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I know what you're thinking: "Raise Dead?" Isn't that the worthless spell for chumps that no one should ever research?" But I'm telling you: Raise Dead is a lot more useful than you might first think. Well, in singleplayer, at least. Don't bother with any of this in multiplayer.

First, let's take a look at the Skeleton itself. It's essentially a squishier version of the Grunt, having the same damage output (I think? I find DPS a little hard to calculate in W2 but it's pretty close - before upgrades, that is) but less HP and Armour. It's one of the weakest units in the game, but don't underestimate the amount of damage it can dish out. Specifically, it can do some hefty damage to ranged units, making short work of Ballistae, Mages, and even Rangers depending on circumstances.

1. Paladin Bombs.

The AI, while generally quite stupid, can be something of a savant with certain spells. Who hasn't felt the sting of Paladins exorcising their Death Knights with freakish inerrancy? But with Raise Dead, you can actually turn the AI's trigger-happy nature against them. Open an assault with Skeletons and the Paladins will burn all their mana casting Exorcise. Not only will this make things safe for your Death Knights, but far more importantly it'll drain the Humans of their Healing capabilities.

2. Unliving Shield.

Very similar to above, a handful of Skeletons can be kept with a Death Knight to be used as a sort of absorbent layer should any Paladins come calling. This can be particularly useful for getting off an entire Death and Decay.

3. The First War Defense.

In Warcraft 1 the AI will almost always attack the first enemy unit it comes in contact with, meaning defense can often be made trivially easy just by keeping some Skeletons out front. Enemy starts whacking on your skellies while your ranged units easily kill them. Raise the dead enemies as new Skeletons and repeat. In a lot of cases it's so strong I almost sometimes think that maybe Raise Dead is as good as Healing (almost).

In Warcraft 2 the AI is a fair bit smarter so this isn't quite as strong, but it's still incredibly effective. Dangle some Skeletons outside of your main defenses and at least some of the attackers will get distracted by them. It's particularly funny when a Gryphon Rider decides to fly around trying to blast a skellie while Trolls and Guard Towers turn it into a feathery mess. It's also helpful for Ballistae, which almost always will aim for the skellies first, allowing you time to react - and often any remaining skellies will be capable of taking out the Ballistae before they can wreak havoc on your real defenses.

My absolute favourite benefit from this, though, has got to be watching the AI send a Mage up to Polymorph a Skeleton.

In any case, leave a Death Knight in your base to raise the dead and it can make your life a whole lot easier.

4. Mop-Up.

You've taken care of the bulk of the enemy forces and now have a ton of farms and tech buildings to raze. Believe it or not, in situations like this raising a bunch of Skeletons can be your best bet. Death and Decay and even Whirlwind will melt buildings much more quickly, of course, but will only take care of one or two clusters. A complement of Skeletons won't be as immediately destructive, but overall they'll get you the most efficient return on your razing:mana ratio.

Is Raise Dead a great spell? No. Is it a good spell? ...Not really. In fact, it's pretty thoroughly mediocre. But it's not quite *as* useless as people often think, and it can be not just effective, but a lot of fun. Again, almost 100% of its usefulness comes from exploiting AI stupidity and therefore has no real application in multiplayer.