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Hello, and welcome to (yet another) Raider production. Like many other (great) things, this report has an interesting backstory. Many of you know of Heartcutter, probably one of the most inspiring reporters in the history of this site. Yet, few of you took seriously his promise of return. Yet return he did, posting a new report, and bringing his usual matter-of-fact badass air with him. And then he vanished without a trace. In response to my request for help, many members of this community tried to offer advice, but no one knew the truth. It was Johnny_Vegas, with his infinite ingenuity who thought of a way to find Heartcutter.

Johnny_Vegas - "Have you tried shining the "heartcutter" spotlight into the sky?"

Alas! That was the answer. No sooner did I power up the spotlight marked with a heart impaled with a dagger and aimed it at the clouds, than I heard thunder. The door to my laboratory flew open, and behold! Commander Heartcutter stepped across the threshold, heartcutting knife at his belt. "I'm here," was all he uttered.

In this match, Heartcutter decided to forego his usual savage orcs in favor of the more environmentally-conscious night elves. Could it be that the famous commander finally got cold feet after screwing up world after world with nukes along with his accomplice Kei the ghost? Or maybe he was finally getting civilized? Kei was pregnant and unavailable for questioning, and Heartcutter threatened me with his knife when I tried to press him on the issue.

The match took place on Gnoll Wood (on the left). This map features 3 expansions in the middle, which can be treated as naturals if your opponent does not get the start location that shares the middle gold mine with you. Additionally, Gnoll Wood is a Tavern map, which means that there are tavern neutral buildings on the map, where players can hire neutral heroes to supplement or replace their default race heroes.

Heartcutter got the 4 o'clock position with his night elves, while Vudentz drew humans at 10. Vudentz followed the standard build, starting an altar and a farm and following them shortly with a barracks. Heart, on the other hand, went for a less conventional opening, starting an ancient of war and a moon well before an altar. In fact, he did not start his altar until the ancient of war had almost finished.

Vuldentz stayed on track with the common archmage/footman start. As soon as his archmage was ready, he taught him the water elemental skill and sent him to creep with the help of 2 footmen. Though standard, this build works very well for humans, who lack a hero capable of early game harassment. This weakness means that during the early game, the goal of every human player is to creep as fast and as efficiently as possible.

Meanwhile, Heartcutter waited for his altar to complete, and then sent his scouting wisp to the nearest tavern, located directly south of his main base. There he revealed his plan as well as the reason for the late altar by hiring goblin tinker.

Once in control of his new hero, Heart showed his mean side by teaching him the pocket factory skill, which allowed the hero to create temporary factories that pumped clockwork goblins, shortlived, weak ground units that explode upon death, causing damage to nearby enemy units and polluting the environment. Heart immediately put this skill to use, killing the enemy scouting peasant, who was poking around his base and clearing out a small pocket of creeps nearby. During this time, he had also added a second ancient of war and a huntress hall. By the time the last of the creeps fell, he was already producing huntresses from both ancients and was researching ultravision, which would allow his units to see as far by night as they do by day.

Vudentz had not been idle, and had started upgrading to tier 2, while creeping the goblin merchant located in the top center, his hero already at level 2 (over half a level ahead of Heart).

While humans cannot harass and are forced to creep during early game, their creeping abilities are hard to match. The goal for other races should be to prevent the human from creeping as much as possible by harassing and pressuring his main base or by creep jacking him (i.e. attacking someone while they are fighting creeps, effectively sandwiching them between your own forces and the creeps). If you are not a Warcaraft III player, it helps to think of this in terms of Protoss vs Zerg matchup in Brood War. The goal for Protoss is to force the Zerg to make defense and zerglings instead of drones early in the game in order to slow down his economy. On the other hand, the Zerg should try to make just enough defense to hold off an attack, while making as many drones as he can get away with, given his strategy. In this analogy, powering drones is similar to creeping in the way that creeping gives human gold and strengthens his hero, giving him a stronger army later in the game. Therefore, if the enemy succeeds in preventing the human from creeping, he will cut down his gold income and make his army weaker later on, all the while capitalizing on the greater harass capability of other races' heroes.

Heartcutter looked perfectly aware of this. As soon as he had 3 huntresses, he took his tinker, who had gained level 2 by slaughtering creeps at a nearby a goblin shop, and went to pick a fight. He ordered a weapons upgrade, as his army circled around the center of the map and approached the enemy encampment from the south.

Heartcutter pointed his knife at the human base. There was no need for words. Huntresses' battle cry "For the Horde!" shattered the calm as Night Elf troops entered the human base. "I taught them that," commented Heartcutter proudly after the match.

The elves found the enemy base defended only by 2 arcane towers. "You call that defense?" Heart mocked as his troops headed for the peasants. He killed one constructing an arcane vault, forcing Vudentz to cancel construction in fear that Heart would destroy the vulnerable unfinished building, and attacked the miners, while slapping down a microfactory.

