The kingdom of Man is a feudal kingdom. Their kingdom was established by conquering a race of tall and magically powerful beings known as the Tuatha. When the Tuatha were destroyed, their greatest treasure was found: the magical forest of Avalon. Hidden deep within was great magic. The Witches of Man entered the forest, learned the old lore, and helped Man to grow in power and influence. The infantry of Man is limited and lacks heavy troops. Their regular armies most often consist of powerful knights and skilled longbowmen. The Witches train their own special troops: the Wardens and Knights of Avalon. These troops are very skilled and are also magically enchanted by the Witches.
- Access to strong Air and Nature magic, weak Earth and Water magic. Air magic is hard to counter in battle
- Longbowmen, Cavalry archers, Slingers, Knights and Heavy infantry recruitable in every fort
- Sacred summons and cap-only sacred heavy infantry
- National spell-songs offer useful battle role for your chaff N magi
- many fort types cost 800 gold, build in 3 turns
- temples cost 200 gold
- most commanders are stealthy
- stealthy spies can foment unrest in enemy territory
- really needs both good scales and a good bless, but can't afford both
- lack of natural access to S, D, F and B magic makes for a tough end-game strategy
- overall your troops are somewhat lackluster compared to other MA nations, more like hyped-up indie versions
- weak H1 priests, fighting enemy dom-push poses a problem
- primary stealth unit is cap-only map-move 1
- N magic doesn't offer much direct-damage spells
- Expensive cap-only mage has Old Age, other cap-only commanders make for tough recruitment choices
Most of MA-Man's troops have identical or marginally better stats than their standard indie counterparts.
- Gold 10, Resources 9, Upkeep 0.7
- A decent defense value and a shield, making them competent to form a blocking line against 'normal' infantry types, archers and indies. Map-move 2 means they can provide the melee component of a mobile archer army. They also require half the resources as a Tower Guard, thus are easier to quickly mass in numbers. Their biggest downfall is their low-damage spear, which becomes practically ineffective vs heavy armored enemies. A protection spell increases their armor to 17 making them even tougher to kill.
- Gold 10, Resources 13, Upkeep 0.7
- Bafflingly less survivable than normal spearmen due to a lower defense value. Technically their length-5 spear might cause a repel-check against certain low-morale enemies.
- Gold 10, Resources 14, Upkeep 0.7
- Truly mediocre. Everything the Axemen can do, the Tower Guards can do better, for only marginally more gold. Nothing to see here... move along.
- Gold 12, Resources 7, Upkeep 0.8
- Your go-to missile unit, longbowmen are exceptional. A mob of 50+ longbowmen can be be quite devastating against non-shielded infantry. In most archer-vs-archer exchanges, you will likely come out on top. However, against shield-bearing infantry their effectiveness can drop off quite dramatically. You can make them even better by casting Wind Guide, or protect your front row by casting Arrow Fend. That said, several mid-game spells and early summons can also render them useless, so beware of committing too strongly to a long-term missile-based strategy vs certain nations.
- Tower Guard
- Gold 13, Resources 18, Upkeep 0.9
- This is a slightly improved version of the basic indie Map-move-1 heavy-infantry with sword and shield. But they can be bought in any friendly castle, and thus serve as the bread-and-butter of MA-Man's heavy arrow-magnet blockers. They make competent troops, but their stats are fairly mediocre as compared to other nations' heavy infantry, so they tend to have a hard time without magical back-up. They work best when blocking for a large group of archers or drawing fire for elite knights/wardens who do the killing. A protection spell increases their armor to 20, making them very tough to kill with normal weapons.
- Gold 50, Resources 51, Upkeep 3.3
- A marginal upgrade from indie knights. Still their double attack, high speed and good defense value make them a valuable part of your army, especially vs elite troops and giants or for killing fleeing enemies. Knights seem to be most effective when deployed on the extreme sides, where they can mass against an enemy's exposed flanks and rear while your normal troops block the center. Even though they take a lot of gold and resources, they are available in any castle, so MA-Man can still collect an effective force in short order when needed. A protection spell increases their armor to 23, which helps absorb the inevitable hits when massed against smaller foes.
- Gold 7, Resources 7, Upkeep 0.5
- The only redeeming quality of militia is providing a cheap body to draw arrow fire and numbers to lay siege to an enemy castle. Even for that, you would probably be better off with slingers, archers or one of the indie tribal troops. These guys are the primary reason why your PD is next to worthless, with horrible morale. Don't bother.
