Dominions 5

Dominions 5

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Lava Warriors and Blood Magic - How to win multiplayer games with MA Abysia
By Sy
This guide outlines the most effective way to play MA Abysia in a multiplayer game in Vanilla or a mod-light version of Dominions 5. The primary focus is the use of Lava Warriors with Barkskin, Fateweaving, and Awe while recruiting almost exclusively Warlocks and making heavy use of blood magic and independent mages in the early to midgame.
   
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Introduction
Victory in any multiplayer game will depend on a number of factors. Diplomacy and grand strategy (who is fighting whom, what thrones you will need to win the game, and who you'll need to defeat to get those thrones) will be just as important to winning as the mechanics of how you play your nation. This guide, however, is focused more on the mechanical aspect - how to design your pretender, what mages you should recruit, what your early research goals should be, and how you can develop your armies to kill other players and take their stuff.

There are multiple viable ways to play any nation, and MA Abysia is no exception. This guide will focus on using an awake incarnate bless designed for Lava Warriors and making heavy use of Warlocks and independent mages early on, which I consider to be the most effective way of playing Abysia in almost any online community. This build will allow you to play aggressively against a wide variety of national matchups while still having effective magic options in the mid to late game.
Pretender Design - Bless

This pretender is designed to make Lava Warriors powerful enough to expand without losses and overrun enemy nations early on, before they can be reasonably countered. Even when your opponents begin to use magic that can kill lava warriors directly or delay the speed with which your lava warriors can destroy their armies, the fact that they will remain dominant regular troops will continue to be valuable throughout the game


Barkskin provides 10 natural protection and 5 vulnerability to fire damage. Lava Warriors have 18 armor protection but 0 natural protection, so the natural protection is incredibly impactful. With the stacking penalty, their blessed protection will be 24. As Lava Warriors have a base 25 fire resistance, the penalty from Barkskin is ignored. This is the most valuable incarnate bless that Abysia can take, and should always be used with EA, MA, or LA Abysia if you are using an awake god.

Fateweaving is a similarly valuable bless, though its effect is a bit more subtle. Fateweaving forces all opponents that attack the unit to take an MR check against 16 or suffer from Cursed Luck. Cursed Luck negates the Luck effect, but more importantly reduces enemy Defense rolls and enemy Protection rolls. It applies, on average, a bonus of 3.53 to attack and damage. Importantly, however, that penalty to Protection rolls also applies to rolls against elemental damage. This means that the Heat Auras that Lava Warriors and other Abysian units have become vastly more effective, and will fatigue out enemies with cursed luck incredibly quickly (if they aren't simply destroyed by the improved damage output from the already hard hitting Lava Warriors). Furthermore, it makes Fire Resistance less effective. Whereas without Cursed Luck, 5 FR will avoid most damage from Heat Auras and 10 FR will all but negate it entirely, Cursed Luck will make it so that the normally immune units will still suffer from its effects.

it has additional synergy with MA Abysia's magic. Like all blood nations, Abysia's most effective early game spell is Summon Imps. Imps have incredibly high attack density, at 12 attacks/square, but fairly low damage. This means that they are very lethal against low protecton targets, particularly those that would rely on defense to avoid being hit at all like Vanir, but less so against high protection targets. Units suffering from Cursed Luck, however, are fighting with a penalty that will make them take damage far more frequently, meaning that this barrage of attacks will quickly maul them. Along the same lines, units summoned by Infernal Breeding frequently have a high attack density, but relatively low damage (with some exceptions, like the Hellbred Giants, which are quite the opposite). These units similarly benefit heavily from fighting opponents with Cursed Luck, as their blocks with 6, 9, or even 12 attacks per square will both hit more reliably and deal significantly more damage. This bonus of course will stack with the strength buffs that Abysia applies via Blood Lust, Strength of Giants, and eventually Rush of Strength, with the defense penalty synergizing particularly well with this overwhelming damage.

While evocation is typically not something that I would encourage using when your mages are so inefficient, Fateweaving also synergizes well with Fire Clouds. Because cloud spells such as Poison Cloud, Freezing Mist, and most relevantly in this case, Fire Cloud deal damage at a large number of intervals based on how the tick rate works in combat, Fire Cloud is normally very powerful against low protection units. However, because of its low damage and the fact that most opponents fighting against Abysia use Fire Resistance, it is typically fairly easy to counter. Units with Cursed Luck, however, have no such luck and even with both decent protection and fire resistance will get destroyed by the sheer number of damage rolls that are now all penalized.

