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The best RTS units of all time [ClassicRadar]

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We love the RTS genre. We love the maps, the sound effects, the strategies, the buildings, the units, and if youve been following GamesRadar for a while, you know that we also love remembering things. What better time than now, just after the release of StarCraft II, to remember our favorite RTS units?

Alright, so this may not be an objective list of the best RTS units ever, but thats a who would win in a fight, Superman or Will Smith if Will Smiths ability to make cheesy movie tie-in songs translated to physical strength, kind of argument. These are, however, some of the personal favorites of our editors. Lets reminisce!

Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness' Death Knight

When your faction choice is between bland ol humans or bloodthirsty creatures of the night, youd better believe we're siding with the latter. Instead of pale skinned, faux British imperialists, we want bone-cracking dragons or, in this case, a rotting corpse animated with black magic. From the moment you hear them yell Im aliiiiiive to their first blast of Death and Decay against a wave of invading humans, the Death Knights project fear and panic into all who oppose you.

The aforementioned Death and Decay was a brutal attack, inflicting reasonable area damage to any units in the vicinity. Even better is Haste, which made a target unit move and act more quickly, and then Raise Dead turned corpses into puny (but numerous) skeletons under your control. Like most other units, Death Knights dish out the damage, but do it in a fittingly grotesque way, making them our favorite thing to cast in Warcraft II.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert's Yak

Weve always liked taking war to the air sometimes to our detriment. Our tactic was almost always strategically unsound. Aircraft are expensive and finicky, and if ground units reach the airfields and helipads, its all over, so putting all of your resources into air is usually a horrible mistake. But we didnt care. The idea of amassing armies of planes and helicopters was just too appealing.

We blocked out the sun with our Yaks. They werent fast. They didnt do much to armored vehicles or buildings. But dammit, we loved the little buggers.

The only thing we didnt like about Yaks? They couldnt fight each other in the air. We desperately wanted dog fights, so we spent hours attempting to mod the feature in using Red Alerts well-known configuration file, rules.ini. We think we got it to work at one point kind of. We also made attack dogs that barked rockets. Red Alert was awesome.

Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun's Devil's Tongue Flame Tank

This is exactly what we always wanted from a tank. No really. Our favorite tank-related fantasy was always of a tank which could burrow underground and emerge in the enemys base. And to sweeten things more, this tank shoots flames!

Not everyone liked the funky-looking NOD vehicle, but we were instantly big fans. The Devil's Tongue may not have won us any matches, but it could really piss people off. And sometimes aggravating the hell out of your friend is more important than winning.

The Civilization series' Ironclad

Before anyone runs to the comments to point that Civilization is not an RTS, we know that. But turn-based or not, Civilization should be represented in this list, and we're not about to change the article's headline just to avoid confronting this technicality. No, no... it's much easier to write a paragraph explaining ourselves. Dammit. Oh right, the Ironclad.

The Ironclad is awesome. Sure it doesn't look like much, but it's a solid sea force and it only has one purpose: destroy everything. That's the kind of industrialist thinking we like! The Industrial Age, by the way, is many of our writers' favorite age (aside from 19, that was a good year for everyone right?). We just love all that coal and steam, even though it was co-opted by the steampunk fad (let's put knobs and pipes and brass thingamajigs on everything!).

To better understand why we love this seemingly bland unit, check out what a real, American Civil War ironclad (opens in new tab) looked like.

Warcraft III's Tauren

The Tauren is what inspired many to finally settle on the Orcs as their primary race after seeing a pack of them lumbering across the battlefield. Its one thing to use minotaurs as units, but its quite another to give them Native American-inspired culture and then have them carry freaking totem poles as weapons. These guys stomp into enemy ranks, hefting their mighty totems on their shoulders, and when they attack, you can really feel the weight and power of their weapons slamming home on unfortunate enemies. To top it off, they can learn a special ability called Pulverize where theyll randomly bash their totems into the ground, causing an area-of-effect shockwave that does horrific damage.

Tauren also synergize beautifully with the Orcs spellcaster units. The Shamans Bloodlust speeds up their attacks, meaning more chances to Pulverize. The Witchdoctors Healing Ward regenerates a percentage of total health every second, so the Tauren regenerates ridiculously faster than other units. And finally, the Spirit Walker, a tauren caster, has the Ancestral Spirit spell, which brings a dead Tauren back to life with full health. There is nothing more terrifying than watching multiple Tauren rise from death, instantly crashing the ground with Pulverize attacks.

Defense of the Ancients' Razor

Defense of the Ancients (aka DotA) is a popular Warcraft III mod. In this special multiplayer mode, the goal is to push your way through the opponents defenses to assault their home base. The bases are separated by three lanes, with waves of NPC units from both camps crashing into each other in the middle of the map. Each player controls a special hero unit, which grows stronger over time by leveling-up and purchasing gear from shops on the map.

One of the most popular DotA units is Razor; youll almost always see at least one player choose him in just about every game. His lightning attacks deal major damage, but hes also great for owning his lane due to his fast speed. When equipped with damage enhancing gear, like the Black King Bar, and loot that improves his movement and attack speed, Razor is real a force to be reckoned with. Pwning careless players and clearing NPCs as he pushes forward in his lane is almost too easy.