- Light Cavalry
- Gold 25, Resources 8, Upkeep 1.7
- Because Man's longbowmen are so useful, Light Cav are often ignored. They are, however, much more survivable in hand-to-hand fighting than longbowmen, and can usually escape to fight another day if the going gets too tough. So you could use them tactically to form a 'second' defensive line in front of your missile troops. Their aim though is quite low for an archer, so a bit of magic might help in that respect.
- Gold 7, Resources 2, Upkeep 0.5
- Easy to hire in large numbers and not as bad as their in-game description makes them out to be. You will see these a lot even if you don't actively hire them, since they form an integral part of your PD. Like most missile troops, their effectiveness increases when deployed as a large mob. Used against non-shielded infantry they can be quite deadly, although they themselves are in turn vulnerable to both missile fire and melee attack. These are the easiest troops for providing massed numbers to speed up sieges and castle assaults, where they can also fire over the walls at the defenders.
- Warden of Avalon (Capital-only)
- Gold 40, Resources 28, Upkeep 1.3
- Man's heaviest foot-soldiers are stealthy! But map-move 1 and cap-only means these guys will be slow to mass and deploy after the early game. Bringing them to front will take ages (you may use Fairy Trod or a Flying Carpet late-game) if you start in the corner. You probably want at least Dom-6 to be able to hire enough per turn in useful numbers. They are quite costly, but sacred means they are no more expensive to maintain than your other troops. As a main component of MA-Man's stealthy strike capability, without a bless they remain fairly lackluster. But a F/W-bless makes these guys quite nasty vs normal troops and PD, although E/N/B-blesses also boost useful stats. Their major weaknesses are lack of a shield and being as vulnerable as the next guy to all sorts of enemy magic. So they work best when other troops can draw fire or hostile spells while they hack through enemy lines.
- Knight of Avalon (Capital-only)
- Gold 75, Resources 60, Upkeep 5
- Outrageously expensive, high upkeep and cap-only: it will take many turns to build up a large force. Operationally their use is identical to your normal knights with only marginally better stats. The unicorn does have a magical gore attack which makes them MA-Man's go-to melee unit vs ethereal enemies. Another thing the KoA have going for them is their speed: they are some of the fastest ground units in the game. Where this comes nicely into play is during castle sieges. When storming a castle, a small group of forward-deployed KoA set to attack rear can rush through the enemy gate and be inside the fortress on round 1, thus ensuring the battle doesn't get bogged down in the gateway choke-point. Finally, their recuperation skill is quite nice for keeping them in prime fighting trim without debilitating afflictions: after a few battles, your veterans will be none the worse for wear.
Most of MA-Man's commanders are stealthy: spies, priests, mages as well as a stealthy sacred. Combined with MA-Man's stealthy Wardens of Avalon and national summons (Cu Sidhe / Barghest), this offers all sorts of interesting possibilities.
- Gold 25, Resources 7, Upkeep 1.7
- What makes the forester stand out vs indie scouts is his unhindered movement through forests as well as his patrol bonus. He also comes armed with a short bow and has a decent accuracy, so he can be used as an archer in battle.
- Gold 30, Resources 22, Upkeep 2
- Has very high leadership for such an inexpensive commander. These guys can lead hordes of Man's light troops.
- Gold 30, Resources 1, Upkeep 1
- A stealth preacher for a bargain price! But with only holy magic H1 this means they will only be effective in weak enemy Dom < 5. A forester or bard has less chance of being discovered in enemy territory when deploying the Bane Venom Charm or Stone Idol. They are effective for holy spam vs enemy undead, and as gem carriers for your magi while building temples on the front lines.
- Gold 75, Resources 5, Upkeep 5
- Stealth 30 skill, very hard to detect! As spies, bards are exceptional in many ways. If you have 10 or so on an enemy capital inciting revolt, the unrest will be so high the person will be unable to find the spies. They also tell what sites your enemy has, and when you siege an enemy castle a Bard can tell you who he has inside the castle waiting for your forces.
- They make decent researchers, especially with strong Magic scales, but in the long run Mothers are more cost-effective for that. In battle a few bards stacked with your other magi can spam Protection and your national Song spells, keeping the whole group healed and curing fatigue. They can also can cast Swarm. If you advance bards closer to the melee line, their songs and banner can boost your own troops staying-power.
