This review will be divided into two sections. The first and shorter section will focus on gold strategies for the Pyromancer. The second and longer section will focus on uses for the Pyromancer in the grey game.
Section 1: The gold game
The Pyromancer has a limited variety of uses for golds, however it is used quite often. Anyone who has been playing gold, or maybe even grey for more than a week will know of the style of play called “Bombing” in which mages, specifically Dragonspeaker Mage and Pyromancers are used to deal heavy damage quickly to an opponent. A pure “mage bomb’ often will contain few to no blockable attackers, such as below. Remember that the Dragonspeaker Mage is critical to this strategy because without it your Pyromancers go from dealing some of the games highest damage, to the lowest.
As I said, it is obvious by both the units used and the positioning of them (front line) that this strategy is meant to overpower an opponent. Again, I would caution that your two Pyromancers may indeed become hardly worth the units spaces given to them if you find that your Dragonspeaker Mage dies early. For this reason, many of today’s rushers have modified these forms with knights and scouts to give them lasting power, such as below:
Scouts have superior range to witches, and knights are extremely durable, however the form still relies on dealing lots of damage early on, and hopefully taking the opponent’s cleric. If you choose to use either of these strategies, try not to get tied up, and be sure to attack more than one unit at a time with your Pyromancers and DSM, because in all likelihood they will not last long into the game, as they have no armor, very low HP, and moderately low blocking.
I mentioned earlier that in a Bomb strategy, a Dragonspeaker Mage is critical. In fact, this is true for essentially any gold strategy using a Pyromancer. In fact, I’ve found that in the gold game, there is never any use for more than one Pyromancer in any strategy except rushing and bombing, and any job for a Pyromancer in Turtling or Anti-rushing is better filled by a Dragonspeaker Mage, because a lone Pyromancer will not be able to channel the power of your Dragon, increasing its attack power. If you must use a Pyromancer in a gold game without using Dragonspeaker Mage, then use it as you might in a grey game; tactically, which brings us to the next section of this review.
Note: These formations were created before the addition of the “1st turn recovery” rule. Remember that if a pyro begins in range of a Lightning Ward, either with or without first turn, it can be killed without ever attacking.
Section 2: The grey game
The Pyromancer is underrated in the grey game. Most good grey players forsake the Pyromancer for a basic grey Turtle, using Barrier Ward, Enchantress, Assassin, and Witch. However, while Pyromancers have the lowest attack power of all your grey units, they have several critical strengths.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the Pyromancer is its ability to “arc” or attack over an obstacle without hitting it. While the Dark Magic Witch has the same range as a Pyromancer, and 9 more power, it often cannot be used as it attacks all four squares in a row. Pyromancer, however, not only attacks more squares, it attacks them in a cross shaped pattern that allows it to attack in close quarters without hitting any of your own units. Observe how the Pyromancer below is picking at the front wall of a basic grey turtle.
I would recommend using a Barrier Ward in your “Mage Turtle” as we can call it. Although not using one could allow you room for another attacker, the ones that you have can stay alive longer with it. Remember that although Pyromancers are more durable than Witches, they are still quite vulnerable. Two knight hits will still kill a Pyromancer, even with a heal from cleric (30 – 22 + 12 -22 = dead Pyro).
The scout behind the lightning ward can hit the Pyromancer from that position, so the important thing is to always keep the opponent busy thinking about the damage you are, or could be, dealing to him. Try and use your mages, in combination with Lightning ward and Barrier Ward, to force your opponent to retreat. This will give your scout some room to operate, and you can charge your knights in to finish off weaker units, such as enchantress, before it becomes a problem.
A common strategy in a same side grey turtle is to try and kill your opponents Lightning Ward. Many experienced grey players see this as a waste of time; something newbies do because the Ward looks so big and powerful. I believe that this is quite a valid strategy in a same side game, especially if you have more unblockable attackers than your opponent, as is the case in this scenario. In this case, because Teal has been spreading damage to Black’s Knights and Assassin, Black has retreated those units, giving Teal a chance to move in and kill Lightning Ward. It is often worthwhile to sacrifice a Pyromancer to achieve this end, but try not to sacrifice your Witch.
