iii. Basic Hero Combinations
In this section, I'll go over the numerous hero combinations it's possible to use when Gruntapulting, what races they're good against and what they aren't. I'll start with the most common and move on to more obscure ones later on - I've used them all before at various points, so hopefully not much of this will be theorycraft.
Far Seer/Shadow Hunter
Elf, Undead (Fiends)
Orc, Undead (Ghouls)
FS/SH is your basic hero combination and the one I started off with. I generally don't stray from it against Elf, I do sometimes use a different combo against Undead though. The main strengths lie in the extra DPS provided by Wolves and Chain Lightning combined with Wards or Hex.
The first skill you take on your Shadow Hunter is usually dependant on the race you're playing against. With Elf, you'll usually want Wards - they're invaluable against Huntresses and against Archers they're decent DPS and not easily taken out without losing positioning.
Against Fiends, you'll be picking Hex - simple Fiend focus/Hex the DK and nick a kill micro. Rinse and repeat and kill as many Fiends as possible. Against Ghouls, SH is less useful, but Wards provide decent DPS.
Less useful against Human, as Human have defended Footmen and high HP Elementals (so the Wards aren't very effective) and Hex is much better against high food units, something which Human players don't use.
Human, Undead (Ghouls)
Elf, Undead (Fiends)
I've seen Rob use FS/FL against Human before, but I'm frankly unsure of the benefits - there are better combos in my opinion which I'll go over later.
Against Orc, this is a fantastic combination and I use it regularly. Remember that you'll be pushing at early tier 2, when the Orc still has no dispel (unless he goes for Shamen, a possibility but something I rarely see). You'll usually be facing BM/SH, if you're up against FS/FL or FS/SH then the extra Grunts/summons will usually swing it in your favour. Against BM/SH, most players will just mindlessly hero focus, so it's not difficult to simply stock up on a Potion or two and run away, focusing the SH when the Orc loses positioning.
FS/FL rarely has any use beyond the initial push - when dispel comes out, if you still have no towers up the game's pretty much out of reach for you. The basic idea is to use the strength of the push to get up a tower or two and push the advantage from there.
Far Seer/Naga Sea Witch
Good against (situational):
Elf, Human, Undead (Ghouls)
Undead (Fiends w/o DK)
Orc, Undead (Fiends)
Taking Naga second is a very situational decision. You'll usually pick her because you've had a fantastic early game, or feel like you can pick off units at early tier 2, because that's what the Naga is good at. If you can force your opponent into fights, or creepjack them, you'll generally get some unit kills. In particular, difficult to micro low-HP units such as Footmen and Archers are prime targets, making the Naga a very good anti-Elf/anti-Human hero.
Also, when facing Elf, they'll usually put their heroes (read: DH) on the line to get a unit kill or a tower kill and the presence of a Naga will make them a bit more cautious, or punish them if they aren't.
Far Seer/Dark Ranger
Undead (Ghouls), Elf
Undead (Fiends), Orc
FS/DR is my standard vs-Human hero combination, it's just fantastic for pushing Humans full stop. Why? Well, a Human's main defense against towers is Militia, and if you've crept your FS to Level 3 (Level 2 CL please), pick up a DR, CL the Militia and watch in amazement as you instantly get about seven Skeletons. Basically, the more the Human uses Militia, the worse the fight is for him - it evens out the playing field.
It's also important to know how to counter it, so you can take steps to avoid it. Logically, the DR is the only thing keeping the Human from using Militia, so if the Human Bolt-surrounds it or just plain kills it, you're screwed. Make sure to keep the DR as difficult to attack as possible at all times and don't be afraid to sacrifice a unit or two (or some money) to keep it alive.
Undead (Ghouls), Elf
BM/SH is the first of the BM combos, which I have always found to be slightly weaker - I find them to be more useful against Undead than anything else when DPS to take out Fiends, Ghouls and Statues is very useful. In most other situations, I use Far Seer, so I can get a larger meat shield in addition to extra DPS and an AoE spell.
