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"Swift as the wind, strong as the waterfall, wise as the oak..."

The third in a series of faction guides is an article written by Vladimir Kuzmanov (a.k.a. Vlaad II at the Round Table). All heroes, skills and creatures are analyzed, as well as the Sylvan Avenger ability and Nature's Luck. Vlaad also provides some siege defense tips and a building order for the Sylvan towns. Read it all here.

In case you missed them, we have hints and tips for the Dungeon and the Inferno and a rather wide selection of walkthroughs. More will be added during the next couple of weeks.
CREATURES STATISTICS CREATURES ARTWORK
SKILLS ABILITIES
TOWN BUILDINGS STRATEGY

Introduction

Swift as the wind, strong as the waterfall, wise as the oak

Sylvan’s core philosophy sums it up: units with high initiative and speed are led by heroes with great movement, defense and knowledge. As for the graceful as the stream part, their appearance and roster have stayed true to the Heroes tradition. Two Elven units have replaced forest creatures from the prequels, making the town more homogenous. However, the emphasis is still on adept archers and fast flyers.

Heroes

Talanar is the same as the campaign hero Alaron. The Enraged ability sounds nice and can be useful in tough early battles, when your Dancers, Hunters and Druids may need the attack bonus. The trick would be to split your Pixies in a few stacks of one and send them to death. However, as you wouldn't normally want your troops dead, this tactics is limited. Finally, his Ballista, starting Recruitment (boosts the growth of Sprites, Dancers and Hunters!) and potential Estates make Talanar a good secondary hero. If possible, get him Battle Commander in order to get that one-time contingent of Dancers. Their number depends on the week: it is 10 during weeks 1 and 2, 20 during weeks 3 and 4, 30 during weeks 5 and 6 etc.

Not only does everybody's favorite Ossir have a nice specialty, but also starts with the key skill in this game - Luck. Nevertheless, if you are going for Nature's Luck, keep in mind this hero is one of the four Rangers who are unable to obtain the ultimate ability due to their starting skills. If you are playing a small map, Ossir with Soldier's Luck, Elven Luck and Archery could be a perfect choice for the rush. Finally, he starts with 3-6 Hunters, crucial on Heroic. He is also a fashionable person, although his fur coats are on the verge of political correctness.

Vinrael gets a +2% per hero level bonus to the experience gained in combat. It is an excellent specialization for large maps when the final fight is not the only big battle in the game. Similarly, his starting Enlightment provides a significant boost. Sadly, the bonus points seem to be distributed neither equally nor randomly; a Ranger is always inclined towards Knowledge and Defense, not Attack or Spellpower. Vinrael's Intelligence is needless due to his high mana. Finally, he may get Arcane Intuition next. In many ways it is better than infamous Eagle Eye (e.g. you can learn Meteor Shower cast by Pit Lords in combat), but still limited to certain maps.

Wyngaal is all about the attack - Basic Attack plus Tactics (vital for Unicorns and Dragons round 1) and an offensive specialty (+2% bonus to his creatures' initiative per hero level).

Ylthin begins with a Unicorn and First Aid Tent, useful if you need to protect your archers while flagging the mines early on. Her Light Magic with starting (!) Master of Blessings will be her best point. Used as the main hero by girls only.

Anwen’s questionable specialization grants all Sylvan creatures under her command +2% more damage to favored enemy for every hero's level. Not much difference in the late game and dependant on the heroine’s Avenger skill.

Unfortunately, Gilraen and Dirael have nearly worthless specialties. The latter even boasts Basic Summoning and Master of Conjuration, although Sylvan is inclined to Light and Destructive Magic. The damage bonus to her Wasp Swarm is too small at higher levels, but with Expert Summoning Magic the Swarm Queen is able to considerably reduce the initiative of her enemies.