Finally Awe is taken to reduce the attrition that Lava Warriors suffer. During expansion and against certain opponents, Lava Warriors will be fighting numerous low morale targets, and while these sorts of opponents also typically deal less damage, the fact that Lava Warriors have naturally low defense and low length weapons that prevent them from repelling most opponents means that they still can be whittled down by even ordinary enemies that eventually just roll high enough to beat their impressive protection. Awe mitigates that significantly, making it so that ordinary foes are unable to scratch their plate.
Pretender Design - Scales
Dominion is at 7 to allow for the recruitment of 6 lava warriors with a Salamander during expansion, which is a magic number because that allows for 3 full squares. Having full squares is important for mitigating attrition because it means that attacks are split between the two lava warriors when they're in melee, making it less likely that any given lava warrior actually dies even if they are hit. 6 dominion would leave one of the lava warriors on his own, needing to be filled with a regular abysian instead, who is more likely than the sacred to die given his lower protection and lack of awe, which will then leave his partner alone to take increased focused attacks in future provinces.

In spite of their high gold cost and generally elite stats, Abysians require very few recruitment points to produce. Because of this and their heavy armor, you will almost exclusively be limited by resources. Turmoil 3 is therefore almost free, and should be your starting point with any MA Abysia design. Production, along the same lines, is your one and only troop scale. While it won't always be a great idea to spend excess gold on troops (as you often will want to instead invest in additional forts, labs, and temples), Production is important for two purposes. First, it will allow you to maximize your expansion by requiring fewer provinces from your cap circle to max out on Lava Warrior production in the first few turns. Secondly, it will allow you to recruit the troops you need where you need them, making it easier to reinforce with front liners before you have Gateway online, which is very valuable given how slow your units move on the map. Because Lava Warriors are so incredibly good at expanding, however, Production 3 isn't always strictly necessary. If you would prefer to reduce this to Production 1 or 2 in order to take more Magic scales or alongside Drain 1 to reduce your Death 3 to neutral, you won't be slowed down all that much in the early game. You may notice its absence as a reduced strategic flexibility later in the game, when you won't be recruit as many soldiers as you'd like on the front where they're needed, but if you're confident that you can prepare your armies ahead of time and plan for your losses, it's fine to reduce this to either accelerate your research or reduce your population/income loss in larger games.

Abysia more or less always wants Heat 3. All of your units have fire resistance, it interacts with things being set on fire, it's your most directly valuable income scale, and both Lava Warriors and some of your summons from Infernal Breeding will have Heat Power, directly affecting the combat stats of these units. Don't touch this scale.

Death is perhaps the most controversial scale to take here. While Abysia receives halved penalties from it and half of the benefit of Growth, it's still a very valuable scale, particularly in larger games where its value will build on itself and provide consistently more gold. The reason that we're dumping Death is mostly because we can. The halved penalty makes it much less painful to take, and with our emphasis on early snowballing, we can make up for the income deficit by simply conquering more land. In 16+ player games, it may be worth instead taking Prod 1, Drain 1, and neutral growth scales as mentioned under the Prod section above, but since this build emphasizes early warfare and rapid conquest, I consider this sort of half-measure to be generally inferior.

Misfortune 1 is taken because Misfortune is required for Fateweaving. With a Barkskin/+Attack or Barkskin/Awe Golden Lion, I would emphasize taking Luck 3 to compensate for your Death scales, allow for more frequent heroes, and provide more random gems to augment your magic diversity. The main downside of misfortune is not the provincial attacks (which Lava Warriors can easily recover) or similarly rare, high-impact encounters, but instead the slow drag of lost resources. Reduced gem events, unrest events that reduce your blood slave income and drop your population further, income penalty events on already low income provinces, emigration, and similarly seemingly mild events all add up to reduce your expected resources. While going from Misfortune 1 to 2 isn't that big of a downgrade, we want to keep this slow accrual of missed opportunities and uncertainty as low as possible, so we're taking only Misfortune 1. This can be safely reduced a step further to swap for Magic, but I would strongly advise going all the way down to 3, both because each step of Misfortune is worse than the one preceding it in terms of differences in gem and gold income, and because that will stop you from getting heroes entirely.