Blademaster/Naga Sea Witch
Undead (Fiends), Orc
Once again, Naga second is a situational pick - in fact, I've only ever used this hero combination once, when I was facing a Ghouling Undead who went for a later than usual Graveyard. I kept the Graveyard down, and so he was restricted to Ghouls for most of the game and was forced to fight me in order to get the Graveyard up, leading to a demolishing of his Ghouls with my BM/Naga.
Okay, so those are the hero combinations you'll be using when Gruntapulting, now we'll move on to army composition and how many of each unit (and which units) to get.
iv. Basic Unit Combinations (apart from the, well, obvious)
Your unit combination also depends heavily on the race you're playing against and the units the other player goes for. Apart from the rare cases in which you'll want to get Headhunters, which I'll go over a bit later in this section, the main choices revolve around how many Grunts and how many Demolishers to get.
No unit combination is really "bad" against any race, hence the simple statement of which races it's "Good against" instead of Good/Okay/Bad, but some are, I find, better than others for certain situations.
8 Grunts, 1 Demolisher (50 Food)
Elf (Archers), Orc
Much the same as the 7/2 combo below, the 8/1 combo, as I refer to it, gives you a strong melee line at the expense of little siege, with a standard amount of wood. This makes it quite good against Archers and early tier 2 Orc (notably Raiders) but is much more heavily reliant on towers, and is therefore not so handy where you want two or more Demolishers (such as sieging Undead towers and fighting against Huntresses and casters).
Still worthwhile trying it and if it works for you, then by no means should you be put off using it by my moaning, I just prefer using more siege.
7 Grunts, 2 Demolishers, 1 Less Wood Peon (50 Food)
Undead (Fiends), Undead (Ghouls), Orc
This combination gives you less lumber for more units, and is therefore good against races where you need more
units to make the difference count (as opposed to better
units). The 7/2 combo, as it shall henceforth be known, is therefore very useful against Orc, where you need to outnumber your opponent's melee (or outmicro him) and Undead, where lots of Grunts are useful to DPS down the Fiends, while still having two Demolishers allows you to have a nice balance of melee and siege.
Usually, the extra wood peon is lost shortly before you start training your last unit - just scout your opponent's base with it and wait for him to take the bait, or if he doesn't kill it immediately, suicide it to creeps.
6 Grunts, 2 Demolishers, 2 Extra Wood Peons (50 Food)
Elf (Archers), Human
This is one of my more bread and butter combinations, the 6/2 push. As you'll already have four Grunts immediately after your tech, it's a simple matter of four more units before you push - with two Barracks, this isn't difficult - and you can usually leave your base as the last two units are about halfway done, thereby shortening the time you have to wait and speeding up the push. Getting the extra two peons as you leave your base allows you to safely put up a number of towers and not worry about how much wood you have left.
This results in one of the fastest pushes around and is therefore tremendously useful against races which need a tech, or a considerable amount of tier 2 to be very useful. Therefore, it's useful against Elf (before they get full tier 3 tech) and Human (before they start massing Spell Breakers, which drives most FS combos into the ground).
5 Grunts, 3 Demolishers, 1 Extra Wood Peon (50 Food)
Another one of the fastest pushes around and another of my staples, the 5/3 push is much more geared towards countering Huntresses and casters and taking down tier 2 buildings very, very quickly thereby delaying your opponent's tech and tier 2/tier 3 units considerably. In fact, if you're fast and your opponent doesn't TP for ten seconds or so, you can easily stop their entire tier 2 unit production, and in the case of Elf players, prevent their tier 3 upgrades, making your job considerably easier.
The 5/3 push is, as I've mentioned, much better against Huntresses and casters than the 6/2 but really requires an FS to make it work, for the extra melee units - otherwise you're left with quite a weak front line. However, the 5/3 push is really just as respectable as the 6/2 against Archers, so I tend to use the 5/3 more, but it's down to personal preference in all honesty.