- Mother of Avalon
- Gold 130, Resources 1, Upkeep 4.3
- A great stealthy caster, and sacred to boot! They ignore forests for movement and can sneak in and out of besieged fortresses. Mothers are your mainstay damage-dealing magi and researchers, available in any castle. Their random picks offer a good spread of Air and Nature magic. A Staff of Storms really helps improve their combat casting using Air, but will ironically lower the effectiveness of Man's archers. Later in the game your N3 randoms can spam Charm and Sleep Cloud while your A2N1 randoms summon Air Elementals and lay down Thunderstrikes and Orb Lighning. There are some possibilities to use Mistform, Barkskin and Resist Lightning along with Thunderstrikes to solo weakly defended provinces, similar to Arcosephal's Oreliads.
- Lord Warden (capital-only)
- Gold 100, Resources 29, Upkeep 3.3
- Another sacred stealthy commander! The main problem with Lord Warden is being cap-only and his cost for being merely "meh". You get much better leadership from your Castellans at a bargain price, while Mothers are stealthy leaders who can buff their troops. For such an expensive non-caster commander, all LW really adds into MA-Man's lineup are his double-wield combat stats, which are arguably not as good as your (less expensive) knights. With the right bless (F,W,E,N) and under Gift of Health he might make an effective if slow and short-lived thug. Otherwise don't bother... there are simply better choices for summoning at your capital.
- Daughter of Avalon (capital-only)
- Gold 80, Resources 1, Upkeep 2.7
- Good gold/rp researcher-value and low upkeep, plus their random picks can be useful. 50% of all Daughters will have A1, so once you have a staff of the storms you can have them cast storm power, then spam lightning bolts. Once Foul Vapours comes into play, have the same Daughters spam poison-immune Phantasmal Warriors. While most of the time you will want the higher path picks of a Mother, once you have enough labs that income/turn starts becoming an issue, Daughters make a decent choice if you can't afford another Mother, Crone or Lord Warden that turn.
- Crone of Avalon (capital-only)
- Gold 300, Resources 1, Upkeep 10
- Crones are MA-Man's primary means of getting into high-level N and A magic. But to do this, you will likely need a pretender that can forge the right boosters. You really want to give each one whatever boosters they require to cast powerful battlefield magic like Wind Guide, Serpent's Blessing, Fog Warriors, etc. Their random W/E picks bring very little battlefield synergy with N/A, apart from Foul Vapours and Strength of Gaia spells. That said, if you can get your E randoms boosted to E2, this allows a lot of useful earth battlefield magic (Summon Earthpower, Strength of Giants, Legions of Steel, Bladewind, etc). Likewise a W random crone boosted to W3 allows Freezing Mist, Bone Melter, Quickness, and a lot of other cold-based evocations. Such boosters are almost all exclusively at Construction 6, so your Crones really come into their own once you have researched that school.
- Keep your sacred old Crones alive once they become diseased by healing her in battle or popping on a Ring of Regeneration till you are able to forge Boots of Youth or Elixirs of Life to stop aging. You can also use Transformation on your important crones or cast Gift of Health. Use creative tactics to maximize their overall impact, like outfitting with winged boots and rings of the serpent then flying in to cast Foul Vapors on an unsuspecting foe.
If you take high order and misfortune, you probably won't see your heroes showing up at the gates very often. OTOH, if you take Chaos and Luck, you will probably see most of them within the first year or three.
- Brangwen the Blind One
- A2 S2 N3, Blind (Affliction), old age, supply bonus, holy
- Brangwen is MA-Man's only non-indie access to astral magic, other than taking it on your pretender. Her blindness limits her use in battle, but she makes a good site-searcher/forger. Afflictions from old-age/disease will eventually wear her down to impotence, unless you can give her an elixir of life or boots of youth. If she shows up early in the game, you can keep her alive wearing a ring of regeneration while topping-off her hp in battle with healing magic.
- One niche use for Bragwen is to boost her to S3 with a Starshine Skullcap, then cast Telestic Animation (Thaum-5). This gives you immobile H2 priests who are far better at preaching than your H1 monks, which can greatly help if your dominion seems threatened.