We leave Magic at neutral because we don't have any points left in the build, but don't need to sacrifice this scale aside from going for the tradeoff for Death mentioned above.
Early Research Goals
Because you have an awake immobile god, you will be able to start researching right away, so we'll discuss your early research goals before even going into expansion strategy. Your early game research goals are usually Blood 1 and Thaumaturgy 2, followed by Construction 4, then Blood 3 and usually Blood 4.

Blood 1 provides your early game goal of Summon Imps, which will allow Warlocks to contribute to desperation fights in the early game as effectively as possible with additional high-density damage. Thaumaturgy 2 is used to provide you with answers to early-midgame opponents that would otherwise be able to effectively counter your Lava Warriors on their own. It unlocks Bonds of Fire for your Salamanders and, which when combined with Advance & Cast will let them disable enemy supercombatants and Anakites, which while not typically binding them for long still allows for your Lava Warriors and battleaxe wielding Abysians to hit them at 0 defense without being hit back for a short duration. (As an aside, because this debuff cannot be applied twice, you want only one Salamander doing this when fighting a non-sacred thug with high FR such as a geared Skratti or Pan. Seeing that it is already bound and having no other damaging spells available, the other Salamander will walk into melee with the opponent and usually die quickly. Against sacred opponents, they will spam Holy Word instead, which while not typically useful will at least keep them from getting themselves killed.) It also opens up Mind Burn for your Warlocks, which lets them deal AN damage against opponents that are geared to be immune to your conventional troops and fire damage, such as a Skratti or Vanjarl with 25 FR, regeneration, and layers of physical mitigation. Because Mind Burn always deals damage to the head, it has a higher chance of applying a crippling affliction to a high-HP thug like a Skratti, or killing a lower HP thug outright.

Construction 4 allows you to make Lifelong Protection, which lets you assassinate enemy mages and bring a steady stream of imps along with any army. Assassins with Lifelong Protection are capable of killing most enemy mages, even with bodyguards, which makes Abysia a nightmare to siege and will allow you to potentially disrupt critical enemy spellcasters and army formations prior to major engagements. As for armies, in addition to the natural synergy that Imps have with Fateweaving as mentioned above, the fact that they fly means that they can get behind retreating enemies, which will dramatically increase enemy losses when they rout, particularly among wizards. If your opponent doesn't position their armies accordingly (or if their positioning is disrupted by assassins), exposed wizards can also be attacked by the imps directly, interrupting their spellcasting and frequently killing the mages outright. The most effective way of using it that I've found is by producing large numbers of Lifelong Protection assassins, and then having the assassins join in the regular combat phase for critical battles. This allows the greatest amount of strategic diversity, as you will be able to use the same item for both purposes and the stealth access make the commanders carrying the Lifelong Protection more difficult to predict as well as counteract with magic phase attacks and seeking arrows. Because stealthed units in a province can join the Magic Phase attack if given the order to attack the province that they're in, you can also use them to disrupt movement and lock down forts when combined with a teleporting warlock or Arouse Hunger later in the game.

Construction 4 will also let you make Sanguine Dowsing rods, which let you reinvest some of your slaves into improved blood hunting. Because you are hunting with B3+ mages, however, this item is much less critical for your blood economy than it is for, say, EA Mictlan and other nations that have numerous B1 mages. While the item will still pay for itself in terms of its cost to make in just 5 turns, the warlock itself could have bloodhunted on that turn instead and found an average of 10 or so slaves (assuming their province is shared by 2-3 other warlocks), meaning that in practice SDRs will more take somewhere along the lines of 15 turns to pay for themselves rather than 5. Warlock turns are, as you can see, incredibly valuable!

Blood 3 provides the spell which will consume most of your blood slaves throughout the game - Infernal Breeding. Infernal Breeding is an extremely efficient spell which your Warlocks receive an additional bonus to casting thanks to their Crossbreeding Bonus. It summons several creatures from a random selection of units, though always all of one type per cast. Most of these units are called Hell Spawn, if you want to look them up in the mod inspector, but it can also summon Hellbred Giants. While many will be naked and undisciplined humanoids with claws, you will also receive flying abysians with lances, armored abysians with flails and fire belching attacks or venomous claws, a few types of units with Fire Flare attacks, which is a 20 damage AoE 1 fire attack, and Hellbred Giants, which are incredibly high damage, high hp, high protection units. While there is a degree of uncertainty to what you receive and many will come with old age or afflictions which make them worse than their stat list will show in the mod inspector, it is almost always a slave efficient spell given the quantity of summons that you receive and how elite several of these summons are. The Fire Flare summons in particular are even more damaging offensively than a full size Fire Elemental, given that they not only deal the same never-missing 20 fire damage, but have additional attacks to go with it. The worst of the worst still have very high attack density and venomous attacks, which will allow them to kill enemies when given strength buffs, particularly when those enemies are suffering from Cursed Luck. You can also use these more vulnerable units as patrollers for blood hunting and siege chaff to quickly breach forts, as all of them have above average strength.