When to Use Headhunters
Now, I admit, the sight of Headhunters in a Gruntapult thread may have some of you shaking your heads in disbelief, but unfortunately there are certain situations where you must stray from your beloved two unit combo. Most of these situations involve the usage of air by the opposing player, but it's important to remember that air is easily countered
provided you push quite quickly and you see it coming.
Say you're pushing an Orc player who knows you're going Gruntapult, you've harassed his base early tier 2 and you see two Beastiaries. Once again, common sense applies. If you see the following, don't wait to see if he gets air, expect it
. After all, if you go Headhunters and he doesn't go air, it's not a disaster.
Will rarely go air and is difficult to tell, but Faerie Dragons are a possibility if they go Talons. Either take down the AoWs quickly with your Demolishers or get a couple of Headhunters for security after you lose a unit.
If you see two Beastiaries, expect air.
If you see a Graveyard and a second Crypt, (especially with no Fiends,) expect air.
If you see Aviaries (a dead giveaway) or a tier 3 tech, expect air.
In these four cases, getting some Headhunters for security is fine. Once again, the rules aren't rigid. If you're suspicious at all, best to get a couple of Headhunters. Better safe than sorry.
v. Basic Strategy
Obviously, there are countless routes a game can take and a guide such as this will not (and cannot) cover them all. So, I'll merely gloss over a few of the possible things you can do in each game. There's pretty much something for everyone early game, so it's pick and choose.
Early on, as I see it, you have two options - creeping or harassing. Creeping to Level 2 and then harassing is a possibility, but in most situations, (except perhaps against a DK/Fiends Undead,) the other player will already have scouted your second Barracks and be attempting to be taking it down, so you won't have much time to harass.
I generally use both routes, there's no real determining factor other than what I feel like (and I think playing the game "how you feel like playing it" is much more enjoyable!). Perhaps I harass more when I'm using BM because I don't see as much of an advantage from creeping as I do with FS, but I usually harass with a BM anyway so I guess it's still "what I feel like".
When I creep, it's usually straight to Level 3 unless I'm interrupted. Level 3 is the key level for almost every hero in the game - the jump in importance from 2 to 3 is rivalled only by the jump from 5 to 6 for most heroes. There's not a huge amount I can say about this, other than to stay as close to your base as is realistically possible and that it's not the end of the world if you don't reach Level 3 by tier 2 so long as your second Barracks, War Mill and Burrows don't go up.
If you're going to harass, do it straight off the bat, because it's much more effective keeping a hero at Level 1 than letting it creep a bit then harassing. This kills three birds with one stone - it keeps their hero low while allowing you to get your buildings up in complete safety, and rarely will they get a scout past your units unless it's already near to your base so they may well not know your push is even happening, let alone on its way.
Assuming you've got past the early game fine, whichever route you picked, make sure you've got access to a shop and sell all the items in your inventory, including your Scroll of TP
. There is one exception to this, and this is if you're across the other side of the map and reckon you may yet need it. I've made the mistake of selling my TP immediately before and then getting hit while I'm across the other side of the map. The gold from the TP sell helps greatly, but make sure you don't need it first!
Your opponent will be doing one of two things - attacking you, or creeping. You can safely say he won't be tower pushing you, because if he is, he's usually insane and it's a free win for you. If it's the former, such as in an Orc vs Elf game, then just sit back, get your second hero and defend, because you'll easily have the units with which to fend it off, considering that you're massing units from buildings you already have. If he's doing the latter, you should probably continue with what you were doing before. If you started off creeping, keep creeping, and if you started out with a harass then keep doing it until you have 50 food.
Then, simply heal up and push, following the rules I've already set out in section b/ii. Et voila, the game will be over either way! Of course, it's not quite this simple, there's a lot of things for each individual race that you need to remember, but this is, after all, the "Basic" strategy.
c. The Races
i. Gruntapulting against Night-Elf
FS/SH 5/3 push, FS/SH 6/2 push.
I've started off with Night-Elf, because this is the race I find easiest to use the strategy against. My standard unit and hero choices are detailed above - as you can see, they're not tremendously varied, because these are the two I find the most effective and have done for the last two years!
