Summary: If you're a fan of the Night Elves, you probably don't need any help winning games. Just in case though, Jakub has written up a guide which not only goes over the basic strategies, but also offers up additional options to the Night Elf player.
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.
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.
Night Elf opening moves aren’t particularly creative, but that’s because they don’t have to be. A good 80% of the time, Night Elf players open up with the Demon Hunter, try harassment and/or do basic creeping then supplement him with archers and later huntresses. Only occassionally will Night Elves try the Keeper of the Grove and rarely will they open with the Priestess of the Moon. The Demon Hunter is just too tempting to use to creep and harass with.
Later in the game
Whether you have chosen to contain and harass your opponent with a Huntress army or secretly teching while pretending to build an army, it is important to have a few huntresses anyway. Sentinels (Owls) should be researched as soon as possible and littered around the map. When undetected, they are a great source of secret information about your enemy’s movements, expansions and base. If detected, owls are an amazing psychological weapon. Many players will (often rightly) refuse to expand in an area which is being overseen by an owl. They will hesitate with their attacks, or risk blundering into a trap.
Druids and Dryads
Night Elf lategame consists of forces composed of Druids and Dryads. Druids of the Talon provide adequate anti-air and can even out a numbers game with Cyclone. Faerie Fire is one of the more annoying auto-cast spells in the game since it takes away armor from the affected unit and shares that unit’s vision with the Night Elf for the rather long period of the spell.
There is one more thing that Night Elves can do. Since their defensive building, the Ancient Protector, is capable of moving and does siege damage, Night Elves can build a huge mass of them in a hidden part of the map and walk them (oh-so-slowly) to the enemy base, demolishing it utterly. While not quite as quick as a Steam Tank/AM Teleport, this is effective and very difficult to stop. The strategy is expensive but Night Elves often have an economic advantage over their foes anyway. Finally, it is very easy to switch from and to. All it requires are buildings that Night Elves make anyway (Hunter’s Hall and Tree of Life), it doesn’t have to cripple a NE economy or unit-producing ability and is effective at almost any stage of the game.
Sexually assaulted with point ears
Night Elves aren’t quite as attractive in team games as Humans, but definitely hold their own against Orcs and Undead. Their power comes in what they can do early on with harassment, scouting and even a solo rush to take out a player early if the other team is sloppy. Later, they are wanted for their auras, hero-killing ability and spells. Roar will turn the tide of almost any battle, particuarly when combined with Trueshot aura and Thorns aura. The Demon Hunter is still a one-man army when he transforms, providing an incredibly effective distraction. It takes nothing less than an army to stop him from destroying an expansion or even a weakly defended base. Few people are willing to use up a teleport scroll to stop a single unit, especially when it is obvious that he will get away and is only a distraction since the real enemy force is out there.
Night Elves are more vulnerable to rushes in a team situation. While it is true that static defenses lose their significance as the number of mobile units increases, Night Elves typically have no static defenses and are easy to knock out of the game early. The key to preventing this is aggression. Even if you do not intend to rush, or are even teching hard, it is good to keep your foes on the defensive by using your hero and a small force to harass their bases. Dropping Sentinels at expansion points, key pathways and gathering areas is even more vital.
As we mentioned previously, most Night Elves open with the Demon Hunter since he can easily knock out enemy heroes or at least delay their creeping. The DH is a very efficient creeper himself, and has one of the best ultimate abilities in the game with Metamorphosis. Metamorphosis has a low mana cost, short cooldown time and gives the DH ranged Chaos damage. Towers, units and buildings fall before him like a house of cards. Be careful about engaging melee units while in Metamorphosis, since it does splash damage which apparently affects the DH itself. Also, an Avatared Mountain King will eat a transformed Demon Hunter alive, while the Blademaster is an even match and may be overwhelming if he has used up his mana with Mirror Images already, so there’s no chance to Mana Burn him.
He’s a Keeper
The Keeper of the Grove is another great starting hero, since Force of Nature gives him free fodder units which help keep his army alive during early creeping and are a great harassment force later. Entangle is just one of those damn annoying spells that is equally effective as a psychological tool as it is in the game. Thorns aura makes itself known better in team games than one versus one, but we wouldn’t quite call it an unwanted ability. Finally, Tranquility, the Keeper’s ultimate is a huge, area effect heal spell. Think of a giant healing ward and you’ve got the right idea. It’s a great way to lick your wounds after a hasty retreat or to recharge an attack force after a big battle.
Sigfried & Roy’s long-lost sister
The Priestess of the Moon is quite a weak starting hero but makes a good second or third. In team games it is not uncommon to see her first, with the team trying to get her to level 6 as fast as possible. Why is that? Starfall is deadly. It can be interrupted by sleep/stun spells and abilities, but nothing can be done if the Priestess is using an invulnerability potion. Her Trueshot aura is a nice ability to have in 1v1 or team games, but neither Searing Arrows nor Scout are particularly impressive.
Once again we have eight select replays available for your perusal. Two are two vs two situations, one (“NE2v2towercounter”) showcasing a very effective counter by a Night Elf player of a dedicated, two-orc tower rush. It effectively demonstrates how to beat it as a Night Elf, as well as the massive damage it can do to both the Orcs who are executing it and the damage it does to the player who is attacked.
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