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LA Arcoscephale: From Life comes Death [Theory crafted guide]

This guide was first featured on As such any updates to the guide will happen there first and hopefully make it here.

Everyone agrees that MA Arcoscephale is a great, flavourful nation. Full-spectrum battlefield domination with powerful communions. Mind Hunts galore, and Hoplite troops which more than hold the line against MA troops.

On first glance LA Arco looks like time is passing it by. The durable troops of Arco are now facing down crossbows and platemail galore. LA Arco no longer has access to astral 44 mages for Mind Hunting without boosters, and in the Late Age it feels like everyone has Astral mages to block Mind Hunts.

In exchange it gets easy access to nature in communions, and what looks like minor death access. Does that outweigh the negatives?

I'd argue that it easily does so, and lets LA Arco play fundamentally different to its earlier cousin. This argument comes from three provocative statements:

  1. LA Arco is the best user of Nature gems in the Late Age.
  2. LA Arco loses nothing by rushing Mother Oak.
  3. Only LA Pangaea and Pythium can reliably stop Arco from rushing Mother Oak.

Let's break this down.

1; You may be thinking I'm crazy for thinking that Arco is better at using Nature gems than Pangaea.

And you'd be right.
However, Arco cheats. Arco has a 200g Panageis mage with a 'carcass collector' ability which is not mentioned in the Dom5 Mod Inspector. This ability lets the mage turn 3naturegem into 3deathgem a turn. This lets us reliably convert nature gems into the best gem type in the game, to power Death's amazing summons. More on this later.

2; LA Arco doesn't need help expanding - its elephants can handle that


However those elephants have low magic resistance and morale, which other players can exploit (with fear effects before you get key buffs, and Soul Slay/Paralyze a bit later). This means that relying solely on them to fight off early rushes is unwise, and there is a window of relative vulnerability before Arco's communions can cast the really powerful spells (Summon Elementals, Maws of the Earth, Soul Slay, etc).

If we take a dormant SC pretender, we can cover this brief window of vulnerability before our communions are online. Similarly, Arco can be a bit dependent on its communions, since it lacks recruitable thugs and its troops can have trouble breaking through high protection. It does have a good end game strategy in communions, but more flexibility would be great (LA Arco lacks SCs, high-level death, astral or blood access). So a pretender to cover that would be good.

One option to give Arco a second late-game strategy is to take Death on the pretender. This lets us summon Bane Lords, Wights, and Wraith Lords (immortal casters who can moonlight as thugs).

However, we can do better than that. If we take death 55 on the pretender we can boost all the way up to death 77 with items, which lets us cast Tartarian Gate for 10deathgem. This summons a Tartarian. Tartarians are amazingly stated giants who would be top quality SCs/mages, apart from them being units and overwhelmed by afflictions. nature 44 lets us cast Gift of Reason for 20naturegem gems, which turns them into commanders. The next step is to cast the nature global Gift of Health. Sadly our healers don't work on undead, though a Recuperation bless and Shroud of the Battle Saint would. Legion of Wights is also a solid use of death gems in the late game.

So if we take a dormant SC with death 55 and nature 44+, we cover our weaknesses in the early game and late game, and get access to usable thugs in the mid-game. That dormant pretender can also cast Mother Oak. A dormant Mother of Monsters (Dominion 5, death 55nature 55blood 33) would let you take 4 scales. A Titan of the Spring (Dom 5 death 55nature 55) would let you take 6 scales.

Suggested early research is Thaumaturgy 2 (Communions, Mind Burn), Construction 2 (SC items), then Alt 5 (Swarm, Maws of the Earth).

Interestingly, you can also cast Mother Oak without this pretender. Get a water 11nature 11 Sibyl, add a Robe of the Sea and a Water Bracelet, summon a Naiad, then finally add a Moonvine Bracelet and Thistle Mace. However, that needs Construction 6 and Conjuration 5. You'll get most of the watergem gems for this from nation-specific events. Late game you can also funnel gems from Mother Oak into Well of Misery, for more free gems. If people are willing to trade naturegem and deathgem gems 1:1, then your carcass collector ability is less useful. However, it still gives flexibility and a backup. If nothing else, you can spend your time trading your other gems for Death gems.

