Many Undead players used to utilise gargoyles when playing against Night Elf, but over the years the strategy has become more and more rare. In this article we will take a look at what the merits of the stategy is and why it has left the meta!
When getting familiar with a new strategy it's always necessary to get acquainted with the ups and downs. Let's start with the positive part!
In a standard game a Night Elf player will usually have gotten his tier 2 and double Ancient of Lore before even realizing you are going gargoyles. This means they have no instant way of producing Hippogryphs. The time it would take the Night Elf to construct an Ancient of Wind to produce Hippogryphs is simply not worth it. Gargoyles and Hippogryphs are very even in an in-air combat (Hippogryphs have a bit more HP and cost a little less while Gargoyles have more damage output). You'll be pumping out Gargoyles from two Crypts so you'll win in numbers and therefore also the fights.
The standard answer from Night Elf is to produce Dryads as Druid of the Claw and Mountain Giants are obsolete against an army of Gargoyles. To see the problem with using Dryads against Gargoyles we'll have to think about why they normally are being used.
Dryads have a high mobility so the fact that they have a low amount of hit points doesn't usually matter too much, as they can kite around the enemy and use their slowing attacks to hunt down foes easily. Against Gargoyles it is quite different, though. Gargoyles do not only have the same movement speed as Dryads, they are also airborne, allowing them to fly beyond otherwise impassable terrain. This makes it possible for them to catch up with Dryads and focus-fire them to quickly eliminate them one by one. This is not something normal ground units like Riflemen has any chance of doing with the same efficiency.
The, by far, most effective counter to Gargoyles is a Pandaren Brewmaster level 3 with Drunken Haze and upgraded Breath of Fire. Due to the Gargoyles' fragility this can be a deadly combo.
On certain maps, like Terenas Stand, where Night Elf can get a second hero to level 3 fairly easily, it is hard to make good use of the Gargoyles. The two arguably best maps on the other hand to use Gargoyles are Ancient Isles and Secret Valley. The maps layout makes it tough for Night Elf to creep efficient enough to level up fast compared to the Undead who, because of the Gargoyles, can creep the Dragon camps very efficiently.
All in all it is a lot about the current map pool used as Secret Valley is rarely used in tournaments and Ancient Isles are almost always vetoed by the Night Elf players.
Another game showing the potential of Gargoyles is Gera Cup #99, where Happy played against LawLiet:
I think it is understandable why Gargoyles are rarely seen in competitive play; a combination of the Night Elf knowing how to counter it (getting Panda and playing safely til he's level 3) and the map pool not favouring it currently.
On the ladder I definitely think it would make sense to see it more often than we currently do, though. Not only are the players not as experienced (perhaps they are not aware of how essential Panda is to counter Gargoyles) and the map pool is far broader and therefor easier to abuse different strategies on certain maps.
As always I encourage you to leave a comment about your thoughts and experiences on this strategy. If you know of any under-appreciated strategy that is either fun or genuinely just better than people give it credit for, feel free to leave a comment about that too. I am sure people would be joyful to learn about more strategies that are out of the meta - I for one will be!