Part 22: Nation Overview: EA Ssaon'rahaEA Ssaon'raha
The nation of praying mantises, EA Ssaon'raha have some very strong (if not cost efficient) troops and their mages are designed for thugging.
They make heavy use of both XP transformations and transformation spells, and also have very few sacreds. It's worth noting too that any troop that are size 4 or over refuse to be lead by commanders smaller than them - not a problem for national mages but it makes indie commanders worse. In general their chassis have no chest or boot slots, but 4 misc slots, which can lead to some fun stuff.
Let's start with the only sacred troop, which is of course (this being an Alexsa nation) cap only.
You can see all the traits that mantises share: half damage vs slashing weapons, poison resistance, magic being, wasteland survival, gluttony, patrol bonus, spirit sight, skirmisher, and ambidextrousness. Phew what a list. Gluttony is only 1 extra, but when most of the decent mantises are size 4 anyway that means they eat as much as a enlarged giant clown so are pretty hard to mass. Ssason'raha does get a small number of nature mages that can make extra supplies but this can get really annoying at times. Even when just expanding with 10-20 of these it wasn't uncommon to hit a wasteland and start to starve.
As for the Ssa'Kheki themselves they seem only medium. 75 gold for only 20 hp is a pretty poor rate and they get only 1 regular magic/slash/pierce attack and then a 50% chance of a low damage attack which also deals fatigue poison. Overall they're definitely strong but I'm not really convinced they're enough better than other options to warrant use unless you're hell blessed which would be a waste since these are your only sacreds.
The other cap only troop, the Hai'khas, is much more impressive to me. Compared to the sacred they're a good bit cheaper and get berserk 1 but come with the downsides of being undisciplined and bad formation fighters (but since they're size 4 this doesn't really matter). They have slightly worse stats too but the berserker mostly makes up for it. The real benefit though is that they get a second Hai'khas attack instead of a shield which turns them into real blenders. They do however have an increased upkeep cost so if you want lots of these you'll need pretty heavy scales.
They technically have a promotion option too but it's an incredible 300 XP (and then again at 500 XP). In a test game I spent 3+ years taking every province on the map with one squad and they still ended up at less than 200 total, I don't see how they'd ever practically hit 300 (let alone 500) except in the longest of games where you never lost a fight with them.
Anyway they turn into troop versions of the mages' chassis.
When it comes to regular troops there's a chain of promotions - you can either buy the largest one (or any other size) immediately or stick with the smaller chaff and then they'll grow to the next one at 50, 100, and 200 XP. As said, it's pretty unlikely to hit 200 even over a longer game. I just double-checked another game I'm in that's on turn 65 and my cap sacreds and original prophet are still only on 180 or so tops.
The Khzi'Khyrypa are the real chaff of the nation but it's worth noting that they still have 2 attacks and 11 attack/13 defense, and 9 natural protection for 12 gold and 1 resource which is not at all nothing. Note that they (and the next one) don't actually get the patrol bonus or spirit sight of their bigger comrades but are still slash-resistant gluttonous magic beings.
Next level up are the Khzi'Khekia who are not really a massive improvement. For a few more resources you get a shield and a cloak instead of two swords.
Next are the Mn'Kheki the first of the "real" mantis troops. Bigger, stronger, getting the poison kick, and spirit sight. Up to a high 17 defense for only 20 gold these guys are not sleeping. Even though they're only size 3 they're bad formation fighters so you still only get 1/square which isn't great. They are stealthy too and as your most cost-efficient troops they enable some pretty nasty strategies.
Finally the Hai'kheki which are getting pretty pricey at 50 gold but they get magic weapons and up to 18 hp and defense. As stated it's not especially reasonable for the previous lot to get up to 200 XP but unless you really needed the magic weapons I'd probably mostly recruit those instead.
I'm honestly not sure how good the troops are. A consistently high defense is great but their HP is not and being magic, um, beings makes them pretty annoying to lead around as well as opening them up to a few unique attacks/spells. Them having consistent access to magic weapons if they need is pretty nice against certain strategies e.g., to pick a random example, invulnerability buffed clowns.
For EA mages, Ssason'raha's cap only superstar mages the Fa'khyrypon'rah don't really have the high paths that you might expect from mod nations. F2A2N1, with 1.1 F/A/D/N are not incredible battle mage paths but they're certainly good thug paths especially with flying. N2 is enough to cast personal regeneration but not howl, while F3 and A3 enable some nice spell access but it's not enough to forge the path boosters so you'd need either F4A4 or S5 on your pretender to forge the boosters. Or just empower once each path, or use the national items.
