In the original WarCraft III design, Night Elves were supposed to be the ‘weird’ race, all based around magic. Obviously as the design became more mainstream, so did the Elves. Still, they do retain some unique features that make them more distinctive than other races. For one, many of their buildings are actually living trees and can uproot, move and attack. In fact, their base defenses consist precisely of this kind of building – the Ancient Protector.
They share their tier one style with Orcs
, but in contrast with them, have the most powerful opening in the game. Archers are far superior to headhunters, with greater range and a faster rate of fire, while Huntresses are the ultimate tier one unit. Night Elves compete with Humans
for the best race in the game right now, but are easier to play. Their strategies are simpler and focus more on massing single units, rather than using combined arms. A Human needs to be creative the whole time to be effective, while Night Elves can half-ass it for much of the game.
The Night Elves have no particular weaknesses; they can adapt to any and all challenges thrown their way. Tier three is probably their weakest phase, since at that point they become forced to get fancy against the other races, rather than relying on brute strength. Orcs can autopilot through tier three with shamans, witchdoctors and Tauren, while Night Elves would have to counter that with micromanagement. Casting Cyclone from the Druid of the Talon becomes a must to even out this fight, and Druids of the Claw need to shapechange and Roar. Dryads are decent counter not because of Abolish Magic, but through their speed and piercing damage. They can hit and run against lusted Tauren with good results. Still, this is only harassment and not an effective base defense.
Night Elves dominate the first half of the game like nobody’s business. The Demon Hunter is an awesome starting hero, whose Mana Burn cancels out any abilities that other heroes might have, while delivering damage equal to the burned mana. At the same time, he is ridiculously fast and a great melee character. At higher levels, his Evade ability, combined with the high armor he gets for being an Agility hero, makes him incredibly tough to kill despite his low hitpoints. His ultimate, Metamorphosis, turns him into a one-man army and siege engine. All but the sturdiest base defenses fall easily before the transformed Demon Hunter, and only an Avatared Mountain King or Orc Blademaster can duke it out with him.
The other half of the NE early game domination comes through Archers (effective against all races but Humans) and Huntresses. Archers are a great starting unit and even better when supporting a massed Huntress army. Night Elves can effectively deny the map to other players during all of tier one, with proper scouting.
A good NE player can turn this into an economic advantage with secure expansions and outproduce his foe during tier two and three. The economic advantage, in a way, becomes more pronounced as the game goes on since it compounds on itself. Wisps also don’t destroy trees as the game goes on, leaving them as a natural barrier to your enemy and keeping the Wisps at 100% efficiency since they do not face increasing travel time to the harvest point.
A neat trick to use during night combat is the Hide ability with the Archer, Huntress and Priestess of the Moon. By making a unit that is near-death invisible, you spare its life – at least as long as daylight doesn’t come or you don’t move it while the enemy is nearby. This is very effective at preserving the fragile Priestess.