- Rhianne the Heroine
- Hp12 Str12 Att14 Def20 Prot6 Mv3/36 Mr13 Pre12 Ldr80, Wilderness Survival, Recuperation, Patrol Bonus 25
- Rhianne is a nerfed Knight of Avalon chassis. She has a magical Alicorn attack, decent defense and Recuperation, but she seriously needs some better armor. With chainmail of displacement, a vine shield and a thorn spear she makes a decent if short-lived thug. If you send her into battle accompanied by knights, her high movement rate might get her into trouble, since she can outrun her escort.
- Rhianne receives a bonus when patrolling provinces.
- Cyneberth Knight of the Stone
- Hp16 Str13 Att16 Def18 Prot20 Mv2/20 Mr12 Pre10 Ldr120
- A souped-up Knight with no particular special abilities. With his high combat stats he will likely survive in battle as long as he doesn't get mobbed by enemies.
- This commander is a multi-hero meaning you can get the unit through a national hero event multiple times in the same game unless you take Misfortune 3.
- Bernlad the Green Knight
- Hp16 Str13 Att15 Def15 Prot20 Mv3/30 Mr14 Pre10 Ldr10
- The Green Knight sits astride a unicorn, but otherwise has standard knight skills. He regenerates wounds 10% per round, but with only 15 hp it probably won't do him much good if he gets into trouble. Regeneration does combo well with poison magic though.
- Forest of Avalon
- 3N gems/turn, enables recruitment of Lord Warden, Warden of Avalon, Knight of Avalon
- Tower of Avalon
- 2A gems/turn, enables recruitment of Daughter of Avalon, Crone of Avalon
- Song of Bravery
- Ench-0 N1
- AoE 10+ increases morale of nearby friendly units.
- Soothing Song
- Ench-0 N1
- AoE 10+ invigorates the caster and nearby friendly units. Doesn't work underwater. Very useful when spammed near spell casters.
- Healing Song
- Ench-0 N1
- AoE 10+ heals the caster and nearby friendly units 1+hp. Doesn't affect undead.
- Black Dogs
- Conj-2 D2, 10D gems
- Summons 20 size-3 fae-hounds.
- Cu Sidhe
- Conj-3 N2, 10N gems
- Summons 8 size-3 sacred stealthy fae-hounds with Darkvision 50. Under the effects of a protection spell, their armor increases to only 10.
- Conj-4 D2, 13D gems
- Summons 9 size-3 sacred fae-hounds with Darkvision.
Without magic, MA-Man's troops compare little better than indies. What makes the nation viable is strong Air and Nature magic support in battle: the stronger the better. In addition, with the right boosters, Man can add Water and Earth magic to the mix. So ultimately we need to research deep into the Construction school to forge crucial magic boosters. But so many of Man's best spells are spread out between different schools, it can be difficult to choose a strategy. The best buffs and damage spells are found high up the Alteration and Evocation schools, respectively. Enchantment offers a tantalizingly easy-to-research global and army-wide healing and poison magic, while Thaumaturgy offers the possibility to Charm our enemies. Conjuration has plenty of useful mid-level critters for our armies, not the least of which are Air Elementals and Spring Hawks.
Your priests are weak but temples are cheap. So stabilizing Dom in friendly territory will be primarily through temple-spam, while pushing it into enemy territory will be hard without your Prophet or Pretender. Stone Idols could help, but you don't start with anyone who can forge them.
One of our first main goals should be getting to Alt-5 for Wind Guide and the global Mother Oak. Our second goal will be Gift of Health and Foul Vapors at Ench-5. Both these goals (including Thau-2 and Const-4) can easily be reached with magic 3 scales, rich dominion and rather fast castle building and researching with Bards and Mothers. Spam air magic in battle and gain extra re-invigoration and healing through national songs (a perfect use for any N indie tribal shamans). With a bit of luck finding some nature-gem sites, it is definitely possible to have mother oak and gift of health active at the end of year 2.
Getting at least one of your crones to A4 should be a primary goal for any MA-Man strategy, as it opens access to air boosters and staffs of storms, summoning air queens, casting fog warriors, etc. There are several ways to do this:
- Although there is less than a 1% chance of this happening, you might just get lucky with random picks on your crone.
- Empowerment (requires 60 A-gems and an A3 crone). Doesn't require any research, and you have the gems to do it. If you can additionally somehow get a dwarven hammer you are good to go.
- Bag of Wind or Winged Helmet (requires 25 A-gems each, A4 to forge at Const-4). The cheapest way, but it requires some research and A4 on your pretender, which is kind of a waste since your nation is already strong in air magic.
