Welcome to part 12 of our guide to solo defense turtles. This part will be a discussion of recent game updates and what they mean for turtles, and give an opinion on whether MZ has killed off the solo defense turtle once and for all.
As a reminder, this is a multi-part series, as outlined in the 11 parts below.
- Guide to Turtle Accounts in Game of War – Introduction (Part 1) – An overview of the turtle series key principles
- Guide to Turtle accounts in Game of War – Research (Part 2) – Detailed examination of which researches are of value to a turtle.
- Guide to Turtle accounts in Game of War – Buildings (Part 3) – Look at which buildings can and cannot be deconstructed
- Guide to Turtle accounts in Game of War – Hospital Barracks Villas (Part 4) – Discussion of arrangement of these key buildings
- Guide to Turtle accounts in Game of War – Troops (Part 5) – Examines different troop tiers, and looks at designing a model army
- Guide to Turtle accounts in Game of War – Armies (Part 6) – Attacks 5 models of turtle armies and compares results
- Guide to Turtle accounts in Game of War – T4 follow-up (Part 7) – Follow-up to Part 6 using a T4 attack on an 8M T1 turtle
- Guide to Turtle accounts in Game of War – Strategy (Part 8) – Examines the pros and cons of strategic vs regular troops
- Guide to Turtle accounts in Game of War – Wall Traps (Part 9) – Mythbusting episode looking at value of different wall traps
- Guide to Turtle accounts in Game of War – Combat Boosts (Part 10) – Designing ways of getting more health / defense boost
- Guide to Turtle accounts in Game of War – Hero Gear (Part 11) – Examines health vs defense vs attack and looks at gear options
This whole series has taken not far off 6 months, and is well over 40,000 words. It could have been done quicker, however real life got in the way of GoW time, and it ended up getting spaced out quite a bit.
However, with that delay comes an opportunity to reflect upon how recent changes have impacted the viability of solo defense turtles designed to take solo hits from big offensive players.
Since the start of this series, we have the introduction of the Defense tree, as well as Set Bonus research tree, hero levels 51-60 and a significant shift in the way that Kill Events are scored, based upon power destroyed. In addition, we have the ever-present inflation in combat boosts, as outlined in our TINSTAAFL and TARDIS article here, which is highly recommended if you want to get a perspective on the evolution of combat boosts over the 2 years that GoW has been available.
What do these all changes mean for turtles? And does it mean that solo defense turtles are obsolete? Has MZ killed the turtle?
Well, my approach to answering that is to go back to first principles, and to my mind, the core principles of turtles remain exactly the same:
1) Your attacker has a limited attack size with a maximum allowed march size of 375k (using a 50% march size boost), whilst you can have an unlimited number of troops that can defend your stronghold.
2) You have hospitals, and the attacker doesn’t. Their troops die, yours don’t have to!
Whilst these principles remain in place, solo defense turtles are still a viable account build. As an anticipated addition to the part 2 above about hospitals, it appears likely that very soon there will be an additional building, the Temple, which will complement hospitals, and help turtles recover from being hit very hard, and even from being zeroed.
This series deliberately focused on sh18-21 turtles, rather than another historically successful model, which is the sh14 turtle/trap. The main reason that we focused on sh18-21 is that it was becoming clear that sh14 turtles had come close to hitting a wall whereby no-one would solo them in Kill Events, because it was very easy to determine whether they were traps or not.
Whilst the same can of course be said for sh18-21 turtles, at the time it appeared that sh14 traps were slowly receding whilst sh18-21 were still a viable path. At present, people are asking the same question of sh18-21 turtles, questioning whether they are still viable, and still relevant.
My answer is that yes, they are still relevant and still viable. They are not FREE in terms of ongoing maintenance costs, in that any proper fighting account has to assume that at some point they will lose troops. And good turtles require good gear, so with what appears to be an ever-increasing inequality in hero gear boosts between the top-end attackers and quality defenders, it becomes imperative that you have a good series of combat boosts helping to protect your stronghold.
To my view of the world, there are basically 2 types of turtles.