3; Nature gems are rare in the Late Age

Arco's capital brings in 3astralpearl1naturegem a turn (the equivalent of 2.5naturegem gems with Alchemy). This is significantly more than most nations, with only LA Pythium (3.5naturegem), LA Man (3naturegem), Pangaea (3naturegem) and Vaettihelm (2.5naturegem) higher or equal.

Arco can afford to send out several Orphic Mystics (100g, nature 11 mages with other paths) early to site-search, since it doesn't need priests to lead sacreds and has good researchers. There are 6 nations which can send out better site-searchers, but only Pythium and Pangaea have significant default gem income and better site-searchers ( Pythium (265g, nature 22), Pangaea (255g, nature 33, slow to recruit)). FYI the other good site-searchers are Tien Chi (220g, nature 22), Gath (195g, nature 22), Mictlan (125g, nature 22) and Xibalba (145g, nature 22). There are several other nations which might race you to Mother Oak of course.


  • LA Arco is weak after enemies have elephant counters, and before it has working communions.
  • It would also like a bit more flexibility in the mid/late game.
  • Taking a dormant SC pretender with death 55nature 44+ fixes both these issues.
  • That pretender can also cast Mother Oak.
  • You can turn those naturegem gems into deathgem gems, which give you more flexibility and a stronger late game.

Suggested Pretender and Scales

Dormant Mother of Monsters
death 55nature 55blood 33

Dominion strength5Turmoil3Productivity3Heat3Growth3Luck3Magic1

Withering Weapons, Undead Command, Recuperation
OR Stygian Skin, Berserker

Better SC, 0 points left over so objectively best.
Vampire hijinks possible

Dormant Titan of the Spring
death 55nature 55

Dominion strength5Turmoil3Productivity3Heat3Growth3Luck3Magic3

Withering Weapons, Undead Command, Recuperation
OR Stygian Skin, Berserker

More magic scales, but a weaker chassis

In game tactics

We’ve seen a high level view of this strategy, but what about the details? Let’s look at some key units summons and mages, and a suggested research path.

Key Troops

War Elephant (100g 62r): This is the key to your early expansion. A handful of these on the flank with some fodder in the middle to distract indies can super-charge your expansion. They are also scary for other nations- 64 hps and prot 17 is hard to take down with basic troops. Sadly they can be hard countered by spells hitting their magic resistance (such as Soul Slay). However having a small force of them join a mid-game fight buffed with berserk, iron warriors and ethereal can turn fights if they aren’t expected. If you get air mages, cast flight on them and laugh. Berserk needs Thaum 4, so this tactic is probably better on a build more focused around Mind Hunt than the one in this guide.

Try to bargain for items which can hide them on the strategic map (Gossamer Cloth, Cauldron of the Elven Halls), to help surprise your opponents. Or take a little air on your pretender to build them yourself. Best mixed with other strategies. Bait your enemy into bringing out his soul slay communions to deal with them. Then turn up with buffed hoplites, foul vapour traps or Elemental swarms.

Hoplite (13g, 31r): The mainstay of your army. Row after row of these can buy you a lot of time with their shields, length 4 repel weapons and prot 18. Sadly they won’t win too many wars on their own with a strength 14 attack. Of course that is what your buffs are for. Even a simple Strength of Giants would raise their strength to 17. Their piercing attack reduces the prot of anything they hit by 20%, meaning they are rolling flat dice against protection 21. That’s much more likely to win wars. If you don’t want to buff them, your mages will have enough time to win another way.

Phalangites are a faster map move option, with less protection.

Heart Companion (20g, 31r): Your cap-only sacred. With this strategy we are taking a god with death 55nature 55. This means we can give these troops Withering Weapons, for a decent anti-elite option against human hp troops (Knights, some sacreds, etc). Alternatively Stygian Skin and Berserker make them a useful generic troop option when our god is out. Not vital to the build either way, but nice to have.

Agema Companion (35g, 40r): A nice backup option. With a mounted defence of 18 (only Vans have a higher defence in Late Age) they can stay in the fight, and lances are always good to have. Back them up with a Mystic for point buffs and go raiding.

Key Mages

Mystic (135g): Your default battle-mage, giving you powerful communions with S, F, E, and W. Starts with astral 11random2100%
, is guaranteed a FWES random, and has an independent 50% chance of a FWE random. Also a solid researcher, with 12RP. Having a research core full of these is great for immediate combat power.

