Aztec Scout Slam
By Beatnik Joe               12/16/06, TWC v1.01, Author's Rating: 2000+
This article describes a highly unconventional, even disturbing Aztec strat. (Recorded games may be found here.) What you are about to read may shock you and offend your sensibilities. Prepare yourself. In this article, I will ask you to use a card you've never played, to make a unit you've never created, and to construct a building you've never built.
So if you love weird strats and underdog units, you've come to the right place. If you've ever cheered on an envoy rush, I was cheering right along with you. And if you want to find out what has recently gotten me called a "n00b", cussed out and even drop-tricked, then sit back, relax, and join me as I take you through... the Aztec Scout Slam!
The "Light Infantry" Problem:
As we know by now, classic "light infantry" (Aennas, Strelets, Cetan Bowmen, Skirmishers, etc.) tend to dictate the pace of combat in the game. Early on, they are countered only by cavalry-type units or other, more powerful light infantry.
Sounds fine so far, but why not just make cavalry? The problem is that cavalry have pathing issues and lose to their counters hard -- units like Pikemen rip down cavalry with a vengeance. On the other hand, the skirmisher family doesn't die so quickly to cavalry. This means that light infantry with an anti-cav meatshield is one of the "safest", most popular types of force troop mixes around. Ever tried dealing with Cetan \ War Club (and the shipped Axe Riders)? Not exactly a picnic, is it?
Don't you wish there were units that could close in with those Cetans and just... and just punch their lights out? One begins to wonder if such a unit does in fact exist. Ah, dare to dream. But... I suppose it couldn't hurt to look, right?
Looking for a Hero:
So let's take a peek at (of all things) the humble "Native Scout." He's a harmless-looking little chap -- he's got no shirt, some cool blue war paint, and looks like he weighs about 120 pounds soaking wet. Here are his stats:
120 HP, 5 melee attack, 5 siege, 5.5 speed, 22 LoS, 10% ranged resist, Cost: 90 wood (180 villager-seconds) (Can stealth)
Pathetic! Clearly this weenie is not the man for the job. 5 damage? So why do I even waste your time bringing this silly unit up for discussion? Because the Aztecs (and other natives) have the Advanced Scout card, which raises Scout hitpoints by 50% and their attack ability by a whopping 200%! You will be able to train these guys from your Town Center for 90 wood a piece. (Problematic on a couple counts, I know, but more on that later.)
Here are the new stats for the new and improved Scout:
180 HP, 15 melee attack, 15 siege, 5.5 speed, 22 LoS, 10% ranged resist, Cost: 90w (180 villager-seconds) (Can stealth)
Let's compare that to the Coyote Runner:
150 HP, 18 melee attack, 11 siege, 6.0 speed, 12 LoS, 10% ranged resist, Cost: 85f, 25w (163 villager-seconds) (Can stealth with card)
That's right -- in a 1v1 fight, advanced Scouts break absolutely even with coyotes. Yet Scouts do not share the usual vulnerabilities to Pikemen, Rodeleros, etc. The cost is slightly higher, and the speed is slightly slower, but aside from that, Scouts stack up well in virtually every category.
Pikemen barely scratch them. They can charge into a pack of skirms \ pikes, throwing punches like an army of skinny little Oscar de la Hoya's. The numbers are right there for your perusal and they do not lead you astray -- when appropriately upgraded, these guys can hurt people.
In addition, a batch of 5 takes only 20 seconds to build. So if you've got the wood, you can get a scout army raised in a serious hurry.
Problems and Solutions:
So now that I've convinced you that the Scout might be worth your time, let's address some of the obvious problems. Namely, that these guys must be built from the Town Center and cost 90 wood a piece.
Let's talk econ first. Since the unit costs only one resource, this gives us one major advantage -- wood upgrades will be extremely valuable to us. You can think of a 20% wood upgrade as a nearly 20% increase in the speed at which you produce scouts. The next wood upgrade? Another great boost. So we'll need to shoot for constant vill production, native wood upgrades ASAP (for a total bonus of +40% wood gathering), and lots of people on wood.
So on to the next question -- how do we produce these TC-only units without halting villager production and running your economy into the ground? The secret? The Native Embassy.
For those who've never used it, the Native Embassy allows you to build any native unit available to you on the map. Any allied minor natives can deliver units to any Embassy that you've placed. Luckily for you, Scouts fall into that category. Native Embassies cost 100 wood, but can only be built after you capture a minor native TP.
So basically, what do we need to do?
There you go! I've told you most of what you need to know to get started. I can give you a sample build order that I've been using lately, but many varieties will work. I welcome your suggestions for improvement!
Cards:The required cards are:
3 Villagers (I)
10 Macehualtins (II)
Advanced Scouts (II)
The recommended cards are:
5 Villagers (II)
9 Macehualtins (II)
5 Puma Spearmen (II)
3 Warrior Priests (II)
3 Trading Post Travois (II)
Exotic Hardwoods (I)
Sample Build Order:
Note: All vill numbers are for villagers only, not for total pop. For example, 18 vills means a pop of 19/20 for 18 vills + a Warrior Priest.
- 2 vills hunt, 2 vills to food crates, 1 vill to wood crate.
- Lay firepit, house, and perform fertility dance.
- All vills to food, age with 17-18 vills. Use the Messenger politician. Switch to gift dance (a step I manage to forget about half the time.)
- Important! Do not take unnecessary risks with your War Chief. If he dies, you will fall behind. Find your favorite local native TP and get close to it.