For a more complete review of how many units and what kind of units you can expect from this spell, Logy produced a set of statistics which are collected here - https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1uFcHn8hp83zFJWkdXZgBwv7g21WKhzSPP6ZebkByDp0/edit#gid=0

Blood 4 is valuable mostly just for Blood Lust, which is a very potent multiplier when using massed Lifelong Protection alongside additional Summoned Imps. Because imps innately deal only 9 damage per attack, Blood Lust will dramatically increase their actual damage output against the sort of high-protection units that most opponents will field. As mentioned in the bless section, these strength-buffed imps synergize wonderfully with Cursed Luck. Because this spell has a 175% cast time, it will affect all imps created with Summon Imp on the same scripting round that it's cast. This means that if you are using massed warlocks summoning imps on Rounds 1 & 2, a Round 2 blood lust will still affect all of those imps (along with all the ones summoned by the Lifelong Protections that you have out on the field).
Expansion
One of the strengths of MA Abysia is your starting army. It can take on almost any enemy province, meaning that you can and should blind expand with it into a neighboring province to kick start your early game resource access and province count in general.

You will be able to afford only 3 Lava Warriors on your first turn, so you will want to leave 4 units behind out of your starting army and expand with the remaining 26 units.

The starting army is capable of taking on even barbarians and heavy cavalry, though these provinces will inflict some losses. Because you are expanding blind, you want to avoid attacking Caves and Highlands early, as these are the most likely to contain Cavemen, Cynophelians, and rarer population types capable of actually killing your starting army. Forests are frequently 'tribal' provinces, which are among the easiest to capture, but plains are also most likely to be safe.

Because you will be recruiting priests alongside the lava warriors, you can make your starting Slayer into your prophet. This will allow them to use Smite to reliably kill enemy commanders, letting them handle large barbarian provinces for you while your armies go around them to mitigate attrition.

Because your salamanders have lower protection than your units, they will be preferentially targeted by independent and unscripted enemy archers. To prevent them from being shot, you will want to deploy your units a little bit further ahead. Fortunately, Salamanders have H2 rather than just H1, which gives them a bit more range and AoE on their bless casting. Additionally, you will always want to divide your forces into two squads. While this won't be sufficient against enemy players that set their cavalry off to a far side set to Attack Rear, this will intercept most independent armies that are divided into multiple squads.

As Lava Warriors have berserk, you typically won't need to worry about morale issues, so having them in squads of 2 and 4 is fine. When you supplement your armies with Abysian Infantry, it's typically a good idea to recombine these into squads of 6 again. Because Abysians can fit 3 to a square and Lava Warriors fit only 2, you don't want to mingle them when fighting independents.

You will want to preferentially go for provinces which contain useful independent mages once you have a few high-income provinces (so starting ~ turn 4). Any amazons (Crystal, Jade, Garnet, or Onyx), Lizard Shamans, and hoburgs are some notably common types to watch out for, but if you neighbor lightly defended thrones you should look to claim them early as well for the potential to acquire valuable mages, like Crystal Mages or Adepts. You will also want to make sure to capture at least 1 province that can produce Priests. Independent priests are fairly common in heavy infantry provinces, which are both fairly easy for you to capture and a common province type in general.

As with most nations, you may need to combine expansion parties to take on more challenging provinces, like those with large numbers of barbarians or heavy cavalry or one of the amazon provinces. When this happens, you can consolidate the parties under one Salamander after the battle and send the other to construct a temple in an indy priest province. You can then use these priests to bless your expansion parties and start producing Warlocks. If you haven't managed to get a priest ready quickly, you can still use independent commanders to bring reinforcements forward to consolidate with your salamanders at harder provinces, or unite with salamanders whose expansion parties had taken some losses. You should be making Warlocks from your capital by turn 7 or so (but potentially later if you somehow lost a Salamander or two) and continue making them for the rest of the game.

