MA Xibalba is a dramatically different nation than their EA selves. The Zotz that remain are pretty weak, they’ve lost those cool bat summoning demons and overall look a lot more like Atlantis than the hard-hitting aggressive fliers of the earlier nation. It's honestly a bit of a mess, and if you’re following along after my EA Xibalba guide you may be at a bit of a loss because a lot of the stuff I suggest for them is no longer possible. So, what to do?
If EA Xibalba is the Yin, MA is the Yang. The Ice to their fire. EA’s motto is “strike first”, MA’s is “strike last”. Beyond being a more zen martial artist who turns attackers' force back against them, MA is that terrifying spirit of the freezing bayou - shifting, treacherous, and the harder you push the faster you’re stuck while you freeze to death.
Note: This guide is for MA Xibalba, hereafter just referred to as Xibalba. Also, I make extensive use of some tools that DE adds as they’re fun, powerful, and thematic but none of them are absolutely critical to this strategy, which can be applied to a vanilla build…with a good amount of extra work.
Xibalba (DE): Baalz' The Frozen Bayou
As I’ve already hinted at, I think it makes a lot of sense to go with cold scales for Xibalba despite them having a preference for heat-1. The downside of this is you’re going to take a hit on your income, but “going cold” is something you should always consider when having good W mages. In this case, where we’re leaning heavily on an endurance play it becomes almost mandatory. We’ll get more into the mages below, but you’ve got access to W4 without any boosters - which gives you a huge amount of relevant spells to stack together. ma-xibalba-baalz-frozen-bayou, , cold aura summons, and piled on top of effects and will culminate in the absolutely devastating DE spell Oozing Marshlands:
It may not be immediately obvious how awesome this spell is, but the pile of problems this stacks up to for people attacking into your setup is dramatic. Here’s the twist - between Wolven Winter and the national Deluge spell you can push the frozen bayou practically anywhere you want to so we’re gonna lean heavily into optimizing for it.
Ok, stretching the metaphor here a little as swamp survival and 50% darkvision, what’s not to love? Well - one thing, they move pretty slow. That’s ok, we’re gonna set stuff up so that our opponents need to come to us on the battlefield, at which point it becomes obvious why I call these guys ‘gators. SNAP!are clearly toad people, but “toad people” does not in any way capture the explosive power of these sacred giants jumping up out that bayou. Heavy-hitting magic weapons, good hitpoints & protection amphibious with
These guys are awesome and very much make sense to invest in a solid blessing. There’s several reasonable giant toughness buffing things but I really like the blood bond/regen combo. Not only is it just plain great, but our frozen bayou also has some mightywhich will be showing up, and having your guys regenerate is very helpful. That said, / is pretty easy to drop for any battle that you need them, so there are a few different ways to set this up. One additional thing to weigh is that storm staffs are extremely helpful for Xibalba, and single-handedly make taking A on your pretender worthwhile even if you don’t do a single other thing with it. As long as you’re looking at air though, consider the Wind Walking blessing as it effectively doubles the mobility of your ??Wo’ Muuch?? (1→2 movement provinces generally), and stacks with messenger boots to give your mages and thugs a really impressive ability to move around.
To put out one specific reasonable build look at something like this: [ ]
If you go with an immobile build like this consider trading or alchemizing for a handful of A gems, then Auspexing a few wastelands/swamps to get a small A income, then just every 10 turns or so make a storm staff. You don’t need many Air gems - just a couple Storm Staffs are all you need…plus a couple of gems here and there for some spells we’ll get into below. Also - feel free to juggle your scales to your preference. Cold is important and Production is quite helpful to get them gators out, but the rest is pretty flexible.
With a blessing like this Wo’ Muuch will give you a very brisk expansion. One tip - for 100 gold ??Ah Ha’?? make great cheap expansion party leaders. One problem with the small amount of Wo ‘Muuch needed to clear indies is that there ends up being a fair of a chance that the indies just flow around your handful of gators and kill the commander standing behind them. If you make Ench-2 your first research goal DE gives Ah Ha’ the mudman spamming spell which goes a long way towards holding off the odd heavy infantry that went around the side of your gators. One bodyguard is a good idea too.
