Hi everyone. I'm a relatively new Lords Mobile player (around three months of experience), but I do a lot of reading and I've noticed that many players, even some with much more might than me, struggle with rallying Darknests.
This guide will not be very helpful if you're already comfortable running Darknest rallies.
This guide also does not cover how to have stronger rallies (increase your military research, upgrade your Embassy and Battle Hall, unlock and build Tier 3 or Tier 4 troops).
But if you have never run a Darknest before, or if you aren't sure whether you're doing it right, then this guide is for you.
Steps to Rallying a Darknest
Step 1: Scout the Darknest
Step 2: Pick your Troops
Step 3: Pick your Leader, Heroes, and Items
Step 1: Scouting the Darknest
Always scout first! The only time you should hit a Darknest without scouting is if the Darknest is about a full tier below your usual targets. If you easily run level 3 Darknests then you can probably do level 2 Darknests blind. You'll generally only do this to clear Darknest quests for guild fest. You don't really care about selecting the "right" Darknest for the quest when you're just going to blow through it anyway.
The information you receive from your scout will depend on the level of your Intelligence Report research in the Military tree. The higher your research the more information you receive and the more accurate that information becomes.
At a minimum you want a sense of what kinds of troops the Darknest focuses on. Does it have a lot of Cavalry? Maybe it has no Ranged troops. This is information that you will use to pick the composition of your rally.
Keep in mind that the scouting report will underestimate how many troops are in the Darknest, sometimes by a very large degree if your research is low.
Here are two sample Darknests that we will refer to throughout this guide.
As we can see, Darknest 1 has a lot of Infantry, a fair amount of Ranged troops, and no Cavalry.
Darknest 2 has a mix of everything, with a large focus on Cavalry, and relatively few Ranged troops.
Step 2: Picking your Troops
This is the most involved step. There are two basic ways to pick compositions. Both give you the same result, although I've found some people are more comfortable with one method over the other.
a) Begin with no troops, then add in the troop types that counter the enemy.
b) Begin with all your troops, then take away the troop types that don't counter the enemy.
Remember that Infantry counters Ranged, Ranged counters Cavalry, and Cavalry counters Infantry.
Take a look at Darknest 1. It has Infantry, Ranged, and no Cavalry.
Using the first method, we start with an blank slate, then we think: "I will add Cavalry to counter the enemy Infantry, and Infantry to counter the enemy Ranged troops."
Using the second method, we start with our full army, then we think: "I have Infantry, Ranged, and Cavalry. But my Ranged troops have no enemy Cavalry to counter, so I will take them out."
We get to the same place using both methods: we will send Infantry and Cavalry, but no Ranged troops.
Now look at Darknest 2. It has a mix of every type of troop. What should we send?
The most basic approach is to just send everything you have. It has every type of troop so you might as well send everything. This approach is useful when the darknest level is low. At low levels you probably don't have much flexibility with troop compositions so you may as well send everything.
If you want to be more precise, you can tailor your troop composition to mirror the enemy troop composition. We see that Darknest 2 has a heavy focus on Cavalry and very few Ranged troops. So even if we send every kind of troop, we will probably want more Ranged troops in our rally (to counter the Cavalry), and fewer Infantry (because there are fewer enemy Ranged troops). A composition using this method might have 40% Ranged, 30% Cavalry, 20% Infantry, 10% Siege.
You can tailor it even further. Maybe there are so few Ranged troops in the Darknest that you want to just ignore them. You could treat the Darknest as if it were only Infantry and Cavalry, in which case you would send Cavalry and Ranged troops. A composition using this method might look like 50% Ranged, 40% Cavalry, 10% Siege.
At the most extreme level you can ignore the small amount of enemy Ranged troops, treat the Darknest as if it were only Infantry and Cavalry, and then only send Cavalry. Why Cavalry? Because Cavalry counters the enemy Infantry, and fights on even ground with the enemy Cavalry (remember that we're ignoring the enemy Ranged). You can't send only Infantry because they get countered by the enemy Cavalry, and you can't send only Ranged because they get countered by the enemy Infantry.
Why would you cut down on your troop types? The primary benefit is that you can concentrate all your bonuses on fewer troop types, making them more powerful. This is only relevant when you have very powerful specific bonuses (Gold Heroes, Gold items) that you can concentrate on one troop type.
The most obvious downside is that you might not fill your rally if you exclude one or more types of troops. Does your guild have enough players with enough troops that you can fill it even if you only ask for one or two troop types? If not, then maybe some Infantry and Ranged is better than ending up with a half-filled rally.
Step 2b: Picking your Troops - Army mechanics
Why isn't 1 troop always better than an empty spot in your rally? In Darknest 2, even though there are only a few enemy Ranged troops, isn't one Infantry troop still better than an empty spot in the rally?
Maybe. The reason is because battles work based on morale. When a unit dies then that army loses morale. When an army's morale reaches 0 then that army loses. It doesn't matter if the army has a million troops left alive, if enough troops die then the army loses. For that reason you don't want to send cannon fodder that will just die without doing much work for your army (against Darknests). It will cause you to lose morale quickly and push you closer to a loss.
Suppose you want to rally Darknest 2, your rally has 100k Sharpshooters (T2 Ranged) and 100k Reptilian Riders (T2 Cavalry), and you have the option of adding on 20k Gladiators (T2 Infantry). Should you?