Figuring out good communion strategies with these is 80% of the game with Arco. As a short list of suggestions, Iron Warriors + Body Ethereal + Weapons of Sharpness to buff your troops, Summon Elemental spam for super units, or Gifts from Heaven/Soul Slay to stop elites. Remember you can always raid with them when you have Summon Elemental, though you may have better options.

Orphic Mystic (100g): Your most gold efficient research mage at 11RP, and one of your best raiding options. Orphics are spell-singers, so any spells they cast are half-fatigue (though take longer to cast). They start with nature 11death 11random150%
, and have a 50% chance of a FWE random, and a 50% chance of a SDN random.

The elemental randoms can get you Skulls of Fire, Mossbody and research monkeys, but the real gems are the sorcery randoms. randoms give you and in your communions. With the half-fatigue from spell-singer, this opens up the Nature and Death trees to you. Wooden Warriors, Soul Vortexed communion slaves with regenerating bodyguards, Howl, Charm. the options here are wide and varied.

death 22 and nature 22 randoms are great raiders. At death 22 with spellsinger you can spam Horde of Skeletons without a communion. At nature 22 you get reduced fatigue on Swarm, on top of your spellsinger reduced fatigue. Keep a few of these with any doomstack you have, to break out and raid provinces. A nature 11 Orphic can also do Swarm raiding, of course. Remember to follow swarm raiders with scouts carrying naturegem gems.

I have to flag up a special case - if you get any nature 22water 11 or water 11astral 11nature 11 randoms, they can cast Foul Vapors without boosters. This is a meta-defining spell and one that enemies might not be expecting you to have. Drop the spell, cast Poison Ward on all your troops with your other Orphic Mystics, and watch as your foes choke to death.

Panageis (200g): We are mainly getting these nature 11holy 22random1100% for the Carcass Collector ability to convert 3naturegem gems a turn into 3deathgem gems. As a side benefit, they have Healer 2, which lets us use Mind Hunt freely. They let you convert naturegem gems into deathgem gems for an opportunity cost of about 3-4 RP per gem, which is a reasonable price.

Sibyl (230g): These astral 22nature 11holy 22random1100%
mages are a way to reliably get Nature into our communions, and get astral 33 mages for Mind Hunting. random Sibyls can also cast Foul Vapors in a communion, giving you another way to use that strategy. The strategy in this guide doesn’t use them that much, but if you like Mind Hunts, they are key.

Default research path

Start with Thaumaturgy 1 for your communions, then look at your neighbours. You may need to research a spell to counter a neighbour looking to rush you in the first year.

  • Conjuration 3 for small elementals for better troops,
  • Thaumaturgy 2 for Mind Burn,
  • Alteration 2 for Earth Meld to stop elves.
  • Alteration 3 for point buffing with Protection, Luck and potentially Mossbody.
  • Worst comes to worst, Construction 2/4 for SC equipment will definitely push back rushes when your god comes out.

If there is no particular research need, head up to Alteration 5 for Mother Oak. This lets you pick up the important economy global, while also picking up a decent selection of spells for an early war.

  • Destruction to break armour and Curse of Stones to fatigue out heavy infantry.
  • Swarm to let your Orphics raid. Arouse Hunger for chaff and remote raiding.
  • Maws of the Earth to kill elves (and as a generic attack spell).
  • Wooden Warriors for a good AOE armour buff.
  • Incinerate for a weak anti-SC spell.
  • Oh, and Body Ethereal/Twist Fate/Luck/Quickness/Mossbody/Iron Warriors to point buff your Elephants/Agema Companions.

Make sure to site search with your Orphics and Mystics- you will need the gems later.

With 6 strong point buffs, getting some better troops who won’t immediately die to soul slay sounds good. Next step is researching Conjuration 3. This gets you Wights for 20deathgem gems for 5, and Bane commanders for 7deathgem gems each.

Conjuration 5 is next, getting you full-sized elementals and Bane Lords (12deathgem gems). Now you have great targets for the point buffs if you want to use them. Or you could just spam elementals. The banes can also be used for raiding or anti-thugs.

At this point you are sitting in a good place. You’ve got an income of naturegem gems which you can use for Swarm raiding, or turn into elite infantry or solid thugs. Those are all things which poor MA Arco didn’t really get to use. Picking up Construction 4 for better thug/SC gear is good around now. That also gives you Legions of Steel.