Skills

In the latest sequel, Rangers have a high chance of being offered Logistics and Luck, are often able to master Enlightenment and Defense, are usually proficient at Light and Destructive Magic, but rarely do they meddle with either Dark and Summoning Magic or Attack and War Machines.

Luck is always a good choice: with Expert Luck, your hero can master Soldier’s Luck (useful for Master Hunters and Silver Unicorns), Elven Luck (a compulsory +25% damage bonus!) and Deadman’s Curse (-1 Luck for your opponent) or perhaps Resistance. Luck means a chance to inflict 100% more damage, which makes it a bit overpowered. On the other hand, the maximum is 5, so it is one of the skills that can be compensated by adventure map power-ups and artifacts.

Expert Attack makes up for the Ranger’s low attack. It provides 15% greater melee damage and also enables Tactics (for your Unicorns and Dragons), Archery (a must!) and Frenzy (+1 damage). The alternatives are not bad either: Nature’s Wrath (additional +1 damage) with Flaming Arrows for your Ballista, which would ignore the opponent’s defense.

Defense (up to 30% damage reduction) has always been significant in Heroes. In Heroes Tazar was one of the most powerful heroes, while in the fourth sequel heroes were often not able to survive the first few battles without unbalanced Combat skill! Now this skill offers the needed protection for your low-level troops, especially if combined with Vitality and Protection against Academy.

Distrustful of technology, Rangers have a minimal chance of mastering War Machines. Focused on Ballista, it is a good skill for a powerful might hero. At Expert, the Ammo Cart provides additional +3 attack for your archers. If you happen to start in a town called Vinlad, this war machine is cheaper there. Similarly, Ballista can be purchased for 1500 gold in Giladan.

Logistics and Leadership are great skills, although the matching abilities are more suitable for your scouts. Covering ground faster means gaining experience and resources faster than your opponents, while a permanent +3 Morale bonus is always welcome, especially against Necropolis.

Light Magic is an excellent choice for both might and magic heroes as it will provide mass effects for Haste, Righteous Might, Cleansing, Divine Strength and Endurance. Use Mass Righteous Might early and shift to Mass Divine Strength later. Other mass spells successfully counter Dark Magic.

In spite of their nature, the Elves are prone to Destructive Magic. Master of Fire might be the best of the corresponding abilities, since it grants -50% armor effects to Fireball, which compensates for the low Attack. Due to Rangers’ low Spellpower and high Knowledge, direct damage spells are best used with Imbue Arrow and Rain of Arrows, which leads us to Sylvan’s racial skill.

Avenger

The skill enables Rangers to select their “favored enemies”, to which their troops will inflict double damage. The hero has to kill two weekly populations first (e.g. 2 level 7 creatures) and build Avenger’s Guild (1000 gold, 5 wood and 5 ore).

Remember that you can check your opponents’ alignments in your Tavern as early as day one.

If there are no neutrals that you want, you might find them exploring Crypts, Abandoned Mines, Wrecked Galleys, Vaults of the Mages, Dragon Utopias, Military Posts and Sphinxes.

You cannot choose summoned creatures (Phoenixes and Elementals) for your favored enemies.

Not only do Rangers’ troops have a 40-60% chance to deal double damage to the favored enemies, but also the heroes themselves inflict increased damage.

The damage dealt by heroes depends on their level and the level of the targeted creatures. In addition, the damage can be increased by the Ranger’s racial skills.

According to the description, the Ranger deals 3 times his or her level damage to his favored enemies (Rain of Arrows or a single shot), which is somewhat misleading. Needless to say, a level 15 hero does not deal 3x15=45 damage, but he does NOT inflict 3 times his current damage either. Actually, he gains 3 virtual levels when attacking his favored enemies, i.e. as if he was level 18.

