The Plaguelords are an average race. They have access to a massive range of damage types, resistances and powers, but fail to efficiently put them into play easily due to a poor economy and infrastructure. Given the time to build their economy and dominate a sufficient portion of the map, the Plaguelords can become a significant powerhouse that nearly every race finds difficult to overcome. Unfortunately for them, their expenses in both resources and time means that they usually struggle against most opponents instead.
- Access to every damage type in the game.
- Many units deal splash damage, allowing them to do more damage with less units and reliably counter swarm races.
- Lack of a race classification of nearly all units prevents opponents from being able to exploit them with slayer skills.
- Appalling economy that requires incredible care just to manage to "acceptable" levels.
- All three of the powerful Hydra units are vulnerable to common Slashing damage.
- Very little in the way of inflicting Disease for a race that are meant to specialize in it.
- The few units that have a racial tag have contradicting ideals with each other. (Their Hero and General are Human that do not like the night, but their basic infantry, builder and best Dragon are Undead that thrive in the night)
The first period of the game for Plaguelords includes their basic units and access to their research upgrades. Unless the player has masses of spare Metal, there is literally no point at all in producing Slimes (since 1.03, Piercing resistance was removed from them) because they are worse than Ghouls other than in their Speed (which is upgradable for Ghouls anyway).
Access to the Gazer and Bone Catapults early on in the game is useful for the Plaguelords, but the latter conflicts with various research and upgrades so is much harder to use, although it should be whenever possible. By this stage, it is possible for the Plaguelords to siege an enemy base, but in doing so the Plaguelords may sacrifice the resources that could've been put into keep upgrades and other useful options.
Dragonflies are not very useful and should be avoided by A Plaguelord player.
By keep level 3 comes the first powerful tank-styled unit, the Hydra. They bear somewhat average damage, but they have very useful resistance to Piercing, a high Combat stat and splash damage. Beware that they also have a vulnerability to common Slashing damage and that their cost conflicts with many upgrades and researches. By now, the Plaguelords should have the tools necessary to lay waste to races with masses of Piercing weaponry (like the Empire).
Spores are quite expensive (their cost conflicts with construction and keep upgrades) and are extremely hard to upgrade. They should only be used if the Plaguelord has a lot of resources to spare.
Keep level 4 gives access to a massive range of elemental creatures. This is the point in the game where the Plaguelords can truly put the pressure on their opponents. Unfortunately however, they require very expensive and time consuming Hydra Cave upgrades - and it gets even worse from there (see the Buildings section). At this time, the Plaguelords can either 'make it' or 'break it'. The time and resources that needs to be put into infrastructure can be enough by itself to put the Plaguelords out of the game.
Once this is accomplished though, the Plaguelords can now get access to the true powerhouses of the race. Cryhohydras are more formidable than Hydras, and most importantly they mostly cost Metal which means they don't conflict with the other upgrades, research and units so much. They even take the same time to build as normal Hydras.
Pyrohydras are yet another power up from Hydras and Cryohydras. Whilst Pyrohydras do have a lot of potential to wreak havoc on enemy forces, the power up is somewhat minor from Cryohydras and their costs in both resources and time is phenomenal. The only reason to use Pyrohydras would be to use against opponents abusing fire damage, because otherwise Hydras and Cryhoydras generally do more for the money.
Eyes of Flame are amongst the best units available to the Plaguelords. They use a similar firebreath attack to Fire Dragons, setting enemies on fire and devastating bases - just make sure that they are backed up sufficiently by units such as the different types of Hydras and/or Ghouls depending upon the damage type prevalence of the opponent.
Wyverns are difficult to use with the Plaguelords do to their costs in Gold and Crystal. They are useful if the enemy has many units vulnerable to piercing and having another damage type can be useful. Wyverns are a very good substitute to Hydras as they are airborne and are faster.
Producing Dragonliches or Swamp Dragons is difficult because the Plaguelords use a lot of Gold and Crystal.
Lastly, Plague Priests are expensive melee generals which can cause some problems for certain races. They give access to Magic damage and Magic resistance whilst providing nice air cover (similarly to many Plaguelord units) and power. Even if the opponent slays a Plague Priest, they will have a lasting mark left on their forces in terms of Disease via the Plague Cloud spell.
Plaguelord buildings are mostly similar to other race's. The majority of structures cost Stone and Crystal, which can conflict with some of the Plaguelord units. The Laboratory costs no Stone but costs a lot of Gold instead and the Plague Shrine costs 100 of Gold, Stone and Crystal so is harder to afford, but can be well worth it if Plague Priests are needed.
The Hall of Plague can be upgraded to cast a very powerful spell. The Contagion spell costs a lot to upgrade and a lot of Crystal to cast but it Diseases and damages all enemies within an area around the structure (however, it cannot kill anything, it's similar in that way to the Rot spell), which can easily be enough to fend off attacks if the player has a lot of resources.
Plaguelord Towers are quite reasonable, and are generally more useful than High Elven towers. Both have the same damage type, but the Plaguelord tower has a lot more hits and a bit less damage. The only problem with Plaguelord towers is that they can only naturally be upgraded with more Electrical damage which means some retinue units may be needed to change the damage type.