Because you will have a large amount of gold from your explosive expansion, you will want to reinvest in early forts. You will of course want to fort the province which you templed earlier to create indy priests, and that same free salamander can move along to add temples and lab in other forts as they finish, but you can also start constructing forts in high income provinces and thrones before you have a salamander ready to make their lab and temple. Having an additional fort online will prevent you from losing all of your income if disaster occurs and your capital is placed under a surprise siege, and lets you start recruiting additional salamanders to augment your research. Once you start producing Lifelong Protections with your Warlocks, you will want to start making Slayers as well to carry them.

With this strategy, you can expect to have explosive expansion with low attrition, with at least 20 provinces by turn 10 in a game with human opponents and over 40 remaining sacreds. You should plan to attack your first target within the next few turns.
Your First Wars
A major component to choosing your opponents will be based on who you need to fight to win. Look for where the thrones are on the map and decide which ones you'll need to capture and then who you'll need to fight to secure those thrones.

For your first matchup, however, you should pick an opponent which you can overrun. Ashdod, for example, is a very poor first war target, because while you can fend off a rush from the Anakites with your assassins, early magic, and sacreds, the inbuilt fire resistance on their sacreds which is often amplified further by a Fire+Shock Resistance bless makes them naturally resistant to the auras on your troops and the Fire Flare attacks from your early summons. Additionally, their very high damage will let them cut through the high armor on your lava warriors.

Vanheim, by comparison, is a very viable first target in spite of their traditional early game strength, as their sacreds very infrequently take Fire Resistance above 10 and they won't deal enough damage after their charge to frequently hurt the lava warriors. As they normally rely on defense to survive, your ability to lock them down with Bonds of Fire, reduce their defense with fateweaving and high attack density abysians and imps, and utterly destroy them when your attacks land, makes their sacred vanir easy prey. As even nonsacred abysians are excellent against province defense, you can counteract their raiding by using elite heavy infantry parties to recapture lost provinces and attack a large number of theirs at the same time, meaning that you can win both on a broad front against their relatively gold-expensive forces and in direct engagements. While Lightning Bolt is a very effective early game spell, their vanjarls are expensive and require expensive infrastructure, making it difficult for them to bring enough to actually win fights without bringing vastly more gold in any given fight than you have on the field. As long as you aren't defeated in detail, you should be able to conquer them in a Year 1 war.

Nations that rely on an early research spike and effective wizards like Phaecia and Pythium may or may not be viable targets depending on when you can attack them and what their build is. Pay attention to their scales to see if they have an awake researcher, and use that to estimate when you can expect them to have their core spells online. While Pythium can wield Freezing Mist to devastating effect when they have enough theurgs and communicants, for example, they typically won't have enough of either by turn 8-10 to stop you from sieging their capitol and then overrunning their provinces. Along the same lines, a Man Thunderstrike and Poison Cloud chorus can be devastating, but knights alone will be annihilated by your lava warriors in an early war, and most Man builds won't have the magic to resist you before Year 1. By the time they do, you should have assassins with Lifelong Protection in place. When combined with a few independent recruits deployed at the front to soak targeted evocation, you should be able to handle these direct-damage answers to Lava Warriors.

Titans and Monsters can be countered by recruiting a few extra warlords and giving them Greatswords of Sharpness. Keep these divided with your regular units so that they don't fight the titan alone and get focused down, but when combined with the harassment penalties from your troops and potentially a Cursed Luck debuff, they can die quite quickly. Monsters can frequently be killed by just your Lava Warriors, but a Hardskin/Regen Drakon and similarly heavy builds may require greatswords as well.

Unit-buff oriented strategies, such as those often deployed by Vanarus and Pangaea, are frankly countered naturally by your sacreds and blood summons. Your lava warriors can simply out fight anything that many of these builds can field thanks to the layers of mitigation built into the bless and their naturally excellent stats, and the combination of high production of high damage abysians and the ability to mass fire flare and high attack density summons makes it nigh-impossible to overwhelm you with numbers.