- Ring of Wizardry (requires 60 S-gems, S6 to forge at Const-6). Another potential pretender path choice and even more research, but that number of astral pearls might be hard to come by for MA-Man without alchemizing. Another option is using your pretender or a boosted Crone to forge Clam of Pearls (Const-2 W3E1), but both require a fair number of W-gems.
- Staff of Elemental Mastery (requires F4/W4 to forge at Const-6). A third pretender path choice. Once again needs gems that MA-Man likely won't have much of without capturing sites from the enemy or early site-searching by your pretender.
As the game develops, Fog Warriors becomes a battle-winner. It takes some serious researching, but once you have it your knights are ridiculously tough (almost unkillable by mundane things, and have at least two lives even against spells). Charm is also a great battlefield spell in the late game. Transformation can be used to turn expensive-upkeep crones into 0-upkeep animals with all their magic powers.
There is a pretty good chance MA-Man can eventually find magic sites allowing recruitment of Enchantress or Sorceress. While by no means guaranteed, Wispering Woods(N1) is common in forests, while Forest of a Thousand Streams(N1) is uncommon but can be found in any terrain. There are also rarer sites that can be found by your A/N magi. These sites allow you to branch into astral, fire and death. Add to that the normal chances of locating indie magic users (jade/crystal sorceress, lizard shaman, etc.), and overall MA-Man has pretty good prospects of being able to find casters that offer new magic paths.
MA-Man can use its bards to fight an economic war of attrition. Begin by sending swarms of bards into enemy castles and farmlands to sow unrest. If you have 10 or so on an enemy capital, the unrest will be so high in a single turn the spies will be hard to locate. If the enemy doesn't move a large army back to patrol, then you will deny them tons of income, and all their production there. Each turn your enemy can't produce from their key provinces is another turn that you grow relatively stronger. If you own an adjacent territory, set your spies to retreat so that if they are discovered they will be able to easily run away.
Poison is one of nature magic's most prevalent powers. MA-Man gains access to the battlefield-wide spell Foul Vapours at Ench-5 and by then you should have a Crone who can cast it. Also, your N3 magi also like spamming Poison Cloud and Breath of the Dragon as soon you have it researched. This can backfire causing friendly fire casualties, since none of your normal troops have poison resistance. Poison Ward (Ench-4) can be prohibitively expensive gem-wise to spam-cast and Serpent's Blessing (Ench-7) comes much later and only grants 50% poison resistance. SO how can you take advantage of one of your most powerful battlefield spells?
All your magi can self-buff Resist Poison at Alt-1. Early on, your Phantasmal Warriors battlefield summons (Alt-2) are the easiest poison immune troops to use. Vinemen are poor fighters and a bad gem investment. Undead troops would do the trick, but MA-Man doesn't have wide access to death magic till Conj-6, and even that calls for a pretender with some death. Another possibility is taking a minor nature bless, which grants regeneration to your sacred Wardens of Avalon, Cu Sidhe and Barguest national summons (Conj-3), thus keeping poison damage to a minimum. If you can empower a N2 mage into death, you can also summon Manikins and Mandragoras if you have researched the Construction school. Man can also mass-produce Vine Ogres (Conj-3) with an Ivy Crown (Const-2) for good value.
ALL of MA-Man's sacred troops and sacred national summons are stealthy. This cries out for a bless to leverage their potential as a useful stealth threat.
- You can sneak large forces of mages and stealth-troops in and out of besieged forts to evacuate or reinforce the garrison.
- Stealth-preach with your monks in enemy territory. Being H1 priests, this generally doesn't work well in strong enemy dominion >5. But equipping a stone idol can help, if you can forge them (Const-6 E2S2).
- Sneak a stealth army behind enemy lines to shadow the enemy's main army and grab provinces that serve as a route of retreat. If the enemy loses a battle, he will have no where to escape to and all his fleeing troops will die.
- Sneak an army of sacred blessed troops into the enemy's main provinces to raid, pillage, raise unrest and deny him resources.
