Warcraft 3 is a rather unique game when it comes to upgrades. In many other RTS games, a certain set of upgrades finishing is usually the “trigger” to start a push or timing attack towards your opponent. While there are niche cases like this in WC3 as well, the timings are usually rather dictated by hero levels and army supply.
Nonetheless, upgrades are an integral part of many strategies, but especially for newer players, it is often not clear right away when they should get a specific upgrade, many build orders either only mention them briefly, or don’t at all. In the following section I’m going to go over a few important ones and their usual usage in the Orc match-ups. Due to the nature of the topic, this won’t be too detailed and more a general overview, but it will give newer players an idea of what to look out for.
War Mill Upgrades
- Unit Upgrades
- The “classic” upgrades that every race in every game has in one way or another. For the most part, none of these are integral to any strategies, and you should generally get them when you can afford to – while prioritizing a continued unit production, important items for your heroes, and other upgrades.
- There are two exceptions to this rule of thumb though. The first is if you are playing against a KotG + Mass Tier 1 opener from a NE player. In this case, you could be going into Mass Grunts with Shaman support, and should also upgrade your unit’s armour to +2 (this can be done without cutting unit production) before your big push at 50 supply. This offsets the Huntresses and archers naturally high dps and the armour reduction from the Goblin Alchemist’s Acid Bomb to make sure your Grunts can provide a proper sturdy frontline that can be supplied with Lightning Shields and blocks for your casters and Serpent Wards.
- The other exception would be playing Mass Headhunters vs Undead with an hh/fs opening. Usually in this match up you will get the first attack upgrade which is rather cheap somewhat quickly while teching to Tier 2. Thereafter you can usually get the 2nd upgrade later in the game. Upgrading your Ranged Attacks to +2 will greatly increase your army’s throughput to more easily focus and take down key units like Obsidian Statues that you locked down with your Raiders.
- Should you transition into Headhunters later on though, such as for example after a T2 expansion, then delay your first ranged attack upgrade until you actually have a reasonable amount of Headhunters, as it would waste ressources getting it as early as you would with a HH opening.
- Building Upgrades
- Again, neither of the two available are integral for any of your strategies, but they can provide very useful nonetheless. Spiked Barricades can be an interesting pick against certain niche strategies, such as an UD player going for frenzied Ghouls, or a mass Footman build from HU.
- Reinforced Defenses – while never a bad upgrade to have if you can afford it – it shines in particular when defending against early aggression that targets your Burrows (since Orc is the only race without fortified buildings baseline), or to more easily secure an expansion. It can also be used in a pseudo-offensive way when Towerpushing someone, to make it harder for your opponent to take out your towers, although it should be noted that due to the nature of these strategies, you are unlikely to have spare lumber for it until quite late into your attack.
- Specifically vs night elf where in prior patches night elfs could kill burrows at tier 2, reinforced defense has become extremely important in preventing your burrows from being killed by night elf strategies.
Production building upgrades
- Out of your Barracks upgrades, the Troll Berserker and Troll Regeneration upgrades are likely the most commonly used ones. Regen is one of the key parts of the recently popular FS/HH openings, as getting this upgrade allows you to trade so effectively early on, as every HH you save after it has done its damage, will steadily heal back up, essentially “wasting” any damage done to it that didn’t lead to a kill. In turn, the Berserker upgrade is a must for every build that includes both Headhunters and Tier3, and provides an incredible dps increase for your army when active, as long as you can keep your Berserkers save from hard hitting AoE attacks.
- While Burning Oil can usually be ignored, there have been some niche cases vs nightelf in which some players such as hitman have been testing out this upgrade vs talons.
- Berserker Strength is an extremely potent upgrade for those openers that still go into Grunts over Headhunters, as it really stresses the strengths of your Grunts. There is usually not a set timing for when to get this upgrade, the majority of players will usually get it after Tier 2, when they have their T2 production buildings up and running and are having spare Lumber. It should be noted that there is an argument to be made that this upgrade isn’t worth it when going for a No Rax opener, as this usually means you will only get 2 Grunts throughout the game (as compared to the 3 or 4 with 1 Burrow/2 Burrow Rax openers).
- Your Beastiary provides you with several very important upgrades for the respective units. First, Ensnare is what actually makes Raiders a viable unit, as without it, even considering their siege damage, their abyssmal combat stats would not justify including them in your army. With Ensnare though, their utility goes through the roof. It can be used to catch fleeing units, to stop units from getting to your more valuable army parts, to lock down and focus fire a target, to keep a target in place to prevent your opponent from dodging Kodo Beast devours, to stop workers from repairing buildings, and much more. When you plan to build Raiders, upgrade Ensnare before even building a single one of them.
