Clash Royale Lane Pressure Comprehensive Guide



Clash Royale Lane Pressure Comprehensive Guide by edihau

This guide covers all aspects of having multiple paths to send troops down. Many people have a basic-intermediate understanding of this concept, using tactics such as deploying offensive minions in the center by the river in order to distract an inferno tower, sending a cheap troop/combo that can do substantial damage to the opposite lane when the opponent overcommits on one side, or placing the musketeer to attack an offensive push coming down one lane before she moves down the other. However, lane pressure extends far beyond these tactics, and understanding it can turn the battle completely in your favor depending on the circumstances.

Contents:

  • Why Lane Pressure is Important
  • PART ONE: Single Lane Control Cards, Switching Lanes, and Opposite Lane Pressure
  • PART TWO: Double Lane Pressure, Defensive Hard Counters, and Playing in the Middle
  • PART THREE: Lane Pressure When It’s Not 0-0
  • Conclusion

Why Lane Pressure is Important

Lane pressure is important because for almost all decks, you can use it to dictate the entire flow of the game. Whether it’s switching the lane you send your giant down or determining exactly how you should split three musketeer pushes, understanding lane pressure makes you better at both creating an effective offense and transitioning from defense to offense. I have seen player after player not take advantage of the concepts of lane pressure in situations that they obviously should have, and it always works to their disadvantage overall. So without further ado, here is the guide:

PART ONE: Single Lane Control Cards:

At the beginning of the game, when you are in a 0-0 situation, there are seven cards that generally control lane pressure very effectively. These are cards that you must invest elixir into countering, and they will usually dictate which lane is being attacked depending on who has which ones and when they are played. They are listed from most to least reliable at forcing your opponent to play in a certain lane:

  • Royal Giant
  • Lava Hound
  • Giant
  • Sparky
  • Golem
  • Giant Skeleton
  • PEKKA

A case can be made against some of these cards being valuable for lane pressure at all depending on your deck. With two buildings, you can pull most building-seekers into the other lane, and one properly placed building luring the tank to the middle is enough to place melee troops that will go down the other lane after killing the tank (this does not apply for the lava hound and royal giant). In addition, the non-building-seekers can generally be kited into the other lane. However, in general, these are the best cards for establishing the lane that the troops will fight in, with a brief explanation of each:

  • The royal giant can’t be pulled into the middle or the other lane, and he is not cheaply countered when supported by literally anything, so he is the king of lane pressure when used properly. In addition, his cheap-ish cost of 6 elixir (compared to the other available choices) allows him to be easily supported, which makes cheaply countering him even more difficult. If you are playing in opposite lanes, the best way to counter the royal giant’s lane control ability is to pressure your attacking lane so heavily that you will win the race to 3 crowns. However, this is not a reliable strategy, especially if you do not have a heavy beatdown deck. Usually the better way to handle royal giants is to play in the lane they dictate and punish them for repeatedly placing a 6 elixir unit that cannot damage troops. In addition, because Royal Giant decks cannot accumulate large amounts of damage quickly without a mistake on your part, you can pressure the opposite lane and take a tower in overtime if your opponent decides to switch lanes to their stronger tower late-game. Of course, this is all circumstantial, and understanding when you can/should do this depends on a few other factors that you should be aware of based on your understanding on the game and the cards in it.
  • The lava hound, if properly placed, has the ability to pass centrally placed buildings, and therefore it does not have a kill zone (the area where both arena towers can target the unit). Cards that complement it, such as the miner, balloon, mega minion, and both minions, can bypass centrally-located defenses and troops or don’t stay in the middle for long enough for the other arena tower to do a substantial amount of work. Usually it is the tank that you want the other arena tower targeting anyway, so on defense, the other tower sniping minions is fine, but it’s usually not what you would rather have, since the tower will usually not take them all out and you will have to have some other way of dealing with them. So when playing against a lava hound deck in the context of lane pressure, your objective is to play defense in the same lane, and either counter-push or push in the opposite lane, whichever is appropriate. Lava hound decks are slightly better at getting 3 crowns against a weak defense and a race in the other lane than Royal Giant decks because a tank usually supports the lava hound’s pups, and they do a lot of damage. For that reason, it is usually beneficial to play defense and succumb to playing in that lane. Luckily, the more-expensive lava hound makes it easier to quickly rush the other lane in overtime and take out a half-health tower, so if the opponent switches lanes to his stronger tower, a quick push in the other lane is slightly easier to accomplish.
  • The giant and the golem can be pulled into range of both arena towers every time, but their ranged support troops will not be pulled into the middle, making it very difficult to construct a counter-push in the opposite lane. The cheap cost and tremendous power of the giant makes opposite-lane pressure difficult to accomplish successfully, while the high cost of the golem makes it easier to pressure the opposite lane. However, both decks will three-crown you relatively quickly, so pressuring the opposite lane is less valuable the earlier you are into the game. If you are in overtime, it may be worth it to go all-in to take the other tower, but depending on your deck, smart golem/giant players will either partially or completely ignore your push, perhaps sacrificing a tower to take 3 crowns. Early in the game at 0-0, it is usually best to play defense in the same lane because of the risk of losing 3-0 or 3-1 to either of these cards, but again, these decisions are circumstantial and depend on other factors in the game.
  • The sparky is a ranged unit that is almost always supported with one of the other units in this list. Since she cannot be pulled into the other lane, you must deal with her in the same lane, and pressuring the other lane against a sparky is risky because your opponent likely has two strong lane-control units that you’ll have to deal with in addition to the potential counter-push you’ve just given your opponent in the other lane. Sparky is on this list because of the immediate threat she is, regardless of how easy it is to counter her in the current meta. When Sparky approaches the bridge, you are all but forced to play in the same lane and counter-push there, and when Sparky is placed in the back behind the king tower, it usually isn’t wise to send a push down that lane (especially not a hog rider, even if you zap Sparky to get a few hits in). However, when not paired with any of the other units on this list, Sparky is not as much of a threat, and does not dictate lane pressure in the same way. Despite not being able to be lured into the other lane, glass cannons are not able to control lane pressure because of how easy it is to kill them when they are alone.
  • The Giant Skeleton is a great way to force damage into the other lane. Most things that don’t go down the other lane will end up dying, no matter how much you send down the same lane. For this reason, placing him in the back is a great way to force your opponent to switch lanes. However, it isn’t a failsafe, and depending on how eager the opponent’s troops are to move, it could backfire. Offensively, it can be kited, and smart players will counter the giant skeleton with troops that will go down the other lane, so the point of the Giant Skeleton is to force pressure down the opposite lane. Of course, quick chippy pushes are less susceptible to this because they have less to lose and won’t kill the Giant Skeleton with several troops left, which is why the Giant Skeleton is less reliable in general at controlling lane pressure.
  • The PEKKA, with its high cost, melee range, and no splash damage, is very susceptible to kiting or being lured into the kill zone for a long time, despite how formidable she can be otherwise. When defending against a PEKKA deck, success depends on using the opposite-lane arena tower to deal as much damage as possible, and it is not hard to do so compared to the other cards on this list. Because of her ability to attack troops, she is not a bad defensive card for shutting down an offensive push, but she is expensive and slow, so it isn’t always your best bet, and usually a giant skeleton or other defensive troops will be better options. However, like the Sparky, the PEKKA is good at defending the same lane, and it is usually not wise to build a push right into a PEKKA.