I'll usually go for a 5/3 push against Huntresses and a 6/2 push against Archers, for obvious (and already detailed) reasons. There's a lot of strategies that Elf players can employ and I'll go over some of the more common ones here.
Archers (or Hunts) to Talons, BM Second
Standard Talons are quite easy to deal with, just go Wards on your SH, focus the Talons with your Demolishers and proceed as usual. You can also use Peons as a mini meat shield.
Archers (or Hunts) to Bears
Adept Bears can be troublesome if microed correctly. Try and take the Lores out as quickly as possible with your siege to prevent Master Training being researched and then focus down any Bears when you get the chance. Never focus a full health DH with Rejuv on, because if you don't then the Elf has just all but wasted 125 mana.
Archers (or Hunts) to Dryads
Much the same as standard Talons, just spam Wards and focus down the Dryads with your siege while putting up towers or using the Peons as an extra meat shield.
Dual AoW Hunts
Remember that thing I said about remaining calm? This is one of those moments. It may seem like you're up against wave upon wave of imbalance, but it's really not that difficult, especially if you get given a chance to set up. Your best weapon will generally be positioning, and creation of choke points is paramount when you have Wards and siege.
The diagram below illustrates the sort of setup you want to have. Reduce surface area
and keep siege/Wards safe.
In the diagram, large blue dots are heroes, small blue dots are Grunts, large black dots are siege and small black dots are Wards. As you can see, in a setup such as that, the Elf has little in the way of chances to get through the wall to that siege. If the Hunts stop to take down the towers the siege will tear them to bits.
The most damage an Elf can do to you early game is usually a little harass at your main base, so think about hiding the second Barracks and make sure that if he finds it he doesn't delay it with his DH.
ii. Gruntapulting against Human
FS/DR 6/2 push, FS/DR 5/3 push, FS/Naga 6/2 push
Gruntapulting against Human isn't quite so easy as against Elf, but it's certainly, as with all the matchups, possible and perfectly okay if executed well. Your main weapon of choice will be your second hero. Dark Ranger is my preferred second hero, but I'll use Naga second if the situation warrants it (such as if I've had a blinder of an early game and want to finish it quickly).
There's not a lot of variety with Human strategies before about ten minutes into the game - they mostly revolve around an Archmage/Footmen start with a tech to casters and either Rifles (earlier) or Spell Breakers (later). This makes Humans very predictable and you can usually tell what they're going to do simply by harassing them throughout the whole of tier 1. Generally, I go 5/3 against pure casters and 6/2 against Riflecaster.
I used to creep my FS to Level 3 against Human, but now I favour harassing the Human early game to keep the Archmage low level - letting it get to 3 and creep a mercenary camp is generally just asking for trouble, no matter how good your micro is.
Footmen to MK Riflecaster
Be careful not to get your DR bolt surrounded, and simply focus down the casters with your siege while taking care of any Rifles with your Grunts. 6/2 is better for this in my opinion, but 5/3 can also work. If the Human tries to use Militia, focus them down immediately
(remember, easiest targets first!).
Footmen to MK Casters
5/3 is usually more appropriate here because the Grunts lose their effectiveness in a big way here, there's no real reason for them to be there other than as a meat shield. Focus down Footmen with your Grunts and create as effective a wall as you can manage, your siege will be the main DPS. Same Militia rule applies, but keep your DR on the Footmen, not the Casters.
Footmen to BM Riflecaster
Beastmaster poses a bit of a problem, especially with Riflecaster, because of the sheer amount of summons and casters, considering you have no dispel. If you see a Beastmaster, you really need to push before the Human gets too many casters, and focus on getting Grunts before Demolishers. This is one of the few situations in which I would advocate constant pressure on the Human, whether you choose to tower them or not. Snipe Footman and Rifleman kills where possible to keep the Human's food count low, and go for units before summons.
Footmen to BM Casters
Not as big a problem as Riflecaster, 5/3 and 6/2 are both fine, just do the same as with MK Casters and don't focus the Quilbeasts unless it's a free kill.