- As the first of the three Tier 3 upgrades in your Beastiary, War Drums can be extremely useful for builds that get to this stage in the game. With several damage buffing multipliers available to Orc in the lategame, all of them stacking, you can really get that last bit of dps out of your units.
- Envenomed Spears is probably one of the most hated upgrades by other races, as it buffs the already high damage output of Wind Riders to obscene levels. As the effect of this upgrade stacks, focus firing a single target with all your Wyvern will make sure your opponent feels the pain with every single Volley. While not many double Beastiary Wyvern builds get to (or aim to get to) the later stages of the game, IF you do, you should absolutely prioritize this upgrade once you’ve reached Tier 3, as it means a massive powerspike for your army.
- For the most part, Liquid Fire can be ignored, as it is usually either an upgrade only used in cheese builds, or as an alternative form of taxing your opponent’s multitasking, for example with a trihero BM/SH/TC build against UD it is a viable option to skip Raiders in favour of two Batriders and Liquid Fire once you hit T3 to then go and harass your opponent’s Gold Mine.
- Tauren Totem
- Spirit Walker Adept Training is a very important upgrade in pretty much every game situation where you will be getting Walkers at all. Having an AoE dispel is incredibly powerful in several matchups, such as the Mirror, where you can dispel multiple summons (such as FS wolves or FL lava spawns) at once, force your opponent to re-apply Spirit Link to a big portion of his army, etc. It also shines against popular lategame strategies from NE (where you can dispel Fairie Fire against an opponent going for mass Druids of the Talon) or UD players (where it lets you remove Curse from a big part of your army in situations where you are facing Banshees). The Master upgrade is usually only paired with a simultaneous tech switch into Taurens, as being able to potentially revive a 5 supply, 1300 HP unit over and over can provide absolutely insane value if the game goes on long enough. It should be noted though that unlike Raiders, Spirit Walkers have not only acceptable combat stats but also other inherent utility, which means you can (and should) build 1-2 of them before starting your Adept upgrade for the Dispel.
- Talking about Tauren, upgraded Pulverize is in an awkward spot. In the past, you had to research Pulverize for your Taurens no matter what, as they did not come with it by default. Nowadays the upgrade will “only” give you a better version of the ability, which is nice – but nothing to really focus on. If you go into Tauren, and have the spare resources, get it, if not, it won’t cost you the game.
- Spirit Lodge
- The upgrades in your Lodge really act as polar opposites to each other. While both the Adept and Master upgrades for Shaman can be extremely powerful, giving you the ability to use Lightning Shield on your sturdy melee units for AoE damage, or Bloodlust, a spell that multiplies your whole army’s damage output by a ton. Just like Walkers, Shaman are actually a very useful unit even without their upgrades, giving you access to Purge without the need of Adept training. Hence, you can easily go into 2-3, sometimes even more Shaman before upgrading them, if Lightning Shield is not an integral part of your strategy.
- The Witch Doctor upgrades follow suit to their host-unit and aren’t really anything to focus on getting. Yes, Sentry Wards are amazing for vision, and yes, Stasis Trap stunning a huge part of your opponent’s army can turn the game around, but it is overall too much investment and too much reliance on “the stars aligning” to really make it worth it. That said, if you find yourself in an extremely long and drawn-out macro game with multiple expansions on a big map, feel free to get a single Witch Doctor to plaster the map with Vision and being able to keep track of your opponent’s movement.
- The last remaining upgrades come from your Great Hall (or Stronghold/Fortress respectively), and are usually very niche and not too important. Pillage has a very specific niche in enabling the double Beastiary mass Raider builds that rely heavily on run-by tactics and taking out key buildings before retreating again. Pillage allows you to simultaneously bolster your own economy while hurting your opponent’s this way, acting like a multiplier for your harass and putting you further ahead. In any other strategy, it is an ok upgrade to have, but nothing that will win or lose you the game. While pillage rarely shines in games it can be very useful in late game situations where both players have low/no income where any amount of extra resources could win the game. Remember pillage only works on grunts/raiders/peons.
- Backpack on the other hand is quite interesting. Many players agree that it is in theory very strong, especially for Orc, as a constant supply of Speed Scrolls for your frontlines can be devastating for your opponent. In practice, this is often not a realistic thing to do though. First of all, the majority of builds that will go for a really prolonged, extended and drawn-out attack at the other side of the map, have Peon support to build an offensive shop ANYWAY, removing the need of your units to bring items with them. Second, it does tax you a little on your multitasking in high intensity situations, and can even cause you to forget or overlook items if you didn’t pay attention to which unit picked up an item, forcing you to manually look through them all to find who is holding it. If you think you can get value out of it – get the upgrade. It’s cheap, and it has it’s uses. But don’t force it.