How to play Drakes
General Drake Strategies
Against an opponent who has selected a random faction, you want to recruit an adaptable mixture of units. An example recruit might be one each of a Fighter, Clasher, Burner, Augur, and Skirmisher. When you discover your opponent's faction, read the appropriate section for additional advice.
Drakes generally win by dealing the most damage. Your units are big and deadly, but they're also more expensive than most; also, they're relatively fragile for their cost and many have a specific vulnerability to piercing weapons. Take advantage of having the best mobility in the game by placing your units in hard-to-access places such as behind mountains or across water from your opponent. You'll then have the advantage by being able to decide when and where battles will happen. Your major disadvantage is how easily your units will take damage. Because of this you'll usually want to be the aggressor in battle to kill a unit or two, get damaged, and then flee to heal. Having a mobile healer helps with this if villages are sparse.
Since you trade your defense for other abilities, fighting battles where your opponent has low defense will give you a greater advantage than it will for any other faction. If your opponent refuses to leave 70% defensive terrain, go heavy on the saurians rather than the drakes and attack at night.
It's good to note that the drake faction has exceptional potential for leader-kill situations. This is due to their high damage and mobility, combined with low defense, and also the availability of skirmisher units.
Drakes vs Undead
Playing as Drakes in this matchup is dramatic, bloody fun. The deadliest matchup in Wesnoth, this game will quickly result in lots of casualties. Both factions are incredibly offensive and of opposite alignment. Skeletons are vulnerable to fire, Dark Adepts have no melee attack, and Drakes are vulnerable to pierce and cold. Whoever is left standing wins.
You'll want a couple of these to burn Skeletons, Ghosts and Ghouls mainly -- but don't pit them against Adepts. Even burning Skeleton Archers at daytime isn't a bad idea as it's the most effective way to kill them. The most expensive unit you can recruit, you'll want to recruit them sparingly and be careful to keep them alive.
With strong Clashers dealing an awesome 9-4 Pierce damage during the day, these are great at butchering Adepts, as well as being damage soakers. Due to their price, you'll need to avoid recruiting too many. Level one of these into a Thrasher and Skeletons won't pose a major threat any more, even at night. Clashers are the slowest of the Drakes, though, and may have trouble catching quick Adepts at daytime or escaping them at night.
Dealing Impact melee and Fire ranged damage, these guys won't be worthless at any point, but their damage is still very weak compared to what the rest of your army can do. Recruiting too many of them isn't smart. As in any other match-up, their main role is scouting.
Cheaper and faster than the Clasher, the Fighter is a good Adept-killer, with good melee damage in the form of 9-3 or 10-3 war blades at daytime. Their speed and ability to fly make them better at catching the retreating Undead at day, and escaping from them at night. The Fire ranged attack also gives them a bit of flexibility in their usage.
Don't recruit this unit when fighting Undead. It's too fragile against melee.
This little guy actually plays a very crucial role in your army against Undead. If the Undead didn't have Adepts you'd simply roll right over them. But since Adepts are such a necessary unit in their attack against you you'll need to take them out, and you'll need to be able to do that under any circumstances. The Skirmisher gives you a weapon that not only can hustle around enemy units to strike protected Adepts, but he also gets better at night - the time when you'll want them to be dead the fastest. Having a couple of these guys around can really save your butt.
On the first turn you'll want a couple Burners, a Fighter or Clasher, a Skirmisher, and another useful unit. If your opponent gets mass Skeleton Archers, get Clashers and Burners. If he gets lots of Adepts get Skirmishers and Fighters. If he likes Ghouls & Ghosts, you'll want Burners.
Deal as much damage as you can at day, because you won't be dealing much at night. Keep Burners in front as they'll do great return damage to any Adepts that try to counter-attack you during your daytime assault: they'll do 12-2 while you do 7-4. Adepts have 28 base hp.
At night simply retreat out of Adept range and have Skirmishers ready to take out any that get too close. Even if you have to retreat from a village to avoid Adepts it's worth it. You may lose a few gold, but it shouldn't add up to the 16+ you'd lose for a lost Drake. If your opponent takes the village and moves closer he'll also be closer to your new recruits to counter-attack. As day turns chase them away and you should net some gold for the units your opponent will have to replace.
Drakes vs Rebels
Playing Drakes in this matchup can be difficult. Your units have low defense and are weak to Pierce where the Rebels have high defense and use Pierce. You'll want to recruit a mix of drakes and saurians so that their neutrality doesn't become an advantage at any time of day. Take cheap shots when you can, because they will always be taking cheap shots at you.
This unit is a great weapon to take out Elvish Fighters and they absolutely massacre Woses. Effective in both melee and ranged combat, this unit is always useful against Rebels on attack or defense. He costs 21g though, and there are other units you will need to recruit to be successful.
