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    Beginner's Ladder FAQ by prax0r

    Version: 3 | Updated: 08/26/02 | Printable Version | Search This Guide

     Warcraft III - Beginner's Ladder FAQ
                            revision 3 by prax0r
       1.  Who is this document for?
       This document is for players new to the ladder (but not to the basics
       learned by playing the campaign and reading the manual) or any other
       standard melee competition in Warcraft III.
       This document is maintained with a focus to and priority on presenting
       generalizations that make the most valuable concepts about playing
       Warcraft III competitively easier to understand and remember.
       There are exceptions to all of these generalizations, and, for the most
       part, this document will not mention them.  This document reflects the view
       that these exceptions are better learned when encountered through
       experience.  Please keep this in mind when generalizations are presented.
       This document is not inteded to be complete by any means, but is intended
       to provide a basic framework for newer players to grasp vital concepts to
       make things easier to remember and learn.
       If you keep losing and you do not know why, this may be for you.
       Send any feedback to nonsoph@netscape.net
       2.  Table of Contents
          Section One - General Questions
             1.  What do I do to get X icon?
             2.  How do I watch replays?
             3.  I'm new.  How do I get good [with X]?
             4.  How many points do I gain or lose from X?
             5.  Does rushing take skill?
          Section Two - Huntress Questions
             1.  Are Huntresses ranged or melee?
             2.  Are Huntresses imbalanced?
          Section Three - Vital Concepts
          Section Four - Race Notes
     Section One - General Questions
       1.  What do I do to get X icon?
          See http://www.battle.net/war3/ladder/icons.shtml
          (You could have found this if you went to www.battle.net, clicked War3,
          Ladder, Ladder Icons.)
       2.  How do I watch replays?
          Currently, you must view them offline from "Single Player, View Replay."
       3.  I'm new.  How do I get good [with X]?
          Playing well with any race follow the same basic ideas.
          1.  Begin with a strong build order (opening sequence)
             This is where newer players are lost.  No matter what the race,
             there are two basic options that will do for nearly all situations.
             Either "rax first" (rax refers to the tier 1 combat unit production
             structure, the Barracks, the Ancient of War, or the Crypt) or
             "altar first."  The most common manuver, currently, is to place
             all five workers on gold, but quickly take one worker away from
             mining gold to construct the first building, more commonly an
             altar.  Either way, the second building is typically a food building.
             Undead players right now always go "rax first" because they cannot
             get more lumber without more Ghouls and need Ghouls to creep.
             Night Elf players try to make as few archers as possible so that
             more of their money goes to Huntresses, upgrades, moon wells, and
             later on, upgrading their hall (hall refers to the main building,
             the Town Hall, Tree of Life, Great Hall, and Necropolis or the
             upgraded tier 2 or tier 3 equivalent).
             It is typical to get one worker unit on lumber quite quickly.  Most
             races need to return lumber at least once before they can construct
             all of their early buildings.  Humans do not, but extra lumber makes
             cooperative building (to construct a building faster for a slightly
             higher cost using more than one peasant) possible.
             More advanced players in certain situations may try to get a
             keep (2nd tier hall such as a keep, halls of the dead, stronghold,
             or tree of ages) faster and may combine this with a well-placed
             tower with or without a "rax" either before or after the "mill"
             (a mill typically lets a race gather lumber more quickly when it
             is placed close to lumber and allows the construction of basic
             towers and secondary tier 1 units).  An early keep can allow a more
             volitile mixture of units including the possibility of a second hero,
             but be warned, this is not strong in every situation.
          2.  Be able to creep well
             Creeping well is the largest challenge for newer players.  Creeping
             well means knowing where the creeps on the map are, which ones drop
             which kind of items, and what is best to kill them with.
             Creeping simply takes experience.  The same monster will drop
             the same level of item every time.  The levels of items can be found
             at http://www.battle.net/war3/basics/heroitems.shtml.  The map
             editor can be used to see which items drop items (they have a white
             aura on them) by pressing U (for Unit Layer) and then selecting a
             folder in the lower left so that the peasant is no longer selected.
