In this post I'm going to talk about rush units - units that lower the optimal economy size. This is a topic I've wanted to write about for some time now, and now, the day has finally come.
Units that make the set low-econ¶
Since absorb is the main reason to get a big economy, it should be obvious that one category of rush units is units that can deny absorb.
Lancetooth isn't the most efficient, but it's especially nice for its buildtime. That means it takes an extra turn before the Lanceteeth themselves can start getting absorbed.
Bloodrager lacks the nice, juicy buildtime of Lancetooth, but to compensate it is much more efficient.
Mega Drone is a great low-econ supporter for another reason besides being an absorb denier: since it's a Drone rather than an attacker, it helps tremendously with the overteching problem that many rushes suffer from.
Efficient attackers accessible from a low economy¶
Obviously, the more efficient attack is, the sooner you want to switch to buying it instead of economy. Many efficient attackers are inaccessible from a low economy due to their gold or tech cost, such as Odin, Shadowfang, and Asteri Cannon. But here are some units that aren't.
Meet blue Tarsier. Only... wait. It's more efficient than Tarsier, while giving you the resource that buys other efficient attackers. Perfect.
Gauss Fabricator is good at rushing for the same reason Tarsier is (delayed attack), only it's much more efficient. Being green instead of red is also nice because green can be floated, so overteching isn't likely to be a huge problem.
It's a legendary, though, so it's not usually that great if there's nothing else in green in the set. When you have something like Fission Turret (not a rush unit itself) to follow it up with, it gets insane.
I'll have to admit even I don't fully understand what makes this unit as good at rushing as experience tells me it is. I can explain part of it though.
One aspect is that you start with 2 Engineers, so the first two Electrovores seem like 4R Fast Tarsiers - with the caveat that you don't have those two Engineers available to block, but that doesn't matter if your opponent won't have attack for a while yet.
Another aspect is the "potshots" it gives you. Since the damage comes out immediately, you can often kill the econ player's first 2 Engineers before they even have time to get a Wall up. That's valuable, especially if you can threaten 3 next turn, forcing them to buy another Engineer for granularity.
Note that Grimbotch can also give you potshots, but at the expense of your attackers just dying in 4 turns without being able to block damage, which isn't worth it.
Finally, while an Electrovore + Engineer for a Fast Tarsier is less efficient than a Tarsier on a graph, it can be better in practice for the same reason Tarsier can be better than Immolite - it lets you spend more of your gold on attackers. Normally, if you rush with a single Animus you end up buying some more Drones too just because you'll have 3 gold. But the Electrovore + Engineer spam allows you to go full offense immediately, increasing the overall efficiency of your rush.
This is also good for having a long buildtime, but that's not all. The thing about Scorchilla as a mixed-in attacker where you buy two more every time they fire is that mathematically, they're very inefficient, but they derive a ton of value from the pressure bonus, and it gets a lot bigger every time you add 2 more Scorches. So it's like your Scorchillas get more efficient over time. That's why you usually want to get them started early. Unless you have some insane non-prompt soak in the set, by the time you get 6 Scorches on the board the burst is all but impossible to defend.
Here are some units that don't really fit into any of the above categories, but nevertheless are well-suited to rushing.
Blood Phage benefits compared to Tarsier from the same principle that Electrovore+Engineer does of spending more gold on attackers. But it has some other advantages.
One is that the click ability provides tech sink, and wasting tech is usually one of the biggest drawbacks of low economy (and red in particular).
The other is that even without its click, it lets you keep increasing your economy a bit more after you start attacking, which means you can open with an Animus before you have the required econ for the set (for example, 18 Drones in a set with Arka Sodara and Shadowfang so you can buy two Walls and a Fang each turn) and then still end up having that econ by the time you need it.
This unit is pretty weak, but still has an affinity with rushing. The thing about Redeemer is that it subjects you to the pressure bonus. If your opponent's massing econ instead of counterattacking, you can defend more efficiently, making it better than it normally is. If you're lucky, you might even be able to partially absorb the Gauss Charges, making Redeemer insanely good.
Units that make a high-econ set medium-econ¶
The above units are all units that can encourage low econ, not just lower. Now I'm going to list some units that aren't easily accessible from a low eceonomy and so aren't usually capable of dragging a medium-econ set down to low-econ, but still quite good at dragging high-econ down to medium. Note that these units are usually countered by the above units.
Units that counter efficient defense¶
Since econ strategies are enabled by big absorbers and efficient soak units, it stands to reason that units that counter those units will lower the optimal econ size.
Arms Race counters good defense because it gives your opponent a huge pile of prebuilt defense, meaning that 1) their absorber won't start returning real value until you chew through all those Engineers, and the bigger the absorber the longer that takes; and 2) until you chew through all those Engineers, they don't need any soak, so they can't take advantage of units like Plexo Cell.
Raw efficient units that have trouble coming out in low-econ, but are very efficient, so that in a set that calls for enough econ to enable them, they prevent the optimal ecnonomy size from being too high. In sets that revolve around these units, 3rd Engineer might still be a good choice, but 4th Engineer is almost certainly bad.
Cynestra is a super efficient attacker that can be spammed. It has trouble seeing play in low-econ due to its high gold cost and also because it only spends one of your red, which means you probably waste the second one.
Asteri Cannon is rather unique in that it's pretty much the only spammable value attacker that doesn't cost any red. Normally greed is red's arena, but Asteri Cannon is a counterexample. I actually love this unit's current state because it's one of the only non-red attackers that can actually outvalue the great red stuff like Hellhound and Grimbotch. Of course it's still much worse than those units overall, but in sufficiently high econ it will be able to beat them.
Double Animus units¶
Double Animus units are basically just super greedy attackers, but they have such a unique feel that I'm listing them in their own category.
This unit is even better at rushing because not only it is essentially impossible to out-value, it also hard-counters almost every big defender: Energy Matrix, Doomed Wall, Defense Grid, Centurion, Plexo Cell, etc.
Amporilla is the other unit that can never be out-valued. This one has anti-synergy with all other attackers, so it's best if you don't see any of these other units in the set.
Lucina is the safest double Animus unit due to her built-in tech sink. She's the only one that's viable in base + 1.
Vai is mostly good at countering big absorbers. If it can't threaten to freeze for at least 4, you need a good reason to get it, while if it can freeze for 5 or more you should be looking for a reason not to get it. Vai is the only double-Animus unit that's not very good at rushing down stuff like Zemora and Savior, since it's a legendary - even Shadowfang is often better at that task.
By far the weakest double-Animus unit, usually needs a lot of support to be viable in base + 8. In sufficiently high-econ, it outvalues almost anything in the game, but most often it just dies to pressure. Drones, however, are not pressure, so if you see Shadowfang and a red support unit like Perforator, you really want to think hard before going for a big economy.