The first is the non-spender turtle variant. This can be anywhere between sh17-21, and almost invariably involves primarily T3 troops, with or without a T2 shield. More often than not, this is an sh18-19, rather than an sh21, but that is just an observation of how they tend to get built. This model usually ends up investing relatively heavily in research, making sure they have combat boosts at 8-10, trap attack and trap defence boosts at 8-10, and usually over-spec on hero tree monster research so they can collect the materials they need to craft hero gear that is better than the standard hero gear released 2 years ago. This model takes its time to get to hero level 50, and often will end up with around 1-2M T3, with or without a T2 meat shield. As a strong advocate of lower tier meat shields, I am a strong believer that you should always have T2 in front of your T3 for this kind of turtle model, and preferably a single troop type T2 shield, as this reduces troop losses in my experience. This model is often stuck at hero level 49, verging on the edge of competing, but having to cramp their playing style until they unlock hero level 50 and craft a mix of standard and special event hero gear. Troop ratios on this kind of account tend to be at best 5-10:1, usually being around 1.5-2M troops vs an incoming attack of 375 T4. Without a T2 meat shield, this model usually wins each hit during tier events where T4 killed = 100 points, whilst T3 hospitalised = 20 points, or T2 hospitalised = 5 points. However, during Enemy Power Destroyed kill events, it can be very borderline on power loss against an attacker with a march preset that includes T2-3 meat shield.
Most of these kind of turtles end up pushing towards 60-80M power, using higher troop numbers to compensate for a relatively weaker hero compared to their attacker’s increasingly aggressive attack boosts. Without a large number of special event materials from packs, it proves difficult for these turtles to craft hero gear with overall troop attack. As such, using a mixture of trap attack, and individual troop attack combined with a T3 army results in good kills, but can prove difficult to kill a whole T3 march with strong hero. These kind of turtles are less likely to lose troops in an individual attack if they have sufficient hospital beds (400-600k beds), however remain vulnerable to being double and triple teamed. Pure T3 turtle models remain competitive, and sustainable, although individual cored up attackers can really mess them up, as can the high-end samurai and colossus set gear (see below).
The second model is ultimately more of a spender model, often a result of people starting a second account, preferring to fight as a solo defender rather than mostly being a rally participant. With the recent massive increase in speedups / RSS / chests in packs these days, it is certainly possible to build a highly competitive solo defense turtle, with lower overall ongoing costs than larger T4 accounts. The spender model as a rule tends to end up being towards the higher end of the stronghold range, usually sh20 or 21, mostly because the benefits of sh21 in terms of barracks capacity and hospital capacity outweigh the drawbacks for them. They tend to end up training large numbers of lower tier troops, pushing towards the NERF limit if they can. These kind of turtles tend to focus more on hero gear than research to acquire the necessary combat boosts to be competitive against today’s multi-billionare attackers, and as such, tend to avoid doing monster killing research, and tend to avoid collecting any empire quests. A lot of the successful custom-built turtles I have seen push towards the 50-65M power range, but can do so with much ‘stronger’ defensive armies than the non-spender T3 models. As a rule, the majority of these kind of turtles end up using primarily T1-2 troops, retaining a small number of T3 troops for attack purposes. The army structure can vary quite a bit, ranging from primarily T2 armies with a single troop type T1 meat shield, to mass T1 armies of up to 15M T1, with as many T2 as they can fit in under their self-imposed power target. As an example, 15-20M base power (research / quests / buildings / hero), plus 30M troop power from 15M T1, and 2M T2 can fit them under a 70M power envelope.
As a rule, these kinds of turtles tend to get built using barracks to their target troop numbers, then switched to level 21 hospitals, holding on to at least 1-3 barracks to allow retraining of lost troops. With the likely future release of the Temple building that allows dead troops to be recovered, this may go back down to 1 barracks, as the turtle is able to recover dead troops without the need for multiple barracks. Given the presence of T1 in the lowest tier, these turtles tend to burn with the majority of attacks, and can lose up to 2.5M T1 in a single cored-up hit. However, they also have a much better chance of killing all 250-375k troops sent at them, as well as having a chance of catching multi-billionaires heroes if it is a poor attack (i.e. smoking rather than burning, whilst killing all troops thrown at them).
RECENT CHANGES TO GAME DYNAMICS
So, how have the recent changes affected the viability of the above turtle models?