High luck scales seems to reduce the chances of becoming feebleminded quite a bit. Here is a list of some of the forms that can result from casting the Transformation spell:
- Amphiptere 45 hp, MR 14, Leadership 40, poison resistant, flying, 2 item slots
- Boar 15 hp, MR 5, 2 item slots
- Cave Drake 116 hp, MR 8, Darkvison 50, 2 item slots
- Chimera 128 hp, MR 13, Leadership 40, flying, fire breath, 2 item slots
- Dragonfly 1 hp, MR 3, flying, mindless, magic beaing, 2 item slots
- Foul Spawn 15-25 hp, MR 5, random ability, same item slots as a human
- Giant Ant 1 hp, MR 3, Leadership 55, mindless, stealthy, 2 item slots
- Great Bear 80 hp, MR 7, 2 item slots
- Gryphon 45 hp, MR 13, Leadership 55, flying, sacred, 2 item slots
- Hydra Hatchling 25 hp, MR 12, Leadership 55, regenerates, poison resistant, poison cloud, 2 item slots
- Ice/Fire Drake 45-100 hp, MR 9, Leadership 10, cold/fire resist, frost/fire breath, 2 item slots
- Scorpion Beast 28 hp, MR 5, poison resistant, poison stinger, 2 item slots
- Sea Dog 15 hp, MR 6, amphibian, 2 item slots
- Tiger 21 hp, MR 5, 2 item slots
- Winged Monkey 7-14 hp, MR 7, magic being, flying, same item slots as a human
- Wyvern 35 hp, MR 12, shock + poison resistant, flying, 2 item slots
It appears there can be quite a bit of variation in hp even within the same creature form. Whether this is just random or based upon scales is unknown (possibly high luck/magic scales brings better hp on average, or maybe only certain creature types are affected).
MA-Man really wants strong scales to grab enough territory early on with a strong expansion and be able to hold onto it. Cash is key, so high Order is a must. Growth is also important for the long-term economic benefit but also because your old-age crones will get diseased very quickly without it. Production is nice, but not absolutely necessary, since in the early game you're can spam longbowmen and cheap infantry to expand territory. Later on you can build knights at multiple castles, and rally them together. Magic 1 or 3 is good for the research boost, and along with your cheap researchers and owl quills should keep you well placed in the research race.
Misfortune 1-2 is tolerable under high order. Cold/Heat 1 grants more balanced scales. With it's weak priests, MA-Man probably wants a minimum dominion of 5-6 to be 'safe' from a dominion kill and to help maintain your expensive scales in friendly territory.
Recommended Scales: Order 3, Production 0-3, Cold/Heat 1, Growth 1-3, Misfortune 1-2, Magic 1 or 3
- Overall this means MA-Man is throwing tons of design points into scales, leaving less for magic paths on the pretender.
MA-Man has the tools for a strong expansion and defense against a rush without needing an awake SC. A minor bless is desirable since many of our magi are sacred and we have some stealthy sacred troops and summons, but we don't have many points left to do this.
Rainbows Like many other nations, MA Man benefits from magic diversity, and a rainbow pretender is your primary means to guarantee this. Level-1 of any given magic path finds 50% of corresponding magic sites present, level-2 75% and level-3 95% when you site-search.
- Parthalonian Sorceress
- Dormant, F2 A4 W3 E3 S3 D3 B2, Dom 5, Order 3 Cold 1 Growth 1 Misfortune 2 Magic 1
- A rainbow forger, site searcher and ritual-caster. Her stealthy nature fits in well with your other commanders and with the right boosters she can ultimately forge any non-Nature item in the game, summon up some magic diversity and go from there. You mostly want blood for quick access to Boots of Youth for your crones and fire for the ability to forge some choice items like firebrands, rings of fire resistance, rune smashers, etc. She can forge the air boosters already at Const-4 using a dwarven hammer.
- Master Lich
- Dormant, A4 B3 S3 D4 B4, Dom 6, Magic 1 (balance all other scales; ie. Order 2, Cold 2, Growth 2, Misfortune 2)
- Alternatively make a similar pretender using the Titan if you are willing to drop the Death paths. This will be a very good all-around pretender: offers a (weak) minor bless to sacreds, great site searching in paths not covered by your national magi, and most importanty can forge almost all of the best boosters and game-changing items that really turbo-charge Man's magic: Dwarven Hammer, Robe of the Magi, Staff of Elemental Mastery, Air Helmet, Staff of Storms, Boots of Youth, Stone Idol, Crystal Matrix, etc. On top of that, the Lich is Immortal while in friendly Dom, so no worries about getting ganked in battle. The death/blood magic offers two paths towards powerful end-game rituals.