Switching Lanes:

If one of your towers is damaged, it can be smart to direct the lane pressure into the other lane. If you have one of these cards and your opponent does not, you will generally succeed in this feat. The only caveat is that if your opponent has accumulated a lot of damage on your weak tower, his best move is to take the tower when you commit to the other lane and there isn’t enough time left for you to accumulate the damage necessary to take either of his towers before overtime. It all depends on what cards he has to do damage to your tower, and what cards you have to prevent that damage. For this reason, lane pressure is very time-sensitive and deck-sensitive, and requires experience playing the game to master. I cannot possibly teach you everything about time-sensitivity because of the sheer number of examples.

Trading towers may or may not be to your advantage, depending on the health of each tower, your deck, and your opponent’s deck. In general, if you have one of the lane control cards mentioned above, you should be in a decent/good position at an even 1-1, whether parallel or diagonal. I will discuss this in greater detail later in the guide.

Survey Data About Win Conditions & Some Additional Comments

In the survey I took about primary win conditions right before the goison nerf, about half of responders selected one of the cards above as their primary win condition, and another 35% selected either the miner, hog rider, or some form of quickly cycled cards. The numbers, I am sure, have changed since then, and redditors don’t make up the meta the way the player community does (I am certain that more than a fifth of the players had the giant as their main win condition at that time), so the numbers are slightly off, but my guess is that these numbers are relatively similar now in terms of beatdown, control, and siege decks because the changes to the meta haven’t switched the most powerful archetype substantially. This brings up an interesting point of the tradeoffs between beatdown, control, and siege and the fact that beatdown decks generally do the best job at controlling lane pressure because their offense is naturally something that must be dealt with, usually in the same lane. This is unlike facing control decks, where you can cheaply counter some combinations and ignore others to send a huge push down the other lane that they cannot ignore. It is also not present in siege decks, where you can actually counter the xbow (and sometimes the mortar) by putting immediate pressure on the other lane with one of these lane control cards. So another tradeoff of playing defense first and offense second is that you have a hard time controlling the lane of attack, with few exceptions.

Cards that are decent at controlling lane pressure, but are not always reliable, include the following (in no particular order):

  • Spawners
  • Mortar
  • Bowler
  • Hog Rider
  • Miner
  • Balloon
  • Spawners force a response on defense, or chip damage will eventually wear the tower down. Tombstone is the exception to this, and it does the opposite. If you have a tombstone placed proactively, it is harder to play into the lane with the skeletons than the lane without, especially with the wrong support troops to effectively deal with skeletons. However, this difference is usually slight and can be overcome with the right support cards, such as a bowler or the log. The tombstone is a defensive card in general anyway, so even pressuring the other lane isn’t always wise. But stacking up goblin huts/barbarian huts/furnaces can take down a tower for sure.
  • The mortar is a siege card, and has a large enough range to be attracted from the opposite lane. However, this is not always the smartest way to address it, because the mortar will hit the ground support troops when firing at the tank. This is unlike the x-bow, which will lock onto a tank in the other lane and stay on it for a considerable amount of time. Its increased cost is another reason why I say the x-bow is not a reliable lane control threat compared to the mortar, though it can still force some decks to play in the same lane.
  • The bowler is not threatening alone, much like the sparky, but he normally supports one of the powerful lane control tanks and makes most giant/royal giant combinations much more formidable. He is also an effective defense against fast ground troop attacks, such as the ones present in hog decks.
  • Hog rider decks are dependent on chip damage, so allowing a hog rider to get to the tower mostly uncontested is a dangerous play. However, since it is difficult to support compared to the other tanks and not difficult to shut down or counter-push against it alone, it is usually not a major lane control threat. However, the threat increases quite a lot the weaker your tower gets, because while most beatdown pushes lean more towards all-or-nothing attacks and depend on positive trades by the end, there are many more hog-control pushes per game, and while only one or two are necessary for success if very bad trades are made early, usually the total damage is built up a little at a time from each individual push, making the later pushes much more important to block completely, since hog decks are fast enough to take a tower in overtime before most beatdown decks can.
  • The miner is one of the more powerful lane control cards because he cannot be lured into the other lane. However, supporting a miner with a formidable push is generally more difficult because the miner is weaker and is usually separated from the support troops, meaning that the support troops are easier to handle. In addition, the miner’s cheaper cost trades off with the fact that he is not a threat to towers alone, and he can be ignored when he’s alone so that you can make a bigger push in either lane. However, what allows the miner to control lane pressure is the general inability to fight him or his support from the other side of the map, as well as the great amount of damage that some cheaper combos can do unaddressed, since neither he nor most of his support troops can/should be pulled into the center with a building, either because of bad trades or the necessity of saving that building for something more appropriate, like a hog rider.