             Now double click a unit with a white aura and view the item drop
             Creep behavior is important to understand in creeping.  Each creep
             on the map has a set "following distance" that they will chase units
             that they have started attacking.  Once units move outside of this
             range, they will end their targetting of that unit.  Creeps flee
             when hit by static defenses.  When a creep goes hostile (by a unit
             coming close while they are awake or a unit attacking them while they
             are asleep), they will attack whatever is closest, generally.
             Remember that this following distance is far, so do not wait too long
             before trying to save the lives of injured units.
             Some heros can creep well on their own, especially ones that can
             cast summon spells so that the summoned unit takes damage.  Night
             Elves also can use moonwells to heal heros after taking hits from
             creeps, very early.  Combining "solo creeping" with knowlege of
             which creeps can drop favorable items (such as tomes of experience)
             can be very effective.
          3.  Become a scholar of replays
             Examples of how the top players (and some of their friends) play can
             be found at http://www.war3replays.com.
             Watching replays of yourself, your opponents, and these top players
             should teach you a number of things.
             First, examples of good build orders and creeping, the most basic
             fundamentals of Warcraft III.  Creeps give items, experience, and
             gold.  Strategy revolves around creeping or disrupting the creeping
             of your opponent.
             Replays can also demonstrate common mistakes and their outcomes.
             Take careful note of when players choose to scout, fight, flee, creep,
             and go into an upkeep, and if it seemed to be favorable or not.  These
             are the most important decisions deciding the outcome of Warcraft III,
             once players have learned how to build and control their units in a
             strong manner.
          4.  Practice a little bit
             Rehearse your build order(s) and creeping and scouting until they
             are easy to do.  This can be done against computers (do not worry if
             you lose to them or win easily) or with friends in practice games
             where you don't even have to fight if you don't want to.
             Scrimaging with friends can also be useful.  The ladder is an
             unpredictable map and race matchup, so a good way to rehearse
             can be with a friend so that you can choose the race matchup and
             map to work on, one at a time.
       4.  How many points do I gain or lose from X?
          See http://www.battle.net/war3/ladder/rules.shtml
          (You could have found this by clicking on Ladder, then Ladder Rules
          from www.battle.net's War3 area.)
       5.  Does rushing take skill?
          "Rushing" is just another way of saying that "whatever wins unfair" and
          "please don't attack until I'm ready to win."  The fact is that making
          units as quickly as possible, give or take some long term tradeoffs such
          as upgrades, staying in low upkeep, or going to a higher tier, is just
          how this game is played.
          The purpose of competing on the ladder is to win, and whatever causes a
          win is "skilled."  If something is too effective, perhaps Blizzard will
          adjust the game, but by no means should someone insult players for
          trying to win, but rather they should wonder why Blizzard lets the
          game stand, as is.
          Would it be skillful to let your opponent live when you have them beat?
          I think not ...
          Skill is making decisions such that you will not be killed and may kill
          your opponent (eventually), not seeing how many different units you can
          get or how long you can make the game last.  Losing to a rush is the
          result of some mistake.  Even if the game is unfair and imbalanced, the
          mistake may be simply not being the right race, although this does not
          seem to be the case in Warcraft III.
          As pointed out in a thread by Toasty Goat (I hope he doesn't mind me
          paraphrasing him), you have the same amount of time to make units
          as your opponent (the "rusher") does, and you also have travel time
          (in the time they travel to your base, you can make more) and
          natural defenses (militia, burrows, moonwells, lumber ghouls) on your
          side and the option to counter-attack their base if you would rather
          do that than save your own.  He also points out that if losing is
          your definition of skillful, you must not have a very good definition.
     Section Two - Huntress Questions
       1.  Are Huntresses ranged or melee?
          Huntresses are technically ranged (thorns does not work on them, but
          trueshot aura does).  Their range is short, but not quite as short as
          melee.  Huntresses do normal damage, like most melee units, but they are
          ranged.  Most ranged units in the game do piercing, but not all.
          Defend does not work on huntresses because then all of NE's tier 1 units
          would be beaten by defend.  This could be one reason why Ancient
          Protectors are not piercing, either.
       2.  Are Huntresses imbalanced?
          Does the power of Huntresses seem out of place in War3?  Yes.  Are good
          Huntress players unbeatable by counterpart of the same approximate skill
          class playing a different race?  No.