Scales Pretender Another strategy is to embrace MA-Man's air/nature magic, and rely on indies for magic diversity. This allows us to put more points into even stronger scales and dominion.
- Imprisoned, S7, Dom 8, Order 3 Cold 1 Growth 3 Luck 3 Magic 3
- Since we are not relying on our pretender for mid-game magic diversity, imprisoned with strong astral for end-game rituals works fine. These scales nicely boost research, bring tons of gold and enough gems through random lucky events to make up somewhat for lack of a site-searching rainbow. With enough territory, you will eventually locate/conquer provinces with indie shamans/sorceresses to be able to break into F/S/D/B paths.
Bless Pretenders With your fairly easy access to stealthy sacreds, it is a shame not to take advantage. Here we also want magic diversity and good scales, but it is more for boosting our sacred's battle abilities. To get both, we need to take a dormant or imprisoned pretender.
- Great Enchantress
- Dormant, F4 W4 E2 S3 D2 B2, Dom 5, Order 3 Cold 1 Growth 1 Misfortune 1 Magic 1
- Covers all the paths you are not strong in and grants a useful minor bless to your melee sacreds to boot! She is an efficient site-searcher and will be able to forge most items and boosters, including easy access to Staff of Elemental Mastery. You still gain magic diversity through Spectres, Naiads and Kokythiad summons.
- Imprisoned, F4 W4 E4 B4, Dom 5, Order 3 Cold 1 Growth 3 Misfortune 1 Magic 1
- Boosts attack, defense, reinvig and strength on our sacred stealthy troops and national summons. Add to that Regeneration and Protection which most of our magi can cast once researched, and we have some very tough hombres to pack into a stealth army. The Great Druid offers a stealthy gem-generating chassis to do a similar bless.
- Master Lich
- Imprisoned, W4 D9, Dom 5, Order 3 Cold 1 Growth 3 Misfortune 1 Magic 1
- Boosts your sacred's defense skills and gives them magical AP death weapons. This also benefits your sacred casters (ie. the majority of your magi) by increasing 350% the chance of causing afflictions on enemies from battle magic such as lightning, vine arrow, storm of thorns and and rituals like seeking arrow. The lich is immortal, so as long as he remains in friendly dominion he can't die. His death magic allows easy access to end-game Tarts and nasty globals.
MA-Man can field perfect archers and very good cavalry along with a variety of shield-wielding melee blockers. For your first expansion army, normal Spearmen backed up by a few dozen Longbowmen will do fine vs indies. Replace casualties with any other indie shield-wielding troops and your archers will still dominate the battle. If you have taken a F/W bless, your Wardens of Avalon can form an alternative expansion force with high survivability ratio if they have a screen of shielded troops to draw arrow fire. You should expand quickly, build your inexpensive castles to field even more troops, then hold on to territory to press your economic advantage. Follow up by putting labs and temples into your castles to ramp-up your research using bards and mothers.
While nature has many useful forging options, the following suggestions are generally game-changing or strongly reinforce MA-Man's inherent advantages.
- Thorn Staff (N1) easy to forge and dramatically improves the survivability of your early-game melee commanders.
- Dwarven Hammer (E3) it's not likely Man will have these early unless you take a specifically designed pretender or can trade. Later on you can boost an E-random Crone with Earthboots and Empowerment. Many of your forge-able magic items cost 10 or more gems, so the long-term payoff is huge if you have a couple of these.
- Crystal Shield (S3E2) Another very tough to get item for Man without a pretender who can forge it. Being Const-2 makes it, however, the earliest combat magic booster to forge for a Crone leading your army.
- Eye of Aiming (A1) give them to any commander able to cast lightning or using a bow.
- Owl Quill (A1) easy to research and forge, keeps you in the research race.
- Eye Shield (N2) combined with mistform, makes your A2 magi extremely hard to kill by melee troops.
- Winged Helmet (A4), Bag of Winds (A4), Earthboots (E2), Crystal/Slave Matrix (E1S1), Thistle Mace (N2), Cainmail of Displacement (A2), Winged Shoes (A2), Vine Shield (N2)
- Staff of Storms (A4), Boots of Youth (B2), Elixir of Life (N2F2), Water Bracelet (W1)
Early on, MA-Man's most effective magic assists troops by granting buffs and de-buffing the enemy.