And finally, there are cards that can directly change lane pressure from one side to the other and aren’t mentioned above:

  • Princess
  • Musketeer
  • Ice Wizard
  • Ice Golem
  • Skeletons, Goblins, Guards, etc. (against air units)
  • The princess, musketeer, and ice wizard can all attack troops from the opposite lane, with varying degrees of success. All of them are weak to spells in general, and both the musketeer and ice wizard can be fireballed out of range of the troop they are targeting and forced down the opposite lane unsupported and weak without accomplishing their objectives. For that reason, sometimes it can be difficult to play any of these cards in the opposite lane effectively, though this strategy of forcing them into the opposite lane is not well-known and is not always the smartest idea for an opponent. Taking advantage of this tactic when possible is very valuable, because these cards allow you to change the lane pressure from one to the other without ignoring the opponent’s offense. For that reason, they are limited in other ways, such as health, because their range is so useful not just for shooting towers across the river (in the princess’ case). They can also build a counter-push in the opposite lane, which is generally more effective because those troops will not be stalled or damaged by the remnants of the opponent’s support troops, which can sometimes be left alone to do minimal damage on the tower in exchange for a stronger push the other way. In addition, if you are playing against any of the strong lane control cards and do not have one of them yourself, this strategy with an ice wizard, musketeer, or princess does a good job of switching lanes to the one you want to attack. Of course, it isn’t always a good idea to switch lanes in the first place, but having the option and knowing the possibilities is very valuable. Note that against a properly placed lava hound, neither the musketeer nor the ice wizard can attack from the opposite lane without the help of a building to distract, and against a royal giant or sparky, the musketeer and ice wizard must be placed in risky spots near the river, where they can potentially be countered effectively by shooting them from across the river. The princess does not have to be placed in a very risky spot against any of these.
  • The ice golem can be used to kite troops into the other lane, and since he ignores troops, is incredibly cheap, and has a modest amount of HP, he is the perfect card for this function. This switch of lanes not only allows both towers to get into the action, but you can also place troops other than the aforementioned three on the far side of the map while still protecting them from whatever you’re kiting.
  • Skeletons, goblins, and guards, as well as any similar units, can pull air troops into the other lane, but they cannot set up a huge counter-push because they’re either too fast, too weak, or not meant to be used offensively.
  • The tornado can drag ranged support units into the other lane, which is very useful for splitting up lane pressure. Being able to drag a tank into the other lane is very valuable if the 3 elixir you lost wasn’t necessary for a successful defense in the new lane being pressured. It also prevents troops from splitting up if you drag them all into the lane of your choice immediately, and can persuade a troop to come into the kill zone when it was previously not targeting something there. And finally, many of us have seen the tornado dragging a troop to the king’s tower from the arena tower in order to activate the king, but remember why the king tower is so protected in the first place, and make sure you aren’t about to lose your king’s tower because you spent elixir on activating him instead of countering the troops. It can also deny a kite by dragging troops back, making the ice golem, skeletons, goblins, and guards less useful than they were before the tornado received a buff.

Opposite Lane Pressure:

We are very familiar with opposite lane pressure, but I feel that it is worth talking about to some extent so that I have a complete guide. It is attacking the opposite lane that your opponent is attacking. There are two types (which will definitely be given better names when people start talking about this)—quick and racing. The first, quick opposite lane pressure, is when you send a cheap troop or combination of troops in the opposite lane that your opponent is pressuring in an attempt to get them to spend their elixir on the other side of the map, use a card they would rather have supporting their push, or take a lot of damage on their tower. Common types of quick opposite lane pressure include sending a lone hog rider at the tower opposite the side a beatdown player is pressuring, but this can work for all cards. However, some cards are shut down more easily than others. Barbarians, the minion horde, and the bowler are all great hard counters that I will go into more detail about later in the context of double lane pressure, but for opposite lane pressure, the general rule is that if your opponent has these cards, you should not pressure the opposite lane, because you will end up with a negative elixir trade for little damage and pressure in both lanes. Obviously these cards do not counter every form of quick opposite lane pressure, so it is more important to be aware of the hard counters that exist for your potential opposite lane pressure combinations. Again, I will go into more detail about this in the context of double lane pressure. Now, quick opposite lane pressure is not limited to the opposite lane, despite the name. A tactic I like to use as a hog rider user is to play the hog rider offensively and alone in the same lane that my opponent just placed a giant in, especially if he is running a beatdown deck. Hog riders generally trade evenly with defenses, so sending one to cycle your deck and not max out on elixir is usually smart. But the real power comes when your opponent does not have a building. If you place your hog rider quickly enough after you see a troop like a giant or golem go down in the back, you may get your opponent to play his support troops in front of the tank, losing them for a better positive elixir trade in the big push they are building up than if you had to take on that card with everything else next to it.

