We now move to the 3rd tier, where we will be staying for the next eight posts. We begin with the first of 5 COs focusing on a strangulation strategy: Sami.
Sami has a unique build compared to other COs. On a typical map, your focus will be on filling as many bases as possible with Mechs, the rest with Infantry, and purchasing B-Copters when possible. Mechs will comprise the backbone of your force, generally being produced at forward bases to remove as much need to build T-Copters as possible. You will use their improved firepower to cost-effectively deal with Tanks and AAs; also use their capture rate, sturdiness, and powerful counterattack for better forward captures. Since a full-health Mech needs to be brought down to 3HP to prevent a capture.
Your Copters are weaker than normal and have less firepower than your Mechs, but will be difficult for your opponent to counter without Fighters. You will mainly use them for first-strike capability against Tanks, the Copter taking minimal damage while the Mechs finish the kill undamaged. They are also your counter against enemy Copters, which you should be able to mob due to a generally cheaper build.
As with other COs, Infantry will bring up the rear and act as your primary walls and capturers. Their true benefit comes during SCOP, when you will want to use your Mechs' firepower to punch holes for as many capturing units as possible. The range of Infantry will make it easier for them to dart through these holes and snag cities, and if possible bases and airports. It doesn't matter if they die or not, because the whole point of this is fund deprivation rather than gaining ground. It will take at least two turns for your opponent to regain the lost properties, and you gain at their expense for all but the last one.
Similar to Sensei, your ability to take apart Grit is based on having a soldier-based build. Your Mechs will easily rip through any wall units he produces while Copters attack the Artillery. Even if Grit tries to counter, you still massively outclass him, as he's the only CO in the game with weaker Directs than you, and your build is already intended to counter that.
In a no-tower match you don't have anything to worry about. While his units aren't as weak as Grit's, he has no units that can potentially one-shot your Mechs either. Just tear through him.
In a two-tower match, J1T's defense will prove to be a minor annoyance for you, but in such a match you get a tower yourself and won't have too much trouble overcoming this. It also comes with the added benefit of your Copters coming up to normal strength, and above that once you take Javier's tower.
In a four-tower match Javier is probably the better CO, and force ranks may be required at your discretion. You still maintain an advantage during SCOP, and you don't come into this match all that underpowered (compared to the Kanbei match-up, for example). All it takes is one SCOP with well-placed units to snag a tower and drop Javier down two whole tiers while having overwhelming force yourself. If the opposite happens then you're done, unless you decided to equip some forces.
I've already explained in detail why Lash's SCOP defense isn't a threat, so I won't repeat myself here. The long-short of it is that she can't do appreciable damage even on SCOP, nor can she sufficiently defend herself. She's like a more sporadic Javier for your purposes, so treat her as such.
I've explained before that Jake's lack of focus is his main problem. He's better than Grit, but weaker than a straight Direct CO. Nothing you can't handle. Send in the Mechs, hog the plains, capture his stuff. Simple.
Just so I don't exaggerate unintentionally, let me lay out exactly what Sasha's advantage is in plain English: She can get more capturing Infantry out quicker on T-Copter maps, she can start a triangle sooner, and she can maintain it more easily. She accomplishes this partly through her day-to-day, and partly through the money she gains during SCOP. Occasionally a Sasha player might gear down to COP in a bid to delay your SCOP.
You pretty much have nothing to worry about from Sasha's strategy, though. Even if Victory March gets delayed, it won't be for more than two turns. In the meantime, you have a build that benefits from being cheap to maintain, and is already geared toward dismantling Sasha's build. Sasha may have an easier time producing counters, but rarely does she actually tech up as a result. You may face more Copters than normal, but that's about the extent of what you'll worry about against her. In the absolute worst case scenario, saving for a Fighter shouldn't be hard for you to do.
VS Luck COs
The main advantage of the luck COs is basically useless against Sami, since luck is most useful using lower tech units against more powerful ones. Your Mechs will potentially get torn apart a bit more by Tanks, but that's about it. You're still at a massive monetary advantage, so your Copters will pick up the slack.
He can match your soldier movement on SCOP and bring up reinforcements faster in general. The concentration of units makes your version of strangulation a bit tougher at times, but not so tough that you can't do it. The best way to deal with movement is simple containment, especially since Adder has no firepower to blast open chokepoints. Cap those off and flood units in to blow him apart and capture some stuff.
Very similar to fighting Adder, as you'd expect, but it is possible for him to break roadside chokepoints. You'll have to approach him more conventionally as such, attacking him head-on and trying to punch holes. His units will be more concentrated toward the front, but since it's not true spam every unit you kill is still an advantage in unit count for you.
Less movement, a bit of firepower, but that healing has him equipped for attrition. Fortunately your strategy of punching through the line already takes attrition into account, so punch through and strangle his resources.