There is one very good reason to bring the Gladiators and one very good reason to leave them out. This is the trickiest part of troop compositions, in my opinion.
The biggest reason to leave them out is that if your Gladiators clash directly with the 70k enemy T2 Cavalry and the 100k T1 Cavalry (most likely the numbers are closer to 100k and 150k) then your Infantry will get destroyed and cost you a lot of morale.
The biggest reason to bring them into the rally is that Ranged troops are special. They are special in two ways. They rarely get attacked (except by traps) because of their range, as long as you have other units in front of them. And they can attack from the wall.
Why does this matter? Suppose we leave out our Infantry in the rally against Darknest 2 because we feel that there are so few Ranged troops that we'll ignore them in order to focus on two troop types. What will happen in the battle? Our troops will attack the wall. Our Cavalry will be in the front. And as long as the wall holds, the enemy Ranged troops will be attacking our Cavalry for extra damage (Ranged counters Cavalry). Defending Ranged troops are more effective than they appear because they "borrow" the effectiveness of the wall.
The special nature of Ranged troops also applies on attack. Look back at Darknest 1. Remember that we left out our Ranged troops because there were no enemy Cavalry for them to counter. But we could include them for a little bit of added damage, more than an empty spot would contribute. The downside is that they will get hit by the Skyscraper traps and cost us morale that way. Darknest 1 is also heavily focused on Infantry, so our Ranged troops won't add much damage at all. After balancing these factors we would not bring Ranged troops in our rally. But if Darknest 1 was 90% Ranged and 10% Infantry, and there were few Skyscraper traps, and we needed troops to fill empty spots in the rally, then we might prefer Ranged troops over an empty spot even though there's no Cavalry for them to counter. These situations very rarely occur, so it's safer to just never bring troops that don't counter the enemy.
As a consequence of the above, some of the easiest Darknests are the ones that don't have any Ranged troops. A Darknest with only Infantry + Cavalry is easily countered by Cavalry + Ranged and you get to break down the wall in relative peace (only Siege and Traps will hit you).
As another consequence of this, Infantry formations have higher than expected value against Darknests because you want your Infantry in front taking the shots from defending Ranged troops while you break down the wall.
Step 3: Picking your Leader, Heroes, and Items
You should almost always send your leader on Darknest rallies. You can leave your Leader out if the Darknest is very easy for you and you don't want the small window of vulnerability you'll have between the time your rally returns and you shelter your leader.
The reason you should send your leader is because the bonuses you get from Talents and from Items only apply if your leader is present. Here is a screenshot of my newbie stats, you can view your stats by clicking the magnifying glass in the profile screen that comes up when you click your leader's portrait. Your rally will use the white stats if your Leader is not in the rally (this mostly comes from research), and it will use the green stats if your Leader is in the rally (this is mostly a combination of research, talents, and gear bonuses).
There's a big difference! This can easily mean the difference between victory and defeat on a tough Darknest.
You would be surprised at how many rallies I join, see that the rally leader is in proper war gear, only to find out in the Defeat battle report that they kept their leader at home. That means the gear did nothing!
In addition to sending your leader, you should also send a full party of other heroes to accompany the rally. The most important factor is their Battle Skills. Here are the battle skills for Trickster, Rose Knight, and Tracker.
What do you notice?
Trickster doesn't do anything. You would not believe how many T4 players I have seen lead a rally with a Gold Trickster as one of the heroes. Don't be like them. Gold is not always the best. Focus on the Battle skills.
For example, Rose Knight gives bonuses to your entire army regardless of troop type, so she is suitable for nearly every rally.
While Tracker only gives bonuses to Ranged troops, so send her only if you have a lot of Ranged troops.
Keep in mind that battle skills grow in power as you increase the grade (grey, green, blue, purple, gold) of the hero. A Gold Tracker is better than a Blue Rose Knight if your army is mostly Ranged.
This means that your Leader should have appropriate battle skills. Trickster is a bad leader (if you run rallies) because you either send him and he contributes nothing, or you don't send him and so you don't get the benefit of talents or items. Trickster doesn't have to be your leader to give you his research and energy bonuses so switch him out if you rally! In contrast, Rose Knight is a great leader if you run rallies because you will almost always send her.
You can ignore this advice if you don't run rallies and don't attack people. In that case then you want your leader to be a hero that you will never use (for hero stages or monster hunting) so that you can keep them in the Shelter 24/7.
Here is a quick cheat sheet for free to play heroes and the troops they help.
Full army bonuses:
Rose Knight, Bombin' Goblin (Chaos Dragon and the Watcher are extremely good, but take a long time to get).
Oathkeeper (best), Demon Hunter (best), Sea Squire, Soul Forger, Scarlet Bolt (very weak), Shade (very weak).
Tracker (best), Snow Queen (best), Death Archer, Black Crow.
Child of Light (best), Night Raven (best), Death Knight, Sage of Storms (very weak).
Items are incredibly easy compared to the above. Pick items that give bonuses to the troops you're sending. Bingo you're done!
I hope this helps someone out there, maybe it will help them avoid the awkwardness of losing an Infantry + Cavalry rally because they sent Trickster and Tracker and kept their Death Knight leader at home. Not that this has ever happened. The rallies described in this guide are fictitious. Any similarity to any rallies run by persons living or dead is merely coincidental.