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Race Guide by wanted-

Updated: 10/08/14

Master of Magic Racial Summary

Group 1: High Men, Nomads and Orcs.

These races have the weakest basic units with no bonuses at all, and before they
unlock their race-specific ones the best that can be said about their military
is that it's cheap. Advanced military infrastructure and unit production may be
restricted to cities near mithril and adamantium deposits. This isn't much of a
problem, because with access to (almost) the full building tree they lend
themselves well to economic support.

High Men may lack raw power in the early game, but they make up for it with
speed and cost-effectiveness as the only race to get fully functional cavalry
for the list price. Pikemen are slow and fragile for their cost and
requirements, but 8 figures with armour piercing attacks makes them extremely
deadly, especially with a few bonuses. On a completely different line, priests
without a mark-up are attractive as combatants or supporters, even without fancy
minerals or wasteful military infrastructure.

At the high end, High men lack the flying units of their competitors and have
steep infrastructure requirements spread across different lines. However,
6-figure magicians are a bargain for the price and paladins are well worth the
wait. Formidable combat units in their own right, magic immunity makes them
ignore threats that would make an attack futile with anything else. Their
holiness bonus also means one of them can increase the effectiveness of any
ground-based stack - an endgame empire without at least one well-developed High
Men city is definitely missing something.

Last not least, there's the mighty warship for ruling the seas... or, better,
the skies with a flight spell.

High Men are generally liked as a master race: 5 races don't mind them at all,
only Klackons and Dark Elves truly hate them... and those hate everyone who
isn't them.

Nomads balance out their slower growth with a nifty gold bonus. While they
aren't conventionally powerful in the early game, they can still conquer their
home continent quickly: Horsebowmen can shoot on the move to avoid to-hit
penalties, and are quite capable of finishing wounded units in melee. Rangers
are rather expensive for a very modest increase in combat strength, but a single
one of them can double a stacks overland speed.

With Pikemen and Priests Nomads have solid medium-tier alternatives to Team
Blitzkrieg.

Fantastic Stables are expensive, but at least all Nomad unique units are
unlocked by buildings from the same branch... and Griffins are extremely
capable. Flying and first strike is an excellent combination, armour piercing
makes it even better. Unlike other fliers, they are good enough combatants that
they wouldn't be laughable as a ground unit (compare War Mammoths... and those
are more expensive).

Diplomacy is another of their strong features, only halflings are better liked.

Orcs seem deliberately made as bland as possible - only they have access to all
buildings, but some of their units are plainer than plain. The cavalry doesn't
have first strike, and the halberdiers don't negate it. This means that even
with a focus on earlier, cheaper units they don't really get an early-game
advantage over Nomads or High Men, even though shamans for the list price are
nice to have.

With no priests, plain 4-figure magicians that are hardly worth building unless
needed against ranged garrisons and no high-powered combat unit, they don't have
much going for them in the late game. By the time they can build Wyvern Riders,
nothing that's susceptible to poison should be a problem, making them just an
overpriced, underperforming flyer. Their most impressive asset, provided they
can abuse them, are warships... but those aren't unique to Orcs.

Surprisingly, Orcs get along very well with many races, being slightly better
liked by Gnolls, Barbarians and Trolls Than High Men. Unfortunately, they are
despised by High Elves and especially Dwarves.

Group 2: Gnolls, Klackons and Lizardmen.

No research base, no magic weapons, limited power base, no animist guilds to
support a large number of low-end units... for any staying power, it pays to
branch out and conquer someone else.

On the plus side, their basic units get sizeable advantages for a head start to
conquest. Their race-specific units are balanced to be competitive without magic
weapons, allowing one to crank out serviceable troops in every location.
Especially attractive with the Alchemy perk.

Gnolls need to subjugate some more advanced races for power and research, but
apart from that they give up very little for their military head start, being
able to build all the basic infrastructure and not generating crippling unrest.

Their Wolf Riders are fast, tough and hit hard. Unfortunately, their lack of
first strike and low defense means they require outside help to keep any
momentum instead of spending a lot of time recuperating.

Moreover, Wolf Riders are priced fairly while Gnolls get fantastic deals on
anything else with 2 additional swords at no extra cost. Their most impressive
unit is in fact the humble Spearman - outfighting vanilla Halberdiers at a
quarter of the cost.

Interracial tensions are quite light - 5 races with no additional unrest, and
even the normally antisocial Myrran races like furries.