Kill Event Scoring System
This has been discussed in various places throughout this guide, but suffice to say the newer enemy power destroyed points system clearly favours more attacking play. It has been argued that the TIER points system with 100 points per T4 killed and 1 point for T1 killed favours defensive play way too much, whilst a POWER destroyed system encourages a lot more attacking play. Some have said it goes way too far in encouraging attacking play, but the one pleasant surprise is that MZ appear to have been basically alternating between a TIER points system and an enemy POWER destroyed points system each Kill Event. So, one week a T4 is worth 100 times as many points as a dead T1, and the next week it is 18 times as many. Some people are picking and choosing which kill events to play, with some turtles completely sitting out power destroyed events (or mostly hitting monsters), and only coming out to play and fight during TIER points events where their lower tier troops and hospitals are most advantageous. I tend to find that true turtles are fighters, and love to fight no matter what the points system is. They adjust their tactics, adjust their build, and compensate for the change in scoring system. Some turtles I know play very fast and loose in TIER events where they know they never lose a single battle on points, being highly mobile and aggressive, and almost never using their embassy, and a little more conservatively in POWER events, including actually using their embassy on a regular basis. Some even go so far as to deconstruct their embassy for TIER events, adding yet another hospital, and only put it back in for POWER events.
Defense tree research
The introduction of the defense tree research has basically meant that the big attackers can focus ever more clearly on troop attack boosts, because they in effect have another almost 300% defense and 300% health, and it is very rare to find a big attacker using health or defense gems in their attack gear, whereas 6 months ago, it was still relatively common. This has of course been also partly driven by the introduction and wider availability of newer gems such as the sovereignty gem with troop attack and troop defense debuff, Father time gems, as well as MUCH wider availability of Dragonfire gems with 25% troop attack per 4th gem slot. The defense tree has also introduced debuff resistance, which means that against the majority of attackers, anything less than 20-30% attack / health / defense debuff included in defensive hero gear is a wasted boost.
On the turtle side, there are a small number of spender turtles who can take advantage of the defense tree, because they have unlocked academy 21, whether for T4 traps, or just to get access to the defense tree. They often end up doing up to about levels 5-6 on the defense tree for the first 2 sections to bolster their health and defense without putting on too much power. This also gives them a small incremental increase in hospital capacity. But for 95% or more of turtles, starting this research is out of reach.
Set bonus research
The set bonus tree has also clearly driven attackers towards completing full sets of gear, which a lot of them were on the way to doing anyway. However, it introduces incentives to use a full set rather than mixing and matching individual pieces. And those incentives can be quite significant, varying by set and research level. For example, the Colossus set ends up with a significant health debuff boost from a full 7-set bonus of 100% troop health debuff and 30% troop attack debuff on top of the individual troop attack and health boosts in the gear itself.
Those who have completed the set bonus research then usually end up spending significant amounts of gold to procure specialised set bonuses, playing a little game of luck using gold to gamble on potentially getting a better boost than they currently have. And these bonuses can be significant.
Furthermore, the Set bonus tree introduces March presets, and this is another significant development in that it reduces the reaction time a turtle has available to them, as the attacker can release a pre-defined mix of troops without the need to specifically select say 300k cataphracts and 75k lancers. As with everything in this game, things only get faster not slower, so turtles need to develop good situational awareness and quick reflexes. The days of baiting in the enemy kingdom’s chat are fast disappearing as people realise that the few seconds it takes to switch back to battle mode can mean a big difference in outcome of an attack.
Hero level 51-60
A significant shift since the release of this turtle series is the introduction of hero levels 51-60. This is currently much more relevant for attackers than defenders, but over time, it is possible that it will increasingly be relevant for turtles. There is a small incremental number of skill points made available as you progress from 51 to 55, with additional debuffs unlocking by level 53, being troop health debuff, troop defense and then troop attack debuff. Each of these requires 50 points to max out, and provides a boost of 50% debuff. As such, these points have to be partly reallocated from other potential locations for them (e.g. trap attack or troop health or individual troop attack). Hero level 54 unlocks an increase in troop training capacity of up to 30%, which is important in that it can allow for possible replacement of a barracks by a hospital, depending upon your setup. Hero level 55 unlocks an increase in altar boost, which increases the altar boost by a relative 80%, taking it from 38% to 68.4%. I will put out a separate post on hero level 55 shortly, outlining some additional boosts that are available to hero level 55 and above.
Most large attackers have easily surpassed hero level 55, and are either at hero 60, or fighting their way through the 3B hero XP points required to go from 59 to 60. Most of the benefits from hero level 60 apply to rallies rather than solo attacks, with a 50% rally troop attack bonus. There are some nice boosts to set bonuses on the right hand side of the tree, but that requires a split left / right points allocation, and a lot of people prefer to just stick to one side for combat.
What it all means is that the attackers are able to ever more effectively put their points into attack and debuffs, and have a lower reliance on troop health and troop defense points allocation.