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War's Bloodthirster

Youre probably looking at this list going Wow, ANOTHER spaceship/tank? Weak. Well hold on to your man bits ladies, because the Bloodthirster is here, and hes a huge ass demon straight from an 80s metal album. A greater daemon of the Chaos Blood God Khorne, the Bloodthirster has to first be summoned with blood, at which point he possesses a unit who then explodes into chunks and blood. As you can see, theres a focus on blood here.

All the little baby Space Marines bring lasers and tanks to the battlefield - you know what the Bloodthirster brings? A huge Axe and his bare hands. The Bloodthirster just runs in there, knocks everyone over and goes to town. But the best part? One of his killing animations involves scooping up his opponent and crushing him like a refreshing blood filled Squeeze-It. Hey, even a four-story-tall daemon from the Warp has to stay hydrated.

Civilization IV's Camel Archer

Hah! You thought we were done writing about the technically-shouldn't-be-in-this-article Civilization. No sir, no ma'am, we could write about Civilization all day, but will spare you that and just tell you about one more very special unit.

We played as the Arabian Empire in Civ IV for just one reason: Camel Archers. Instead of Knights, Arabia was able to train camel-riding archers, which are so fun to look at, and think about, that we couldn't help but train far too many of them. (Research horseback riding and archery ASAP!)

They're not the best units. Sure, they're immune to first strikes and can withdraw from combat with a 15% rate of success, which Knights can't do - oh, and, of course, you don't need horses. But you know, they're nothing mind blowing. They're just solid units which are extra-special because of their awesome awkwardness.

LOTR: Battle for Middle-earth II's Tom Bombadil

If you're not usually very good at multiplayer, you know that on the rare occasions that you are more skilled than your opponents, you can't simply beat them. You must HUMILIATE them, preferably by winning the match with a super silly, garishly girly, frivolously frou-frou character that causes the other player to lose faith in his own masculinity. This is why you'd always choose Princess Peach for Mario Kart, why you'd often opt for neon pink armor in Halo and why you may well love using Tom Bombadil in Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-earth II.

A special "hero" unit that the armies of good can summon for short periods of time, Tom Bombadil doesn't defeat his enemies with a powerful, orc-slicing sword like Aragorn, a magical, earth-rendering staff like Gandalf or a fiery, hobbit-incinerating whip like the monstrous Balrog.

Nope he just sings. And dances. Sings and dances and skips merrily across the battlefield in his blueberry jacket, canary yellow boots and feathered cap. And because Tolkien wrote Tom Bombadil as an enigmatic god-like figure older than time itself, that s**t works! He's one of the strongest units in the game, and because he's so ridiculous, underdogs with a sense of fun are usually the only players willing to use him.

Plants Vs Zombies' Repeater

The (relatively) recent "tower defense" genre of strategy mustnt go unrepresented, and the iconic Peashooter is synonymous with PopCap's hit, Plants vs. Zombies. Don't fool yourself into thinking that the Repeater is a simple sentry left to the slaughter... although, actually, it can be! After all, Repeaters arent all that pricey, but they're every bit as versatile as they are expendable. Early onslaughts are easy-peasy and when youve got horticulture to protect, planting them closer to the frontlines greatly increases their 2x rate of fire. If that werent enough, these little green badasses can be upgraded to helmet-clad Gatling grade to become virtually unstoppable. If youre playing your money right, youll never consider heading into a daylight match with anything less than this dual shot godsend.

Supreme Commander 2's UEF Noah Unit Cannon

SupCom 2 has many hilarious Experimental units, all of which require massive amounts or resources and time to build, but they turn out to be worth it, not only because of their power, but also for the intimidation and entertainment factors. Its hard to pick a favorite, but the Noah Unit Cannon has to be the most awe-inspiring. Its sort of a building, since it doesnt move, and it builds other units. It looks like a pyramid with four transparent barrels. You construct units inside it - say a few tanks, a few anti-air missiles, and a few artillery. As the units finish constructing, instead of popping out on the ground next to the Unit Cannon, you can actually see them loading one-by-one into the barrels.

Once youre ready, you designate a target point (it can be completely across the map), you click launch, and the glorious Unit Cannon fires off its payload. It's hard not to cackle in glee as tanks and artillery go arcing across the map, landing miles away inside the enemy base, and, of course, your units instantly unload their weaponry on your stunned opponent.

Starcraft II's Zerg Queen

Tyler Nagata--who totally won PC Gamer's StarCraft II tourney (opens in new tab)--swears by StarCraft IIs Zerg Queen. She's an incredible force. She can place tumors on the ground to expand the creep around your base, allowing you to build over a wider area. Her transfusion ability restores a ton of HP to any unit or building, allowing you to buffer your defenses when in a tight spot. But its her Spawn Larva ability that makes her so indispensable. Casting Spawn Larva on your Hatchery creates four fresh larvae, allowing you to increase the number of units you can pump out exponentially. Since the Zerg specialize in strength by numbers, constantly casting Spawn Larva on your base is key to maintaining a larger army than your opponent.

Choose your unit

Have you got a favorite RTS unit? We'd love to read your picks in the comments!

Want more? Try our list of The greatest multiplayer maps of all time (opens in new tab), or steel yourself for any potential Nagata Encounters with 14 ways to win at StarCraft II (opens in new tab).

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