The first big problem with Plaguelord buildings is that they cost a lot to upgrade and their researches cost a lot to do. In particular, the Hydra cave can be upgraded to a Fire Cave for 600 Metal or an Ice Cave for 400 Crystal, which creates a huge dent in the Plaguelord economy.Once the Hydra Cave has been upgraded, another big problem arises.
Because the Hydra Cave upgrades are split between the Ice Cave and Fire Cave, not all units can be accessed from one upgrade so both need to be done to get access to more units. Unbelievably, this means that the upgraded Hydra Cave cannot even produce the normal Hydras anymore, so if you need access to plenty of special Hydras and normal Hydras, you need to build a ton more Hydra Caves which can slow the Plaguelords down to a crawl. For example, if you want to be able to produce 2 of each Hydra at the same time, the structure costs will total 2100 Metal, 900 Stone, 800 Crystal and will take ages. This is aside from the high cost and build time of the units and research.
Out of every single race in the entire game, the Plaguelord hero really did draw the short straw. They have almost inarguably the worst synergistic skills in the entire game. This is a serious downside to the race as there is little to really abuse with them.
The race itself is not weak, but it isn't strong in many areas either. A Daemonslayer has the most synergistic options available, and rewards itself with a usable Leech in the future, but the class is almost a dud until then since it already 'bard's a 'bard' race. The basis of the Plaguelords is all about disease. Naturally, you'd assume there'd be some kind of sphere to aid you in the spreading of such ailments. The Poison Magic sphere is as close as you're going to get with that, since it can cast a spell which maxes the effects of disease and poison - but the Swarm do it better since poison does massive damage with the spell whilst disease merely weakens them. Most of the spell support is towards poison rather than disease, making it unfortunately an undesirable spell sphere to pick. Summoning Magic may seem good, but due to earlier access, the Dark Elves perform the magic in this sphere better. Addtionally, there is not so much demand for the fliers that the Summoning sphere creates since the Plaguelords already have good elemental coverage and anti-air weaponry.
Whatever class you pick, it is highly likely that access to a spell sphere will be far greater than the toughness of a warrior. Out of all classes, there are a couple of desperate options.
Necromancy can be used with a Deathknight for physical and Piercing resistances via the Doom Knight or Skeleton respectively (although that really is a long shot). Sage is a more useful class thanks to the Comprehension spell slashing the many unit upgrade research costs in half (at least) which can help alleviate the research issue. Perhaps the Archmage class could have its chance to shine by combining spells and abilities to make an easier life for the Plaguelords.
Alternatively a simple Merchant could be used despite the race's -2 charisma modifier just to help with producing Hydras and Ghouls amongst some others.
A Paladin can work with the Plaguelords in a special way, particularly at a higher level. This build revolves around access to both Healing Magic and a usable Leech thanks to the Paladin's physical resilience. Once the mana regeneration upgrades have been researched, the Leech Paladin can become an immensely hard barrier to take down. Lesser units get turned into mana for the hero, which can then be converted into a self healing spell. From then on, the Plaguelord Paladin can keep slaying units and use healing spells which make both the hero and the Plaguelord army very tough to take down, particularly the Hydras. If that's not enough, the hero can use the Resurrection spell to raise the fallen back to the player's side.
Lastly, a Dragonslayer can be used with the Plaguelords to produce higher level Hydras, which if done properly could be quite deadly. Remember though, Hydras are very expensive, take a long time to produce and the elite ones require seperate building upgrades to fully access. This combination could work given enough time, but it is possible that the opponent's onslaught prior to this time would leave you wishing you could get Hydras out cheaper and faster. However, there is one huge flaw to this race/class combination: it is highly likely that choosing a Ssrathi Dragonslayer and playing as the Plaguelord race would be a far superior option simply due to synergistic access to Dragonmaster right at the start of the game. In 1.03, Dragonslayer's had Wealth but not the Dragonmaster skill. If only the Dragonslayer had both, because it would be a very viable choice - spamming points into Wealth until access to Dragonmaster could've provided the Plaguelords with cheap, powerful Hydras.
- The Plaguelords can only upgrade one unit at a time and at great cost. It will be quite a while before any of the units are upgraded properly. Even then, the units upgraded die very fast due to their lack of hits, armor and resistance so the upgrades are almost pointless later game.
- Hydras are very expensive - particularly the upgraded ones (the Cryhohydra and Pyrohydra). Starve any Plaguelord of Gold and/or Crystal and they're pretty much finished since most of their units and researches rely on great amounts of these resources. In order to access these extremely expensive and somewhat underwhelming units, it even costs 500 Metal or Crystal just to gain access to either one via a building upgrade. That means you need to build more of the Hydra production buildings just to gain access to additional units. Considering that Pyrohydras (250 Gold 180 Crystal) cost almost twice the resources of a Giant (100 Metal 150 Stone), you've obviously let the Plaguelord take too many resources if you're somehow seeing these.
- A lot of Plaguelord building destroyers such as the Eye of Flame have few hitpoints. Missile units will easily take care of them.
- Keeping a Plaguelord busy is quite possibly the best tactic to use against them. If you keep the pressure on them, they are unlikely to afford Hydras and/or Bone Catapults.