Racing opposite lane pressure is something of a misnomer, but bear with me. It comes from the idea of racing to three crowns by building your deathball push in the opposite lane that your opponent is doing it in. This turns into a race to three crowns, even though the buildup for both pushes is slower than quick opposite lane pressure (which generally will not take three crowns). However, it is rare that this happens without either side attempting to defend the other’s push (usually resulting in trading towers). This can be very helpful when you are in a position to defend your opponent’s push with, say, a defensive rocket, and your opponent was going to beat you to three crowns had you not played it. However, most players do not like taking this risk of going all-in because of loss aversion. But it is still useful to know that this exists, since it can be a good way to beat your opponent when you cannot conventionally counter his deck, depending on the scenario.

PART TWO: Double Lane Pressure

When you think about double lane pressure, the first card that probably comes to mind is the three musketeers. These three ladies should be split up almost every time they’re placed, and for good reason. Three glass cannons, no matter what the individual units are and no matter what the tank is, should generally not be grouped together for the same reason why you wouldn’t use a skarmy offensively even if it were behind a tank—they’re weak to splash troops and spells because they’re bunched up.

Enter double lane pressure, which the three musketeers largely encouraged after people realized that while it usually doesn’t make that much sense to split a skarmy (or does it?), it makes a lot of sense to split the three musketeers to avoid giving your opponent a lot of value for his spells. And the three musketeers are priced such that the normal 6 elixir spells or spell combinations taking two of them out leaves you with the third for an equivalent cost of three elixir. The tradeoff to this is that they cost a fortune to play in the first place, they can still be wiped out by lightning if your opponent is fast enough, and they can also be taken out by a tornado-fireball combination by dragging them back together when they are initially split. Now, I am not qualified to write a guide to using this card, because I don’t use it, but not only does double lane pressure include combinations and strategies besides the three musketeers, it doesn’t require a full understanding of the three musketeers as a specific card either. If you are a master of the three musketeers, this guide will still be useful to you. Pressuring both lanes at once mostly involves making decisions as to which cards in your deck should go down which lanes, and this is the concept I am going to cover.

Double lane pressure makes everything tougher for a few reasons. When you have two lanes to focus on, whether attacking or defending, having less elixir is an issue, and having the right cards is even more important than it usually is. On defense, not only do you need to decide which defensive cards should be played, you have to decide which lane those cards should go in. Now, instead of having to consider slightly more than ¼ of the map, you must consider ½ of the map, and place more things down. In addition, luring things to the middle, which is usually what the strategy is for defending against single-lane pressure, doesn’t work as well anymore because both towers are engaged anyway. So as an offensive player, double lane pressure is valuable to you if your opponent is not able to handle one or both pushes, or if clumping your units together allows your opponent to get a large positive elixir trade. As a bonus, good double lane pressure decks do not succumb to lane control the way that single lane pressure decks do, because you’re sending troops down both lanes anyway, so you’re usually not being forced to play down the wrong lane—out of the two lanes, one must be the better one for you to pressure. Though you do still have to deal with the lane your opponent is attacking if he has one of the lane control cards from the previous part, you are not forced to play in the lane they dictate, since a double lane pressure deck would attack both lanes anyway.

The hardest part of double lane pressure is to understand what each combination of cards can do. Since we are well past the point where we ignore a knight + spear goblins push, we don’t realize just how many simple, cheap pushes can take out a tower, especially with the cards unlocked after arena 2. The list is quite long, and not worth writing out, but the point is that there’s only a small list of combinations you can ignore on your tower. Now, not every combination of cards in your 8 card hand is suitable for taking down a tower (especially if you have multiple spells), whether it’s too expensive, too weak, or just not a reasonable combination of cards. But ice spirit + musketeer is a 5 elixir push that does so much work on a tower, despite there being no tank for what is classified as a glass cannon. When building a deck that you want to use to pressure both lanes, you must be aware of which combinations in your deck cannot be reasonably ignored. For the three musketeers, you must consider up to 10 different cards, since the single musketeer lane is different from the double musketeer lane, which is different from sending all three down the same lane (though this is usually not smart). This is another reason why the three musketeers are the classic double lane pressure card—more possible combinations allows for more ways to threaten taking both towers at once.

After the three musketeers, the second most powerful card for lane pressure is the princess, because she can do an infinite amount of damage to a tower without being contested, and she will never walk into the tower’s range. For that reason, she has to be weak in terms of hitpoints, but almost every counter to her can be countered preemptively, will be a negative trade for damage and/or elixir, costs more than she does, or burns a spell you’ll probably need for something else. The only exceptions are the miner and the knight, both of which also have their utilities besides killing the princess. For this reason, placing down a princess at the river of the opposite lane you’re pressuring usually results in more than the 140 damage she gets when placed alone. The log makes things difficult for her, and the miner is a great hard counter if done right, but not if you can’t counter-push. This double lane pressure is smart for beatdown decks that usually get shut down by control decks, especially when those control decks have very specific counters and can’t afford a troop misplacement. Now, the ice wizard, musketeer, and your own princess can counter the princess and push down the opposite lane, but all of those troops are glass cannons themselves and require an investment to make their deployment worth it, especially if the princess is already hitting the tower. Of course, if you have direct counters to the princess that won’t be preemptively countered and aren’t more useful elsewhere against your opponent’s deck, they are usually better to use because they counter her for a positive elixir and/or damage trade. So for that reason, when building a double lane pressure deck with the princess, make sure that you can punish most effective counters to her.

