slow research a lot and make you look very tasty if charts are on. I think hitting a few key levels of research first is critical, Alt 4 in particular for wind guide. If you’re sending out your first 3 mages, and then going with ministers in order to save money for castles, your research output in the first year will be pitiful – sure it will catch up nicely once the forts are all churning out ministers, and your gem income will be huge, but survival to that point would be very chancy

One key benefit TC has is healing on several mages. To a large extent that’s wasted with no recruitable thugs or individually powerful units, so my opinion is an SC pretender is warranted to take advantage and to deter in early to mid game rushes. A dormant nataraja or deva or other fits the bill nicely. Awake is unnecessary as you can expand ok and I don’t think an awake pretender would risk hitting you early until they have some decent equipment. Once your pretender is out, levels 3-4 in alteration, conjuration and construction will kit him out as a powerful SC – may take a few turns after he awakens, can research or site search in the meantime. With healing readily available the risk in using your pretender as an SC is a lot lower, and you are now a very uninviting target until such time as your gem income and research give you a lot more options. You can focus heavily on site searching once you have your pretender, I’d recommend only having one out site searching in the first year.

To pay for the pretender I feel Prod 3 can be done away with. It is certainly useful, but with none of your good units cap only, and the intention to build a lot of forts, production shouldn’t be limiting as long as you don’t take sloth. The production would certainly be useful, and let you recruit your troops exactly where you want them rather than have to move them around, but I can’t see it being worth the design points

The late game is where I have my big concern with TC due to low path levels on mages. The communion using matrices would certainly be powerful, but a large number of cap only mages each with those items? Opponents would be twitching to hit you with earthquakes and the like in battle, or big evoc remotes once available. And protection from good assassins (summoned and normal) would be tough. That investment in matrices I think would be better off invested in summoning thugs or path boosters. Ensure you have S3 or 4 on your pretender so you can get to the rings, at which point other path boosters become a lot easier to obtain. It shouldn’t be too hard to get a few mages in a big army to cast the buffs you need.
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Old June 14th, 2009, 11:19 PM
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Default Re: MA T'ien Ch'i - a little of this, a little of that and BAM!

Quote:
Originally Posted by P3D View Post
All those archer cavalry is nice but they need to be combined with Vine bows. With an Attack of 10 they re unable to hit any half-decent thugs - or opposing cavalry for that matter.
Well, that's rather a big part of my point, isn't it? That's the the wrong tool for that job. Against high defense troops I'd suggest Imperial Horsemen with 3 attacks apiece, or Imperial Guards to just hold them there while your mages, bows or xbows do the damage.

@Hoplosternum - I disagree that lack of solid thugs is an innate problem. Thugs are useful if you've got them, but not every nation should play the same. You could as easily complain that Neifelheim has a limited ability to drop battlefield evocations.

I don't think getting to constr-4 without battlefield mage support is much of a problem, you've got a very solid troop lineup and production-3 scales - and several things you can construct to give you a good edge against a lone SC or small group of super-elites. What SC enemy pretender is going to give you any trouble at all in year one with my suggested xbows + a couple vine bows? What sacreds are going to come in sufficient numbers to ignore every type of troop you've got - from lances to bows to glaives while being hammered by a pair of ice pebble staffs? Or thunder bows? Or piercers? When you're talking about an early rush by 10-30 uber sacreds plunking off one or two per round while they chew through your 100+ [whatever-seems-most-likely-to-work] will be quite effective. You really should have several castles up before even an early rush is threatening, and with production-3 scales you're going to outnumber any rusher *significantly* while fielding fairly good troops yourself. What specifically would you be worried about? I find TC (particularly if you are on the ball with your troop mixes) to have a pretty solid early game with no need of an awake pretender or immediate mage support for any fight. This is not Marverni or Bandar, TC's troops can hold their own (particularly if they have a good numerical advantage).

Transformation is a poor choice for capital only units who will be used in combat. Against any halfway clever opponent it will significantly increase your casualty rate because of your lobotomized MR. You're only ever going to get one alchemist per turn (less than that as you'll also want a few CMs) so I generally see you being more worried about keeping them alive than their upkeep.

I really don't see any need for an awake pretender, nor a blessing for your sacreds (ignore them). Something like a dormant master lich with D + N + one level of fire will get you blood & death (through lamia queens) and fire skulls. You can forge almost every booster in the game, assuming you empower once from 2->3 in astral you can forge a ring of sorcery & wizardry, so I'm thinking:

Fire skull + ring of wizardry on a 2F alchemist -> fire helm -> elemental staff = F6

Water bracelet + robe + ring + staff + 3W celestial ->W7

Thistle mace + moonvine + ring + ring + 3N alchemist -> N7

A2 alchemist + ring + staff -> air helm + bag of winds -> A6

S3 Astral guy you just empowered + cap + ring -> S5

boots + staff + ring + E2 alchemist -> E5 (you'll eventually toss in a blood stone via lamia queens)

If your pretender doesn't cover you, the lamia queens will leverage you to liches and whatever D you wanted by late game.

I'm just not seeing any trouble casting anything much. Yeah, you're probably not spamming earth attacks or anything specialized like that, but you shouldn't have any difficulty doing big summonings, casting globals, forging artifacts, etc.
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Old June 14th, 2009, 11:40 PM
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Tolkien Tolkien is offline
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Default Re: MA T'ien Ch'i - a little of this, a little of that and BAM!

What is your opinion on Conscription?
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Old June 15th, 2009, 01:00 AM

Frozen Lama Frozen Lama is offline
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Default Re: MA T'ien Ch'i - a little of this, a little of that and BAM!

not sure if this makes sense, but I was thinking,

I guess one thing that seems particularly nasty against this would be rain of stones/earthquake right? aren't a ton of 10hp mages really tasty targets for rain of stones kamakazies?
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Old June 15th, 2009, 04:21 AM

Kuritza Kuritza is offline
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Default Re: MA T'ien Ch'i - a little of this, a little of that and BAM!

>> The lack of Thugs is a problem for MA TC.

Golems.
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Old June 15th, 2009, 12:16 PM
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Default Re: MA T'ien Ch'i - a little of this, a little of that and BAM!

Conscription is neat thematically, but strategically insignificant.

@FrozenLama - stone rain is the typical anti-communion goto spell. Check out my guide to communions for a more detailed discussion on several communion topics, Cliff's notes on this one: stick cheap armor on your mages.
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