On the other side of the map, Vudentz approached the Night Elf base when he received the under attack warning and knew that his enemy had the initiative. He decided not to play this game of chicken and ordered his troops to teleport back, while turning his peasants into militia.

Heartcutter, never one to quit early, decided to stick it out for a bit, his now 5 huntresses scoring a number of peasant kills and picking off a few footmen. As soon as his tinker got down to critical health, Heart teleported out. The attack had gone well, but 3 huntresses were not there when his troops materialized at his base. There would be no memorial service because elves don't get liquor.

Though both players lost about the same in troop and item value, Heart came out ahead because he forced cancellation of the arcane vault, delaying human access to items that can be purchased there, and killed numerous peasants, setting back his enemy's economy.

Vudentz, however, worked quickly to recover and restarted construction work on an arcane vault. He also ordered up a gryphon aviary and hired the naga sea witch as his second hero. Finally, he set about replacing his lost workers. Unfortunately for him, he could not go creeping again because all his remaining footmen were damaged, and he had no money to build more. There Heartcutter's plan had worked.

Meanwhile, back at his base, the environmentally confused Orc commander healed his tinker using moonwells and started an ancient of wonders. Unlike his opponent, he chose to stick to one hero, and instead continued to pump huntress. Soon he had 7 of them and used his new army to clear out the creeps camping out by his natural. There were no prisoners.

Once all the creeps were dead, and Heart's tinker hit level 3, he took all his troops and headed for the human base once more. Vudentz had just moved out with his troops to kill the powerful creeps in the middle of the map. His his troop count was still low, but his archmage was already level 3 due to all the huntresses he killed during Heart's first attack.

Heart paused to start an expansion defended by two ancients protectors and then moved his force consisting of 8 huntresses and his tinker into the enemy base. Vudentz was just creeping the center spot, and his base was completely bare. The two arcane towers were still doing only nominal damage, and Heart proceded right into the line of peasants mining gold once again. Vudentz immediately converted his peasants into militia, but his main army could not teleport in as it did last time because he had not replaced the scroll of town portal. So he had to take the long way. Meanwhile, Heartcutter's troops savagely cut through the peasants.

Goblin tinker had gained level 4 by the time human troops arrived. And most of the peasants had been killed along with one of the arcane towers. Two huntresses that had stayed just outside the human base were immediately set upon by 4 footmen, 3 dragonhawks, and the human heroes, as they vainly tried to get away. They did serve their purpose, though, of giving Heart the advance warning. Knowing he stood no chance against airborne troops, Heart used the delay provided by two huntresses and the greater speed of his units to escape rather than face an army he could not not beat. He lost one more huntress escaping but left the human with a parting present in the form of a microfactory.

Vudentz was growing tired of Heartcutter dictating the pace of the game and ordered an immediate counter-attack planning to capitalize on his enemy's lack of anti-air units.

Heart, on the other hand, had just expanded, and with no new troops, his main hope in defense against enemy air were two ancient protectors he had made to at the expansion. At first, the sight of ancient protectors alone seemed to be enough; or maybe it was the muffled exhalations of the huntresses, "Yeah! That's the stuff!" Whatever the case, the five dragonhawks that were approaching the expansion over the forest, pulled a U-turn and headed out. If Heartcutter felt relieved, his relief did not last long. The dragonhawks returned within moments, except this time they were accompanied by a level 4 archmage, level 2 naga witch, and a band of footmen. Human troops immediately focused fire on one of the ancient protectors. Heartcutter popped 4 wisps out of the entangled mine to repair but to no avail. Vudentz eliminated two of the wisps with his footmen, then focused on the ancient again, bringing it down. He was moving towards the second ancient protector, when Heartcutter arrived on the scene to try and save his expansion. He had the level 4 tinker along with 4 huntresses and 6 archers he had managed to produce to counter the air threat. As the two armies engaged each other, Heartcutter immediately targeted the enemy archmage, quickly bringing him down to about 40% health and forcing him to flee. He also placed a microfactory behind the human troops in an attempt to make their retreat more difficult. Good plan, but Vudentz did not plan on leaving.

The human protagonist used a wand of lightning shield that his archmage had picked up from the creeps to cast lightning shield on one of the huntresses and sent his footmen to deal with the mounted troops, while his dragon hawks engaged the archers. This, however proved to be his demise. The huntresses and the tinker completely demolished the footmen, and their job was only made easier thanks to the lightning shield that Vudentz had cast on a huntress (it dealt damage to all the footmen near the huntress). Meanwhile, dragonhawks began falling from the sky as archers focused fire on them, one at a time. Their situation was not made easier by Heartcutter screaming "Where are my NUKES!!!" across the battlefield.

