It seems that you're using an outdated browser. Some things may not work as they should (or don't work at all).
We suggest you upgrade newer and better browser like: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer or Opera

The more symmetrical the factions in a game are, the more significant their differences become. This is particularly obvious in Warcraft 2, which is significantly less balanced than later Blizzard games despite having few differences between the sides. I'm going to break things down, difference by difference, so we can see how the two factions differ and where each one comes out on top.

(Spoiler alert: Orcs are the stronger faction).

1. Marksmanship vs Regeneration.

Rangers get Marksmanship, giving them a whopping +3 to damage (that might not sound like a lot, but it's huge). Berserkers get Regeneration, allowing them to very slowly recover hitpoints over time. While this makes them one of only two Orc units capable of healing, it's nowhere near the same level as Marksmanship.

Edge: Humans.

Interestingly enough, each of these upgrades is a pale reflection of what the other side is capable of - Berserkers with Regeneration won't heal nearly as fast as Rangers with Paladin support, and Rangers with Marksmanship deal pitiful damage next to Bloodlusted Trolls.

2. Holy Vision vs Eye of Killrogg.

This is a tricky one. Eye of Killrogg can potentially get a lot more scouting done, spot submarines, and can even be used to get Destroyers to sink one another. Holy Vision is a lot less versatile and effective. On the other hand, Eye of Killrogg is a micro machine and demands a lot of your attention to be used to its fullest potential, whereas Holy Vision is something you can just fire and forget. So it's kind of a toss-up, depending on your situation and skill level. Eye of Killrogg gets a slight nod here just because it has more potential.

Edge: Orcs.

3. Healing vs Bloodlust.

Healing is one of the most useful and important spells in the game. Keeping units alive gives you a powerful economic advantage - because you need to replace less troops - strategic advantage - because an army can keep moving after an engagement instead of needing to wait to reinforce - and tactical advantage - because with decent micro, you can use this spell to keep your units alive during combat. If you're Human this spell will be your bread and butter. It's incredibly awesome.

And yet even with all of that it still can't hold a candle to Bloodlust, probably the most broken spell or ability in any Blizzard RTS (or any RTS period, that I've played). This spell triples a unit's damage (the actual math is a bit more complex than that, but it generally works out to roughly 3x) and can be spammed for a mere 50 mana. You will shred the opponent with this spell.

Edge: Orcs.

4. Exorcism vs Runes.

Exorcism allows you to nuke any undead unit, provided you have enough mana. There are only two undead units in the game, but one of them is very much worth nuking. It also has obscene range. The downside is that since Death Knights have 60 hp and this spell does 1 damage/4 mana, your Paladins need to be almost fully charged to one-shot a Death Knight with it, which kind of limits your healing ability (although killing Death Knights also reduces the need to cast Healing, so...). The medium news is that this spell is AoE and will diffuse among any valid targets nearby (i.e. casting it at 240 mana would do 60 damage if there's one target in the area, or 15 damage each if there's four targets in the area) which can be good or bad.

Runes are *okay.* Their duration is way too short to be useful outside of niche situations. For the most part, the four Bloodlusts you could get for the casting cost will kill more enemies than the Runes will. It is worth noting, however, that Runes work on water, and so the spell can be used for wrecking transports if there are no better options available.

Edge: Humans.

5. Fireball vs Death Coil.

Neither of these spells are the best uses of your mana, but since they're available right from the get-go you'll probably use them a fair bit anyway. Fireball is like a Dragon's attack on steroids. It can do significant damage to your enemies (and, if you're not careful, your own troops). Death Coil only hits enemies and has a more circular AoE than a line, making it easier to target with, but the damage diffuses like Exorcism. Death Coil also heals the casting Death Knight but that's not huge since your Death Knight shouldn't be taking much damage anyway (and if it does, it doesn't really impede the DK's ability to do its job). While there are situations where Death Coil is better, in general once you get okay at aiming it Fireball will be more destructive (well I mean in most situations you wouldn't want to cast either and instead conserve your mana for something else but you know what I mean).

Edge: Humans.

6. Slow vs Haste.

Slow cuts an enemy unit's movement and attack speed by 50%. This is a pretty neat debuff that, if you've got the micro skills for it, can be used to take the bite out of an enemy offensive. It's particularly effective against units that already have a slow attack speed, like Catapults and especially Dragons. A Bloodlusted, Slowed Ogre Mage will still cream a Paladin, but it'll be closer this time.

Haste is just a weird-ass spell, man. It increases a unit's movement speed, except for when it doesn't - it doesn't change the movement speed of Ogres, Zeppelins, Tankers, Destroyers, and Transports, nor their Human counterparts. It also increases a unit's attack animation speed without increasing it's attack speed, except for when it does - it does increase the actual attack speed of Dragons/Gryphons, and it also increases the speed at which Death Knights cast Death and Decay. The fact that this spell both increases their attack speed and buffs their movement speed to be the fastest in the game makes Dragons an obvious and natural pairing for it - a Hasted, Bloodlusted Dragon is a fearsome sight.

This one is fairly close, but IMHO Slow pulls ahead of Haste. Haste is generally more powerful when it is useful, but Slow is just useful a lot more often.

Edge: Humans.

