Are Aztecs no longer a Top-Tier Civilization in 2023?

Spirit Of The Law
Aztecs are so far well into the bottom 10 on the ladder this patch, but does that tell the whole story?

1:10 Why are Aztecs considered strong?
2:00 Nerfs since 2019
3:02 Ladder stats
5:40 Tournament stats
8:20 What is causing the disconnect?

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Game: Age of Empires II Definitive Edition


  1. Where I see the problem is balance brings a need to adjust, most people played Aztecs because it was easier. Eagle are good against almost everything and when they are not you use monks. Now with Eagles costing more, you need pikemen and archers. Pros are accustomed to using multiple units. If you look I imagine you will also see a drop in Aztecs being played. One other bonus Aztecs had was their eco bonus allowed them to get to castle and grab relics. Now there are more civs with good or better eco. Hera just did a video on how drush, FC into crossbow was the winning strat until it was nerfed by increased costs. Now you see more Feudal fighting. The same applies to Aztecs.

  2. I'm gonna have to see if I can find a recording of this Hoang vs Lyx game. That's gotta be the messiest game ever right?

  3. I think one of the factors is that only top players can truly make use of faster military creation bonus. If you watch them play Aztecs, they're making military units all the time and almost never float resources, the moment they start having a stockpile, it goes into upgrades or another production building.

  4. So, what makes the Bulgarians in particular so strong against Aztecs?

  5. I'm a fan of this viper guy since he almost beat Fastslob and T90.
    Hope that with a bit more practice he can becames a famous player

  6. TLDR: "Snowbally" and power of aggressive play

    I haven't watched or played AoE in a while but high level games are definitely more snowbally as execution is high and they are best at minimizing mistakes. When it comes to Aztecs they lack a lot of late game power asides from monks and siege. I struggled vs barbarian AI for a while trying to maintain advantage but once I learned how to do that better the top tier civs were much easier to win with than average civ which I was about even with. +50 gold is a strong bonus but if you don't utilize it with milita/M@A its value drops off quite a lot. If you have good army numbers and eco lead with early game aggression with it though, then it gets tough to deal with them cause playing defensively can be tricky in AoE2 (if your opponent is good at pressure, play something like barbarian AI if you want to experience it). This can offset a stronger gold mining bonus like Turks mining if you're up in vills. If you don't deal the damage tho and you come off roughly even, then their gold mining bonus is far better than +50 gold. Military pressure if done right is a great way to gain an advantage because they have to invest resources in defense and they can't pressure you in return for a while, allowing opportunity to boom behind (knowing when to boom behind pressure is a skill not all ladder players may have learned too well, but barbarian AI is amazing at this). Investing in stone for defensive play into jannis could be an option but giving up initiative means free relics for Aztecs and aztec monks. While monks require special micro, monk fights vs jannisary fights is likely way different at higher level considering the high DPS leaving not too much time for conversions. Going for their own crossbows is tricky cause eagles and they will likely be on the backfoot vs Aztec archers with the start and faster production, and knights/longswords are weak to monks. I think you covered a video on why knights are easier to field than light cav early game but maybe I am wrong. But essentially mining gold > investing into farms early game, and knights are a stronger unit. Obviously Turks vs Aztecs is a miserable matchup without elite skirms, but skirms do cost wood and food and eagles + monks can do very good against it. They don't have to invest fully into crossbows beyond the early castle age punch. The Aztec player has the choice to see how the eco is situated and if they're going skirms + knights or something they're going to need farms. If they don't invest into skirms you can invest more into crossbow pressure although there is likely to be a castle coming soon. I notice a lot of players tunnel vision into strats like I have to go knights or crossbows at lower elos, or they tunnel vision in trying to get damage on a very closed base setup when they can invest more into booming behind. Yes longswords are better in a more closed base but that means you have map control and initiative which more higher ranked players will definitely know how to capitalize on.

  7. i really, really disagree with the idea of balancing a game for the top players above all else first. this is exactly what SC2 did it's entire lifespan and it seriously hurt the game, like, a lot. things wouldnt change for months or years because at the highest level, players could deal with those things, but absolutely nobody else found dealing with that thing to be fair, balanced, and, most of all, fun. a few examples of things that were "balanced" at the highest level of play, but utterly ruined the game for basically everyone else until they were addressed: Carriers, Void Rays, Disruptors, Colossus, Ravens, Liberators, Widow Mines, Ultralisks, Swarm Hosts, Brood Lords, Infestors.

    balance should be first and foremost decided by the developers, period. only they can know what would be best for the game and what would be the most fun. if they cave to outside influence, it will compromise the whole spirit of the game, what made it fun in the first place, among other things. sometimes, developers wont know what changes are best to make to a game, but the top level of players have too much invested into the game to ever truly give unbiased advice consistently.

    this was, once again, another huge problem in SC2. devs mostly only listened to the top tier players, and there is a suspicious amount of consistency where they'd suggest that the balance was either fine when it favored them or that it could use some work when it did not, regardless of if it actually was balanced or not. this often gave the developers very mixed messages, especially when they looked at the raw statistics and data across all skill levels that could contradict everything the top players would say to them. these mixed messages often lead to them making changes that most of the community did not understand in the slightest why they were making those changes.