Once you get a bit farther into the game don’t neglect the obvious upgrades your strong Eath magic gives you (strength, protection, armor piercing). Later in the game you’re also in a great position to benefit fromwith your magic weapons - properly buffed there’s not a whole lot strong enough to knock these guys down in melee if you just push straight up the middle. With the screening against evocations (we’ll get into shortly) these guys become a real problem to deal with.
As great as Wo ‘Muuch are as a very strong blunt instrument though that’s not actually how you’re usually going to use them. While you can absolutely smack people around with them without much subtlety, where they’re really just filthily nasty is as the last line of defense scripted as bodyguards while something else takes the front line. This is particularly effective with this Blood Bond/Regen blessing because while your sacred mages are indeed immune to that iconic stray arrow you’re thinking way too small. You’re effectively immune to *anything* from Thunderstrike to Banefire landing on your mages unless it happens repeatedly in quick succession. As we’ll be dropping Darkness + Mist for the big fights it becomes almost impossible to kill your mages from a distance. Wo ‘Muuch’s magic weapons will obliterate air elementals - as well as almost anything flying back to try and get your mages (this is also why we invested in a couple of storm staffs), and everything else is marching through a quagmire, slimed and stuck in the earth. That’s when the next angle of bayou of death comes in.
One thing we are keeping from EA Xibalba is a fantastic ability to crank out Lifelong Protections.and both hit D3 with a staff, which may not seem like that strong to skellispam with but combined with the imps, the reinvig from earthpower/summer rain/messenger boots it’s hard to oversell how effective just a single Bacab is outfit this way - with 5 Wo ‘Muuch bodyguards you can realistically hold off a quite impressive force literally alone.
Ah, but it's not 5 bodyguards, because who would actually just send one Bacab for a real fight? Obviously, those imp and skeleton vomiting Bacab work wonderfully with more than one, but think of them as powerful-but-rare aircraft carriers…you’ve got a lot of smaller ships to support them. The bread and butter support guys are your 100 gold Ah Ha’s who can spam out the deceptively awesome Mud Men. Mud Men may seem like cheap throw-aways at first, but if you look a little closer you’ll see something quite special with high-ish hps, blunt/pierce resistant, regen, slimer, mindless/inanimate, spirit sight and an AP attack. These guys are actually really fantastic spammed in numbers- and even worth spending effort to buff. With Strength of Giants they’re doing 15AP damage with fatigue damage piled on top - which is enough to be a threat even to SCs, and honestly puts them into the top tier of battlefield summons. Until you see it in action it's hard to understand how effective the whole package is, it's just an entirely different thing than skellispam
Ah Ha spamming out Mud Men is fantastic as they’re also bringing in the critical mass of Wo ‘Muuch bodyguards - running into 20 gator bodyguards is a big problem after getting strung out and slimed fighting your way through all that ultra-heavy chaff. What’s even better though is a W random Bacab with a water bracelet and robe is W6 and makes 15 Mud Men per casting of Army of Mud - and can vomit out a truly absurd 75 of them for 5 W gems. This is really gross to think about trying to run through, particularly when you think about those steadily building swarms of imps piling up the whole time. Then you remember those piles of mud men have AP damage and will drag down both giants and also slime those elves before dragging them down too. That’s before running into the pretty terrifyingly strong gators in the backfield. Or rather to the skeletons screening those. Or actually, probably the imps piling up. In the dark. And the freezing cold. Oh, also in a quagmire. I did mention attacking into the frozen bayou was probably not gonna work out well, right?