- Put 7 vills on food, 7-9 vills on wood 2-4 and vills on gold. The number of vills on gold is decided by how close you are to wood chopping upgrades. The first costs 100f, 150g and the second costs 150f, 235g. Each grants a 20% increase in wood chopping.
- Ship 10 macehualtins when you hit colonial. Harass with them, but don't get them killed. Keep up with housing and vill production. Do not slip on this. You need wood and you need it fast. The vills must keep coming.
- Ship Advanced Scouts as soon as it is available.
- Once you have 250w free, build a native TP with your War Chief. Choose one whose units or technology you would potentially like to use down the line.
- When the native TP completes, build a Native Embassy, either forward if you're attacking or right at home if you are defending. It only costs 100w, so it is easily spammed.
- Make scouts from the embassy. 5 can be built every 20 seconds. Attack and harass. Once you get a large enough group, attack large forces of light infantry fearlessly.
- Play econ cards such as 5 villagers, 3 trading posts, exotic hardwoods (for a total of +60% wood gathering), 3 Warrior Priests, etc.
- Diversify your econ as you see fit.
An alternative, perhaps more rush-proof build order is to keep your Warrior Priest on gift dance from the beginning of the match, and then age with 15-16 villagers. You can then instead ship 10 + 9 macehualtins and delay your Advanced Scout shipment.
WTF! I mean... Scouts? I know.
Come on, is a scout really that powerful? What if I make Rodeleros all day long like I usually do? Won't I pwn you then, u n00b? Scouts stand up surprisingly well to rods. Scouts kill rods in 15 hits, rods kill scouts in 14. If you have a gang of 10-19 macehualtin backing your scouts up, you can shred rods.
What have you inflicted on the community? Do these things have any counters at all? Don't you care about the non-native players?? Yes, they can be countered. If you download the game pack, check the game against Walker. He is the only player that has so far attempted to build a hard counter for scouts (quite impressive as he has only had the x-pack for a few days.) Since Scouts are classified as "Native" troops, spies act as a hard counter for them. If your opponent doesn't know this, well... life is much more difficult for them.
How about falconets? Yes, artillery can be quite a threat! You certainly won't want to hang around and get blasted. I'll just address the case where you are in colonial and your opponent is in fortress, as in fortress v fortress matches, Arrow Knights are the obvious choice. I'll also assume that you have been attacking your opponent throughout his FF to slow him up and that you have a large contingent of scouts by the time his cannons are out. (You have been harrassing an FFer, haven't you? If not, start today!)
Trick number one is to always be attacking so that if those cannons come out of the TC you can just mob them. If they are not properly shielded, his shipment goes down the tubes.
Trick number two (the fun one) is to try to kill the enemy explorer at some point before battle commences, go into stealth mode, and walk right up to the cannons. Since scouts do 15 per shot, it takes 14 punches to kill a cannon. If you close the distance, they don't have a prayer. Walk right up to them and punch each one. Don't worry about anything else but those cannons until they are dead. Then either run or punch your way out. (I perform this in the game vs. Russia from the game pack.)
It can also be a question of where the cannons are. You have all the line of sight and all the speed. If his cannons are turtling in his base, you can simply circle like a shark, harrass, and boom until you are fortress yourself. If his cannons are slowly trundling toward your base, he has to keep them protected at all times. You have the opportunity to raid his vills, stealth-raid his cannons or whatever else you might like to do. Overall, the journey of getting cannons to your base is fraught with peril, so you have a little time. Don't take forever though!
Any other hard counters? Lancers, spahi, and cuirassiers are all pretty hard counters (especially lancers.) But don't be fooled -- small numbers of each can be mobbed by a huge number of scouts. Even so, I recommend employing anti-cav for these situations. I know of no other hard counters, but most cavalry units (and rodeleros) at least break even with scouts. I do not believe native civs have any hard counters to scouts. They are in general not easy to counter at all, particularly if you do not see them coming.
Recorded Games:You can download the Scout Slam Game Pack here. This is a rundown of the included games:
- ScoutSlamVPorts.age3rec -- This rec is against Walker's Portuguese and shows just how annoying this can be against even the best-executed FF. He takes the honor of being the first opponent to figure out that spies are a hard counter for scouts.
- ScoutSlamVRussia.age3rec -- A game against strelet spam. Notice how much sturdier scouts are against muskets (compared to coyotes.)
- ScoutSlamVOttoFF.age3rec -- A game against an Otto FF, using the 19-macehualtin build. This game shows why I really like to carry the 6-puma shipment. Spahis are inevitable and a bit problematic for scouts. Notice, though, that if catch them out alone, scouts are capable of handling straggler Spahi very well.
- ScoutSlamVSioux.age3rec -- This rec is unfortunately a bit ownage (the macehualtins do more damage than they should), but does illustrate the build against Sioux.
- ObsoleteScoutSlamVSioux.age3rec -- This rec shows a completely obsolete, experimental build order, but the one valuable thing about it is that it shows Cetan spam get reamed by Scouts. A fun recording to watch as you get to see Scouts K.O. Cetans, Axe Riders, and even Dog Soldiers.
Hopefully this gives you a good picture of what this strat is all about, but please feel free to ask any questions you have. I welcome feedback on any aspect of the strat and I'd love to hear about any experiences you have while trying it out. Good luck and thanks for reading!
Thanks to Garlef and Septimus for feedback and ideas on the strat, and to Walker for post-game feedback (and not reporting my h4x to ES.)
By Beatnik Joe               12/16/06, TWC v1.01, Author's Rating: 2000+
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