SG Guide: Dawn of War III – The Evolving Metagame

By Ian Boudreau 19 Jun 2017 0

Relic’s first major rebalancing patch for Dawn of War III is out. How has it impacted multiplayer strategies?

It seems that no matter how much pre-release testing you do for an asymmetric real-time strategy games, players will always discover optimal ways to play, achieving maximum impact for minimal effort. They make “cheese,” in other words. Dawn of War III’s designers took steps to limit cheese – the static defenses around spawn points, for instance, prevents Red Alert-style tank rushes at the onset of matches – but spammy strategies still emerged for all three of the game’s factions.

The first rebalancing patch for Dawn of War III came out May 31 (patch notes), and it was aimed at making some of the dominant cheese strategies a bit less viable. Whether that’s worked is an open question on the game’s forums, but it’s clear the patch has had some pretty significant impacts. Let’s look at some of the biggest – and most contentious – changes, and how to compete in the post-patch Warhammer 40,000 real time universe.

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Space Marines

The first dominant strategy for Space Marines to emerge was essentially building Assault Marine squads (and only Assault Marine squads) as quickly as possible. By the time a player had three or four of these, it was possible to quickly zip around the map and use Assault Leap to stun and wipe out almost any tier-1 infantry in play.

Players augmented this by using the Venerable Dreadnought doctrine (which gives the Assault Marines an extra dash ability in addition to their leap) and rushing to the Power Swords upgrade, making Assault Marines extremely deadly in melee, especially in groups of more than two squads. Testing this out myself, I was able to win quite a few matches in under 10 minutes against players who didn’t see it coming in time (although I felt really crummy about doing it).

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Assault Marines have gotten a significant nerf in the latest patch. Power swords are now available at tier 2 and the upgrade cost has been increased from 75 requisition/75 power to 125 requisition/125 power. Their assault leap ability’s damage has been cut from 75 to 20, and the cooldown on their jump charge has gone from 65 seconds up to 90 seconds.

Meanwhile, Tactical Marines have been buffed significantly. Their ranged damage has gone from 2.85 to 4, and melee damage bumped from 4.6 to 5.5. Plasma and flamer upgrades are both cheaper now, as is reinforcing upgraded squads.

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The thinking here is obvious: In the beginning phase of the game, Space Marine players should be primarily relying on Tactical Marines, with Assault Marines supporting with quick strikes to rear-line targets. As Relic writes in their patch notes: “their offense was simply too effective, especially considering their ability to retreat.” The dramatic damage reduction to the Assault Leap means that ability is now more a mobility tool than an area-of-effect stun and attack, so Assault Marines are now much more a specialist unit – albeit, still a dangerous one in the right hands. Blocking off the Power Sword upgrade until tech tier 2 makes it even less compelling to start building them right away.

Unfortunately, this has left Space Marine players with precious few options in the early game other than spamming Tactical Marines, who are now significantly more viable thanks to their damage boost. Their flamer upgrade is particularly effective against Eldar infantry, who have their own issues to deal with in this patch, as we’ll discuss below.

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Eldar

In my Beginner’s Guide for Dawn of War III, I noted that Eldar seemed overpowered, and it appears Relic felt the same way. There are no two ways about it: the Eldar took a beating in this first patch. One of the bigger changes is to their Improved Webways mechanic, which now cannot be used to relocate Webway Gates until tier 2. This pulls Eldar mobility in the early game back significantly, and the gates themselves are now more vulnerable with their health decreased from 700 to 600.

Eldar strategy pre-patch had centered on aggressively moving forward with Webway Gates, a couple squads of Dire Avengers or Howling Banshees, and usually the Striking Scorpions as a low-cost elite. Supported by the Dire Avengers’ long-range fire, the Scorpions could be devastating, having the bonuses of a nearby early Webway Gate made this combo the most effective early phase infantry force in the game.

Dire Avengers’ range has been reduced from 40 to 30 in the patch, and the Scorpions’ health and shields have been reduced (these were already on the low end for Elites). The bonuses the Scorpions get from Hunt and Fleet of Foot have also been reduced markedly.