Time to talk about your mages. Some stuff I’ve laid out is pretty straightforward, but some of it takes a little bit of work.give you reliable access to two critical spells through a 2 slave sabbath - and 2 flying stealthy sabbath slaves are so easy to wrangle up it's practically a different thing than your typical communion. I already hammered home about Darkness, and mentioned Mist - this is how you get them cast - with just 2 sabbath slaves you shouldn’t have any problem getting it anywhere you want. With Darkness and Mist up, evocations become next to useless and if the enemy troops can’t see in the dark…well, all your stuff can. Piling a storm staff on top at this point is kind of superfluous as far as evocations and arrows go, but it does stop most fliers from jumping over the swamp. Spirit sighted strangling murdermen…er, mud men steadily being summoned with AP attacks and sliming everybody sound pretty good now? Another thing those easy sabbaths give you access to is Wailing Winds - which is a fantastic spell to have up when you plan on dragging things out. Morale checks every round means everything without perfect morale is going to fail eventually. This is particularly fun for average morale mages that nope out before any real casualties happen and totally hose the enemy battle plan.
One other thing it's important to notice is that Way are recruitable from forests, and Camazots are from caves - both without requiring a fort or a temple. As we’re not really interested in recruiting troops from our non-cap forts it's often worthwhile to wait much longer than you would with other nations before putting up your second fort. Map dependent of course, but you’ll often have 3 or 4 good places to put up labs and start getting these mages out while most nations are still constructing their first forts. These guys also have a bloodhunting bonus which makes it unnecessary to wait for dousing rods to be effective hunters. Combining all this means with any luck on your map placement you’ll have a shockingly fast blood economy up and running and can get those first couple critical lifelong protections out in time for early hostilities. Just 2 LLPs make a really huge difference with the smaller armies that are fighting in the early game - just be careful not to lose them! This also means you’ll usually end up with way more Way than you know what to do with - and they’re pretty miserable researchers. Lucky for you I’ve laid out some really useful stuff to do with sabbath slaves, so “having too many of them” isn’t really a thing. Since construction-4 is a critical early research target don’t be shy about dumping your early D gems into skull mentors, this goes a long way towards mitigating you having lots of mages doing stuff that isn’t researching. This is also what makes a build like what I suggested with Drain-3 workable.
Once your blood economy is good and warmed up you’ll likely find that you’ve got a pile of LLPs and still are piling up blood slaves. Would you look at that - a nice convenient big blood pretender! There’s a number of fun things to do with blood but some particularly great stuff starts opening up at Blood-7. Blood Harvest is a steal at 100 blood slaves which you should definitely cast with your pretender. Leech is a phenomenal sniper spell to cast with those Way who aren’t being sabbath slaves. Blood Rain is the perfect side order to a dish of Wailing Winds. At this point we’re definitely feeling the loss of the Ozelotls from EA - but you might consider investing in some vampires as a consolation. They’re expensive and slow to mass but immortal, flying, stealthy, and have magic weapons.
Earlier I touched briefly on Foul Vapors, and your N Bacabs can cast that easier than it seems at first glance. A Thistle Mace, 3 N gems, then Strength of Gai, Foul Vapors - and it’s just plain unfair stacked on top of everything else you’re doing. Yes - you will be doing the C’tis thing better than C’tis can. Speaking of which - your guys have swamp survival (Miasma immunity) and C’tis guys are cold blooded…I like your chances in a head to head matchup as masters of the swamp. You’ve got so many more angles of things to stack up on top of each rather than just shitting out more undead and hoping poison carries you the rest of the way.
Speaking of stacking things up, if your opponent can shrug off your poison and ignore the cold, consider dropping a few Curse of Stones ahead of your opponent trying to do his best to climb over all your summoned bodies. Lets go ahead to toss in Howl cast by your Way mages, and consider Summon the Marshland (Thau-6) which not only is yet another way to get quagmire up - it summons Bog Beasts at the edge of the battlefield. Stuff summoned on the edge of the battlefield is brilliant at getting the enemy spun all around and tripping over itself while you get up a critical mass of summons. Really though, as I spoiled earlier the crown jewel here is Oozing Marshlands. All (non flying) enemies will be slimed and earth melded, then have their combat speed dropped and have their encumbrance raised. Now, realistically mostly the only things that can hope to have much chance against you at this point are cold/poison/endurance immune undead. Luckily you’ve got an ace up your sleeve for them - half a dozen guys spamming Cleansing Water will wash away a practically unlimited amount of undead…you know, from behind their practically unkillable bodyguards. You’ve also got reasonably easy access to Wither Bones, so enemy undead generally aren’t too much of a worry.