- The very first schools you should research
- Alt-1 for Aim, Eagle Eyes, Barkskin, False Fetters, Resist Lightning
- Conj-1 for Tangle Vines
- Evoc-2 for Vine Arrow, Lightning Bolt, Shockwave and Rain
- These spells, combined with your national song spells grant every single one of your mages useful combat magic. Note that Aim is an AoE-1 spell, so any units stacked in the same square as the mage also get increased precision. Also, the AI refuses to cast Eagle Eyes and Aim on the same commander, so they apparently can't stack. You will need a W random crone with a booster to be able to cast Rain, which you won't have till higher up in the construction school, but is still noteworthy, since any friendly troops operating under Protection will be vulnerable to fire, and Rain will help suppress fire-based spells.
- Early-game useful army buffs/debuffs
- Alt-3 for Protection which all your mages can spam, then on to Alt-4 for Wind Guide which improves battle-wide accuracy for both missiles AND spells. Protection spam gives your heavy infantry 21 protection total, which is awesome to absorb damage and makes them hugely effective when backed up by longbowmen (see comment on Rain spell above).
- Ench-3 for Gift of Flight, Regeneration, Seeking Arrow, possibly on to Ench-4 for Poison Ward, Haste.
- Thaum-2 for Berserkers, Sleep then Thaum-3 for Panic or alternatively Evoc-3 for Sleep Cloud, Mist
- You also pick up the best self-buffs for your casters at the same time with those. Seeking Arrow gives you a nice early assassination tool to weed-out enemy commanders. Mist is your only easily castable battlefield-wide spell without boosters or empowerment.
- Early-game summons
- Alt-2 for Phantasmal Warrior (the unscripted AI likes to cast this often)
- Conj-3 for Summon Lesser Air Elemental, Cu Sidhe, possibly Amphiptere then Conj-4 for Barghest, Spring Hawks, Spirits of the Wood (cast Regeneration Ench-3 in battle so they can survive away from their home province)
- Alt-4 for Swarm. Highly effective when spammed against SCs as they do 1 point of AN damage, or for delaying the enemy advance and giving your archers more time to work.
- Mid/Late-game spells
- Damage: Evoc-4 for Thunderstrike, Evoc-5 for Orb Lightning, Evoc-6 for Stream of Life and Evoc-7 for Storm of Thorns, Shimmering Fields (if you can cast it). Some boosted Crones of Avalon might also be able to cast Bone Melter at Alt-5.
- Buffs: Alt-5 for Wooden Warriors, Alt-7 for Fog Warriors, Mass Protection and Ench-5 for Thunder Ward, Ench-6 for Arrow Fend, Ench-7 for Mass Flight, possibly Serpents Blessing and Ench-8 for Mass Regeneration, Storm Warriors, Ench-9 for Gaia's Blessing.
- Alt-7 also enables Transformation, a spell which turns your Crones of Avalon into 0-upkeep casters and cures them of Old Age (about 80% survival rate). A boosted W-random crone can cast Quickness at Alt-4.
- De-buffs: Thaum-5 for Confusion, Thaum-7 for Charm and Conj-8 for Wild Growth or Alt-8 for Polymorph
- MA-Man can easily spam Charm in battle, and this makes up somewhat for the lack of damage spells.
- Assassination: Ench-3 for Seeking Arrow, Thaum-6 for Beckoning. An expensive spell, but cast on a large army in the woods it can seriously mess up the enemy's plans.
- Battlefield: Evoc-5 for Storm and Ench-6 for Relief are both quite realistic for MA-Man to cast. Evoc-6 for Wrathful Skies, and Ench-8 for Mists of Deception and Storm Warriors offer interesting possibilities for a powerful air mage.
- Summons: Conj-5 and higher for Air Elemental, Lamias, Fairy Court, Elemental Royalty also Ench-7 for Treelords. A few Crones of Avalon with lucky random picks might be able to summon Watchers at Ench-5.
- Mother Oak (Alt-5 N5) and Gift of Health (Ench-5 N5) are both very realistic for MA-Man to cast, even easier if you take strong nature on your pretender. Perpetual Storm (Evoc-6 A5) is a bit more ambitious to cast and will harm your economy, but your air-magi's battle magic will be stronger and enemy nations without nature magic will suffer from supply problems. In the very late game, you might consider casting Gale Gate (Thaum-8 A5) to generate more Air gems. Most other end-game rituals will require strong magic on your pretender to be able to cast.