Some More Survey Information

In the survey I took, 62% of 3 Musketeers users initially split them with two down the right lane and one down the left lane. In addition, at the time of this survey, 49.6% of responders send any given troop down the right lane first, and only 26.3% of responders send any given troop down the left lane first. The final 25% split their troops or mix it up in some way. Something I hadn’t considered but other people brought up is the fact that dominant hands might come into play, since the hand you use to play with shouldn’t cover the screen and each hand is closer to certain parts of the map. This might account for the large disparity, but I am personally right-handed and I usually send troops on the left side. Do what you will with this data, but remember that redditors do not make up the entire player base, and despite having 1078 responses to the survey, this may be somewhat unreliable considering the very large amount of players. However, it is surely a statistically significant difference for Clash Royale redditors in general.

Defensive Hard Counters

We all know them, and they can be infuriating. These are the cards that destroy single lane pressure decks, and if they are meta cards, you absolutely must have a way to deal with them. In general, these cards will completely shut down a push in one lane. Double lane pressure is one good way to address this issue (be on the lookout for a guide specifically on dealing with these hard counters for single lane pressure; it isn’t technically lane pressure so I’m not including it in this guide). In double lane pressure, because you are pressuring two lanes, hard counters are either less effective, gain a smaller positive elixir trade, or are completely ineffective depending on placement. However, since double lane pressure traditionally is an offensive strategy, players who use it must be fully aware of what the hard counters to their deck are, and play such that the opponent cannot play his hard counter(s) without taking a lot of damage on one tower or losing it entirely. In order to figure out how to prevent your opponent from taking advantage of his hard counters, it is important to understand what his hard counters are. Now, every single card can be a hard counter when used properly and when used against the correct combination of cards. I am only going to list the more potent hard counters for double lane pressure, but know that this is an incomplete list. In order to understand hard counters in general, beginner-intermediate level troop relations are critical to understand. The tough part is knowing all of them at once. Also, in an effort to not make this guide unnecessarily long, I have skimmed on the details of these cards because we generally know what they can do in the context of defense. If you want more information, feel free to ask. I did not include defenses because placing them on the side is less useful, and placing them in the middle is not smart because the troops in both lanes will target them.

  • Zap: We all know what this spell can kill and what it can’t. Its power is being able to take out groups of these troops for the cheap cost of 2 elixir.
  • Arrows: We all know what this spell can kill and what it can’t. Its power is being able to take out groups of these troops for the cost of 3 elixir.
  • Bomber: It takes out small groups of ground troops, as well as some tougher melee ground troops.
  • Barbarians: They are tanky ground troops that can stop big pushes if there is no card to address them. This is one of the best double lane pressure hard counters.
  • Minion Horde: There are not many troops that can target them, and very few of those troops can kill them effectively. This is one of the best double lane pressure hard counters.
  • Elite Barbarians: See Barbarians, except they are tankier individually and stronger against spells (except lightning, but at the same time not really). The expensive cost of 6 elixir and their lack of ability to kill huge groups of small troops make them a slightly weaker hard counter for double lane pressure.
  • Fireball: We all know what this spell can kill and what it can’t. Its power is being able to severely weaken or kill troops commonly used in double lane pressure, such as the three musketeers.
  • Valkyrie: She shuts down ground pushes supported by a tank and glass cannon effectively, but cannot do enough damage to take out a giant/golem-based push on her own.
  • Mini PEKKA: He has good synergy with the zap, and is a tank killer that is difficult to counter when used on defense.
  • Wizard: Takes out huge groups of small/medium troops very well, but is very weak unsupported and isn’t tanky enough to always survive attacks.
  • Rocket: We all know what this spell can kill and what it can’t. It’s weaker than the other spells because it costs so much elixir, but it can take out one of the two deathball pushes if your opponent decides to build up two large pushes from the back in double elixir.
  • Guards: They will counter tanks supported by a glass cannon, but not as well as a Valkyrie.
  • Skeleton Army: The skeleton army will shut down pushes without splash damage, but they are susceptible to zap, and therefore a weaker hard counter in general.
  • Bowler: One of the biggest hard counters ever, the bowler shuts down most ground pushes with ease. His problem is his cost, but he is a tanky 5 elixir card that shuts down one side of a ground-based double-lane pressure push relatively easily no matter what is sent at him.
  • The Log: It counters cheap ground-based pushes the way that zap/arrows can, for the cost of 2 elixir.

Note that Sparky and the Inferno Dragon are not bad hard counters in some cases, but they are susceptible to zap, making them a very risky hard counter and not one worth using reliably as a hard counter.

How do you deal with these cards? The simple answer is to either make them too expensive to play, make the opponent waste the card elsewhere, or catch the opponent without it in his rotation. Unfortunately, the last idea does not work for double lane pressure, because your opponent will rotate back to hard counters faster. You have to spend more elixir to put pressure on both lanes, at which point your opponent will usually have recovered. And while the second option might work for zap-bait decks, wasting a card elsewhere is also hard to punish because of the amount of elixir you need to spend in order to put significant pressure on both lanes at once. So the first option is best—make them too expensive to play. The bolded hard counters are four or five elixir (and the Valkyrie is less effective than the others anyway). 4-5 elixir spent on defense sounds good, but not if you have to spend that much or more in the other lane, especially when timing is everything. This is where those smaller pushes come in handy. By creating double lane pressure pushes that cost less elixir but can each do severe damage to a tower, you are forcing your opponent to spread his resources thin. You will also sometimes catch them without that card in rotation if you make cheaper pushes. And finally, making pushes that have identical hard counters is also powerful, because hard counters can only be played one at a time. Mirroring them costs 9 or 11 elixir in total, which is usually too expensive for playing defense in double lane pressure. However, being too aggressive to force your opponent to pick a lane to hard counter is a risky move if you do not know your opponent’s deck, because some people carry more than one good hard counter to whatever you are pushing with. For the entire battle, you need to be aware of what your opponent’s hard counters are and how to deal with them.