For example, here is the damage done by a level 15 Ranger attacking another Sylvan army:

creature

level

standard damage

/creatures killed

favored enemies

or deadeye shot

1

33/6

38/7

2

56/4

66/5

3

34/3

40/4

4

78/2

91/2

5

88/1

104/1

6

181/1

213/1

7

105/0

125/1

Deadeye Shot grants double damage to the damage inflicted to favored enemies but targets a single stack (In our example, the Ranger would deal 38x2=76 damage and kill 15 Pixies or Sprites, IF he had Deadeye Shot and the creature was his favored enemy). Deadeye Shot always kills at least one favored enemy, regardless of its health. Best used against level 7 creatures.

Imbue Arrow does not deal additional damage aside from the spell damage itself.

Imbue Arrow is a good ability if paired with Destructive Magic and/or mass spells. Imbue your rain of arrows with Meteor Shower or Implosion and enjoy the fireworks.

Sadly, you cannot imbue Armageddon, as it doesn’t target specific creatures. Similarly, you cannot imbue Mass Slow, Mass Weakness and Mass Suffering. These spells affect ALL of the opponent's creatures. When you use Imbue Arrow, you can imbue only the spells that target a single stack or a limited area. Thus you can imbue Lightning or Meteor Shower, but not Mass Slow or Armageddon. You can imbue Mass Vulnerability and Mass Cleansing, as those affect only limited areas. Unfortunately, one of Rangers’ weakest points is they have a very low chance of being offered Dark Magic.

Nevertheless, don’t forget that the spells drain your mana. If you are trying to shoot your three favored enemies but have enough spell points only for two spells, the third one is simply not cast. Imbue Ballista drains the mana as well.

It is important to note that Imbue Arrow only works with Deadeye Shot, Rain of Arrows, and Imbue Ballista. Otherwise, the spell is not cast when you attack. Strangely, you can obtain Imbue Arrow before its requirements.

Finally, keep in mind Rain of Arrows hits only your favored enemies (not other creatures) – but it hits them all. In other words, the Ranger can shoot from 1 to 7 arrows at the opponent’s army.

Generally, Avenger is a costly but valuable investment for large maps.

Nature's Luck

To get the ultimate skill (luck always rolled on attacks), you have to give up Archery (20% bonus to ranged damage - essential for the Elves in mid-game, as your key troops are Hunters and Druids at the time). You get Nature's Wrath instead. Another minor damage bonus to all Sylvan troops is welcome but nothing special. The next step is Flaming Arrows, which is helpful since Ballista can deal decent damage later in the game.

On the other hand, Logistics is as good as in Heroes 3. However, Scouting (+4 to scouting radius) is important for your scout only. It might become more interesting once the RMG has come out... Nevertheless, Silent Stalker in a way resembles Disguise spell from Heroes 3; aside from the fact that it provides additional scouting bonus, it is nearly useless against human opponents. Finally, Familiar Ground (+1 to speed on the grass) depends on the adventure map. In the available multiplayer scenarios random towns have nothing to do with the ground though. Again, here’s hoping it will matter more in randomly generated maps.

Vitality (+2 to health) is essential for Sylvan's low-level troops, although they might not be that significant by the time you have reached this level. Last Stand is something you do not want to ever rely on, while your Ancient Treants would become unbeatable with Stand Your Ground.

At the end, you might get Nature's Luck - IF you are lucky.

Creatures

The Sprite is one of the best level 1 creature and can be compared only to Assassins and Skeleton Archers (due to their high numbers). In addition to standard Fly and No Retaliation, the latest rendition has got Spray Attack and Casting. The Sprite’s Wasp Swarm doesn’t work against undead and elemental creatures and doesn’t seem to reduce the opponent’s initiative like the hero’s spell.

Keep in mind the damage formula for creatures’ spellpower is not linear. Thus two stacks of 50 do more damage than one of 100. On the other hand, Advanced Cleansing counters Dark Magic, although its successfulness depends on the number of Sprites.