          Many people claim huntresses are imbalanced but no one has offered up a
          replay of themselves losing to huntresses where they are playing well and
          still lose.  If you are going to claim imbalance, have replays as
          evidence, as good players beat huntresses frequently.
          Perhaps the problem is the cummulation of Entagle Rushing, Moonwells to
          aid/compensate for Entangle Rushing and free creeping without losing
          units in addition to the great effectiveness of large numbers of
          huntresses in various situations.  There may be a potential strength here
          that is too strong and not good for the game.  We'll have to wait and see
          what Blizard thinks.
          Perhaps poorer players do defeat slightly better players with huntresses
          in certain situations.  Perhaps Blizzard will adjust NE such that pure
          huntresses is not the wisest early option.  This has already been argued
          to death, so, rather than complain about balance, have replays ready and
          ask for help.
          Quite simply, if you feel that Huntresses are imbalanced, your best way
          to learn about this situation is to play Night Elves and find out how a
          so-called "huntress rusher" can lose, because they do.
     Section Three - Vital Concepts
       This section is an addenum to provide the most basic framework for
       conception of War3 strategy.  It should help newer players grasp things
       more quickly and is intended to be as brief as possible.
       There are exceptions to many generalizations in this document that are
       excluded intentionally for brevity and ease of learning; this document
       tries to leave many things left unsaid that are better learned through
       1.  Upkeep
          Upkeep is a penalty on gold coming from mines on a player based on amount
          of food currently used.  There are three levels of upkeep:
          1.  No Upkeep,    0-40 food, 100% gold from all mines
          2.  Low Upkeep,  41-70 food,  70% gold from all mines
          3.  High Upkeep, 71-90 food,  40% gold from all mines
          Upkeep means that, no matter how many units a player is using, there is
          a distinct penalty for using them poorly and a reward for using them
          well.  Going into Low Upkeep because of a few units will not be worth
          the cost of Upkeep.
          Going into a higher Upkeep is a significant decision that should not be
          taken lightly.  A player with an expansion would have 200% total from
          both mines, 140% in Low Upkeep, but only 80% in High Upkeep.
          So a player with an expansion in low upkeep (200%) gets almost as much
          gold as a player with two expansions in Low Upkeep (210%).  So basically,
          an advantage can be gained, over time, by cautiously scraping by in a
          lower upkeep through superior strategy.
          Likewise, being in Low Upkeep without hurting the opponent who may be
          in No Upkeep, for example, is going to get a player behind without
          even knowing what happened.
          Keep in mind that creeping is also a source of gold, and that there are
          several ways to spend gold without using food:  items, upgrades, and
       2.  Typical Unit Types
          Tier 1 "Melee" units typically are melee-ranged (although Huntresses have
          a slightly longer range) and do "Normal" damage, which does 150% damage to
          "Light Armor" units (see below).  These units have "Medium Armor" which
          simply takes 100% damage from everything.
          Tier 1 "Ranged" units have a longer range and do "Piercing" damage, which
          has 150% damage bonus to "Heavy Armor" units (see below).  Compared to
          Tier 1's "Melee" units, these "Ranged" units provide more damage for
          their cost, but less health for their cost, meaning it is better to have
          the "Melee" units to take hits.  These "Ranged" units have "Light Armor",
          taking 150% damage from "Melee" (Normal Damage) units.
          Tier 3 "Melee" units have "Heavy Armor" which means they take 150% damage
          from "Ranged" units (Piercing Damage).  These units do good damage and
          have excellent armor and health but, unfortunately, Tier 1's "Ranged"
          units are extremely effective against them as are many magical abilities
          which will be explained later.
          Tier 2 features casters, which have Light Armor and do Piercing damage.
          Some casters do better damage than others, and they typically gain
          health with caster upgrades, but do not gain armor from armor upgrades.
          Tier 2 also features long range siege units.  "Siege" damage does 150%
          damage to "Forified Armor", which most buildings have.  "Fortified Armor"
          reduces Normal damage to 50% and Piercing to 35%, so this 150% damage is
          a large bonus, and these siege units do a large number of damage to
          begin with.  These siege units are usually very slow and easy to kill.