Klackons are a bit of an oddity. Rebellious when conquered by another race,
their cities are unwelcome news to many players unless they're in need of
Engineers. As a starting race, better workers and reduced unrest are very
pleasant, but expansion carries a dilemma: keeping other races in line is going
to be difficult, razing and resettling is inefficient and leaves one short of
power/research. Neither problem is unsolvable, but being forced to compensate
for an inherent weakness makes it more difficult to exploit opportunities.

On the military side, +2 shields are nice, but paying twice as much for regular
units seems steep in comparison to gnolls and lizardmen, who get comparable
goodies for free. Stag beetles have enough shields to shrug off weak attacks,
take many hits to kill, can attack fliers, deal full damage to the end and have
an attack powerful enough to get through high defences. Unfortunately, they are
quite expensive, demand two buildings that serve no other purpose and are only
modest damage dealers. Not bad and probably he best deal considering everything
else is overpriced... but hardly spectacular. Everyone else hates bugs.

Lizardmen may grow quickly, but their utter lack of production multipliers can
only be described as crippling. Worse, without Foresters or Animist Guilds they
also struggle to feed themselves, let alone support a decent low-tech army.
Klackons and Gnolls may lack economic clout, but Lizardmen don't even have the
option to build up the basics before starting a sustainable offense. Their
movement type is a blessing, otherwise starting on a small island without
victims would be a death sentence.

The military side of things looks much better. With a free shield and heart,
they get the toughest basic units for the list price, and their Halberdiers in
particular are excellent. Shamans and Javelineers are neither as cheap nor
particularly damaging, but their sturdiness keeps them from being direct damage
fodder and lets them win many shoot-outs, even against Longbowmen and Slingers.
With the melee prowess of halberdiers, Javelineers also remain an asset after
emptying their quivers. Dragon Turtles sport the highest defence in the game
(tied with Golems) for an incredible price, share the basic strengths of Stag
Beetles and can swim. The only question is whether they are worth the
infrastructure when lizardmen get equally good deals on basic units.

All in all, Lizardmen are under the greatest pressure to conquer other races
quickly, but they have the tools to do so. They cause average rebellion in their
subjects: nobody apart from Klackons and Dark Elves truly hates them, but nobody
apart from Halflings likes them either.

Group 3: Barbarians, Halflings and High Elves.

These races combine the best of both worlds, at least superficially. They get
some natural economic advantage that is in effect independent of infrastructure,
enjoy bonuses to their basic units and can improve those even more with
alchemists guilds.

Barbarians may not have the greatest lategame potential for their economy, but
they have the basics and their fast growth rate - which also applies to outposts
– gives them a decent head start.

Their thrown weapons are useful against fliers and opponents with few shields.
More importantly, they make attack bonuses scale extremely well - even their
spearmen can become powerful, and their cavalry has very respectable first
strike potential.

Berserkers are the ultimate expression of this, and a contender for the most
deadly (mostly) mele unit when given a little love from minerals and
enchantments. Unlike the competition, they are neither fragile nor all that
expensive nor flummoxed by fliers.

The ranged units are effective but unspectacular, unless one is able to abuse
flying warships.

Barbarians don't cause extreme unrest, not even in Dark Elves, but they are also
short of true friends - Nomads and Orcs only.

Halflings also get a very respectable head start thanks to their better farmers
and benefit from the same quick outpost growth. They can also make a respectable
economic contribution, despite their limited infrastructure: Nobody else feeds
an army as efficiently, with no need to waste hammers and maintenance on stables
and animists guilds.

Similarly, their selection of units is limited but what they can build is
excellent. Despite the reduced strength, their swordsmen outfight some
halberdiers (thanks to more figures and the lucky bonus), are cheaper and far
less susceptible to being picked off from afar.

Their bowmen and shamans are quite good already but pale in comparison to
slingers, which are generally regarded as the finest ranged units in the game
and have excellent upgrading potential.

Halflings are the most loved race in the game, 8 out of the other 13 don't mind
them at all.

High Elves can definitely shine as a builder race, having access to all
multiplier and research buildings while generating power by their mere
existence. Reaching their potential is another matter though: First they are
hindered by a a low growth rate, later on by unrest concerns. They also have no
engineers or units capable of purifying putrified tiles.

The accuracy bonus is generally worth the increased cost for spear- and
swordsmen, less so for halberdiers which start to look like a very poor man's
pikemen. Cavalry benefit from it nicely enough because more damage means less
counterattacks, but again 60 vs. 40 hammers is noticeable... dubious whether
it's worth the increased upkeep.

Their magicians have two movement points and get the usual accuracy bonus,
making their regular attacks comparable to those of warlocks. Against
high-defence targets, this works better than High Men's strength in numbers.