    it is of an utmost importance that developers KNOW what they want for the game, and achieve that specifically and only that, and NOT what someone else that only plays the game wants for the game. if the developer doesnt KNOW what they want for the game, the game is doomed. once again, i bring up SC2. the Devs 100% definitely did not know what they wanted for the game for most of its lifespan. they caved to so much pressure throughout the game's development, even before release, that the game lost it's identity almost completely.

    if any AOE2 devs read this, please learn from SC2's mistakes. SC2 may have been perfectly "balanced" at many points, but because it was so hyper fixated toward the top level of play, most casual players did not find the game fun anymore and left the game (me included). balance, especially toward even just higher level of play and not even specifically the highest level, is not a real indicator of whether the game truly feels fun or fair for most players. just because its POSSIBLE for the highest level of players to deal with the current state of balance, doesn't mean it's in a good state of balance.

    to make it clear, i am not actually saying anything on specifically AOE2's state of balance. i definitely do not know enough about the game to know for-sure what the balance is like for the game. and for the most part, its design remains solid and consistent from what i can tell, even with all the added civilizations since the Conquerors expansion. i am mostly only commenting on that specific idea said in the video. i do not think balancing around the highest level of play is good for any game, or leads to a healthy competitive scene in the slightest.

  8. Hello friend. Please can you show a video about this new rts game called ( red chaos – the strict order ) thanks ❤

  9. Surely by the time you get to S tier skill, all civilizations are good.

  10. This is actually really cool to know, I love it when you really get into mysteries in game balance like this

  11. awesome to hear my 2 favorite aoe players talk

  12. "Jag warriors, which can be spotted now and again" Puntastic!

  13. Dear spirit, could you please make reviews of nations in Rise of nations extended edition with your knowledge and sweet voice? Top 10 nations for 1v1 random land map? Or one nation per video?

  14. The Jaguar warriors can be 'spotted' huh? I see you spirit, I see you

  15. Aztec is just a "specialist" civ tbh.

    In low elo the best strats is often… "stall" and "knight spam". The lower you get the more "late game heavy" civs like Franks and Berbers and maybe Magyars too? Irdk basically just spam the best Castle units you get until the game end civs or sth, completely dominate the meta.

    There is a reason why every pro and their mom heavily praises Chinese, and this civ is constantly on top of the meta tierlist it is either ban or pick every tourney, BUT completely disappears the lower you get on the ladder. Noobs dont have skills, and they dont like games ending too fast either it is what it is I suppose, Aztec is pretty damn good but they will never be popular as monk rush and proxy tower or sth like that aint easy to pull off at all.

  16. The thing is, aztecs are maybe not op anymore, but its still very exhausting and annoying to play against. So like in other games, civs or champs get banned because they are annoying and not really a threat compared to win-% statistics.

  17. I'm just a 1600 ELO player, but I can say aztecs are top tier for sure and that's not due to their bonus but because of eagle warriors. If pick Aztecs, mayans or incas exclusively I can jump +200 ELO in 20-30 games.

  18. I think the "snowballing" point is key, only the top level of players really push a snowball home. Low level players tend not to commit enough to the snowball to get the win

    The pro's intuitively know when to pull back and keep growing numbers and then when the right time is to press for the kill. I think snowballing type plays are super high level

  19. What's the name of the outro song? It's really good, I'd like to hear the full version. Or is it another one of your original works?

  20. I love when you collaborate with top players

  21. Winnie the Pooh unhappy about new patch?

  22. Can someone tell me why is Arabia the map for comparisons and even tournaments?

  23. Well, I know we're not discussing buffs and nerfs… but it would be interesting to see the Jaguar Warrior get some sort of buff. It's the only good alternative Aztecs have against infantry (which is why they have the most trouble with infantry civs) but it's slow and it dies to anything with a bit of range. It would be nice to see them a bit of HP, speed or at the very least some wacky ability that would make them a staple in the Aztec war machine (I'm voting for trample damage, like their AoE 3 counterpart). Aztecs do need some unit they can't rely on that isn't as gold-intensive as the Eagles, Monks & Archers they commonly use, and even with all the buffs, the champs just aren't cutting it.

    Or we could give slingers to Aztecs too, make it a regional unit instead of an Inca UU. That would necessitate tweaking the Jags substantially, and maybe nerfing slingers as well, but it would make them much better against infantry.

  24. Speaking of the micro, especially at high level, an interesting stat to track in tourney games (if possible) would be player APM. It can have a huge impact on both micro and macro scale play to simply have really fast fingers.