Tower Push, Tier 1 or Tier 2
Another "remain calm" situation. There are three types of Human tower rush - immediate, delayed tier 1 and tier 2.
If it's an immediate tower rush then play it as you would any other tower rush - snipe Peasant kills where you can, hide a Barracks and shop off to one side and mass Grunts. Tech if you're confident your base will hold until you can get siege out.
A delayed tier 1 tower rush shouldn't be much of a problem, because you'll be putting a second Barracks up. Just spam Grunts and get a DR second as usual.
tier 2 tower push (with a Beastmaster and casters) shouldn't happen before your push - worst case scenario, your armies should meet halfway across the map. Bearing in mind you've got siege and a DR, it shouldn't be much of a problem at all. Some people may push earlier, but the same "bearing in mind" theme applies. You'll have siege, so you're usually fine.
iii. Gruntapulting against Undead
BM/SH 7/2, FS/SH 7/2
Any Undead going Fiends may pose a bit of a problem, because Fiends are fanastic at defending a base. This is why, when pushing an Undead base, you need at least two Demolishers, because the repair rate on Acolytes is bad enough without the Undead ony having five of them.
So, your basic strategy? Get towers and a shop
up and camp behind them, punishing the Undead if he tries to get outside the confines of his base.
There's hardly any variety in Undead strategies, the one thing you need to look out for is Crypt Lord first, because those Level 2 Beetles are a nightmare to deal with when you don't have any dispel or AoE. If you see a Crypt Lord, keep it as low level as possible, and either a) go for an AoE hero such as a Panda second or b) just revert to a standard strategy if you're not all-faithful in Gruntapult!
There's a problem, however, with Ghouls. With Fiends you can follow the usual positioning rules (just make sure to have a speed scroll, that's why the offensive shop comes in handy), but with Ghouls, you won't usually be able to put the towers up against the trees because the Undead will probably have a Nerubian Tower watching that spot. If he doesn't, then by all means tower next to the trees, but just be careful of the range on the Halls of the Dead and build the towers as close together as possible if you have to build them away from the trees against Ghouls.
Basic micro in OvU Gruntapult is simple. You attempt to catch the Undead outside of his base, ideally with Boots on your BM, focus down a Fiend and Hex the DK when the Fiend is at about 200HP, giving you enough time to finish it off. Oh, and buy dust
, because the Undead will save a lot of Fiends otherwise.
iv. Gruntapulting against Orc
FS/FL 7/2, FS/FL 8/1
Orc is probably the hardest race to Gruntapult, simply because BM/SH is so devastating to your heroes if your opponent gets a good position. It's absolutely paramount
that you have at least one healing potion and one speed scroll on your heroes at any one time. This almost always means an offensive shop.
As for strategy, I prefer to harass the other player as much as possible, keeping tier 2 buildings and that all-important third burrow down for as long as I can, to prevent the second hero and Raiders/dispel hitting the floor running right as I'm about to push.
Once you're pushing them, you simply want to survive until the towers go up. The siege is almost irrelevant, because it's mostly useless against Orc units, so just keep putting towers up, cover them with shops, War Mills, Grunts, anything to get them up, because once they go up and you get a couple of siege units, provided you have a decent army and can consolidate your position with a couple of more towers and a shop, the game is basically over.
If your opponent fast techs, it's important to be in his base at 1 dot into the first night on the clock at the top of the screen, because his tech finishes at 2 and he's going to push you immediately afterwards to buy time for his tier 2 buildings. Don't let him
, he doesn't have any stun yet, so there's nothing stopping you running in and out quite freely stopping his tier 2 buildings and sniping a burrow kill or two.
Anyway, that's pretty much how to Gruntapult, so I hope you enjoyed the guide and that you can apply it to one or all of your matchups. Most of all, I hope I've provided a potential solution to your problems.
d. Extra Resources
I will attempt to get a replay pack sorted for before I go, but no promises! Most of them will probably be quite old.