Longbowmen are a contender for the best ranged unit: although they are a lot
less robust than Slingers, they are even better damage dealers overall and
cheaper. Elven Lords seem overshadowed by Paladins, lacking the shields, hearts
or abilities... but they cost less, don't require 1000 hammers worth of
religious buildings and deliver the hardest first strike of all Normal units.

Pegasi certainly have their use as ranged fliers, and continue the racial theme
of being fragile yet very efficient at killing things that can't fight back.
They don't compare favourably at all to Airships.

Unrest is still acceptable on Arcanus considering the friendly relations with
High Men, Halflings and Nomads. However, High Elves are the most hated race on
Myrror and disliked overall.

Group 4: Beastmen, Dark Elves, Draconians, Dwarves and Trolls

The Myrran races would fit in the above categories well enough - Trolls in group
2, everyone else in group 3. However, they have several things in common beyond
being tied to the Myrran trait: being more powerful, more expensive and more
antisocial than their counterparts from Arcanus. And, sadly, not benefiting as
much from Myrror's mineral wealth as the group 3 entries.

Beastmen have a very solid economy - all religious, research and production
buildings, only missing Merchants Guilds. Hardly a reason to complain for a race
that also generates mana naturally and doesn't grow that slowly.

Their basic units are powerful enough with an additional sword, cross and heart,
but at twice the hammer cost they ought to be. The priests are probably the best
deal - they pay a smaller mark-up and can hold their own in melee.

Centaurs and Manticores are rather underwhelming. Centaurs may be preferable to
Horsebowmen but not by enough to justify the substantial cost difference, and
the unit type is just not as useful on Myrror where all basic units are either
sturdier than standard or able to shoot back. Manticores don't even compare well
to Wyvern riders and are downright embarrassing compared to Draconian units.
Minotaurs are beefy fighters, able to challenge most regular unit in melee
combat. Large shields and their ability to soak up a lot of damage before damage
output drops makes them quite capable of dealing with ranged units, and as usual
fewer but more powerful attacks work better against high-defence opponents. All
in all, a very capable unit that's slightly less impressive than other high-end
units at its best (fewer figures also mean it doesn't gain as much from stacking
multiple bonuses, even though the to-hit bonus helps) but exceptionally solid at
its worst.

Beastmen are well-liked for a Myrran race, which is not at all.

Dark Elves have the ultimate economy in the game with 1 mana per population and
all economic buildings... but slow to get there with serious growth and unrest
issues.

Their normal units are more than a little dubious. Free ranged hits are usually
nice, especially in the large-ish spearman garrisons one will likely need to
quell the omnipresent unrest. At other times, it's exasperating to see
adamantium-armed cavalry fling matches at unicorns that are vigorously impaling
one's casters from behind.

Even when this feature isn't a liability, paying 250% for 4 crosses and some
weak magic attacks is steep... 'if I wanted Shamans, I'd rather be able to build
Shamans'. Or whatever else the closest analogy is - Dark Elves usually end up
paying more for less.

Their higher-end units are a lot more interesting: Priests get ranged attacks
surpassing other races' magicians while retaining their fighting skills and
healing spell. Nightblades can keep whole armies at bay. Warlocks are extremely
deadly and far superior to any magicians. Nightmares tick all the right boxes,
being ranged fliers with a still respectable combat strength and not even that
expensive... but often enough, they will be ignored for more casters.

Dark Elves are ridiculously unpopular even by Myrran standards. Barbarians are
the only race to only dislike Dark Elves, everyone else hates them.

Draconians are the last Myrran race able to build up their cities well - all
research and religioius buildings, but doing so may take a while with limited
production (no miners guild) and food (no animists guild).

Being able to defend one's cities from most threats with a single spearman is
quite an advantage, as is easy exploration with 2-speed fliers. Firebreathing
for all melee units complements flying very well since it will be applied in
every bout rather than being skipped when a fast enemy attacks. A shield and two
crosses round this out very nicely.

For situations where risking one's still fragile and expensive melee units (250%
normal cost!) would be unwise, Draconians have access to Shamans, Bowmen and
Magicians which all lack the fire breath but cost only 50% extra. Bowmen
especially benefit from flying if they don't need to fear retaliation and can
empty their quivers from point blank range.

The unique units continue the theme of an all-flying race and fix holes in the
line-up: Doom Drakes remain able to fight after taking a few hits and don't need
to rack up bonuses to be competitive (with enough bonuses, Halberdiers tend to
be better). Air Ships allow allies from other races to travel at the same pace,
and their single high-powered attack will get through high defenses or magic
immunity.