But it also means that there is an opportunity for turtles capable of getting their hero to level 55, which adds around 5M hero power. More on this in a separate post.
ATTACKER STATE OF PLAY
As an example, here is an attacker’s set bonus for use of the samurai set with the newly upgraded Kabuto Elite helm, in partnership with a level 60 hero. It is gemmed with troop attack, troop health debuff, troop defense debuff and 7x level 6 ranged attack gems.
In combination with a randomly acquired specialised 7-piece set bonus of 96% ranged attack, it means that this permanent hero gear has 1500% troop attack (troop attack plus ranged attack), 300% troop defense debuff, 300% troop health debuff, and 150% troop attack debuff. Credit to Darth Optimus from K466 for allowing me to share his Samurai ranged gear setup, including specialized set bonus and gem setup. Lots of serious gems in that set, particularly all the father time and prophecy gems. Thanks Opti.
So, as a defender, against this kind of attacker in permanent gear (not cores), it becomes absolutely imperative that your turtle hero gear stats push well past 300-400% troop health, and preferably closer to 600-800% of each of these, whilst still getting some troop attack in there to kill the attacker’s troops.
And with combat boosts only looking to increase, it is effectively meaning that the non-spending turtle model is becoming increasingly difficult, requiring larger and larger increases in troop numbers to compensate for a relatively lower series of hero gear boosts than can be achieved by both attackers, as well as turtles who can spend to acquire more recent hero gear. In current parlance, these kind of accounts are turning into what are called ‘tanks’. And they tend to be defensively focused account builds in the power range of 100-300M, with lots of T3 troops, plus or minus T4 troops. They don’t get hit quite as often as the 50-70M turtles, but they can be just as fun.
Beyond permanent hero gear shown here which pushes 1500% troop attack, there are clearly more and more aggressive core sets being crafted, which push into the realms of 4000% combined overall troop attack and individual troop attack. The extensions from the 2800-3000% or so sets of 6 months ago comes down to a combination of secret recipes, gems, set bonuses, specialised set bonuses (using gold to increase boosts), as well as bonuses from the release of hero levels 51-60.
But in the grand scheme of things, this does not materially shift how a turtle should play. If you see a 7-set core on a hero porting in next to you, you should shield as fast as you can. This was the same reaction required 6 months ago with cores pushing 2/3 of the current troop attack, but it does mean that the consequences of taking such a hit are more damaging now than previously. It will be fascinating to see how the Temple gets used by turtles if (or when) it gets released. The ability to extend your hospital capacity (for a significant cost) will be a fascinating development, and will likely come down to how much power is added for each level of the temple. But the temple has the potential to provide a welcome rebalance towards defensive play. Hopefully, it does not only apply to larger rally traps (like the Defense tree basically does with its academy 21 requirement), but we hope that it is available at least partially for solo defense turtles.
The fundamentals of the solo defense turtle outlined at the start of this series in February remain intact. Turtles still have unlimited troop capacity in their stronghold, attackers still have a fixed maximum attack size, and we still have hospitals whilst the attacker doesn’t. Whilst these principles remain in place, there is still a place for a solo defense turtle in Game of War. To be a successful solo defense turtle over a longer period of time requires continued evolution of account build, army composition, hero gear, and battle tactics. Setting arbitrary static power ranges for turtles is unhelpful, as it does not allow for the continued evolution of the turtle model as the game changes and attack tactics change. It is interesting to watch some of the best turtles over time evolve their builds, evolve their gear, and slowly inch their overall troop power upwards to adjust for the increased damage delivered by attackers.
Ultimately this game is a darwinian survival of the fittest, an ongoing struggle between attack and defense. Attackers are getting ever more adventurous in who they are willing to solo attack, particularly in enemy power destroyed events, and whilst MZ has persistently pushed people away from solo attack towards more and more rallies, there is still a role for the solo defense turtle. It is of course disappointing that the evolution of the game has meant that it is harder and harder for non-spenders or lower-spenders to be competitive, however with the recent massive increase in the gold / rss / speedup / chest content of packs, getting to a competitive turtle build is a lot cheaper than it used to be. And I look forward to seeing how the Temple may evolve the turtle model and help with de-risking certain turtle builds by effectively allowing a significant increase in hospital capacity.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this series as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I would love to hear opinions from dedicated hardcore turtles on the viability of this style of play going forward. Shoot away in the comments if you disagree with my assessment of the impact of these changes, and in particular how you see the solo defense turtle / trap model evolving in the near future.
Happy hunting, turtles.