Foul Vapors is best countered by not fighting it at all. If you can assassinate the caster or burn their gems prior to an engagement, you can beat the nation that would be using it without having to worry. That said, it's sometimes unavoidable, in which case you'll need to rely on independent nature mages to cover your troops. Your god can forge Thistle Maces if you find or trade for sufficient nature gems, or you can use Crystal Matrices (and potentially even Slave Matrices) if you somehow have significantly more Astral and Earth gems than nature. Fortunately, you will want to recruit nature mages anyways. Barkskin is an excellent buff for your natively fire resistant abysians, and nature mages can paint it on your nonsacred troops. Lizard Shamans are also very valuable for communion based magic, as well as casting astral buffs like Body Ethereal and Luck on your Lava Warriors when fighting enemies susceptible to this sort of damage mitigation.

If you can mitigate Foul Vapors, skeleton spam by itself (and just massed longdead as used by Sceleria and Ermor) can be countered early game by simply having critical mass of fire flare units, flyers, and imps to overrun it. In the midgame, however, you're going to be up against far more calcium when this strategy is used, particularly when up against a stable communion like Jotunheim can field, to the point that regular units are insufficient and even Fire Elementals would be held in place. Fortunately, Firestorm is a hard counter to this tactic, as it will persistently kill skeletons as they appear even if the casters themselves are made resistant by buffs and/or items.
Research - Midgame Goals
As is the case in every matchup, you need to pivot your research based on what you'll be fighting. Because so much of your power is concentrated in the two aforementioned level 4 research goals, however, it is often very safe for you to go straight to Construction 6 afterwards. The most valuable result of this research goal is Lightless Lanterns, which allows you to turn your huge number of fire gems into research boosters. As your Salamanders are naturally expensive and inefficient researchers at 185g for 9 based RP, this is incredibly valuable. Once you can start dumping gems on lanterns, you should. You'll want them on every lab salamander, horticulturalist, and sorceress that you don't have on the field. If you can get away with this rush, your research will be competitive with even the traditionally rapidly researching nations like C'tis and Caelum.

This in turn means that you can very quickly hit secondary goals, which will depend on what you need to fight. If you plan on fighting Ermor, C'tis, Jotunheim or Sceleria, you want Evocation 7 for Firestorm, and against C'tis and Jotunheim in particular you want Ench 4 even sooner. Against Air Elemental nations like Caelum, Pythium, Man, and Phaecia, you'll want Alt 4 for Body Ethereal and Conjuration 5 for Fire Elementals since Size 6 units are hard to come by. Your heat auras will actually put air elementals to sleep fairly quickly when fighting heat dominion, but outside of BE and prot buffs you don't have a way of mitigating the damage that they deal with their trampling (and it is a LOT of damage) and your units are expensive enough that you don't want to let them get stomped if you can avoid it. If you have enough independent astral mages that fluffing your army with Body Ethereal is viable, you can take the elementals head on and trade favorably, but most of the time spending a few of your own fire gems is going to be a much better choice. Size 6 fire elementals counter their air elemental counterparts very effectively, since they both block the trampling and kill them very quickly.

You should always prioritize the specific goal that you need to hit to win your war. Once you have that tech, however, a goal that will always be incredibly valuable to you is Blood 5 which allows you to cast Send Lesser Horror. This is a faction defining spell which is incredibly obnoxious to play against and which Abysia can spam. Send Lesser Horror is very variable in terms of what and how many units it will send, but 2 casts will typically ensure that enough shows up to beat the more common levels of province defense. Against only 1 PD, a single cast will often be enough. This means that you can pop a province for only 9-18 slaves and capture it with a scout ordered to attack that province from a neighboring one. When playing against this spell, you will need to keep parties on hand constantly moving between your provinces to retake them, made worse by the fact that Abysia can often times actually kill these parties via this very same spell. In order to survive against these horror strikes, you'll often need actual mage support or elite units such as sacreds with magic weapons, which are very expensive tools indeed to simply keep wandering around. If they don't have the resources to repel these attacks, you can destroy any isolated groups that they're using to reclaim provinces, and flip multiple provinces each turn, with every pair of warlocks functioning as a raiding party in their own right that don't risk anything but the casting cost, since they can fire from the safety of your capital.