          Another important note about damage types is that Normal damage does 100%
          to heros while Siege and Piercing do 50%.
       3.  Typical Unit Variations and Spell Effectiveness
          Some units do less and cost less per unit (food, gold, etc.).  These
          smaller units suffer more from spells that do damage or stun all units
          in an area (many heros have abilities like this).
          Likewise, relatively larger variations on units which cost more food
          than their counterparts are harmed more effectively with spells which
          target a single unit at once.  For example, spells like Polymorph
          are great against flying units, tier 3 melee units, and are more
          effective against grunts and huntresses than they are against ghouls
          or footmen.
          Relatively larger melee units also suffer less obstruction per power
          than relatively small (in terms of power per cost).  Obstruction is where
          too many melee units are trying to attack to the point where melee units
          spend significant time running around eachother.
          Because armor's effect in Warcraft III is to reduce damage, this
          effectively makes the unit's health worth more than a unit with less
          armor.  Because of this, healing abilities are more of a bargain against
          units with higher armor.
       4.  Hero Decisions
          The first Hero decision is which hero should be used.  To decide this,
          evaluation of the desired Hero's abilities must be used.
          There are several heros which are effective at stopping large groups
          of units that are close together, especially ones with lower health.
          A hero may also be selected to aid in creeping.  Some heros are effective
          enough to be made early and run around the map assassinating creeps that
          have desirable item drops.  Other heros can cast summons, which can take
          the damage creeps deal so that more permanent units do not.
          Many heros also have interrupt abilities which can cancel ongoing spells
          that Heros do.  These interrupting spells often incapacitate the Hero so
          that it can be surrounded and killed (or force it to use a Town Portal
          Scroll) as well.  Hero killing heros are the defense against hero rushes,
          where an enemy runs a hero into an opponent's base in hopes to hurt them
          more than the hero rusher has been hurt by hero rushing instead of
          A hero may be chosen for crowd control, an ability to gain an advantage
          against an area of enemy units.  Take careful note of which heros can
          fill this role and be aware of this option to discover when and if it
          can be more effective against certain strategies than a hero best
          suited to creeping or hero killing.
          The second Hero decision is which abilities to get and in which order.
          Caution should be taken when getting three Hero abilities spread out
          instead of two, as this often is not as effective as focusing on two.
          Also, getting two mana-intensive abilities can prove to be an error if
          the hero typically does not have enough mana to use them both.  Take
          these situations into consideration when evaluating Hero usage.
       5.  Upgrade Decisions
          Players have to juggle many potential options with how to spend money.
          One of these options is upgrades.  Upgrades effect each unit differently
          in how the damage or armor is increased.
          Looking at the numbers, armor upgrades appear to be more of a bargain
          than attack upgrades, but these numbers are adjusted in this manner
          because attack upgrades allow faster killing with concentrated fire
          against a single unit, whereas defense is always spread out, even on
          units not being attacked.
          Upgrades, particularly the higher ones, can become extremely expensive.
          Players should remember that while having no upgrades can certainly
          lose a game, and upgrading armor on units that are being hit most
          frequently and attack on units doing most of the attacks can be very
          worthwhile, it makes little sense to have an upgrade for a unit which
          a player has very few of.  Getting too many upgrades too early is not
          a guaranteed advantage against an opponent, as these expensive upgrades
          could mean having less units, a slower keep (any 2nd tier hall), less
          items, or a slower expansion.      
       6.  Micro (Micromanagement)
          The first basic aid in "micro", or micromanagement, the effective control
          of one's units, is to use the full potential of the keyboard and mouse.
          Speed is very important, and sometimes the keyboard's options, once
          familiar, are quicker than the mouse's.
          Units and buildings can be hotkeyed, even in groups, by selecting them
          and pressing Ctrl+(Number).  Pressing (Number) will select the units on
          the hotkey.
          Right clicking on an area of ground will move selected units to the
          area.  This is used commonly to try to run past units (including creeps)
          to quickly surround them.  Right clicking can also be used to flee.