Finally, the Pixie and the Sprite both have high speed and initiative (7/7 and 12/14 respectively). This fact enables even a level 1 Ranger to kill 3 stacks of neutral Zombies with just 1 Pixie or Sprite. The trick is to stick to the edges of the battlefield:

Useful for claiming resources on day 1. Do not try this against a human opponent, though.

The War Dancer is another worthy upgrade – the increased attack, defense and initiative of 15 make their hilarious War Dance Combo even more deadly. Among level 2 creatures, only the Blood Fury is better.

Arguably the best level 3 creature, Master Hunter provides much needed durability to Sylvan’s key unit in the early game (+3 defense and +4 hit points). Protect them with Unicorns in the mid-game.

Strangely, the Elder Druid has lower initiative and health than the Druid (as if he were the Older Druid). On the other hand, +5 attack and +5 damage bonuses are a great advantage. It is the upgrade that pays off in the mid-game, no matter whether you are engaging your enemy in the final battle or just covering ground at that stage.

The Silver Unicorn is an average level 5 critter, but it fits well in the mid-game Sylvan roster. It can either add raw power and buy time, or provide the meat shield and magic resistance for the archers. In addition to Resistance and Protection, its aura is a must have against powerful casters.

Everybody’s favorite Treant boasts 175/181 hit points, high defense (27/29) and Entangling Roots. They are excellent for protecting vulnerable archers by blocking and binding the opponent’s big guns, since they can compete with most of level 7 creatures. Take Roots ability (a defense bonus plus unlimited retaliation for one turn) makes the upgraded rendition amazingly durable in big battles. If you do not use the mod that replaces TreeAnts with beta Treants, your hero might get -1 Morale penalty.

The Green Dragon’s best point is its initiative. The Emerald Dragon’s immunity to Earth spells might seem narrow, but keep in mind that actually means Implosion and Meteor Shower.

Strategy

Like they always have, the Elves depend on wood. Even on Heroic, gold is not an issue (you start with 10,000).

The Heroes 3 veterans will surely miss the Grand Elves – due to the town points, in Heroes 5 you cannot get Master Hunters on day 2 anymore. My suggestion for the building order would be: Tavern, Faerie Trees, Battledance Terrace, Mage Guild 1, Town Hall or Faerie Wood and Hunters Cabin in week one. That means 25 wood, 15 more than you start with! The marketplace in town of Faltyll has 30% lower prices.

On day one hire another hero – in most cases you want to combine Sylvan armies, although there are exceptions. For example, Haven’s Dougal starts with 20+ Archers and an Ammo Cart. On the other hand, if you have to fight those annoying Assassins on day one, remember that the undead are immune to Poison. Not to mention Academy’s Havez with 60+ Gremlins and all three War Machines (saves up to 6750 gold) etc.

Take gold from treasure chests and recruit as many Hunters and Dancers as possible and you are up to a quick start.

If you are defending or attacking a Sylvan, keep in mind this town has a unique kind of defense. If you have built Citadel, you will get a moat with a chance to entangle the attacker’s stacks.

The moat neither hurts nor entangles the defender’s troops. The damage of the moat is fixed (hero’s skills and creature’s abilities don’t help) and equals 4.475 x town level (e.g. the moat of a level 20 town deals 89 damage). Arcane Armor spell absorbs part of the damage, but spells such as Endurance don’t reduce it.

The moat entangles the attacker for five rounds and the effect may renew afterwards. The entangled stack gets damaged if it waits or defends in the moat. If the stack attacks (melee or ranged), it doesn’t get hurt. If the stack tries to move in order to attack through the moat, it gets entangled and doesn’t do any damage, even if the opponent is adjacent.

Animated or resurrected dead units are not automatically entangled when they reappear in the moat.

Finally, you should know the moat’s Entangling Roots are not the same as the Treant’s ability. The hero or Sprites can try to cleanse the effect; Unicorns are able to resist it, while Black Dragons never get entangled.

by Vladimir Kuzmanov a.k.a. Vlaad

first screenshot by ventriloquist

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