Playing in the Middle

No, there is not a third bridge. But when we have left and right, there’s also the middle, and it’s worth talking about for the purposes of this guide. Now, most of us are already aware of some tactics we can employ by placing troops in the middle, but I encourage you to read on anyway and maybe learn something new.

So first of all, what even is playing in the middle? I define it as placing troops such that they target whatever is in the middle of the map on the opponent’s side first, then go for one of the towers. Actually placing a troop in the center of the map is impossible, but the range and pathing of troops can allow you to send them or their projectiles over the river and towards the enemy’s troops, buildings, or towers.

Tactics To Use:

  • The inferno tower is a building that locks onto one unit and does devastating damage over time. But if it locks onto weak units first, it will rarely be able to reach maximum damage before it is taken down. In order to make an inferno tower relatively inactive, you can place small troops like minions or the minion horde in the middle of the map so when the inferno tower is placed in the middle, it will not lock onto the tank first.
  • That’s child’s play for most of us. A tactic that I suspect has been forgotten is getting air troops to fly to the middle to damage a lingering defense without being targeted by the crown tower, or placing troops in the middle such that they will help damage those middle structures or troops. Imagine playing a mini PEKKA offensively, and your opponent lures him to the side (somewhat near to the river) with spear goblins, or goblins, or skeletons. The next time you play the mini PEKKA at the bridge, instead of having to guess exactly when the troops will show up to zap them, proactively play a wizard at the river in the middle. He will instantly take out any small troops that spawn in his range, and it will be tough to recover from the shock and the sudden elixir loss. Or if a furnace or other spawner is placed too close to the river, snipe it from your side of the map with a musketeer, an ice wizard, archers, etc. The princess already does the same thing. We just don’t see it the same way. By the way, the royal giant is also awesome at this with his huge range, so he can be very effective against spawners or lazily placed defenses.
  • But I think the most valuable piece of information to be gained from knowing how to play in the middle is from knowing the hog rider. If you are playing against the furnace, goblin hut, barbarian hut, inferno tower, or bomb tower, when properly placed, all of them will kill the hog rider before he kills them with some health to spare. But that’s for a hog rider placed at the river. The hog rider’s jump ability is so useful, and this is where it can be powerful—if you place the hog rider in the middle, he will jump the river and head for the nearest tower. Your opponent should probably be countering with one of those defenses if you know he has one of them as his only building. The hog rider will survive for longer and get more hits off of the buildings when he is placed near the middle. Why? He has less distance to travel, and is in the tower’s range for a shorter amount of time before he gets to it. You can always place a defense so that both towers will be in range of the hog rider. This odd placement can throw off defensive placement, and could prevent both towers from targeting him in cases where your opponent is thrown off guard and places the defense very badly. And the hog rider isn’t targeted while he jumps the river, so there is no need to worry about proactive inferno towers gaining a big advantage, because they don’t. This kills the defensive structures more effectively, which is very useful for countering spawners and will give you an opportunity to attack earlier when playing against the bomb tower and inferno tower, since they will run out of health quicker.
  • Other tactics using the hog rider’s jump and the middle of the arena include sending the hog rider in the middle to bypass one of the hard counters such as the bowler and barbarians, which block the hog rider from reaching the tower. Additionally, if your opponent has a collector placed in the middle, and you want to fireball/poison the collector and whatever support units he drops to defend against the hog rider, dropping the hog rider in the middle gets people to place troops between the tower and the collector. And melee troops will get into range of a fireball/poison that hits a centrally-placed collector if the hog rider is slightly towards the middle of the map.

So overall, while there may only be two lanes that can’t be broken by any number of rockets, double lane pressure and playing in the middle make it so much more complicated than that. In the third and final part of this guide, I will be writing about how lane pressure works when you are up or down towers, since the lanes change for you.

PART THREE: Lane Pressure When It’s Not 0-0

The first two parts of this guide assume a 0-0 game. However, not every crown is taken before overtime. If you are going to understand lane pressure, it is important to understand when the parameters change. The rules are not as simple as they seem, so even though you already know how powerful a royal giant is in a 1-1 scenario, I promise that this guide will be helpful beyond what we all already know.

I made a spreadsheet for this third part because it’s the best way to present information. Keep in mind that these are general guidelines, and some must contradict each other because of how the spreadsheet is designed. Remember to be a smart player and use your judgment at all times. The actual words in this guide will help you more than the spreadsheet when you need to make a snap decision. Also, I highly recommend you have the spreadsheet up while reading this part, because it will make everything more clear.

We’ve all been down a tower at one point in a battle. In order to win when we are currently losing, we must take out either the king tower or both arena towers (and maybe also the king tower). But we generally do not take those two arena towers down at the same time, because no opponent will really ever let us. This creates two possible 1-1 scenarios. The parallel scenario occurs when both standing arena towers are in the same lane, and the diagonal scenario occurs when both standing arena towers are in opposite lanes. But does that even matter? Of course it does. Once we get into intermediate level gameplay and beyond, almost every push is eventually shut down, and then a counter-push is created. What makes a counter-push strong is the use of troops previously used to defend as part of an offensive force. And the lane a counter-push goes down is very important for the flow of the game, especially in a 1-1 scenario.