The only CO where your Copters will do better than normal damage. In combat terms you're about evenly matched on the ground, with your primary advantage being economic in nature. The problem with Grimm is that his Copters can cut yours down under either power, though it will mostly just even the odds. While Grimm can destroy your units under SCOP, your Mechs can do the same to him and to a greater degree. We're talking Mechs doing 125% damage to Tanks on roads, which translates into one-shotting them on everything short of cities, though even that can be accomplished with a luck roll. That means an awful lot of holes in his line for you to run through and capture stuff, which is more important in the long run.
I will mention that his Tanks are slightly more powerful than your Mechs on his own SCOP, but as I said earlier the economics are very much in your favor here, so it doesn't matter. You'll always be able to tear him to pieces no matter what.
This is slightly tougher, but not overly so. Max is less of a threat day-to-day, but doesn't have a real weakness to exploit. You have the same problem with SCOP as you did with Grimm, but you can't destroy him on forests with one shot on SCOP. All this means is that away from roads you'll have to two-shot any full health Tanks that are in the way of your capture squads. Max is still inferior economically to you, and your airborne advantage is still present thanks to this.
Jess is a bigger threat on the ground than the previous two since she combines vehicle movement with enough SCOP firepower to one-shot your Mechs in most cases. Her Copters are as weak as yours, and you're quite capable of out-numbering them if necessary. Maintain an air advantage and use the Copters to help minimize the land-based threat.
This match-up is frustrating, but not hard. Sonja's SCOP will always fire off during your day-to-day, period. You'll waste a turn as a result, but it won't interfere with Victory March. Since she can't actually do anything about Victory March, you'll be able to walk all over her and strangle her economy without resistance.
This is where the auto-win threshold stops, as we are now in your tier. Like most COs in this tier, Drake is aiming for a similar goal to yourself: strangulation. You can expect to start feeling the effects the moment mass damage hits, losing money to repairs and maintaining parity only by virtue of a more cost-effective build. You'll be lucky if you can see a single damned thing during Drake's SCOP, so you'll usually want to wait until after it wears off to fire your own. Your day-to-day capturing isn't affected much by the mass damage, and your SCOP capturing isn't affected at all. When you do punch holes you'll find the main difference between yours and Drake's versions of strangulation: his is more convenient, but yours lasts longer and is potentially permanent. Eventually you can drag him down to your level and beat him with superior units.
Similar problems to what you encounter with Drake, except his SCOP doesn't blind you. You can fire off before he does depending on how the Infantry shenanigans play out, making the point somewhat moot. Things to worry about include slight resilience to attrition thanks to mass healing, and the little bit of firepower he gains on top of the mass damage. As with the Drake match-up, his strangulation strategy is focused more on convenience and repetition, while yours relies more on lasting effects and temporary gains. When you do get funding advantages you should try to tech up your airforce and help the Mechs deal more damage. Drag him down to your level. If he establishes a triangle and forces you to tech up, you'll be in trouble.
Of this particular trio, Olaf is definitely the most threatening. This is because the mass damage combined with firepower -and particularly because his SCOP fires off first- deal enough damage to your units and economy that it can potentially hurt your build; you're not a spam CO, so your unit count still matters. On the other hand, you and Olaf have polar opposite goals: he wants to force opponents to tech down, while you want to stay teched down. Another way you can try and stay ahead is your airforce, which you should have an easier time affording anyway due to your low-cost land force. Once again this match is going to come down to whether Olaf's constantly hammering you with short-term economic damage or your constant attempts at long-term damage will win the day.
VS Von Bolt
Now that we're in his tier, ol' Vonny is really painful to fight. Your SCOP should come first, theoretically, but Von Bolt might try an ass-pull to fire off his first instead; and if he changes the order of use like that, you're in trouble for the rest of the game. The trouble is that while damage won't affect your instant capture ability, freezing will. On the other hand, Von Bolt has taken a swing back from strangulation to force annihilation. His day-to-day defense is a slight problem, but you'll still do better than normal damage. Pick off any unit far enough forward to surround and mob to make it easier to punch holes once SCOP comes. As long as you fire off before Von Bolt does, worst case scenario is you end up with your units inter-mingled in his force, thus limiting the damage Ex Machina will do.
Easier in some ways and harder in others compared to Von Bolt. You are vastly superior in a day-to-day sense, as Rachel is basically bland. On the other hand, her SCOP comes sooner and she doesn't need to time it at all, so your units will get pretty devastated now and then. As long as you stay in the thick of fighting your front line won't be affected too much, and as usual pure damage doesn't actually affect SCOP at all, so you'll still have reserves for when it's time to light off yourself. As long as not more than two missiles land on the same spot, back-tracking captures won't be affected except for a slight funding drain once they finish capturing. Once you've taken an economic advantage, it will be downhill from there.