The Zama'ipti fulfill the almost mandatory requirement for mod nations to have masons. They forge items at 1 cheaper than normal but their paths of just W1E1 are...not great. Since they can't wear boots they can't even get E2 at all. Get one for the mason and maybe a few more for forging frost brands.
Your main battle mage, the Fa'dzeon'raha are expensive but they absolutely slaughter troops without magic weapons. F2 is enough to cast phoenix power and pyre, A1 can cast mistform with a gem, and they can make full use of the in-battle national spells too. Sadly they're not sacred and they don't even have a body slot to give them a shroud so this just reinforces that this is not a bless nation. Without A2 they can't thunderstrike without spending a bunch of gems unfortunately but they do fly.
They can also cast a spell for 20 fire gems at enchantment 6 to turn them into mini Fa'khyrypon'rah - they get the nature and air boosts but don't get the randoms that the cap mage gets.
Mn'Khyrypa are your priests, and pretty shitty honestly. D1H1 with 0.1 of FADN means that 1 in 40 will get death 2 and their main use seems to be if you're trying (foolishly imo) to expand with the sacred troops, or building temples/sitesearching.
For 14 death gems at enchantment 4 they also get a transformation ritual that makes them undead and boosts up to D2F1 and holy 2. It's enough to make skull staffs reliably at least, additionally they get BOTH fire and banefire shields so probably annihilate chaff with enough protection. Without air magic they can't cast the national battle spells though, and despite what their description says they don't have priest reanimator or anything.
Your final mage are dirt cheap A1s but they have a decent chassis and are (unusually for a mage) so I imagine you can send out a whole bunch of these with a few air gems to cast mistform each and they'd be able to punch above their cost easily. With summon storm power they'd be able to spam Orb Lightning too which is certainly not nothing.
Lastly a few non-mage commanders. A tiny scout which XP shapes into a medium scout at 100, and funnily enough the tiny one has leadership but the medium one doesn't so I can imagine it suddenly growing bored of leading troops around.
Your generic commander is at least size 4 but remember that all your troops are magic beings and only being able to cart 30 of them around at a time is pretty sub-par.
Other than the two transformation spells we've already covered, EA Ssaon'raha get a summon. For 5 nature gems at N3F1 and conjuration 6, they get a pretty stealthy (65) ethereal, magic power, pop-killing (200), berserk (3) troop. I'm not entirely sure what their use is I guess they just hang out in enemy lands a bunch? They start diseased so unless you have people with elixirs when summoning them you're only going to get 10 turns out of them anyway.
The battle spells I've mentioned previously are Aspect of On'rah, Gift of On'rah, Benevolence of On'rah, and Aegis of Am'rah. They range from ench 3 to ench 8, from F2A1 (easily castable by your battle mages) to F4A1 (requires gems but is still castable by an F2A1 mage). The On'rah spells grant etherealness, luck, fire resistance +5, and magic resistance +4 the ench 3 one is just personal, ench 5 is aoe 1, and ench 8 is aoe 10 for a gem. Aegis of Am'rah is ench 4 for aoe 10 and a gem but doesn't grant ethereal. Aegis is nice for hitting your troops but I wouldn't waste battle turns on the aoe 1 spells on your size 4 troops. Aspect however is what turns Fa'dzeon'raha into actually good thugs - it doesn't even cost any gems and after a round of buffs they'll be elemental resistant, fire shield, air shield, ethereal, mistformed. Even without regeneration they're going to be really hard to kill without magic weapons. The cap mages (or transformed non-cap ones) casting personal regen and forcing rings of regen on top of that make them truly truly scary thugs. Unless, of course, you have giant and high strength sacreds with magic weapons...
Ssaon'raha get a pretty decent selection of magic items. Their headdresses have a wide variety of effects: a shroud for 9 death gems making a unit sacred - still not enough to make a heavy bless worth it but can certainly be nice. The other headresses are boosters for fire, air, nature, and death but still no earth funnily enough. No mage has felt the loss of the boot slot more than Ssaon'raha's earth forgers. Finally some are upgraded shrouds with awe/sun awe/animal awe but I personally wouldn't really bother with these unless you were swimming in gems.
The misc items are mostly generic combat boosts - resistances, stats, fear, reinvigoration. Nice to have and reinforces that this nation can spend 50 gems gearing up thugs if it really wants but nothing special.
Nothing special that is EXCEPT for a national version of copper arms for some reason???
Overall, the mantises have a good theme and stick to it well. They are incredibly good raiders with a bunch of flying mages able to hit anywhere and kill pretty much any amount of PD. Troop-for-troop I don't feel they match up all that well but they DO have an abundance of magic weapons which can really screw some nations over. In turn, their thugs are also really vulnerable to them too.