The king tower is almost always tougher to take down than the second arena tower for a few reasons. The first is that there is more HP given to the king tower (preventing spell siege from just going for 3 crowns instead of 1), and the second is that the king tower is tougher to get to than the second arena tower because of the minimum possible distance the troops have to travel. This difference may be small, but if it makes a big difference every time, it should be used every time. The catch? Securing 3 crowns ends the game. That difference will be important for determining the general optimal strategy for some of these categories. But of course, remember that these examples are completely ignorant of tower damage already done and timing of the battle. Whether you should change your strategy to target the weaker tower because you have 10 seconds left is also determined by your experience in the game, and I can’t possibly give a full breakdown with either of these things taken into account. Make sure, again, to be smart players and use the knowledge you already have on top of this general guideline in order to make the best decisions in the heat of the moment.

How to Apply Lane Pressure With your Win Conditions:

Down 1-0, you obviously must take at least one tower to win. But which tower is better to take if you have the choice? Is it the parallel tower, or the diagonal one? Well, for most decks, taking out the parallel tower is the better option because of how well they benefit from counter-pushing compared to the opponent’s general deck. This is true for spell siege decks because of the chip damage from straggling troops, the mortar, spawners, the PEKKA, the Giant Skeleton, and the Sparky. This is also true for the royal giant, lava hound, giant, and golem, since although troops placed in the offensive attack spot can get support from both sides, you want counter-pushing units to walk down the lane with the arena tower. Not only can they hit more targets placed to defend against the tank, they can hit the arena tower as well. And those units can also be used to tank an offensive push and create a strong counter-push in the same lane, while they might be punished for being placed in the other lane with limited ability to defend For the Balloon and Miner, it is best to go for the diagonal 1-1 scenario. Both generate their own attacks, and are good at catching opponents without a counter (which is more likely to happen when the counter was just played in the other lane). Neither takes advantage of the offensive attack spot, and they mostly cannot counter-push for massive amounts of damage (while the miner can, that damage is reduced with one tower gone, and good players will prevent huge counter-pushes with the miner from happening). The majority of their damage comes from simply attacking, so they would rather not have to deal with counter-pushes. The hog rider also generates his own attack, and can be punished in a counter-push more easily than other cards, but he can also benefit from a counter-push himself. When you are using the hog rider against a deck with strong lane control, it is usually best to avoid counter-pushes and go for a diagonal tower, and when facing a deck with weak lane control, it is usually best to take advantage of the ability to counter-push. And finally, the x-bow (and the mortar) work well in a parallel scenario as opposed to a diagonal one, since if you are in a diagonal scenario, the opponent will just drop troops on top of the x-bow.

Up 1-0, the general rule is to just play defense. After all, that’s what wins the battle when you are winning. But sometimes it is impossible to play defense enough to succeed. If you have to give up one tower, refer to the data to the immediate left, though you will rarely have a say as to which tower your opponent will take. Is there a time when you should be pressuring the second arena tower in anticipation of losing one of yours? For giant, lava hound, and royal giant users, that time is usually as soon as possible. Since those decks are very good at securing 2 crowns very quickly, getting a head start is rarely a bad idea, especially against another of those decks. Decks that create weaker offenses won’t be able to take a tower as quickly either, so pressuring the second tower can be the first priority for those players, as long as they’re not creating an opportunity for a counter-push they won’t be able to handle. Other deck archetypes should also try this in some situations, but they are more limited than the first three, and all of the other archetypes should try to play defense first.

At 1-1, whether parallel or diagonally, the general rule is to take the second crown. As I said, there are certainly exceptions, but this is the general rule for all archetypes. How exactly to take out those towers requires only knowledge of the fundamentals of pushing and counter-pushing, so it’s nothing I need to discuss.

Down 2-1, the story changes. Rarely are we ever in this situation unless the game just ended, so what to do is not entirely clear at first. Obviously tying up the game is a priority if time is running short, but if you are given enough time, you have a decision to make: Do you take out the second tower forcing a 2-2 tie, or do you attempt to race for 3, knowing that your opponent may get a head start that you’ll have a tough time recovering from if you take their arena tower first? Well, defending when you’re down two crowns is quite unique, since you can be attacked from all sides. But assuming that you are on an even ground if you happen to take the second arena tower, most deck archetypes should try to take the second tower first, since they will be in a generally good position to get 3 crowns in a 2-2 tie compared to other archetypes or each other, and the residual push from getting 2 crowns can allow you to catch up to the opponent even if you were behind. The exceptions to this rule are when you’re using spawners, the mortar, the x-bow, and spell siege. Spawners require protection to be effective over time, and that is severely limited when you are down two crowns. The mortar and x-bow need to be placed in enemy territory in order to target the king tower, and won’t be targeted by the other arena tower anyway, so there isn’t much of a point in taking out the other arena tower first. And spell siege is just wasting elixir and time by damaging a tower that they don’t need to kill if they are going to win.

Up 2-1, the game is usually easy. Pressure for 3 crowns and defend your own king tower, except you have an advantage of a whole extra tower. Or just play defense in what is usually an easy scenario to play defense in—you have two towers and the battle is on your side of the map. Either choice is usually fine, though both are prone to failure, and again, this kind of decision should be made based on your experience in the game. But in general, play defense first if possible.