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Relic says the range adjustment to the Dire Avengers is meant to keep Eldar players from relying completely on Avengers until a late-game transition to powerful units like Falcons. The idea is that Dire Avengers will have to be “at greater risk” while in combat.

Howling Banshees can get their Quick Strike ability for cheaper now – the cost has gone from 100 requisition/60 power down to 75/50, but the damage it does has been more than halved, from 65 to 30. Here again, Relic explains that their abilities (particularly when combined with other abilities and doctrines) “made Banshees too tough as a Tier 1 unit.”

The combination of these nerfs and the early-game limitation of Webway Gates means Eldar will have to play much more cautiously in the beginning phase of the game. The already-squishy Scorpions are a bit squishier, and Avengers require careful micromanagement during engagements. It’s now much trickier to set up Webway Gates (which Eldar rely on for the proximity buffs they provide), and staying within those auras means initially staying on your side of the map. That’s a pretty severe blow to the core faction mechanic of mobility and teleportation, and Eldar players on the forums have been vocal about their feelings on this.

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There are more changes to Eldar as well, but they mostly amount to tinkering with Elites’ abilities and a slight shift in the role for the Fire Prism (now at a new lower requisition price) which is now more suited for fighting slow and stationary units with heavy armor.

Eldar players don’t (for the moment) have a quick, out-of-the-box internet fix for the changes brought about by the patch. But they’re not without answers – the answers are just a bit old school. The first step is rethinking early-game aggression. Eldar are fragile run-and-gunners, but now they’ll need to be a lot more thoughtful about when and where to pick engagements. It’s also worth considering a more ambush-oriented approach, looking for opportunities to catch opponents out of position. And they’ll likely have to pull back more often than they have before in the early game. The second step is to really knuckle down and hone their micro skills. They need them now more than Ork or Space Marine players do.

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Orks

If you’re an Ork player who’s been reading this with trepidation wondering what horrible news is in store for your Boyz, well I have good news: the Ork faction saw the fewest changes in this update, and the key bits of Ork strategy are pretty much untouched.

Of the changes that were made, several are small but welcome health buffs to Elite units (specifically the Gorkanaut and Mad Dread) and the Deffkopta, and giving those a bit more survivability seems like a good idea.

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The focus of most of the Ork changes in the patch is the Suicide Bomma doctrine, which A) now theoretically works properly and B) has significantly reduced damage, cut from 350 to 200 versus units, and from 350 down to 100 versus objectives. That’s certainly a big enough nerf to make the doctrine almost inviable for multiplayer, but there are plenty others to choose from.

And again, basic Ork strategy remains the same: build two Trukks, fill ‘em with Boyz, and go lootin’. The quicker you get that war party on the field, the quicker you’ll be able to start complementing your army with bigger guns and bigger Boyz. One of my favorite things about Dawn of War III is that Orks play very Orky – you want to overwhelm with numbers and aggression, and the patch hasn’t changed how that works in a meaningful way.

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Coming soon

The cycle of emerging metagame, cheese, rebalance, forum salt, new meta is completely normal for any real-time strategy game, and it’s not about to stop. Next week, Relic will be pushing out another major update, which most notably adds two new “Annihilation Modes” to the game. These are both more “traditional” modes where the object is to destroy your opponents’ core base structures. It’s a departure from Power Core mode which, I think unfairly, drew comparisons to MOBAs like Dota 2. In Annihilation Classic, you’ll just be out to demolish your opponent’s base, and you’ll have access to several faction-specific turrets to build in place of the static defenses present in Power Core. In Annihilation Defense, you’ll start each game with some of those turrets already constructed.

The update will also include a (sorely needed) new map, as well as a few new doctrines.

And all this is almost sure to throw the Dawn of War III metagame into the maw of Chaos once again. But this is a normal process for RTS, and I’m hoping players stick with this game, because I’m still enjoying it a lot. Hopefully I’ll see you out on the battlefield.

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