          In Warcraft III, selected units move in formations by default.  This
          means that all the units will try to move together, with more vulnerable,
          ranged units in the back and so on.  Faster units will not move at their
          full speed inside a formation with slower units.  To try to flee at
          maximum speed, ignoring formation, hold alt and then right click where to
          flee to.  There is a formation button near the minimap.  When it is on,
          units move in formation by default, and alt makes them move ignoring
          formation.  When the button is set to "no formation", alt will make them
          move in formation.
          Focusing fire on a unit kills it faster, more quickly reducing the
          damage you are taking from enemy units than spreading your damage out.
          However, you (and your opponent) can see when units are being injured and
          pull them backwards, causing a new target to be aquired or the units to
          chase that unit around like idiots while being hit.  Creeps always
          aquire a new target, since they aren't focus firing, but you must
          move out of range of the creep completely first, which can be far
          with ranged creeps so make your injured units flee before their health
          is too low once you see it is going down.
          Sometimes it may be better to focus on pulling units, and sometimes it
          may be better to focus on killing units.
          Remember that you can hotkey units and press tab (and shift tab) to
          change which type of units (including heros, casters, etc.) abilities
          you have available to you, and that you must ctrl+click or click twice
          to select a unit or type of units and deselect the rest.  You can also
          ctrl+command to only give the command to the currently highlighted unit
          (e.g. ctrl+right click to make a specific highlighted unit flee).
          When you have a group of casters highlighted and you try to cast a
          spell that targets one unit, only one of the casters will cast it, so
          you can easily tab over to cast spells manually or spells that can't
          be auto-casted (right click to enable auto-cast on the gold-bordered
          spells if you want them to be casted automatically where they could
          help).  You can click on a unit's icon as a target, not just the unit
          itself, which makes casting buffs like the necro's unholy frenzy.
          Realize that attacking where your enemy is not can make them use a TP
          scroll or at least stop creeping, after which you can just run away.
          Running away can be very important in this game, as losing a fight can
          decide a game (but always try to come back, as this game favors it due
          to upkeep and natural defenses).
          Try to keep all your units on at least one or two hotkeys except maybe
          siege which you can just have follow your units (right click on your
          units with the siege or rally and they will follow).  Give commands to
          your group first, then press F1 F2 etc. if you want to do something else
          with your heros.
          There are essentially three important types of situations which demand
          different micro.  The first is where the enemy has a clearly superior
          force and the priority should be to lose nothing while, perhaps, costing
          the enemy as possible.  The second situation is where the enemy is
          clearly outgunned and careful care must be taken to killing as much as
          possible against an opponent which may be trying to flee, and reducing
          losses as possible.  The third, and most challenging situation, is where
          both players appear able and willing to fight.  In this situation,
          maximum effectiveness of units will decide to whom the favor shifts.
          The more units attacking (rather than manuvering) and the fewer different
          units being attacked, the more effective the attacker is.  Sometimes,
          manuvering can be viable where it prevents an important unit from feeling
          and allows reduction in the amount of units the attacks are being spread
          over (killing 1 unit at a time without any units moving around not
          attacking is the good deal manuvering can both make possible and
       7.  Using Siege
          Using siege well can be very challenging.  Siege comes into play early in
          "tower wars" where one player, for whatever reason (countering an early
          expand, too fast teching, or just trying to pull a fast one) gets towers
          up near the enemy and will soon try to bring siege there to fight the
          siege which you should try to get to stop this (assuming you can't just
          kill the towers before they get up).  ORC TOWERS SHOOT FARTHER THAN
          YOURS, BEWARE.  They also build very fast, which is kind of messed up.
          If an Orc is annoying you early on for no reason, suspect towering.
          The time for siege can be when you've already won and need to finish off
          an opponent you clearly have by the throat.  This must be done with
          patience.  Trying to use siege too early, unsuccessfully, can turn the
          tide of a game.
          Great players may be able to use small amounts of siege to win fights and
          take down expos (expansions), but realize that trying to do this as a
          newbie is a good way to lose games.
       8.  Items and Shops
          Sometimes entering a fight at the maximum food for a chosen upkeep is not
          enough to have an advantage.  Further spending can turn the tide of the
          battle with mana and life potions for heros, life and protection scrolls
          for all units.  Make sure your heros have the mana they need and that
          your units die as little as possible when you consider using items.
