Halo Wars 2 advanced PvP guide

The Banished forces.
The Banished forces. (Image credit: Windows Central)

While Halo Wars 2 can seem simple at first, there's actually quite a few advanced skills that are important in the higher level styles of play. When you go up against a player who has mastered the basic fundamentals of the game, knowledge of next-level tactics will determine whether you're looking at a victory or defeat screen at the end of the match. Here are three of the most crucial things you'll need to be proficient in to win the day against skilled opponents.

If you haven't checked out our player-versus-player (PvP) beginner's guide, however, make sure to have a look at that first.

Halo Wars 2 PvP beginner's guide

In this guide, we're going to cover the following:

Target prioritization: Take them out, one by one

Focusing your army's fire onto specific targets can help kill the enemy quicker, giving you the advantage.

A big tactic that will give you a massive engagement in army battles is prioritizing targets. To prioritize a target means to have multiple units only attack one target. An example of this is as follows: a Scorpion and two Marines versus three Banshees. If you were to let the armies fight without selecting a specific target, the Banshees would end up destroying the Scorpion before the Marines killed them. However, if you had both of your Marines shooting a Banshee at the same time, they would each die significantly faster, and your Scorpion would survive the engagement because you took out the anti-vehicular threat much faster.

This strategy extends all the way up to full army engagements. For example, if the enemy has a Scarab surrounded by a legion of Grunt infantry, you will want to have your own forces all focus fire on the Scarab super unit. If you instead let your army auto-target the Grunts, the Scarab will be able to avoid damage easier and thus will do significantly more damage to your army.

In general, both hero and super units (like the Condor gunship) are targets that need to be prioritized in battles.

In general, both hero and super units (like the Condor gunship) are targets that need to be prioritized in battles.

You don't have to have your entire army choose one target, however. You can have sections of your army target different specific enemies in order to burn through their forces even faster. Of course, it all depends on the situation in regards to what you should target. However, simply making a point in doing so whenever you can improves your chances of success substantially.

Unit micromanagement: Keep your units at peak efficiency

Successfully micromanaging your forces will both improve their efficiency in combat and their life span.

Another hugely vital skill to learn in Halo Wars 2 is unit micromanagement. Micromanagement refers to individual orders you give to units to help them fight stronger and last longer. One type of micromanagement is learning to send hurt units to the back of your forces and let more healthy units take the front line damage. This helps to ensure each unit has a much better chance of surviving, while also keeping the injured units out of the line of fire. This strategy is very useful because units in the back of the engagement can still fire on the enemy, but the AI of the enemy units will usually target the units in the front. Cycling your units like this can make the difference in an engagement.

Another type of micromanagement is ordering your units to surround the enemy army. When the two armies meet, order the left and right sides of your army to flank while having your army's own back line move up and take the position of the now-flanking front line troops. By having your army surround the enemy's, you effectively box them in and prevent them from changing their positions. From there, the enemy player is forced to use movement leader abilities like Teleport to escape, or damage support abilities like Pelican Gunships to try and punch a hole in your "wall." Even if they succeed, you will have the advantage in engagements to come; they have wasted one or more leader powers just to overcome your superior positioning, while you didn't have to use any of yours.

The last type of micromanagement we're going to go over is fanning your units out. To do this, quickly select a quarter of your army with the group select tool and send them off in a direction. Do this for your entire army to quickly spread them out. This is extremely useful for reducing the effects of area of effect leader powers like Glassing Beam, Plasma Bolt or Archer Missiles. It can also be helpful for surrounding enemy forces using the strategy discussed above. While this may seem like a simple and easy tactic, learning how to quickly select each quarter of your army is difficult and will take some practice. But once you master it, you will find yourself taking significantly fewer casualties from leader powers and other area of effect attacks.

There are many other forms of micromanagement; however, these three are the most important ones to learn in order to improve your chances of success in Halo Wars 2.

Defending against a rush: Push back the early assaults

Rushes can seem unfair but you can counter-attack them easier than you think.

The last skill today that we're going to cover is combating a rush. A rush is a type of strategy in which the enemy player sacrifices a strong economic foundation for a large army in the early game. Basically, all this means is that the player is choosing to make their middle and late game efficiency weaker in order to make them strong in the first few minutes of the game. Typically, enemies rush with infantry, though sometimes hordes of scout vehicles are used as well.

Getting rushed as you try to build up your own economy can be scary, and if you don't respond in kind the rush will destroy you. However, you can take steps to combat the rush quite effectively once it begins happening. One important thing is to have a Barracks/Raid camp structure. This will allow you to produce infantry. Both the Banished and UNSC have access to both strong anti-infantry and anti-vehicle infantry units, so if the enemy attacks you while you're building up your resource gathering, sacrifice one of your resource buildings and replace it with an infantry unit producing building and begin making units that counter what the enemy is using to rush. In addition, you'll also want to make Marines or Grunts from your base's main structure in order to augment your counter units in combating the rush. They're cheap and quick to make, so there's no reason not to.

Lastly, turrets can be an effective choice against rushes as well. While their damage alone won't counter the rush, they pose a serious threat to the enemy attackers due to their durability and constant damage per second (DPS). Enemies will have to choose to either destroy the turret or ignore it, and no matter what they do they will have to face damage from either the turret or your units the entire time. Keep in mind that the enemy units also have to walk all the way from their base to yours, meaning enemy reinforcements will take a long time to reach you.

Because the enemy has to commit their full economy into pumping out as many units as possible, their economy will be weakened severely due to their lack of resources. This leaves you with an opportunity to counter rush and crush them while they are weak. Take advantage of this, and you will often find yourself winning games very quickly. Learning how to counter a rush will be one of your most important skills as you face players who like to try the tactic on the inexperienced.

Your thoughts

Has this advanced guide helped you in the Halo Wars 2 PvP battlefield? Let us know in the comments below. And if you haven't picked it up already, make sure to check out the acclaimed Halo Wars 2 now (about $32).

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.