The only drake without a weakness to Pierce, this unit is great against Rebels. He will tear through Archers and he will beat EFs in a fight. He will overpower any Rebel and it's essential to have these guys in your force.
Good for their movement, and can be useful to get to those hard to reach hexes to get extra shots at Archers or Shamans. Recruit according to map need for scouts.
Useful as a mobile fighter, the Fighter is what you'll want if there are 2 separate battlefields within close flying range of each other. The ability to leave one battle to help the other is quite useful, which is true of Burners as well, though they move slower. For pure fighting power the Clasher is better, and he is hardier. If mobility is necessary on the map though, get 1 or 2 of these guys.
These guys are essential to fighting Rebels. They are the only easy way you'll have of taking elves out in forest terrain. Augurs have distressingly low HP, so keep them behind the line to heal your power units, or fort him up in forest hexes your opponent will want. Using these guys as your first attackers at night will allow you to get their damage in and then move other units in front of them and consequently heal.
Useful mainly against Scouts, Archers, and Mages at night, don't recruit too many of this unit even if you're tempted. They're fragile units.
On the first turn you'll want to recruit a Clasher, a Burner, an Augur, and a mix of other units like another Clasher, or a Skirmisher. During daytime you'll want to deal as much damage as possible, as that's when you'll have the advantage. Elves fighting you will suffer massive return damage during the day. Keep your units away from places where the Rebels can use forest to attack you from, and remember to have your Augur(s) heal.
At night you can still be aggressive with Augurs. You'll probably want to retreat your drakes slightly and put any Skirmishers (or even Clashers) you have up front on good terrain. Don't be afraid to keep a mobile unit up front either if it can survive 1 round of attacks; if it can do this and survive it will slow the progress of your enemy and you can easily fly the unit back behind your line to heal. Always make sure that the front line cannot be attacked from forest hexes if possible, though this won't be as big a deal if you have several Augurs to cut through their defense. Don't be afraid to trade a Skirmisher for an Archer if you get a chance to kill one on poor terrain: you'll get a gold advantage as well as taking out the most dangerous unit the Rebels have against you.
Another strategy is to strike hard at day and then completely retreat at night. Keep your units just out of reach of your opponent and allow them to come closer to your recruits to make your counter-attack swifter and more deadly. This strategy is often quite effective as it prevents your drakes from fighting at unfavorable TOD and it allows you to decide how the first battle takes place.
Generally your targets to kill will start with Archers, as they are the most deadly unit to your forces (especially to Clashers). Next you'll want to get rid of any low-HP units your opponent has and any units on poor terrain making themselves targets. Try to keep your Clashers away from Shamans if possible (Slow seriously messes them up), and ignore Fighters if another unit presents itself as an equally appealing target. Elvish Fighters can't deal significant damage to your drakes without taking a good amount of return damage, so let them hurt themselves on you while you take out units that you won't receive much return damage from (Burners on Fighters at day though can be quite devastating).
Generally, pick your spots where the advantage presents itself that you can deal the most damage with little return damage if possible. Keep Elves from Forest hexes if possible, and use your advantageous mobility.
Drakes vs Northerners
This matchup can be rather interesting. The main thing you generally worry about is the cheap northerner units and the expensive drake units. Drakes have much better units but unfortunately they are expensive. Often when you lose vs. Northerners it is because of the sheer number of units they are capable of sending.
A very useful unit during the day and even effective at night vs Grunts and Troll Whelps and Wolf Riders due to their lack of ranged defense. And with at least 7-2 melee, they have the ability to defend their melee attacks. Be very careful with the number of burners you recruit though, because they are rather expensive and you need to be able to defend against the sheer number of units Northerners are able to send.
The Drake Clasher is preferable over the Drake Fighter in most cases, and especially when playing against Northerners. The Clasher is best to defeat those pesky and annoying assassins. Even though they cannot defend against ranged attacks, their 6-4 pierce attack will definitely hurt an assassin as the assassin has -20% to pierce. Clashers have high amounts of HP and can are very effective in fighting northerners, even though it will normally be melee against melee much of the time.
You can often use maybe one or two gliders in the original recruiting to get to villages quickly. They can also be useful as a very mobile though small increment of damage that can aid in damage in setting up kills to level other units. I'll also use them for gaining info on recruits.
If you need a unit and can't wait for an extra turn, Drake Fighters are good to recruit because they are quicker then Clashers and have at least minor defense with their ranged attack, and occasionally offense when you just need to deal that little bit of extra damage to make the kill and can't afford to risk a melee attack.
These units are pretty effective and very useful, but do not keep them in the front of the battle. Use them behind other units to heal and to finish off with magical attacks. These units are easy to level and very effective with 8-3 magical and heal. Be careful in general with saurians because they do not have large amounts of HP.