7. Flame Shield vs Raise Dead.


Flame Shield causes a unit to deal damage to any adjacent units. It's a little niche. It's indiscriminate and will harm friend as well as foe. The most common use for it is probably casting it on a tightly-clumped group of enemy units - although they'll probably scatter before you can do much damage to them, and you run the risk of this backfiring and having the target enemy unit charge headlong into your forces. It can also be paired with Invisibility to create a spinning wheel of death that the enemy can't do anything about (much, much more effective vs AI than vs humans). Finally, it can hit air units so in a pinch you can put this on like a Knight or something and have them run around underneath enemy Dragons.

And then there's Raise Dead. You know, it was a bit of a soft pick in Warcraft 1 but it had its uses. I got plenty of mileage out of it. Here? I dunno, man. Skeletons are pathetic. This spell basically exists as a cherry tap - if you're playing online you can use this as a way of saying "I've trounced you so thoroughly that I'm going to be a big dick about it and use Skeletons to finish you off." And don't do that. Don't be that guy. No one likes that guy.

Edge: Humans.

8. Invisibility vs Whirlwind.

Invisibility is the definitive Human spell. If you're playing Humans multiplayer, it's probably for this spell. There are so many uses for it. Combine with Peasants to sneakily build towers beside the enemy gold mine. Combine with Transports, when applicable, to launch sneak attacks. Hey, is the enemy clustering up getting ready for an assault? Let's see how they like an Invisible Demo Squad or two! Invisible Mage to cast Blizzard on their Peons! Invisible Flying Machine to spot Turtles without needing to fear Destroyers! The possibilities are endless, although some of the above uses are more specific to either the campaign or multiplayer.

Whirlwind is decent. It's no Death and Decay, but because it doesn't need to be channeled and it has a longer duration there are situations where it's preferable, although not many. It's particularly strong against large groups of Battleships, which are rare in ToD and virtually non-existent in multiplayer but pop up a bit in BtDP.

Edge: Humans.
Post edited April 29, 2020 by KingCrimson250
9. Polymorph vs Unholy Armor.

Polymorph, for 200 mana, permanently turns an enemy unit into a critter. Yep. Insta-kill anything. Works on Dragons, too. The downside is that 200 mana is a ton. Like, so much. I find this spell is kinda niche. It's okay as an emergency button - if you're suddenly being hit by a sneaky Dragon and you've got nothing else to deal with it, then sure, Polymorph it. For the most part, however, you're better off using your mana for something else. It does, however, work against units with Unholy Armor, which brings us to...

Unholy Armor. This spell halves a unit's HP to make it invulnerable for a short amount of time. And I mean short. This spell's duration is pretty pitiful. The good news is that it's a much more reasonable price of 100 mana per cast, so it's not as painful to get off. It's got some uses. There are obvious advantages like casting this on a Death Knight to wreak havoc with Death and Decay, or casting it on Sappers to make unavoidable bomb squads. The AI will still attack Unholy Armor so in singleplayer (or even against an inattentive opponent) you can exploit this by sending in an Unholy Armor'd unit slightly ahead of everyone else - the AI will mostly swarm him and leave your other units unharmed (for the short time the spell lasts, that is). I also assume this spell protects Death Knights from Exorcism, although I haven't actually tested that.

Edge: Orcs.

10. Blizzard vs Death and Decay.

Incredibly powerful, when I mention in other points "There are better things to use your mana on," it's normally this. You can trash an army in seconds with this. As far as I can tell, the two spells are mechanically identical. Death and Decay is a bit better because Haste speeds up how quickly it casts, partially compensating for the spell's main weakness (enemies being able to just move out of its AoE), but Death Knights are also liable to have their channeling cut short by an Exorcism, so it's a bit of a toss-up.

Edge: Orcs, maybe?

11. Weapons.

Last but certainly not least are the blacksmith upgrades. Most upgrades are identical but weapon upgrades are very gold heavy for Humans while requiring a balance of gold and lumber for Orcs. While it depends on the map, this generally works out in the Orcs' favour - less gold on weapon upgrades means that not only can you get them earlier, you also don't lose out on as much of your unit-producing funds. If you can get in a good timing attack this can make the difference between victory and defeat.

Edge: Orcs.

Overall, Humans come out ahead in more categories but a lot of those categories aren't huge. Fireball and Flame Shield are generally better than Death Coil and Raise Dead, for example, but that's not the sort of advantage that's going to decide the game. Things like Bloodlust or less gold-intensive weapon upgrades can, and often do.

Overall edge: Orcs.
Polymorph >Unholy Armor.

Lust op and thats all
Post edited April 30, 2020 by Szwagiermc
Interesting, thanks for the comparison.

This concerns mainly esport players.

When I play against the AI or amateur players, this is not so much important. Even knowing this, I prefer to play as Humans.
I've only played the DOS version long time ago, but I seem to recall Invisibility and Unholy Armor not working on demolition squad or sappers. Is this changed in edition, or am I remembering wrong?
Very nice analysis, but I can guaranty you that both factions can be built up so that it is nearly undefeatable.

It's been quite a while since I did this, but once upon a time I built end-game armies for both factions, and paired them off in an armageddon. As I recall, the humans won 2 out of 3 rounds, but on closer inspection, it all boiled down to who's air support veered off of the optimal path first (the AI's fault).