Other goals will depend heavily on what other wizards you found. Independents are very valuable for Abysia, not just because your Salamanders are expensive for how much they can research natively, but also because your magical diversity is otherwise very cap reliant. While Dragons have Earth 1, they're slow to recruit and extremely expensive for this one alternative path, and still need to spend precious earth gems and/or wear boots to cast the wide area of effect buff spells. While Liquid Flames of Rhuax is great when compared to Fireball, retail evocation in general is fairly easy to counter via baiting with low value, high HP units and your mages are simply too expensive and slow to mass to spam it. As a result, the spells that you use in combat will vary based on which mages you're actually using, which are just as likely to be independents as nationals. In general, though, these independents will benefit heavily from Alteration, which will allow protection buffs for your nonsacred units, Body Ethereal, Luck, Quickness, and Mossbody. If you manage to acquire numerous astral mages (such as two different Lizard Shaman provinces, a Crystal Sorceress province, and a Sage province) and are fighting a nation like Ashdod, it may be worth taking a dip deeper into Thaumaturgy to spam Soul Slay. These are all valuable spells in helping you reduce losses in fights that you were already going to win or tip the odds in otherwise close engagements, but which won't serve as 'answers' to effects which would otherwise devastate your armies, the way that poison resistance and firestorm might.
Bloodhunting
Your warlocks will be needed to get that research going, since their 17 base RP at 1/turn is the greatest research delta that you can achieve. You'll still want to have a few of them out hunting once you get construction 4 for your Lifelong Protection and you may also need to send some out to fight in critical battles, but your bloodhunting will really start to scale once lanterns can take over the heavy lifting on your research and all of your warlocks can be used to hunt.

Unlike most blood nations, your bloodhunters are expensive but reliable. This means that while most B1-based nations will want to have 5-10 hunters per province with dowsing rods, with warlocks you're looking at a wider distribution to make sure that each one can pick up more slaves. The more provinces that you divide your warlocks between, the more income that you're going to lose in the process and the more that you'll need to dedicate to patrolling, given that you're dividing your patrolling parties between more different provinces. As a result, there's no one hard and easy answer for how you should be distributing them. I found success with using only 2-3 warlocks per province and hunting a dozen provinces while happily devastating my gold economy, but I also found independent A2 mages and a glut of air gems from conquering an air nation early which allowed me to spam Call of the Winds for patrolling, as well as enough scouts to make ferrying slaves easy. If you're instead relying on using your less valuable Hell Spawn and militia/slingers to patrol, you may find it necessary to concentrate your warlocks or even let the unrest simmer and accept reduced slave income until your patrolling production can expand to meet your hunting needs.

What's important to keep in mind is essentially that every Warlock's turn is valuable because you lack other national blood mages. Once you have the ability to hand off research duties, every warlock should be doing something valuable every turn - hunting, crafting, fighting directly, or sending horrors to cripple your opponents.
Late Game Tools
I hope that the earlier discussion of different midgame goals helped illustrate that Abysia has a very broad toolkit nationally, even if much of it is concentrated in the hands of your warlocks. This section is a bit meandering, but it discusses a few of the late game tools that you can expect to be able to use with this build. What you should prioritize and when you get it will depend on what gems you actually find and who you're fighting.

When you can, you will want to go deeper into blood for the unique summons and into Conjuration for Lamia Queens. Lamia Queens will give you the death magic that you're missing, provide you com slaves with incredible regeneration for turbocommunions, and open up access to other tricks that you'd need to get very lucky indies to use like Foul Vapors. The most valuable death spells that you can cast are deep in alteration, with Darkness and Life After Death being particularly notable. Darkness is an incredibly valuable spell against many opponents, as it will significantly reduce the effectiveness of enemy evocation and most of your units have darkvision, which gives them a significant relative stat advantage against enemy units that lack it. Life After Death is a bit less valuable for Abysia than nations that bring large numbers of vulnerable mages to fights all the time, but is still an excellent insurance when you do.

Father Illearth is the most valuable unique blood summon that you can get prior to Blood 9, as he opens up deep earth access on his own while being a naturally incredible SC chassis in his own right. Archdevils are decent SCs when not fighting Astral opponents thanks to Phoenix Pyre, Firestorm, and very strong base stats. A few of the Heliophagi are also straightforward to make immune to an army that doesn't have specific countermeasures for them. They and Lamia Queens also open up access to Vampire Lords. Because Vampire Lords have built in fire vulnerability, they will typically need to be given rings of fire resistance to avoid burning up incidentally from the battlefield-wide fire magic that you're wont to throw out, but once that's taken care of you will want to use them frequently to provide death and blood support on the front lines. A warlock has better things to do than cast Bloodlust or Rush of Strength, after all, and a vampire can also cast those valuable Death spells mentioned above, is mobile enough to get to the front lines, and is immortal in the case that tragedy strikes your army.