Because of their small amount of HP you should try to refrain from using Skirmishers; however they can be helpful at times. They are pretty effective level 2 units.
Your first turn depends highly on the map, experience percentage, and gold per village. Try to get all villages on the 3rd turn and then recruit depending on the units you see from your opponent.
Drakes vs Drakes
This is possibly the deadliest mirror match in the game. Saurians have low HP, but deal good damage to their Drake counterparts. You'll want a balanced mix of both races as you'll likely be fighting at all times of the day and night.
Generally a bad recruit in this matchup. Burners cannot do significant damage to other Drakes, though they do get free shots on Clashers. They can also torch any Saurians found on bad terrain, which is unlikely, though this is probably their greatest use.
This unit should make up the bulk of your forces. Dealing heavy Pierce damage and having the most hp out of any recruit (as well as not having a negative Pierce resistance), makes him the beast of burden in this matchup. Hope that yours get the Strong and Resilient traits and his get the Quick and Intelligent traits. The Clasher will beat Fighters and Burners 1v1, and the only units he needs to fear are Augurs and other Clashers, and Skirmishers at night.
As with the Burner, this unit is a poor recruit. It has no upside other than the inconsequential Marksman on his breath attack. Do not recruit them unless the map is huge and mobility becomes critically important.
Not the best recruit, but he can be handy if the map makes Clashers slow. They can also tear Augurs to pieces, so if Augurs become a problem a few of these are an alright recruit. Also good as a replacement for the Glider for village grabbing, especially if Quick.
An essential unit. Their Cold magic deals 9-3 damage to Drakes at night, ripping them to pieces. Their healing will also be essential if used properly, as this is a bloody fight. Be careful not to over-recruit these guys, as they are quite weak in defense against any unit.
These guys are also a good troop type to have, but again, don't recruit too many. Your Pierce damage should mainly come from your Clashers, but a couple of Skirmishers to attack opposing Augurs as well as Drakes at night can prove very valuable, especially with their high defense. Their ability to get behind the enemy lines gives you more hexes to attack the enemy from.
On the first turn you'll want several Clashers, a couple Saurians, and possibly a Fighter or Glider to grab villages. Village distribution will determine if you need a Glider or not, as well as map size.
At night, use your Augurs on the opposing Clashers first, using your Clashers and Skirmishers to finish up. Make sure to protect your Augurs though, as they die easily, even at night. Killing a Clasher will remove a major threat come daytime, as well as net you 19g. If you must trade a Skirmisher to kill a Clasher at night, it can often be worth it.
At day you'll want to attack first with your Augurs again. Their Cold magic will do 6-3 in daytime to Drakes, which is still quite powerful. Follow up with your now incredibly deadly Clashers: Strong Clashers in day will deal 10-4 to any non-Clasher Drake.
Generally, this is the danger level of your enemy units: Clasher, Augur, Skirmisher, Fighter, Burner, Glider. You may choose to either target the deadliest units first (Clashers being easy targets for Augurs), or go for the weaker units first to give yourself a monetary advantage quickly, while receiving little retaliation damage. Either strategy can work, and levelling an Augur can prove exceptionally deadly to your opponent. Intelligent Augurs level within 2 kills. Whichever strategy you use, be sure to kill, and not just hurt your opponent, because your opponent will flee and have the unit return to fight again.
Drakes vs Loyalists
Drakes' weaknesses are so obvious that it seems the enemy barely has to think to come up with an effective strategy. So things like massing armies of only spearmen or dark adepts have some chance of succeeding.
But, that doesn't necessarily mean the drakes are weaker-- just harder to play correctly. The key to playing drake vs loyalist is carefully managing the HP of your units so that you can get a lot of use out of them before retreating/rotating. This means you will need to carefully plan the formation of your offensive wedges, for example, considering the optimal location for saurian augurs.
Fighting a spearmen rush with drakes is one of the big problems for a drake player - massing spearmen gives them at least 10% more strenght per gold than anything you can muster (the spearmen are cheap and they have pierce weapons), and the loyalist player can win the game by playing pretty straighforwardly - while the drakes can still win - but only if they play it smart, because the spearmen also have their drawbacks. The biggest weakness of the loyalists ( and in the same time the biggest advantage of the drakes ) is their mobility. Of course, horsemen are fast too, but you have pretty good counters for the horsemen - clashers and skirmishers ( the later only when they are on good terain). Sure, horsemen deal 18-2 base charge on dusk/dawn but your cheaper clashers and skirmishers will strike 14-4 and 10-4 back respectfuly when charged, so your oponnent will take a big, unacceptable risk charging them unless he has spearmen or other units to soften them first. So the real problem are the spearmen, not the horsemen.