One area that Xibalba will quite struggle with is mobility. Wind Walker will go a long way towards helping with this, but there’s not much getting around the fact that a lot of the stuff we’ve talked about so far is fairly tied to coming out of your cap on foot. This is always going to be one of your biggest national weaknesses, with no Gateway it can be quite a challenge to get your heavy infantry from your cap to where you want it. Let's look at how to mitigate that problem a bit and use some stuff that doesn’t have to slowly roll out and walk across the map.
Early on, it can be worthwhile to siphon off some of your blood slaves from contract forging to set up a few Camazotz summoning Fiends of Darkness. This is going to be a slow process and not something I’d describe as a strength, but it does give you some raiding potential relatively early that you don’t otherwise have. Building up 2 or 3 flying stealthy raiding squads goes a long way to upping your ability to project a threat in the early game. As mentioned earlier consider shifting this tos once researched.
Once you get some research and gems another good angle is ??Muuch K’uhul?? commanders. These guys are too expensive to be general lab mages, but they are recruitable everywhere and only take 2 command points - and make pretty reasonable thugs with some equipment and buffs. With a Cloud Walker blessing and Messenger Boots they can jump over enemy provinces and generally have pretty solid raiding mobility. You can also consider Shademail as an expensive, but a substantial upgrade.
Another reasonable choice, if you’re in a pinch, is. Not really as thugs, but as recruitable everywhere pinch hitters for Wo ‘Muuch. This is most definitely not the cost-effective way to do things - but they “only” cost 3 times as much as a Wo ‘Muuch and by burning some gold you can easily get several of these 1 recruitment point guys to do the work of bodyguarding your mages while recruiting them at any of your castles. This makes a big difference when you’re otherwise (correctly) making a yuck face thinking about recruiting the noncap toad infantry.
That yuck face doesn’t always have to be the case though! A particularly effective spell to keep in mind is Elemental Form. Unfortunately, it can’t affect lifeless units so you can’t toss it on those mudmen and skeletons, but it really gives some staying power to living units. One thing that is not obvious, but even though it “destroys” the armor of units, destroyed armor isn’t worthless - it still gives 50% of its protection. Tossing this spell on Wo Muuch makes them insane with this blessing, but it also can raise those recruitable-in-every-forest Jungle Warriors up to fairly heavy infantry - so keep it in mind when you need some troops and your sacreds aren’t around.
Another fun one to keep in mind is your national toad summons - Jaguar and Monster. These guys are a bit lackluster on the surface, but they’re sacred, and trample. Elemental Form gives them 15 protection, melee resistances, and bumps them from 3→4 and 5→6 size respectively - both of which are very substantial upgrades for tramplers. When you stack regen + blood bond on top of extra hp, good protection, and 50% damage from all melee they become really quite hard to stop the wall of tramplers…who also spread a poison cloud as they trample through the enemy lines. Consider stacking Haste on top, but if you really want to pull out the stops Mass Flight is available for a 4 slave Sabbath and just one more level of enchantment above the already prioritized Army of Mud. If you’ve ever seenspam, this is like that but worse. So…so much worse.
So let's bring it all together. Initial expansion is heavily blessed giant infantry snapping up everything. An explosively fast blood economy gets imps and Mud Men on the battlefield extremely early, and keeps building up to impossibly big swarms that are a threat to anything even before you start piling up the support spells. Supporting that chaff is cold, darkness, storms, poison, quagmires, slime, and earth melds. Shockingly maneuverable thugs are zipping out of all your forts, supporting stealthy demons and vampires raiding. And then for fun…trampling, flying doom toads! Closing it out is humming along endgame blood economy with a big blood pretender. As I said earlier - everything else doesn’t matter if you’re the one hitting last.