Vudentz saw that not even his level 2 water elementals could save win him the battle and ordered the retreat. Heart shot down two more dragonhawks as they lingered a bit and ordered a pursuit.

He had lost most of his huntresses, however, and when Vudentz stopped at the fountain of health in the middle and turned to fight, the Orc commander commanding Night Elves found himself overmatched. THree water elementals bore down on his tinker and a single huntress that had ventured ahead of the main army. Heart turned around and ran. Suddenly, the positions were reversed, and the human army advanced at the heels of the retreating elves, trampling the troops that lagged behind. He chased heart all the way back to his expansion, killing two archers before turning around and retreating.

Vudentz proceded back to the fountain of health in the center to heal his damaged troops. Heartcutter, whose troops did not need healing, took his army to the nearby goblin merchant to purchase a new scroll of town portal and a potion of lesser invulnerability, which had the power to render his hero impervious to damage for 7 seconds. If he was hoping for a respite, though, he did not get it. Vudentz waited for his troops to heal and then attacked Heartcutter's expansion once again, targeting the remaining ancient protector with his dragonhawks, two heroes, and a newly-spawned water elemental. He got it down to half health before Heartcutter brought his own units to defend. He forced Vudetnz down the cliff, where the human troops turned around and attacked the tinker and a huntress who had again gotten too far ahead of the pack. Heartcutter immediately placed a microfactory in the midst of human troops and ordered his archers to form a line at the top of the hill to fire on the dragonhawks.

Vudentz used his elementals to great effect, however Heartcutter simply ignored them. As he danced his huntress and the tinker at the front lines, his archers focused fire on the dragonhawks. The huntress fell, but so did two of the dragonhawks. Vudentz decided he was taking higher losses and retreated towards the center. Heart's troops followed.

In the center, Vudentz turned around and engaged the pursuing elf troops once again using the advantage of the hill. The dragonhawks did not last long against archers' fire, but after they fell there were still two healthy heroes and a pair of water elementals bearing down on the night elf troops. Heartcutter's tinker, on the other hand, was in critical health. The battle seemed to be going against him. Just as his tinker was about to fall, Heart used the invulnerability potion. Faced with an invincible hero, Vudentz ordered his troops a few steps back.

Heartcutter pursued the reatreating human troops, but his 7 seconds of invulnerability soon ended, and the tinker came under attack from the enemy heroes and water elemnetals. Barely alive, he escaped.

Despite driving off the enemy hero, Vudentz was struggling. Faced with 8 archers and a small horde of mechincal goblins, he kept retreating his troops a bit and then reinganging once the archers started moving. He disposed of the goblins quickly and then focused on the archers. Slowly the battle turned. Archers' piercing damage was not doing much against the heroes, especially with the fountain healing them. On the other hand, the low hit point archers started to fall, as the archmage, sea witch, a water elemental, and a newly-arriving dragonhawk focused fire on them. Seeing that he was losing the battle, Heartcutter grudgingly ordered his troops to withdraw.

Vudentz, having seen his opponent's change in strategy, quit messing with air units and went back to the roots, pumping footmen. Back at his base, he had long since replenished his work force, and was mining full-swing. As soon as the first two footmen joined his heroes, Vudentz ordered yet another attack on the NIght Elf expansion.

Heartcutter, was getting tired of the puny elven infantry, and had constructed two ancients of lore and was preparing to produce druids of the claw, that had the advantages of being tougher and being heavy drinkers. When Vudentz attacked again, though, the powerful late-game melee was still in the plans, and Heart had only archers and his hero.

Vudentz managed to destroy the remaining ancient protector before Heartcutter's stroops made it to the expansion. Vudentz did not stay to fight, though, and fled back to the fountain of health in the center. Heartcutter pursued and engaged his enemy in the narrow creek leading up to the center of the map. He immediately put up a microfactory, but Vudentz retreated to the safety of the fountain and Heartcutter ordered his troops to hold.

In the relative calm the followed, both players built up, aiming for tier 3 melee. Vudentz had spotted the druids of the claw in bear form with one of his dragonhawks and worked towards knights to counter the threat.

Heartcutter ran out of patience first. When he had 5 bears, he ordered his entire army towards the human base. He regrouped just outside, cast roar on his troops and used his hero's ultimate ability to transform the tinker into the likeness of a siege tank.

"Burn it to the gro... KEI WILL YOU GET OUT OF THAT JACUZZI!!!"

But the Night Elf troops got the idea and charged. Vudentz teleported back. He had a few knights and even a gryphon, but the Heartcutter had the numbers, and he had Bork. His harassment early set Vudentz back economically, and that paid huge dividends in this battle.

Once all his troops were dead, he offered a "Well done." and a few comments...

So I will leave you with these words of wisdom to ponder the beauty of this report.
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This was a Raider production.