Like all Myrran races, they will face some significant unrest problems.

Dwarves are short, sturdy creatures fond of drink and industry. With more
productive workers and a substantial bonus to taxes and mineral yields, they get
an incredible economic start despite a slow growth rate. In the end they can
still keep up with races who spent substantially more on infrastructure, with
access to pacifying magic allowing a high tax rate they can be far ahead of
everyone else.

They should definitely branch out though, because while they are excellent at
generating gold there is no way to convert this directly into casting skill,
research or food. Taking off a 3-production-worker for a 2-food-farmer when it
could be the other way round is inherently wasteful.

They have access to few units, and even less that are worth building. While 50
hammers are a lot for the most basic combat unit, swordsmen with no gold ukeep
and the usual dwarven bonuses (+2 hit points, +4 resistance) are very solid.
Halberdiers aren't bad as such, but between not negating first strikes and being
lodged between no-upkeep swordsmen and the much more powerful hammerhands there
is little reason to build them. Engineers are an absolute bargain: At no
additional cost they are the cheapest dwarven unit, still get 3 hearts meaning
they can beat vanilla swordsmen in a fight as regulars, and they build roads at
twice the normal speed.

Steam Cannons are rather expensive for what they do: almost twice the price and
twice the gold upkeep of catapults and not clearly better, their main advantage
is easier availability. Hammerhands will most likely form the backbone of one's
army as one of the hardest hitters in the game that also benefit from rock solid
defense and resistance. Golems are more of a niche unit: Their extremely high
resistance (which renders their special abilities irrelevant) lets them ignore
many threats entirely and their high defense is an asset against ranged attacks
or multitudes of weak opponents. Otherwise, they usually end up taking more
damage than Hammerhands because they don't finish the fight as quickly.

Dwarves get along fine with Halflings, Nomads and High Men. However, because
Orcs, Elves and Trolls utterly despise them the average doesn't look good on
either plane: only Klackons and Dark Elves face more of a rebel problem.

Trolls are the only Myrran race without a convincing economy, the lack of Miners
Guilds is especially annoying considering the abundant mineral wealth. With
Animists guilds and all religious buildings for food-neutral riot suppression,
they can still pull their weight providing food for the rest of the empire.
Their very low growth rate actually helps here: farmers eventually cease to be
productive and more growth eats into the food surplus.

Price tag and seemingly large bonuses (+2 swords, +3 crosses, +3 hearts!) are
misleading, Trolls do not hold their own in a fair fight past the early game.
The advantages do not compensate for fewer figures and no magic weapons. Their
main benefit is their regeneration ability - if not killed outright they can
disengage and heal, and won battles don't result in any real casualties. The
result is effortless conquest until they run into a brick wall.

Spearmen are very useful fodder/garrison units, swordsmen and halberdiers are
fairly expensive for what what they do, Shamans are hilariously uneconomical and
mostly unneeded. Going directly from spearmen to War Trolls makes sense - they
are fast, considerably stronger than Halberdiers at little extra cost and a
Fighters Guild is a good investment before focusing on an army anyway.

War Mammoths are hideously overpriced and require plenty of otherwise useless
infrastructure... not good in a production-poor race for a unit that won't
become a staple. A powerful first striker is a great complement to regenerating
units that thrive on attrition though, and while other races can fill the niche
better none of them are native to Myrror.

Trolls are unpopular as a master race, especially on Myrror itself. Halflings,
Orcs and Gnolls consider them friends, they don't benefit from military
resources and and they should have little trouble with the squishy garrisons on
Arcanus. All of these make switching planes asap worth considering.

Closing thoughts

I spend entirely too much time on this, but organising what I knew and testing
things in ILSe's excellent combat simulator gave me a few surprises. I've always
considered Master of Magic the sort of game so full of content and possibilities
that that proper balance is neither needed nor possible.

Now I'm convinced the designers came closer than I gave them credit for, with 11
or 12 of the 14 races seeming reasonably well-balanced against one another.

The good: Halflings. Economically, the best diplomacy and easy food are the most
flexible advantages to have and among the most powerful. Even with a focus on
other races, having Halflings in charge is probably ideal. Their basic units are
among the best on Arcanus, Slingers are a candidate for the most practical
racial unit in the game.

The bad: Orcs. Perfectly useful as economic support, but the only race to be
almost totally dominated by a competitor.

The ugly: Klackons. There are ways of making them work and in the right
circumstances they have their advantages... but the vast majority of times, they
are just awkward.

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