Last week we shared our ideas on stopping the Deathstorm Lich. This week, we take on the Sunfire Angel!
Let’s examine why Zyan’s Sunfire Angel is so powerful..
Zyan has several strengths as a faction.. They are fast, they are aerial, and they have a lot of Captains. They also have a few weaknesses. Their spellcasting is almost non-existent, and outside of a couple of really expensive units, their attack and health is subpar.
Enter Sunfire Angel. The Angel embodies all of Zyan’s strong points while covering up all of Zyan’s weaknesses, making it an absolutely critical unit for the faction. Simply put, the Sunfire Angel can do just about everything on the battleground and do it all at a high level. When analyzing the Angel’s stats, you can’t help but to add an “on top of that” to nearly everything..They have strong attack and health, and on top of that they have Skirmish, which deters enemy melee forces. They are fast, and on top of that aerial, so it’s mobility is great. The angel’s rank is high as well, and on top of that, it is a Captain, helping break ties and commanding for the rest of the faction. On top of ALL THIS, the Fire Orb spell is also in the arsenal (hence the name SUNFIRE angel).
The angel is ruthless. It’s Fire Orb spell might not seem to be the most powerful, but coupled with 3 movement it’s always a nice option for picking off units in various areas of the battleground. Because Zyan has no other spell casters, the angel has all 10 starting mana to work with, meaning at a bare minimum it can cast it 3 times per game. The range on the spell allows the angel to damage an enemy and still force that enemy to have to move adjacent to counterstrike, triggering Skirmish. As a flyer and a Captain, they have plenty of options in terms of both movement and leadership.
While it CAN serve as the de-facto primary Captain, the SF Angel’s combat skills are usually too integral to victory to just sit back and command. When facing the Angel, watch for it to charge forward through the air, right up the middle, dominating each tile it occupies through Skirmish intimidation (a term I have heard players use, basically meaning they don’t want to get hit with a skirmish attack, so they don’t approach the enemy unit!)… Skirmish intimidation is the Angel’s best weapon, as it’s 4 damage melee hit is a lot to take before even getting a decent melee attack off. It the Angel is aerial it’s even worse, as that gives additional cover from spells.
All of this for a reasonable 7 gold (by the way, it generates gold as well!) in a faction like Zyan that has a ton of gold generators. This means the Angel is accessible and will not set Zyan back several rounds from a resource perspective.
That’s a LOT. It’s been argued, strongly, that the Sunfire Angel is both the most versatile unit in the game and also the best value unit in the game due to it’s total array of combat skills for 7 gold. Despite all this, there are still plenty of ways to slow it down!!
Let’s get the easy one out of the way. Much like Doom Sand vs the Deathstorm Lich, Parada is the one faction where I’d consider benching the Sunfire Angel if I am a Zyan player. One obvious reason, Parada only has 1 flying unit (Yumboe Battlemage) and while it is a great unit, it is a unit that has only has 1 health. This means that virtually ANY of Zyan’s flying units can take it out, so there is no specialty need for the angel.
But this is about how to stop the Angel from Parada’s perspective, not the other way around. The Eloko Grand Druid easily answers that question with the Tornado spell. This is the simplest way to either ensure the Angel stays landed or just outright destroy it.
The EGD’s Tornado is extra effective against Zyan, because it does a massive 4 damage to ALL units that are aerial (not units that could be aerial but are landed). Due to a lack of spellcasters in Parada, the Eloko is all but guaranteed to have enough mana to use it at any point in the game, and with a rank higher than the SFA, the Eloko Grand Druid usually cannot be struck down before it has the opportunity to eliminate the Angel.
Beyond the Eloko Grand Druid, Parada’s ranged units also can deter the angel a bit, but the risk involved in shooting at an aerial unit (automatic Evade 3) would not make me consider it a great strategy. BUT the exception is the Elf Sharpshooter. Precision allows the Sharpshooter to ignore any Evade, including from flying units. A range of 3 allows for the Sharpshooter to really extend it’s pressure. Once the angel is hit, it almost always has 0 choice but to attack the Sharpshooter, thus having to land, and land with only 1 health left.
Precision makes the Elf Sharpshooter a great weapon against flying units.
But what about Skirmish, the Sunfire Angel’s most powerful weapon??? Well, Parada’s ground units are actually the most likely to be able to handle a high damage Skirmish attack out of any faction. Why?