In this case, Teal has managed to take Black’s Lightning Ward without sacrificing any units, although one Pyro has had to retreat because of low health. The most important part of this situation is that Teal has parked its Witch in a position that threatens Black’s cleric. Black obviously realizes this, and has moved a knight forward to take the place of Lightning ward, in order to prevent losing the cleric. Teal jumped on the exposed knight, attacking it with Lightning ward.
Fearing a loss of its knight, Black uses Barrier ward, which leads us to the situation above. However, Black has neglected to pay attention to the fact that scout can hit Barrier Ward from where it stands, as long as Teal knows Line Of Sight, or LOS. (For a comprehensive guide to Scout Line Of Sight, I recommend looking at Nads’ stickied guide in the General Strategy section of the TAO forums.)
Anyways, Teal shoots Black’s Barrier Ward, which brings us to an important thing to remember about Pyromancers; a barrier ward shot by Scout has 14 health, meaning it can be killed by Pyromancer. Unfortunately for Teal, Black is well aware of this and heals.
Here I’m going to skip ahead a few turns:
Teal takes Blacks Knight. Realizing its cleric was gone, Black focused on killing one of Teal’s Knights. Because it is immobile and positioned in front of cleric, Black’s Barrier Ward got caught in the 24 damage destruction that is the attack of the Dark Magic Witch. However, this is not quite enough to kill it. Here is where Pyromancer is at its best; after the cleric is dead. While its 15 damage is barely noticed while Black has a cleric to heal it off, Teal’s Pyromancer is about to essentially end the game. Moving behind a wall of its own team, Pyromancer not only kills Barrier Ward, but takes over half of the Witch’s health, and does some damage to the Knight as well (notice again that Pyromancer can do this without hitting any Teal units!).
At this point there no hope for Black. You have now witnessed how devastating a Pyromancer can be when you have the “same side” as your opponent.
But obviously, you won’t get same side every game. Although Black’s Enchantress was a wasted unit space in the previous game, when formations are located across the board from each other, it is much more potent.
In order to beat a “Chanty Turtle” in opposite sides, you will likely need to be aggressive, and flank your opponent. Be careful, however, because your opponent can do the same to you, and you don’t have an enchantress of your own on defense. You need to focus, however on your advantages. You have four ranged units, a very high number for a grey, and again, the attack pattern of the Pyromancer will come in handy.
In this case below (recreated to use the same forms, but opposite sides) both Black and Teal took an aggressive stance. However, Teal used his mages to bring Black’s Scout to 21 health, and Black retreated.
Teal then used a Pyromancer as a distracter, while a knight rushed in to kill enchantress, and hopefully cleric, while Scout stays in reserve. The Pyromancer about to attack will likely die in the process, but the idea is to take out some of Black’s key units before it does.
Flanking is a delicate art, however, and I am by no means the best. A lot can go wrong; Black can go on the offense without Scout, because Teal doesn’t use enchantress; Scout’s LOS can be blocked and Knight frozen. Turn management and exact positioning is critical; often the difference between a win and a loss. If you would like to see an excellent “flanker” in battle, I’d recommend playing Mithrandar, whose form I drew from and modified when creating this guide.
One last thing I’d like to mention but not spend too much time on is grey rushing. Some people prefer to spread their units out, with mages often on the third row. I know Kbholen1 (or so he says) and LonelyTylenol both use grey rushes (spreads). I recommend playing around with these forms, which often look like stretched out versions of the default setup, but I myself have found Pyromancers best used in a traditional grey turtle. Here is a basic grey rush I’ve seen used by LonelyTylenol:
In conclusion, I hope that you play around with the Pyromancer, especially in the grey game. It is a solid, versatile unit, with an attack pattern that can be invaluable. A Pyromancer is a worthwhile unit in any grey game. Good Luck.
Major props to monkus for only complaining a little while I used him to set up screenshots, as well as to Mithrandir, whose double pyromancer was the inspiration for my own.