Note that the because of this mobility issue the outcome of the drakes vs loyalists duel is somewhat dependant on the size of the map - 2 loyalists v 2 drakes on Isar's Cross gives a significant advantage for the Loyalists, while on big maps like Cynsaun Battlefield the drakes are the ones having an advantage.
The second thing that the drakes have over the loyalists is ther dual alighnment, while the loyals are all lawful. You can use that to your advantage as well.
To fight a bunch of spearman, you have to (and if you play it right, you should always be capable to do so) attack first, under favourable condtions. You can play without buying too many burners, only a few to initiate the attack without taking much retaliation and then you have a good chance to cover them with other units, because if a burner can be attacked from 3 or even 2 sides by spearmen it will likely die in a single turn. Burners are too expensive to throw away that way. You can either buy mostly Saurians, in which case you can skip the burners all together and buy augurs for range which is magical. In that case you should attack at night and pull back at day, preferably out of reach of the spearmen. You should be wery careful about the terrain you put your saurians on - both augurs and skirmishers - and also about the placement of the units , namely the augurs attack from the middle so that they can be attacked from as few sides as possible and that they are able to heal both each other and the other units around them. Drake clashers and fighters are also necessary as meatshields althow you should think carefuly before attacking the spearmen with them, even as finishers - remember the firststrike. The choice between clashers and fighters is yours. Remember that the fighters are generally better on larger maps and maps that have water on them, cause they can fly quickly from one side to another with their 6 movement, but they have a pierce vulnerabilty and less HP; while clashers are both more durable and also more expensive and slower - but althow they have only 5 movement, same as the spearmen, clashers have a better movetype than the spearmen or other loyalists - spearmen get slowed down in forest, hills, mountains and sand, while clashers get slowed only when moving thru forest. That means that in most cases - but not always - that the clasher can safely escape from the battle if the oponnent doesn't have any fast units.
The other way is to recuit mostly drakes and but a few saurians. In this case, some burners are necessary. Then the plan again is to strike first and to strike when the oportunity arises. Ignore the time of day. Dont get involved in a protracted everyone vs. everyone battles - thats what the spearmen want - that way they can easily use their advanages - good HP , good attack and cheapness in their favour and your more expensive (and fewer) drakes have a good chance of being overrun in several turns. Try to attack their weak spots - places where a unit is on bad tearain or, even better, far from the others - but as always think ahead of the possible enemy retaliation - attack only when the possible gain is bigger that the possible loss, and run when needed. If there aren't any weak spots, be creative and try to make some depending upon the current situation - put your drake figters in positions that threatens the unguarded enemy villages to strech their line thin so that you can attack and run before helps arrives or if you think its worth it, sneak a skirmisher in the enemy rear on a suicide mision to steal villages and if a lot of spearmen go back to punish the critter attack the others with superior numbers. You can make some other nasty tricks as well.
If opponent has horsemen around, then burners will be like big red target signs; but still, you probably need one of them, so keep it behind the main army until it can be used safely.
If you happen to be playing a team game and face a spearmen rush with drakes a good thing is to ask your ally to send you a couple units which have good pierce ressistance like HI/Wose/Skeletons. He/she wont mind, especially if you send a few good drakes in return. Then your oponnent will be sorry of recruiting in such a one-minded way. Sure he can get counters to those units as well but those are mostly units with fire which are on the other side weak against the drakes. So the threats of some of his spearmen being pwned by the wose or the mage being torn apart by your clasher would be stronger than the possibility of your drakes being overrun by his spearmen on the long run.
Drakes vs Knalgans
You should try to outmanuver your opponent, as his thunderers will do a lot of damage to your units.
Burners are useful because most dwarves only have 10% resists to fire, and against fighters and 2/3rds of the outlaws you will not take retaliation damage, plus they are fast. Just be careful not to lose them, as they are 21 gold and the knalgan player will happily trade an ulfserker or fighter for him. Rating: A
Clashers uses are twofold. Firstly, use them to defend your villages from fast moving footpads. Secondly, add them to your attacking force of Fighters to deal a good amount of damage. Clashers are okay as long as you don't get them in Thunderer range, which is hard considering their slow speed.
Use for village grabbing. Nothing else.
Cheaper and faster than the Clasher, the Fighter has a decent ranged attack. Though they are created as a melee based unit, use both, as the Knalgans are primarily melee. Rating: B
This unit should be used for healing. If you get the chance, use one of them to land the killing blow on another unit. Don't leave them out on Flat, though. Rating: A
Good for killing injured units and for its +30% pierce resists, but isn't that durable. Rating: C+
If your opponent spams Thunderers, you can usually outmaneuver him with your drakes, or if he sends them out, you can kill them easily.
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