They have 3 units that use Skirmish themselves! (Elf Bladelord, Centaur Skirmisher, and Parada Militia) When a unit with skirmish enters a space adjacent to an enemy with skirmish, the skirmishes cancel each other out… making the elves and centaur are able to approach and attack the angel as though it were any other unit.
Beyond THAT, Parada’s secondary defining strategy is the most important strategy in defeating skirmish.. High health. Several of Parada’s ground units can withstand a 4 damage skirmish, and the Monstrous Umuthi can handle up to 3 of them ( but would not need to, it can kill the angel with 1 melee attack)
In summary, Parada has great answers to the Sunfire Angel through all 3 damage types: Spells, Range, and Melee.
Now let’s look at the opposite… A faction that has a very, very hard time handling the Sunfire Angel. Unfortunately for Baazaria, Sunfire Angel can be hugely problematic, especially if the Angel gets close to your basecamp without being wounded much. This results in Skirmish popping off almost instantly and can hinder your ability to get units to important spaces.
All is not lost, however. Obayifo Aeromancer is a great, cheap unit that can instantly wound the Angel no matter where it is on the battleground via Windblast. Dealing with 2 health is much, much easier than dealing with 4.
What is really helpful about Windblast is that it does not use mana, meaning that it helps last week’s star, the Deathstorm Lich quite a bit. Since Deathwave hits aerial units, suddenly the Angel is just 2 Deathwaves away from being eliminated. The Lich is really, really effective against most of Zyan’s other units, since Zyan relies on a lot of units with 2 or less health, so incorporating it against Zyan is a good idea, as long as the Obayifo Aeromancer is around to help with the Angel.
The lich often needs a bodyguard though, and the Bonesteel Colossus is the best Baazaria has. It’s 9 health is crucial to providing a barrier against the Angel.
With Baazaria, always keep a lookout for Agility attacks with the on the Angel (when landed) as well…Baazaria’s fast, offensive units are capable of wounding the landed Angel (and any unit really) severely and unexpectedly with Agility. Skirmish will not work against agility, since it is not a legal attack for the angel most of the time, so should those opportunities present themselves, take advantage!
Skirmisher Wraith, Asanbosam Swiftblade, and Asanbosam Warlord all have Agility.
Like Baazaria, Moonshadow has a tough time with the Sunfire Angel. Also like Baazaria, a good way to go is a “team effort”. Where Moonshadow struggles is, like Baazaria, the devastating skirmish attack due to their typically low health attributes, and the inability to eliminate the unit in a single attack.
Fortunately, Moonshadow has a unique way to mitigate this problem, and that is actually worsening the actual skirmish attack. Moonshadow Hantu and Malicious Hantu can both cast Poison Orb. This spell actually lessens the attack skill (permanently). Both hantu-hantu (the correct Indonesian plural of “hantu”) can fly, meaning that they can target the Angel in the air or land and it it if necessary. A 2 damage skirmish is much easier to handle than a 4 damage skirmish so even hitting the Angel with 1 Poison Orb can be extremely helpful
Poison Orb is a good way to mitigate the lethal attack skill of the Sunfire Angel.
The other great thing about Poison Orb? Units that have lost an attack skill count as Wounded, just like damaged units. This is key because it plays well with the one unit in Moonshadow that is a great matchup for the SFA, the Ancient Winjaru.
The Winjaru is immune to spells, so it can’t be chipped away at by the Fire Orb spell, and it’s attack and health are more than enough to handle a fully healthy, let alone severely damaged angel.
Units with Broken Sword Icons indicating a lowered attack and/or with damage icons on them are considered “Wounded.”
A solid idea is to sit back and pound the SFA with Deteriorate a couple of times once it’s wounded. This will really force the Zyan player to rush the Angel at the Winjaru, making it easy to take down.
Also similar to Baazaria, always be on the lookout for diagonal attack opportunities with Swiftstriker. These attacks are again likely immune to skirmish since it would not be a legal attack for the angel. While Swiftstriker attacks are not as available as Agility attacks, because they have to be made on Moonshadow spaces, but the plus side is they do DOUBLE damage. All 3 of the units with Swiftstriker can do the required amount of damage to eliminate the Sunfire Angel, meaning if you see the opportunity present itself, go for it!! (Especially with the Ahool Nightstalker, since it is a flying unit!)
Ahool Nightstalker, Winjaru Villagestalker and Jabari Warlord all can do double melee damage on diagonal melee attacks thanks to Swiftstriker.