You will also eventually want Construction 7 for Weapons of Sharpness and Golems. Weapons of Sharpness may seem difficult for you to cast, but Abysia will acquire earth magic one way or another. If you don't get lucky with an Earth 2 warlock or independent Earth 2 mage like a gnome or Mage of Autumn to forge your boots, you'll need to find a way to get some. If you can trade for boots, do so. If you can't, it's worth empowering an E1 warlock to get that initial E2 access. Once you do, however, you're set since you'll have access to bloodstones as well, making any E1 mage an E3, which will let them cast Weapons of Sharpness for a gem after Summon Earthpower. If you have enough gems to summon Troll Kings, they can save you a gem per cast if given both boosters as well, though they'll need to be given fire resistance just as the vampire lords do and the trolls that they bring with them are best used as raiders away from your firestorm / heat from hell casting armies.

Golems are most valuable for their magic phase movement and defensive abilities. They are fairly easy to counter by an enemy thug, but can teleport onto an army that's lacking a way to kill them, smash whatever is there, and cast Returning when something with a Smasher or Moon Blade tries to jump them. Because they're mindless and lifeless, they're immune to some of the more common answers to SCs like Soul Slay and Life for a Life, but they also will die to the turn timer if they are unable to kill their enemies in time. This means that you should almost never send a golem by itself to fight enemies that will spam Hordes of Skeletons or even a sufficient number of Phantasmal Warriors or Wolves at them.

Abysia is nigh impossible to fight with SCs and thugs due simply to the pathing on Warlocks. Anything that isn't lifeless will be trivially obliterated by a warlock or two teleporting onto it and casting Life for a Life, possibly with a Lifelong Protection or Arouse Hunter accompanying them to make sure that the province defense doesn't cause any issues. Even a Phoenix Pyre thug can usually be stopped with a few S3 warlocks with penetration boosters casting Soul Slay. Mindless thugs can be used only defensively, as the presence of Lifelong Protection as a matter of course in Abysia's armies (and even throughout its territory on assassins) means that such attackers will find themselves destroyed by the turn timer if they don't have a means of wiping out everything on the battlefield before then.

Abysia is also obnoxiously effective at burning gems due to the horrors mentioned earlier, since they don't count as Abysia's forces and instead their own separate attack. This means that Abysia can actually trigger gem spending twice in the magic phase on their own, using a combination of horrors and a teleporting warlock or golem with a Ring of Returning. Between this, their ability to assassinate both with recruitable assassins and Disease Demons, and their access to numerous fire gems and big fire casters for Flames from the Sky makes fighting Abysia a strategic nightmare, as armies need to be heavily overloaded on gems (with carriers needing to be given protection or fire resistance as well to avoid being sniped), communions can be dismantled before the fights can even happen, and any sufficiently large stacks of human mages are susceptible to being wiped out without ever seeing combat if they aren't protected by domes.

Abysia's blood magic also makes them capable of locking down crucial provinces if they aren't protected by domes as well thanks to Dream Horrors and Raging Hearts. Each Dream Horror cast will not only apply unrest directly, but will continue to apply unrest every turn until they're patrolled out, and they can be discovered only by units with Spirit Sight. While most nations can acquire this by summoning up a bunch of longdead or watchers, only the undead nations like Sceleria will be ready for it ahead of time (since if they were readying themselves for it, they would have simply used Domes to begin with). Raging Hearts, along similar lines, applies a massive amount of unrest on cast, as well as directly reducing the targeted province's population. This means that when fighting cap dependent nations like Ys or Ashdod, Abysia has the ability to utterly cripple their recruitment.
Conclusion
Abysia with this build is competitive with any other nation of the era. It has an incredibly strong early game, capable of outright rushing many nations. It has a very sharp research progression, with strong power spikes in multiple schools available very early and the ability to rapidly accelerate its research with boosters and early infrastructure. Because of its unmatched expansion, it can acquire independent mages to counteract enemy spells that might otherwise counter it. Abysia's late game remains among the best in the game, even with death scales, thanks to its deep blood power and ability to effectively use whatever gem resources it finds when it conquers other nations. Finally, its ability to recruit Holy 3 mages in any fort and powerful magic phase tools allows it to quickly claim the Thrones of Ascension that you need to win once you have attained enough of an advantage to do so.
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2 Comments
Kvist Feb 3 @ 11:36am 
Very good guide. I would love to see more of those.
Mali Belizec Jan 18 @ 12:13pm 
Great guide