  25. I would say that low Elo players tend to be less aggressive in the castle age (and it is where Aztecs shine the most). With all the busts that militia line had, it is just very easy to spam squirms and champions late game, and at this point, Aztecs struggle – again considering low Elo play. I myself have some trouble (being a 1200 elo player) closing out games with Aztecs and other Meso civs, finding the right timings to attack in castle age, and avoiding carrying the game to imp against a cav/infantry civ

  26. Spirit, please bring out another “road to” series, or even just some online gameplay vids. I love that stuff and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Also, cheers for teaching me how to be a little less of an aoe pleb

  27. 5:26 I find it funny that statistical studies for politics and economies are often less picky about their sample sizes than SOTL is for a 25 year old video game.

    But no, let's not discuss that here. SOTL doesn't deserve that.

  28. I see that Astecs is the koreans in terms of being banned from tournaments. With that being said, who's the top three banned civs currently?

  29. It really just comes down to them having a mediocre castle age. No stable, no thumb ring, leaves little options to face top tier picks.

    Their reliable strats ergo monk rush or fast imp eagles both require huge economies to setup and execute, mostly likely meaning you must ve a better player than your opponents to successfully pull them out.

  30. Viper play aztec but idont see any jaguar just bunch of archer each game in tournament, many pro use it but just make range unit instead monk or jaguar and lose in tour , confusing

  31. The compensation buff should come in the form of a new unit n_n

  32. 164 sample size sounds small, but that is indeed adequate to make inferences from using statistics

  33. Pretty sure Bourgignons is the best civ and that is the correct way to spell it because they are french.
    I put Bohemian and Malien and Teutons and Silicians as the other top 5 for low elo players. I dont know what the win rates are but teutons have the best castles, Silicians have strong infantry that can tower rush, Malian have tc that shoots without garison and have the best scouts, bohemians has the best pikeman and Bourgignons have earlier eco upgrades, get gold from farms, food from relics, the best cavalry in the game (i mean the ones made from their castles) decent building and army upgrades and if you are in trouble you can always turn your villagers into super militias, the cue in 50+ more villagers from tc with automatic economy and then just keep making them at barracks because they cheaper then militias, faster then militia and dont need upgrades and are almost stronger then militia. Used to get paladin in castle but that got nerfed and despite that they still best civ.
    Eagle warriors suck because they cost too much gold for how good they are. Mayans Eagles are borderline ok because of the plus 40 hp upgrade but they still lose to mass scout a troush unit. Couliettes only costs 5 more gold and have way more damage and hp then eagles. Eagles are just trash that wastes your gold. Very weak damage: Fully upgraded eagle warriors only do 13 damage. Couliette does 40 on first hit then 18 for the rest and have 155 hp vs 100 hp mayan eagle or low 60 hp for any other eagles. Only reason a pro can win with eagles is because you get to make them in feudal. If they were to become castle age units and made only in castles, Aztecs would be worst civ automatically.

  34. Omg I had no idea this episode featured the snek omg

  35. Strange, saw a random video about Rise of Legends just the other day and thought I haven't plat AoE 2 in over a year at least, I want to install and had intention to play Aztecs, then this video pops up, lol.

  36. Am I the only one who could barely make out what Viper was saying here?

  37. Good to give smaller YouTube channels like Viper a platform to shine :p

  38. If Aztecs were a good civilization and nerfed to mediocre and the playerbase just didn't update their expectations, then you can make an argument for or against tournament evidence. Yes these are the best of the best. But what if their perception is out of date and the 8 wins out of 12 games they were picked is just random chance? Yes the evidence is consistent with Aztecs being a top desert civilization. However, the tournament data is also constant with Aztecs being a 50% civilization. 24 wins out of 32 games, 11 wins out of 12, or 16 wins out of 19 would be more convincing evidence to me.

  39. I think viper is a little off on his comment about the Chinese and to keep it balanced for the top and keep in mind the bottom. A company will “almost” always keep the mass of it players in mind more or they risk losing them.

  40. Great video, thx for including the high elo stats as well since that's something that can be missed most times when trying to do stats videos using big pools of data.

  41. This is unrelated but I kinda miss the old intro

  42. on balancing for top v bottom: the strength of a game like AoE2 is that they have a lot of different civs to balance. Therefore, even if they accidentally move a civ deleteriously far in one part of the player base (particularly downward), there are still 30+ civs to take its place.

  43. and what about stats in water maps? I havent seen non of them.

  44. Honestly I disagree with Viper on the last point. The civs should be balanced for majority of the players and if the devs can balance it out for the top as well then that's great, but prioritizing the balance for peak performance instead of the average will leave a lot more people angry or, as shown, unable to play it without starting off massively behind efectively. Tournaments have bans and there is always some way to counter it, and if not, the tournament might ban the civ outright

    League of legends for example has several champions that are completely unplayable for the normal player because they are balanced with the "peak performance first" mentality, if they were balanced for the normal player then they would be 80% winrate in the pro scene. But they are pros, they make living out of it, they can figure it out or the rules in the tournaments can change so that they can't use it every single game it's open if it's really that big of an issue.

  45. I've been a little out of the loop with AOE2 lately; can someone explain what's going on with the Romans? They seem to be some kind of special civilization? Can they be used in tournaments? And from a lore perspective, why were they introduced if we also have Byzantines and Italians? I'm just very puzzled atm.

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