And finally, tied 2-2, the tables turn on the royal giant and lava hound. Since neither can do damage on their own that isn’t returned for more damage the other way, they are forced to counter-push an opponent’s attack as opposed to just pressuring the opponent, since they cannot accumulate damage quickly enough in an even scenario. They are joined by the mortar and x-bow, which need the strength of a counter-push to hit the king’s tower at all, and spell siege, which cannot afford to waste elixir and needs every bit of damage from every unit possible in order to win. Meanwhile, for the giant and golem, pressuring for a quick 3 is usually the better way to go—neither archetype can defend well-enough to prevent 3 crowns, or if they can in some instances, going for the king’s tower before defending your own is usually the better move for the classic beatdown decks. For the others, your priority is a tossup based on what the opponent has, how much damage is on each tower, and what can do damage for both of you. In the end the king’s tower goes down from a combination of both for all of these remaining archetypes.

How to Apply Lane Pressure Against the Opponent’s Win Conditions:

Now that we know which 1-1 scenarios are preferred for the opponent using each win condition, the general rule is to take the tower that puts them in a worse position. Now, sometimes this interferes with your own goals of an offensive strategy. However, since you will likely be behind by the time you even things up at 1-1, usually it is better to set up a worse scenario for your opponent so it is tougher for him to take another crown. Of course there are exceptions, and you should consider how effectively you and your opponent could take another crown based on the information in the earlier parts of this guide as well as your knowledge of the game. The rules for some of these cards can flip depending on what they’re paried with, so make sure you understand the utilities provided by each card and how easy it will be for them to take a tower in various scenarios. Again, this is a guideline based on the typical scenario, but that isn’t necessarily the same as the current meta scenario. I could provide examples, but you’d be reading all week, so use your own games as examples for learning this concept and whether you should make it easy on yourself on difficult on your opponent in these various scenarios:

Down 1-0, you should force a diagonal 1-1 scenario against a royal giant, lava hound, giant, golem, sparky, giant skeleton, PEKKA, spawners, or spell siege. I bring all of these up in the context of counter-pushing since you are playing against something and not with something, but obviously you should not be waiting for your opponent to attack before trying to take a tower if there’s 10 seconds left. All of these archetypes benefit from a counter-push in a parallel 1-1 scenario, and are more difficult to execute in a diagonal scenario. You should also attempt to force a diagonal scenario against an x-bow or mortar, since you will be able to place troops on top of those siege buildings. For the balloon and miner, you should generally set up a parallel 1-1 scenario in order to throw them off, and the same goes for scenarios against a hog rider when you have strong lane control. However, if you have weak lane control, you are better off in a diagonal 1-1 scenario.

Up 1-0, the goal is to play defense, no matter what you’re facing. The longer the battle goes on, the longer you will have to make good decisions. Make it easy on yourself and try to play defense if you can hold off your opponent, but do not forget that some win conditions are better at taking another crown than others.

Tied at 1-1, the goal is still to take another arena tower. The cards that are best at taking a second crown are also good cards for taking a third crown, which is useful to keep in mind, but know that it is generally easier to take the other arena tower first.

Down 2-1, it is almost always smart to target the king tower when possible, since most of the cards you would be fighting at 2-2 can get a good lead on taking the third crown. Unless you have to play for a tie because of lack of time, taking the third crown against each of these cards is generally the way to go, because they are good at taking the third arena tower quickly when the are up 2-1. The exceptions to this are spawners, the mortar, and the x-bow, since all of them require a lot of elixir at once to operate properly once a tower is down, and the mortar and x-bow can’t be very aggressive when they have to be placed in enemy territory. Now, playing with spell siege down 2-1, it is better to go for the king tower, so playing against it, you need to spend as many resources as possible taking out the king tower if they have a lead on damage. Spell siege is usually good at playing defense and converting elixir advantages directly into tower damage, so you need to end the battle soon. Depending on your offensive power and your opponent’s defensive power, you might want to go for 2 crowns instead to tie it up, but in general going for 3 is the better option.

Up 2-1, playing defense against all of these cards is usually more useful. You need a lot of elixir all at once to take out the king tower because of how far away it is, and if you sacrifice that much elixir, your opponent could surprise you with the same race to 3, and maybe win. Playing defense is usually the better option, and it’s easier than playing defense when it’s 1-0 because you have an extra tower and their troops are further from their own arena towers. Use that to your advantage.

And finally, tied 2-2, since the game changes for the royal giant and lava hound, you can leave them alone as long as you handle their support troops, and push for 3 first. Giant and golem decks are too strong and too fast to ignore, so you must counter-push against them. And for the x-bow, mortar, and spell siege, there is little they can do to take 3 crowns unless you let them play at their pace, so pressuring for 3 crowns is the better option. For the others, there are a lot of variables to consider, and you will probably end up doing a combination of both pressuring and counter-pushing in order to get the third crown.

Conclusion

This guide is mostly theoretical, which means that a lot of mastering this topic comes from actually playing the game. I apologize for being vague at times, but there are just too many combinations to talk about every one (which is a good thing), and it makes learning more valuable to you if you figure everything out yourself. You will also retain the information better. This is just a guide, and it’s not meant to be a type of lecture. I hope that as an aspiring educator I did a good job explaining everything to people.

Lane Pressure is just one of many aspects of the game that cannot be purely theoretical. I’ve written almost 12 thousand words on the topic in just these 3 guides (kudos to all of you who read everything, seriously), yet I doubt you’ll take away anything from these guides unless you apply the concepts I’ve talked about in your battles. It won’t be easy to do, trust me. But if you can take away just a part of what this guide has to offer, you might even figure out the rest on your own. I hope you all enjoyed this guide that I spend so much time on, and I encourage you to keep learning and keep clashing. Thank you again for reading.

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