          Goblin labs can be very important and should not be overlooked.  Reveal
          can easily check hard to reach gold mines to see if someone is building
          there for 50 gold, or to evaluate an opponent's base if you can spare 50
          Goblin sappers can take down massive buildings and do good damage to
          heros.  Make sure you lead with other unit(s) so that the sappers do not
          get hit, and press B and click where you want the sapper to detonate.
          Sappers are particularly effective against the low health buildings of
          the Night Elves.
          The Goblin Zeppelin is the only transport in the game, capable of
          carrying units through the air to be dropped anywhere you want.
          Zeppelins are often used to move siege units around for fast hit and
          runs.  Most importantly, Zeppelins cost no food.
       9.  Time of Day
          Night time is the time you can shop at buildings where the creeps are
          sleeping, but the first night you cannot buy anything.
          Scouting the map is easier at night because creeps will not hit you,
          but you can scout at daytime if you know how to move barely close enough
          to see (because daytime has better visibility) without alarming creeps.
          Certain creeps, such as Golems and Dragons, do not sleep.  Beware! ;)
     Section Four - Race Notes 
       1.  Orc Notes
          Other than The Grunt Problem, Orcs stand out for their universal armor
          upgrade (their armor upgrade applies to all units), their lumber mill
          is also their upgrade facility, their barracks builds the catapults
          once you have keep (tier 2 hall, Orc's is called a Stronghold).
          Shamans do nice damage for a caster unit, and using an army of shaman
          and other units saves on food through lust (Bloodlust) and smaller units
          (shaman, 2 food), but making at least one Witchdoctor can be helpful to
          place sentry wards everywhere.  Generally Orcs try to get lust first,
          then healing ward witchdoctors second, if needed and possible.
          Do not forget that Purge damages summons such as Water Elementals.
          Remember that burrows, while doing nice damage, have MEDIUM ARMOR, which
          means they die much, much easier than other buildings.
       2.  Night Elf Notes
          Night Elves typically rely on Huntresses in the early game as the
          backbone of any force, as Archers simply have too little health.  If
          you ever see Archers, kill them first, if at all possible, unless you're
          running away (better to run than to lose a fight completely).  Typically,
          ranged units have lower health and light armor (vulnerable to normal
          damage, e.g. melee units and Huntresses) and are better off not getting
          hit compared to units like summons, heros (as long as they are not in
          danger of dying), and the disposable melee units.
          If a hero gives you trouble, you may be better off using Demon Hunter
          to mana burn them (early and often) rather than going Keeper of the Grove
          for entangle and thorns or treants depending on expectations.
          Moon wells are a handy supply of health and mana and should be used well
          (they only recharge at night) and might sometimes be worth making even
          if more food is not needed.
       3.  Human Notes
          Humans can do well with AM first (although MK first is also possible),
          followed by MK (although AM or Paladin second can work, too), taking
          advantage of militia, repair build, masonry upgrades, defend against
          piercing, the high health and damage of riflemen (for a ranged unit) and
          priests, sorcs, or knights as the situation calls.
          AM's Water Elementals are very strong units, especially when level 2
          or higher, and with level 2 brilliance the AM can practically cast
          them nonstop.  I suspect this may change in a later patch.
          Riflemen are strong for a ranged unit in terms of health and damage.
          Later on, a force of steam tanks can be used to take down vital
          structures even while taking a beating, as steam tanks have the armor
          type of buildings.
       4.  Undead Notes
          It is common to see Undead make many, many ghouls, try to out-expand
          you (take more bases than you for more money), and then try to use
          necros (Necromancers) to use skeletons or curse to win fights.  UD can
          upgrade their farms to towers once they have their mill (Graveyard) and
          their keep (Halls of the Dead) does as much damage as two towers with
          much more health.  Keep in mind that UD cannot TP to a gold mine, only
          a hall.  Banshees are the counter to large units (but necro's curse also
          helps), and aboms (Abominations) are the high tech melee unit (good
          against tier 1 units).  Frost Wyrms are handy in low numbers to
          neutralize defensive structures against your army and provide some
          slowing of the enemy.
     Goodbye from nonsoph@netscape.net