On top of that you have the standard Mystic communions, which can spam Elementals, backed up by Howl, and any other Alteration spells you like. If another nation beat you to Mother Oak, now is a good time to take it back by stabbing them in the face.

Next step is up to you, but the obvious option is to keep moving up Alteration. Alteration 7 gives you Marble Warriors/Mass Protection, with good backups in Creeping Doom and Fog Warriors (though you need to break into Air for the last one. Though only a little, since you can make Crystal Matrices). Alteration 9 will give you Army of Gold.

Pushing up to Conjuration 8 is a nice option. This gives you Well of Misery, which you can turn into Immortal Wraith Lords - a great long term advantage. Alternatively Construction 7 for Weapons of Sharpness will turn your basic hoplites into major threats (particularly when combined with the high level Alteration battlefield buffs). You can also get Lightless Lanterns along the way. Sidestepping into Enchantment 3 to pick up Strength of Giants can be done at almost any time in this process, if you are having trouble breaking through protection.

If that doesn’t close out the game you can push up to Conjuration 9 for Legion of Wights and Tartarian Gate. Pick up Thaumaturgy 5 for Gift of Reason and potentially Enchantment 7 for Gift of Health to turn on the Tartarian factory.

And you can always go into Blood for vampires. Probably not worth the effort, but amusing none-the-less. Particularly if you can convince a blood nation to trade you slaves for naturegem/deathgem gems.

I recommend not going too deep into Evocation, Enchantment or Thaumaturgy - at least too early. While they all have great options for you, rushing important research targets is key. You can always go back for Soul Slay or Mind Hunt.

Appendix of Arco Tricks

Point buffing (Alt4): Choose a solid basic troop, such as Heart Companions, Hoplites or Agema Companions. Mix with roughly 1 Mystic for every 4 ‘squares’ of your troops. Cast Body Ethereal on everything. Mix in Iron Warriors and any other buffs you have. Profit.

Elephant Surprise (Alt5 Thaum4): Hide a group of elephants a province or two away from your main army. Move them up when your enemy tries to start a fight. Buff the elephants with key buffs (Body Ethereal, Iron Warriors, Rage of the Cornered Rat) and charge. Works very well if you can break into Air, for -ArmySize items and Gift of Flight.

Foul Vapor Traps (Ench5): Get an Orphic Mystic with nature 22water 11 or nature 11water 11astral 11 (Water Sybils work too). Cast Foul Vapors and multiple Poison Wards to save your army. Watch as your enemy dies.

Mass army buffing (Alt7 Ench3 Const7): Marble Warriors. Mass Protection. Strength of Giants. Weapons of Sharpness. Legions of Steel. All spells with large AOEs, perfect for buffing your end-game armies. If you can break into air, Mass Flight is amazing.

Elemental spam (Conj5): Slightly over half of your Mystics will have any particular elemental path. See what types of armies your enemy is using, then bring out a communion full of the relevant mages to spam an elemental which counters it. (Spamming skellies? Throw out multiple fire elementals. Heavy infantry? Buffed earth elementals. Heavy thugs/SCs? Consider water elementals).

Mind hunting (Evoc6 Thaum5 Const6): Get a Sibyl with astral 33. Add a Starshine Skullcap and a Neokoros. Spam remote Soul Slays with no risk of permanent harm. This can be done at Const4 with a Crystal Coin if you are happy spending 30astralpearl gems on promoting a astral 11earth 22 Mystic to astral 22earth 22.

Gem economy (Alt5 with pretender. Alt5 Conj5 Const6 without a pretender): Use Orphic Mystics early to site search for nature gems. Rush up the Alteration tree to Alt5, then cast Mother Oak with your pretender. Optionally, turn naturegem gems into deathgem gems with your Panagris mages (and consider Well of Misery in the end game). Interestingly, you can also cast Mother Oak without a pretender. Get a water 11nature 11 Sibyl, add a water robe and bracelet, summon a Naiad, then finally add a moonvine bracelet and thistle mace. However that needs Construction 6 and Conjuration 5

Raiding methods:

  • Swarm casting Orphic Mystics.
  • 2 Elemental casting Mystics.
  • 10 Hoplites.
from-life-comes-death.txt · Last modified: 2021/04/18 22:42 by joste