Jumping back into a very specific form of wave damage. Kindle is, again, easier to deal with in some ways and harder in others. On the one hand, she can neither devastate your front nor hurt your captures too much. On the other hand, the frequent money drain will hurt your ability to spam Copters a lot. Kindle is also a real demon at holding her properties, particularly on COP when she's basically Max on SCOP while sitting on them, not to mention she has a fairly easy time of it knocking you off of them. You will need to place some more importance on holding your captures after SCOP to balance out the economic damage and ultimately keep her from wrestling control of the air from you.
Eagle is like a massively exaggerated movement CO with elements of spam. With the exception of soldiers, he can move up produced units in the same turn, and everything else can move and attack you twice. If you're not smart about eliminating vehicles he can overwhelm you quickly. That being said, I've already told you what to prioritize: vehicles. Since they're so much faster than his soldiers he usually won't wall up to any great degree. He definitely won't try hit-and-run due to the price disparity of your main units making such a tactic inefficient. The more vehicles you kill, the easier it will be to punch through with SCOP when the time comes. Do note that Eagle mostly relies on Lightning Drive for speed, so you can at least expect the second attack to be much weaker.
The biggest threat here is to your air dominance. While two of your Copters can mob one of Eagle's, Eagle can do the same with a single Copter anytime his COP comes up; a one-man-mob, if you will. This will cease to be as big of a problem when you get your SCOP captures underway, but in the meantime these same Copters can annihilate your Mechs if left unchecked, so be mindful.
As with any vs self match, the best advise I can give has pretty much been given in the overview. You already know your opponent's best tactics, and theoretically they know yours as well. Just keep throwing crap at each other until one of you blinks.
Before I get to Kanbei I'd like to quickly explain the purpose behind including upper-tier COs and mentioning force ranks. There are enough forces and force combinations in this game, particularly with the presence of Tags, that you could almost devote a hundred page strategy guide to them and still not cover everything. Covering forces this way is as close as I care to get to actually doing that, and will also drive home the point concerning which ones are the most overpowered.
It's a bit difficult picking forces for this match. The only thing that can really overcome defense without going up a tier is tech, but Sami really doesn't like teching up. As long as air units are in the equation, then this is an easier decision. Take Gold Rush, Sale Price, and Fire Sale for sure. Take Combat Pay if you are fairly confident that you can out-expand Kanbei, as this will help with getting Bombers later; if you're not so confident and the map allows for T-Copter rushes, take APC Boost instead.
Whatever you pick, it's going to be a major slug-fest until you can finally get some Bombers out. You can compete with Kanbei day-to-day to an extent and even expand faster early on, but his SCOP fires off right about when you want to use your own. You can't expect to punch through that and do your own thing, forcing you to wait. If you have any Bombers and he has any AAs, you have to pull back as well. This is where Combat Pay becomes your friend, since you need to deal as much damage as possible for money even if you can already get Bombers, because you still need to get your Mechs. Get them out as fast as you can afford them until you can punch through and grab some of his stuff on SCOP. It's not downhill exactly once you gain a property advantage, but it's enough to let you slog through the rest of the match.
The only thing that can compete with tech is either defense or more tech. You don't have defense, so tech it shall have to be. Use the Combat Pay build just as you did with Kanbei. Fortunately with this match AAs go back to being a minor nuisance. Less fortunate is that Colin may decide to go after your Bombers with a Fighter, so you may end up needing one or two of those yourself; for once, it's an even match in firepower terms. This isn't as hard as it sounds since Colin still has a more expensive land build, allowing you to concentrate on the air more than he does in spite of this, but it will distract you from Bomber construction. You will have to take a fairly hefty property advantage to out-fund Colin, but once done you'll rob him of his only advantage and have a downhill match from there.
The only counter to spam this frequent is a tech spam. On the ground. Which you massively suck at doing. I hate to say it, but no combination of forces is going to win you this match. Sorry, but that's the truth of the matter. Sami without a Tag partner is an auto-lose against Sensei, period.
Nor can you win this match-up, I'm afraid to say, no matter what forces you throw at it. Sami's SCOP is just too damned specialized to pursue the necessary strategy. Even with money skills and Soul of Hachi, your only ace in the hole is a Bomber. And guess what? Hachi can counter those for 10k, and he doesn't even need SCOP to do it if he doesn't feel like waiting that long. As for Mechs, he has Megatanks and Md Tanks on the cheap, and he spams them. Worst case scenario he's quite capable of AA spam, making your built-in AA counter moot.
Sami is a very interesting CO to play as. As you probably gathered from those last two tiers, though, she's specialized almost to a fault. She's a good example of why the top COs tend to be the generalists: in a turn-based strategy, adaptable factions are always better. Sami's particular specialty helps her avoid turning into another Grit, but you get much above her own tier and she has the same problem: she lacks a good way to change strategies when higher tiers and force ranks require it. But within her tier she's good enough to compete, and below that she just dominates. Most COs lack a good way to counter her form of strangulation once she starts, a quite a few can't stop her from doing it just because of that unlikely air advantage.
Up next is Eagle, where we'll finally start getting into some more conventional tactics.