Ihalban has one very obvious counter to Sunfire Angel: Grand Bakunawa. This thing eats angels for breakfast. While it can be outmaneuvered by Sunfire Angel, since it has 2 movement speed to the angel’s 3, it’s Amphibious ability helps to remedy that, allowing it to freely move in and out of water spaces. Sunfire Angel is much less effective when it doesn’t get the opportunity to land and take out ground units, and Grand Bakunawa’s immense statline make remove that option from the table almost entirely. As soon as that angel lands, this bad boy can head over, tank an attack from skirmish, and take the angel out in one shot.
If the angel stays aerial, of course there is Regal Minokawa, which can straight up out muscle it, but perhaps a cheaper option would be the Camazotz Sorcerorlord, which can critically wound the angel (and maybe something else!) with Ruinous Blast. Naga Archon and Wave of Blades is effective in this manner if the angel lands and is totally across the board.
Let me first caution Doom Sand players against using Firesky Wyvern to try and counter Sunfire Angel. While it’s true that Firesky Wyvern having 3 movement, flying, and the attack ability Scorchblast which can take out Sunfire Angel in one shot, it also is only a rank 2 unit, meaning unless Sunfire Angel Commands, it will always activate before the wyvern. Beyond that, Scorchblast is a melee attack, meaning Firesky Wyvern would have to get into melee range to use it, and as soon as it does that it gets hit by Skirmish and dies in one shot. Moral of the story: don’t get duped into trying to counter Sunfire Angel with Firesky Wyvern.
Sabertooth Wyrum’s massive stats and Natural Toughness ability make it an appealing counter as well, but I’ve found that it’s movement and lack of any mobility-based abilities make it a bit ineffective at chasing down Sunfire Angel and actually taking it out. However, it is an absolute MONSTER against Zyan as a whole… It’s Menace ability eliminates the threat of a lot of Zyan’s smaller units stacking damage. When on the board, it can force the angel into engaging it. If the Angel attacks it first, it’s Natural Toughness softens the blow and negates the possibility of Skirmish. The Wyrum can then make quick work of the angel.
The best response I’ve found to combat Sunfire Angel as Doom Sand is a combination of Tyrant Chieftain and Assassin Mage. By using Tyrant Chieftain to Command Assassin Mage and activate it before Sunfire Angel, you can teleport Assassin Mage to an appropriate position and use its Mystic Sliceblade Spell, you can kill the Angel quickly, no matter its position on the battlefield. Unfortunately, this only works when the Angel is landed, but it should be doing that pretty often anyway, and Doom Sand already plays a very good bait-and-punish game, so this doesn’t change the gameplan too much. As an additional upside, both of these units are very powerful by themselves, so you won’t feel bad for spending the gold and mana on them.
Primus has a plethora of options for dealing with Sunfire Angel. I actually consider Darktrench Yacumama an auto-include against Zyan despite it only having one movement because it is just such an efficient answer to Sunfire Angel. If the angel ever lands next to water, You can deploy Darktrench Yacumama into that water space, it’ll tank a hit from the angel, and then it can retaliate and take the angel out. Of course it’ll only have one health after that, but if your opponent takes it out, they’ll have scored 5 points and you’ll have scored 7, so it’s an objectively good trade.
Jungle River Kraken is a somewhat solid counter to Sunfire Angel for the same reasons Grand Bakunawa is, but it pales in comparison to some of the other options Primus has, especially for countering the angel when it’s aerial. Despite having 4 health, Greater Wyvern can actually withstand a Skirmish attack from Sunfire Angel because of its Spikeskin ability, meaning it can chase down the angel and take it out in the air or on the ground, as long as it hasn’t taken any damage yet.
A much safer alternative (as long as you have the mana to pay for it) is Monarch Coatl. The Coatl’s high speed and insane rank of 5 mean it can take out Sunfire Angel incredibly reliably with its Arcane Blast spell. The spell itself not only can knock out Sunfire Angel in one hit, it also has a range of 2 squares, meaning The Coatl can reach almost any square on the battlefield at a rank of 5, so almost nothing is safe! Of course, this is balanced out by it having a steep mana cost, but Sunfire Angel is a threat that’s definitely worth 7 mana to deal with.
The Monarch Coatl is able to take out the Sunfire Angel individually.
It’s quite fitting that we ended on the Monarch Coatl. It is probably the BEST unit in the game (as far as what you get for it’s gold cost) and really we could simplify this series by just saying play the Coatl against…. well everything. But there is no fun in that!!! What is fun? Talking about how to DEFEAT the Monarch Coatl… which is what we will do next week!!